ON MENTAL ILLNESS: A Few Ramblings on Paranoia

By Jack Bragen
Thursday October 17, 2013 - 09:02:00 PM

My wife quoted a nurse she had met at an inpatient ward. Many years ago the nurse told her that if there is a pill that helps you feel better, you should take it and you should not try to be a martyr. 

Trying to "tough it out" through a psychotic episode is pure folly. A bad therapist once suggested that I attempt to "ride out a psychotic episode and get to the other side." If you try to get to "the other side" of psychosis, you will probably find worse psychosis. In the absence of treatment, a schizophrenic episode is a bottomless pit of suffering. 

(This therapist, after I went off medication and became ill, denied ever suggesting I go off medication.) 

Paranoid psychosis entails incorrectly believing everyone is your enemy. In actuality, for other people it is all about them--they are not primarily concerned with making you miserable or doing harm to you. For the vast majority of human beings, the center of the drama is them--other people are merely supporting actors. 

If you experience a fully-blown episode of psychosis, recovering and returning to a "normal" state of tracking reality can be quite a relief. 

When not in treatment, it can be impossible for a person with mental illness to deal with real-life problems. Without a sane mind, you've got nothing. 

Psychosis can be brought on by lack of sleep, by an absurdly stressful situation, by drugs, or by having a mental illness. When someone experiences psychosis, doctors ought not to jump to conclusions that the patient is automatically schizophrenic. When I was diagnosed, people treating me had to eliminate other causes of psychosis before concluding that I have schizophrenia. 

If someone disagrees with their diagnosis, they may be better off getting a second opinion from another doctor, preferably a bona fide psychiatrist, before deciding to be noncompliant with treatment. 

I once had a psychiatrist who thought it was okay for me to go off medication. This doctor, as it turned out, was giving me a wrong turn. Also, she apparently resigned or retired while I was in the inpatient ward. I had better doctors before and after that. 

A psychiatrist has some duties that resemble being a cop. For one thing, they are mandated to report a genuine threat. Secondly, a psychiatrist works with authorities in cases of involuntary treatment. A psychiatrist has certain legal powers. This means that while a patient might disagree with a psychiatrist, one should heed what they say, and should give them some amount of respect. It is also important that you don't lie to a psychiatrist--they don't like that too much. 

The psychiatrist with whom I have been working for about the past six years is very much a helper and mentor. I am not dealing with a malevolent authority bent on controlling and ruining my life. In fact, he is quite helpful. 

This is not to deny that some psychiatrists are unpleasant. I have met a few psychiatrists like that. It is important to distinguish between the unfairness of some mental health treatment practitioners including psychiatrists, versus the likely correctness of at least part of their message. Psychiatric illnesses are actual brain conditions that require treatment. The fact of being treated badly in the "system" doesn't change this. 

When people feel abused by treatment professionals, it sometimes leads to rejecting the idea of having an illness. The impulse to be noncompliant can thus be fueled. This only perpetuates the person's problems. 

Prescription drugs are believed by many people to be awful and unhealthy. In fact, the side effects of many of them are unpleasant, distressing and can be a threat to one's health. However, until a better solution comes up that can keep me from being hospitalized in a psych ward and keep me functioning in society, I'm taking medication. 

* * * My self-help book: "Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia, a Self-Help Manual" is available on Amazon. If you have comments, I can be reached at: