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Schizophrenia
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9/16/16 12:39 AM
I decided to do a home retreat and did mahasi style noting for around 100hrs. I'm sure I entered dissolution. Things quickly got intense. I was very emotionally reactive to thoughts. I was rapidly switching between thinking I'm god, I'm living in a simulation, I'm being controlled by some esoteric entities, I'm a character of some work of science-fiction. I started wandering around my city and switching between being delighted by existence to being miserable or disgusted by it. Finally, on my way home I noticed the sun is unusually bright. My perception of it was that it was very intense. I felt it burned skin on my neck. I feared it's going to burn me alive to ashes. At this point I called for help. 

Long story short, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I started taking meds and things are OK now. I'm still battling with not interpreting overheard conversations as having something to do with me, but overall I've my delusions under control.

I know I'm in the DNoS now, but man, I didn't expect I'm going to lose it to such extent.

My plan for dealing with this situation is as follows:
- keep taking meds until psychiatrist decides it's ok to drop them,
- do some Goenka retreats with people and teachers around,
- switch from doing insight at home, to doing concentration - I completely disregarded samatha in my meditations. I'm planning to use Kasina method, as described by Kenneth Folk.

I will appreciate your comments. Perhaps someone was in a similar situation and dealt with it?

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 1:46 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Hello Paul,

I'm sorry, I have no experience with schizophrenia. But I think it is good that you've got professional help while navigating through this territory. Also make sure that you do things that ground you, like going into nature and doing some body work (exercise, qigong etc.). Maybe you can also find someone in your area who deals with spiritual crisis and give you some more advice. You may find someone here: http://spiritualemergence.info/

The other reason I'm answering your post is an article I read just yesterday. Maybe it's of interest to you: A Mental Disease by Any Other Name

Wish you all the best,
Andreas

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 2:44 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
Thank you Andreas.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 5:44 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
I think your challenge now is really finding the practice format that works for you, which I see you are trying to do now. I'm not sure if the intensive retreat format will be the right one for you. Maybe yes, maybe no. Also, expect that Goenka centers will ask about mental health issues/background and may not accept you in their retreats. They have very strict guidelines and they take very seriously, for instance, the "not leaving a retreat before it ends" rule, which should be taken into consideration when one has vulnerabilities mental health wise. I would really recommend working with a teacher that does not emphasize a "one size fits all" approach, and so is flexible in finding with you what practice format works best for you.

Wishing you much success on the Path and in your overall well-being,

Benoit

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 8:21 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Hey Paul,

Ron Crouch is a meditation teacher (a student of Kenneth Folk) and he is also a trained psychologist. It is a relatively rare combination, and most psychologists do not know much about meditation, so why not try talking to him to see if he has any ideas or suggestions? You can book a skype appointment with him on his websites (donations based).

His website as meditation instructor:

https://alohadharma.com/

his website as a psychologist:

http://ronaldcrouch.com/

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 10:27 AM as a reply to neko.
neko:
Hey Paul,

Ron Crouch is a meditation teacher (a student of Kenneth Folk) and he is also a trained psychologist. It is a relatively rare combination, and most psychologists do not know much about meditation, so why not try talking to him to see if he has any ideas or suggestions? You can book a skype appointment with him on his websites (donations based).

His website as meditation instructor:

https://alohadharma.com/

his website as a psychologist:

http://ronaldcrouch.com/
I completely agree...get ahold of him pronto...the first video chat will be free so there is no reason to not do it.
Avoid "hardcore" practises and retreats until you stablize....kasina is also pretty hardcore. Why not try metta/loving kindness and get some bliss going and take that as your object to get things nice and "wet"?
Good luck,
~D

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 10:33 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thank you Ben, neko, Dream Walker. I contacted Ron and will try metta.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/16/16 1:39 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Yeah, retreats or intensive practice, regardless of style, isn't going to (and I'm not saying probably isn't going to) help in this situation because it is likely not going to effect a healthy mental balance. Spiritual practice, regardless of style, especially that of intensive sort, is for people with normal health. What you describe above is not a normal situation. I think it might be OK to do some practice but this would have to be with a teacher/person who is skilled in both worlds, mental health and meditation. 

How did you come to start your practice (I assume you didn't have prior practice history) with 100 hours of vipassana? 100 hours in how many days?

