Aug 16 2014
I am not a therapist and I always tell everyone. I invite sufferers to take certain paths and to look at the world differently. I become their online friend and it is through this friendship that, in time, their condition begins to improve. I am in touch with some friends who are psychologists and psychiatrists that guide me and support me.
I do not suffer with psychosis and as such I have no direct experience. But I have helped many friends who suffer with schizophrenia and other disorders that experience psychosis on a daily basis.
How do I help sufferers online, more specifically, through endless email exchanges?
In my experience, the main factor that seems to be very helpful in the recovery process is to make sense of psychosis for people who are receiving psychiatric treatment. This is because psychosis, contrary to what many mental experts believe, is a set of very important and clear cries for help that need to be decoded and expressed appropriately to both the sufferer and the therapist. Then they can be resolved. In my experience, any mental illness that has PTSD origins, can be resolved if we get to the source of the problem and if we help sufferers express their pain appropriately and not just in a mythological manner.
So what are my strategies when I invite people to take certain paths that can be helpful to them? These paths help sufferers to minimize the debilitating nature of the psychotic experience; Clinical Language is not always helpful to sufferers (I always say: to me you are not a schizophrenic or a psychotic but a person, a normal person with some problems, great creativity and great imagination.).
Schizophrenia, or psychosis, is not at all a degenerative disease or illness. And although it may have a degenerative impact on the brain, the brain is plastic and can recover with proper help and support. It can easily recover, without a problem, at least well enough to function in a socially acceptable manner with proper support and help. According to the accepted ideology, schizophrenia is an illness that has no recovery. I don’t see it this way at all. Recovery is always possible for me and my ideology seems to help many sufferers with psychosis.
I focus on individual experiences, the person, and look at their story. Sometimes it is almost impossible to get to the history of the sufferer for they often hide much of what happened in the past due to horrific traumas. But I get it out of them through the use of creativity, art and writing. Sooner or later the mind will give out crucial information to me that I can use to truly help and make the person aware without triggering them into more serious problem. I make them aware indirectly. For example, if during our exchanges of poems, writing, artworks, music, or whatever artistic activity or discussion we have had, I come across important clues that they may have been raped, sexually abused, physically abused, molested or tortured in some way, I make them aware by telling them stories about invented characters, stories that speak of their past that I have decoded from their psychosis.
In this sense, I do lie to them, but use the story to make them aware. Once they are aware, I come clean with them and tell them the truth. But I always get it out and find the source of the problem. I decode the most bazaar symptoms which eventually make a lot of sense. They are little stories, created by the imagination of the sufferer with psychosis, to tackle problems that they could not otherwise express because of the intellectual and emotional complexities. For example, suppose a sufferer imagines that his mothers is telling him things on TV, I don’t find this strange but try to find the real message that their mind is trying to describe. Oftentimes, and perhaps most of the times, there are definite messages hidden in the psychotic experience. Psychosis makes perfect sense to me and I find it an incredibly creative way to express things that could not otherwise be expressed. It is a cry for help!
Any reference to schizophrenia or psychosis is unhelpful to me and the person that I try to help. Recovery and empowerment are the words I use to brain wash those that I help. But each person’s recovery is different; Recovery requires that I believe and stand by the person that I am trying to help; recovery is not cure; recovery is an ongoing process so that the sufferer can learn to cope; stigma and what other people think is what aggravates psychosis and prevents recovery most; those who are able to recover are valuable helpers and can help others through their personal experiences; recovery does not require labels or a particular view of what mental illness is; recovery requires love, friendship, compassion, transparency and trust. Here is a series of important steps I take:
a) I need to help them to establish a social identity social identity that is helpful to them because they think that they are schizophrenic or psychotic, and damaged, full stop.
b) Literature and narrative is what I use to create stories that will help sufferers to recover.
c) The story of hope is the most important one and I often base it on spirituality (not religion of course)
d) I create recovery stories and use these to help.
e) I am the person they can come to trust and that will help them out of the mess that they are in.
f) We come to work towards a coherent account of what happened which we salvage from the psychotic messages and beahviour.
g) I strive to build a positive social identity that at first they share with me and then they can apply in other social situations (group/intergroup contact) and with other people. I call them gifted and to me they are gifted individuals, creative worriers but in the peaceful sense of the word.
h) Emotional recovery (or the ability to express ones emotions) is also important and I help sufferers do “cry time” therapy, letting emotions out through creative writing and art, and make the person feel special but not in a cheese way but in an honest and not so sloppy way.
i) Psychosis is a post traumatic reaction full stop. I do not see it as a mental illness because the brain is plastic and it can readjust itself if it is given a chance.
j) Help the sufferer gradually change their beliefs away from the dominant and traumatic ideology of ours and more towards a constructive self critical understanding of life .
k) As we proceed with this special relationship, the sufferer comes to rely less and less on medication (under the guidance of their doctor who helps them to cut down on medication as they learn new coping skills) and more and more on social support, a healthy outlook and towards gaining some self respect. I introduce them to a group of friends who contiinue to help. Indeed our help is based on Social Psychology Principles.
To this day, I have helped many sufferers with psychosis and not one has ever committed suicide. They have all improved. I have a kind of a gift and my gift seems to work well.
Thank you for reading this.