Archive for the ‘Alcoholic’ Category

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Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.” —Tupac Shakur

 

Parable of River Babies:

One summer in a small village, all the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, which was struggling and crying. It was clear
the baby was on the verge of drowning and facing imminent death if someone did not act swiftly.

Without thinking twice, someone promptly aborts everything to jump into the river and save the baby. Everyone’s heart had been racing in panic and confusion, rush to ensure the baby is safe. Just as things start to calm down, they notice another screaming baby in the river. Again, someone jumps in to pull the baby to safety.

Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river and all the townspeople were pulling them out and the entire village was involved in many tasks of rescue work: pulling the poor children
from the stream, ensuring they were properly fed, clothed, housed, and integrated into life of the village. While not every baby could be saved, the entire village spent all their day trying to save as many as possible. As everyone kept busy in the recovery efforts, two townspeople started to run along the shore of the river.

“Where are you going!?” shouted one of the rescuers, “We need you here to help us save these babies!”

“Don’t you see?” They cried. “If we find out how they are getting into the river we can stop the problem and no babies will drown!”.

“Don’t you see?” They cried, “If we find out how they are getting into the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown! By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem.”

“But it is too risky,” said the village elders, “It might fail. It is not for us to change the system. And besides, how would we occupy ourselves if we no longer had this to do all day?”

This parable explains the modern industry of human services. Another version would include someone jumping into the river and teaching the babies to swim. While it is fair to say that everyone in this situation is doing their absolute best to fight the problem, real change is only going to happen once we find out the core problem to eliminate more from falling into the river.

Is there some mysterious illness in these children? Had the shoreline been made unsafe by a natural disaster? Was some hateful person throwing them in deliberately? Or was there an even more exhausted village upstream that had been abandoning them out of hopelessness?

Everyone is pure and innocent at their core.

Just like with addiction and mental health, we can fix all the presenting symptoms, but there will never be long-lasting change until we can get to the root of the problem. Everyone is innocent and pure at their core.

The “Bad Person” Argument:

“She just pops them out and then we end up paying for them,” complains a clinician during a staffing session at a mental health facility.

“She just does this to get more drugs,” cries another in agreement.

This aforementioned client has just been admitted as mentally unstable and “just pops them out” refers to self-inflicted knife wounds in her abdomen in a desperate attempt to legally obtain
narcotics.

Without any background, experience, or education in this industry, any group of outsiders could unanimously agree that this behavior is not “normal.” But the behavior and actions are not the questions we need to ask in this industry; rather, the question should center around what is leading to this behavior?

Is it a choice? Is she just a bad person?

Would anyone, with a rational mind, “choose” to intentionally penetrate a sharp blade through their midsection just to score some drugs? Does anyone truly believe that jamming a knife in your stomach is the best available option?

This “choice” theory is still largely, and openly, debated in society. Despite the immense volumes of advanced evidence of addiction and mental illness, the stigma survives. The medical and scientific communities have proven these diseases through a plethora of research, studies, brain imaging technology, along with the work of the top neuroscientists in the world. Yet, the public disagrees.

Shall we debate how fish do not need to be immersed in water to survive and that is their choice?

Shall we debate whether or not the earth is round, the rotation, and how it orbits the sun? Shall we debate how fish do not need to be immersed in water to survive and that is their choice?

Why, as a society, can we not accept the overwhelming evidence regarding mental illness and substance abuse? This stigma we create and support is preventing people from receiving their inalienable human rights.

Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable,among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right? Well, stigma destroys life; it doesn’t preserve it by any means. Where is the liberty, or freedom, for those who can not afford treatment
or are a part of a corrupt system of workers with misleading information? How can one pursue anything that resembles happiness when they are putting a knife through their abdomen just to get a pill that makes them feel “normal” for a few hours.

The stigma creates shame and disgrace within each individual. Despite being “created equal and independent,” society trains us how to act, talk, dress, express, behave, think, etc.

The training that takes place by society is nothing more than putting on a mask to hide ourselves from the world and conform to how others think we should be.

And for some of us this doesn’t feel right.

There is a lot of love in the world, but the world doesn’t seem to want everyone to feel this way. The world wants us to pretend. The training that takes place by society is nothing more than putting on a mask to hide ourselves from the world and conform to how others think we should be.

We know there is more to this pretend world in which we are living and we find it privately—with booze, drugs, food (eating disorders), gambling and other compulsive activities that help alter our consciousness momentarily. The rush of the activity or the substance allows us to numb our true feelings, so we don’t have to deal with them—which is what we always wanted.

Then we wake up in the morning and put on our mask before opening the door.

As the case of the woman with multiple stab wounds was being reviewed by these “medical professionals,” it reminded me of the first time I was able to see beyond someone’s mask.

The behaviors are not being pardoned by any means, but if there was no stigma with substance abuse and mental illness, people would be more willing to ask for help…

In discussing this topic, more specifically the stigma associated, we always run the risk of being viewed as an apologist or excusing the behaviors of the addict. The behaviors are not being pardoned by any means, but if there was no stigma with substance abuse and mental illness, people would be more willing to ask for help before some of these significant consequences began to surface and this destructive cycle could slowly disintegrate. Because today, asking for help is still largely considered a weakness, whereas the truth is that it is an incredible strength for one to acknowledge that they are in need of the services of another human to help them pursue a life of freedom and happiness.

Seeing Behind the Mask:

The first time we see beyond the mask is done so without a conscious effort – it just happens and we observe. I want to share a story about a woman who has just had her eight children taken away from her for neglect and abandonment. Emotional and physical abuse was a part of the daily routine. The children would be forced to kneel down in prayer before she threatening to beat them if they told anyone she had been drinking.

“It’s just a little cut, get over it!” she once yelled at her two-year-old that recently fell on an empty beer bottle. Unable and unwilling to do anything for the child, the 14-year-old daughter
had to drive the toddler to the ER for surgery.

In another incident, the woman fell and passed out on top of one of the kids. The other seven children all worked together to get her off, preventing the infant from suffocating.

The kids rarely attended school and when they did were usually welcomed to harassment, beatings, ridicule and bullying.

The oldest daughter took care of the children with what she had to offer. She cooked Ramen noodles on the grill in the freezing temperature as it was all they had to eat. The kids rarely attended  school and when they did usually were welcomed to harassment, beatings, ridicule and bullying.

Where was their father during this time?

Well, he was actually a doctor and a well-respected man in the community. But behind closed doors, he was an abusive alcoholic that lashed out daily beatings to his wife. While she was pregnant, he once dragged her across the room with a belt leading to a miscarriage—with the children burying the dead fetus in their back yard.

Around age 40, the father died of a heart attack, leaving the family in the hands of their alcoholic mother and eight children—most of them under the age of 10. This woman was left with a
healthy inheritance, but spent it primarily on booze. And when the money train stopped, the next train that came in was by the state department taking away her children to foster care.

She would call and harass the foster parents, but never took time to see them or get to know them. The kids moved on with their lives not giving her any sympathy as she was the monster who destroyed their childhoods. However, the oldest daughter continued to see beyond the mask. She continued to go back to the house and help her mother. She chose to believe there was more to this monster than what was being presented. In turn, the oldest daughter received the most abuse but continued to care for her and spend her young adulthood showing love.

The drunken woman continued the emotional abuse, creating permanent psychological damage to her daughter—the only one who ever showed her love.

Unknowingly, this unconditional love and compassion of this child is what recovery is all about.

Unknowingly, this unconditional love and compassion of this child is what recovery is all about. People do not need to be kicked when they are down, they need someone to see beyond the behaviors.
They need someone to tell them “you are a good person, but this disease is preventing you from being that beautiful soul. We just need to remove this barrier.”

Because what you will not know is that when this drunken woman was seven years old, she was babysitting her 5-year old brother before watching him get hit by a truck and killed. From this  point on, she was blamed for his death. A 7-year-old does not have the mental capacity to understand this is not true. A 7-year-old cannot tell if Santa Clause is real or not, how are they supposed to know the blame is not true when her parents label her as a killer, irresponsible and bad person? On top of that, both her parents were alcoholics that immigrated from Ireland and faced immense discrimination during the 1920’s on the east coast.

So beyond her mask is a pair of alcoholic parents that were verbally and physically abusive to her. She was blamed for the death of her sibling since she was seven. She married a well-respected man who was loved and adored by the community, only to have this same man beat her within an inch of her life when he comes home from work.

She began to believe all these things about her to be true, turned people away from her and “chose” booze instead of her kids.

Her husband was glamorized in public, while she was ridiculed. Her upbringing had trained her that you do not mention these things, so she buried it away, put on her mask and turned to alcohol. She began to believe all these things about her to be true, turned people away from her and “chose” booze instead of her kids.

At seven years old, we are innocent. Imagine back to a happy time when you were around that age. Getting ready to do something you love to do (in her case, dance class) and then to watch your 5-year-old brother wander into the street and get hit by a truck and killed. Life changes just like that. And then to be blamed your entire life for this without anyone ever letting you know the truth. Then the trauma continues to come in waves and waves, while others stand by at the dock pointing and ask:

“Well why doesn’t she get out of the ocean? Those waves are too high.”

So she lost her way, but how does the story end? When did she get out of that mess? The popular feel-good stories tell us the incredible journeys of those who overcome, get better and find
their way in the world. How does this one end?

The truth is many of us with mental illness and addiction suffer until we die. We die thinking we are monsters. We are all lost, but rarely found.

This story is not unique, but unfortunately, the norm in mental health and addiction. We observe and judge the behavior without taking a look beyond the mask. The behavior (mask) is going to stand out.

And the uglier the mask, the longer-lasting impact it will have on us.

And the uglier the mask, the longer-lasting impact it will have on us. We treat those with the ugliest masks, the worst. We use it as a guide as to determine the evilness of the person inside.
And until we can consciously look beyond the mask of each person effected by mental health or addiction, the situation will never improve.

I remember this woman’s funeral quite well. Her adult children all arrived from out of town, had not been around for years, but made their grand entrance for the spectacle. You could sense
the anger and negative energy in the room.

“She is going to burn in hell,” was the common theme among these kids who had not seen her in years and never really took a peek behind the mask. They never really knew their own mother. They were all in foster care before they were five years old, but made an appearance at her funeral to wish her well spending eternity in flames.

But the oldest daughter always stuck around, caring for her mother as she watched her slowly drink herself to death. Continuing to care for her mother, no one quite understood what made her return day-after-day and take on the abuse. They questioned her mental stability, courage and strength.

She did not listen to what others said about her, no one could prevent her from loving this “monster.”

While they thought she was weak and pathetic, they missed out on experiencing the strongest and most courageous person in their lives. This level of unconditional love could not be broken. She did not listen to what others said about her, no one could prevent her from loving this “monster.”

Every day, people would expect her to stop showing up, stop caring, stop loving and stop trying. She saw something no one else saw. And if you haven’t been there before, there are no words in the world that can be said to make you understand. And if you have been there before, no words are needed and you already fully understand everything.

The daughter never heard the words, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry.”

There is no storybook ending. The woman died without ever saying goodbye. But, this woman did get what she always desired—to believe she was a good, worthwhile human. She had finally received her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. This woman finally felt loved for the first time in her life during the last few years.

While the daughter may not have noticed this new unconditional love was reciprocal, I did notice. And it changed me forever.

I saw it in the mother’s eyes and I know the daughter was right all along.

Now remember, my grandmother is this same, nasty old drunk I’ve been talking about for the past few pages, but she saw that I truly needed to have this football.

I know so because the drunk lady is my grandmother. And when I was nine-years-old and visiting, I was begging for a football. It’s all that mattered to me. I had to have it, I was impulsive,
I needed it. Now, remember, my grandmother is this same, nasty old drunk I’ve been talking about for the past few pages, but she saw that I truly needed to have this football.

My grandma saw I needed it and she understood. She didn’t drink that day for the first time in nearly 45 years, because she gave me her last seven dollars to buy that football, which I still
have today.

That was my Grandma. And the oldest daughter was my mother.

I love you Grandma. Mom, you are my hero.


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

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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.




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 “Perhaps the biggest tragedy in our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns.”

By Cortland Pfeffer

A patient of mine from years ago left this note after she committed suicide. I have rewritten it here.

Dear Children- I did not take care of you like children deserve. When other kids were getting ready for school, you were trying to wake me up. You had to walk to the gas station alone,  with change you found scattered around so you could eat. You thought no one loved you and you were bad kids. You missed school and events because you had no one to take you. You got teased at school because you had to wear the same dirty clothes every day. I would be gone for days and you were scared. You would sit up all night wondering what you did wrong. You had no one to teach you anything. You didn’t come home to hugs, love, or even dinner. You never knew what was going to happen. You were never allowed to feel safe in this world. You were so confused when you were taken from me. I remember you screaming for me, with your hands outstretched screaming “Mommy! Mommy! Please don’t let them take Me.!” I saw your hearts break when I walked the other way. Every time the phone rang for the next 10 years you hoped it was me, and you were hurt every time that it wasn’t. I see all the pain you are in. I see the fear, the depression, and the anger. I know the torture I caused in your heart. I know I did this. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Mother- I know the pain I caused you. You had no one to turn to. It was your dream to be a mother and give love. I ruined your only hope in life. I took and took from you. You sat up crying at night begging God to help me. You didn’t know how to help, because no one took care of you. All you ever wanted was a family. You thought that having a family would take all your pain away. You had to work 2 jobs to replace the things I would steal. Everyone judged you for what I had done. I destroyed your self-confidence. You felt like you failed and you had to leave. I see the guilt in your eyes. I have taken your life from you. I am sorry that this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Brother- I stole from you, I took your money, your car, and I took all of our parent’s time. This left you with little time with them. You felt ignored and it hurt you. You withdrew from the world and isolated yourself. You had to grow up way to early. You became scared and isolated. I saw that affected your ability to know boundaries and how to have relationships. I see that is all with you still today. I did all of these things. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Sister- I took all of your toys and hid them. I ruined the toys that you loved the most on purpose. You were just a little girl that wanted love. You didn’t know why I was destroying the family. You saw me and trembled with fear. You couldn’t understand why I stole from mom and dad who had worked so hard. You tried so hard to help. You needed their love to. We missed your dance recitals because I stole the car. Your heart was broken and you didn’t understand how someone you loved so much could do this. You grew up scared. I see your pain, even if you try to hide it. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. But I understand.

Dear Father- You wanted to have a normal family. You took me places and to events all the time.  You hated your job, but you still went every single day to support us. No one loved you when you were a child. You never felt love as an adult. You were lonely. You were afraid to come home. Your marriage was hurt by me. You became depressed, so you drank more. I became an embarrassment to you. My issues robbed you of much of your life. I see the disappointment in your eyes. I am sorry this is how you will remember me. I understand.

I know that this is how I will remember you all.

Dear Brother- I remember going to sporting events together, playing outside, and laughing together. I remember the time you were so scared that dad was going to punish you about the mailbox, so I told him it was me. I remember letting you stay at my house after you had nowhere to go because of your drinking. I remember the not so nice things you tried to do to me. You were scared and lonely just like I was, so I never said anything. I remember coming back from treatment and you telling me how I had ruined everyone’s life. I am sorry you forget about the times I protected you. I was in pain when I did these things, but I understand so are you.

Dear Sister-I remember holding you at night when you were afraid. I remember when you made a mistake and Dad started coming after you. I remember jumping up and doing something worse on purpose so he would punish me instead. I remember you calling me your hero. I remember you clinging to me when we were young for protection. I remember taking you to the park to get away, and teaching you how to do hair. I am sorry that you forgot all of that. I am sorry you are in pain. I understand.

Dear Mother- I remember before it got bad, when you would tuck me in and hug me. It was so safe to be with you. I remember your love. I remember trying to make you happy because you would be so sad. I remember when you couldn’t take it anymore and left, I ran down the street looking for you outside for hours. I remember praying to God that you come back. I cried at night in my bed wishing you would just call me. I promised I wouldn’t be bad anymore. I remember when I told you what dad was doing, how your heart broke. I begged God to protect me. I am sorry you forgot all the good, and I am sorry for your pain, and I understand.

Dear Father- I remember the first time you hit me. You bought me candy so I didn’t tell. When I got older, if I didn’t want to get punished I would watch your “special” movies with you. It made you happy. You cried afterwards. I am sorry for whatever happened to you, to create the person I knew. I see you were in pain. I understand.

Dear children. I love you, I did the best I could. You are angels. I just did not know how to love, and I was scared.

I always wondered if anyone noticed…

Did anyone see when Dad was punching me?

Or when he took me into the room to watch “movies” with him?

Did anyone notice me crying when Mom left, because I was afraid what would happen?

Did God hear me?

Did anyone see what those older boys were doing to me?

Or notice I would be gone for hours as a teenager and come home drunk?

Or that I took the blame to protect you from being punished like I was?

Maybe you did, and you forgot. Maybe you thought it was better me than you.

I kept thinking someone would notice and they would do something. But no one ever did. No teachers, classmates, or anyone. No one spoke up. I guess they didn’t see. Or maybe they thought it was none of their business.

Thank you for telling me I was the bad one, and the problem child. I went to treatment and I got to feel better for a little while.

Until I would come back. No one understood why I would do so well, and when I got out of treatment, I would relapse.

I’m sorry you never could make it to family night at treatment because it was “my issue,” Not yours. That you were “fine.”

Maybe now that I am gone, your problems will be gone.

If you find that you are still in pain with me gone, and start to think maybe you were part of the problem, I am sorry for your pain. But it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

Now that you have to look in the mirror, maybe now you can heal. It is the greatest gift I can give to you.

I used to wonder why God would allow such evil, poverty, and sadness on earth.

Then I realized, he is the one that should probably be asking us why WE ALLOW IT.

He gave us all the resources we need to live here equally. We have enough to end poverty, and help each other. He gave us all the tools we need.

We choose this.

We allow this, not God.

I love you all.

Alcoholism and Addiction are family diseases. Not every case is this extreme. However, the addict is usually the one acting out the dysfunction and is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If you take the strongest one and heal them, and send them back to the dysfunctional system, it will not work.

If we do not start treating the system, we will continue to have an epidemic.

Will you notice? Will you speak up?

Silence is consent.

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” .. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent forever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”-    Charles Dickens

Every interaction we have matters. We may not see it, but it does

Here is a story of how one patient saw 2 different doctors. With the exact same problem. The reaction was completely different, and so was the result. You do not have to be a doctor or social worker or health care worker to have this impact. It is just this example. Every day we encounter people that as simple as it may seem, just a hello or a smile can make the difference. Sometimes, just knowing someone notices you are not doing well is a big deal.

Patient walks into Dr. D’s office. Patient is a 29 year old. He has depression, has a history of suicide, drug use, and addiction. He is in good physical health. He has not asked for help for a long time. He was in the psychiatric hospital as a teenager multiple times.

Dr. D comes into the office right at 8 am as the day starts. He gets his coffee, and asks for his first patient. He walks into the room and looks at the patient. He says “what can I do for you today?”

The patient says, “I am very sad, I have low energy, and I do not feel normal.” The patient is shaking and is embarrassed to be at this point in his life.

The patient says, “I have struggled with drinking and drugs and do not feel good about myself. I am scared to talk to anyone about anything, but especially this. I am at an end, I have to get help or I am going to die.”

Dr. D says, “Ok, well let’s draw some blood. Have you ever been checked for diabetes, low blood sugar, or thyroid problems?”

Patient says, in a trembling voice. “No. I don’t seem to have any of the other problems that would go with diabetes though. I work in the health care field.”

Dr. D says, “Well I am going to run some blood tests. I also see you once had a positive PPD test, so we will give you some INH.”

A ppd test is when you are tested for exposure to tuberculosis. If you are positive it usually means it is in your system but not active.

So Dr. D has the patients’ blood drawn and has given him the INH. The blood tests come back normal. No problems.

The clinic nurses call the patient and state everything is ok. Dr. D said to follow up if you have any concerns. They as a clinic have so many patients, they forgot why the patient came in the first place. They get a list of lab results, so when they see them come through, they never think of the patient. They see the results and make the call that they are ok. This is not their fault. They are completely overwhelmed with a huge volume of lab reports of patient’s to call.