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 12:14 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
@Kim

I did have prior practice history. I did one Goenka retreat and meditated for few hundred hours in 1-2 years.

I did 85 hours in 20 days and then ramped up the practice and did 97 hours in 14 days. I started to feel prana dissolving connective tissue in the body. 

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 2:32 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Did your schiz condition develop as a result of your meditation?

I have heard how some got partial kundalini awakening during meditation which caused temporary mental illness. This is because some psychologists cannot tell the difference between schiz vs kundalini gone wrong.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 2:56 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Paul,

I'm very sorry this has happened to you.  It sounds like you have some solid experience with meditation and dharma diagnosis, which will continue to be a strength.  I would second much of what has been written upthread, having worked with Ron myself for a year and a half.  In my own experiences with mental illness and the spiritual path, I have found that the pragmatic approach works just as well for psychiatry and therapy as it does for dharma. 

There are websites such as CrazyMeds.Us which can provide you with the no-bs skinny on the myriad psych meds out there.  It is important to understand that a cocktail of meds at low doses is frequently more powerful than one med by itself.  It is key to develop the sense of patience and perserverance as you work with doctors.  Psych meds can take quite awhile to kick in, and the willingness to "tread water" and not give into impatience can demarcate the line between success and failure with them.  

Not all forms of therapy are created equal.  Some modalities, such as EMDR, or internal family systems, are designed to work at a deeper level of the subconscious, and may be more effective.  Finding a therapist who you trust and have a good rapport with is also vital.  You do not have to be in the backseat for your therapy.  You can be doing your own research and taking an active approach in the healing of your mind. 

With regards to meditation, the right approach is the one that heals and balances you.  This may involve going through the dukkha nanas in a perceptible way, or it may involve more organically calming methods.  There are plenty of people in the online meditation community who can help you find the optimal means.

Know that there is always a path forward into a higher expression of your experience.  You have the tools of modern medicine and ancient wisdom at your disposal!  Putting one foot in front of the next is all that is needed.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 2:57 AM as a reply to Simon Liu.
I can point to temporal succession: >100hrs of Mahasi noting -> psychotic episode. In december 2015 I had a more intense episode involving LSD (including suicide attempt). Since then, I don't do drugs. There might be some psychological residues left related to that time.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 8:50 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Im mentally ill. Self diagnosed. Because its impossible to me to accept someones diagnose because i take other people opinions about my own condition as an opinion coming from someone lower animallike being. So i work with the why i can't accept it.

As i read your post, it seem like easy lesson for me and currently thinking a way how it could be possible to fall into it so i could relate. So i found this to be the closest guess now.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 9:07 AM as a reply to Banned For waht?.
Rist, what is an easy lesson for you? When you write "I'm mentally ill" - are you paraphrasing my post from your point of view? I did get my diagnosis from a psychiatrist and I do accept it. Also, I don't view others as lower animallike beings - why such an interpretation?

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 9:29 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
I think those experiences became happy and good when sharing them amongst people who value the grazier the more awesome.

Self never exposes something, what would show itself in lower light or cause harm to itself, so if you tell those experiences you also have backdoor to escape. I wonder what it is.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 9:49 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Paul Smith:
@Kim

I did have prior practice history. I did one Goenka retreat and meditated for few hundred hours in 1-2 years.

I did 85 hours in 20 days and then ramped up the practice and did 97 hours in 14 days. I started to feel prana dissolving connective tissue in the body. 

OK. Did you have anyone to ask questions from? What comes to "prana dissolving connective tissue" I think prana cannot do this, destroy physical tissue. However excess prana can feel something like that, that is, very uncomfortable.
Simon Liu:
Did your schiz condition develop as a result of your meditation?

I have heard how some got partial kundalini awakening during meditation
which caused temporary mental illness. This is because some
psychologists cannot tell the difference between schiz vs kundalini gone
wrong.

Confusing prana and kundalini is one of the biggest understanding out there. Excess prana does create many sorts of problems while kundalini only solves problems. When excess prana gets to the side channels of the spine, it can cause really bad problems. And prana can be manipulated in different ways, like too much physica exercise, too much pranayama, too much meditation combined with too little rest or food. The pranic system can also become disharmonious by drugs and alcohol, many ways to screw up your prana energies.

