The Nature of Nurture

Recovery from Schizophrenia without Medication, an interview with Tracey Higgins

Episode Summary

Host Leslie sits down with Tracey Higgins to explore Tracey’s full recovery from schizophrenia without medication. They discuss the role that trauma played in her symptoms, and the controversy that surrounds her message that recovery from schizophrenia is possible.

Episode Notes

Host Leslie sits down with Tracey Higgins to explore Tracey’s full recovery from schizophrenia without medication. They discuss the role that trauma played in her symptoms, and the controversy that surrounds her message that recovery from schizophrenia is possible. 

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Episode Transcription

You are listening to the fourth episode of the Third Season of The Nature of Nurture, a podcast for your mental health. I'm your host, Dr. Leslie Carr, and you're about to listen to a fantastic conversation with a really special person. Today I bring to you Tracey Higgins. Tracey is an author of the memoir, the Girl on the Bridge, and she's an advocate for people who have schizophrenia.

The girl on the bridge chronicles her own experience of suffering from schizophrenia and achieving a full recovery without medication. If you know anything about schizophrenia, I probably don't have to tell you how unusual that is. If you're not super familiar with schizophrenia, I'll give you a high level overview.

It's a mental health condition that many people believe is largely biological. A problem of brain chemistry brought on by faulty genes best treated with medication. The symptoms include hallucinations and delusions and what we call disorganized thinking or disorganized speech. So for example, if you've ever seen a homeless person talking to themselves, quote unquote, and speaking in a way that sounds like gibberish, there's a high degree of likelihood that that person has schizophrenia.

Sometimes it can be a reaction to drugs or it could be a diagnosis that's similar to schizophrenia, something else that's in the family of what we call psychotic disorders. So I wouldn't diagnose someone with such limited information, but sadly, many of America's homeless people suffer from schizophrenia and are not getting appropriate care.

So this is a huge problem in the United States. It's a really scary illness, mostly for the people who have it, but also for their loved ones and even their treaters. Not scary and that there's a risk of violence. I wanna be very clear about that. It's extremely rare that people who have schizophrenia act out in violence.

I mean, scary in the sense that when a person is seeing things that aren't there, or believing things to be true that aren't, it can have a menacing quality to it. To have schizophrenia is often to feel afraid, to feel like someone is out to get you, or to hear voices that are saying dark and threatening things.

So, I mean, scary in that sense. When you're a mental health professional, the desire to make it go away can be intense, which I do believe is largely why we rely on medications so heavily to treat it. The desire to make the voices stop or to give a person a feeling of peace, can become desperate. But the medications that are used to treat schizophrenia are really heavy duty stuff.

They tend to come with some intense side effects, including extreme drowsiness, weight gain, ticks and tremors. The list goes on. Neither Tracey nor I are here to argue that there's never a place for medication in the treatment of schizophrenia. That's not what this is about exactly. But Tracey does feel strongly that we collectively underestimate the role that trauma plays in schizophrenia.

And I agree with her there. She also believes strongly that there's no role between genes and schizophrenia. I'm a little more agnostic on that, but when I drop you in on this conversation in a minute, where I'll drop you in is right into the middle of our pre-interview discussion about that. So you'll hear us discuss that.

A few things to clarify to set you up for this discussion. When I was coming up in my training years as a psychologist, there were a few things that I learned about schizophrenia that I've always found to be super compelling. I've worked with people who have schizophrenia as well, so some of this is based on firsthand clinical.

One of the things that I find compelling is that for an illness that many people believe is purely biological, there's actually a lot of evidence that

psychotherapy is very effective for it. I'll put this in the show notes, but if you're curious to learn more about this, I highly recommend a TED Talk that was given by a woman named Eleanor Longden about her experience of struggling with schizophrenia and her recovery with a very deep and supportive psychotherapy.

It's really worth watching. What I was also taught is that there's some genetic predisposition for schizophrenia, but that it's not as strong as you might believe. If you look at twin studies, for example, what we often see is that if one person has both schizophrenia and an identical twin, there's about a 33% chance that their identical twin will also have schizophrenia. 33%. That's a relatively small degree of likelihood if you ask. Given that the gene overlap is 100%.

Now, Tracey has come across a more recent research that indicates that there may be no link between genes and schizophrenia, so I'll link to that in the show notes as well. She puts those links on her own website, so I'll link to that more than anything.

What Tracey believes to be true is that in her case, her experience of schizophrenia was a result of trauma. This is a little controversial in its own way because the parents of people with schizophrenia often find comfort in thinking that it's not a trauma response, that schizophrenia is a brain disease. So I will make one more thing painfully clear before we dive in.

No one here is suggesting that schizophrenia is a result of parental abuse or neglect. In Tracey's case it was, but she's very clear that her story is her own. In this podcast episode, we don't reveal or explore what her abuse entailed. We agreed in advance not to discuss it, but she details it in depth in her book. So I just will tell you that it's truly harrowing. This woman is an absolute survivor. I'm deeply grateful that she was willing to sit with me and to share her story with us.

And then with the biological, we're gonna touch on that. Sure. And my understanding what you said last time is that you're of the biological mindset.

I would not put it that way.

But you acknowledge the biological component.

I think that it is possible that on some level genes or biology play a role here. But, I also think it's possible that they don't, and I actually think that that debate is less important to me.

Like the way that I tend to think about this stuff, and this is just true of anything in the world of mental health, is that all of the experiences that we have make us who we are, right?


The trauma, stress, culture, all of these things play a far, far bigger role than genes and biology do, but that there might be some genetic or biological underpinnings to why one person who experiences trauma could develop schizophrenia and another person, let's say like severe depression instead.


And that what I think is most healing for people is high quality therapy or things like that.  I think that everybody deserves whatever their healing journey is. And I really wanna talk to you about your own, cuz it, that's actually a question that I was left with after having read the book in terms of, we'll get into that in a second, but I'm just, because you didn't necessarily have a traditional therapy experience. Anyway, it's like, I think what heals trauma,  is high quality therapy experiences or something else like it.

Not so much drugs. And I think that the drugs can sometimes be helpful, and this is true, I think, of all psychotropic drugs. Sometimes they can be limitedly helpful, um, like in emergency circumstances and that kind of stuff. Like I don't, I try to not throw anything out all together.

I think that you and I are 99% on the same page. It's just that it, it might, I think, where we kind of maybe diverge, and it doesn't really ,matter to me cause I'm just happy to,

I wanna hear it.

I don't, yeah, I don't feel the need to be right about anything. Yeah. But I think that it's possible that there's like some genetic vulnerability.

Uh, harvard just did a huge study.


It's been disproven. Okay, cool. There are no genes.

Okay. And I had wanted to ask you too, cuz you said that last time. Do you have any studies you could send me or something? You can email me like just later.

I ha I just actually put in uh, Harvard's review on my website, uh, the other day.

Okay. Awesome.

I'm fine with medication.

Hmm. Mm-hmm.  

I think that it should not be used as a lifetime thing. I think it should be used during, like, for schizophrenia, the therapy part of it, because the suffering is so intense and there's the greatest fear of, you know, exploring self, uh, medication to, uh, take the edge off.

I tru. I truly believe that like, I mean, in my own case, I should have, if I could have picked what medication, I would've wanted something for my anxiety.

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

So I could think straight, right. So I can, I can see that I don't have a problem with that. Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, you have to educate the sufferer that, you know, about the meds


what they're gonna do. And also, um, not throw in all that biological stuff because that's not important to the sufferer.

Yeah. Well, there's no doubt in my mind. I mean, I think two things as a clinician in this space. One is that I know that high quality therapy can be extremely helpful and valuable when it comes to treating schizophrenia.

I have zero doubts about that in my mind, and I think that there are a lot of clinicians that would 100% agree with me because the data is in, and there are people that have had profoundly healing experiences with therapy, and so there's no doubt in my mind.

There's also no doubt in my mind that the prevailing view, just as a result of the biomedical perspective that we have on this stuff,


is that what most people experience when they're diagnosed with schizophrenia and experiencing treatment for it in quotes, is heavy duty doses

I know

of hardcore drugs. Because the, the goal, the attempt, the desire is to sort of wash the symptoms chemically. And I think that that comes, you know, as you and I were talking about last time, just it, I think it comes from a place of fear.


It comes from a sincere, I actually really do think largely a sincere desire to help, because. The fear is so palpable all the way around. Like when a person is experiencing terror.

Well it, you know, that's why they label it dangerous. Like you don't know how people are gonna react. Cuz I know in my state, like when I had it,


I mean, I was agitated all the time.


Like I was yelling and screaming and carrying on. I confessed all the stuff I. Okay, well, I just did that because, you know, I wanted to tell the whole story, not just say, oh, I'm so innocent. You know, I did things, but I mean, I had no control over it, but I was agitated all the time.

And then if somebody was coming at me and trying to get close to me, like I say about that one scene with the social worker, I put my fist up to hit her, but I hugged her instead. So, I mean, like you're agitated all the time.

Will you say what the word agitated means for you?

My nervous system is on fire.

Um, mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.  

So I'm just peaking at this high anxiety. So a sound.


Uh, even my own voice would startle me. So I mean, if I have somebody coming at me trying to work with me, which never really happened, but I mean, I'm going to want them away from me. I think that's what happens in hospitals. They're agitated and then they're coming at them with needles.  And they're not explaining or telling them. So they're at this heightened awareness of everything around you and everything's seen as a threat.

Yeah, yeah.

Like everything was a threat to me. So I'm agitated. Go away. Don't come near me. So.


You know.

One of the things that I'm thinking about, and this is why I. Conversations between someone like me and someone like you are so incredibly valuable is that I think that there aren't enough people like you who can share what it felt like for them at the time.


So I think that what happens is from the clinician standpoint, it's very hard to imagine what someone who is experiencing schizophrenia is experiencing. So there's. Things are moving very quickly, right? Like I can just even think about this.


As someone who has worked, um, in crisis situations and unlocked inpatient units, when a person is experiencing that kind of crisis, there's a high level of intensity all the way around.

So I can picture what you're talking about all too. Well, just even from the condition.

And it can feel it. You can feel it.

It's palpable. Absolutely.


Absolutely. So there's this feeling. I absolutely know what it is that you're describing. The sensation of, um, agitation, everything being sort of very intense, and then depending on what, what exactly is going on. I think a lot of times from the clinician perspective, there can be almost a sense of like urgency to make something stop sometimes even for somebody's own safety.


Um, which can be very scary. . So it's just, yeah, it's just amazing to think that I, I think it's hard for a lot of people to imagine what it's like to be in your shoes.

Well, they don't have the experience.


But they can get a sense of feeling like off the sufferer because, you know, uh, psychosis is very powerful and it's the vibe off it. So that scares people.


So I mean, like, if they could get past that and separate themselves from the patient, I think that they could get somewhere.


Like I know in my case that I couldn't vocalize what I needed.


But, um, I would've went for it.


If somebody would've taken that route and got into my world and heard me.


I would've went for recovery. I just never had the opportunity.


And I, I don't think many are getting that opportunity.

No, I couldn't agree with you more. So let's, let's back up a little bit for people, cuz there are a couple of specific questions I wanna ask you.

You were diagnosed with schizophrenia for the first time at 14.



Yes. Yes.

And I, God, there's so many, there's so many kind of places I sort of wanna start here, but one of the reasons why I wanted to have this conversation with you has to do with something that you wrote about right at the top of your book, which is the idea that schizophrenia makes sense, which I couldn't, and I couldn't agree with you more, by the way.

But I'm wondering if we can kind of start with, can you share a little bit about what that means for you? What do you mean when you say that schizophrenia, it makes sense.

Well, I mean like it makes sense to me because if you traumatize somebody long enough,  and hard enough it's gonna affect the mind.


So I mean, what I mean by that is like if I take, like, I call it a survival mechanism.


So this person's trying to survive in this environment.


So, There's no outlet, there's no way out. They can't express themselves. So that would bring on the symptoms and then through the symptoms it would express the trauma.

So that makes sense.


That's all I mean by that. And then if we could just like focus on the flight, fight, freeze response. I think it's all stemming from that because I took the freeze response, I had nowhere to go. I was trapped like an animal.


So I couldn't perceive a way out. So I created a new world to live in.


Which was automatic.


I didn't, will it honor anything? It was just, boom, I was there.


The word is the, the word that's coming to mind for me.  adaptation, which is just to say, I think all mental health experiences are adaptive responses.


And what you're describing is how you adapted.


Mm-hmm. Which my brain did what it needed to do to protect me.

So here's kind of a funny question, but it's an interesting one to me. You know, in your book you describe hearing voices.


And I wonder if you can say a little bit what that was like for you? Like was it multiple voices? Can you just describe a little bit the experience of what it's like to hear voices in that state?

Okay. Well, the voices that I heard, some of them were really loud and threatening.


But then there was some that were far away. Like I could only pick out bits and pieces. In my healing process, I discovered that they were verbal and non-verbal messages.


From my abusers. So, I mean, my mind was overwhelmed and I couldn't confront like the whole trauma thing. So then the voices would, it was like an overwhelming sense. So how do I put that? So the voices expressed it for me with, without me realizing that they weren't real. Am I saying that properly?

Well, absolutely. I think that you are. But it's really interesting because one of the things that I was so curious about reading your book, there's one, one line, and I'll just read the quote back to you. At a moment when you were at a psychiatric hospital being interviewed by a psychiatrist, you write in the book. "He wanted to know if I saw things that weren't real. I did and I told him so," and one of the things that I found myself wondering, reading that line is how did you know, like, how did you know they weren't real? How did you have enough of a perspective on that to be able to say to someone, I know that what I'm seeing isn't real.

Because I could distinguish, like, especially in the hallucinations. Hmm. Cause the characters were always dressed up characters that aren't present in this world. And I could distinguish through what they were wearing.

So that's how I, how I knew they weren't real. But they were frightening. I never let schizophrenia become identity.


like a lot do. Like, they're like, I'm schizophrenic, I'm this, this, this. I never crossed over. I fought.


I, I fought all the way through.


So I mean, like there was the core of my being that knew.


I had a strong intuition and I followed that all the time throughout my whole journey. So that's how I could, I knew it wasn't real.

Yeah. I think it's, it's an amazing thing to think about, I think, and I really can appreciate what you're saying, this idea that for whatever reason, for whatever variety of reasons, you are always able to keep a foot in what we could just sort of say is like the non schizophrenic world, I'm not even gonna say real. Who the hell knows what's real?


You're, you were able to keep a foot in this sort of non schizophrenic world, such that even if you were having hallucinations or hearing voices, there was a part of you that knew like, that there was a difference between the voices that you were hearing in your head versus other people's voices.

Like a, a voice of someone in the room.

Yeah. I would just ignore the voices. Like I can hear them, but I would just, I wouldn't engage.


Um, and just ignore


like, all this stuff is going on in my head, but I have a separation from it.


And I think the reason being is because I looked outside of myself to everybody, like the so-called normal person.


And what, how they were behaving and how they were acting. And then I knew that definitely something wrong there. I was forever learning from others. Like my grandfather taught me a lot.

Mm, mm-hmm. And I was so struck by, um, one of the lines in the book when you were talking about watching the nurses in the locked inpatient unit and sort of mimicking their behavior.


Cause you're like, that's what, that's what seems normal. So that's what I need to do that. Yeah.


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One thing that I just wanna make clear for the listener, so, and especially I kind of also wanna make sure that I have this right, so they started prescribing medication, but you never took it, right? Like you would kind of, you know, the clinical term we sometimes use as tongue-ing  your meds, which is to say that you just, you wouldn't swallow them and then you would spit them out, right?


