“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
“You know in this hotel room they have food every day and I knock on the door. Every day they open tha door to let me see the party, let me see that they throwin’ salami, throwin’ food around telling me there’s no food. Every day. I’m standing outside tryin to sing my way in- “We are weak, please let us in. We’re weak, please let us in.” After about a week that song is gonna change to, “We’re hungry, we need some food.” After two, three weeks it’s like “Give me some of that food! I’m breakin down that door.” After a year it’s like, “I’m pickin’ the lock, comin’ through the door blastin.” It’s like, “I’m hungry”
- Tupac Shakur
It is my hope that we have a silent army building. The revolution will not be televised. But I see the replies I get, and it gives me hope.
I saw an article in the New York Times basically saying there would be less shootings if the mentally ill had less privacy and were more easily forced to be hospitalized. This is the New York Times! Who are the sick ones?
I’m going to tell a story. 2 stories, of 2 different people. They are both true stories. Then you can see how this all begins and becomes a problem. I’ll go back and forth between the stories until their paths meet.
Here’s Dusty, I don’t know, age 3 to 5. Happy kid, plenty of love. Just loves everyone and loves the world. He doesn’t see color, sex, religion. He has nokind of discrimination, all he sees is love.
Here’s the second story. This is my cousin Donald. The man he is with is my father. Donald also loves the world, he sees no race, sex, and discriminates against no one. He is a very loving and giving kid.
Dusty gets older. He still loves everyone and everything. However, Dusty grew up in a home that was infested with cockroaches, and had been condemned 2 to 3 times. There was about 7 or 8 kids living there, they had no food. Dusty was the kindest of the group. He got beaten by his brothers, picked on, and thrown around. He was told “You are a loser, give me your money, do my work.” He did not understand, he gave whatever he had to others.
When I met Dusty he was about 8 or 9 years old. He had 4 brothers and sisters, they all smoked pot, drank, and never went to school. Everyone walked around this place with almost no clothes. They had only 2 bedrooms. The house was full of smoke.
Cockroaches were all over. They had no shower, and a bathroom with only a curtain covering it. The old guys would come around drinking, smoking weed, and getting physical. The older kids were getting worse also.
There was something special about Dusty, his heart. He was born with an amazing heart. He loved everyone, and gave all he had. To tell you of this kids strength, words won’t do it justice. As a 9 year old, he was growing up in a house in which every adult was punching, smoking weed, drinking, and stealing. Also, the gangsters knew where the weed was. THE house, that’s where they were. But Dusty, at age 9, he refused to smoke weed or drink or do any of that. However, being sweet and sensitive, he was an easy target. He did not stop loving though, he still loved them all. He saw through it, through everything, even as a kid. So what happens when you are extra sensitive, caring, and loving? You get pushed down, forced to create a mask, his was the goofy guy. This is the same house where I met Joe. Dusty and Joe were cousins and best friends.
Here is Donald. He is my cousin. He was a great kid. His father was a doctor in a small town, he made lots and lots of money. That doesn’t make Donald bad, and he is not bad. In fact, he’s a wonderful human being. I know this story puts him in privileged category. But, that is not his fault, he is still a caring, kind, and considerate human being. His father, my uncle, was once in jail for stealing cars and grew up to be a doctor. The thing about Donald was, he was born gifted, and extremely smart. He was above the genius level. He may have skipped a grade, I can’t remember. He was and is not a bad person.
However, while Dusty was seeing what he saw, Donald was going on trips, and getting the best life had to offer. He worried for nothing, he could be a kId and thrive.
Thrive he did. He is a talented, smart, and funny guy that had charisma. He didn’t have to worry about gangsters, getting food, getting raped, or having mice and cockroaches sleep on him. He had a huge bedroom, went on vacations, had all he ever wanted. He had great parents. Now another thing I noticed about Donald was that when I went to spend 2 weeks with him when I was 12, was that in this small town everyone drank, and did drugs, at age 12. Which is common for a small town. They were 12 and flung this. All of his friends.
One time we went to his friends house, the kid was sleeping and the kid woke up, and lifted his pillow and there was jack daniels. They all smoked and drank, except Donald. His parents taught him this.
Dusty did it on strength of character. Donald friends said “man your dad is always getting thanked in the paper.” That was true, small town legend.
Donald’s pressure was to follow his father, and that is a different kind of pressure. One that is often not considered a problem, the gifted child.
However, that is just as hard as raising a troubled child. People don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. What they both had in common was they were gifted.
Dusty then ended up going away for a while after missing so much school. His brothers would go just enough to not get sent away. Dusty was the extra sensitive one, he didn’t care. Me and Dusty and Joe had a bond, we all loved each other and saw behind each other’s masks. One time, on the phone, Dusty had called his mom and said, “tell mike I lo, well never mind,” he wanted to tell me he loved me, but he was afraid. I stopped hanging out there.
That’s another story, this isn’t about me. Dusty eventually surrendered and started using drugs. Then, they had a guy from Arizona living at the drug house, his name was Carl. He had packages of drugs delivered to the house all the time. The police got involved, and a sting was set up. So the package is delivered, they all have Dusty answer because he is kind and wants to help. So he always does, and he did on this case as well.
Well, he signed, and he gets arrested, and now he has a felony. They knew it was not him, he gets interrogated, and interrogated. Does he give Carl up?, nope, never. This was when Dusty was 19. That’s his booking photo. He went to jail, then he just got off probation recently.
This is someone you may see in jail, or at the shelter, or with the dirty clothes. That’s what you see, but this is what you’re missing when you make that judgement. These are the kids that come into our neighborhood, come to school, to church. We say get them out, those dirty kids with no manners. We don’t want to look at them, it’s like clutter in our clean house. We don’t want to deal with it, we want to pretend it’s not there. Then we may have to do something. So we ignore them and label them and call them losers or dirtbags. That’s much easier, isn’t it?
But that is how we all are part of the problem and we ask are co responsible for the inequality. You see these kids, these people, and no action is am action. Silence is consent.
Here’s Donald at age 19. He had a child. Now that’s a disaster if he’s in Dusty’s situation. However, Donald had great supports in place. His mom and dad helped the teenagers adjust, made sure everything was taken care of.
Donald was able to go to school and while Dusty was in jail, Donald was excelling. He finished college in 3 years and went on to medical school and finished. He’s a doctor. Now again, he’s not bad, not a superstar yet, I don’t think.
He is now starting to isolate, he is on a different level than others and he gets told that alot. So he believes it, so does his wife. So now the good doctor moves and starts dominating the medical profession.
They told me his iq is 156. I’m sure they told him too. He then joined the army like his father and got lots of medals and accolades.
Which is not bad. This is simply to show how we start to label and separate.
Here is Dusty taking care of his dying mother. He gets out of jail, meets a girl, and they have kids. He didn’t know how to have a relationship, he is on his own with no college, no skills, no understanding of life. Just love.
Then you have Donald with his 500 thousand dollar house that got egged.
How do I know this? Well his wife posted on Facebook that someone egged their 500 thousand dollar house but she wasn’t worried because they had security cameras all over the house. You know, to keep the “bad criminals out.”
Like clutter, she didn’t want to see that.
I also saw her post once that she was very upset with the mayor in the town they live in because he allowed a Wal-Mart to be built by their house. Her quote was “who else has to look out their 500 thousand dollar house and see a Wal-Mart, someone needs to stop this guy, do not vote for him.”
See as the separation is almost complete. What did dusty do to be placed below donald?
Nothing. But we see them each walking down the street and we treat them differently. That’s how we all contribute.
Dusty getting older, he split with his kids mom. He suffers from depression, severe depression. He feels rejected all the time, he smokes weed to forget, to not be himself.
He talks about suicide all the time. He misses Joe more than anyone. His heart is broken. Dusty and Joe spent all their time together. They even moved 2 blocks down from me for 2 years. I would drive by and wave. Really? Yes. I was no better than Donald. Even worse, because I drive by, and we still talked from time to time, but I was trying to get my life together. I could have said hi.
The doctor and his family. Now this is not an attack in Donald at all. It is about how we create separation. He worked hard, he’s caring, and he is a good man. He just started to believe he was different and better. He got told lies.
Lies we all believe, like, you need this huge house, cars, medals, and everyone to see how awesome you are.
So he fell in the trap. Here we are, the “look at us” photo.
You know how the native americans defined mental illness? They said anyone who lives in excess of what they need is mentally ill.
The doctors wife at the ritz.
Dusty and his kid at the laundromat.
The doctor and his boat.
Dusty at the playground. Having fun.
The doctors daughter with one of her trophies, she had special tennis lessons, beauty pageants, and she going to Oxford college on scholarship.
Same thing as Donald, smart talented kid. No fault of her own, the cycle continues. She is being brainwashed like he was.
He had a mask on as well. Still does.
Dusty being a dad and loving. He never knew life would be so hard when all he wanted to do was love.
The doctor is now continuing to serve and get accolades. To bad it’s all a lie.
Now this part is not real, but an example of what would likely happen from what I’ve seen in my years being in both worlds……
Now what happens if Dusty walks into Dr. Donalds office? How in the world can the doctor understand what Dusty is saying. Dusty says “Life isn’t worth living, I need to smoke weed.”
The doctors response is usually, “He just doesn’t care, he doesn’t want to work, he wants disability.” The thought process I’ve seen a million times. All the time, it’s the rule, not the exception.
So, let’s say Dusty had attempted suicide 2 times, and keeps coming back. He has to in order to get benefits and to get housing for himself.
The doctor is frustrated, in his mind he’s trying hard. That’s what life is, you just don’t behave like that in his opinion. In his world, you get up, work hard, and get it done. He can’t understand why Dusty complains that no medications work, yet continues to use drugs, and goes to the hospital.
He thinks Dusty has children, and he’s not taking care of them, he’s a “Predator” or a “Manipulator” or “Gamey.”
This is when I hear things like, why do they get free healthcare and we don’t. Almost a resentment at the patients. This is something that I see daily. The caring staff keep their mouths shut in fear.
So now Dusty has to be forced to take meds. He doesn’t get it, we have to help him. So we will put him on meds, and we aren’t going to listen to his side effects stories. We are going to force injections if he doesn’t comply with orders.
He can’t take care of himself. We have to in the doctors opinions.
Oh and, let’s charge insurance about 1500 dollars a day to do this. If the drugs give him diabetes, that’s too bad because he needs to be safe.
Good job young doctor, you’re saving the world.
Now Dusty has not been without weed for years, so asking him to stop is asking him to feel all these feelings that he has never felt before. Forcing him to take his mask off without support. The feelings he had been told to block his whole life, the feelings that have made him an outsider and not accepted.
Then give him a med that makes him feel no better for at least 6 weeks. Then it might not be the right medication, so we may have to start all over.
He will have side effects like drooling, sedation, diarrhea, and tremors. That occurs right away. Plus feeling all these emotions. Then when he sleeps too much we say that he is lazy, or non compliant with his treatment.
So we force him out of bed, and we make him go to groups with someone explaining all these “skills” he needs to use. Then he can’t participate due to the meds, the side effects, being off drugs his brain had coffee to rely on, and now having to freak with all these suppressed emotions.
So he is said to be non interested. So we need to give him more medications.
Of course we do.
Now he’s angry. No one listens, he’s sensitive, but he has had enough. He explodes from this and other patient’s likely taking advantage of him, and staff telling him when he can shower, piss, and treat him like a criminal.
Because, we say, look at his record, he is a felon. No one asks why or what happened, and they won’t believe him anyways, he’s a “manipulator.”
We had a young man admitted to our place the other day. I’ll call him “kev.” Abused age 1 to 3. A ward off the state at age 3. Picture a 3 year old being abused and taken from home, then a 3 year old in a privileged home, they’re is no difference, why do we seem to think as adults that there is? He was in foster homes his whole life, sexually abused, and beaten.Then at age 19 he committed an armed robbery, and he was shot 3 times. Then he Went to max security prison for 7 years. In prison, he cuts himself enough to need surgery, he has been known to swallow glass, and toothbrushes requiring surgery.
The assessment by “the team.” Is that he is “smooth, and manipulative.” He swallowed these things to get to go to hospital, a trip out of jail.
This is dangerous to call him manipulative. If I think you are manipulative then everything you do I take as a con. If we instead think of him as this kid who has a desparate need for acceptance and love, you will treat him differently. Then he will react differently. Then he gets better treatment. Our staff are young, impressionable, and eager to learn about psychiatry since it is romanticized on the media at times.
However if you work in government, they need to save the taxpayers money, they don’t want us spending “their” money. We have to hire inexperienced staff, because they are cheaper. We train them by what they see. The cycle continues.
So why would someone like Dusty shoot his doctor? It’s not so black and white if you look deep enough.
What’s the difference between…
This 19 year old young dad.
This young dad? (This is Joe and Anthony from last post)
The answer is nothing. Until we divide them. When we divide, we create class, uppers and lowers. When really we are all connected.
It won’t end. It can’t. Until people start fighting back. The battle is not going to be easy, we won’t see the end. We won’t see the victory. That will come after we’re gone.
But there is going to be a fight, we know that there is going to be a fight because we are going to start it. We will lose some, as we lost Joe. We won’t stop. Love always wins. Always.
If I’ve made you mad, then I’ve done my job. Happy people don’t create change. You have to be angry, you must have discontent to create change. So be angry. Then do something about it.
If 1 person reading this gets 1 thing and does something, that’s perfect. The ripple effect will be huge.
Love you Dusty.
If you want to see this in video.
Here it is..10 minutes I think.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein
Robin Williams didn’t kill himself, stigma killed him. It kills many people like him everyday. Here is how:
STIGMA, that is the reason people do not ask for help. STIGMA is the reason people do not go to the doctor and say I’m depressed, or I’m an addict, or I do not feel things like anyone else. Who wants to say that I feel all these intense emotions? When you know what the result is going to be. What we will do is we will give you medication. We will tell you to change, to just feel better. The issue is we have it backwards, they don’t need to change, we do.
We as a society, we do this. This is why people with great talents still kill themselves. Much has been written about Robin Williams; however why do you think he was such a good actor? And why do you think Jim Carrey is such a good actor? I’ll tell you what I think, it is because they get to wear a mask and pretend they are somebody else. That is easy to do when you hate yourself. Why don’t they ask for help? STIGMA. Why do people kill themselves? STIGMA. We are all Co responsible for this, and until we take responsibility for our part, things will never change.
A few years ago I was sitting with a patient. I’ll never forget as I watched her as she sat with her hands in her head crying. She was crying like I had never seen anyone cry before. She had just been told by her husband that he was leaving her and he would be taking her child with him. He would be divorcing her if she didn’t “change.” This child was 6 years old at the time. I remember the look on her face like it was yesterday. She had a look of pain and anguish that I have never seen before. Her lips were shaking. I could see her chin trembling. Her knees were banging into each other as her feet were shuffling back and forth, back and forth. She was shaking. The tears were coming down her face. They were clear tears, very clear and big tears. Her eyes were squinted and almost closed. Her mouth was leaning towards me as she trembled in fear as if to say to me, “do something, I don’t know what to do.” It took everything I had not to cry. I still cry as I write this. That day, I did not. I sat and I was there for her. She said to me, “I don’t know what to do. My husband’s going to leave me if I don’t change and I don’t even know what that means.”
She paused as she saw me pause. Looking at me with eyes like a child saying “make me feel better, help my soul, this isn’t fair.” I didn’t save the world this day. However, for this moment, I was able to take away some pain, or teach her how to do this for herself in the future. That is good enough, because that is all we can do. That is how we can cause a mass ripple affect and stop suicides and pain. One moment at a time, every single action and every single moment matter, every single one.
So what I told her was “I know you’re feeling like somebody just hit you in the stomach and you have a dull aching pain that will not go away and you just want to keel over and surrender.”
However in my experience, this kind of pain is a beautiful thing. Why I say that is because in the moments like this in my life, this is when the truth entered me. Rumi the poet says it best in my favorite quote of all time, “The wound is where the light enters you.” This is true, there have been times in my life where everything was ripped away, all the things I thought that were important. Things like cars, houses, and fake friendships and relationships with family members. These were the things I grasped to. I was certain I needed them or I would die. The beautiful thing about adversity is that it will rip away everything, so you can see what really is important. However, I wouldn’t recommend saying that to someone while they are going through this, unless you want to get punched in the face. It is painful as hell, but it is beautiful as heaven if you let it be, then it becomes a wonderful gift.
She said “all I want to do lay down and go to bed.” I know she meant forever. The pain she was experiencing was shame. She felt like she was not ok. She had to change. She was sick. Her whole life as she knew it, her husband, her son, and everything she had ever known was going to be taken away from her because she was sick. She then put her hands on her head and cried and cried and cried. She looked at me and I said to her,
“Sammy, look at me, just look at me.”
She put her face up, she stopped crying, her hands stopped shaking, and her chin stopped shaking. It was like I had her attention. She paused, and she looked at me. I said, “Sammy, there is nothing wrong with you.” She looked at me like this was the first time anyone had ever said that to her in her life. She bawled and bawled and put her head in her hands. Then she pulled her head back up and said, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!”
Her husband was offered talks and education and all other kinds of resources and ways to find out about her illness. He declined this every time he was offered. He always stated that he had to work. He declined every single time. I said to her “we don’t know that he’s going to leave you. He’s probably stressed out because he has a kid all by himself for the first time and he’s working full time. Maybe had a bad day. Good days come and go, bad things come and go. That is life. We try to do our best with what we know at the time. Life flows.” She shook her head yes. Then I said to her, “I’m sure you’ve had hard times before and it didn’t last forever. What you are doing is healthy because you are feeling your feelings. You aren’t running from the pain, you are taking off your mask; you are being strong and healthy. You aren’t cutting and you aren’t drinking and you are not gambling. You are feeling your true feelings and it sucks and it hurts what you are going through. You aren’t blaming anyone, you aren’t telling anyone they have to “change.” You are just being loving and hurting, you are being real.” I told her a lot that day, but the only thing that really mattered is when I said, “There is nothing wrong with you.” That was the moment of clarity and truth.
I am going to finish her story towards the end of this. I have to talk about something else first.
The reason I tell this story is because of the stigma and how stigma destroys people, and stops the patients who are suffering from asking for help. It prevents people from wanting to get help because they are scared they are going to lose everything. They are scared that people are going to look at them weird and tell them to just get better. Stigma, that’s what it is. People don’t want to ask for help because of STIGMA.
STIGMA is created because there is a large group of people who do somewhat fake mental illness. That’s the truth. There are people that pretend to have mental illness because there are some benefits you can get if you are diagnosed with a mental illness. However, if somebody is faking a disorder to get benefits there is probably some kind of mental illness in that act alone. People see this and they think to themselves and say it outloud, “They are taking my benefits and they are taking my tax dollars. This is bullshit, they are faking illness!” These loud, and opinionated, yet uniformed people have power. They assume everybody in psychiatry is faking an illness. That is why we must stop stigma by education, not by hating. If we treat them the way they treat those with mental illness, we are no different. Anger does not stop anger, hate does not stop hate. Only love can do that. So you look for opportunities to educate and you use them wisely. If we just randomly spout of at the mouth we lose credibility, even if what we are saying is accurate. If we try to reach people that are not ready to hear the truth, we will lose them. When you see an honest opportunity, we must use it, and jump on it. Educate every chance we get. You prepare yourself through reading and knowledge, then you will see more opportunities come, and that’s when you jump at them.
I want to talk about the most stigmatized illness in mental health. It is the illness that “Sammy” had. We call it a “disorder,” however, I want to try and show you how it is a gift, and not a “disorder.”
I want to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder. This is what we say is the single most difficult mental health diagnosis to treat and to have as a patient. What is said is that they depend completely on the external for clues as to what emotion to feel. We say that they are manipulative, they are gamey, and they are attention seeking. We say they want everybody to love them and that they feel like it’s up to everybody else to make them feel good. We say they are dependent on the external for all emotions. We say that they don’t know how to feel. They feel intensely connected to everything therefore affected greatly by everything. We say we need to teach them how to handle emotions. If you ask me, the wrong people are in the role of teacher.
The truth is that science is finding out very quickly that we ALL ARE IN FACT connected. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen gas and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.
There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years. This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness becomes coherent things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of one’s and zeroes. The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion.
Some people still think that Darwin said evolution was about competition, survival of the fittest. However, that’s just the part that got popularized by people who had a hidden agenda. The truth is he said compassion and cooperation is what is essential. This is truly what he was about.
Years ago, I was in a Biology class for school, at this time, I was convinced wetlands were unnecessary and it bothered me that we had all these little ponds all over the place. I believed that we were the only species and that we don’t need birds, fish, or bees. They were ok, but not essential and at times they were an annoyance to me. Then the teacher explains how if we lose algae, then we would lose fish. If we would lose fish, the whole food chain would go to hell, we all would die.
Every single thing you can see around you. The rocks, the birds, the trees all are comprised of the same atoms. Just expressed differently.
There is science out there that if bees were to go extinct, that humans would not last more than 10 years. This is debatable, however we would suffer greatly, that is for sure. Albert Einstein once said that humans would not last 5 years without bees. One third of our food needs to be pollinated. That is mostly done by bees. The scary part is, they are going extinct for many reasons, some is unknown, some is pollution, and some is due to the unnatural insecticides used by Monsanto. However, I am getting off topic, and that is a whole different story. Studies after studies after studies are proving we are all connected. Science is finally catching up to the truth, that what I do, affects the whole world, same as you.
Science has also proved we are all connected in other ways. Humans and chimps have 90 percent identical DNA. Humans and mice have 88 percent identical DNA. Humans and cows have 85 percent identical DNA. Humans and dogs have 84 percent identical DNA. Humans and Zebra Fish have 73 percent identical DNA. I could go on and on. My point is, we are all connected. We use our genes differently, express them differently. Science is figuring out what borderlines and great sages and philosophers have always said. We are all connected. So why is this a disorder again?
What we do is tell the people with this “disorder” we call BPD, who have always felt connected to everything and everybody. We tell them that they are too emotional. What we are doing is we are telling these people with a gift, the gift of the truth that they are crazy. There is a trick that I see, especially in the hospitals, someone comes in with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is very easy to look at the mood swings and say “it is a chemical issue.” We then diagnose them with Bipolar Disorder. Then what we can do is give them these “mood stabilizers” or these “antipsychotics,” and they will be sleeping and tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!!”
We didn’t cure them, what we have done is chemically restrained them and shut them up because they speak the truth.
Marsha Linehan said they are like 3rd degree burn victims, if you just walk by them you can hurt them. My biggest questions and concern is, why do we call that a disorder? They are the ones that know the truth and we don’t, we lie; we put a mask on them because we do not like what they have to say.
How Borderline personality disorder is developed is very simple. We are all born with an innate temperament which can be on one of many different levels. We can be born not very emotional, slightly emotional, or normal emotional, (whatever that is). Then there is highly emotional and extremely emotional. Once again, there are studies that prove this. They tested babies when they were first born and followed them. There were babies that cried more when their mothers would leave the room. When they were tickled by a feather they were much more affected by it. These babies grew up and continued to have the same innate temperament. It is something we are born with, like blue or brown eyes.
Temperament alone will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder. We all know emotional people, you know those people who we say “wow they took that harder than anyone else.” The pain that they feel is intense.
Imagine you are eating a pizza, and you feel it is luke warm. The guy you are eating it with thinks it is burning hot and it is burning his mouth. We don’t understand him , we do not get it, and we roll our eyes and we make jokes and tell him to settle down, “what is wrong with you,” we say. That is invalidation; we all do that from time to time to each other. That alone does that cause BPD.
