KILL YOUR FALSE SELF (Part 1 of 3)

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“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”

This was years ago. This is about a patient who had relapsed terribly. He had many troubles throughout his life with the law, and with school, and just about everything. This was his worst moment he said this as he entered treatment. All this information is in his chart. This is a well-documented case of the mask.

These are 2 emails he received from his 2 brothers. Now this was less than a month after he started treatment for the first time.

Less than a month after his whole world fell apart. These are the actual emails. I’ve taken names and dates out for obvious reasons.

I think this gives a great example of the 2 different ways people treat the addicted and those with mental health issues.

Email 1: From brother 1. (Dale)

After talking to you last night, I am convinced more than ever that you haven’t changed. You are no different than the teenager who would trash the house and punch holes in the wall to get attention. Now you just go about getting your negative attention in less physical ways. Everything still needs to be about you all the time. You can’t stand it when anyone else has any kind of attention. You still engage in negative attention seeking behavior because that is the only way you know how to communicate with anyone. That’s why you sent a prank message to the family last night. NOT because it was a joke. You KNEW it would get people upset. That’s why you sent it. You did it to get a reaction and to get attention for yourself. The “joke” is a convenient excuse so you can just say “people are over-reacting” when they get angry, that way your behavior never has to be dealt with. It’s a clever little game you play. It’s manipulative and you’ve been doing it for years.

It’s no different than two years ago when you called me a “phony” when I volunteered to be a pall bearer at grandma’s funeral. Again, you couldn’t stand attention being on someone other than you. You couldn’t be silent and respectful even at a funeral. You still had to draw attention to yourself. It’s sick. But if anyone had called you out on that disgusting behavior, you could’ve said it was “just a joke,” that way you weren’t to blame. It’s a very clever game you play.

I can’t even go to a family gathering and have a quiet, adult conversation with someone without you screaming and yelling over the entire room because you can’t stand for people to be having a conversation that doesn’t involve you. You need everything to be all about you all the time and all eyes to be on you. It’s like you’re a 5 year old. No wonder you like treatment so much. You get to sit down and have everyone talk about you for three hours. It must be your dream come true.

I’m even starting to think you couldn’t handle the birth of your own child getting more attention than you, so you “created a crisis” by going down to the bar and getting drunk so the attention could be directed back at you. You’re not trashing the house anymore or punching holes in the wall, but it’s the same behavior…it’s seeking negative attention to yourself.

But what really got me was last night you had the guts to tell me you won’t tolerate stuff from me. Who the heck do you think you are???? YOU’RE not gonna take stuff from ME?? Are you kidding? After all you did when we were kids? You should be on your hands and knees every day thanking god that anyone in this family still wants anything to do with you after all the crap you did when you were a kid. Do you need a reminder???? You stole my clothes, my videos, my high school graduation money and my drivers license so you could gamble. You pushed mom down on the kitchen floor when she refused to lie to your parole officer. You chased our brother around the house with a baseball bat. You dumped a glass of pee on our sister’s head. She used to sleep with a knife under her bed she was so afraid of you.

These were YOUR actions. YOU did them. And for you to say to me that I did NOTHING? That I just hid in the basement and “ran away” from high school to high school? Bull! I used to have to disconnect the engine on my car every night so I could drive the other kids to school in the morning (otherwise you would steal it and take it to the casino and we wouldn’t get to class). I used to get up early in the morning in the summer and take our sister’s out of the house and we would sit at the park all day until mom and dad came home because mom said you were “too violent for them to be around.” I bought bread and milk for the house and sometimes even furniture when I was only 18 because mom and dad were so broke paying your gambling debts.

And after all that, I let you back into my life, and for that, you give me a sarcastic “oooh, that was big of you.” IT WAS big of me! Do you know how many people I’ve talked to about you and the things you did when you were a kid? They are all shocked when I tell them I let you back into my life. I remember Uncle B, Aunt K and Aunt M. As well as all of our cousins asking all the time what it was like to live with the “psycho.” You made my life from the time I was 16 to 18 terrible, every single day. And never ONCE did I EVER hear the words “I’m sorry” come out of your mouth. You are such an egomaniac you are incapable of thinking anything is ever your fault. Your actions are never dealt with. No one in this family has ever stood up to you. Your behavior is accepted and that’s why you have never changed.

I am done with it. I was right about you all along. You haven’t changed. You are still the ego-centric, attention-seeking, loudmouthed sociopath you were when you were a teenager. The worst mistake I made in my life was forgiving you. You are no different. You will never change and no one in this family will ever make you change because your behavior is tolerated by them. They are just as messed in the head as you are. There was a reason I didn’t talk to you for five years when we were teenagers. Looking back, it was actually the happiest time in my life. I should’ve never started talking to you again.

You said the other day that you “challenged” people to have a relationship with you. No thanks. You are not worth having a relationship with. I get nothing out of knowing you as a person. You are not worth knowing. I’m getting too old to still be dealing with the same old bull from you 20 years later.

I remember when we were kids, the only thing that worked when you had an outburst or a tantrum was when we all left the house, so you didn’t have an audience anymore. Well that’s what I’m doing now. Your negative, attention-seeking behavior won’t have an audience from me anymore. Go get it somewhere else.

Email 2: From Brother 2 (Larry)

We are never born and never die. We are all eternal spirits. But you took this current human form on this “day.” I think you are one of the smartest, funniest, greatest people in the world. You always share all your wisdom and knowledge and love. Even though it is not always accepted by others and that hurts you. My life got a little crazy and I was not always available lately. I apologize. I know I have done this before, but I have mental issues, a disease. I’m trying to get better. I feel bad, and feel worse that you do not want to talk to me anymore.

You continue to teach me every day. Since we were kids you have always done this. You were the one that was always there for me. The only one. You are always right. Everything you say becomes true. Everything they say in college, you have already told me. Now working in this field, I use your wisdom (well THE GREAT SPIRITS wisdom through you).

You see the good in everyone and you wish for what is best for the world. I wish more people were able to hear your message of love and the world would be a better place. You are my friend and my greatest influence in life. You have been the greatest role model anyone could ask. I continue to look up to you, listen to your words, and strive to do the things you do. Just following your path, I know I am making a difference in the world thanks to the words you have spoken to me.
Well hope you have a super duper DAY and that you don’t hate me. Sorry for my sadness in the past. Being friends with someone who is depressed is one of the most difficult, yet kindest acts someone can do.

There you have it. Strange to think they are talking about the exact same person. They grew up in the same house, during the same time.

It shows that people’s reaction to you has a lot more to do with them, than you.

As it turns out brother number 1 (Dale) had many issues of his own. He was also an alcoholic, and he still is to this day. He lives isolated from the world. Depressed, lonely and without help. He is said to be a brilliant man, which creates loneliness and is often one of the causes of addiction and mental health issues. When you have no one to relate to, and you are able to notice things that others do not, that can be very lonely.

Was he a bad guy? No, I don’t think so. He was also in pain, you can tell that in his email. He felt he had to grow up and be an adult. He suffers from the same issues but did not act out. However, he never got the help the patient did. The patient being the identified “sick” one, prevented this guy from ever getting help. This is how the ego can hurt you.

When someone is so adamant against someone or something that is usually a red flag to me, as it was in this case. If you notice, brother 1 (Dale) mentions how bad it was. However, he also mentions that they didn’t talk for 5 years as teenagers. It’s hard to imagine that all of this is based in reality if you never have talked to someone, yet you are saying they are the person that ruined your life during this same time. How is that possible if you never interacted? We all have perceptions about situations whether they are truth or not.

In family systems there is usually a scapegoat. The one that is the strongest and most sensitive takes on all the blame for the family’s issues. In a way it’s also a blessing, because the scapegoat is the one that gets the help. While the others live in pain, yet not an open to the world type of pain.

In this case brother 1 (Dale) is so mad at the patient for things the patient did as a child.

Did this approach help the patient? Well, in truth, it did. Not because of the way things were said, but he was able to see the lessons in this. Lessons are usually painful. The more painful, the better the lesson. It also crushed the patient and set him back. It is ok to tell the addict and psych patient how they have affected you. It needs to be heard. It can be therapeutic.

However, only when the time is right. The intentions needs to be pure, and it was not in this case. There needs to be trust, and a relationship first. Without the relationship with the patient and trust, nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if you have a cure to their particular condition. If there is no relationship, and the intentions are not pure, nothing else matters.

To kick someone while they are down, and at their worst moment is not at all an approach that heals.

What it did though was show the patient that he had hurt others, and that some people will never accept him. It taught him that it is not about him. The patient can’t force others to become healthy by his standards. He had to detach. There is a lesson in every interaction.

