10 life lessons

By Cortland Pfeffer

Over the past 25 years, I have been immersed in the mental health and addiction system as a patient, later as staff, as a Registered Nurse (RN), and eventually as a supervisor. My time in the mental health system officially began at age 17 when I was first hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. This preceded further hospitalizations, a number of treatment episodes for alcoholism/addiction, along with multiple stints of incarceration in jails. Eventually, through this experience, I was able to embrace recovery and ultimately gain employment at some of these same facilities in which I was treated.

Often I am asked about how I went from being a psychiatric patient and homeless drug addict to being a registered nurse and a supervisor at some of these facilities. While there is no magical answer to that question, there certainly have been some valuable life lessons learned along the way. These are 10 of the life lessons I have learned over time, which allowed me to continue on this journey.

1. If you are naturally different than the majority, you will be labeled.

It is our nature to want to try to fit in with the tribe. It can be lonely when you feel like you are different from other people. When you are not like the majority, others will notice this and try to get you to fit in to this box of normality. But defining “normal” is an impossible task. It is defined as conforming to a standard. However, this standard changes with different cultures and time periods. What was once normal, is now insane. Today we clearly live in an insane society – one in which we favor materialism over that of our fellow man; one in which there is more public uproar over a sporting event than the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. To be “normal” in this type of society would actually make one insane. Yet, when you don’t follow the mold of a brainwashed culture you get labeled as different.

This can be quite destructive as Erich Fromm points out in his 1941 book “Escape from Freedom” as he highlights how people are drawn to authority as it is safer to go along with the pack than to think independently.

We go along with the societal norms for harmony, acceptance, and belonging – which are also innate human desires. Each human has a desire to feel a sense of community and purpose. However, when we go along with the group – even when it is violates our personal beliefs just for acceptance – it causes us to believe that something is wrong with us for thinking differently.

Solomon Asch tested human’s conformity in an experiment in 1951. Over the 12 critical trials approximately 75% of participants conformed at least once; and 25% of participants never conformed. In the control condition, the participants were asked to write down the correct match between the lines without sharing their answers with the group. The results showed that the participants were very accurate, giving the correct answers 98-percent of the time. This is one of many studies that show most people will go along with a crowd, even if it is not what they believe. So what happens if the tribe has decided that there is something “wrong” with you? Science will show that most of us will go along with that.

However this is a mistake. Take a look at the bell curve, which is used to show “normality distribution.” The bell curve is used in many areas of life and can be used here. In many bell curves, you see that 95-percent are within two deviations from the mean, or average. On the very end you will always see 5-percent of people. They are at the extreme end and do not fall inside the box of “normal.” It doesn’t make you bad to be outside the norm, and it also doesn’t make you crazy or sick. In fact, I would argue that those on the extreme ends are the ones that have changed the world.

For example, Mahatma Gandhi did not fit inside that box. The “norm” of his time was to accept the British imperialism in his home country of India. He saw the injustices and spent his life trying to free his people from oppression. He was imprisoned and survived many assassination attempts (although one finally killed him). Likewise, Martin Luther King Jr. also saw the injustices of African-Americans were facing in the United States and stood up to the oppression. They both went against the norms, were labeled, judged, and eventually lost their lives for speaking against the status quo. They both ended up dead, but years later we realized they were speaking the truth against an insane society.
Other people’s labels of you are just that — other people’s labels. It is out of fear and ignorance. Do not adapt to other people’s expectations. The world needs people of all sorts. We need diversity.

If you closely take a look at the criteria for someone who is gifted versus someone who has ADHD, Bipolar, Aspergers, and many other mental health diagnosis you will see that they are almost identical. So whether you are called bipolar or gifted doesn’t depend on you, but rather on the so-called expert assessing your life. It is all about perception and none of it matters. All that matters is that you are your most authentic and true version of yourself.

2. We as a society create mental health and addiction.

There have been numerous studies that have exposed the fact that trauma as a child leads to neural chemistry changes in your brain. Childhood trauma has been called the smoking of mental health. The same way smoking can cause or invoke many physical diseases, childhood trauma and maltreatment does the equivalent for mental health and addiction.

There are higher relapse rates for hypertension and heart disease than there are for addiction and mental health. However, we often treat the addict like they are a bad person or making bad choices. So we are taking someone who has been traumatized and often did not receive treatment for their trauma and we punish them by locking them up. This creates more shame, exasperating the trauma and causing the cycle to repeat itself. Additionally, the patient is not going to be readily willing to seek help in the first place due to the aforementioned shame.

What if we had a cancer drug that works 10-percent of the time and made people sicker? We would throw the drug away! However if a treatment center has a 10-percent success rate for addiction or mental health they’re considered successful. What other business could be 10-percent successful and would continue to exist?

The addiction and mental health industry continue to grow, despite this complete lack of success. There are extremely high rates of recidivism in these fields. Speaking from personal experience, more often than not the patients get sicker while in treatment.
The staff then blames this lack of success on the patient. They point fingers and say that the patient “was not ready” or that they have “poor insight.” The site that failed to provide adequate treatment blames the victim and takes no responsibility for their failure.

This system only continues because too many people are making too much money off keeping people sick. The staff tends to be undertrained, under-qualified, and lack any meaningful or diverse life experience. They are trained to believe that their patients are bad people that are making bad choices instead of a sick person who has been traumatized. This obviously results in receiving much different treatment.

Now there are some absolutely wonderful people in this field. That is a fact. However, in general there is an overall lack of humanity and compassion in the way this population has been treated. We are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind and most of these prisoners are there for harmless drug offenses. Due to this influx of incarcerations, we have created for-profit prisons which rely on mass incarcerations for profit. They set up contracts with governments to guarantee high occupancy rates and spend millions of dollars lobbying to congress to make tougher prison laws to ensure they stay profitable. In turn, members of congress then hold stock in these private prisons – meaning that the people that make the laws are making money off the laws they sign into action.

We are locking up people who have a disease to profit the rich. Punishment does not work for this disease – it never has and it never will. If it did work, we would not have a this astronomical recidivism rate in jails for drug offenses.

3. Be true to who you are.

We run from who we truly are because we are told to by our environment. We are told that it is not okay to be our true self from the time we are young and we begin to believe it to be true. We spend our whole lives living for other people and living based on other people’s expectations. We eventually lose ourselves and create a false persona (or false self) – This is what I refer to as “The Mask”.

The longer we wear the mask, the more we forget who we are underneath. We start to think that we are our masks – the character that we present to the world for acceptance. As this continues, we grow to dislike our mask because it is not our true self. This leads to depression, self-hate, or even suicidal ideation. We think we hate ourselves, but in reality we hate this false self that we have created. When we go against our own nature, it will always create depression.

If you have forgotten who you are, it’s easy to remember. You know the truth by how you feel. If you want to remember what that feeling is like, simply go do something that is pure, genuine, and has good intentions and see how that feels. If you can do something for somebody that can never repay you, you will remember this feeling – that is the feeling you are seeking.

Some of us may not even know who we really are because we’ve been wearing this mask for so long. In that case you get to explore and try new things. You get to discover who you truly are and what makes your soul feel alive. This can be viewed as an obstacle or an opportunity. You can now try everything – writing, dancing, singing, etc. – try anything you desire and you will find your true self in the process.

You will find out who you were, before the world told you who you were supposed to be.
This concept can be frightening, especially if we have become too accustomed to the mask. Some will do anything and everything to put the mask back on for safety, security, and possibly they are benefiting from pretending to be their false self. Although, in the long run it will create more inner dissent.

The world needs you to be you. Your true self fits into the world exactly how it should. When we go against this, we are robbing humanity of the gifts our true selves possess. Albert Einstein said, “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”

It can be scary to finally be yourself. You will likely start feeling rejected and you will lose some people. But those are the people that you want to lose. You will also gain people in your lives – the ones that love the true you and not the false you.
This is a change that is painful and it causes most people to go back into their false self (ore put their mask back on). However, this is an essential struggle that you will encounter on your way. It will turn your world upside down and your relationships will change. But as the old saying goes, “it is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.”

You are only doing a smidgen of what you are capable of doing by being your true self. You have no idea what you’re capable of until you embrace who you are and you will be blown away by the results.

4. Fear destroys us; and makes others money.

When we are not ourselves, then our lives are being lived and based on fear. When we are always afraid, it is from remembering pain or trauma. Just like any animal, when we are afraid we will hide. We live in a society in which many people benefit of us being afraid.

We are evolutionarily programmed to remember the negative experiences at a much higher rate, more clearly and more intensely, than positive experiences.

Many businesses profit off of our fear. The news gets higher ratings when they show fights, violence, and all the things that are wrong with the world. So that is what they show and that is what we see. They are not showing a true representation of the world, but a sample size that spreads fear and increases ratings. This is paid for by commercial advertisements that spend millions of dollars by spreading fear into your mind in an effort to buy their product. They will tell you might get bitten by a snake, so you need to buy a fence to keep the snakes out. They tell you to buy material items to fit into society or you will be left out and not included. When the fear does not go away, we continue to consume more. And it never goes away until we realize that we are being played.
“If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business?” – Dr. Gail Dines

Our insane society has created these masks and then they profit off these masks they created. Then you are labeled as insane if you don’t want to wear your mask anymore. Because when we take off our masks, they lose business.

What goes into your brain will affect your subconscious mind. If you feed it with fear, it will seek fear. If you feed it with love, it will find love. The opposite of living in fear is living with love. Love is the antidote to fear.

When you live with love, you will be faced resistance from those still guided by fear. But remember, in the end, throughout history, every single time love always wins. There may be a time it seems this is not true. But it becomes a crucial point in your recovery when you decide to choose love over fear if you are going to succeed. Every person going through a true recovery will come to this stage and it is scary, it is lonely, and it is supposed to be. It takes immense strength to love when everything inside of you tells you to run away. Once you make it through this stage, you have reached a turning point and the mask begins to crumble.

5. Love, acceptance, and truly listening is far more powerful than any advice you can ever give someone.

We have all seen someone struggling and we want to fix it. Usually we want to fix it the way we would fix it for ourselves if we were in the same struggle. We tend to go in and tell people how to change. Although well-intentioned, when we do this, we begin to lose them. Everyone is different, and every recovery is different. Every mask is unique, and therefore every mask removal must be unique.

Relationships are the single most important thing to someone going through a recovery. You can have the cure for them, but if they do not trust you, they will not hear it. They do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Accepting people for who they are and where they are at in their life will go further than any piece of advice you can ever give them. Giving someone love and a hug when everybody else is kicking them is what I call “psychological life support.”

I had two people that did this for me and they saved my life. Not those who criticized me and tried to force me into treatment. It was those who offered unconditional love and acceptance who kept me alive. Unconditional, meaning without conditions/judgments, but just loving them and accepting them in their entirety with no desire to change or point out their flaws. When I was ready to change, I went to the same people because I had gained their trust.

Relationships come first. If you cannot build a relationship, a trusting relationship, then you will only do damage. I believe many staff in this field are well-intentioned, however they make these problems much worse and the patients get much sicker simply because there is a lack of acceptance, love, and an overabundance of advice giving and fixing.
Trust me, if there was an easy-fix, the person would have already done so. In rushing to fix a person, you are sending the message that they are incompetent and could not think of this on their own. A broken person doesn’t need to be fixed, they need to be loved, then they are able to heal themselves.

When I say listening, I mean being present completely with that person. This means not checking your phone, not looking at the clock, and not even thinking about anything else. This is referred to as active listening. The ten people I think are the best in this field all do this. They make the person they are with feel like they are the most important person on earth in that moment. When the person can feel heard, the magic begins.

6. Embrace your struggles, they are gifts.

When I see a patient walking around a treatment center saying “everything is fine,” “everything is ok,” or “I’m doing great,” this becomes a giant red flag. You should be struggling. Muscles do not grow without struggle and the same goes for our soul.

Since we were young, we were trained to believe that admitting to a struggle is a sign of weakness, but in fact it is a great strength. We are all going through a struggle. We should be working on the thing that is the most difficult for us for optimum growth. The thing that you are most scared to do is probably the thing that is most essential to your recovery.

If you are in pain, if you are crying, if you are scared, then you are growing. If you are questioning why you are there, or why you are going through this, or questioning your own sanity, then you are growing. If you are angry, if you are tense, if you are isolating, then you are growing.

If there is no struggle, there is no growth. If there is no growth, there is no recovery.
Everything in my life in which I thought would be my demise, ended up being the very best things in the long run. We see a small portion of the big picture and act like that’s the reality, when it’s not. We must trust the process and trust in the bigger picture. Without the illusion, there would be no enlightenment.

There will come a time that you will think this is not worth it and feel like giving up. This means you are getting close to breaking through. We usually give up right before the miracle happens.

There is not one magical moment where you reach some mountaintop. It usually takes two steps forward, followed by one step back. It is a continuous, non-linear process. It is like a newborn baby deer trying to learn to walk. Their feet are wobbly and they fall down often. Falling down is not the issue, it is the learning process that makes you stronger and not having shame about the fall. It is about being around people that do not judge the fall.

The only way through the pain you have is to deal with it. There are many things we have hidden inside ourselves through the years because of fear and using the mask. Sometimes it may be for years, or decades, but all things eventually rise to the surface and all your pain is revealed. But that is the only way that it can be healed is for it to come to the surface. It cannot be healed when it is buried.
Let the storm come. After the storm comes the rainbow.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

7. Our subconscious is what drives us.

We have two parts of our mind – the conscious and the subconscious. The conscious is all of which we are aware. The subconscious is the part that we are not aware, but all the millions of things we process daily and store away.

Our brain cannot tell if what is in our subconscious is true or not. It takes everything in as fact. It is like a hard drive that receives commands and stores everything as fact. It is built by other people and society – parents, siblings, teachers, television, pop culture, advertisements, etc. If we grow up being told that we are “bad,” our subconscious processes it to be true.

Everything is a perception and not reality. However, as different things start to play out in our conscious mind, then the subconscious files come to the surface to back it up as “evidence.” This creates stronger files in our subconscious mind. These files in our subconscious mind are what drives us; not what we are consciously aware.