Let’s pretend there is a boy named little Johnny and he is a very emotional person or one of these extreme emotional persons. He has this “weird” instinct and intuitiveness that makes it so he can feel everything around him and his environment. He is in a family that maybe is dysfunctional, or maybe is not. However, the family and his friends do not understand his emotions. Let’s say little Johnny has something he is very connected to because he just knows this is important and we don’t understand this. Then one day, he loses this toy and he is crying continuously and nonstop. What an invalidating environment does is forces him to stop. We tell him that it is not OK, we tell him to quit being a baby. What we are really saying to him in other words is to quit being yourself little Johnny. Johnny now feels like something is wrong with him and he is not OK. Now he looks to the external environment to tell him how to feel. He watches for cues on how to feel and how to act because he does not trust himself or his feelings. Congratulations to society, he now is wearing a mask. The intense feelings are still there, just because they are hidden, does not mean they are gone. In fact this makes it much worse. The emotions are building up over time. He can’t take it so he gambles, he drinks, he cuts, he overeats, he steals, or he becomes hyper sexual to mask the feelings. The behavior depends on what’s most acceptable to his certain environment. The next step is then the judgments come in about this behavior, the criticisms, and it’s usually from the ones that caused the behavior that are doing the most judging. The original shame about who he is, still is with him. Now he wakes up and he feels worse, he has more guilt and more shame. The intense emotions are worse now, so what does he do again? Well, first he fakes and fakes and fakes until he blows. What they call this in the books is “unrelenting crisis” what I call it is blaming the victim. We have it backwards; it is hard to see someone go through all this and especially when we do not understand. However, to say “it’s all attention seeking and drama,” is really making it much much worse.
Sometimes the only way anyone understands is if he attempts suicide. This may be the only time he gets reinforced by family. Still no one ever tells him he is OK. What we have done is told him that he has to be somebody else. Sometimes people with this so called “disorder,” you will see an unusual reaction to something that is happening. For instance, one day I was talking to a patient and said “Wow I heard your mother is dying.” Her face was blank, and she said “oh well.” I said “well if that happened to me I wouldn’t be ok.” Then she understood that it was okay to cry. She had to take cues, she was afraid to feel.
One invalidating moment will not cause Borderline Personality Disorder, it is repeatedly invalidating someone and telling them who they are is not OK is what causes it. We must remember that these are the people that understand life and connections. Instead of validating them, what we do is we drug them up until then they have no behavior, when really they have a gift. That’s where stigma comes in. Let’s shut them up. They don’t play pretend like the rest of us. They don’t play grown up very well. They just speak the truth so we get them drugged up and we put them in hospitals, and we call them names behind their backs. What we think of them is something which affects how we treat them. This, in turn, affects the reaction we get. We have made it so that they don’t think they are OK. What we have done is we have tricked them.
The truth is, we are not OK. Another thing we are told is that this is the toughest mental health diagnosis to work with. I was told this before I knew what it was. It would frighten me. The behavior frightened me. When I first started about 20 years ago and I was training in, I was told this was all attention seeking behavior and manipulative. I watched the elder staff roll their eyes so then I started doing it. I thought it was fake and I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to have to dig deep.
Then it was explained to me this is a trauma disorder. 100% of people with this disorder have suffered trauma. The statistics say 70%, I do not believe that for one second, I am convinced it is 100%. What is a trauma is different to each person. What is a trauma to me may not be a trauma to you. If you are on the top of a ladder when you fall down, it is a lot more painful to fall than if you were only on the first step . I believe that they have powers and they are locked in darkness, like a genie in a bottle.
I am NOT saying this is easy to deal with. I have had relationships with many of them and it is difficult to understand. They are not bad, they have a gift. They know your emotions instinctively and they sense and feel things that we can’t feel. They know how to make people happy, they can read your soul.
In a way they are lucky, and in a way they are not. The way they are not is the way that our society treats them and tells them that it’s not okay.
Back to the story I started with. This patient was crying with her head in her hands and trembling in fear while her husband was about to take her life away because she was sick. How is this justice? I said “what do you need to change Sammy?” and she said “I don’t know.” I said for the second time “there is nothing wrong with you.”
I didn’t save her life. A few months later, she killed herself.
However, for that one day she felt she was ok. I know this because she was brighter, and happier. She looked better. She felt ok. That is all we can do is embrace every moment with each other and make it the best moment possible. In that room, for that day, she felt ok for once in her life. She got better and was discharged in a week.
So to all you Sammy’s out there, and all the Sammy’s I will meet in the future. My message is you are ok, we are not. She didn’t kill herself, Stigma killed her. This is the same thing that killed Robin Williams. He will get enough attention, the Sammy’s of the world will not.
We will never change the problems of the world until we start embracing diversity and gifts. We have these intuitive, special people and they are invalidated and abused. We continue to abuse and punish them. We need to stop punishing them. I agree, yes , the behaviors are tough. But there is truth in their behavior. There is a truth that sometimes we do not want to deal with.
We have to simply change or reframe the way we see things. See beyond the mask. To do this, sometimes we have to forget all the knowledge we think we have.
We had one Borderline Personality patient who was 23 and could not comb her hair. The staff said “I’m not giving her a comb she doesn’t know how to comb her hair.” I said “how about we reframe that and say, she is 23 and she doesn’t know how to comb her hair, why has no one ever taught this girl how to comb her hair that must have been a rough time growing up. Then let’s look into why?”
In this case, when she was nine years old, she was taking care of her six year old brother on a vent. He died and she was blamed. Her mother was a meth addict. So we see her scream , we see her shout and she would bite and attack staff and patients. She would bang on the desk and yell and not be able to comb her hair.
What we don’t see, is we don’t see past her mask. We cannot see that her behaviors are telling us there is something wrong here. Maybe it’s time we stop drugging them up and start listening.
Sammy, there was nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with us.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”
Here we are one day in a meeting talking about patients. What I hear is “she just pops them out and then we end up paying for them.” What they are referring to is this patients 7 children that she has. The staff are upset that she contiues to have children.We are talking about a patient with severe chemical dependency issues. She is at the hospital and committed as mentally ill for stabbing herself so badly that she needed surgery. A huge hole was in her abdomen which was caused by stabbing herself over and over and over and over again. The talk from many members of the team responsible for her care is, “she did this to get drugs.”We now have deicded that this is a “behavior.”
This is one of those things I’m going to say is correct on its face. That’s not the problem. The problem is our perception. Yes she did it to get drugs, that is correct. The issue is we look at it like she did it on purpose. The people that are there to care for a patient that has stabbed herself in the stomach enough to almost die and is committed at a state hospital, they think it is a “choice,” and that these are “behaviors.” She just gets up one day and “decided” to leave her kids. People do not choose to stab themselves for drugs because they are bad people, they do not leave their kids because they would rather do drugs. The fact that this is still a debate to the public upsets me. It is not a debate in the medical or scientific community. It is the publics perception, based on lies. Very much the same as Mental Illness.
I was listening to this case the other day and it reminded me of one of the first times I was able to see behind someones mask and how it changed my life.
It is a hard thing to talk about, especially since many people with mental health issues have grown up in homes in which substance abuse is the norm. When I talk about this I run the risk of people thinking I am defending the actions of the people in their lives that have hurt them. That is not the case. The problem with this illness is it affects the people around you so much and can have devastating affects. If there was not stigma, and people were accepted and not crtiticized for asking for help, then maybe we would see the problem and the cyle start to disappear.
What I hope to do is show that this is not a moral issue, a bad person issue, this is a disease that we deny as a disease and until we start to look at this properly, we will continue to make the problem worse.If what we have been doing the last 100 years with addicts and mentally ill was effective, then we wouldn’t need to change. However,the results are that it is getting worse, not better. So I would say changing our approach is neccessary. We can start looking at out treatment of this population instead of pointing the finger at “them.” This is all of us, we are all co-responsible.
Now for the first real case of seeing beyond someone’s mask, that changed my life. I didn’t do it, I watched someone else do it. My world changed forever. I guess it was my first lesson in how to look past behavior, and see beyond a persons mask.
I’m going to read what you may see in this woman’s record if you are a doctor or nurse or social worker, these are the facts of the case. (Perceived facts,) of this patient that just came into your office or hospital or group home or whatever. But this is what a judge will see as well when making important determinations about this persons life. When reviewing this womans case this is what they see and read.
This is a woman who had her 8 children taken from her, for neglect and abandonment. 2 of them were over 16, one went to group home. So technically 6 for accuracy. The children were abused physically and emotionally. They were also neglected, and tormented.
She would force them to kneel down and pray as they cried and she would make them swear she was not drunk. She was drunk and would threaten to beat them if they told the truth. She would call them awful names. One of the children fell on a beer bottle at age 2 years old and split her foot wide open. She said it was just a cut and to get over it. Then the 14 year old girl had to drive the 2 year old child to the hospital to get stitched and surgery at one point. There was another time that she fell on a one of the children and all the other kids had to all get together and pick her up so he didn’t suffocate.
They didn’t have much food, the oldest girl cooked ramen noodles outside in freezing temperature, she would grill them, and that was all they had to eat. They did not go to school often, and when they did, they had the same clothes on and were teased and ridiculed. No one said anything. The oldest girl in the family, she was the caretaker of the much younger siblings. She was called names like 4 eyed baboon and Russian half-wit (I don’t know what that means.)
Where and who was the father? Well he was a doctor actually, a hero to the community. Behind closed doors be hit and abused this drunk lady. One time he had drug her across the room with a belt while she was pregnant and she had a miscarriage, the children saw this type of abuse daily. The oldest girl buried the fetus in the backyard. This was not the only time this happened. The good doctor was not such a good guy sometimes. However the chart says little about him. So there is really no way for me to tell. However, there are many reports of physical fights seen by the children.
The father then died of a heart attack at age 40. At this time, the oldest girl was about 12 or 13; Leaving the kids with the drunken mother. She had a great inheritance that was blown on alcohol the chart says. Most of the children were under 10 years old. There were 3 of them that were not. They are the ones that saw most of this firsthand.
Eventually, the money was wasted; the kids were all taken away. She would call and harass the Foster parents, but she never would show up to see kids and she never really knew them. The oldest son moved out, he moved in with his girlfriend. The other son went into a group home, then to jail for stealing cars, and then he moved in with his girlfriend and got married young.
The oldest daughter, the one that buried the fetuses, took the kids to hospital, and the one that cooked the ramen noodles, she always kept going back. She kept coming back to this woman who was this “monster” to everyone else and she kept receiving the most abuse. She had a choice, and she chose to always believe in this drunk, she saw something in this drunk that others couldn’t see; she was old enough to make her own decisions. So she spent her life trying to care for this “drunk,” and to save her in some way. She even blamed herself when she eventually left. She felt that is why the other children were taken away. We all know that is not true, but in her reality it was true, causing even more psycholgical distress and torment.
The drunken lady kept abusing and calling this oldest daughter awful names and was awful to her. She did psychological damage to this young lady who only wanted to be loved. This little girl could not figure out why her mother hated her. She thought something was wrong with her. The things the kids in this family went through were nothing anyone should ever have to go through. I’m only cracking the surface and I don’t think I need to go into more details.
So you read this stuff, and you are thinking what the hell?, how am I supposed to be compassionate towards the drunk? She did all this terrible stuff and I am supposed to embrace her? It was her choice to do all this damage! She is the one hurting everyone. She is the evil one, the bad one, correct? Much like we think of those with mental health issues. They are no good and need to just get over it.
Well, it’s easy to be compassionate towards the Doctor, and the kids. That’s easy to do and they have plenty of people to do that. When you look down on the drunk and criticize, you are only making the problem worse. When you sit on your throne and decide who is good and evil, you are capable of doing great evil, without even thinking of it as evil. That is a very dangerous place to be in for any of us. We feel superior talking like that. However, if you really want to change the world, then the way to do that is to be compassionate towards the drunk. It may be hard, but if not you, who? If not now, when?
These are the people that need it the most, it may be hard. I think impossible for some. That is ok and it does not make you a worse or better person. It is actually a very brave thing to say, “I can not help this person, it bothers me to much.” Then the key is to walk away and find someone who can. However, if you use this inability to care for the person to attack and belittle them and blame them, then you are creating more issues. Sometimes you can give all the compassion you have but the person is gone or not ready. Sometimes they are never ready. But we have to still try if we want to change the world. This is the spot where it is done. It is done in the gutters, where no one wants to go. The world is not changed on the green grass with the sun shining. You have to go to the gutter or the perceived gutter. You usually will never get a thank you, but that’s not why anyone should do this. Never do it for rewards, because with poor intentions, you will fail.
I’m going to finish this ladies story but I want to give some facts first about this disease.
Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease. There is no argument in the medical community, or in the science communities, there is no one that even debates it, the evidence is overwhelming. The only ones debating it are those that are in the public and don’t have the information or are restating things they have heard others say. There is a time that it is a choice, just like it is a choice to eat a cheeseburger if you have just had a heart attack. The people I am talking about, it is long past that point. If some of this next stuff you already know, I am sorry, but I am trying to prove my point.
This little story is told by PVD, one of the men who saved my life. I cant tell it like him, but here is my best effort.
Imagine a 13 year old girl a boy and the boy wants to ask her out. All his friends leave the scene, she is all alone. He is thinking to himself “here is my shot; I’m going to go ask her out.” He looks in the mirror, adjusts his hair. He is sweating and his nerves are killing him. He slowly walks over to her. She is sitting there with her pink notebook and pen; it’s a spiral one with one of those flowers on the end of it. He slowly walks up to her and says, “Umm did you hear about the dance coming up this Friday.” She twirls her hair, and looks down and says “ya.” He is getting more nervous and scared, but he’s in it now, no going back. He says with his voice trembling, “Umm do you think you may want to go with me.” She looks at him, then she looks down. She says, “I don’t know, maybe.” Then as he sweats this out, he says, “well can I call you?” She looks around, twirls her hair, then she grabs the pen with the flower and opens up her pink notebook starts scribbling on it and hands him her number and says “sure.” He walks away, goes into the bathroom and screams “YEAH YEAH YEAH.”
Now same exact story, same thing happening. This time, before he asks her out he goes into the bathroom and smokes a joint or takes a shot. Still goes up to her and asks her out and gets her number. The difference here is that he never learned how to deal with the emotion of stress, anxiety, fear. He never really risked being rejected. What has happened is that he never really put himself out there. So next time that these emotions come up, what will he do? Same thing as he always does when these tough emotions come up, drink, use or whatever it was. The reason why is because he got a positive outcome, so that is how it starts. Then the mask has begun.
That alone will not cause addiction; it is repeated use and repeated positive outcomes. Then eventually you start to organize your life around it. There is a genetic component and an environmental component. You can have the gene and never get it. You can have the environment and never get it. It all depends on all these factors coming together. Still you don’t have an addict.
What happens when you drink, is you have a surge of dopamine, the chemical that makes us happy. So let’s say you put a quarter in the gumball machine and get 10 dollars in quarters out of it plus a gumball. That’s a greater than expected reward so you get a dopamine surge, and your brain is told to remember this because it is good. Our brain is taught to remember things that feel good for survival, like remembering how good a piece of cake is. It has to feel good so we keep doing it so we keep eating and we stay alive. That’s what it is supposed to do. Addict’s brains handle dopamine differently and break it down differently.
There were studies in Sweden of twins of alcoholic parents. One was raised in a good “normal” non-drug using home, and the other was raised in the same “dysfunctional” home. What do you think the rates of alcoholism were? They were the same, about 48% of the time they both became alcoholics when the general population was about 2%. How is that possible if it is not a disease?
Now as an addict, you have low dopamine, then you drink or use and you get this surge and your brain says wow!! Remember this and you get high as ever and feel better than ever. Then the next morning, it crashes, you have none. Your brain thinks it had a surplus of dopamine so it stops producing as much. Plus you now have guilt from the text or phone call you made, or the money you spent. More things you don’t want to feel so you then drink again to get that dopamine. It surges, but not as high, never as much, when it crashes it crashes more. So eventually you have to drink in order to feel normal. When you do not drink, you do not enjoy life. You need it to even play with your kids, it’s the only way you can feel normal.
Now you have 2 parts of your brain involved. These two parts are the Pre fontal cortex and mid brain. Pre frontal cortex is the part of your brain that does all the planning and organizing your day and everyday life. Most addicts are bored with everyday life, it’s pointless. So they drink and they can feel ok and be ok with normally boring things. However, the mid brain supercedes the pre frontal cortex always. That is the part of the brain for survival. That would be like if a tiger came into your bedroom and ran at you, you would say “screw the plans were getting the fuck out of here!” The midbrain is about survival, fight or flight. Eventually you have in addiction where it crosses that barrier, now you think you need to drink in order to survive. Your brain believes you need this substance or you will die. That is an addict, or a cutter, or overeater, or whatever. It started to mask the pain or run away, however now it has become essential to survive. Remember this when thinking about an addict. Their brain thinks that they need the substance to live. It is like being starving and not being able to have food. That is why you see the behaviors such as the willing to throw everything away and aside for the substance. What they are going through can best be described as torture. That gets better, but yelling at them to get over it is really not the best approach when someone is being tortured.
I also hear people say that no one ever gets better and that people with mental illness and addiction are non-compliant so what is the point. This again is that stigma that I see, because this is simply not true. When someone is first diagnosed with Asthma or Diabetes, the rate that they “relapse” is actually higher in the first year and on average they have more trips back to the ER that first year. People with cholesterol problems, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma, are actually statistically more non-compliant with treatment than addicts and people with mental health issues.
The 10% that recover is not an accurate number either. This is brand new, the new science and treatment approaches. We are still trying to convince people to stop locking up mentally ill and addicted people and treat them like human beings. This 10% recovery rate comes from when we were not treating people as humans and did not have all this new information. Also we don’t consider someone who has a heart condition a “relapse” and we do not shame them for slipping up and having that cheeseburger. The problem is the way we react to people who are going through torture.
Now I want to go back to this drunken lady. What you will NOT read in her chart is that when she was 7 years old, she was babysitting her 5 year old brother. He was run over by a truck and killed. At age 7, the age in which you are gaining self-esteem from the external world. You listen to what the teachers, the parents, and all the older people say. You trust them completely. Whatever is said, you take it as truth and store it in your files. The brain cannot tell what is true and what is not. So she is a killer, irresponsible, and a bad person. That is in her head. She believes this to be true. What else happened to her was that her mother died of pancreatic cancer, which is very likely from alcoholism. She was 16 when her mother died. Her father was a reported alcoholic. The reports were he was “not nice.” Now, in my time in this field this is a phrase I hear often and usually underneath it is the worst kind of abuse. When the patient says something like “he was mean, “or “not nice,” and won’t talk about it, that usually means they are too scared to even talk about it. It’s scary to me when I hear that.
So what you don’t see in the profile is the abusive father, the alcoholic parents, and the death she was “responsible,” for. Can you imagine what that life entailed? We are usually too busy looking at the behavior and not behind the mask.
Then everyone saw the great doctor, but they didn’t see her get beaten and miscarry over and over. Back in the day you didn’t talk about this stuff, she buried it, found alcohol and crossed the barrier. Then people calling her a monster and a scumbag and looking down in her for “choosing” alcohol over her kids when inside she hated herself. Anyone that attempted to get closer she chased them away, like the oldest daughter who kept coming back. Because she believed herself to be a monster and a terrible human being, all the time she was going through an internal torture and hiding behind this mask. This girl was suffering from a trauma at age 9 that she never understood. However when it gets put in your head you are wicked, you trust that. Can you imagine a 10 year old girl going to dance class and getting all excited to go to school. Then imagine this girl at 10, traumatized beyond belief, never dealing with the confusion and pain then believing it was her, and the shame and guilt she carried. She also was one who was extra sensitive by nature. Why do we think that she deserves this and chose this? This was the first case I really saw the mask formed.
We like to say people get better, and when things get lost, that people go and find them. That there is this “Lost and Found,” and eventually someone comes in and finds them, and helps them find their true selves. That’s not the case, most addicts and mentally ill suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are lost, but rarely found. So my continual challenge and message is to go find someone, and bring them back to life. Help them kill their false selves.
This story is one that is a too familiar story you will find in mental health and addiction. We see the behavior, but not what’s behind it, and then we treat them like a monster. The sad part is that what is in our head creates how we treat the person, then that creates their reaction to us. If you treat a patient or a person by their “chart” and chart can be a literal chart or it can be our snapshot of someone. If we continue to use this as our guide, then I’m afraid no one will ever get better until we can look beyond the mask.
I remember at this woman’s funeral her kids, all adults by now, came in from out of town. I did nothing but watch. They had not been around for years, and I listened as they talked about how she was going to burn in hell, I could just sense the anger in the room as they talked. I was astounded because they never even knew her. They all had gone to foster homes and done well. It must have been hard what they went through, but all that anger. It has to be hard holding onto that.
The oldest daughter, well she was the only one always around while the drunk lady drunk herself to death. This woman continued to care for her mother as she grew old and near death. No one understood why she kept coming back, what was wrong with her, was this daughter of hers weak and pathetic? Also, the second oldest son, he always gave back love and contributed financially to her. This was not understood as well, but they kept doing it. Isn’t this weak and pathertic?
No. This daughter of hers as I watched was the strongest person I had ever seen. Not the kind of strength you see with muscles and the way you think of power. It was different, it was with this love that could not, and would not, be broken. She didn’t listen to what people said. I watched this woman and the love she had for this “monster” and it was life altering every day. Every day people expected her to stop coming around to help, but she didn’t. Not once. She saw what others couldn’t see. If you’ve ever seen true power, I’m certain that this is what it looks like. It is an inner strength that cannot be defeated by any army and I was amazed as I watched this woman.
Did she ever get the “I love you and I’m sorry,” from the mother? No she did not. That’s the disease, the shame. No storybook ending here. She died, they never said goodbye. However I know this, for this old drunk lady, what she got was she finally believed she was worth it. This woman, the oldest daughter changed the storyline and this old drunk felt loved the last few years of her life. The daughter didn’t see it, but I did, I saw it in the drunk ladies eyes. For the first time in her life, she knew someone loved her, and that made her think that maybe she was ok. What an enormous gift the daughter gave her and as I watched it unfold, it changed me forever.
I saw the in this drunk ladies eyes as I spent more time watching this relationship. I think the oldest daughter was right.
The reason I say that after time I came to the conclusion that this oldest daughter was right is because the drunk lady was my grandmother.
When I was 9 I wanted a football, I had to have it, I was impulsive and I NEEDED IT. My grandmother was this drunk that everyone hated and was awful and this “monster.”
My grandma saw I needed it, she went sober that day for the first time in 50 years because she gave me her only 7 dollars for that football. It lasted 4 years, the football, not the sobriety.
That was my grandma, the oldest daughter was my mother. I’d like to say she stayed sober, but she didn’t. She died when I was 11 from what most alcoholics die from. I believe it is a disease of the broken hearted. However, my mother made her feel ok, and loved, and it got passed on to me. I will not let it go grandma, I am going to keep passing it on.
Grandma I love you. Mom you’re my hero.
“You see the giant and the shepherd in the valley and Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with the sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we can ever imagine.”
I survived a suicide attempt, spent years in rehab centers, jails, psych hospitals. Now I have worked as a supervisor at these type of facilities.
However my friend, he did not. This is what suicide looks like. This is him after hanging himself, right before he died.
The difference is nothing. He grew up in a dysfunctional home, where the norm was drug use, and physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. They didn’t have money, we did. He went to jail, he stayed. I went to jail, I got bailed out. I got to go to treatment, he got to stay in jail. My crimes were worse. My crimes were DUI, assault, assault, disorderly. His crimes; possesion, possession,possesion. You tell me who should have stayed. The only difference was money.
When he did go to the M.D., he didn’t get to pick which one he went to, he went to whomever they told him to. The doctors, knowing this, did not have to negotiate anything with him such as what meds he liked and didn’t. When I went, I got to decide which doctor to go to, so they had to listen to me or I could go elsewhere. My mom had money and resources, his didn’t.
Some will say, he had a brother that grew up in the same home and did fine. That’s where the studies of innate temperament come in. We are all born with an innate tempermant. Low emotional reaction to things, normal, high, and extreme. The studies are numerous, and they all prove the same thing. Some people are more in tune with others emotions, and are more sensitive. This is not to say every emotional person is going to have issues. It is the combination of being super emotional and not getting any support on a routine basis that creates the mask. That is the cause of addiction and mental illness. We all know people who we think are more emotional and we are thinking “wow he really gets emotional,” and about things that we don’t think even matters. But the severe cases, the super sensitive people, they get hurt more easy, get scared, then if they get invalidated their whole life and told to be quiet or are ignored routinely, they have to create a mask that gains some sort of acceptance or some role in life that gains you love.
Then the labeling and judging for behaviors that the mask does only creates more shame. Its sad, we tell people to wear this mask, then judge them when the mask goes to far. So yes, it happens all the time that 2 people from same family have different reactions to environment. That’s because we all have different genetics.
He didn’t have a car to go to places when he had time, he had to go when he could get his ride. He had no options, no support. If he didn’t show up, no one would believe him as he is the “criminal,” and I was the “patient.” Again, no difference except money.
He was the most sensitive, caring, loving person you could meet. However, that wasn’t acceptable by our culture or his culture. So he became the angry drug addict. That’s more acceptable. So he had his mask. While wearing the mask, his true self hides and he gets more depressed. This leads to more drug use, more crimes, more erratic behavior.
Why drug use? It’s something that blocks all the pain for a moment. It could be anything, drug use was acceptable in his world, more acceptable than the other forms. Other forms can be overeating , gambling, sex, anger, co dependency. It depends on what mask is acceptable to your culture. They are all of the same purpose, to run from your true self and emotions. Then, it gives us relief, so we think that is what helped. We have a surge of dopamine. So of course we go back to that thing again thinking it is relieving pain but in fact it is adding to it. Then we become so dependent on the behavior to relieve us from the pain, that we start doing it at the cost of anything. We do things we wouldn’t normally do to get the relief. Then others judge those behaviors, telling us more and more that who we are is a bad person. The layers of the mask get to be more and more, we despise ourselves we think. But who we truly despise is the false self we have created and society has helped us create.
So yes, kill yourself. But not literally, kill your false self. Thats how you heal.
No one reached out, no one talked to him, or even knew how. Instead they saw the criminal, and the anger and they judged. This just added more shame and guilt and more layers of the mask.
I remember one birthday, I stopped by and gave him 50 dollars. He said “you are the only one who even remembered.” So we got mushrooms and got hi all week.
Whenever he had even 2 dollars, it went to other people. He was the kindest, most gentle, loving person you could ever meet.
He let me see behind his mask, because I let him see behind mine.
No one one in the field ever thought “hey this is a genuinely caring kid who has never gotten a chance to show himself and been accepted.”
Instead they saw him as the angry man, drug addict, and the continuous offender. Once he is labeled, everything he does is attached to that label. It goes in his chart, and everyone reads it before they meet him. He’s the bad guy to them, which affects how they treated him. That affected his reaction, then they could say, “see, he just was not reachable.” When in fact I had done much worse, and I got to be a patient. “That poor sensitive kid needs someone to just love him.” That’s how I got treated.
The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated; however there is no way to measure this because the asshole providers will deny what they do, but I see it everyday.
The problem is, in this field, if you start to spend time with the patients and try to reach out, you get in trouble for having poor boundaries. So, you are told basically “don’t get to know them, however, get them to trust you and open up without ever really becoming close to them.” These patients have usually been in terrible situations, and they do not trust anyone and the staff is told “stay away, watch boundaries, but get them to tell you everything.” That’s why people do not get better, thats why people don’t learn.
The saying I love is “you can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough.”
It doesn’t matter how much you know if no one trusts you to begin with and you have no relationship with the patients. Yet, if you are good at building relationships you are scolded as a staff. We get sued for over restraining people, but thats the culture. People don’t get better, they do enough to get out.
Like grades in school, no one is an original thinker. We are robots trying to take original people and make them robots like us. The kids that do well in school are not free thinkers , they are the ones that can repeat and paraphrase what the teacher wants. I heard 2 masters degree professors the other day say they asked their students what they think, the students didn’t know what to say. They asked “what do you want us to say.” That’s how we teach.
They are monkeys. In Psychiatry, the poor staff want to create monkeys and they think deep down in their hearts that this is for the best, is for everyone to be like them, so that’s what they reinforce. So no one gets better and no one ever will. Until we change the rules and the system completely.
Then there was me. I was the one he had. He would call we would talk for hours and hours. When he was in Arizona, or St Paul, it didn’t matter. He always called when he was in trouble, we were in it together. Although I got better treatment, he was the better man.
He was a boxer, loved it. We would box, he destroyed me. I watched him brag like I did, but he also had true humility when it mattered. He was a much better man than most people ever will be.
Then one time, he was in jail and he had no where to go. So he called as usual. He came to live with me for a while. I was far along in my recovery already. I remember Jenny making him spaghetti and him eating it like he hadn’t eaten in months. He said “this is the best food I’ve ever had.” I had become so selfish that it was nothing to me to even eat like that. It was just spaghetti, but to him, it was heaven. It shouldn’t be like that. I was no better than him, in fact I was less than him. Yet I got to experience this daily while he suffered, where is the justice in that?
Then the old friends of his started to come around. We had a 10 year old, I was recovering and going to school. We told him after some warnings, that “hey you can’t stay here anymore with all these people coming around my daughter, its too scary to come home seeing her sitting on couch with these guys.”
He said “I can’t control them,” he warned them and asked them to wait until he is home. They just come. Which was true, he just had a following. He was a truly good person and once he let you in, you loved it.
He had a son, Anthony, he was a little guy but was as fierce as his dad, you could see that. Joe and Anthony would box, fake of course. But you could see the love and it was special. He would come around, we would all go on walks. Joe would say “I love you buddy” all the time and kiss anthony. I never saw a man kiss his little boy before, but that was cool. I make sure I do that with my 3 year old son now. He loved Anthony so much, it was soo clear. Joe was a great man.
Anthony didn’t see the label of “drug addict, bi polar, criminal.” That’s the mask Joe had to wear. Anthony was a kid, kids are genius that way. They don’t see labels and masks. Anthony saw Joe as I saw him, an angel. A kind, beautiful human with some severe pain and couldn’t do anything about it. I loved watching them together, because I knew the feeling.
Then, I get a call that joe is dead. He hung himself. He didnt call me this time. I had kicked him out. The guilt is terrible. When people ask why I fight for patients so hard, this is one of the main reasons. Just building that trust is important. Im sorry joe, and god do I miss you. Again, the wrong one got treatment, and the wrong one is dead. I am no better, in fact I’m much worse than him. What else can I do, but preach love. I have to do something. I love you Joe.
“The hero, it might be said, is called into being when perception of a need and the recognition of responsibility toward it are backed up by the will to act.” – Mike Alsford
Twelve-Years-Old; Here I am screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing anything within eyesight. Filled with rage, I only hear the echoes of laughter from my amused audience of family members and a handful of neighborhood kids. It was a show to them, their entertainment for the evening, all while I am crying inside.
“He can not hurt you,” they cackled to each other.
Then the yelling and screaming turned to tears. That was the real pain, I was a hurt and confused teenager and expressing it the only way I knew; with anger and rage. More chatter and laughter from the enthralled crowd intensified my inner torture. While this was outwardly conveyed with more violence and destruction, I am slowly dying on the inside, scared, and lost.
I grabbed a baseball bat. It stopped being funny.
One person in that room saved me from killing myself, or perhaps others in that room. I’ll share exactly how this all transpired at the end of this article.
First, I want to tell you about the story of two boys. The story begins when they are around 7-8 years old. We will call them “Boy A” and “Boy B,” for simplicity.
“Boy A” awakes in the middle of the night with typical late-night hunger and heads to the kitchen to make a sandwich and accidentally cuts his finger on the knife. Scared, he rushes into his father’s room to cry and tell him something is wrong. The father responds by hitting him and telling him that he is, “too fat anyway,” followed by a couple more smacks to the face.
In childhood, we are trying to figure out if the world is safe or unsafe and it is our primary caregivers that give us this message. The message being received is, “you are a bad person, you are overweight, don’t come to me with your problems.” As these regular beatings continue, the neurological pathways are put into place in the developing brain reaffirming his perception of himself and the world. He fears the world, he is not allowed to cry or show emotions, and express how he feels. Everything is stored deep within his subconscious, but he has been trained that it is not OK to be himself.
His mask has been created.
Now, there is “Boy B,” at age 7-8 his father comes home and tosses around the football with him. He teaches him about football as well as life lessons associated with the game; such as being a part of a team, work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, fighting through pain, perseverance, and commitment. His mother offers warmth, kindness, compassion, along with unconditional love and support.
Encouraged to do well in school, treat others with respect, and do the right thing, “Boy B” receives positive reinforcement. He trusts the world, believes in himself, and his life is filled with meaning, purpose, and hope.
Back to “Boy A,” his father decides to get re-married and his new wife wants to start a family of her own. To her, “Boy A” is a reminder of this man’s past life and interrupts with her vision of a happy family. She takes it out on him by abusing him with electrical cords and whipping him with curling irons.
The same message comes around again, “I am a bad person, a jerk, and I am no good. I am getting in the way again.”
Already engrained in his mind and belief system, the same thing comes up again and only deepens his self-perception. During adolescents is when our personality is created as these neurological pathways are created, strengthened, or dropped altogether based on experiences and reactions. The teenager also acts first on emotion rather than on analytical thinking or rationale (due to the natural evolution of the brain) which naturally means more “acting out.” When “Boy A” acts out, everyone’s perception of he being a bad person or jerk is vindicated. Including his own perception of himself.
At the same time, “Boy B” is excelling in school while his parents are putting in extra time communicating with teachers and coaches to ensure their son is growing from child to an adult. The teachers see that they are involved and care about their son, and in turn, spend additional time with their child making sure he is successful. He is applauded for his extra efforts, given awards, and is generally liked by most people. He is free to explore the world on his own, views the world as a safe place, and optimistic about the future. Whenever he is in need, his family is there for him for any advice, assistance, or general support.
And, “Boy B” happens to be naturally gifted in athletics. Along with his revered genetics, he has been raised to work hard, study, and strive for greatness. As he gets older, he begins to receive specialized instruction from the finest coaches around the country. And while he has a burning passion for football and for success, if all fails in college he still has a loving family and community that will forever be supportive.
“Boy A” is now growing up with the negative labels connected to his name and any good act is ignored. Like the Hell’s Angles motto, “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets.” Only seeking acceptance he acts goofy, outrageous, and spontaneous. This is the only thing that gets attention, and any type of attention is good for him. A beating is better than nothing at all.
He misses school and gets in different kinds of trouble. As the struggles progress, he becomes more scared, hurt, and alone with nowhere to turn. His father’s disgust for him hasn’t faded, if anything, has intensified. His father destroys gifts the child receives from his biological mother, not allowed to see his mother and is beaten and left outside the house all day on a nearly daily basis.
In school, he has no support. He is in fights, disrupting class, failing grades and the teachers only see a lost cause. Still seeking acceptance, he willingly puts on any mask for approval – the clown, rebel, etc. Anything that grants him the love that every person deserves, the love that he was cheated out of during his childhood.
Looking at the two stories of “Boy A” and “Boy B,” as adults they are souls from two different worlds. People who have been through abuse are living an entirely different reality, how are they supposed to just wake up one day and “just get it?”
This is why we need to look behind the mask.
The adult survivor of child abuse has altered brain chemistry. Early childhood development begins with the primitive structures of the brain known as the limbic system. This deals with emotional learning and survival. Our body has a natural hormone, Cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone” as it is released to help our body regulate stress. In childhood abuse, the system becomes altered as the child is under chronic stress which constantly sends cortisol throughout the brain and body. At this time, the brain is rapidly developing and the child is dependent on their caregiver for protection – which has significant long-term impacts on these primitive systems. And then as he ages into adolescence and young adulthood, these constant reminders that he is a “bad person” strengthens these already disrupted pathways.
Back to the stories, “Boy B” has graduated high school with honors, receives a football scholarship and has support from friends, family, and his community. He is well-prepared with education, specialized training, financially, and ongoing support and guidance. He succeeds again at the highest level of college football and is dubbed a “real life superhero!” He is strong, athletic, intelligent, handsome, and he pretty good at throwing a football and has a real possibility of becoming a professional athlete.
We call professional athletes, “real life superheroes.” I see it on a daily basis. In fact, just the other night Don Cheadle’s exact words on the Thursday Night Football telecast were, “these guys are real life superheroes.”
Then I watch my son put on his power rangers costume and he hits and punches. From day one we are told there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” We teach them that it is OK for the “good guy” superheroes to punch bad guys. We think it is cute. To me, it has been disturbing to see him enamored with these shows and then fired up to “get the bad guys and punch them.”
So I can bash the system which does no good or I can try to focus on the future. Which is what I am trying to do is to teach him about real life superheroes.
Back to “Boy A.” He escapes the abuse by finding a job and secretly saving money. Once he has enough he drives four hours to his Aunt’s house, which happens to be my home as well. He is confused, lost, lacks acceptance or any belief in himself. He has had a “bad guy” mask tattooed on his skull and has grown to believe that it is true.
Our house is crowded with five children, extended family, neighborhood kids, along with a number of chaotic pets. In the basement lives a 13-year-old child that is incredibly shy, but also remarkably intelligent. This is my older brother, he has basically withdrawn from the world at this point and is also scared and lost.
Then there is a 12-year-old boy who is angry, acting out, constantly in serious trouble, and recently expelled from school – this is me. Then there was another boy, much younger, and painfully terrified of the world, but also very loving – this is my younger brother.
And, now enters “Boy A” into this home. It is a frightening situation to the outsiders in fear that he is going to destroy this home and these kids. They don’t need a “Boy A,” they need a “Boy B.” A Super Hero!
Meanwhile, “Boy B” is excelling in the classroom and setting records on the football field. His fun-loving, down-to-earth, good-humored personality makes him loved my just about anyone who encounters him. He is a good man with true humility. He is not a bad person, we do not get to choose our family and whether or not we receive love and affection – he should not be hated for that. He is an amazing man and is an exceptional role model.
Right now, his biggest concern is where is he going to fall in the NFL Draft? What kind of offense do they run? Will he be able to start right away? Again, to him, these are true worries that create anxiety. It is not his fault, it is just his reality. But in terms of real-life trauma, trials and tribulations, tests of strength, willpower, or character are not likely as significant or battle-tested as “Boy A.”
“Boy B,” could be one of many quarterbacks we see each Sunday, such as Peyton Manning. Great man, good heart, hard-working, and humble. One of the best in the world in the history of his given profession – NFL Quarterback. He is often labeled, “A Hero.” In fact, quite frequently.
In researching a few different studies over the years, athletes and celebrities usually top the list of people we consider “heroes.” Currently, LeBron James tops the lists of a survey of 2,500 people age 16-35. From everything that I have read, seen, and heard, LeBron James seems like a wonderful person with an inspirational story. But a hero?
So, who is “Boy A?” This is my cousin, known to me as Little Jon, although his birth certificate reads Jon Kosiak. He enters this home, goes downstairs to the withdrawn teenager and shows him love and acceptance. He authentically cares about him, spends time with him, listens to his thoughts and interests, and gives him genuine love. He brings him out of his withdrawn sense, talks to him openly and honestly about things, and takes interest in his life. He teaches him not to be afraid of anything and befriends the kid who had all but given up on the world.
By the end of the four years that “Boy A” lived in our home, the withdrawn child is now brave and strong. He goes on to earn a master’s degree, has a family with three children and living an excellent life. He is smart, a good man, and an amazing father. At a moment in his life when he was in greatest need, Little Jon was able to recognize that and willing to act upon it. Not because he felt obliged to do so, but because he wanted to do so. And not because it was difficult, but because it was natural. Little Jon showed him not to fear the world, to love himself, and rise above.
And the younger, scared child is no longer scared. He ends up excelling at sports, receiving scholarships, and now works as a counselor. This is my younger brother. He has been transformed from a terrified child to a fearless leader. He is strong and smart, and at a time in which he needed to toughen up and face the world – Little Jon saw the perceived need, recognized it, and was willing to act.
“Boy B”, Peyton Manning, well he went on to the NFL and is called a “superhero.” He is idolized, loved, adored, and celebrated by people around the globe. He is a great man, with a unique sense of humor, oh and he can throw a football pretty well. But superhero? No.
However, I believe that Little Jon does fit that label. He spent four years in our home and molded us into better people. He was our hero.
And as for myself, well I was the angry little boy. My tendency was to smash things, threaten people, destroy property, and sabotage the entire house. People would either bail or they gave in to my demands in efforts to eradicate my behavior. But, I never was really angry. Anger is just a secondary emotion disguised as many different things – for me, I was sad, lost, and scared. It is an emotional response to an injustice (either perceived or real). That is the response, the rage is the reaction to the response. So the final product may be taking a baseball bat to a mirror, but deep down I felt an injustice creating pain and hurt.
In the opening story, we reached the climax of the action scene. Swinging around the bat, projecting anger, and spreading fear into those who have brought me pain. Then steps in the one person that changed the course of many people’s lives in that moment.
Yep, Little Jon is there. And he refuses to move. This pisses me off to the point that I grab a baseball bat and start smashing and destroying things throughout the house.
The laughter has stopped, the show is over. The bear had been poked one too many times and all hell was about to break loose. And when the bear breaks free of the den, everyone takes off, bails, and hides in the hills.
What would “Boy B” do if they saw something like this? He wouldn’t know what to do. That makes it tough to label him a superhero. We do not know who we are until we see how we handle adversity. When it comes to reading a zone blitz on a 3rd down in a playoff game, sure, Peyton Manning knows how to handle that “adversity.” So we know how he is as a football player. But real adversity, such as the situation above, can not be practiced or coached up.
This is the fight-or-flight system, the most primitive part of the brain. You do not have time to act on logic, you go on instinct, emotional learning, and survival. Nobody else in the room had the necessary tools to defuse the situation, they have not had the intense emotional learning he endured.
Most of the “Boy B’s” of the world have no idea what is going on inside the head of someone who needs love. They have never felt that and that is not their fault and does not make them less of a person. However, stop calling him a hero. If we keep calling him a hero and telling our kids he is the hero, then we have brainwashed them.
Little Jon did know what was going on in my head.
He said, “I am not going anywhere and you need to put the bat down.”
Everyone else is in fear, bailing out, and in full-blown panic. We got these two “messed up” kids about to go at it with a baseball bat and tempers flaring.
The crowd shouts, “Jon!! Jon!! Get out of there!! Leave him alone he is crazy!”
Little Jon did not budge. He said, “Listen, put it down. I know how you are feeling. It is ok Betsy.” (That is what he always called me, “Betsy.”)
I said “I am going to smash your face.”
“No you’re not,” He responded, “You just need love. Give me a hug.”
“No!” I shouted. Then, I started crying.”
The room is empty, everyone is gone into hiding or calling the police – or searching for the “hero.” But, the problem is that the hero was already in the room with me.
“Come here,” Said Jon as he approaches me with a hug.
Complete silence fills the room.
I drop the bat. I hug him and begin to cry and then the floodgates spring open and tears kept flowing. I have no idea what we talked about or what was said. I did not even know why I was so angry on that particular occasion.
But, what I do know is how I felt. Not alone. And loved.
He saw a need, recognized his responsibility, and was willing to act. Just like all other neural circuitry pathways in our brain, these continued heroic actions, develop into a habit, create character, and essentially define the person.
Little Jon has a tendency to bring this feeing to everyone he is around. He gives people that feeling of acceptance and love even though it was never given to him.
He is a true superhero. He is the one we should be telling our kids about, not Batman, not Superman, not Peyton Manning.
But, Little Jon. Jon Kosiak. That’s who I want to teach my kids about. He is a superhero.
It’s time to redefine the definition of a superhero.
Everyone thought Little Jon was a trouble-maker and a bad seed. He is not. He is a good man that gives love, despite the only thing has ever received is abandonment, emotional/physical abuse, pain, and suffering. Prominent motivational speaker/author Wayne Dyer states that the most difficult thing to do in life is to return love for hate. Little Jon exemplifies that without any effort, he does so because it is natural.
By definition, if he instinctively flourishes at man’s most demanding task (returning love for hate), is there any other way to accurately portray and define a superhero?
I Love You Little Jon.
” .. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent forever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”- Charles Dickens
Every interaction we have matters. We may not see it, but it does
Here is a story of how one patient saw 2 different doctors. With the exact same problem. The reaction was completely different, and so was the result. You do not have to be a doctor or social worker or health care worker to have this impact. It is just this example. Every day we encounter people that as simple as it may seem, just a hello or a smile can make the difference. Sometimes, just knowing someone notices you are not doing well is a big deal.
Before I get into the story. Here is a study that I want to share that proves that it is not necessarily the knowledge or words we provide, but how we make the other persons feel that matters:
The University of Toronto’s Dr. Wendy Levinson is considered among the world’s foremost researchers on physician-patient communication. In a landmark 1997 study, she recorded hundreds of conversations between a group of physicians and their patients. Half of the doctors had never been sued, and the other half had been sued at least twice.
Levinson found that just on the basis of those recorded conversations alone, she could find clear differences between the two groups:
■The doctors who had never been sued spent more than three minutes longer with each patient than those who had been sued did (18.3 minutes versus 15 minutes).
■They were more likely to make “orienting” comments, such as “First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over” or “I will leave time for your questions.”
■They were more likely to engage in active listening, saying things such as “Go on, tell me more about that.”
■They were far more likely to laugh and be funny during the visit.
Levinson reported no difference in the amount or quality of information doctors gave their patients; the never-sued doctors didn’t provide more details about medication or the patient’s condition.
The difference was entirely in how they talked to their patients
Here is an example of exactly what kind of impact we can have good or bad. We do not see it, but I had the opportunity to see this, so I am sharing to show an example to anyone who chooses to read this.
Patient walks into Dr. D’s office. Patient is a 29 year old. He has depression, has a history of suicide, drug use, and addiction. He is in good physical health. He has not asked for help for a long time. He was in the psychiatric hospital as a teenager multiple times.
Dr. D comes into the office right at 8 am as the day starts. He gets his coffee, and asks for his first patient. He walks into the room and looks at the patient. He says “what can I do for you today?”
The patient say “I am very sad, I have low energy, and I do not feel normal.” The patient is shaking and is embarrassed to be at this point in his life.
The patient says, “I have struggled with drinking and drugs and do not feel good about myself. I am scared to talk to anyone about anything, but especially this. I am at an end, I have to get help or I am going to die.”
Dr. D says, “Ok, well let’s draw some blood. Have you ever been checked for diabetes, low blood sugar, or thyroid problems?”
Patient says, in a trembling voice. “No. I don’t seem to have any of the other problems that would go with diabetes though. I work in the health care field.”
Dr. D says, “Well I am going to run some blood tests. I also see you once had a positive PPD test, so we will give you some INH.”
A ppd test is when you are tested for exposure to tuberculosis. If you are positive it usually means it is in your system but not active.
So Dr. D has the patients’ blood drawn and has given him the INH. The blood tests come back normal. No problems.
The clinic nurses call the patient and state everything is ok. Dr. D said to follow up if you have any concerns. They as a clinic have so many patients, they forgot why the patient came in the first place. They get a list of lab results, so when they see them come through, they never think of the patient. They see the results and make the call that they are ok. This is not their fault. They are completely overwhelmed with a huge volume of lab reports of patient’s to call.
This patient was anxious and depressed and afraid to ask for help to begin with. Now with this call and this response, and the patient is basically pushed aside, IF the patient wants help, he will have to make the call again and go through the embarrassment and shame of asking for help again.
Now, the patient does not go for the INH. He is now feeling hopeless. He never even went for medical problems, then when the results came in, the clinic never even thought that it was to rule out anything. The patient got lost in the pile of papers. Basically became a number, not a person. This is normal these days. They want the Doctors to see as much patients as possible, as fast as possible. So give them a pill and get them out of here. It is our medical system, and it is this that has caused the opiate epidemic that we have in the United States.
