An Open Dialogue around ‘Psychosis’

“The deepest hunger of the human heart is to be understood” Stephen Covey

Psychosis_hand

Cabiria, 1914 (from a silent movie by Giovanni Pastroni). Trying to capture how terrifying Psychosis sometimes feels like, which is difficult and the clip that goes with this photo reminded me of the experience.

In November 2014 I went to the launch of the lengthy report “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia” by the British Psychological Society (BPS) in London. There I got to meet and hear from some of the top experts and clinical Psychologists in the UK. A revised version was published in 2017 [1].

‘Psychosis’ is a loss of touch with reality, which is usually temporary. Because the general population don’t understand it, they can overreact. The person themselves may feel quite confused & scared. Especially if it’s their 1st experience. It can involve unusual perceptions e.g. the person feels they are under attack from evil and the need to protect themselves. In my experience, how I protected myself was influenced by religious upbringing. I even started to go to Latin mass to try and calm my brain down ! While some would have frowned upon that at the time, for me it was a coping mechanism. I only occasionally go to church these days, usually to light a candle and to sit in silence for a while.

As an example of one of my “psychotic breaks”, in my last experience I decided that the town I live in, which is prone to flooding as it is built on a river, was going to become immersed in water. I checked into a hotel that was a few stories high & took a bus to a ‘safer’, inland county. At the time I was frightened. It wasn’t based on reality but could have been based on news reports and worries about climate change. Stress and lack of sleep would have been a trigger, plus the fact that I was still going through drug withdrawal. It took at least two years to get the main effects of long term use of prescribed psychotropic drugs out of my system and I was left with long term sleep issues, the effects of which I still feel to this day.

Psychosis can be triggered by anti-depressant use and severe lack of sleep / stress [2]. I had been on anti-depressants for anxiety / panic attacks for 3 years when I had a ‘psychotic break’ in August 2008. Other illicit drugs can also trigger psychosis e.g. skunk cannabis [3].

Trying to make sense of the symptoms can help. In the context of the person’s life. As through making sense of experiences or learning to process them, a person is more likely to recover.

Usually the people around you will not understand and may be unsupportive. I went through my last ‘psychotic break’ alone (2012). I would not recommend that but maybe getting through it alone is why I no longer fear it. There was also a Spiritual aspect to the experience and I wish I kept notes at the time to give me more insight into what I was going through. In my terrified state, particularly at night time, with no support around me, I used the online work of Sean Blackwell to help me through. “Bipolar or Waking up?” [4, 5, 6]. I do believe this was more of an awakening and a spiritual journey. A part of my own evolution as a soul on this planet.

A significant percentage of people hear voices and for many this is not a problem. If the person has voices that are distressing or ask them to harm themselves or others and the person finds this overwhelming, they would need help and support in coping with the voices. There are people who have managed to integrate their voices into their lives, without been affected negatively by them e.g. Eleanor Longden [7] , Jacqui Dillon [8] and Rai Waddingham [9]. Dutch Psychiatrist Dr Marius Romme has also done a lot of great work in the Hearing Voices Movement [10]. Some children also hear voices and may need support.

Others experience hallucinations. If the hallucinations affect a persons quality of life, including ability to work, sleep and relate with others, the person may need help in dealing with their experiences.

Open Dialogue

I’m a believer in the Open Dialogue approach, where the person should be involved as much as feasibly possible in decision making about their care or treatment plan [11, 12].

Open Dialogue includes the gathering of clinicians, family members, friends and other relevant persons for a joint discussion. It was started in Lapland by Jaakko Seikkula et al. It is also used in other countries eg the Parachute project in New York [13]. In West Cork a successful pilot project was implemented [14, 15]. It would be great to see widespread use of this approach. If a more traditional, backward approach is used it can lead to more dysfunction within a family and the fracturing of relationships, sometimes long term, in my experience. It is important to get the approach right at the start. Not everyone will want family involved in their care.

I write more about the trauma of what happened me in 2008 in the blog Anti-depressants are great, until you have an Adverse Drug Reaction, where I outline some of the things that would have helped at that crucial time. Because of the way people in ‘psychosis’ are treated, I ended up with Post Traumatic stress for the past 9 years. It has improved via therapy and hard work on my self, but it is something that will probably always be there are a protective force in my life. A hyper vigilance and a lack of trust in others.

Hence I have learned as much as I can about what is helpful when a person is in distress. I’ve dedicated several years to learning via reading, listening to audio/visual presentations (of experts I respect), courses, conferences and various short training sessions. A summary version of what happened to me can be found under Other Relevant Resources at the end of this blog.

During my first ‘psychotic break’ (where I had not harmed myself or others) I needed:

  • truth and honesty about the anti-depressant drug I was on & its adverse effects (2)

  • An Open Dialogue approach

  • Re-assurance that my stay in the hospital was temporary ( the survival part of my brain was convinced I would be there for a very long time, possibly forever. This left me in a very distressed and agitated state and naturally so)

In places like Finland, where they employ the Open Dialogue approach and where prescribed psychoactive drugs are not the main form of treatment, they have proven that recovery is possible. They use early intervention and involve the person in decision making. In general, instead of the person ending up on disability they end up back as productive members of society.

Below is now 88 yr old Prof Ivor Browne giving a talk in the National College of Ireland in 2015. As opposed to being “anti-drug”, Prof Ivor Browne believes in using the lowest dosage of tranquilizing drugs possible for as short a time as possible. Ivor explained that people need help in understanding the psychotic process. He also recognises the importance of therapeutic relationships, personal friendships and loving relationships, when it comes to healing from trauma and distress. What are referred to as “Anti-psychotics” e.g. Olanzapine, as mainly major tranquilizers.

Anti_psychotics

For people to have “Recovery spaces”, they need to be with supportive people who can tolerate, be patient and interact with the person in ‘Psychosis’. Soteria is a network of people in the UK promoting the development of drug-free and minimum medication therapeutic environments for people experiencing ‘psychosis’ or extreme states [16].

If a person is a carer for someone in emotional distress e.g. A family member, the long term goal should be to enable the person they are caring for. It is important to keep the person as independent as possible, so that they do not become too reliant on someone else e.g. doing their own laundry, some cooking, housework / cleaning and having a diary to organise their week. The carer also needs to take good care of themselves.

The public have learned to associate the word ‘psychosis’ with violence and there is not necessarily a link, unless drugs or alcohol are involved [17, 18]. That can include prescribed psychotropic substances or withdrawal from these drugs [19]. People in distress need hope that they can recover and heal. Education from reliable, unbiased sources is an important part of that healing journey. As are supportive and understanding people who can hold space for the person in distress. These support networks also need education around Psychosis, what is helpful and what is not. Being judgemental, getting into arguments with the person, being critical and dismissive of their experience is usually unhelpful. Trying to stay calm and creating a calm space for the person, where they are not over stimulated, might be helpful. Everyone is an individual and has their own unique journey and experience.

Note: This blog is not medical advice and is mainly based on my own experience. But also on my extensive interest and learning in the whole area. Do not stop or change prescribed psychotropic drugs without advice, due to the dangers of withdrawal. Any changes need to be made slowly, under the supervision of an expert in this field. At the start of my journey I was never given that advice from the ‘experts’ I was dealing with and this delayed my healing journey.

Minor and major tranquilizers did help me at times e.g. with sleep, which can help restore some normality. But overall, in hindsight, I found that the large cocktail of drugs I was on (over a 3 year period) fueled symptoms, as opposed to ‘curing’ them. “The ethical use of psychotropic drugs is perhaps the single most important aspect of Psychiatric care that requires urgent attention” Dr Phil Thomas [20, 21].

* waiting on approval to include extra tips on how to help people who are in psychosis and what doesn’t help. Also advice for carers on self-care.


