Monday, 1 October 2018

archiving this blog

After the PhD Clinical Psychology fell through at Edinburgh in May 2017 I've had no support so it's been like flogging a dead horse.

Monday, 13 August 2018

can't afford to do action research or visit safe haven crisis houses

I've had to admit it.  I'm too impoverished to visit safe haven crisis houses in the UK to do action research or gather information.  The trips I'd booked to Ireland and Wales, to network and research, didn't come about because of ill health (viral throat, thyroid cyst) and I lost money on it, which I cannot afford to do.  Glad to say that thyroid issues were not serious.  I did wonder if it might be, was prepared for the worst, considering the difficult year I had in 2017 with the PhD withdrawal and antisocial neighbours.  These took a toll on my health over the winter, also my son's 4th collapsed lung and operation in the November (careless discharge), at the same time I fell and cracked my ribs in Princes St, Edinburgh, when accompanying my son on buses into ERI for surgery.

I'll be 66 in September, on a basic State Pension, with some financial support from family which is likely to decrease as time goes on, so I will get poorer as I get older.  There is no chance of teaching and being paid for it.  I tried for years to get lecturing work in DClinPsy and MH Nurse training programmes at Abertay, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities, since 2009, to no avail.  I had teaching work at Abertay but it was temporary back in 2012 and I only got one day's teaching at DClinPsy Glasgow MH & Wellbeing Unit, on Psychosis module, filling in for Prof Gumley, for which I received an honorarium and travel expenses, and was expected to be grateful for it.

I'm well qualified with postgraduate diploma in community education, 1998, and postgraduate certificate teaching qualification further education, care subjects, 2008, and have delivered training to groups since 1980 in Lanarkshire when working in communities with children, young people and adults in a variety of settings.  There's no reason as to why I couldn't teach except for the fact that I'm now a whistleblower about psychiatric abuse after what happened to my son in the locked seclusion room of Stratheden Hospital Ward 4/IPCU in February 2012:

link to Express article, written after "winning" Ombudsman complaint against NHS Fife
At a meeting in January with Dr Margaret Hannah, Director of Public Health, NHS Fife, and Julie Paterson, a senior Social Work Manager, Fife Council, I was asked by the doctor how long I'd be a whistleblower.  An odd question I thought.  How long is a piece of string? As long as it takes.  The social worker then spoke of a new build crisis house, mentioning John Mills, Head of Housing at the council.  The implication being that if I stopped whistleblowing then there could be a safe house.  No deal.

["If you decide to hire me as an independent MH consultant in Fife then there shall be No gagging clause or coverup": in Email to social worker and others 21May18]

I was also asked by the doctor in an Email what justice would look like.  Another difficult question for how would I know until it happened and could be identified?  I used to have this quote by Thucydides on Emails in 2015: 
"There will be justice ... when those who are not injured are as outraged as those who are".  We're not there yet.

Then recently the doctor came and sat down beside me in a train to Edinburgh, after which I wrote an Email to her about mindfulness:

Wednesday 8 August 2018: minding your own business; whistleblowing isn't a career choice

"Please don't come up to me again in a train and ask to sit down next to me, just so that you can go on about retiring early on your big pension and then going on to lecture, write books and help your husband in his business.  Next time I will say No. ..."

It was like rubbing my nose in it, just as the Nurses did with my son after he had to defecate in dark cell/locked seclusion room with no toilet, light or water, when they had left him in there for hours, unobserved, asthmatic and prone to collapsed lungs, with a broken hand untreated.  They never came when he shouted for help so he did the toilet then a dirty protest (which confirmed their neglect and helped win Ombudsman case) and the Nurses held him face down in his own excrement, penetrating his anus with something, we don't know what, it wasn't written in the Notes.  After which my son got a glandular infection and bad verrucas on his feet, requiring antibiotics and podiatry for months after hospital discharge.  His broken hand also required checkups.

There are no human rights guaranteed behind the closed doors of psychiatric settings and no justice for whistleblowing and speaking out about the abuse.  Rather I have been bullied, badmouthed, excluded, undermined, marginalised, disrespected, laughed at, manipulated, patronised, banished.  Blamed by social work, police and NHS in an Adult Protection Investigation Report 2012 for causing "psychological harm" when Nurses were abusing my son in Stratheden Hospital.

What does justice look like?  I don't know.  Haven't witnessed it yet, in respect of what happened to my son in 2012 and what's happened to me since then, for speaking out about it.  I will keep campaigning for justice and for safe houses for psychosis like I provide for my son who lives with me, we share a house together, at present.  We are both financially poorer after engaging with psychiatry.  He is continually targeted by DWP to justify his existence as a mentally ill person with a Bipolar condition, putting pressure on him, exacerbating his mental health challenges.  I get no carer allowance now since a pensioner and we receive no support from MH services since raising complaints in 2012.  

It's not been easy and it's not getting any easier.  I don't like being financially poor, who does?  I have various health issues which I self manage and these include a bladder prolapse and metal plate on right fibula which causes muscle strains on left side.  I cycle and swim to keep fit, also walk, take public transport, as we don't have a car now, had to give it up in 2015.  Fortunately I'm in good mental health, having survived coercive psychiatric drug treatment 3 times, getting off a cocktail of neurotoxins in 2003/4 after a menopausal psychosis in March 2002.  

I've a lot to be thankful for.  It's about the long game.


A selection of selfies!

home back garden

Springfield 64 bus stop

Dundee rail station

Glasgow bus to Queen Elizabeth Teaching & Learning Centre

one of my Dad's selfies from around 1963 at our home in Pomarium Flats, Perth, he was about 34yrs old; my Father died in 1986 aged 57, in London [in recognition of my Dad Willie Patterson; scriptwriter of Jeff Hawke; Daily Express & Titan Books]:

and a close-up photo he took of me, aged 10 or 11, at around the same time:


Thursday, 10 August 2017: on being an independent voice, leader, educator, survivor: Safe Houses for Psychosis

Sunday, 24 June 2018

"Here's a plan of action, if I was in charge of the budget, development and operations management:"

Email sent to Fife Health & Social Care Partnership and others on Friday past, 22 June 2018:

"Good morning Julie (and colleagues, plus elected members)

I was at the Royal Highland Show yesterday, it was a tonic to be back among farming folk, salt of the earth, where we used to go as a family when the boys were young, my husband working on the Milk Marketing Board stall, 1980's, when we lived at Rigside, Lanark.  I visited the sheep stalls, spoke to farmers about the Bluefaced Leicester crosses, many of which were new to me since the 1970's when I worked with a small flock on the Muirhead family farm.  I came back from the show tired but refreshed, remembering how therapeutic it was to work on the land, to rear animals, milk the cows, drive the tractor.  I hope to do some of that again in the future, if possible, especially working with sheep, maybe spinning wool, knitting garments from my own flock.

This morning I was thinking again of Safe haven crisis Houses in Fife for people experiencing extreme emotional distress, psychoses, altered mind states, lack of sleep.  Places of respite and refuge where Fife folk could drop by for a few hours to regain their equilibrium, to have a chat, be listened to, refreshments, maybe stay for a few nights to regulate sleep, do outdoor or indoor creative activities.  Staffed by a team who have a variety of life experience and qualifications but most of all are good listeners, compassionate, patient, friendly, wise and with a sense of humour.  Some volunteers with special skills to complement the work eg craftspeople, gardeners, bakers, musicians, artists etc.

Here's a plan of action, if I was in charge of the budget, development and operations management:
  • firstly fundraise, apply for monies, get the public interested and involved by promoting the plan, set up twitter, website, blog, to gather interest, to be transparent about what's happening, to get others onboard with the vision
  • [plan to] buy 3 properties, one in each Fife area, East, West, Central; semi-rural, on edge of village or town, bus route nearby; with some land to house outbuildings for activities, veg plot, grass to play games on, maybe a field to keep sheep in, near water would be even better, a river or the sea; they need not all be the same size of house, one might have more bedrooms for overnights, another a safe haven for drop-ins out of hours and weekends, another a mixture; this could be a phased plan, getting one house up and running first
  • set up a stakeholder group for reference, people whose knowledge and experience would benefit process, but not to have decision-making abilities; when Drayton Park Women's Crisis House was set up in 1995, Nurse Shirley McNicholas did this within a year, so she told me when I visited in 2016, she's still in charge there, a 12 ensuite-roomed house, Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust, some children can stay, they have a cook, aim is to help women avoid psychiatric inpatient treatment
  • recruit mentors to help advise, in different skills areas, people who have set up similar eg Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Centre which is a safe haven, was set up in 1999 by group of service users; there is also the Edinburgh Crisis Centre however it's not on a par with these other two crisis services, in my opinion, having visited them all
The key thing would be to move quickly on this development, not to be held back by organisations or groups who have other agendas.  It makes economic sense to set up alternatives to psychiatric treatment for people who are in crisis.  It costs around £3K/week/patient in Stratheden Hospital and in my experience the treatment is often iatrogenic, leads to revolving door patients with mental illness, never mind the risks of dormitory accommodation in a mixed gender ward when a person doesn't have full capacity. 