As young children and even as adolescents, our brains are flooded with gray matter. This is the part of our brain that can be molded and create the person we are to become. This is what shapes the subconscious mind which will determine what drives us for a lifetime. If someone is told they are bad, lazy, incompetent, then they will be driven by this. If someone deals with pain, torture, trauma, and abandonment, they will be drive by this as well.

The good news is we can change the subconscious mind by implanting new messages. It is flexible, but it takes time, practice and patience.
Additionally, some of us will be more affected than others by these messages. Some people are naturally more sensitive, more prone to trauma, and more prone to take things too personally.

We are all born with an innate temperament that lasts our entire lives. That would be like if a couple people were eating a pizza. One person takes a bite and it tastes lukewarm to them; but the other person burns their mouth and complains as to how hot it is. The others would not believe it to be true. However when it comes to emotions, we can’t see anything, the scars or burns are invisible. So we are told that it is not real and our emotions are crazy, in which we believe to be true. This only further pushes our true selves down and creates more negative self-talk which creates files in the subconscious.
This leads to the most sensitive, warm, kind people in our society being invalidated and told they are “babies” for feeling and caring more than most. We tell them that they are not right when inside they are going through a trauma.

But if a young boy acts out in anger instead of crying, that is more acceptable in our society. That is one form of a mask that is created and is prevalent among young men. Then with this mask, and all masks, comes depression from not being your true self from going against nature.

That’s the inner voice, it is the subconscious. It is strong but it may not even be true. The only way to combat this is to start telling yourself positive things (affirmations), surround yourself with positivity, changing your perceptions of the world (cognitive behavioral therapy), focus on the positive things in life (gratitude). This starts to build more positive files in your subconscious which drives you out of despair and into a positive direction.

We all are born pure, and with nothing but love in our hearts. This is often taken from some of us by a combination of temperament, environment, society, and trauma. We eventually believe that we are not good at our core. But we are. We can change our subconscious by what goes into our brain daily. This takes persistence and daily practice, and it is hard when we are used to thinking negatively about ourselves. However, this out of everything is probably the key to sustained long-term recovery- dealing with that inner voice and changing our thoughts. It will seem foreign at first to say “I’m a good person.” If you are going to make it, you have to start doing on a daily basis. You can replace those files just like your body replaces every cell in the body every seven years. Soon those old files will be gone and the new positive files will be your subconscious.

8. Who you surround yourself with is one of the most important decisions you will make.

I have heard many wise people say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. As I said above, that directly affects our subconscious and what we think of ourselves.

I remember years ago my oldest daughter enrolled in a private school. Everyone in the school was Catholic and she came home and believed in her inner core that the entire world was Catholic. She cried about it at night that she was different because she did not go up to get the fake bread at their ceremonies. Similarly, if you are around five people that smoke pot and you do not smoke pot, then you are the weirdo for not smoking pot. However, if you are with five people that do not smoke pot and you do, then you are considered strange for smoking pot.

At the end of the day, if you are around negativity — eg. those who consider you strange or different — it will eventually influence you.

Now some negativity can be good if you’re an overly positive person and turn a blind eye to all negativity because that is also unrealistic and can actually benefit the person. Also, being angry can help mobilize and motivate you to change. People who are totally happy and content at all times are never the ones that change the world – see Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. It is those that are healthy discontents that create change.

On the flip side, if you only are surrounded by negativity it will suck the life out of you. Likewise if you are around a bunch of people who believe that you are a bad person, be that your family, friends, or relatives, then that’s going to creep right back into your subconscious and you creep right back into old patterns. Soon you believe that pattern as real.

You cannot do this alone. It took many others to help us put the mask on, and it will take others to help remove the mask as well. I came across five amazing people that helped change my life and save it.

Part of recovering is making the effort to be true to yourself. Once you can do this, you will find yourself in others. You start to see that all of life is a synchronicity. You will suddenly be around people who can help you and you have to be willing to accept help and make yourself vulnerable. If you cannot expose yourself and be vulnerable to these good people, then you will fall.

Vulnerability allows others to lift the mask.

You have to start all over sometimes; that may even mean leaving your family and lifelong friends. It is terrifying, but you will find new people that embrace your true self, whereas your friends and family have only got to know your mask and are not ready for your true self. You’ll find that people who you thought were close friends really were not; and people who you thought were not your friends actually were. You find out everybody’s true character when you go through this. It’s a gift in that way as well. Someone you may not have associated with five years ago, you’ll love them when you are your true self. This just means that the transformation is happening.

9. You must learn to truly love yourself or you will not make it.

I wrote earlier about being your true self and that is completely different from loving your true self. There is a reason we wear these masks and have these false selves. It is because we think that at our core, we are not OK. Then we start to be ourselves, but also seek to make changes. We have to 100-percent, truly, genuinely love our true self and embrace it or we will eventually slip back on our masks.

This is the often overlooked Steps Six and Seven of the 12-Steps. We are removing the parts of ourselves that are not true and keeping those that are. However, we get confused at this point because we feel that part of ourselves is flawed.

But, that is impossible! Every single person is perfect at their core. You do not have any flaws. That is a lie created by society. Every person is perfect and once you find your true self you will see this to be true.

Which is why, when you are finally being yourself you are likely going to be mocked, ridiculed, and teased. It begins to seem much easier to revert back to old ways (the mask). It is hard when you have run your whole life and been afraid. Then you start to be yourself and people start teasing you or pushing you away. You must realize that this has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with them. If somebody loves you that usually has more to do with them than you; and if somebody hates you that has more to do with them than you.

I remember when I had to have a psychological test done, I had to have my four closest people fill out a form and I figured it would all be the same answers that they gave. I got four completely different forms with four completely different sets of answers. Others love us based on their perception of us or they hate us based on their perception of us, none of this is reality – but it is reality to them.

What matters is what we think of ourselves. If we love ourselves, we will glow and other people will be drawn to us and some will be drawn away from us.
“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll find peace.’ The spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” – Marianne Williamson

10. Whatever you do, if you do it with love in your heart as your intention, you cannot go wrong.

The world is full of opinions. Everyone has the answers. You can’t do this, or you shouldn’t do that. People can show you evidence about why they are right and why you are wrong. Everyone will tell you how to handle your recovery and how to handle every situation in life. When we are listening to other people instead of our true selves, we are going against our own truth and against our own nature.

There is no right and wrong. We used to think smoking was okay for you and doctors advertised it. We used to think the world was flat. We used to think Columbus discovered America. There is no truth, there is only perception. You must do what your true inner self believes. Your mask is unique so your mask’s removal is going to be unique. The one thing that is common for all mask removals is connection and love. 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 ones and zeroes. The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion. How is this possible?

Every single thing you can see around you — the rocks, the birds, and the trees — all are comprised of the same atoms. They are just expressed differently — yet intricately interconnected. Whatever you do and whatever decisions you make, if you do it with love as your motive and if your intentions are pure with love you cannot be wrong. So know your intentions and know your truth and embrace it. You were born with a light that others have tried to dim with a mask, let your light shine again and take your mask off. Humanity needs the gift that your true self possess.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

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“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

By Cortland Pfeffer

I survived a suicide attempt. I also spent years receiving treatment in rehab centers and psychiatric hospitals. However my friend, Joe, did not survive. He spent many years on the streets and in jails before taking his life on February 25, 2010. This is what suicide looks like. This is him after hanging himself.

There is no difference between us, besides our resources and the subsequent treatment we were provided. He grew up in a rough environment including his home, neighborhood, school, friends, and life experiences. I grew up in a family that had money, offered support, and always knowing I had a security blanket if things went astray.

That is how our stories began and unfortunately how one of our stories end. But did it have to end this way?

There is enormous stigma associated with the word “suicide.” People cringe when you even mention the word and immediately change the subject. If we are afraid to talk about it, how on earth do we think we are going to prevent it? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, taking more than 40,000 per year. At this rate, in one decade, we lose 400,000 people to suicide – equivalent to the entire population of Oakland, California.

When someone is suicidal, the typical reaction is “don’t talk like that!” or “that’s not even funny.” Or it turns to simplifying the situation such as, “other people have it worse than you,” or “just snap out of it, things will get better.” Nobody wants to “deal with it” and most people will adamantly refuse to even discuss it. You may even be considered selfish for having those thoughts and leaving close ones behind.

But when suicide does occur, the response is quite the opposite. Suddenly, everyone is there and feels terrible. They did not see the signs, never saw it coming, and can only talk about the amazing qualities of the deceased. It even goes as far as to hear people saying, “why didn’t they just reach out?”

If anyone has ever lost someone to suicide, they know the tremendous amount of pain associated. There may not be a worse feeling in the world. There are so many unanswered questions, “what ifs”, and “Should haves”. In the end, nobody commits suicide because they want to die, they commit suicide because they want the pain to go away.

I was suicidal, Joe committed suicide.

Part of the reason Joe is dead is because of the stigma associated with suicide along with the professionals he worked with that neglected and labeled him. He did not get treated as he deserved.

Joe didn’t have money, my family did. He went to jail and stayed long-term, I went to jail and got bailed out. He stayed in jail, while I was offered treatment instead. His crimes were all non-violent drug possession charges, mine were DUI, assault, and disorderly.

The difference? I had money and resources. Based on the information in the paragraph above, is there any other reason for the difference in penalties?

Joe and I were also born with the same temperament, which is more in tune with others emotions and greater sensitivity. This is neither good nor bad, just the way we were born. This is not to say that being emotional is guaranteed to create issues.

To be on this far end of the spectrum, along with consistently being denied needed support, along with the unhealthy environment is a formula for addiction. They refer to this as the biopsychosocial model. The biology is the genetics, the psychological refers to the emotional neglect and trauma, and the sociological refers to growing up in a broken home, overpopulated schools with minimal resources, poverty, and lack of positive role models.

But to also be denied the needed support on a consistent basis.

Some people are born more sensitive than others, which means they are going to get hurt more easily. Being an extremely sensitive male is vastly unacceptable in this society. It results in repeated invalidation such as “you are overreacting,” “you shouldn’t be feeling that way,” “men don’t cry,” “tough it out,” or “what’s wrong with you?” It also leads to being greatly misunderstood and isolation. The only way to gain acceptance is to create a mask, or a false self, to find a sense of belonging or purpose. People accept you when you wear your mask, which makes it more difficult to remove. But deep inside, we know it is not our true self.

For example, the mask teaches us that men are supposed to act out in anger when they are hurt. When we respond in anger, it is accepted. When we misbehave, we are accepted.

The mask brings us great power to finally feel alive. The more acceptance and connection the mask gains for us, the more we try to fill these roles. In fact, we start to believe that we are the mask we wear.

Then something bizarre happens. People turn on us for that exact same mask that they once praised. Suddenly you took things too far, you get labeled and judged for the same behaviors that were once glamorized.

This leads to addiction. It can be any substance or activity outside of ourselves that allows an escape from the pain. This can take the form of alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, co-dependency, anger, or any compulsive behavior that lets our soul temporarily come through the cracks in our mask.

Each culture and society has their own version of acceptable masks. But they all serve the same purpose, to escape the pain and hide from any difficult emotion. It grants us temporary relief, which is reinforcing, as it seems quite simple to take a pill, smoke a joint, or drink a beer and the pain instantly vanishes. This creates a pattern of depending on our substance/behavior, believing that we are killing the pain, but in essence we are only adding fuel to the fire. The need for the substance/behavior becomes a matter of life-or-death and we start doing things we normally would never imagine all in an effort to use again and ease the pain. These new behaviors get judged and labeled as being a “bad person” which only adds layers to the mask and we begin to hate the monster we have created.

And that is just it, we hate the monster, the false-self, the mask. We don’t hate ourselves, we hate the mask that we have been wearing.

So, the truth is when we say, “I want to kill myself,” we have it reversed. It is not the “self” that needs to die, it is the “I”. The “I” refers to the ego, the false self, the mask. We need to kill our false self and then the healing can begin.

As Eckhart Tolle states, “The secret of life is to die before you die, and find that there is no death.” He is referring to the death of the ego, the self-righteous suicide.

No health professional ever reached out to Joe, no one even talked to him, nor did they even know how to approach him. Instead they saw a “criminal” who was “angry” and was misjudged and mislabeled. While I went through the same difficulties, I was referred to as the “patient” that had a “disorder” and only needed proper treatment.

They never got to see beyond his mask. Joe was the most sensitive, caring, loving, and loyal person you could ever meet. However, that was not accepted in his culture so he became the angry, arrogant, drug addict – which is more acceptable. He wore this mask his entire life, hiding his true self which led to more drugs, crimes, and erratic behavior.

No one in the field ever even dared to think, “This is a genuinely caring kid who has never gotten a chance to show himself.” Because once the label is created, everything you do is attached to that label. They read your chart and a decision is made before the first encounter.

While my rap sheet was for more horrendous, I was considered “a poor sensitive kid that needs someone to love him.” Whereas Joe was considered “unreachable.”

The difference in outcomes is related to how the patients are treated. One of my favorite sayings is, “you can get anyone to tell you their secrets if you love them enough.” Yet, in this field we are told to get the deepest secrets of the client, but not get too close. It doesn’t work that way. I won’t show you what is behind my mask until you show me what is behind yours.

He let me see behind this mask and I let him see behind mine. And that is how true connections and relationships are built. I know the real Joe, something the “professionals” never took time to do.

Although I received better treatment, Joe was the better man. We shared a special bond and he would always reach out to me at times of need. One time he ended up in jail and had no place to go once released. He called me and we let him stay in our home for a while. On the first night at dinner, he looked to my wife and said, “this is the best food I’ve ever had.” And he meant it, to him it was everything, while I had become so grown so accustom to these things I had taken them for granted.

Joe had a unique following of people. He loved to love. If he had two dollars to his name, he would spend it on others. He gave just to give, never expecting anything in return. This is what attracted people to Joe, he was pure once you got to see behind his mask.

He also had a son, Anthony, who he loved more than anything. You could see and sense the love these two had for one another. Joe would always say, “I love you buddy” and kiss Anthony. I never saw a man kiss his little boy before, it was admirable. I make sure that I do that with my three-year-old son now and I think of Joe every time.

Anthony never saw the labels of “drug addict,” “bipolar,” or “criminal.” That is the beauty and genius of children, they do not see masks or labels. Anthony only saw him as I did, as an angel. A kind, beautiful human with so much severe pain that nobody knew existed.

His friends started showing up at the house, and I started coming home to see my 10-year-old daughter sitting at home with a bunch of strange men I’ve never met.

After a few warnings we told him he couldn’t stay here if these people kept showing up on their own. He told his friends to wait until he was home, but they refused to listen. That’s the downfall of being so pure, people will take advantage of you. It broke my heart, but we had to remove him from our home for safety of our daughter.

A few months later I received an email that gives me chills just thinking about.

“Joe is dead. He hung himself.”

He didn’t call me this time. Perhaps the pain grew too great that he didn’t want someone to talk him out of it one more time. I had kicked him out, I was his support, and the guilt I carry with me is insurmountable at times.

So, when people ask me why I fight so hard for patients, this is one of the main reasons. If we lived in a just world, Joe would have received the treatment I received and he would be with us today. If we lived in a world guided with love, somebody would have built trust with him, got to know him, and offer the services he needed. But in a world guided by fear, we judge, label, and allow 40,000 cases like Joe happen each year.

People do not go away when they die. Only the false self dies along with the body. Our spirit lives on forever. The things Joe passed on to me, I still carry and pass along to my children. He is with all of us that remember him. He is here right now as long as we let him in.

I love you Joe.

Subscribe to Podcast on ITunes

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press

“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

By Irwin Ozborne

As a child, I remember walking in my grandmother’s backyard and one day noticed a litter of kittens near her garage in the alleyway. They were hissing, crying, and yelping with the hair sticking up on their backs as their frames were so thin you could see their skeletons.

“I want to pet them,” I told my grandmother.

“Oh no. They are not ready for that,” she insisted, “Someone must have dropped them off and they need food and water first.”

“Why not?” I asked, “Are they bad kittens?”

“Of course not, “ she laughed, “there is no such thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with this need, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to indulge in water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave high fatty foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing and most certainly indulge. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains that the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.”

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

· Moment of clarity

· Sense of inner peace or calmness

· A burst of euphoria

· A feeling of interconnection with the world around us

· Being in the present  moment

· Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self

· Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Futhermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods.

In the East, opium and cannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness.  While these ancient cultures it seemed worshipped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving:

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

· Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)

· I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)

· Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)

· I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)

· Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)

· Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)

· No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to indulge in water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to indulge in some greasy food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, of course I am going to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the stor more tant to know what sort of person thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with fulfillment of these needs, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to drink water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would seem to instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

Spirituality

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains, the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

  • Moment of clarity
  • Sense of inner peace or calmness
  • A burst of euphoria
  • A feeling of interconnection with the world around us
  • Being in the present  moment
  • Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self
  • Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

At every stage, addiction is driven by one of the most powerful, mysterious, and vital forces of human existence. What drives addiction is longing — a longing not just of the brain, belly, or loins but finally, of the heart.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one part of the study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Furthermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods. In the East, opium andcannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness. While these ancient cultures it seemed worshiped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

  • Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)
  • I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)
  • Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)
  • I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)
  • Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)
  • Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)
  • No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to drink water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to eat some food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, and have not yet identified that unfulfilled need, I am likely to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will temporarily revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the storm and help each other flourish as we rise above and reach the skyline.

 

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

“Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

bipolar-or-gifted-the-modern-day-epidemic-of-medicated-madness

 Have I gone mad?” asked the Mad-Hatter. “I’m afraid so, you’re entirely bonkers”, Alice replied,“but I’ll tell you a secret… all the best people are.”

The exchange above is from Lewis Carroll’s notorious fictional story, Alice in Wonderland, which in my professional opinion stands with more validity than today’s psychiatric and mental health paradigms. In fact, Alice shares the same view as some of the greatest thinkers of all-time, such as Socrates who once declared: “Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, provided the madness is given us by divine gift.”Plato too referred to insanity as “a divine gift and the source of the chief blessings granted to men.”

So, to best understand bipolar disorder the modern day epidemic of medicated “madness”, down the rabbit hole we go…

Down the Rabbit Hole

Going back to our friend Alice, on the first page of the classic story, we find Alice is disinterested in the dull, boring, everyday existence in which she resides. She peers into her sister’s book to see it has no illustrations or even conversations, which to Alice has no use or interest. She ponders the idea of making a daisy-chain, but lacks the energy or motivation to take the time to pick the daisies. She is disinterested in ‘normal’ life. Then, suddenly, a talking white-rabbit runs past her; he appears to be late. Of course, Alice is curious about this bizarre occurrence and follows him down the rabbit hole — and most of us will be familiar with the rest of the story.

By today’s standards and diagnostic references, Alice’s disinterest in ‘normal’ life would very likely be diagnosed as a mental disorder. With this diagnosis, she would then be medicated for life, after a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital to stabilize her on the medications that are claimed to be capable of normalizing her mental sickness.

But, is Alice really sick? Or is she a creative, intelligent, deep-thinking, imaginative, or even gifted child? I would wager everything I own on the latter!

Bipolar disorder is one of the oldest recognized ‘mental disorders’, yet it remains one of the most misunderstood. As a psychiatric Registered Nurse, it is my belief that people with bipolar disorder are not “sick” – the real sickness lies in the treatment and medications they receive.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Formerly known as manic-depressive disorder or manic-depression, bipolar disorder refers to the experience of opposing poles with regard to a person’s mood. Essentially, bipolar disorder is distinguished by the experience of polarity.

At one pole is mania, which includes intense energy, racing thoughts, feelings of euphoria, inflated grandiosity or sense of self, impulsiveness and risk-taking behavior. The other pole includes depression, which presents the opposite symptoms, such as fatigue (to the point of inability to get out of bed), moving or talking so slowly that others notice, a feeling of emptiness, loss of interest in things that were once enjoyable, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and thoughts of self-harm.

It is important to understand the distinction between moods and emotions here. Moods are essentially emotional feelings that last for a period of time – typically for more than two or three days, which can be difficult to shift. While everyone has their ups-and-downs, bipolar disorder is far more disabling, with symptoms far more severe than a typical mood swing from happiness to sadness. The extremes of bipolar disorder can take you from feeling that you are omnipotent to the point of wanting to end your own life.

Inside The Bipolar Mind

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” ~ Krishnamurti

Just as Alice does in the opening chapter of her story, many people with bipolar disorder realize that “normal life” is far too phony, boring and constrained. They realize that there is much more to this mundane existence than what is commonly suggested. So, with this insight, one can see how easily it would be to slip into a depressed mood with thoughts such as:

– Why would I want to go through with this life?
Nobody understands me!
– I am all alone.
Why am I the only one who thinks this way?
Maybe they are right, maybe I amcrazy.
What is the point of it all?
– What reason do I have to keep going?

This depression sucks the life out of you, to the point that you lack the energy to even get up and pour a glass of water. If I got up, then I would have to find a glass, wait for the water to filter, and then put the glass away… it is not worth the effort.Furthermore, the person experiencing these thoughts realizes that this thought process is illogical, and destructive, which only creates a tidal-wave effect, inducing further feelings of sadness and dejection.

How Does Bipolar Come On?

At birth, we are free — we are born with a clean slate and we see the world is magical. But as we grow, things change. We are trained to behave a certain way; we are domesticated to a set of standards that our society has agreed are “normal”. We learn to create a mask and put it on every day; To  conform. We learn to use different masks for different groups of people, different occasions, and different times. We are taught that this is “normal life”, and that wearing these masks is “normal” human behavior.

And yet this mask, this image that we create and send out to the world, is our false self. It is a learned function of the ego. It is only behind the mask that we find our true self — our soul.

Manic episodes — those times of euphoria, grandiosity and impulsiveness — are triggered by the collapsing of the ego or mask. It is as though the soul is allowed to be free for the first time. Just like a dog that is tied to a chain its entire life and then finally breaks free, it runs wild, explores, and does whatever it can, because it can finally be the animal it was meant to be.

A spiritual awakening is much the same process. Like those times of mania, it involves taking off the mask and living as our true self for the first time. If treated as a spiritual dis-ease, this is the unexpected gift that bipolar disorder can offer — a short-cut to enlightenment. The mania pole can reveal to us our strongest and deepest desires, and exactly how our personal energy truly wishes to be expressed, while the depression pole shows us – in no uncertain terms – the areas of our lives that are not being lived in total alignment with our most honest truth.

But, like the dog that just got off its leash and is running wild without care, there can be great danger if those manic episodes that are not controlled. Experiencing and freely expressing the impulses of your true self for the first time, you may begin to test reality in life-threatening ways, such as trying to fly out a window, walking into the middle of traffic, etc. In contrast, if the dog (the soul) has always been allowed to roam freely, it learns not to run in traffic or to chase people, and knows how to regulate its natural energy and exuberance for life.

The key is balance; learning always to roam free, not just in moments of mania.

Bipolar Disorder: Science, Medicine, and Statistics

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 5.7 million Americans (or 2.6 percent of the population) have bipolar disorder.[1] This is the highest rate of any country in the world. The official position of the NIMH is also that bipolar disorder cannot be cured. As stated on the NIMH website:

“Bipolar disorder cannot be cured… Because it is a lifelong illness, long-term, continuous treatment is needed to control symptoms.” [2]

With the United States having the highest prevalence of bipolar disorder, which is deemed incurable by the mental health establishment, it would make sense that the United States would have the finest diagnostic tools and science available, wouldn’t it? However, contrary to popular belief, there is no science involved in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, rather it is diagnosed from a subjective set of criteria. There are no scans or medical tests, nor is there anything scientific about the process. Patients are simply asked questions in a brief consultation, and someone with a license makes a subjective interpretation as to whether or not they have a “lifelong, incurable disease”.

The primary treatment for bipolar disorder is the prescription of psychotropic medication(s), mood-stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, or antidepressant medications. A government study published in 2005 reported that just 11% of mental health facilities provided psychotherapy to all patients diagnosed with bipolar. [3]

Regrettably, the medical establishment’s preference for treating bipolar disorder with medication over psychotherapy has less to do with results than one would like to think. When it comes to this disorder, it would seem psychiatric pay-checks and pharmaceutical profits rate far more highly than patients’ needs. In the past, psychiatrists would tend to the needs of 40 to 50 clients at most, conducting 45-minute sessions with each one. Today, they see up to 1,200 clients, holding only 15-minute appointments that focus on refilling medication prescriptions.

Why Are So Many Diagnosed with Bipolar?

In 1955, about one in every 13,000 people was diagnosed with bipolar disorder or manic-depression. [4] Today, that number has skyrocketed to nearly one in every forty!

Are there really that many more people displaying symptoms of such a disease, or could there be another factor accounting for this sharp rise in diagnoses? Let’s look at some statistics:

  • In 1970, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the first mood-stabilizer medication Lithium (althoughmany U.S. physicians were already prescribing it in the late 1960’s without seeking an investigational new drug permit (IND) from the FDA, meaning its initial introduction to the U.S. population was entirely unregulated.) Following the official release of this new medication, an increase in the rate of official diagnoses of bipolar disorder naturally followed.
  • In 1995 Zyprexa was the first of the atypical antipsychotic medications approved for treatment of mania, and again, a surge in diagnosis ensued.
  • America is home to only 5% of the world’s population, yet it is currently prescribed more than 50% of all pharmaceutical drugs worldwide.
  • In 1976, Americans owned just 18.4% of the world market-share in pharmaceutical interests, but by the year 2000, that figure had climbed to 52.9%. [5]
  • In 2001, worldwide revenue for pharmaceutical drugs was around $390.2 billion U.S. Ten years later (2011), this figure stood at almost one trillion U.S. dollars.

With BIG money to be made from the prescription of pharmaceutical drugs, it’s not difficult to see why the mental health establishment’s treatment of bipolar disorder with psychotherapy waned — It was a question of financial incentive not effective treatment.

While United States has the highest rate of lifetime diagnosis of bipolar disorder, population-based surveys show that New Zealand is in second place [6], where a startling rate of almost 5% of the nation’s Maori (indigenous) population is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Outside the U.S. and New Zealand, no other country even comes close.

Importantly, high bipolar rates are not the only thing these two countries have in common. In 1997, the United States became the second country — New Zealand was the first — to allow Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising of pharmaceuticals, enabling drug companies to advertise their products directly to consumers. [7] By doing so, the U.S. FDA loosened the regulatory chains that previously kept drug companies in check, allowing them to advertise their “products” on television, radio and other media. This kind of marketing (like all mass-marketing) creates a sense of need where one previously did not exist; it allows the consumer to become familiar with the drugs available and their supposed “benefits”, to specifically ask their doctor for that medication, and if the doctor refuses, to find another doctor that will fulfil their request.

Of course none of this has anything to do with science. What it does involve is a multi-million dollar marketing scheme. And if you wonder why you never hear anything about this on the TV news, that’s because doing so would constitute a massive conflict of commercial interests for the media corporations that are heavily funded by pharmaceutical advertising. And despite the clear conflict of moral interests here, media corporations and the shareholders who ultimately benefit from this kind of direct-to-consumer marketing, prefer not to bite the hand that feeds them.

Are Prescription Drugs Actually Helping?

Psychotropic pharmaceutical drugs, like all drugs, can initially relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder, in the same way that alcohol or any number of illicit substances can be used to mask symptoms. Such substances artificially relieve us of unwanted feelings or states of mind, by affecting the brain’s chemistry. But as with all consciousness-altering drugs, relief is only temporary. You only get to ‘rent the relief’. In other words, everything that the drug gives you will eventually have to be paid back at some time.

The brain is always working to create balance – known as homeostasis – and when conditions change, the brain’s neurology also changes. Therefore the perceived positive effects of pharmaceutical intervention are therefore short-lived.

