The Truth About Recovery

No one else has written about this before either. Again I’m the first to tackle this dynamic in my blog. I want to talk about the truth about recovery.

Not everyone feels like they’ve recovered. This is the distinction. It’s an individual accounting of what your life is like.

In the 1990s I lived at home while I worked at a terrible insurance office job I was ill-suited to do. On paper it might have looked like I recovered because I had a j-o-b.

Only I told my mother: “I want a life.” She responded: “You have a life.”

Little did I know or could articulate then how my time on earth would be forever altered by moving to Brooklyn and becoming a mental health advocate.

It must have been in my subconscious that I understood there was more I was being called to do. Only trapped in that cubicle hell I couldn’t clearly see where the road ahead would take me.

This is partly why I think it’s a mistake to measure a person’s status solely by external markers of success like a house and car and job.

In the 1990s I hadn’t “recovered” in a way that was soul-enriching, life-affirming, and mood-elevating.

This begs for all of us the question: “What is recovery?”

Recovery should be a self-defined lifestyle. You should be the one who’s able to determine the direction of your life.

The question for each of us to ask is: “What kind of recovery do I want to have?” AND “What kind of life do I want to have?”

In the next blog entry I will talk about shifting the needle to the left on the VU meter of life–the theme of Left of the Dial.  This is how I was able to live the kind of life I wanted to have.

I will talk about how to take action in the direction of your dreams.

For there are a myriad ways to recover–as multitudinous as there are people living in recovery.

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Returning to Life

I’ve been away insofar as I’ve had to act as my mother’s caregiver for over five weeks.

No mental health agency or organization is talking about how adult children diagnosed with schizophrenia are becoming caregivers for our parents.

In fact no one is talking about the graying of people with mental health conditions and our needs as older Americans.

Yet again I’m the only one talking about this topic.

Over five years ago at the HealthCentral website I wrote a news article about geriatric psychiatry.

Even then no one else was writing about these things.

In coming blog entries here I’m going to talk in detail about acting as a caregiver.

Someone has to write about this topic.

You owe your mother your life because she gave birth to you.

There’s no excuse for abusive parents.

Yet short of abuse you should do the right thing when your parents get older.

Mother’s Day Message

This is a Mother’s Day greeting to every women reading this blog entry. It’s thought that all women are mothers in some way taking care of other people.

My mother turned 80 this year. I’m 53 now. In 1987 when I was 22 I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My mother had driven me to the hospital within 24 hours of my breakdown.

This greeting goes out to every mother whose adult children and or the mental health staff have blamed them for what happened to their kids.

Ever since I decided to become a mental health Advocate in 2002 – over 15 years so far – I’ve credited my mother’s one courageous act to drive me to the hospital as the number-one reason I recovered. Recovered with an ed at the end of recover because of my mother.

I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away when a person first experiences mental or emotional distress.

My mother isn’t well. For 40 years she smoked two packs a day. Though she quit when she was 61 it was too late to prevent smoking-related disability. She has emphysema because of her addiction. Today she sleeps and travels everywhere with an oxygen tank.

Though I’m the one diagnosed with schizophrenia I’ve become my mother’s caregiver. Unlike how a lot of mothers are the caregivers for their adult kids with schizophrenia.

No one at mental health organizations like NAMI talk about this reverse dynamic: how adult children are becoming caregivers for their parents. Hell NAMI isn’t even addressing the mental health needs of senior citizens living with mental health issues.

What will happen after our parents are gone and we have no one to care for us?

I’m fortunate that I’ve recovered and have always been independent. I will continue to be fit and active because of my own efforts.

Yet what will happen to people diagnosed with schizophrenia who can’t care for themselves after their parents are gone?

What will happen to our parents if we can’t care for them when we’re older?

Nobody’s talking about this. Not NAMI. Not anyone else.

Over five years ago I first wrote about geriatric psychiatry when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website.

Back then I was a pioneer in writing about this. Today I’m still a lone wolf crying out about senior citizens with mental health issues.

