By Yvonne Nahat
Getting a schizophrenic to the doctor is no easy matter. And it should not be. Questions of personal liberty and psychic welfare are to be considered.
I have been a schizophrenic for eight years and I lived in what traditional medicine terms denial. I refused help from family members and friends over the years. I refused to see doctors, although I have been in and out of mental institutions six times. Doctors however, have also committed the classic mistakes that can be made with a schizophrenic. The cold methods of traditional medicine should be considered skeptically when wanting to help a schizophrenic. I remember screaming at my doctors in one of the clinics that I was not “ill” but “mad” quoting Nietzsche that my “sickness” is “my great health”. Intuitively I must have known that a psychosis is not just an illness parse but also itself a part of a massive healing process of the psyche and soul.
More often than not a schizophrenic will not go to a doctor of his or her own accord. Usually family or friends are the ones who manage to get the person undergoing a psychosis to get medical help. The burden frequently rests on the ones closest to the psychotic. They are the only ones willing to put up with all the hurt, pain and trouble a schizophrenic puts his or her family and friends through.
How do we help someone undergoing a deep schizophrenic experience? Experience will tell us that most psychotics live in a world unto themselves with a blind eye and ear towards the ones trying to help them. In most cases the psychotic is not aware that he or she is ill and that is certainly not all there is to the story.
Schizophrenia is a multidimensional world full of horrors and imagination. To the psychotic a new world has opened up. They are undergoing a deep labor of the psyche. We would do a schizophrenic wrong in just labeling them as ill. For that the visionary power of the experience is too much filled with myth and symbolism which is understandable to anybody taking the time and effort to understand what exactly is going on. A psychosis is an in depth individuation process where the person is undergoing most likely an extreme form of ego death and renewal. All these aspects of a psychosis need to be paid heed to when approaching a psychotic. In my psychosis I conjured up an entirely dualistic world picture. Evil forces were threatening to take over the world. I was part of a world wide body of people fending off these forces.
Schizophrenia is a deep world unto itself. The person undergoing a psychosis is imbedded probably in hearing voices, whether this person is conscious of it or not, hallucinations, delusions and visions. This inner life creates a world which is completely separate from the world non-psychotics live in. Reality for the psychotic has been changed and transformed.
Very often schizophrenics hear and see conflicting things; the good and the bad; damning voices for example, as well as beautiful hallucinations, colors and sounds. Frequently schizophrenics create a story within their own psyche and mind. They have people, imaginary or real-imaginary ones, with who they are in a dialogue. Often a schizophrenic will conjure up an internal dialogue where persecution, enemies and friends populate the psyche, as is shown in the film “A Beautiful Mind”.
For these reasons it is very difficult for an outsider, even if this maybe family or friends, to enter the field of consciousness of a psychotic. Often the ones trying to contact the schizophrenic, family members and friends, have been implicated in a hallucination the schizophrenic is undergoing: They are either part of a group that is trying to harm them or trying to help them and so forth. During my psychosis I had voices in my head from family and friends. In my mind they were mostly, not all, implicated in cannibalism. This caused me much confusion and the utmost form of pain.
A family member or friend trying to get through to a schizophrenic needs to be prepared for an in depth journey into the psyche of another person. Trying to access the schizophrenic from outside of his or her mind set will not work. The basis of any relationship is trust and love. So too it is with a schizophrenic. You need to gain the trust and love of the person undergoing a schizophrenic experience.
How can you do this? By offering trust and love yourself. Be there for the psychotic, no matter how trying they might be. Take them not just as an ill person, but as someone undergoing a deep labor of the psyche with a need to communicate this state with a loved one. Take the person for real. Try and understand the mental and psychic world the person is living in. Try and find out the story the person is living through. What is the story of the hallucination, the vision, the delusion? Who are the characters involved? Who in the mind of the schizophrenic is trying to harm or help them? See the psyche of the schizophrenic as a puzzle you need to put together. It has a rhyme and a reason to the schizophrenic. Enter his or her world of reasoning.
