“Let us never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was legal at the time.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Restraints and seclusions happen at an alarming rate in psychiatric hospitals.
What is a seclusion and restraint? It is a barbaric and outdated practice that is abusive and is completely unnecessary except in extreme cases.
I have spent 21 years in the system, going from a committed patient, perceived as “Mentally Ill,” and needing the State to intervene, to drug treatment 3 times, and jail 3 times. I have then become a staff member and supervisor at a drug rehab, at a jail, and at state psychiatric institutions.
If you look at when they happen, and look at statistics, some staff has a much much higher rate of them when they work. This is an indication that it is the staff’s behavior, not the patients, that causes these things. We also have union staff, unions are about keeping jobs and staff convenience, not patients.
I have seen it from both sides. It is inhumane. They do not let people in psychiatric facilities with cameras and they do not let information out. They hide behind the “confidentiality” of patients for their protection. However this is a smoke screen and it is in place to protect the staff that abuses the patients.
I cannot use specific names or examples; however this is what I have seen throughout the years as my interpretation of things.
I will not go into all the boring details with statistics and case studies, just my perspective of what I have seen in general. If that is wanted by readers of this, I can certainly do that later.
It needs to stop and the only way is if we start prosecuting staff for the abuse.
Here we have in general what I have seen over 21 years:
The monster is in the dark room. The monster is chained up. Those in power let the monster out, but the monster rages. Sometimes it doesn’t for a day. Sometimes it is chained up for a week, for a month.
People are excited. The monster is learning they think. Really the monster is hiding the rage. Not knowing how to talk about things, and afraid. Then it explodes eventually.
The monster explodes again ferociously. Those in power watch. They don’t know what to do.
They fight about how to treat the monster. Some say, let the monster rage, it will tire. Some say ignore the monster. Take away the audience.
The monster gets worse. Those in power have anxiety. They say they want safety, what they really want control of the environment. They take the monster and chain it up again. They are afraid and have no idea what to do, so they use the chains.
They don’t talk to the monster when it is screaming. They sedate the monster. They give medications to slow the monster down.
They have meetings in their suits with their big degrees to discuss what’s the best way to treat the monster.
The monster is left chained up for days.
The monster screams and fights and spits and fights. The monster doesn’t tire.
For days, they come in the dark room with the monster.
The first one is a guard, he says shut up or you don’t get out or fed food.The monster spits, fights, and kicks. The monster gets more aggressive. The guard gets more physical and tells the people in charge that the monster is out of control. Not to come in. The guards then write a report saying that the monster fought, and that explains all the bruises on the monster and all the blood.
The monster screams. Then in comes the next guard. This guard doesn’t know what to do, and doesn’t really care. The guard sits and sits and does nothing. The guard is worried about getting his break and not having to do overtime. The monster sits and sits and rests a bit. This guard is filling out his fantasy football team and watching his phone to see how his team did.
Then the monster screams and fights and screams more. Now we have justification for more medications, more roughness, and more chains. Everyone is in agreement, it is the monsters fault.
The doctor writes an order to force the medications. The judge won’t argue with the “expert psychiatrist.”
The monster got in the way of one guards fantasy football team, and his breaks. He also upset the other guard who was crabby about his life, the monster is an inconvenience.
Then in comes the medication nurse. They give the meds. The nurse tries to be rational and explain the reason the meds are needed and to educate the monster. The monster screams and spits medication out. The medication nurse runs away. The medication nurse is in agreement now, how could this monster not understand why it needs these medications. The nurse was told in school and in her books that the monsters need to be sedated, or they are dangerous. So she believes she is helping.
The nurse, then upset, tells the people in power that make the decisions that the monster won’t listen to reason, and refused help. The monster needs to be forced medication. The ones who make these decisions base the decisions on what the guards and nurse are telling them, they never actually spend time with the monster. They think that the only way is forced medication. They have to, that’s their whole job, without medications, they have no job and no 500,000 dollar beach house.
Next nurse comes in. This nurse is angry with the monster, tells the monster they are doing this for attention and are a spoiled brat, They really think that the monster wants control and it’s a game. The monster rages and rages and rages. This nurse reports the monster is out of control and should be shot. This is the only way is to permanently put the monster out of its misery.
The monster when it rages speaks the truth, it says things like “you take medications” “you are an idiot” “you are a robot.” This enrages the staff, so they all write, “non-compliant” “delusional” “out of control aggression.”
The problem is the monster, when it was a child, was getting beaten and raped and abused while the staff members were enjoying a somewhat “normal” childhood. They do not understand how someone can become this “monster.” All they are trying to do is help. This monster is so ungrateful they do not get it.
Then the next guard comes in tries to talk, when monster yells, then the guard refuses to speak to the monster, to punish monster with silence. The monster rages and screams, spits and threatens to kill.
This guard is so offended that being nice did not work, they will now ignore the monster and basically “give up.” They say “well, nothing is working; you are right, chains them up then get an order to kill them gradually with forced medications for the rest of their lives.”
Next guard comes in, afraid to speak to monster because of all the information already written. All the smart degree people say don’t talk to the monster until it is heavily medicated. This guard listens, they are new, so they believe what they are told and ignore the monster. They are afraid, and never tries out of fear of losing their job.
Then the next need nurse comes in, wants to go home, not fill out paperwork, doesn’t want to deal with this. So, asks one time if the monster will take medications then stops trying. They do not want to be inconvenienced. This staff used to care, but they have seen this too many times and do not want to fight anymore. They want a job and a good review and to feed their family, so they go along. This staff has given up.
They talk to all the money making professionals, they have never met the monster, the big decision makerd tell everyone how they cannot hold the monsters hands, or touch the monster.
That sets their monster off these experts say. That’s what they were taught in school. The big money making professionals discipline staff if they try to touch the monster. They sit back in their meetings and decide how the staff should treat the monster. They spend between the 8 of them about 30 minutes a week with the monster, they make a combined million per year.
The monster screams they have to go to the bathroom; the staff won’t let the monster out. The monster urinates on himself. The experts say it’s a behavior to get out of chains. It is written in a report that this monster is urinating on himself for attention.
They leave the monster in the chains. The monster can’t eat. The doctor says force medications.
The big strong guy’s come in, hold the monster down, they are very rough, they write in reports that they have to be, they can explain all the wounds on the monster as the monster resisting. This is passed along as the monster being out of control, and fighting. This is why the monster looks so beaten up. No cameras are allowed in the facility due to what they say is “confidentiality.”
They force the medications. The monster rages more than ever.
They have more meetings after their one hour lunches at fancy restaurants. They get paid a lot, these professionals. They read reports of these staff, talk to the monster for a few minutes. Some do not even meet the monster, they just read the reports and writer their opinions based on that.
The monster sits in urine and starving. They justify this as having to keep the monster safe.
The behavior analyst comes in to see the monster. The behavior analyst uses all these neat fancy terms about behavior that they learned in school. They read about this in school and they are so excited to use these terms.
The monster laughs at them and spits. The behavior analyst doesn’t know what to do, the book didn’t tell about this stuff. They are scared. They wanted to help. Now they are at a loss. They have dropped their whole humanity for textbooks written by other robots. Now they must go to the wise elders and learn how to treat this monster.
To save face, they sit and agree with the others. Shoot the monster, put him down for good. They all are in agreement, if the monster survives, it may tell people about this stuff.
Then the old psychologist, the great wise one, writes out a plan on how it is ok to shoot the monster. People will listen to this old psychologist. She has worked with monsters for 40 years; no one checks how well they do under her care. They respect that piece of paper that calls her a monster expert.
This expert decides it is best to never meet the monster. No one will question her; she is an “expert.” She feels she is the best, and that is how she is paid. So she sits down and writes a report that it’s ok to kill the monster for society’s sake. No judge will question the 40 year expert and all these staff in agreement. How could he, if he did, he would be going against all these experts and staff members that say the monster is dangerous.
The next RN comes in, the monster spits at this RN. The RN laughs, maybe out of nerves, this RN says, “why are you doing that, stop it that’s silly.” The monster calls this staff names and spits and once again the monster rages.
The RN is confused, goes along with plan. Writes they the monster is aggressive and refused food. This RN did not even offer any food, but it says in the paperwork that you have to offer it. SO the RAN writes in the report that they offered food and it was refused.
The Next RN comes in and starts to talk, the monster screams, and the RN leaves. Fear and reading the reports has told this staff to just walk away, so that is what they do.
Medical Doctor comes in, peaks in, staff asks if the doctor wants to do an evaluation on the monster. The doctor shakes their head “no.” Say “it is ok, he looks ok.” The monster never even knew this doctor was there. She was quiet enough so no one heard her. She writes her report that she saw the monster for 30 minutes and the monster denied problems and screamed at her. After all, who is going to question the validity of this report? The blood and bruises are all explained. The urination and feces on the monster are all explained as well.
Then psychiatrist comes in and scold the monster. He tells the monster that he has the power over the monster. Monster gets aggressive and screams. The psychiatrist says if you are not going to stop we will keep you here until we get an order to put you out for good. Uses his power, he does not like that it does not work. The psychiatrist is mad now and wants this done.
The psychiatrist finally leaves and says give more and more medications until the monster passes out. Do this every day so the monster sleeps all day until we can get the order to shoot them. “No one talks to us that way.”
They go in report and pass it on that the staff are to write in notes that the monster is unsafe and needs medications. They use their power to coerce staff what to write in the notes.
They all go home proud of themselves. They all write their reports to match the consensus. They all have the weekend off, holidays off, enjoy time with family. They get paid extra by medication companies to give the medication that the company makes. Everyone is getting rich off of the monster.
The next morning staff comes in while we all are awaiting this order to kill. This staff walk up to monster, kneels down. Monster spits at the staff, the staff simply moves their head to the side.
This staff doesn’t leave.
This staff asks” what can I do?” And she asks this genuinely. She has pain in her own eyes talking to the monster, almost saying please tell me how to help you. Nothing out of a book, or based on supervisors, this staff doesn’t care about status. The monster is confused they aren’t gone.
The staff leans in and touches the monsters arm.
The monster screams, but it’s different. It’s a cry.
The staff releases one arm. Says, “I don’t care what they say, wipe your tears.”
The monster cries and wipes the tears. The monster doesn’t fight at all. Just wipes the tears.
The staff sits and hold the hands if the monster, says “what do you need.” This staff says, “They can fire me for holding your hand I don’t care.”
The monster screams,” I want my Mommy. I want to call my mom. I miss my mom. They didn’t let me call her. She’s 6 hours away.”
The monster doesn’t understand things like the staff do, the monster is told that they can’t touch staff, everyone is afraid of being disciplined. The monster is far away from their family. The monster is always told what to do. The monster only knows to rage. That is all that is left.
The monster pushes people away when afraid. They are afraid and scared so they rage.The monster cries. Then the staff tells a joke, the monster laughs, and laughs, and laughs. It is a loud laugh like it is saying “oh my god someone is here, thank you god.”
The monster then calms and talks to this staff. The other guard who is there watching then says to the monster, “can I come talk to you to?”
The monster says, “Sure.”
They all joke, and start to talk. They find out about the monster and that it is a scared, sad, and lonely monster without the natural in born skills or environment the staff had. The monster was abused as a child; it is afraid and scared and does not know how to communicate this.
The monster is soaked in urine, and feces, it has been chained up continuously. The monster is 6 hours away from home. Away from all it knows. It is now allowed to touch or hug or even high five staff. It is told it has to take meds.
The monster is beaten, bloody, chained up and drugged up.
After all of this, this staff writes a note about it. The other staff is upset, because of this, they cannot kill the monster and they have to release him.
The monster is released. And is not killed
The monster is not a monster.
The monster then listens to the staff that helped, makes mistakes, but gets better day by day. Some days it regresses, but it is making strides. Other staff are seeing what works and not as afraid anymore.
The doctors are mad, the staff is mad. They will try to get this staff fired for breaking their rules.
This staff let the monster hold her hands and hugged the monster. The staff is written up and disciplined. They want this staff to quit. Or fire her.
That’s against the books the experts read, and the rules.
The older staff and experts say the monster is running the show.
The loving person sticks by the monster every day through ask the rages, all the mistakes, all the bad days. She won’t bend, she won’t give up. She gives hope and love. She is not afraid of being fired. She gets sad, questions herself, gets down on herself. She keeps fighting with love though.
The loving person never gives up. She sees the good in the monster until the monster starts to see the good in themselves.
The monster still runs, spits, screams, fights, and makes mistakes on bad days.
The loving person sticks through it all, endures.
The monster doesn’t have to be someone in restraints. It can be anyone who is having a hard time or judged by society.
It can be anyone, in this case this staff knows who they are, what they did for this monster was unbelievable. The details had to be left out it is a mix of certain stories. Unfortunately this is all too common in psychiatry and mental health.
However, “change is coming.” And the revolution will not be televised. Keep fighting please.
Try to do that for someone labeled a monster today.
I at one point was that monster, my ex-wife, now maybe future wife jenny was the one who released me. How her and people like her do this I do not know. I admire it and try every day to do something to help release someone.
Now I work with other “monsters.” I won’t let it happen when I am around.
This man is brilliant check out bus blog for inspiration. He says so much, with so little words.
He is atrue artist. I love this man’s work.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein
Robin Williams didn’t kill himself, stigma killed him. It kills many people like him everyday. Here is how:
STIGMA, that is the reason people do not ask for help. STIGMA is the reason people do not go to the doctor and say I’m depressed, or I’m an addict, or I do not feel things like anyone else. Who wants to say that I feel all these intense emotions? When you know what the result is going to be. What we will do is we will give you medication. We will tell you to change, to just feel better. The issue is we have it backwards, they don’t need to change, we do.
We as a society, we do this. This is why people with great talents still kill themselves. Much has been written about Robin Williams; however why do you think he was such a good actor? And why do you think Jim Carrey is such a good actor? I’ll tell you what I think, it is because they get to wear a mask and pretend they are somebody else. That is easy to do when you hate yourself. Why don’t they ask for help? STIGMA. Why do people kill themselves? STIGMA. We are all Co responsible for this, and until we take responsibility for our part, things will never change.
A few years ago I was sitting with a patient. I’ll never forget as I watched her as she sat with her hands in her head crying. She was crying like I had never seen anyone cry before. She had just been told by her husband that he was leaving her and he would be taking her child with him. He would be divorcing her if she didn’t “change.” This child was 6 years old at the time. I remember the look on her face like it was yesterday. She had a look of pain and anguish that I have never seen before. Her lips were shaking. I could see her chin trembling. Her knees were banging into each other as her feet were shuffling back and forth, back and forth. She was shaking. The tears were coming down her face. They were clear tears, very clear and big tears. Her eyes were squinted and almost closed. Her mouth was leaning towards me as she trembled in fear as if to say to me, “do something, I don’t know what to do.” It took everything I had not to cry. I still cry as I write this. That day, I did not. I sat and I was there for her. She said to me, “I don’t know what to do. My husband’s going to leave me if I don’t change and I don’t even know what that means.”
She paused as she saw me pause. Looking at me with eyes like a child saying “make me feel better, help my soul, this isn’t fair.” I didn’t save the world this day. However, for this moment, I was able to take away some pain, or teach her how to do this for herself in the future. That is good enough, because that is all we can do. That is how we can cause a mass ripple affect and stop suicides and pain. One moment at a time, every single action and every single moment matter, every single one.
So what I told her was “I know you’re feeling like somebody just hit you in the stomach and you have a dull aching pain that will not go away and you just want to keel over and surrender.”
However in my experience, this kind of pain is a beautiful thing. Why I say that is because in the moments like this in my life, this is when the truth entered me. Rumi the poet says it best in my favorite quote of all time, “The wound is where the light enters you.” This is true, there have been times in my life where everything was ripped away, all the things I thought that were important. Things like cars, houses, and fake friendships and relationships with family members. These were the things I grasped to. I was certain I needed them or I would die. The beautiful thing about adversity is that it will rip away everything, so you can see what really is important. However, I wouldn’t recommend saying that to someone while they are going through this, unless you want to get punched in the face. It is painful as hell, but it is beautiful as heaven if you let it be, then it becomes a wonderful gift.
She said “all I want to do lay down and go to bed.” I know she meant forever. The pain she was experiencing was shame. She felt like she was not ok. She had to change. She was sick. Her whole life as she knew it, her husband, her son, and everything she had ever known was going to be taken away from her because she was sick. She then put her hands on her head and cried and cried and cried. She looked at me and I said to her,
“Sammy, look at me, just look at me.”
She put her face up, she stopped crying, her hands stopped shaking, and her chin stopped shaking. It was like I had her attention. She paused, and she looked at me. I said, “Sammy, there is nothing wrong with you.” She looked at me like this was the first time anyone had ever said that to her in her life. She bawled and bawled and put her head in her hands. Then she pulled her head back up and said, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”
Her husband was offered talks and education and all other kinds of resources and ways to find out about her illness. He declined this every time he was offered. He always stated that he had to work. He declined every single time. I said to her “we don’t know that he’s going to leave you. He’s probably stressed out because he has a kid all by himself for the first time and he’s working full time. Maybe had a bad day. Good days come and go, bad things come and go. That is life. We try to do our best with what we know at the time. Life flows.” She shook her head yes. Then I said to her, “I’m sure you’ve had hard times before and it didn’t last forever. What you are doing is healthy because you are feeling your feelings. You aren’t running from the pain, you are taking off your mask; you are being strong and healthy. You aren’t cutting and you aren’t drinking and you are not gambling. You are feeling your true feelings and it sucks and it hurts what you are going through. You aren’t blaming anyone, you aren’t telling anyone they have to “change.” You are just being loving and hurting, you are being real.” I told her a lot that day, but the only thing that really mattered is when I said, “There is nothing wrong with you.” That was the moment of clarity and truth.
I am going to finish her story towards the end of this. I have to talk about something else first.
The reason I tell this story is because of the stigma and how stigma destroys people, and stops the patients who are suffering from asking for help. It prevents people from wanting to get help because they are scared they are going to lose everything. They are scared that people are going to look at them weird and tell them to just get better. Stigma, that’s what it is. People don’t want to ask for help because of STIGMA.
STIGMA is created because there is a large group of people who do somewhat fake mental illness. That’s the truth. There are people that pretend to have mental illness because there are some benefits you can get if you are diagnosed with a mental illness. However, if somebody is faking a disorder to get benefits there is probably some kind of mental illness in that act alone. People see this and they think to themselves and say it outloud, “They are taking my benefits and they are taking my tax dollars. This is bullshit, they are faking illness!” These loud, and opinionated, yet uniformed people have power. They assume everybody in psychiatry is faking an illness. That is why we must stop stigma by education, not by hating. If we treat them the way they treat those with mental illness, we are no different. Anger does not stop anger, hate does not stop hate. Only love can do that. So you look for opportunities to educate and you use them wisely. If we just randomly spout of at the mouth we lose credibility, even if what we are saying is accurate. If we try to reach people that are not ready to hear the truth, we will lose them. When you see an honest opportunity, we must use it, and jump on it. Educate every chance we get. You prepare yourself through reading and knowledge, then you will see more opportunities come, and that’s when you jump at them.
I want to talk about the most stigmatized illness in mental health. It is the illness that “Sammy” had. We call it a “disorder,” however, I want to try and show you how it is a gift, and not a “disorder.”
I want to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder. This is what we say is the single most difficult mental health diagnosis to treat and to have as a patient. What is said is that they depend completely on the external for clues as to what emotion to feel. We say that they are manipulative, they are gamey, and they are attention seeking. We say they want everybody to love them and that they feel like it’s up to everybody else to make them feel good. We say they are dependent on the external for all emotions. We say that they don’t know how to feel. They feel intensely connected to everything therefore affected greatly by everything. We say we need to teach them how to handle emotions. If you ask me, the wrong people are in the role of teacher.
The truth is that science is finding out very quickly that we ALL ARE IN FACT connected. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen gas and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.
There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years. This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness becomes coherent things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of one’s and zeroes. The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion.
Some people still think that Darwin said evolution was about competition, survival of the fittest. However, that’s just the part that got popularized by people who had a hidden agenda. The truth is he said compassion and cooperation is what is essential. This is truly what he was about.
Years ago, I was in a Biology class for school, at this time, I was convinced wetlands were unnecessary and it bothered me that we had all these little ponds all over the place. I believed that we were the only species and that we don’t need birds, fish, or bees. They were ok, but not essential and at times they were an annoyance to me. Then the teacher explains how if we lose algae, then we would lose fish. If we would lose fish, the whole food chain would go to hell, we all would die.
Every single thing you can see around you. The rocks, the birds, the trees all are comprised of the same atoms. Just expressed differently.
There is science out there that if bees were to go extinct, that humans would not last more than 10 years. This is debatable, however we would suffer greatly, that is for sure. Albert Einstein once said that humans would not last 5 years without bees. One third of our food needs to be pollinated. That is mostly done by bees. The scary part is, they are going extinct for many reasons, some is unknown, some is pollution, and some is due to the unnatural insecticides used by Monsanto. However, I am getting off topic, and that is a whole different story. Studies after studies after studies are proving we are all connected. Science is finally catching up to the truth, that what I do, affects the whole world, same as you.
Science has also proved we are all connected in other ways. Humans and chimps have 90 percent identical DNA. Humans and mice have 88 percent identical DNA. Humans and cows have 85 percent identical DNA. Humans and dogs have 84 percent identical DNA. Humans and Zebra Fish have 73 percent identical DNA. I could go on and on. My point is, we are all connected. We use our genes differently, express them differently. Science is figuring out what borderlines and great sages and philosophers have always said. We are all connected. So why is this a disorder again?
What we do is tell the people with this “disorder” we call BPD, who have always felt connected to everything and everybody. We tell them that they are too emotional. What we are doing is we are telling these people with a gift, the gift of the truth that they are crazy. There is a trick that I see, especially in the hospitals, someone comes in with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is very easy to look at the mood swings and say “it is a chemical issue.” We then diagnose them with Bipolar Disorder. Then what we can do is give them these “mood stabilizers” or these “antipsychotics,” and they will be sleeping and tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!!”
We didn’t cure them, what we have done is chemically restrained them and shut them up because they speak the truth.
Marsha Linehan said they are like 3rd degree burn victims, if you just walk by them you can hurt them. My biggest questions and concern is, why do we call that a disorder? They are the ones that know the truth and we don’t, we lie; we put a mask on them because we do not like what they have to say.
How Borderline personality disorder is developed is very simple. We are all born with an innate temperament which can be on one of many different levels. We can be born not very emotional, slightly emotional, or normal emotional, (whatever that is). Then there is highly emotional and extremely emotional. Once again, there are studies that prove this. They tested babies when they were first born and followed them. There were babies that cried more when their mothers would leave the room. When they were tickled by a feather they were much more affected by it. These babies grew up and continued to have the same innate temperament. It is something we are born with, like blue or brown eyes.
Temperament alone will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder. We all know emotional people, you know those people who we say “wow they took that harder than anyone else.” The pain that they feel is intense.
Imagine you are eating a pizza, and you feel it is luke warm. The guy you are eating it with thinks it is burning hot and it is burning his mouth. We don’t understand him , we do not get it, and we roll our eyes and we make jokes and tell him to settle down, “what is wrong with you,” we say. That is invalidation; we all do that from time to time to each other. That alone does that cause BPD.
Let’s pretend there is a boy named little Johnny and he is a very emotional person or one of these extreme emotional persons. He has this “weird” instinct and intuitiveness that makes it so he can feel everything around him and his environment. He is in a family that maybe is dysfunctional, or maybe is not. However, the family and his friends do not understand his emotions. Let’s say little Johnny has something he is very connected to because he just knows this is important and we don’t understand this. Then one day, he loses this toy and he is crying continuously and nonstop. What an invalidating environment does is forces him to stop. We tell him that it is not OK, we tell him to quit being a baby. What we are really saying to him in other words is to quit being yourself little Johnny. Johnny now feels like something is wrong with him and he is not OK. Now he looks to the external environment to tell him how to feel. He watches for cues on how to feel and how to act because he does not trust himself or his feelings. Congratulations to society, he now is wearing a mask. The intense feelings are still there, just because they are hidden, does not mean they are gone. In fact this makes it much worse. The emotions are building up over time. He can’t take it so he gambles, he drinks, he cuts, he overeats, he steals, or he becomes hyper sexual to mask the feelings. The behavior depends on what’s most acceptable to his certain environment. The next step is then the judgments come in about this behavior, the criticisms, and it’s usually from the ones that caused the behavior that are doing the most judging. The original shame about who he is, still is with him. Now he wakes up and he feels worse, he has more guilt and more shame. The intense emotions are worse now, so what does he do again? Well, first he fakes and fakes and fakes until he blows. What they call this in the books is “unrelenting crisis” what I call it is blaming the victim. We have it backwards; it is hard to see someone go through all this and especially when we do not understand. However, to say “it’s all attention seeking and drama,” is really making it much much worse.
Sometimes the only way anyone understands is if he attempts suicide. This may be the only time he gets reinforced by family. Still no one ever tells him he is OK. What we have done is told him that he has to be somebody else. Sometimes people with this so called “disorder,” you will see an unusual reaction to something that is happening. For instance, one day I was talking to a patient and said “Wow I heard your mother is dying.” Her face was blank, and she said “oh well.” I said “well if that happened to me I wouldn’t be ok.” Then she understood that it was okay to cry. She had to take cues, she was afraid to feel.
One invalidating moment will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder, it is repeatedly invalidating someone and telling them who they are is not OK is what causes it. We must remember that these are the people that understand life and connections. Instead of validating them, what we do is we drug them up until then they have no behavior, when really they have a gift. That’s where stigma comes in. Let’s shut them up. They don’t play pretend like the rest of us. They don’t play grown up very well. They just speak the truth so we get them drugged up and we put them in hospitals, and we call them names behind their backs. What we think of them is something which affects how we treat them. This, in turn, affects the reaction we get. We have made it so that they don’t think they are OK. What we have done is we have tricked them.
The truth is, we are not OK. Another thing we are told is that this is the toughest mental health diagnosis to work with. I was told this before I knew what it was. It would frighten me. The behavior frightened me. When I first started about 20 years ago and I was training in, I was told this was all attention seeking behavior and manipulative. I watched the elder staff roll their eyes so then I started doing it. I thought it was fake and I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to have to dig deep.
Then it was explained to me this is a trauma disorder. 100% of people with this disorder have suffered trauma. The statistics say 70%, I do not believe that for one second, I am convinced it is 100%. What is a trauma is different to each person. What is a trauma to me may not be a trauma to you. If you are on the top of a ladder when you fall down, it is a lot more painful to fall than if you were only on the first step . I believe that they have powers and they are locked in darkness, like a genie in a bottle.
I am NOT saying this is easy to deal with. I have had relationships with many of them and it is difficult to understand. They are not bad, they have a gift. They know your emotions instinctively and they sense and feel things that we can’t feel. They know how to make people happy, they can read your soul.
In a way they are lucky, and in a way they are not. The way they are not is the way that our society treats them and tells them that it’s not okay.
Back to the story I started with. This patient was crying with her head in her hands and trembling in fear while her husband was about to take her life away because she was sick. How is this justice? I said “what do you need to change Sammy?” and she said “I don’t know.” I said for the second time “there is nothing wrong with you.”
I didn’t save her life. A few months later, she killed herself.
However, for that one day she felt she was ok. I know this because she was brighter, and happier. She looked better. She felt ok. That is all we can do is embrace every moment with each other and make it the best moment possible. In that room, for that day, she felt ok for once in her life. She got better and was discharged in a week.
So to all you Sammy’s out there, and all the Sammy’s I will meet in the future. My message is you are ok, we are not. She didn’t kill herself, Stigma killed her. This is the same thing that killed Robin Williams. He will get enough attention, the Sammy’s of the world will not.
We will never change the problems of the world until we start embracing diversity and gifts. We have these intuitive, special people and they are invalidated and abused. We continue to abuse and punish them. We need to stop punishing them. I agree, yes , the behaviors are tough. But there is truth in their behavior. There is a truth that sometimes we do not want to deal with.
We have to simply change or reframe the way we see things. See beyond the mask. To do this, sometimes we have to forget all the knowledge we think we have.
We had one Borderline Personality patient who was 23 and could not comb her hair. The staff said “I’m not giving her a comb she doesn’t know how to comb her hair.” I said “how about we reframe that and say, she is 23 and she doesn’t know how to comb her hair, why has no one ever taught this girl how to comb her hair that must have been a rough time growing up. Then let’s look into why?”
In this case, when she was nine years old, she was taking care of her six year old brother on a vent. He died and she was blamed. Her mother was a meth addict. So we see her scream , we see her shout and she would bite and attack staff and patients. She would bang on the desk and yell and not be able to comb her hair.
What we don’t see, is we don’t see past her mask. We cannot see that her behaviors are telling us there is something wrong here. Maybe it’s time we stop drugging them up and start listening.
Sammy, there was nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with us.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”
Here we are one day in a meeting talking about patients. What I hear is “she just pops them out and then we end up paying for them.” What they are referring to is this patients 7 children that she has. The staff are upset that she contiues to have children.We are talking about a patient with severe chemical dependency issues. She is at the hospital and committed as mentally ill for stabbing herself so badly that she needed surgery. A huge hole was in her abdomen which was caused by stabbing herself over and over and over and over again. The talk from many members of the team responsible for her care is, “she did this to get drugs.”We now have deicded that this is a “behavior.”
This is one of those things I’m going to say is correct on its face. That’s not the problem. The problem is our perception. Yes she did it to get drugs, that is correct. The issue is we look at it like she did it on purpose. The people that are there to care for a patient that has stabbed herself in the stomach enough to almost die and is committed at a state hospital, they think it is a “choice,” and that these are “behaviors.” She just gets up one day and “decided” to leave her kids. People do not choose to stab themselves for drugs because they are bad people, they do not leave their kids because they would rather do drugs. The fact that this is still a debate to the public upsets me. It is not a debate in the medical or scientific community. It is the publics perception, based on lies. Very much the same as Mental Illness.
I was listening to this case the other day and it reminded me of one of the first times I was able to see behind someones mask and how it changed my life.
It is a hard thing to talk about, especially since many people with mental health issues have grown up in homes in which substance abuse is the norm. When I talk about this I run the risk of people thinking I am defending the actions of the people in their lives that have hurt them. That is not the case. The problem with this illness is it affects the people around you so much and can have devastating affects. If there was not stigma, and people were accepted and not crtiticized for asking for help, then maybe we would see the problem and the cyle start to disappear.
What I hope to do is show that this is not a moral issue, a bad person issue, this is a disease that we deny as a disease and until we start to look at this properly, we will continue to make the problem worse.If what we have been doing the last 100 years with addicts and mentally ill was effective, then we wouldn’t need to change. However,the results are that it is getting worse, not better. So I would say changing our approach is neccessary. We can start looking at out treatment of this population instead of pointing the finger at “them.” This is all of us, we are all co-responsible.
Now for the first real case of seeing beyond someone’s mask, that changed my life. I didn’t do it, I watched someone else do it. My world changed forever. I guess it was my first lesson in how to look past behavior, and see beyond a persons mask.
I’m going to read what you may see in this woman’s record if you are a doctor or nurse or social worker, these are the facts of the case. (Perceived facts,) of this patient that just came into your office or hospital or group home or whatever. But this is what a judge will see as well when making important determinations about this persons life. When reviewing this womans case this is what they see and read.
This is a woman who had her 8 children taken from her, for neglect and abandonment. 2 of them were over 16, one went to group home. So technically 6 for accuracy. The children were abused physically and emotionally. They were also neglected, and tormented.
She would force them to kneel down and pray as they cried and she would make them swear she was not drunk. She was drunk and would threaten to beat them if they told the truth. She would call them awful names. One of the children fell on a beer bottle at age 2 years old and split her foot wide open. She said it was just a cut and to get over it. Then the 14 year old girl had to drive the 2 year old child to the hospital to get stitched and surgery at one point. There was another time that she fell on a one of the children and all the other kids had to all get together and pick her up so he didn’t suffocate.
They didn’t have much food, the oldest girl cooked ramen noodles outside in freezing temperature, she would grill them, and that was all they had to eat. They did not go to school often, and when they did, they had the same clothes on and were teased and ridiculed. No one said anything. The oldest girl in the family, she was the caretaker of the much younger siblings. She was called names like 4 eyed baboon and Russian half-wit (I don’t know what that means.)
Where and who was the father? Well he was a doctor actually, a hero to the community. Behind closed doors be hit and abused this drunk lady. One time he had drug her across the room with a belt while she was pregnant and she had a miscarriage, the children saw this type of abuse daily. The oldest girl buried the fetus in the backyard. This was not the only time this happened. The good doctor was not such a good guy sometimes. However the chart says little about him. So there is really no way for me to tell. However, there are many reports of physical fights seen by the children.
The father then died of a heart attack at age 40. At this time, the oldest girl was about 12 or 13; Leaving the kids with the drunken mother. She had a great inheritance that was blown on alcohol the chart says. Most of the children were under 10 years old. There were 3 of them that were not. They are the ones that saw most of this firsthand.
Eventually, the money was wasted; the kids were all taken away. She would call and harass the Foster parents, but she never would show up to see kids and she never really knew them. The oldest son moved out, he moved in with his girlfriend. The other son went into a group home, then to jail for stealing cars, and then he moved in with his girlfriend and got married young.
The oldest daughter, the one that buried the fetuses, took the kids to hospital, and the one that cooked the ramen noodles, she always kept going back. She kept coming back to this woman who was this “monster” to everyone else and she kept receiving the most abuse. She had a choice, and she chose to always believe in this drunk, she saw something in this drunk that others couldn’t see; she was old enough to make her own decisions. So she spent her life trying to care for this “drunk,” and to save her in some way. She even blamed herself when she eventually left. She felt that is why the other children were taken away. We all know that is not true, but in her reality it was true, causing even more psycholgical distress and torment.
The drunken lady kept abusing and calling this oldest daughter awful names and was awful to her. She did psychological damage to this young lady who only wanted to be loved. This little girl could not figure out why her mother hated her. She thought something was wrong with her. The things the kids in this family went through were nothing anyone should ever have to go through. I’m only cracking the surface and I don’t think I need to go into more details.
So you read this stuff, and you are thinking what the hell?, how am I supposed to be compassionate towards the drunk? She did all this terrible stuff and I am supposed to embrace her? It was her choice to do all this damage! She is the one hurting everyone. She is the evil one, the bad one, correct? Much like we think of those with mental health issues. They are no good and need to just get over it.
Well, it’s easy to be compassionate towards the Doctor, and the kids. That’s easy to do and they have plenty of people to do that. When you look down on the drunk and criticize, you are only making the problem worse. When you sit on your throne and decide who is good and evil, you are capable of doing great evil, without even thinking of it as evil. That is a very dangerous place to be in for any of us. We feel superior talking like that. However, if you really want to change the world, then the way to do that is to be compassionate towards the drunk. It may be hard, but if not you, who? If not now, when?
These are the people that need it the most, it may be hard. I think impossible for some. That is ok and it does not make you a worse or better person. It is actually a very brave thing to say, “I can not help this person, it bothers me to much.” Then the key is to walk away and find someone who can. However, if you use this inability to care for the person to attack and belittle them and blame them, then you are creating more issues. Sometimes you can give all the compassion you have but the person is gone or not ready. Sometimes they are never ready. But we have to still try if we want to change the world. This is the spot where it is done. It is done in the gutters, where no one wants to go. The world is not changed on the green grass with the sun shining. You have to go to the gutter or the perceived gutter. You usually will never get a thank you, but that’s not why anyone should do this. Never do it for rewards, because with poor intentions, you will fail.
I’m going to finish this ladies story but I want to give some facts first about this disease.
Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease. There is no argument in the medical community, or in the science communities, there is no one that even debates it, the evidence is overwhelming. The only ones debating it are those that are in the public and don’t have the information or are restating things they have heard others say. There is a time that it is a choice, just like it is a choice to eat a cheeseburger if you have just had a heart attack. The people I am talking about, it is long past that point. If some of this next stuff you already know, I am sorry, but I am trying to prove my point.
This little story is told by PVD, one of the men who saved my life. I cant tell it like him, but here is my best effort.
Imagine a 13 year old girl a boy and the boy wants to ask her out. All his friends leave the scene, she is all alone. He is thinking to himself “here is my shot; I’m going to go ask her out.” He looks in the mirror, adjusts his hair. He is sweating and his nerves are killing him. He slowly walks over to her. She is sitting there with her pink notebook and pen; it’s a spiral one with one of those flowers on the end of it. He slowly walks up to her and says, “Umm did you hear about the dance coming up this Friday.” She twirls her hair, and looks down and says “ya.” He is getting more nervous and scared, but he’s in it now, no going back. He says with his voice trembling, “Umm do you think you may want to go with me.” She looks at him, then she looks down. She says, “I don’t know, maybe.” Then as he sweats this out, he says, “well can I call you?” She looks around, twirls her hair, then she grabs the pen with the flower and opens up her pink notebook starts scribbling on it and hands him her number and says “sure.” He walks away, goes into the bathroom and screams “YEAH YEAH YEAH.”
Now same exact story, same thing happening. This time, before he asks her out he goes into the bathroom and smokes a joint or takes a shot. Still goes up to her and asks her out and gets her number. The difference here is that he never learned how to deal with the emotion of stress, anxiety, fear. He never really risked being rejected. What has happened is that he never really put himself out there. So next time that these emotions come up, what will he do? Same thing as he always does when these tough emotions come up, drink, use or whatever it was. The reason why is because he got a positive outcome, so that is how it starts. Then the mask has begun.
That alone will not cause addiction; it is repeated use and repeated positive outcomes. Then eventually you start to organize your life around it. There is a genetic component and an environmental component. You can have the gene and never get it. You can have the environment and never get it. It all depends on all these factors coming together. Still you don’t have an addict.
What happens when you drink, is you have a surge of dopamine, the chemical that makes us happy. So let’s say you put a quarter in the gumball machine and get 10 dollars in quarters out of it plus a gumball. That’s a greater than expected reward so you get a dopamine surge, and your brain is told to remember this because it is good. Our brain is taught to remember things that feel good for survival, like remembering how good a piece of cake is. It has to feel good so we keep doing it so we keep eating and we stay alive. That’s what it is supposed to do. Addict’s brains handle dopamine differently and break it down differently.
There were studies in Sweden of twins of alcoholic parents. One was raised in a good “normal” non-drug using home, and the other was raised in the same “dysfunctional” home. What do you think the rates of alcoholism were? They were the same, about 48% of the time they both became alcoholics when the general population was about 2%. How is that possible if it is not a disease?
