Sunday, April 15, 2012
Mental Illness Labels?
Its been 32 years and counting, since my first experience of psychosis was labeled as schizophrenia within 15 minutes - an all-too-quick reaction that left me bewildered and re-traumatized by the subsequent heavy-handed use and sole reliance on psychotropic medications. The ruddy-faced 30-something psychiatrist never did find the time for an empathic human communication during our 3 year relationship. His self-soothing reliance on preconceived notions always stood like an implacable wall between us.
I can remember wondering how this guy came across in social gatherings as he often stared at the carpet during our 30-minute, keep-taking-the-pills, prescription encounter. Over a 20-year experience with the “medical model” of a disease-like illness, only one psychiatrist was interested in creating a human relationship not based on a perception of superior status.
After 20 years of failing the medication compliance test (I am one of the estimated 30-40% of individuals who receive no benefit from continuing drug use to provide mood stability), I found myself continuing with a growing pattern of managing crisis periods with self-medication. Sleeping pills for manic energy periods, exercise, diet and pleasure stimulus for the depressions of my labeled Bipolar Disorder type 1, which does best describe my observable cyclic patterns of behavior.
My first episode of mania does fit the classic descriptions of an early adulthood onset, as the challenge of seeking diverse relationships beyond the nuclear family rise to the fore of our support needs.
In 2003, after 23 years of struggling to define my experience within the confines of my objectifying mind, I began a process of self-discovery, beginning by training to become a therapist (counselor).
That year was the start of a slow journey of inner discovery, in which I found an increasing awareness of the futility of labels, or simple word-metaphors, in trying to articulate life experience. All my learned words for describing my experience of madness, my narrative language of a life story, never seem to capture its essential nature. How do I interpret the inner experience of mad states of mind, or its unusual behaviors using my learned vocabulary of object-like description. How can I apply an objective logic to an inner-reality, which is overwhelmingly chemical in nature, using these metaphors of description evolved to paint word pictures of an external world?
My psychiatrists spoke of a chemical imbalance, although floundering when asked to describe how that happens: they said words like dopamine, serotonin and now they speak about neuropeptides. Yet, like me, they say these words very quickly with no sense of what those words mean on a felt level of our existence, they say these words as if describing parts or pieces of our internal reality. Despite the common sense view of the body/brain though, it surely is nothing like an elaborate clock in there, yet we tend to take these object like interpretations of our experience completely for granted. “That’s just the way life is?”
32 years on from that first experience of psychosis. I am finding an increasing awareness of its stimulation on an unspeakable felt level of my unconscious autonomic nervous system, through which the vast majority of human behavior is mediated. Feeling the way my nervous system organizes my body movement and stimulates my mind, enabled an awareness that now sees me manage manic excitement without any medication at all, not even sleeping pills.
Education into the latest research on the neurobiology of human development led me into an awareness of whole body/brain feedback interactions, even though I started my search believing I would educate myself about my brain. The myopic view of the brain alone affecting emotional responses is becoming increasingly redundant amongst the top neurobiological researchers into human development. Unfortunately, the mainstream view is based on the needs of mental health care management and its logistics, not the empirical reality of any mental health condition. It is sad that debate tends to be reactive and revolve around mainstream psychiatry’s view of illness, while there is mounting evidence of natural cause for these unusual behavioral responses, all pointing towards our experience as very much part of the human condition.
Even sadder is the ignorance about new understandings and application of systems theories and there implication for early life development and altered states of experience. Such a theory also holds a looming possibility of a scientific revelation to our spiritual connections with the wider cosmos from which our human consciousness emerges.
These days I’m finding an increasing marriage between my unspeakable felt experience (my body) and my labeling mind, with its slow laborious “what was that?” attempts to interpret the reality of my life. These days I’ve uncovered the energies that stimulated a life of dissociation, of rational, intellectualizing labels for my experience.
These days there is a great life and the rediscovery of a boyish sense of wonder, after giving up dependency on psychiatric labels to interpret my experience as if I’m some parts like a fancy clock, and not a living breathing organic, whole creature we metaphorically label human.
“What’s in a name, a label, a metaphor, whats it trying to interpret, to articulate?”
Be happy, be well, be whole.
at 9:24 PM Posted by David Bates