“By choosing to be our most authentic and loving self, we leave a trail of magic everywhere we go”
When I say recovery, I do not mean what most people mean. Most people talk of recovery of a time they stopped a perceived destructive behavior. When I talk about recovery I talk about recovery of your true self. This is a constant process that is always changing. A recovery date to me is a day you realized the truth and woke up. After that there are days you go back, sometimes weeks and months. I refuse to call them relapses as they are part of the awakening process. They also create shame and guilt, and sometimes going back to our false selves is the best reminder to us to keep the recovery going. So why call it a relapse, when in the end, it may aid your recovery. We have moments that the truth is revealed to us. When we start recovering, we must remember it is a journey, not a destination. You do not get to a mountain top and say, “I am recovered,” because that is a set up. The following is of a story in my recovery of self-process.
Everyone keeps saying do what is right. I always say it. How do you know? How do you know what is right?
I always wondered, how will I know? When the time comes will I be ready? I have to accumulate all this knowledge then when the time is right, I will know.
That’s what I thought, then I drove myself crazy with everyone’s words, my own words. Everyone else’s ideas. I overwhelmed myself with thoughts about what is right.
The truth is, we already know. The “knowledge” we gain is the problem, not the solution.
We have it in us, we have to tap into that. The secret is not to gain knowledge, it is to drop knowledge. Enlightenment is not a process of gaining wisdom, but of losing perceived wisdom.
I want to tell you of a time that I realized this. I was working as part of the management of a rehab facility. It was my first job as a supervisor. I was very nervous. I had recovery under my belt and that was helping me.
We had a patient, she was a 55 year old schizophrenic. She was about 5 feet tall, 300 pounds. She did not shower much, she smoked a lot. She talked in a raspy voice. She had short curly hair that was dark brown or black.
I remember meeting her, she had a smile and a personality that no one could match, and she stood out more than just about any patient I have ever dealt with.
She had so many meds, and no one wanted to admit her because of all the medications. We, as a system, gave her meds, to slow her down. We like to think that it’s not on us, we are not the ones prescribing the medications. That is false, we are all Co responsible for each other. If we keep placing blame and not speaking up, things will never get better.
What these meds typically do is slow down those with strong minds and in slowing them down, makes them hungry so they eat, and they are sluggish so they don’t exercise. That explains the weight gain for most of these patients. We do not mind, because then they do not challenge us.
Those with the strong minds sometimes give us the moist difficult time. If we do not want to work or be challenged, we turn a blind eye to the drugging up of these patients. I hear staff still today say, “Let’s snow them.” Snowing meaning put them out so we can do our paperwork. These patients are the gifted ones, they challenge us and make us work, so we turn a blind eye as they are chemically restrained with meds.
This is something that you cannot understand if you have not taken them yourself. It seems inconceivable that we would give someone meds for any other reason than to help them. That’s where I benefit. Not only have I been a provider but I have taken loads of these meds in my time. I know what they feel like, I know their benefits and their side effects well.
So we have this lady who has gotten all of our attention. She is always running at people trying to give hugs. This is so “dangerous,” to our system.
We have this long talk about “boundaries” do not hug her, she needs to stop it. She doesn’t understand our boundaries, we need to teach her. That is the talk amongst the staff.
She is attempting to hug everyone, or grab them. Anything she can. Then we have other patients that she is going after.
What we have is a “hug crisis.” The staff is up in arms. No one knows what to do. She is going to get taken advantage of. We see guys at the street corner when she goes to the gas station walking with her and giving her cigarettes.
We have a group of 20-25 year old staff right out of psychology school and they are reading their books and going through policies and they are all at a loss. They are all certain that their books say this is unacceptable and they have to stop it. All the theories their teachers told them about are not working.
“What are we to do? She is going to get raped or taken advantage of. We have to stop this.”
We have this emergency “hug meeting” is what i called it. We had to find out what to do before she got killed or taken advantage of.
We are going around the room, we have the 23 year old going to psychology school to become a famous psychologist say how it is wrong. We have all the professionals saying, “This is unacceptable, this is not ok, and it is against the rules.”
What I call professional is playing grown up house. They put a word on it, they call it: “being professional.” Really what that means is dressing up, acting a certain way. Like grown-ups playing house. Being professional is not for the patients, it is for the staff. It gives them a chance to act superior. It is like boundaries. It is a chance for people that cannot build relationships with patients to put a name on it so they have an excuse. Then they call people unprofessional to stop them from doing so well with the patients.
We pretend and we wear clothes that cost money to make us look all grown up and special. We drive fancy cars, and that is the mask. It is the trying to look acceptable and good and it becomes a contest.
I had one supervisor tell me once that those who dreSS up perform better. I said “that is a nice study, but all that means to me is those that play dress up well are robots following the system so they get rewarded and promoted because they are good at being fake, not at being real or actually good at their job.”
I got fired from that job. Fired 2 times. My brother is starting working in this system and he got fired his first job. I told him “that is good. If you haven’t been fired in this business, that means you aren’t fighting for the patients hard enough.” So for him to get fired right away means he is going to be an agent of change. He will be great.
People in these meetings are always trying to one up each other. They try to be the one using the bigger words or bigger phrases. I watch and I can see who they are right away now, they are trying so hard, they use words that are from textbooks, repeat theories they learn. They dress up and are trying really hard to be this “professional” and it is sad. They think this helps the patient. These people never help patients, they are not real.
The genius of this program director we had was she allowed everyone to have a voice, she knew when to stop it and when to step in, she was letting this meeting play out.
I am watching this unfold at out “hug meeting,” all the theory’s, all the staff are all chipping in about this as we go around the table.
I am going to say nothing, which is my plan at the time. I am just going to watch and see what happens. I start to get disturbed by this. You know that feeling in your gut that says “this is not right.”
I’m thinking about all this knowledge I have gained. I think about the books, and what can I say here. Nothing comes to me at all. Because it’s not real and it is hard to come up with something when it is fake.
I do something as I sit there. I drop all this knowledge, and I go to the truth, like what I did with Sammy from a previous post I have written. The stuff you learn in books is ok at times. However when it’s time to make a difference, that stuff is not found in books, it is found in your soul.
The man made knowledge must go away in times like this. It is something we all have hidden somewhere. We can find it if we chose. Some of us have It hidden much deeper, but it still exists in all of us. It is the truth, we all possess it.
In this meeting, I then just blank my mind. I think what “the truth.” is what is that in this situation. What is really going on?
The first step is knowing the truth, which is easy. The hard part is then knowing the truth in a room full of people who are not able to see it and going against them when it may cost you. There may be social punishment, weird looks, eye rolling, and there may be laughter. You may lose your “status.”
What I can tell you is that there are many people who are silently thinking the same thing, and when you say it, you will strike a chord with them. It sometimes only takes one person to speak the truth, and magic happens. When you speak from the truth, it resonates with people. Everyone at their core knows the truth, so when it is spoken, it hits them.
I decide to speak the truth, and I had a supervisor that gave everyone a voice. So I say this with all the eyes on me as a new supervisor “she is 55 years old, schizophrenic, and has been rejected her whole life and had people run away from her. She was abused and had no family her whole life. She has been treated like a leper he whole life. Everyone runs. When do we think the last time she had human touch was? Why can’t we touch her and maybe do a hand shake or a half hug or a fist bump?”
The look on some of their faces was priceless. It was silent. Except for the genius program Director at this place.
I have a “fab 5” It is a group of 5 people that changed my life. She is number one the list. I am not sure if I am supposed to give her name. So for now I will not do that. If she reads this, she knows who she is. If she allows me, I will release her name someday, because I have much more to say about her and the impact she had on my life. She encouraged this talk from me.
The room went still. I heard sighs, but it is like they were all stopped in their tracks. How can you argue with the truth? You can’t. So the “professionals” in the room had nothing to say.
There was an old lady sitting next to me and she wrote on a piece of paper “you are going to be good.” She had a tear in her eyes. She was silently telling me that she agreed.
Then some other truth tellers who were normally silent spoke up and we came up with a plan to touch her without breaking rules. We told her that we can do fist bumps, handshakes, even half hugs at staff discretion.
She never went to the street corner looking for hugs from strangers again. For the 90 days at our rehab center, she was loved and safe. That’s right, loved. I love the patients. That’s another no no. I will tell you in my truth, I love all the patients, and we all loved her.
This was a while ago. Of course time when on and she passed. But she taught me alot. To speak from truth. One of my best lessons from life came from this 55 year old schizophrenic. I will carry it on, her life meant something. It changed mine. Now everyone I can impact starts with the lesson she taught me. It all works together.
Sometimes it’s not about answering the questions, but it is about questioning the answers.
Sometimes all it takes is for you to drop all you think you know and go back to the truth. It is never to late to tap into the truth. Try it.
I will quote another one of my fab 5 who saved my life once again.
What he always said to me was this:
‘”If what you do you do with love in your heart, you can’t go wrong”
Live from the truth, and you will be amazed.
When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of of the heart
Imagine a tree with a dead leaf. We cut off the dead defective leaf, and another one grows. Nothing will ever change until we look at the roots. Until then, just more dead leafs will grow in its place. That is addiction and mental health recovery. It is an enlightening process, and a painful and destructive one. You must forget everything that you think you know and that is scary.
Maybe this will make me seem a little odd, but that’s ok. If you haven’t seen the movie “Tangled,” Its a Disney movie my daughter loves,(maybe she loves it because I always recommend we watch it). The movie has this message in it. To take the jump from the tower into the unknown.
To have so called “Mental Health Issues” and Addiction is actually a gift and a blessing. You are lucky to have been given this gift. There is no need to look at this as a curse or a bad thing, because it is not. You just have to go through some pain before you get to it.
I have added a little you tube video at the end of this one that I just made. It is about the same thing. It is much more personal and has my voice from a speech. I am posting it against the advice of many. I will gladly take the consequences’ if it helps one person. It is about 10 minutes I think.
We like to tell people what is “wrong” with them. What they need to “work on.” We even have a book that gives us “labels” and guidelines on all the stuff that is “wrong” with us.
Some of us grow up thinking we are defective. Usually it is those that stand out and are not in the 96% in the “normal” box. So then we push that person down and create a mask.
So think, you are going to die. But have you really been living and doing what you want? Living for yourself and from your heart? Or are you living for others approval and acceptance. If you do that, you never really lived or existed. Joan Rivers is a sad example of what we have done. It is like a puppet finally breaking free, only through her death could she escape the prison. We are lucky, we are here. We can escape any time if we want to.
Sometimes that is scary, even though we are in prison, we are familiar with it. We do not know what is out there if we escape. Sadly, some of us never find out. We are taught to be afraid to be ourselves, so we hide. Until we die. Then we are free.
You are building your own prison when you always are trying to run. You are putting up the bricks, the metal, all of it. The sad part is, we have the key the whole time and sometimes we die in this prison without even knowing we have the key in our own hand.
What recovery from mental health and addiction is about is taking that mask off, fighting through the fear and the emotions you have been told are not ok, maybe even by yourself. Take the key, open the door, and walk out into an unknown world and show the world this person they have never seen. You will be alone, you will lose some friends, but you will gain some true friends, and some old friends will still be there. Most of all, you will love yourself and be yourself. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself and the world.
The part that is scary is also fun. You get to start all over, start with a new set of eyes. So for your own sake and the world’s sake I am asking you to kill your false self.
The mask is the false front that we put on for other people to see. It can be anything from a nice guy, to a rebel, to a perfectionist, to a goofball, to an overachiever or underachiever. There are many more masks we put on. The issue is the same. We are reaching and reaching and reaching for acceptance of other people. What will make them like us or help us to fit in?
2 things happen, our true selves are pushed down and away and we are convinced that who we are is not good enough. This creates shame and self-hatred. Then this new person that is accepted and loved by others is great, but it is not even our true selves. The others love someone, and accept someone that is not even us. It is a creation by those that accept us. We are loved for someone we are pretending to be.
You feel this emptiness inside you that you have to fill. So it may be overeating, over shopping, gambling, drugs, alcohol, codependency, cutting, gossip, or one of many other things that we do. They all serve the same purpose; to run. We run away from the emptiness or from the feeling we do not want to feel. What particular escape you use is usually dependent on what is most acceptable by your culture that you live in or what is most available.
It doesn’t matter what tactic you use, because it is all the same. What happens when we use our escape is that we temporarily do escape. We are free!! Our brain releases dopamine which gives us actual pleasure and release. So then, our brain says to us “see that worked, now next time we are in trouble, we need to do that again.”
However the flaw in this is that the original feelings are still there. Now you have more guilt from the escape you just used, and your brain stops making dopamine because it thinks you have an abundance after the dopamine party it just had. So now what?
So now, you still have these undealt with emotions. Your original true self is still in hiding in the cellar of your soul. It still is begging to get out.
You have shame that who you are is no good, and now you are using an escape that is adding to your troubles. Now you start to organize your life around this escape mechanism it is the only thing that frees you.
However, deep down, you think who you are is not good enough. This makes you feel like an alien, an outsider. “Why do I have to be like them, or be like this to fit in?”
The escape behavior is sometimes reinforced by other people also. Like in the movie tangled. Mother Gothel Did not want Rapunzel to leave for her own reasons.
We keep doing this because we long for acceptance and love. That is human nature. If you do not get it, you create something that does. Usually our false selves are the opposite of who we really are.
What it is like when you are running and running and hurting and unable to be your true self? It is pure torture.
So when I see someone like Joan Rivers, I see all these plastic surgeries, her off the wall comments. I do not see a funny person, I see desperation for love and acceptance. Someone would slice open their own body over 750 times, she is saying, “Who I am is not good enough, place a mask on me.” Then we as a society reinforce what we think beauty is.
She makes off the wall comments because she is in the background for so long, she longs for that acceptance. So she does things to get acceptance. After a while, her normal outlandish behavior is not good enough, we are used to this. So she has to step it up to get on TV, do something crazier and more outlandish. So she does.
It is like that for any of us with these chronic feelings of emptiness. We drink, drug, cut, eat, gossip, or whatever it is we do to escape. Soon, that is our new normal for the people creating us. So we have to step it up to get noticed.
Then when we crumble, they disappear. Because it is not real. While it is lonely to walk away and kill your false self, it is essential to do so for you to be happy. You are who you are for a reason, you have things to contribute. You cannot do that if you are hiding somewhere.
Joan Rivers never let herself out, so she cut herself up, acted foolishly, and she never knew if she was truly good enough or if anyone really cared about who she was. She died that way. It is heartbreaking and sad. It is not just her, there are many others like this. They are so certain that who they are is not good enough that they never show up for life.
We all miss out this way. We are missing the true contribution to the world that this person was meant for because we are trying to put everyone in this box. We want everyone to look the same, talk the same, and eat the same things. We run and run for money, houses, cars, and we are told that this will make us happy. To have the big house, the job, the picket fence. Then we get there and we are shocked because we realize, no this is not happiness. We realize that was a lie.
So we run more, find another way. It never works. We continue chasing and chasing and chasing and it never comes. So we try different methods, and we try more and more. Because the truth is the only way is to embrace right now. Embrace the emptiness. Be silent. When you are able to silence your mind and shut out the lies you have told yourself and others have told you, then the answers come. Then you can be you and contribute how you were meant to.
I went through almost them all. First I was angry instead of myself, smashing things. Then I was the rebel, then I was the gambler. Then I dropped out of high school the loser. Then I was so involved with another person I was codependent. Then I was a drug addict. Then I spent time gossiping and focusing on others flaws. Then I became the drunk. Then I bought a Mercedes and a BMW and a big house to show off, that was over consuming. I did almost all of them, all of the running.
All escapes, and I could never figure out why none of this solved the emptiness and sadness. When the whole time it was because I was never being me, never. I was always on someone else’s stage. Playing the role they wanted me to play.
I think this happens to people with depression and BPD the most. They are naturally more in tuned with other people’s emotions and can feel others people’s feelings. So they are easily manipulated and they usually comply with others roles that they are given at their own expense. This is the creation of the mask and false self that leads to all depression, addictions, and even suicides. It happened to me, I still struggle with it. I did finally realize that this was all the same. So I stopped running and escaping.
I stopped. The fabulous 5 in my life showed me this. So I let go, I was alone, I learned who I was. I learned to feel what I was running from. Be who I am and be proud, take your mask off. I did. It all came together in a vision I had during a session in EMDR with a great therapist who walked me through it. I wrote it down right away as it was so vivid, this was years ago, this is what I wrote as this is what I saw during the guided EMDR session:
There is a path. It is brown, straight, and very green grass on both sides. There are groups of people in circles standing and talking amongst themselves. All these little groups and I cannot hear what they are saying. I am afraid and I am much smaller than them. I’m walking alone, I’m scared, alone, afraid, nervous and I don’t have any idea what to do. I walk by them. I walk by all the groups of people. They are all dark tall thick stick figures all in circles talking and they don’t even notice me. I’m scared. I stop and see my family. I look at family, they say nothing. I am now walking up hill steep hill on the brown path. I am sitting on a rock. Across the path from this guy, he is faceless, strong and muscular. He is sitting there and not saying anything. I’m just stuck on top of this hill, I am not moving. I am just sitting, I am still seeing groups of people below, at the bottom of the hill. The hill is getting steeper. It is looking like it is going to be harder than before to go back down towards all the people. However, that’s the way I’m leaning. This faceless guy hugs me, and says, “Go ahead.” I head back down and the faceless guy comes with. Then he steps out of way says, “Good luck.” I try to talk to family, but they all just call me crazy. They all fight me and I am sad and uncomfortable. Now all I can hear is noise noise noise noise. It becomes all negativity, anger, and loneliness. Then, all these thoughts become bees, it becomes a huge beehive that circles around my head. It is just swarming. Noise!! Noise!! Everyone’s NOISE!!! I start running from the beehive. I accidentally run into tree hard. I fall down. I get up. I run behind the tree, and then I run all over trying to get away. I finally just stand in middle of the brown path and stretch out my arms as if to surrender to the bees and the noise. I let honey fall all over me. I just let it all flow. Then the bees fly off to the sides. They all start to come at me but as I stand there open arms, they all fly away in different directions. I am now drenched in honey. However, nothing is stinging me or hurting me anymore. I’m now relaxed. At this point the hill on the way up is very steep. My little brother comes out from the family circle. Now he starts getting bigger, he says,
“You can do it, keep going.” I want to show him we can do it, however I’m still scared. I let the honey and the bees swarm me, but the bees go away, the honey drips off, I’m relaxing now. I want to walk up the hill with my guide. My mom reaches for me begging me to come back, but they are now in a cave with bats. I am stuck, I get to top of hill and I am sooo scared. I am worried. I am swarmed by birds, then they all hit my face. I let them, and they are gone. It’s beautiful on other side, and I have powers to make it be what I want it to be. but then I’m back on hill, I’m stuck, the guy is there with me waiting for me to decide which side of the mountain I am going to stay on. As I am thinking about it, now I’m getting more and more beehives of thoughts like anxiety and fear. They keep coming above my head and I just keep letting them come at me now. Which way do I go? Am I abandoning others if I go to the other side? What will happen to them? I have to stay to be my false self? Or do I leap? Would that be selfish? DO I Kill my false self or do I keep my true self hidden and dead to the world? What am I supposed to do? I’m running out of time!!!
That’s the question we all face. Do we walk away and be ourselves, or do we stay on the side where our false selves live. Do we stay in our prison that we created? Do we keep the lives of our false selves for the sake of others and risk social punishment?
Or do we jump to the other side even though we don’t know what is awaiting us?
“The wound is where the light enters you.” -Rumi
Our lives will imitate the rising of the Phoenix if we allow it. Out of the fire and ashes of our crash and burns, we are offered a new beginning. This is offered over and over again. The Phoenix never comes out of its ashes dejected; it arises with great power and beauty, strengthened by its self-created fire.
We don’t need to look at the ashes of our burnt dreams with a heavy heart. We should be encouraged by the power of this timeless myth to rise up— into a new beginning, a new opportunity and sometimes, a new life.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was not the only time this would happen to me. It has happened 3 times. This was the first and most painful one. It was also the most liberating.
I had my first child, “k” when I was very young. Her mother had moved away, then come back briefly, and then finally moved to Florida. Before k was born I had been committed as mentally ill and lived in torment my whole childhood. When I say that, I am not saying I had these terrible parents or siblings. I did not. I was born with an innate temperament that did not match with the environment I was in. It is no one’s fault, it was just part of my destiny. It was all supposed to happen, and unfolded as it was supposed to. To blame anyone or anything for our troubles in our lives is not how things get better.
When K was born, I felt alive, hopeful, and it was the greatest sense of joy imaginable. I was released from my internal prison when she was born. I did not need anything else, I was free.
I felt everything and everyone was going to be ok. For the first time in my life, it seemed that life was beautiful. It was like I finally saw love, and the whole world made sense. It stopped moving senselessly. I loved that little girl more than anything and I was the happiest person in the world to hold her. I had love, I was ok, and nothing else mattered.
Then disaster happened as I was a kid with no idea how to have a relationship. When 2 young kids get together and have no idea how to love, but have all this passion, it is a recipe for disaster. I do not want to paint a poor picture of K’s mother. I was not good to her, and she was not good to me. It was awful, we were mean to each other. Jealousy, possessiveness, and anger. It all came from hurt. We both finally had someone who loved us for who we were. We did not know how to do this so we clung to each other. When you cling to something, you will eventually suffer. So we did, we hurt each other severely. She walked away, she was braver than I was.
K’s mother moved to Florida. I did not see her for 1-2 years. Maybe once, but I did not recognize her. My pain was so intense for not having her and not being able to see her that my heart broke in half and I only wished to die. I started to use drugs and drink alcohol in mass quantities. I was trying to kill myself without it being obvious. I would always say, “If my heart stops, let me go.” I sold drugs, I stole from people, and I started fights with people. I had guns shoved in my face, and I did not care, not one bit.
After they went to Florida and I had no idea where they were and I was devastated. I walked around with bricks on my back, and I felt like I was walking in snow on rocks with open wounds all over me as someone sprayed salt and dirt into my wounds, and I didn’t care. I was just waiting to die.
I grew up rough, then I acted out so I got committed as mentally ill. Then I get though treatment and the commitment is dropped. Then this child saved me, but now she was gone, everything I cared about was gone. I didn’t understand why something like this was happening. I wanted to die. I was doing everything in my power to make that happen.
Then I get word of where they are staying and so I send 500 dollars. Then I get a phone call, it is K, and by this time she is 4 years old, and I am sooo happy to hear my little girls voice, my heart explodes with joy. K, in her 4 year old little voice tells me “Hi I got new shoes and a dresser.”
I said “oh that’s great!”
Then in the background I hear her mother and a man tell her, “Tell him who got your shoes!”
Then this 4 year old says to me, “My daddy got me all this stuff,” she was not talking about me.
She had a new life, with her mom and a new man who was her acting father and they had told her that he was k’s dad. She had no idea who I was, in her world, she was telling me about her daddy. She had no idea, she was told to say this and she believed that this was her dad.
I dropped the phone. I died. I can still feel it right now as I am writing it. It is not anger or sadness. It is not frustration. It is a dull heavy feeling that goes over my whole body and makes me motionless. Still today, it has the same effect on my psyche.
It then, at the time, was the same feeling except a million times worse. It was like a kick in the stomach, which went throughout my whole body. It was not just a mental pain, but a physical pain. It felt like everything and anything that I ever had to bring me joy and hope was now gone. Right when I was shown what pure joy and love was, it was ripped from me. I did not get it.
Then there was people in the background getting enjoyment out of this. It literally felt like people were laughing as I was hung. They were pointing and laughing at my death. To me, the world was over. There was no hope, and I mean none. If you have ever seen someone when they have surrendered and given up, that was it. I had nothing at all left. Nothing.
I can’t even use words to express how I felt. Just completely detached from the world. I think of when people lose children to death and I can’t imagine the pain. It must be something like this. Saying I was run over by a train 10 times will not do it justice. It was beyond human emotions, just as her birth was beyond any human emotions that I can explain. Except her birth was a good type of feeling. This was the opposite.
They called back and my sister answered, she hung up the phone and said, “What the heck? Some guy was yelling at me telling me how he is k’s dad now.” I didn’t move. I couldn’t.
I think that is what happens to these hardened criminals that people say have no feelings. That really they were just very sensitive and something happened that they just shut it down. When people looked at me this way, it only kept me going downward. It reinforced to me that I was a bad person, so I had more shame and I continued to act up. That reaction that is 99.5% of everyone does not help, it hurts. This is why we have an epidemic on our hands that is destroying things. It is seeping into all parts of society, ER visits, and accidents, now we have a major issue and we can’t understand why it is not getting any better. The reason is because of us.
Everything was gone. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t yell. I was known for smashing things and having a terrible temper as a child, so it was expected. This was too painful, I did nothing. I stared into space. The phone went dead. I sat there and sat there and sat there. I was frozen. I could not move. People talked, I did not respond. If I had the energy to get up I would have. I was not raging, I was not screaming. I couldn’t. It was death. I tried to kill myself years before and beat the commitment. Then as they were in Florida for 2 years I tried to get drugs or someone else to kill me and that didn’t happen. Now there was this and I think it did kill me, just not literally.
This was supposed to be my savior, and now it was officially taken. I got up, I walked to my car, and drove to my little apartment. Nothing anyone could say or do would have helped. No hug, no action, and no words would have helped. They had to just watch. They went back to their lives having no idea the immense pain and torture I was feeling.
What I didn’t know is that I was having a path laid before me that was like having to walk through a fire in order to get a treasure. However in order to walk through that fire and get the treasure, you have to be fearless. I was now fearless, because I had nothing to lose. I had nothing that I was clinging to anymore. I had nothing in my possession that I thought mattered.
If I had a car, or a piece of clothing, or jewelry, or a house or a job or relationship that I was clinging to, I never would have dared walk through the fire. I left all things that I thought mattered. Because now I knew they really didn’t matter, I was ready to walk through the fire. I was completely naked and alone and because of that, I was fearless. I had to be made fearless in order to walk through the fire. That is what this was.
I walked in to my apartment, I could have crashed. I was on autopilot. Why in the world did this happen to me? What is the purpose of this? How could the world be like this? After my life growing up and almost killing myself, I thought the worst was over. So I get better, go to treatment and meet this girl and have this child for what? So there is more, and even worse pain?
I opened my bottles of pills, and I went to my room. It was a waterbed, filled up most of the room. There was a closet to my left and the blinds in front of me to the window going out. I shut the lights off, and I closed the blinds. I locked all the doors. I shut the phones off. I laid the pills on the floor and I screamed. WHY WHY WHY and I cried out for k and for her mom. I said I am sorry I am sorry I am so so so sorry. I knelt down to take the pills, and I laid my face on the ground. I had nothing left, I was forced to surrender my will.
When they say the only way out is though, I think this is what they mean. You have to go through it to end it. You have to stop running from it and go through it.
Some say it is a leap of faith, not for me. I could brag and pretend I was courageous. I am not, I was on mountain and lions were chasing me, I had to jump. It was a forced leap of faith. It all came out, all the pain from years and years of internal suffering. I could not be the fake bad guy rebel anymore, I could not hold it in any longer. As I laid face down in a pile full of pills that would kill me, I just cried and I cried for days. What stopped me? I wish I had an answer, but I do not. I was too busy crying I think.
Work? Who cares? School? No way. Family, nope. I realized in that moment that nothing really mattered at all. Nothing except for love. I gave up. I completely surrendered to life.
What I see now is that when you are brought to a breaking point, when everything that you think matters is taken away from you, when you have nothing left, all that’s left, is love.
That is what it is, that is it. Not your car, home, material things, or false relationships. That is all garbage and means nothing.
After the phone call, the drugs stopped for a long time. The drinking even stopped for a while. I was still to become a raging alcoholic later in life. I still would have 3 stints in jail, 3 in drug rehab, and one more psych hospitalization. But recovery is a process, and when I fell after this, it was never as far down as this. This was the beginning. Recovery is a process, not a moment.
I sat up and I surrendered. I sat that’s it, life is over. The reason I was able to stop drinking and using for time was because I had nothing to run from anymore, no unpleasant feelings or thoughts to hide from. I didn’t need to run anymore. I was gone. That’s what it is, it is running from something or trying to create an emotion that you do not think you can create on your own.
It was alarming how peaceful this was when I was just dealt this blow.
All the false thoughts and ideals and feelings were just stripped away from me. It is the same when a violent storm comes through and all that is left is what is strongest and true. So in my pain, I found this extreme peace. Talk about confusion!!! I had nothing left. Nothing else matters except for love.
So what I did is said, I have taken and taken and not been a good son, brother, I have not been a good anything. I had stolen from people, beaten people, and used people. I have very little time left, so I am going to love. Because, that was all I had left when everything else was ripped away.
I took a step up. I breathed, and I took another step. I cooked a hot dog and drank a root beer and sat on the couch. Small act, but it was a first step and I didn’t even know it. I thought, it’s over, I lost them, and I probably deserved it. I said to myself that until I get up the guts to kill myself, I am going to give back to the world, I am going to give love. Then I will kill myself. I have to leave something, and that is all that is left when everything is ripped away, is love. I saw that, so in this intense peace my goal was to give some of that before I went away.
I called up the people that I had been fighting with senselessly and apologized. I found everyone I could that I had hurt and apologized. I started finding anything I could that I liked about someone and told them about it. Why, because I was going to die, and when you are sure you are going to die, the ego goes away. You just want to love everyone and give joy. What I didn’t realize is that I was gradually killing myself, my false self.
I knew I was going to die soon, and in that moment where you lose everything and die emotionally and spiritually, you see all that is left is love. It’s all I had left. It didn’t leave me, not even though this. It was all I was when everything was stripped away.
That’s all that is ever there. We cover it up with material things like gossip, houses, and cars. However it is all lies, it’s all masquerading as something with substance. It means nothing, your job, money, or land. None of it matters, status is all man made.
I knew I was going to die so I saw the truth, and I started to see the reactions of people and the joy it brought and I started to like it. I even had fleeting thoughts of staying on earth.
This death blow was actually the greatest gift ever given to me. Even though that is hard to believe because it hurts me deeply to even write this now over 15 years later.
I saw truth, and what I saw was as I started to love, things started to get better. I started making new friends and contacts. My relationships grew stronger. The hole in my heart and the pain never went away, I imagine it never does.
I was not ok. I was never going to be full or complete without my daughter. She was dead, I was never to see her again. I met new people, like Joe, who later killed himself. A man named John, who saved my life. I started living and breathing and trying to give love before I died.
I started to feel like I was doing ok and I could live. Then I went to school, which of course I never expected to pass. I met some amazing people there who change my life forever. I was accidentally living in the moment.
As I was going to school and moving on, I get a call that K and her mother are coming back to the Midwest. This other man had severely abused them and they had made a plan to escape. Of course I dropped everything to help this happen.
I was in shock, how did this happen? Eventually I would have K full time, with full custody and raise her on my own. However, at this point I was just happy to be able to see her again. When I did, I never let go.
THIS wasn’t the last time this would happen to me, but it was the most devastating and most beautiful.
That is why I always say recovery is a process, not a big aha moment, it comes one step at a time. I would come back to 2 more moments like this, but it was not as devastating as I was at a different stage each time.
When you see those that just have a glow and just give of themselves no matter their circumstances. Remember, maybe they get it. Maybe they were lucky enough to have had it all ripped away.
Some gifts are wrapped as severe pain.
Do not ever judge a moment by what it appears to be at the time.
Let the lesson unfold.
“Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small-every day deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay with Small acts of kindness and love.”
In traditional Chinese, the word for Crisis is composed of two symbols. The first symbol, “危 (Wei)” pertains to facing an imminent danger or threat. The second symbol, “機 (Ji)” describes an opportunity presenting itself.
Edward Lorenz, pioneer of the Chaos theory, coined the term “Butterly Effect,” illustrating how a seemingly mundane event results in a significantly different outcome than would have occurred without the original divergence.
Or simply put, there are no moments in life that are too small and there is no crisis too great. Because life is full of chaos, presenting each moment as a crisis, leaving us with a choice between the Wei and Ji – ultimately determining the course of the future.
I find myself saying this a lot lately. Then I think, do I live that way, and the answer is usually not. What is so hard about embracing the moment? We are running and running and we are missing the most important thing, which is that which is in front of us. We think these are all mundane moments and we want the big moment. The truth is, there is no huge moment. For me it was going back to treatment 3 times, psych wards 3 times, and jail 3 times. It is not a failure to return, because each time I was in a different spot. I was progressing further each time. Today I take 1-2 steps back, then maybe a few forward. My miracle did not happen with an explosion, it happened gradually, over years.
There were big moments, but not ever some epiphany. My gradual and eventual recovery came behind a super 8 motel in a building that was half assisted living, and half treatment center, some obscure building in the middle of nowhere that you would never know is a treatment center. Much less the magic that happened in that place. No one knows, but, I do. Does it matter? Yes, every single moment matters. Most of us addicts and mentally ill are always looking for that big explosion of dopamine and the sea to part, the problem is it won’t happen, and by chance it does then what? We are usually so bored with the mundane day to day activities. Sometimes, one small thing, one small decision, can alter your whole world. You don’t know what’s next, we have to stop pretending like we do and like we can control it. It doesn’t matter what we think we control, we control nothing. We only have right now. One of the great men I learned from, his name is Alan. He said “if what you are doing, you are doing with love in your heart, you cannot really go wrong.”
How do we know which small moments will change the world. Well, we will likely never see them, but every single moment builds on the last. So the truth is every single moment is huge, and every single moment alters life as we know it. We do not see the results, but it happens. I want to share a story of a man, who to him, made one little mundane choice, and it altered the world forever. He still does not know he did this, it was an everyday activity. The choice he made was one we may say, “Oh man, what the hell this is pointless and interrupting my day.” What I see when I remember this story, is that just because we do not see the results, does not mean every moment does not have a huge impact on the world, because it does. This is not to say to you to have all this pressure on you to think “oh I better do the right thing, it matters too much I have to do the right thing.” You don’t have to think, you just act out of love, and not fear, and there is nothing else to it. That takes the pressure away. That’s the answer, act out of love with each moment. No need to put pressure on yourself.
This was a cold day in January. It was about 15 below 0 in the location that this took place. It was a moment in this man’s life that he changed everything. Many lives where altered. Here is how.
My daughter, at the time was 6. We had her when we were very young troublemakers. Her mother “AK,” had left across country with our daughter for a couple years and now they were back in the Midwest. AK, the mother of my daughter, was in the middle of the terrible disease of addiction .She was shooting up methamphetamines and was deeper into this addiction than most people ever see. I mean we are talking hourly, and at a minimum daily use, she was not eating. She had lost tons of weight and would rage at anyone and call them out on their faults if they said anything.
AK, the mother, was being investigated by the FBI. My daughter, who I will call “K” was hungry on this day. She had to eat. Her mother was not feeding her on this day. AK was passed out, and K was hungry. My young 6 year old had already missed about half of the days of school, she had been left with drug dealers and at stranger’s homes for up to 2 weeks’ time. Her mother would not wake up on this day, so little miss K left a note and decided to walk towards my home. Which at the time was in the next state over. With the temperature of negative 15 degrees my daughter and her friend decided to head across state lines and to find me. My daughter, who I remind you was 6 at the time, had no mittens, no hat, and an unzipped coat. I know this because I’m reading the police report as I write this, that’s when I see these details. Going through these old files, I see that this man saw my daughter, and stopped his van. He saw 2 little girls not dressed appropriately walking down a highway and they were freezing. What he did was he called the police and brought them in. As I read this report, what sticks out to me is that it states there was “another van” coming up to her at the same time. I don’t know who was in that other van, but who knows. This could have been tragic. This was his act, his kind seemingly simple, courteous act. One that may seem long ago and meant nothing to him, maybe even an annoyance. However, there are many people that see wrong and do nothing or just drive by. This man didn’t, now I want to show you the ripple effect of his actions.
K, then 6, was started on a child protective case in which eventually she would live with me full time. She had been tardy and was not doing well emotionally or in school, neither was her mother. This man started this ripple effect that brought change to millions of lives, here is how.
K graduated high school early, from 7th grade to 11 the grade, she was on the honor roll, captain of cheerleading team, and went to state in forensics. Now has a job and a life, not free from struggles of course. She struggles severely with depression and has a very hard time with relationships. She has gone to the psych hospital a couple times, some say she has BPD. But she has the warmest heart in a person I’ve ever seen, she spreads love to the world. She used to take special care of the kids in special needs at high school, she is one of the greatest people alive. She is kind and loving. If he didn’t pick her up that day, she may have been dead or worse. Something very tragic could have happened to her or her mother. She had been neglected, and left alone many times. She had been physically, and sexually abused while her mom was using, or sleeping. She had missed many many days of school. She was behind emotionally and academically. We got her in therapy, we, as a village, took care of her. I had my own demons, so when I say village, I mean my family, her family and everyone got involved. It was a community parenting effort. We got her on track. Well, now she has normal struggles, we don’t talk much, but I’m sure when she grows up, matures, that maybe she will realize what love I have for her. At this point she almost never speaks to me but that is ok. That is normal rebellion and I am way over protective of her because of what I saw her go through. I’m sure she needs to be on her own for a while. I will wait for this time. It is painful, but she has opportunity and happiness.
As for me, she was my whole life. At age 2 she was taken by her mom to Florida, her mom had then told her someone else was her dad. She came back, and we were building a bond after I thought I would never see her again and she was basically lost to me, that is another story for another day. Then her mom, with her depression became addicted to meth. She was deep in it. I was eventually granted sole custody and K was full time in my life. This brought me closer to my family, they helped raise her. This made me appreciate my mom more. I got better for a while and went to school and graduated college the first time, I would go back to finish more school later, but this was the first time I ever finished anything. My motivations was to finish so I could care for her. If not, I likely would have floated through life in depression and drank my life away. Now because I was back on track, I met a great woman, married her, and we had 2 children. Now 4 and 3. They are the joys of my life. They wouldn’t exist, my life as it is now wouldn’t exist, if he hadn’t picked up k. There would be no little ones walking around with me if this did not happen. I went through addiction, jail, treatment myself. But with the love and hope I had on the other side, I got through.
I was going to be an addict either way. That has always been my destiny. However, my reaction to this destiny was now different, that is where choice comes in, is reaction, now I had hope. My addiction and mental health collapse were the best things that ever happened to me, but that is for another day.
My wife, her life was altered as we met and married. We never would have even met if I hadn’t gone to school. I wouldn’t have gone to school without k, without school, I wouldn’t have had that job, and so never would have met my wife. We would have not had these kids. J was a mother figure to k for a long time, while I drank and destroyed things. J took care of her, kept our lives in order. All this does not happen without this man’s action. Why was this good for j? Well you would have to ask her, but when I met her, she was against many things, and closed off so she wanted to work her way through life. Through my addiction, she discovered her codependency, we both found truth. Not the truth we were taught about, but we had an awakening to the truth together. Then my kids, and the love she has for them, watch them together once, she’ll tell you it was worth it. Her family may not think so, due to the pain she has had because of me and in their view, it is one sided. But she does, the kids do. She is a strong, amazing person, her spirituality and soul were developed they this, without his action, this doesn’t happen for her, none of it.
K’s mother then started on an amazing journey. She did end up going to jail, then federal prison for about 12 years. However, she beat an addiction almost no one beats. Became a manager at her job. People want her to talk about how she made it. Her and k are now best friends, get along great, and are great for each other. She is an amazing person and mother. I share her comeback story with many of my patients who are down and think they cannot get their kids back. If he didn’t stop, the cops never get involved, who knows, maybe she overdoses, or dies, or something terrible happens.
This man stopping his van and acting out of love, changed the world. I think if he didn’t stop that van, who knows where the world would have gone. He does not know this. We all affect each other in ways like this good or bad.
I think of patients I have come across, and the change they have told me I have had in their lives. Well, I wouldn’t be there without this one act. The thing is, once you start offering yourself to do this and to live in the moment and look for opportunities to spread love good things happen. You start to see opportunities not to judge. All of sudden you will see the opportunities arise, it will seem like they just show up more. The thing is they were always there, we just were not looking. This is how ripple effect occurs and how we can change the world.
When I say I am here writing this it is by chance, I mean it. One bounce in a different direction and I am the guy on the street corner. I am not here at my job with my kids because I am special, I had resources and things turned my way, it is not me. It is my responsibility to do as much as I can to give it back until my body goes back to the earth. We all are special. No one person is better than the other. I am not one of those people that was born on third base and act like they hit a triple. We have to stop this separation, because separation is man-made, and it’s not real.
We have to let go of the results. Just keep throwing love out there and being kind, and looking past the masks that others put up. If you are doing it for appreciation or to see it, your intentions are wrong.
Imagine we are building something, one piece at a time. When it is completed, we may not be here, but the idea and the thoughts will be. Instead of thinking of the past, or the future, just let it go, and think about right now. We feel joy just by giving. It doesn’t have to be something like this act of this man. It can be simply a smile, or letting someone who seems in a hurry go ahead of you.
You see you pull these weeds out of a garden and throw them behind you, and keep digging and throwing them behind you. You are tired, you say what is all of this for? What is the point? But behind you there is a beautiful garden that you have built that you may never see. If we all do that for each other, then we all have these beautiful gardens, then no one is trying to take from each other.
If you end poverty, you end violence.
You may not see the results. But there are results of every action, good or bad. The choice is yours.
Thank you to Brian Francis of Life is but a dream on Facebook for the help with this one! Also for all the assistance in coming up with all my titles. You are a genius my friend.
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” -George Bernard Shaw
How can a false perception of 1 person destroy 1 life? How do we come up with these thoughts about who is sick? Can 1 person’s opinion affect another person’s whole life and alter their world? Does it really matter who your doctor or therapist is? Why is it so important to stand up for what you believe even if it seems like everyone is against you?
“But it is so hard to speak up when everyone else is against me.”
That is what I hear. I am telling you that is not true. I am sure of it, and allow me to show you why.
qui tacet consentire videtur, (Silence is consent.)
There was a man named Robert Rosenthal who did a study in 1964. The study proved that if you took random students, and told teachers that these students were gifted or going to succeed, that this would affect the teachers interactions with the students. They took students, and gave them a fake IQ test that showed the teachers which students were going to excel and succeed. The students that did well on the test all performed better and thrived in class. So the teachers thought that the test that showed which students were gifted was very accurate.
The problem was, however, that the test was not real. The students were just picked randomly to see if beliefs, even if false, affected how we treat people. The answer is a resounding YES YES YES!!!
This can work on how we treat others negatively also.
This is real life example of this, it occurred when I was working at a county hospital and I was starting to feel confident in my abilities as a staff. I was beginning to stop just agreeing with authority and others and was starting to not just agree with what everyone said.
I walk in to work one day and they say we have a new patient. She was an emergency transfer from jail.
They say to me “can you please get her to fill out her paperwork, we are scared.”
I am thinking why are we scared of a patient? What is this about? I peek out of the window so I can watch this patient. I see her, she’s an African American young lady. She’s very demonstrative as she is playing cards with another young female patient. She is tall and her hair is short and unkempt. She is in light blue scrubs. She is loud, very loud, like her soul is saying, “PAY ATTENTION TO ME.” Her legs go up and down bouncing hard on the floor as she laughs loud, saying “HA HA HELL YEAH MOTHER FUCKER.” She laughs and laughs and she swears real loud. Now this is the dreaded County hospital for the mentally ill. This is the place that case workers use to scare patients, they say, “If you don’t start taking your medications, we are sending you to the county hospital.” It’s feared by everyone. The reputation is that of fear. People come in and they are scared, usually shaking and intimidated. It is where we send people that no one else can handle. The sickest of the sick. Here is this young lady 22 and she has been there 8 hours and she has the staff afraid of her. She is not scared like she is supposed to be, the staff for the most part enjoy that power they have when people are scared, it gives them some kind of advantage. To me, that alone is a problem that people think there is an advantage to be had when dealing with people.
Now most people go into the lion’s den and they knock softly, they softly walk around and make very little noise, don’t wake up the lion. Well, not her. She came into the lion’s den, kicked down the door and said here I am mother fucker, where is that lion, let’s do it. She was ready to go.
So I walk up to her, gently as she is playing cards. I usually do not think twice about meeting the patients for the first time. In fact I think it is probably the most important interaction you have with anyone you want to help, not just patients, but people in general. Especially with these “sick” people. The ones that can sense things that “normal” people cannot.
I walk up and say “hi, I have some things to go over with you.”
She says “hell no mother fucker, I’ve done enough of that shit today.”
I remember getting that little tension in my body feeling like, fuck that, you don’t talk to me like that. That’s ego as I fear people are watching and will consider me soft. But I didn’t, if you force it won’t work. I say, “ok, how about later.” She looks surprised and her demeanor shifted, she was expecting to be told, “too bad we are talking.”
She said “ok.” Staff roll their eyes in disgust, why does he always just give in to them.
