Monthly Archives: June 2013


If I ever feel down and sorry for myself again, I will return to the link below and watch it. It is not long, but I was reminded once again how important it is to see my half full cup. 

Click on the link and scroll down to start this amazing and educational clip. After watching it, be thankful for what you have.

When a doctor becomes the patient

imagesCALETB1C A doctor friend told me the following story, “I’ve read of doctors’ experiences as patients, living through and sometimes dying of life-threatening illnesses. But there are many other doctors who experience less serious conditions. I am a doctor and when my condition began, I followed the recommendations I have given every single one of my patients in the same situation, but, after a few days, my condition persisted. Nothing I did seemed to help and I found it hard to believe that it simply was not getting better.”

“I consulted with my colleagues, with nurses and surgeons about my problem and was amazed at their remarks. I made a note of them all. Make no mistake, their comments were all well-intentioned and of the same type that I have made countless times to patients in similar situations.”

‘Oh, it can’t be that bad!’

‘It probably started a while ago and maybe you did not notice the symptoms.’

Don’t be so upset. It’s only a minor problem. You should hardly be aware that you have it.’  ‘”BUT”, I replied, “even though it’s minor, it’s driving me crazy.”

“It’s so minor that it does not even fulfill the criteria for treatment,” another colleague insisted.

Until this happened to me, I’d prided myself on my communication skills and here I am being schooled on what it means to have a ‘minor’ condition. When I recover sufficiently to return to work in my clinic once more, I will try and remember that no matter how minor I think the patient’s condition is, to the person concerned, it is painful and frightening, depressing and very real.”

When he was done telling me his story, I thought about some of the things that have occurred to me, so here is my opinion on some doctors. Whenever a doctor gives me or someone in my family a diagnosis, I always reply with a question; “Would you say or do this to your wife if she were suffering from the same condition?” I have never received an answer because I know that everything is a big issue if a doctor or someone in his family is suffering. Then, and only then, does it become a big deal.

While I am on this subject, have any of you noticed that when you walk into the doctor’s clinic/office, he is usually still busy writing and saving the previous patient’s information on his computer and does not look up at you when you walk in? I think that a doctor/physician can tell a great deal from watching his patient carefully as he/she enters. . .something to think about.


A glimpse into the life of a disabled person

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to lose a leg, or two legs? I know a woman who lost both her legs. She was lucky to have lived in a country where handicapped people are treated with the greatest respect; where there are few buildings that are not wheelchair friendly.

Do you know what the button on the post at a crosswalk is for? Well, in the UK, it’s a small, unassuming, plastic button that starts spinning and beeping when the lights turn green. This cone alerts a visually impaired or hearing impaired person that he/she can cross the street safely.

As so many of us are not tuned in to the needs of people with various handicaps, we are guilty at some time or another of making their lives more difficult by:

  • We build stairs up to our front doors.
  • Send letters to visually impaired people in the tiniest print.
  • If someone has a speech-impairment, we shouldn’t end the conversation; rather try harder to understand what he/she is saying.
  • Have you ever told a handicapped person to call a social worker to help him/her? Although social workers can be very helpful, they are often merely the gatekeepers to personal care services and rather than solve the problem, sometimes social services create a whole new set of problems for disabled people.
  • It is so rude and unfeeling to talk to a disabled person via their care giver. Is it so difficult to speak directly to the person in the wheelchair?
  • When meeting a disabled person, it is fine to ask what is wrong with them but unnecessary to ask too many questions.
  • I have often wondered why entrances for disabled people are so often placed at the back of a building, simply forcing them to struggle ever further. Is this how we show that we value them as part of our community? Equality should be about being valued in the same way as we value one another so, what’s wrong with having their entrance in front too?
  • If a disabled swimmer has to wear armbands, refrain from asking; ‘why didn’t you ever learn to swim?’
  • People assume that disabled people are asexual; a classic myth. For the record, the majority of disabled people can have sex the same as anyone else. I have been told that disabled people are either straight, bisexual or gay and can choose to get married and have children if they so desire.
  • Please think twice before daring to park in a disabled parking bay. The fine for doing so should be at least $1,000 in my opinion.
  • For all the teachers out there; Please think twice before asking a student with dyslexia to read out loud in front of the whole class.
  • If you have invited your friend who uses a wheelchair to visit and you live anywhere except on the ground floor, do make sure that the elevator is working that day.
  • There is no need to be patronizing toward a disabled person. Patronization is the deliberate or accidental undermining of someone’s intelligence.
  • I have heard someone say; ‘there is no difference between a learning difficulty and a mental illness.’
  • Someone who  dribbles due to their condition, cannot help it, so please refrain from averting your eyes or calling them names.
  • When trying to help a disabled person, it is advisable to ask how best you can do so, rather than take the initiative, which may be the wrong thing to do.
  • If we cannot see a disability, it does not mean that it does not exist.
  • Some disabled people are perfectly able to lead pretty independent lives, so please do not take it for granted that all disabled people need looking after.
  • Ramps should not be too steep as that defeats the purpose of having a ramp in the first place.
  • Parents and teachers: please refrain from complaining that there are too many disabled children in mainstream schools. Rather, be happy that that they are being taken care of. One of your children or grandchildren may turn out to be disabled in some way. Remember, the other children will manage.
  • I have heard travelers criticize airlines for aiding disabled people as it causes flight delays.
  • When holding a committee meeting, remember to use a building with an elevator.
  • When meeting a disabled person at a function for example, It is advisable to talk to and get to know that individual , rather than dwell on his/her disability.
  • Buses and trains must be designed for easy access for someone with a disability.
  • Do you know that that I heard about a gentleman who actually sent an audio CD to a hearing disabled friend?






