Thursday, April 29, 2010

Apparently I'm Getting More Sane ...

Hello Friends:

As I mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy taking many of those time-wasting quizzes that one runs into on the internet.  In December, I took the The Sanity Score, and recorded my results.  I thought it might be interesting to see if the scores changed in any statistically meaningful way over time.  I have been feeling a little bit better recently (less depressed, although more anxious) and thought I'd see how or if this was reflected in my test results.

The quiz is hardly a precision instrument, since it claims to rate over a dozen issues in the space of about 80 questions or so.  So I took it twice, both times, and averaged the results.  This meant I had data to play with (dear God I love data).  I made up a spreadsheet, of course. And here's what I found. (BTW, numbers are rounded up behind the scenes, which is why 46 - 46 = -1)

Really the only important thing to note is the last column (D) which is the delta, or change since last time.  In this quiz, lower numbers are better, so negative change is good.  The overall sanity score is on a scale from 1 to 288.  Yeah, weird.  The other numbers range from 1 to 100, with anything 50 or above considered a critical issue that definitely needs addressing.  I'm not sure, but I think anything above 35 is considered a minor issue that probably needs addressing.

The largest drop was in Depression from a 'major issue' of 49 to 30.  I wasn't surprised to see the drop, but I was surprised it was so dramatic.  I still feel somewhat depressed, and my functionality isn't great.  But I suppose that's what 30 means, then.  I can't imagine what 100 must feel like - probably 'coma.'

The 17 point drop in phobias probably isn't real.  I say this because the test has some confusing questions about phobias, and they overlap with some of the anxiety questions.  I don't think my phobias were actually at 59 to begin with.  Even 42 seems high for how I deal with spiders, for example.  Plane flights, though, that's probably pretty accurate.

So that means the other serious drops were seen in PTSD and OCD, down thirteen points in each.  This seems right to me.  I do feel less like I am ritualizing about things like doorknobs, and my overall fear of places that can trigger flashbacks is lower, too.  It seems to be more difficult to trigger them.  These are still major issues, but I think the scores here gibe with my own experience.

The only gain was 5 points in the GAD category.  This definitely seems accurate, given that when my depression goes down, my anxiety always goes up.  When I'm depressed, I don't worry as much because I just don't care.  Now that I'm pulling out of the depression, I'm starting to worry more.  Still, GAD continues to hover around 50, and is not going through the roof.  This is good.

Overall, almost everything dropped or stayed constant.  This is reflected in the Overall score, which dropped a serious 18 points from 88 to 70.  Seventy would make me almost sane - a person with issues to deal with, but who has the resilience, skills, and resources to cope and manage.  Sounds scary.  Am I that person?  I don't feel that tough. But maybe I will ...

I continue to bemoan the fact that I did not take the test when I was at my worst.  Of course, when you are at your worst, you can't use your computer, let alone find a website and stay focused for 15 solid minutes to take a quiz.

If you check out the test, I'd be interested in hearing what you thought of it, and if you want to share any of your own numbers.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: / CC BY 2.0

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Successful Visit to the Doc for that Pesky Exam

Hello Friends:

I had my annual physical exam yesterday, and it actually went pretty well. This is in contrast to my physical last year, which ended up being something of a disaster. That situation was what motivated me to try harder to express my needs and get advocates for health care. I have too many CPTSD flashback triggers in doctor's offices and hospital settings. The environments are too threatening. And as you know I recently geared myself up to visit the obgyn for the first time in years. I used a lot of my tips and ideas (from post I and post II) to make that visit go better, and it worked pretty well.

So I went into my yearly physical a bit more prepared. I took my Ativan the night before to ensure a good night's sleep. And since it isn't fully out of the system in twelve hours, I had some left to help buffer the visit itself. I had my husband come with me, so that he could listen to the advice I was given, and make sure I didn't forget to mention anything important. He also gets to sign all the forms so I don't have to touch any contaminated pens and clipboards. Ewww. I wore comfortable, loose fitting clothes and a tank top. This turned out to be a big bonus since they didn't have to remove it to do the standard EKG test. (Having to take off clothes makes me feel shaky and vulnerable.)

Let's see ... I brought a food bar to scarf after the blood test, and asked right up front for juice. Last time I spent the visit in a state we call, "gone a$$hole from hunger induced madness of the brain." This time I got my blood sugar right back up. I also had made sure to drink lots and lots of water the night before and day of, so the tests were easier. Nothing like performance anxiety when you are trying to pee in a cup.

I told the nice nurse I wanted her to take my blood. She says the same thing every time, "There are others better at it than me.  It might hurt more if I do it." She still does not quite understand that it isn't about pain, it is about personal trust. The pain of the stick is not what bothers me, it is the feeling of helplessness, the loss of control, the sense of violation (along with the fear of contamination.) All of these things are much less of a problem if I know that the person I am working with sees me as a real person, respects my limits and boundaries, and will take me seriously when I say "There is one vein. One. Only one that will work. It is right here." And she does, and did. We hit it on the first try, and the rest was cake.

But most importantly, my doctor is finally catching on to what it means to have a patient with PTSD and very bad anxiety. I asked specifically for continuity with the staff. This is a trick in that practice since people are always coming and going. But she is going to try. She made of point of having me introduced to the new nurse I'll be working with (when the old nice nurse retires, boo hoo) and introduced me to the manager of the front office. I've also been told to ask specifically for the manager any time I have an issue. This "permission" will make it easier for me to feel like I have a right to stand up for myself. Even if they forget, and they often do, I'll remember.

And even if I get the run-around for something in the future, just having gone through this will make me feel better. I felt respected. I felt like people cared about my individual needs. They still don't really understand. For example, my doctor still has me on five different supplements (I do need them, I do have all the deficiencies they are supposed to fill.) But when I told her I couldn't take them consistently, there were just too many, she couldn't understand that. No matter how many times I tell her that every single pill is a struggle, vitamin or not, she doesn't get it. So I will probably remain semi-compliant with my meds. I will always try, but there is only so much of me.

However, they are trying. And I am trying. It all feels much better. Still very scary, but it has become something that can be managed, something that can be coped with.  I didn't dissociate once during the whole visit, even during the blood test. I was present in the moment, and had only a few episodes of hyper-aware anxiety. And then I got a french-toast breakfast. Oh yeah.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Photoxpress

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grief and Mourning Part III of III - Starting to Move Forward

Hello Friends:

In my first post, I talked about how I had done some grieving of my losses in the past, but still felt there was more to do. And I didn't want to do it. In the second post, I put up a few reasons why we might resist grief and mourning, and what I thought my own hang-ups might be. So here's the third post, where I'm going to talk about the process of grief, and how I'm starting my plan to mourn and move on. Right. I'm sure it'll be just that easy ...

Anyway, we are all familiar with the canonical five stages of grief, which some people say are more like seven, or twelve, or whatever. The wisdom on stages of grief these days is that there do appear to be "places" one finds oneself, like denial, or anger. We seem to move through these places in one way or another as we grieve, but it is never the same. Some people visit one or two stages, and then are done. Others visit the stages in a random order, back and forth, then around again, up and down, with no apparent pattern. Eventually, they also are done. So there is no real predicting.

For myself, I find the idea of stages of grief a little frustrating, since I want to do things "right," and there is no right. Still, I found a site here that talks about these stages in a way that was actually helpful to me. This page lists seven stages; shock, denial, anger, guilt, sorrow and depression, acceptance, and then engaging with life. I found it most useful for the inclusion of "shock." Interestingly, because of the CPTSD, I sometimes find myself still there, still in shock, feeling as if something terrible has just happened. Creepy. I can imagine how that can be keeping me from moving forward with my grief, although I'm not exactly certain how to move it from "now" to the past.

One of the more useful things I found was an excerpt from a book about how to help someone else with grief. You realize quickly that these are the things you need to be doing for yourself. Rewording, some of the advice might look like this; grieve at your own pace, seek company, seek emotionally safe environments, don't judge what you say or feel, be patient with yourself, try to find some humor in life, honor losses with memorials/rituals, and seek others going through something similar. I find myself finding humor right here, since all this sounds like the whole reason I started blogging in the first place.

I'll admit that sites with any overtly religious content make me wary. But there is a site on 'devozine' that I thought very interesting. This is actually targeted to teens dealing with trauma (9/11) but I read some very useful stuff on their site describing trauma and grief. I thought the description of trauma, below, was insightful.

"What is a trauma? Loss occurs any time we feel restricted or diminished. Trauma is a loss that is outside our world view, an experience that brings up feelings of terror, horror and being out of control. An experience will be traumatic for us if it involves injury or death in ways that do not seem to be a natural part of living. Also, events that have a deep personal meaning for us or experiencing a number of losses may move us into feeling overwhelmed."

This site made a suggestion about the nature of grieving, what it does, and how to use it to honor our losses, and then move on. I've taken just some of the sentences here to shorten the piece. "The way we heal our experience of loss is called the grieving process. The feelings and issues of grief help us to understand what the loss means to us and what we need to be healed. Because we don't just grieve for the fact of a loss, but for the meanings and implications of that loss, spiritual issues always arise in grief. Find a symbol. A symbol is an object, word, place vision etc. that stands for a meaning other than its obvious or usual one. Choose a symbol to help your grieving. It could be a color, a piece of clothing, an object you carry in your pocket or anything that will provide comfort."

I really resonate with this idea. I've decided to go ahead and do it. I'm going to choose a symbol that gives me 'permission' to grieve, but that does not require it. I'm going to try to use this symbol to make sure my subconscious knows I'm allowed to grieve, to mourn, but it can do it on it's own time table and in its own way. So this symbol will now be my compromise. I can be sad if I want to, or not, as necessary. Meanwhile I can move on with other aspects of healing.

The symbol I've chosen is the "weeping seraph," above. I'm not entirely sure what it is about crying angels that appeal to me. There is something both sad and soothing about them. One of the things about losing someone that always bothered me was people saying things like, "you shouldn't be sad, they are with God/Jesus/Buddha/in the place with infinite beer/with the angels/etc." I had this idea that heaven was dancing and happy that so-and-so had died. I did not like that image at all. Seeing weeping angels actually makes me feel better. I think the angels do mourn, they don't go straight to the dancing. There is the sad part first. The despairing part. The part of utter despondency, when even the knowledge of future happiness cannot take away the pain. This seems right. Not that I want them to be stuck there, or to be stuck there, myself. But it seems proper to honor the loss. And this image makes me feel more like a loss is being appropriately honored.

I might even buy a small version of this statue to keep around as a reminder. The message is that grief is good and okay, whenever necessary. But it is also okay to keep moving forward.

That at least is the plan for the moment. How do you grieve your losses? How do you honor them? How do you move on?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: / CC BY 2.0

Monday, April 12, 2010

Grief and Mourning Part II of III - Some Reasons Why It's So Hard

Hello Friends:

The canonical wisdom about healing trauma is that a person needs to complete the full, natural grieving process, or the symptoms of trauma will keep reappearing, demanding our attention. Back to Judith Lewis Harris' book "Trauma and Recovery" that says, "Survivors of chronic childhood abuse face the task of grieving not only what they lost but also what was never theirs to lose. The childhood that was stolen from them is irreplaceable."

Seems like a tall order ... and as I said in my last post, I don't really want to do this.  Part of it, I'm sure, is that I have in fact grieved some losses from my past, and don't actually need to grieve them again.  But another part comes from resistance of some kind.  Or many kinds.

Harris' book gives some more insight into why we might have difficulty with the process of mourning. The quotes below are from her book. Anything not quoted is my commentary or synthesis of MANY ideas; including her ideas, things I've gleaned elsewhere, and my own experience. Again, I'm no therapist, so some of this is nothing more than my own understanding and opinion of how this all works. Anyway, a person might experience all, none, or some of the conditions below while they are attempting to heal.  And these conditions can get in between you and your full grief process.

Clinging to Symptoms 

The Issue: "The patient may be reluctant to give up symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks because they have acquired important meanings. The symptoms may be symbolic means for keeping faith with the lost person, a substitute for mourning, or an expression of unresolved guilt."

What To Do: Recognize what it is in the symptoms that might actually be appealing to you, in spite of how horrible they are. Are you trying to punish yourself? Are you trying to remember someone or something through the symptoms? Are you looking at them as a protection or wall between yourself and other kinds of pain?

My Experience: This one is really hard for me. I didn't realize it, but for me the symptoms have become a reliable source of information. When I am in pain, I know something is wrong, and I can act. What am I without the pain? I have no model for a universe that is not defined by pain. I need to generate a new model, a universe defined by all sorts of sensations, where pain is just one kind. I need to tell myself it is okay to get information from good sensations, too.

Revenge Fantasy 

The Issue: The 'patient' may harbor a fantasy of "revenge on the perpetrator(s)" of their trauma, hoping to find some way to 'get even'.

What to Do: It is important to realize that getting even isn't actually possible, since even if one visits the exact same trauma on the perpetrator, it does not take ours away. And in the end, perpetuating the cycle of pain is damaging to ourselves, and simply lets the perpetrator win by keeping their maladapted ways of interacting with the world alive and well.

My Experience: I didn't have a lot of issues with wanting revenge on anyone who caused my trauma. I still have a few dark fantasies of doling out a couple of swift kicks in the shins, but this was never a big issue for me. I don't really have any desire to hurt anyone, not even these f#&%ers.

Miraculous Forgiveness 

The Issue: The traumatized person may have a 'forgiveness fantasy' where they believe they can "transcend their rage through a willful, defiant act of love."

What to Do: This one is difficult for people who believe that having bad feelings about someone, even someone who hurt them, is wrong. It seems like it would be ideal to simply and suddenly love the people who hurt us. In reality, this can be damaging, since it short-circuits our own natural coping processes. We are by no means called on to hate people, but we are called on to honor our own needs, and what was taken from us by the trauma. The rage in our hearts has to be dealt with gently and respectfully, not ignored. "A goal is to transform anger into righteous indignation." Not sure what that means, exactly.

My Experience: Well, I never really thought I was going to just forgive everyone outright. I thought I was supposed to, and felt bad that I couldn't conjure up any feelings of forgiveness. Maybe I never will. I've decided that forgiveness will happen when I'm ready, and that trying to force it isn't showing myself much courtesy.

Demanding Compensation 

The Issue: A "prolonged, fruitless struggle to wrest compensation from the perpetrator or from others." Note that phrase "or from others." One of the problems with looking for compensation is that, once it is clear it cannot be gained from the perpetrator, the 'patient' concsiously or unconsciously starts looking for it elsewhere. From family, the government, the medical establishment, or what have you. This need "may represent a defense against facing the full reality of what was lost."

What to Do: "Mourning is the only way to give due honor to loss; there is no fair compensation. The wish for compensation ties the survivor's fate to the perpetrator's and she is then held hostage." This seems more clear to me. I understand this theory that by constantly looking for compensation, a person makes it so they can't move on until something happens to or with those associated with inflicting the trauma.

My Experience: At first I didn't think I had a problem here. And now I see that in some ways, I do. My continued rage at my parents ties me to them. More importantly, it ties my healing to them. I want them to admit they blew it. I want them to see what they did wrong and apologize. And then I want them to get therapy. These things are not going to happen. Waiting on the actions of those who hurt me puts me at their mercy, still.  I need to find healing without this.

Trauma Memorial

The Issue: "The survivor may wonder how she can possibly give her due respect to the horror she has endured if she no longer devotes her life to remembrance and mourning." In this scenario, the person who was traumatized continues to live a life of mourning, remembering, anniversaries of trauma, and more. This isn't a case of focusing on specific symptoms, like flashbacks, but instead focusing on behaviors and actions. Shaping our lives to be a constant, living memorial stops us from completing the grief process, and instead stalls us there indefinitely.

What to Do: "She will never forget. But the time comes when the trauma no longer commands the central place in her life." We have to take that step back and realize, just like the desire for compensation, that there is no way we can create a memorial with our lives that actually evens up the score. At some point we need to allow that we've given due honor. Give ourselves permission to go live now. As life goes on, some trauma will resurface, and old issues will be revisited. But again, we need to allow ourselves to create new centers for our lives.

My Experience: In many ways, my trauma still defines me. I identify with it, and shape my life around it. My symptoms of PTSD, OCD, GAD and others are still so strong that dealing with them is a day to day struggle. I don't feel stuck in mourning. I think I might not be far enough along to get stuck there. Still, I can see how I could create a 'center' for myself that was all about trauma, instead of about actual life.

And there you go. A few ideas for what might be causing difficulty with moving completely through the grief process, and maybe a thought or two for how to address them. If any of it rings true for you (or not) drop a comment.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: "Arcadia Child" D. Sharon Pruitt CC 2.0 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grief and Mourning Part I of III - Taking Another Look at Recovering from CPTSD

Hello Friends:

I've been thinking about mourning, lately.  I have this idea that I should be mourning more, even though I don't want to.  I've only really mentioned grief and mourning once in this blog.  And since it is such an important issue for healing, I figured it was time to put a little more of my oh-so-coherent thoughts down on 'paper'.

If you can help me sort through them, that'd be cool.

The book "Trauma and Recovery" by Judith Lewis Herman (that I've mentioned in previous posts i.e. here) says that the second stage of recovery is "remembrance and mourning."  I want to recover, and so I'm looking for what I have or have not mourned from my past.  It feels strange, and it is by no means obvious to me what I've mourned.  I'm also secretly hoping I don't find anything since I don't want to "waste my time" mourning.

Mourning to me has always meant feeling bad, crying, lamenting, saying "why me," "poor me," "life is so unfair," and things like that.  I don't have any time for those emotions.  It seems outrageously self indulgent and a waste of energy.

But I also know I have been programmed to think that way.  When I was a kid, I never knew if I would come home from school and find things changed or missing.  Often, I'd show up and find my room completely rearranged, all my stuff sorted through, and a bunch of it thrown out.  I didn't mind so much when too-small clothes were pitched, but it would often be toys, old school work, souvenirs from trips or cheesy carnivals.  You know, the sort of general items kids collect as they are growing up.  Except that our collections were routinely decimated.

At first, I expressed sadness and anger when I found things missing, but this was so early in my childhood I only remember it vaguely.  When I expressed these feelings, they were shot down in one way or another, "You are too old for that toy,"  "You don't need that anymore," "Why are you upset, it's just a 'fill in blank," "Don't be upset with me, if you had put that away I wouldn't have thrown it out," "If you knew how to take care of things you could keep them."  And the classic, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about."

So developing attachments to anything was a bad idea.  I ended up not attaching to much stuff at all if I could help it, and the few things that really mattered to me caused me pain, since I was never certain I would be allowed to keep them.

This has had some positive coping effects.  I don't have a strong materialistic streak.  If a cup breaks, even a nice one, I'm likely to spend just a few seconds feeling sad I lost it, and then I'll shrug and think, "Well, better to use them than stare at them in a china cabinet.  And if you use them they break.  That's okay,"  I'm rarely so bound up in things that I can't see beyond to what is really important - the people.  So this is good.

What is bad is that, as I said, I am now programmed not to really mourn losses.  You lose something, you just move on.  Doesn't matter what it is, really.  With small things, as I said, that is a functional attitude.  But with big things, even medium things, you can't simply ignore it.  In my life, what I am experiencing is that if losses are not mourned in the usual course of events, my need to mourn sort of waits around to break out at a bad time, to transmute to something that does not look like mourning, or to go into my body and cause pain.

So in spite of the fact that I feel like I haven't mourned a lot of major losses in my past, as I look back, I realize I have mourned quite a bit.  I just didn't do it in good ways, for the most part.  One example is this.  After my hubby and I left a friend's house one time, I realized I'd left my favorite jacket behind.  We were on a road trip and were already two hours away.  Going back was not an option.

I was already feeling a little depressed on that trip, anyway, so I wasn't surprised that I started crying.  What surprised me was how hard I cried.  I was utterly inconsolable for an hour.  I could hardly breathe.  My hubby had to pull off the road at a restaurant and let me sit in a booth with my tea and get it out.  He was as surprised as I was, since he knew I never got that upset about losing something.  But I was devastated.

It was half way through dinner before I realized what I was actually mourning were all those lost things from my childhood.  And more, I was mourning the fact that my childhood was built of loss.  That I could never hang on to anything.  Took a while and we were able to get back on the road.  I tried to put it behind me.

Three days later I get a package - our friends had found the jacket and mailed it.  I was ecstatic.  And again, it wasn't merely because I had my jacket.  It was because this act of kindness was in such contrast to my past.  And it was an act that gave the lie to the idea that you always lost; that nothing was retrievable.  Some things do come back.  And there are some people who care about your losses.

This was almost seven years ago, and it is only now that I'm beginning to see how profound that experience was.  I have no desire at all to feel that incredible devastation again, about anything.  I certainly won't call it up intentionally.  But my eyes are open enough to realize that if I do experience it, I'm probably not upset about the present.  

So with those thoughts in mind, I'm going to take a couple more posts and consider some of the barriers to mourning, what the process can look like, and ways to help it along and keep healing.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: photoxpress

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book Review: Healing Myths, Healing Magic - By Donald M. Epstein

Hello Friends:

This book gets two out of five 'wings' from your Adventure Hostess.

I've read this book many times since I purchased it, and still find it somewhat useful, somewhat confusing, somewhat uplifting, and somewhat irritating.  I went back and forth between a rating of three or two for a long time.  In the end I chose the two, because although this book has some useful ideas for healing, it might cause as many problems as it solves.  Others might disagree, but I must follow my bliss or whatever.

Healing Myths, Healing Magic by Donald M. Epstein was originally published in 1999. I purchased it about 2002.  I was originally drawn to it because I was looking for new perspectives on healing that were not strictly related to the ideas found in Western health care.  It also seemed to offer a way of looking at 'healing' that did not make it synonymous with 'cure'.  I've re-read it recently because I am, as you know, involved with a somatic energy therapy that I find very effective.  I wanted to take another look at this book now that I understand more about healing in ways that don't require constant thinking, like CBT.

Some of What's in the Book

The premise of the book is that myths are the stories that shape our lives, our perceptions, and our ability to embrace healing.  If we can identify the powerful stories in our lives, and what their implications are for healing, we can readdress them, and then claim more power to heal.  "When our bodymind experiences a new situation or challenge, it resorts to the most familiar story about the situation - the story depicting what we expect will happen.  It does not matter if the story is true, our bodymind responds from the place of a deep cultural hallucination.  When we are frightened, confused or lost in despair, we often turn to our 'myth spinners' to give meaning to our experience.  In contemporary Western society, teachers, doctors, therapists, clergy, attorneys, and legislators are among th the socially empowered storytellers."  

The book is divided into five parts:  The Power of Myth, Social Myths, Biomedical Myths, Religious Myths, and New Age Myths.  Each of the final four parts contains a list of specific myths, which are addressed numerically.  After discussing each myth, and sharing anecdotes, the book provides a paragraph called "Healing Magic" which is an affirmation one can make which counters the myth.

What I Liked

Some of these myths resonate with me.  That is, I believed them to some degree in the past, and now I believe them much less, or not at all.  And that change in belief has helped my healing journey.  These include: Healing requires a trained professional or a highly educated specialist; Healing is not always available; Healing is a destination; and Healing means feeling better.  These days I see healing as a natural process, something that we are always experiencing no matter how we feel, and that can't be taken away from us.  Even if we are actually dying of a disease, we are still healing in some way all the time, no matter what we think, do, or what our treatment might be.  Healing simply is.  This is an idea that works for me.

Some of the statements for "Healing Magic" also resonate with me.  These include: Through movement, breath, and the compassionate touching of my body, I open the door to healing; All my experiences and feelings have a story to share with me, I accept each story's wisdom, whether or not I enjoy the story; What worked for me at one point may no longer serve me today; and I am healing in spite of the imperfections that still appear in my body and my life.

I also simply liked reading something from a different perspective.  All books take a mindset for granted. This one is no exception, but the mindset is different from what I've read in other self-help style books.

What I Didn't Like

There are a few myths listed here in which I believe, at least in part, and I didn't find the arguments against them to be compelling.  One in particular is 'Heaven is only available after this life.'  It turns out the author thinks of heaven as bliss, absolution, joy, sexual ecstasy, and spiritual vision.  I believe anyone can feel these things in the here and now.  But what does that have to do with heaven?  I think there is a bit of a semantics issue here.  In fact, it is often over semantics that the arguments in this book rise or fall.  Either you agree with his definitions of words, or you don't.  And that, to me, makes many of the arguments very weak.

The book does not properly justify some of its conclusions.  I dislike its stance on immunization, for example.  No, that's not strong enough.  I'll go so far as to say the book is spreading some dangerous misinformation.  The author says, "Many studies have shown that the risks versus the benefits of immunization are often questionable."  This statement, already vague to the point of uselessness, goes unsubstantiated, both in the book and in the world at large.  Yes, there are risks to being vaccinated.  There are risks with any shot at all, even a vitamin shot.  The question for one person is how the risk of immunization balances against the risk of getting the disease it protects against.  The question for a society is how the risk of immunization of its population balances against the risk of an epidemic.  And I'm not going to go on and on about it because I'll start ranting.  I better save that for another post altogether.  In any case, if you make a statement like that you better back it up with a citation at the bottom of the page.  There isn't one.  The scientist in me is unimpressed.

I'm also unimpressed with the discussion of the placebo effect, and where the implications lead throughout the book.  We are all familiar with the idea that sugar pills might make us feel better if we think they are something else.  There is no question that what the mind believes is powerful for healing.  But the author allows this to permeate the general recommendations of his work - in other words, stop thinking the stupid stuff you are thinking and you can heal.  Again, it comes down to a change in thinking.  And if it were that easy, CBT therapists would be out of a job.  For people already wallowing in guilt, further guilt about not thinking the right things is counterproductive.

And some of the "Healing Magic" affirmations are confusing, not useful, really weird, or downright scary.  In fact, they seem to simply represent a new spiritual view that has much in common with the "New Age" view the author debunks.  Other times they seem to reflect a kind of watered down Buddhism.  Here are some examples, My commitment to heal is a natural process requiring no work or special focus on my part; As my bodymind heals, my awareness shifts, and old wounds dissolve into nothingness; My symptoms and pain remind me of my need to participate more fully in the world; In faith, I receive messages that are broadcast from the Divine; My body resonates with love for every part of my bodymind, and broadcasts this energy through my being and into the world; and When I am attentive to where I am in the moment I am magically carried to a new stage of healing.  Some of these may work for you, they don't work for me.  They are either meaningless because of semantic issues (use of the word 'magic' for example) or rely on a mindset I simply do not share.

Summary and Final Comments

This is an interesting book to read if you are searching for some different perspectives on the nature of healing, particularly in comparison with more traditional Western ideas.  Some of the points made are thought-provoking, but many others are not made with arguments compelling enough to hold the reader's attention.  Some of the ideas for 'new' myths and magic are more terrifying than the 'old' ideas.  And many of these new myths require you to - once again - think yourself well.  I have no doubt the author would say I miss the point or don't understand what he means.  I think I do understand - I also think the reason why is that I translated his use of words, that I've been learning a great deal about alternate therapies, and that I'm not so depressed right now that I can't do some creative thinking.  BUT for many people with mental illnesses, none of these things are true.  I just don't think the author can expect this book to be correctly interpreted by some of the very people he might want to help.  I think it might rattle those who are particularly vulnerable, suggestible, or in a confused place right now.  Otherwise, it can be an interesting read for gleaning a few new ideas.

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