This is where the entire mental health system fails. And I mean fails completely. By mental health system, I do not just treatment centers, but society. Society is one huge mental health system. We have this belief that what we think we have to push on to others and we have to fix them. By fix them we mean well, we really do. We have this “knowledge” we want to share and spread. We are thinking we will make them better. We see the other person and our first interaction so many times is to say “this is how you will get better, we will help you, and this is what YOU NEED to do.” What happens is we completely lose them. Now even if we have enough “knowledge” to save the world, no one will listen. When you have been controlled and told what to do your whole life and dominated and never had a say, if you come in and give that “this is what we need to have you do speech,” it’s over. You are now the enemy, forget it. You have rendered yourself useless. What I see then is we say they are non-compliant. We blame the victim. You have to be patient. This is not your journey. It’s not what your want for them, it’s what they want for themselves.
The most important thing we can ever do with anyone is provide empathy and validation. Now you have their attention. Asking them what they think. Giving them a genuine compliment. Actually apologizing when you are actually wrong. This is the way, yet this is never done. We are more about control than helping. It’s starting to shift, but this is still the exception and not the norm. But once you have them, then you can get to work. You will never accomplish anything if you never have empathy. It has to be real and genuine. If you don’t do this, you are useless, and you may as well give up.
So I did this with this young lady. I said to her, “You seem to me to be very in touch with your feelings and not afraid to express yourself. You seem to control the room with your energy. You are at a County hospital, and you are standing out.”
She stopped, put her head down, put her head back up and started to yell, then put her head down and cried. She didn’t know what to do.
I said “now look, have you ever seen a barking dog?”
She said “yeah, mother fucker I’ve seen a barking dog.”
I said “you know, it barks at everyone and everyone thinks it’s a mean dog, but it’s probably been abused, and it has no idea who is going to whoop it so it barks at everyone.” I said “that’s you, now don’t fucking bark at me I’m not going to whoop you. So cut it out.” Yes I talk to patients like that when that’s their language. I wouldn’t talk like that to a rich house wife. That’s why I believe you get to know them first.
I said, “Have you eaten m&m’s, you know hard on the outside to protect the soft inside, that’s you, you don’t fool me.” I said “be real, you are hiding your sensitivity.”
Then we went through the papers. She talked about how when she was a kid, she didn’t have a dad. She was sold for sex by her mother multiple times. She talked about how the first time it happened she cried and bled and she didn’t understand what was happening and her mom then told her to shut up, and she was beaten. Throughout her life she was beaten and raped. She had felonies against her and faced years in prison. The case she was in jail for this time she was with these guys who robbed someone. She was only along for the ride, one was under age and got off, and her with her big mouth shouting at the DA, it became a power struggle. So she is getting the brunt of the charges. She had become the guiltiest because she is a truth teller. A hard core truth teller. So I learn all these things and she is honest about her other crimes. She had been homeless at age 15. Already a felon many times over and the jail couldn’t handle her so she is here. The repository. Dead by the systems reasoning at age 22.
Next day about 330 a fight is starting between 2 other patients. She was sitting there and laughing and wouldn’t clear the room like a child watching a TV show. The nurse practitioner and supervisor of the floor who tried to run the unit with control and force, they asked everyone to move as they always do. Everyone listens to the big bosses. She didn’t, she laughed louder. The county hospital didn’t intimidate her. She “didn’t give a fuck,” as she would say.
The next day we are all in our meetings talking about the patient’s, most staff have not even met this new girl for more than 2 or 3 minutes. The leaders of this team said “she is a predator, a manipulator, and she is a faker and we need the staff documenting this on every shift so we can get her out of here and back to jail.”
I watched around the room, no one said anything. Silence is consent. People started to agree. Why? Because they follow, the thought is now in their heads. They are scared to talk to her. So now the seed is planted and watch it grow. Every shift change, every meeting, this is repeated.
Predator label, chart this. Then the big wig bosses come down to get report and they ask about her. They trust their leaders, so they take the message that we have an evil predator down here causing chaos. Now they have everyone saying this like it is a truth. This happens in life all the time to truth tellers. I heard in a meeting today that we have the most complaints from the bright patients. We take advantage of everyone it seems, but be careful of the smart ones.
It happens, it is human nature. But this now is what happened in this case, when staff saw this girl do a kind act, and she did them often, she was seen as manipulative and we said that she was conning us. Because the thought was in their heads.
There are multiple studies that prove people do this. There was a study in which people came into a room and were asked to tell the researches what was the longest straw out of a group of straws. They were all 100% correct. Then they came back into the room and were asked to pick the longest one again. The difference was now there was a group of people telling them which one to pick. The group was purposely picking the wrong straw, but were loud and all in agreement. 90% of people went with the group even though they knew the group was wrong.
There were many such studies done by Solomon Asch. He expanded this. His results showed that if the person had 1 perceived partner in their belief, they were more willing to stand up for what they believed in. If you took away the partner, they were very less likely to stand up. His studies also showed that if the group number decreased, people were more likely to stand up for what they believed in. It showed many people just go along with the crowd out of fear from social punishment. Its control.
What about if it is your boss or someone in power? Well then it is much much worse.
Then there is the classic Milgram study. In this study there was a boss, and a student and a staff. The staff were assigned to listen to the boss. The rule was, every time the student got an answer wrong the staff was to shock them when the boss told them. At first it was small voltage, but eventually it went all the way up to 450 volts. The person getting shocked was crying and pleading for help. The boss was demanding they did it. 65 percent of people still shocked all the way up to the maximum. Almost all people shocked for some time. Just because their boss told them to. Here is an excerpt from the study:
“Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority”
People follow, especially when it’s an authority like all boss or doctor. In this case we now had had a “predator,” which was a lie. Now the problem gets worse, a lie to itself is hard enough to overturn in your own mind, but a group and a community lie that has become a truth to a community is almost impossible to change.
So now we have a 22 year old female that was sold for sex for drugs, was beaten, and was homeless for 6 years, used drugs, drank, and was never in therapy or got help. She is now a predator in all of the staff minds. None of which had taken the time to talk to her. Now I Start hearing other staff give her this label. Then they treat her like she is a predator. If we treat someone as if they are this victim of abuse, we are going to treat them a lot different than if we consider them a predator. This will also change their reaction.
If you come up to me crying and I think you are a predator I will blow you off, which then hurts you, and then you get sad. You are at this last hope hospital and you are getting blown off like you are a scumbag. You are ignored, so you get mad and blow up. Then staff says, “see, what a predator, I told you so.” Then the pain gets deeper and deeper and more painful.
We will like to think we are different and I try to be, but I’m not. I started to question myself, “is she manipulating me?”
We now have a group of people working not on getting to know the patient, but on finding predatory behaviors to get her thrown in jail.
That’s fine with everyone because they don’t have to get to know her. This is easy, we can have someone think for us, and now we have a label. This isn’t what is on the treatment plan. These are hush hush almost like game plans behind closed doors. This Happens all the time, secret ideas on how to manipulate things by people in power.
No One Stops to think, where was this thought generated?, does anyone disagree? No one asks. Everyone stays silent. One interaction of her not listening when they told her to move, that’s it.
I’m thinking as I see this unfolding what the hell is this. Who gets to decide who is sick? I’m talking to this patient and I am seeing something different. They tell me that is because I am easy to manipulate, and I am too soft. How can you be to “easy” on someone? who’s been through all this is what I’m thinking. Shouldn’t we stabilize her and get to know her before we start telling her what to do with her life and how she needs to fix it.
In my confusion and frustration I went to see a 75 year old retired psychiatrist who was a bit different in that he never got changed by the system, instead, he saw the truth and was not afraid to speak it. I went to him often to learn things. He was and is the guru of psychiatry and psychology in my mind. He told me about the sociologist named Talcott parson who wrote in 1951 about the” sick role. “He said to me, “who gets to decide who is sick and who is not” what credentials do they have and who appoints them this authority?
I said “that’s what I’m talking about,” I just can’t say it as smart and eloquent as him. He told me about this writing of the “sick role.”
Then he told me about this story of a patient who was in court for commitment, she did not say a word the whole proceedings. The lawyer and judge decided she was mentally ill and had her committed. He asked them “why did you decide this patient was mentally ill.”
They said “the burden of proof is on the patient, they need to prove they are not sick.”
To me that is completely backwards, so we can just decide someone is sick by our standards, and because they went to school they have this power.
In this case we now have a known “predator” on our unit with other severely ill patients. As they spend more time together, there are arguments between the patients and conflicts. This is normal of any group of people that are together in a closed space for any amount of time. There was multiple fights and almost brawls in this time.
We had another patient at this time, I’ll call her “Maddie.” She felt that this patient, “Reagan,” was getting to much attention and running the unit. She knew that “Reagan” would go back to jail if she kept having problems. So she antagonized her and picked on her. Maddie is not a bad person, just very ill and in need of a lot of time and attention. We were not able to provide, especially with Reagan there.
There was a night it got real bad. On this night, Maddie gave Reagan the finger, screamed at her, and yelled at her. As Reagan came out of the dayroom this night, Maddie went after her calling her a whore and a slut and telling her she needs to go back to jail. Maddie was calling her racial names, and Reagan was not innocent, telling Maddie to go kill herself. Through this all, Reagan fought off all of this antagonizing all night.
For anyone it is hard to keep control when someone is digging at your most insecure points. However, for a patient that has the background of Reagan, it is even harder. She started going after Maddie, then she retreated, which was hard for her as she was a fighter.
I went back and talked to her and said “what are you doing, do you want to go to jail,” and after about 5 minutes of intense talk she said she was calm. Then I made a gigantic mistake, and it was my ego. I wanted to show that I had calmed this patient down, almost to show off in a way, I know this is why, because if I was alone without the audience of the whole hospital I would have kept her away. Instead, I brought Reagan out to show off how calm I had made her.
What resulted was complete chaos. A fight and all out brawl. We had security guards, all hospital staff, everyone was holding these patients down. Security held Reagan down, and Maddie called her racial slurs and gave her the finger, saying, “you’re going back to jail ni&&*r.” I went to have Maddie move to another room and she attacked me, and the other staff. This was not the first time Maddie had done this. Maddie in total had sent 6 staff to the hospital and had destroyed property multiple times. She had assaulted other peers also. Maddie was very ill, not a bad kid, I’ll write about her another day. It is horrific and terrible.
I could have done better on this night. It was the first time I had been assaulted in many years. It was not a pleasant night. As we made a report of this incident we were aware that Reagan was considered a predator and Maddie was considered a victim. I stated that I made the mistake of coming out of the room after the original situation had calmed down. That Maddie was the antagonizer and we know Reagan is looked at as the predator, but that is not the case. We stated it loudly and boldly and made sure there was not a question.
I came in the next evening and the supervisor and nurse practitioner who ran the floor stated that we were putting a patient back in their own section of the hospital on a 5:1 ratio. Now a 1:1 is ordered if a patient is considered dangerous. That means they have a staff all to themselves, all day to watch them. 2:1 is in the most extreme cases for the most dangerous. A 5:1 was the highest ratio this hospital had ever done, the overtime and programming that had to go into this was astronomical.
The patient they put back there was Reagan. The one who had not once attacked staff, or peers,. She was loud, and she swore a lot, and she told people they were full of shit when she thought so. But since she is labeled as a predator, the whole team sent her back there. To do this they have to get approval from the top of the hospital. What they did, these 2 people running the unit, was call the heads of the hospital and tell them that we had a dangerous predator in the hospital who was destroying everyone and everything.
This was true, but not of the patients, it was true of them. They were the predators.
They had Reagan placed on this 5:1 secluded area of the hospital. It was their perception based on nothing. It was based on the thought that we first had with Reagan, that she as a predator. She was loud and disrespectful. She would come up to the desk and say “get up mother fuckers, fuck you,” laugh and dance loud. Maddie was the one who had injured multiple staff and peers. She was going to be free on the unit. This was on a Thursday. Now Reagan was back all to herself with 5 staff and everyone was frightened to go back there. Because, you know, she’s a predator. But they had 5 of them. When someone is back there they have to be met by a nurse every shift and a doctor every day, and then the staff at all times are there watching them. The weekend following this decision, Maddie assaulted 7 staff, sent 5 to the hospital. Reagan sat back in her own section of the hospital for swearing and being loud. Staff had to watch, couldn’t leave that section if they were assigned. There was a brawl in which one patient who was on a 1:1 was left alone and he cornered a staff, he assaulted her and took her badge, and escaped. All as 5 staff and Reagan Are locked in their private unit.
This is what happens when we allow thoughts to spread and to follow based on nothing. Still they wouldn’t let up. They kept her back there, now it was an ego battle and they had to prove they were right.
So as Reagan is back there, I watch as in a 8 or 10 hour shift with someone, you start to talk, the staff started talking to Reagan, and they had to. She started opening up. I heard staff start to laugh with her, and she started to open up about her life to them. She would cry and let her guard down. I saw staff start to tell her about their own personal struggles and their history of psych which administration says is a no no. But it happened all the time, people were building relationships. I heard staff go back there and cry with her, talk to her, share with her, she started to shine bright and she was happy. She had a whole group of people that because they were forced, got to know her. Then the team of leaders was frustrated. They wanted these staff to be reporting incidents of predatory behavior. They kept hounding staff to write them so they could get her out of there. Staff would not do it. None of them. They said no, she is not, not using the words but by writing the truth and their own thoughts about Reagan. This continued and I was thinking about how amazing it was.
I would go back there and we talked. I made sure a book called “Pieces of cake,” was donated to her. It was one of the first books that changed my life. I got some daily readings donated to the unit. We would read them and talk about what they meant.
Reagan was now out of isolation. Now she was not some angel, she was not innocent. She had serious trauma and issues to resolve. One day, she had cheeked all her meds and was going to take them. She would not hand them over unless I came and talked to her.
This is how all of this “predator” talk affected me, I said “no, I’m not playing these games, then next time it will happen again and it will be worse.” This had affected me the opposite, I had started to believe that I was too soft, I was ruining things. I was the problem by being too empathetic.
Then a newer staff stood up and said “just go do it! So what, maybe she needs to talk to you, you always say that we need to do this and build relationships,” then another staff said the same thing to me.
I thought wow, I have become the one who looks down on the patient and the staff have completely turned around, there had been a cosmic shift. I’m becoming someone that’s not me. I want to survive and keep a job, and get good reviews, what happened, or wasn’t about helping anymore. This woke me up.
I went down there and we talked and it was a good talk I always told her to stop being this fake Reagan, to take her mask off. That was our line. One day she started yelling and cussing in the morning and everyone was getting ready to go, and I said, “Reagan, take your mask off when you talk to me.”
She stopped and said, “if I didn’t know what you meant I would kill you mother fucker.’ Then she laughed.
My point is you have to first open up and get to know the other person. We are so good at saying stuff like that, yelling people what to do, but if I had said that without knowing her I would have got punched. Then we would say, “see look at how she is.” People actually do this and say it is the patient’s behavior.
In response I would show the statistics of incidents and assaults. If it was the patient’s behavior, then all staff would have similar number of incidents and assaults and restraints when they work. However, we do not. We have some people that 25 percent of the time they work there is an incident. Some are at 0%. How is that possible if it’s the patient’s behavior? It is not the patients. The numbers back that up.
We had a staff named Darcy who was one that was hard on the patients and tough on them all the time, but loved them. She had come around with Reagan. They had some kind of connection. One night Reagan had ripped apart her room, destroying things, swearing, and out of control. The whole hospital was down on the unit and putting their gloves on to fight.
Darcy, who is a strong personality and loves the patient’s. She just has high expectations. She says to everyone as they are running down to tackle this “predator,” she says, “stop everyone!!!” As Reagan was throwing a fit, this predator and dangerous criminal, Darcy walked into her room against everyone’s directions. Everyone is afraid she will get killed. She opened her arms as to offer a hug, Reagan stops completely and hugs her and bawled and bawled and would not let go. It was like she had been needing and wanting that hug for 20 years.
Darcy said, “I Don’t care if anyone reports me for hugging her, and I get fired for this, it is worth it!” Everyone had their head down, and walked away. They both were crying.
Darcy, Reagan and I sat down there, talking, laughing working through what was bugging her. Teaching her ornery ways to find out what’s bugging her.
She then said to me “shit always happens when you are here.” I got mad, real mad, and left, and wouldn’t talk to her for a while. I was pissed partially because I care about these patients with all I got, and I had just gotten told that by the supervisors. What had happened is some of the other staff said that and again, a thought gets spread as truth. She was a truth teller though, so I know it was partially true. We had a group of patients that no one wanted to deal with. If I spent too much time with one, they would act up and I was basically reinforcing it. I didn’t know what to say to her I was so mad.
Finally I went down to her room before I left and she said “wtf man, what do you care what people think. “I finally didn’t have anything to say but the truth she said “take your mask off”
I said “ok, I’m hurt because I care about every one of you guys and what you said hurt my feelings because I try. “
She said “ok ok Mr. Sensitive.” Then she said “do you think it’s true?”
I said “no.”
She said “then who cares,” She said “I got you, that’s what you always say to us.”
I said” ok, you got me.”
I’ve never cried in front of a patient but my god was I close. I didn’t but I was close.
What we had here was what’s called a relationship. That is how change happens. We got to her because we broke the rules. We apologized to her when we were wrong. That’s what we are afraid of, we are the “providers,” they are the “patients”, we don’t say sorry, we are in charge and above them. Well, I don’t believe that. People heal through relationships, not from someone they don’t know forcing rules and medications on them.
But she said something else. She said, “Man you and Darcy, you guys are the most caring ones out of everyone. But man if you get mad you guys are cold ass mother fuckers.”
I said, “kind of like you huh?”
More proof that sometimes the greatest weapon we have in helping someone is our relationship. If we don’t have one, we are useless. Does this Reagan person sound like a predator to you? Remember this was generated from one 3 minute interaction the 2 people that generated this, never spent another minute with her.
However, the ego of the “predator makers,” seemed to backfire. Everyone got to know Reagan. Their ego was the death of them.
I sat and listened to her talk with staff one day, about 7 of them. All telling about the first time they met Reagan and they all did impressions of her. They were laughing and laughing and everyone had a relationship with her, a real relationship. At the end everyone could call her out, and she was ok with that because there was a relationship, not just a thought that she is evil and treating her that way.
When she was acting up we could be firm with her and it wouldn’t escalate. We could tell her what she can do, we talked about her case. She first had denied any substance abuse. Now she was open and honest about her whole life with everyone. All because people gave her the time of day to get to know her. The leaders said she will tell us.
I said “no, they learn what you want to hear, then they do it. If what you guys have been doing was working, how come the same people keep coming back and we have me mental health patients them ever? Because it’s working? “
I don’t work at this place anymore.
They made phone calls and had Reagan moved to Jail , they had pulled enough strings, and made enough chart notes. They felt they had finally proved their point, she was a predator. But the point they proved is that they were the sick ones. They couldn’t win vs the truth, so they did some things to get her moved.
As she left she said to Darcy, “Darcy, I never had a mom and dad before, but I feel like you and #/#^ are my parents and now I finally got parents and now I have to go.” She cried and cried and cried.
The next day there was a meeting, everyone showed up, and at the same time every single floor staff put their head down and would not look at the leaders. Not one word. It was a statement.
That was not it, a few weeks later the supervisor was removed. The other team members were removed or placed in other positions. Not all of them but a few.
So change can occur, but it takes strength, courage, and sometimes breaking the rules. Our “rules” for patient care were broken over and over in this case by staff. The result, a young lady who never felt safe, finally did. Someone who hid their true selves, finally started to take off a mask. Finally opened up about her past. Instead of being afraid of jail, she wanted to go, get her GED, go to art school and be a counselor someday. She was ready and willing to go.
I love that quote:
“If injustice become law, then resistance becomes duty.” We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing, it’s not real treatment and it doesn’t work.
It also takes standing up for what you believe in. Change takes time, sometimes you take a step back then a step forward, 2 back, then 3 forward, There is no huge aha moment. However, there are moments that are crucial to the change, this was one of those moments. I think it was beautiful; however usually in any change process we have heartaches and losses. We just keep digging and giving love and standing up for those that cannot stand for themselves and we will see it. This is why we can’t give up.
It only takes one person. I know this because when I was committed as mentally ill in 1994 the staff had decided that I could not be handled by the staff, or the hospital. I guess kind of like Reagan.
One lady, her name was Mary, went into the staff meeting and fought for me and said to the room full of people planning my departure, to let me stay. She threatened to quit her job if they did not give me a last chance, and not go to the state institution. She said it would ruin my life and she believed in me. She was one, but she believed in me, she fought the whole staff, then, the silent objectors became less silent, and they went in to that meeting to figure out when I would be shipped out the state hospital. They came out of the meeting telling me I was staying.
One person standing up can change the world. If I went to the state hospital back then when they secluded and brutalized patients, I would be done because I would have fought and I would still be there or worse.
Her act of courage for me changed the whole world. Every interaction I have had that had helped anyone is possible because of her act of courage.
As for Regan I don’t know, we are not allowed to know or talk to patients after departure. This is so they can build relationships. I believe she is in prison, I have no idea.
I got a letter one day, in my mailbox. No name on it or anything. The letter said “Hi Mr. Sensitive, I want to be just like you some day. I am reading and learning and I am slowly learning how to “take my mask off.”
Some of the leaders of the team are still there doing this to more patients.
We got this girl who went through hell, begins opening up. Started slowly stopping her behaviors and trying to love more and trust.
We got the other ones, the leaders, labeling people without knowing them and telling other people to chart that so they can get rid of them so they are not exposed.
So I ask you,
Who is the real predator?
May you be somebody’s Mary.
This is an excerpt from an article I just read called “The Shamanic View of Mental Illness.”
Don’t always believe your thoughts.
In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.
What those in the West view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field,” says Dr. Somé
“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.
“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.
“Society cannot tolerate individuality, because individuality will not follow like a sheep. The sheep are always in the crowd because it feels more protected, secure. Only lions move alone — and every one of you is born a lion, but the society goes on conditioning you, programming your mind to be a sheep.”
I remember growing up, and my parents and all the adults teaching us. They taught us about what is “right,” and what is “wrong.” They showed us what “good” looked like, and they showed us what “bad” looked like. I remember thinking to myself that they were all crazy. I remember thinking that what they said didn’t really match what they did. I remember then acting out, speaking about it, and then screaming about it. I didn’t understand, I was so confused.
I remember at my grandma’s funeral the adults that I had never seen before crying. While my mom who spent every day with my grandma was just in silence. I remember watching my cousins being coached on how they need to be crying. I then saw my brother do it. Everyone said to me, “what’s wrong with you, why aren’t you crying?”
