Understanding Psychosis

Image1Understanding Psychosis by Alfredo Zotti 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.

Alfredo Zotti interview with Peter Graham, Part II

An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorderhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LYM54LS is my new book. In this radio interview, which was also filmed quickly, I cover issues that are discussed in the book. Peter Graham, who works for the Australian Buireau of Statistics and who has completed

Peter Graham interviews Alfredo Zotti about his new book

These are some important parts from the interview Documentary titled: ‘An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorder’. I would like to thank Peter Graham, who looks very much like the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, for his questions which have given me an opportunity to highlight the main messages of the book. Peter was a PhD student at the University of Newcastle and now works for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. He is very interested in History, Class Differences, and pop/rock music.

Interview with psychologist Bob Rich about Alfredo’s Journey

I have never met Dr Bob Rich in person but we have exchanged thousands of emails and today consider ourselves best friends. Such is the power of the internet and computer technology. For me Dr Bob Rich is one of the most competent psychologist living in Australia today. He is also a great novelist and his book,

An Artist’s Creative Life With Bipolar Disorder

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My new CD album can be downloaded, free of any charges, simply by buying my book, either elctronic eBook or a paperback  versions  and asking me for a code and typing the code

I am very pleased to say that my book titled ‘An artist’s Creative Life with Bipolar Disorder” is finally out. Here is the link to order one or more copies: I would like to thank Victor Volkman, of Loving Healing Press  , for publishing such book and I would also like to thank all of the people that have been part of this journey, a journey that has lasted ten years while I was struggling to help many people with mental ill health on the net. Here I mention a few: my wife Cheryl Zotti; Psychologist Bob Rich who has written wonderful self help books   ; Victor Volkman of Loving Healing Press http://www.lhpress.com/ ; Dr Dean Cavanagh (GP); Psychologist Paul Corcoran;  Psychiatrist Dr David Butler;  Judy Wright;  Earnest Dempsey; Rosemary Martin;  Lewis Weir;  Professor Geoffrey Samuel of Cardiff University ; Professor Trevor Waring of the University of Newcastle  ; Professor Pat McGorry  ; Psychologist Dr Anthony Kidman who has written a wonderful book for those with a mental disorder who would like to feel better by helping themselves and putting a little effort: ; and many others, too many to mention here.  These mental health professionals are different in that they are aware that people with mental disorders can help themselves.

I would also like to thank the staff of Gosford Hospital (NSW Australia) for being so supportive and understanding and for helping my wife.

The only way I could understand mental disorders was to communicate with those who suffer, their care givers and sometimes their mental health professionals, trying to make sense of it all. It was also helpful that I suffer with Bipolar II disorder and that my wife suffers with Bipolar I disorder. I guess that this book that I have written has many messages that are not just mine but a summary of what many intelligent and creative people with mental disorders are saying. Here is what Judy wrote, to give an example:

“Alfredo, to answer your question, I’d say the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that mental illness doesn’t matter much in terms of who you are or your value as a person. It can certainly affect a relationship if left unaddressed but I admire anyone who tries to function in spite of it and recognizes when they need help. Accepting help is a sign of strength because in reality, all of us are interdependent on each other. You tell your story and it helps someone else…and so it goes. Acceptance comes with understanding.”

…and this is what I think of the book, what I feel that the main message is:

For the past 10 years I have been trying to understand and study mental disorders like Depression and Bipolar. How we treat people with mental disorders, and by “we” I mean the society, mental health professionals and sufferers alike, is something that interests me because I suffer with Bipolar II and because my wife also suffers with Bipolar I. I have been studying mental disorders for a very long time indeed and from this effort my book has emerged.

The book points to some disturbing truths about what is going on. And what is going on is that our society is basically telling people with mental disorders that they are damaged, that only anti-psychotics or anti-depressants can work to alleviate their problems. The great bulk of the mental health professionals (though there are a number of very caring and aware mental health professionals) look down on sufferers. They often believe that it is the experts who have all of the answers and sufferers are merely people who lack knowledge and who are often too handicapped by their mental disability to be able to help themselves. What is more alarming is that many people with mental disorders have bought into these ideas and now truly believe that they are damaged and that only medication can help.

For as long as pharmaceutical companies, many mental health professionals, and sufferers alike keep seeing mental disorders in this way, that there is no hope except to take medication, nothing much will change in our society. Medication has its values but it needs to be used responsibly and sensibly in the contest of a bio-psycho-social model of health. That is to ensure that sufferers have a stress free life, appropriate housing, a job whether part time or full time that suits their condition, a support group, an understanding government, and people around us who can provide support and care. Many of these things are missing in our world today. No amount of medication available will help a woman who takes anti psychotics or anti depressants drugs but who then goes back to a home of domestic violence and abuse.  It is clear that the environment and the psychological well being of the sufferer are also as important, if not more so than medication alone.

