Tag Archives: Psychosis

What A Year

I have just completed one year of psychotherapy* with an amazing clinical social worker, accompanied by psychiatric/psychological follow-up. Today, at 54, I am as mentally and emotionally strong as maybe never before in my life.

Until less than a year ago my life was a mess. And that of my son even more. Our home was a mess, and I am not even going to begin detailing.

After another psychiatric hospitalization of several months, my 26-year-old son (who is struggling with psychotic OCD) has been living in supervised housing for the past 6 months and he is learning to live an independent and socially healthy life.

I have moved to a new apartment with my cat and have begun studying psychology and working with children with special needs.

The love of my life (who is also coping with emotional-mental complexity) has evolved into my best friend.

Things are far from perfect, but they are steadily improving.

AND, most days are sunny and warm in this country.


* State-funded, I didn’t pay a penny.

Focused or Diffuse?

Dear Friends,

If you wondered what happened to me…  well, no need to worry, I am still suffering from personhood.

This dynamite choice of  words is from the book The Fault in our Stars by John Green, which Time called “damn near genius”. Augustus tells Hazel (two young people struggling with cancer who fall in love) that his last girlfriend is no longer among the living: “Caroline is no longer suffering from personhood.”

I am not suffering THAT much and I am definitely happy to be alive, but my life has been quite rough lately.

Mental and emotional health issues have leashed out again in my very close environment, hurting people I love and myself in various ways.

After months in which my son’s increasingly severe psychotic OCD became unbearable, he is now finally hospitalized. We had to force him into hospitalization but now he is relieved to be there. Let’s hope he’ll get the right treatment and eventually be able to begin living his life and making use of his brilliant brain.

Further, my best friend, who is coping with bipolar disorder, is going through a major depressive phase. To see a person suffer so much, especially if he/she is someone you are very close to, really hurts.

Then, I am moving flats again (one of the main reasons I decided to leave the place I was living in with my son and to move to another flat without him, was to force him out and into the hospital. His psychiatrist helped us. I say “us” because in the end this step will help both my son and me to begin anew.) And I am struggling to make a living. Fortunately, I myself am receiving (state-funded) psychological support, which helps me function and remain sane in these crazy times.


And now I would like to share my latest learning activity and the link to the coolest (free!!) online courses with you:

Coursera – the best MOOCs ever.  Academic level courses – fun, challenging, and rewarding.

The latest course I took: Learning how to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects. https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn (The title of this post, Focused and diffuse modes of learning, is one of the topics covered in the course.)

Also check out their other courses. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.



Psychosis Susceptibility Syndrome

The new name for schizophrenia?

The term schizophrenia (meaning “split mind”, freely translated from the Greek) is still loaded with misconception and stigma (https://heilablog.com/2013/09/02/stigma-is-for-the-stupid-2/).

So let’s just get this straight: Schizophrenia has nothing to do with a split personality or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as its name may be misunderstood to suggest; and people suffering from schizophrenia are no more violent than the general population, maybe even less so.

Schizophrenia is a highly complex mental disorder, which may include a variety of symptoms, the most outstanding and typical being hallucinations and delusions, together referred to as psychosis or psychotic symptoms: http://www.differencebetween.info/difference-between-delusion-and-hallucination
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hallucinations/Pages/Introduction.aspx .

What do you see? If you see two dolphins you’re ok. If not, you should go home immediatelt and get lots of sleep.  Picture credit and text inspiration:   http://www.baeckerei-geisler.de/auch_das_noch.htm
What do you see? If you see two dolphins you’re ok. If not, you should go home immediately and get lots of sleep.
Picture credit and text inspiration:

A person suffering from schizophrenia can be without symptoms over extended periods of time and lead an active and fulfilling life, especially if he/she receives consistent treatment. In this context I would like to encourage you, my friends and readers, (once again) to listen to this impressive and inspiring TED talk by Prof. Elyn Saks:

“Is it okay if I totally trash your office?” It’s a question Elyn Saks once asked her doctor, and it wasn’t a joke. A legal scholar, in 2007 Saks came forward with her own story of schizophrenia, controlled by drugs and therapy but ever-present. In this powerful talk, she asks us to see people with mental illness clearly, honestly and compassionately. http://www.ted.com/talks/elyn_saks_seeing_mental_illness.html

Modern scientific knowledge in the field of mental health proves the term “schizophrenia” to lack accurate description of the condition, and it is thus outdated. The idea to change the name was born.

