Welcome to my Blog

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Depression with Catatonic Features

Dear A.B. Curtiss,

I am excited to have found you via your website. My 20 yr. old daughter has been recently diagnosed with depression that has catatonic features, especially extreme negativism and elective mutism. We have been seeing a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist. We also did blood tests, CT scan and saw a neurologist to rule out any other problems. The psychiatrist suggested medication and possibly ECT. I abhor going this route and have been “fighting” for alternative therapies. So far, we did 3 acupuncture treatments with Chinese herbs. However, when I found you, I knew that your solution is the right path to take. I will purchase your book today in order to learn more. However, since we live in Murrieta and you in Escondido we are close neighbors. Therefore, my question to you is this:
Will you treat my daughter???

Dear N. B.

I don't treat private patients anymore, but I will answer any email you send even if it's every day for a while. I don't charge for this. My techniques work and I'm always willing to answer questions when people get stuck on some small point which keeps them from going forward. But in order to work, you have to actually do the techniques and have a small understanding of how your own brain works. You are not alone.

And don't get too distraught over omnious diagnosis. There is no medical basis for any of the DSM IV diagnoses anyway. Read both the books if you can even though your daughter won't because you can help her because when you are more educated on the subject. The first book is the philosophy of getting out of depression and amazon.com usually has a used one for less than $5. It's called “Depression is a Choice”. “Brainswitch out of Depression “is the neuroscience of getting out of depression. That's discounted on amazon.com as well A. B. Curtiss

A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thank you so much. We are desperate parents.

Your website is loaded with practical and inspirational advice, and I have already gotten a lot out of that alone. You have such great ability to guide a person through the difficult time. Moreover, in light of the fact that your technique of "directing our thoughts" is not taught to us, I find it a great tool for all humanity. Your book "Brain Switch" was not immediately available for purchase at any book store in my area, not even the library had it. Unbelievable! Nevertheless, I have ordered it and should get it by tomorrow afternoon. I will also get your other book, "Depression is a choice."

Thanks for all your help so far. N. B.

Dear A. B.

My daughter was panicky and nervous throughout the day. I have given her Bach's Rescue Remedy to calm her down. She has been saying things like: It's going to flood, I have an infection, (when I asked her to tell me where the infection was, she replied "everywhere.") When her dad went to Lake-Ellsinore, she worried about him. When dad took her paychecks to be deposited in her account (she never wanted to go to the bank herself or with our help) she panicked and said he was going to loose them. She started to shake and went up to her room.

I wanted her to tell me her thoughts, but she didn't immediately verbalize.I said there was nothing to be afraid off. I spoke to her about thinking good or neutral thoughts. I gave some examples: rain drops keep falling on my head (twice she was singing that one sentence since her depression.) Also, pointed to pictures on the calendar. Than I said, think "I am at home" "it's nice and warm" "I am alive." As soon as I said the last words, she replied "I don't want to be alive." I was shocked but didn't show it. She never said such a thing. When her doctors asked her if she ever thought of hurting herself, she whispered "no." This was not a good day. May be because yesterday was her 21st birthday, but she didn't want to celebrate it.

Since she became severely depressed, she has been repeating this words: I want to go back (as if she wants to fix something,) I messed up (like she is blaming herself,) I am really sick, I have an infection, I am sorry (she feels she inflicts sadness on us,) and "help." Sometimes she cries, almost like howling, but she stops abruptly. I wish she could cry more and let that anxiety come out. When she says "I want to go back" I tell her to "take action" and do one thing she needs to do, like brushing her teeth or taking a shower. I tell her to think of one thing and do it. I than help her do it. I tell her this is how she can catch up and fix things so she can feel better. She seems to understand, especially when she cooperates. I want to help her solve her pain and suffering and enormous guilt and blame she feels.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated. N.B.

Dear N.B.

Since we make our own brain neuron by neuron I find that it is not helpful to spend a lot of time thinking about past mistakes, screw ups, etc., which we all are guilty of making. Which is why typical psythotherapy is mainly useless. Thinking these habitual negative, guilty, or blaming thoughts merely makes them stronger in the mind and therefore easier to fall into since the brain, that works by learned association, always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought.