You go to the MD or the ER, you get a Vicodin because we need numbers, so get them out the door as soon as possible.
IN this case, the patient goes on another binge, and gets more depressed. If anyone has been through this they know any binge can result in death to self or someone else. Thinking again about suicide the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider.
The patient, using all the courage that they have, gets another appointment 4 months later. So at this next appointment, Dr. D walks in, and he does not recognize the patient. Treats him as if he is a new patient. Asks again if he has any medical problems.
This time. Dr. D says “let me draw blood for some things” once again. Checks his heart. He does not know the patients name, or occupation, or any of what had happened before.
The patient is a number, he now feels worse and is upset that he even came back. He gets his blood drawn.
The patient gets a phone call back. He is to come see Dr D again, he must come in to go over the results. They cannot tell him over the phone the results. However, there is also some hope. He feels that maybe they found a reason he has felt like this his whole life.
The patient is scared, he knows if you have to come in to go over results it is not good. Saturday morning Dr. D walks in as he is the on call MD this weekend. His eyes are bloodshot and red, Dr. D did not sleep last night you can tell. He does not recognize the patient, his name, or anything. He feels he is just seeing all emergency patients as they are the Saturday clinic this month and he is on call. Dr. D has no idea he is talking to his own patient.
He then asks the patient, why he is here.
Then Dr. D still not knowing the patients name says “oh yeah, well, looks like you have chronic fatigue syndrome and there is really nothing we can do. Maybe go to groups, or exercise.”
Just what the patient wants to hear right? You are chronically tired and out of luck. You are not depressed or any of that. Sorry, go to groups.
The patient puts his head down, that’s it. You can see him, the thoughts are something like, “I guess I never was depressed, I’m just tired,” that is what he is feeling.
Any of us can tell these things in watching people if we just watch and are truly present with them. If we take time for one another it is easy.
Then Dr. D says well I can give you Provigil to keep you awake during the day and trazodone to help you sleep. SO let’s do that and check back in a few months. We are now giving a patient with severe anxiety a pill that they used to give to pilots to keep them awake during long flights.
The patient gets the pill to stay awake. His depression and anxiety have still not been addressed. He has learned that this is what happens when you ask for help. The patient now feels hopeless, sad, anxious, and like a fool for asking for help. There is nothing they can do for him.
First they tell him he has tuberculosis, then its chronic fatigue. They spend 15 minutes with him each time because management wants doctors to see 4 patient per hour so they can bill for that. Then they make more money. Dr. D is considered more productive if he sees more patients in a day because he makes the clinic money then.
The patient then with this depression history, drug abuse history, has made his last ditch efforts to get help. It took everything he had to even ask for help. He was pushed aside, they didn’t know his name. He got lost as a number. Then he was told different things by the same doctor each time he went in.
Why would someone go seek help after this? Dr. D never even asked him about his depression or anxiety or his history. He was a number, and he pushed it off like it was not depression. Just give him a pill and get him out. I don’t blame Dr. D, this is our system. I have seen Doctors get scolded for taking too much time with their patients.
This patient would then go into severe depression and his drinking and self-destructive behaviors would intensify over the next few years. He had many near death experiences, he got a DUI and spent more time in jail. He got to a point in which he almost died and his family had given up on him completely. He was basically going to fade away to the world. You could tell, he had given up on himself and everyone else had given up on him.
If you ever see someone down, any positive interaction can help. Getting to know them, so you can give them a genuine compliment is crucial. A genuine compliment will change a person’s day and sometimes world. In order to do that, you have to get to know the person.
We all know a genuine compliment because it touches us and makes us feel much different than a condescending, fake generic compliment. We know by how we feel. If we like being around a person it is probably because they are genuine. We do not know why, we just like the way we feel when we are around them. That is the key to helping someone.
However, to give this kind of love, you must have the love in you yourself first. There is a story in one of Thich Naht Hahn’s books that I love to tell. It goes something like this; there was a father and a daughter who were homeless. They were great gymnasts. Every so often they would do a street performance and hold out one of those jars for donations. They would make enough to eat for the week usually.
However, one night, all the rich people were going to be there. The royalty, and everyone with money was going to watch. They knew this was their biggest performance so they could make enough money to eat for a year.
The father would always carry the daughter on his shoulders and she would do amazing tricks. So he said to her, “Tonight my dear, it is the biggest performance, we ca neat for a year if it goes well. So we need to look out for each other and watch each other.”
The daughter look at her father and says, “No, I cannot do that. If I spend all my time looking at you, and you spend all your time looking at me, then we will stumble and fall. The best way I can take care of you, and you of me, is to watch ourselves so we are the best we can be. Then we can be strong for each other.”
That’s it. Love yourselves. You have a lot to offer, we all do. Sometimes the hardest part is loving yourself. I know it is for me. Some days it’s much harder than others. You take a few steps back and a few forward. It is a process that is for sure.
Then you must also get to know this person so the compliment can be genuine. Sometimes we are too caught up in things that do not matter so we say we do not have time for this. That is when we know we are caught up in the world, man’s world. That should be a warning sign to slow down.
It can be a sort of psychological life support for someone. It can change the world and save lives. That may sound dramatic, but it is not. It is the truth.
The other day at work, we have a patient who no one has been able to handle at all. No one. This patient was about to have another episode in which she hurts staff and herself, then the staff, I will call her Madeline, she said something in a loud voice.
The reason I thought this was important is because the tone of her voice was one of confidence, One that was saying, “This is the truth, no doubt about it.” Madeline has these moments, she usually doubts herself and I do not know why. She is one of the most amazing providers in mental health I have ever seen. She gets to know each patient on a personal level and she is not afraid to speak up for them.
She says to this patient, “Look in the mirror, and look at when you came in. You have changed so much, you look like a different person.”
The patient, who is considered “dangerous” to most, is being yelled at by this staff with confidence. The patient says in a soft voice, “really?” Nothing happened with her for at least a week. That comment prevented disaster, the reason it was effective is because it was real and genuine. We need more Madeline’s.
What happens then is someone sees Madeline yell like this to the dangerous patient and sees it work. They then try it and get punched in the face. The difference is when she says it, it is truth to the patient because Madeline has spent hours getting to know the patient and the patient knows it is someone who knows her, and not someone repeating something they heard someone else say. It is real.
So back to this story about this patient. About 3 years later after Dr. D. This patient called the clinic. They said “So you see Dr. D, would you like to see him again.”
The patient has an opening and says, “No anyone is fine.” Simple stroke of luck.
The patient is set up with Dr Broeker. This is his real name he still practices for Allina. It is at the end of May. The patient has made up an excuse to go in he says he is having urinary problems.
He is in the clinic office in the room waiting. Dr. Broeker knocks on the door, he says, “hey XXX, I just want you to know I am running a little bit late but I will be in as soon as I can.”
The patient is shocked, Dr Broeker knew his name and just knocked on the door to tell him that he was running late.
Then during their meeting, the patient is comfortable, and feels at ease. Dr Broeker comes in and says his name, what his experience is and does not have a clipboard. IS not looking at the computer. He asks “what are you hear for?”
Dr Broeker then says “what else can I do for you?”
The patient starts to cry and says “I am anxious, nervous and afraid to ask anyone for anything. I hate myself, I cannot stop drinking and I want to get help for feeling depressed.”
Dr Broeker spent the next hour talking with this patient. It was amazing. He told him about life, Dr Broeker talked about his time as an MD and how he wants to get this right. He explains the depression scale, the anxiety scale and fills it out with the patient.
It was like this patient had been waiting years for someone to say, “It’s ok to be sad, let’s talk about it.” Finally after, years and years of internal torture. Dr. Broeker had released this man from his own internal prison. It was the most amazing thing. Words will never do it justice what Dr Broeker was doing for this patient.
It was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment. Dr Broeker knows the patient has been seen by Dr D because he read the chart, he says “why were you tested for all of this?”
The patient says, I don’t know that’s what he thought.
Dr. Broeker says “well, ok, let’s start you on celexa and come back in 2 weeks to make sure you are not having any side effects.” Dr. Broeker did not judge the other physician and was respectful and kind about what the other MD had done. When someone is truly great like this, they do not need to question anyone else. He is pure, there is no competition for people like Dr. Broker, he practices out of love, and he is a doctor for the right reasons.
The patient was so much at ease with Dr. Broeker that he was able to tell him everything and open up about the drinking, drug use and all other issues that he was facing.
Dr Broeker wanted him back in 2 weeks just to check on side effects. The patient felt he had a new lease on life.
Then in 2 weeks Dr Broeker pops in and knows the patients name. He talks to him for a while like they are old buddies and shakes his hand and is friendly with him.
This patient has had a history of no shows throughout his life, but never with Dr Broeker. Usually if we have a patient with no shows, we label the as non-compliant or as not really wanting to get help. But, could it be that the problem is in the provider and how we treat patients? Or at least say it is 50/50? In a few months the patient was in rehab, and able to look at people. Dr Broeker then eventually recommended therapy to this patient.
This patient was willing to listen because he trusted Dr Broeker. He believed in him. The same recommendation could have come from another Doctor and it would have gotten a different reaction. The difference is in the relationship, not in the knowledge. Dr Broeker took time, he did not care about the 4 patients an hour.
Dr. Broker is special, he is in it for the right reasons. He takes time. That is true productivity.
He saves lives, He saved this patients life.
I know this, I watched it. The patient was me.
The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.
He saved my life. He is one of the “fab 5″ that I refer to that changed my life. That is number 1. The magical Michael Broeker.
If it was not for him, I would not be alive today. The patients that tell me I saved their lives and changed them forever, my friends and family and everyone that I have touched, it is all not possible without him.
I almost died and did not want to ask for help ever again. He sat down and listened. And talked. He didn’t follow the 15 minute rule. In my moment, lost in the woods, he gave me the light and pointed me in the right direction. All because he took time to get to know me and did not judge me.
I am alive today because of him.
Thank you Dr Broeker.
“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness and addictions.”
I am not a fan of physical abuse of children. In fact, I despise it and it makes me get a lump in my throat and get sick every time I even think about it.
You see the photos above. That is of a 4 year old in Minnesota that was killed from child abuse. After 15 reports were made. Nothing was done.
How do you think that boy’s life was? He was abused by his mother. Then he was moved to his father’s home where he was abused. None of the other children were beaten. He was. Repeatedly. Why does this kid deserve this while the kid down the street, same age, has a wonderful life? Why is it that one boy deserves that while the other doesn’t?
We will hear people say, “I never said that.” Well, then why do we allow it to continue throughout their lives? Why do we lock the survivors of abuse up in jails and asylums and have the people from the other side of the street treating them and judging their behavior?
This is what I am always saying. We all are co-responsible. I am not going to defend the act of child abuse ever. What I am going to do is tell you the way we are going about the problem is all wrong. We can take all the kids out of homes we want, it will not solve this problem.
The issue is the millions that do not die. They grow up, and are separated as the “lower class.” So you are born, you are beaten. You have no self-esteem or no skills except survival skills that no kid should have to learn. Then you may rob or steal to eat. You likely become a drug addict, you may be called “mentally ill.” Then you are locked up further and forced on medications that may likely not work. Just slow you down. Then we have staff at jails and mentally ill hospitals and group homes that were the kids down the street.
They do not understand how you can possibly just not “figure it out.” Why are you behaving like this? I hear staff call these patients that survive this stuff, “babies, manipulators, or control freaks.”
So why is it that these lives have to be this way? We keep it up, we like having this separation. We have to have a “lower class” in order for there to be an “upper class.” We then get people from the other side of the street and send them to a college where they do not learn to be free thinkers, in fact they learn how to repeat what other robots tell them to think.
I see it every single day. I read an article about this and I cry and I cry and I almost throw up. I get so angry I cannot take it.
That doesn’t help, attacking the abuser will do nothing. I work sometimes with patients who were abusers. It is a cycle. It is a cycle that much like poverty, we have the power to stop, but we are too busy, or too comfortable, or we just don’t care.
