Living with Learning Disabilities as a Psychotherapist, Writer, and Mental Health Consumer

Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long

I never heard the melody until I needed the song . . .

. . . I never I spoke “I love you” till I cursed you in vain

Never felt my heart strings until I nearly went insane

                                                           

–Tom Waites, San Diego Serenade

 

It is funny how sometimes one cannot really see themselves until they get a glimpse of a harsh paradoxical reality. Perhaps doing so gives one that alternate perspective that is so necessary to really see oneself and gain wisdom. I think that’s what Tom Waites is getting at in the excerpts of his song I posted above. That is why the ability to relate to others is such a powerful teacher and healer that is so needed in a therapeutic endeavor. Other people’s struggles help us stop and see ourselves better. Even if it is painful, growth is likely.

And, just as the song goes, I never really saw myself as a learning-disabled person until I just recently had the opportunity to sit with an individual while she was receiving a mid-life diagnosis. It was a diagnosis that I thought might be helpful. Little did I know that before this sitting, I rarely considered the full effect of how a learning disorder affects me as a writer, therapist and mental health consumer.

 

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A Need for Providers who Specialize in “Psychosis.”

This story is for the mental health providers or peer counselors who are invested in developing treatment for people who have experienced “psychosis” across diagnostic categories. I know firsthand that this can be achieved. I want to help other interested parties develop their own practice so that an important need gets addressed.

Maybe the reader can relate to me! I was hired straight out of college into work in the counseling field. I started to work with an adult mental health population at my second job at the age of twenty-three. Since that time I have been increasingly focused on how to make therapeutic engagement meaningful when working with people in “psychosis.” In the field there are many who will say or imply this is not possible. They may argue that the mental health system is the best we can do.

I believe uniquely talented specialists are needed primarily because the mental health system fails so many people. We need outreach specialists with lived experience who can meet sufferers wherever they are at to encourage them to seek out therapy specialists, competent in group and individual practice. The more people with lived experience the better! Even better we need a system of self-support to sustain people outside the system, like the hearing voices network.

 

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Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation2

Following up from my last post that featured political causation ideas, this post features examples of some spiritual causation ideas that I frequently use to understand some of my current message experiences. These  last two posts are from my second to last chapter which documents psychological, trauma, and scientific causation explanations in addition to the political and spiritual explanations I am including. I assert in the chapter my belief that the more causation understandings that a message receiver has at their disposal, the more they are able to establish or maintain the flexibility that is required to break out of a message crisis or “psychosis” episode. As I describe below, key to being able to break out of an episode is a willingness to leave causation up to god, and choose the causation explanation that enables you to function with the least amount of distress.

Ultimately there are more causation arguments than I could possibly identify and the more we listen and learn to new explanations for unique individuals, I’d argue the better off we will be.

 

Detailed Spiritual Causation Examples: Continue reading “Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation2”

Ode to Self-Discovery

To hell with the insipid emptiness

That keeps good people ineptly drowned!

Gaze into the perplexed distress and bless

The self that is so often shackle bound!

This is my pledge to the introspection

That so often is betrayed or unknown

Or left to rot in the gutter of dread

And then scavenged for the insurrection.

Together we starve and wither alone

Our thirst being a statement left unsaid.

 

There is numbness that grasps the bone

Which is surrounded by layer upon layer

Of prickle that persistently drones

Out experiences that do conjure

Recurrent traumas of spirits within.

Like swollen flesh, nothingness throbs

Throughout enduring routine of day

Expanding its reign under your skin

Until your inner turmoil sobs

Containing misery you cannot delay.

 

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Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation

This excerpt is going to operate with the contention that there are five causes of “psychosis”: political, psychological, scientific, trauma, and spiritual. In the chapter I have written, I extensively review differing types of causal arguments that can arise within each causation style. Clearly in the chapter, there is some cross over as science mixes with trauma and politics etcetera. In the chapter, I post ideas that I clearly disagree with and that are not for me. I do so because I have nine years of experience listening to the causal arguments of other people and I respect that other causal arguments may be true for other people. Indeed help comes in different forms for different people. In the chapter, the intention is that as the reader reads through these causation examples, they may relate to some new causal explanation they haven’t thought of. I believe that increasing the number of causal arguments that you have gives you more power to be resilient and flexible when you face threatening or distressing messages as you go through life.

