Along my grad school mental health counseling studies the textbooks mention that patients with psychosis will often call the antipsychotic medications poison. The professional response is to give them the shaming label – lack of insight. The documentary Cause of Death: Unknown explores and explains how pharmaceutical companies (Pharma) have put billions of dollars of profit over people and misled the doctors and the public knowingly leading to the death of thousands of our children, our veterans, our elderly, and disabled. The antipsychotic medications can gum up people’s metabolism and can suddenly stop the heart dead.
This is a timely film during the opioid crisis where so many of the pharmaceutical companies knowingly deceived doctors and patients to hook the public on opioids and make more profit knowing more people would die from the drugs. The next opioid crisis is already here with psychiatric medications for which Pharma used the same tactics.
That is not to say the medications do not have value for a small percentage of the people or for the much shorter evidence based duration than they end up being used for. But with Pharma or Pharma paid researchers almost exclusively doing the research, critical research on how to get people off of medications is still lacking.
Recently a New Yorker article highlighted this and how psychiatrists themselves who find themselves unable to get off of medications have had to turn to the ex-patient community to learn how to get off. Pharma misled doctors telling them patients trying to come off medications had a return of symptoms of illness when getting to low doses of the medications, but often it is withdrawal symptoms (they call discontinuation syndrome) from the medications due to tolerance (they call neuroadaptation) that lasts much longer than doctors were told. To come off people often have to detox from the medications painfully slow sometimes taking years and miniscule doses, but people with all diagnoses have come off of medications successfully. Without proper information and preparation, withdrawing too quickly from some medications can have serious consequences up to and including death. The Withdrawal Project is a modern recent online platform for citizen research on psychiatric medication withdrawal mentioned in The New Yorker article to assist with more accurate information on how to prepare to come off.
If you are curious about these issues, Cause of Death: Unknown is a timely film that begins to explore some truth that you will not hear in mainstream media until public awareness reaches a tipping point. Another news site to explore these topics is the online magazine Mad In America that presents research, alternatives, and success stories of people who have found a way out of Pharma created American Hell.
I have completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training program and registered as a teacher with the Yoga Alliance. As part of the training process I developed an hour-long vinyasa flow yoga class as a vehicle to share yoga. With a background studying Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Nonduality, my teachings reflect a mix of slow flow yoga and breathwork with nondual pointers. I am especially interested in welcoming anyone to find mental health and wellness through yoga and meditation without exclusion due to diagnosis or other social political constructs. You can face and accept yourself as you are. There are many variations in yoga to help bring you home to rest in your true nature. If you would like to explore these with a private lesson in the Portland, Maine area or via Skype, leave a message on my contact page.
I will be facilitating a screening and discussion of the film Crazywise at Amistad in Portland, ME on March 21, 2019 at 5-7:15pm.
This is an amazing film. Director Phil Borges had interviewed around 40 shamans from all over the world and found they got their start in similar ways. In their teens or early 20’s they started hearing things others did not hear and seeing things others did not see. They were identified as having a special gift or sensitivity and had mentors to train them how to use their abilities as shamans to help their communities. He draws a comparison with the much different treatment for the same experiences that young people in the West receive from the mental health system.
For resources related to the film:
There is a good Ted Talk by Phil Borges while in the process of making the film with over two million views. It was posted February 23, 2014 titled Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening: Phil Borges at TEDx UMKC.
There is a great interview of Ekhaya, one of the subjects of the film by Madness Radio and posted October 1, 2017. The interview touches on some of the training she underwent to become a shaman.
Under a Hawaiian mango tree in 1994, initial experimentation with spinning in circles until falling down, inverting my head below my feet in a rain gulley, and holding my breath while asking the question “who am I” lead to an expansion of my sense of self to the infinite.
Seven years of extensive street drug and pharmaceutical use could only temporarily hide the new awareness that conflicted with my scientific materialistic public school upbringing. Then I was drawn to read the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, and was relieved to know someone else sometime else shared similar experience and understanding.
In 2001 I began to study for many years with preeminent teachers of yoga and meditation both in India and the U.S. I salted these studies with talks, meditation, and tantra instruction by Buddhist Rinpoches and peppered the mixture with exposure to shamans.
Though not for lack of trying, I have not been able to shake the expanded sense of self but have learned to live with the experience of it, be it infinite bliss, or unending aloneness. I learned to re-engage the boundaries of the individual sense of self that I had been socialized into as a child in order to navigate the world of relationship with others.
I am currently enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training course learning the practicalities of how to share yoga with others. Check back late this summer for updates on yoga offerings.
I was graced with the opportunity to attend a three-day Hearing Voices Network Facilitators’ Training this month conducted by Western Mass Recovery Learning Community trainers. Within the Hearing Voices Network all possible explanations for experiences that would typically be labeled psychosis in a clinical setting are welcomed and allowed along with the additional perspective that the experiences are just a normal variation of human experience. It was stated that one in 10 people hear voices at some point in life and two thirds of them never seek psychiatric services. The Hearing Voices Network is composed of self-help groups throughout the world where people come together to talk about their voices, visions, and unusual experiences in a non-clinical environment with no assumption of an underlying illness to their experiences and no requirement to have any exposure to the mental health system to attend groups. Each individual is allowed the freedom to interpret their experiences in any way and the group accepts that voices and visions are real experiences. The Hearing Voices Network can be considered a civil rights movement that started when a patient confronted the psychiatrist Marius Romme in the 1980’s about limitations of the psychiatric care being provided. Regarding psychiatry’s attempts to stop voices with treatment, Romme eventually compared “eradicating people’s voices to forcing homosexuals to become heterosexual” (Sapey & Bullimore, 2013, p. 4). The groups started in the United Kingdom and are in at least 32 countries around the world now. In the United States there are at least 94 registered groups. The State of Maine Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services has been funding trainings to facilitate the growth of Hearing Voices Network groups. Though not all Maine groups are listed yet, http://www.hearingvoicesusa.org/ does have a listing of some Maine groups including one in Portland. There are additional meetings in Maine forming at peer drop in centers.
Sapey, B., & Bullimore, P. (2013). Listening to voice hearers. Journal of Social Work,