Comment on: what are delusions? What are hallucinations?

Pamela Spiro Wagner tried to post the following as comment at the end of my blog entitled ‘What are delusions?’ ‘What are hallucinations?’ but was unable to do so. She sent me a mail asking me to post them for her and I, too, was unable to succeed so here they are, in a separate post. Thank you Pamela.

Thank you Jill for these definitions. One important point in addition is that way too many people, including psychiatrists, forget that until proven otherwise, visual hallucinations should be investigated as ‘organic’ or drug-induced and not a part of a schizophrenia syndrome ordinarily. I cannot emphasize this enough. If someone presents with visual hallucinations especially without auditory hallucinations, they should be worked up for a physical illness or ‘organic condition’ (all persons with psychosis should be in fact) and not summarily dismissed as having schizophrenia. Infectious diseases, drug abuse or medication interactions, all sorts of things, even simple urinary tract infections could be the culprit instead.



What are delusions? What are hallucinations?

What is a delusion?

Delusion means false belief. And the most common types are paranoid delusions; our son suffered from these. They are persecutory in nature and can take many forms. This is how he felt:

  • He had an overpowering, intense feeling of being watched, followed and spied on by hidden cameras that he said we had planted.
  • When he was extremely ill he accused me of poisoning his food.
  • He felt that people were working together to harass him.
  • He believed that his thoughts were being broadcast on television.
  • Once he showed us a newspaper headline that had a hidden meaning that referred to him.

Do you think that this sounds like an invention of my imagination? Well, both my husband and I found it difficult to believe or understand too. But, it happened.

What is an hallucination?

Hallucinations are as real as any other experience to the person with schizophrenia. He was one of the 70% who heard voices. It was almost impossible to believe that this could occur, but it did. In a previous blog I have posted a link to Auditory Hallucinations and for those who did not catch it, here it is again. 

Can you imagine anything as bizarre and frightening as hearing voices inside your head? It was as though his inner thoughts were no longer alone, and belonging to him; and to add insult to injury, new voices could even talk to one another; talk to themselves, or comment on the ill person’s actions. If only clips like the above one had been available when our son was ill, we would have had a clearer picture of what was really going on.




Do You Know That?

question markDo you know that despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, there is still a significant stigma attached to mental illness? The derogatory term mentally ill is often associated only with the most serious conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Do you know that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM, actually lists a wide range of psychiatric conditions including everything from primary insomnia to nicotine dependence? Yet, most people would never regard someone who’s been having trouble sleeping for the past month, or a 2-pack-a-day smoker as having a mental disorder, now would they?

Do you know that mental disorders are quite prevalent and affect far more people than we might think? Some disorders, like acute stress disorder, last for only a few days to a few weeks and then subside. Others recur, which is often the case with disorders like major depression. But some, like schizophrenia, can last for a lifetime, even with treatment.

Do you know that despite all the advances of science, we still don’t know exactly what causes the vast majority of mental disorders? In most cases it is believed to be a combination of factors.

Do you know that the traditional treatment for  most mental disorders usually involve psychotropic medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both? Lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, practising meditation and/or yoga, using relaxation techiques, making dietary changes, or taking certain supplements are also often beneficial to some degree.

Do you know that we’ve made significant progress in the past century with regard to our understanding and treatment of mental/brain disorders? It wasn’t really that long ago that individuals with serious mental illness were treated inhumanely.

Do you know that we still have a long way to go and much to learn? Hopefully there will come a day when mental illness will be truly understood. Advances in science will allow even those on the most severe end of the spectrum to live happy lives with treatment, or better still, to be cured from their illness entirely.

Mr. Journalist, have you ever wondered what it’s like to have a child that is different from the other children?

imagesCAOZI1AFAs a journalist, have you ever wondered what it is like to have a child that is different from other children? Have you ever wondered how parents feel when they discover that their child cannot walk, cannot sit, cannot hear or see; or a child with Autism or Asperger’s?  Well, as parents of three,wonderful, healthy children, neither did my husband or I. Then, after our son was drafted into the armed forces, he became ill and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Neither of us dreamed that we could, we would … produce a defective child; not in our family; never. Well, our nightmare began when he was about 20 and was worse for him than for us; of course, our whole family was involved.

