National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Book Review: Milt Greek's Schizophrenia: A Blueprint for Recovery
By Doug Bradley, NAMI Information and Referral Associate
CreateSpace (2012), $14.99
Milt Greek, who may be familiar to some from his profile in the New York Times, is extraordinary for several reasons. Firstly, he is a person living with schizophrenia—an achievement in itself. Secondly, he is able to use his extensive first-hand experience to examine the condition from many different perspectives. He looks at the medical model, spiritual and philosophical aspects, social factors, and the importance of personal history in the illness. Most importantly, he does so impartially by highlighting the benefits and pitfalls of each vantage point.
The author stresses that medication is an important and often crucial part of recovery for many people. However, he states that some people can go without medicine for periods of time, or even for life, if their delusions and hallucinations respond to a low-stress, compassionate surrounding. He does not claim that this works for everyone (he says medication is critical for him) and must be done with caution, but believes that there is a spectrum of schizophrenia. Accordingly, there is no one treatment for all types of the illness.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Schizophrenia: A Blueprint for Recovery is the idea of finding personal meaning and fulfillment in one’s delusions. He notes that not all delusions are meaningful (or pleasant), but feels that many thoughts and hallucinations of schizophrenia are often related to one’s life. This view is contrary to the prototypical one that symptoms are simply meaningless by-products of the illness. After the acute period of psychosis, Greek argues persuasively that a person can find meaning in their experiences by relating them to life events. Similar to religious visions, hallucinations and delusions may provide insight into their thoughts, emotions, and life. He is careful to note that it can take time to distinguish the authentic insights from the misleading ones. Nor does he claim that spirituality or religion is a substitute for therapy which provides a way for connecting with “consensual reality,” or what society in general accepts as real.
This book also details how to live with schizophrenia. Stress reduction, healthy eating, avoidance of any substance that worsens symptoms, socializing, finding support, and how to distinguish remaining hallucinations and delusions from reality are all discussed.
Milt Greek has created a compassionate, humanistic, and non-partisan book. It does not take sides in the “medicate vs. don’t medicate” debate but brings together useful aspects of all views.