Sunday, August 30, 2009

Letter to the system

To the Mental Health professionals

After having a recent discussion with a friend over my experiences with Schizphrenia and the mental health system in New Zealand, she encouraged me to share it with people involved in the system, as a person who has had the illness and can now look back with a clear mind.
Some things I would like to point out.

No one ever really took the time to explain the basics of Schizphrenia and how medication can help. The term “chemical imballance” is way too vague and explains little. If the time was taken to explain in laymens terms – that there is a chemical which occurs naturally in the brain called Dopamine which, when there is too much of it, distorts your vision and perception. That the brain is made of neurons which connect in response to different memories and sensations and can misconnect and that the medication restores all this (by suppressing the dopamine). That the medication doesn't alter the natural balance of the brain, instead it restores it to what it was (and that's how a pill can change your thoughts) would probably go a long way to getting people to take their medication. (I didn't take my medication regularly until a friend who was studying at University explained this to me, and even in the throws of Schitzphrenia it made so much sense that I took my medication regularly from then on, even when it didn't seem to make a difference for over 5 years).

In the end it took over five years of experimentation to me on the right kind and doseage of medication. For over five years while on medication I experienced paranoia, loss of concentration and depression, all the while being told that I was actually what they considered well now. There was a point after around five years where I breifly stopped taking my medication, because if this was “better”, then what difference did it make to take it? “Better” was horrible and my future seemed hopeless. Although I guess I have to admit my doctor must have done the best she could with the information I gave her, (so I am to blame for that myself) it was my initial education from my friend outside the mental health system that made me perservere for so long.

I'd also like to add, that tems like 'phsycosis' and 'the prodromal period' are terms I learnt on the internet. Some kind of education would have helped me, because its all a vague scarey experience until you find some of this stuff out and can put a label or explanation to some of your experiences.

A last thing I'd like to add. I'm sure there are good reasons for asking the same questions everytime, as schizphrenia has such varied symptoms, but when I went through my period of phycosis, having a wide range of different hallucinations one after another, when asked by my respite workers for the third day in a row if the television was talking to me, I went to the tv to find out if it was and sure enough it was! (In other words, the suggestion itself produced the result).

Just some thoughts.
Janet Dick.

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