We must protect “our own.” When will we realize that “our own” is everyone. We all are connected. We cannot sit by and we have to change the cycle. The generational pain and the community lies have to stop. When this happens, there should be outrage. There is a little, but then it gains attention when a celebrity does it. So we have to use this as an opportunity and stop attacking and yelling and blaming. I would love to do that. It just will do no good. So I will not do that.
Now Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice because they are celebrities have brought it to light. We can hate all we want, but that will never solve the problem, only perpetuate the very thing it is against.
So what do we do?
This is about how we can stop this cycle of this Frankenstein Society.
I can tell you right now that in 20 years of working in the mental health and addiction field, I believe I have read about 100,000 patients charts. I took about 2 days to estimate that number. It is a pretty accurate number.
Not one time has there ever been a chart that I have read that did not include some sort of childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma. NOT ONCE. In over 100 thousand charts.
The key to mental health and addiction treatment being better in the future is something called “trauma informed care.” In 100 years they will be talking about how this changed the mental health and addiction treatment much like diabetes with insulin.
It is treating every patient that walks through the door as if they have been through a trauma. You treat the patient different if you consider the fact they have been through a trauma than if you treat them based on the behavior they are displaying.
The statistics say about 70 to 80 percent have been through a trauma, I believe that is not correct. I am sure it is 100 percent. The thing is when you go through a trauma at an early age the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, shuts down.
The amygdale which is in control of the startle response and hyper vigilance is increased. So your brain does not remember the trauma, however, the body and stress response remembers the trauma, it is to keep you alert to danger, and your brain does not even remember the event.
So I am certain it is 100 percent of those with mental health /addition issues have been in a trauma and all of them should be treated this way. 100,000 charts, now some only briefly mentioned it, but after talking to the patients, it is 100% of those charts.
That’s not some study that is a real life number.
Now I want to tell a story of 2 lives and how this happens, then get to the solution. This is a true story.
1st is a young lady about 20 years old. She has a low IQ and is considered Developmentally Delayed at birth. She is born to a mother that has substance abuse issues and this may have contributed to her being born with this disability. Her name is Marley.
Then we have Mr. Olson, he is born about 30 years before Marley. Mr. Olson is raised in an environment with parents who have drinking issues, but they consider it normal to not talk about feelings. You are to “suck it up.”
If you have emotions in this family you are told to shut up, be quiet and you are hit and scolded and put in a room for the night. This Mr. Olson, when he was a child, he was very emotional, he was one who was a truth seeker. He speaks up, he yells, he takes his whooping’s and eventually he decides that his parents are right, something is wrong with him. HE starts hiding his true self and being the tough guy rebel as his false self. The false self is usually direct opposite of who you really are. He is sensitive, so he becomes the bad guy punisher bully.
Then back to the young Marley. Her mom cannot take her behaviors or the fact that she has a disability, she does not understand this. When Marley has behaviors that are not like the normal kids, she is hit and beaten seriously. All this time, she does not understand, she is a young lady who is lower functioning than others and is now being hit and beaten and she has no idea what is going on. She shuts down, she is lower functioning so she is more impulsive and aggressive now and reacts strongly to thing. She reacts because her brain and body has been hyper activated by the abuse.
Because she is now silent, she is a prime target for abuse. Her biological dad sexually abuses her and rapes her almost every night.
She is now silent about this, she is developmentally delayed and silent because she is afraid. So she does not know any better, she believes this is normal. So the physical and sexual abuse goes on until she is 12. Her brain is hyper activated and her startle response is high. Her impulsivity is high.
Mr. Olson is growing up, around ages 8, 9, and 10 he reacts, he starts to act out in school, and is always getting in fights. Then he gets acceptance. His world has given him the mask he is to wear if he wants love. He is acting out his shame and fear, He comes home and is beaten more. He acts up by beating kids at school and finding kids to pick on and he seeks them out and goes after them. That is what you see the kid’s and even adults doing, the body acts out what the brain cannot comprehend or make sense of. So in both these cases the acting out behaviors are what is judged, not the underlying issue. We decide to just judge the behavior.
In both cases, it would take 1 teacher, 1 social worker, of 1 stranger to notice this and speak up, but no one does. So the story continues for both.
When Mr. Olson was a child and bullying these kids, it is the only time he has control and so he hurts people. This is his world. His true self is shut down, He turns 18 and goes into the military He has no choice, everyone has told him he is a dummy his whole life and he will never amount to anything anyways. He believes this smokes, drinks, bullies. He has become his parents.
However Mr. Olson is a smart, caring man on the inside. That is now blocked but what was created by his parents and society. He is a sort of Frankenstein. He has become what is acceptable to his world.
He goes to the military, mouths off, and is kicked out after a while. He goes to rehab and treatment multiple times as he was forced for being this aggressive kid. His family laughs at him tells him he is just a wus. He believes it does what he has to get through it.
Young Marley is taken from her parents finally at age 12 or 13. She is in foster care and group home ages 13-18. She now has been taken away from her mother. The only home she has ever known. This is confusing and more trauma for her. She hurts herself, cuts herself, and explodes on people. She hits staff and foster parents. She acts up impulsively. Everyone that approaches her feels like she is just a “bad kid,” an asshole that needs to grow up. “She knows better.” Is what I have heard people say about her.
Really? She knows better? Has anyone ever looked beyond the behaviors and talked to her? Has anyone every showed her the correct way to act? SO we see the behaviors, judge her by them without looking beyond. We expect that somewhere along the line she is supposed to just figure it out? When is she supposed to just figure out how she is to behave? Her or him? We created them both. Then we all are up in arms when they go too far or do not figure it out.
Everyone is afraid of her and no one wants to get to know her. So she gets hurt, then acts up which creates more distance between her and the world, and creates more depression. She gets attention when she acts up, but not when she is good. So if she acts up, it gets her some attention. She still is lonely and afraid and scared so she yells and acts up a lot and is pushed form home to home. This is a kid with an IQ below 80 and extensive trauma. We are adding more trauma with every move and expecting her to just figure out how to behave.
She is labeled as trouble, explosive, violent and impulsive, which can be true. She is also a kind loving and caring young lady. People get reports on her coming to their facility, they read this. They are missing the important acts that create the behavior. It causes staff to act as if she is this bad human. This is what trauma informed care changes, it requires you look beyond this behavior. Or beyond the mask.
Mr. Olson, after the troubles, he finally gets married and gets a job. It is a type of security job at a prison, someone who monitors people and writes down how they are doing. He likes it and he gets acceptance for being a big bully and strong. He can keep things in order. He is actually very smart and sensitive. When no one is watching he is kind to the patients and they love him.
His reputation is that of a bully tough guy who prevents the patients from acting up. That is who he lets people see. When people are watching he is the tough guy. Who he truly is, is not acceptable to people in his mind. He has been told this his whole life and he has gained acceptance being the tough guy and the bully.
Now young Marley at age 23 destroys property and assaults staff that did not like her behavior and now she is in a jail. Mr. Olson happens to be working at the same jail, now 53 years old and a veteran staff member.
They form some kind of bond, they goof of and like each other very much. They are laughing and teasing a lot of the time, Sometimes Marley doesn’t understand but she likes him for the most part.
However tat times when she acts up he bullies her and she does not understand. SO in response she yells more and more. They both will yell at each other. However it is not their true selves mad at each other. Their souls get along, they each have this Frankenstein personality created by us, yes every single one of us. Their false selves do not like each other.
One day, she is told bad news, and she does not understand it so she acts up, yelling and screaming at everyone. People are trying to talk her down so she does not start hitting people or throwing coffee on people like she does.
In comes Mr. Olson, he sees all the people that are trying to calm her down and she won’t, he wants to be the hero and accepted. There is a big audience.
He has his audience, he has his history, who he is supposed to be. He screams and yells at her, she yells back.
Everyone clears out she leaves the room. He takes her by the leg and throws her on the ground hard and hurts her bad. It is caught on camera. What we all see on camera is this man, taking this 23 year old girl, and physically assaulting her. This is what we see.
Now we have MR Olson has abused a Developmentally Delayed 23 year old girl. She had bruises and she does not understand. She is scared. Who she is always gets beat.
Mr. Olson is seen on camera, he lost his job. The staff blame her and the people that fired Mr. Olson. Mr. Olson was actually very good at his job and loved by staff. He is now gone, he has no job, and his family has lost his financial support.
He learned this is how you treat people and this has been reinforced and swept under the rug his whole life. No one ever took time to educate or talk to him about this when he did this before it was ignored. It is accepted by many. So this is more than his fault. He has done this before and every single time it was swept under the rug, that person that did nothing was contributing to pain. People were afraid to talk to him about it, so they contributed to this. Everyone who saw his behaviors and allowed it, looked away, it is all on them that he now has been labeled as an abuser.
This is a typical abuse situation.
We like to get on one of their sides and attack the other one. You will hear the attacks on him and some people with attacks on her. The people attacking are judging a situation that they know nothing about. They are continuing the cycle. How does attacking either one of these people help change the situation?
Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, any one of these situations. I can tell you they grew up like this. This has been acceptable and swept under the rug their whole lives. They are paid to be violent and taken out of the bad neighborhoods and told to bang into each other and be violent. Then they are good so their behavior off the field is swept under the rug, and ignored. Until we have video. Now they are attacked for something that has always been allowed and no one has ever educated them about. Now the people who are responsible for creating the monster Frankenstein, they all run away or they want Frankenstein to be killed. They are usually so adamantly against it because they are trying to cover up their guilt. Any person who is adamantly against something is usually covering something up. Like the senator against child abuse that was found to be a child abuser. Or the Idaho congressman who was adamantly against being gay who was found in an airport soliciting gay sex. The anger against something like this is covering up some sort of guilt.
When you attack one side, either Mr. Olson or Marley, you are no better and you are not helping the situation. How does that help? Even if you are telling the truth, it is your truth. It is not going to get anyone to change. So what is your intention? Is it to create change? Because violence in acting or in verbal aggression is not going to change anyone’s behavior.
The answer is to stop yelling and fighting and blaming and start educating.
If Mr. Peterson is attacked and yelled at that is fine, but is taking his money, locking him up, keeping him from his child going to help? How? If he is a perpetual abuser then ok. However to join in the witch hunt is not helping the situation. What we have here is generational pain and dysfunction. It takes 5 generations to break the cycle. Here we have an opportunity to help a family that has generations of abuse and dysfunction, and instead of that, we are attacking. This will create more isolation, isolation creates secrecy, and secrecy creates shame and more dysfunction.
The other option would be to look behind this issue, educate both sides, and have Mr. Peterson start a charity for abused kids. We can use this horrible moment to flip the script and end the cycle of dysfunction.
His child would benefit from his father learning how to discipline him, not by punishing him.
If this education happens to a person and they continue to abuse, then we have a different story.
Mr. Olson was violent with patients before and no one said anything.
In the case with Mr. Olson and Marley case. You see, it is not so black and white.
We are all co responsible for this. The taking sides and attacking only creates more pain.
That is why I say every action matters. If you see something, speak up, and do it in a way that people will listen, if you yell and scream, then your message is lost.
You could have the cure to world hunger but if you present it the wrong way it is lost.
We must stop the hate. Start to educate with love, that’s the only way.
Yelling and attacking does not create change. You know what helps, allowing people to be their true selves and encouraging that and encouraging love every single chance you get.
I do have to say, things are changing, there are great providers out there. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here, We need to bring more out, and have them lead the profession, not leave it.
If your intention is love, you can speak from the truth. Then you can create change.
As Martin Luther King Jr said,
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
Begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
But you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
But you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Video Below from Brian Francis.
We have added a YouTube channel. Cortland Pfeffer (takingthemaskoff) and a Facebook page. Taking the MASK OFF.
I have also added another contributing editor, Brian Francis. He is in the field and has been a patient as well. He has come up with much of the titles, and has talents that I do not have. He will write part 2 of this series.
I think we will be looking for more partners soon. Everyone has different talents and can contribute to this fight.
We may be adding more partners soon. I appreciate all the comments and love I have received here. It not only has helped my recovery, but my interactions with patients. You have all been a gift. That is why I want to make this better.
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?