References

[1] Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia, revised version 2017 ~

https://www.bps.org.uk/system/files/user-files/Division%20of%20Clinical%20Psychology/public/CAT-1657.pdf (Edited by Anne Cooke)

[2] Antidepressant-associated mania and psychosis resulting in psychiatric admissions. Yale study (2001) ~ www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11235925

[3] Smoking skunk cannabis triples risk of serious psychotic episode, says research

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/16/skunk-cannabis-triples-risk-psychotic-episodes-study

[4] Am I Bipolar or Waking Up? Sean Blackwell, 2011

http://www.amazon.com/Am-I-Bipolar-Waking-Up/dp/1461178258

[5] Sean Blackwell’s work ~ www.youtube.com/user/bipolarorwakingup

[6] Corrina Rachel speaking to Sean Blackwell about Bipolar ~

~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLIeS6idzD4

[7] TED video by Eleanor Longden (Voice Hearing) ~

www.ted.com/talks/eleanor_longden_the_voices_in_my_head?language=en

[8] Jacqui Dillon (Voice Hearing) ~

www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/radio-documentary-sounds-mad-hearing-voices-psychology.html

[9] Rai Waddingham ~ http://www.behindthelabel.co.uk/

[10] Hearing Voices Network ~ www.hearing-voices.org

[11] OPEN DIALOGUE: an alternative Finnish approach to healing psychosis (by Daniel Mackler) ~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDVhZHJagfQ

[12] A collection of resources on Open Dialogue and Open Dialogue practices ~

http://willhall.net/opendialogue/

[13] New York ‘Parachute’ programme for people with acute mental distress lands in the UK ~

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/oct/20/parachute-therapy-psychosis-new-york-uk

[14] Mental health pilot focus of Finnish film ‘Open Dialogue’ ~

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/mental-health-pilot-focus-of-finnish-film-open-dialogue-393492.html

[15] A fresh approach to mental health ~
http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/features/a-fresh-approach-to-mental-health-396031.html

[16] Soteria ~ www.soterianetwork.org.uk

[17] ‘Mental disorders’ are neither necessary nor sufficient causes of violence ~ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525086/

[18] Dispelling the Myth of Violence and Mental Illness ~

https://psychcentral.com/archives/violence.htm

[19] Prescription Drugs Associated with Reports of Violence Towards Others

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0015337

[20] Psychiatry in Context : Experience, Meaning & Communities by Dr Philip Thomas

https://www.amazon.com/Psychiatry-Context-Experience-Meaning-Communities/dp/1906254729

Dr Philip Thomas highlights the limitations of neuroscience in explaining Psychosis or distress. He also explores how Racism plays a key role in many black people’s experience of Psychosis.

[21] My review of this book ~ www.goodreads.com/user/show/46943899-anne

This review was published in the Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy (Volume 16, Number 1, March 2016)

Other relevant Resources

* ‘I was unaware of potential adverse effects to my prescribed antidepressants’

https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/mental-health/aines-story-i-was-unaware-of-potential-adverse-effects-to-my-prescribed-antidepressants-31218347.html

* One woman’s account of suffering from psychosis ~

www.todayfm.com/One-womans-account-of-sufferinbg-from-psychosis

* Course ~ Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia (pharma funded which influences the advice given) ~

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/caring-psychosis-schizophrenia

* Intervoice (International Hearing Voices Projects) ~ www.intervoiceonline.org

* Hearing Voices Network Ireland ~
http://hearingvoicesnetworkireland.ie/

* The Icarus Project ~ http://theicarusproject.net/

* CRAZYWISE – Official Extended Trailer ~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKfQd0bk214

* Peter Lehmann “Recovery from Psychosis and Depression by Taking Psychiatric Drugs versus Recovery by Coming off Psychiatric Drugs”

www.peter-lehmann-publishing.com/articles/lehmann/pdf/recovery-from.pdf

* 8 Tips to Help Stop Ruminating ~
www.psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/16/8-tips-to-help-stop-ruminating

 * Adverse effects of Prescribed Psychotropic substances (e.g. the anti-psychotic Olanzapine) may be found in my initial blog “Some of the many useful links…”

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Shortened version of Hysterectomy story

For quite a while I had been struggling with some female problems. My GP referred me to a gynaecologist who sent me for an ultrasound and hysteroscopy (procedure for looking at lining of uterus). Not long after the hysteroscopy the gynaecologist rang my GP to tell her that I needed a hysterectomy. I was sent for an MRI scan.

The next step was to meet with the surgeon, Dr. Astbury. We had already met in the cervical screening clinic. Towards the end of July I met with her and a clinical nurse specialist Joanne. The doctor listened without judging me which was important.

After a discussion with them and asking questions about a laparoscopic procedure, I decided to go ahead with an abdominal hysterectomy. In hindsight that was a good decision. I asked to keep my ovaries, if possible. My mood can get quite low at times and I didn’t want to be plunged straight into the Menopause. The surgery was scheduled for August 25th.

I discovered a good website dedicated to women going through hysterectomies called HysterSisters [1]. Leading up to the surgery I got a call from the nurse Joanne to ask how I was. She advised me to rest and eat healthily.

I continued to do daily Yoga to build up my strength. I improved my eating habits and cut back on sugar and lost about 7 lbs. I ate more fruit and vegetables (organic if possible) and invested in various supplements and herbs. I took Hemaplex which included iron, antioxidants and amino acids.

That paid off in the end as I didn’t need a blood transfusion. Luckily I didn’t loose too much blood from surgery. I took a good quality chlorella, magnesium, organic flaxseed oil, krill oil, garlic, cumin and turmeric. I would recommend giving up alcohol or reducing it to a minimum so that the liver can be at its peak for processing all the drugs that are given during and after surgery.

The day before the surgery I took the train to Galway and met with Dr Astbury. I signed an informed consent form and had been made aware of some of the risks. She said I would be given an antibiotic as a precaution, in case of infection. I was on that for just the first day.

I stayed in the hospital the night before and the doctor came around with some of her team about 8 am. I got into my gown and DVT stockings. I was wheeled across in my bed to the main hospital for surgery. I spoke briefly with the anesthetist. They froze my hand, inserted a cannula into a vein and that was all I remembered. I woke up in a certain amount of pain and with a nurse sticking various attachments to my body which agitated me. Dr Astbury came around and I seemed to settle and calm down.

The surgery had taken an extra hour as my womb was attached to my intestine due to some old endometriosis that I was unaware of. I was given some oxygen while they checked my pain levels on a scale of 1 to 10 and reduced my level of discomfort. I was brought to the PACU unit (Post Anesthetic Care Unit). The first night there was a sense of relief that this major surgery was over. I had many connections and monitors attached. My blood pressure and other vital signs were been constantly checked by an automated devices.

The next morning a nurse helped me out of bed to sit out on a chair. I had tubes and wires everywhere. I listened to some online meditations and healing on youtube. By afternoon I was wheeled in a bed from the PACU unit back to my room by a porter and kind nurse.

I got amazing care in St. Monica’s ward. For 2.5 days I was on a drip while my intestine started to work again. I didn’t realise that the bowel would be so affected by the surgery and was in a certain amount of pain. On the 3rd day it was good to be sitting out on a chair at 7 am. To avoid getting a chest infection regular deep breaths are necessary.

On the Monday I saw the physiotherapist who gave me very good advice e.g. pelvic floor exercises etc. On youtube I listened to cell healing, chakra healing, Wayne Dyer & Louise Hay. A mindfulness colouring book gave me something to do. And the book “The Healing Code” was a great help [2].