Unfortunately when I was going through my psychosis nobody reacted this way. Family members, friends and people from the health services all came knocking at my door, telling me: “Yvonne, you are sick, you need help and medication”. I however was battling inner demons of a higher order. I had conjured up a dualistic world picture with friends and foes. Half of my family was implicated in a scheme to sell my body parts in my mind. I had been hijacked by a group that could do black magic on me via cyberspace. It seemed to me that nobody could help me, least of all the family members and friends whose voices I was hearing in my head. Had somebody bothered to find out what the nature of my hallucinations were, had somebody bothered listening to my story, then perhaps I would have opened up to the people surrounding me trying to help. Instead people were telling me that I was sick and I was convinced that I was as healthy as ever. After all, did not my new consciousness prove that I was healthy? I could communicate telepathically. I could read people’s minds; hear their voices without them speaking to me in traditional terms and so on.
So, gaining the trust of the person undergoing a psychosis is of the utmost importance. As I have already pointed out, learning the in depth nature of the visions and hallucinations and delusions of the schizophrenic is indispensable in gaining this bond. This trust becomes the basis of a relationship. It will take time. Learn about the characters trying to good or harm. Find out who they are their names and their intent. Do this without judging just allow yourself to enter the story. Participate in the story. Say that you will help fend of the threats, help along with the friends. Be loving and warm. Accept the person in front of you as someone undergoing a real psychic experience and labor like in dream work.
Gaining the trust of a psychotic might be no easy task. Often psychotics can be very harsh, they push away the ones they love, and they stop trusting relatives and friends. If you are trying to get in touch emotionally with a schizophrenic be prepared to take a lot of blows. As long as you don’t understand the world view he or she is purporting, you will be fighting a lost battle. During my psychosis I wrote hate letters to my mother, sister and husband, accusing them of horrible things. Instead of responding that no, neither were they cheating on me, or trying to sell my body parts or holding me hostage with a cybercracker war gang, they said: “ You are sick” and there I had my proof. Why were they not denying my accusations? My family was so shocked at the accusations; they did not know how to respond, other than being hurt. But that was exactly the wrong way to respond to a schizophrenic. They should have reassured me, that they want no harm.
If you want to convince the person going through a psychosis to see a doctor, don’t say: “You have to see a doctor”. But try it another way. Perhaps you can say that you want to see a friend who can help with getting rid of the enemy figures for example. Try and find a psychiatrist who is loving and warm, someone who will also enter the story of the individual and not someone who will just diagnose “mental illness” and prescribe some pills. If you want to try to get a psychotic to take medication, also try and do this in a loving manner and from within the story the schizophrenic is living through. Don’t say: “you are sick and need medication”, but try and explain that this medication will strengthen one in warding off pain, evil or whatever the trauma is the person is undergoing. Most schizophrenics are very sensitive people and they respond like seismographs to the feelings with which they are presented.
Be sure that you have found a doctor who will talk with the schizophrenic and won’t just do his or her diagnose and then follow up with a prescription. This won’t be an easy task because it is an unspoken rule within traditional medicine to not enter the mind set of a psychotic, since it is all considered “crazy” anyway. Try and find a Jungian therapist near you or another therapist or doctor who accepts the schizophrenic as a full fledged person in his or her own rite.
Dealing with schizophrenia is a labor of love for the schizophrenic as well as for family members and friends. Often the person undergoing the psychosis will have visions of love and will be very sensitive towards anything that has to do with emotions, even if this might not seem so to an outside observer. Psychotics often reinvent universal love and with a caring partner they can exteriorize this movement of the psyche. A loving understanding and in depth participation on the part of the one who wants to help is often the first step in aiding a schizophrenic in his or her first steps towards betterment.
Yvonne Nahat has undergone a schizophrenic experience for eight years. For further information please visit her website at www.schizophrenia-help-online.com
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