Note: Although I (Karl Ericson) was diagnosed with schizophrenia and recovered from it partly as a result of psychological self help I don't want the reader to conclude from this that schizophrenia is purely a psychological disease without biological roots. For one thing the term schizophrenia may describe several diseases with similar symptoms some of which are more biologically caused than others. For another, since schizophrenia involves the mind it by its very nature involves psychology even if there are biological causes or predispositions for it. Schizophrenia involves paranoid delusions which feed the disease. Delusions are a psychological construct. Delusions as well as physiological abnormalities can contribute to the illnesses known as schizophrenia as I have illustrated in some of the cycle diagrams in this web site.
Before reading this I want the reader to try and understand what it's like being paranoid. Most people realize that it must be bad, stressful and frightening to think that someone is always out to get you or is poisoning you and so on. What people don't often think about and what they may take for granted is the love in their lives. It may not occur to people that the love they take for granted in their lives is not experienced by someone who is seriously paranoid. His paranoia is likely to cause people who might otherwise have befriended him to avoid him. Even if a paranoid person has people who care for him, if he is paranoid of them he thinks they hate him. Reader, imagine how lonely that would be and what life would be like without love and friends. What would happen to your mental and physical health if you lived in a world like that?
When I was a child my brother and I were rejected by other children. I experienced a lot of hostility and mockery and grew paranoid as an adolescent. I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and had to be hospitalized. I was treated with electroshock and large doses of thorazine. That combined with a warm environment that kept me away from hostile peers, led to enough improvement so that I was released from the hospital. I wasn't cured however, of my paranoia or other emotional problems which started to grow again after I left the hospital.
One day during my teenage years, I felt weak and was sinking into a depression my paranoia started to grow. I started thinking paranoid thoughts about dog. I had always been very attached to my dog who was my best friend. Although I had become prone to believe paranoid beliefs I would not accept this. After I rejected the beliefs my paranoia was creating I wondered why these thoughts were being created in my brain and asked myself if my paranoid beliefs were actually what was destroying me. I tried to think "they love me", instead of "they hate me". My strength started to come back. It was then that I knew what the source of my problems was.
After my initial success with thinking "They love me" I started trying to think "they respect me" and to reverse every negative thought that went through my head (I tried to think the opposite.) Often it was very hard if not impossible to believe the opposite. This approach did not cure me but it was a step in the right direction. Albert Ellis explained to me that thinking the opposite is wrong because frequently the opposite is incorrect. I modified my approach to adjust for his valid criticisms. Still there are occasions when thinking "they love me" or "they respect me" are helpful in reversing negative thoughts that are false.
After my initial success in improving my mood I became my own laboratory. I tested self help ideas and made adjustments depending on whether they worked. In the process I developed a self help philosophy which led to further self help ideas and further testing. Many of the ideas from the self help philosophy that I developed are described on the pages of this web site. A summary can be found on the self help introduction page. In my self help introduction page I don't advocate going around using the techniques I used in the beginning to get well (e.g. trying to think they love me) since often whoever they are don't. When I used that technique my problem was that my mind was always saying "They hate me" and I was in serious emotional trouble (paranoid schizophrenia) and so at the time the technique helped me.
I have not taken medication for over 20 years and to the best of my knowledge most people who I interact with see me as normal.
I'm sure that a lot of mentally ill people became that way because of rejection during childhood. When children are rejected they don't have the defenses that adults have to deal with rejection. They start believing that they are no good. Although I managed to escape mental illness I'm sure that a lot of people become trapped in it and don't escape. In the case of my brother and I we were not just rejected by a few children, we were rejected by the majority of children. When I was in school and walked down a flight of stairs between classes I would be hit at least once on the way down. On my way home from work children would wait for me and beat me up. What shocked me the most was when I was in a school bus when I was a little boy and a girl with an umbrella shoved it at my brothers eye. We didn't even know this girl. The hatred we were exposed affected us in ways we didn't understand at the time, we were only children and we were very vulnerable.
Rejection and bullying is something that people need to fight against. My brother never got well and I can't help him. If there had been no rejection to begin with he would be leading a much happier life right now.
When mental illness is treated it is treated as a biological disorder or as a product of incorrect beliefs. It can be both of these but it is often also a product of hatred and those who treat the mentally ill should keep in mind that the cure for hatred is friendship. If a patient has experienced hostility from his peers, experiencing friendship from his peers might help him get well. If a patient thinks everyone hates him, he should be put in an environment where everyone cares for him and tries to be his friend.
I'm not saying that friendship alone can cure a patient or that the patient shouldn't be given drugs or electroshock or counseling. If counseling alone doesn't work than it should be combined with medication. If that also doesn't work than maybe electroshock should be considered.
I'm also not saying that all schizophrenics can become well the way I did. Schizophrenia may represent many different disorders with similar symptoms.
It might be helpful to educate children about how paranoid emotions will affect a certain number of them at some point in their lives and to recognize it for mental illness and seek help if it happens to them. If an individual who suddenly experiences paranoia is suspicious of those beliefs, he is less likely to developed the entrenched beliefs that feed schizophrenia.
In my case bullying was a major contributor to my becoming paranoid and eventually a paranoid schizophrenic. Many happy childhoods are destroyed by bullies who leave scars long into the adulthood of their victims. In some cases victims of bullying have taken revenge and killed their classmates. In other cases they have killed themselves. A National Advocacy group called Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, wrote a report that documents how childhood bullying spawns loneliness, depression and suicidal tendencies among its victims and foreshadows crime and violence by its perpetrators. The report claims that victims and the bullies themselves often develop behavioral and emotional problems later in life (New York Post 9/5/03). An excellent book with a great deal of insight about what motivates bullies and how not to deal with them was written by Jodee Blanco and is called Please Stop Laughing at Me. A web page with resources for dealing with bullys is www.bullying.co.uk.
The bullying of me stopped one day when as usual the bullies were waiting to beat me up on my way home. One of the bullies attacked me and I managed to get his neck under my arm. I pulled with all my desperate strength and he couldn't get out. I realized I had an opportunity to get revenge. All I had to do was punch his face with my other arm. But I felt compassion and let him go. I never saw him again. In fact I don't remember ever being bullied again. There's a video that teaches children how to defend themselves against bullies called The Bully Factor that can be purchased online.
Some of the points I have made are:
A summary of the methods I developed can be found on the self help introduction page.
Here's an article about how teachers can help.
c o p y r i g h t ( c ) 1 9 9 9 - 2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises. All rights reserved
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