Mad in America: Is an Ominous New Era of Diagnosing Psychosis by Biotype on the Horizon?

Hi All,

In this new article I sound the alarm on an ominous shift in how psychosis is diagnosed, that will use a system of bio-marker tests to label people in extreme states as being in a psychosis biotype group.

Michael

Mad in America: For Me, Self-Love Requires Both Mercy and Defiance

Hi All,

This is a very brief and personal sharing about needing and being able to find self-love. Please click on the Mad in America location of the article if you wish to see the comments and take part in the discussion.

Best wishes,

Michael

This entry first appeared at Mad In America on December 6, 2015.

This is my 31st article on MIA and the most personal. It’s about being tender and loving with myself when I’m suffering, and how for me that means being merciful and defiant at the same time.

As a boy who was abandoned by my parents at an early age, I’ve always felt vulnerable to the disapproval and judgments of others, afraid of being shunned, forgotten and rejected.

Especially when I was in madness, I felt freakish and alien – an outsider, as if looking in on the warm world of others from outside a window pane, the window condensed with moisture on the inside from delicious food cooking – with me unseen standing out there in the fading light of evening – while happy lives of family occurred inside the houses with the safety and warmth, and warm dinner food and love – of them all together, in a vision that broke my terrified and isolated heart.

But I somehow realized that love can be portable. That I could carry it in me like a little flame in a secret chamber of my heart.

So even when I was homeless sleeping in the rain under a tree with bugs crawling all over me or sleeping in the dugout of the high school baseball field, I could hold that loving grace through the night.

People who knew me then looked at me strangely, I know – the pre-med Michael now an unwashed wild-eyed denizen to be dodged on the street – them crossing to the other sidewalk side when they saw me approaching.

But I held my heart light closer then to balance the pain of those chance encounters.

So when I figured some of it out, I realized I’d never digested the poison pill completely – the one marked “unworthy of love.”

I refused. I said fuck that – I deserve the mercy they’d give a dog. I’ll give it to myself. I’ll love myself if no one else will.

And I did. And I still do.

I’m almost 70 now but I had a dream recently that proved to me how much my defiance has always helped me embrace love.

I was being led along a mountain hillside with a rope around my neck in a procession of captured slaves by mounted horsemen with long spears or pikes – the mounted King’s men.

For some reason, unbidden the words welled up inside of me…

“There’s one thing I’ve always wanted to say… ”

And then I shouted at the top of my lungs knowing it would bring my certain death…

“FUCK THE KING!”

“FUCK THE KING!”

At once to my left a huge mushroom about 10 feet tall erupted from the hillside. It was full of numinous vibrant energy and the sky over it became a mosaic of thousands of small shimmering patterns of ecstatically beautiful circular energy, as a huge chorus of voices intermingled in sustained notes of sacred release all brought about by my treasonous and blasphemous defiant cry against the tyranny of the king.

I can still hear that long sustained note of a thousand souls in my head.

Love is my birthright – and I believe it’s yours too. Please don’t let them tell you otherwise.

There’s a love that doesn’t wait to be claimed, received.

There’s a love that doesn’t wait and long to be returned.

There’s a humble love that just is, is.

A hidden flame that just burns, burns.

 

Medication Mechanization: Microchip Sensors in Abilify to Increase Medication Compliance

This entry first appeared at Mad In America on November 10, 2015.

I felt a chill go through my body when I read that the FDA has agreed to review for possible approval in early 2016 a new form of the drug Abilify that contains a microchip sensor capable of sending a message that indicates the exact time a tablet dissolves in the stomach. The message is recorded by a skin patch – along with data such as the person’s body angle and activity patterns – and, according to a press release from Proteus Digital Health, the developer of the device, “this information is recorded and relayed to patients on a mobile phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device, and only with their consent, to their physician and/or their caregivers.”

