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Switch to Forum Live View Mental Illness & the True Self
5 years ago  ::  Feb 07, 2009 - 9:11AM #1
TheWallflower
Posts: 125
I have a friend who is schizophrenic.  When he's on his meds you'd never know.  But recently he stopped taking his meds, quit his job, and stopped associating with anyone.  We've tried to talk with him, but usually he won't answer the door or the phone.  Or, when he does, he tells us to go away, he's through with us.

At this point, he's obviously not rational.  His hallucinations and delusions are back.  But at one point, when he was still on his meds and presumably rational, he decided to stop taking them.  Why would he do this? 

Maybe something happened that I don't know about, or maybe it's more complex than this. 

The other day I went to the library.  Next to the bookshelf I was near was a table, at which were sitting three men.  They all had their heads down, crazy homeless guys staring at the table top (it’s February in the great frozen north, so lots of people with no where else to go come to the library).  I ignored them. 

Moving on to the opposite side of the room, I looked back.  One of the guys had lifted his head up.  It was my friend.  His beard was huge and his hair was longer and disheveled, but it was him.  His eyes looked dead.  I didn't know what to do.  He obviously hadn’t wanted me to see him when I was literally within reaching distance, and he previously had made it known he didn't want to talk to me.  So I left him alone.

That night I told my wife that I saw him.  I made the comment, "But it wasn't really him."  She said to me, "But maybe it was." 

Her suggestion about why he may have chosen to go off his meds is that schizophrenic is how nature made him.  This may be who he really is.  When he's on meds, as normal as he seems, he's actually under the influence of something foreign. 

I can't imagine what it must feel like to live a day in his life.  But perhaps my wife is right.  Maybe he does feel inauthentic when under the influence of powerful psychotropics, and maybe he had to stop taking them so he could be true to himself.  Maybe this is one reason why mentally ill people go off meds all the time.

In most states, mentally ill people have the right to choose to take or not take psych meds (unless they pose a threat of harm to self or others).  As hard as it might be to watch someone make a choice I don't agree with, I have to accept it.  Granted, he is living off disability and a housing subsidy, which is politically infuriating to many people who don't want to have to pay for what they consider to be someone else's irresponsibility.  But I don't see it like that.  If this is his true self, then I think ethically society has an obligation to care for him.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 08, 2009 - 7:03PM #2
Lovemongrel
Posts: 4
Hello, I worked my whole career working with the seriously mentally ill, Schizophrenica andBipolar folks. This is sad, always sad, but it is the nature of the illness. When people are in the grips of the illness they don't have the judgement to make the decision to take medications. Often one  must wait until they are a danger to self or others to havethem committed through Probate Court. Schizophrenia and all mental illnesses are heart breaking, receive little compassion or understanding from others. These folks don't have the advocates other illness have. I do not believe what your seeing is thismans true self, you are seeing the Schizophrenia, not the true person.
Lovemongrel
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 08, 2009 - 9:44PM #3
TheWallflower
Posts: 125
It's a difficult philosophical question with no clear answer.  I dug up an article he wrote a few years ago about recovery.  He wrote that the last time he went off his meds, then was forced back on them, he understood it was for his own good, but he felt like he lost a part of his soul. 

What must the past few years been like, being "normal" but feeling like part of your soul is missing, a part you could regain by throwing out the meds?
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 10, 2009 - 12:00AM #4
blueberryangel
Posts: 137
wallflower,

I think you're absolutely right.   I think that is the main reason people go off their meds, because they literally do feel like they lost a part of their soul, as melodramatic as that may sound.  There's no way around it, when you take drugs, artificial chemicals for your brain, they are usually not going to work perfectly, fix your problems, while still letting you feel like yourself. I think this is especially true of schizophrenic and bipolar people from what I've heard. 