I was groggy from painkillers and the various drugs and had two balls of painkillers connected by fine tubes to my tender abdominal area, where there was a 9 inch incision along the bikini line. It was difficult to think straight or to remember things. Coughing or laughing caused some pain. Other basic biological functions took some time to return to some kind of normality.

I rested in my bed, wombless, listening to the occasional screams of babies coming into the world, as there was an emergency theatre down the corridor. I cried on the way into hospital and didn’t want to be there for major surgery. I also shed a tear on the way out. It was like leaving the womb without a womb. A cocoon. I felt I would never get such great care again. I had been minded like a baby.

Respite

After hospital I spent a week in respite while my body healed from major abdominal surgery that had cut through my core muscles and left me without my usual strength and independence. The large, carefully minded scar was healing well without any infection. In a world that is now full of antibiotic resistance luckily I didn’t get an infection [3, 4].

In respite, it was great to have an adjustable bed, railings, a lift and an adapted shower. On my first day in respite my GP came to examine me. I had some strange sensations in my legs from all the drugs and felt like I was walking on a trampoline. I continued to wear the DVT tights for a few weeks.

The nurses had me on a schedule taking various medications but eventually I needed to keep a record myself and develop a routine for taking pain medication & the anti-inflammatory drug Difene. I got off the drugs as soon as I could, while been sure to have my pain under control. Everyone is different, so this is not medical advice.

I went to see a good nutritionist called Linda in the town I live in. She gave me some advice e.g. I took Kefir to help build back the good bacteria in my gut and drank a green anti-oxidant smoothie with wheatgrass. When it came to inflammation I supplemented turmeric into my food, after I came off the Difene. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Advice from a doctor or nutritionist may be needed when it comes to any contraindications.

I slowly tapered off the drugs. About 2 weeks after surgery I went home and out to a world full of highly sprung doors, where I needed to fend for myself most of the time. My next door neighbour was very kind when I arrived home. I was able to slowly and carefully do a certain amount of housework e.g. dishes and laundry. 3 weeks after surgery I was able for a 20 minute walk, with some rest along the way.

4 weeks on I had electrical zaps in my tummy after overdoing things. 6 weeks after surgery I went back to Dr. Astbury for a check up and thanked her for a job well done. I am very grateful for the work she did. While some people can be judgemental when I tell them various parts of my journey, she instead praised me for going for the test and the necessary surgery.

7 weeks on I still wasn’t really able for lifting a small backpack of groceries. My body let me know. I suggest waiting at least 3 months for any intimate relationships, which is the average recovery time for the internal healing.

As someone that’s been through a difficult decade, I had a new appreciation of people, doctors & nurses, the HSE and life in general [5]. Some therapy /counseling would have been helpful and/or a support group. The whole journey was a test of my own resilience that involved a lot of maturing and personal growth. A support group would have been helpful.

I need to stay focused on nutrition and take personal responsibility for my physical and emotional health on a daily basis, which at times can be a struggle. Functional medicine needs to play a bigger role in our health care system. Dr. Mark Hyman explains it well [6].

To conclude, overall I was very pleased with and grateful for the care I received from our health service. I have empathy and understanding about this ordeal. Some people understood the severity of the procedure and the impact it has, both physically and emotionally. Others were not very understanding.

To those that have supported me I am forever grateful. And finally, I am grateful for the skilled hands of the surgeon Dr. Katharine Astbury, her team, the nurses in St. Monica’s ward in University Hospital Galway, staff in Portiuncula hospital, those that looked after me in respite and my GPs.

 

Some links that may be useful

[1] www.hystersisters.com ( A website I discovered that was of great help e.g. On what to expect as the weeks progressed)

[2] The Healing Code & book ~ http://thehealingcodes.com/

[3] Antimicrobial resistance ~ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

[4] Antibiotic resistance could spell end of modern medicine, says chief medic ~
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/13/antibiotic-resistance-could-spell-end-of-modern-medicine-says-chief-medic

[5] HSE information on Hysterectomy ~ http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/H/Hysterectomy/

[6] How Is Functional Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?

https://vimeo.com/37277787 (Dr. Mark Hyman)

Other relevant links

* Louise Hay You Can Heal Your Life ~

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTtmHvM1opo

* Flipping the Script on Menopause: Dr. Christiane Northrup & Dr. Kelly Brogan

http://kellybroganmd.com/flipping-the-script-on-menopause-dr-christiane-northrup/

* Marilyn Glenville on Hysterectomy ~

https://www.marilynglenville.com/womens-health-issues/hysterectomy/

In praise of the HSE ~ Hysterectomy in University Hospital Galway, 2017

“My old ways die like leaves in the fall, leaving me naked. Then I open to healing” Maureen Brady

For quite a while I had been struggling with some female problems. My GP referred me to a gynaecologist. An ultrasound was performed and that showed up some fibroids which I was aware of from previous check ups. The gynaecologist Dr De Tavernier wanted to do a hysteroscopy. I had been for regular smear tests and a colposcopy but the idea of a hysteroscopy scared me. As someone that’s been there for the birth of one of my nieces but has never had a baby. Granted writing these blogs has felt like giving birth at times !

I also had some trust issues with doctors because of a severe trauma that happened in 2008, in a different field. So I kept putting off the test, saying that I needed to work on my diet, which I never seemed to be able to change e.g. reduce gluten, sugar & dairy. Krill oil seemed to help. One day a Sudanese doctor gave me a scare story so I went ahead with the test. I watched a simulator on youtube before hand to try to put my mind at ease.

Not long after the hysteroscopy the gynaecologist rang my GP to tell her that I needed a hysterectomy. I was helping out with a friend’s 3 yr old child that day as he had a bad case of tonsillitis. He woke up around the time of the call from my GP and was crying inconsolably while the doctor was telling me that my womb had to be removed. There was a certain irony to it all.

I did manage to settle the sick child after that by cradling him in my arms, while the reality sunk in. This was the final curtain coming down on any possibility of being a mother. I have accepted this but notice I’ve become more aware of babies and pregnant women. They seemed to be everywhere after that ! When it comes to my maternal instinct I have nieces, nephews, little cousins and friend’s children to connect and help out with.

The next step was to meet with the surgeon. When I was told that it would probably be gynaecologist / obstetrician Dr Astbury, I recognised the name as we had already met in the Cervical screening clinic. I was sent for an MRI scan. Towards the end of July I met with Dr Astbury and a clinical nurse specialist Joanne. The doctor listened without judging me which was important. After a discussion with them and asking questions about a laparoscopic “less invasive” procedure, I decided to go ahead with an abdominal hysterectomy. In hindsight that was a good decision. I asked to keep my ovaries, if possible, due to very low mood (which I suffer from since taking anti-depressants for anxiety almost a decade ago! A condition called tardive dysphoria). I didn’t want to be plunged straight into the Menopause. The surgery was scheduled for August 25th.

I discovered a good website dedicated to women going through hysterectomies called HysterSisters [1]. Leading up to the surgery I got a call from the nurse Joanne to ask how I was. She advised me to rest and eat healthily. I’m not sure how well I rested as I started writing blogs which can be draining, but it’s something that was on my bucket list. The plan had been to write a book.

I continued to do daily Yoga to build up my strength. I improved my eating habits and cut back on sugar. I managed to loose half a stone in weight via the changes I made. I ate more fruit and vegetables and invested in various supplements and herbs. As I had been losing a lot of blood and that was taking its toll on my body, I took Hemaplex which included iron, antioxidants and amino acids.

That paid off in the end as I didn’t need a blood transfusion. Luckily I didn’t loose too much blood from surgery. I took a good quality chlorella, magnesium, organic flaxseed oil, krill oil, garlic, cumin and turmeric. I listen to functional medicine doctors on the internet, some of whom did extra nutritional training to help overcome their own health issues via holistic medicine and their influence helped build me up for surgery. Doctors Kelly Brogan [2], Rangan Chatterjee [3], Mark Hyman [4] and others. Over the years my friends Kris and Karen have been a wealth of knowledge when it comes to holistic health [5].