For as long as the majority of mental health professionals fail to give proper importance to childhood traumatic experiences, to the sensitivities of the person and neglect to look into child abuse or mistreatment, nothing will change.

Our world is full of stressors and it is a world that is far from an ideal one. Money seems to rule over everything else and our real treasure, our planet, is in danger; indeed we are in danger of extinction unless we change our ways and stop sabotaging our life on Earth. This is a mad world we live in and I believe that there is no such thing as sane individuals, or mentally ill ones. We all have problems and all struggle each day. We also have the potential to help ourselves, no matter what our problems or afflictions are.

We can  help those with mental disorders, but unless we stop telling them that only medication works and that they are permanently damaged and unable to live a fulfilling and reasonably happy life, nothing will change. Mental illness will go on and continue to get worse as numbers of people with mentally ill health increase. There is no doubt in my mind, after writing this book and communicating with thousands of sufferers from all over the world, that we are contributing to mental illness and even creating it each day. The moment that we realize that many people with mental disorders are special people who need support, help and encouragement to believe in themselves and their future, things will change for the better as people will begin to finally believe in themselves and help themselves towards a better life. We will be able to do the best we can with what we have. Our perspective on mental illness is all wrong and it certainly rarely leads to improvements, something that statistics have been telling us for a long time.

The only improvement is that people are becoming less and less prejudiced and this is something good. But the overall situation is worsening. We need to empower and support those with mental disorders and the government needs to do a lot more to truly support sufferers. Expecting them to work in a stigma loaded and prejudiced world is not the answer. We need jobs that are friendly to those with mental disorders and it is a fact that many may not be able to work. The welfare system needs to support those who are unable to hold full time jobs. Government need to do a lot more and it is a disgrace to see such neglect of our most vulnerable people.

To fix the problems we need to spend money in such a way that improvements are noted. Many mental health professionals know what to do and they’ve been screaming out for changes for a long while; there is a price to pay for solving the problems but the returns are worth it in the long run for to spend money today, in the right way, is to save billions in the future. And this is where governments fail because they are only interested in Band-Aid solutions and the next oncoming elections; alternatively, they fail to listen to those who have the right knowledge for appropriate change.

Most important interventions are: a) to create appropriate accommodation for homeless people with mental ill health; b) to create appropriate employment opportunities that consider the sufferers’ condition. In this sense we have a long way to go, but we haven’t really started to truly help people. Our focus is on money and material possessions not on the quality of life of the people and the planet and the importance of preserving nature. The world has truly gone mad 

 

Get a free CD with 16 fabulous  tracks for free, with the purchase of every book  either paperback or eBook http://zotti.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-alfredos-journey

Project Arc (Australian Resourceful Connections)

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I have been a composer/ piano player for many years and worked and jammed with some important musicians such as James Morrison (Paradise Room, Kings Cross, 1982), Ricky May (Hakoa Club Sydney, 1984)  Marc Hunter (Menzil Room Kings Cross Sydney 1984);and Paul Hester who was the original drummer of Crowded House but who was our sound technician for a while ater parting with Crowded House.

I have decided to donate all of the money I make, from movie soundtracks compositions and song writing, directly to The Sydney Children Hospital Foundation http://www.schf.org.au/home.aspx .

If a movie producer needs a soundtrack,  I can compose the music free of charge on condition that they make a reasonable donation to the Sydney Children Hospital Foundation.

What is so special about my music? Writing music for movies is extremely difficult. I feel that many composers overdo things today. Less is more and simplicity is the key. In addition, I am not only a musician but also good at mixing and adjusting sounds and I have good knowledge of VST plugins (virtual sound technology), and  good with computers. It is not easy to find all of these skills in one person, in one composer.  For example, this is the story of Andromeda, a script that I am now working on and I have managed to put some music to it so that I will use it as an example:

