I have a close relative with schizophrenia, I do think this is one ailment that really needs modern medicine. Other than cognitive therapy which can help a person recognize problem thought patterns (mostly useful for realizing when to seek help), there is not much non-medical intervention that helps. When medical treatment is working, my relative is friendly, social, productive member of society. Without they are terrified, depressed, needs 24/7 care.
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Several years ago I helped a friend I met online when she went through a major psychotic episode.
At one point she asked me outright if she thought something was wrong with her and I took a deep breath, and 'did the right thing', encouraging her to seek professional help. She did. And was given a drug which very nearly killed her within a very short period of time. I vowed I'd never attempt to do what appeared to others to be 'the right thing' ever again and from now on would trust my own instincts and do whatever was in my power to help her.
The story is far too long to write out here, but I devoted a *lot* of time to swap emails with her and help her in any way I could. With a lot of support she got through her school exams and went off to university and did a masters degree in medical genetics, followed by a PhD researching the interaction of genes and the environment in the development of psychosis. At one point, during some of her darkest hours, she asked me what it was all for, and being me I pulled an answer out of my intuition and told her that while I didn't believe it was *for* anything, that it was up to us find the best possible outcome for anything we experience. I suggested that in her case maybe a suitable outcome would be for her to find a way though her psychosis using as few drugs as possible, seeing as she seemed to react so badly to them, and having found ways she could teach them to others. This led to her giving talks at university and at conferences as she was studying, and has recently helped write a book called Personal Experiences of Psychological Therapy for Psychosis and Related Experiences
Last year we finally met up in person for the first, and only, time.
Very recently another friend of ours (we were all members of the same forum...) also developed psychotic symptoms and I asked her what aspects of our online friendship had helped and what didn't, so I could better help our other friend. This is an extract from her reply, with a few words removed to respect privacy.
I think the first thing to say is that I can’t imagine you getting things wrong here, though I do completely understand the concern. In large part, the reason I’m still here and doing fine is because you were such an amazing support. You never encouraged my odd beliefs at the time, but also never challenged them to the degree that I felt threatened, disbelieved, or alone, while still managing to help me think about things in more helpful or less frightening ways. I always knew that you were on my side, when it felt like the whole world was against me, and that trusting relationship was really vital for me. I know it’s unbearable when you can see someone having such a hard time, and you’re too far away to be there with them to make sure they’re ok. I can’t imagine how stressful it must’ve been for you dealing with me, and if you’re looking to support xxxxxx in the same way, please do remember to look after yourself too. But also remember that you’ve done this before and you were great at it, even if you didn’t feel sure of what you were doing, so there’s no reason to think that it would go wrong this time. Unfortunately (or fortunately??) you have a lot of experience with these things!
What do you know about xxxx’s situation so far? Do you know what sort of voices he’s hearing, or what they say? They’re not always a bad thing, unless they’re causing him significant distress or causing him to behave in concerning ways, which I suppose is likely to be the case given that he’s in hospital. Websites like Intervoice or the Hearing Voices Network might have some useful resources for looking at different things that might be useful. If he’s still in xxxx, there will be groups there that he can get in touch with for support, though it’s likely that he might not appreciate such things if he doesn’t see the voices as a problem (though HVN groups are supposed to be very inclusive of different people’s understandings of their voices and don’t seek to pathologise them). Do you know if anything specific happened that triggered his voice hearing? Obviously a global pandemic and lockdown is enough to tip anyone over the edge, but perhaps he had other things going on too. And do you know if he has any friends/family locally that know about his situation and might be able to check in with him when he’s back home? I’m sure that, at the very least, it’d give you some peace of mind to know that he had other people around him.
As for the book, it has 10 personal accounts of people’s experience with psychosis and therapy, what helped and what was difficult or uncomfortable, so it might be useful from that perspective in terms of gaining further insight into the experience and common things that might be helpful or unhelpful. It also has overviews of 10 different types of therapies and how they might be adapted (or are particularly suited) for people with experiences of psychosis, so getting some background on the psychological understandings of psychosis and the theoretical aspects of supportive treatment might be useful too.
I hope some of that info is of some use or inspiration to people.
You did the right thing.... at least as much as you could with the knowledge you had at that moment. It could be that the initial provider did not do the right thing. 50% of all doctors graduated from the bottom half of their class.
My suspicion is that schizophrenia is what I call a garbage disease. That is, if the provider does not know what he problem is ....call it schizophrenia. As a result, I suspect the name covers a variety of disorders. Like many others, i believe in using the least intrusive approach that gets results. Often, that is talk therapy. I have seen numerous people helped by being taught something as simple as thought checking. I am not anti medication. ....as long as the medication is the least intrusive approach that gets results.
Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions. Mark Twain
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