If my child’s issues are developmental and not ‘psychiatric’, then what does a young child have in common with a person in their twenties suddenly experiencing a psychotic breakdown?
A few things, I think.
I reject psychiatry’s labels, since there is nothing verifiable about labels and diagnoses. No blood test reveals ‘schizophrenia’, and even ‘depression’ as a label says zero about its cause. Psychiatric chemicals are both a social control and a hoax, since in the true sense they don’t treat anything. Psychiatry understands next to nothing about the brain (or the mind, or the body, or the spirit) and yet owns the mantle of healer of all things ‘mind’.
After following Integrative medicine for the past year as a layperson, I’ve come to see that Integrative neurologists have the best brain information of any discipline, and Integrative neurology has the nutrition-supplement information to actually help alter brain function, unlike the throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach of psychiatry and psycho-pharmacology.
I never had my child so-called “diagnosed” by a psychiatrist with any of these flavour-of-the-month labels (ODD, ADD, ADHD…). Psychiatry is as soft a science as brand-new Play-Doh, and it’s an unreliable authority on my kids’ mental health. What is reliable to me is a professional who understands current neurology and has a grasp on how the brain functions.
To that end, I follow the work of Dr. Datis Kharrazian and try to see where it’s applicable to my child’s brain function.
[I will repeat here what I have said previously, which is that I respect individuals who choose the psychiatric model and psycho-pharmaceuticals for themselves, and in some situations where these things function for their children and families.
I hope to never be forced to make these choices for myself or my family since psychiatrists are only educated to a drug model of treatment; the drugs are poorly conceived; carry harrowing side effects; and are best at social control. They do not treat any issue. My position is that if my child’s behaviour doesn’t force me to drug him, then it’s my responsibility to NOT drug him, since his body is his own and these drugs affect his future health.]
But I also recently began following posts and material by Dabney Alix (an alternative healer with a science degree) and her ‘Shades of Awakening’ work. As far as I know she is part of a larger community of people treating schizophrenia and other ‘extreme states’ from a completely different paradigm than that of psychiatry and psycho-pharmacology. This community asserts that extreme states are not a reflection of [vaguely understood] mental disease but rather an altered state of reality (‘reality’ being a Western dualistic and sensory view), which in turn suggests treatments outside the Western psychiatric paradigm.
‘Shades of Awakening’ led me to psychotherapist Michael Cornwall, PhD, who has been treating clients in extreme states for decades. I listened to this conversation between Alix and Cornwall:
While listening I was struck by the common sense and sane reasoning of the approach of Cornwall and, I assume, the community he’s associated with. People experiencing ‘psychosis’ and fortunate enough to have landed in this type of care are cared for through the period of their hallucinations and delusional periods with care and compassion, not restraints and isolation.
I’m interested in schizophrenia/psychosis treatment because I have seen so many families blindsided by sons diagnosed with schizophrenia, who then languish on mind-numbing meds for decades. How is so little understood about this disorder in the 21st century? What a hallmark of the failure of psychiatry! My feeling is that psychiatry began down an intelligent path with some of the work of Freud and Jung, but then was disastrously derailed. Once again it’s Integrative medicine, with new discoveries on the gut-brain-mind connections, that is showing some understanding of root cause and possibly treatment.
But Cornwall’s discussion, specifically on caring for someone in an extreme state, resonated with me. I was struck by the similarity between what he described he does and what I did, and still do to some extent myself, with my son. In the early years of my son’s violent episodes I knew he had no intention of harming anyone, and so I sat with him — often carefully restraining him while in the throes of a lengthy violent outburst — until the violence wound itself out.
Sitting with my violent child in the midst of an episode, I also moved into that state of pure compassion, love, and empathy in order to be with him (in a holistic sense) as the violence wound itself out. This ultra-calm, almost meditative state is what I identified with as I listened to Cornwall’s explanation of how he treated his clients experiencing their extreme states. I poured my emotional self into him during and after the rage, when he was exhausted and sad.