Did you never take medication?  



I'm not like, even besides that whole experience, I'm not a medication person.

Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

I'm more like exercise and eating, right?


It's just who I am.


I always thought that the meds, like, I don't wanna put that in my body.



No, I totally get it.

And I think one of the things that I just really marvel at with your story is that you also. , unfortunately, I think in many ways also, as far as I can tell, never really had like a meaningful experience of psychotherapy either. Huh?


I actually think in some ways that's one of the most remarkable things about your story that, I mean, I, I just can't help but wanna ask you, what do you attribute your recovery to?

I think it was my ability to see hope in everything. Like I just believe deep down that there was a better life for me and this wasn't it. So I had a lot of tools, like I played sports a lot. That was an outlet for me. I wasn't willing to give up myself.

I can.

That's what it all came down to.

I can only imagine too that the experience of having children for you is a big part of that.


Yeah. Like really increased that fight or that sense of that there was really something worth fighting for.

Yeah. Most people don't know this, but at the tail end of my schizophrenia, I had already had two children.

Mm mm-hmm.

And when I went through the healing process, my daughter was in diapers.

Wow. Wow.

And um yeah, them.

And would you say that was like probably around the age of 28 was when your like recovery began in earnest?


Yeah, yeah. But it was al, it was already starting a little earlier because I would have, like with my kids, like I'd be bathing my son and I'd have a flashback, but I'd ignore it.


So it was kind of peeking through a little earlier, but then that incident that I write about with the family member, that made me come out in full force and go for it.

Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.

And I will say this, my children are pretty exceptional.

Yeah, it really sounds like it.

They're in their thirties now. But I mean, I just marvel at the fact that they're so balanced.


They're smart, they're balanced, they're loving. I've got these great kids, so awesome. Yeah. Mind you, they did. They have suffered though.


Because when I went through the healing, I left my entire family, so that left them without grandparents. So they've missed out on all that.

Yeah, and it's interesting to think that that is something to miss out on for sure. And yet, at the same time, I don't think that having just any grandparents are worth, you know, like maybe better to not have grandparents, if you could have grandparents you wouldn't have a good experience with. Right?


Mm-hmm.  Do you ever talk to them? Like when you're talking about, you know, bathing your son when he was little and having a flashback, do you think that he has, or that either of your children have any recollection from their early childhood of you struggling at all?

Yes, my son does. But my daughter doesn't. When I went through the healing process, I tried, I would hide as much as possible from them.


Like I put them in daycare or school, and as soon as they left the door, it was just full on tears. And then I pulled myself back together. But my son did notice me acting a little odd at times.

But we've talked it all out. I'm like totally honest with.


So of, of course it affected him.


But he, but I bonded with them. I was, I did bond with them. I knew that was important.

Well, I think also too, you know, one of the things that you write about in the book is just sort of how much pleasure you took in the experience of motherhood.

And it's, you know, it's like, what a, what a gift. You know? It's like, it's. Just, I think a very different experience when people are... I think one of the greatest myths that we live in, in our culture is that, that, that that happens universally, right? That every woman equally enjoys the experience of motherhood. And I just don't think that that's true. But I think that when you do have a sincere experience of loving the experience of being a mother, you know, it's like, it's that that force is stronger than anything.

I think my kids are like in their thirties. I love them so much.


Like, I mean, we could go out to dinner and they have their lives, but I mean, we do a lot of things together. Yeah. And I'm there with the, even in their ages now, I'm there for them 100%. They know that they can call me if there's something, something comes up.


Life is tough now.

It really is. Yeah. And I, and I wanted to kind of talk about present day a little bit more, because I think one of the things that's super important about the ex, the experience that you're having these days with the advocacy work that you do, is that you experience a lot of pushback, huh?

From like psychiatrists and even other families of survivors, or I shouldn't even say survivors, but family members of people that have schizophrenia that really feel like they don't, they don't think that what you're doing is good.

