Day 940

The dark thing that sleeps in me

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Thomas Joiner, author of “Lonely at the Top: The high cost of Men’s success” is an avid suicide researcher. He lost his father to suicide.

His career choice is dismissed by some as : “You’re just trying to fix your own psychological problems, just like all mental health professionals.” Having psychological problems is not insulting. They are common, often treatable and nothing to be ashamed of.

Surely, heart and cancer researchers are not perceived in the same light. This is another reflection of the stigma that surrounds suicide.

Stigma is fear combined with disgust, contempt and lack of compassion – all of which flow from ignorance. We need to understand that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful or rash. It is not caused just by medicines, anorexia, smoking or plastic surgery. It is partly genetic and influenced by mental disorders which in themselves are agonising. That it is preventable (eg. through means restriction like bridge barriers) and treatable (talk about suicide is not cheap and should warrant specialist referral).

Once we get all that in our heads, we need to let it lead our hearts.

“I am terrified of this dark thing that sleeps in me,
All day I feel its feathery turnings,
Its malignity.”
– by Sylvia Plath

Source: ‘Myths about Suicide’ by Thomas Joiner.

Day 938

Oooops! Sorry!

If a previously healthy man recognises that he is a huge risk to himself. If he takes himself to a mental health facility and pleads for help. If they admit him and then classify him as ‘low risk’ and leave him unsupervised. If he then goes on to end his life in the hospital within hours of being there. This has got to be wrong. One would think this to be nearly impossible. It isn’t. It happens.

A Canadian study published in 2014 on inpatient suicides concluded that “It is possible to reduce suicide risk on the ward by having a safe environment, optimising patient visibility, supervising patients appropriately, careful assessment, awareness of and respect for suicide risk, good teamwork and communication, and adequate clinical treatment.”

Recently, a Coroner’s report on an inpatient suicide found the same things that came out in Saagar’s case:
-Risk of suicide was not properly and adequately assessed and reviewed
-Transfer of verbal and written information was poor
-Risk assessment and quality of observation was poor
-Adequate and appropriate precautions were not taken to manage the risk of suicide
In addition, they found that previous recommendations on risk and environmental factors were not implemented adequately. This means that similar deaths had occurred before but nothing had changed.

How many people need to be sacrificed before something changes?
Ed Mallen, 18, died while he was on a waiting list.
Many thousands are still waiting!

Ruby is a lovely young lady who shares the joys of being on a waiting list, among other things. Here’s the link. This time it’s 18 minutes.
Thank you Ruby! We wish you well!!!

Day 937

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Just a rant

Another Thursday. Another musician. Another suicide.

This Facebook post brought up the same old questions. I am not the only one asking them. They are a big problem for many families, individuals and communities. But sadly, the easiest thing to do for a medic at a consultation is to write a prescription rather than invest time and resources in the individual.

“Just reading about Chris Cornell and how according to his wife he took too much of his prescribed medication, out of it, because he was on his medication. Whether it was a suicide or “accidental death” I am outraged at the system. I didn’t really know Chris Cornell’s music until recently, but I lost my dear friend, another talented musician, to a similar situation recently. And before that I lost my mom, who became psychotic when given anti-depressants and took the whole bottle a few days after she had started taking them. I am so frustrated by a medical establishment that refuses to treat the whole disease and the whole person, and so tired of people I love dying from the very medication that is supposed to prevent it. If you work in (mental) health, please consider the risk when prescribing medications. Years ago, I myself was prescribed ativan and other medications and became addicted and had to take myself off everything completely without the support of a doctor because they thought I needed medication, while in reality the medication was making me suicidal.

Medication without therapy from my perspective is no different than drinking or smoking or taking drugs. I see the system changing as the trauma-informed approach enters the mainstream but in Nova Scotia, so many mental health problems that need deep spiritual healing are treated with drugs. Drugs that sometimes exacerbate the problem, or create a whole new problem, without leaving the person spiritually and emotionally sober enough to make sound decisions that could save lives.