Andromeda is a young woman who has special abilities and yet she suffers with what today is known as  bipolar disorder. Till now she has felt inadequate and damaged in some way, a frame of mind that has stopped her from living her life. But one day she meets and old lady, while she was taking a walk in the park, and when she confides in her about her problem the old lady tells her that there is no bipolar as such, that bipolar is just a gift, although it is a difficult gift to live with until one understands it. If the young woman sees her personality and mind as the mind of a gifted person, the old lady argues, she will feel much better and her life will improve. Andromeda listens to the old women and discovers that by looking in the pond she sees reflections and colors in the ripples that are truly special and spectacular and these visions show her that  she has a special affinity with nature and that her difference is not necessarily a bad thing but possibly a good thing. She is very sensitive and her body trembles when she experiences special emotions.  She convinces herself that she is special, that she has special abilities and her life changes drammaticaly after that, for the better. Here is the music for the end of this scene when Andromeda realises that her gift is good not bad  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbecFTaCswo&feature=youtu.be

The amount that a producer would pay for the music, in this way,  could be a very affordable and tiny portion of the normal price that is usually charged for a movie score/soundtrack. I will write professional scores for either small combos or full orchestras (up to 40 elements) and will make absolutely no money for it provided that the Sydney Children Hospital Foundation gets a reasonable amount of money. To contact me just write in the comment box  below and I will get back to you as soon as possible with a contact number.

In addition, if anyone need an original song for their home movie, (provided that it is not used for commercial purposes)  such as a special wedding song or for any  special occasion, I will compose and record the music/song  for a small donation to the above mentioned foundation. Original music for a home made movie could cost as little as 50 Australian dollars.

Below there are links to some of  my musical compositions. This is not film music but here included just to give an idea of the kind of sounds and ideas I have. And if you like this kind of music, and you know how to download uTubes, then you can have a nice collection of relaxing music all free.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeypnwh2gk0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rebxxF6XxUw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef3M7sBLAYE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQQsKnO39Bg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW9pxKv50CY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKGuvncOjo8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_XlyatoHPg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQx-a947RKw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z699gVxjtDk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WX8Ng2HcLk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPXvgyXoVac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6lPYqs3Hig

And if you would like to see me play live, here I am just improvising something simple and spontaneous on the Roland and Yamaha keyboards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5bmPOC53Mg      and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ahJkFh6eeg&feature=youtu.be

Sarah Vaughan

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About Sarah Vaughan

One of the famous singers that I met, and who kept in touch with me for many years, was Sarah Vaughan.  I was a child when I first met her and I feel that Sarah sensed that I was a sad child. While I had first seen her at the recording studio, The Fonorama, of Carlo Alberto Rossi http://alfredo123.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/carolo-alberto-rossi-luciano-zotti/  , in Milano Italy, while she was recording the song “What’s Good For Me” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOuZHzfDElI ,I saw her a second time at the Petruzzelli Theatre, in Bari, my home town,  where my father took me there to see her sing. She was backed by her musical director, the well known pianist Jimmy Rowels, and his trio, if I remember correctly. My father worked as musical director at the Fonorama and knew Sarah quite well.

When the show finished we went behind the scenes and it was there that Sarah took me in her dressing room leaving my father and the musicians to discuss music. Sarah simply took my hand and said: enough music for today, I need to talk to this young man.  

I won’t go into the long conversation but basically, to put it in a nutshell, she told me that I was a special child and I believed her. And that, in all probability, has helped me tremendously in my life because still today I think that I am special.

I wish that parents would say this more often to their children. The power of positive thought is incredible. To tell a child that they are special is indeed an incredibly kind thing to do, something that will remain with them all of their life and help them at difficult times.

A World WIthout Love Music and Words by Alfredo Zotti

A World Without Love Music by Alfredo Zotti

This is a song that I recorded recently. It was inspired by a dream I had a couple of years back, where I imagined a group of children protesting about the fact that adults are destroying their future world. Many animal species are disappearing and we are having a very negative impact on the environment; we are greedy and most of us just care about money and material possessions not realizing that we cannot drink or eat money.

This song is part of my new album which is a not for profit album. I decided that such songs should not have anything to do with money. In this way the songs are my gift to the younger generation to say that yes some of us are not greedy and we do care about the world.

I thank my friends Frank White and his granddaughter Hailee for singing the song. Hailee is only 11 years old and she gives a special meaning to the song. Here is the link to the song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh0ljChtv5E&feature=youtu.be

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In Australia today, jails are the new mental illness facilities

This below is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately, while the article is  two years old, the situation today has not improved but worsened. Who is looking after the mentally ill in Australia?

Modern prescription for mental illness: go directly to jail

Date July 29, 2011
Richard Ackland

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/modern-prescription-for-mental-illness-go-directly-to-jail-20110728-1i20q.html#ixzz2pVMT4H3s

“Most are ill people locked in a system that can’t provide proper treatment.”

