Nearly the whole of yesterday and today I thought about beavers for some reason- and the phrase that kept popping up in my mind was eager beavers– until I found out it had a derogatory connotation to it. SO that required a little more digging, which I just did and found some interesting attributes of beavers.
Look at this one in the picture here- by dint of its own teeth it is felling the tree! Just imagine the size of the trunk!
Why the beaver’s image kept coming to mind is that I have been meeting these ‘beavers’ metaphorically speaking of late. I must draw up the context here. So let us start from the beginning.
In my recovery oriented counseling work, my whole intention is that people start understanding recovery as a concept first and then start building their resources- in every possible domain to accomplish that. One of the key issues that has bothered me for years now is why are more people NOT recovering from ‘psychosis’, even if there is evidence in front of them? Even if they see other people’s stories of recovery, including your’s truly? Does it mean those who recover do so only under some special circumstances? SO then what are those circumstances? Of course this blog post is not about circumstances of people’s recoveries, because each one has a different pathway and as a researcher my interest lies in phenomenon, not anecdotal evidence. Let me narrate this post with two sets of people I met in the past week.
These were two different families- one in which I myself went to meet them, as they are part of my research, and the other came to meet me, for counseling support. Both families have individuals with schizophrenia diagnosis- there are two young people (a woman in her twenties, a man in his twenties- these are from two different families) and the mother of the young woman, now in her fifties. I had at least a one hour discussion with both sets of people. And then the formation of the beaver appeared in my mind. So here it goes.
In every family that seeks to recover from the consequences of schizophrenia or bipolar, or from any other psychiatric diagnosis, there is a pattern of relationships. I have decided to give them my own classification, as these are all the actors of the drama of their respective lives. Here are the dramatis personae in both sceanrios-
The FOOT SOLDIERS
The foot soldiers are the ones who are absolutely worried sick of what is happening in the family and they must find a solution to it. In this context, they are ‘sick of’ the behaviour of a particular person and they want to find rational ways of dealing with their behaviour. They seek explanations in all schools of thought- from babas, to astrology, psychiatry, to colour therapy, reiki, music therapy or anything that someone says can help the troubled person (who is then called a patient by psychiatry).
The foot soldiers first concern is their family- they have to save and guard the family. But they are not only foot soldiers of the family- they are equally as much foot soldiers of psychiatry. ( I have also recently written this phrase in the same context in a journal article). And because they have to save and guard the family, they need to maintain the equilibrium by maintaining the status quo, so that nothing is upset and nobody’s is troubled. In this search, they often land up at the door of a psychiatrist- in the hope that a wo/man of medicine will have the ability to deal with their loved ones’ ‘difficult to handle behaviour.’
Foot soldiers tend to be mercenary soldiers– they will do anything to keep the apple cart undisturbed. They want stability, not change. They want predictability, nothing new or unsettling which makes them change their belief system. They are the status quo warriors- full of suspicion about change, sold on the idea of psychiatry’s efficacy and committed to maintaining its continuity in the belief that it will have definitive outcomes of well being for the loved one. The foot soldiers are the prime customers of psychiatry and also it’s enforcers within the family. It goes without saying they are the biggest obstacle that anyone has to handle, to recover.
These are the people who buy into the arguments given by psychiatrists that they should anyhow medicate their loved one, it is perfectly ethical to do so even without their consent. They do not realize that they are violating the human rights of their loved one- son, daughter, husband, wife or parent. they just believe in the ‘miraculous power of modern medicine’ (without looking for any evidence of course). Of course this is the benevolent arm of psychiatry and they are its foot soldiers- they always pay heed to the voice of their master- the psychiatrist!
The next ‘character’ of the play is our beaver character- the one I began this blog post with. So why is the beaver so important here? According to this article, beavers have an ability to change the natural biodiversity of an ecosystem. Well, isn’t that the characteristic we also need in the recovery of a person given a psychosis diagnosis? We need someone from within the family who is so capable of pushing the idea of recovery forward, that notwithstanding the lack of support from any other quarter they will still push it ahead, in their own belief of its possibility.
I have met many beavers in my life, starting from my own family. My mother and my sister were very keen to look for solutions for me. I never bothered because I felt secure and safe within the predictability of psychiatry’s certainty about myself! That is how everyone is- they feel secure that they are nothing unusual or even if they are, it is nothing unknown to humankind and there are people who understand what ‘we are going through’.
Beavers will usually try to look for solutions on their own. They will look for alternatives, for the recovery of their loved one. Sometimes those who are ‘ill’ also do so, but often they are so overwhelmed by their diagnosis that they do not care to fight it out- I also say this from my own sense of loss when I was there. There is no capacity in the wounded ‘raccoon’ to deal with anything.