We need to think about the passing of this health baton. We need to get real and start talking about the services and supports available to people with schizophrenia and other illnesses that are becoming senior citizens.

We need to talk about the reality that soon those of us who are caregivers will need someone to take care of us.

I’ll end here by sending every women reading this blog entry words of compassion, appreciation, and gratefulness for all you do.

Street Drug Use Information

I want to write about pressing topics now and in future blog entries along with my standard inspirational fare.

My goal is to inform readers with solid information.

Hardly anyone else in society cares about those of us with mental health issues who have chronic conditions.

My aim is not to only focus on people who are capable of recovering fully. My goal is to also advocate for those of us who have it much harder in recovery.

I ask you: who really cares about any of us who have a diagnosis? I do care.

Years ago I read the David Scheff book Clean–an expose of the drug rehab treatment center industry.

The fact is drug rehab centers have bigger revolving doors than psych hospitals.

Drug rehab treatment centers aren’t licensed or regulated. Anyone who wants to can open a drug rehab center and collect money.

Are people revolving in and out of drug rehab centers because they’re too ill to stay clean?

More likely I think the drug rehab treatment center industry fails in helping the very people who need help.

On a New York City cable news channel there are commercials for a drug rehab treatment center. The actors who portray clients are always beautiful, photogenic people who are getting massages as part of their drug treatment.

This alarms me.

A New York Times article this month stated:

“A Surgeon General’s report in 2016 said that the younger people are when they start taking drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted long-term.”

In fact most street drug users don’t have fatal overdoses–they spend their whole lives battling an addiction with varying levels of success. They might have numerous overdoses over time.

Methadone and Buprenorphine can be effective treatment aids for combating heroin use. Yet for some reason they aren’t widely used even though they do help a lot of people.

John C. Norcross, the author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions, stated in his book that plenty of people can and do overcome bad habits like drinking, drug use, overeating, and overspending by using the scientifically-proven 5-Step method for making changes by executing the 5 steps in the right order.

The Changeology method can be used at the same time as formal treatment.

There’s a book: Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Can Help People Change. It’s a guide for families to use motivational interviewing to help their loves ones stay clean.

In the book Clean David Scheff reports that upwards of 50 percent of the individuals diagnosed with bipolar have a co-occurring street drug addiction.

The biology of certain people can guarantee they’ll get addicted to street drugs as soon as they first start using them. This is what happened to David Scheff’s son.

If you’re curious about using street drugs I want to end this blog entry with one statement: it’s just too risky to try it especially when you have a mental health issue.

Again: I care about everyone living in recovery. Too many so-called normal people in society don’t care about mental health peers. They parrot over and over that no one can recover without trying to help people recover.

Only one thing is true: if you have a street drug use disorder it will be harder to recover from a mental health issue.

Please. It’s just too risky.

Peaks and Valleys Go Hand in Hand

I’m the family member of a loved one who has it much harder as well as a peer with lived experience.

I understand that the expression “roller coaster ride” perfectly describes your life coping with the ups-and-downs of your loved one’s recovery.

It IS a roller coaster.

You know there’s no “rock bottom” because it seems like an abyss–a bottomless pit–into which your loved one is falling ever-deeper down.

When will it end?

When will you or your loved one be able to get on the right track in recovery?

It can be heartbreaking standing at the top and seeing your loved one doing well, only to have them crash and have a setback two weeks later.

Yet I figured out the solution: to plan for and expect setbacks.

I subscribe to the newsletter that a boutique gym owner sends out via e-mail.

In it he said the very same thing: “You can’t have peaks without valleys.”

Setbacks are par for the course.

So if you think a person can “always” be well and “never” fall back once they’ve gotten to the top, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Planning for and expecting setbacks is the key to improving how you feel.

I know that changing my perception of the nature of the roller coaster has helped me.

What is the one thing that can improve the outcome in a person’s recovery?

Getting the right treatment right away. Getting the right treatment before you or your loved one turns to street drugs.

I got the right treatment within 24 hours. My loved one didn’t get mental health treatment until far far too late.