There is a certain grace that comes with some mental illness..I hope it doesn't sound like I'm romanticizing something that is a horrible thing..but I've been through it (not schizophrenia or bipolar, but some of  my own brand of depression), and I would never CHOOSE to go through it and I hope I don't go through it ever again (but I probably will someday-well life is made up of ups and downs...)..but there IS some kind of...grace....some kind of something...I guess with bipolar you can literally describe it as the mania part of the disease and it happens at certain times in between the depressive episodes which I'm sure can be hell.  For other kinds of mental illness it is not so literal, and not necessarily seperated in periods of time like that, but it's there just the same.  The fact is many of the great artists and even scientists and great minds in the world have suffered from mental illness, particularly artists....it's a kind of thing where we all have yin and yang but people who have suffered may have horrible horrible downs, but they also may have even higher highs than the average person, and can reach a kind of divine union with God that is not accessible to everyone in this life.   Even if it is a hate/hate relationship with God after much suffering, it's still there, a special relationship.

It's a high high price to pay, but I totally understand why some people go off their meds.  I can understand because I've been taking meds for years and I've finally realized that it has been pretty much pointless....but I am not bipolar, and I'm not in denial about it, I've just finally realized that my meds have not made that much of a difference...They may have at times taken the edge off of despair, and they may have made me obsess a tiny bit less...but I really feel pretty much the same, and I've started majorly tapering off them after finally being strong with my psychiatrist that I just don't want to take them anymore.  It's just a waste of money...

Anyway I've found since I do not have a disease like bipolar or schizophrenia, and my medication hasn't seemed to affect me much one way or the other (except for a few times I went on one that had a bad effect on me and then had to go through withdrawals to get off  it)...and yet, there is a sort of grace that...I started to feel a little bit more like myself after I started tapering off some of the medication.  Which in turn made me feel better inside.  This has kind of worn off since then, but I'm eager to see what it will feel like once I get off of everything completely.  And I am not completely content or thrilled right now but I am pretty stable and at least hopeful even if sometimes life is still very hard.

However, while I DO think we as a society prescribe medication way too quickly and way too often, I also do think there's a significant portion of mentally ill people that DO benefit from it, and do need it, and I am not against it whatsoever, IF it works for you.  I don't think it's a short cut or a "crutch"...it's for people who are already at a disadvantage and deserve to be at least a little closer to equal footing.  Even though I know that medication has never been right for me,I understand that we all have different brains that respond chemically different to medication and it works for some people. 

Unfortunately for certain problems like bipolar and schizophrenia, unlike for us regular depressed folks (who some find success with it and some don't), medication is almost always necessary to function even if it does kill a part of the soul.  We need to keep the hope for those people though that medications will keep getting better and/or we will find other ways to deal with the problems so they can get their soul back, as we all deserve.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 10, 2009 - 8:18PM #5
TheWallflower
Posts: 125
Blueberryangel,

In sum, it sounds like you're saying that mental illness is perhaps more complex than the disease model implies.  Your idea of grace does make sense.  It reminds me of James Hillmans The Soul's Code, even if I understand the soul as a poetic device rather than a literal thing. 

So if my friend feels he had lost a part of his soul, and needs to regain this, I have to honor that and try not to judge it, even if I wish he were still taking his meds - after all, it wasn't my choice to make.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 10, 2009 - 8:18PM #6
TheWallflower
Posts: 125
Blueberryangel,

In sum, it sounds like you're saying that mental illness is perhaps more complex than the disease model implies.  Your idea of grace does make sense.  It reminds me of James Hillmans The Soul's Code, even if I understand the soul as a poetic device rather than a literal thing. 

So if my friend feels he had lost a part of his soul, and needs to regain this, I have to honor that and try not to judge it, even if I wish he were still taking his meds - after all, it wasn't my choice to make.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 11, 2009 - 8:25AM #7
blueberryangel
Posts: 137
Yes, exactly.  I've always kind of had a problem with the idea of depression labeled as a "disease".  It kind of implies that in life if we are ever very sad, there must be something wrong with us, and what's "normal" is to always be chipper and completely at peace and just ready to go in life.  I don't think it's that simple, and part of the reason mental illness is stigmatized is simply because it is CALLED mental "illness".  I think some people may think that would make it LESS stigmatized because it implies something that is beyond ones control, like cancer or something.   You can do things to try to avoid it (avoid sun,  eat antioxidants, get mammograms and such), but in the end it may be unavoidable.  And so you can get around the image of the depressed person being at fault for their own situation, or weak and just not being able to handle reality like other tougher people.