I'm now a mental health human rights campaigner because of personal experience but I also have community development worker experience since 1980, having set up many grassroots projects, empowering myself and others to benefit our communities of interest.  They are not exclusive, these parts of my life experience, and I can do both, be creative and a catalyst.

This year I've been doing more in the gardens of my council house at Springfield, see attached photos taken earlier this morning, of my wee greenhouse, growbags of veg, Lavenders, Honeysucks, pot plants on various surfaces which we can see from front and back doors.  I've been creating and maintaining a safe house for my son and I after the negative experiences of 2012.  Inside our home is also therapeutic and creative.  Some house plants, photos of grandchildren, various craftworks which I've created over the years, cross-stitch from 1990's/early 2000's before wearing glasses.  These days I'm into knitting again:

Wouldn't it be good if Fife was a leader in setting up Safe haven crisis Houses in Scotland?  Setting an example for others to follow. 

Thank you for listening. 

[Will attach the rest of the garden photos plus one or two Bluefaced Leicester Coloureds from yesterday in a follow-up Email, due to file size.]

Regards, Chrys"

Royal Highland Show 21Jun18: West Lothian Schools Pipe Band & Clydesdale horses:

Chrys Muirhead 
Safe Houses for Psychosis
writer, researcher, activist; cyclist, photographer, gardener, swimmer

BA Admin Management (best student); Postgrad Dip Community Education; Postgrad Cert TQFE (care subjects, 2008 Stirling University)​


Selection of photos from those sent:

crib of Strawberries & Dahlia
front door view of Lavenders, Honeysuckle, Hypericum etc
back garden view of tatties, other veg, Viburnum, Lavender, pot plants etc
back door view of wee greenhouse, crib, pot plants: Rhododendrums, Fuschias et al
at Royal Highland Show: Bluefaced Leicester Coloureds & Suffolk Mule (black face)

Monday, 11 June 2018

"Wild places with order, patterns, routines not rigid. Flexible. Structured with room to breathe."

Tweets from yesterday in garden:

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Merciful Love Can Help Relieve the Emotional Suffering of Extreme States: #MichaelCornwall

Merciful Love Can Help Relieve the Emotional Suffering of Extreme States: Michael Cornwall, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, May 2018


The subjective experience inherent in the act of offering merciful love by caregivers to those in extreme states is explored. Also, the subjective experience of receiving merciful love from caregivers by people in extreme states is explored. The author draws on both the personal experience of being in extreme states, and on the experience as a dissident Laingian–Jungian oriented therapist and researcher, specializing in serving people in extreme states for 40 years.

Keywords compassion, Esalen, extreme states, Jung, Laing, love, madness, merciful, psychosis, trauma, Diabasis, IWard

I wanted to write about love in this article because I have seen how self-love and the love given to us from others can often bring freedom from the emotional suffering experienced during extreme states. As someone with the harrowing lived experience of extreme states that happened more than 50 years ago, I have focused on what that extraordinary year of suffering was about, for my whole lifetime since then (Cornwall, 2015).

From the beginning, I have been keenly aware that the loving care I received from my aged grandmother as I weathered that awful storm, counted for my ability to survive it. What did she do that helped me so? What have I similarly tried to provide for over 40 years to people in extreme states and in other forms of emotional pain that grew out of my grandma’s loving response to me?

I believe that what she did was very simple really. She expressed her gentle love for me without viewing me as being “mentally ill.” She expressed her love through kind words, warm smiles, tender looks of concern, through long vigilant silences sitting by my side, and when in my most awful hours of torment, by gently resting her hand on my head as I sat on the floor at her feet. I asked her to put her hand on my head many times that year as she had done when I was a young boy during the times I had been very sick and frightened.

So again, as I entered young adulthood, I desperately turned to her like a frightened child seeking loving comfort. Sometimes a half hour or more would pass with her hand resting there on my head as I trembled and softly cried out in fear. How grateful I was to feel that caring touch as I sought for any way to ease the intense fear present in the extreme states that gripped me. Her warm, gentle touch would help break the cold and relentless grip of fear, over and over again. Only once did she say, as she gently rested her hand on my head, “There, there Michael, you’ll feel better soon. You must have the flu dear.”

