Remembering Carolyn Dobbins, PhD


Years ago I interviewed Carolyn Dobbins, PhD when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral SZ website.

Recently I was fortunate to have Carolyn write a chapter for the career guidebook I expect to publish shortly.

Alas, she is no longer here. It wasn’t the SZ medication that killed her it was something else.

A bright light snuffed out too soon.

Won’t you join me in honoring her legacy? At the end of this blog entry I link to another testimony to her life.

Obituary for Carolyn J. Dobbins

Dobbins, Carolyn J., of Knoxville, passed away on Thursday, February 1, 2018. Born in Memphis, TN on March 1, 1960, Carolyn grew up in Memphis and Denver, CO. An avid alpine skier, she graduated from high school at Stratton Mountain Academy in Stratton, VT and was on the Junior Olympics Ski team during this period. She graduated from Vanderbilt with a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Clinical/Community/Counseling Psychology. She served as Director of Larry Simmering Recovery Center in Branson, MO for over 12 years. She was also in a private practice there for a number of years. She published several professional papers and wrote a book, “What a Life Can Be”. Carolyn enjoyed many activities including alpine and cross-country skiing, tennis, swimming, and family camping trips. In 2009, Carolyn moved to Knoxville to be with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. William Dobbins. She is survived by her parents, a sister, Dr. Connie Lehman of Boston, and two nephews, Grace and Sam Lehman. Carolyn’s heart went out to the forgotten and less fortunate people and she worked to make this world a more compassionate place for all. She will be remembered by her kindness, her faith, and her beautiful smile.

Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston Have SZ

If you ask me the goal should be expecting that people can recover and helping them to recover.

Mental health staff have traditionally discouraged us peers from going to school and work. Why did those staff get into the field if they didn’t think what they do could help people recover? Are they content to prescribe pills and allow us to warm chairs in day programs the rest of our lives? Are they able to sleep at night knowing they weren’t giving their clients competitive skills to succeed in the world?

I couldn’t live with myself if I watered down my vision of recovery or sold it out the highest bidder (Pfizer et al).

I’ve been in recovery going on 31 years so far. I’m not the only one out there with a career and apartment to call my own. I might just be one of the few who dares publicly tell our stories.

For more inspiration I want to tell you about two famous individuals with SZ.

Roky Erickson and Daniel Johnston are rock-n-roll artists who have toured and performed to critical acclaim FOR DECADES.

Roky and Daniel take SZ medication by the way.

I played Roky Erickson and his band the 13th Floor Elevators on my FM radio show in the 1980s. It’s true that when you’re diagnosed with SZ the experience is like taking an elevator to the 13th floor: an unlucky trip to hell that you’re on.

Roky and Daniel’s success flies in the face of the Mad crowd that argues that psychotropic drugs cause disability.

The lives of Roky and Daniel my life and thousands of other people’s lives are a testament to how it’s possible to reclaim your Self, do what you love, and succeed at it post-illness.

Readers: think for yourself.

Everyone wants to be understood and accepted for who they are. They want to know that they matter to other people.

This is the dilemma: that after you’re diagnosed with SZ your Self doesn’t matter to others in society. Armchair shrinks pass judgment every day from the comfort of their La-Z Boys. They see fit to attack us for taking medication. They see fit to mistake our symptoms for personality traits.

So many mental health peers want to work at jobs that are personally meaningful and to have their own homes. We shouldn’t be discouraged from trying.

It’s 2018. Roky and Daniel and I and others have been in recovery for decades now.

So when you feel like giving up or giving in just remember you’re not alone. Seek out others to network with who have been down this road longer than you.

Read inspirational blogs and books. Attend a support group if it would help you. Do two things each day to move you closer to your goals.

Recovery isn’t quick and it isn’t easy. Yet it’s some of the most rewarding work you’ll ever do.. If want to go to school or have a job, you’re in the target market for my forthcoming book I’m working on: You Are Not Your Diagnosis.

It’s true: You Are Not Your Diagnosis. Contrary to what other people think.


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.

People Have the Power

Individuals with SZ are seen as interchangeable with no identities of our own apart from the illness and its symptoms.

The reasoning goes: we’re not able to recover so why bother trying to help us do this if it’s impossible?

NO. That thinking doesn’t fly with me.

We should be trying to help people recover.

I don’t accept chronic disability as the fate of any human being.

My point exactly is that getting the right treatment right away can enable an individual to bloom–to do better–to be able to have a full and robust life.

I’m not a fan of the all talk and no action to create solutions MO of so-called normal people. They don’t have a vested interest in my life and health and in yours and other people’s who have MH issues.

I titled this blog entry “People Have the Power” because we have control over the dialogue. It’s also the title of my favorite Patti Smith song.

I’ve written before that I think no one we elect in government can ultimately ever do things to remedy societal ills.

So it’s up to each of us to take action to create the kind of life and health we want for ourselves.

It’s up to each of us to help each other.  Martin Luther King called this creative altruism.

I ask you:

Are you willing to remain silent?

Are you willing to accept chronic disability?

Are you willing to accept the status quo?

I’m NOT able to buy into the myth of helplessness and hopelessness.

There’s a better way: having the courage to speak the truth to power. Telling our stories.

Doing something to help those of us who WANT to recover have the OPPORTUNITY to recover.

The Truth About Early Intervention

I often wonder if I get flak because I have a vagina–that is, because I’m a woman speaking out and not a man with the proper plumbing down below speaking out.

In this blog entry I’m going to tell the truth about early intervention. It works. Period.

You can click on my RAISE Study category to read about research that indicates getting the right treatment right away results in a better outcome.

The PIER early intervention program in Maine had great success OVER A DECADE AGO. One woman no longer needed to take medication long-term after being treated in the early intervention program.

In my own life I was on a very low dose for 16 years–only 5 mg. The longer you wait to get treated you might need a higher dose and the medication might not be as effective because your symptoms are entrenched.

Here today I wanted to continue talking about getting the right treatment right away.

Too many people with mental health issues who don’t get treatment right away turn to street drugs to self-medicate. This makes having a better recovery harder and sometimes impossible to achieve.

It’s high time (an apt pun) to legalize marijuana use. Non-violent drug offenders need long-term addiction and mental health treatment not a lengthy jail sentence.

Years ago at HealthCentral I wrote about something I called The Triangle of Mental Health: having a support system, getting appropriate medication, and obtaining practical career counseling.

The RAISE Study findings corroborated that the Triangle of Mental Health is a key factor in achieving a positive recovery outcome.

In my life I’m not afraid to state that taking a low dose of medication has given me a competitive advantage in achieving my goals and having a full and robust life.

For some of us like me medication heals. For others they are lucky and don’t need medication as a continuing part of treatment.

Either way the time has come to tell our stories of how getting the right treatment right away aided us in having a better recovery.

I’m not the only success story out there.

Yet I’m confident when I say that giving up hope isn’t ever an option.

Some of us even have miraculous recoveries after years of being ill.

I know people who were at the bottom and their lives turned around.

Giving up hope isn’t an option.

Either way recovery is possible.

I stand by my belief that recovery is possible.

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.