He also heard things in this letter that helped him see what had happened. The patient had forgotten about how everyone in the family including aunts, uncles, and cousins that had rarely ever seem him and spent no time with him at all, were getting together talking about how “psycho,” and unsafe he was. How could that even be possible unless the patient’s own family was telling people this? It broke his heart.

It crushed him. You could tell his heart was breaking. From the patient’s perspective, he was a good guy that was sad and had been acting out. He thought everyone knew that he loved them and this was not really who he was.

However, family systems that are broken do not want to admit fault. That is due to shame, fear of judgement, rejection, and ridicule. They place on a family mask. A false front. They are in pain themselves. Generational pain will get passed on for thousands of years. You may have had anxiety passed on to you from things passed on to your parents. It could have started thousands of years ago. However, it only takes one person to reverse it.

The scapegoat is born when there is a serious system dysfunction. The scapegoat then acts out as if to say, “Something is wrong here.” Which takes immense bravery for a child to go against the adults and culture telling him to be quiet. It is also usually to help younger siblings as well.

Children know nothing about how to communicate, so they act it out. Want to see how a child is feeling, play with them. Let them lead.

In this case, this patient punched holes in the wall. He was a child in serious pain. So he was acting out, because he likely was more sensitive and could not keep things in as well as others. Some say that is a weakness, it is not. It is a strength.

This is how the scapegoat is born.

This is great for the family. They don’t have to talk about their issues any longer. They can now say, “See it is him.” He is now the “identified patient.” Again, this is not a purposeful thing at all. A bunch of pain and hurt. They have basically turned on their own.

However, the same system that helped create this violent child, now is blaming him for being violent. He has become the sacrificial Lamb of the family. There are other roles that are formed in these families, but this is the one that leads to addiction and mental health issues.

Then the gossip begins, which is like murdering someone’s character.

Now, these adults who have never truly spent time with him are somehow disgusted with him. Lies have speed, but the truth has endurance. Not one of these adults ever sat down and talked with his child. Instead, they chose to talk about him.

This gains the family acceptance and saves them from ridicule.

The children, in this case, the brothers, sisters, and cousins all gained acceptance from the adults every time they agreed and told stories about how awful this misfit was. I’m not saying the adults cheered them on. But they paid attention, they talked to the children, and they told these kids “I’m so glad you’re so well behaved and not like that.” It again is not purposeful.

We now have adults teaching kids how to put on the mask.

The scapegoated patient is a hurt child that acted out due to system dysfunction. Now they have their own family turn on them. They now are told by adults, and everyone around them, that they are the issue, that they are the bad seed.

That then causes even more pain and isolation and depression. Acting out in school begins. The patient has been reinforced not to talk about things, and never taught honesty (real honesty). So he acts out in school.

You can’t bottle these emotions, the scapegoated patient is always the most sensitive by nature. So the emotions will come out soon, especially in a child. With the added stress of kids at school who are socializing, acting human and communicating, the extra stress is bound to cause an eruption in the scapegoat. So when kids act up in school, and I hear teachers say, “oh yeah, just a rough kid.”

That is a cop out. There is always more to it that can be done. If you sit back and do nothing, then you are part of the problem. Anyone can see another person struggling, we can do something if we choose to.

So now that this patient is acting out in school, now we have a defined trouble maker at school. More back up and evidence that this child is the problem, this is the bad kid. Now he even has more people telling him this. The chart is already building.

When I worked at the juvenile home for boys, the guards were teaching the kids how to act “when” they go to prison as adults.

This patient now believes himself to be a bad person. He is now more depressed, more isolated, and now more fearful of the world.  He is unable to trust anyone.

Eventually these type patients will meet other outcasts. Then the normals will say, “all the bad seeds find each other.” More gossip, when one act of kindness would change the world. Then these outcasts have a drink, or use some drugs and it takes it all away.

Relaxation, the mask is off. If anyone ever says to you, “I love when I drink that I become myself.” You have an issue on your hands. But it can be a blessing.

It’s all gone. This mask is off. The outcast gets to be this loving, sensitive person that they always have been. They are also around others just like them. This is a perfect storm.

Everyone is calling them losers, the outcasts will then attach to each other more. Many of them will quit school. No one is surprised, they shake their heads, and the chart is building already.

At any point during this one person could step in and change everything. One moment, one minute of time, anyone can do this. We want to take care of “our own.” What if we looked at is as all of us were in this together, we all are “our own.”

But the real reason they quit school is they are usually bored at school, and they are mocked and ridiculed. They also are learning things by being told to memorize things that the outcasts don’t believe. The way our system is set up is that those that get the good grades are those that repeat what the teachers want. We are not teaching people how to think, but how to pass a test.

The outcasts have learned to question the answers, not just answer the questions. This gets them further labeled as disruptive and challenging. This develops early on in life as they found out early that just because adults say things are ok, does not mean it is true. To have a kid who questions things should be embraced, not punished.

So the outcasts would rather go with friends and use or drink or whatever. No one really pushes them to stay, because, you know, they are “losers.”

They have proven everyone right. They believe it, although on some level they don’t believe it. Which is where the misunderstood attitude comes from. Which is why you hear the stories of “one person believed in me and that changed my life.” Because one person understanding will stop all of this.

At this point, usually they are only able to function with substances. So if you take the substance away, and on top of that, they still have never learned to deal with emotions or situations. So jobs are hard with this lack of how to be a human skills, or domestication. Add in no “education.” Now the outcasts are also addicted.

You now have a drug addicted high school dropout without a job. Loser? I do not think so.

Everyone says they just knew it, poor family has to deal with this.

This is where you see the complete brainwashed brother number 1(Dale). He sees this patient getting help. That may mean that the lie is going to be exposed. How will brother 1 (Dale) cover up things he has done (and there was plenty). Without the patient to trash, the family must look in the mirror. They do not want this. So they subconsciously try to direct the patient back to the sick role. The identified patient.

This patient getting better will throw everything off, he was starting to speak up. He was not afraid to tell the truth, like back when they were kids again. Like when the patient was saying the funeral was phony. As the patient put it, they never saw the grandmother. Maybe one time in 15 years. Now she was dead and everyone was acting sad. The patient could not understands the phoniness. So again he acted out.

Again, he is the bad guy.

Families do not do this on purpose. But everyone deep down knows the truth. Yet they are not strong enough to get help. Forgive them father, they know not what they do.

The scapegoated patient is lucky in a way. He gets to go to therapy, to treatment, and to hospitals. These patients often do so well in treatment, and then relapse and we wonder why.

Well you have helped the most sensitive person. Then you send them back to the same dysfunctional system.

How many times do families refuse to participate in the treatment? I would say about 80 to 90 percent. The excuse is often that it is not them that is the problem, it’s not their issue. That is more proof we are going to have a relapse. A relapse of acting out.

Mental health and addiction are systems diseases, you help one part of the system, usually the strongest part. Then send them back to the system. Until we start calling it a family disease and treating the system, it will not get better. The patient either has to leave the system, or the whole system has to change without help the way we do it now.

The scapegoated patient in this case was getting better and telling everyone that he is not a bad person after all, thinking everyone will embrace him and say they are sorry. Well that threatens the whole community lie. If they are out of character, it forces everyone to change.

So the family will try to make the patient take the sick role back. They usually will. It is a way to be accepted by the dysfunctional system. Be the sick one, or leave. People are afraid of taking that leap to something unknown. They would rather stay in known dysfunction, than leave to the unknown. They are scared of the world. We must remember that. This is why support systems are so important.

The patients are lucky if the family has money to get help. Otherwise these patents end up in prisons or hospitals or homeless. Most will see the homeless, drug addicted, and those with mental health issues and see trouble.

I see the most amazing, sensitive people we have on this earth. I see future awakened and enlightened souls. I see beauty and pain, but potential.

I love when someone gets to the point that they either want to or have to get help. Because I feel like it is another scapegoated modern day leper about to awaken to the truth they have always known. It is a thing of beauty.

This brother 1 (Dale) has the anger, the shame, and the same old issues he has always had.  With no one to blame, he has gone into isolation. He has some serious issues that were never and still have not been dealt with. I hope he finds peace.

He still reaches out to Brother 1 (Dale) from time to time. But he let’s go after that.

Brother 2 (Larry) saw past this patients mask his whole life. Brother 2 (Larry) saw the true person. He was the younger brother. Scared, but as you can see from the email, since he saw the true self of the patient, the patient had always shown this brother his true self. He did things like being there for him when he needed something, helping him when no one was looking. Teaching him. Talking to him about life. But you have an unskilled, wounded young animal trying to guide a younger child. Disaster awaits.

