CHOICES II-2 - Impediments to Acceptance 1B
This blog is recommended reading for the visitors to this site, especially those sending in questions [to the "Ask a Question" Facility] involving their own diagnosis, or how to get a friend or relative into treatment or to take their medications.
In my blog entitled CHOICES II-1 -Impediments to Recovery 1A, posted on 13 October 2008, I cited the mantra that "The point of departure for the journey of recovery is our acceptance of the fact that we have a mental illness." I went on to explain that my journey of recovery actually began under the care of a remarkable psychiatrist some three years before I was willing to accept the fact that I had a mental illness.
There were five very basic reasons why my recovery began three years before I realized, and therefore accepted, my mental illness. First, one of the symptoms of my illness was anosognosia [I didn't believe I had a mental illness]; second, my family insisted I see a psychiatrist upon the very first manifestations of my illness [five days after my symptoms first appeared]; third, the psychiatrist I saw believed in the medical model of mental illness [that mental illness is caused by problems with brain physiology]; fourth, my psychiatrist was many years ahead of his peers in his understanding of the genesis and treatment of mental illness; and finally, from the very beginning, my psychiatrist extended unconditional acceptance to me [he neither endorsed or challenged my delusions; he did not require me to "confess" that I was mentally ill].
In this blog, and the next four blogs, we will explore why the five factors cited above resulted in an early departure on my journey of recovery.
Anosognosia is a symptom that about 40% of those with schizophrenia exhibit and is most often a substantial impediment to their acceptance of the fact that they have a mental illness. Consumers with anosognosia simply do not believe that they are ill and, as a consequence, resist or refuse treatment. [This fact underscores the importance of one's belief system in schizophrenia. This is something that we will be discussing further in the CHOICES II Series of Blogs.]
In my case, from the very beginning of my illness I didn't believe I was mentally ill. I thought that I had a sacred mission from God which would save the universe from destruction and that Satan trying to prevent me from completing that mission. I very quickly developed a whole host of weird behaviors to ward off Satan's assaults. I could not step on cracks, and when I did, I had to tap my toes behind me to compensate. [I wore out a pair of shoes every month.] I was constantly stamping my feet to maintain the balance of good and evil in the universe, and so on and so on. These, and all my many other weird behaviors, had rendered me a social outcast.
My mother threatened that if I didn't stop my odd behaviors, she was going to take me to a psychiatrist. I was unable to meet her demand. Any and all psychiatrists immediately became the enemy. I tried to refuse treatment, but alas, this was in 1956 and I was thirteen years old. In our family thirteen-year-olds did what their parent told them to do.
After declaring that I wouldn't talk to a doctor about my behaviors, I nonetheless decided to work with my first psychiatrist, Dr. Levy, simply because he extended to me "unconditional acceptance." In other words, he did not require me to "admit" that I was ill. He never challenged my beliefs that I had a sacred mission from God and that Satan was trying to frustrate my efforts to fulfill it. Instead, I readily agreed to work with Dr. Levy in an effort to minimize or eliminate the adverse effects that my weird, but what I viewed as essential, behaviors had on my dealings with society.
Dr. Levy and I began an exhaustive, ten year search for medications that would help me. We tried each new medication when it first introduced. He also provided therapy that today could only be classified as cognitive behavioral therapy.
In the end, working with Dr. Levy, we eliminated the need for my weird behaviors, which greatly reduced my stress, as well as the difficulties I experienced with functioning within society. In essence, Dr. Levy worked with me for three years in treating my symptoms, which ultimately led me to accept my illness without prodding. I was three years into recovery by the time I was willing to accept my illness. I worked successfully with Dr. Levy for over ten years.
All the issues in this blog, plus many related issues, are discussed in much greater detail in a marvelous book by Xavier Amador entitled: "I Am Not Sick: I Don't Need Help," which is available on Amazon.com.
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Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.