So, Mr. Journalist, before you write your next newspaper article or report on television, please think of me and the millions of people around the world who are trying to deal with mental illness in their families; who are simply trying to survive.

As I see it, the duty of a journalist is to provide a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Journalists recognize the power of words and images used to define and characterize a subject. You are encouraged to avoid stereotypical language and ensure the careful use of images, but as there are no definite guidelines when you are reporting about a person with a mental illness, it can be problematic. IF mental illness is important to a story, you may not assume that an illogical act of violence is the result of mental illness in general. Stating that a crime was committed by a person who has a history of mental illness, is often made on-scene by a first responder who might not even have direct knowledge of the person’s history. So, even if accurate, it may be irrelevant to the incident. Mental illness is not a defining characteristic of the ‘so-called criminal.’

It’s also advisable to avoid descriptions of an individual’s behavior that might contribute to the impression that all people with that particular illness exhibit similar behavior. A term like he was a schizophrenic in a rage, creates the impression that rages are common behavior for those experiencing schizophrenia.

But, Mr. Journalist, you could try to give the impression that mental illness is treatable and that people can recover; maybe not 100% but sufficiently to join the workforce and lead lives like the rest of us. That would be such a welcome change and would make a huge difference in the lives of those affected by this ravaging illness.

For every negative story about mental illness and violence, there are many positive ones that can be written about people in recovery who serve valuable roles in their communities. Reporters could write compelling personal stories about those who have recovered as there are so many who have experienced, lived through and survived mental illness who might be prepared to be interviewed and get their stories out there.

Please stop giving the public a distorted view of the facts. Imagine how you would feel if you were unfortunate enough to have one of these unfortunate people in your family.imagesCAORGEYH


A depressing visit

One morning I visited a family whose son had ended his life. He’d tried to shake off his demons and had attempted to do so on a number of occasions which resulted in his being hospitalized. After suffering for many years, he gave up.

A social worker from the Mental Health Society had asked me if I would visit and try and help the family come to terms with what had happened – and show them that no matter how difficult it is, one can come to terms with it all in time, and learn coping techniques. Their daughter did most of the talking as her parents were unable to say much. but, after I shared my family’s experiences of living with our son who’d suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, they choked out their story and how it affected them all.

This family lives on the third floor of an apartment building without an elevator. There was not a single plant in their apartment. There was no greenery visible from a single window; not even a tree. there was no garden downstairs, and the view that they saw day after day was of the gray, concrete wall belonging to the soccer stadium situated directly opposite their home. I dread to think of the noise level in their apartment on the days when a soccer game was in progress. I didn’t dare ask whether they were the owners of a car.

Before I took my leave, they asked me to promise not to divulge what I had heard that day. I tried to explain that there was nothing to be ashamed of; that there was no blame attached to mental illness; that parents CANNOT CAUSE SCHIZOPHRENIA, but I had the feeling that my pleas fell on deaf ears.

The word golden agers flashed through my mind although they had not yet reached that age but there was nothing golden here to look forward to. I wished I could do more to help them. Then I became aware of the fact that quite unconsciously, I had swiveled my wedding ring to face the palm of my hand.

Stay safe and take care of yourself and your family

I know that I will always remember the words of the people I hold in high esteem. When I was a young girl and heard scary stuff on the radio, especially the news about impending war, my mother said; ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are prepared to help.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and am comforted when I realize that there are still many caring people around me.

It’s a very good idea to commit random acts of kindness to make life easier for the people we know and care about, and perhaps even more important for those  we don’t know.

 If someone is directly affected by a tragedy, I think that most of us do what we can to help. We might extend a helping hand to those who are more vulnerable than we are. There are many people out there willing to share their stories. It will be healing for them. It’s also healing for us.

Most of the people that I know are kind, compassionate and big-hearted. They are considerate, generous, loving and sympathetic. But, there are those who can be cruel, brutal, cold and mean. We deal with them when we have to do so but we should not let them corrupt us.

Most of us don’t feel resilient and may view ourselves as nervous; unable to deal with storm clouds and life when it goes wrong. Who doesn’t want to feel safe? Why shouldn’t we feel that way? But, we must recognize that life is fragile and that when tragedy strikes we can either become victims or survivors and, I believe that the latter is preferable. In time, we resolve to do what we can to make ourselves and our little corner of the world a better place. We rejoice in the wonder of life and feel blessed to be a part of it, no matter how difficult it is when bad things happen.

Left to sink, not swim

AR17-SWIM-01-RQAs I have written previously, swimming has been known to improve moods, and for someone living with a mental illness, it can vastly improve their quality of life. Unfortunately, exercise has not yet been recognized sufficiently by mainstream mental health organizations. There has been evidence to suggest that excercise may be a neglected intervention as far as mental health care is concerned.

What about cycling, jogging, swimming or even walking is concerned? I have met so many consumers; (as individuals with a mental illness choose to be called,) who do not move from their chairs or beds unless forced to do so. To add insult to injury, they don’t manage to stick to a healthy diet.