This scapegoated patient saw his younger brother, and knew that brother 2 (Larry) was vulnerable. He was very sensitive. So the patient was able to be his true self with his younger brother and show him love. The patient felt safe. But the patient only did this when no one else was around. Otherwise he put on the mask.

The patient was actually very mean to brother number 2 (Larry). When others were around and watching, the patient was abusive. Emotionally and physicality to brother 2 (Larry). The patient was cruel and he embarrassed brother 2 (Larry), and humiliated him. The patient was so insecure that he did that to feel better about himself. Although it always worked opposite.

There are many reasons the patient did this to brother 2 (Larry). One of them was when people were around, the patient didn’t want everyone to see his true self. The other was this younger brother was so kind and saw his older brother as this great guy while everyone else saw a monster.

This scared the patient. He tried so hard to push the little brother away. He had to show brother 2 (Larry) that he was this jerk. But be couldn’t do it. The little guy kept seeing the greatness. So slowly, the greatness started to come out.

This younger brother talks in his email of the older brother teaching him so much. But in reality, it was the younger brother doing the teaching. Teaching him it’s ok to be loving, and caring, and sensitive. To help others. He kept the true self of this patient alive.

When the other kids would all get together and decide to blame something on the scapegoated patient, they would offer to pay the younger brother to go along with the lie.

He would refuse. Even though this caused him great isolation. The scapegoated patient was at this point gone a lot, with his “loser” friends gambling or drugs or crimes.

So the younger brother was maybe the bravest person you could ever meet. Even as a young kid. But many adults will do that, but a child?

He taught the patient. Kept his hope alive.

So that’s why the emails are so different. They saw two different people.  But it was because of how they interacted.

One of the most astonishing parts of this to me was the younger brother was the one abused more than anyone. Yet he’s the one that loved the most and helped this patient the most. A child shall lead them.

However, people that live like Brother 1 (Dale, ) get desperate when they feel a lifelong lie is going to be exposed. They have so much fear, and that’s what I see in brother 1 (Dale) and his email. What I see is fear.

It is too bad because being exposed is the best thing that can happen to you. Then you heal by killing the false self. That’s why the scapegoat is lucky. It is always a great moment when I hear someone come out of the closet. It is a moment. A very special moment where they say I am going to be myself.

Brother 2 (Larry) is now a LADC, in recovery himself.  He is on his way to becoming a counselor as well.

Of course he became addicted. He was isolated, alone, and attacked by his idol. He spent his childhood scared and all alone. So of course he became a fearful and depressed person. He had learned to hide his loving caring self as well.

The patient did serious damage to his younger brother, as hurt people hurt people.

So they got older and would get drunk together and talk about life and love and be their true selves together, that is the basis of all of this pain.

Now they are in recovery together.

This was the story. This true story.

I was there. This is my story. I was the patient.

I remember when I was 14 years old playing a football game with my uncle from Detroit. We all thought he was the coolest guy. We didn’t see him much. But he was cool. He came back after football and told my mom how surprised he was at how well behaved I was. I heard it, I heard a lot, but that is all that needs to be said.

They were so proud of me. But my heart broke in half that day. I realized that everyone hated me, and I didn’t know why, because all I did was love everyone in my head, I didn’t know how to show it. Or let it out.

I didn’t even know I was being so good. I was just being myself, I was relaxed and my uncle was nice to me, I had never really spent that much time with him so I was heartbroken to hear that he thought I was awful. I looked up to him. That was when I realized I had a mask on.

Then I tried to kill myself. I knew I had to kill myself, but didn’t realize I only needed to kill my false self. So I tried to end my life. My brother 2 (Larry) this young soft loving kid, wrote me this handwritten letter telling me how much he loved me and wanted me alive.

To me, someone who just realized they were a monster and was locked up, that was something that put my heart back together. I wouldn’t be here without any of that.

This is why the mask is important to me, and I know anyone can step in at any moment and change the world. This was just the beginning of my story. Please, spread love. Everywhere you go.

Did I do all those things? Throw pee, steal cars, and trash the house? Yes. I did not graduate, I robbed houses. All of it and more is true. I was chasing love and acceptance. I did terrible things. Terrible. I now have worked at these institutions as a supervisor and staff for over 20 years. On the other side of the desk.

The comeback was made because of love.

I was my brother’s first patient.

Thank you Larry. You deserved better. I was only a kid, and I did the best that I could.

I am sorry with everything I have got.

I love you.

You are my teacher, and my hero.

“Being friends with someone who is depressed is one of the most difficult, yet kindest acts someone can do.” -Larry Pfeffer

To be continued……

Anastasia Awakens

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“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

I walk into the jail. It is my first day as the new supervisor of the medical unit. What a great opportunity to change things with this job. I did not know why they hired me to do this job. I had at the time 10-12 years working in psychiatry and this was a jail, which is mostly medical I thought.

I was there for a few minutes, and met the staff members. Right away there is a behavior code called and we are to rush to the cell to see what it is. I follow along and watch. We get to the cell and there is where I would first meet Anastasia. She was a 21 year old Russian female. She was cutting herself with an object she had stolen.

“Anastasia, give us the scissors NOW!” screamed the guard.

“No, you guys don’t care. No one does, I want to die anyways.”

She continues to cut and the guards with the riot gear on jump on her all at once and put her down. She is screaming and screaming and crying, “get off of me, get off of me, I will give it to you.”

“Too late for that!” Scream the guards and the nurses.

They bring her into the medical unit and she is checked out by one of the nurses. The nurse, as she goes over to check Anastasia’s blood pressure and her wound is furious. It is obvious. She came into work, and she was just getting her coffee started, listening to her music, and catching up on the gossip of the day. She rolls her eyes as she walks shaking her head towards Anastasia.

Anastasia is sad and crying and asks the nurse, “Are you mad at me now.”

The nurse replies, “Well why do you keep doing this?”

This would be typical of what I would see in my time at the jail. I heard many of the staff say things like, “They get free care and I do not.” Or “They are taking our tax dollars every time we have to call the ambulance.”

I watched my boss come in and yell at an inmate who was going through withdrawal. “Shut up!! You are annoying! Just shut up and leave us alone.” He had paperwork to do and she was interrupting him.

What would happen when an inmate made a self-harm gesture as Anastasia did is that we would place them on intense observations. Meaning they had to come in to talk to someone at least once per day and we would have a series of questions to ask them to gauge how they are doing. Then we would decide if it was to continue. Great idea I thought, this will be fun.

However, I soon realized that no one really wanted to do this, and no one really made any effort when doing it. However, you are less likely to help someone if you have it in your head that they are just a bad person instead of taking the time to get to know them.

“She just wants attention.” “She is a manipulator, a baby and playing games. Now we have to do all this paperwork.” These were things some of the staff would say.

I began to see why they hired me. By diagnosis, about 75% of the jail inmates had mental illness. But I can tell you from my lifetime of experience, it was 100%. That is not an exaggeration. This is now where we are housing our Mentally Ill. In jails. Across the country and this was my first taste of it personally. It costs 1,000 dollars to send a patient to CD treatment or to Mental Health treatment per day, whereas the jail only costs about 100 dollars.

Every single inmate that I encountered would have benefited from mental health or CD treatment. The charts are all similar. Abuse and neglect as a child. Then drugs, alcohol, cutting, gambling, some sort of escape. Then fights, crimes, and then jail. Then back in jail, again and again and again.

We have this high recidivism rate and we wonder why? The reason is the system. We don’t treat the underlying conditions, and we punish the result of the condition. That would be like punishing someone for having a heart attack, but not telling them about the heart disease or helping them with diet modifications and lifestyle changes. Then when they have another heart attack, we punish them again and say “they just do not get it.”

We are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind. We have private prisons that make money of people being jailed. We have people who lobby congress to make tougher laws so we can lock up more people and everyone makes more money. Most of these people that are locked up are mentally ill.

So we are taking those that were abused and traumatized, and we are not treating them. We are locking them back up, and making money off of it.

So how did Anastasia get here, and how do we solve this issue of locking up the mentally ill?

You see the picture at the top. That is a Russian orphanage. That is where Anastasia spent the first 4 years of her life. In a crib, with no human touch or affection. Fighting for food. Forming no bonds with anyone.

“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much like smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.”

There was also a study done using monkeys regarding early bonding and its significance and how it affects our future development. It showed that lack of early maternal interaction, and early adversity in life, as well as lack of bonding significantly increases your chances of developing addictions and mental health issues, and behavioral issues later in life. Here is the full study if you want to read it.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3161556/

So, in Anastasia’s case, she was in an orphanage the first 4 years of her life. Which altered her brain development significantly. Russian orphanages are well known for their lack of resources, neglect, and abuse of the children. Some have been shut down. There are many awful images that can be seen online and article about it.

She then was adopted by her American adopted parents. They were excited to bring home this child, to be helping out the less fortunate. However, as in many cases with these adoptions from Russia or other countries, they did not get what they thought they were getting. They were not equipped to handle this young girl.

She was 4. 4 years old. Imagine a 4 year old. They are exploring life, starting to gain independence, asserting themselves. Many studies state that the personality is almost fully developed by age 3, some say by age 6. No one argues that it is fully developed very early on.

So now imagine a 4 year old sitting in a crib most of the day with no one to bond with or hold, no one to love her, or care for her. No one to ask questions to. No one to smile at or to play with. How is that fair that when she gets older we expect her to just have somehow magically “figured it out.”

She gets home and she is not a typical 4 year old. She screams, she throws fits, and she yells, hits, and kicks. She has no idea where she is or what is going on and she is scared and does not trust the world, nor should she.

Her adoptive parents were sold on the idea of bringing this kid to America and giving her a better life. They were not ready for this.

So, by around age 5 or 6, Anastasia’s new mom is holding her down, locking her in her room, and making her stay outside. Almost hiding her from the world. She is once again punished when she has emotions, or feeling. If you scream and feel, you are hit, held down, or locked outside. That was the message that was being sent to Anastasia. What this teaches the developing brain is that when you are feeling something, you deal with it by inflicting pain. It is how her young brain was molded over and over again.

When a child is abused like this over time, the hippocampus sometimes shuts down, that is the part of the brain that involves memory of events. However, there is also proof that the chemical reactions in a child’s brain at this time are similar to that of heroin withdrawal. So what I am trying to say is imagine a child going through this much pain over and over, and getting this sick over it. No one is explaining any of this to her. She doesn’t understand why she is dying inside. Then the memory part of the brain shuts down almost so she doesn’t have to remember all of the events. I would ask her all the time about the orphanage, she didn’t remember. But I read the chart. So I knew, but she didn’t. It is probably best that she didn’t.

So we see these children as adults and we say, “Well only half of them were traumatized.” I am certain that is false, you still see the behavior, because the body remembers. The brain does not always remember the things that happened. But the body does.

Just like an alcoholic or drug addict learns to use the substance when emotions come up. Someone who self-harms usually has learned at an early age that when emotions come up, you inflict pain and punishment. Then it goes away and the surge of dopamine happens much like it does in an addict. However, the feelings stay inside. They are never released. So now, this temporary relief has actually made things worse. Now there is shame over the self-harm, and the original emotions stay. Now you have someone with all these emotions bottled up. Eventually it’s going to explode.
Anastasia began cutting herself at age 7. I asked her how this started. She said “It just made the pain go away, when my mom would hit me, I would not be sad about whatever I was sad about anymore.”

She was eventually sent to groups homes. Her first one was at age 11. She would cut and self-harm. She has scars all up and down her arms.

She has tried to walk into traffic, and she had tried to overdose. She has tried to stab herself with a knife.

Her life has been this. Placement after placement, event after event.

Now in the jail, the staff when she is not around state that she is “attention seeking” and “manipulating” and “playing games.”

They are not motivated to help heal her because they believe in their head that it is made up. I think she does want attention, because she has never gotten it. What you think of someone in your head affects the way you treat them.

Some of the oppressors of the mentally ill and addicted walk around like they are superior, like they did something to have this privilege. Like it was earned. They were born on 3rd base and act like they hit a triple.

I learned all of this about her life as I talked to her, and confirmed it by reading her chart. I would get my eyes rolled at by the staff and guards, and told “You spend too much time with the inmates.” and “You are causing issues because now they expect everyone to spend time with them.”

However, some agreed with me. That’s another thing I learned, there is usually a silent majority that agrees with being kind to people. Everyone has this at their core. They are more willing to do this if they have a partner in doing this. So by acting out of love, you usually bring out the others that have been fearful to do things different.

The oppressors of the mentally ill and addicted take someone abused, who never had near what they had, and lock them up. Then they punish them and do not treat them. However, they continue to make laws and laws to punish and punish. Prison is a big business here. We have people making 100,000 a year. In their minds, they need to keep making that money, and more if they can. They do this at the expense of the mentally ill and traumatized and addicted.

The oppressors say, “They do not want to get better, they keep coming back.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

When Anastasia was 18. She was in an adult foster care program. She had a staff member that was very strict and had this attitude like the staff at the jail. She felt Anastasia’s behavior was purposeful and deliberate. She ordered Anastasia around. She bossed her around, she had power and abused it, much like the jail staff.

How did this staff member grow up? She was told she was a princess and got everything she wanted. She was told she was special. She was told she deserved all that she had. She was a victim of all of us also. She was also told lies as a child. She ran her house since she was little. She was abused in another way. We create this, our society creates this. We are all co responsible for the staff, and for Anastasia.

How is it all of our faults, some say to me. Silence is consent, if we say nothing and do nothing, we are consenting to it. Some live in excess, and as a whole, we have a lot that we do not need. We spend billions per year on Christmas, and the super bowl alone costs billions of dollars. We as a country and society have all this money. We see the suffering in the other parts of the world and we do nothing. We say we can’t change things. We are only one person. So we sit on our couches, and we watch TV and we over consume. We pay entertainers billions of dollars. We are using up all the resources.

We are acting like a virus. Viruses attach on to the host. Viruses eat, multiply, and use up the hosts resources, then move on.

There are people suffering all over the world. They are the future Anastasias. Or worse. We can prevent the next school shooting, or the next serial killer. We are capable of this.

We also see the spoiled little girl and think it is “cute.” We watch the shows that encourage this, we show children by our actions. We consume and teach young girls what beauty is, by how you look. You have to be skinny, you have to look a certain way. You have to act a certain way. Very rarely do I see someone just accepting their young daughter for who they are.

The young spoiled staff members are victims of the lies as well. We all see it, but do we do anything? NO.

It’s hard, I do it. I try my hardest not to and I am getting better at it. But it is all over and it is hard not to become a part of it. You have to be aware. I am not always, it is a process.

We sit and wait for people to come along and change all of this.

But, what if we are the ones we have been waiting for? What if you do something each day, and someone sees it and it continues. The effect of one kind act or word is much larger than you can ever imagine.

So yes, you are only one person, but you can change the world if you want to.

Anastasia was hurting one day, and having intense emotions. So she left to the store. She came back late and was yelled at by this staff member. She told Anastasia she cannot eat supper. The staff was mad that Anastasia was not following “the rules” which really were “her rules.” She did not like Anastasia doing her own thing and going off. This was not the first time Anastasia has disobeyed her. No one had ever challenged her. These 2 people and their generations of pain collided on this day.

Anastasia was doing poorly on this day. She had bought a knife. She pulled it out. She was going to hurt herself. The staff member was scared, this was not how it was supposed to go.

The staff called the cops and they surrounded the house. They broke in and arrested Anastasia because they had to evacuate the house. The staff was angry, and said she felt threatened. That was enough for felony terroristic threats.

What happened was they then officially charged Anastasia for felony terroristic threats. She did not know what to do, Anastasia had a public defender that was overwhelmed with cases so he got her to plead guilty. No one really advocated for her. You have this young, law abiding staff member that was scared and this brutal criminal that tried to hurt her. Lock her up. That was the perception.

So now Anastasia is at jail. A felony terroristic threat. She was getting punished more in jail. She was not getting any treatment. She was continually shamed by staff. She never had visitors. She was now a mentally ill person in a jail. This is how it happens. This is just one story, but there are many like it that result with mentally ill being in prisons all over.

What will they think 100 years from now about us? I hear people of this generation always say, “I can’t believe they had slaves,” and “I can’t believe they didn’t let women vote and men just did what they wanted to their wives.”

What do you think this says about us? We take people who were abused, and traumatized. We charge them with crimes and lock them up. For money. We do not treat them either. We make money off of it. We are taking sick people and locking them up, we are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind. Most of which are mentally ill and have been traumatized and we do not treat them. We can fix it, we choose not to.

Anastasia and I talked daily. I read her chart, got her records, and got to know her. She was a kind, loving caring young lady that never had a chance. Now she was not perfect, as none of us are. I still heard the talk from staff and guards, “She just wants attention, game player, and attention seeker.”

So, at times she was afraid to report symptoms because she was convinced that she “made things up for attention.” That’s what she was told her whole life.

One day, during clinic, she passed out in the hallway. A medical code was called. They all rolled eyes and said “Anastasia again.” She would say she was ill at times to get an opportunity to talk was the perception of many.