I am convinced that, combined with increased efforts to educate the public about what this illness/disorder is really about, the fresh breeze coming along with the name change can considerably reduce stigma, increase acceptance by society, and thus tremendously improve the situation of sufferers.

In 2002, the Japanese established a name change for “schizophrenia” which led to much improvement. They changed the name Seishin Bunretsu Byo (mind-split disease) into Togo-Shitcho Sho (Integration Dysregulation Syndrome). Patients were more willing to accept treatment (medication and/or psychotherapy) and as a result there were less relapses and fewer suicides. There is an article about the Japanese experience by Mitsumoto Sato in the journal World Psychiatry (February 2006). It is important to notice that the lead-up to the name change consisted of an educational campaign about the “disease”; this will have given an opening for providing information also about factors on an individual level that could lead to a relapse and about how to cope with these stressors. Psycho-education is nowadays a key element in the modern treatment of schizophrenia.

Another example of a successful name change is of people who have Down Syndrome. Since the name change, they are much better accepted by society than before. Here too, the public were given helpful information and people with Down Syndrome got psycho-education about their condition and how to cope with it.

These two examples indicate that a change of name, together with education of patients, family, and society can be helpful. With this in mind, the Dutch patient organisation Anoiksis has begun a campaign to replace “schizophrenia” by Psychosis Susceptibility Syndrome (PSS). We are taking this opportunity to inform the public about what formerly “schizophrenia”, now Psychosis Susceptibility Syndrome, actually is; we need to put across the fact that the cases of unstable persons shooting innocent bystanders that reach the headlines are not typical.



My son does not like the idea of changing the name. He thinks “schizophrenia” is cool and from the moment he received the diagnosis, he was fascinated with being “a schizophrenic”. He’s nuts, I told you. 😉


OPEN DIALOGUE: An Alternative, Finnish Approach to Healing Psychosis

“In the far north of Finland, a stone’s throw from the Arctic Circle, a group of innovative family therapists converted the area’s traditional mental health system, which once boasted some of Europe’s poorest outcomes for schizophrenia, into one that now gets the best statistical results in the world for first-break psychosis.  They call their approach Open Dialogue.

Photo credit: http://getoutt.com/2012/03/glass-igloo-getaway-finland/
Photo credit: http://getoutt.com/2012/03/glass-igloo-getaway-finland/

Their principles, though radical in this day and age of multi-drug cocktails and involuntary hospitalizations, are surprisingly simple. They meet clients in crisis immediately and often daily until the crises are resolved. They avoid hospitalization and its consequential stigma, preferring to meet in the homes of those seeking their services. And, perhaps most controversially, they avoid the use of anti-psychotic medication wherever possible.

They also work in groups, because they view psychosis as a problem involving relationships.  They include in the treatment process the families and social networks of those seeking their help, and their clinicians work in teams, not as isolated, sole practitioners. Additionally, their whole approach values of the voice of everyone in the process, most especially the person directly in crisis.  And finally, they provide their services, which operate within the context of Finnish socialized medicine, for free.

Open Dialogue weaves together interviews with psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and journalists to create both a powerful vision of medication-free recovery and a hard-hitting critique of traditional psychiatry.” By Daniel Mackler


The tide is turning…yes, psychiatry must face reality

A MUST read for everyone coping or dealing with mental health issues.
“Antipsychotic medication, which seemed so important in the early phase of psychosis, appeared to worsen prospects for recovery over the long-term. . . .It appears that what we currently call “schizophrenia” may comprise disorders with quite different trajectories. For some people, remaining on medication long-term might impede a full return to wellness. For others, discontinuing medication can be disastrous.” Thank you, “Beyond Meds”!