This patient was anxious and depressed and afraid to ask for help to begin with. Now with this call and this response,  the patient is basically pushed aside, IF the patient wants help, he will have to make the call again and go through the embarrassment and shame of asking for help again.

Now, the patient does not go for the INH. He is now feeling hopeless. He never even went for medical problems, then when the results came in, the clinic never even thought that it was to rule out anything. The patient got lost in the pile of papers. Basically became a number, not a person. This is normal these days. They want the Doctors to see as much patients as possible, as fast as possible. So give them a pill and get them out of here. It is our medical system, and it has become a business.

In this case, the patient now goes on another binge, and gets more depressed. If anyone has been through this they know any binge can result in death to self or someone else. Thinking again about suicide month later, the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider. Because he will be considered “difficult.”

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

This time. Dr. D says “Let me draw blood for some things” once again. Checks his heart. He does not know the patients name, or occupation, or any of what had happened before.

The patient is a number, he now feels worse and is upset that he even came back. He gets his blood drawn.

The patient gets a phone call back. He is to come see Dr D again, he must come in to go over the results. They cannot tell him over the phone the results. However, there is also some hope. He feels that maybe they found a reason he has felt like this his whole life.

The patient is scared, he knows if you have to come in to go over results it is not good. Saturday morning Dr. D walks in as he is the on call MD this weekend. His eyes are bloodshot and red, Dr. D did not sleep last night you can tell. He does not recognize the patient, his name, or anything. He feels he is just seeing all emergency patients as they are the Saturday clinic this month and he is on call. Dr. D has no idea he is talking to his own patient.

He then asks the patient, why he is here.

Then Dr. D still not knowing the patients name says “oh yeah, well, looks like you have chronic fatigue syndrome and there is really nothing we can do. Maybe go to groups, or exercise.”

Just what the patient wants to hear right? You are chronically tired and out of luck. You are not depressed or any of that. Sorry, go to groups.

The patient puts his head down, that’s it. You can see him, the thoughts are something like, “I guess I never was depressed, I’m just tired,” that is what he is feeling.

Any of us can tell these things in watching people if we just watch and are truly present with them. If we take time for one another it is easy.

Then Dr. D says well I can give you Provigil to keep you awake during the day and trazodone to help you sleep. SO let’s do that and check back in a few months. We are now giving a patient with severe anxiety a pill that they used to give to pilots to keep them awake during long flights.

The patient gets the pill to stay awake. His depression and anxiety have still not been addressed. He has learned that this is what happens when you ask for help. The patient now feels hopeless, sad, anxious, and like a fool for asking for help. There is nothing they can do for him.

First they tell him he has tuberculosis, then its chronic fatigue. They spend 15 minutes with him each time because management wants doctors to see 4 patient per hour so they can bill for that. Then they make more money. Dr. D is considered more productive if he sees more patients in a day because he makes the clinic money then.

The patient then with this depression history, drug abuse history, has made his last ditch efforts to get help. It took everything he had to even ask for help. He was pushed aside, they didn’t know his name. He got lost as a number. Then he was told different things by the same doctor each time he went in.

Why would someone go seek help after this? Dr. D never even asked him about his depression or anxiety or his history. He was a number, and he pushed it off like it was not depression. Just give him a pill and get him out. I don’t blame Dr. D, this is our system. I have seen Doctors get scolded for taking too much time with their patients.

This patient would then go into severe depression and his drinking and self-destructive behaviors would intensify over the next few years. He had many near death experiences, he got a DUI and spent more time in jail. He got to a point in which he almost died and his family had given up on him completely. He was basically going to fade away to the world. You could tell, he had given up on himself and everyone else had given up on him.

About 3 years later after Dr. D. This patient called the clinic. They said “So you see Dr. D, would you like to see him again.”

The patient has an opening and says, “No anyone is fine.” Simple stroke of luck.

The patient is set up with Dr Broeker. This is his real name he still practices for Allina. It is at the end of May. The patient has made up an excuse to go in he says he is having urinary problems.

He is in the clinic office in the room waiting. Dr. Broeker knocks on the door, he says, “hey XXX, I just want you to know I am running a little bit late but I will be in as soon as I can.”

The patient is shocked, Dr Broeker knew his name and just knocked on the door to tell him that he was running late.

Then during their meeting, the patient is comfortable, and feels at ease. Dr Broeker comes in and says his name, what his experience is and does not have a clipboard. IS not looking at the computer. He asks “what are you here] for?”

Dr Broeker then says “what else can I do for you?”

The patient starts to cry and says “I am anxious, nervous and afraid to ask anyone for anything. I hate myself, I cannot stop drinking and I want to get help for feeling depressed.”

Dr Broeker spent the next hour talking with this patient. It was amazing. He talked to the patient about life. Dr Broeker talked about his time as an MD and how he wants to get this right. He explains the depression scale, the anxiety scale and fills it out with the patient.

It was like this patient had been waiting years for someone to say, “It’s ok to be sad, let’s talk about it.” Finally after, years and years of internal torture. Dr. Broeker had released this man from his own internal prison. It was amazing. Words will never do it justice what Dr Broeker was doing for this patient.

It was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment. Dr Broeker knows the patient has been seen by Dr D because he read the chart, he says “why were you tested for all of this?”

The patient says,” I don’t know that’s what he thought.”

Dr. Broeker says “well, ok, let’s start you on celexa and come back in 2 weeks to make sure you are not having any side effects.” Dr. Broeker did not judge the other physician and was respectful and kind about what the other MD had done. When someone is truly great like this, they do not need to question anyone else. He is pure, there is no competition for people like Dr. Broker, he practices out of love, and he is a doctor for the right reasons.

The patient was so much at ease with Dr. Broeker that he was able to tell him everything and open up about the drinking, drug use and all other issues that he was facing.

Dr Broeker wanted him back in 2 weeks just to check on side effects. The patient felt he had a new lease on life.

Then in 2 weeks Dr Broeker pops in and knows the patients name. He talks to him for a while like they are old buddies and shakes his hand and is friendly with him.

This patient has had a history of no shows throughout his life, but never with Dr Broeker. Usually if we have a patient with no shows, we label the as non-compliant or as not really wanting to get help. But, could it be that the problem is in the provider and how we treat patients? Or at least say it is 50/50? In a few months the patient was in rehab, and able to look at people. Dr Broeker then eventually recommended therapy to this patient.

This patient was willing to listen because he trusted Dr Broeker. He believed in him. The same recommendation could have come from another Doctor and it would have gotten a different reaction. The difference is in the relationship, not in the knowledge. Dr Broeker took time, he did not care about the 4 patients an hour.

Dr. Broker is special, he is in it for the right reasons. He takes time. That is true productivity.

He saves lives, He saved this patients life.

 

I know this, I watched it. The patient was me.

The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.

He saved my life. He is one of the “fab 5” that I refer to that changed my life. That is number 1. The magical Michael Broeker.

 

If it was not for him, I would not be alive today. The patients that tell me I saved their lives and changed them forever, my friends and family and everyone that I have touched, it is all not possible without him.

 

I almost died and did not want to ask for help ever again. He sat down and listened. And talked. He didn’t follow the 15 minute rule. In my moment, lost in the woods, he gave me the light and pointed me in the right direction. All because he took time to get to know me and did not judge me.

 

I am alive today because of him.

 

Thank you Dr Broeker.

 

The End

 

 

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“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

If you take an onion and cut it as close to the roots as possible, without cutting the roots, it can grow larger and larger every time. We are like this, we grow and become wiser and more loving by giving away what we get, as long as we keep the roots. This is a lesson I never believed to be true, I thought how can you gain more by giving things away? I thought I needed to keep it all to myself. That is what we are taught. This is the story of the day I realized I was much like an onion.

These toasts and things are common at weddings. They are also common at graduations and other special occasions. It is so bizarre to me that we only talk like this about each other at these rare times and usually when heavy alcohol is involved. Then we forget. We forget to tell each other how we truly feel. We are afraid, or embarrassed.

Dave grabbed his drink and stood up. Everyone listened as Dave spoke. “I remember one time, we were playing video games when we were kids, and it was so important for Bob to have the best team, that he went and bought a 12 pack of mountain dew and stayed up all night creating this master team so he could beat us. He always wanted to win, ever since he was a kid. But when he was done, then he worked on everyone else’s team.”

Everyone laughed and hollered. It was a great toast. After the laughing was done. Dave continued, “Bob is amazing, he is a rare person, and I love him and am lucky to have grown up with him. There was a time that I was driving without a license and crashed. He didn’t think twice, he jumped in the driver’s seat and pushed me aside and took the blame for the accident.”

Then after that, all of a sudden Jacob stood up, this was unexpected. He taps his glass and says. “Bob, Bob, Bob, he loves borrowing other people’s cigarettes.” Everyone knows this to be true and has a good laugh. Jacob continues, “But what Bob never bragged about was the time he had only 5 dollars left and gave it to me because he knew I was struggling. He never told anyone. He is kind and a humble man.”

Then Brian stood up and held up his glass. This was turning into something rare for us. Brian was not one to speak in front of a group like this, Brian says, “Bob and his heart. When I was in the middle of my addiction to heroin, Bob came and got me and drove me 6 hours in the middle of the night to treatment. Then I ditched it. He still came the next time I called. He missed work, and family time. He just took the heat. I love you Bob.” That one got everyone’s attention. People were getting emotional. Brian recovered from addiction, but none of us knew that part of it. It was starting to seem like Bob did a lot of things for all of us. We all had these stories. Brian’s was very strong because we all had pretty much given up on him, well, except Bob. We had wondered how he had finally beaten the addiction, I guess Bob had given him what I call “psychological life support.”

Danny stood up now. “I hate Bob. He makes us all look bad.” That was how Danny was. He then got serious, which is very out of character for Danny, and he said, “I got kicked out of my parents’ house and Bob came and got me every day, and he drove me to work for a month. Never asked for anything.” We all were surprised, we thought they hated each other but dealt with each other. They were kind of the arch rivals in our group that were always fighting.