I didn’t manage to give up alcohol and would recommend giving it up or reducing it to a minimum so that the liver can be at its peak for processing all the drugs that are given during and after surgery.

The day before the surgery I did some final cleaning and preparation of my house (as I knew housework was going to be difficult for a few weeks), packed my belongings and headed to Galway on the train. I walked along the river Corrib that wet afternoon and took a taxi for the last part of the journey. I would normally call to the Cathedral to light a candle but didn’t get a chance that day. I got upset when I arrived, once the patient wristband was put on but managed to settle myself. I met with the doctor and told her I didn’t want to be there. She said that was understandable. I signed an informed consent form and had been made aware of some of the risks. She said I would be given an antibiotic as a precaution, in case of infection. I was on that for just the first day.

Corrib_walk

I stayed in the hospital the night before and the doctor / surgeon came around with some of her team about 8 am. I got into my gown and had DVT stockings on. A nurse had measured me the night before and provided me with these special stockings. I was wheeled across in my bed to the main hospital for surgery. D-day had arrived. I don’t remember been particularly nervous. I spoke with the anesthetist and had the choice of an epidural or a more localised anesthetic as part of the whole procedure. I choose the latter option. They froze my hand, inserted a cannula into a vein and that was all I remembered. I woke up in a certain amount of pain and with a nurse sticking various attachments to my body which agitated me. Dr Astbury came around and I seemed to settle and calm down when I saw a familiar face.

She explained a few things to me including that surgery had taken an extra hour as my womb was attached to my intestine due to some old endometriosis that I was unaware of. So the surgery had taken 2.5 hours. I was given some oxygen while they checked my pain levels on a scale of 1 to 10 and reduced my level of discomfort.

I was brought to the PACU unit (Post Anesthetic Care Unit). The first night there was a sense of relief that this major surgery was over. I was like a Christmas tree with so many connections and monitors attached. My blood pressure was been constantly checked by an automated device and my other vital signs were also been monitored.

The next morning a nurse helped me out of bed to sit out on a chair. I had tubes everywhere. I listened to some online meditations and healing on youtube. By afternoon I was wheeled in a bed from the PACU unit back to my room by a porter and kind nurse. In St. Monica’s ward I got amazing care from nurses Adrienne, Marie, Patricia and others.

A lot of emotions came up on the 2nd night and I found it more difficult that the first. Plus I have hyperacusis (severe sensitivity to sound) so the noise from the drip was like torture, even with earplugs in ! Hospitals can also be noisy environments.

For 2.5 days I was on a drip while my intestine started to wake up and work again. I didn’t realise that the bowel would be so affected by the surgery and was in a certain amount of pain from trapped wind. I regretted not bringing some natural peppermint with me. In hindsight, I also should have been a bit more careful with my diet in the days leading up to the surgery.

On the 3rd day it was good to be sitting out on a chair at 7 am. I was getting chesty and the advice was to take regular deep breaths. Because I’m not a smoker I was sometimes relaxed about that advice. The reality was I needed to work with deep breathing. A lady called Teresa that I was friendly with died in the main hospital that day. That upset me as I am very close to some of her extended family. She had also inspired me to keep moving with my procedure. I became very much aware of the preciousness of life.

On the Monday I saw the physiotherapist who gave me very good advice e.g. how to move correctly, lifting advice, pelvic floor exercises etc. On youtube I listened to cell healing [6], chakra healing [7], Wayne Dyer [8] & Louise Hay [9]. I also brought 3 of her books to the hospital. Louise Hay died on August 30th, age 90, on the 2nd anniversary of Wayne Dyer’s death. I also had a photo of evidence based healer Bruno Groening in the room [10]. A mindfulness colouring book gave me something to do. And the book “The Healing Code” by Loyd and Johnson (an MD) was a great help [11]. I recorded the healing prayer / mantra on my phone and listened to it regularly. I gave this book to another patient in the room beside me.

I was groggy from painkillers and the various drugs and had two balls of painkillers connected by fine tubes to my tender abdominal area. It was difficult to think straight or to remember things. Coughing or laughing caused some pain and I had to hold the area where I had the incision with something padded. Other basic biological functions took some time to return to some kind of normality.

I rested in my bed, wombless, listening to the occasional screams of babies coming into the world, as there was an emergency theatre down the corridor.

I cried on the way into hospital and didn’t want to be there for major surgery. I also shed a tear on the way out. It was like leaving the womb without a womb. A cocoon. I felt I would never get such great care again. I had been minded like a baby.

On the day I was discharged a friend Mal organised transport for me and we left Galway at 4.15 pm. There was a lot of traffic and I didn’t get to my destination until 5.45 pm. I felt tired after the journey and a bit tender.

Respite

I spent a week in respite while my body healed from major abdominal surgery that had cut through my core muscles and left me without my usual strength and independence. The large scar that was healing well without any infection reminded me of what I had been through. In a world that is now full of antibiotic resistance luckily I didn’t get an infection [12, 13]. I was very careful with the wound and minded it well. As did the nursing staff.

In respite, it was great to have an adjustable bed, railings, a lift and an adapted shower. The first night was an adjustment as I missed St. Monica’s hospital ward. On my first day in respite my GP came to examine me. I had some strange sensations in my legs from all the drugs and felt like I was walking on a trampoline. I was also wearing DVT tights in case of a blood clot and continued to wear them for a few weeks.

Pain control was an issue. The nurses had me on a schedule taking various medications but eventually I needed to keep a record myself and develop a routine for taking pain medication & the anti-inflammatory drug Difene. I got off the drugs as soon as I could, while been sure to have my pain under control. Everyone is different, so this is not medical advice.

I took a taxi to see a good nutritionist called Linda in the town I live in. She gave me some advice e.g. I took Kefir to help build back the good bacteria in my gut and drank a green antioxidant smoothie with wheatgrass. When it came to inflammation I supplemented turmeric into my food, after I came off the Difene. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Advice from a doctor or nutritionist may be needed when it comes to any contraindications.

Green_smoothie

I was slowly tapering off the drugs and by September 4th I was taking 1 Difene, 2 Panadol and 0.25 Xanax (temporarily to help me with relaxation and sleep). By September 7th my friend Trevor, who drives a taxi, took me home. I was now in a world full of highly sprung doors and where I needed to fend for myself most of the time. My very kind neighbour Avril cooked me Lasagne, left fuel for the fire on my doorstep and moved a few heavy items for me.

I was able to slowly and carefully do a certain amount of housework e.g. dishes and laundry. 3 weeks after surgery I was able for a 20 minute walk, with some rest along the way, to visit an 89 year old woman who had a heart valve replaced in University Hospital Galway.

4 weeks on I had electrical zaps in my tummy after overdoing things. 6 weeks after surgery I went back to Dr. Astbury for a check up and thanked her for a job well done.

When I discussed wanting local anesthetics for the hysteroscopic procedure in Ireland (like they do in the US) and my concerns about morcellation used by other doctors to perform hysterectomies (thanks to the brave work of Dr Noorchashm and his wife Dr Amy Reed) she listened but didn’t make me feel inferior. I don’t work in the medical field but do a lot of reading and research.

7 weeks on I still wasn’t really able for lifting a small backpack of groceries. My body let me know. 8 weeks on I wasn’t truly ready for intimate relationships with my manfriend. I suggest waiting at least 3 months for that, which is the average recovery time for the internal healing.

