Friday, June 12, 2009

Horses and Healing in Outer Mongolia (2)

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about Rupert Isaacson’s book The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son. Today, I promised to write about what I learned about bipolarity from reading Isaacson's book.

1. The Horse Boy reinforced my belief of how little is known about most “mental conditions.” When Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristin found out that their son Rowan is autistic, they learned that the most effective treatment is applied behavioral analysis (ABA), which is an almost Pavlovian approach to controlling autistic behavior.

Like those of us who have been diagnosed (whether correctly or not) as bipolar, Rupert and Kristin also learned that despite their willingness to research treatment options, it’s never easy to determine what will really help, or to find people who are competent, capable, or insightful. There is a maze of red tape to go through. The treatments are very expensive, yet insurance pays a small percentage. And even when it’s obvious that someone is not getting better, no one admits it.

2. The Horse Boy reinforced my belief that you’ve got to go with your gut feeling. When Rupert realizes that Rowan responds more positively to riding horses than to any other activity, one of the few professionals who truly listens to him is an adult autist who is a professor of animal sciences. And when he tells her about his plan to take Rowan to see shamans in Mongolia—and explains the kinds of ceremonies they engage in—she explains why that kind of repetitive activity might be effective.

When Rupert asks if she thinks there is a value in going on this trip, she says, “The worst thing you can do is nothing. All the experts agree on that, even if they can’t agree on much else. Take your son to Mongolia if it seems to agree with him.”

3. The Horse Boy made me realize that I’ve been right in thinking outside the box. While it’s difficult to imagine how hard it was for Rupert and Kristin to take Rowan (and a film crew) to Mongolia, I think it would have been far more difficult to sit at home and watch him fail to progress.

Yet, the moment any of us tries something different, it’s amazing how angry it seems to make people who can't or won't think outside the box.

In fact, just yesterday I was stunned to receive two very nasty emails from a former psychiatric nurse who berated me for the post I wrote about the poor treatment my friend had gotten from her psychiatrist. The nurse felt I was negative about medication. The truth is that I have repeatedly written I am not opposed to medication for others. It is an individual choice. It didn’t work for me, so I have tried alternative forms of healing.

Yet, some people just can’t keep their negative feelings to themselves. Why should my quest to pursue alternative healing cause anyone else to be angry? I have no idea. Why should anyone feel she is entitled to criticize me when I have spent 15 years actively seeking wellness. I haven’t got a clue.

But, what I do believe is that many people—who are unwilling to do the research and the hard work it takes to heal—find it far easier to strike out at those of us who do than assume responsibility for themselves.

4. The Horse Boy made me feel that whether we are an autistic child or a bipolar adult, we all need people in our lives who love us enough to help us help ourselves. In my case, the initial support came from my husband and my mother, who stood by me for so many years when others were so willing to abandon me. And now, it also comes from readers who have become friends, and support me at every step of the way.

5. The Horse Boy confirmed my thesis that healing is possible as long as you don’t give up hope. Today, Rowan Isaacson is doing so much better because he had a father who pursued a “crazy idea of taking him to see shamans in Outer Mongolia.”

Today, I am doing better because I wouldn’t allow my psychiatrists to convince me that bipolarity is a life long debilitating illness.

More than ever, I now feel that our belief in ourselves is a primary component of healing. If we continue to believe we will get well, it doesn’t matter how many naysayers we have to deal with or how many disappointments we have to overcome. Our ability to achieve wellness depends upon whether we believe wellness is possible.


Gianna said...

this is a response about the post you wrote about your friend...

key to that post was not only was no alternative considered, BUT you friend had LOW GRADE DEPRESSION...what the heck?? Everyone feels crappy sometimes and it's exactly people like your friend who absolutely should NOT start with medication as a general rule.

that's common's not about being anti or pro med.

Antidepressants perform only about 2 points better than placebo...since it's obvious you're taking a drug from the side effects I think that indicates they, in general, do nothing.

if we were to believe in the power to heal ourselves rather than the power of the pill...we could use that "placebo" effect---which is IN FACT OUR MINDS HEALING, well, heal us.

we have it all in our heads...

and!!! I really do like your comments on this boy and his family too!!


Paula Joy said...

Really good post, Susan! There are a lot of great points in there!! I'd have to agree with pretty much all of it. Sorry to hear about the nasty emails from the psychiatrist.

Keep up the great work!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
While this discussion is a little "off-topic" for the post, I feel compelled to answer fully because of the distress this psychiatric nurse caused me yesterday.

Yes, it's certainly true about the placebo effect. One of the things that truly bothers me is the willingness of psychiatrists to start people on medication without considering any alternatives.

If a depression is situational, then it's critical to discuss what caused it, and resolve the underlying issues.

While I do believe that antidepressant medication can sometimes provide an important "break" in a depression that allows the person to explore the underlying issues, I don't believe it's helpful on a long-term basis.

And I wish that most people had the self-discipline to keep mood charts. Because, the real questions are: In any given year, how many days do you feel depressed? And how many days are you well? What are the side effects? What other changes do you see in your behavior from medication?

Since I kept detailed mood charts every day for six years, I can answer those questions. My conclusion was that--for me--the medication made me far sicker in every way.

However, there are some symptoms that do require medication. And if people hear voices, have erratic behavior, exhibit angry and aggressive behavior (like the nurse), they certainly should be on medication, and should be receiving therapy as well.

I don't want to belabor this topic here, because it is only one part of the larger post, but I am tired of hearing criticism of "out of the box healing methods" from people who are frequently ill, hostile, irritable, and hurtful.

Gianna, as always, thanks for your support. You're a dear friend.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
Thanks for your comment. I loved this book on so many levels. I was awed by Rupert's love and devotion to his son. I was heartened by his willingness to go around the world to seek out healers who might make a difference.

I was proud that he and Kristin didn't quit the journey when it wasn't going well. I was sad when strangers commented so negatively about Rowan's behavior in public places.

I was heartened to know that 6,000 miles across the world are shamanic healers who were willing to do everything in their power to help an autistic child from Austin, Texas, and his parents.

Paula, thanks for your support. Like Gianna, you're always one of my friends I can count on.

P.S. My ability to deal with the nasty comments without feeling "blue" was a great confirmation of my own health.

mmaaggnnaa said...

Hey, Susan -

About the nay-sayer . . . ya' know, we all are where we are along the path of learning life lessons . . she's just in a different place and her journey isn't looking like your looked/looks . . . and she's exactly where she needs to be in order to learn what she needs to learn. She's not supposed to be any other place right now other than where she is.

Just wish the best journey possible for her and let it go at that (which it sounds like you did).

- Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

KJ said...

I love the tie in. Isn't it amazing how closed minded some people can be. In most situations and most certainly with illness and disease we often hear of how the determination of an individual or their family members created a miracle. This story and your own are proof of that.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
I must say that I disagree on this. While everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, as my mother would have said, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything."

And, the naysayer's emails were more like venonous attacks than expressing a different point of view. Because I believe that negativity breeds negative health, I don't allow my readers to write unkind comments to me or to others.

We may disagree, and I am in favor of people expressing different points of view. But, I refuse to post comments or read emails that are unkind and mean-spirited.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
I couldn't agree more. Like bipolarity, there are so few uplifting stories about autistic folks finding ways to diminish their symptoms so they can live happy, fruitful, and productive lives--one would have to wonder how anyone could criticize someone who's seeking alternative methods of healing.

As always, thanks for your support.


mmaaggnnaa said...

Hi, Susan -

Ah -- I can see your point . . . I agree, no need to give the negative comments place and power . . .

- Marie

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marie,
Thanks for understanding my point of view.