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Mental Health

Checking Things Out

A Tool for the Consumer

Punkaj Bhushan

Reprinted from "Self-Management" issue of Visions Journal, 2003, 1 (18), pp. 28-29

Medications, while extremely valuable in treating mental illness, often still leave a number of symptoms of psychosis still present. Medications are also in the control of the treating physician. But what is in our control as mental health consumers?

People with schizophrenia still have problems with their interpretations of events, such as conversations or another person’s body language. Recent research suggests the frontal lobe functions in a person with schizophrenia are impaired. The frontal lobe is involved with the complex work of reading and interpreting body language.

I have found an invaluable tool to keep my thoughts on an even keel so that I can continue to work at a job and to keep my relationships healthy. I call this process, ‘checking things out.’ What I do is, when I come home from work, I relate all my experiences during the day, to my wife, Anoo, and she comments on my version of what happened: my interpretations. This time allows us to share and have quality time. She also relates her day and what happened, more to share than anything else.

Often times, Anoo will disagree with my version and interpretation of what happened and what the intentions of colleagues at work were. This allows me to put those interpretations in a holding pattern, and I will say, “Ok, maybe my beliefs are wrong and I do not have to get worked up about so and so…”

It is not that I totally dismiss my beliefs, but I place enough of a question mark behind them to keep my mind in symbiosis and not veering along the path towards psychosis. This method really works like a charm. I believe without it, I would probably be unable to work or help my wife in raising our family.

It seems to me that most people have varying success with medications: sometimes, they control most of the symptoms of schizophrenia and sometimes they do not. But for most people, proper medications — found through trial and error — lifestyle adjustments and the method of checking things out will control the illness.

Unfortunately, people often do not want to relate their innermost thoughts because of shame and embarrassment that the thoughts would be unacceptable to another human being. People sometimes do not even reveal their thoughts to their doctor or psychiatrist. This keeps people in a pattern of distorted thinking and keeps them out of touch with the reality that is generally accepted by the rest of the world. Even when you religiously take medication, you must develop the habit of checking things out so that you continue to get better.

I strongly feel many people remain closed and isolated because they don’t get it in habit of checking things out. This is a way towards recovery and stability. Try it out and develop it into your own tool. If you don’t have a significant other, try it with a family member or good friend.

About the author
Punkaj is on the Board of Directors for the BC Schizophrenia Society. He has made many presentations relating his experiences with schizophrenia and his methods of managing the illness. He has a wife and two children and lives in Surrey


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