She had cared for me when I had the flu when I was a little boy. So my strange delirium at age 19, of talking back to the TV that I believed was threateningly and directly talking just to me, or my crying out and trembling in fear all night long, must have caused her to think that I had the flu again. But as the months wore on and my emotional pain and disorientation grew in intensity, it emerged that each day, hour, and passing minute were timelessly suspended there between us. Her very short memory caused her to experience every few minutes wholly anew—and my sense of the passing of time became deeply altered too. For me, time often slowed down to an uncanny standstill.

The strange experience of time itself during my extreme states could be measured in agonizing periods of being attacked by tortuous disembodied voices while terrifying, inescapable images filled my mind’s eye. That inner torture somehow stretched time out and slowed it down until a few seconds seemed like minutes and a few minutes could seem like an hour. In that almost timeless and sleepless void of hearing those disembodied voices, I also physically endured the mammalian bodily state of an animal being subjected to supercharged terror—of being suspended over an abyss of perceived unending madness, where powerfully tangible, terrifying tactile energies coursed and crackled all over and through my body unbidden as I lay there in bed frozen as if paralyzed, unable to move.

During this time in my life, my grandmother was almost 90 years old. She had raised me as a vulnerable boy who had been abandoned by his parents. I trusted her touch and unspoken love for me during my extreme states, as much as I had treasured her words of love for me my whole life. She had cared for me after I had suffered agonizing third-degree burns to my hand as an 18-month-old toddler that required weeks in the hospital and extensive skin grafts.

I guess what she gave to me during my extreme states could be called unconditional love, but the acts of giving and receiving the essence of such love are very subjective. Unconditional love seems to be both more tangible and more elusive than the words that strain to define it. I believe it is a humble form of love—actually very innocent in its own way. It is so often quiet and not given to unnecessary verbal expression. In fact, it is often the healing silences that are full of such love between us that may touch and soothe us in the very core of our beings. So often, a gentle touch or a look of heartfelt caring can communicate our love without a word being said.

My grandmother’s love also opened me to receiving a merciful, soul-level healing that I know would not have happened but for her human-hearted gift. It opened me to the possibility of the existence of an unseen, very benevolent spiritual reality. I try and find that kind of merciful love that she gave me inside myself for the people I am with who are in intense emotional pain, and also anytime when I am in such pain myself. I believe we have all desperately needed such soothing love at those most painful and frightening times during our lives—from others and from ourselves. I hope you readers have felt and will feel it in your hours of need.

But perhaps such love seems too intimately personal, too unprofessional, or even too unsophisticated to be humbly offered as a soothing balm by those of us trained in the elevated disciplines of science and medicine, psychiatry, and psychology. Maybe that is partly because heart-felt love is a human emotion that we feel moving inside ourselves and we must therefore revealingly communicate it outward, when we do offer it to another.

I do not think it is easily communicated by the fine words of our professional intellect, by our rational astuteness—those well-meaning egoic cognitive efforts that may actually block us from accessing such humble, emotion-filled love for ourselves and for others. But humble love is very powerful in its own seemingly simple way. It possesses a tangible essence that passes between two people that is unmistakable when it occurs. It is like an ineffable transaction happens. It gratefully can be given in that way to ourselves too. It seems to require a letting go of those merciful gifts of love in order to have them flow out freely, as if emerging from a hidden aquifer within. It is an act of paradoxically surrendering, not gripping the subjective, compassionate experience we are feeling for ourselves or another to increase it or to continue it taking place. Those moments of love seem to have a life and duration of their own. We cannot conjure them up with the purpose of controlling their impact or their duration.

Instead, it is like when we physically hand a gift to another. There is a moment in time when our hand releases the gift—and it passes over a luminal threshold into the hand and possession of the other. Our gift giving is a form of ritual sharing where the giver surrenders possession and the receiver opens himself or herself to acceptance. In many ways, it is a very basic and simple but also intimate human sacrament. There is the feeling that grows of an enhanced connection and presence between the giver and the receiver (Cornwall, 2016a).

That communion of merciful giving seems to carry the aura of innocent love and often has a childlike quality that belies its power. It is not full of strong adult intention as we usually know it. It is so mysterious that words like grace and numinous benevolence are sometimes used to define it. Maybe so, but it is possibly much more humanly elemental than that. Very simple elemental mysteries often contain profound power.

So with all this in mind, where did my grandmother go to inside herself when she simply rested her loving hand on the head of her terrified grandson? Where have you gone to inside yourself when the tenderest love moved in you for your suffering child, your partner, your parent, your friend, even for yourself? I will venture it is an indispensable expression of our human birthright to feel such autonomous love come alive within us, and I believe it is also our greatest human need to receive it when we are suffering. This quote by Gandhi speaks to the mysterious power of love—“Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable” (Gandhi, 1925).

