“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”
This was years ago. This is about a patient who had relapsed terribly. He had many troubles throughout his life with the law, and with school, and just about everything. This was his worst moment he said this as he entered treatment. All this information is in his chart. This is a well-documented case of the mask.
These are 2 emails he received from his 2 brothers. Now this was less than a month after he started treatment for the first time.
Less than a month after his whole world fell apart. These are the actual emails. I’ve taken names and dates out for obvious reasons.
I think this gives a great example of the 2 different ways people treat the addicted and those with mental health issues.
Email 1: From brother 1. (Dale)
After talking to you last night, I am convinced more than ever that you haven’t changed. You are no different than the teenager who would trash the house and punch holes in the wall to get attention. Now you just go about getting your negative attention in less physical ways. Everything still needs to be about you all the time. You can’t stand it when anyone else has any kind of attention. You still engage in negative attention seeking behavior because that is the only way you know how to communicate with anyone. That’s why you sent a prank message to the family last night. NOT because it was a joke. You KNEW it would get people upset. That’s why you sent it. You did it to get a reaction and to get attention for yourself. The “joke” is a convenient excuse so you can just say “people are over-reacting” when they get angry, that way your behavior never has to be dealt with. It’s a clever little game you play. It’s manipulative and you’ve been doing it for years.
It’s no different than two years ago when you called me a “phony” when I volunteered to be a pall bearer at grandma’s funeral. Again, you couldn’t stand attention being on someone other than you. You couldn’t be silent and respectful even at a funeral. You still had to draw attention to yourself. It’s sick. But if anyone had called you out on that disgusting behavior, you could’ve said it was “just a joke,” that way you weren’t to blame. It’s a very clever game you play.
I can’t even go to a family gathering and have a quiet, adult conversation with someone without you screaming and yelling over the entire room because you can’t stand for people to be having a conversation that doesn’t involve you. You need everything to be all about you all the time and all eyes to be on you. It’s like you’re a 5 year old. No wonder you like treatment so much. You get to sit down and have everyone talk about you for three hours. It must be your dream come true.
I’m even starting to think you couldn’t handle the birth of your own child getting more attention than you, so you “created a crisis” by going down to the bar and getting drunk so the attention could be directed back at you. You’re not trashing the house anymore or punching holes in the wall, but it’s the same behavior…it’s seeking negative attention to yourself.
But what really got me was last night you had the guts to tell me you won’t tolerate stuff from me. Who the heck do you think you are???? YOU’RE not gonna take stuff from ME?? Are you kidding? After all you did when we were kids? You should be on your hands and knees every day thanking god that anyone in this family still wants anything to do with you after all the crap you did when you were a kid. Do you need a reminder???? You stole my clothes, my videos, my high school graduation money and my drivers license so you could gamble. You pushed mom down on the kitchen floor when she refused to lie to your parole officer. You chased our brother around the house with a baseball bat. You dumped a glass of pee on our sister’s head. She used to sleep with a knife under her bed she was so afraid of you.
These were YOUR actions. YOU did them. And for you to say to me that I did NOTHING? That I just hid in the basement and “ran away” from high school to high school? Bull! I used to have to disconnect the engine on my car every night so I could drive the other kids to school in the morning (otherwise you would steal it and take it to the casino and we wouldn’t get to class). I used to get up early in the morning in the summer and take our sister’s out of the house and we would sit at the park all day until mom and dad came home because mom said you were “too violent for them to be around.” I bought bread and milk for the house and sometimes even furniture when I was only 18 because mom and dad were so broke paying your gambling debts.
And after all that, I let you back into my life, and for that, you give me a sarcastic “oooh, that was big of you.” IT WAS big of me! Do you know how many people I’ve talked to about you and the things you did when you were a kid? They are all shocked when I tell them I let you back into my life. I remember Uncle B, Aunt K and Aunt M. As well as all of our cousins asking all the time what it was like to live with the “psycho.” You made my life from the time I was 16 to 18 terrible, every single day. And never ONCE did I EVER hear the words “I’m sorry” come out of your mouth. You are such an egomaniac you are incapable of thinking anything is ever your fault. Your actions are never dealt with. No one in this family has ever stood up to you. Your behavior is accepted and that’s why you have never changed.
I am done with it. I was right about you all along. You haven’t changed. You are still the ego-centric, attention-seeking, loudmouthed sociopath you were when you were a teenager. The worst mistake I made in my life was forgiving you. You are no different. You will never change and no one in this family will ever make you change because your behavior is tolerated by them. They are just as messed in the head as you are. There was a reason I didn’t talk to you for five years when we were teenagers. Looking back, it was actually the happiest time in my life. I should’ve never started talking to you again.
You said the other day that you “challenged” people to have a relationship with you. No thanks. You are not worth having a relationship with. I get nothing out of knowing you as a person. You are not worth knowing. I’m getting too old to still be dealing with the same old bull from you 20 years later.
I remember when we were kids, the only thing that worked when you had an outburst or a tantrum was when we all left the house, so you didn’t have an audience anymore. Well that’s what I’m doing now. Your negative, attention-seeking behavior won’t have an audience from me anymore. Go get it somewhere else.
Email 2: From Brother 2 (Larry)
We are never born and never die. We are all eternal spirits. But you took this current human form on this “day.” I think you are one of the smartest, funniest, greatest people in the world. You always share all your wisdom and knowledge and love. Even though it is not always accepted by others and that hurts you. My life got a little crazy and I was not always available lately. I apologize. I know I have done this before, but I have mental issues, a disease. I’m trying to get better. I feel bad, and feel worse that you do not want to talk to me anymore.
You continue to teach me every day. Since we were kids you have always done this. You were the one that was always there for me. The only one. You are always right. Everything you say becomes true. Everything they say in college, you have already told me. Now working in this field, I use your wisdom (well THE GREAT SPIRITS wisdom through you).
You see the good in everyone and you wish for what is best for the world. I wish more people were able to hear your message of love and the world would be a better place. You are my friend and my greatest influence in life. You have been the greatest role model anyone could ask. I continue to look up to you, listen to your words, and strive to do the things you do. Just following your path, I know I am making a difference in the world thanks to the words you have spoken to me.
Well hope you have a super duper DAY and that you don’t hate me. Sorry for my sadness in the past. Being friends with someone who is depressed is one of the most difficult, yet kindest acts someone can do.
There you have it. Strange to think they are talking about the exact same person. They grew up in the same house, during the same time.
It shows that people’s reaction to you has a lot more to do with them, than you.
As it turns out brother number 1 (Dale) had many issues of his own. He was also an alcoholic, and he still is to this day. He lives isolated from the world. Depressed, lonely and without help. He is said to be a brilliant man, which creates loneliness and is often one of the causes of addiction and mental health issues. When you have no one to relate to, and you are able to notice things that others do not, that can be very lonely.
Was he a bad guy? No, I don’t think so. He was also in pain, you can tell that in his email. He felt he had to grow up and be an adult. He suffers from the same issues but did not act out. However, he never got the help the patient did. The patient being the identified “sick” one, prevented this guy from ever getting help. This is how the ego can hurt you.
When someone is so adamant against someone or something that is usually a red flag to me, as it was in this case. If you notice, brother 1 (Dale) mentions how bad it was. However, he also mentions that they didn’t talk for 5 years as teenagers. It’s hard to imagine that all of this is based in reality if you never have talked to someone, yet you are saying they are the person that ruined your life during this same time. How is that possible if you never interacted? We all have perceptions about situations whether they are truth or not.
In family systems there is usually a scapegoat. The one that is the strongest and most sensitive takes on all the blame for the family’s issues. In a way it’s also a blessing, because the scapegoat is the one that gets the help. While the others live in pain, yet not an open to the world type of pain.
In this case brother 1 (Dale) is so mad at the patient for things the patient did as a child.
Did this approach help the patient? Well, in truth, it did. Not because of the way things were said, but he was able to see the lessons in this. Lessons are usually painful. The more painful, the better the lesson. It also crushed the patient and set him back. It is ok to tell the addict and psych patient how they have affected you. It needs to be heard. It can be therapeutic.
However, only when the time is right. The intentions needs to be pure, and it was not in this case. There needs to be trust, and a relationship first. Without the relationship with the patient and trust, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if you have a cure to their particular condition. If there is no relationship, and the intentions are not pure, nothing else matters.
To kick someone while they are down, and at their worst moment is not at all an approach that heals.
What it did though was show the patient that he had hurt others, and that some people will never accept him. It taught him that it is not about him. The patient can’t force others to become healthy by his standards. He had to detach. There is a lesson in every interaction.