And it's a good thing to try to get the general non depressed public to understand that depression isn't voluntary and it's not because people are weak, but in the end I really think that the phrase "mental illness" and depression as a "disease" really does more to make the stigma worse, rather than better.  Because a disease of the body is just something that effects the body, but a disease of the mind, in some peoples' mind makes your whole self "different" ...or set apart from others.

The main problem I have with the words disease and illness though, is not what others think of us, but how we interpret our own situations and how we may be able to make things better.  If we have a "disease", then we immediately think of taking medicine and doing other physical things to make us feel better and heal, like rest, and nutrition and exercise, etc. And all of these things are important and can be very effective, but it is leaving out a very important factor which is what our soul is going through and for some people that can be the biggest key to making it through.

This is not to say that there isn't an element of illness in depression or bipolar or schizophrenia or any other mental illness...They are technically scientifically classified as medical illnesses for a reason, and scientifically that may be absolutely correct, I'm not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist or psychologist.  And the fact that they do have to do with chemicals in the brain is the reason a lot of people DO respond to medication, but medication isn't the answer for everybody.

As for your friend, that's really up to you and honestly I have absolutely no idea what you should do. One thing I'd ask is does he seem like a danger to others when he is off his meds?  I know with things like this there are never any guarantees, but if he is not the type to be violent or particularly careless when not on his meds, and he is not in charge of any kids or pets, that need him to be very present not only for safety's sake, but for emotional support....Then I think you could in good conscience support him going off his meds, even while letting him know you don't like it, and you think what's best for him is to take them.  I don't think you want to leave him alone now because he will probably go off of them wether you like it or not, and it's better for someone to be around when he does.  If you think he's being manipulative or something, then that's different, but otherwise, I don't see why you shouldn't be there for him.  If he goes off his meds and it's wonderful for a while but then he takes a downturn because he is not stable, maybe just maybe he will get the picture that he needs to be on them, and you can try to encourage him in that maybe there are ways to "feel his soul" and break through the numbness even while he is taking his medication.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 16, 2009 - 11:10AM #8
Brunswicke89
Posts: 1
My son was offically diagnosed as being Schizophrenic in 1997 and has experienced myriad symptoms (they overlap) until he finally found the "right" medication and came to "accept" what his life is, rather than what he' wish it to be.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 16, 2009 - 4:21PM #9
mannersamust
Posts: 1
I enjoy this Forum....
we don't really know he just quit his job,, he could of been forced out or had a wicked boss lots of stuff.. in this day and age no job actually equally homeless. 
I hear the great point of losing your soul I am glad you mentin,, I take meds and fell like I have lost a part of my soul (it's depression I think) 
I just uped my meds and it made a huge diff. I was taking 40 mg now I take 60MG. prozac.

I really gave pause when I read this thread,,, good grief I feel like I am so close to what happened to that man.. in other words it won't take much more.

Thanks for all your insights my heart goes out to anyone who deals with depression.
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5 years ago  ::  Feb 16, 2009 - 5:00PM #10
Big G
Posts: 1
I think these posts are so kind and loving that any concern spoken to him would only be beneficial.  I kind of think mental health is dependent on all sorts of things, body chemistry, brain structure, lack of any head injuries, or post-traumatic stress, etc.  Physical, outdoor activity, and creative projects,even just rearranging something, sewing, or knitting a hat make me feel better, or getting on the phone with a friend, or reading a good book when I get depressed.  I kind of think of some of these mental disorders like diabetes--something in the make-up that is invisible but affects the person and they could be helped by certain medications.  There is no stigma for diabetes which the person wouldn't have if they had a choice, but there is a stigma about mental illness which makes it even harder to confront for the person or the family or friends of the person.  Someday, hopefully it will be more understood by the general population.
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