As someone that’s been through a difficult decade, I had a new appreciation of people, doctors & nurses, the HSE and life in general [14]. It’s been a difficult few weeks. I probably needed some psychological support and did discuss that with the Community nurse but struggled on due to a traumatic experience with the mental health services in the past. Some therapy /counseling would have been helpful. I could always have tried to link up with therapist Ivor Browne who is now 88. But decided to give him some peace. He did send me a very supportive message while I was in hospital saying “Sorry to hear what’s been happening to you. I suppose every experience teaches us something but it’s no joke when you’re going through it. I just hope you are recovering well”. A man with a lot of patience and kindness.

Some of the Manic Depressive / Bipolar symptoms (triggered by anti-depressants in 2008) returned for a while but I was more aware of them now and able to stand up to them, while letting them go. Like the cover of a Dr Suess book [15]. Some morphine in the hospital also triggered my overactive brain and caused a bit of a high but I managed to balance that out by asking the doctor for some xanax very short term (seeing as benzos are addictive).

The whole journey was a test of my own resilience that involved a lot of maturing and personal growth. A support group would have been helpful.

I need to stay focused on nutrition and daily work on my physical and emotional health. As someone that trained in basic Anatomy, Physiology and Massage therapy and that worked in this field in the past, I do think that functional medicine and holistic healing needs to play a bigger part in our health care. I’m not sure if people understand the difference between modern medicine and functional medicine. Dr. Mark Hyman explains it well [16].

We live in a world awash with drugs, where antibiotic resistance is a major problem and where the flu vaccine may not be effective this winter, putting a major strain on the health service. I needed to work on my own immune system and self-discipline isn’t one of my strong points. I am far from perfect at times.

When in respite, my Irish teacher (Sr. Patricia from secondary school) bought me a jar of high quality New Zealand Manuka honey which was very kind and thoughtful of her.

As someone that’s been to a few public lectures in RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons) I’ve learned about the usefulness of more traditional methods when it comes to healing wounds and fighting infection [17]. I also went to a good lecture by Dr Anthony Cummins on ‘Evidence based medicine’ [18].

To conclude, overall I was very pleased with and grateful for the care I received from our health service. Now I can help others in similar situations. I have empathy and understanding about this ordeal. Some people understood the severity of the procedure. Others, particularly women, didn’t seem to fully comprehend the healing involved and the support required. Both physically and emotionally. Women who have had C-sections seemed to have some understanding e.g. my sister-in-law or the many women that have had a hysterectomy.

To those that have supported me, including cousin Linda, friend Erica, my aunts and others, I am forever grateful. And finally, I am grateful for the skilled hands of the surgeon Dr. Katharine Astbury, her team, the nurses in St. Monica’s ward in University Hospital Galway, staff in Portiuncula hospital, those that looked after me in respite and my GPs.

Go raibh maith agat.

GoRaibhMaithAgat

Some links that may be useful

[1] www.hystersisters.com ( A website I discovered that was of great help e.g. On what to expect as the weeks progressed)

[2] Kelly Brogan ~ http://kellybroganmd.com/

[3] Rangan Chatterjee ~ https://www.drchatterjee.com/

[4] Mark Hyman ~ http://drhyman.com/

[5] Karuna Flame Holistic health centre ~ http://www.karunaflame.com/karunaflame/

[6] Spoken Guided Meditation For Pain & Sickness, Relieve Pain Naturally ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jD3VxSGM-k

[7] Chakra Cleansing & Activating Guided Meditation ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1xwtA6C2DQ

[8] Wayne Dyer ~ https://www.drwaynedyer.com/
[9] Louise Hay – Morning Meditation to Heal Your Body ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YcCHonbyWU

[10] Bruno Gröning ~ https://www.bruno-groening.org/en

[11] The Healing Code & book ~ http://thehealingcodes.com/

[12] Antimicrobial resistance ~ http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/

[13] Antibiotic resistance could spell end of modern medicine, says chief medic ~
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/oct/13/antibiotic-resistance-could-spell-end-of-modern-medicine-says-chief-medic

[14] HSE information on Hysterectomy ~ http://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/H/Hysterectomy/

[15] …Will You Please Go Now! Dr Suess book ~
https://www.amazon.com/Marvin-Mooney-Please-Beginning-Beginners/dp/0394824903

[16] How Is Functional Medicine Different than Conventional Medicine?

https://vimeo.com/37277787 (Dr. Mark Hyman)

[17] RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series 2013/2014 – ‘Wound Management …”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBYg2gzwMiI

[18] RCSI MiniMed Open Lecture Series 2013/2014 – ‘Evidence-Based Medicine’
Dr. Anthony Cummins ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNn1StHwxmw

Learning from the History of Psychiatry

Hannah_Greally4Hannah_Greally_plaque 

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” George Santayana

The RTE “Behind the Walls” 2 part documentary highlighted that we locked up more people in mental institutions in Ireland that any other place in the world a few decades ago [1]. “Research shows that 33,000 patients died in overcrowded and disease-ridden psychiatric hospitals between the late 1920s and early 1960s, with death rates significantly higher than in the general community” Carl O’Brien, Irish Times [2]. In Nazi Germany people with mental health issues were the first to be killed and the last to be recognised.

Athlone nurse Hanna Greally, experienced Post Traumatic Stress after spending time in England during WWII. She was sent into St. Loman’s hospital, Mullingar by her mother for “a rest”. She was admitted to the Psychiatric hospital at 19 and got trapped there for almost 20 years! Her birthplace is currently Murphy’s Law pub in Athlone with a plaque outside and her photo in the beer garden.

She wrote an excellent book called Bird’s Nest Soup [3]. The last line in the book is very poignant “I am now a sadder but a wiser woman, and one who can say with certainty that knowledge and FREEDOM are happiness”.

Sligo woman Mary Maddock and her husband Jim wrote a book called Soul Survivor [4] which gives a more recent insight into Psychiatric survival. Like many other sane people, Mary got caught up in the Psychiatric system in the early 1970s, after the birth of her 1st baby. With the help of people like Dr Terry Lynch, thankfully she freed herself from the mental “health” system. I’ve included a short video about her below [5].

I don’t think people truly comprehend what it’s like to be in a Psychiatric unit unless you have been there. “One thing you will find on Psychiatric wards that you won’t find on other hospital wards is a lot of people in various stages of tranquilisation … Psychiatry is the only medical specialty where considerable number of recipients of Psychiatric treatment consider themselves to be survivors of the actual system” Dr. Terry Lynch. Connecting to other Psychiatric survivors was a part of my healing journey.

Ivor Browne and how he helped me on my healing journey

Prof Ivor Browne has worked in the field of mental health for about 60 years. He has published a number of good books [6, 7]. A lot can be learned about the history of Psychiatry in Ireland in the last 60 years from Ivor’s great work.

While Professor Ivor Browne worked as a Psychiatrist, he is also a trained therapist, unlike most mainstream Psychiatrists who are trained in a biomedical approach and mainly prescribe drugs. Only a relatively small percentage of Psychiatrists in Ireland are trained therapists. In my experience this puts the human beings they are working with at a serious disadvantage and delays healing. “12 years of schooling and I can’t do basic therapy techniques … how did we get to this point where we as a field have become fixated on medications ?” Dr Daniel Carlat (Psychiatrist).

I first went to see Prof Ivor Browne for therapy in February 2012 for one intensive session and then he took me back in 2015 where I received about nine more sessions, including Regression therapy. The first time we met I was on 25 mg of Seroquel / Quetiapine, which is more or less the lowest dosage (it goes all the way up to 800 mg !). Ivor believes that anti-psychotic medication (mainly tranquilizers) should be used for as short a time as possible in as low a dosage as possible.