I do not believe such love can easily well up inside us while we are distracted by ponderous, analytical mentation. Doesn’t the “clinical gaze” that sometimes may emerge in the eyes of “mental health” caregivers reflect the detached or even defended inner emotional state of the caregiver? That impersonal clinical gaze strives to keenly identify and measure the severity of the “symptoms” of mental illness in order to ascertain definable patterns of “psychopathology.” The clinical gaze also searches for the degree of deviance from codified societal norms. But the inner clinical stance of the caregiver that fosters the caregiver’s own emotionally detached, impersonal objectifying gaze, tragically, can reinforce the inner self-judgments and the inner devaluing and self-shaming of the suffering person the caregiver would hope to help. One’s very self-identity is called into question as the inevitable psychiatric diagnosis process unfolds. We are then redefined as “disordered” beings who are fundamentally failing to pass as equals with those more “healthy” and successful persons than ourselves. A psychiatric diagnosis almost always brings a diminution of self-worth to those so often already in the grip of harsh self-judgments about their worth and inherent value (Cornwall, 2016b).

Hostile inner judgmental attacks so often may fuel the incredible emotional pain of extreme states. That extreme emotional pain tends to keep birthing the relentless strings of self-attacking words, disembodied voices, and nightmarish imagery that in turn increases the emotional pain into a reactive, spiraling critical mass that feeds on and fuels itself indefinitely. Under these circumstances doesn’t the word mercy that I am using seem like what the sufferer might even beg for, if they still had the power to beg for it?

I know that without any thought about the moral rightness of it, my grandmother freely gave me her merciful love, while she also valued the universally revered golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Her humble, unconditional love for me very crucially primed the pump for me to give such love to myself. I really needed to love myself, more than anything else, in order to escape the shaming and hateful voices inside me that judgmentally said I deserved to suffer. They also cruelly told me that I deserved to die.

Most people I have known who are suffering such intense emotional pain need the healing balm of unconditional love to be provided from others first, before they can begin to mercifully give it to themselves. We all deserve such love, but we often do not believe we really do deserve it until someone gives it to us freely (Cornwall, 2012).

A meditation on claiming our right to self-love that could be seen as a companion piece to the golden rule may be a suggestion that says, “Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto others.” How cruel we sometimes are to ourselves—heartlessly cold or hatefully harsh to ourselves in ways we would try to keep ourselves from being toward others. Harsh self-judgments can rain down from inside ourselves without a seeming way to escape them. Self-judgments that condemn and shame us provide the soil for such bitter fruit to grow and multiply.

In my experience, at a certain point of such emotional suffering, only merciful love can break through the prison cell wall where we are trapped. When we are suffering like a malnourished, starving animal, feeling cornered and collapsed inside, too weak to resist the torments, the jabs of pointed sticks of self-hatred, then we are truly at the mercy of the world and everyone around us. Then if merciful love comes to us from another, or emerges inside us for ourselves, it brings the renewing energy of life itself back into our bodies, psyches, and hearts. It brings life-saving hope that our suffering is not forever.

Every person I have known in such suffering states of inner hell had lost a handhold on his or her very existence and was sliding into oblivion. Let us try reaching out our upturned hand to them that is full of caring and merciful solace. Whatever we have learned that gets in the way of that taking place can be shelved or even forgotten for a while as we try to connect from a place of the most basic compassion. You might imagine feeling your loving energy reach out like a lifeline, holding the suffering person who is safely there with you from slipping into total collapse. The gentlest expression of loving concern that you may imagine being able to offer him or her will no doubt contain some of the soothing balm that my grandmother brought to me.

Many years ago, when I sat a few feet across from a person who was in incredible fear and in the inner torment of hearing relentless persecutory voices, I found myself unbidden, imagining my hand slowly reaching out and gently resting on the person’s head with compassion. As I imagined myself doing that in my mind’s eye, the person slowly looked up and met my gaze. The invisible essence of merciful heartfelt caring passed from me to the person in that moment, and I remembered my aged grandmother and her merciful gifts of love in my hours of need (Cornwall, 2002).

Finally, a little poem came to me unbidden in the night many years ago as a reminder of her selfless love and as a daily touchstone that I still need to help me find my way:

“There’s a love that doesn’t wait to be claimed, received.
There’s a love that doesn’t wait and long to be returned.
There’s a humble love that just is, is.
A gentle flame that just burns, burns.”

I sometimes gratefully still dream about my grandmother, and in those dreams, I again see her kind face, her wise and childlike loving eyes, and her gentle, loving smile.

Laura Tompkins was her name."