Psychotherapy, as I learned it in graduate school, held that delving into the past helped to make the "unconscious conscious". What it really turns into is unhelpful and circuitous negative thinking. On the other hand, what may be helpful is to realize that repressed pain is actually stored in the cells of our bodies so that when these painful thoughts come we can move them more quickly out of our bodies by emotional release like crying, or getting down on the floor, thrashing around, and groaning out loud, "Oh No No No." But this emotional release is a physical one rather than thought thinking.

When we are panicked, we think a lot of crazy thoughts. This shouldn't be seen by us or others as proof that we are crazy. Just proof that, at the moment, we are extremely upset and not thinking with our rational mind but just letting our thoughts run away with themselves, in any crazy direction they choose, because we are too emotionally upset and all our neural activity is in the emotional part of the brain, the subcortex, and we don't have much neural activity going on in our neocortex, our thinking brain. When we calm down, work through our emotional upset with some physical activity, start thinking a few nonsense or objective thoughts which stimulate neural activity in the neocortex, we can return to more rational thinking.

Thinking thoughts like "I don't want to be alive" should not be taken seriously as real intention by either the thinker of the thoughts or by others, but as simply another negative thought which can be ignored by thinking some other thought instead of it. However, this said, suicide does happen when people dwell on the ideation of doing away with themselves and the brain gets into a strong thought pattern, a self-destructive mind set which can end tragically.

When someone has specific thoughts about how they are going to kill themselves, (saving up sleeping pills, buying a gun, picking out a particular bridge to jump off of), rather than just thoughts of not wanting to live, when they have specific plans, these should be taken more seriously. It is often successful to simply make a pact with someone that they will not entertain these thoughts anymore and turn their mind to more productive thinking, and that they will call you if they feel like their thoughts are starting to get too strong for them to ignore, and they are in danger of killing themselves.

If your daughter trusts you enough to let you help her, things can change. Things can change even if she doesn't trust you and you can learn how to earn her trust. 30 years ago I had to put my 16 year old daughter in a locked facility. Oh, it was a time I can tell you. But I didn't know how to handle the situation. So I put her in a locked facility and hired 3 psychotherapists and did therapy for hours every day for 30 days. Looking back from what I know now, my psychotherapists were pretty bad, but still I learned something.

When my daughter came home from the hospital she was so panicked she said she wanted to go back because she was afraid she was going to kill herself. I asked her what the hospital would do to prevent her from killing herself and she said they would put her on a 24 hour watch. “ I can do that,” I told her. And for two weeks I never left her side. If she went to the bathroom, I sat on the tub. If she took a shower, I sat on the toilet seat. I slept in her room. After two weeks she said she was all right.

It took two years after that of some remedial parenting but, of course, I wasn't a very good mother for not teaching her better, and paying more attention to her as I was quite a social butterfly type of person who was interested in a busy social life. Howsoever, this daughter, now 46 is a beautiful talented, good person who is the light of all who know her, and she is the treasure of my life of whom I am so proud sometimes my heart almost bursts with joy.

Things can change. I remember when my husband and I were floundering in our marriage although now after 50 some years we are quite in love with one another again. On our 25th anniversary my husband said to me, I didn't get you an anniversary present this year because I didn't think there was anything to celebrate and I couldn't help but agree with him.

If your daughter can overcome her fears at this time of her life she will be much stronger and even many years ahead of me, for instance, in growing up. When I was in my late 40s and returned to graduate school one of my professors told me that I was a very afraid person. I said, "yes, you are right, I am an afraid person." He looked as me very kindly as I freely admitted his appraisal of me and said, "that can change." And of course it did as today I am a hopeless optimist and practically fearless.

Not that I don't have my bad days, my stress times as everyone does. However, I handle them as they come along and spend very little time, anymore, in these dark places. If I had been taught, early on, how my brain worked I could have started to handle things correctly in my teens. But my role model was my father who was always under the care of a psychiatrist for manic depression (bipolar) and I learned from him what you were supposed to do when negative thoughts came along. I learned from him that you were supposed to succumb to the bad thoughts, take to your bed, and feel bad and take lots of drugs.

