“Schizophrenia” in an insane world — recovery story

flowBy Karen Bartz — copyright 2009

I was asked by Gianna to write this account. There are many out there battling “mental illness” and they often find their way to the pages of somewhere like facebook looking for answers they do not get from orthodox medical treatments and as a way to communicate with the world that may be a bit too daunting close up. It is for their sake that I decided to share ~ love and bless.

It is my sincere belief that much of what our society terms “mental illness” are actually spiritual emergencies. My eldest daughter had such an episode after leaving school where she had been mercilessly bullied by both students and teachers alike for a number of years. She never really fitted the school model and, in hindsight would have been an ideal candidate for home schooling. Because of her school days experience, she had put in place certain barriers between herself and others that, frankly, once she left school, no longer served her. They had to come down.

She was at art school at the time, turning herself inside out for the sake of her art and often copping what appeared to be criticism from not particularly well directed lecturers. She was vegetarian but living on junk food, chain smoking, drinking instant coffee, diet coke, alcohol and hardly sleeping. When she confessed that she was no longer coping I convinced her to see a psychologist who said she needed to see a psychiatrist. The doctor gave her sleeping pills and antidepressants the psychiatrist gave her antipsychotic medication, even though they were all supposed to be in touch, no one thought to mention that she should not take the antipsychotic medication with the sleeping pills. She woke up and couldn’t move. At that point, I decided that I wouldn’t trust the medical profession with the care of my dog, let alone my daughter. The psychiatrist also suggested to her that she was considering having her committed. I was not involved or consulted as at 19, my daughter is an adult.

Fortunately the idea of committal scared my daughter so much that she agreed to move home and accept my help. It also made her realise that if she allowed herself to keep “free falling” that where she woke up might not be a very pretty place. I felt that with me she was almost certain to be safe at least and I felt that if she was committed she would probably go “so far inside out” that she would never return.

I also had the experience of never knowing one of my grandmothers because of schizophrenia. In those days they were locked up for good and the key was thrown away. My whole life I have missed this relationship and I always felt that she was the one person in my family I would have really related to.

So, my daughter moved home. I didn’t care if she lived in her room for the next five years, I felt she would be safer there. It is a difficult decision as you must be honest that whatever road you take you face the real possibility of losing someone you love dearly. The first thing I did was get her a kitten for Christmas. She had wanted one for a while but hadn’t gotten one because she was in rented accommodation. I knew that she may well have decided it was all too hard and left us but that she would never leave a pet. I got her out of the loop of having to see a psychiatrist by saying that she was frightened of the clinic (which was true) and that I was taking her to see a psychiatrist privately. Once they were “off the scent” I cancelled that appointment.

The next thing I did was take her to see a nutritionist, she agreed to that because they would not be “messing with her head”. She only took the antipsychotic medication a few times as it made it impossible for her to do even the simplest tasks. She had been having “grade A” panic attacks but I only saw this once after she moved home. If you didn’t know what it was, you would have thought she was dying. I held her as she sweated, vomited, almost fainted and just held her and kept saying quietly and calmly I am here, I am not going anywhere, it is alright, I love you. She had been so scared of the idea of being committed that she agreed to take supplements, which she took most of the time but i suspect she was still buying and eating junkfood quite often and certainly was still smoking and drinking instant coffe though the alcohol had gone. In addition, I also made a point of sitting with her for a half hour or so every day and we would talk out her day and go over any tensions to avoid any misunderstandings or things that she may construe the wrong way just to make the air as clear as possible at all times, so she could feel at ease and not stress over things.

We continued that way for a few months then she refused to take anymore supplements. I decided to see that as a positive as it also meant there was a bit of fight coming back. Very gradually I had been able to get her eating better food, she stopped the coffee and drank tea instead. She saw a good homeopath and commented after that “if I had seen her first, I wouldn’t have needed to see anyone else” After a year on Effexor, she decided to take herself off it as the doctor refused to help. She cut down the dose and was basically pretty spun out for about two weeks before it was out of her system. I believe that would be almost too difficult to do without a very safe and supportive environment. Later, her comment was that it was much worse than giving up smoking, she used to have to hug the wall closely to get up and down the stairs.

After being off Effexor for about a year, she switched to raw food and with that the last of the addictions, smoking went. I gave her herbal cigarettes for a short while but she managed to otherwise quit cold turkey and she also stopped black tea. It took about three and a half years before she was back working part time and she found a passion for permaculture and so is headed for a new life, drug free and happy enough.

I share this in the hope of offering help and hope to those and their families going through this. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. There are also ramifications within the family. After this episode I became ill myself. Would I do it again, probably. Would I expect anyone else in that position to do it, no, it is too much of an ask even for your own child. I learnt the true meaning of unconditional love and it has helped make me afraid of very little else in life, both of which I am very grateful, it has made me grateful.

My grandmother, even though I never met her, is with me every day. I know this and also several have seen her with me. At a meditation last night she was seen to give me a healing that was so intense I felt like I was going to melt down. In a way she left my mother when she “lost her mind” and in her turn my mother “left me”. It’s funny how the behaviour of one generation to the next can be almost “genetic”. If the pattern is not recognised it is repeated unthinkingly. But, we all choose our birth so there is no blame attached. I used to wonder if I had done something to cause my daughter’s “illness” but one day realised that I could also tell myself that she was given to me as I was best able to help her (just as likely to be true, so why not tell yourself the good story).

In some societies, these sensitives are the medicine men and healers because of their ability to pick up on so much. It is only in our society that they are drugged to prevent this and then removed form society’s view as they do not fit the “norm”. In my opinion, labels do nothing to assist anyone in a spiritual emergency and drugs just stop progress.

What I feel is required is a safe, secure environment with love, kindness and patience. Human rights, dignities and choices should be respected always. Is schizophrenia curable, at this stage, yes, looks like it is. She was young, 19 at the time and the brain does not finish developing until age 24, this may have had some bearing on the outcome, I’m not sure. But, so far, so good…

(editor’s note: I’ve seen hundreds of people recover at all points in life and the recovery stories page on this blog has some of those stories)

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Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters