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Living a Full Life with Schizophrenia

A Review of the TED Talk “The Voices in My Head” by Eleanor Longden

A Review of the TED Talk “The Voices in My Head” by Eleanor Longden

Eleanor Longden overcame her diagnosis of schizophrenia to the disbelief of the many psychiatric doctors who attempted to treat her over the years.  These were the doctors that Eleanor said “took a grim view of the voices interpreting everything I said through latent insanity.”  She was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia and saw many hospitalizations.  She even had one doctor tell her “she’d be better off with cancer because cancer was easier to cure than schizophrenia”.

You may be able to relate to the sense of “toxic hopelessness and despair” she felt. I did. I’m Trish from Mental Health Talk and my thanks to Jared for inviting me to share with you.  I am honored to write about this TED Talk that not only changed my perspective on my experiences with mental illness, but on the institution of mental health as a whole.

Eleanor points out that because she was constantly in an environment where the voices were seen as a symptom, her fear intensified and she deteriorated.  The voices became hostile and menacing as she attempted to battle with them.  Eventually she took extreme measures—as promised by the voices to give her life back–to get rid of them to no avail.  She became a “broken and haunted” person who was taken advantage of in every horrible way.

Then she worked with a doctor for a brief period that reinforced in her that recovery was not only possible but inevitable.  She became surrounded by people who had an “unshakeable belief” her psyche could become whole again.

Eleanor says “I used to say these people saved me but what I now know is they did something even more important in that they empowered me to save myself.”

Can you imagine having that kind of support and belief in your recovery?  How different would your outlook on your mental health be?

It’s called the placebo effect.  Something very powerful happens when you BELIEVE those who are treating you and how they are treating you will heal you.  It has been proven time and time again in clinical research trials to result in positive outcomes.

Eleanor is a living example of that.

These people were crucial in her affirming her belief that her voices where a response to childhood trauma.

Her voices were not a symptom.  They were not her enemies.  They were powerful experiences giving her “insight into solvable emotional problems” through metaphorical meaning.

She came to understand that each voice resembled an aspect of her and the strong emotions she had not expressed.

Her biggest revelation was when she realized the most hostile voices were giving a voice to the parts of her most traumatized, and they needed the most compassion and care.

She eventually went off her meds and back to school where she earned a BSc and MSc in psychology, receiving the highest honors.  “Not bad for a mad woman,” Eleanor jokes.

Today Eleanor advocates for her philosophy.  She believes the most important question in psychiatry shouldn’t be “what’s wrong with you?” but “what’s happened to you?”

Though it is not completely clear in her talk, I do think Eleanor still hears voices.  But now she regards them as “creative and ingenious survival strategy” that should be seen “not as an abstract symptom of illness to be endured, but as complex, significant, and meaningful experience to be explored”.

Since watching this talk, I have discovered this is true of the delusional and hallucinatory experiences I still get on occasion.  What an empowering feeling it is to find something meaningful instead of distressing in these experiences.  And by taking these insights and giving those parts of me wanting to be recognized what they need, the experience passes and I become more self-confident in my ability to not only be there for myself, but trust myself again.

I can’t help thinking if I were to instead take my stories of periodic delusions and hallucinations to a psychiatrist, I would most likely end up with more antipsychotic medication.  What a mistake that would be; robbed of my insight and my chance to save myself.

It is worth the visit to Eleanor’s full TED Talk to hear all the details of her experience.

2 Comments

  1. Trish, thank you for sharing your review here with us! I love the idea of an inevitable recovery. Everyone deserves to have hope and faith in their lives. In my own case I did find that recovery was going to happen regardless. The illness itself was a deconstruction of my psychological framework down to the foundation. It had to crumble to rebuild in a more healthy way. But once the crumbling was done, the building began automatically, almost forcing my own participation by making me interested in these topics. Supporting that viewpoint by creating an atmosphere of positivity is certainly helpful to everyone involved in managing illness. I like how Eleanor as well stopped treating her voices as something bad, but as parts of her that needed help. I feel like schizophrenia is really a sickness of the ego. We all have a running commentary in our head constantly. This is the ego. It’s only when it starts getting in the way of our functioning do we begin to label it schizophrenia. It’s strange that we as a culture treat “voices in our heads” as some super strange thing, when we all have it constantly unless we are meditating. Thanks again, Trish!

    • My pleasure Jared. I love the idea that recovery is inevitable too. I found it to be true in my case as well and even now when I get “symptoms” (which I now call experiences) I do not consider them part of mental ill-health. I consider them feedback. I use my 6th sense to be find the meaning and I have come to believe that all of my mental health “symptoms” are coping mechanisms for survival. Just as Eleanor said in her talk. Eleanor’s views open up so many meaningful and spiritual possibilities to mental illness. I feel this is a discussion that is currently missing in our society.

Click Your State to View the Surrounding Schizophrenia Treatment Centers

To view the the schizophrenia treatment centers in your local area, please click the state in which you live on the map above or find your state in the alphabetized links above. Each respective page will lists the name, address, and contact number for each individual treatment center. You may also visit the top level page of the directory by clicking here and navigate further from there.
Read the description and visit the personal webpage of each treatment center to find out more information. You can contact them from there, but we understand that this is a tedious and intimidating process, so we've provided a form you can fill out with the requested information and we'll set you up with the most appropriate treatment center for your needs.
If you require further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us at Schiz Life. We are here to serve the needs of the schizophrenia community and are happy to do so!

Schiz Life - Living With Schizophrenia

living with schizophrenia
For many of us, living with schizophrenia is our reality. And instead of struggling with the wish of how things “could be,” we finally come to an acceptance of our predicament and ultimately we embrace the fact of our lives: We are people dealing with schizophrenia. So then the question becomes not “Why” we suffer from this illness, but “How” we will cope and continue to enjoy our lives. We certainly will not give up! We have every right to demand the niceties, freedoms, and enjoyments of life to which all living creatures are entitled. This is what Schiz Life is all about.

Mission Statement Concerning Schizophrenia Information and Culture

Schiz Life serves to…

  • • Provide a safe haven for persons who wish to converse, cope, and share their experiences with schizophrenia in a positive manner in an attempt to celebrate the beauty of life, especially concerning our unique perspective on existence.
  • • Provide the highest quality of information concerning our psychological difficulties, including a frame of reference on the symptoms, treatment, history, and the future of schizophrenia.
  • • Take corrective action to dispel the myths and stigma surrounding schizophrenia, such as false ideas surrounding the cause, associations with violence, and others, all being perpetuated by the media by providing truth through scientific research and statistics.

Schiz Life intends to achieve this goal in the following manner:

The Schiz Life Schizophrenia Action Plan

  1. 1. We will continue to take advantage of internet outreach, contacting news agencies and other medical bloggers in hopes that they will join us in raising awareness of schizophrenia.
  2. 2. We will continue to promote this website through video and media outlets, including the dissemination of informational videos and graphics such as the first official schizophrenia infographic.
  3. 3. We will all contribute where possible off-line, including at health expo’s, psychology conferences, and any other relevant opportunity to spread the good word.

Thank You for Your Part in the Schizophrenia Journey!

We all thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for playing your role in the developing journey surrounding schizophrenia awareness and research. With all of our combined efforts, we will change the way the world perceives this illness and we will advance the medical efforts of professionals in their search for a cure and effective medicines. Thank you again!

Do Your Part!

Do you know of a great schizophrenia resource out there? Let us know! Do you see a person in need inside the comments of this site? Lend them some advice or encouragement! Are you a graphic designer or artist? Show us your work and I'm sure we can find some way to include your skills here on the site. Are you a writer who would like to contribute to the site? Shoot us an email and we'll discuss it. This site is for all of us and excludes none of us. Contact us for any reason and get involved!

Who Else is Helping?

Our content has been linked to or distributed by...

Mental Health TalkHealthy DebateTechnorati
Wellness WordworksVisuallyexaminer

...and also the sites listed below and more!

Try This Quick Schizophrenia Mini-Quiz:

This is but a quick quiz to test your general knowledge of schizophrenia. If you would like to take the extended and in-depth quiz, venture over to our Schizophrenia Quiz page and see just how much you know! Try the Schizophrenia Test to gauge your symptom levels.

Schizophrenia Quiz Directions: Please select the correct answer for each question and then press the button below to grade your quiz.

1. What is the term for perceiving stimuli that doesn't exist?




2. Which is NOT a type of schizophrenia?




3. Which of the following is a symptom of schizophrenia?




4. How common is schizophrenia in the general population?




5. Who can diagnose a case of schizophrenia?




6. How can schizophrenia be treated?




7. Are the causes of schizophrenia genetic or environmental?




8. What is the most common age of onset?




9. Catatonia is categorized as what type of symptom?




10. Is Schiz Life the best website about schizophrenia?




 

Show me the answers!

 

Question 1: The correct answer is the Hallucination.
Question 2: The correct answer is Hyperlipid.
Question 3: The correct answer is All of the Above.
Question 4: The correct answer is 1%.
Question 5: The correct answer is A Doctor.
Question 6: The correct answer is All of the Above Should Be Used.
Question 7: The correct answer is Both.
Question 8: The correct answer is 25.
Question 9: The correct answer is Negative.
Question 10: The correct answer is DON'T BE A PARTY POOPER!.
You answered them all right! Good job! You know a little something about schizophrenia, don't you!

 

How To Use This Site

If you're brand new to this site, it might look overwhelming until you get a sense of where things are at.  Schiz Life is a content-based site, much like a newspaper or a magazine.  However, we focus strictly and solely on schizophrenia.  So where does all of this content reside?  We have decided to separate our articles into several categories, as described below:

Basics

This category will be of the most interest to those who wish to gain a very broad but shallower overview of the entirety of the academic view of schizophrenia.  We cover all of the topics you'd expect to find in an abnormal psychology text book here, and at a similar depth.  It is a great introduction to this illness and will guide you further along into deeper topics.

Knowledge

We cover various angles such as statistics, research, and more factually based views of schizophrenia and place them in this category.  One could say that it is almost a repository for article that don't fit into the other categories, but it is more than that.  Go check it to find out more!

Treatment

The name says it all.  This category of content covers all topics related to the treatment and prevention of schizophrenia and its relapses.  We've started with the empirically sound and scientifically backed methods first, but we intend to venture into more holistic and alternative therapies as well.  Without investigating all options, progress wont' be made, and so we do.

Symptoms

There are countless symptoms involved in schizophrenia. We cover them in depth in this category, including the positive (outward) and negative (inward) symptoms of every type of this disorder.  There is much to read here, so if a particular symptom is giving you or a loved one trouble, this is the place to go and learn more about it.

Coping

What use is all of this information when we simply don't feel good enough to read it and learn?  The category for coping provides many ideas that you can apply to your own life to help you maintain the best health possible, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.  Schizophrenia is a mental illness that some of us simply cannot escape, but we can learn to live with it, minimize its problematic aspects, and take advantage of some of the aspects it unlocks within us that others don't have!

Culture

Let's face it.  People are afraid of what they don't understand.  This category addresses the cultural issue of schizophrenia and it's impacts on the way we are treated or perceived by the masses.  It is up to us to represent ourselves in the best light and to combat the myths and misunderstandings that exist in the world concerning our plight.  Learn about these issues here and apply them in your lives!

Spectrum

There are other classifications of illnesses that are very closely related to schizophrenia.  The only differences might just be a research label actually, but we have found it useful to place these articles in a category of their own.  We deal with schizophreniform and psychosis disorders and their respective symptoms here.

Spirituality

While the medical community deals with schizophrenia as a psychological or physical disorder of the brain, those of us who actually experience it know it is much more.  It is a philosophical, spiritual, metaphysical, and mythological issue.  Coming to terms with this, confronting it, integrating it, and reconciling it leads to much higher functioning not only as an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia but as a member of society in general.  We have a deeper access to this aspect of life and have a great opportunity for learning and healing.

Artwork

Many of us past and present have chosen to express ourselves through the arts.  Whether this is painting and drawing, poetry, dancing, or any other artform, it is healthy and beautiful.  We are writing biographies, displaying artwork, and welcoming submissions from our own community to be included here in this category!  Please submit if you have something to share!

News

The internet has opened up the world.  There is a constant flow of news concerning our illness but you wouldn't know it by watching the television.  We cover new research topics, treatment modalities, and nationwide and worldwide coverage of schizophrenia or incidents related to it in this category!

Other Items

We have also included other items of interest throughout our website.  For instance, we are producing a series of infographics to help educate the public on this topic.  We also are collecting and reviewing books concerning the illness.  In addition, we have created a directory for the United States of all treatment facilities and hospitals that have staff that are trained to work with schizophrenia cases.  Please look around and find these sections and more.

Disclaimer

There is something that was slightly mentioned in the footer of the site, but that could be overlooked easily so we felt it was the responsible thing to do to create a large disclaimer to be displayed here on the homepage.  This has to do completely with safety.  Let us explain.

Individual Uniqueness

unique individualEvery individual on this planet is a unique person.  Even more so, those of us dealing with this special psychological difficulty are even more unique, if that makes sense.  On this site, we are talking about one of the most complex brain mysteries ever and it expresses itself through every person differently.  Every case is going to have it's own peculiarities and all we are able to do in the articles on the site is speak in generalities.  We invite anyone to leave appropriate comments and engage in discussion, however we can't take responsibility for their words.  Nor can we take responsibility for the actions of any individual or group who have at one time or another visited our website.

Always Consult a Medical Professional

medical professionalIf you find yourself in a situation where you're trying to learn more about your condition or are trying to cope through a moment of crisis, please do not act upon any of the information listed on this site, whether in the main content or comments, without first corroborating the accuracy of the info with a medical professional first.  Reach out to a general practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.  Even then it's always helpful to have a second opinion from a separate professional as well.  Again, we must stress... always act with safety as the foremost concern, and this means consulting professionals before engaging in any practice intended to treat your condition.

Please Be Considerate About Delusions

delusion discussionWe understand that delusions can be very confusing and convincing.  We also understand that delusions can center around topics that simply are too philosophical to be proven wrong or correct and thus are tempting to explore in-depth.  We have no problem with this exploration as long as it is not harmful to those discussing it.  Please use your best discretion in this regard.  If the staff of Schiz Life step in and begin deleting comments or halting a conversation, please respect their decision and understand it is not personal.

Investigating delusions is encouraged.  Delusions are interesting due to their nature of being understood as strange and outside the norm of the culture of the experiencer, but there is a vast number of individuals visiting this site from many cultures.  There is a subtle difference between discussing these topics, and encouraging or trolling.  Please find that balance and abide by the above suggestions.

We also, under no circumstances, will tolerate anyone discussing or suggesting harming themselves or others.  Past-tense symptom discussion in this regard is fine, but nothing in the future tense will be allowed.

General Discussion Guidelines

We encourage discussion in the comments as much as possible and are looking into offering a forum and personal blogs as well.  In all of these mediums when carrying on conversation, there are some useful questions to ask yourself before posting that comment or response.

The main question to ask yourself is the following:

Is what I'm about to post going to help and support or will it further entrench illness and suffering?

Please consider this as you enjoy Schiz Life.  Try not to post angry or hurtful comments.  Try not to criticize or blame others.  Be as supportive, encouraging, and respecting as you can.  Accepting and negotiating differences is key to carrying on constructive conversation.

Remember, there is a real person on the other side of the screen.  It's easy to assume the other person is in a similar situation as yourself, but you don't know the extent of their emotions, symptoms, nor their age or even gender.

Let's Do This Together!

Let's have a supportive and comforting community where we all feel open and able to share as much as possible.  If you receive support from someone, please pay that forward and try to help out someone else.  If we all do this, we should all be okay!  Thank you for reading and enjoying this thing we are building together.

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