I had to unlearn this when I began to study neuroscience. And because I was such an afraid person for so many years, my life tended to be shallow, dependent on image, and being "Miss Wonderful." Now I'm just a wise old lady. As the song says, there's wisdom from the pain. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Thank you for the education and sharing your inspirational story with me. Thank you for telling me that it is counter-productive to dig up the past and all its negativity. It is just so ironic that this is one of the ways we are taught to deal with our issues. Personally speaking, there are many events in my past which are very depressing/painful and dwelling on them would be unhealthy.

I'd rather adopt your system of moving forward with good positive thinking and optimism. Being in my 50's, I now know that past pain doesn't really matter and nobody cares anyway. At the end, each person is left alone to deal with his/her own dilemmas. We might as well adopt the "Brain-Switch" technique.

I know I am going to read this email again and again till I get the books. In the meantime, I am going to look for a cognitive behavior therapist through my employer. If you have anybody in mind please let me know. Currently, we are seeing a therapist in Riverside. As a matter of fact, we have an appointment with her at 5:00 pm today. She actually wants to delve into the past. I think that can be interesting maybe (to see what she is going to do with it,) however, I think it's only going to prolong the therapy for my daughter.

Thanks for your feedback, N. B.

Dear N. B.

If you are suffering from depression then in your past there is a lack of dealing with your fear. You don't really need to know what caused you to be unable to deal with your fear. You are an afraid person. Get in touch with your fear, not your past, and start pushing beyond your fearA. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

My 21yr old daughter is still depressed. She thinks everything is ruined. "I ruined my body." "I ruined my family." She exaggerates a lot. For instance, she asks her brother if she can go with him to work and stay in the car. And yet, at times she can be very sane. This morning she wanted to go to Starbucks and she paid for the bill out of her own volition.

Although, it is true that her periods stopped, I am not so worried about that. I think that once she gains her normal weight, her hormones will kick in. I love your books. It gives me hope when you write "Depression always ends. Not because of Prozac" etc, and "Essential Happiness is our original state of well-being that is always available to us."

Today, she stays mostly in her room. I just wonder, how long is she going to choose not to take care of herself? She has already wasted 3 months of her life. Her dad wants to use intravenous medication per the psychiatrist recommendation (and he will even go with the shock therapy if necessary.) I am against it. Besides, our daughter will never agree to it and I wouldn't force her. A few days ago she would say "Everybody hates me," and "I hate everybody." I have been talking to her about the angels Michael, Gabriel, Ariel, Rafael, that surround her, love and protect her and she is not alone. I mean, anything positive I can say to combat her bad thoughts.

Thanks for your feedback, N.B.

Dear N. B.
Isn't there anything she is interested in--art, books, music, yoga, volunteering. She should be doing something, because until she starts doing something she has nothing to think about except how bad she feels. What was she interested in as a child? If she is artistic I would buy yourself and her some paints and canvas, and sit her down to them right along side of you.

Or get a paper route with her and start delivering papers. Or make her accompany you to some volunteer project, taking care of children in a children's home. She needs some physical activity rather than mental activity. How about getting her to take a yoga course, or even a martial arts course. Sign up with her and go along. Anything that gives even the smallest sense of something accomplished with her day.

You need to start somewhere. You can't wait for her to do something until she FEELS like it. It is her duty as a human being to get interested in something and be a help to her fellow man no matter how she feels. So she feels bad, so what. Millions of people feel bad. Why is she so special she can't do anything when she feels bad.

As far as drugs are concerned or electric shock they do no good. It took me ten years to get my psychiatrist-addicted brother off medication.

Sometimes these doctors are truly idiots. One psychiatrist prescribed Abilify for my brother without even checking to see if he was a diabetic. I guess because he is so thin, and diabetics are usually overweight. Diabetics are not supposed to take Abilify. That was the final straw for my brother and he finally went off all his meds and is finally sane after 35 years on doctor prescribed drugs. He has a lot of physical problems such as Tardive dyskensia due to the drugs, his whole body has an essential tremor caused by the drugs, but at least he is sane.

He works as a night guard in a church sponsored retirement home after being the most highly paid journalist in NYC. But now, he finally understands that he is not special like all the psychiatrists tried to tell him. He is just an ordinary person who is supposed to be self-responsible to make something out of his day and be of some use to his fellow man.

When your daughter says things like "I hate everybody" and "Everybody hates me" tell her: "So what if you think this. This is simply a negative thought which does not necessarily have any basis in fact and should not be relied upon as legitimate information that you should take seriously, this is just your mind doing a number on your because you have not learned how to control your own thinking.