According to the reductionist medical and mental-health paradigms, a medication is deemed successful when the patients’s symptoms diminish. Although the do nothing to address theroot cause of psychosis, antipsychotic drugs can remove or mask the symptoms at first. This is the same principle that applies to alcohol, which can temporarily remove feelings of anxiety or depression — but it is by no means a long-term solution. In fact, what happens is that the brain quickly develops a tolerance to the substance and the individual taking it then needs more of the drug in order to feel the same effects. Eventually, a threshold is reached at which the individual no longer feels any effect and cannot be prescribed an increased dosage; the drug becomes the ‘new normal’. Then, when you try to stop taking the drug, your body suffers serious physical, mental, and emotional effects, because it has grown dependent on it. The body then needs to create homeostasis again, to cope without the drug. This is what is known as withdrawal.

In an August 2014 letter to The Psychiatric Times, psychiatrist Sandra Steingard M.D. (the Medical Director of Howard Center and Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington) compared a number of different studies that demonstrate just how those suffering bipolar disorder and other psychoses are actually more effectively treated without antipsychotic drugs. She compared studies of individuals who stayed on antipsychotic drugs with studies of those who stopped using the medications after a period of two years.

According to Dr. Steingard’s research, after two years the results were initially fairly even, with 74% of those who stayed on antipsychotic medications showing psychotic symptoms, compared with the 60% of individuals showing psychotic symptoms in the group that stopped taking their medications after two years. However, as time went on, the gap grew exponentially larger. At 4½ years, 86% of those who continued to take the medications displayed psychotic symptoms, compared to 21% of those who continued to abstain after the two year mark. And after 20 years, the difference was 68% compared to 8% respectively.[8] Says Dr. Steingard:

This raises troubling questions for psychiatry… Psychiatrists are assigned a powerful role in our society; we can force patients into treatment, and this sometimes includes forcing them to take these drugs… In taking on this task, it seems that psychiatry should be assiduous in assessing risk and utterly transparent in our disclosures. This risk includes not only the failure to treat but also the consequences of our treatments. Yet, this has not been our history. Our profession has been slow to address the limitations of our drugs. We were slow to acknowledge tardive dyskinesia [a neurological disorder that occurs as the result of long-term or high-dose use of antipsychotic drugs] and slow to address the metabolic impacts of the newer antipsychotics. Will we be equally slow in addressing their impact on long-term recovery?

Clearly, pharmaceutical intervention is no solution to mental health disorders such as bipolar. All drugs, legal or illegal, have adverse effects on the body’s chemistry. Yet, with the support of regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, pharmaceutical companies label the desirable short-term effects as the “main” effects and the unwanted ones as “side effects.” But, as the science has clearly demonstrated, all antipsychotic drugs will bring about changes in the body that are unnatural and undesirable, which ultimately prolong the suffering of the patient.

Blaming The Patients, Not The Drugs

We’ve all seen those stories on mainstream news where someone has committed a heinous or violent crime, and we are subsequently informed that the cause of their violence was because the individual did not follow their medication plan. The diagnosis of ‘insanity’ and the individual’s failure to medicate is blamed as the cause for their psychotic behavior. But people in true psychosis are not typically violent; that perception is simply not true. It is generally once they stop taking their prescribed antipsychotic medications (perhaps due to the undesirable side-effects being experienced) that the withdrawal/side-effects create these suicidal or homicidal behaviors.

In other words, far from helping the patient, the taking of drugs as a “solution” to their condition actually leads to further problems, sometimes involving the tragic loss of life.

Drugging Adolescents and Children

Like all good product marketers, companies search for untapped markets and seek to create customers for life. This is known as ‘cradle to grave’ marketing; a corporate term that bears an eerie interpretation when viewed in the context of the medical and pharmaceutical industry.

In 1995, around 25 out of 100,000 adolescents aged 19 and under were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. By 2002, less than a decade later, that number had risen to 1,679 diagnoses out of 100,000 visits. [9] This increase is staggering!While the medical establishment shrugs its shoulders, unable to determine a scientific cause for such a sharp increase, realistically, the one factor that has actually changed in that time period is the ready availability and social acceptability of antipsychotic medications.

But this startling trend doesn’t stop with adolescents; there has also been a steady increase in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder. Yes, you read that right – infants! In my experience, diagnosis goes a little like this:

Does your child act silly and crazy at some times? Then other times are they sad or angry? They might have bipolar disorder. Our drug can help you stabilize your child.

In reality, these young children do not have a diagnosable mood disorder — they are four-year-olds! Four-year-olds are simply not meant to always sit still, pay attention to one thing for extended periods, or regulate their own natural moods and emotions the way “socialized” adults do. Adding to this problem, up to 40 percent of U.S. schools are now cutting back on recess — the time when children get to go outside and be children!

And yet, prescribing antipsychotics has become the overwhelming norm, being regularly prescribed for so-called “behavioral disorders” like ADHD and ADD. According to Dr. Michelle Kmiec, an holistic health practitioner and regular contributing writer for Wake Up World:

Since 1990, according to some estimates, there has been a 300% increase with pharmaceuticals used to treat children diagnosed with ADHD. Now doesn’t that statement alone scream that there is something wrong with our medical establishment? It seems the trend is not to question why so many children (and adults) are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but instead to simply keep developing more drugs to counteract the “symptoms”.

Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist from Ithaca, N.Y., elaborates:

These drugs damage developing brains. We have a national catastrophe… This is a situation where we have ruined the brains of millions of children. In controlling behavior, antipsychotics act on the frontal lobes of the brain — the same area of the brain targeted by a lobotomy… These are lobotomizing drugs. Of course, they will reduce all behavior, including irritability.

It should also be noted that long-term use of the antipsychotic risperidone, commonly prescribed to young children, is associated with serious side effects including headache, uneven heartbeats, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain and increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

To complete this discussion today, I would like to share a personal account of my time with one of those 1,679 adolescents out of every 100,000 who are diagnosed as “mentally ill for life”.

Jacob’s Hope

“How can you say he is intelligent and gifted!?”shouts the mother of a 19-year-old adolescent,“He just tried to kill himself, talks crazy, and is emotionally unstable. Do not tell me he isintelligent!”

Jacob stormed out of the room, slammed the phone against the wall, and began pounding his fists into the corner of the room as if he were a caged animal begging to be set free. Quickly the entire hospital staff sprinted – following the culture and protocols of state hospitals – and Jacob was quickly restrained as though he were a criminal. Tears rolled down his cheek and onto the floor.

I was taken aback by what I just witnessed.

“They say I have bipolar disorder,” Jacob told me later that afternoon. “They tell me that I am sick, that I need to be locked up here, and take these medications. I do not think I am sick, but I am not allowed to say that.”

Believing he was a danger to himself and others, Jacob’s family committed him to a state psychiatric hospital following what they believed to be “bizarre” comments and behavior they had witnessed.

“I don’t think like them,” Jacob told me, “All they care about is money. Money is worthless. I do not want to go to college. College is just a façade. They charge thousands of dollars to have you memorize information. They teach you what to think, not how to think. Those who get good grades are just robots, all they do is repeat what the teacher has told them. But I think the government is corrupt. I do not trust them. I do not want to work for my Dad’s business. I want to travel the world, be a vagabond, read, write, and draw. I do not have any desire to work just to own material possessions. It is all phony.”

As this continued, I realized that nothing this child told me was bizarre. In fact, I admired his ability to think freely – outside the box – and respected his deep understanding of his own reality. Jacob is not sick; he is misunderstood, creative, and actually quite gifted.

Other gifted individuals such as Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway and Kurt Cobain shared the same diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and gave us some of the greatest art of their respective times. Sadly, each of the aforementioned also ended their own lives due to the depressive pole of the bipolar complex, which brought about overwhelming suicidal tendencies upon which (sadly) they acted.

Jacob had once attempted suicide too.

“There are no people like me. No one understands me. Nobody gets it”, he told me when sharing the story of his suicide attempt, “So what is the point in being here? Everyone is living a fake life, chasing money to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. That is not what life is about. I just need an escape from it all and sometimes it feels overwhelming.”

Jacob asked to be taken off his medications because they made him feel like a zombie, feeling nothing at all, just going through the motions of life. But in the psychiatric world, any patient who shares an opinion such as this is simply labeled“resistant to treatment”, and their medication dosage is increased. The only way to be successfully discharged from psychiatric institutionalization is to follow to the letter what the staff believes is best for you, entirely without your input.

For my own sanity, this is a game that I like to call “Saving Normal.” Society and psychiatry have decided what normal is, with no scientific basis or understanding of the human condition, and then we tell ourselves that we are saving people by returning them to a state of mental normalcy.

Understanding his own nature better than any of the so-called experts on staff, Jacob stated that his goals were to stop taking medications, to discuss his feelings with people he trusted which he believed would help to minimize his feelings paranoia. But the staff would not allow it! Jacob was instructed that he can no longer talk about such things as the corruption of government, so he followed his orders and played the game, simply to get discharged.

But is such a protocol really helping people like Jacob? No. We are merely attempting to condition people like Jacob to ‘be’ what they need to be, to meet the expectations of society and to please the people who are empowered by government to run his life for him. This is why no one actually heals in the mental health system. This is why they come back, as life-long customers of the system. And when they do, we repeatedly try to force-feed them our beliefs about ‘normal’, medicate them out of their minds, and punish and restrain them for expressing their most intimate truth.

“I would like to be taken off my medications,”Jacob presented to the staff, “I am not sick. You can keep me here longer to monitor me if you wish. The meds make me sick and all I am asking is for an opportunity. I was depressed because I felt alone and nobody understands me. But I am seeing that there are people out there like me, just not as many. I want to be myself, which is why I use drugs and alcohol – it sets me free. Then I get more depressed and feel that life is not worth living. It has nothing to do with a disorder, I have just felt rejected and keep being told that I am not normal. But that’s ok, too. I’m not even sure I would want to be normal.”

The psychiatric team told him they would consider what he had said, but as soon as he left of the room, they burst into collective laughter. I know this because I was there. I was horrified but not surprised.

During his stay, I befriended Jacob and felt a real connection with him. I found him to be a highly sensitive and intelligent young man. He realized he must do as they told him so he would be granted his discharge and move on with his life. He was doped up with medications that made him sleep all day and, rendered inactive by the drugs that were forced upon him, he gained 20 pounds in just a few weeks. Worst of all, he no longer talked about the things that brought him joy and energy.

As far as the psychiatric staff were concerned, Jacob no longer displayed “psychotic symptoms” which, in their eyes, meant that he was clinically making progress. As his symptom diminished, the staff patted themselves on the back for “curing” this poor child, and the family was happy to have ‘saved normal’.

As for me? I was furious! This was simply not right. This child was intelligent, bright, and naturally gifted, and the “mental health” establishment took that away from him, and outwardly congratulated themselves for doing so.

But, when we scratch the surface of psychiatric institutions, the sad reality is that most psychiatric physicians are inadequately trained even to prescribe the psychotropic medications they so commonly substitute for genuine care — and deep down, they know it.

Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakis, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician with a Masters in Public Health from Harvard, the Director of SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) and a co-Founder of the SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative. In an article for Psychology Today she described this problem as follows:

Pediatric primary care physicians do much of the psychiatric diagnosis and prescribe most of the psychotropic medicine – but a recent survey showed that only 10% felt adequately prepared by their training to do so. They see these kids for very brief visits, and many are too influenced by drug marketing propaganda – as are parents and teachers. Over-diagnosis and over-treatment are commonplace.

Dr. Kuzujanakis went on to state that pediatric misdiagnoses of ADHD, autism, depressive disorders and bipolar disorder are often attributed to highly gifted individuals; and at the same time, other symptoms go unrecognized, such as learning disabilities in those who do genuinely have them.

Dr. Kuzujanakis also asserts that giftedness does not always equate to what our society deems “positive” experiences. In fact, up to 20% of gifted adolescents drop out of the school system, displaying such “symptoms” as talking a lot, high energy levels, and impulsive, inattentive, or distractable behaviours. [10] Notably, these symptoms of the gifted are remarkably close to the symptoms of a person experiencing the manic pole of the bipolar disorder. And they are the same behaviors I observed in young Jacob, whose only desire was “to travel the world, be a vagabond, read, write, and draw.”

Where Is Jacob Now?

Today, Jacob has a family of his own, lives in the country, spends time in nature and makes enough money to pay the bills. He spends most of his time with his beautiful children, teaching them about life and what he feels is most important. He did end up traveling the world, roughing it with almost no money in his pocket — and he got to experience how other cultures lived, as was his dream.

Jacob rarely sees his immediate family these days, other than at occasional family reunions at which he regularly hears condescendingly mutters about ‘how bad they feel for him and his family’. But Jacob is happy. He knows who he is, and although his family does not understand this, it is Jacob who feels badly for them. While he now enjoys all aspects of the life he has created for himself, they – like most of us – continue to live behind their masks of ‘normalcy’.

So I ask you… Who is the crazy one?

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution 3.99$

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, andBalboa Press.



People with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are among the most discriminated against people in the history of the world.

A “psycho” is a derogatory term for someone who is psychotic. Someone who is psychotic is a person suffering from psychosis. Psychosis is characterized by a disconnection from reality. That is it, and all there is to it!

A “psycho” is someone who is experiencing a disconnection from reality!

At first the term was “mad,” then we called them “crazy,” then “insane,” which became “lunacy” or “lunatics,” and then of course “psychosis” or “psychotic.” Just as humans have always done, when we do not understand something, we label it asdifferent and persecute those people. But, this is the one group of people that are still left in the darkness. We still do not understand it. Even though we label it as a “medical disease”, schizophrenicsstill end up locked behind bars, and it is the last group of people in society in which it is still socially acceptable to discriminate against.

In the very ancient times, the shamanistic cultures viewed schizophrenics as having a connection to the spirit world. They would train them as to how to use this power, this gift, to connect with their higher self and earn them the title of “healer.”

Eventually as civilizations started to form, governments were created, along with rules, laws, and norms were passed down to keep peace and order. This was meant to conform others to those in power. Schizophrenia then became viewed as different, bizarre, chaotic, and mad. People with this “disorder” were then persecuted, drowned, buried alive, burnt at the stake, locked in institutions, had parts of their brain cut out, and/or were kept highly medicated to control these abnormalities.

So what is schizophrenia?

Medically speaking, it is a diagnosis that is characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality and the sense of the self. These “abnormalities” are described as hallucinations and delusions.

Hallucinations consist of hearing things that do not appear to be there, and seeing things that do not appear to be present. Delusions are beliefs that appear “strange” and that only the person diagnosed believes to be real or true, and refuse to think otherwise – hence, refusal to conform.

On a side note, the next version of theDiagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is planning to include “non-conformity” as a mental disorder. They have gone from trying to be secretive about these things, to just being quite upfront. If you do not act as we want you to do, then you are sick. And if you are sick, you need to take this drug. But this drug is expensive, so you need this insurance coverage.

However, these descriptions are clinical terms used to help give a diagnosis, which allows for treatment in a society and culture that has agreed upon the best way to treat of any so-called “mental illness” is with a drug. In the past it was hospitalization in which they never treated the person, but rather abused them and labeled them as insane.

What would happen if we were to actually look deeper into what these “symptoms” include in non-clinical terms — considering instead how the client them-self experiences them?

The hallucinations are nothing more than an over-sharpening of the senses and experiencing unusual sensations. It can feel like an out-of-body experience and having difficulty deciphering the difference from reality and illusion. Everything tends to flow together as one – the wall never ends – but instead flows together with the flooring. Auditory hallucinations or the “hearing of voices” which is so often mocked and ridiculed, is a part of being in-tune with higher frequencies.

It is scientifically proven that we do not see objects as they are, but rather a transformation and interpretation made by our eyes and mind. The brain filters out what it deems to be unnecessary information. This isn’t new age, make-belief information, this is physics.  Some physicists have estimated that the percentage of light we see on the spectrum is between 1.5 percent and 2.3 percent! That means that there is up to 98-percent of things that we are incapable of seeing.

We communicate daily via invisible radio waves through internet, cell phones, television, and radio. Radio refers to sending energy with waves. Energy is transmitted across the globe without any direct connection. The end result is an announcer speaks into a microphone and the signal travels at the speed of light via radio waves, is received by another signal, and if we tune our radio dial to the right frequency we can hear their voice without any direct connection.

Are schizophrenics seeing and hearing what we cannot?

So keeping in mind what physicists have told us about our reality, is it possible that if someone has heightened senses, they could be seeing parts of the 98-percent of the world we do not see? Or, like many animals, hearing things at a different frequency that we are not tuned in to? I would say it is almost certain!

Psychosis – such as schizophrenia and mania – is all to do with cracking the ego. The experience is so intense that words can not describe. The ego, also known as the “false self”, is everything that we thought we knew to be true about ourselves. The reality we have come to know is breaking right before our eyes. The ego, or mask, is kept in place to protect us from danger – but it also is incredibly limiting.

During this experience, you break out of this mask you have been wearing your entire life. You feel an intense amount of energy that takes you to the depths of your soul. Your soul is set free for the first time since you were an infant, which is the reason for such rapid changes. As a part of this, all your senses are incredibly heightened and you start to question everything around you. You ask things such as “Is this real?” “Am I going crazy?” “Did I Die?”

If we are able to resist nothing and allow this experience to continue, we will feel other symptoms such as feeling connection and a sense of oneness with the universe. You begin to feel that you are everyone and everything, and they are all you. An intense level of understanding takes over and everything makes sense, you finally seem to just “get it.” All the answers to life are in the grasp of your finger tips. Along with the heightened senses of vision and hearing, you also are in tune with those around you almost to the point of feeling their senses, emotions, and thoughts. The sense of time disappears, all that exists is the present moment. All worries seem to disappear as an intense sense of love for everything appears and everything becomes incredibly sacred.  Along with this connection, you may also begin to feel that everything is a test from your creator, and you no longer see people in their worldly form, but rather you seetheir souls and see the message they are bringing to you.

You are changed!

As this state of consciousness comes down, it changes everything. Your priorities and values change quite dramatically. It is as though you have been given the answers to all of life’s mysteries, and to return to the worldly form can be depressing.

I would like you to now go back and read the last three paragraphs and take them out of context. Just read what this experience of psychosis feels like to the person. Now, instead of saying psychosis refers to cracking of the ego, exchange the word “psychosis” for “enlightenment.” Enlightenment refers to ‘cracking of the ego’, right?  Now if you re-read those same three paragraphs describing the sensory experience. What is being described is the exact same thing.

The difference is with enlightenment – people try many ways to achieve this experience through deep meditations, vision quests, soul dances, and psychedelic drugs, etc. Yet those who are labeled as mentally ill, who’ve been discriminated against more than any other group of people, tend to have this same experience happen to them naturally! In fact, if you were to experience bipolar mania and try and explain it to someone, the most common response is “I think you need help.”

And “help,” in our society means to medicate the person so they no longer have these mystical experiences. Now, I do acknowledge that sometimes these hallucinations and delusions can be quite harmful in the sense they are asking people to act violently and they are seeing demons. This is likely due to the either trauma or repressed feelings. It is still a good sign that the person is breaking away from their ego, but they need to be guided by someone with experience so they can get closer to the enlightenment side of the spectrum.

The story of the ‘lunatic’ on the grass: A schizophrenic golfer unwittingly removes stigma of mental health

As a mental health worker, every week we would have our team meetings in which we would go over the treatment plans of the 16 patients in our “Intense psych rehab.”


I had been off for a while, I had needed time out. I was now back and this was the first treatment meeting I had been to since my return. My mind was empty and blank. I didn’t know anything to be true for sure, I had given up on almost everything,  which, as it turned out, was a good thing.

We would have the mental health practitioner present the patients, their goals and their progress.

We talked about this new patient, a schizophrenic, and we discuss his goals. It is said that this is a ‘career schizophrenic’ that goes to hospitals over and over. His goal is to marry Paris Hilton and play golf on the European golf tour.

Well everyone cracks up, the laughing is intense, everyone teases, ridicules, and assassinates his character.

20 mostly privileged white ‘kids’ in their 20s sitting in this board room with their first psych job, determining the fates of these patients.

I am a little intrigued with this new case because I love golf. I am terrible at golf, however to be outside in nature with the sun for 4 hours I love.

The lessons golf taught me was like exercise for my mind. Every shot matters in the same way that every moment matters. If I hit the ball near a tree, then become angry and impulsive, and try to smack it out of the woods, it will likely hita tree, and I’ll be in worse shape. However, if I let my ego down, and chip it out, then I will be better off.

It all adds up, little things matter, have patience, and the only shot that matters is the one in front of you. Swing soft and the ball will go further, nothing is as it seems. Do the opposite of what the ego tells you to do. You can’t beat nature, gowith nature. Use your talents, don’t try to be like other players. Stay within yourself, and be humble.

This is why I loved golf. It was some sort of meditation for me. Those things I learned in golf, could be said of life as well.

I walk upstairs and I see these ratty old shoes hanging over one of the couches. I look over and there’s guy, the ‘Paris Hilton golfer guy’ we’d talked about. He wears the same clothes every day, it is likely all he owns. He says he’s not sick but he has to take medications. He gets angry if anyone tries to talk to him, about his “illness.”

I just walk him daily for about 2 months, the whole time thinking he’s a typical schizophrenic, so let’s write our notes, get him out of here and go home. Lets get our checks and continue living the lie. I was so embarrassed to be there, a part of this industry,  I just didn’t want to talk to him….and I felt like a fraud.

It was nice outside early that spring so I brought my clubs in one day as I was going to go play golf after work. They were brand new fancy clubs. I tried to act like I was ‘the man’, because truly I hated myself at the time and didn’t know why.

Now I know, because that was one of my false selves. A mask I was wearing, it wasn’t who I really am. When you run from your true self, you suffer.

So at times I talked to him about golf to measure his awareness. He knew a lot so I was surprised. Just person to person talks. He had started coming down to talk to me more because it was more of a friendship than me in my role there – just asking him about his “coping skills” and his “goals,” and the other bull they teach you to say in school, and at these expensive trainings.

He didn’t feel threatened by me or assume I was prodding him in order to write things down on his chart. When patients act nervous or suspicious, we are taught to think: “See, they are paranoid.”

However, is that really paranoid? We read their charts and decide who they are without ever getting to know them! I think their lack of trust and not wanting us to write things down is a perfectly normal response based on the circumstances they are usually in. If they say the wrong thing to the wrong person, then its another forced treatment and commitment.

I swung my clubs inside that day. He saw me, and said “Whoah, you got a good swing, not bad.”  He saw my clubs and asked “hey can I take a swing?”

Now what I was doing here was something that would be consideredinappropriate as I was displaying poor boundaries with a client. Most of the people running these places would say that I should be discussing his treatment and goals and his plan only. Teaching him the “coping skills” that the book says.

However, no one will talk to you about anything real if you don’t build a relationship with them first. We seem to miss that in mental health.

I think it’s funny that we ask these people to tell us everything about themselves in particular the worst moments in their lives. Yet we give them nothing. We force releases of information to be signed by court order, and we use the information against them. Then we call the patients non-complaint if they refuse.

I wasn’t purposely manipulating a relationship either, I was genuinely talking to him like an equal, without regards to the societal roles we were playing.  So I told him, “yeah, take a swing, let’s see.”

This was the beginning of one of the most deeply profound experiences of my life – one in which my false selves would all die.  But there was more to come this profound moment didn’t take place in a church, in a school, or as part of a momentous occasion.  No, I was about tolearn about life from a lifelong schizophrenic at a golf course!

Not quite as I had dreamt this moment of enlightenment would be!

He swung the club and it was one of the nicest swings I had seen in person. I was shocked. Of course that didn’t mean he was a European pro. However, I did start to doubt my own pre-conceived notions as an “expert.” Could I, the all mighty one be wrong in my beliefs? It brought me back to a time when I was working at the county hospital. One of the doctors training me said, “You don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient, everyone is different.”

I had an idea, and I went to get support from the program director to take my new golfing friend (and anyone else who wanted to come) to the driving range. I chose the ‘the university’ where I got my golf lessons, it was close and I was familiar with this place.

I got the O.K, and we drove the van to the driving range. We arrive and there is a bunch of young kids — teens with fancy clubs and clothes, looking us over as we walk onto the course — a group of mentally ill patients.

They had that look like “Umm I think you guys are lost” or the “Not in our neighborhood” looks.

Here is a schizophrenic guy with 20 year old shoes, long hair, and 10 year old jeans. We had no clubs other than mine. All the course can offer my friend is a 9 iron for kids, which typically a professional golfer can use to hit a ball about 150 yards. I’m sure they had more appropriate clubs on offer, but it seemed they didn’t want the lunatic ruining their clubs. In fact, they didn’t want the lunatic on the grass!

He says “O.K.”, he wasn’t arguing. This man is 6’5.  In addition to being an ‘ill-fit’ for a man of this height, this club looked as thought it had been well used by kids for about 20 years or more, but my lunatic friend is just happy to be there…as is everyone else.

Then came that moment, the one that changes everything!

He puts the ball down. All these young teens, with their 3000 dollar clubs and their fancy clothes are all chuckling and watching, I am watching, the other patients are watching. The tension is building.

He says “Wow, I haven’t swung a club in a long time.”

I was so nervous at this point – I could see all eyes were watching, and I was wondered, was this a delusion?  By bringing him here, am I hurting this guy and embarrassing him? I felt my body get tighter, my teeth were clenched, my heart racing, I was really feeling it.

I look at his face, I watch his eyes, they aren’t schizophrenic eyes. His tongue was tightly wrapped on the outside left side of his mouth. He has this grimace on his face – the look of extreme like focus. I glanced at his feet, they are not schizophrenic feet anymore, they are solid, on the ground, in perfect stance. His arms are not schizophrenic arms, the hand grip is right, but the club does not fit him.

I sense the energy building as everyone was watching this “freak.” The thing is, hecouldn’t sense it – he already knew what we were about to find out. He wasn’t hitting the ball for just himself, he was hitting it for me, to give me hope. He was hitting it for the other patients. He was hitting it for the watching teens — the bunch of 18 to 22 year-olds who alreadyhave their mind made up, and they wait because they want to laugh. He was hitting it for them!

And then it happened – he hit the ball, it goes well over 175 yards, with a childs 9 iron!  The ball flew so high in the air, in a manner a pro-golfer would hit it. It towered over the earth, and the ball was so beautiful in flight, it was like a magical TV moment. I could not believe it, and as for the others, well you could have heard a pin drop! Complete and total silence – everyone was still. The world had stopped, and mine had changed forever.

It was all perfect!

Had the first shot been a miss, no one would have watched any longer. The first shot was the key! But it wasn’t a ball you could say was just struck well by an amateur. It all had the look of a really talented golfer. He hadn’t swung a club in years, he had a girls junior club, he carried no fancy equipment, nor did he wear fancy shoes or a glove. He was in jeans, a sweatshirt, and those old raggedy shoes.

He didn’t do it right just once though, he did it over and over again!  Eventually people were not whispering anymore, and after a time they went back to hitting their balls.

Then more magic happened!

At a driving range like this, you see many golfers hitting many balls. They are all in flight and all hit well. But on this day there was always one ball that towered over the rest and made the others look like little kids. I started watching the teens – they had started swinging and missing, and hitting terrible shots. Our schizophrenic’s style may have been affecting their game, after all in their minds, schizophrenics who look like this guy are not supposed to do what he is doing.

I could barely move. I had been shown the truth yet again. I hit some O.K shots myself that day, but it didn’t really matter anymore. Things had changed for me.

My new golfing friend walked over and started giving me tips on my golf swing, and all those tips worked well. I couldn’t believe this. Then I look behind me and see there is 20 teens watching him hit the ball –  watching him teach me! It was all surreal and utterly impressive. Of course watching from the side were our otherpatients, tripping and laughing, running around. The world had been moved – for all of us!

Then came another moment – a moment that still tears me up as I write this account here now. One teen with extreme courage and bravery came up and asked my friend for advice on hisswing. What courage to do this in front of his shaken peers. Instead of teasing, he came and asked for help. Earlier they had mocked and judged, but my guy didn’t care about that. He said “sure”, as it was obvious he loved helping. Before we knew it we had the schizophrenic giving golf tips to these college golfers. I would never be the same, and I knew it in that moment.

