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.

 

***

Continue reading “Living with Learning Disabilities as a Psychotherapist, Writer, and Mental Health Consumer”

Letting the Public Know I Suffer from Schizophrenia

When people seek mental health services from me, I routinely break what was once a cardinal sin to me early on in my recovery; I review my diagnostic history. I do this with love in my heart to help inspire recovery, however, in the process, the “s” word, “schizophrenia,” will bubble up.

I do this habitually in the outpatient program I work in. I have done this by redefining the medical model definition of the word so that it more accurately reflects the shared internal process that we with “schizophrenia,” or “schizoaffective,” or “bipolar,” or “depression,” or hosts of other diagnoses experience.

Continue reading “Letting the Public Know I Suffer from Schizophrenia”

Nine Social Skills Continued

Nine Social Skills I Developed for Myself:

Though in developing these social skills, I initially took a stab at writing from a universal perspective, I have had enough experience running them by people in groups to recognize that many of these are personal. Mad people are very diverse. As a result, the following are meant to be helpful in helping message receivers consider social skills that they need to penetrate the cultural enclave of their choosing. However, it is a wide world with very distinctive individuals and cultures so message receivers need to be constantly exploring their social skills even if they are neuro-divergent, like me, and struggle to do so.

I, for example, have learned to adapt to a ghetto culture and am somewhat comfortable in these contexts, however, have a difficult time switching so that I can be in mainstream culture without losing my social skills. When I feel excluded or sense gossip and slander, I withdraw and lose my ability to socialize. Thus, my ability and sometimes willingness to overcome deficits varies.

The following are set up to help me survive and overcome hostile environments. I’d argue that all message receivers need to consider adjusting social skills to overcome stigma and work together to help each other be successful. Perhaps some of what I have put together for myself may help message receivers and their helpers spot these issues in others and better reflect on the social skills they need to use to replace their retaliation reactions. The goal is to build relationships instead of break them.

 

Social Skill #1: Learning lessons from being punished or unjustly victimized
Continue reading “Nine Social Skills Continued”

Nine Social Skills

To avoid punishment, message receivers will need to build relationships with people who socially sanction the message experience. Social functioning will often require that the message receiver engage in relationships that are in the culture of the “normal” consensus reality. In fact, by the time many message receivers make it into a group many are taught through the mainstream system of care (and perhaps through internalized stigma) to deny their symptoms and play it normal. Indeed at the onset of group, it can take a long while for many group members to share message experiences not only because those experiences are traumatic, but also because they fear being persecuted for doing so. While there are message receivers who stick to their guns especially early in their message crisis, many experienced message receivers already know what it takes to survive in a world dominated by storm troopers. Often, it is anger and emotional desperation that makes them act out their symptoms when in crisis. The game becomes to contain these experiences so that there is no punishment. People may notice something is up with some of us, but social sanctions forces people to contain themselves when they can. Often times the way this is done is silently disdained. And still there are very different degrees of social skills as message receivers do this.

For me personally, learning to submit to this process was very challenging without medication. I do not consider myself to hold good social skills on the whole. In addition to struggling with messages, I like many message receivers have been diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and consider myself to be influenced by a mild level of autism. My whole life I have gravitated towards people who are different who might give me a chance. Thus, message receivers who are likewise neuro-divergent might also struggle with basic social skills like looking people in the eye etcetera. While I do my best to accept what I perceive to be the bullying nature of a great deal of social interaction, I do not like the fact that social groups exclude and differentiate themselves from other groups. For me, genuine cuddling is very difficult. As a result, I tend to come from the vantage point that social skills are very difficult when this may not be the case for all message receivers.

Continue reading “Nine Social Skills”

Living with Schizophrenia in Oakland: Esteban Santiago-Ruiz

January 7, 2017: I sit stunned in the wake of the tragedy of yesterday’s Fort Lauderdale shooting. As statements appear in the press that insinuate that these evil acts need to be avenged, I grieve for the senseless loss of life.  I grieve and I also wonder if anyone cares to understand the dilemmas that people like Esteban Santiago-Ruiz face. Having just endured another holiday season as a mad person, I am reminded of the importance of giving social scapegoats a space to celebrate their otherness. As a licensed psychotherapist, I create safe places where the untold story can be heard. I know that a state of victimhood can be transformed to a celebration. I see it happen every day. It helps me exponentially.

Having caught a fever, I spent Christmas day in bed in victim mode, reflecting on the way I feel scapegoated. Instead of working through the pain like usual, I lay incapacitated, overcome. I thought of my project design that could bring specialized groups into the county service system. Turns out eighteen months of pro bono work only further smeared my reputation. I not only am left unnoticed, I know there are rumors based on past politics and current ones that I can do nothing about. I reflected how, when I recently shared these ideas in a survivor work group, I only felt further marginalized. This hurt, as did the fact that my award winning memoir isn’t selling.

Continue reading “Living with Schizophrenia in Oakland: Esteban Santiago-Ruiz”

Retaliation Reactions

Jargonizing the Retaliation Reaction Construct:

This chapter’s construct consists of natural reactions that come up for message receivers as a result of acting as though their message experiences are the dominant reality.

Retaliation reactions can be as minor as a facial response: a glare, or a laugh; and in more dramatic occasions can involve actions that put the message receiver or the public at risk. In the course of this chapter I will provide some examples from my experience. While I certainly have observed the actions of others as most readers have too, I will limit the examples within, to my experience. Perhaps doing so will help make a case for group leaders to demonstrate their wellness by being able to take responsibility for their own complex behaviors.

Continue reading “Retaliation Reactions”

Positive Self-Fulfilling Prophesies

Self-Fulfilling Prophesies in All Aspects of Culture:

The spiritual concept of the positive self-fulfilling prophesy, which represents things like prayer and faith, is pivotal for message receiver and arguably for anyone dealing with trauma.  As many people I have worked with have pointed out, the concept is present in the Bible and, I believe, in other spiritual traditions from the major world religions to the local indigenous practices.  Whether this is true or not, I’d argue that the concept of positive self-fulfilling prophesy is also clearly present in modern music (I heard it in a John Mellencamp song) in self-help books (“The Law of Attraction,”) modern spiritual videos (“The Secret,”) and in the foundations of positive psychology. I am essentially arguing that this is a major cultural phenomenon that message receivers are simply denied in the current system due to labels and prejudice which they ever so desperately need!

I argue that the institution and wider culture fail to teach it to message receivers when it is so particularly needed in message crisis. Indeed, somehow social goals associated with self-fulfilling prophesy get permanently dropped when they need to be first and foremost on the helper and messages receiver’s mind. It is hard when someone is locked in a warehouse with nothing to do to teach such a concept. Still, some recovery minded helpers manage to help message receivers focus on activities in some stark circumstances.

Continue reading “Positive Self-Fulfilling Prophesies”

On a Writer’s Need for Acknowledgement

Ever since I finally, at the age of forty-three, published some of my writing, I’ve found that I am particularly prone to pain again. Ever since, each morning I have woken up driven to find ways to get people to read my book.

A year and a month later, I have primarily had to pay people to check out my work. There are those who accepted the free book without giving it a read, let alone write promised reviews. Sure the memoir itself has collected two awards and primarily five star reviews, but amid the boom of self-published authors I find myself more hurt by the silent echo, than grateful to the friends who have read, and not balked.

After a tough week,  I find  this pain expounding itself through every facet of my consciousness. I am out walking with my wife and I think about how psychiatrists have hustled me through explanation of my psychotherapy; about the numerous presentations I have provided that ended up empty; about leaders of the psychiatric survivors movement who promote those with less experience; about the presentation when I had people finally laughing and listening to me, and the smoke bomb that forced evacuation. There were past company owners who hired me, ignored statistics as I worked sixty hour weeks and demoted me . . .

Continue reading “On a Writer’s Need for Acknowledgement”

The Importance of Causation in “Psychosis”

I think groups help message receivers when it comes to being flexible with the concept of causation of “psychosis.” One of the few rules of a Hearing Voices Network Group is that all causation explanations are allowed. I’d argue that this sets the stage for what I have come to term functional flexible theory styles. Hearing authentic stories from peers about their experience and beliefs of causation  invites collaboration and ultimately flexibility. I think this naturally helps people out towards their social goals

Not only is discussing their experiences without punishment a novel and emancipating idea, it encourages a sense of belonging to a peer group. A positive consequence is that the group becomes more less focused on the content and more the process of what is going on. There is a sense of working together that helps the message receiver be more mindful and open.  For eight years I have watched this process help heal people.

It is true I have developed some jargon to describe the process of message receiving. In the process of doing this I have become a believe that causation flexibility can help facilitate social goals.  For starters, in my upcoming book on Special Messages, I identify five causation styles:

5 Styles of Theory

Continue reading “The Importance of Causation in “Psychosis””