We went down to the code, but this time she wouldn’t wake up. If she was faking it, it sure was a good job. We called 911. She went in.

She was in the hospital for a few days. She would have to go back and get tests done.

It turns out she had developed cancer that had spread all over her body.

She was not going to make it. She was going to die.

She was placed in the hospital ward for end of life care. At age 22.

Everyone was surprised by how she handled the news that she was going to die in 6 months. She said to me, “I hope my dad visits me now.”

I lost it. I lose it again now writing this. I cry every time I think about this moment.

That’s all she wanted was a visitor.

She came into the hospital ward as we had to monitor her hourly now.

What I saw from everyone was their humanity. Everyone was truly sad over this. They started to see her every single hour on the hour as they had to, due to her illness. Since she was now in the ward right next to us. So the staff were almost “forced” to interact with her and get to know her.

They got to know the true Anastasia. They treated her so gently and kindly. Everyone was laughing with her.

Everyone got to know her quirks. They got to know who she was. Because of this, they all knew when there was a change in her behavior, so they knew when she needed attention. They knew her so well they could see when she needed extra when she needed time alone.

They knew her favorite foods. Some would sneak her in treats and pop and everyone was breaking the rules for this kid. Some of those that were the roughest on her were truly the ones with the softest hearts.

I saw so much beauty in this such painful moment. Everyone had their masks off.

Why does it take this for it to happen? Why did this kid have to die for people to see her for who she was?

They were forced to get to know her. It was amazing.

At one point during all of this, I sat down at the desk next to the oldest meanest nurse in the building (my false perception.)

Her name was Dorothy. I just started small talk. Her head was down, she was shaking. I said “what is it?”

I looked in her eyes, now this was probably the toughest woman I’ve ever met. Smart and rough and tough. You know, old school. She was crying.

She said “you know it just hurts. I lost my daughter at age 21 to a drug overdose and I see a lot of her in Anastasia. I was mad Anastasia was wasting her life and going to kill herself like my daughter.”

I never would have guessed that is where all her anger towards Anastasia came from. Everyone has things that lead them to be who they are, give them their beliefs, and things that dictate their behaviors.

Which is why we all are co responsible for each other.

When Anastasia died, she died with all the nurses and guards around her crying. Everyone came in on their days off to say goodbye. She finally had her family. It was us.

I sat next to her as she passed away. She had this huge smile on her face.

I said “What the heck are you smiling for?” That was our relationship. We teased a lot and goofed off. Even as she was going away.

She put her hand out, she held my hand gently, which was very unlike her. She looked at me dead in the eyes and said. “This was the best 6 months of my life.”

She finally got treated the way she should have been her whole life.

She finally got what she always wanted, and what she never had gotten.

Love.

Anastasia means resurrection.

Stigma killed Robin Williams and many others: A Stigma Story

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Photo credit to brian Meyer, amazing work.


“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein

Robin Williams didn’t kill himself, stigma killed him. It kills many people like him everyday. Here is how:

STIGMA, that is the reason people do not ask for help. STIGMA is the reason people do not go to the doctor and say I’m depressed, or I’m an addict, or I do not feel things like anyone else. Who wants to say that they feel all these intense emotions?

Especially when you know what the result is likely going to be. When you know likely what will happen is the doctor will likely give you medication. People will tell you to change, or to just feel better.

The issue is we have it backwards, the depressed and mentally ill don’t need to change, society and our culture needs to change.

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?

I’ll tell you what I think, it is because he got to wear a mask and pretend he was 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 matters, 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.” I knew this because I have been there. I spoke from the heart, not from a book.

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.” There have been times in my life where everything was ripped away. When I lost all the things that I thought that were important. Things like cars, houses, 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 he had a bad day.Good days come and go, and 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 partially becaise 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 out loud,“They are taking my benefits and they are taking my tax dollars. This is bull, 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, then 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 they say is the single most difficult mental health diagnosis to treat, and the most difficult illness to have as a patient.

What is said is that those with this illness depend completely on the external enviornment 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 became 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 didn’t need birds, fish, or bees. They were ok, but not essential and at times they were an annoyance to me.Then the teacher then explains how if we lost algae, then we would lose fish. If we would lose fish, the whole food chain would go away, and we all would die.

Every single thing you can see around you. The rocks, the birds, and the trees all are comprised of the same atoms. Just expressed differently.

There is science out there that shows 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 accidentally 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.

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.

the end

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Lost and Never Found: An Alcoholic’s Unknown Story

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“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.”

 -Tupac Shakur 

 

 This is the first real case, my first time of seeing beyond someone’s mask, this stuck with me and 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). This is what you will read about if this patient just came into your office, hospital, or group home.

This is also what a judge will see when making important determinations about this persons life. When reviewing this womans case this is what they all 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 psychologically.

 She would force the children to kneel down and pray as they cried. She would make them swear she was not drunk. She, however was drunk, and she would threaten to beat them if they told the truth. She would call the kids awful names.

One of the children fell on a beer bottle at age 2 and split her foot wide open. She said it was just a cut and to get over it and put a band aid on 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 one of the children and all the other kids had to all get together and pick her up so he didn’t suffocate the child that she fell on.  

 They didn’t have much food, the oldest girl cooked ramen noodles outside in freezing temperatures. 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. They 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 still 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 he 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 very 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 older. They are the ones that saw most of this firsthand and were old enough to remember it.

 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 the 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 the family. She felt her leaving the abusive situation 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 was 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 heck? 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 too much.” Then the key is to walk away and find someone who can. However, if you ignore this inability to care for the person. You begin to subconsciously attack, belittle, 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 can’t tell it like him, but here is my best effort.

 Imagine a 13 year old girl and 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, or 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. 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 with genetics involved? 

 Now as an addict, you have naturally 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 no dopamine. 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, it is never as much as the first time. Then, 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. 

 There are 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, a cutter, a overeater, or one of many.

It started as a way 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. 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, all 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 that 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 on her for “choosing” alcohol over her kids, when inside she hated herself.

Anyone that attempted to get closer to her, 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 7 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, and then believing it was her.  All 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 when 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 the patient 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 this in this drunk ladies eyes as I spent more time watching this relationship.  I think the oldest daughter was right. 

The reason that 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. So 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 ever let it go grandma, I am going to keep passing it on. Not until every cage is empty. 

 Grandma I love you. You are still with me in everything I do.

Mom you’re my hero. 

 

The end. 

Relapse and Resurrection: The Fall and Rise of the Addicted and Mentally Ill

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“Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself.”

2 stories of 2 ride along trips that I took with paramedics that I have done. I have observed and followed the treatment of the patients.

2 ambulances driving down the highway at lightning speeds with the lights on. Cars are getting out of the way as fast as they can. Both are emergency situations.

In the first ambulance there is a man named “Jake.” “Jake” is a 54 year old man who has just suffered his 3rd heart attack. We arrive to the house, the family is in tears. The wife is sobbing uncontrollably. The children all have their heads down and they are in pain. He is not breathing. We are able to get him to breathe again at the home and the family is relieved. We rush him into the ambulance and drive to the nearest hospital. The family grabs their phones and gives all the necessary information. They will meet us at the hospital and are grateful. They all get into their cars and get on their phones to call family members who will all meet them at the hospital to offer their support.

In the 2nd ambulance there is a woman named “Karly.” She is a 46 year old female who has just been found in her parent’s basement. She has overdosed on heroin for the 3rd time. The family is disgusted. The parents are shaking their heads in embarrassment. The siblings have a look of anger on their faces. Her children are scared and are looking at the adults and their reactions. She is not breathing. We get her to breathe again and rush her into the ambulance. We inform the family of where we will be. They tell us to have the doctors call them when it is over. They do not want to expose the children to this. They are going to enjoy their day. We offered to allow anyone to come in the ambulance with us. They all declined to go. They did not give their phone numbers. They said “she can get a hold of us if she wants when she is better.”

You can see the difference already. This is how our society treats the chronic relapse of both of these diseases. That’s right, they are both relapses. Both are chronic diseases that people often are non-compliant with treatment. Both cost money and pain to family members. Both require a change in lifestyle and behavior. Yet one is looked at as a victim, “poor Jake, he just had another heart attack.” The other is looked at as someone who is a bad person, “Karly did it again, she just doesn’t care about anyone but herself.” I will continue these stories in a little bit.

However, a closer look at the statistics reveals much information that the general public is never made aware of. The relapse rate of someone with heart disease or hypertension is 50-70%. Meaning they are told what diet they need to follow, what medicines to take, and what lifestyle modifications they need to make. They have a hard time adjusting and they are not compliant with the recommendations. They “relapse.” They have another stroke or another heart attack. For asthma the rate is also 50-70%. These chronic diseases and relapses cause pain to family members, and recovery takes time and there may be relapses. All of these diseases create worry and fear of losing the loved one to the family. The cost is astronomical. In fact 13.8 diabetics are non-compliant and this costs about 122 billion dollars per year. That number could be cut in half. In fact of all the prescriptions written by doctors every year, only about half of them are ever filled. These are all conditions that could be made better and cost decreased by compliance. However, we look at these patients as just that, as patients, and as victims.

Now how about addiction and mental health? That relapse rate is actually smaller. It is 40-60%. It also costs less per year when the patient relapses. The same as the other diseases, they have a hard time following recommendations, changing lifestyle, and taking any medications. What is different is that trauma usually is a precursor to these conditions. It has been said child maltreatment is to addictions and mental health what smoking is to other chronic medical conditions. It may not cause it, but if a person is predisposed to the disease, it will bring it out. So we have someone who likely was the victim of a childhood trauma, has a disease and is actually more compliant and cost less money when they relapse. However, society shames people with these diseases. They roll their eyes when these patients relapse. Which actually causes more shame and more trauma. It prevents people from seeking help. That is the power of stigma.

We have to change the narrative about relapse. It is not always a bad thing, sometimes it is a turning point. If we point fingers and roll our eyes and make judgments when people relapse, they will not be open about it. They will have shame. Shame creates secrets, secrets create isolation, and isolation creates depression. Depression can create more use. I myself have relapsed about 4 times. One of the first times I relapsed, I went back to the treatment center. I was ashamed, embarrassed and scared. I could not believe this had happened. I had lost all the support of everyone. You know what happened when I went in to treatment? The front desk woman, she said “Hi, how have you been.” She treated me like I was not a bad person. She treated me the way heart attack victims get treated when they have a second heart attack. She treated me like a human being and with compassion. No one rolled their eyes. The whole treatment team treated me like this. I believe to this day if she had rolled her eyes or I felt judged by her, I would not be sober today. We need to change this attitude we have about relapse.

Noncompliance is actually much higher where there is poverty. Those making less than 15,000 per year have a much higher noncompliance rate. So it appears we have an inequality issue, not a non-compliance issue. There are more liquor stores per square foot the poorer the neighborhood. So again we create the issue and then we label the victims of this disease.

Now I will finish the stories of the 2 patients.

I watched as we would come back in the following days to the same hospital. What I saw was “Jake” the heart attack victim has not followed his doctor’s orders. He continues to overeat, he does not exercise. He then has had his 3rd heart attack in 7 years. Yet, he is surrounded by his family. The doctors and nurses rush to the ambulance, they grab him and are concerned. You can see it on their faces. This is a life and death situation. They are able to stabilize “Jake.” They are happy for him. They feel they have done their job. They give the education needed. The heart unit is surrounded with posters of resources to help maintain a recovery. The social workers give the family information about all kinds of foundations that contribute to helping heart attack victims and their families. There are all kinds of activities and help available and it is posted all over the unit. The nurses and doctors come in and make sure “Jake” is comfortable, and doing well. The whole family is around and happy. They all are giving hugs and are ecstatic, there are cards and balloons and gifts all over his room. You can feel the love and support and it is a wonderful thing.

When I would go to the floor where “Karly” was at when we came back, what I saw was nothing. She was in a dark room, and she was very sick. There was no family around. No cards, no gifts. When I stopped at the nurse’s station you could hear them talking about how she is “sucking up all the taxpayers’ money.” How she is a bad person and “how could she do this to her kids.” “She should just be in jail.” The social worker wants to commit her, to force her to go to a treatment center and force medications on her that she says does not work. The staff do not want to listen to her and work with her for her recovery, they want to be in charge and dictate her recovery. No one really listens to her. They consider her a “frequent flyer” and a “manipulator.” No phone calls. You can see she is in pain, and she believes she is a bad person and wants to be dead. She was abused as a child as her chart read, she was now being shamed and crucified even more. There are no posters up, no activities or support program brochures on this unit. It is in the dark corner of the hospital that they pretend is not even there.

And people wonder why the airline pilot that crashed his plane or others do not seek help? The problem is us. This is a system problem, we need to stop blaming the victim or it will never end.

As I started to visit with these patients and follow them and get to know them, I saw this huge difference. They are both struggling, one has support, and one did not.

What happened was they both recovered. When you recover from a heart disease, you have a better quality of life. You can breathe better and have more time on earth to spend with your loved ones.

One posted on Facebook the other day, “3 years since last heart attack, down 100 pounds.” 1500 likes, 100 comments all supportive.

The other one also posted, “3 years since I died, I am now sober 3 years. For all that I have hurt I am sorry for my transgressions. I love all of you.” 15 likes. 4 comments. You see the response is totally different even about recovery, so the stigma continues.

This is why Major league baseball and the California angels should be ashamed of the way they are treating Josh Hamilton who just admitted he relapsed. Yet Adrian Peterson can hit a 4 year old with a tree branch until he bleeds and he still gets to pick which team pays him millions of dollars.

When you recover from addiction or mental health, your soul is healed. You are awakened. You see the world like no one else can. The path to recovery is harder, but the reward is so much greater. That is why I call it a gift. If you have been there you know why. If you have not, you will see when you get there. Addiction and mental health are spiritual diseases. It is people that know the falsehoods of this life and are truth seekers who usually are afflicted with these diseases. I have read and heard people say that “alcoholics and addicts “Spiritually thirsty people.” So what happens then when you recover from this, is that you kill your false self and your true self is born. Much like a death and a resurrection. That’s why no matter what your religion or belief or whoever or whatever your higher power may be, as an addict you have to love the idea of Easter and resurrection. It is our day, it is our time. We have lived it. You know before the resurrection comes the death. Before the death comes the darkest part, the beatings, the shame, the guilt, and the self-hate. Others beat you down, Kick you while you are down. You will have friends turn on you and pretend like they never knew you. You will see people judge you. People will join the crowd even though they know the real you. You will also see people who still care, who are pure. You are a truth seeker, and you get shown the truth. It is what you wanted all along. That’s why this is a gift. The path is painful, but beautiful.

Let your false self-die. Rise from your own ashes and resurrect your true self on this day. On our day. You do not have to be a Christian, but think about the message that is what matters, not whether the story was true or not. We have lived this. If you have been there, use this day to cherish it and remember it and renew your vow of sobriety and rebirth. If you have not, here it is. This day is what it is all about.

Resurrect your true self.

HELPING THE HUNGRY GHOST

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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Hopeless. Given up, throwing in the towel. This is pointless and I cannot do this anymore. This is a feeling we all have at times. I remember a time when I was working at a rehabilitation facility. I was sitting in a staff meeting and it all boiled over. I screamed at all the staff, “What is the point of this, what are we even doing for these patients! We just take their money, give them 80 dollars a month, and do not help anyone! This is a complete fraud. We write notes so we get paid, not because we care!” “Someone tell me what we have done for Bill!” No one answered. “See we do not help anyone, this is a complete joke and it is wrong.”

The looks on everyone’s faces said it all. It was a small room packed with many people as we had the projector on as we were required to go through all the patients. Some had agreement on their faces. Others disappointment, but mostly shock. People had their heads down. It looked like shame. No one said a thing and after this went on for 10 minutes I walked out in disgust. I went to my office upstairs and closed the door in complete defeat. It was over. I am done.

After years of working in the field of psychiatry and addiction. I had quit internally. I watched over and over as patients would come in and leave. They would come back. No one seemed to be getting any better. We made money either way. We were told to write notes, because that way we could get paid money for that day. It was all about money and filling beds. We had to fill the beds.

At times, it did not seem like the patients cared at all. They had a place to stay for a few months while they attempted to get into new places. The social workers in the community did not care, because they just wanted a place for their patients to be so they did not have to worry about them. The hospitals did not care, they discharged people to us because they needed placement. Hospitals did not care about how a patient was doing, they only cared if the patient had a place to go.

I watched the other staff. They came in and sat in their offices, basically the walking dead. They sit in the offices and stare at the computer, and in the 5 minutes that the patient wanted to talk, they would blow the patients off. They would come to work, goof-off at times, but basically dead on the inside. It was like zombies walking all over the place in a dark dreary place. They would talk about how this whole system is a fraud, how we are making money, patients do not want to be here, the staff themselves do not want to be there. I would listen to this, and then as it got in my head, I would look and that is what I would see.

I gave up. My whole life was a fraud. It was a scheme and what I had lived for, my passion, was now exposed as a complete fraud. It was painful, and defeating.