When she says "I ruined my family," tell her that this is just a negative thought with no basis in fact and that you are just fine thank you very much. RESPOND TO ALL HER NEGATIVE COMMENTS WITH LOW KEY DISMISSAL. Say something like, "Oh, well, this is just negative thinking--don't take it so seriously , Dear. It's just a thought."

If she "ruined her body," she can jolly well now make the effort to heal herself. Watch the video by Jill Bolte Taylor who suffered a massive stroke and healed herself when she couldn't even feed herself, walk or talk. Go to www.ted.com and search for Jill Bolt Taylor. Remind her that negative states of mind are normal for someone who is not doing anything productive with their lives and therefore has nothing to like about himself and falls back upon habitual negative thinking.
Then slowly she will get the idea that maybe she should not take her negative thoughts so seriously. Your husband is like most people who want the easy way out. The medical profession has convinced him that he can take her somewhere to be cured of her ignorance of how her brain works by taking mind-altering drugs, and anesthatized from the pain of her repressed fear.

She probably has the emotional age of 3 or 4. But once she starts doing the work she can advance to her right emotional age in less than a year. She needs to be helped to grow up emotionally. She has to do it herself, with loving help. How many times has your husband insisted that your daughter go for a walk with him, or jog, or go to the gym. Has he offered to engage in some activity and invite her to go along?

You are totally supporting her and she should be kindly made, cajoled, and talked into doing those things that you want her to do. You may have to do them with her at first, just like you hold the hand of a small child just learning to walk.

She needs to be assisted into doing some things which can give her some sense of accomplishment.. Most people suffering from depression stopped confronting their fears when they were very small children for lack of knowing what to do they just started repressing fear.

Now she should be encouraged to confront fears. She is probably afraid to paint a picture, or join a yoga class and doesn't know she is afraid so she thinks she doesn't WANT to do it. As long as she can concentrate on her negative thinking she can avoid the pain of her real fear of risking herself in actually doing something. Read Chapter ten in DEPRESSION IS A CHOICE to understand about getting in touch with repressed fear. A. B. Curtiss

Dear A. B.

Fantastic information and empowering words.

I will keep doing my share to keep her doing some tasks. Last weekend, after reminding her a few times of her promise to show me her favorite beach, we finally went and she drove. However, she didn't want to get out of the car to take a stroll. Also, she plays the violin, but refuses to touch it now. I will keep finding ways to get her involved.


Dear N. B.

Yes, nevertheless she is sick, she still has her responsibilities like everybody else. Depression does not excuse you from life. After hearing from you today I was reminded of Sister Kenny and her fight with the doctors to insist that polio victims exercise their muscles to keep the muscles alive when the doctors at the time put the children in iron braces and kept polio victims immobile in wheelchairs and tied down in hospital beds. It seems to me that the doctors who are trying to heal people's minds are in the same way making people immobile with drugs that allow their minds to stagnate, instead of insisting that patients exercise their minds with thoughts and their bodies with exercise that build new neural patterns to replace the old depressive ones. Because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, with the growth of new neural patterns new behavior is possible and vice versa, with new behavior, new neural patterns can grow and develop.

Dear A. B,
Yes, yes, yes. And thanks to you and pioneering the "Brain-Switch" technique.

Dear N. B.

I received this letter today and thought there might be something in it that you could use. A. B. Curtiss.


Dear A. B. Curtiss

After reading the summary of your book depression is a choice, I came across many things that I had discovered personally. Although I have no scientific knowledge of depression or manic depression, Iknow what its like to "Snap" from the neocortex to the subcortex. In reading the summary of your book, I was reassured, in a sense, that what I have been going through is valid. I have found the wayto beat the cycle of depression. It is about creating yourself at every waking moment, completely giving up any preconceived notion of yourself, and ultimately shutting off the past. I understand this may be hard for those who are traumatized by deaths in the family, rape, ptsd, etc., however I believe with these techniques, depression merely turns into a thing of the past; a phrase that is commonly used to fuel the booming pharmaceutical economy. I am glad that I have found someone that sees past all of the medication and modern-treatment that most of the "depressed" consider.

No comments: