Archive for the ‘stigma’ Category

largejoewoods

“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.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. 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.

By Irwin Ozborne

“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

A mother comes home after a stressful day at work with many tiny worries racing through her mind. She pulls in the driveway and opens the garage door to see her 16-year-old daughter hanging from the rooftop, lifeless, dead, from suicide. She was too fat, so she developed an eating disorder, then was too skinny and “sick” and eventually she gives her reason in a note that is summed up with the words, “soon the pain will be gone.”

Who is at fault? The parents, counselors, school, bullies at school? Partially, all of the above are to blame. But the greater culprit that allows this to continue is the media and beauty industry.

There is an old parable that explains of a small town that suddenly notices a baby floating down the river and all the people come together to rescue the child. Soon, they discover another baby and another and another all floating down the river. All of the resources of the community are put together to take care of the babies coming down the river but they can not keep up and can not save everyone. Eventually, someone offers the suggestion, “Let’s go upstream and see who is throwing all the babies in the river, then we can stop the problem at its core.” This is where the beauty industry is to blame.

Beauty in Western society has become a serious illness. In fact, you could call it an epidemic. Young women in America are being poisoned daily by corporations, advertisements, television, school, friends, and even family members. From the time they are young, they are engrained with the message “beauty is everything and everything can be obtained with beauty.”

Eighty-One percent of 10-year-old girls have a fear of being fat! Another study by the University of Central Florida showed that nearly 50% of girls, aged three to six, were already concerned about their weight. Nearly half of all fourth-grade girls have begun dieting. And by the time they reach high school, 90% of girls are dieting, while only 10% are actually overweight. But the fear of being fat is gone by the time they hit 17-years-old, because now more than four out of every five girl are “unhappy” with their body (Ross, 2012).

I saw a post that said “54% of women would rather get hit by a truck than be fat.” I laughed at the exaggerated message only to do more research and found out that it was not as far-fetched as I first believed. Thankfully, I have been unable to find any validity to that number, but some of the online posts about this scare me.

“How big is the truck, LOL?”

“How fast is the truck going? Will I get hurt?”

But, according to Radar Systems, nearly half of adolescent girls would rather have cancer, experience the death of a parent, or a nuclear war instead of getting fat. And these numbers are only dealing with weight. We haven’t even dug into the full beauty epidemic.

Actress and makeup artist Eva Devergilis states that every woman that sits in her chair apologizes for the way they look. This includes all ages, race, body types, weight, etc. Every single woman that comes in to see her apologizes for their looks. Why have we placed such an emphasis on beauty and why have we set the standard so high that nobody can be satisfied?

“Being a model is like winning the genetic lottery…Planning to be a model when you grow up is like planning to win the Powerball,” said professional model Cameron Russel, “and those are not pictures of me. They are constructions made by professional makeup artists, photographers, hairstylists and photoshop.”

The amount of time and money women spend in regards to their appearance is keeping them out of developing into a more complete person. As Jason Whitlock wrote in an article in the Kansas City Star, “How many more young girls out there are aspiring to be Beyoncé as compared to Hillary Clinton?”

Beauty is the main form of currency for women in Western culture. If you have beauty, you can have anything. They can not escape it because it is everywhere – television, internet, social media, etc. Their image is observed everywhere, by everyone, including themselves. This leads to beauty and image as the number one priority in the lives of young women and children.

But beauty is not the problem. It is wonderful and should be admired to some extent.  The real culprit of the beauty epidemic is a three-part problem which is controlled by the corporate America and the media (which subsequently profits off corporate America and has no urgency to report anything that opposes their financial interests). It stems from creating 1) the belief that beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world; 2) this is what beauty looks like; and 3) you do not look like this.

With this system, you will always be stuck at number three. You will constantly be buying products, having surgeries to try to reach the level of beauty defined by corporations. The same corporations, mind you, which are selling you the products. It is a giant marketing scheme. None of it is true.

And women know this. But that is how incredibly powerful the propaganda system works. We know outer beauty is not everything, we know that the images they portray are not possible, but we also know we do not look like that. But at that point, we need to just say “and that is ok.”

  1. Beauty is the most important and powerful thing in the world.

You are told that beauty is the most important thing in the world. If you are not beautiful, you are not important, you are not successful, and you really have no value to the world. This message begins with the media, brainwashes everyone valuable in our lives, and trickles into our brains from the time we are young.

The media (television, films, videos, billboards, magazines, movies, music, newspapers, fashion designers, social media, and other internet sites) bombard us with body images throughout the day. Young children spend around six to seven hours per day enamored with these messages (Brown, JD 2002). Chris Downs and Sheila Harrison found that one out of every 3.8 television commercials portrays a message about attractiveness. They went on to state that the average viewer sees about 14 of these messages a day and more than 5,200 advertisements related to attractiveness each year (Downs, 2011).

By the time the average teenage girl in Western society reaches age 18, she has seen nearly 100,000 television advertisements about the importance of attractiveness. This does not include seeing images on the internet, facebook friends, or other media outlets which account for an additional 5,000 plus images per week! (Wiseman, 2012)

  1. This is what beauty looks like.

The same people shoving this message down our throats are the same people defining beauty. This definition is always changing. Look at the images of “beauty” just in the last century and how much the “ideal body image” continues to change. This is not by accident. They want you to continue to strive for an unachievable goal. Therefore, you are always in the quest for more.

A study showed that women experience an average of 13 negative thoughts about their body each day, while 97% of women admit to having at least one “I hate my body” moment each day. The comparisons damage the minds of nearly all women each day.

And this “ideal image” you see in the media is 23% below that of the average woman in America – 20 years ago this difference was only eight percent. The gap between reality and ideal image is widening by the day, with Vogue’s Gisele Bunchen (5’11, 125 pounds) at 25% below normal body weight.

  1. You do not look like this.

Without directly saying this, this message is implicitly implied. A study showed that observing an image of body image through the media leads women would increase depression and shame while reducing self-esteem and body satisfaction.

And that is the formula they use. Present an image that is unobtainable in which they know will cause women to feel bad and hate how they look. Then repeat the image over and over – as the Hitler propaganda system has proven to work – until they believe it to be true. Then, they will spend their money on your product, watch your programming, and have your surgery.

Oppression only Survives Through Silence

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”Susan B. Anthony

This is the implicit oppression of women in Western society.  For the majority of our country’s history there has been explicit oppression of women, people of color, homosexuals, mentally ill, and basically anybody who is not a white male. This only survives without anyone speaking out. Then comes the implicit, covert oppression which takes place by subliminally putting messages out through the media that one race, gender, or orientation is inferior.

There is a universally accepted concept that “nobody is perfect.” The concept of being perfect means to be without flaw and to hold all desired qualities and characteristics. So here we have the concept of “perfect” in which the beauty industry teaches us is the ultimate goal to happiness and joy, yet we are also constantly reminded that “nobody is perfect.”  Basically, stating that it is impossible to ever achieve this goal. It becomes a never-ending cycle of self-hatred, followed by seeking external pleasure to fill internal voids.

In reality, the opposite is actually true; which is also the antidote to this epidemic. The idea that nobody is perfect is the biggest lie you have ever been told. The truth is that everybody is perfect. To be perfect means to have all the desired qualities and characteristics – but it never says whose desires. If we can change the train of thought to realize that everything about us is already perfect, there would be no more comparison, and trying to be something we are not. Instead, loving what we already possess and loving everything about everyone else.

This is a concept known as unconditional love. It means to love without condition, without judgment, and to accept completely as it is. This means to not complain, question, or have a desire to change, but to accept perfectly as it is in the present moment.

While the concept seems simple, it is quite difficult. In fact, most people spend their lifetimes trying to achieve unconditional love.  In essence, unconditional love is synonymous with enlightenment.  Both refer to removing labels, judgments, and untruths, and seeing the world as it was presented to us through the lens of our true self. It means removing our mask and seeing the world for how it is, without its mask.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. 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.

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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

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.




 

 

“For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them… the powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it.”

 

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

People with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are 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, that is 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.”

As I have shared stories of the ancient days and how people with mental illness were mistreated, a large majority of those mistreatments were towards schizophrenics.

Just as humans have always done, when we do not understand something, we label it as different 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, they still end up locked up 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, in the shamanistic cultures they 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 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, cut off parts of their brain, or 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 them and they refuse to think differently – hence, refuse to conform.

On a side note, the next version of the DSM is planning on including non-conformity of a mental disorder. They have went 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 of treatment of any mental illness is 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, but rather, in terms of the client experiencing 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 rather flows together with the flooring. Auditory hallucinations or the “hearing 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.

With all this being said, is it possible that if someone has heightened senses to see part of the 98-percent of the world we do not see? Or to hear things at a different frequency in which we are not tuned in? I would say it is almost certain.

Psychosis, such as schizophrenia and mania, has 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, as we know it, is breaking right before our eyes. The ego, or mask, is put 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 see 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 also may begin to feel that everything is a test from your creator and you no longer see people in their worldly form, but rather see their souls and see the message they are bringing to you.

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, change the word “psychosis” for “enlightenment.”

“Enlightenment refers to cracking of the ego.” Now read those same three paragraphs describing the sensory experience. It 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 and who have 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 explain it to someone the most common response is “I think you need help.”

And by “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.

This is the story of the lunatic on the grass:

Every week we would have our team meetings in which we go over treatment plans of the 16 patients in our “Intense psych rehab.”   

I had been off for a while since a huge relapse. I was now back and this was the first treatment meeting I had been to since. My mind was empty and blank. I didn’t know anything to be true for sure, I had given up. Which, as it turns out, was a good thing.

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

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

Well everyone cracks up. The laughing is intense, everyone teases, ridicules, and assasinates his character.

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

I am a little intrigued because I love golf. I am terrible at it. However to be outside in nature with the sun for 4 hours I love.

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

It all adds up, little things matter, have patience, and the only shot that matters is the one in front of you. Swing soft and the ball will go further, nothing is as it seems. Do the opposite of what the ego tells you to do.

You can’t beat nature, go with it. Use your talents, don’t try to be like the other players. Stay within yourself, and be humble.

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

I walk upstairs and I see these ratty old shoes hanging over one of the couches.

I look over and there is the guy, the golfer Paris Hilton guy we 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 by daily for about 2 months. The whole time thinking this guy is a typical schizophrenic so let’s write our notes, get him out of here and go home. Lets get our checks and continue living the lie. I was so embarrassed to be there, after the relapse. I just didn’t want to talk to him. I felt like a fraud.

It was nice outside early that spring so I brought my clubs in one day as I was going golf after work. They were brand new fancy clubs. I 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 who your true self is, 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 just asking him about his “coping skills” and his “goals,” and the bull they teach you to say in school and at these expensive trainings.

He didn’t feel threatened by me or that I was against him, or that I was writing things down in his chart. When patients do that, 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 lacking 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 said ” Hey can I take a swing?”

Now what I was doing here was something that most places would say is inappropriate and me displaying poor boundaries. The people mostly running these places would say that I should be discussing his treatment and goals and his plan. Teaching him the “coping skills” that the book says.

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

I think it’s funny that we ask people to tell us everything, and about the worst moments in their lives. When we give 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 said “”yeah, take a swing, let’s see.”

This was the beginning of one of the most deep and profound moments in my life in which my false selves would all die. Was it in a church, in a school, in a huge moment, no. I was about to learn about life from a lifelong schizophrenic at a golf couse. Not quite how I had it dreamt it.