Now as an addict, you have low dopamine, then you drink or use and you get this surge and your brain says wow!! Remember this and you get high as ever and feel better than ever. Then the next morning, it crashes, you have none. Your brain thinks it had a surplus of dopamine so it stops producing as much. Plus you now have guilt from the text or phone call you made, or the money you spent. More things you don’t want to feel so you then drink again to get that dopamine. It surges, but not as high, never as much, when it crashes it crashes more. So eventually you have to drink in order to feel normal. When you do not drink, you do not enjoy life. You need it to even play with your kids, it’s the only way you can feel normal.
Now you have 2 parts of your brain involved. These two parts are the Pre fontal cortex and mid brain. Pre frontal cortex is the part of your brain that does all the planning and organizing your day and everyday life. Most addicts are bored with everyday life, it’s pointless. So they drink and they can feel ok and be ok with normally boring things. However, the mid brain supercedes the pre frontal cortex always. That is the part of the brain for survival. That would be like if a tiger came into your bedroom and ran at you, you would say “screw the plans were getting the fuck out of here!” The midbrain is about survival, fight or flight. Eventually you have in addiction where it crosses that barrier, now you think you need to drink in order to survive. Your brain believes you need this substance or you will die. That is an addict, or a cutter, or overeater, or whatever. It started to mask the pain or run away, however now it has become essential to survive. Remember this when thinking about an addict. Their brain thinks that they need the substance to live. It is like being starving and not being able to have food. That is why you see the behaviors such as the willing to throw everything away and aside for the substance. What they are going through can best be described as torture. That gets better, but yelling at them to get over it is really not the best approach when someone is being tortured.
I also hear people say that no one ever gets better and that people with mental illness and addiction are non-compliant so what is the point. This again is that stigma that I see, because this is simply not true. When someone is first diagnosed with Asthma or Diabetes, the rate that they “relapse” is actually higher in the first year and on average they have more trips back to the ER that first year. People with cholesterol problems, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, are actually statistically more non-compliant with treatment than addicts and people with mental health issues.
The 10% that recover is not an accurate number either. This is brand new, the new science and treatment approaches. We are still trying to convince people to stop locking up mentally ill and addicted people and treat them like human beings. This 10% recovery rate comes from when we were not treating people as humans and did not have all this new information. Also we don’t consider someone who has a heart condition a “relapse” and we do not shame them for slipping up and having that cheeseburger. The problem is the way we react to people who are going through torture.
Now I want to go back to this drunken lady. What you will NOT read in her chart is that when she was 7 years old, she was babysitting her 5 year old brother. He was run over by a truck and killed. At age 7, the age in which you are gaining self-esteem from the external world. You listen to what the teachers, the parents, and all the older people say. You trust them completely. Whatever is said, you take it as truth and store it in your files. The brain cannot tell what is true and what is not. So she is a killer, irresponsible, and a bad person. That is in her head. She believes this to be true. What else happened to her was that her mother died of pancreatic cancer, which is very likely from alcoholism. She was 16 when her mother died. Her father was a reported alcoholic. The reports were he was “not nice.” Now, in my time in this field this is a phrase I hear often and usually underneath it is the worst kind of abuse. When the patient says something like “he was mean, “or “not nice,” and won’t talk about it, that usually means they are too scared to even talk about it. It’s scary to me when I hear that.
So what you don’t see in the profile is the abusive father, the alcoholic parents, and the death she was “responsible,” for. Can you imagine what that life entailed? We are usually too busy looking at the behavior and not behind the mask.
Then everyone saw the great doctor, but they didn’t see her get beaten and miscarry over and over. Back in the day you didn’t talk about this stuff, she buried it, found alcohol and crossed the barrier. Then people calling her a monster and a scumbag and looking down in her for “choosing” alcohol over her kids when inside she hated herself. Anyone that attempted to get closer she chased them away, like the oldest daughter who kept coming back. Because she believed herself to be a monster and a terrible human being, all the time she was going through an internal torture and hiding behind this mask. This girl was suffering from a trauma at age 9 that she never understood. However when it gets put in your head you are wicked, you trust that. Can you imagine a 10 year old girl going to dance class and getting all excited to go to school. Then imagine this girl at 10, traumatized beyond belief, never dealing with the confusion and pain then believing it was her, and the shame and guilt she carried. She also was one who was extra sensitive by nature. Why do we think that she deserves this and chose this? This was the first case I really saw the mask formed.
We like to say people get better, and when things get lost, that people go and find them. That there is this “Lost and Found,” and eventually someone comes in and finds them, and helps them find their true selves. That’s not the case, most addicts and mentally ill suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are lost, but rarely found. So my continual challenge and message is to go find someone, and bring them back to life. Help them kill their false selves.
This story is one that is a too familiar story you will find in mental health and addiction. We see the behavior, but not what’s behind it, and then we treat them like a monster. The sad part is that what is in our head creates how we treat the person, then that creates their reaction to us. If you treat a patient or a person by their “chart” and chart can be a literal chart or it can be our snapshot of someone. If we continue to use this as our guide, then I’m afraid no one will ever get better until we can look beyond the mask.
I remember at this woman’s funeral her kids, all adults by now, came in from out of town. I did nothing but watch. They had not been around for years, and I listened as they talked about how she was going to burn in hell, I could just sense the anger in the room as they talked. I was astounded because they never even knew her. They all had gone to foster homes and done well. It must have been hard what they went through, but all that anger. It has to be hard holding onto that.
The oldest daughter, well she was the only one always around while the drunk lady drunk herself to death. This woman continued to care for her mother as she grew old and near death. No one understood why she kept coming back, what was wrong with her, was this daughter of hers weak and pathetic? Also, the second oldest son, he always gave back love and contributed financially to her. This was not understood as well, but they kept doing it. Isn’t this weak and pathertic?
No. This daughter of hers as I watched was the strongest person I had ever seen. Not the kind of strength you see with muscles and the way you think of power. It was different, it was with this love that could not, and would not, be broken. She didn’t listen to what people said. I watched this woman and the love she had for this “monster” and it was life altering every day. Every day people expected her to stop coming around to help, but she didn’t. Not once. She saw what others couldn’t see. If you’ve ever seen true power, I’m certain that this is what it looks like. It is an inner strength that cannot be defeated by any army and I was amazed as I watched this woman.
Did she ever get the “I love you and I’m sorry,” from the mother? No she did not. That’s the disease, the shame. No storybook ending here. She died, they never said goodbye. However I know this, for this old drunk lady, what she got was she finally believed she was worth it. This woman, the oldest daughter changed the storyline and this old drunk felt loved the last few years of her life. The daughter didn’t see it, but I did, I saw it in the drunk ladies eyes. For the first time in her life, she knew someone loved her, and that made her think that maybe she was ok. What an enormous gift the daughter gave her and as I watched it unfold, it changed me forever.
I saw the in this drunk ladies eyes as I spent more time watching this relationship. I think the oldest daughter was right.
The reason I say that after time I came to the conclusion that this oldest daughter was right is because the drunk lady was my grandmother.
When I was 9 I wanted a football, I had to have it, I was impulsive and I NEEDED IT. My grandmother was this drunk that everyone hated and was awful and this “monster.”
My grandma saw I needed it, she went sober that day for the first time in 50 years because she gave me her only 7 dollars for that football. It lasted 4 years, the football, not the sobriety.
That was my grandma, the oldest daughter was my mother. I’d like to say she stayed sober, but she didn’t. She died when I was 11 from what most alcoholics die from. I believe it is a disease of the broken hearted. However, my mother made her feel ok, and loved, and it got passed on to me. I will not let it go grandma, I am going to keep passing it on.
Grandma I love you. Mom you’re my hero.
Family members, non-addicts, normies, or anyone else interested in how the addicted mind works, this one is for you:
Are cravings real? What does addiction feel like? Is it a choice? Try this experiment in its entirety then you decide for yourself. Only 2000 words.
If you really want to experience a craving like an alcoholic or addict you must truly imagine the following scenario. After reading the scenario, and you want to physically feel the experience, please feel free to do so at your own risk. It may give a greater understanding to the power of craving.
But first, let me try to explain the word craving. It is highly overused and vastly misunderstood. This happens with many words, used in an exaggerated sense over time, and the connotation of the word slowly loses its true meaning.
In sports, we reference war, “It’s a battle out there,” “football is war,” “down in the trenches.” To those who were on the ground in battles such as this find this highly offensive. The word “war” has become so common, that we don’t blink an eye hearing a word that describes violence, death, and destruction.
“I am seriously craving chocolate right now.”
I’m sure we have heard that one before, perhaps we have even said it. But, that is just a desire. It is on your mind and you would really like some chocolate. But a craving is much stronger, your mind perceives it as a need. It would be more like, unable to function until you have chocolate.
Below, I’ll explain the experiment, followed with a more scientific look at craving and the brain.
This is how it works:
Make plans with someone real important to you. Make the plans definitive and someone that you admire and would not want to disappoint or let down in any way.
Now, comes the fun part…
Pig out all day before this event! And it can not be healthy food, it needs to be the good stuff, the greasy food. The next step is to have a few laxatives such as miralax or another stool softener.
Seems insane, right? Well, here comes the part where the experiment gets interesting. You are not allowed to use the bathroom, you need to hold it in no matter how significant the “desire.” At this point, you are doing everything in your power to prevent yourself from an embarrassing uncontrollable bowel movement with your pants on.
This is not longer a desire, this is a need. You really cannot hear anything else. You only see places in your mind that will allow you to go to the bathroom. You are in survival mode, and the only thing that matters is finding any possible solution in which you can release the pain.
I’m sure most people can relate in some sense, think about a long road trip when you are in the middle of the country and the “urge” to go is so great that you can not think of anything else. Or you are stuck in rush hour traffic, maybe a snow storm, or accident, and the pain is building up and there is nothing you can do to escape.
All you are doing is screaming “god! I just need to go to the bathroom!” It is intense. You can’t think about anything. You will be fine, after you go to the bathroom. The car next to you looks at you like you are psychotic. You give him the finger and scream profanities at him as if it is his fault – you don’t really care about the consequences because your priority is finding a restroom.
He gets on his phone as if to call the police on you to report your insane behavior. Further irritating you and putting you into a panic. But in some sense, it doesn’t matter, as long as you can use the restroom everything will be ok.
Finally, you can get to an exit ramp, wait at a few red lights, speed into the parking lot and sprint in the gas station. Only to find a line of customers with an old lady at the front using what appears to be 73 coupons. You are pacing back and forth, sweating, shaking, about to burst, even yelling, until you just run up to ask for the bathroom key.
More dirty looks from everyone, only for you to fire back and justify your behavior because your pain is so intense. Once survival mode kicks in, the rational part of your brain slows down tremendously. I think anyone has felt this scenario to some extent.
Then, the clerk tells you, “it is occupied right now, you will just have to wait.” There it is, within your reach. You just need a few more minutes and you wait, and wait, and wait. Start pounding on the door and you just hear a voice that says, “Almost done, just give me a few.”
You’ve had enough. You can not be late for your appointment.
But, this person is important to you, so you try to do the right thing and give them a call and the conversation goes like this:
You: “Hey, I’m running late. The damn bathroom guy, gas station, traffic. I seriously could kill somebody right now!”
Friend: “Woah buddy, it’s all good. I just got here. No worries. See you when you get here.”
You: “Fine, whatever.” Click. Hang up and back to screaming mode. Why is your friend making it seem like this is not a big deal. How can you calm down?
Then, your GPS has led you somewhere incorrect! Now it is that damn GPS’s fault! You are punching the steering wheel screaming out loud. And then your phone rings, it is your buddy. You try to calm down.
Friend: “What’s up man? You lost or something?” (With laughter)
You: “Yeah the stupid GPS has me someplace I’ve never even seen.”
Your friend is cool with it, laughs it off, gives you directions and then starts to share something that is very important to them. Take note of how difficult it is to listen to anything they say, you are just thinking about finding a bathroom. You really want to listen, but could care less. There is a new priority.
Likely they would say, “What is your problem? You are not yourself? Don’t you even care, you are acting very selfishly.”
You try to justify it blaming it on traffic, gas station, GPS, etc. Then you try to manipulate it and turn things around on your friend. You do not have time for their stupid story, you just want to get to a bathroom.
“Well dude can’t you just wait until I get there!” you yell back, “Why are you being so impatient, I just need to focus on the road now. You always do this!”
Your good loving day has gone wrong. People are looking at you like something is wrong with you. Now, you are mad at your friend, start thinking about all their flaws and imperfections and wonder why you even want to see them.
Another gas station comes up, ok this has gone on long enough. You park, sprint in, sneak through the door past a little kid. When his father says something to you, you lash back quickly. Then, another line! AS the clerk wishes “have a nice day,” to customers all you can think about is how there is no possible way this day can be good until you use a damn bathroom!
You are being rude, impatient, and angry towards everyone. That is not who you are, this is your brain using its most primitive area – the amygdale responsible for survival.
Suddenly, another worker comes up and says, “Man you really need to use the bathroom. Let me show you to the back and you can use the staff restroom. I know that feeling, man. There is nothing worse.”
Now, picture an identical situation but this second worker tells you, “You are a grown man/woman and need to learn to control your bladder. Every other customer was here first, when it is your turn we will get to you. The world does not revolve around you.”
Quite a different reaction in the two scenarios, I would imagine.
You finally get to go and now you are relaxed, you come down, and feel like yourself. The first store clerk gives you a dirty look, the dad with his kid pulls his child closer and makes some remark as you try to explain your situation. Try calling up your buddy and he tells you to just forget it, this is why he stopped talking to you in the first place.
The whole day was changed because of this. Everyone has seen you as a bad guy, manipulator, and selfish punk. Then you start to believe it, which causes depression, anxiety, or other mental problems. This leads to isolation and secrets because you no longer want to hurt anyone. You are trying to protect them from the hurt. All this time alone, you build up more and more shame and guilt. This cycle continues until your depression increases, so you drink again to ease the pain.
At this point, anyone who has been severely depressed understands. You could win the lottery, and really not care at all. Nothing can change how you feel inside.
This is a true and real craving. It is living from a survival point and no one else understands the true torture you are going through. There is no way to help someone by judging them, or locking them up for their behavior. That does not work.
We can teach addicts, but in order to do that, you first need empathy.
A craving is much like this experiment of having the urge to go to the bathroom. Or if you are starving, all you see is the food places on the road and you miss the beautiful trees and the people. That is what an urge is truly like.
The human brain develops from the bottom, back, and inner part and works its way to the front. The most primitive functions take place here in the amygdale. It is responsible for two main functions; survival (fight-or-flight), and emotional learning.
Our brains are designed this way to help us survive. This goes back to the caveman days before they could even talk or communicate. Man gets attacked by a Saber-tooth Tiger and his heart races, starts sweating, heavy breathing, muscles tighten, and his focus is intensified. He escapes to his cave and slowly his heart rate slows down, breathing slows down, and his body adjusts to normal. The brain knows it no longer needs these survival tools.
After this experience, the brain learns that A) Saber-Tooth Tigers are not kind and B) In the future, I will stay away from these things. In addiction, similar structures of your brain develop these same pathways. You are looking to change your mood/emotion, you take a substance, and it works. You learn that A) this substance makes me feel good and B) In the future, when I want to feel this way, I will take this drug.
Substance abuse is about relying on a drug to alter mood/emotion. This can be to increase a positive feeling (euphoria, excitement, motivation) or remove an unwanted one (depression, anxiety, shyness). Over time, these pathways in the brain are created. This is especially true during the adolescent years in which are brain is developing. The female brain does not fully mature until about age 21 and the male at 25. This is the major reason why the legal drinking age was increased to 21. There is mass amounts of research and studies that show the increased rate of addiction if one starts using as a teenager. That is because the brain is going through it’s most significant learning period, the prefrontal cortex is developing, and neural pathways are being created while others are being pruned away.
If you want to feel it, I mean this not as a joke. You can really do this. You will know what a craving feels like. Then see the nasty looks you get and judgment’s, and see how much that helps.
Then, you feel the physical, emotional, and psychological pain of a craving. A craving is something that is required, needed, and a problem that requires prompt attention.
“You see the giant and the shepherd in the valley and Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we can ever imagine.”
I survived a suicide attempt, spent years in rehab centers, jails, psych hospitals. Now I have worked as a supervisor at these type of facilities.
However my friend, he did not. This is what suicide looks like. This is him after hanging himself, right before he died.
The difference is nothing. He grew up in a dysfunctional home, where the norm was drug use, and physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. They didn’t have money, we did. He went to jail, he stayed. I went to jail, I got bailed out. I got to go to treatment, he got to stay in jail. My crimes were worse. My crimes were DUI, assault, assault, disorderly. His crimes; possesion, possession,possesion. You tell me who should have stayed. The only difference was money.
When he did go to the M.D., he didn’t get to pick which one he went to, he went to whomever they told him to. The doctors, knowing this, did not have to negotiate anything with him such as what meds he liked and didn’t. When I went, I got to decide which doctor to go to, so they had to listen to me or I could go elsewhere. My mom had money and resources, his didn’t.
Some will say, he had a brother that grew up in the same home and did fine. That’s where the studies of innate temperament come in. We are all born with an innate tempermant. Low emotional reaction to things, normal, high, and extreme. The studies are numerous, and they all prove the same thing. Some people are more in tune with others emotions, and are more sensitive. This is not to say every emotional person is going to have issues. It is the combination of being super emotional and not getting any support on a routine basis that creates the mask. That is the cause of addiction and mental illness. We all know people who we think are more emotional and we are thinking “wow he really gets emotional,” and about things that we don’t think even matters. But the severe cases, the super sensitive people, they get hurt more easy, get scared, then if they get invalidated their whole life and told to be quiet or are ignored routinely, they have to create a mask that gains some sort of acceptance or some role in life that gains you love.
Then the labeling and judging for behaviors that the mask does only creates more shame. Its sad, we tell people to wear this mask, then judge them when the mask goes to far. So yes, it happens all the time that 2 people from same family have different reactions to environment. That’s because we all have different genetics.
He didn’t have a car to go to places when he had time, he had to go when he could get his ride. He had no options, no support. If he didn’t show up, no one would believe him as he is the “criminal,” and I was the “patient.” Again, no difference except money.
He was the most sensitive, caring, loving person you could meet. However, that wasn’t acceptable by our culture or his culture. So he became the angry drug addict. That’s more acceptable. So he had his mask. While wearing the mask, his true self hides and he gets more depressed. This leads to more drug use, more crimes, more erratic behavior.
Why drug use? It’s something that blocks all the pain for a moment. It could be anything, drug use was acceptable in his world, more acceptable than the other forms. Other forms can be overeating , gambling, sex, anger, co dependency. It depends on what mask is acceptable to your culture. They are all of the same purpose, to run from your true self and emotions. Then, it gives us relief, so we think that is what helped. We have a surge of dopamine. So of course we go back to that thing again thinking it is relieving pain but in fact it is adding to it. Then we become so dependent on the behavior to relieve us from the pain, that we start doing it at the cost of anything. We do things we wouldn’t normally do to get the relief. Then others judge those behaviors, telling us more and more that who we are is a bad person. The layers of the mask get to be more and more, we despise ourselves we think. But who we truly despise is the false self we have created and society has helped us create.
So yes, kill yourself. But not literally, kill your false self. Thats how you heal.
No one reached out, no one talked to him, or even knew how. Instead they saw the criminal, and the anger and they judged. This just added more shame and guilt and more layers of the mask.
I remember one birthday, I stopped by and gave him 50 dollars. He said “you are the only one who even remembered.” So we got mushrooms and got hi all week.
Whenever he had even 2 dollars, it went to other people. He was the kindest, most gentle, loving person you could ever meet.
He let me see behind his mask, because I let him see behind mine.
No one one in the field ever thought “hey this is a genuinely caring kid who has never gotten a chance to show himself and been accepted.”
Instead they saw him as the angry man, drug addict, and the continuous offender. Once he is labeled, everything he does is attached to that label. It goes in his chart, and everyone reads it before they meet him. He’s the bad guy to them, which affects how they treated him. That affected his reaction, then they could say, “see, he just was not reachable.” When in fact I had done much worse, and I got to be a patient. “That poor sensitive kid needs someone to just love him.” That’s how I got treated.
The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated; however there is no way to measure this because the asshole providers will deny what they do, but I see it everyday.
The problem is, in this field, if you start to spend time with the patients and try to reach out, you get in trouble for having poor boundaries. So, you are told basically “don’t get to know them, however, get them to trust you and open up without ever really becoming close to them.” These patients have usually been in terrible situations, and they do not trust anyone and the staff is told “stay away, watch boundaries, but get them to tell you everything.” That’s why people do not get better, thats why people don’t learn.
The saying I love is “you can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough.”
It doesn’t matter how much you know if no one trusts you to begin with and you have no relationship with the patients. Yet, if you are good at building relationships you are scolded as a staff. We get sued for over restraining people, but thats the culture. People don’t get better, they do enough to get out.
Like grades in school, no one is an original thinker. We are robots trying to take original people and make them robots like us. The kids that do well in school are not free thinkers , they are the ones that can repeat and paraphrase what the teacher wants. I heard 2 masters degree professors the other day say they asked their students what they think, the students didn’t know what to say. They asked “what do you want us to say.” That’s how we teach.
They are monkeys. In Psychiatry, the poor staff want to create monkeys and they think deep down in their hearts that this is for the best, is for everyone to be like them, so that’s what they reinforce. So no one gets better and no one ever will. Until we change the rules and the system completely.
Then there was me. I was the one he had. He would call we would talk for hours and hours. When he was in Arizona, or St Paul, it didn’t matter. He always called when he was in trouble, we were in it together. Although I got better treatment, he was the better man.
He was a boxer, loved it. We would box, he destroyed me. I watched him brag like I did, but he also had true humility when it mattered. He was a much better man than most people ever will be.
Then one time, he was in jail and he had no where to go. So he called as usual. He came to live with me for a while. I was far along in my recovery already. I remember Jenny making him spaghetti and him eating it like he hadn’t eaten in months. He said “this is the best food I’ve ever had.” I had become so selfish that it was nothing to me to even eat like that. It was just spaghetti, but to him, it was heaven. It shouldn’t be like that. I was no better than him, in fact I was less than him. Yet I got to experience this daily while he suffered, where is the justice in that?
Then the old friends of his started to come around. We had a 10 year old, I was recovering and going to school. We told him after some warnings, that “hey you can’t stay here anymore with all these people coming around my daughter, its too scary to come home seeing her sitting on couch with these guys.”
He said “I can’t control them,” he warned them and asked them to wait until he is home. They just come. Which was true, he just had a following. He was a truly good person and once he let you in, you loved it.
He had a son, Anthony, he was a little guy but was as fierce as his dad, you could see that. Joe and Anthony would box, fake of course. But you could see the love and it was special. He would come around, we would all go on walks. Joe would say “I love you buddy” all the time and kiss anthony. I never saw a man kiss his little boy before, but that was cool. I make sure I do that with my 3 year old son now. He loved Anthony so much, it was soo clear. Joe was a great man.
Anthony didn’t see the label of “drug addict, bi polar, criminal.” That’s the mask Joe had to wear. Anthony was a kid, kids are genius that way. They don’t see labels and masks. Anthony saw Joe as I saw him, an angel. A kind, beautiful human with some severe pain and couldn’t do anything about it. I loved watching them together, because I knew the feeling.
Then, I get a call that joe is dead. He hung himself. He didnt call me this time. I had kicked him out. The guilt is terrible. When people ask why I fight for patients so hard, this is one of the main reasons. Just building that trust is important. Im sorry joe, and god do I miss you. Again, the wrong one got treatment, and the wrong one is dead. I am no better, in fact I’m much worse than him. What else can I do, but preach love. I have to do something. I love you Joe.
“The hero, it might be said, is called into being when perception of a need and the recognition of responsibility toward it are backed up by the will to act.” – Mike Alsford
Twelve-Years-Old; Here I am screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing anything within eyesight. Filled with rage, I only hear the echoes of laughter from my amused audience of family members and a handful of neighborhood kids. It was a show to them, their entertainment for the evening, all while I am crying inside.
“He can not hurt you,” they cackled to each other.
Then the yelling and screaming turned to tears. That was the real pain, I was a hurt and confused teenager and expressing it the only way I knew; with anger and rage. More chatter and laughter from the enthralled crowd intensified my inner torture. While this was outwardly conveyed with more violence and destruction, I am slowly dying on the inside, scared, and lost.
I grabbed a baseball bat. It stopped being funny.
One person in that room saved me from killing myself, or perhaps others in that room. I’ll share exactly how this all transpired at the end of this article.
First, I want to tell you about the story of two boys. The story begins when they are around 7-8 years old. We will call them “Boy A” and “Boy B,” for simplicity.
“Boy A” awakes in the middle of the night with typical late-night hunger and heads to the kitchen to make a sandwich and accidentally cuts his finger on the knife. Scared, he rushes into his father’s room to cry and tell him something is wrong. The father responds by hitting him and telling him that he is, “too fat anyway,” followed by a couple more smacks to the face.
In childhood, we are trying to figure out if the world is safe or unsafe and it is our primary caregivers that give us this message. The message being received is, “you are a bad person, you are overweight, don’t come to me with your problems.” As these regular beatings continue, the neurological pathways are put into place in the developing brain reaffirming his perception of himself and the world. He fears the world, he is not allowed to cry or show emotions, and express how he feels. Everything is stored deep within his subconscious, but he has been trained that it is not OK to be himself.
His mask has been created.
Now, there is “Boy B,” at age 7-8 his father comes home and tosses around the football with him. He teaches him about football as well as life lessons associated with the game; such as being a part of a team, work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, fighting through pain, perseverance, and commitment. His mother offers warmth, kindness, compassion, along with unconditional love and support.
Encouraged to do well in school, treat others with respect, and do the right thing, “Boy B” receives positive reinforcement. He trusts the world, believes in himself, and his life is filled with meaning, purpose, and hope.
Back to “Boy A,” his father decides to get re-married and his new wife wants to start a family of her own. To her, “Boy A” is a reminder of this man’s past life and interrupts with her vision of a happy family. She takes it out on him by abusing him with electrical cords and whipping him with curling irons.
The same message comes around again, “I am a bad person, a jerk, and I am no good. I am getting in the way again.”
Already engrained in his mind and belief system, the same thing comes up again and only deepens his self-perception. During adolescents is when our personality is created as these neurological pathways are created, strengthened, or dropped altogether based on experiences and reactions. The teenager also acts first on emotion rather than on analytical thinking or rationale (due to the natural evolution of the brain) which naturally means more “acting out.” When “Boy A” acts out, everyone’s perception of he being a bad person or jerk is vindicated. Including his own perception of himself.
At the same time, “Boy B” is excelling in school while his parents are putting in extra time communicating with teachers and coaches to ensure their son is growing from child to an adult. The teachers see that they are involved and care about their son, and in turn, spend additional time with their child making sure he is successful. He is applauded for his extra efforts, given awards, and is generally liked by most people. He is free to explore the world on his own, views the world as a safe place, and optimistic about the future. Whenever he is in need, his family is there for him for any advice, assistance, or general support.
And, “Boy B” happens to be naturally gifted in athletics. Along with his revered genetics, he has been raised to work hard, study, and strive for greatness. As he gets older, he begins to receive specialized instruction from the finest coaches around the country. And while he has a burning passion for football and for success, if all fails in college he still has a loving family and community that will forever be supportive.
“Boy A” is now growing up with the negative labels connected to his name and any good act is ignored. Like the Hell’s Angles motto, “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets.” Only seeking acceptance he acts goofy, outrageous, and spontaneous. This is the only thing that gets attention, and any type of attention is good for him. A beating is better than nothing at all.
He misses school and gets in different kinds of trouble. As the struggles progress, he becomes more scared, hurt, and alone with nowhere to turn. His father’s disgust for him hasn’t faded, if anything, has intensified. His father destroys gifts the child receives from his biological mother, not allowed to see his mother and is beaten and left outside the house all day on a nearly daily basis.
In school, he has no support. He is in fights, disrupting class, failing grades and the teachers only see a lost cause. Still seeking acceptance, he willingly puts on any mask for approval – the clown, rebel, etc. Anything that grants him the love that every person deserves, the love that he was cheated out of during his childhood.
Looking at the two stories of “Boy A” and “Boy B,” as adults they are souls from two different worlds. People who have been through abuse are living an entirely different reality, how are they supposed to just wake up one day and “just get it?”
This is why we need to look behind the mask.
The adult survivor of child abuse has altered brain chemistry. Early childhood development begins with the primitive structures of the brain known as the limbic system. This deals with emotional learning and survival. Our body has a natural hormone, Cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone” as it is released to help our body regulate stress. In childhood abuse, the system becomes altered as the child is under chronic stress which constantly sends cortisol throughout the brain and body. At this time, the brain is rapidly developing and the child is dependent on their caregiver for protection – which has significant long-term impacts on these primitive systems. And then as he ages into adolescence and young adulthood, these constant reminders that he is a “bad person” strengthens these already disrupted pathways.
Back to the stories, “Boy B” has graduated high school with honors, receives a football scholarship and has support from friends, family, and his community. He is well-prepared with education, specialized training, financially, and ongoing support and guidance. He succeeds again at the highest level of college football and is dubbed a “real life superhero!” He is strong, athletic, intelligent, handsome, and he pretty good at throwing a football and has a real possibility of becoming a professional athlete.
We call professional athletes, “real life superheroes.” I see it on a daily basis. In fact, just the other night Don Cheadle’s exact words on the Thursday Night Football telecast were, “these guys are real life superheroes.”
Then I watch my son put on his power rangers costume and he hits and punches. From day one we are told there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” We teach them that it is OK for the “good guy” superheroes to punch bad guys. We think it is cute. To me, it has been disturbing to see him enamored with these shows and then fired up to “get the bad guys and punch them.”
So I can bash the system which does no good or I can try to focus on the future. Which is what I am trying to do is to teach him about real life superheroes.
Back to “Boy A.” He escapes the abuse by finding a job and secretly saving money. Once he has enough he drives four hours to his Aunt’s house, which happens to be my home as well. He is confused, lost, lacks acceptance or any belief in himself. He has had a “bad guy” mask tattooed on his skull and has grown to believe that it is true.
Our house is crowded with five children, extended family, neighborhood kids, along with a number of chaotic pets. In the basement lives a 13-year-old child that is incredibly shy, but also remarkably intelligent. This is my older brother, he has basically withdrawn from the world at this point and is also scared and lost.
Then there is a 12-year-old boy who is angry, acting out, constantly in serious trouble, and recently expelled from school – this is me. Then there was another boy, much younger, and painfully terrified of the world, but also very loving – this is my younger brother.
And, now enters “Boy A” into this home. It is a frightening situation to the outsiders in fear that he is going to destroy this home and these kids. They don’t need a “Boy A,” they need a “Boy B.” A Super Hero!
Meanwhile, “Boy B” is excelling in the classroom and setting records on the football field. His fun-loving, down-to-earth, good-humored personality makes him loved my just about anyone who encounters him. He is a good man with true humility. He is not a bad person, we do not get to choose our family and whether or not we receive love and affection – he should not be hated for that. He is an amazing man and is an exceptional role model.
Right now, his biggest concern is where is he going to fall in the NFL Draft? What kind of offense do they run? Will he be able to start right away? Again, to him, these are true worries that create anxiety. It is not his fault, it is just his reality. But in terms of real-life trauma, trials and tribulations, tests of strength, willpower, or character are not likely as significant or battle-tested as “Boy A.”
“Boy B,” could be one of many quarterbacks we see each Sunday, such as Peyton Manning. Great man, good heart, hard-working, and humble. One of the best in the world in the history of his given profession – NFL Quarterback. He is often labeled, “A Hero.” In fact, quite frequently.
In researching a few different studies over the years, athletes and celebrities usually top the list of people we consider “heroes.” Currently, LeBron James tops the lists of a survey of 2,500 people age 16-35. From everything that I have read, seen, and heard, LeBron James seems like a wonderful person with an inspirational story. But a hero?
So, who is “Boy A?” This is my cousin, known to me as Little Jon, although his birth certificate reads Jon Kosiak. He enters this home, goes downstairs to the withdrawn teenager and shows him love and acceptance. He authentically cares about him, spends time with him, listens to his thoughts and interests, and gives him genuine love. He brings him out of his withdrawn sense, talks to him openly and honestly about things, and takes interest in his life. He teaches him not to be afraid of anything and befriends the kid who had all but given up on the world.
By the end of the four years that “Boy A” lived in our home, the withdrawn child is now brave and strong. He goes on to earn a master’s degree, has a family with three children and living an excellent life. He is smart, a good man, and an amazing father. At a moment in his life when he was in greatest need, Little Jon was able to recognize that and willing to act upon it. Not because he felt obliged to do so, but because he wanted to do so. And not because it was difficult, but because it was natural. Little Jon showed him not to fear the world, to love himself, and rise above.
And the younger, scared child is no longer scared. He ends up excelling at sports, receiving scholarships, and now works as a counselor. This is my younger brother. He has been transformed from a terrified child to a fearless leader. He is strong and smart, and at a time in which he needed to toughen up and face the world – Little Jon saw the perceived need, recognized it, and was willing to act.
“Boy B”, Peyton Manning, well he went on to the NFL and is called a “superhero.” He is idolized, loved, adored, and celebrated by people around the globe. He is a great man, with a unique sense of humor, oh and he can throw a football pretty well. But superhero? No.
However, I believe that Little Jon does fit that label. He spent four years in our home and molded us into better people. He was our hero.
And as for myself, well I was the angry little boy. My tendency was to smash things, threaten people, destroy property, and sabotage the entire house. People would either bail or they gave in to my demands in efforts to eradicate my behavior. But, I never was really angry. Anger is just a secondary emotion disguised as many different things – for me, I was sad, lost, and scared. It is an emotional response to an injustice (either perceived or real). That is the response, the rage is the reaction to the response. So the final product may be taking a baseball bat to a mirror, but deep down I felt an injustice creating pain and hurt.
In the opening story, we reached the climax of the action scene. Swinging around the bat, projecting anger, and spreading fear into those who have brought me pain. Then steps in the one person that changed the course of many people’s lives in that moment.
Yep, Little Jon is there. And he refuses to move. This pisses me off to the point that I grab a baseball bat and start smashing and destroying things throughout the house.
The laughter has stopped, the show is over. The bear had been poked one too many times and all hell was about to break loose. And when the bear breaks free of the den, everyone takes off, bails, and hides in the hills.
What would “Boy B” do if they saw something like this? He wouldn’t know what to do. That makes it tough to label him a superhero. We do not know who we are until we see how we handle adversity. When it comes to reading a zone blitz on a 3rd down in a playoff game, sure, Peyton Manning knows how to handle that “adversity.” So we know how he is as a football player. But real adversity, such as the situation above, can not be practiced or coached up.
This is the fight-or-flight system, the most primitive part of the brain. You do not have time to act on logic, you go on instinct, emotional learning, and survival. Nobody else in the room had the necessary tools to defuse the situation, they have not had the intense emotional learning he endured.
Most of the “Boy B’s” of the world have no idea what is going on inside the head of someone who needs love. They have never felt that and that is not their fault and does not make them less of a person. However, stop calling him a hero. If we keep calling him a hero and telling our kids he is the hero, then we have brainwashed them.
Little Jon did know what was going on in my head.
He said, “I am not going anywhere and you need to put the bat down.”
Everyone else is in fear, bailing out, and in full-blown panic. We got these two “messed up” kids about to go at it with a baseball bat and tempers flaring.
The crowd shouts, “Jon!! Jon!! Get out of there!! Leave him alone he is crazy!”
Little Jon did not budge. He said, “Listen, put it down. I know how you are feeling. It is ok Betsy.” (That is what he always called me, “Betsy.”)
I said “I am going to smash your face.”
“No you’re not,” He responded, “You just need love. Give me a hug.”
“No!” I shouted. Then, I started crying.”
The room is empty, everyone is gone into hiding or calling the police – or searching for the “hero.” But, the problem is that the hero was already in the room with me.
“Come here,” Said Jon as he approaches me with a hug.
Complete silence fills the room.
I drop the bat. I hug him and begin to cry and then the floodgates spring open and tears kept flowing. I have no idea what we talked about or what was said. I did not even know why I was so angry on that particular occasion.
But, what I do know is how I felt. Not alone. And loved.
He saw a need, recognized his responsibility, and was willing to act. Just like all other neural circuitry pathways in our brain, these continued heroic actions, develop into a habit, create character, and essentially define the person.
Little Jon has a tendency to bring this feeing to everyone he is around. He gives people that feeling of acceptance and love even though it was never given to him.
He is a true superhero. He is the one we should be telling our kids about, not Batman, not Superman, not Peyton Manning.
But, Little Jon. Jon Kosiak. That’s who I want to teach my kids about. He is a superhero.
It’s time to redefine the definition of a superhero.
Everyone thought Little Jon was a trouble-maker and a bad seed. He is not. He is a good man that gives love, despite the only thing has ever received is abandonment, emotional/physical abuse, pain, and suffering. Prominent motivational speaker/author Wayne Dyer states that the most difficult thing to do in life is to return love for hate. Little Jon exemplifies that without any effort, he does so because it is natural.
By definition, if he instinctively flourishes at man’s most demanding task (returning love for hate), is there any other way to accurately portray and define a superhero?
I Love You Little Jon.
” .. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent forever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”- Charles Dickens
Every interaction we have matters. We may not see it, but it does
Here is a story of how one patient saw 2 different doctors. With the exact same problem. The reaction was completely different, and so was the result. You do not have to be a doctor or social worker or health care worker to have this impact. It is just this example. Every day we encounter people that as simple as it may seem, just a hello or a smile can make the difference. Sometimes, just knowing someone notices you are not doing well is a big deal.
Before I get into the story. Here is a study that I want to share that proves that it is not necessarily the knowledge or words we provide, but how we make the other persons feel that matters:
The University of Toronto’s Dr. Wendy Levinson is considered among the world’s foremost researchers on physician-patient communication. In a landmark 1997 study, she recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Half of the doctors had never been sued, and the other half had been sued at least twice.
Levinson found that just on the basis of those recorded conversations alone, she could find clear differences between the two groups:
■The doctors who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes).
■They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions.”
■They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that.”
■They were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.
Levinson reported no difference in the amount or quality of information doctors gave their patients; the never-sued doctors didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition.
The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients
Here is an example of exactly what kind of impact we can have good or bad. We do not see it, but I had the opportunity to see this, so I am sharing to show an example to anyone who chooses to read this.
Patient walks into Dr. D’s office. Patient is a 29 year old. He has depression, has a history of suicide, drug use, and addiction. He is in good physical health. He has not asked for help for a long time. He was in the psychiatric hospital as a teenager multiple times.
Dr. D comes into the office right at 8 am as the day starts. He gets his coffee, and asks for his first patient. He walks into the room and looks at the patient. He says “what can I do for you today?”
The patient say “I am very sad, I have low energy, and I do not feel normal.” The patient is shaking and is embarrassed to be at this point in his life.
The patient says, “I have struggled with drinking and drugs and do not feel good about myself. I am scared to talk to anyone about anything, but especially this. I am at an end, I have to get help or I am going to die.”
Dr. D says, “Ok, well let’s draw some blood. Have you ever been checked for diabetes, low blood sugar, or thyroid problems?”
Patient says, in a trembling voice. “No. I don’t seem to have any of the other problems that would go with diabetes though. I work in the health care field.”
Dr. D says, “Well I am going to run some blood tests. I also see you once had a positive PPD test, so we will give you some INH.”
A ppd test is when you are tested for exposure to tuberculosis. If you are positive it usually means it is in your system but not active.
So Dr. D has the patients’ blood drawn and has given him the INH. The blood tests come back normal. No problems.
The clinic nurses call the patient and state everything is ok. Dr. D said to follow up if you have any concerns. They as a clinic have so many patients, they forgot why the patient came in the first place. They get a list of lab results, so when they see them come through, they never think of the patient. They see the results and make the call that they are ok. This is not their fault. They are completely overwhelmed with a huge volume of lab reports of patient’s to call.
This patient was anxious and depressed and afraid to ask for help to begin with. Now with this call and this response, and the patient is basically pushed aside, IF the patient wants help, he will have to make the call again and go through the embarrassment and shame of asking for help again.
Now, the patient does not go for the INH. He is now feeling hopeless. He never even went for medical problems, then when the results came in, the clinic never even thought that it was to rule out anything. The patient got lost in the pile of papers. Basically became a number, not a person. This is normal these days. They want the Doctors to see as much patients as possible, as fast as possible. So give them a pill and get them out of here. It is our medical system, and it is this that has caused the opiate epidemic that we have in the United States.
You go to the MD or the ER, you get a Vicodin because we need numbers, so get them out the door as soon as possible.
IN this case, the patient goes on another binge, and gets more depressed. If anyone has been through this they know any binge can result in death to self or someone else. Thinking again about suicide the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider.
The patient, using all the courage that they have, gets another appointment 4 months later. So at this next appointment, Dr. D walks in, and he does not recognize the patient. Treats him as if he is a new patient. Asks again if he has any medical problems.
This time. Dr. D says “let me draw blood for some things” once again. Checks his heart. He does not know the patients name, or occupation, or any of what had happened before.
The patient is a number, he now feels worse and is upset that he even came back. He gets his blood drawn.
The patient gets a phone call back. He is to come see Dr D again, he must come in to go over the results. They cannot tell him over the phone the results. However, there is also some hope. He feels that maybe they found a reason he has felt like this his whole life.
The patient is scared, he knows if you have to come in to go over results it is not good. Saturday morning Dr. D walks in as he is the on call MD this weekend. His eyes are bloodshot and red, Dr. D did not sleep last night you can tell. He does not recognize the patient, his name, or anything. He feels he is just seeing all emergency patients as they are the Saturday clinic this month and he is on call. Dr. D has no idea he is talking to his own patient.
He then asks the patient, why he is here.
Then Dr. D still not knowing the patients name says “oh yeah, well, looks like you have chronic fatigue syndrome and there is really nothing we can do. Maybe go to groups, or exercise.”
Just what the patient wants to hear right? You are chronically tired and out of luck. You are not depressed or any of that. Sorry, go to groups.
The patient puts his head down, that’s it. You can see him, the thoughts are something like, “I guess I never was depressed, I’m just tired,” that is what he is feeling.
Any of us can tell these things in watching people if we just watch and are truly present with them. If we take time for one another it is easy.
Then Dr. D says well I can give you Provigil to keep you awake during the day and trazodone to help you sleep. SO let’s do that and check back in a few months. We are now giving a patient with severe anxiety a pill that they used to give to pilots to keep them awake during long flights.
The patient gets the pill to stay awake. His depression and anxiety have still not been addressed. He has learned that this is what happens when you ask for help. The patient now feels hopeless, sad, anxious, and like a fool for asking for help. There is nothing they can do for him.
First they tell him he has tuberculosis, then its chronic fatigue. They spend 15 minutes with him each time because management wants doctors to see 4 patient per hour so they can bill for that. Then they make more money. Dr. D is considered more productive if he sees more patients in a day because he makes the clinic money then.
The patient then with this depression history, drug abuse history, has made his last ditch efforts to get help. It took everything he had to even ask for help. He was pushed aside, they didn’t know his name. He got lost as a number. Then he was told different things by the same doctor each time he went in.
Why would someone go seek help after this? Dr. D never even asked him about his depression or anxiety or his history. He was a number, and he pushed it off like it was not depression. Just give him a pill and get him out. I don’t blame Dr. D, this is our system. I have seen Doctors get scolded for taking too much time with their patients.
This patient would then go into severe depression and his drinking and self-destructive behaviors would intensify over the next few years. He had many near death experiences, he got a DUI and spent more time in jail. He got to a point in which he almost died and his family had given up on him completely. He was basically going to fade away to the world. You could tell, he had given up on himself and everyone else had given up on him.
If you ever see someone down, any positive interaction can help. Getting to know them, so you can give them a genuine compliment is crucial. A genuine compliment will change a person’s day and sometimes world. In order to do that, you have to get to know the person.
We all know a genuine compliment because it touches us and makes us feel much different than a condescending, fake generic compliment. We know by how we feel. If we like being around a person it is probably because they are genuine. We do not know why, we just like the way we feel when we are around them. That is the key to helping someone.
However, to give this kind of love, you must have the love in you yourself first. There is a story in one of Thich Naht Hahn’s books that I love to tell. It goes something like this; there was a father and a daughter who were homeless. They were great gymnasts. Every so often they would do a street performance and hold out one of those jars for donations. They would make enough to eat for the week usually.
However, one night, all the rich people were going to be there. The royalty, and everyone with money was going to watch. They knew this was their biggest performance so they could make enough money to eat for a year.
The father would always carry the daughter on his shoulders and she would do amazing tricks. So he said to her, “Tonight my dear, it is the biggest performance, we ca neat for a year if it goes well. So we need to look out for each other and watch each other.”
The daughter look at her father and says, “No, I cannot do that. If I spend all my time looking at you, and you spend all your time looking at me, then we will stumble and fall. The best way I can take care of you, and you of me, is to watch ourselves so we are the best we can be. Then we can be strong for each other.”
That’s it. Love yourselves. You have a lot to offer, we all do. Sometimes the hardest part is loving yourself. I know it is for me. Some days it’s much harder than others. You take a few steps back and a few forward. It is a process that is for sure.
Then you must also get to know this person so the compliment can be genuine. Sometimes we are too caught up in things that do not matter so we say we do not have time for this. That is when we know we are caught up in the world, man’s world. That should be a warning sign to slow down.
It can be a sort of psychological life support for someone. It can change the world and save lives. That may sound dramatic, but it is not. It is the truth.
The other day at work, we have a patient who no one has been able to handle at all. No one. This patient was about to have another episode in which she hurts staff and herself, then the staff, I will call her Madeline, she said something in a loud voice.
The reason I thought this was important is because the tone of her voice was one of confidence, One that was saying, “This is the truth, no doubt about it.” Madeline has these moments, she usually doubts herself and I do not know why. She is one of the most amazing providers in mental health I have ever seen. She gets to know each patient on a personal level and she is not afraid to speak up for them.
She says to this patient, “Look in the mirror, and look at when you came in. You have changed so much, you look like a different person.”
The patient, who is considered “dangerous” to most, is being yelled at by this staff with confidence. The patient says in a soft voice, “really?” Nothing happened with her for at least a week. That comment prevented disaster, the reason it was effective is because it was real and genuine. We need more Madeline’s.
What happens then is someone sees Madeline yell like this to the dangerous patient and sees it work. They then try it and get punched in the face. The difference is when she says it, it is truth to the patient because Madeline has spent hours getting to know the patient and the patient knows it is someone who knows her, and not someone repeating something they heard someone else say. It is real.
So back to this story about this patient. About 3 years later after Dr. D. This patient called the clinic. They said “So you see Dr. D, would you like to see him again.”
The patient has an opening and says, “No anyone is fine.” Simple stroke of luck.
The patient is set up with Dr Broeker. This is his real name he still practices for Allina. It is at the end of May. The patient has made up an excuse to go in he says he is having urinary problems.
He is in the clinic office in the room waiting. Dr. Broeker knocks on the door, he says, “hey XXX, I just want you to know I am running a little bit late but I will be in as soon as I can.”
The patient is shocked, Dr Broeker knew his name and just knocked on the door to tell him that he was running late.
Then during their meeting, the patient is comfortable, and feels at ease. Dr Broeker comes in and says his name, what his experience is and does not have a clipboard. IS not looking at the computer. He asks “what are you hear for?”
Dr Broeker then says “what else can I do for you?”
The patient starts to cry and says “I am anxious, nervous and afraid to ask anyone for anything. I hate myself, I cannot stop drinking and I want to get help for feeling depressed.”
Dr Broeker spent the next hour talking with this patient. It was amazing. He told him about life, Dr Broeker talked about his time as an MD and how he wants to get this right. He explains the depression scale, the anxiety scale and fills it out with the patient.
It was like this patient had been waiting years for someone to say, “It’s ok to be sad, let’s talk about it.” Finally after, years and years of internal torture. Dr. Broeker had released this man from his own internal prison. It was the most amazing thing. Words will never do it justice what Dr Broeker was doing for this patient.
It was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment. Dr Broeker knows the patient has been seen by Dr D because he read the chart, he says “why were you tested for all of this?”
The patient says, I don’t know that’s what he thought.
Dr. Broeker says “well, ok, let’s start you on celexa and come back in 2 weeks to make sure you are not having any side effects.” Dr. Broeker did not judge the other physician and was respectful and kind about what the other MD had done. When someone is truly great like this, they do not need to question anyone else. He is pure, there is no competition for people like Dr. Broker, he practices out of love, and he is a doctor for the right reasons.
The patient was so much at ease with Dr. Broeker that he was able to tell him everything and open up about the drinking, drug use and all other issues that he was facing.
Dr Broeker wanted him back in 2 weeks just to check on side effects. The patient felt he had a new lease on life.
Then in 2 weeks Dr Broeker pops in and knows the patients name. He talks to him for a while like they are old buddies and shakes his hand and is friendly with him.
This patient has had a history of no shows throughout his life, but never with Dr Broeker. Usually if we have a patient with no shows, we label the as non-compliant or as not really wanting to get help. But, could it be that the problem is in the provider and how we treat patients? Or at least say it is 50/50? In a few months the patient was in rehab, and able to look at people. Dr Broeker then eventually recommended therapy to this patient.
This patient was willing to listen because he trusted Dr Broeker. He believed in him. The same recommendation could have come from another Doctor and it would have gotten a different reaction. The difference is in the relationship, not in the knowledge. Dr Broeker took time, he did not care about the 4 patients an hour.
Dr. Broker is special, he is in it for the right reasons. He takes time. That is true productivity.
He saves lives, He saved this patients life.
I know this, I watched it. The patient was me.
The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.
He saved my life. He is one of the “fab 5″ that I refer to that changed my life. That is number 1. The magical Michael Broeker.
If it was not for him, I would not be alive today. The patients that tell me I saved their lives and changed them forever, my friends and family and everyone that I have touched, it is all not possible without him.
I almost died and did not want to ask for help ever again. He sat down and listened. And talked. He didn’t follow the 15 minute rule. In my moment, lost in the woods, he gave me the light and pointed me in the right direction. All because he took time to get to know me and did not judge me.
I am alive today because of him.
Thank you Dr Broeker.
“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness and addictions.”
I am not a fan of physical abuse of children. In fact, I despise it and it makes me get a lump in my throat and get sick every time I even think about it.
You see the photos above. That is of a 4 year old in Minnesota that was killed from child abuse. After 15 reports were made. Nothing was done.
How do you think that boy’s life was? He was abused by his mother. Then he was moved to his father’s home where he was abused. None of the other children were beaten. He was. Repeatedly. Why does this kid deserve this while the kid down the street, same age, has a wonderful life? Why is it that one boy deserves that while the other doesn’t?
We will hear people say, “I never said that.” Well, then why do we allow it to continue throughout their lives? Why do we lock the survivors of abuse up in jails and asylums and have the people from the other side of the street treating them and judging their behavior?
This is what I am always saying. We all are co-responsible. I am not going to defend the act of child abuse ever. What I am going to do is tell you the way we are going about the problem is all wrong. We can take all the kids out of homes we want, it will not solve this problem.
