Sunday, 28 June 2015

my family: the solidarity of being in psychosis and surviving psychiatric treatment (no scapegoating)

This is a blog post in response to the presentations by psychiatrists at the Scottish Schizophrenia Survey seminar I attended on 25 June 2015 in Edinburgh University, 50 George Square.  It is a riposte to the notion that mental illness and schizophrenia can be found in the genes.  Particularly directed towards and written for Sir Robin Murray and Prof Stephen Lawrie who I will send this to, by Email.

My family have had the privilege of being in solidarity by experiencing psychoses and surviving psychiatric treatment and labelling in Scotland, eight of us over 3 generations, 4 women and 4 men up to this point, helping each other in and out of psychiatric settings, resisting scapegoating and lifelong prognoses of mental illness.  A variety of labels pinned on us, in the "notes".

It started with my parents, both of them, mother and father, in solidarity.  My mother experiencing the most or the worst of it.  Many courses of ECT and forced drug treatment in Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, when in mental distress, and a diagnosis of schizophrenia in her "notes".  Eventually a depot injection of Depixol until the day she died.  My opinion?  That was no way to treat a lady.
mum & dad August 1952, month before my birth

My mother during these years of "special treatment" looked after me and my two younger sisters, often singlehandedly because my father, a sci-fi writer with the Daily Express (Jeff Hawke), was away in London, at Fleet Street, with his work.  She was a good mother and homemaker, a seamstress, cook, baker, a gentle woman who didn't go on about the psychiatric treatment after discharge.  She kept it to herself, for the most part.  My mother's strength was in her ability to withstand and in her faithfulness to her family until she died in 1998, aged 68, in the Adamson Hospital, Cupar.  A good death.

Eventually my father succumbed to extreme mental distress due to the pressures of work, and his contract was terminated, he stayed down in London while we remained in Perth, 1969.  Because he also, in around 1963, had experienced a spell in Murray Royal and knew the score.  No doubt it was easier to be mad in London and avoid hospitalisation than to come back to Perth where his "notes" were.  He shared his home in London with a woman who was a nurse.  I went down to check on him in 1971, to see that he was OK, and he was.  I never saw him again on this earth although we were in touch by letter, on occasion.  He died in 1986, aged 57.  My middle sister and I attended his funeral at Kensal Green, London.
my dad in his 30's

My father wanted me to come down to London in 1970, to train to be a nurse, but I stayed in Scotland and went up to Aberdeen University that year to do an MA in Accountancy, maths was my "thing".  Unfortunately my father's mother, my granny, had died in the July and my grandpa was heartbroken.  My mother had another psychiatric inpatient stay that summer but was discharged the day that I went up by train to Aberdeen, my 18th birthday.  My younger sisters had been taken into temporary foster care through the summer after my granny's death, my auntie having brought in the social work.
my mum in her 30's

Bringing the social work into our family was not all bad but neither was it all good.  For once you are on their books they can interfere in your business or be there to support, depending on how you look at it.  We had a bit of both with the social work.  My sisters who were 9 and 14 years younger than me ended up being fostered longer term although both returned to live with my mother when aged 16-18 and the money, and support, from social work stopped.  

my mum in her 40's
Both my sisters won places at the RSAMD in Glasgow, were in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and are accomplished musicians, woodwind and piano, and singers like me.  My youngest sister prior to this had won a place at St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh when about 11yrs old, was a boarder and eventually stayed with me in the holidays, in Lanarkshire where we lived at the time, late 1970's, early 1980's.  She was the first female head chorister at St Mary's and achieved a distinction in Grade 8 oboe and piano.  

my boys in M&S outfits 1985
I used to go to Glasgow to hear my middle sister play in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, second clarinet, when she was a student at the RSAMD (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama), late 1970's, early 80's.  I would also go to Edinburgh, St Mary's Cathedral, around the same time, to hear my youngest sister play oboe or sing in the choir.  My mother got a paid job in Perth, working in a factory that made clothes for M&S.  She would send outfits to my boys and we would visit with each other, keeping in touch.  

My sisters experienced psychoses and psychiatric treatment in their late teenage years, on transition to adulthood, similar to my 3 sons.  I didn't have this and my psychoses were puerperal and menopausal, due to painful induced
me & oldest son 1980
childbirths and hormonal change, with spiritual experiences.  My youngest sister and my youngest son have both suffered the most due to "family history of" in psychiatric notes.  I believe because they were subject to "special treatment" in the same psychiatric settings as their mothers.  My earlier psychoses and psychiatric treatment was in Hartwoodhill, Lanarkshire, where they didn't have any family "notes".  I knew at the time that I was lucky and managed to taper the Chlorpromazine within the year, after episodes in 1978 and 1984.  Got back on with my life.

1998 with 2 older sons
My oldest son managed to escape "lifelong mental illness" despite experiencing a critical incident due to one shock/ECT which went wrong, in Stratheden Hospital.  Rushed to Ninewells Hospital.  Eventually recovered, tapered the drugs, within the year.  Got back to university, achieving a 1st class honours in mechanical engineering in 1998, the year I got my first postgraduate qualification, in community education.  He has worked mainly in computer-aided design with the oil industry but this year is changing career, starting a Masters in Music Therapy at Queen Margaret's in Edinburgh.

My family are imaginative and creative people who feel things deeply and on occasion these have been externalised as altered mind states, psychoses, extreme mental distress, when faced with painful life events, trauma and transition.  If we had internalised the pain and experienced physical health issues and illness then our treatment would have been different.  No stigma or discrimination and no mental illness labels to dog our steps.  A far more respectable label and acceptable illness.

1999 at sister's wedding
I do not appreciate the fact that my family has been targeted by psychiatry due to our sensitivity to life pain and expressing it through psychoses and mental distress.  We did not deserve to be forcibly drugged into compliance and labelled with disorders because we resisted the "special treatment".  I do not accept that mental distress equates to mental illness.  If the treatment doesn't alleviate the pain and the drugs don't work then it is shameful to be blaming the person.  Rather it's the system at fault and the wrong tools for the job.

Doctors Murray, Lawrie and their cohort may justify taking money from big pharma by focusing on genes but that doesn't mean they are right in doing so or that we have to believe in what they are doing.  Nothing is proven.  It's all pie in the sky, speculation and like searching for the holy grail, Indiana Jones style.  To my mind.  Boys and their toys.  I should know something of this, having brought up 3 sons and supported them in and out of the psychiatric system.  Picking up the pieces after dehumanising, traumatic psychiatric treatment.
me & Daniel on my birthday Sep14

We need to stop scapegoating the mentally ill and labelling people who experience altered mind states with schizophrenias and schizoaffective disorders because the drugs don't work.  Some of us don't like the drugs, they don't agree with us, we resist because of this and it makes sense, to us.  If you want to do research then focus more on the psychological treatments and how to make them better, more effective.  Give us choices.  Not just drugs, forced in if non-compliant.  

As a survivor of mental illness and psychiatric treatment here is my advice to the psychiatrists who are looking for the causes of mental distress and trauma in the genes: Be more creative in your scientific exploration.  Use your grey matter.  Think broader and wider.  Existentially, spiritually.  Narrow-minded thinking is unproductive and ultimately may lead down dead-end roads, wasting time and energy.  You can do better and I hope to see evidence of this.  I am confident that you will see sense.


50 George Square, Edinburgh
blog post 26 June 2015: tweeting from Psychosis/Schizophrenia seminar 25Jun15 Edinburgh led by Sir Robin, his band of merry men & a few Maid Marians

storify: seminar on Scottish Schizophrenia Survey 25Jun15: an event I didn't get banned from @suppinmindscot

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