The component missing from 99% of the public conversations about violent behaviour in children is the issue of their spirit, and of my spiritual role as my child’s guide in life and in crisis. There are many belief systems and worldviews, and while I am not a Buddhist I am naturally comfortable with the concept of reincarnation. I believe that we are ‘energetic’ beings and that our consciousness survives our current selves. I believe there’s at least some spiritual, or ‘other’, part of my son’s behaviour. Maybe my young son’s new ‘self’ is working out issues from a previous incarnation? Can anyone say with 100% certainty that this might not be so?
People in this compassionate-care community acknowledge a deep spiritual element to an adult’s extreme states and seek to connect to them on as deep a level as possible. As a birth mother, of course, the bond I experience with this child is something out of time and space; it is a karmic bond. He has his own self’s path and journey to take as an individual, but we chose each other and I’m responsible in a karmic sense to help guide him until he’s grown and independent.
It’s from this perspective that it was satisfying to hear Cornwall’s description of how he treats his clients. It is second nature to me to connect my heart to my child’s heart in his extreme states (and of course in his ‘normal’ states), so I never thought to articulate the profound spiritual component of my care for my child. His explanations on the topic were heart-opening for me.
Thankfully, my son has never hallucinated. I’m aware that some very young children experience hallucinations and delusions, and the few I’ve heard of have been treated by psychiatry and with psycho-pharma (I have never heard of alternative treatment for children suffering hallucinations). Simple violence made it simpler for me to treat my son’s issues as developmental (as I first read of them in Ross Greene, PhD’s ‘The Explosive Child’). However, a raging child isn’t exercising any clear thinking and is incapable of reason, so the line between thought and delusion gets somewhat blurry.
I hope neither of my sons develop hallucinations or delusions as young adults. But if they do I am glad that these new therapeutic models and communities exist to guide and help them in non-psychiatric, non-medicated, whole-person ways.
[My younger (violent) son never hallucinated, although oddly enough my older son — who never had any developmental problems — regularly had what are commonly known as ‘sleep terrors’ marked by extreme agitation and some violence in a sleepwalking-type state. He still remembers several of those dreams vividly, years later. So, I have some experience having dealt with those agitated, aggressive, delusionary states. I also cared for a geriatric relative when he hallucinated after general anaesthetic and miscellaneous medications, and again when he hallucinated on prescribed Delaudid.
In terms of forced hospitalization, an older relative was involuntarily hospitalized in the 1950s during some sort of depressive breakdown. He had a law degree at that point, and forced his own release by invoking a writ for such a purpose. I know very little about factual details of this period. I only ever had one information source and it was biased and of very poor quality. He did, however, obviously hold psychiatry in enormous disregard and distrust, clearly borne by that personal experience and by information made public later on, in the 1970s, after the work of Soviet dissident Solzhenitsyn was published. It seems clear to me that psychiatry and its various mechanisms (chemical, electric, hardware…) has acted more a tool of social and political control for more of its history than a use of anything else. I do not believe it has ever healed in any sense of the word.
Several years ago a close friend of mine had a first-ever psychotic breakdown in his early forties. His longtime partner had him taken by police into forced hospitalization. I spoke with my friend during one of two brief hospitalizations, when he was medicated but in full-on, so-called psychosis. They were alarming conversations. Shortly after his release, when it appeared to his friends that he was possibly on a road to healing, he hung himself while on the so-called ‘anti-psychotic’ pharmaceutical, Seroquel.
Additionally, and I guess this is the place to note it, my biological family was a train-wreck of emotional and mental dysfunction. One parent died (cancer) when I was young, and I was left with a parent who was depressive, unable to communicate, narcissistic, manipulative, and wholly neglectful. An older sibling was an anti-social narcissist. The other central caregiver was verbally/emotionally abusive, unstable, kleptomaniac, delusional, a pharmaceutical drug abuser, delusional, a hypochondriac and more…I have never landed on any terminology for this completely disordered personality type.]
My interests in psychiatry, mental health, mental wellness, and spirituality are like a tree, where I represent the trunk and all of my experiences with extreme personalities represent branches. There is hardly a state of mental illness that I have not seen up close. It’s hardly a surprise that my interest in it extends beyond just my younger son and his brain and development issues.