A comfortably-off, middle-class woman from a nice suburb suddenly finds herself at the Silverwater metropolitan remand and reception centre. She’s been charged with a serious driving offence and is awaiting trial.

The reception centre is a madhouse. It’s so crowded people are swinging off the rafters. There are three or four people to a small cell. Our middle-class inmate shares with two others.

There’s an Aboriginal woman clearly suffering a dreadful mental trauma, who spends the entire night screaming and bashing her head against the wall. There is blood everywhere.

The lady on the driving charge repeatedly calls the guard for something to be done, only to be told when someone in authority finally gets around to sticking their head in (twice in 12 hours), ”don’t worry about it”.

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The guards would have seen this sort of scene innumerable times. Someone might die, but the resources can’t cope and the system is choked with mentally ill prisoners.

A group of us who attended the most recent forum of the Crime and Justice Reform Committee heard this story from Kat Armstrong, an articulate former prisoner who nowadays works for the Women in Prison Advocacy Network.

Former District Court judge Chris Geraghty, who chaired the lunchtime session of the CJRC, said he quite frequently had to sentence mentally damaged people to jail who said their heads were filled with voices. Sending these people to prison is unlikely to improve their capacity to function. It also compounds the difficulties of daily life for other prisoners and prison officers.

Prison is a concentrate of mental disorder. These illnesses run at three to four times the rate in the prison population that they do in the unimprisoned community. About 54 per cent of women and 47 per cent of men in prison are reported as having been assessed or treated for a mental health problem. This includes anxiety, depression, psychosis and bipolar disorders. The really deeply disturbed inmates have to find room at the limited facilities of prison forensic hospitals. Ninety per cent of women in the reception centres have experienced a mental disorder within 12 months of imprisonment.

In one sense, this is not surprising because the prison population is largely drawn from people with a profile of chronic unemployment, low level of skills and education and drug and alcohol dependence. What has been quietly happening under our noses is that the prisons have become the largest psychiatric institutions in the country, but without the therapeutic resources to deal with the problem.

Prisons are not entirely full of bad people. Most of them are just ill people locked in a system that can’t provide proper treatment.

Eighty per cent of women in jail have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction, or all three. Prisoners are released back into the community often in a more damaged condition than when they went in.

Twenty per cent of the prison population is on methadone. Prisoners who are really troublesome are given antidepressants and they wander about like zombies struggling to stay awake. From the prison officers’ point of view, they are easier to control in that condition.

It’s also pretty horrendous for most prisoners when they are released. They have no job, no skills and no money. Very soon they’re back inside. In fact, some released prisoners plan to commit a crime fairly promptly after release so they can get back to prison – the only place where there are daily certainties.

Yet what are the alternatives? There’s the MERIT scheme (Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment), which allows the Local Court to divert people with drug and alcohol abuse away from the prison system and into treatment. It applies at the less serious end of the criminal spectrum.

There’s also section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, which also allows defendants to be diverted out of the criminal justice system. But these arrangements struggle to replace recidivism with treatment. In 2007, the latest figures available, just 1.6 per cent of defendants appearing before local courts were diverted under section 32. This does not reflect the numbers of accused, who most certainly would qualify for a section 32 order.

What is really needed is a massive injection of funds into addressing human dysfunctionality somewhere other than in the prison system. Judicial reinvestment is the buzz term.

Of course, the money is not there although there are some encouraging first steps, including a 300-bed drug treatment prison going in at the John Moroney Correctional Centre in Windsor.

At the moment conditions in the system are so dreadful that, as Kat Armstrong put it, ”You do your jail easier if you’re off your face.”

justinian@lawpress.com.au

Who is helping the mentally ill?

I find it strange that we have mental health organisations, such as the Black Dog Institute, Beyondblue, Headspace, SANE Australia, and many others,  that have not mentioned the impact that the current bed tax, introduced in New South Wales recently,  will have on people with disabilities and people with mental illness. Here is some information about it http://alfredo123.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/why-the-bedroom-tax-is-a-very-bad-idea/

And   http://alfredo123.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/will-services-reforms-especially-health-and-housing-help-people-with-mental-illness/

I was truly surprised to learn that these organisation do not know anything about it.  I am also  concerned at the kind of mental health reforms that are going to be introduced in New South Wales, where people with severe mental illness who currently live in government houses with extra bedrooms, may be about to be relocated next to unreformed criminals and in unhealthy, disruptive environments. People with mental illness, and other serious disabilities, do need to be helped and protected.

this is an interesting article about what is happening today to many people with mental illness in Australia  http://alfredo123.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/in-australia-today-jails-are-the-new-mental-illness-facilities/