Having met doctors that seemed closed and programmed, I found myself sitting in front of someone who was very open-minded and didn’t dismiss some of the things that I said. He was able to “listen to my human story, validate my feelings and then offer an alternative perspective” to use a phrase from clincial Psychologist Lucy Johnstone. He worked in a very methodical way and gave me an action plan at the end, at a time when my life was lacking direction. He told me that I needed to “take back control of my life”. Whether I have or not over 5 years on is debatable. Life has been a struggle since mainstream Psychiatric intervention.

At the same time I’ve learned from my Tao meditations “No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. All that you can gain from a wise person is the assurance of some initial guidance”.

One of the important pieces of advice Ivor gave me was not to give my power away to other people, yet I seem to continually do so on a regular basis. It took me a long time to understand how not to give my power away and I’m still a work in progress.

While we are told by various campaigns to be open about mental health and to talk, we really have to be careful about who we talk to. While it’s not good to bottle up emotions and what we are thinking, if in distress, we also have to tell people on a need to know basis e.g. a therapist or a trusted friend. And to protect ourselves by maintaining appropriate boundaries and not over sharing with people in our social circle or community. At times however sharing how I feel has been a coping strategy, in dealing with distressing emotions.

Another way we give away power is explained in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective families [8] ~

Each time you build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others, you give your power away to their weaknesses so that your emotional life is a product of how they treat you. You disempower yourself and empower the weaknesses of others.

For example, I focused a lot on what I see as the cruelty of others in my initial treatment. Societies lack of good knowledge around mental health was a weakness that directly impacted my life. I invested a lot of energy emotionally in reacting to this injury. It particularly bothered me at night where I was left ruminating on past hurts. This was affecting my sleep but also taking up valuable head space. As well as causing me distress. It was disempowering. And still is sometimes.

I’m working on learning not to dwell on the hurt and distracting myself, so that my thought processes and energy can be spent on more productive things and on moving my life forward. Including the writing of this blog. I have accumulated a lot of important knowledge around mental health over the years and want to share that knowledge with others. If I had this knowledge back in 2008 when I went through a crisis, my healing process would be less painful and more successful. Thanks to all those who have helped me and who have been patient and supportive.

References

[1] Behind The Walls by Mary Raftery:

Part 1 ~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvxOon7CWZI

Part 2 ~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTOWZu0Gubo

Behind the Walls’ is a two-part documentary series charting the history of Ireland’s psychiatric hospitals. Part one lifts the lid on this vast system – during the middle decades of the 20th century, Ireland led the world in locking up more of its people per capita in mental hospitals, ahead even of the old Soviet Union.

This documentary reveals damning evidence of appalling conditions within the hospitals, information which was kept secret by the State. It also tells the remarkable story of Hanna Greally, locked up for almost 20 years, but who emerged to write about her experiences in the 1970s, becoming one of the very few to chronicle her experiences behind the walls.

Behind the Walls is a Misha Films production.

Produced and written by Mary Raftery”

http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/behind_the_walls.html

[2] Call to extend mother and baby homes inquiry to mental homes

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/call-to-extend-mother-and-baby-homes-inquiry-to-mental-homes-1.1833367

[3] Bird’s Nest Soup by Hannah Greally, 1971 ~

http://www.corkuniversitypress.com/Birds-Nest-Soup-Hanna-Greally-p/9781855942103.htm

There is also an RTE documentary about Hannah Greally ~

www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/greally.html

Hannah_Greally

[4] Soul Survivor by Mary & Jim Maddock, 2006 ~

www.amazon.com/Soul-Survivor-Personal-Encounter-Psychiatry/dp/0954403029

[5] Mary Maddock: a survivor of ECT and decades of Psychiatric drugging ~

www.vimeo.com/87711795

[6] Music and Madness, Prof Ivor Browne, 2008

www.amazon.co.uk/Ivor-Browne-Music-Madness/dp/0955226120

[7] The Writings of Ivor Browne: Steps Along the Road, the Evolution of a Slow Learner

www.amazon.co.uk/Writings-Ivor-Browne-Evolution-Learner/dp/1855942194

Ivor Browne

[8] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey, 1998

www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-Families/dp/0307440850

Other relevant information

Edward Shorter, Ph.D., author of How Everyone Became Depressed (Oxford 2013), is a social historian of medicine at the University of Toronto

http://www.dredwardshorter.com/ (includes podcasts)

Trailer for Meetings with Ivor documentary (which will air on RTE1 on 14.08.2017) ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uILm5nUoyJI

Article I wrote for a holistic magazine after going to see Meetings with Ivor ~
http://networkmagazine.ie/articles/meetings-ivor

Ivor with his son Ronan speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE radio ~

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/podcast_sundaywithmiriam.xml
(scroll down for podcast)

Pat Kenny interviews a young girl that Ivor helped called Ruth O’Doherty ~

www.newstalk.com/podcasts/The_Pat_Kenny_Show/The_Pat_Kenny_Show_Highlights/93403/

Musician Dylan Tighe speaking to Ivor Browne ~ www.mixcloud.com/corkmidsummer/talking-theatre-dylan-tighe-in-conversation-with-prof-ivor-browne-and-chaired-by-dylan-haskins/

{ Note ~ What I discuss in part of this blog is my own experience and is not medical advice. We all have our own unique journey. I also wish to thank my teachers from school that I’m still friendly with. Eileen & Tommy Moran and Sr. Patricia Kelly}

Lets blame genetics. Or not ?

While you might hear some Irish people say “there is a mad streak in that family”, in my experience, claiming Manic Depression / Bipolar is genetic :

a) allows mental health professionals to rush to a wrong diagnosis, without examining the facts before their eyes e.g. the person may be having a drug reaction.

b) increases social stigma and discrimination. Including from within the family itself.

c) can leave the person thinking they can do nothing about their symptoms, as opposed to helping empower the person to bring about change in their own lives. Which requires daily work on physical / mental health and a holistic approach.

d) leaves those who have children anxious that their children could be next or those who have had a parent with this diagnosis anxious. This sometimes becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thanks to the work of people like Dr Yolande Lucire, there is one aspect of genetics however that may be very relevant. Sometimes people genetically can’t metabolize certain drugs [1]. It can be drugs that are causing the symptoms (prescribed or illicit). Those who have experienced trauma in life may be more likely to end up on prescribed drugs in the first place. In my own experience I was prescribed the drug Citalopram as I was suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks, which would link back to some trauma in childhood.

In many families there is a certain amount of dysfunction and inter-generational trauma. Not forgetting in Ireland it’s only a few generations ago that we had the trauma of the Famine. In my case about 4 or 5 generations back, as my grandparents were born in the late 1800s or very early 1900s. It may be more helpful to explore these traumas. Family therapy may also have a role to play.

Generations of families, especially in Ireland, have been indoctrinated into the flawed biomedical model. It can sometimes be more convenient to blame genetics than address issues and struggles within the family. Or within society itself.

In my opinion and there are experts that say this, research into genetics is not a priority. Money would be better spent on supporting families where a parent is going through emotional distress, in parenting courses and in helping children build resilience. Young people would benefit from learning about stress management and how to cope with anxieties early on in their lives [2]. They also need support with trauma e.g. if their parents separate or any childhood bereavement. Play therapy can also help younger children work through certain issues.

Quote from Psychiatrist Dr Joanna Moncrieff ~ “The idea that we are doomed by our genetic make-up to develop life-threatening or disabling conditions is surely a profoundly depressing one. We will likely never be able to fully account for why some people experience extreme mental states, but we know that poverty, unemployment, insecure attachments, familial disruption, low self-esteem, abuse etc. play a role for many. We would be better concentrating on how to eliminate these from our society if we really want to reduce the impact of mental disorder, rather that pouring more money into the bottomless pit of genetic research” [3]. While this article is about “Schizophrenia”, this can also apply to Manic Depression / Bipolar.

