Speaking Without Words

Ronen Razieli, a member of Israel’s special police unit, was shot in the head during a counter terror operation in 1993. Comatose for 6 months, his brain injury left him permanently paralyzed and wheelchair bound with impaired communication and general function. This story follows his journey of rehabilitation, relationships and impact on those closest to him, and recovery of quality of life.

Addendum: In 2008, Ronen married his long time soul mate Marylou and a year later she gave birth to their son Alon.

Why I am an Advocate

By Brandon Staglin August 5, 2010

I have schizophrenia, and sometimes I think about whether I have let my illness define my life. I work for my family’s nonprofit, International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), as a mental health advocate. If you asked me when I was a kid what work I would want to do, the last thing I would have said was to take on a family enterprise. I used to value my individuality above anything else, and dreaded being corrupted by conformity. Thanks in part to my illness, my values have shifted since then. I had a psychotic break in 1990, the summer after my freshman year at Dartmouth College. A friend managed to get me to a psychiatry ward. At first, I could not accept that I had a mental illness. I had a life plan, to be an astronautical engineer! I would not be cut down by a schizophrenia diagnosis.

Three nights into my first hospitalization I decided I would get out of the psych ward immediately. I was unable to sleep, furious, and refused to take meds. A nurse was on her way with an injection to make me sleep. I would not let her violate my consciousness! [...] continue the story

Courage, Hope, Music and the Will to Survive

In August of 2004, Jason Crigler, one of New York’s most sought-after guitarists, suffered an AVM brain hemorrhage while playing a show in Manhattan. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors told Jason’s family, “Even if he lives through the night, there won’t be much left of the man you know.”

Jason’s pregnant wife and the rest of his family refused to accept the dire prognosis. Convinced that Jason was “there,” his family mounted an intensive and intimate course of rehabilitation that would force Jason’s doctors to reconsider the factors that inspire recovery.

Jason and his sister Marjorie have developed a powerful multimedia presentation that explains how and why Jason recovered. Drawing on their unique, personal experience, they show how intense family involvement makes the difference in a positive recovery. While Marjorie speaks from the family’s point of view, Jason offers a survivor’s perspective on the challenges he faced.

For more information, visit www.defyingtheodds.net

Identity, mental illness and recovery

“Once I became my diagnosis, there was no one left to recover.”

Holy cow! This really captures something very important! It articulates what concerns me most about the rush to diagnosis for people in early recovery. It’s much less any intellectual concern, concern that a medication might be unhelpful or some concern about purity of addiction—it’s the black hole that this identity issue can easily become.

Remembering who we are isn’t as easy as it might sound. Once we receive a diagnosis, it often becomes the primary focus of our identity. It can become the lens that we see ourselves through. Our new label can overshadow the depth and breadth of who we are as people. To make matters worse, most of those around us started relating to us as though we’d turned into a diagnosis. They ask us about our medication and if we’re taking it; how we’re taking it; how we feel about taking it; how long we’ve taken it. They ask us what other medications we’ve taken; how long we’ve been ill; how many times we’ve been hospitalized, homeless, in jail, on drugs, and so on. In other words, those around us start seeing only the parts of us [...] continue the story

2011 Facing Us Video Contest Runner Up

Kristen Famiano’s video, “Bipolar Recovery,” won her 2nd place in the 2011 Facing Us Video Contest.