I find beavers to be parents mostly, because parents first of all want their children to get over the suffering and live normal and happy lives. Which parent wouldn’t want that for their child? But beavers can also be siblings, like i referred to my own. They do not want to hold their loved one within psychiatric tentacles alone- they want full fledged recovery, so they keep snooping around and sniffing out newer things, in the hope of finding a solution to the problems they all are facing. But now I recall, I have also seen uncles, and sons, daughters and friends writing to me or calling me up to talk about their loved ones- sometimes they are not even caregivers directly, for care-giving is the role of the FOOT SOLDIER- who lives on a day to day basis with the ‘patient’.
And the ‘patient’ is the raccoon…
Just look at this baby raccoon. The first sense one gets upon looking at it is, that it is suffering. We do not know what from, but certainly there is no joy in her deportment.
This is typically the case of the person given a psychiatric diagnosis- they are so resigned to it, and they have lost the spirit to fight about it, to rebel against being medicated. They just need the security and belief that they can live a relatively quiet and unharmed life, which is enough.
In every family this is the way in which the acts play out-
The sequence of the play
This play has three acts- diagnosis, recovery and disability.
Diagnosis– Once the diagnosis is given, the raccoon becomes the center of everyone’s attention for that span of time, because the raccoon’s behaviour is sufficiently unusual as to draw everyone to look in her direction. It also has a potential that is threatening to the whole ecosystem, for it can unsettle everyone. Just imagine having to tend to a ‘sick’ or angry person for the rest of your life> What would you rather do? Why not just calm them down anyhow and try living a ‘normal’ life?
SO the family decides to go to a healer- it can be a traditional medicine man, a psychiatrist, a counselor or anyone that works as a first level interventionist for them. Now we know that ONE PERSON NEEDS HELP!
The reality is that the whole family needs help, but nobody understands that! And nobody will ever explain that to them as well- because who wants to bell the cat?
Recovery– Recovery now begins in part second of the play and the person tries to make a all suitable adjustments in accordance with what they have understood of their ‘problem’. The raccoon is the patient.
The foot soldiers are the caregivers …but the beaver
Is the one person or more, who are looking for alternatives. Like I said earlier the beaver can also be the person who has been given the diagnosis, can be a foot soldier too, or can be anyone.
Characteristics of the Beaver are very important, for they are replicated across people-
- They are very attached to the ‘patient’- more like doting;
- They cannot believe nor ‘buy’ the idea that their loved one is going to remain a patient for the rest of their life;
- They will look for other explanations out of the dilemma, reading, googling or anything;
- They are willing to try any alternative out and will often go and knock at the door of anyone who offers some succor from the present suffering;
- They will jump into the waters directly in search for newer alternatives- just like the one in the picture above.
Disability– Disability happens in situations where the beaver loses her way. In other words, when the beaver loses her zest to find a way out, or feels that it has been wrong in the past or nothing is working out – so let us stick to the path everyone is suggesting – psychiatric medication.
Which fundamentally means the raccoon has no future– (or a future which is controlled by the foot soldiers)
This raccoon will have to be on medication and that will keep increasing over time and sooner or later, the raccoon is going to become so fogged by the medication that it will be pretty much disabled and incapacitated to live a normal life any longer!
It is all in the hands of the beaver now to save the raccoon.
Whether the raccoon will recover fully or will become disabled now depends upon the beaver’s tenacity. This the the real job of the beaver- can it change the ecosystem? If the beaver- the eager person who seeks alternatives does not give up the search, does not cave in easily to the arguments of the foot soldiers and can still support the raccoon quietly, only then the raccoon can recover.
If the beaver is lost…
But if the beaver is lost, confused or heart-broken upon not getting easy answers…then the raccoon will never recover.
So all ye beavers- seekers of alternatives and solutions for your loved ones, your struggle is not with those like me, who are there to support each one of you, but with the foot soldiers sitting right in your own homes and holding firmly to the flags of psychiatric diagnostic classifications. You better see the reality for yourself first.
In my case, of these two families the beavers are one younger sister in one and father in another, while the raccoons are the ‘patients’ in both families. Fortunately for the second family, the father’s role is quite prominent and he is very keen to find a way out for his wife and daughter- and I think they all will. But I am not so certain about the first family,where the role of the foot soldiers is more proximal and the beaver lives faraway. this means that the foot soldiers are living with the boy, and the beaver- who is looking for solutions is far removed from the scene of action and is a young mother. She cannot tend to her brother like her mother and sister can. So though she is looking for solutions, in case she is not able to find her way out of the maze of words that her mother and sister have woven around her and if she is not subdued by them, her brother will also lose the battle – and progressively become more troubled- as does anyone with schizophrenia medication.