Things like this got to me and affected me deeply. So I would speak up about it. Then the answer was, “No, you are emotionally disturbed, you need therapy.” So, I decided who I was, is not OK. Something was “wrong” with me, not them. Then I created the mask that they helped me create. “The sick one, the identified patient, the rebel.”
That never goes away, it’s still like that. I’m still the eccentric weirdo to most. I realized though, what we teach people about what is “good” and “bad,” is not all that simple. I don’t blame the adults anymore, it’s a group of lies that gets passed down from to generation to generation and the lie becomes our perceived truth. We make it true, but it’s not. The more people involved in the lie, the harder it is to break. Those that speak up are usually medicated to fit in. It was really awakening when I realized who I was at my core was OK, and it’s OK to express it. However, I lost many “friends.”
To prove this point about the legacy of lies, there are many studies out there. One that was amazing to me was when a group of psychologists had college students sit and listen to a story, their only job was to remember the story. Then they were to re tell the story 30 minutes, an hour later, 8 hours later, 12 hours later, a day later, a week later, and then 2 weeks later. By the first retelling, there was already major differences. By 2 weeks, it was a completely different story, and unrecognizable from the original story.
However, they were all sure they were correct. Think back to any memory you have as a child, and write it down. Have someone who was with you at the time write it down without trying to influence them or talk about it. It will not be the same memory, I guarantee that.
The point is, it’s all lies. Who is “good” and “bad” is not so easily defined. Who is “mentally ill,” is not so black and white either. Who gets to determine who is “sick.” One story in my life that reminded me of this was when I was working at the county hospital, and I met a doctor, I’ll call him Dr. “Houston.”
Growing up, watching TV, the doctor is to be respected and not challenged. He is the good, moral, wise one. We should listen at all times to these people. The mentally ill are deranged, not to be trusted, violent, and scary. We don’t need to listen to them. These were the lies I had in my head at this time.
Around this time a medication came out for schizophrenia. It was called Abilify. It was going to take over the market for anti psychotics. The old ones such as Haldol and Prolixin causes abnormal movements. Then there was Clozaril which was taken off the market for some time because of deaths. Then, they were able to put it back on the market as long as the patients on clozaril have their blood drawn and have their blood levels checked on a regular basis. Then the giant Zyprexa, which is basically a molecule away from clozaril. However, that causes diabetes and severe weight gain. Risperdal can cause men to start lactating and severe weight gain. Then there was Geodon, however that causes heart arrhythmia. So big strong Abilify would have no side effects and was going to take over the market for schizophrenia.
I always had the most current information as I was the person to deal with the drug representatives when they came in to talk about the drugs they wanted the psychiatrists to sell, I mean “prescribe.” Some of the doctors invested in the same companies in the stock market, which I always thought was a conflict of interest. So, they prescribe these drugs and the stock goes up, and they make even more money.
Then these drug reps would buy things for the doctor’s, and they would send in these model’s that said they were drug reps to flirt with the doctor’s. They always wanted signatures from the doctors. I later learned that they made money per signature on commission. They also made commission based on how many prescriptions were written for their drug in their designated area.
They were people to, one I remember had lost his wife to suicide, he had an autistic son. He needed that commission to help pay for child care and take care of his son. He believed he was making a difference by peddling the drug.
Back to Abilify. It didn’t work, the doctor’s called it “vitamin A.” It didn’t really do anything, however the fact is most antipsychotic drugs do not work. It’s been proven by numerous studies that less than 25 percent of the time do they work. Every patient in psychiatry has had trauma, instead of treating that, we put drugs in them that hurt them more than help. It causes a surge in chemicals, so of course when it is stopped it is going to cause serious symptoms, but then we start to “believe” that the drug is needed. I’m not saying they are never effective because they are at times very effective. However, there is a reason there has been a huge slowing down of psychiatric drugs being manufactured by the drug companies, that’s because in realty, they usually do more harm than good.
People with mental illness die on average 25 years younger than the “average” citizen. If that was the case for any other illness, it would be considered an epidemic.
Do they die from suicides? No. The rate of suicide is only slightly more for mentality ill than non mentally ill. Is it violence? No. In fact mentally ill are on avreage less violent than those in general population. That is another lie that is spread and perceived as truth.
When they die it is from medical issues, usually caused by the drugs we give them. Medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke. They do not go to the medical doctor and recurrence care. People say they are lazy and not taking care of themselves. Well, would you go to the doctor if you were forced to take a drug that made you drowsy, sweaty, drool, wet yourself, and hungry all the time? No one listens to them when they talk about these side effects. They say “you are poisoning me.” We write in their chart, “patient is delusional.”
We force drugs on people that generally don’t work, and causes great harm. It causes them to die on average 25 years younger. Oh, and while we do it, we buy stock in the drug and that adds to our already 300 thousand a dollar a year salary. This is genocide and class warfare, we just disguise it better than other countries and past civilizations.
Back to Abilify, I got sidetracked, see I don’t organize my writing or my thoughts, I just grab my phone when a thought hits me and write it and go with it. Now remember that makes me “ill.” Because my mind works different. That’s what they told me for years.
So I noticed that Abilify got about 5% of the market. Not quite the killer of schizophrenia that they had hoped. Of course now as of today, it is the second best selling psychiatric drug besides Seroquel. That’s because now it’s given to kids, and sold for bipolar and depression. They received more indications. Now we lie and say it is for depression. Disguised genocide.
How in the world does a lie spread like this? People with money want more money, so they use what they have to market it. They have more resources, and patients believe the good doctor is there to help. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. There are some great psychiatrists out there. This isn’t about them though. I want to be clear I’m not saying they all are bad. If I stereotype them as all bad, and drug reps all bad, then I’m just as bad, and I’m part of the problem, and not the solution.
I remember that I would do these “chart audits.” I was checking up on the psychiatrists notes to make sure we were doing the work we were getting paid for.
I went through all the charts of Dr “Houston.” What I noticed as I went through them was abilify, abilify, abilify, and more abilify. So I started to look into this more. What I found out was that 72% of his patients were on this drug. So I thought, wow, that’s weird. So I looked at overall numbers, which was about 4% of all the other patients.
I started to observe, I watched him with patients that would come in and were stable for years. This was a county hospital, people who had no choice, and most were committed as mentally ill. They have to take what he tells them, they had no option. He had the power. No one questioned this, because of the lie that these doctor’s know best. The patients are psychotic. But why? Sure he invested in the drug company that made the drug. OK, but really, he was an Abilify freak.
One day I went to meet with the Abilify rep, and in walks Dr Houston. They hug, then kiss. They were married.
So, it all made sense. She made commission on every Abilify prescription he wrote, he invested in the drug and the patients were at his mercy. I felt an anguish in my stomach and body I still remember. Like when you have the flu.
So, after I found this out I saw how she was granted access to all the doctor’s that was not allowed to other reps. She got signature after signature. So then she would come in, and she would complain to me about their vacations to Ireland and how she was so disappointed. She will have to back. She talked about her nanny watching their kids and how it costed to much. She would go to happy hour while the nannny watched the kids.
Why do they allow this, well shortage of psychiatrists of course. I was ashamed to be there. I hated myself for being a part of this genocide. I wanted to help people and be like the ones that helped me.
I then went to a talk sponsored by Abilify to get a free steak and free alcohol because I had become a raging alcoholic at this job watching this stuff. I then saw the presenter, none other than Dr Houston. He says to me “don’t tell Dr P about this, he really frowns upon this stuff. Dr P was the chief of psychiatry. Well, no shit he frowns on this you douchebage! He got paid even more money to do these talks for Abilify. For some reason, after this, Dr Houston was much nicer to me.
He was so mad one time because insurance wouldn’t pay for abilify, see he didn’t want to give free samples even though we had many. He didn’t get his wife’s commission then. So he came down raging demanding the number. So I gave him the number, however the number I gave him was a phone sex number. I watched him call it and his head snapped back and he hung the phone up as fast as he could. Like he was going to be punished. He says “what’s that number again.” Then I gave him the right number. I know passive aggressive, unhealthy. I had to get my shot in, so I did.
One patient he had I’ll call her “r.” She loved Dr Houston so much, he had her on multiple antipsychotic medication, including Abilify. While on it, she had to go to the state hospital multiple times. It wasn’t working. Then he got the news he had to spend more time at another part of the hospital.
The patient had to see another Doctor. This doctor was different, he was ridiculed by most of the staff behind his back. He was a jerk to drug reps, even the wife of the Abilify king. I loved him for that. He believed in minimal drugs, and only when necessary. He was an outcast of the psychiatrists, but he had a following and he made sure he taught the students. I loved him. He got the patient and after Dr Houston had told him to keep her on Abilify, he gradually took her off almost all of her meds. She was so scared because she had become convinced she needed all these drugs even though they didn’t work. He went back and forth and gradually found small doses of other drugs that worked with minimal side effects. He did this with everyone. He once got in trouble for not addressing someone’s lithium level and I asked him why. He said ” you treat the patient’s, not the disease or the symptoms. Some people are OK with higher levels based on their own natural chemistry.” He was amazing, and was not afraid to be an outcast in this profession. The patient I’m discussing has never returned to the state hospital since. How do I know? Because that is where I work now. 20 years ago I was committed as mentally ill to this same place I now supervise at.
There was another doctor there that took people off medications when they came in. He said if they are here, then the meds are not working. So he stripped them of all their medications and monitored as he added some. So he got a letter from the chief of medicine yelling at him because his patients stayed to long. He said, that’s better than them coming back all the time, and my patients do not come back very often. He basically told them to kiss his ass. He doesn’t work there anymore. But he does work at the same state hospital I work at. However I believe he just resigned for the same reasons. He didn’t become a psychiatrist until about 40 years old. He didn’t do it for status, he did it for the right reasons. He was a pig farmer previously. People like him, who do it right, should not be the ones leaving the field, they should be the ones leading it. But instead people with Dr Houston stay. To much money involved.
I was also on the this performance improvement committee in which they would talk about the bonuses they woukd get from insurance companies if they prescribed more generic drugs. Then the insurance company’s would rank them high in their ratings and give them more patients. I remember as I’m in these meetings I would think back to my childhood as I’m watching this happen. I’m thinking does no one see what we are doing here,? we are all in suits, claiming to help people. What we are doing is civilized genocide, taking money from drug companies and insurance companies regardless of how the patient feels.
Not all patients are crazy. Not all doctors are bad. Not all drug reps are bad.
We however, have created a culture where the ones that are left are the cockroaches.
Houston, we have a problem.
I want to thank http://pamelaspirowagner.com
For the picture at the top. This person has become a partner of mine in this fight. Along with the many others I have connected with. I think I will add a list of the people that have been inspiring me and helping me in this battle. We are forming an army of love. As long as they approve it.
Thank you for all the words. It is making a huge difference.
“For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them… the powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it.”
We all have those moments that change our lives forever. Sometimes we don’t even notice it. We expect some huge moment. We expect what we see in movies and on tv. So sometimes, we miss it, we miss the miracle right in front of our faces. Of the 2 most life altering moments in my life, one was at an obscure building behind a super 8 motel in the middle of no where. Miracles aren’t supposed to happen there are they? It sounds like a country song. The other was the one I’m going to tell you about now.
It came at a time when I needed it, and when I was ready to see it. So many times it is there, but our perceptions and false beliefs prevent us from actually seeing it. When you open your mind, it will come. Truth is always there, waiting for you to see it. It always will be.
