Learning Disabilities and Psychosis

Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long

I never heard the melody until I needed the song . . .

. . . I never I spoke “I love you” till I cursed you in vain

Never felt my heart strings until I nearly went insane

                                                           

–Tom Waites, San Diego Serenade

 

It is funny how sometimes one cannot really see themselves until they get a glimpse of a harsh paradoxical reality. Perhaps doing so gives one that alternate perspective that is so necessary to really see oneself and gain wisdom. I think that’s what Tom Waites is getting at in the excerpts of his song I posted above. That is why the ability to relate to others is such a powerful teacher and healer that is so needed in a therapeutic endeavor. Other people’s struggles help us stop and see ourselves better. Even if it is painful, growth is likely.

And, just as the song goes, I never really saw myself as a learning-disabled person until I just recently had the opportunity to sit with an individual while she was receiving a mid-life diagnosis. It was a diagnosis that I thought might be helpful. Little did I know that before this sitting, I rarely considered the full effect of how a learning disorder affects me as a writer, therapist and mental health consumer.

 

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A Need for Providers who Specialize in “Psychosis.”

I was hired straight out of college into work in the counseling field. I started to work with an adult mental health population at my second professional job at the age of twenty-three. Since that time I have been increasingly focused on how to make therapeutic engagement meaningful when working with people in “psychosis.” In the field there are many who will say or imply this is not possible. They may argue that the mental health system is the best we can do. This story is for the providers who think more can be done to help individuals who have anomalous experiences.

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Working my way through graduate school, I can still remember struggling to get my dumb-ass footings as a professional counselor. I remember thinking about how ironic it is that they start you out with the most sophisticated of problems.

“Oh, you’re good,” said this vagabond homeless man who sticks out in my memory.

“What do you mean?” I asked perplexed by how he could affirm me with such confidence.

“Well, I can tell because you just asked me what was going on with my schizophrenia, like you really wanted to understand it.” Read More

Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation2

Following up from my last post that featured political causation ideas, this post features examples of some spiritual causation ideas that I frequently use to understand some of my current message experiences. These  last two posts are from my second to last chapter which documents psychological, trauma, and scientific causation explanations in addition to the political and spiritual explanations I am including. I assert in the chapter my belief that the more causation understandings that a message receiver has at their disposal, the more they are able to establish or maintain the flexibility that is required to break out of a message crisis or “psychosis” episode. As I describe below, key to being able to break out of an episode is a willingness to leave causation up to god, and choose the causation explanation that enables you to function with the least amount of distress.

Ultimately there are more causation arguments than I could possibly identify and the more we listen and learn to new explanations for unique individuals, I’d argue the better off we will be.

 

Detailed Spiritual Causation Examples: Read More

Ode to Self-Discovery

To hell with the insipid emptiness

That keeps good people ineptly drowned!

Gaze into the perplexed distress and bless

The self that is so often shackle bound!

This is my pledge to the introspection

That so often is betrayed or unknown

Or left to rot in the gutter of dread

And then scavenged for the insurrection.

Together we starve and wither alone

Our thirst being a statement left unsaid.

 

There is numbness that grasps the bone

Which is surrounded by layer upon layer

Of prickle that persistently drones

Out experiences that do conjure

Recurrent traumas of spirits within.

Like swollen flesh, nothingness throbs

Throughout enduring routine of day

Expanding its reign under your skin

Until your inner turmoil sobs

Containing misery you cannot delay.

 

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Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation

This excerpt is going to operate with the contention that there are five causes of “psychosis”: political, psychological, scientific, trauma, and spiritual. In the chapter I have written, I extensively review differing types of causal arguments that can arise within each causation style. Clearly in the chapter, there is some cross over as science mixes with trauma and politics etcetera. In the chapter, I post ideas that I clearly disagree with and that are not for me. I do so because I have nine years of experience listening to the causal arguments of other people and I respect that other causal arguments may be true for other people. Indeed help comes in different forms for different people. In the chapter, the intention is that as the reader reads through these causation examples, they may relate to some new causal explanation they haven’t thought of. I believe that increasing the number of causal arguments that you have gives you more power to be resilient and flexible when you face threatening or distressing messages as you go through life.