He also heard things in this letter that helped him see what had happened. The patient had forgotten about how everyone in the family including aunts, uncles, and cousins that had rarely ever seem him and spent no time with him at all, were getting together talking about how “psycho,” and unsafe he was. How could that even be possible unless the patient’s own family was telling people this? It broke his heart.
It crushed him. You could tell his heart was breaking. From the patient’s perspective, he was a good guy that was sad and had been acting out. He thought everyone knew that he loved them and this was not really who he was.
However, family systems that are broken do not want to admit fault. That is due to shame, fear of judgement, rejection, and ridicule. They place on a family mask. A false front. They are in pain themselves. Generational pain will get passed on for thousands of years. You may have had anxiety passed on to you from things passed on to your parents. It could have started thousands of years ago. However, it only takes one person to reverse it.
The scapegoat is born when there is a serious system dysfunction. The scapegoat then acts out as if to say, “Something is wrong here.” Which takes immense bravery for a child to go against the adults and culture telling him to be quiet. It is also usually to help younger siblings as well.
Children know nothing about how to communicate, so they act it out. Want to see how a child is feeling, play with them. Let them lead.
In this case, this patient punched holes in the wall. He was a child in serious pain. So he was acting out, because he likely was more sensitive and could not keep things in as well as others. Some say that is a weakness, it is not. It is a strength.
This is how the scapegoat is born.
This is great for the family. They don’t have to talk about their issues any longer. They can now say, “See it is him.” He is now the “identified patient.” Again, this is not a purposeful thing at all. A bunch of pain and hurt. They have basically turned on their own.
However, the same system that helped create this violent child, now is blaming him for being violent. He has become the sacrificial Lamb of the family. There are other roles that are formed in these families, but this is the one that leads to addiction and mental health issues.
Then the gossip begins, which is like murdering someone’s character.
Now, these adults who have never truly spent time with him are somehow disgusted with him. Lies have speed, but the truth has endurance. Not one of these adults ever sat down and talked with his child. Instead, they chose to talk about him.
This gains the family acceptance and saves them from ridicule.
The children, in this case, the brothers, sisters, and cousins all gained acceptance from the adults every time they agreed and told stories about how awful this misfit was. I’m not saying the adults cheered them on. But they paid attention, they talked to the children, and they told these kids “I’m so glad you’re so well behaved and not like that.” It again is not purposeful.
We now have adults teaching kids how to put on the mask.
The scapegoated patient is a hurt child that acted out due to system dysfunction. Now they have their own family turn on them. They now are told by adults, and everyone around them, that they are the issue, that they are the bad seed.
That then causes even more pain and isolation and depression. Acting out in school begins. The patient has been reinforced not to talk about things, and never taught honesty (real honesty). So he acts out in school.
You can’t bottle these emotions, the scapegoated patient is always the most sensitive by nature. So the emotions will come out soon, especially in a child. With the added stress of kids at school who are socializing, acting human and communicating, the extra stress is bound to cause an eruption in the scapegoat. So when kids act up in school, and I hear teachers say, “oh yeah, just a rough kid.”
That is a cop out. There is always more to it that can be done. If you sit back and do nothing, then you are part of the problem. Anyone can see another person struggling, we can do something if we choose to.
So now that this patient is acting out in school, now we have a defined trouble maker at school. More back up and evidence that this child is the problem, this is the bad kid. Now he even has more people telling him this. The chart is already building.
When I worked at the juvenile home for boys, the guards were teaching the kids how to act “when” they go to prison as adults.
This patient now believes himself to be a bad person. He is now more depressed, more isolated, and now more fearful of the world. He is unable to trust anyone.
Eventually these type patients will meet other outcasts. Then the normals will say, “all the bad seeds find each other.” More gossip, when one act of kindness would change the world. Then these outcasts have a drink, or use some drugs and it takes it all away.
Relaxation, the mask is off. If anyone ever says to you, “I love when I drink that I become myself.” You have an issue on your hands. But it can be a blessing.
It’s all gone. This mask is off. The outcast gets to be this loving, sensitive person that they always have been. They are also around others just like them. This is a perfect storm.
Everyone is calling them losers, the outcasts will then attach to each other more. Many of them will quit school. No one is surprised, they shake their heads, and the chart is building already.
At any point during this one person could step in and change everything. One moment, one minute of time, anyone can do this. We want to take care of “our own.” What if we looked at is as all of us were in this together, we all are “our own.”