This point in my life I had it figured out ( I thought). This came after my major relapse that almost cost me my life, and it did cost the complete destruction of my false self and broke down all the lies I had been telling myself. This was about 1 year after joe killed himself.
I almost died, and I almost got committed for a second time. 18 years after my original commitment. I lost my family, and everything that I thought mattered. Joe had killed himself, I was on the verge of total destruction.
Before this happened, I had finished school and was using that to prove I was ok. I had been a supervisor at a psychiatric rehab facility at the time. I was down after this relapse, I had given up. I was completley lost. When people are down and hopeless it is very hard to have any positive thoughts, or any hope. What we do is blow off the positive wonderful things we see, and we tend to see all the darkness that there is to see.
I think there is enough darkness to see the world that way, and enough light to see that. I had spent months fighting for us to give patients rights, I had been advocating, fighting in staff meetings, trying to spread awareness and show everyone that the mentally Ill and addicted are not bad people. Then of course I have the relapse and I look like a fraud and lose all credibility.
I started to listen to the negativity. People working there would say things like “this is all a fraud, we write fake progress notes, come up with fake goals.” We would have 5 minute groups, and pretend like we are helping. Staff would sit in their offices 6 hours out of the day. The patients are just there 90 days to wait to get housing. We would charge 8400 a month per patient and it is a run down, beat up, and about to fall down apartment. Meanwhile, out of their 400 dollars a month that they received we took all of it except 87 dollars per month. Meanwhile the owner went overseas every other month.
These people at work had said these things before, however, I didn’t listen. Now, due to my internal struggle, I was listening. I thought to myself, what a fucking joke. This is all a lie, everything is. I have spent my whole life fighting against stigma and for these patients and I am a joke. I have been wrong all along and people must think I am a complete idiot. I raise my voice and demand better treatment, but for what? I was making all this money for what? My whole life was a lie.
I went for my 2nd rehab stint but as soon as the social workers 16 days of following me were up, I walked out. I had nothing. I needed money so I’ll keep showing up to work I decided.
Every week we would have our team meetings in which we go over treatment plans of the 16 patients in our “intense psych rehab.” What a fucking joke I thought. I had been off for a while since the relapse. I was now back and this is the first treatment meeting I had been to since. We have the mental health practitioner present the patients and their goals and progress. This is like playing house as a kid, now we are just playing treatment as adults. We talk about this new patient, a schizophrenic, and we discuss his goals. It is said that this is a career schizophrenic that goes to hospitals over and over. His goal is to marry Paris Hilton and play golf on the european golf tour. Well everyone cracks up. The laughing is intense, everyone teases, ridicules, and assasinates his character. 20 mostly privledged white kids in their 20s sitting in this board room with their first psych job determining the fates of these patients. I’m laughing, I think what a joke.
We had a program director who was amazing, she said we have to think, how do we get him to that. Maybe get an apartment first. She said if that’s his goal we need to meet him where he is at. So ok, let’s get him an apartment first.
I am a little intrigued because I love golf. I am terrible at it. However to be outside in nature with the sun for 4 hours I love. The lessons it taught me was like exercise for my mind. Every shot matters in the same way that every moment matters. If I hit the ball by a tree, then in turn if I get angry and impulsive, and try to smack it out of the woods, it will likely hit a tree and i’ll be in worse shape. However, if I let my ego down, and chip it out, then I will be better off. It all adds up, little things matter, have patience, and the only shot that matters is the one in front of you. Swing soft and the ball will go further. You can’t beat nature, go with it. Use your talents, don’t try to be like the other players. Stay within yourself, and be humble. This is why I loved golf. It was some sort of meditation for me.
I walk upstairs and I see the guy, the golfer Paris Hilton guy we talked about. He is wearing 20 year old tennis shoes, and he wears the same clothes every day, it is likely all he owns. He says he’s not sick but he has to take medications. He gets angry if anyone challenges his delusions. I just walk by daily for about 2 months. The whole time thinking this guy is a typical schizophrenic so let’s write our notes, get him out of here and go home. Lets get our checks and continue living the lie.
It was nice outside early that spring so I brought my clubs in one day as I was going golf after work. They were brand new fancy clubs. I thought I was the man but I hated myself and at the time didn’t know why. Now I know because that was one of my false selves. A mask I was wearing, it wasn’t who I really am. When you run from who your true self is, you suffer.
So at times I’ve talked to him about golf to measure his awareness, and he knew a lot so I was surprised. He had started coming down to talk to me more because it was more of a friendship than me just asking him about his ” coping skills” and his “goals” and the bullshit they teach you to say in school and at these expensive trainings. He didn’t feel threatened by me or that I was against him, or that I writing things down in his chart. When patients do that, we think, see they are paranoid. However, is that really paranoid? We read their charts and decide who they are without ever getting to know them. I think lacking trust and not wanting us to write things down is a perfectly normal response based on the circumstances they are usually in.
I swung my clubs inside that day, he said ” whoah, you got a good swing, not bad.” He saw my clubs and said ” hey can I take a swing?” Now what I was doing here was something that most places would say is inappropriate and me dusplaying poor boundaries. The people mostly running these places would say that I should be discussing his treatment and goals and his plan. However, no one will talk to you if you don’t build a relationship first. I wasn’t purposely manipulating a relationship either, I was genuinely talking to him like an equal, without regards to the societal roles we were playing. So, I said “”yeah, $$$$’ take a swing, let’s see.” This was the beginning of one of the most deep and profound times in my life in which my false selves would all die. Was it in a church, in a school, in a huge moment, no. I was about to learn about life from a lifelong schizophrenic at a golf couse. Not quite how I had it drawn up.
He swung the club and it was one of the nicest swings I had seen in person. I was shocked. Of course that didn’t mean he was a european pro. I did start to doubt my own pre conceived notions as an “expert.” Could I, the all mighty one be wrong? It brought me back to a time when I was working at the county hospital, and one of the doctors said, ” you don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient, everyone is different.”
I then went to get support from the program director to take him and anyone else to the driving range. The university where I got my golf lessons, it was close and I was familiar with. I got the ok and so we drive the van to the driving range. We arrive and there is is bunch of young kids with fancy clubs looking as we walk on the course, a group of mentally ill patients. They had that look like “umm i think you guys are lost” or the ” not in our neighborhood” looks. Here is this schizophrenic guy with 20 year old shoes, long hair, and 10 year old jeans. We had no clubs,, except mine, and all they can give him is a 9 iron, which is typically hit about 150 yards by professional golfers. He is given a jr. club, the kind for little kids, because they say that is all they have for use. He says ok, he wasn’t arguing. This man is 6’5. The club doesn’t fit him very well but he is happy to be there as is everyone.
Then there is that moment, the one that changes everything. He puts the ball down. All these young kids, with their 3000 dollar clubs and their fancy clothes are all chuckling and watching, I am watching, the other patients are watching.
He says “wow, i havent swung club in a long time.” I was so nervous at this point, because I could see all the people watching, and I was watching. I was wondering, was this a delusion? Am i hurting this guy and embarrasing him? I felt my body get tighter. My teeth clenched, heart racing, I could feel it.
I look at his face, I watch his eyes, they aren’t schizophrenic eyes. His tongue was tightly wrapped on the outside left side of his mouth. He has this grimace on his face, it was extreme like focus. I look at his feet, they are not schizohrnic feet anymore, they are solid, on the ground, perfect stance. His arms are not schizophrenic arms, the grip is well, but the club does not fit him.
I sense the tenison and the energy as everyone was watching this “freak.” The thing is, he couldn’t sense it. He already knew what we were about to find out. He wasn’t hitting the ball for just him, he was hitting it for me, to give me hope. He was hitting it for the other patients. He was hitting it for the kids watching, 18 to 22 year olds who already have their mind made up, they want to laugh.
He hit the ball, it goes well over 175 yards, with a kids 9 iron. The ball flew soo high in the air, like when you watch a pro golfer hit it. It towered over the earth, and the ball was soo beautiful in flight, it was like you see on tv. I could not believe it and you could hear a pin drop.
The world stopped, and mine had changed forever. Had the first shot been a miss, no one watches again. The first shot was the key. This wasn’t a ball you could say was just struck well by an amateur. It had the look of a real talented golfer. He hadn’t swung a club in years, he had a girls jr club, he didn’t have fancy equipment or shoes or a glove. He had a sweatshirt, jeans, old raggedy shoes.
Then this happened over and over and over again. Eventually people were not whispering anymore. They eventually went back to hitting their balls. Then more magic happened. You see at a range all these golfers hitting and all these balls in flight. There continued to be one ball that towered over the rest and made the others look like little kids. Then, I started watching the kids, they started swinging and missing, and hitting terrible shots. He’s not supposed to do that. I could barely move. I had been shown the truth yet again. I hit some ok shots, but it didn’t really matter anymore.
Then he walked over and started giving me tips on my golf swing and they all worked. I couldn’t fucking believe this. Then I look back, there is 20 kids watching him hit the ball, and watching him teach me. It was that impressive. Of course on the side you had our other patients trippng, laughing, running around.
Then a moment that still tears me up as I write this happened. One kid with extreme courage and bravery comes up and asks him advice on his swing. They had teased and judged, but our guy didn’t care. He said sure, loved helping. Before you knew it you had the schizophrenic giving golf tips to these college golfers. I will never be the same and I knew it. I remember getting back to the facility and sitting down. My co workers said “you must really like golf, I’ve never seen you so alive and energized.” I could not describe what I had just seen and I am still not doing it justice. All I could say was ” yeah I like golf.”
We went again maybe 3 times. We had long talks in the car. He started talking about his life growing up, how he got involved. I started teaching him about schizophrenia. Eventually, he said to me, “well I’ve been going to these hospitals and group homes for over 20 years, and no one has ever explained it to me. I think I do have that disease, actually maybe they are right.” I think other people had explained, he hadn’t listened, becasue no one had ever listened to him. I only did by chance. I ignored him for 2 months. Everyone played a role, the negative mental health practitioner who tried to make a joke of his treatment plan, the program director. It all played a part.
Then I started to listen carefully to what he said when he went on rants instead of just having preconceived notions. I heard him talk about the college he went to. I decided to look it up, then there it was. I saw a picture of him, clean cut, very well groomed and dressed. He had a 4.0 and was captain of a division 1 golf team. I wanted to be his caddy and get him in tounaments. That never happened.
Did he have the talent ot be a pro golfer?, I don’t know, but good enough to make money for sure.
My life changed forever, for that first swing was the swing hat changed the world. It came when I had given up on mental health and thought it was a fraud. I needed that.
I know this is an extreme example. I feel blessed to have even seen it. Those negative people at work said to me that I really am a good con to be able to get to get paid to go golf at work. Then I realized this wasn’t always a terrible business. Yes there are terrible things that happen, terrible abuse. Horrible things happen. That was not a reason to give up, that was the reason to stay. To stay on the inside and do my best to create change. It is only a fraud if we make it one. We have the power over every present moment we are in. That will always build on the past moment, much like golf. We can find evil if we look for it. However as socrates said “our energy is better spent on focusing on positive future than on the negative past.” I think ghandi also said that “the best criticism of the bad is the practices of the good.” Maybe it wasn’t ghandi,however I know it wasn’t me. Everyone is a human, we are all connected, and we all have things to offer. Maybe it is not this dramatic. However, if you start to treat people as equals, who deserve respect and love, instead of superiors and inferiors, you start to change. You may even learn something, like golf tips