“Meat Can’t Think” (Part II)

Herewith a re-post from Cathi Carol’s blog “I Recommend:  On Psychiatry.” Her writing is kind, wise, thoughtful, insightful, balanced, and open-minded.

In Ben behind His Voices by Ben’s mother Randye Kaye, one finds a tale of parental narcissism (“guilt and heartbreak that come from feeling like one can’t ‘fix’ one’s child”), self-pity (“no one showed up with casseroles at our door”), judgment and rejection (“there was that superior attitude again. Lately I’d seen it a lot. I hated it”), and over-control (“therapy, tough love, special camps and schools”). Such a story should be read as a guideline on how not to treat any child, most particularly a guideline on how not to treat a child with schizophrenia.

As with most biographies, the case histories of people with schizophrenia are most faithful to their subjects when written by the subjects themselves. In The Day the Voices Stopped Ken Steele discussed how badly his parents treated him, especially his father, who judged him cruelly and forced him out of the house, making him homeless many times. Parental abuse and neglect, cruel and dangerous enough for a mentally “normal” child, is far worse for the eventual psychological and practical life of a child with schizophrenia.

Elyn R. Saks demonstrated in The Center Cannot Hold that a person with schizophrenia who is supported by her family is more likely to go on to become independent and successful, as is true for all children. Elyn obtained a Ph.D. and a stable academic career as a law professor.

Elyn’s parents didn’t know anything was wrong with her at the beginning of her illness and did some unhelpful things, such as sending her to a scared-straight camp when she was a teenager after she admitted to trying drugs. No parent should resort to that. Unwarranted commitment due to minor drug use happened to a sensitive, intelligent friend of mine in high school; she committed suicide. It happens. There is no such thing as tough love—there is only love and not-love.

Once Elyn’s illness became evident when she was older, her parents didn’t seek to lock her up or force drugs on her that she didn’t want. Her parents were non-judgmental and non-controlling, and they emotionally supported her when she needed them, like all good parents do for their children. Though confused by her illness, there was no arrogance in them, only caring; that gave Elyn the space and support to thrive, to grow, and to succeed.

Children are human beings (you know, people), not monsters, even when they have schizophrenia. No “happy, well-adjusted child . . . spirals into rebelliousness, disaffection, and apathy,” as Ben Kaye did, unless parental selfishness or stupidity pushes them there. It doesn’t necessitate a child having schizophrenia for this to happen.

Attempting arrogantly to “fix” a child misses the point. Blaming, neglecting, or abusing any child, with schizophrenia or not, makes life much, much harder for him or her, not better. The most common and the most tragic problem for children is parental misbehavior. When parents misbehave children often will try to reestablish normalcy by what some laughably misname “acting out.”

It is apparent, obvious if you spend any time with or read about people with the disease, that people with schizophrenia and other so-called “mentally ill” people are not “crazy.” Their thought processes when not stressed are normal. But their thoughts, feelings, and memories are occasionally overlaid with others that are not their own: disembodied voices, memories of events not from their own lives, and for some, visions of things that are not in front of them. These events torture the people who experience them and cause such deep distress that they develop the secondary symptoms of schizophrenia such as withdrawal and paranoia. The paranoia that schizophrenics experience they certainly come by honestly. Anyone would become paranoid living continually in extreme terror or with extensive long-term sleep loss.

In the medical world the causes of schizophrenia are said to be unknown; opinions on the subject are controversial. Trauma is thought to be a precursor, as are certain prenatal influences, infections, auto-immune disease, and many associations that confuse cause and effect. But if schizophrenia arises out of a defect in the morphology, or structure, of the brain, as many scientists think, they don’t yet know how.

Medical researchers at the University of Illinois found “large-scale differences in the structure of synapses . . . a maladaptive change that would alter the way neurons communicate” in schizophrenics.

Yet changes in brain structure usually follow changes in thought, not the other way around. Psychoactive drugs certainly damage the brain. But the brain doesn’t change itself.

The foremost theory of hearing voices is that people with schizophrenia hear their own thoughts as the “voices” of others; what they hear reflects what they think about themselves or what others have said about them abusively.

And some people believe that these memorial, visual, and auditory hallucinations actually are coming from outside of their brains, “through” their brains or some sort of “break” in their own consciousness.

Is it possible that schizophrenics have psychic damage such that what might be called, and were called in days gone by, evil spirits or the discorporate minds of the angry and hurtful dead (and possibly other entities) who are reported to exist on the energy-low levels of mind might be able to communicate with the schizophrenic mind; the schizophrenic is, for whatever cause, unable to block the hatred and disgust, revenge and destruction communicated to him or her?

Is what schizophrenia seems to be what is? Discarnate destructive minds getting through whatever body/brain barriers filter them out in non-schizophrenic or non-hallucinating people?

Could “hallucinations” be real events? Is “hallucination” an invented term for something that actually is happening on a non-material level?

That the horrible things that schizophrenics hear internally are “hallucinations” seems nonsensical to me; I wonder what could motivate schizophrenics to think or hear such horrible things to themselves, in different voices, seeming to originate from different personalities; voices they, their own selves as themselves, can respond to.  (To be continued)



About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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