The Japanese drug giant Otsuka teamed up with Proteus Digital Health in 2012 to create this potentially profitable new “chip in a pill” just as its patent on Abilify – at $6.9 billion the #1 most profitable drug in the U.S. in 2013 – was set to expire in 2014, leaving one of Otsuka’s most valuable markets vulnerable to generics. It is especially ominous to me that our government is teetering toward passing the Murphy Bill, which would make forced in-home treatment the law of the land, at the same time it is lurching toward putting such an Orwellian device in the hands of a pharmaceutical company, courts, and families.

According to the Washington Examiner:

”The new smart drug could be particularly useful for ensuring the mentally ill continue taking their medications, not just by giving doctors a way to monitor their behavior, but courts as well…all but five states have court-ordered programs where a judge can mandate that offenders with severe mental illness stick with a treatment program as a condition of remaining in the community.”

As one Facebook commenter noted; putting a pill in your mouth and swallowing it, knowing it’s going to transmit a message to prove one is submissive and compliant, is beyond Orwellian – it feels fascistic. I agree. The social contract draws an invisible line that must be guarded against forces in a society that, driven by fears, fantasies of benevolence, or by simple greed, and are blind and deaf to the cries of its citizens as their bodily and personal integrity are ground into powder along with the preparations they are compelled to take in the specious name of “health” and “safety.”

Sometimes, radicalizing people politically takes a really callous, stupid, and dangerous threat to people’s liberty. This is one of those times.

The Washington Examiner article cites recent research that shows 74% of people who are started on antipsychotic medications stop taking them within 18 months. That’s the justification offered for a psych drug that monitors its own use.

“These individuals already have a history of problems due to their unwillingness or inability to voluntarily comply with treatment … this could be an important advance for them that would help them maintain treatment compliance.”

— D.J. Jaffe of the Mental Illness Policy Org.

Think about it: faced with the overwhelming 74% failure of a pharmaceutical intervention, why is the core issue deemed to be compliance rather than efficacy, and consumers’ safety & satisfaction? And why are we “gearing up” to ensure compliance in particular for a drug that even the FDA admits has an unknown mechanism of action?

What other medical specialty would blame its patients for so overwhelmingly choosing not to take the medications that have been prescribed to them? For a field that has taken on the charge of controlling and regulating social deviance, the ethical boundaries that the FDA should be protecting are blurred by the growing perception that people who are DSM-diagnosed are potential risks to society, despite overwhelming risk to the contrary; that a DSM diagnoses should be a signal that a person needs and deserves our protection.

Only a worldview that embraces the disease and deviance model of human emotional suffering would dare to suggest putting a sensor in a psychoactive substance to monitor and enforce its ingestion by an otherwise free citizen.

I believe that at some very basic level empathy seems to have failed in a society that sees the need to develop a sensor-equipped psychoactive substance. The blasé emphasis on prioritizing prescription compliance, without considering the profound subjective experience – to anyone, let alone a person in crisis – of having a digitalized foreign object inserted deep inside, an object that is in turn sending messages to an invisible outside presence. This oversight amounts to a vertiginous stumble forward in our society’s failure to muster empathy and compassion for its members, instead delivering them, in the form of a now-literally captive market, to the drug makers.

I’ve been seeing clients in therapy for over 35 years, and at no point can I imagine sitting a few feet away from a person in distress and suggest to them that they should consider having a device inside them that would let me know every day at a distance their most intimate experiences – let alone when they digest something, lie down, or when they have taken their meds. I couldn’t do it. It would feel ghoulish and perverse.

And I don’t want to be a part of a society that would do. Even – and perhaps especially – if it were being done “in my name.”

There is an aura of something shameful, a violation of a basic human right to privacy and bodily boundaries that is being ignored in the pursuit of this new digital monitoring of psychiatric medication. The shame is that, with a pill that records the moment of its absorption into our bodies, we are seeing the realization of a long-sought ideal of totalitarian governments; to cross the blood-brain barrier, gaining access to the very seat of our autonomy, and of our souls. With this, Otsuka could fairly revamp its marketing for Abilify by renaming it “Dis-Abilify,” without so much as risking – and potentially augmenting, in a society that seems to be exuberantly embracing an Orwellian ideal – its market share.

This is a time, if there ever was one, for citizens to act, and to act decisively; before the ability to make decisions, let alone act on them, is excised from our bodies completely by the next wave of pharma development.

Of course some will object to my characterization of those who developed this seeming well-meaning medical breakthrough as lacking a moral compass. But I have already heard the cries of outrage and fear from many of those for whom this Orwellian medicine is intended.

I’ll end here with an ever-more apt quote from C.S. Lewis –

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims, may be the most oppressive.”

Mad in America: “My Ego Strength is Too Developed for Me to Ever Become Psychotic!”

Hi All,

A brief new article here about mental health providers who believe they never could suffer in the ways many of the people they serve experience, and how that belief limits the provider’s capacity for empathy and compassion.

Best wishes,

Michael

The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour – Psychosis and Healing – 03/12/14

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With guest psychologist Michael Cornwall, who himself as been through madness, this is the most profound examination of psychosis, its causes and healing, you will ever hear. Frightening warnings with an even more positive message. Listen and pass it on.
The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour – Psychosis and Healing – 03/12/14

Does The Psychiatric Diagnosis Process Qualify as a Degradation Ceremony?

This entry first appeared at Mad in America on September 7, 2013.

There is liberating power in naming something for what it really is. It is a freeing act of defiance. The psychiatric diagnosis process is a degradation ceremony. Shock treatment is a human rights abuse, water boarding is torture, etc.

The functionaries assigned by society to control deviance have an enhanced status. In the case of psychiatry, they have even been entrusted by society to define deviance in their echo-chamber diagnostic manual.

Whether they personally experience the act of diagnosing/degrading another as elevating them during the diagnostic ritual or not, they serve as deviance police for society and are very well rewarded for doing that.

But some of us defiantly say no. No more diagnosing/identity robbing, no more taking away our identities with the blessing of society.

Sociologist Harold Garfinkel, in his landmark article “Conditions For a Successful Degradation Ceremony” wrote that “Degradation ceremonies are those concerned with the alteration of total identities.”

I first read this liberating article in the 1970′s as I was trying to piece together my life after a lengthy experience of madness. It validated my gut-level belief that my avoidance of psychiatric treatment, no matter how much I was suffering, was necessary to avoid having my identity stripped from me and a new identity of life-long mental patient embedded in my psyche.

Garfinkel was greatly influenced by Erving Goffman, the father of Labeling Theory. Goffmans’s book Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates looked at how society deals with deviance by codifying and enforcing social roles and identities.

But Garfinkel’s work on what he called “Status Degradation Ceremonies,” is very appropriately geared to help uncover more understanding about the impact of the process of psychiatric diagnosis.

Because I believe that undergoing a psychiatric diagnosis process has an uncanny and sinister-feeling quality to it that comes from a deeper aversion than just forming a rational objection to being labeled and subjected to a DSM-5 category.

I think our deep aversion to being diagnosed comes from a fundamental reality; that psychiatry has been invested with the same power to perform identity degradation that has always resided in designated specialists. “It will be treated here as axiomatic that there is no society whose social structure does not provide in its routine features, the conditions of identity degradation,” says Garfinkel.

When we are diagnosed, we feel the weight of an ancient social sanction of identity degradation, one that has taken many forms from our tribal beginnings, but is still life-transforming in its power – even when carried out now with the best intentions, and for our perceived benefit by mental health professionals.

Garfinkel points to this almost archetypal human experience when he writes, “Just as the structural conditions of shame are universal to all societies, by the very fact of their being organized, so the structural conditions of status degradation are universal to all societies.”

The crushing loss of faith in a happy future is profoundly damaging because of the loss of our personal sovereign identity, a rupture occurs in the personal continuity of who we were before we were diagnosed, with who we are said to now be.

Garfinkel asks, “What program of communicative tactics will get the work of status degradation done?” A ceremony is required that will secure the product of successful degradation work to be a changed total identity.

A professionally rendered DSM-5 Axis 1 diagnosis always rests on the belief that a bio-genetic disease process has been established to exist. The diagnosed person is informed that their illness should be of primary concern indefinitely, if not for the rest of their lives. From that fateful day of diagnosis forward, the person shall now be officially identified as someone with a major mental illness.

For Garfinkel, the person undergoing a status degradation process also “must be placed outside, must be made strange,” and must become “literally a new and different person. The former identity stands as accidental; the new identity is the ‘basic reality.’” What the person is now is what they were “all along.”

But I learned there is a way out of this trap. There is good news. As so many readers of Madinamerica.com can testify, we can “render” all degradation ceremonies “useless.”

When I read the last line of Garfinkel’s article almost 40 years ago, it felt like a jail break to me, because it said I could – with a very simple move – render useless any attempt to pigeon-hole me and take away my identity via a psychiatric diagnosis.

I could simply choose to not acknowledge or honor the socially-sanctioned power of psychiatry to perform a degradation ceremony on me.

Because unless we volunteer to give that power to another person or our society, they can’t wield it.

Oh yes, they can diagnose us, lock us up and do all the human rights abuses they do that they call treatment, but if we refuse to give away our identity, no one can take it from us.

If the social institution of psychiatry is tasked by our society to regulate deviance via the identity degradation ceremony of diagnosis and oppressive “treatments” that are often human rights abuses, then how can such a dysfunctional, dystopian society find its way out of such a spiritually and morally bankrupt cultural dead end?

Can Garfinkel’s baleful pronouncement that all societies inherently are set up to have identity degradation ceremonies take place be flipped, and we claim that our society can and must also be a constant source of an opposite kind of ceremony that we pursue doing status elevation ceremonies, identity valuation ceremonies?

As individuals, we can refuse to give psychiatry the credence or moral authority to perform a successful identity degradation ceremony on us.

But how can our individual defiance reverse the ubiquitous practice of diagnosis/identity degradation?

Briefly, I will just say, as I approach 70 years in our Orwellian dreamscape, that I don’t look to social institutions like the law, religion, academia, political ideologies, or the media to save us from the societal dead end we inhabit.

The collective horsepower to take back our culture from its blind masters resides right here on Madinamerica and on every psych ward and in every prison yard.

That transformative social power was present in the anti-war and social protest movement of the 1960′s, and the recent Occupy movement, the civil and women’s rights and LBGT movements, and our mad pride/consumer/survivor/ peer/recovery/human rights movement.

Our ceremonies of self-love and love for each other as comrades, and the ceremonies of open defiance we practice together, don’t mean the tragic fruits of rampant anarchy will replace the identity degradation ceremonies and human rights abuses that are masked by medical legitimacy.

Revolution is the word and the answer and it always has been. It is the sure path to personal and societal freedom and transformation. If we listen to our hearts and not so much to our heads, the right direction will keep being shown to us of how to proceed.

Imagine a society where one day psychiatric diagnosis and identity degradation ceremonies don’t happen any more. Like John Lennon sang: “It’s easy if you try.”

Madness Radio: Madness and Renewal Michael Cornwall | Madness Radio

First Aired 9-1-2012

What if people struggling with madness could explore their emotions in a supportive sanctuary? Do frightening ‘psychotic’ experiences have the power to transform and heal? Is breakdown also breakthrough? Michael Cornwall became a therapist after surviving his own crisis — without medication or psychiatric treatment. For more than 30 years he has worked in the tradition of Carl Jung and R.D. Laing to support people to go through psychotic states in medication-free community settings, including John Weir Perry’s Diabasis House in the 1970s.

Listen to the interview here.