The issue is the millions that do not die. They grow up, and are separated as the “lower class.” So you are born, you are beaten. You have no self-esteem or no skills except survival skills that no kid should have to learn. Then you may rob or steal to eat. You likely become a drug addict, you may be called “mentally ill.” Then you are locked up further and forced on medications that may likely not work. Just slow you down. Then we have staff at jails and mentally ill hospitals and group homes that were the kids down the street.
They do not understand how you can possibly just not “figure it out.” Why are you behaving like this? I hear staff call these patients that survive this stuff, “babies, manipulators, or control freaks.”
So why is it that these lives have to be this way? We keep it up, we like having this separation. We have to have a “lower class” in order for there to be an “upper class.” We then get people from the other side of the street and send them to a college where they do not learn to be free thinkers, in fact they learn how to repeat what other robots tell them to think.
I see it every single day. I read an article about this and I cry and I cry and I almost throw up. I get so angry I cannot take it.
That doesn’t help, attacking the abuser will do nothing. I work sometimes with patients who were abusers. It is a cycle. It is a cycle that much like poverty, we have the power to stop, but we are too busy, or too comfortable, or we just don’t care.
We must protect “our own.” When will we realize that “our own” is everyone. We all are connected. We cannot sit by and we have to change the cycle. The generational pain and the community lies have to stop. When this happens, there should be outrage. There is a little, but then it gains attention when a celebrity does it. So we have to use this as an opportunity and stop attacking and yelling and blaming. I would love to do that. It just will do no good. So I will not do that.
Now Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice because they are celebrities have brought it to light. We can hate all we want, but that will never solve the problem, only perpetuate the very thing it is against.
So what do we do?
This is about how we can stop this cycle of this Frankenstein Society.
I can tell you right now that in 20 years of working in the mental health and addiction field, I believe I have read about 100,000 patients charts. I took about 2 days to estimate that number. It is a pretty accurate number.
Not one time has there ever been a chart that I have read that did not include some sort of childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma. NOT ONCE. In over 100 thousand charts.
The key to mental health and addiction treatment being better in the future is something called “trauma informed care.” In 100 years they will be talking about how this changed the mental health and addiction treatment much like diabetes with insulin.
It is treating every patient that walks through the door as if they have been through a trauma. You treat the patient different if you consider the fact they have been through a trauma than if you treat them based on the behavior they are displaying.
The statistics say about 70 to 80 percent have been through a trauma, I believe that is not correct. I am sure it is 100 percent. The thing is when you go through a trauma at an early age the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, shuts down.
The amygdale which is in control of the startle response and hyper vigilance is increased. So your brain does not remember the trauma, however, the body and stress response remembers the trauma, it is to keep you alert to danger, and your brain does not even remember the event.
So I am certain it is 100 percent of those with mental health /addition issues have been in a trauma and all of them should be treated this way. 100,000 charts, now some only briefly mentioned it, but after talking to the patients, it is 100% of those charts.
That’s not some study that is a real life number.
Now I want to tell a story of 2 lives and how this happens, then get to the solution. This is a true story.
1st is a young lady about 20 years old. She has a low IQ and is considered Developmentally Delayed at birth. She is born to a mother that has substance abuse issues and this may have contributed to her being born with this disability. Her name is Marley.
Then we have Mr. Olson, he is born about 30 years before Marley. Mr. Olson is raised in an environment with parents who have drinking issues, but they consider it normal to not talk about feelings. You are to “suck it up.”
If you have emotions in this family you are told to shut up, be quiet and you are hit and scolded and put in a room for the night. This Mr. Olson, when he was a child, he was very emotional, he was one who was a truth seeker. He speaks up, he yells, he takes his whooping’s and eventually he decides that his parents are right, something is wrong with him. HE starts hiding his true self and being the tough guy rebel as his false self. The false self is usually direct opposite of who you really are. He is sensitive, so he becomes the bad guy punisher bully.
Then back to the young Marley. Her mom cannot take her behaviors or the fact that she has a disability, she does not understand this. When Marley has behaviors that are not like the normal kids, she is hit and beaten seriously. All this time, she does not understand, she is a young lady who is lower functioning than others and is now being hit and beaten and she has no idea what is going on. She shuts down, she is lower functioning so she is more impulsive and aggressive now and reacts strongly to thing. She reacts because her brain and body has been hyper activated by the abuse.
Because she is now silent, she is a prime target for abuse. Her biological dad sexually abuses her and rapes her almost every night.
She is now silent about this, she is developmentally delayed and silent because she is afraid. So she does not know any better, she believes this is normal. So the physical and sexual abuse goes on until she is 12. Her brain is hyper activated and her startle response is high. Her impulsivity is high.
Mr. Olson is growing up, around ages 8, 9, and 10 he reacts, he starts to act out in school, and is always getting in fights. Then he gets acceptance. His world has given him the mask he is to wear if he wants love. He is acting out his shame and fear, He comes home and is beaten more. He acts up by beating kids at school and finding kids to pick on and he seeks them out and goes after them. That is what you see the kid’s and even adults doing, the body acts out what the brain cannot comprehend or make sense of. So in both these cases the acting out behaviors are what is judged, not the underlying issue. We decide to just judge the behavior.
In both cases, it would take 1 teacher, 1 social worker, of 1 stranger to notice this and speak up, but no one does. So the story continues for both.
When Mr. Olson was a child and bullying these kids, it is the only time he has control and so he hurts people. This is his world. His true self is shut down, He turns 18 and goes into the military He has no choice, everyone has told him he is a dummy his whole life and he will never amount to anything anyways. He believes this smokes, drinks, bullies. He has become his parents.
However Mr. Olson is a smart, caring man on the inside. That is now blocked but what was created by his parents and society. He is a sort of Frankenstein. He has become what is acceptable to his world.
He goes to the military, mouths off, and is kicked out after a while. He goes to rehab and treatment multiple times as he was forced for being this aggressive kid. His family laughs at him tells him he is just a wus. He believes it does what he has to get through it.
Young Marley is taken from her parents finally at age 12 or 13. She is in foster care and group home ages 13-18. She now has been taken away from her mother. The only home she has ever known. This is confusing and more trauma for her. She hurts herself, cuts herself, and explodes on people. She hits staff and foster parents. She acts up impulsively. Everyone that approaches her feels like she is just a “bad kid,” an asshole that needs to grow up. “She knows better.” Is what I have heard people say about her.
Really? She knows better? Has anyone ever looked beyond the behaviors and talked to her? Has anyone every showed her the correct way to act? SO we see the behaviors, judge her by them without looking beyond. We expect that somewhere along the line she is supposed to just figure it out? When is she supposed to just figure out how she is to behave? Her or him? We created them both. Then we all are up in arms when they go too far or do not figure it out.
Everyone is afraid of her and no one wants to get to know her. So she gets hurt, then acts up which creates more distance between her and the world, and creates more depression. She gets attention when she acts up, but not when she is good. So if she acts up, it gets her some attention. She still is lonely and afraid and scared so she yells and acts up a lot and is pushed form home to home. This is a kid with an IQ below 80 and extensive trauma. We are adding more trauma with every move and expecting her to just figure out how to behave.
She is labeled as trouble, explosive, violent and impulsive, which can be true. She is also a kind loving and caring young lady. People get reports on her coming to their facility, they read this. They are missing the important acts that create the behavior. It causes staff to act as if she is this bad human. This is what trauma informed care changes, it requires you look beyond this behavior. Or beyond the mask.
Mr. Olson, after the troubles, he finally gets married and gets a job. It is a type of security job at a prison, someone who monitors people and writes down how they are doing. He likes it and he gets acceptance for being a big bully and strong. He can keep things in order. He is actually very smart and sensitive. When no one is watching he is kind to the patients and they love him.
His reputation is that of a bully tough guy who prevents the patients from acting up. That is who he lets people see. When people are watching he is the tough guy. Who he truly is, is not acceptable to people in his mind. He has been told this his whole life and he has gained acceptance being the tough guy and the bully.
Now young Marley at age 23 destroys property and assaults staff that did not like her behavior and now she is in a jail. Mr. Olson happens to be working at the same jail, now 53 years old and a veteran staff member.
They form some kind of bond, they goof of and like each other very much. They are laughing and teasing a lot of the time, Sometimes Marley doesn’t understand but she likes him for the most part.
However tat times when she acts up he bullies her and she does not understand. SO in response she yells more and more. They both will yell at each other. However it is not their true selves mad at each other. Their souls get along, they each have this Frankenstein personality created by us, yes every single one of us. Their false selves do not like each other.
One day, she is told bad news, and she does not understand it so she acts up, yelling and screaming at everyone. People are trying to talk her down so she does not start hitting people or throwing coffee on people like she does.
In comes Mr. Olson, he sees all the people that are trying to calm her down and she won’t, he wants to be the hero and accepted. There is a big audience.
He has his audience, he has his history, who he is supposed to be. He screams and yells at her, she yells back.
Everyone clears out she leaves the room. He takes her by the leg and throws her on the ground hard and hurts her bad. It is caught on camera. What we all see on camera is this man, taking this 23 year old girl, and physically assaulting her. This is what we see.
Now we have MR Olson has abused a Developmentally Delayed 23 year old girl. She had bruises and she does not understand. She is scared. Who she is always gets beat.
Mr. Olson is seen on camera, he lost his job. The staff blame her and the people that fired Mr. Olson. Mr. Olson was actually very good at his job and loved by staff. He is now gone, he has no job, and his family has lost his financial support.
He learned this is how you treat people and this has been reinforced and swept under the rug his whole life. No one ever took time to educate or talk to him about this when he did this before it was ignored. It is accepted by many. So this is more than his fault. He has done this before and every single time it was swept under the rug, that person that did nothing was contributing to pain. People were afraid to talk to him about it, so they contributed to this. Everyone who saw his behaviors and allowed it, looked away, it is all on them that he now has been labeled as an abuser.
This is a typical abuse situation.
We like to get on one of their sides and attack the other one. You will hear the attacks on him and some people with attacks on her. The people attacking are judging a situation that they know nothing about. They are continuing the cycle. How does attacking either one of these people help change the situation?
Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, any one of these situations. I can tell you they grew up like this. This has been acceptable and swept under the rug their whole lives. They are paid to be violent and taken out of the bad neighborhoods and told to bang into each other and be violent. Then they are good so their behavior off the field is swept under the rug, and ignored. Until we have video. Now they are attacked for something that has always been allowed and no one has ever educated them about. Now the people who are responsible for creating the monster Frankenstein, they all run away or they want Frankenstein to be killed. They are usually so adamantly against it because they are trying to cover up their guilt. Any person who is adamantly against something is usually covering something up. Like the senator against child abuse that was found to be a child abuser. Or the Idaho congressman who was adamantly against being gay who was found in an airport soliciting gay sex. The anger against something like this is covering up some sort of guilt.
When you attack one side, either Mr. Olson or Marley, you are no better and you are not helping the situation. How does that help? Even if you are telling the truth, it is your truth. It is not going to get anyone to change. So what is your intention? Is it to create change? Because violence in acting or in verbal aggression is not going to change anyone’s behavior.
The answer is to stop yelling and fighting and blaming and start educating.
If Mr. Peterson is attacked and yelled at that is fine, but is taking his money, locking him up, keeping him from his child going to help? How? If he is a perpetual abuser then ok. However to join in the witch hunt is not helping the situation. What we have here is generational pain and dysfunction. It takes 5 generations to break the cycle. Here we have an opportunity to help a family that has generations of abuse and dysfunction, and instead of that, we are attacking. This will create more isolation, isolation creates secrecy, and secrecy creates shame and more dysfunction.
The other option would be to look behind this issue, educate both sides, and have Mr. Peterson start a charity for abused kids. We can use this horrible moment to flip the script and end the cycle of dysfunction.
His child would benefit from his father learning how to discipline him, not by punishing him.
If this education happens to a person and they continue to abuse, then we have a different story.
Mr. Olson was violent with patients before and no one said anything.
In the case with Mr. Olson and Marley case. You see, it is not so black and white.
We are all co responsible for this. The taking sides and attacking only creates more pain.
That is why I say every action matters. If you see something, speak up, and do it in a way that people will listen, if you yell and scream, then your message is lost.
You could have the cure to world hunger but if you present it the wrong way it is lost.
We must stop the hate. Start to educate with love, that’s the only way.
Yelling and attacking does not create change. You know what helps, allowing people to be their true selves and encouraging that and encouraging love every single chance you get.
I do have to say, things are changing, there are great providers out there. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here, We need to bring more out, and have them lead the profession, not leave it.
If your intention is love, you can speak from the truth. Then you can create change.
As Martin Luther King Jr said,
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
Begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
But you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
But you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Video Below from Brian Francis.
We have added a YouTube channel. Cortland Pfeffer (takingthemaskoff) and a Facebook page. Taking the MASK OFF.
I have also added another contributing editor, Brian Francis. He is in the field and has been a patient as well. He has come up with much of the titles, and has talents that I do not have. He will write part 2 of this series.
I think we will be looking for more partners soon. Everyone has different talents and can contribute to this fight.
We may be adding more partners soon. I appreciate all the comments and love I have received here. It not only has helped my recovery, but my interactions with patients. You have all been a gift. That is why I want to make this better.