May is "Mental Health Awareness" month so for the balance of this month I thought I would continue to post along those lines that began with the post "The Wind Never Lies". Today's post discusses the basis of environment being the recognized catalyst for major "mental illness" diagnosis and my "rant" on how this is overlooked and victims of family "tension" are often re-victimized when their capacity to cope exceeds their available inner resources. Wednesday is a continuation of the discussion of "diagnosis" and the experience of yet another woman who experienced that "Sting of Stigma" and early next week we'll take a look at that idea of conditional vs the unconditional love that Mel gave to her friend Julie who lay dying after a serious physical illness was overlooked very possible because of her diagnosis of "Bi Polar Disorder". We'll end the month with a look at the difference between enabling and dependence vs. empowering solutions that might allow each person affected by mental health issues to create and live their best life in spite of "diagnosis".
That’s what the doctors told me when I asked them why I felt so bad. I mean - I'd been in a bad marriage for 10 years and recently escaped. The church I'd belonged to during those 10 years had shunned me when I filed the restraining order, I'd just discovered my daughter had been drinking on campus at middle school all year and I'd just put her in her first of many long term treatment facilities, I'd lost my job because of the PTSd issues, my house was entering foreclosure and this was just the first half of that "year from hell" in 1993...and my foundation for coping with all of this was being raised in parental abuse and neglect.
So it was clearly stated that it was long term exposure to life stressors that had "triggered" the onset of "mental illness"...yet - not once was it ever discussed that this was a natural response to some extraordinary life events, some of which had me fearing for mine and my childrens saftey.
So something was "wrong" with me is what I was told. And it was bio genetic, incurable. I'd need "meds" for the rest of my life.
Recently a friend asked me about my viewpoint that "mental illness" is an emotional response that triggers the chemical changes in our body that in the end, affects our behavior. The conversation was about that god-awful and what to date is the "worst" diagnosis one can be given - schizophrenia. Below is just one of many quotes, articles and websites on the idea of where "schizophrenia" begins from an article you can find here.
"Crisis and Life Changes and The Onset of Schizophrenia: Abstract: Patients with an acute onset of schizophrenia and their relatives were seen separately to establish the frequency of certain kinds of crisis and life change in the 13 weeks before onset. A general population group was seen for comparison. The two groups differed markedly in the proportion experiencing such changes in the 3-week period prior to onset (or to interview in the comparison group). Long-term tension in the home appeared to increase the chances of patients becoming disturbed after such changes."
So even though it is common knowledge that even the most serious of mental health diagnosis is connected to serious and ongoing life stressors in the home - its not the family system that gets help to learn how to become a healthy family - it's the one who is unfortunate enough to have been exposed to long term family "tension"...and just can't cope anymore.
I mean - everyone has their breaking point and when you beat a dog long enough, eventually it starts to act a little crazy, doesn't it? It cowers, it shakes, it whines. If you try to contain it it may snap or bite. It may even develop some compulsive behavior like running in circles or if it was human, maybe it would wash it's paws obsessively, or be afraid to leave the house. And since the owners are upstanding and productive citizens we call the dog crazy, put it on pills (seriously - this is done every day to animals not just humans - you figure it out...) so since the owner "appears" to be a kind upstanding citizen we label the dog and dismiss it's behavior as "crazy".
Think Michael Vick.
So go figure. Environmental life events set off and are the indicator for the onset "mental health issues"; yet the response to these life events is somehow intrinsic - a time bomb in our DNA waiting to go off - and the only solution is to hand over a stigmatizing label and a lifetime prescription and be written off as being somehow intrinsically "defective"
I'm no doctor - but this is the 21st century, not the dark ages or even the 1600's when these issues were viewed as "demons" or "witches", or the 1800’s where some snake-oil salesman was selling a magic elixir guaranteed to "fix and cure all things human".
Yet we still are labeling, stigmatizing, discriminating and dismissing the often times hidden life events that influence our ability to cope and rebound.
And instead of support and being given a safe place to fall, folks with the kind of life experiences that can cause one to feel "crazy" and inhibit that “resiliency” necessary to cope and come out on top are sentenced to a life that often mimics the hell they came from to begin with.
I'm just sayin'...
Back in the day...like the 1950’s and 60’s following the era of the invasive “lobotomy” and introduction of the “chemical lobotomy” where “meds” became the answer to all things “behavior” focused, parents united and revolted against the idea that environment was related to "mental health" issues and successfully advocated that somehow it was the children who were defective and it was the children bringing the disharmony to the home....”crazy”, “delinquent”, “damaged” but never “abused” were the terms used to describe those who didn’t fit within the “social norms” of easy compliance.
This subject is way beyond the scope of this post, but in conclusion - it just seems odd that while research proves that it is the "long term tension" in the home that is the trigger for even the most serious mental health issues, why is it that the victims of this in home "tension" are being given the various labels of "mental illness" and relegated to being re-victimized by a system that we turn to for help and who too often end up institutionalized in asylum or prison - or taking the extreme ticket to afterlife when they can no longer tolerate the hell they have been unfortunate to have been given as their life.
Thanks for listening.
If you'd like to read more about the idea that Schizophrenia and other "serious" mental health issues can be overcome, you can read Dr. Daniel Fishers story here - he is a psychiatrist who was once labeled "Schizophrenic".