I remember getting back to the facility and sitting down. My co-workers said “You must really like golf, I’ve never seen you so alive and energized.”  I could not describe what I had just seen and my account here is still not doing it justice.  All I could say was “yeah I like golf.”

We went to golf again maybe 3 times he and I, and we had long talks in the car. He started telling me about his life growing up, how he got involved in the system. I started teaching him about schizophrenia.

Eventually, he said to me, “Well I’ve been going to these hospitals and group homes for over 20 years, and no one has ever explained it to me like that. I think I do have that disease, actually maybe they are right.”

I think others had explained it to him, but he hadn’t listened, because no one had ever listened to him. He was open and without fear with me.  Ironically, I only talked to him by chance really, and prior to that I had ignored him for 2 months.

Everyone played a role in my ‘inner change’ at that time – from the negative mental health practitioner who tried to make a joke of his treatment plan, to the great program director. I started to listen carefully to what my golfing friend said when he went on a rant, instead of just falling back on preconceived notions as I would have done in the past.  He talk about the college he went to, so I decided to look it up online, and there it was, a picture of him, clean cut, well dressed and very well groomed.  He had a 4.0 and was captain of a division-1 golf team. I decided wanted to be his caddy and get him into tournaments. Did he have the talent to be a pro-golfer? I don’t know, but he was good enough to make himself some money for sure. Unfortunately, it never happened.

But my life changed forever with that first swing that stopped the world, and it happened at a time when I had given up on the ‘mental health industry’ coming to believe it was all a fraud. My life change made me realize the mental health industry wasn’t always a terrible business. Yes there are terrible things that happen, and terrible abuses do occur, but that was not good enough reason reason to give it all up completely  – I had been shown good reason to stay. I would work on the inside and do my best to create change. It is only a fraud if we allow it to be.

There is a moral to this story…

We have the power over every present moment we are in. Present moments will always build on the past moments, much like golf. We can always find evil if we look for it. However as Socrates said “Our energy is better spent on focusing on positive future than on the negative past.”  And it was Francis of Assisi who said The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better“.

 The point of this article is to acknowledge that everyone is human, we are all connected, and we all have things to offer. If we put our being into treating others as equals deserving of love and respect (without the ‘superiors and inferiors’ nonsense), then things start to change for the better.  When you drop the facades and preconceptions, the ego allows you to see truth and that’s when magic happens. When we take that leap, (or are forced into it like those with schizophrenia), what happens is a type of freedom and beauty enters your life, that I can’t explain with mere words.

“Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press


 


Mary was sexually abused, addicted to ecstasy, and suicidal by age 12. She experienced psychosis for 3 years when she tried to quit. This is a common story on the reservations. She now writes about intergenerational trauma and does workshops for youth to stop generational trauma. Listen to Mary’s story of how she took her mask off. Follow Mary here : Follow Mary Black

 

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Ep 010 Untangling our Roots Healing Intergenerational Trauma 2

 

In junior high school, I was a painfully shy student. It was to the point I would go through an entire week without peeping a single sound. While it was quite easy to shield my anxiety during most classroom activity, the lunchroom was always my greatest test. How could I possibly hide myself in a crowded cafeteria?

There was always one table in the back of the room which only had about five kids sitting there (the tables sat about 20-30 people).With so many empty seats at the table, it was the perfect spot for someone with severe, debilitating social anxiety.

This group was the outcasts of the school. They wore the same clothes every day, never paid attention in class, didn’t follow the rules, had long straggly hair, and were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol – likely due to their living situations at home. But, they were also different in the sense that they had no desire to fit in with the “cool kids.” They were perfectly content being in their own skin.

They also held different views on the world. They didn’t gossip about other students, blame teachers, or talk bad about the janitorial staff. In fact they talked about how they helped the janitors after school in exchange for being taught how to use certain tools. For it was these kids – the outcasts – who saw the world for how it was, they did not just blindly obey the forces that were trying to socialize them into robots.

“Irwin!” a teacher shouted from across the room, “What are you doing sitting there!?

She shouted as if my life was in imminent danger, sprinting across the room with her arms flailing like she was rescuing a drowning child. Her overly-dramatic antics created a major scene – the exact opposite of what a child with social anxiety desires. But, it was clear, this incident wasn’t about me – it was about her saving a kid from harm. She yanked my shoulder back and with fear in her eyes.

“You don’t have to sit here! Are they making you do this? You can sit somewhere else!”

Embarrassed, I slowly looked at my frantic teacher and then looked back over at the kids at this table. All of them had a look in their eyes as if to say, “It’s OK to leave. We don’t blame you.”

Then I looked back at my teacher and spoke with confidence in my voice for the first time in my life.

“I want to sit here.”

“What!?” She shook her head in disbelief, “You want to sit here? With them!?”

“Yes,” I looked back at them, “I want to sit here.”

She threw her arms up in disbelief as if another child was lost to these terrible monsters. But, my question is where was she as I sat alone in her classroom for a semester? Where was her dire need to save me when she notice the bruises on my arm and cuts on my eye? For it wasn’t about “saving” me, it was about the opportunity to save me in front of a crowd.

Over The Rainbow:

This teacher is one of many that take part in the everyday presentation we put on for the world. We wake up in the morning, put on our masks, and then put on a play for the world to see. The thing I enjoyed about this group of kids, they saw behind the phoniness of the world and I felt together we shared a passion to discover the truth.

We celebrate truth-seekers throughout children’s books, films, and stories; yet, when children look to reenact this behavior in “real” life, it is frowned upon.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is tired of the boring and dull life on the farm in rural Kansas. She is trying to explore and the adults continue to push her away, telling her to “go somewhere you can’t get into any trouble.”

This turned into a breakthrough for Dorothy as she dreamed away of a different life, another dimension, a home void of the displeasures of going through the motions of life. She breaks into singing the classic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which describes this desire to go to a place where “dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true.”

But Dorothy is not the only character with this yearning for truth. Alice from Alice in Wonderland, also was in a depressed state of mind in which she couldn’t find the energy to do the things she once loved until chasing a white rabbit down his rabbit hole. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is criticized and discouraged about seeking life above the sea and searching for a different existence. And Belle from Beauty and the Beast is considered odd because she does not go accept the norms of society.

We are attracted to these tales, because it is our innate desire to seek the truth beyond the mask. Everyone has this desire because it is how we are brought into this world, before it is blocked away from us by the masks we are told to wear.

The Twister:

Quite often in the recovery community, you will hear people talk about their absolute worst moment on earth as a “blessing in disguise.” People talk about the point of hitting rock bottom was the time that the fall finally stopped, and gave them the opportunity to get back up.

Frustrated with this existence, Dorothy runs away from home just before gusty winds sweep over the farmland. Her family rushes into the cellar for shelter and locks the doors before Dorothy can make it back home. Finally Dorothy makes it inside the house and tries to seek refuge in her upstairs bedroom. While debris from the twister is whipping around, she is hit with an object and loses consciousness. Before she knows it her entire home and life is being turned upside down and carried away.

This is addiction.

It is important to note that everything in this film is symbolic. Dorothy cannot get in the locked house and is trapped outside in this twister (addiction). Her home represents basic needs and values, and the fact she is locked outside is showing that something is being rejected and she is not receiving these basic needs. Dorothy finally gets in and she is struck in the head by a falling window and knocked unconscious, indicating her state of powerlessness to the twister.

After regaining consciousness, Dorothy peers out the open window as she is doing some soul searching in the midst of her active addiction. She starts seeing happy images of her aunt, uncle, farm hands, and animals. The final object she notices is Miss Gulch – the woman who was trying to take Toto away. Toto is always by her side and always knows what to do, hence, he is her intuition. Miss Gulch is Dorothy’s human shadow – the dark part of our self in which we constantly reject. It is our inner voice telling us we are not good enough. Once she recognizes Miss Gulch, she suddenly transforms into a witch with an evil laugh before Dorothy is brought to the ground by her own fear and confusion. It isn’t until this point that Dorothy recognizes she is engulfed in the twister (addiction).

Then, Bam! The houses crashes and Dorothy has hit rock bottom.

She wakes up and nobody is around. She is all alone in a dark and quiet home. She has no one to talk to and no place to turn. Everything she has ever loved has disappeared. It isn’t until this point that she is to begin the process of recovery and begin a new life.

Early Recovery – Journey into the Self:

Dorothy opens the door and the screen lights up in full color for the first time in the film. In the background, the music to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is playing as she steps outside into a beautiful new existence.

This is early recovery – an inward journey to self-discovery.

We have arrived at that place we dreamed about, the place in which we could be ourselves, and a place in which we were free. We have found our way over the rainbow, without the use of drugs or alcohol for the first time.

Dorothy is first greeted by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, who looks more like a fairy or angel. This is the part of our recovery in which we start to realize that things aren’t always as they appear. The things we used to view as “old and ugly” can be presented in a new light of majestic beauty.

To Dorothy’s surprise she even comments, “I never heard of beautiful witch before.”

Dorothy is then informed that her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, who has been oppressing the munchkins for years. The munchkins are fun-loving people who represent our playful youth in which we love things unconditionally, forgive easily, and live in the present moment. They have been trapped by the destructive part of ourselves (Wicked Witch). Dorothy is treated as a queen by her inner child (munchkins) for finally putting an end to the mask she has been wearing.

While the munchkins view this situation as a miracle, Dorothy claims it was no miracle at all. This is the blessing of rock bottom, the twister, our past mistakes, and the worst parts of our existence typically tend to be the greatest blessing in disguise.

Killing the False Self:

When we are young, we are free and loving to the world around us. As we grow, we become socialized into fearing one another and being constantly discouraged to be ourselves. We are domesticated to think a certain way, act a certain way, talk, and behave just like others. This is our mask, also known as the false self.

The Wicked Witch of the East was the mask that was put over our true self, or munchkins. It took a twister, or addiction, which spiraled out of control and had to hit rock bottom before we could finally accidentally kill this false self. And then start all over, reborn, as our true self.

In Dorothy’s journey, this is celebrated to the notorious tune of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

In recovery, this is referred to as the “Pink Cloud” phase as life seems quite magical and perfect. However, there are still obstacles and adversity we must face. Dorothy meets her first one with the poof of pinkish-reddish cloud of smoke and is introduced to the Wicked Witch of the West – same character as Miss Gulch.

Dorothy has more shadow work to do, and the Wicked Witch of the West makes it clear that she is going to be her enemy on this journey. The object the Wicked Witch most desires is the Ruby Red Slippers in which Dorothy has recently acquired. Glinda informs Dorothy that “those shoes must be very powerful if the witch wants them so badly.”

This leads to Dorothy’s first longing for “home.” Yet, she is still a lost soul and has no idea where to turn and where to go. She is immediately informed that her best option is to find God, which is symbolically represented in the film as the Wizard of Oz.

Confused, Dorothy questions whether this is a good or bad wizard, to which Glinda replies “He is very good, but also very mysterious.” In order to meet the wizard, she must follow the yellow brick road and never remove her slippers.

The Yellow Brick Road is our spiritual path that we must all take to find our way “home,” or in finding our true spiritual self.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road:

While instructed to stay on this path, we soon find out that it is not exactly the destination – in this case the Wizard of Oz – but the journey in which we discover our answers. Dorothy is told that the Wizard of Oz will have all the answers; however, the problem is she was searching for the Wizard when she should have been seeking Oz (the land that surrounds her).

Along her inward journey, she encounters other important aspects of herself – wisdom, compassion, and courage. Once again they are in symbolic form of a scarecrow, tinman, and lion, respectively.

At a fork in the road, Dorothy first encounters the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow talks about not having a brain and it his greatest desire, yet throughout the film he comes up with creative ideas. Next, she meets the Tin Man who yearns to have a heart just to register emotions. Likewise, the Tin Man continues to show compassion throughout the film despite his belief of being heartless. Then finally they encounter the cowardly lion who reveals his secret of lack of courage; although, he too, uses his bravery throughout the journey.

Ego Traps:

However, our shadow is never finished with us. The Wicked Witch of the West plays games by luring in the gang off their path. She creates something that is soothing to the eye, yet will put them to sleep and end their journey – poppy fields that cover their path.

This is one example of an ego trap. Each religion has a variation of what is referred to as spiritual warfare. Some refer to it as the angel and the devil on your shoulders; good versus evil; god versus satan; heaven versus hell; the ying and yang; the Cherokee proverb of the two wolves fighting inside of you – one good and one evil – and the one that wins depends on which one you feed; the lessons from karma which state each choice you make determines your future circumstances; and of course the ongoing spiritual battle of the ego/false self versus the soul/true self.

While this battle is ongoing, the ego pulls out all the tricks in the book to regain control. Ego traps are the most effective way to detour you from your path. Some of the most common ego traps include:

  1. Knowing the Path versus Walking the Path: Quite literally in the film, it is clear that their path is to follow the yellow brick road; however, despite this knowledge, they are easily guided off course with the beauty of the Emerald City and the poppy fields which nearly ends their journey.
  2. Feeling Spiritually Superior: Prior to their first meeting with the Wizard of Oz, the Lion is sensing that his lifelong quest for courage is coming soon and he begins singing “If I were King of the Forest” and talks about having others bow down to him. In our spiritual journey, it is easy to fall into this trap of the need to be right about spirituality. As Lao Tzu says “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” It feels good to gain insight and recognize these positive changes in our life, but the ego can use this as a trap into believing that it is I (the ego) that is responsible for our advanced spirituality.
  3. Judging Others who are “Less Spiritual”: While this one is not prevalent in the film, it is probably the most common. The notorious quote that I hear often in meetings is “Religion is for people that are afraid to go to hell; spirituality is for people that have already been there.” This gets people excited and can relate, but the religion bashing is stating that we are better than a group of people because our beliefs are right and theirs are wrong – isn’t this the same reason most people get turned away by religion? At the end of the film, Dorothy nearly falls into this ego trap as she explains her awakening. Nobody believes her and they tell her it was all a dream, but she is certain it wasn’t. But, she realizes the trap and says “Anyway, I am glad you are all here and I love you all.” Other examples are when we spend more time in nature, do yoga, eat organic food, stop watching the news, etc., but then start judging and labeling those who still do those things because they are not on our level.
  4. Positivity Mask: Also not in the film, but worth mentioning as this trap involves pretending to be overly positive at all times. Even the most advanced spiritual beings will have their bad days and feel a full range of emotions. When the group first meets the Lion, he is into this trap in a different type of way by trying to scare the crew. Later he confesses his true feelings of lacking courage, which ironically takes a great deal of courage to express how we are truly feeling inside. Just another example the cowardly lion expresses courage throughout the film.