But the real reason they quit school is they are usually bored at school, and they are mocked and ridiculed. They also are learning things by being told to memorize things that the outcasts don’t believe. The way our system is set up is that those that get the good grades are those that repeat what the teachers want. We are not teaching people how to think, but how to pass a test.
The outcasts have learned to question the answers, not just answer the questions. This gets them further labeled as disruptive and challenging. This develops early on in life as they found out early that just because adults say things are ok, does not mean it is true. To have a kid who questions things should be embraced, not punished.
So the outcasts would rather go with friends and use or drink or whatever. No one really pushes them to stay, because, you know, they are “losers.”
They have proven everyone right. They believe it, although on some level they don’t believe it. Which is where the misunderstood attitude comes from. Which is why you hear the stories of “one person believed in me and that changed my life.” Because one person understanding will stop all of this.
At this point, usually they are only able to function with substances. So if you take the substance away, and on top of that, they still have never learned to deal with emotions or situations. So jobs are hard with this lack of how to be a human skills, or domestication. Add in no “education.” Now the outcasts are also addicted.
You now have a drug addicted high school dropout without a job. Loser? I do not think so.
Everyone says they just knew it, poor family has to deal with this.
This is where you see the complete brainwashed brother number 1(Dale). He sees this patient getting help. That may mean that the lie is going to be exposed. How will brother 1 (Dale) cover up things he has done (and there was plenty). Without the patient to trash, the family must look in the mirror. They do not want this. So they subconsciously try to direct the patient back to the sick role. The identified patient.
This patient getting better will throw everything off, he was starting to speak up. He was not afraid to tell the truth, like back when they were kids again. Like when the patient was saying the funeral was phony. As the patient put it, they never saw the grandmother. Maybe one time in 15 years. Now she was dead and everyone was acting sad. The patient could not understands the phoniness. So again he acted out.
Again, he is the bad guy.
Families do not do this on purpose. But everyone deep down knows the truth. Yet they are not strong enough to get help. Forgive them father, they know not what they do.
The scapegoated patient is lucky in a way. He gets to go to therapy, to treatment, and to hospitals. These patients often do so well in treatment, and then relapse and we wonder why.
Well you have helped the most sensitive person. Then you send them back to the same dysfunctional system.
How many times do families refuse to participate in the treatment? I would say about 80 to 90 percent. The excuse is often that it is not them that is the problem, it’s not their issue. That is more proof we are going to have a relapse. A relapse of acting out.
Mental health and addiction are systems diseases, you help one part of the system, usually the strongest part. Then send them back to the system. Until we start calling it a family disease and treating the system, it will not get better. The patient either has to leave the system, or the whole system has to change without help the way we do it now.
The scapegoated patient in this case was getting better and telling everyone that he is not a bad person after all, thinking everyone will embrace him and say they are sorry. Well that threatens the whole community lie. If they are out of character, it forces everyone to change.
So the family will try to make the patient take the sick role back. They usually will. It is a way to be accepted by the dysfunctional system. Be the sick one, or leave. People are afraid of taking that leap to something unknown. They would rather stay in known dysfunction, than leave to the unknown. They are scared of the world. We must remember that. This is why support systems are so important.
The patients are lucky if the family has money to get help. Otherwise these patents end up in prisons or hospitals or homeless. Most will see the homeless, drug addicted, and those with mental health issues and see trouble.
I see the most amazing, sensitive people we have on this earth. I see future awakened and enlightened souls. I see beauty and pain, but potential.
I love when someone gets to the point that they either want to or have to get help. Because I feel like it is another scapegoated modern day leper about to awaken to the truth they have always known. It is a thing of beauty.
This brother 1 (Dale) has the anger, the shame, and the same old issues he has always had. With no one to blame, he has gone into isolation. He has some serious issues that were never and still have not been dealt with. I hope he finds peace.
He still reaches out to Brother 1 (Dale) from time to time. But he let’s go after that.
Brother 2 (Larry) saw past this patients mask his whole life. Brother 2 (Larry) saw the true person. He was the younger brother. Scared, but as you can see from the email, since he saw the true self of the patient, the patient had always shown this brother his true self. He did things like being there for him when he needed something, helping him when no one was looking. Teaching him. Talking to him about life. But you have an unskilled, wounded young animal trying to guide a younger child. Disaster awaits.
This scapegoated patient saw his younger brother, and knew that brother 2 (Larry) was vulnerable. He was very sensitive. So the patient was able to be his true self with his younger brother and show him love. The patient felt safe. But the patient only did this when no one else was around. Otherwise he put on the mask.