When it comes to Manic Depression/Bipolar, no true biomarkers have been found and no significant genetic abnormalities have been reliably identified, that I’m aware of. When I wake up in the morning, whether or not mental health issues are genetic is irrelevant. Once I let go of blaming “faulty genetics” and started to see a more holistic picture of health, there was a lot more room for healing. When it comes to mental health there is nothing wrong with my genes. I feel we are a bit more prone to anxiety than some. There are people in my family who have had a lot of success in life.

We need to support all human beings born into this world and respect their rights. And some who are not yet born. But I won’t open that can of worms. Other than to say a mother has a right to informed consent about any prescribed psychoactive substances she is taking e.g. Anti-depressants. And preferably some time before she gets pregnant.

Has Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [4] ? And if not when will they ? It is supposed to be in 2017.

Note: I also talk a bit more about “genetics” (which now feels more like conditioning or buying into a belief system) in the blog Anti-depressants are great, until you have an adverse reaction.

References

[1] Adverse Drug Reactions

http://www.drlucire.com/adverse-drug-reactions.html

There is a genetic problem in the cytochrome P450 (CYP450) family of metabolizing genes.”

Forensic Psychiatrist Dr Yolande Lucire explains that not all people are born with a full complement of metabolizing enzymes, increasing the risk of side effects which can range from mild to life-threatening. Changing dosage up or down and starting / stopping drugs are also crucial times, sometimes affecting the person months after stopping.

[2] 7 Ways to Help Students Who Struggle with Anxiety ~

www.weareteachers.com/7-ways-to-help-students-who-struggle-with-anxiety/

[3] A critique of genetic research on schizophrenia – expensive castles in the air ~

www.joannamoncrieff.com/2014/09/01/a-critique-of-genetic-research-on-schizophrenia-expensive-castles-in-the-air/

[4] Human rights of persons with disabilities ~

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/Pages/DisabilityIndex.aspx

[5] Free course ~ Antidepressants & Pregnancy ~ The risks and potential harm to normal fetal development ~ http://education.madinamerica.com/p/antidepressants-pregnancy

[6] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey, 1998

www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-Families/dp/0307440850

[7] R D Laing used work of Nash and Game theory to study human relationships (18 & 25 mins)

www.ruthenians.net/kArpatia/portfolio/the-trap-episode-1-fk-you-buddy/

[8] Music and Madness, Prof Ivor Browne, 2008

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ivor-Browne-Music-Madness/dp/0955226120

Ivor talks about the family in here (don’t have access to this book at the moment but will come back to this again)

[9] ‘Physician heal thyself’ may be impossible task for a Psychiatry profession in crisis ~

www.theconversation.com/physician-heal-thyself-may-be-impossible-task-for-a-psychiatry-profession-in-crisis-30845

“Today’s Psychiatry has strong eugenic roots in this 19th-century political philosophy. Its current obsession with genetics maintains that tradition”

[10] The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive presented by Stephen Fry

www.topdocumentaryfilms.com/stephen-fry-the-secret-life-of-the-manic-depressive/

(some reference to genetics in here but nothing of real significance found. Not forgetting that some people in this documentary had taken cocaine, which can cause highs / lows. Not judging. Just saying. As someone that was on psychoactive substances for 6 years, of the prescribed variety).

Definitions

Family therapy “is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that helps family members improve communication and resolve conflicts” www.mayoclinic.org

“Family systems therapy draws on systems thinking in its view of the family as an emotional unit. When systems thinking—which evaluates the parts of a system in relation to the whole—is applied to families, it suggests behavior is both often informed by and inseparable from the functioning of one’s family of origin”

https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/family-systems-therapy

Pharmacogenetics “is the study of inherited genetic differences in drug metabolic pathways which can affect individual responses to drugs, both in terms of therapeutic effect as well as adverse effects” (Wikipedia)

Play therapy “a form of counseling or psychotherapy in which play is used as a means of helping children express or communicate their feelings”.

For more information see www.playtherapy.ie

Ratified Made officially valid.

What is Bipolar / Manic Depression ?

“Giving someone a Psychiatric diagnosis is an immensely powerful act which has profound implications for their identity, relationships place in the community, employment, health and future” Lucy Johnstone, clinical Psychologist

Bipolar / Manic Depression can involve extremes of high and low mood, including depression and periods of elation, over activity and irritability (mania). A person’s sleep can be affected, sleeping more when depressed or not feeling the need for much sleep when in mania or hypomania (the word used to describe a milder version of mania). They can lose the concept of money and spending. As well as lose the sense of time. Some people also experience psychosis (a temporary loss of touch with so called reality).

Depression can be caused by a number of things including poor nutrition, unresolved trauma from childhood, poverty, unemployment, work related stress, lifestyle choices, life circumstances and thought processes.

Manic Depression can impact a person’s life in several ways, so it is important when the symptoms first develop that the person gets the empathy and understanding they need, as well as the most accurate and honest information available. How the first episode is dealt with can have a big impact on the speed of recovery and potential future episodes.

What causes Manic Depression / Bipolar ?

When it comes to Manic Depression, no true biomarkers have been found and no genetic abnormalities have been reliably identified. “A biological marker is an identifiable biological abnormality that consistently and reliably demonstrates the presence of a particular disease … The lack of any investigative tests relative to the diagnosis and management of Psychiatric disorders is striking” Dr Terry Lynch [1]

We are told that Manic Depression is a “disease” yet there is no evidence there to back this up.

The drugs used to treat mania / psychosis are basically strong tranquilizers eg Olanzapine, Quetiapine etc Some people claim that Lithium helps. Others feel it doesn’t. (See my blog on Lithium).

In my experience, there is a lot more to be gained from looking from an environmental and emotional perspective. Including addressing lifestyle issues.

When it comes to the “chemical imbalance” theory, it is not possible to measure neurotransmitter levels in the brain of a live human. Information sources e.g. brochures sponsored by drug companies, make unscientific and unproven claims that anti-depressants rebalance brain neurotransmitter levels.

However, it’s been known since at least 2001 that anti-depressants, instead of bringing “balance”, can lead to mania & psychosis in some people [2]. These drugs do not “unmask” serious mental health conditions, as some Psychiatrists try to claim. They cause them.

Potential adverse effects of anti-depressants are not highlighted enough to ensure the person has informed consent. “Anti-depressants” can turn mild / moderate, temporary feelings of Depression into a more chronic condition called tardive dysphoria, according to medical journalist Robert Whitaker and his research. This has been my experience of the drug Citalopram [3].

While I can’t seem to find the exact link at the moment, I came across this information on a drug safety website [4] ~ “Prior to initiating treatment with an antidepressant, patients with depressive symptoms should be adequately screened to determine if they are at risk for bipolar disorder; such screening should include a detailed psychiatric history, including a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder, and depression”.

According to Dr John Studd, in women sometimes severe Premenstral tension is misdiagnosed as Bipolar with tragic consequences “It is not known how frequently severe PMS is misdiagnosed as bipolar disease by Psychiatrists but it does occur” [5]

In the current system people are told that Bipolar is a life long illness that will require medication for life. Such a prognosis, while being very lucrative for the pharma industry, can be a life sentence for many and also takes away hope of true healing. With the right information and knowledge, healing is possible.

In her book clinical Psychologist Lucy Johnstone highlights that the process of recovery has to start with the most accurate description of what is going on for the person [6]. In the current system this sometimes gets hidden, overlooked or forgotten, in the rush to label and prescribe psychoactive drugs.

