‘This feels more like spin-the-bottle than science’: my mission to find a proper diagnosis – and treatment – for my son’s psychosis

“Tanya Frank’s son Zach has lived with mental illness since he was a teenager. But after years journeying through the traditional healthcare system, could radical alternatives save him from an endless cycle of hospital stays and drugs?”

This article by Tanya Frank has been published in The Guardian. It begins:

“There are nights when I wake up and, in the disorientation of those first conscious moments, I am right back there. Los Angeles, 2009. Winter. Zach has entered my room, perched on the edge of my bed, and begged: ‘Mum. What is going to happen to me? You must know.’

I see him in all his anguish – my younger son in his last teenage year. He has just been discharged from hospital after having what the doctors had called a psychotic break, when he thought that his friends weren’t his friends but were out to harm him, that our house was bugged and that helicopters were instruments of surveillance, trained on him. Years before, it would have been called a nervous breakdown. I don’t like either term much, but I think the connotations of a nervous breakdown feel more apt. It was this sense of nervousness that I witnessed on the night I first took my boy to the psychiatric hospital.

He was slim and strong back then from long days spent surfing with his elder brother, and there was something of the shy scholar in him, the animal lover, the erstwhile chess champion, the boy with the amber-flecked eyes. Just a year prior, I had been so ready to let him fly the coop. No empty nest syndrome for me. We were settled in California and I was happy with my new partner, Nance; we had far too much still to discover and enjoy to feel daunted by this next transition. Besides, this son of mine, nicknamed Golden Boy because of how much the neighbours idolised him, had big plans. He wanted to travel, to become a scientist or a professor …”

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