Well, I think their concern is because mine is schizophrenia was caused by extreme abuse like within the family. So I think their fear is like when people listen to my story, they're automatically gonna think, oh, the listeners will think, oh, they're gonna think bad of me, or, whatever. But I mean, that's not my intention.


So I understand their fear. Like once, you know, I'm educating people and they're gonna learn, oh, her schizophrenias from, you know, this, that, that are all parents like that.

I think that fear is there. Yeah. And

I, it's so interesting too. I know that you and I spoke about this previous, previously, but it's interesting to think that schizophrenia obviously can be a response to extreme abuse. I think in a lot of instances. I think one of the things that people lose sight of sometimes is that trauma can occur and abuse can occur and things like that.

And major stressors


outside of the family, right? Like just because somebody is traumatized doesn't mean that they were traumatized at the hands of their parents. , and I just know from following you on Twitter, I'll sort of see some of the interactions that go back and forth, or I'll see the way that people come at you.


And it's there. It has a really heartbreaking quality to it because I know that, like for example, I just saw one interaction with a parent who was sort of accusing you, basically, of just this very thing that we're talking about. Right? So the phrase that used to be used is the notion of,

oh, you've seen that?

The, yeah, the schizophrenic parent, right?

Which is the idea that like parenthood, a form of parenthood can create schizophrenia, which is an idea that has largely been debunked, right? There's not that, there's not like a specific bad parenting style that creates schizophrenia in one's children. But your story is nonetheless real. You know, you had an experience of


very severe trauma that created a, a certain set of reactions, a reaction or set of reactions, and it's, it's unfortunate to me to sort of witness this, like either or conversation that happened.


As if, you know.


I don't know if I'm being clear.  

And I also make it clear that like, you know, I do talk to people that have fully recovered like myself.


and a lot of their stories are about like bullying and school. Yeah. Lots of things like stressors that, like you say, outside of the family. So, I'm not trying to say like my story is the same as everybody else's, which it's not. It's just that the only way I can tell my story


is to include what happened to me so people can understand.

So, um, I am not out to blame parents, like even in my own case or whatever. Oh, I long forgave my abusers and I've moved on my. My premise's just to say, Hey look, it's not a biological disease. People can recover. That's it. I'm not out there to hurt parents at all.

And on the other hand, I do speak to many parents that are not offended by what I say. They'll, they'll email me and ask questions. So it's not all of them coming at me, but I understand their fear.

Well, I think that's also important too, for people to know that you are not strictly speaking anti-medication. That's not the place that you're coming from.


You know, it's more that you just tell me if I'm getting this right. I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but it's more that, other types of recovery are more deeply healing. You know, medication might mask symptoms, it might control a person's behavior, but it's not gonna heal their trauma. And a per, any person who's diagnosed with schizophrenia, I think like any other mental health condition, deserves trauma recovery options.


And psychotherapy and whatever. Whatever the recovery entail.

That's what I am saying.


I'm not anti-medication and I never will be. And I never was. I think they're useful taking the edge off, you know?


But I also believe that they do not, they will never produce a full recovery.

So the therapy, whatever therapy that's going to be used needs to compliment the drugs.


The two have to go together. And then there's a lot of people that have schizophrenia that do not need drugs.


But it's kind of like everybody's getting the drugs. It should be like individual choice, like.

Not everybody needs the drugs.

Yeah, absolutely. Mm-hmm.

And I think a lot of parents, they just wanna get the kids on drugs is because it's so disturbing to see your child slip away.


So, I mean, yeah. That, that's what, that's how I feel. Drugs. Drugs and therapy is fine with me.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, I think from a practitioner point of view too, I know we've talked about this already, but I think a lot, there's just a fear response that comes in with like wanting to make the symptoms go away as quickly as possible.

And then meanwhile, people experience, you know, a lot of really severe side effects from those medications. So it's such an imperfect solution on so many levels.