We had a patient at this time and his name was “Bill.” Well, “Bill” came to us, he would not even talk. He would not eat because he thought food was poisoned. The man was about 90 pounds. Can you imagine thinking your food was poisoned? How scary that must be. He would go into the bathroom and spit until he had no saliva because he thought we were trying to kill him. He would hold his bladder because he feared going to the bathroom. He had a look of fear in his eyes, he was scared of everyone and everything. Then we had to force him to take medications. In his mind, he was at a place that was trying to kill him, poison his food and kill him. He then is told he has to take medication that makes him sick, tired, and shaky. Then he is told he has to take it and is locked up if he refuses. Imagine that as your reality for a moment. He would not even sleep. It was torture I am sure. It was heartbreaking. He had no family to come visit, he would never come to groups, and he would never participate. No one really cared. We got his money every month, we wrote a note on him every day and got paid. He had a place to stay. His social worker figured he was ok and would work on a new placement for him. But treatment? How was he getting any treatment? Staff did not care, they got through their shift. I did not care anymore, this was the blow that was ending it all for me. It is official, this is a fraud and I cannot help anyone or anything. I give up.

Then the staff meeting I described above in which I let loose on everyone. I blew up and it all came out in an angry speech in front of all staff at the meeting.

As I sat in my office with my heart pounding and my heart racing and emotions all over the place. I hear a knock on the door. I say “come in.”

It was Lonny. Lonny was the business manager of the place. He was the one that collected the money and paid the bills. He was a kind and direct man. I always wondered how he could take money from these people who had nothing. He did it every day, which was his job. He was not a bad man, he was a good man. He had a difficult job. He did not speak often, but when he did, it was important and meaningful.

So my thought as he walks in is “Oh my god he is going to give me a lecture about this, but I do not care I am quitting anyways.”

He said, “Can I sit down.”

I said “sure.”

He said to me, “I was thinking about what you said. What have we done for Bill? What are we even doing? And I think I have an answer for you.”

I said, “Ok.” I was thinking, “I cannot wait to hear this one.”

He said, “Well maybe if we do well, Bill will have a place that he can go back to some time in his life and say, you know the world is a scary place, but there is a place that I was at for 90 days that was not so scary. People were nice to me, they took care of me and listened to me. So maybe the whole world is not so bad. Maybe we can plant seeds in his mind that he will use later.”

I said “How do we get to that, he will not even talk. He is scared and no one cares.”

He responded. “Start by saying hi every day. Smile at him. Regardless of his response. Let’s just start with hello.”

This conversation changed my life. I am rarely speechless, but this was one of those times. My mind went blank. It was all still. All the emotions were gone and my mind was blank. It was like once again in my life when I could not take anymore. I was delivered a message to continue and to go on. I was given a spark of hope and a different way of thinking from a most unlikely source.

Every moment in life can teach us lessons, and every person is a possible teacher. If we are not fully present in each moment, we miss out on the lesson. IF we have preconceived notions about others, we miss the lesson. If we are elsewhere in our mind, we miss the moment. If we miss the moment, we mess with the future. Every moment builds on the next, which is how the future is built. Moment after moment.

I never thought this man had this life changing lesson for me. When I was broke, defeated, and had given up on my life’s passion. The man who pulled me up was Lonny.

I started to listen to this advice. I said hi. Nothing at first. For a couple weeks. Hi how are you doing? Then one day, it happened. “Bill” looked up at me, and said hi. Then he smiled. Then he would say he is “doing fine.”

I watched him start to talk to other people as well. Others would talk to him and be good to him. Now the same staff that were zombies were still being zombies. But my mind was not focused on them anymore. It was focused on the 2 or 3 staff that were trying every day to make a difference in each moment that they had. These were the people that I was not noticing before, because my inner turmoil did not want to see it. Now I saw it.

One staff. Her name was “Rochelle,” would give everything she had to each patient and in each moment. If they wanted to walk, she would go for a walk, they were the most important people to her in that moment. She also heard all the negativity, however it did not disturb her. I was in awe of how she did this. Maybe it did bother her, but it did not seem like it. For each patient, the moment they were with her, they were the most important person in the world. How had I not noticed this before?

“Bill” eventually got better. I mean not completely. He shaved his head, he was smiling and talking to us about his life. He actually was eating. He would still eat as fast as possible and cover it up, but he would eat. He was no longer afraid of the bathroom. It was amazing.

I go back to Lonny’s words often. Planting seeds. Sometimes we just need to do the best we can do and let go of the results. Sometimes we won’t see the results. Sometimes the results we see for other people will not be what we want for the other person, but it is not about us. It is about them. It may be that they got the result that they wanted. We cannot define another person’s success by our expectations and standards. What is their goal, and how can we help them. Do they even want help? We are like the passenger with a road map that points out things. They are the driver, it is their journey. Sometimes all we can do is make someone feel safe, or plant seeds. Or make them feel like the most important person in the world for that moment.

I thought for a long time that I planted seeds in “Bill.” Maybe I did. I let go of the results because I did the best I could.

What I know happened is that “Bill” planted seeds in me. So did Lonny. Thank you Lonny.

I thought I was the gardener, however I was the flower.

Or maybe, I was both. Maybe we all are both at all time.

The end.

Wanted: Superhero for my Children!

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“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.

thank you.

The end.

A Tale of Two Physicians: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

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” .. 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.

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 says, “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,  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 has become a business.

In this case, the patient now 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 month later, the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider. Because he will be considered “difficult.”

The patient, using all the courage that they have, gets another appointment. This  is months later. So at this next appointment, Dr. D walks in, and he does not recognize the patient.  He treats him as if he is a new patient. He 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.

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 here] 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 talked to the patient 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 amazing. 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.

 

The End

 

 

Forced Surrender: Fear will make you a prisoner, but love will set you free

saving-drowning-man

“Sometimes our inability to control our instincts gives us a level of courage we don’t normally have.” -Jason Whitlock

We all try to hide ourselves with the mask, even if we do not know we are doing it. However, there are times that we cannot hide our true nature. It is usually in a crisis or a moment when our instincts take over. The true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Usually, it is a beautiful thing to witness. It is like seeing a picture of love. It is a rare occurrence. I was thinking of this example the other day and decided it might be a good moment in my life to share.

The courtroom was full. The custody battle has been long and complicated. Judge Harrington has heard this go on in his courtroom for months. Everyone was finally done presenting their cases and the evidence. It was full of emotion but silent. Judge Harrington is to address the court and the hundreds of people that are there with an emotional, vested interest.

He stands up and says “Tom, you are the mother’s father, you have been here for every single event in the courtroom. You have come to all the conferences and meetings. You have missed work for this, you are a dedicated man. What is your opinion on what should happen with the child?”

What? He is asking Tom what he thinks. He is the Judge and he is asking Tom what Tom thinks? Tom was the father of “Ally” who is the mother. “Ally” was his only daughter. He has one grandchild, and that was Kayla. He has been a large part of Kayla’s life up to this point. Kayla is the child in question here, she is 5 years old. Kayla and “Ally” live close to Tom, Kayla goes fishing with him, and she knows him so well. She hugs Grandpa Tom every time she sees him. He loves having Kayla around, she brings life to everyplace she is, like most 5 year old little girls.

Tom and his daughter “Ally,” have a great relationship. She has gotten involved in drugs recently, and he is trying to help her. He has always been a loving father. When “Ally” was young, she was emotionally abandoned by her mother, who never wanted children. So Tom raised her most of his life and was a loving, caring man. He was not perfect, as none of us are, but his heart was pure.

Is this why the Judge was asking him? I didn’t know. I did not like it. I was the one on the other side. I wanted my daughter and had been waiting my whole life for this moment. Her mother, “Ally,” was a full blown drug addict, and had been failing drug test after drug test. This should be a slam dunk. I was very upset that the Judge was asking Tom this.

I yelled at the Judge, “What the hell is this Bull****, why is it up to him? Why are you even asking him?” My heart was trembling in fear. I was shaking, I was sweating and nervous. I looked back at my mother and her lower lip was quivering. My father was standing in silence. All my siblings were looking. We were all so young. Ages from 16-24. No one had been in a situation like this.

Judge Harrington said “I suggest you settle down or you will be held in contempt of court, do you even know what that is young man?”

My lawyer had me leave the room. He said, “It may be best if you are not here for this, you are too emotional and you will be perceived in a poor manner.”

I am thinking to myself, “What the heck is going on here. I am not the one addicted to drugs. I am the one trying to go to school, I am recovering for my daughter.” My daughter was gone for years in Florida, then she had come back. I had started to get better and prepare for this. Now it seemed everything was falling apart right before my eyes. “I am going to lose this thing now,” is all I could think.

After doing the right thing, after going through the pain of losing Kayla, then getting her back in my life. Then I dedicate myself to bettering myself to become a good father. I tried to help her mother “Ally,” get into treatment, and still after this I am still going to lose her again? My heart was broken and I was in distress. The anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, embarrassment, and everything from my past was all coming up, and making me look to Judge Harrington like an out of control emotional kid. I had already lost her, my child, once, and I had thought forever. Now this second chance was being taken from me is what I felt.

Why was I so afraid of him asking Tom? Well in the beginning, I was good friends with Tom. But I was also a 17 year old punk that got his 16 year old daughter pregnant. We then fought for years. I said some horrible things to him and was rude and a jerk to him. He was the same to me. He did not like me and it was clear. Now he was going to decide my fate? How is this justice?

When “Ally” came back to the Midwest, and was getting involved in drugs. I was not trying to take the child away. This got Tom to respect me a little bit and earn a little trust. I was trying to get her in to treatment. I was trying to help. However, when you are not healthy yourself, and you are trying to help someone it is much like if a surgeon is bleeding while they are doing surgery. You are trying to help, but really you end up just injecting your own poison into that person.

I had no idea about addiction, mental health or anything. Yet here I was trying to understand it all and help someone who was a full blown meth addict and shooting up daily. I couldn’t understand why someone would leave their child for weeks at a time. I couldn’t understand why someone would say they wanted treatment then ditch out when they realized the cops were not after them anymore. I didn’t understand why someone would keep using after all the consequences. I didn’t know who this person was that was neglecting, and abusing my daughter.

The “Ally” I knew was a caring, and loving person who had been abandoned basically by her mother emotionally her whole life. Then her mother left for Florida when she found out her 16 year old daughter, “Ally” was pregnant. “Ally” was abused in many ways as a child, physically, emotionally, and sexually. But her heart was pure. I could not understand this person she had become. I was trying to help her. We all were. However it was not going well, and speaking for myself only, I was making it worse and I did not realize it at the time.

Tom was surprised that I was not coming down and just trying to get custody. We started to talk, we bonded as we tried to help “Ally” together for the child. Tom loved his daughter “Ally” and was a great father. We were so frustrated, she was calling everyone names, bringing up everyone else’s dirty laundry. We didn’t understand. Tom saw me prevent her from being arrested. Eventually, I had given up and we were now in this long drawn out custody dispute.

It got to a point that I bailed “Ally” out of jail once, and Tom had become mad at me for helping her too much. Everyone really was doing their best but we were all brining our own stuff into this situation and the years of mistrust and fear and anger were all present.

As I look back now, I realize we were all fighting because we all wanted to love this child. If you take away the fear, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions, we could have solved this ourselves. But here we were in a recess at court after my blowup in the courtroom with the Judge asking Tom of all people what he thinks. This was it, I was the crazy one. This was all going to be taken away and I knew it.

I sat alone in a room at the courthouse. I refused to talk to everyone. I was alone. This was one of those points in my life that I realized I really have no control over anything what so ever. It was not a painful thing. Well, at first it was frustrating, I could not talk my way out of anything, I could not throw a fit and get my way, and I could not manipulate. I could not take Kayla and run, I would be in jail then. This was completely out of my hands, I had no control. The funny thing is, we never do. We only think we do. Control is a human illusion.

This was one of my first forced third steps. Forced to surrender. I would forget it later, but also go back to it throughout my life when it was needed. I was receiving a painful gift. I got on my knees and I cried, first about how unfair it was, then about how mad I was, then about what I was going to do if things didn’t go my way. Then when all the garbage was out, it was just tears. Crying and hoping for the best. I was hoping that the best happens and just trusting that if I am a good guy and my intentions are pure and I do it with love in my heart that it will turn out ok. I surrendered that day. I was not mad, instead all the anxiety, fear and negative emotions were gone. What I felt was a freedom I had not felt before. I realized that I was allowed to love my daughter regardless of where I was or who she was with. No one could take that from me. This was not going to be the end. No one can take my heart or my soul. I felt an immense freedom.

I was calm and came back to the courtroom. I apologized to the Judge. The Judge continued, “Before we were interrupted by the outburst, I had asked Tom what he thought. Tom, where do you think Kayla should be. With you, with the uncles, or the mother or the father, what is your opinion?”

Tom stood up, everyone was looking at him, He had tears in his eyes, and his voice was shaking. This was a large man, he works on the railroads and has his whole life and loved life. His voice trembling as the courtroom was in silence, he said, “She should be with her father.”

Whoa, that was me. This man could have said his daughter “Ally”, and believed he could get her help. He could have said his son, the uncle, or himself. He did not. To stand up in a courtroom and say something like that when it held so much weight was one of the most amazing acts of unselfishness I have ever seen. This was true love. He had no idea if I would ever let them see Kayla again if I had custody. We had a rough history which was getting better. He knew this could be the end of his family and ever seeing his only grandchild. He still said what he thought was best for her.

Because of this I was granted custody. There are times that we cannot hide our true nature, we all try to hide ourselves with the mask, but at times, the true self bursts out despite our best efforts. Tom’s true character is that of one of the best most amazing people in the world. He is pure. He is real.

Why did the Judge care about what Tom thought so much? I was told this story after the fact. When Tom and the Judge were 6 years old. The judge was drowning in a lake. No one was around. Tom was the kid that pulled him out of the water and saved him. Tom had shown his true character before to this judge, so he knew he would get the truth. It was a small town, they grew up together.

Kayla still to this day, goes and sees Grandpa Tom all the time. He has been a major part of her life since that day. Tom and I used to talk a lot until “Ally” got out of prison. When ”Ally” went to prison, Tom saw Kayla every other weekend and summers and talked all the time. He was able to keep their family involved for when “Ally” eventually got out of prison.

The rest of the story is for another day.

Thank you Tom for showing me what love and unselfishness looks like.

Thank you Judge Harrington for showing me to treat everyone with kindness at all times, you never know when the tide will turn. To love each other always.

Thank you that day for forcing me to surrender my will for a moment, so I would have that to go back on later in my life when it was needed.

Thank you crisis. You helped awaken me.

On this day, I saw what real love was.

Thinking of suicide? Read me

“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.”

 -Malcolm Gladwell

 

image

I survived a suicide attempt, spent years in rehab centers, jails, psych hospitals. Now I have worked as a staff, and at times 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. February 25th 2010.

 

The difference between us is nothing except our resources. He grew up in a rough environment, by that I mean school, neighborhood, friends, and life experiences.

I try to preach getting to know each patient regardless of what the chart says. It’s also important to take time with everyone, this is one of the major reasons why. Part of the reason Joe is dead is because the professionals he worked with neglected him and labeled him. He did not get treated as he deserved.

They didn’t have money, we did. He went to jail, he stayed. I went to jail, I got bailed out. I was sent to treatment, he had 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 and resources.

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 to a doctor, 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 argue that he had a brother that grew up in the same enviornment 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 other peoples 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. It is not the enviornment alone or the genetics alone, it is a combination of both genetics and constant problems in the enviornment. By enviornment I do not mean just home life, but school, friends, everything.

We all know people who we think are more emotional and we think to ourselves, “wow he really gets emotional,” and about things that we don’t think even matters. But in the severe cases, the super sensitive people, they get hurt more easy, get scared. Then if they get invalidated, or misunderstood 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 others start labeling and judging for behaviors that the mask/false self does, and this only creates more shame. It is 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 can 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, not as much support. If he didn’t show up, no one would believe him as he had been labeled as the “criminal,”  and I was labeled as the “patient.” Again, no difference except money, resources, and the labels.

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, and 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, and many others.

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 the behavior 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 in the profession reached out,  no one talked to him, or even knew how. Instead they saw the criminal, 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 he went and spent it on other people

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 and labeled.

The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated; however there is no way to measure this because the egotistical providers will deny what they do, but I see it everyday and have for almost 20 years.

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 the patients, however they ask the staff to get the patients 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.

One of my favorite sayings “You can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough. “

I was one of the support people 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, or just randomly to talk. 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. The best boxing match I’ve ever seen was him vs his brother. 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 starting 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 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 people loved him. He was a truly good person and once he let you in, you loved it.

He had a son, Anthony, who 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. Anthony 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 and think of Joe every time I do it. 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 an email 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. I’m sorry Joe, and god do I  miss you. Again, the wrong one got treatment, and the wrong one is dead, it should be me. 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 don’t believe people go away when they die. Their bodies leave, as all of ours will. But as long as we remember them and hold the love with us, it will live on forever. Some things that Joe passed on to me, I still carry, and will pass on to my kids and so on. He is with many of us that remember him. He’s here right now. As long as we let him.

I love you Joe.

addiction mental health stigma

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