I have another blog entitled Tips on dealing with symptoms of Bipolar where you can get more information. I found the book by Declan Henry called Why Bipolar? to be very good. A review of this book that I wrote can be found here [7]. The work of Sean Blackwell was a big part of my own recovery journey, as I was left to deal with my last episode of mania/psychosis alone, back in December 2012. Not something I recommend but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I got through it and haven’t experienced it since [8]. Dr Terry Lynch has also a great insight into Bipolar and has set up online courses [9].

In the field of mental health people need to be as informed as possible as some day, without much warning, we can find ourselves, a relative or a friend coming in contact with the current mental health system. While some people may feel they benefit from been told they have Bipolar, in my experience with the stroke of a pen a Psychiatrist can change a person’s life. The diagnosis may not have been a correct one. Something I’ve explored in previous blogs. For nearly a decade I’ve been left picking up the pieces of my own life. I am a work in progress but getting there. On one levels it has been a Spiritual journey.

{ Important Do not stop or change prescribed psychoactive drugs without consulting your prescriber, due to the dangers of withdrawal. Any changes need to take place under the supervision of an expert. Some people may feel they benefit from Lithium or other drugs I mention here. What I discuss in part of this blog is my own experience and is not medical advice. We all have our own unique journey.}

Note ~ ‘Psychosis’ does not necessarily mean the person will become violent, even though that is how it is portrayed in the media and by some Psychiatrists in the courts. We are not always given the full picture e.g. what drugs or alcohol the person was taking and the effect withdrawal from or stopping drugs, both prescribed and illicit, can have on the person’s mental state.

References

[1] Depression Delusion: The Myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance ~

www.amazon.com/DEPRESSION-DELUSION-Volume-One-Imbalance/dp/1908561017

My review of this book ~ www.goodreads.com/user/show/46943899-anne

[2] Antidepressant-associated Mania and Psychosis resulting in Psychiatric admissions, 2001

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11235925 (Yale study)

[3] Now Antidepressant-Induced Chronic Depression Has a Name: Tardive Dysphoria, 2011

by medical journalist Robert Whitaker

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mad-in-america/201106/now-antidepressant-induced-chronic-depression-has-name-tardive-dysphoria

[4] An independent drug safety website to help you weigh the benefits of any medication against its potential dangers. www.rxisk.org

[5] Severe PMS and Bipolar Disease – a tragic confusion, Dr. John Studd

http://www.studd.co.uk/bipolar.php

[6] A Straight Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Diagnosis by Lucy Johnstone
www.amazon.co.uk/Straight-Introduction-Psychiatric-Diagnosis-Introductions/dp/1906254664

My review of this book ~
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/cr/rRZTSBCCI1MGDN/ref=aw_cr_i_1

[7] My review of Why Bipolar? by Declan Henry ~

https://www.facebook.com/DeclanHenryIrishAuthor/posts/1573462929337695:0

[8] Sean Blackwell’s work ~ www.youtube.com/user/bipolarorwakingup

Corrina Rachel speaking to Sean Blackwell about Bipolar ~

~ www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLIeS6idzD4

[9] Dr. Terry Lynch has information and courses on the topic of Manic Depression / Bipolar ~

http://doctorterrylynch.com/tag/bipolar-disorder/

Other useful Resources

Most people labelled as having Depression have suffered grief that hasn’t been resolved”
www.herald.ie/lifestyle/health-beauty/most-people-labelled-as-having-depression-have-suffered-grief-that-hasnt-been-resolved-31216116.html (Prof Ivor Browne, 2015)

“Every third person who comes to me now is labelled Bipolar … If you looked back, that was once considered a rare condition and what’s more, most people eventually recovered”

Psychiatry in Context : Experience, Meaning & Communities by Dr Philip Thomas

https://www.amazon.com/Psychiatry-Context-Experience-Meaning-Communities/dp/1906254729

My review of this book ~ www.goodreads.com/user/show/46943899-anne

The Myth of the chemical cure’ Dr Joanna Moncrieff ~

www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rethinking-mental-health/201602/joanna-moncrieff-the-myth-the-chemical-cure

Joanna Moncrieff – The Myth of the Chemical Cure: The Politics of Psychiatric Drug Treatment

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV1S5zw096U

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive presented by Stephen Fry

www.topdocumentaryfilms.com/stephen-fry-the-secret-life-of-the-manic-depressive/

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

www.breggin.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=296

Electric Convulsive Therapy

I am now a sadder but a wiser woman, and one who can say with certainty that knowledge and freedom are happiness” Hannah Greally

I won’t be writing very much about Electric Shock / Electric Convulsive Therapy (ECT), but have included information from 3 Psychiatrists and a Psychiatric survivor. Dr Michael Corry, Prof Ivor Browne, Dr Bob Johnson and survivor Mary Maddock.

I sat beside a lady in a private hospital that was going through this treatment. She wasn’t allowed in the garden. My heart went out to her and I started to realise what type of place I was in. I found out later it had one of the highest rates of ECT in the country !

I also watched a documentary on mental health where a woman seemed to benefit from Electric shock but by the end of the programme she had “relapsed”. So what appeared initially to be a “miracle cure” seemed very much short lived.

I would suggest writing an Advance Directive and specifying whether or not ECT would be a treatment option that you find acceptable. 

Information that may be of use

1) Barbaric age of electric shock ‘cure’ must vanish by Dr Michael Corry ~

www.wellbeingfoundation.com/downloads/IT_ECT_Debate.pdf

2) “Over many years studies of ECT have shown no long-term benefit, only a temporary relief of symptoms due to confusion and brain damage”. Ivor finishes with this line “The only real, lasting change comes when we help a person to bring about the painful work of change within themselves”

Prof Ivor Browne (June 2008) ~

www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/debate-on-electric-shock-therapy-1.943326

3) An informed consent form for Electric shock treatment by Psychiatrist Dr Bob Johnson ~

http://psychrights.org/Research/Digest/InformedConsent/DrJohnsonECTInformedConsent.pdf

 4) Mary Maddock: a survivor of ECT and decades of Psychiatric drugging ~

www.vimeo.com/87711795

5) A 16-year-old girl with severe depression associated with an eating disorder is to receive up to 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/high-court/court-orders-electroconvulsive-therapy-for-girl-with-depression-1.2617561

{ I would love to know where this young girl is now and how she is doing. I know of another young girl who had a cocktail of drugs forced upon her via the High Court. I went to see her recently. She is damaged and suffering on a daily basis. Now age 20 ! Her family has also suffered. I won’t go into much detail at the moment. There has to be a more humane way of helping our young people. }

6) Soul Survivor by Mary Maddock, 2006 ~

www.amazon.com/Soul-Survivor-Personal-Encounter-Psychiatry/dp/0954403029

When it comes to modern day Psychiatry in Ireland this is what Sligo woman, Psychiatric survivor, long term activist and author of Soul Survivor Mary Maddock had to say:

“very little if anything, has changed over the last thirty years. The ‘experts’ still call the shots. The medical model is dominant, the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory is still propounded, depression is still a ‘disease’ and drugs are still the main form of treatment. More and more ‘disorders’ are being invented to be treated with more and more drugs, to the delight of the pharmaceutical companies whose profits grow and grow. Every year, a new crop of patients join the conveyor belt, just as we did in 1976. Pre-teen children are prescribed Ritalin. ‘A pill for every ill’ is becoming the norm. And yet, despite all that, two stark facts remain – 70% of admissions to psychiatric hospitals are re-admissions and the suicide rate in Ireland has never been higher”.

7) Bird’s Nest Soup by Hannah Greally, 1971 ~

https://www.amazon.com/Birds-Nest-Soup-Hanna-Greally/dp/1855942100

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In memory of my sane father who was a gentle man and should be turning 77 tomorrow. He was subjected to this barbaric treatment back in 1970s Ireland and possibly the early 1980s. It affected his memory. Rest in Peace.

Dad_blog