Will you, will you tell people a little bit about the work that you do these days? Cuz it, you do so much lovely work in your community with people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

That feels so important to talk about.

Hmm. I just, I kind of just hang out with people that have schizophrenia.


I go visit them. I talk to them if they need something like food or whatever, I'll provide that. And I just, we go to the movies.


I take them to dinner. We talk about, I let them say whatever they want.

If something comes up that they say, that sounds familiar to me, then I'll tell my story.


like just a bit of it, and then. It's basically just hanging out with them and caring and loving them and, and not leaving them alone. Like they don't need to be alone. So that's what I do. I've got what? Oh, I've got six. I'm visiting six now. I go to family dinners. Swim, whatever. It's important to me. I, it makes, I feel so good when I do it.


You know, and then as soon as they meet me and then they know who I am and then just they're happy. Yeah. Because then it, it shows them that, hey, I might be able to do this. So that's why I do it. Like, you know, look, I'm here. I've done it. What do you wanna talk about? What do you wanna do  and then something basic. Just visiting.

It feels so important because I think that one of the most fundamental things about being human, one of the things that we just fundamentally need the most is to feel connected to other people and to feel,


understood. Yeah, and I think one of the single biggest thing things that gets robbed of someone who experiences schizophrenia has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, however you wanna put it, is that more often than not, there is a distinct lack of feeling, that sense of connection because people don't know how to connect or they, maybe they think it's not useful or they don't know how, like people don't, a lot of times people don't experience someone really reaching out and being with them. So what you're offering them is, you know, you're offering them a lot, but a lot of it is just that human to human contact and support and, and attempt to understand.

Mm-hmm.  I'm just offering my friendship.


You know, a lot of them are just isolated in their rooms or, you know, I basically just treat them as if they don't have schizophrenia.


like they were one of my friends, and we're going to hang out. And mind you, it's a lot of fun. I laugh constantly.

Hmm. You love it.

Yeah. So I mean, like, just remove the label, treat them like you or me.


and that's what they want and that's what they need.

So if somebody is listening to this right now and they have a family member or a loved one who is struggling with schizophrenia, do you have any advice for people?

What, what can they do to at least try to hopefully get better treatment as opposed to worse treatment?

I'd be on a, I'd search out like a healing home. Alternative therapies.


just find a professional that's not biological thinking that wants to treat the person.


Rather than just the brain.

And what parents can do themselves is keep connected to their kids.

What I like to do is if I'm going to their house or whatever, we usually work on their room to make it nice and comfortable for them.


Like candles or whatever.

Create a nice environment. Yeah.

Make it like, like it's a spa.


And, uh, that's all I do. And then you just try to hunt down somebody that's nonbiological, I think. I think, you know what, I think the, the ones that are the, the best to deal with schizophrenia are the psychologists and the psychotherapist.

Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm.  Yeah. More so than psychiatry. Right.


It's really interesting. I would love for me and you to put our heads together around this, you know, we can even do it at another time, but I just can't help it feel like we need something resembling a provider network. You know, like it would be incredible, I think to create some sort of resource list or database of clinicians that are open to providing people who have schizophrenia or any psychotic disorder with more of a traditional kind of psychotherapy. Because there're we're all out there. They all exist.

There is a couple of networks.

Well you do, you tell me and then I'll make sure I put them in the show. Show notes. Do you have,

I just made like a, actually two of my follow. On Twitter, they have started something up. Dr. Ball. I'd have to send you the, the name.

Let's, I would love to, you know, provide people with some resources so you and I can connect later on.

I put them on my website.

Okay, great.

I just started, I just started a new page getting help. Okay. And I have a list of doctors that have given me their names and stuff. It's a work in progress and I also have stuff for families and, I'm still working on it. Hopefully it gets bigger and bigger.

Yeah. Fantastic.

Yeah. Yeah.

Well, so just to kind of shift gears over so slightly, like, is there anything that's on your mind that you would wanna talk about today that I haven't asked about yet? What feels important to you in terms of like what you would want people to know maybe?