But here, in the excerpt below, I am just going to share three political causation ideas I have heard over the years. This is the theory style that I was most stuck on when I was in crisis. Though thinking this way was toxic for me at the time, in recovery I can reflect on ways that some of my special messages were in fact political in nature. I personally was able to dig myself out of crisis when I shifted to the spiritual causation theory style, a style that causes some to get stuck and marginalized. In the chapter, I legitimize these two causation theories in addition to thoroughly exploring the other legitimate theory styles, psychological, trauma, and scientific.

 

Detailed Political Causation Examples: Continue reading “Special Messages Excerpt: Self-Exploration through Causation”

Five Considerations that Help Keep Groups that focus on “Psychosis” Inclusive:

I believe with fervor that having survivor-led group therapy that redefines “psychosis” is missing in the system. Over the last nine years I have been leading what I call special message groups in multicultural settings. I have found not only that such groups can be run safely, but that they have the power to transform lives. However, I do have to admit that when it comes to kicking people out of group to maintain group equilibrium and safety that I believe there are a few things to consider first.

First, I believe that a group leader needs to be prepared for the fact that mad people show up in very different ways. Group facilitators need to be familiar with and recognize a wide variety of presentations or manifestations. Perhaps group members may feel like they are being mocked by others in the group via illusionary ideas of reference, or even controlled by them. They may code up their language for protection. They may treat the facilitator as if the facilitator can hear the same voices they hear. They may not believe in spite of stories shared that the facilitator has experienced what they have. I myself have prepared myself for these challenges by attempting to better define what “psychosis” is. I have reconstructed a definition that can sync up a wide variety of what have historically been defined as conditions. I believe if the leader is not prepared to accept all presentations, people will not feel safe talking about their experiences. I believe that intolerance for people who show up in a different or what is perceived as a difficult manner can be extremely hurtful.

Second, I believe the facilitator can take measures to help train the group to be brave and tolerant of each other. I frame coming together with the specific purpose of sharing untold stories to be an oft neglected privilege that has unfortunately been denied because the “they” experts say it is not safe. I am always willing to start out with my own story. I advocate for a spirit of risk taking by acknowledging that people in the group may be so used to dangerous or distressing experiences that guaranteeing safety would be a disservice. I also might point out that despite what “they” say, this is a practice that has been an effective movement in different countries and that I have done for a long time. In my mind, these kinds of comments are treating the “set of symptoms” as a neglected culture that is subjugated. Moreover, keeping the group focused on the things they have in common with each other in the earlier stages of group development can help. Also strongly supporting alienated individuals also helps train the group to be more tolerant and can avoid many problems that come up in a group discouraging them from expecting a trouble maker from getting kicked out.
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Dining Room Discourse

Come travel the depths of this lonely night

Where knotted roots grope for a morsel

Amid the pale faces of flesh undressed

Whose pathways are smitten with pools of blood

That had once been pumped by a vital heart

Now lay stagnant, solitary tear drops.

“Besides,” she says: head bowing, smile sly,

“My boyfriend would really hurt you if he

Found out I was going to leave him for you.”

And suddenly I am flushed through the vein

Into cavern where the vultures might digest

The grim reality we all might call truth.

Outside I dine in tavern with maiden,

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Excerpt from Special Messages Book, Chapter Seventeen, Anti-Stigma Cognition for Social Rehabilitation

Philosophy of Reality that Promotes Anti-Stigma Cognition:

In order to sell the good parts of cognitive therapy as a tool for social rehabilitation, I have had to create an underlying philosophy about what reality is. This is a model that can come up at various points in individual and group therapy as a means of motivating a message receiver toward using the material world to fact check their spiritual insights.

In this model, I consider reality to be a dialectic between the spiritual message world and the material modern world. The spiritual message world involves all the message experiences that I took pains to identify in chapter four and throughout the text. In short, this includes things like ESP (i.e. reading minds,) hallucinations (i.e. hearing voices) and intuited reality discerned through things like coded linguistic coincidence and loosely associated coded symbols that inhabit a real or imagined world. The spiritual message world is very much in the subjective perspective of an individual consciousness.

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