I look forward to the day when the mental hospitals and outpatient aftercare support radical healing on a whole-person level-the kind of work that the International Association for Human Values and Body Talkers are doing-treating the whole person and providing them with actual physical stress and trauma relief tools.

Just a rant. I’m done. Love to all. Please no more state/big pharma-sponsored suicides…”

Eleven years ago, purely by chance, I learnt a breathing-based meditation technique called ‘Sudarshan Kriya’. It has kept me strong through deeply traumatic life-events. Our breath is a subtle but powerful bridge to knowing the ‘self’. It has precious secrets hidden in it. It energises and detoxifies. It keeps us alive. If we are willing to learn, it teaches us the art of living.

 

Day 936

download

Born to run

“Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track… she gets me to the doctors and says, ‘This man needs a pill’.”

 His new memoirs speak a lot about his long battle with depression. Bruce Springsteen had a strong family history of mental illness. He didn’t do drugs as a rock star which is unusual. He was afraid  they would unmask his genetic potential for insanity but he was already suffering  with serious melancholia.

On the therapeutic value of touring he says, “You are free of yourself for those hours; all the voices in your head are gone. Just gone. There’s no room for them. There’s one voice, the voice you’re speaking in.”

His wife of 25 years, Patti understands his illness. She helps him manage it. “A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself”, she says.

The media often reinforces negative stereotypes of people with mental illness, depicting them as inadequate, unlikable, dangerous, confused, aggressive and unpredictable. The Boss’s devotion to many progressive causes sharply contrasts that image.

Public stigma leads to self-stigma. It stops us from talking about mental illness and worse, ask for help when we are struggling. Patti was initially apprehensive about the book in which Bruce speaks openly about how years of depression left him crushed. It would be read by millions. But then, she saw the value in that.

I watched Bruce Springsteen in 1985 at a Live Aid Concert in Delhi. I was terribly envious of the young lady he invited on to the stage from the audience to dance with him.

Long live The Boss!

“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line”
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

 

Day 927

Westminster-Abbey-DrugFAM-10th-Anniversary

The bags from my journey home 2 days ago were still waiting to be unpacked. I was in two minds whether to go for the service or not. I could think of a hundred items I could tick off my ‘to-do list’ if I didn’t go. It was optional after all, even though I had booked a place for myself.

I have lived in London for nearly 11 years. I work 150 yards away from it and yet, have never visited the Westminster Abbey. This was my chance. If I didn’t go today, I would probably never make the effort.

‘A Service of Celebration and Hope’ was being held by DrugFAM.

A charity that provides a lifeline of safe, caring and professional support for families, friends and carers who are struggling to cope with the nightmare of a loved one’s addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Elizabeth Burton-Phillips lost one of her twins, Nick, to heroin addiction in 2004. During this harrowing time, she and her family had very little support. In 2006, she founded DrugFAM with the sole aim of ensuring that no family, friends or carers are left living in isolation, fear and ignorance of the support available.

Silence, shame and stigma – these terms apply to Mental illness and  Drug addiction. Both remain deeply misunderstood.Both claim many young lives – lives worth talking about. Today’s service was a public acknowledgement of the strength and courage of those lost to addiction and of those who are still living with active addiction in their families. In her address Elizabeth quoted Robin Williams,”I used to think that the worst thing in life is to end up alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.” She said, ‘Today, no one in this Abbey is alone.’ It was indeed a celebratory, yet serene and unifying one hour. It was a renewed commitment to continue efforts to  enable every human being to live with dignity, to be respected and to fulfil their potential.

Even though my ‘to do’ list was left untouched, I felt honoured to be there.

Day 926

AYA-5

Finally something wholistic. Is it?

Ayahuasca is a foul tasting, nauseating brown Amazonian psychoactive brew.

