Why I Say Special Messages Instead of Psychosis

For the past ten years I have used the words special messages to bring people together behind a better-defined notion of psychosis. I hope in this article will help better define what I mean by special messages and why I think that messages are part of a process that includes seven other components that I defined in my last article.

Many people who have worked with me presume that when I say special messages I mean voices. It’s true that the words hearing voices ring true as music to my ears. Indeed, the hearing voices movement has vastly improved the social understanding of what is happening to message receivers. Less dominant are the memes associated with all the “psycho” stigma that gets equated with the psychosis word. However, I still argue that just saying hearing voices fails to unite all people under the umbrella of the word psychosis.

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A New Definition of Psychosis

Psychosis is an antiquated word that leads to huge misunderstandings that play a large role oppressing a larger and larger portion of the population. For the past nine years I have run professional focus groups, going through the process of listening, exploring, reflecting, writing, seeking feedback and rewriting to get a better definition of psychosis.

 

Defining Psychosis, the Mainstream Way:

I remember using the mainstream definition as a young professional during the job I used to get me through my Master’s Program. Wondering how I was to connect with people who had delusions and voices that I clearly didn’t experience with my neurotic, highly-medicated self, I filled the white board with a list of labels and complicated words I was proud to be able to define. It was my college education that got me the job, and this was one way I could use it to be useful.

positive symptoms

Hallucinations:           reports of sounds (voices,) visuals, tactile sensations, tastes, and olfactory sensations that others do not experience

Delusions:                   “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational . . .” In spite of the “preponderance of the evidence”

Disorganized Speech: Frequent derailment or incoherence): Word salad, tangential, or circumspect speech

negative symptoms

  1. Andhedonia
  2. Avolition
  3. Amotivation
  4. Alogia
  5. Attention Problems
  6. Catatonia
  7. Posturing
  8. Lethargy
  9. Flat affect
  10. Social Withdrawal
  11. Sexual Problems

 

The Errors of These Ways:

Life has taught me that the mainstream definition, as such, does little to depict what it feels like to have a break from reality. Indeed, not understanding this can cause a supporter to make things worse even when they have the best of intentions. Indeed, miscommunication, pain, and strained relationships often result once a sufferer has a break.

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The Need to Plan for Your Loved Ones Recovery (Part One)

 

In the United States, when a person has what is often referred to as a first break, the courses of action that get taken against them may end up being a crime against their humanity.

While there can be very diverse responses from family and friends, there is the unfortunate tendency to turn to the mental health industry for support and direction. Many providers in the industry only know the standard of care which is to refer the person to a hospital and psychiatric medications.

Few providers take an interest in understanding and exploring the important experiences that lead to the break. I call these experiences special messages. Finding a provider who is curious about these experiences, skilled at understanding them, and who knows better than to try to suppress them can be rare.

Many providers fail to acknowledge the trauma involved in the lives of the people who have first breaks and that the trauma that gets worsened as the standard of care—forced medication, social security, revolving hospital doors, and warehousing—get implemented. Many presume this is a necessary process.

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Stigma

Jargonizing the Stigma Concept:

Stigma is a mysterious external process that becomes internal that all message receivers face. Though stigma works in many different ways, I think it is particularly astounding and deceptive that it is not considered part of the definition of all forms of schizophrenia disorders. In my mind including it in the definition is a way of acknowledging and respecting that part of the negative outcome for those who suffer is the way society and our culture defines and treats the phenomenon of special messages. Acknowledging the role of stigma suggests that the outcomes of people becoming resigned to isolate, to sit and smoke all day in a board and care setting, is not only the result of their internal choice or abilities but the systemic interplay of individuals and the community that surrounds them.

For example, having myself transitioned from being treated like a hard-working, conscientious social worker who inspired social change, to a mental patient who needed to be locked on a ward for my own safety, I know that the power of this concept first hand. The transformation was profound! Suddenly my strengths were no longer defined by me. As I walked in circles on the floor to maintain my need for exercise, the only strength my psychiatric nurse gave me was that my family, in spite of all the hurt that I had experienced over the past fifteen years, was good family support. Two years later stigma still dogged me as a deli worker who worked under the constant threat of being fired. Now, fifteen years later, in spite of the fact that that I have a house, a wife, and a job where I am appreciated, I still battle with a sense of being slandered and rejected while my work remains unacknowledged. While I have not let stigma ruin me, I work with people who are extremely undervalued who are fighting the same demon. I write notes that diminish their efforts so the organization I work for can get paid.

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Multi-Culturism in the Hacienda of Mental Health

Back when I was just a yuppie, I learned a few points of wisdom about working through stigma. I needed mentors to help teach me how wrong stigma is. Now,  I want to pay forward some of  what I learned outside the class room  to some mental health academics and administrators who may not have gotten the same lesson.

I was learning to chop cheese steaks at a Korean owned deli and instantly enamored with this mentor on the grill, Mister Ray Gee. The deli was located just across the river from downtown Philadelphia, in the North Camden ghetto.  This Mister Ray and I were just meeting. We were both the same skin-and-bones size, our last names went together in rhyme, and any middle aged man who didn’t have a gut was an inspiration to me.

Mister Ray took one look at me and exclaimed in one breath, “Wow you are an Asshole! But don’t worry, it’s not your fault!  You were just raised that way!”

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