Creating A Better Life

The three-and-a-half years I spent involved in a community mental health system were the worse years of my life.

I recommend you research, research, research any kind of treatment options you’re presented with. I can’t in good faith recommend a person attend a traditional day program.

I’m a champion of an IPRT or Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment program where you set a goal with a 12 to 24 month completion date and act resilient to get your life back on track.

This too: I recommend social skills training and also cognitive remediation for individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. These treatments should be given as early in the recovery period as possible.

No: I’m not a fan of having people languish in traditional day programs or outpatient clinics that are little more than a babysitting service.

One director who had me speak to her patients lamented that they didn’t want to get jobs or go to school. She tried to have me pump up the audience to be inspired to take these risks. My talk fell on deaf ears. A friend suggested I had good things to say and did well: that it was only the audience that wasn’t buying in.

So: how can a community mental health center help clients if its director has assessed the patients don’t want to better themselves?

It’s a Catch-22. And certainly there are better community mental health centers out there. I’ve written about one great center in Topeka, Kansas at HealthCentral. I intend to write news articles about other agencies that truly help individuals conquer their mental health challenges.

Until “best practices” is the norm: I don’t think it’s wise to rely on treatments like “line dancing” and “yoga” that haven’t been proven to guarantee results.

Research, research, research your treatment options.

I will talk in a future entry about my other observations about mental health providers.

Hope Heals

Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection quotes a leading researcher who defines hope as a strategy not a feeling:

The act of setting a goal, taking steps to achieve it, and revising your plan or changing your goal when the original one doesn’t work out.

In this way: hope heals.

I stand in solidarity with others who were told subtly or directly that there was no hope for them because they had schizophrenia.

After I came out of the hospital, I was shunted into a community mental health system ill-equipped to help me. The very counselors who should’ve helped me stigmatized me.

This is why I’m no fan of the current “consumer recovery movement” as it now exists. I’m a member of the Positive Psychiatry Movement instead. There’s a difference.

The consumer recovery movement parrots opinions as if they were facts. Their denial of anosognosia as a real symptom is an opinion not a fact.

Anosognosia or the lack of insight that you have an illness is documented in over 15 research studies. It is caused by frontal lobe lesions in the brain and upwards of 50 percent of individuals with schizophrenia have it as a symptom.

I stand on the side of science and kindness in treating people living with mental illnesses. The idea that mental illnesses are not real medical conditions is also not a fact. It’s an opinion that can’t be proven either.

The consumers who champion community mental health systems as the best way to get treated are sadly mistaken in my humble view because of my experiences in this kind of center. Years ago on the Internet a staff member of a community mental health system wrote an article in which she claimed no one with schizophrenia could recover or achieve remission.

With staff like that, how are most community mental health systems equipped to help people?

I will report back in here what I think is a better option for a person newly diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It employs hope as the ultimate strategy.

Ah to Zucchini

The latest zucchini recipe I cooked was easy and I recommend it in the summer when the vegetable is plentiful at markets.

Slice in half two zucchini and scoop out the insides. Sprinkle generous grated parmesan on the zucchini. Bake in the oven at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Cut into chunks to eat and enjoy.

I zoom in on zucchini in the summer. It’s one of the most healthful vegetable options and one of the tastiest in my estimation.

Another foolproof recipe is to cut zucchini into coins and sprinkle grated parmesan on it and saute in olive oil for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can check the vegetable’s firmness to decide how soft you want to cook it.

Voila: easy, cheesy vegetables that provide calcium, protein and vitamins.

Hospital Life

I expect my memoir Left of the Dial to go on sale at the latest on December 1st of this year.

As the date nears I will excerpt scenes from the memoir here. Today’s is a glimpse of life on the ward, a place I hope no one has the misfortune to land in.


By my third week, my lipstick was worn down to a blunt slope, and I had the goal of leaving before the tube was empty. Zoe came into my life in a drop-dead segue between despair and hope. She arrived on Monday and made herself known. A wild earth kind of woman with manic depression, she was a fireball, igniting the other patients, and then flaming out on herself.

Caught up in her frantic good humor, I coasted along with her whims. Lucia, the recreation therapist, decided to take the patients bowling at Knotty Pines. I was reminded of the Camper Van Beethoven song “Take the Skinheads Bowling” that I played on my radio show. I liked the music, not the sport.

“Come on, we’ll have fun at the Nutty Pines.” Zoe didn’t skip a beat.

“Okay.” We lined up together to be escorted out. She gave me a pair of sunglasses (she had two) so we could cover up in case our friends saw us on the outside.

“I got a couple pairs from Jimmy. He has a case of them in his room,” she said. How did she know this?

The van rattled down Forest Avenue towards the desolate section of town. Truly, I hated bowling and wanted an excuse to escape. Once inside, I eased into a size five shoe and selected a ball that weighed the least. The tobacco-color interior was glum; the stench of cigarette smoke lingered. Lucia kept score.

“Darn, a gutterball.” I watched it slide down the side.

“Gutterfuck.” Zoe laughed.

Lucia told her to watch her language.

We ended ten frames and started again. Fidgety, I wanted to end it all so threw the bowling ball down the alley with careless conviction.

Lucia said, “Be patient. Don’t rush.” Zoe got a lucky strike and won the game.

After, we went to Pal Joey’s for pizza. We wore our sunglasses indoors.

“What are you, the Blues Sisters?” Lucia laughed.

I imagined our protest would go down in our charts.

“We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time,” Zoe chuckled.

If only we could’ve stayed outside a little longer. I missed the freedom of blue skies. Too soon we returned to Veronica Lane.


Left of the Dial Amazon Page