As a family member as well as a person with lived experience:

I refuse to kow-tow to the anti-psychiatry crowd that is against any kind of mental healthcare that requires medication.

At the HealthCentral SZ website when I was the Health Guide there I wrote news articles about The Positive Psychiatry Movement.

That’s the term I used to describe championing the best and brightest in the field who are working to promote Recovery for Everyone.

In the coming blog entries I will talk about how The Positive Psychiatry Movement is predicated on getting the right treatment right away.

I will talk about the real experiences of people who got early intervention and fully recovered.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I’d like to expand on the last blog entry.

Recovery is an individual lifestyle for each of us.

Each of us has a divine purpose for being here in this particular lifetime.

You are here to do You better than anyone else could.

I’m here to do Chris because she’s the only person I get to be too.

Really I do think getting the right treatment right away has enabled me to have a better life.

Life isn’t supposed to be easy for anyone of us. Yet nothing worth having comes without effort.

Giving up on ourselves or our loved ones isn’t an option.

The fact is recovery is still possible even if you got delayed treatment. Positive change is possible at any point in your life or your loved one’s life.

What becomes the option if you or your loved one got delayed treatment?

Developing work-arounds to use to have as happy and healthy a life as possible given that you might have it harder.

Settling for less than optimal health is the route to a miserable life.

Sometimes you have to fire a treatment provider–either yours or your loved one’s–and find a better shrink or therapist who’s more competitive in wanting to see their patients do better.

In my memoir Left of the Dial there’s a scene where I have to flee an unprofessional doctor and seek treatment elsewhere.

I don’t advocate being rash in doing this. Yet if your intuition tells you and in your judgment you think you’re not getting the best possible care:

I recommend researching new providers.

Resources to Recover in the NY NJ CT MA area has a provider referral directory.

Family member and peer-reviewed recommendations are available on the Resources to Recover website.

Like I said I will go to my grave championing getting the right treatment right away.

In a coming blog entry I will talk about my experience as a family member of a loved one as well as a peer with her own lived experience.

Acting as Citizen Activists

In my Left of the Dial blog at least twice in the last three years and possibly also here in the Flourish blog:

I’ve railed against placing our hope in the government as the savior of the broken-down mental health system.

What I wrote in these exact words: the government can’t rectify societal ills. I wrote these exact words too: change will best happen person-to-person.

As the Visionary I am two nights ago I got a novel idea in my head to create CMHAC’s–Citizen Mental Health Action Committees.

These groups could act as watchdogs to pressure those in power to do the right thing.

People have to band together to have each other’s backs in America when the government, authorities and institutions, and elected officials won’t and can’t help ordinary folk.

We need United Citizens to fight the Citizens United decision that allows corporations to influence campaigns and help vote into power officials that remain in the pockets of Big Business not in the corner of you and me.

Let’s face facts:

It took three years to get Representative Murphy’s Mental Health Act passed into law.

It took decades for Americans to obtain some semblance of a Mental Healthcare Parity law.

How long will we have to wait before our government is forced to do the next right thing for the people?

The jails-as-mental-hospitals phenomenon has been going on for over a decade now.

I’m tiring of hearing about the lack of treatment. I’m tiring of hearing people talk about how jails-are-mental-hospitals without being able to implement a solution.

This weekend I reached out to give information about resources. I wasn’t going to bobble along and do nothing.

The Margaret Mead quote gets it right:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Acting as Citizen Activists is the goal whose time has come.

It’s time to take action.

We need the best and brightest to come on board as mental health staff.

For too long mediocre individuals have been treating us peers.

For too long the government has allowed all kinds of businesses to be unregulated.

Board-and-care homes are unregulated. The drug treatment rehab center industry is unregulated.

The lack of the right treatment  is the norm not the exception.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

Which is why I had the courage to step up and want to help do something.

I align only with the Green Party.

This year I plan to get involved with Green Party candidates that I know to work on issues like mental health and decriminalizing street drug use.

Remember: we get who we vote for.

“I’m done” with standing by and not doing anything.