Kundalini or any type of spiritual/deity energies, on the other hand, can only be surrendered to. They cannot be manipulated by will. Kundalini cannot be brought up. If this is tried, one will only stimulate prana and possibly end up with energetic problems in various degree.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 12:03 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Hi Paul,

Did you have any history of psychological problems prior to engaging in intensive practice? If so, probably intensive retreat practice isn't such a good idea. The altered states of consciousness that evolve out of intensive retreat practice are quite challenging even for someone with a solid psychological profile. That's why most retreat centers ask on the entry form about your history. They are typically completely unprepared to deal with someone having a difficult experience. A light, mindfulness based practice, perhaps as part of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, is probably a better bet. Even then, if your prior history includes severe psychological difficulties, it's important to tell the teacher and work with a therapist if any difficulties arise.

If, on the other hand, if you had no history of psychological problems, and the hallucinations died away shortly after you stopped intensive practice, then maybe what you experienced isn't schizophrenia but the effects of the altered states of consciouness that come out of vipassana and shamantha. The hallucinations involved in schizophrenia generally involve screaming, voices that are saying negative things about you, what a nobody you are, and the like. My experience with the hallucinations coming out of deep shamantha practice (which you can read about here in a memoir I published a couple years ago) is that the hallucinations instead construct a story about yourself, in which rather than being a nobody, you are a hero. In addition, there is a visual component to the hallucinations that most schizophrenics don't report. For another take on the effects of the altered states of consciousness coming out of vipassana/shamantha practice, check out this post from a former DhOer who no longer hangs out here (near the bottom). Prof. Willoughby Britton at Brown University, after having experienced some difficulty herself at and after a retreat, has also done research on negative effects of meditation, you might want to Google her and check out some of her work.

Most Western psychotherapists have little or no experience with meditators experiencing hallucinations and psychological difficulty, and they will simply fall back on the convenient formula "If you are hearing voices, you are schizophrenic" even when the content of what you are hearing and seeing is not consistent with what shizophrenics typically report. That said, if you are hearing voices, they are overwhelming and negative, they continue even for more than a month after you have left the retreat, and they are affecting your ability to function in daily life (interactions at work and with your family and friends) then I would say don't fool around but rather work with your therapist to get a treatment regime set up that lessens the symptoms.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
9/17/16 12:53 PM as a reply to svmonk.
@Kim

No one to report to or ask questions. I think we mean different "things" by prana. By "prana" I mean the "substance" responsible for champagne bubbles sensations when in bhanga nana. There was a feeling of pleasant dissolution of fascia between muscle fibers. This "substance" would flow out of specific points in the body, for example from both lower corners of the jaw (around the points where lower jaw touches neck).

@svmonk

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder when I was a teeneger and later with dysthymia when attending university. I hear voices when I talk to people emoticon. Otherwise I sometimes hear nonexistent sounds at the asleep / awake boundary. When this sound happens to be a comprehensible word it's my first name 100% of the time. During last episode I involuntarily moved through pleasant emotions (delight, sense of aesthetic beauty, appreciation, happiness) and unpleasant ones (misery, disgust, anger). So it's a polar thing. Emotions aren't the problem though. The problem is that I submerge into a fantastic interpretation of reality, for example thinking I'm a hero of some work of fiction, or that some movie is about me and I need to symbolically mimic the movie's ending in order to "finish" something I'm supposed to. Basically I'm constantly aware of 2 interpretations of events. One interpretation is ordinary, second one is fantastic. When episode starts, the fantastic interpretation is switched to ALWAYS ON and it's hard to function.

RE: Schizophrenia
Answer
10/14/16 8:25 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Hey Paul,

I can't speak for schizophrenia, but I can speak for dark night. I made it throught dark night after being stuck in it for 3.5 years.

When I first entered I went to see 3 different therapists and had a Zen teacher. The first two therapists diagnosed me with bipolar even though I had never had symptoms prior. The last therapist said, "I don't do labels." He taught me to identify my triggers.

Your task is to identify when each mind state arises and learn to deal with it as soon as it arises before it spirals out of control. I can't emphasize this enough. Know yourself.

Identify your core beliefs: unlovable, unworthy, uninteresting, incapable, etc. All of your thoughts and actions revolve around them. You are going to need to see your various identification structures by interacting with the world in various ways.

I personally did not find formal meditation helpful at all. But I did find a breathing practice very helpful because it helps soothe the mind and ease some of the discomfort as I worked through my core beliefs.

Good luck