Hmm.  Probably the most important thing is I just wanna see people diagnosed with schizophrenia to be treated the way everybody else is treated.


And that to not look at their illness or if you wanna frame it as, how would I say it? A condition.


Um, just treat them the way you wanna be treated. Yeah. And that I just would like to see more professionals come out and like speaking up. Because there's so many professionals that know that schizophrenia isn't a brain disease, but they're just not there.

We need a, like you said, the whole network.


And one more thing.


More people like myself


to start, come out and telling their stories.


We need a network of that too.

I absolutely agree with you because there are, there are clearly are a lot of other people.  like you out there that have a story to share that is really similar to your own.

And I, we don't, we don't hear this enough. Yeah.

There's thousands of them.


Like I'll talk to them like behind the scenes, but they're not ready to go out and say anything cuz of the stigma and, you know, the family and, you know, it's a, it, it's, it's a big decision to do this.


So I'd like to see more of that.

When you say big decision, can you say a little bit about how, how has it been a big, a big decision for you?

Well, I've let people into my private life.


I've taken a lot of abuse from others a lot, and just because of the, I don't have a problem with stigma, I'm here, whatever. I don't care about any of that. It's just most important that I tell my. Yeah, it was basically, and I did lose some friends and stuff over.


Coming out to tell my story because they didn't know me then. So they have a hard time being around me now cause they don't know what to say or whatever. So I've, I've lost relationships.


Yeah, it's hard. You're gonna take a pounding.


Just like the doctors do, like, or the psychologist, when they have a opposing viewpoint, you're gonna take it. You're gonna take a lot of abuse.

One of the things that just strikes me as really wild about all of this stuff is I think that we're living in an age where everything is hyperpolarized. It's as if you know, things need to be one way or the other. Or people are just having a really hard time thinking with much nuance.

And I think that that's a state of mind that if someone, that someone has to be in, in order to think that the story you're telling or the perspective that you're sharing is somehow wrong. You know, it's almost like no, schizophrenia is a brain disease. It needs to be treated with medication. How dare you suggest otherwise?


Right. It's like everything just gets flattened in the world that we live in. Right. And it is, it's really unfortunate to me that for someone like you to share the story that you've shared, that I just seems to me that it requires a lot of courage because of the pushback that you get and the the way people wanna make an enemy out of you.

I'm fine with that. It's not gonna stop me.


Bring it.


I'll keep on going. You know, I know how to take care of myself. When I need rest, I get rest.


You know, and there's block, don't answer whatever.

Mm-hmm.  Mm-hmm. .Mm-hmm.

So, I mean, I also have a lot of a support.

Yeah. Yeah.

So more support than the other. So I mean, that encourages me. And we're dealing with the truth here.

Indeed. Yes. Well, thank you so much. I think that that's a great note to end on.

You've been listening to the fourth episode of the Third season of The Nature of Nurture, and I wanna thank you for joining us. If you would like to connect with Tracey, you can find her at full recovery from And she's @traceyhiggins92 on Twitter. That's Tracey with an E. T R A C E Y at Tracey Higgins 92 on Twitter.

I highly recommend following her on Twitter. She's quite active there. If you would like to connect with me, you can find me as always at Dr. Leslie Carr on Instagram and Twitter at If you found this conversation valuable, please let me know by leaving me a review or rating. It helps immensely to get the word out about the podcast and into the ears of those who may need it most.

It'll also help me to understand what you're getting out of our conversations. You can also subscribe if you haven't already in any podcast app that you can get your hands on. Next up is a conversation with documentary filmmaker Liz Smith, but the role that the internet is playing in changing our minds, our culture, and our political landscape, it's a really juicy one.

So I hope you'll tune in for that. Many, many thanks to my producer and sound editor, Amanda Roscoe Mayo, and to Tracey for having this conversation with me. Thank you as well to Donie Odulio for the artwork, and thank you to Steve Van Dyck, Lee and Tyler Sargent, and Joe Potts for the permission to use their music.

The band was called Clown Down.