Trauma victims highlighted in the Boston Globe

A lesson about ALL mental illness is contained in this golden nugget found in the Boston Globe, but of course that connection is not made in this article. Read this amazing excerpt from the piece:

Trauma care
For over 25 years, Harvard psychiatrists have helped and studied victims of many of the world’s most devastating events. What they found is more heartening than you might think

“During the year of the snake, the god of the sun  came to stay in my body. It made my body shaky all over — and I fainted. Upon awakening, I can remember as I opened my eyes that it was very dark. I then went to the rice fields to find someone to ask them what time it was. A voice shouted 10 o’clock. Suddenly, the owls began to cry and all the animals that represented death were howling all around me. I could also barely see a small group of people whispering to each other in the forest. I became so frightened that I tried to calm myself by praying to all the gods  and the angels in heaven to protect me from danger. I was so paralyzed with fear that I was unable to walk either backward or forward.

“I came to settle in East Boston near the ocean. Now when I dream, I always see an American who dresses in black walking along the sea. One day when I was in my sponsor’s house, I had this vision. This year, the year of the cow, I would like the American people to help me build a temple near the seashore. “Since the Pol Pot soldiers killed my children, I am so depressed that all I can think about is just to build a temple — that is all. God appeared to me again the other day, and he told me to build a temple.

“Please help me make my dream come true. If not, I do not think I can live any more.”

This patient had survived the Khmer Rouge labor camps that had killed her five daughters and four of her 10 grandchildren. At that time in traditional psychiatric settings, this patient would have been diagnosed as having a psychotic illness because it seemed she was out of touch with reality by saying she was possessed by the god of the sun, hearing voices, and having hallucinations. But, as her successful care eventually demonstrated, her dreams were a sign of a healing journey focused on her Buddhist religion, which eventually brought relief to her suffering after she entered a Buddhist temple as a nun. (read the rest here)

Why is it not recognized that many of our young people who suffer from what gets labeled “psychosis and schizophrenia” are also a healing journey!!??? Why not?? There are so many of us survivors telling the same story and no one wants to listen. The only difference is that the trauma incurred in the lives of the ordinary “schizophrenic” is invisible and often never even discovered by “caretakers.”

This article says at one point about the above sorts of scenariors:

Unfortunately, it is common medical practice to neglect, ignore or even actively avoid addressing these social self-healing responses, especially spirituality. Studies have shown that medical practitioners feel uncomfortable in bringing spirituality into their treatment approach even with patients who have terminal illnesses.

Uh, well, unfortunately EVERYONE’s self-healing responses are routinely ignored throughout the entire mental health system!!

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

8 Responses

  1. It isn’t recognized, because psychiatrists are physicians, medical doctors. Not specialists in spiritual, existential matters – apart from the few who have additional training in these fields. Recognizing the full extent to which spiritual/existential factors contribute to crisis would eventually put psychiatry out of business. In order to stay in this business, it is essential to do everything imaginable (and unimaginable) to keep up the illusion, that there would be brain diseases called “schizophrenia” (psychiatry’s holy cow), “bipolar disorder” and and and, that need medical treatment/management.

    (BTW: this somehow supports what I wrote about that one’s cultural/religious background determines what kind of “delusions”, and “hallucinations” someone has.)


  2. Another reason (apart from the economic disadvantages for Big Pharma) to, by all means, avoid recognition of trauma as the cause of crisis is the fact, that our society still is extremely uncomfortable – cf. “medical practitioners feel uncomfortable in bringing spirituality into their treatment approach” -with the truth, that any such thing as abuse is going on to the extent, it actually is going on.

    And that includes both abuse in the family and in society on a larger scale. – In my opinion, our culture is thoroughly abusive in many ways.


  3. “the thing is there have been very successful helpers who don’t use highly spiritualized language to explain what is going on in the psyche of someone having a ‘psychotic episode.’
    one need not be a flaming spiritualist to do good work with someone who might be considered by some to be in spiritual emergency….”

    Loren Mosher and the folks at Soteria are a good example for this. And my therapist truly wasn’t a flaming spiritualist either. Just an ordinary psychologist. And I’d say, she did a hell of a good job.

    (Although, “ordinary”, I don’t know… I’ve heard a horrifying lot of hair-raising stories about therapists by now. Apropos of abuse…)


  4. Laura Borst

    Psychiatry often pathologizes people’s natural reactions to trauma. Very often, people with different belief systems, often get pathologized by Western psychiatrists as being “psychotic” for believing more in the supernatural or being more spiritually oriented. Psychiatry more often oppresses, rather than heals, people.


  5. Amen, sister! Interesting what people expected me to “just get over” (in terms of trauma)… and then when I couldn’t… didn’t… *I* was STILL the problem, slapped with the crazy label.


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