The name comes from the Quechua language where aya means soul, ancestors or dead persons and wasca (huasca) means vine or rope. One interpretation of the name is “vine of the soul” and another is “rope of death”. Of late more arguments are being made in favour of the former than the latter.

This Shamanic concoction has been the core of many religious, magical, curative, initiation, and other tribal rituals for millennia in the indigenous and mestizo populations of South America. They respect the brew as a sacrament and value it as a powerful medicine for physical and mental problems, social issues and spiritual crises. It is traditional medicine and cultural psychiatry.

During the last two decades Ayahuasca has become increasingly known to both scientists and laymen. Its popularity is spreading all over the Western world. People seeking improved insight, personal growth; emotional healing and contact with a sacred nature, deities, spirits and natural energies have given rise to the phenomenon of ‘drug tourism’.

In the correct therapeutic/ritualistic setting, with proper preparation of the user and subsequent integration of the experience, Ayahuasca has proven effective in the treatment of substance dependence and depression. The therapeutic effects of Ayahuasca are best understood from a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model.

The first Randomised Clinical trial, led by Draulio Barros de Araujo at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil has been published.  2 similar groups of 14 and 15 patients with resistant depression were randomised to receiving either placebo or the active drug. They filled out standard questionnaires the day before receiving their dose and 2 and 7 days later.
64% of patients who took Ayahuasca felt the severity of their depression fall to half. This was true for only a quarter of those who took placebo. The inference drawn is that Ayahuasca is better than placebo at least for the short term. More studies are required to see if the effects are sustained over longer periods.

Roughly 350 million people experience depression globally. Between one-third and half of  them do not respond well to medications. In addition to psychedelics such as Ketamine and Psilocybin, Ayahuasca is being investigated further as potential treatment for resistant major depression.

Ref:
Articles:
1. Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4773875/
2. Rapid Antidepressant effects of Ayahuasca: http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/27/103531

Presentation by Draulio Barros de Araujo: https://vimeo.com/143399447

Day 925

Vulnerability. Not weakness.

Stories are data with a soul. Researcher and storyteller Brene’ Brown has taken the time to take a deep hard look at shame and vulnerability.

She believes that ‘connection’ is neurobiologically why we are here.

Shame is fear of disconnection or not feeling like you are worthy of connection. For example, not good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not rich enough and so on. All experiences of excruciating vulnerability.

After 6 years of researching ‘Shame’ she took a closer at a sub-group of individuals with ‘Worthiness’, people with a strong sense of love and belonging who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. She called them  ‘Wholehearted’. This group had a few remarkable  traits:

  1. Courage – to be imperfect
  2. Compassion – ability to be kind to themselves and others
  3. Connection – ability to give up the idea of perfection

They fully embraced their vulnerability. They believed that vulnerability makes them beautiful. They were willing to reach out their hand first, to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. It was not comfortable but they did it anyway.
Vulnerability is also the birthplace of tenderness, belonging, love and joy.

What makes us vulnerable?
The simplest things like asking for help, waiting for the doc to call back, initiating sex, loosing a job, asking someone out on a date and many more.

Why do we struggle with vulnerability?
The uncertainty is too uncomfortable. So we numb it.

At present, we are most highly addicted, medicated and obese populace ever.
We can’t selectively numb feelings.
When we numb vulnerability we also numb joy and connection.

The ways in which we deal with our discomfort with vulnerability are:

  1. We make everything uncertain, certain, eg- religion.
  2. We Blame- a way to discharge pain and discomfort.
  3. We Perfect – most dangerously our children.
  4. We pretend – like what we are doing doesn’t have an effect on people.

We need to let ourselves be seen.
To love with our whole hearts even if we are unsure.
To practice Gratitude despite the uncertainty because our vulnerability means we are alive.
Lean into joy and believe – I am enough.
That enables us to be kinder and gentler to the people around us and to ourselves.

Ref:

Book :
Daring Greatly by Dr Brene Browm
TED talk by Dr Brene Brown on Power of Vulnerability: