Thoughts on Helping Somebody with Paranoia

I received the following comment and question on my FB page after my last post on Being Open.

“Natasha this is so amazing. It is so little discussed yet it is far more common than anyone realises. All of us need to be aware as we can never guess when it will happen either to ourselves or someone we love. I have seen it happen with a number of students who I work with. My question is how do you help someone in this position to get them help without adding to their fear.”

(Please please please seek professional help from a psychiatrist if you think you might be having paranoid thoughts and are clear enough to realise it.)

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What a pertinent question. I can only answer it from my experience, which may or may not be helpful.

Over a period of time I was mildly paranoid. Had I gotten professional help in person then, I might have overcome the more heavy paranoia. In fact I was having psychotherapy sessions with someone over Skype at that time. She had suggested that I consult a psychiatrist and even better, a facility where I might have a team of experts to help me handle the situation. I didn’t.

That was the first time I had heard the words schizophrenia referred to me. I thought nothing of it, and we were on our way to the airport, during and after an emotionally stressful period due to the loss of a good friend.

Family and friends adviced that I couldn’t go by a Skype diagnosis of a mental illness, that I needed a psychiatrist to diagnose me. I didn’t see one.

My paranoia was gradually getting worse.

During that period I sent strange messages to many people. Many I would rarely chat with given more normal circumstances. One or two of my friends thought to reach out to Maher to tell him about the bizarre messages. In retrospect they wish they had.

I stopped sleeping much for a few days. I began to smell something threatening (that was not real), and when I felt that my children were subjected to this smell – drug/ poison, I flipped. I became relentless in trying to protect myself and them from everyone including from Maher.

Maher was beginning to realize that I needed professional help. He convinced me to go to the hospital.

The moment we walked into the hospital I felt as though everybody there, from the nurses to the cleaning staff to the man behind the counter at the coffee shop to the psychiatrist, all knew exactly what I was doing there and were all in on the plot to drug/poison me and my children. All eyes were on me. I was terrified and alone.

The doctor gave Maher a sleeping pill and an anti psychotic drug for me to take. I refused to. Maher kept the medication. That was the second time I heard the diagnosis schizophrenia. It was all part of the plot to undermine me was what I thought.

A few hours after that first trip to the doctor I flipped and acted out of character. I made a scene at school. I reacted out of fear. Instead of protecting the children, I scared them, Maher, and other teaching staff that were around us. I was even more afraid and isolated. “Not a single person around me was on my side.”

Now that I look back, what worked well for us was that Maher stood firmly in his truth. He didn’t enter into my world of crazy stories. He also didn’t try to correct my version of them. I was defensive when he slipped and tried to reason with me.

After I took the pills on our way home from school, that I believed was medication to kill me, to protect my own children from me, I did an hour of deeply focused breathing, and I soon knocked out.  Deep sleep after days of almost none.

At this point Maher started to reach out for support. We had invaluable help from neighbours.

The next day we took the kids to school and then Maher drove me to the hospital to see the doctor again. This time they hospitalized me. I had no say in the matter.

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So how does one help somebody with paranoia without increasing their fears?

I am not sure it is possible in an ideal way. My fears were heightened around everybody. I didn’t trust a single person. Perhaps had I got help earlier on I might not have gone through the severe paranoia phase.

My thoughts would be:
(These are only suggestions from my experience. If you face paranoia or someone who has paranoia please please please seek professional help.)

Contact the person’s closest family member or friend and mention that you have noticed some strange behavior.

Suggest to the person directly that they seek professional help. They may be open to it depending on the stage of paranoia.

Stand clearly in reality, don’t play along or agree with any of their delusions.

Comfort the person, ask questions like “How can I help you feel safe?”

Call for emergency help if needed, in order to hospitalize the person, especially if they might harm anyone or themselves.

Thank you for reading, for sharing your thoughts, suggestions, or questions.

 

 

Being Open

After writing about my experiences regarding my mental health this last week, a friend of mine here in Koh Samui asked me a great question. My last post on paranoia had left her hanging. She knew everything that was going on during and after my crisis, but never talked to me about it out of respect, probably not to put me in an uncomfortable position.

She wants to understand how I began to see more clearly, to accept that I was paranoid.

I am trying to understand that myself.

I spent a few months after being hospitalized thinking that Maher, the rest of my family, and the doctors were conspiring against me, that saying I was mentally ill was part of the “plot” against me, to control me.

I was in denial.

Some of the most important moments of change and acceptance happened gradually, as I started to open up. I talked to some close friends about my situation and I assumed they knew what had happened to me because in my mind, in my paranoia, they were in the “plot” at first supporting me, and then going against me.

But, the more I saw the looks of surprise on their faces, their shock that I was hospitalized, on medication etc, the more I started to realize that most people around me actually had no idea. Even those I considered close.

So they couldn’t possibly have been in any sort of plot.

“Maybe it is mental illness?”, I began to doubt myself.

Thankfully with Maher’s encouragement that I open up, be more honest with my trusted friends, now more broadly, I am able to see more clearly.

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Another important point was that Maher stood firmly on his ground. He never entered into my paranoia when I shared my wild thoughts with him. He remained rational and in control. That gave me a strong boundary.

I am grateful to a friend of mine who once told me how she lived her childhood guarding family secrets. Now that she has her own daughter she has chosen to break the family pattern and decided to be more open to herself, to her daughter, and to friends. She inspires me to have more sincere friendships, to share my experiences, thoughts and feelings openly.

AS I said in my last post, being open and direct is part of my healing process.

Thank you for continuing to read, for the support and for helping me understand all of this better.

I appreciate the thoughts, comments, and questions.

Balancing Yoga

A year and a half ago my mental health crashed. I needed a medical evacuation out of Samui and a hospital stay in Bangkok of half a month, followed by a gradual unraveling of symptoms and a continual healing process.

My yoga practices slowed down over this period of time for which there was guilt involved, but I feel that now I have found a healthy balance of activities.

For the moment.

What brought me to yoga initially was the thought that I might get closer to Indian culture, the realization that it could heal my body from injury, and the more I got into it, that it was a powerful tool to help me know myself.

I immersed myself in yoga practices for the last 13 years, and just as I can easily do with anything else I was obsessed, closed, and started believing in it as if there was not much else outside of yoga. I was defensive. I dropped my other activities one by one over the years.

I learnt yoga from senior teachers from all over the world and what I have come to realize is it doesn’t matter anymore, where they or I come from, yoga is yoga is yoga. It is a practice as any other.

Since my mental health broke down, I am taking medication, learning about myself by seeking professional help from psychiatrists and psychotherapists, leaning on and opening up to family and friends. The support and love I have received is the most important element in my healing process, along with my commitment to my husband and children to be the best I can be. I feel determined to live a clear life with them.

I am balancing activities, reintegrating some that I dropped years ago due to injury, such as running and finding some new ones such as Muay Thai – it amazes me what insights I learn about myself by being a beginner seeing things in a new way.

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In reintegrating more active practices into my life, the yoga asana thread that I carry with me keeps me balanced and in check, both physically, and mentally. It has a powerful place in my life, but no longer does it have a power over me.

I am feeling more alive and connected than ever before. We all have to find our own dosages of activities just like we might do with medication. It takes time to see what works, what is supportive. I continue to play with and fine tune the balance of too much of something whatever it might be, to too little, and I can only hope I will continue to do so.

Thanks for taking the time to read!20BA8C6B-2576-43F1-A3F1-1EE8B60B4278

For Just Being There

In July last year, Maher bought me an iPhone for our anniversary. My frist ever Smartphone. Of course, I didn’t even open it for a few months. Now I’m hooked.

And then my brother introduced me to WhatsApp while complaining about how people don’t just pick up the phone and call for a few minutes. Instead they chat on this thing for hours on end.

Then last month one of my friends suggested I get it. So here I am now, chatting with my friends around the world, anytime of day or night – and yes, sometimes it’s more of a monologue than dialogue. But they understand, they know I’ve lived on the moon for the last ten years.

I was chatting with some of my friends while my kids were in hospital last week. Sending emails too.

A couple of weeks into the NICU experience in Nov and Dec of 2009, one of the nurses organised a Parent Support Group. After some hesitation, it being our first “support group” and all, Maher and I went. We were only two couples in the English speaking section, and the woman leading the group showed us a day-by-day photo album of her twin boys born there, at 26 weeks gestation. Actually, one of her 6-year-old sons was taking us through the pics himself. His mum openly discussed the challenges her family faced at the NICU and over the following years. Of course, she encouraged us to talk. What struck me was that the other couple had shared their baby’s photos on Facebook. Their naked baby with a ventilator, feeding tubes, bandages, IV’s, the works.

They found love, support, and strength through their network of family and friends.

I, however, was unable to call my own brothers. I almost dialed my closest childhood friend’s number a few times. Even did once, a few days after Rahul was already home. Chatted for a few minutes.

A couple of friends of mine dropped everything that was going on for them in Chengdu and came to see me in HK. I barely even spoke to the one who stayed two weeks. She got to know my mum amd mother-in-law a bit better though.

That’s the way I used to deal with things, and during the NICU time and later, this reflex kicked in more strongly than ever before. I felt that no one could help anyway, and isolating myself was the most efficient way to deal with what was in front of me. It made sense at the time because only parents were allowed into the NICU, and I wanted to savor every moment I had alone with my babies. I was too fragile to handle criticism and questions, stress from others, and least of all pity. And there was no way I would break down. Not then.

But then a few months later, both babies out of the NICU, and home in Chengdu, I relaxed. I started to comment on blogs. (Big step!) Then I started my own. I got a VPN in China, to access Facebook again, right after Zambia won the Africa cup. I couldn’t join the celebrations, not even over FB. That was too much for me to handle!

I tried to create a network of my mum friends via Multicultural Mothering.

When one of my friend’s twins were in the NICU a year ago, I felt the need to be present. He had no problem communicating with me, explaining, and even listening to me. I was impressed. And now while my kids were in the hospital last week that same friend along with others all listened, and shared their own experiences. It made everything more bearable. Others read my endless WhatsApp monologues.

Thanks for the support over the last couple of weeks, for the brainstorming sessions, the connection. For just being there.

When I saw this talk for the first time a couple of years ago, it was perfectly timed then. I immediately forwarded it to an exhaustive list of friends. A few days ago my cousin shared it with me again. It was just what I needed to hear. Again. For my friends – old and new.

Brene Brown on Vulnerability

Reintroducing Myself

I’m Mum of Twins (MoT) Leila and Rahul (L and R), who turned 3 on the 1st of November. They started pre-school a couple of months before their 3rd birthday.

I’ve gone back to teaching some yoga classes.

I’ve never been busier – with figuring out how to get the kids out of the house and to school in the morning, teaching my classes, doing the groceries, cooking, trying to find time for my practice, and then getting them to brush their teeth. Seriously, what’s up with brushing teeth?!

And then there’s  the events now that they’re in school. We need outfits for Halloween, photos for “student of the week”. And then there’s the birthday party.

But. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think of a couple of mums I’ve met in the last few weeks. One is a full-time working mum of a five-year old and three-year old triplets. The other is also working full-time, with a part-time job on the side, mum of a four-year old and one-and-a-half year old twins.

Wow.

One random, but very important thought for me – I can’t thank the people who are helping me day in and day out.

My post frequency has reduced to “extremely infrequent”. I pondered dropping the blog altogether, but it’s something I have enjoyed. It made me think and express myself. And it connected me to family, old friends, and I’ve new friends I’m sure to keep regardless of the blog.

I’m hoping this is a temporary low.

Raksha Bandan this Year

Last year we celebrated the bond between brothers and sisters in our first Raksha Bandan. Leila tied a rakhee (usually an ornate string that symbolizes a bond of protection), around Rahul’s right wrist. Leila had to have one as well – that bit is what made it Raksha Bandan – Our Version. They hugged and fed each other something sweet.

We had a repeat of our version this year at our Koh Samui hotel room. My mum was with us on the day, the full moon of August 2nd, so it was all the more special even in the simplicity of our unmade beds, daily wear, and impromptu rakhees – I cut out the bookmark-ribbons from two of L and R’s story books and used them as rakhees. (Don’t tell my little brother;))

Here’s Raksha Bandan – Bond of Protection, the post I wrote last year about this celebration during my childhood.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: From Pregnancy to a Year Old by Marisa Findlay

Marisa is a photographer specializing in baby and maternity photography. You can see some of her work on her Facebook page or her website.

From Pregnancy to a Year Old

You are reading this post three days after my daughter, Yara, turned a year old.

My journey with yoga began about 11 years ago and has been an on and off love affair that has gently carried me to where I am now.  Along this journey I trained as a Sivananda yoga teacher in Kerala, India and dabbled in a bit of teaching both in Zambia, a place that will always be home to me, and Brighton, where I currently live and have subsequently discovered Scaravelli yoga which I absolutely adore.

If I could play a sound track to you as you read this post, it would be Monsoon Point by Al Gromer Khan & Amelia Cuni, so perhaps you could play it in another window as you read.

I discovered this music while I was pregnant with Yara and preparing for my planned ideal home water birth.  Some of you after reading the previous sentence already have an inkling that this story isn’t going to reveal the ideal birth, but instead the birth that was meant to be.

I loved being pregnant and marveled at my ever-changing body giving space to this little being growing inside of me.  My yoga practice took on a new dimension, which I loved and my body really understood on a deeper level what it needed to do in order to release the spine.

I practiced under Marc Woolford, my first Scaravelli yoga teacher in Brighton, during the first few months of my pregnancy.

Despite me practicing yoga, learning tai chi from my partner Edward, and all the mental preparation I did during my absolutely idyllic pregnancy (most of which was spent in the sunny Turks & Caicos islands) it all changed at 35 weeks when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.  After a 5 day stay in hospital I was put on a heavy concoction of medication to bring my blood pressure down and then at 37 weeks I had to have an emergency c-section.  I am so grateful to the knowledge that yoga has given me to handle this extremely stressful time and remain somewhat centred.  During this time I had a fantastic doula, Lucy Skelton, who is also a yoga teacher and was able to gently guide me through the process.

On the day of Yara’s birth, all within the space of an hour I had to transform my mindset from having a routine check at the hospital, after which I had planned a leisurely lunch in town, to deciding to be operated on immediately for the safety of my baby. Focusing on the breath and being present to what was, helped me regain my centre after the initial shock and panic of the unexpected news. After delivery it was my breath that got me through three hospital-bound days sharing a room with three screaming babies.

Lucy came to my house when Yara was about one week old to help me do some gentle stretching and mainly work on encouraging my shoulders away from up around my ears where they had found a new home after the terror of the experience.

When Yara was 8 weeks old we started attending a weekly mother and baby yoga class taught by my doula.  It was a challenge to be ready to head out the door across town for the 10:30 start, yet it was so worth the experience.  Meeting other mothers and their babies and feeling the connection through our common experience.  Sharing the delights and concerns as well as creating the space to allow our bodies the chance to ever so slowly stretch and strengthen once more.

The course only ran a month and then with the arrival of family from abroad, Yara’s ever-changing routine, and my efforts to start a photography business while improving my knowledge of the craft…yoga slipped away.  I would have snippets of it as I reminded myself to breathe while nursing Yara or attempted a sleep-deprived practice on the mat.  If I was particularly lucky I managed to escape for a yoga class with my delightful teacher Dot Bowen and came away feeling Marisa again, yet it was not enough to sustain me each day.

This was until about two months ago when I discovered this blog and was deeply inspired by a post about committing to 5 sun salutations for a month.  I went easy on myself and committed to 7 days to see how I would go.  I realized it was the first time I had consistently practiced yoga probably since my teacher training 6 years ago and I felt fantastic for it!  It wasn’t about how long I did or whether I completed the 5 sun salutations – it was about rolling the mat out each day and giving my mind and body the chance to reconnect.  Each week now I recommit another 7 days and marvel each day as I notice the change, the strength developing and most of all the chance to reconnect to myself.

I’ve realized that my yoga practice doesn’t have to involve the candles, relaxing music and solitude that I knew prior to being a mother, but rather takes the form that the day presents. If I have the energy I rise before everyone is up and relish the peace, however if not I grab a moment during the day while Yara plays around me or wait until the day is complete and I have my mat time.  I’m so grateful to have found a way to incorporate my yoga practice back into my life and the irony of it all is that now as I have less time for myself, I’m able to have a more consistent and fulfilling practice.

Parenting and Practicing Yoga: Tone of Voice by Amanda Green

Amanda Green is mom to two great girls and a student and teacher of yoga in Austin, Texas. Visit her blog at http://www.amandagreenYOGA.com.

Tone of Voice

I’ve been a mom for just about 8 years and in that time some parenting-patterns have emerged. In yoga, patterns are known as samskaras. They include helpful and beneficial patterns and also in this category are the patterns or habits that aren’t so helpful. Lately, I’ve been really aware of the patterns I use to talk to my kids. For example, the general tone in my house lately is, “I want you to do this, or there will be this consequence”. 10-50 million times a day, you might hear me say some version of:You have to pick up your things, or you won’t get to watch any TV. Or,“If you don’t eat your kale, then you won’t get chocolate pudding for dessert.” This was highlighted today when in my sweet-patient morning voice I asked my 8-year-old to turn the light off when she left the room and she looked at me and said, “or what?”

This pattern I have going lately is all about the bargain. Life in our household has become a series of negotiations and threats, really. I’m both the deal broker and the enforcer. It puts my girls on an opposing team, and the tone of the house just isn’t the fun, cooperative and joy-filled place that I’d like it to be. I decided something must be done, and then I remembered that I had a tool in my toolbox already that I loved, I just let it get rusty.

A few months ago, I was seeing a child psychologist who was offering support and guidance while my girls were reeling from the emotions that came from their dad’s and my divorce. This fantastic woman turned me on to a book, Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by Dr. Howard Glasser.

This approach changed the tone of our household,while I remembered to do it. The basic idea is this: Your child needs and wants your attention, and even negative attention can be a sort of reward. When your child receives your very focused and sincere attention, encouragement, and praise while they are behaving in a way that is positive, you are offering nurturing of the heart and the welcome behavior.

In practice, how does that look? Dr Glasser suggests you begin to notice times when your child’s behavior is either neutral or positive and give the reward of your sincere interest and attention by making observational remarks. “You are coloring that mountain purple. You have been working on that for quite a while. That sure shows a lot of stick-to-it-ness.” If there is a behavior that doesn’t appear very often or to the degree that you’d like to see, then you give words of encouragement when it appears even in part. “Your little sister hit you with her doll, and you yelled at her, but you showed self-control because you didn’t hit her back.” Offer these observations or “video moments” several times an hour. Give almost no attention or emotion to the undesired behavior. They will respond to the steady stream of your positive attention and realize that their undesirable behavior doesn’t get the attention-reward, so it loses its fun. There is more to it, but this is the gist and I’ll tell you, it is a wondrous thing…

This approach seems, at first, like it is about training your children, but really, it’s about training yourself. You begin to look for the positive and the beautiful even in moments when it might be difficult to spot and like a yoga practice or meditation, you bring yourself back to the intention of noticing when your child is doing something wonderful, even if it is as simple as sitting quietly for two minutes and looking at a book. As a parent following this model, you get to thoughtfully express what it is that you find and with practice perhaps this becomes your samskara. You bring the yoga of intention and focus to something really amazing and you start to share that perspective with your kids. These brief exchanges of appreciation and attention are the very stuff of life and the place that you direct your attention is the tone in a household.

Those months ago, when I started looking for the times that my kids were doing something with an energy that was appropriate, kind, quiet, focused or any degree of awesome, then I paused what I was doing to notice and comment on it. I chose words that were sincere and interesting and not about pleasing myself, there was all of this sentiment of appreciation floating around in the air, helping all of us to feel special and noticed and important. Giving my awareness, attention and thoughtfulness to the things my girls are doing shows them how important and interesting and good they are, and it reminds me of the great gift and privilege it is to be their mom.