Jim stood up and said. “I don’t have a story like any of you. However, I’ve seen Bob with opportunities to be unfaithful, and he was not. His loyalty, it really is something that changed me. In a hot tub, with women all over him, he left to go to his ex-fiancés house and be with their kid. They were no longer together at the time, and she was seeing other people. But he did not care. His love is strong. He is probably embarrassed by me even telling this story, but I think it tells you all you ever need to know about Bob.”

So I am sitting there, thinking about them saying these things. I am hearing words describe Bob, like humble, kind, caring, loyal, considerate, and unselfish to name a few. Wow, we all liked being around him all the time. I never had heard these things before. I felt like I should say something. I sat at the corner. This had become a moment that we were all speaking of our relationships. It was my turn it seemed.

I stood up. I said, “Bob is amazing. I remember one time we were walking in the city at night. There was a homeless man and Bob gave him his shirt and jacket. Bob went and got another one for himself. Everyone else was mocking the old homeless guy. But Bob made sure no one was watching. He did not do this for show, he means it. All heart.” Everyone agreed.

But listening to all this about Bob was hitting me hard. So I decided to say more.

“I was just wondering if anyone has ever said any of this to Bob’s face. Because I have not. I do not know why either. This feels good.” Is what I said.

Dave said, “No. I have never said this any of it. Why? I do not know.” Everyone else shook their heads in agreement. It was sad to hear that, everyone had the same look on their face. Why not? Why haven’t we?

Well, in this case, it was not Bob’s wedding, it was not a graduation either. Bob had died at the age of 26 about a week prior to this. He was in a boating accident. We all were just at the funeral 2 days ago, and no one mentioned a thing. Everyone was in shock. His best friend was Joe. Joe would later take his own life. He was emotional and crying and kissed Bob as he lay in his casket. No one else said a thing. I think we were all in complete shock. This was 15 years ago, I was 24. You do not expect things like this to happen when you are 24 and you are thinking you are invincible.

A couple days later, as we sat at this restaurant, just sharing stories, we were having his real funeral. This lasted until 5 the next morning. I sat that day, when it was over, thinking to myself if I ever see something positive about someone I am going to tell them. At first when I did this my face would get all red, sometimes I would tear up and my voice would crackle. Then I started to see the impact it had on me, and on others. I was growing more each time I gave more away. Much like the onion.

It doesn’t work if it is not genuine. But when it is genuine, it is amazing. It is almost like I get more out of it than the people receiving it. The more I give away, it seems the more I get given to me. By that I mean love. If I give it away completely, it seems that I get more placed in my heart.

I think people believe that it takes away from them if they give it away. They may think it will be scary or they will be rejected, but if it is pure, it is amazing. If it is a manipulation, and you have a hidden agenda, it does not feel the same. It has to be real. Even if the person already knows it to be true, it is good for them to hear it. I remember when I started doing this, my brother said, “I wish I could talk to people like that.” I said “you can.”

Anyone can do this if they want to. Try it. That is the key to growth, is doing things that you are uncomfortable with. If you only do things you are already good at and are strong in, you will never truly grow. That is fine if you are satisfied with the way things are, but if you want to grow, the way is by doing things that are hard or uncomfortable.

Imagine it is raining outside, and everyone has a bucket, if you try to keep all your water to yourself, and hold the bucket close to your chest, you will not get very much. If you take your bucket and start pouring what water you have into other peoples cups, someone is going to say, “Hey get that person a bigger bucket.” You will start to see more opportunities come, and you are never depleted. As weird as that may seem, it is true, the more you give, the more you get. Our minds do not think that way. Because we were trained otherwise.

Removing the outer layers of the onion brings tears. In fact, it can be so painful, people publish articles as to how to get to the core of the onion without the tears including cutting under water, wearing goggles, or freezing the onion first. Similarly, we freeze or emotional feelings with things such as alcohol or drugs for an easier way to get to our core. Freezing vegetables, or feelings, similarly creates changes in texture and we lose the natural flavor.

This was what came of Big Bob’s death to me. Some people look at me weird, which is ok. I do not want to leave love left unsaid or undone when I go, I want to leave it here in the world. So it can keep being passed on forever. That will stay forever, regardless of where my body goes.

I hope Bob heard us that night. He never did when he was alive.

 

 

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“I do not like that man, I must get to know him better.” -Abraham Lincoln

I often hear people wonder out loud why there is such a high rate of recidivism, why do our patients come back, and why is there a high rate of repeat “offenders” in the Mental Health System. We can’t fix Mental Illness they say. We can’t “cure” it. The problem is we are trying to cure the wrong people. It is the staff that needs to be “cured,” or fixed. Not the patients. The patients are not the problem. The staff members and the stigma of society is the problem. I can give many examples of my over 20 years as a staff and patient to describe it. This is one that really sticks out to me.

She walks in she is wearing and old dress, it has stains on it. It may be the only dress she owns. It is green, with tan. She has hair that is getting gray, but it is still brown. She has attempted to put it in a nice pony tail. It is off to the side, the left side. The hair is still very frizzy and sticking up. She is trying so hard. This is a big day for her. She is interviewing to get into this program that will likely get her into an apartment.

That has been her dream, this is the way to accomplishing her ultimate dream, her own apartment. She enters the room with the “team”, she comes to the interview.

She farts, and farts loud. She laughs, it is a loud loud laugh. She says she is sorry that it keeps happening. It happens throughout the interview. She answers all the questions, she seems very nervous. She is trying hard to look her best and be on her best behavior. She has a whiny screechy voice. I watch and I see the “team” roll their eyes and shake their heads in disgust.

After she leaves, the team of Doctors, psychologists, OT workers, Social workers then are to evaluate her and decide if she is a “fit” for their program.

They all are dressed up in their fancy clothes, and they all laugh. They all grab the hand sanitizer and clean their hands, because “she touched my hand.” They laugh and tease her. They mock her hair, they laugh about her dress. They say “ick” and shake their bodies like they just touched a rat.

They are really feeling good about themselves. Remember, these are the so called healthy ones that need to “fix” and “stabilize” this patient. They are all getting paid over 100 dollars an hour, each of them, to analyze this woman. If they accept her, their program gets 8500 dollars a month to “treat” her.

The owner is there, she teases the patient as well. The owner goes to France 3 times a year. They all tease her. I know, I was in the room. I was new, I was watching. They accept her to their program, only because they had 3 open beds and they needed the money to pay for their vacations, they said this. Then they mocked her. Money, Money, Money, Money.

After her admission, I got to know her. She had a screeching type whiny voice that sounded like fingernails against the chalkboard. That loud laugh, then the farting, the gas was nonstop. It was a big joke to the staff and the patients.

Everyone blew her off, and no one wanted to talk to her. She annoyed everyone. So she isolated. She was crying uncontrollably one day and came into my office and sat down.

I wanted to say I was busy, but for some reason I didn’t. She said, “Please help, just listen to me.”

She told me about her dream and how nice she thought she looked that day of the interview. She told me that was the best dress and she saved it for so long for her big day. She wanted to impress these guys so much. She practiced for hours about what she wanted to say. She did practice interviews. She told me how she would do whatever staff wanted. She wanted that apartment so bad.

The thing is, they didn’t really care. They didn’t listen to her. They rushed it, it didn’t matter what she said, and they were focused on how “icky” she was.

They were feeling superior. They took her because they had open beds, they wanted money. This was the biggest day of her life, and the “team” they didn’t really care not one bit. What they cared about was getting her out in the hour, so they could admit her and leave on time.

She heard the mocking, the teasing. She had to take it. She wanted the apartment. The counselors never really met with her, the groups only lasted 10 minutes, and no one really asked her about her medications or what was going on.

They didn’t want to deal with her. They were annoyed. She was a thorn in the side of their day in which they did nothing and collected pay for it.

She made them pay attention and that bothered people.

I sat down and talked to her. She cried. She knew, she heard. Why was she always farting? Was it a medication?

N0.

When she was 4. She was raped by her father continually. Then he beat her when she told. He slammed the kitchen table against her stomach, over and over and pinned her against the wall with the table. This all crushed her insides.

He jumped on top of her and beat her. She was age 4. Around the same time that the doctors at the same age were worried about what was for dinner and where they were going on vacation that year. This was happening. This is happening somewhere near us every day. It is happening to someone right now.

She had to have most of her insides removed. This created the farting. But no one cared. The staff were “annoyed” The doctors and psychologists were worried about filling the bed. They don’t want staff to: “feed into this attention seeking behavior.” They said “use your boundaries.” “We don’t need to talk to her when she is doing this for attention.”

This is how they guide treatment. Well, I didn’t listen. This story was then confirmed by records we were able to get.

This is why the mental health system is broken, not because of medications, not because it is untreatable. Not because of people that were institutionalized. Not because they are so “violent” and “dangerous.” In fact mentally ill people have less occurrences of violence than the general public.

The term Mentally Ill is a terrible term. Mental Illness in this culture, in America, is considered this bad thing.

In other cultures it is a healer waiting to be born, in other cultures mentally ill is a term used for those that live in excess.

The reason the system is broken is because of 75% of the people that work in the system are like this. This is changing, I want it to change more, it is coming, and the revolution is coming.

This is why I will keep writing about these things. I have sat in team meetings for the last 18 years hearing stuff like this.

This won’t be over, and I will not be done until we have stopped the feeling of superiority and labels and trying to find what’s “wrong” with people.

Until we stop treating people like this it will never change. Sure we will react when there is a school shooting, or some tragedy happens. We love to react. To over react after the crisis. When we do that, we completely screw it up. We are having an emotional reaction to an event so we overdo it.

We can prevent that by dealing with it right now, everyday. Simply by engaging people and talking to them and showing them that we have love.

Next time you see someone that annoys you, or that you just seem to not like for no reason. Maybe it’s time to get to know them better.

That is how we change things. Sometimes people do whatever they can to “get attention.” A whine, a cry, a yell, a fart.

Either way, it is just that, a cry for attention.

When we see that, it is not time to “put up our boundaries,” as the so called professionals will say, it is the opposite, it is time to let our guard down and remember we are all in this together.

Boundaries create division. Money creates division.

Love brings us back to humanity.

Fight on.

Til the end.