The Church of Oz

The Wizard represents the Western Christian version of God. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, but yet mysterious figure. Whereas Oz, is the name of the entire land in which the majority of the story takes place. The Wizard represents a religious interpretation of God in which he is one powerful creature who is the ruler of the universe; whereas, Oz would represent that God is actually in all things – the trees, fields, color, all characters, etc.

At the door of the Emerald City, the gang starts to notice some peculiar traits of this magical place. Their first impression is dampened when they ring the door bell and are greeted by a crabby man who refuses to serve them because they did not “follow the rules” of knocking on the door instead. Once they knock, he returns with a friendly smile on his face. This is symbolic to the modern-day lifestyle of the church in which you come in on Sunday and everyone greets you with a smile, handshake, and maybe a hug. But, then after leaving for an hour of connection, it is back to competition, resentment, anger, and disgust for each other.

They ask to see Oz, but are told that nobody has ever seen him. He only agrees to do so, once seeing the Ruby Red Slippers on Dorothy’s feet. Here we have this all-powerful being that refuses access at first glance and then changes his mind based on appearance.

This symbolism continues as they group is not granted access until they clean up first. The scarecrow is given new straw to help keep him young, the tinman is treated with being sharpened and new oil to help keep him repaired, and the lion receives a manicure and pedicure to look as externally beautiful as possible before appearing before the magnificent Oz.

This, too, is an ego trap. While it feels good to be well-polished, it is creating a mask/false self. This occurs often when someone goes from poverty into fortune and soon forgets the roots of their struggle.

In their first encounter, Oz is quite harsh to the gang. He refers to the tinman as “clinking clanking piece of junk” and the scarecrow as a “billing bail of fodder” and the lion faints before taking on any insults.

The Wizard eventually makes a deal with them and promises to grant their wishes only after they can prove that they are worthy of his power. They are instructed bring the broomstick of the Witch of the West. The group pleads that this could only be possible if they were to execute her, in which he instructs to “Just go.” This great powerful Oz is asking us to kill one another just so we can prove we are worthy of his help?

Similarly, so many wars are fought over religion and claiming to be doing things in the name of our God. What kind of God are we following in which we create artificial borders, discriminate, judge, hurt, and kill each other? God’s love is unconditional; yet, here this is clearly a condition of proving ourselves worthy of his love and assistance.

Shadow Work:

As they are walking through the forest to find the witch, she sends her flying monkeys out to attack them and capture Dorothy. The monkeys represent our mischievous side of our personality, which is why they are protecting the witch (our shadow).

The only way to free ourselves, and return home, is to do shadow work and embrace the deepest darkest fears of our soul. The haunted forest represents the journey into the subconscious, which stores the repressed memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Once at the castle, the witch threatens to kill Toto (intuition). Intuition is soul-guided, it is when our true self is running the ship and guiding our decisions. The Witch (shadow) knows that if we are to remove the intuition, the ego will forever be in control. Dorothy offers to give up all her power (slippers) in exchange for her intuition (Toto). But before this can happen, Toto escapes. Her intuition knows that the only way to survive is to find the other aspects of herself that need shadow work – the Lion (courage), Tinman (compassion), and Scarecrow (wisdom).

Toto leads the crew back to the castle, which literally represents our subconscious mind. The guards are put in place to protect us from releasing these painful memories. And it is here in which the shadow work takes place.

The scarecrow, fearful of not having a brain is the one who develops the plan. This plan includes the Lion leading the way; although quite fearful, courageously states “I’ll do it if it means saving Dorothy….I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there.” It takes true courage to take on the hidden aspects of ourselves.

The climatic scene within the castle comes when the witch sets the scarecrow on fire – his greatest weakness. In an effort to put out the fire, Dorothy throws water on the fire and it subsequently gets on the Witch. To their surprise, the water begins to melt away the witch leading to her demise.

The greatest threat to our true self, the Wicked Witch of the West, could only be defeated by the most basic, purest substance of all – water. The substances that we carry within every cell and makes up the majority of our body is the very purity that we needed to defeat our shadow.

Once she melts away, the guards rejoice that the wicked witch is dead. The guards forgot that what they were protecting this entire time was working against us. This is how repressed thoughts work, they feel they are protecting us, but in reality they are still apart of us and always will be until we face them directly.

The difficulty about shadows, is the more we try to resist them, the more they appear. We cannot run, hide, or drink away these hidden aspects of ourselves.

The Power Lies Within:

Upon returning to the Wizard, the group presents the broomstick. The broomstick is symbolic for sweeping away aspects of our self which is why the Wizard required the group to do so.

However, he still refuses to grant their wishes. This time, the group starts to argue with him due to his lack of integrity. This is the beginning of their questioning of the organized religious system and the brainwashing of everything they had been told to be true. They are ready for the awakening process. Of course it is Toto, the intuition, who takes the next step by removing the sheet to reveal that the Wizard is just an old man using a voice projector and a smoke machine to create the effects of “the Wizard.”

Here is their breaking away from organized religion, the Wizard has been exposed. The group is infuriated and demands the gifts of a brain, heart, and courage.

The Wizard affirms that it is all a lie. He then goes on to tell the Scarecrow that everyone has a brain before presenting him with a diploma. Instantaneously the Scarecrow recites a complex mathematical equation. The Wizard then tells the lion that he has disorganized thinking and that he only thinks he lacks courage because he runs away from danger – which he instructs him is actually wisdom. He then explains that the lion has displayed courage and presents him with a medal of honor. The same is done for the Tinman by explaining everyone has a heart and is then presented with a heart-shaped clock.

Next, he needs to fulfill Dorothy’s promise – to send her home. Once we are on the spiritual path we start to have this longing for home. This feeling that there is a greater existence out there and that this life is a temporary placement but eventually we will return to a place we call home.

The Wizards is a big talker and explains how he will fly her home in a hot air balloon. There is a major celebration and spectacle of an event in which he boasts about his great powers one final time. Just as the balloon is ready to take off, Toto hops out of the balloon knowing that Dorothy will follow shortly thereafter.

The balloon sails away and the Wizard says he cannot return as he does not know how to operate the balloon. Hot air balloons represent feelings of social elevation and superiority, fame, or popularity. Toto realizes this is another ego trap and escapes from the situation.

Another panic ensues for a short period of time as Dorothy feels stuck, stranded, and unable to return home. At this point, Glinda returns to their aid. Dorothy starts begging for help before the following exchange:

“Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?” Dorothy pleaded.

“You don’t need help any longer,” Glinda smiled, “You always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

“Then why didn’t you tell her before?” demanded the scarecrow

“Because she wouldn’t have believed me,” said Glinda, “She had to learn it for herself.”

“What have your learned Dorothy?” asked the Tinman.

“I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntee Em. And if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

While her friends found this concept too simple, they were confused as to why they never thought of it earlier. Glinda simply responds:

“No, she had to find it out for herself.”

While the story has to do with Dorothy going back to a physical home, this symbolizes of a peaceful state of mind and redemption of the Self. Home refers to our true self. We all have the power within us to return home at anytime, but just like for Dorothy, it is a journey that we have to figure out on our own.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press

Steve Fugate lost a son to suicide and a daughter to an overdose. He now is on his 9th walk across the united states with a sign above his head that says “LOVE LIFE” He meets people and spreads a message of hope and love despite unspeakable tragedies. Listen to his inspirational story. You can follow or donate to his cause here : Follow Steve Fugate You can Check Out his book here: Buy Steve Fugate Book Here. Or donate to his walk

Listen to his story on ITunes, Spreaker, Soundcloud, You Tube, Or on our site.

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ITunes:

Itunes Ep 011 Soul Walker Steve Fugate walks the US after losing

You Tube:

WordPress:

Ep 011 Soul Walker Steve Fugate sprerads the message love life following losing his children

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience
“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and Balboa Press.

 

“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

By Cortland Pfeffer

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, 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 probably 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 do not like 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. 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.

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 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.

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.

She looked at me and I said to her,
“Sammy, just look at me.”

She put her face up, she stopped crying, her hands stopped shaking, and her chin stopped shaking. 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 sobbed 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, education, and all other kinds of resources and ways to find out about her issues. He declined this every time he was offered. He always stated that he had to work or something else.

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. A sign to continue.

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, 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.

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 by us. So we are the ones that can end it.

Loud, opinionated, yet uniformed people have power. We must stop stigma by education, not by hating. If we treat them the way they treat those with mental health issues, then we are no different. As Martin Luther King Jr. Said, “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, and living. 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 explain why  it can be  a gift, and not a “disorder.”

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 that they don’t know how to feel. They feel intensely connected to everything therefore, affected greatly by everything. They 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.

We could be breathing the same air that mother Teresa, Ghandi, MLK breathed in and out. We are connected.

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.

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.

Science has also proved we are all connected in other ways.

Humans and chimps have 90% identical DNA.

Humans and mice have 88% identical DNA.

Humans and cows have 85% identical DNA.

Humans and dogs have 84% identical DNA.

Humans and Zebra Fish have 73% identical DNA.

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.” Which is another myth. Chemical imbalances do not exist. The APA admitted this in 2005. It is used as a marketing tool by drug companies.

We then use this to diagnose them with Bipolar Disorder. Then what we can do is give them these “mood stabilizers” or these “antipsychotics,” and they will  sleep and are tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!”

We have 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. He is a very emotional person or perhaps an extremely emotional person. He has some “weird” instinct and/or intuitiveness where he can feel everything around him in his environment. He is in a family that is perhaps functional or dysfunctional. Regardless, the family and his friends do not understand his emotional states of being. Let’s say little Johnny is very connected to something he finds very important and we don’t understand his attachment. Then one day, he loses this item and he is crying continuously. An invalidating environment 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.

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 25 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.

We train our mental health professionals that these people are “bad.”

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. 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 got 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. 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 think we have.

Sammy, there was nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with us.

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press

image

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

“Prisoner number……It is time to go home.

The most beautiful words she had ever heard, as she dreamt about the day that phrase would be uttered for the past ten years. Today, she will get to see her daughter that has been out of her life and begin the process of reunification.

As she takes her first steps outside the prison walls in a decade, it is like stepping into a foreign land. Outside the concrete confinement she is overwhelmed by the simplicity of feeling the fresh breeze, the sunlight, the green grass, and of course her family. Her daughter, mother, and brother await her release in what feels like another world away.

Her lower lip starts to tremble uncontrollably – which it always has done when she becomes emotional  only to see her 13-year-old daughter’s lower lip mirror that of her own. Mother-and-daughter are able to embrace for the first time in years as they share an electric bond that cannot be broken, despite so many unanswered questions over the years.

“Why is Mom in jail? Why didn’t I get to have a Mom while growing up? Why wasn’t anyone there to do my hair, makeup, or other little girl activities that everyone else enjoyed? Where was my Mom all this time?

These are the questions the little girl repeatedly asked throughout her lifetime without an answer that ever seemed to make sense. She once even wrote a letter to the judge, prior to her mother’s sentencing. It was written in 6 year old writing, in a blue crayon. It said:

“Please help my mommy, I don’t want her to go to jail for a long time. I want her to get better.

This woman was a prisoner of war. Another unnecessary and ineffective war that has destroyed far more lives than it has. Society’s most loving, caring, and abused people are literally being reduced to a number; while corporations, politicians, and congressmen that write the laws of the land are profiting off the lives they are tearing apart.

The Great Marketing Scheme:

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon officially declared the War on Drugs:

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

A war is defined as a conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state. But, to declare a war on an inanimate object or concept, means that there is no clear enemy  hence, no end.

And this is intentional. In fact, it is one of the greatest marketing schemes never told. It is drawn out as follows:

1. The President tells you the greatest risk to our safety is a concept, object, or philosophy (Communism, Drugs, Terror, etc.).

a. Declares a war that is not really a war (Cold War, Drug War, War on Terror).

b. The American people are asked to pay the bill because money is not an issue  this is for our safety and security.

c. They create a special agency that makes their own laws in their war (CIA, DEA, NSA, Homeland Security, etc.)

2. Laws are changed that support fighting this war  leading to mass incarcerations of anyone not in compliance

3. The prisons become over-crowded; and therefore, private prisons run by corporations need to be built to house prisoners

a. Corporations are for-profit  which means more prisoners equals more money

b. They sign contracts with the government guaranteeing high occupancy rates (usually between 90-100 percent for up to twenty years).

c. This gives incentives to lock up more people, because they have to pay regardless as to whether or not the bed is filled

d. The quality of care and supervision is poor, because it is a business and they seek cheap labor and cost-cutting techniques like every business

e. Corporations then rent prisoners for free labor- also known as slavery

4. The private prisons then lobby to congress to make stricter laws to lock up more people

5. Congress obliges because it helps them win elections and:

a. Congress makes the laws of the country  and they don’t bite the hand that feeds

b. Then, since they know the laws, they buy stock in these same private prisons

c. Profit off their investments

6. Then the war against a concept shifts overseas

a. This allows to overthrow poor countries under the disguise as a war against our greatest threat

i. Allowing to steal natural resources

ii. Install a puppet government that benefits our corporate interests

b. Politicians that declare war also have stock in Arms manufacturers like General Electric, Raytheon, etc.

i. More wars means more arms need to be built

ii. They profit off their investments again

c. In order to overthrow governments without making it obvious to the public, they hire guerilla insurgents to do so.

i. They train these rebel groups and supply arms

ii. In turn, these groups pay for the arms by supplying illegal drugs

iii. The CIA returns these illegal drugs into the inner cities of America

iv. They then arrest people and put them into private prisons (in which they profit), by selling the same drugs they brought into the country (in which they profit) to arm rebel groups to overthrow governments and install puppet governments which support U.S. Corporations and gain further profit (in which the law-makers also have stock interests)

It is such a brilliant concept, that we have recently followed suit by launching a War on Terror. Another war without a clear enemy, against a concept, that will never have a definitive outcome which only profits those with heavy stock interests (i.e. John Kerry, secretary of state, has made $26 million off his investments directly related to the War on Terror; but that is not a conflict of interest?)

This is not freedom, this is fascism.

We proudly claim to be Land of the Free yet we have more people locked up than any other civilization in the history of the world, with the majority of them in there for non-violent drug offenses. The United States is home to only five-percent of the world’s population, but holds 25-percent of the world’s prison population. We currently have more black men and women behind bars per capita than that of Apartheid in South Africa all part of money-making scheme for corporations.

War on Drugs Race

All the drug laws in America have their racist and discriminatory foundations. The first drug-law came in 1875 in San Francisco, which was a banning of Opium Dens as a discrimination against Chinese-American immigrants. National headlines linked cocaine to causing violent behavior in African-Americans and laws were soon put in place. Marijuana was first used recreationally in the Southwestern United States by Mexican immigrants 1920’s, and laws were established that was geared at incriminating Mexicans.

But these were just the early battles before war was officially declared.

In June of 1971, Nixon declared the War on Drugs making most street drugs illegal with stricter penalties. Two years later, the DEA was created to enforce drug laws and bring those criminals to justice.

More arrests, meant more people in jails and prisons. The prisons started to overflow and they need for more prisons arose. Corporations got involved and built private, for-profit prisons. They arrange contracts with the government to remain at high occupancy’s, further incentives for the government to arrest non-violent drug offenders and keep them for longer sentences.

In the notorious, Kids for Cash Scandal two judges in Pennsylvania were convicted of taking cash payments from prisons as bribery to sentence more juveniles to fill their beds. They were locking up kids, for minor offenses, and changing lives forever for sums of money. And these are just the ones that are getting caught.

The prisons spend millions of dollars each year lobbying with congress to change and keep laws that allow locking up more people for non-violent drug offenses. In turn, members of congress  the people who write the laws  have investments in private prisons, encouraging them to keep these laws that help their portfolios.

Prison Labor

An increased prison population helps out more than just the prison industry, many other corporations have invested in prison labor. At least 37 states have legalized contracting of prison labor including corporations such as IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Dell, Honeywell, Target, and many more mount their operations inside of prisons.

This is also known as slavery.

In fact, this idea of convict leasing arose after the Civil War. The South was built by stealing Native American land and utilizing free slave labor to build America into one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. But after slavery was abolished and African-Americans were emancipated, the corporations needed cheap labor.

Freed slaves started getting charged with petty crimes and sentenced to many years in prison. Once in prison, they were leased to work picking cotton and building railroads  just slavery with a different name.

After the Drug War launched in 1971, the prison population has skyrocketed by locking up African-Americans at an alarming rate to work for free for corporations. We really have not changed, we just find new and creative ways to hide the atrocious human rights crimes better.

Just Say KNOW

In 1986, Nancy Regan told us to Just Say No to drugs. While she was telling us not to do drugs, her husband and president, Ronald Reagan, was making illegal deals to fund illegal wars which brought those same drugs into our inner cities.

The Iran-Contra scandal involved Reagan illegally selling arms to Iran (despite an embargo on arms to Iran) in exchange for payments. This money went to fund the Nicaraguan contra rebel fighters to embark in a guerilla war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The Sandinista government was democratically-elected (which I thought we liked, right?) which overtook a forty-year-old Somoza dictatorship (which is something we don’t like, right?)

The Sandinista government implemented welfare, health, education, and housing reforms. Peasants were granted access to land to help socio-economic growth. Citizens were given freedom of speech, assembly, council and religion.

They also looked to nationalize many U.S. Corporations and give resources back to their people. Most notably, the United Fruit Company, a subsidiary of the W.R. Grace Company  a major supporter of the Reagan administration. Since this cost corporations and investors money, they deemed that Nicaragua were communists and we needed to protect them from this “evil” regime.

The CIA went to extreme efforts, including getting involved in the illegal drug trade of cocaine from the Contras. They shipped crack-cocaine into the major cities as payments for fighting the guerilla war against the Nicaraguan government. The drugs hit the streets and crack was in all the major cities in the 1980s. The media told us the dangers of crack and people agreed a problem had to be made by locking up anyone who uses it.

The Anti-Drug Act of 1986, told us because crack is so much more powerful than powder cocaine that the sentencing must also be more severe. The laws stated that if you had 100-times less crack than powder cocaine, you received similar sentences. For example, if you possessed five grams of crack you faced a mandatory of five-years in prison (you would need five-hundred grams of powder cocaine for the same sentence).

Former L.A. police officer addressed this with CIA director, John Deutsch, in a 1996 town hall meeting by stating the following:

“I will tell you Director Deutch, as a former Los Angeles Police narcotics Detective, that the Agency has dealt drugs throughout this country for a long time.

This was followed by an uproar and applause from the local residents in attendance, which had to be literally silenced before he was allowed to continue.

“Director Deutch, I will refer you to three specific Agency operations known as Amadeus, Pegasus and Watchtower. I have Watchtower documents, heavily redacted by the Agency. I was personally exposed to CIA operations and recruited by CIA personnel who attempted to recruit me in the late seventies to become involved in protecting Agency drug operations in this country. I have been trying to get this out for eighteen years, and I have the evidence. My question for you is very specific sir. If, in the course of the IG’s investigation, you come across evidence of severely criminal activity, and it’s classified, will you use that classification to hide the criminal activity, or will you tell the American people the truth?

After another large applause and interruption, CIA Director John Deutsch responded by saying, “If you have information about CIA illegal activity  in drugs you should immediately bring that information to wherever you want, but let me suggest three places  the Los Angeles Police Department [interrupted by laughter from the residents], the inspector general, or the office of one of your congresspersons from this…”

After Congressman, Julian Dixon addresses the situation, Ruppert responds with one final blow:

“I did bring this information out eighteen years ago and I got shot at and forced out of LAPD because of it. I’ve been on the record eighteen years non-stop, and I’ll be happy to give you congressmen anything that I have.

“Bad Guys Go To Jail

The statistics will tell you about 75% of women in jail have been abused. That number is wrong. The number is 100%. I have worked in jails and in this system for over 18 years now, I have read thousands of charts. Not one of them has a case in which the patient/inmate was not the victim of some sort of trauma

Studies have lower numbers because the patient/inmate may not report past trauma. That does not mean that it did not occur  either it has been repressed or they do not wish to share due to shame, guilt, or embarrassment. The Hippocampus shuts down during trauma, helping us to forget the actual event. The effects on the brain linger, the neurochemistry of the event has affected us for a lifetime, exposing us to the much higher likelihood of addiction.

Harry Harlowconducted a series of experiments in 1958 with infant rhesus monkeys and a set of surrogate mothers. Two main types of mothers were used: 1) a wire model containing a bottle to feed the monkey and 2) a terry-cloth model.

Out of these results, it was shown that if an infant does not bond with a caregiver early in life that they are more likely to suffer from all sorts of ailments. Early attachment to the mother or caregiver is essential for normal development. When we see someone with addiction/mental health issues, we cannot assume that they are bad and lock them up, everyone has a story.

We cannot just look at behavior, but we must look beyond the mask. At first glance you see this woman’s rap sheet. She has eight felonies, all of which were drug offenses.

What do we do? Most say lock them up and throw away the key. That has been what we have been doing for centuries, and for centuries this world has been going downhill. We have less crime, but a higher prison population. So there is one problem with this philosophy. IT DOES NOT WORK!!

It has the opposite effect. We are locking up some of our most gifted, intelligent, sensitive people and forgetting about them. Instead we should be taking of their mask, getting to know them, rehabilitating them so they can have a positive impact on society.

If they are rehabilitated, then they don’t return to prison. It is what society needs, but corporations fear.

A Prisoner’s Tale  Stages of Development

We have an infant, born free and pure and not sure how the world works. She is learning to crawl and walk and explore. She is free. But she does not get as much hugs, kisses, and emotional connection as other infants. Her parents are always fighting and screaming at each other. This is an important stage of life in which she has now learned the world is an unsafe place. Her day consists of lying in her crib alone and crying for love, in which she is only fed and changed and otherwise lacks any connection. She is more of a nuisance, than a child. Her mother did not want children, but did so to please others. Should we lock this infant up in jail?

Now she is a toddler 2 or 3. She is trying to gain control over her motor skills like the other kids. But she is unsure about herself and afraid of the world at this point. She stumbles and falls, but she is afraid to ask for help. She is unsure about who to go to when she is sad or needs help and does not know if she is doing things correctly as there is no guidance.

The chemicals in her brain have now changed and are different than that of other children. She is hyper-vigilant, always looking over her shoulder and startles easily. Her brain is moving at a faster pace and she is always in survival mode. Should we lock her up now, and make money off of her being locked up?

In school she struggles more than the other kids. She is unsure of herself and does not interact well with her peers or adults. She is bullied throughout her day and isolates even more. Although, she does well in many aspects of life, her self-esteem is destroyed. Her view of the world has been shaped since the time she was born to look at it through a cloudy lens.

Eventually, she finds a group much like herself and they get along because they understand each other. They are the kindest, loving, and most gentle kids around; but they are the minority and are teased as a group. They are told they are losers, they fail out of school, and usually find themselves in trouble.

After school, their parents are not around as much and they do not have supervision, so early as 10 and 11, they begin to drink and smoke pot. It frees them, they feel free like when they were infants for the first time in their lives they are happy and feel at peace. So this becomes a daily habit. They do worse in school, get it more trouble at home and at school, but they get high and drunk daily. It gives them the freedom and peace that others have. Should we lock these kids up now?

There were times at parties in which older men have made their way into her room and touched her. She tries to tell parents and teachers but they tell her she is a bad kid and she should not make up lies just to get attention. These patterns continue and again she is the bad one, and learns that to be good is to be quiet and give into these older men.

In her adolescent years, she begins drinking and getting high daily  but now it is more a means of coping with life, rather than feeling free.

The older guys she hangs out with provide her drugs and alcohol and abuse her physically, emotionally, and sexually. But she learns that if she has sex with them, they begin to treat her kindly. This reinforces that she is a sex object and in order to get love, she must give sex. Is this fair, does she deserve to be locked up at this point?

At age 16, she meets an 18-year-old that comes from a rough environment as well. They bond right away and attach to each other immediately, spending every minute of every day together. They love each other, but neither of them knows how to love leading to jealousy, anger, and insecurity. Three months later, she becomes pregnant.

Their passion then turns on them and they begin fighting with hateful, verbal assaults. After the child is born, she has had enough and eventually she leaves him. Now she is a 17-year-old single mother, alone with a life of abuse and being used for sex. Should we lock her up?

She goes back to the Childs father and it only lasts a few months. It ends with her finally snapping and holding a knife to his throat. She has had enough of life. She moves to Florida with her mother. Should we lock her up at this point?

She meets a new man and tells the child that this is her father. She gets a job, has a new life and home and things are finally going well. Until this new man starts to physically and sexually abuse her for three years. She starts to drink and use again to numb the pain, until finally one night she sneaks out of the house and leaves for good. Should we lock her up now?

A few years later, she is working as a bartender and meets another man. He moves in with him and his kids and one day he asks her to try meth. She tries it, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. She feels this sudden sense of peaceful euphoria in which all the pain, abuse, and trauma is gone. She has that feeling of being alive and well once again. Because of this feeling, she starts using more often, always chasing after that feeling of peace and love. She leaves this guy and gets her own place with her daughter and finally has peace of mind. Should we lock her up now?

But as her tolerance grows, she needs more money to keep bringing about this peaceful feeling by means of using meth. Along the way, she is introduced to injecting the drug directly into her veins which creates a much more intense high  plus it lessens how much she has to use and buy. In the meantime, her daughter is being neglected and left for days at stranger’s houses. This little girl is now all alone and afraid of these people  just like the mother felt all those years ago. One day, the daughter walks out of the house while the mother is passed out and found by a passerby in a snowstorm. At this point, police and social services are involved in her life. It is the first time in her life, someone has intervened.

But it is the wrong intervention. They put her on probation and tell her to stop using. If it was that easy, she wouldn’t have been doing so in the first place. It was the only thing that connected her with her true self. As the pain returns in her life, she misses the feeling and starts to fail drug tests. Her child is removed and placed with the father. Her house is now being watched and she is arrested a few times on drug charges. We have now started locking her up.

Still, at this point, everything that is going on, not one person has intervened by offering treatment or looking into her past. Instead, she is labeled as a Drug-Addict and a Bad Person. And bad people go to jail.

After she loses her daughter, she is in more pain that ever and is still seeking love. A major drug dealer in the area asks her to run meth in her part of the state in which she will get a cut, enough to fill her desire to feel at peace amidst a chaotic life. She has already given up on life and has nothing to lose. She gets involved and starts making endless amounts of money and supply of her drug. The FBI follows her for years and eventually tracks her down. She gets sentenced to 17 years in Federal Prison.

She did not get offered treatment, she went directly to jail. She was not rehabilitated, she was treated like an animal, a prisoner of war.

Once she was released she has made the most out of her life and is doing well. People ask her how she did it? Most people who suffer through the corruption of the prison are bound to return. But it is not a corrupt system, they designed it this way. Return prisoners equal increased revenue for many different corporations.

“Everyone ignores you, she said one day in a speech, They treat you like an animal. No one believes you, they tell you ‘why would I believe a career criminal?’ The guards take pleasure in abusing the prisoners. Women are assaulted and there is nothing you can do. It is the ultimate feeling of powerlessness.

“But there was this dentist, she paused, he treated me like a human being, like I mattered. Every day I would look forward to seeing him. That is the only thing that kept me going. He was the only one that gave me hope.

That was her treatment. She got treatment from him.

I have worked in this field for 18 years, this is all of their stories. All of them are similar.

I know this story well. The little child in this story is my now 20-year-old daughter and the woman in prison was her mother.

She needed help, not to be locked up.

It is time to end the war on drugs and on humanity.

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press