The patient was actually very mean to brother number 2 (Larry). When others were around and watching, the patient was abusive. Emotionally and physicality to brother 2 (Larry). The patient was cruel and he embarrassed brother 2 (Larry), and humiliated him. The patient was so insecure that he did that to feel better about himself. Although it always worked opposite.
There are many reasons the patient did this to brother 2 (Larry). One of them was when people were around, the patient didn’t want everyone to see his true self. The other was this younger brother was so kind and saw his older brother as this great guy while everyone else saw a monster.
This scared the patient. He tried so hard to push the little brother away. He had to show brother 2 (Larry) that he was this jerk. But be couldn’t do it. The little guy kept seeing the greatness. So slowly, the greatness started to come out.
This younger brother talks in his email of the older brother teaching him so much. But in reality, it was the younger brother doing the teaching. Teaching him it’s ok to be loving, and caring, and sensitive. To help others. He kept the true self of this patient alive.
When the other kids would all get together and decide to blame something on the scapegoated patient, they would offer to pay the younger brother to go along with the lie.
He would refuse. Even though this caused him great isolation. The scapegoated patient was at this point gone a lot, with his “loser” friends gambling or drugs or crimes.
So the younger brother was maybe the bravest person you could ever meet. Even as a young kid. But many adults will do that, but a child?
He taught the patient. Kept his hope alive.
So that’s why the emails are so different. They saw two different people. But it was because of how they interacted.
One of the most astonishing parts of this to me was the younger brother was the one abused more than anyone. Yet he’s the one that loved the most and helped this patient the most. A child shall lead them.
However, people that live like Brother 1 (Dale, ) get desperate when they feel a lifelong lie is going to be exposed. They have so much fear, and that’s what I see in brother 1 (Dale) and his email. What I see is fear.
It is too bad because being exposed is the best thing that can happen to you. Then you heal by killing the false self. That’s why the scapegoat is lucky. It is always a great moment when I hear someone come out of the closet. It is a moment. A very special moment where they say I am going to be myself.
Brother 2 (Larry) is now a LADC, in recovery himself. He is on his way to becoming a counselor as well.
Of course he became addicted. He was isolated, alone, and attacked by his idol. He spent his childhood scared and all alone. So of course he became a fearful and depressed person. He had learned to hide his loving caring self as well.
The patient did serious damage to his younger brother, as hurt people hurt people.
So they got older and would get drunk together and talk about life and love and be their true selves together, that is the basis of all of this pain.
Now they are in recovery together.
This was the story. This true story.
I was there. This is my story. I was the patient.
I remember when I was 14 years old playing a football game with my uncle from Detroit. We all thought he was the coolest guy. We didn’t see him much. But he was cool. He came back after football and told my mom how surprised he was at how well behaved I was. I heard it, I heard a lot, but that is all that needs to be said.
They were so proud of me. But my heart broke in half that day. I realized that everyone hated me, and I didn’t know why, because all I did was love everyone in my head, I didn’t know how to show it. Or let it out.
I didn’t even know I was being so good. I was just being myself, I was relaxed and my uncle was nice to me, I had never really spent that much time with him so I was heartbroken to hear that he thought I was awful. I looked up to him. That was when I realized I had a mask on.
Then I tried to kill myself. I knew I had to kill myself, but didn’t realize I only needed to kill my false self. So I tried to end my life. My brother 2 (Larry) this young soft loving kid, wrote me this handwritten letter telling me how much he loved me and wanted me alive.
To me, someone who just realized they were a monster and was locked up, that was something that put my heart back together. I wouldn’t be here without any of that.
This is why the mask is important to me, and I know anyone can step in at any moment and change the world. This was just the beginning of my story. Please, spread love. Everywhere you go.
Did I do all those things? Throw pee, steal cars, and trash the house? Yes. I did not graduate, I robbed houses. All of it and more is true. I was chasing love and acceptance. I did terrible things. Terrible. I now have worked at these institutions as a supervisor and staff for over 20 years. On the other side of the desk.
The comeback was made because of love.
I was my brother’s first patient.
Thank you Larry. You deserved better. I was only a kid, and I did the best that I could.
I am sorry with everything I have got.
I love you.
You are my teacher, and my hero.
“Being friends with someone who is depressed is one of the most difficult, yet kindest acts someone can do.” -Larry Pfeffer
To be continued……