But here, in the excerpt below, I am just going to share three political causation ideas I have heard over the years. This is the theory style that I was most stuck on when I was in crisis. Though thinking this way was toxic for me at the time, in recovery I can reflect on ways that some of my special messages were in fact political in nature. I personally was able to dig myself out of crisis when I shifted to the spiritual causation theory style, a style that causes some to get stuck and marginalized. In the chapter, I legitimize these two causation theories in addition to thoroughly exploring the other legitimate theory styles, psychological, trauma, and scientific.

 

Detailed Political Causation Examples: Read More

How to Keep “Psychosis” Focus Groups Inclusive:

I fervently believe that having survivor-led group therapy that redefines “psychosis” is missing in the system.

Over the last nine years, I’ve been leading what I call special message groups in multicultural settings. I have found that such groups can be run safely and have the power to transform lives. However, I do admit that when it comes to kicking people out of group to maintain group equilibrium and safety that I believe there are a few things to consider first.

Firstly, I believe that a group leader needs to be prepared for the fact that mad people show up in very different ways. Group facilitators need to be familiar with and recognize a wide variety of presentations or manifestations. Perhaps group members may feel like they are being mocked by others in the group via illusionary ideas of reference or even controlled by them. They may code up their language for protection. They may treat the facilitator as if the facilitator can hear the same voices they hear. They may not believe, in spite of stories shared, that the facilitator has experienced what they have.

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Excerpt from Special Messages Book, Chapter Seventeen, Anti-Stigma Cognition for Social Rehabilitation

Philosophy of Reality that Promotes Anti-Stigma Cognition:

In order to sell the good parts of cognitive therapy as a tool for social rehabilitation, I have had to create an underlying philosophy about what reality is. This is a model that can come up at various points in individual and group therapy as a means of motivating a message receiver toward using the material world to fact check their spiritual insights.

In this model, I consider reality to be a dialectic between the spiritual message world and the material modern world. The spiritual message world involves all the message experiences that I took pains to identify in chapter four and throughout the text. In short, this includes things like ESP (i.e. reading minds,) hallucinations (i.e. hearing voices) and intuited reality discerned through things like coded linguistic coincidence and loosely associated coded symbols that inhabit a real or imagined world. The spiritual message world is very much in the subjective perspective of an individual consciousness.

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University Town

Having spent last night

In this University town

Tooling around

With well-adjusted kids

Who have nothing

Except time

To charm each other,

I wake late

And am struck

Like a sword in the gut

With thinking about

The stress of the clock

And that ongoing need

For politeness

As I wait

For my host’s

Breakfast to be finished. Read More

Writing for Mental Health: Six Basic Considerations

I like to think that I could recommend writing to some other people who have been subjected to a diagnostic labeling process that diminishes their hopes and potential. Indeed as emotional tension pulses through my back and appendages, I have found few other outlets that are there for me like the mixing and mastering letters.

Sure, I have been sent to a shrink for being who I am. Sure, I have been buried in institutions at different points of my life. Indeed life on that trajectory has filled me with loss and lack. But when I’ve found myself incarcerated immobile, I’ve been blessed to find value in defining it. Initially as a teen, I found  appreciating expressive words through music got me started. The more I switched from song to verse to story, I found the problem-solving that takes place in the editing process satisfying. Indeed for me there are few other outlets that rival writing in terms of learning about life and wellness.

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A Vacation Day for a Schizophrenic:

Fifteen years ago, I remember hearing a psychiatrist who had just been away for two weeks say, “There is no such thing as a vacation when you are schizophrenic!” As an unlicensed professional vying to get a staff position on the unit, I had carefully avoided rolling my eyes. I had politely nodded my head as though it had been a thoughtful thing to say.

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This year’s weekend of April 1st, my wife supports me in insisting that we take a vacation day. She packs up her hybrid SUV with camping materials and when I finish my Friday commute, we hit the interstate headed north. We plan to camp and hike at the Kings Range on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County, but we know even before we sift through the remains of the Bay Area traffic, there’s no way we are going to make it the whole way.

We make it to the city of Ukiah and drive until we find a Safeway. I am about ready to drop as we load our shit into the front of the car and depart to hit the restroom. We pass the panhandlers and the no camping sign and I start to stress about the possibility that the security will force us to move on in the middle of the night.

“Don’t worry about it my boobie,” says my wife.

I look into the eyes of a particular panhandler and hate our privilege. There sure are a significant amount of late night shoppers who are finishing their long weeks. I ponder the meaning of it all over the urinal. After we regroup, we steal into the back of the SUV.

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