He swung the club and it was one of the nicest swings I had seen in person. I was shocked. Of course that didn’t mean he was a European pro.

I did start to doubt my own pre conceived notions as an “expert.” Could I, the all mighty one be wrong? It brought me back to a time when I was working at the county hospital.

One of the doctors training me said, “You don’t treat the diagnosis, you treat the patient, everyone is different.”

I then went to get support from the program director to take him and anyone else to the driving range. The university where I got my golf lessons, it was close and I was familiar with this place.

I got the ok and so we drive the van to the driving range. We arrive and there is is bunch of young kids with fancy clubs and clothes looking as we walk on the course, a group of mentally ill patients.

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

Here is this schizophrenic guy with 20 year old shoes, long hair, and 10 year old jeans. We had no clubs, except mine. All the course can give him is a 9 iron for kids, which is typically hit about 150 yards by professional golfers. I’m sure they had better clubs to offer. They didn’t want the lunatic ruining their clubs. They didn’t want the lunatic on the grass.

He says ok, he wasn’t arguing. This man is 6’5. The club doesn’t fit him very well but he is just happy to be there as is everyone. He has a 20 year old club used by a kid.

Then there is that moment, the one that changes everything.

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

 

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

I was so nervous at this point, because I could see all the people watching, and I was watching. I was wondering, was this a delusion? Am I hurting this guy and embarrasing him? I felt my body get tighter. My teeth clenched, heart racing, I could feel it.

 

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

I sense the tenison and the energy as everyone was watching this “freak.” The thing is, he couldn’t sense it. He already knew what we were about to find out. He wasn’t hitting the ball for just him, he was hitting it for me, to give me hope. He was hitting it for the other patients. He was hitting it for the kids watching. The18 to 22 year olds who already have their mind made up, they want to laugh. He was hitting it for them.

 

He hit the ball. It goes well over 175 yards, with a kids 9 iron. The ball flew soo high in the air, like when you watch a pro golfer hit it. It towered over the earth, and the ball was soo beautiful in flight, it was like you see on tv. I could not believe it and you could hear a pin drop. Complete and total silence. Everyone was still.

 

The world stopped, and mine had changed forever. Had the first shot been a miss, no one watches again. The first shot was the key. This wasn’t a ball you could say was just struck well by an amateur. It had the look of a real talented golfer. He hadn’t swung a club in years, he had a girls jr club, and he didn’t have fancy equipment or shoes or a glove. He had a sweatshirt, jeans and those old raggedy shoes.

Then this happened over and over and over again. Eventually people were not whispering anymore. They eventually went back to hitting their balls.

Then more magic happened. At a driving range like this, you see all these golfers hitting all these balls. They all are in flight and all hit well.

There continued to be one ball that towered over the rest and made the others look like little kids.

Then, I started watching the kids, they started swinging and missing, and hitting terrible shots. He’s not supposed to do that. I could barely move. I had been shown the truth yet again. I hit some ok shots, but it didn’t really matter anymore.

 

Then he walked over and started giving me tips on my golf swing and they all worked. I couldn’t believe this. Then I look back, there is 20 kids watching him hit the ball, and watching him teach me. It was that impressive. Of course on the side you had our other patients trippng, laughing, running around. The world had been moved.

 

Then a moment that still tears me up as I write this happened. One kid with extreme courage and bravery comes up and asks him advice on his swing. What courage to do this on front of his shaken peers. Instead of teasing, he came and asked for help.

They had teased and judged, but our guy didn’t care. He said sure, and he loved helping.

Before you knew it you had the schizophrenic giving golf tips to these college golfers. I will never be the same and I knew it when it happened.

I remember getting back to the facility and sitting down. My co workers said “You must really like golf, I’ve never seen you so alive and energized.”

I could not describe what I had just seen and I am still not doing it justice.

All I could say was “yeah I like golf.”

We went again maybe 3 times. We had long talks in the car. He started talking about his life growing up, how he got involved 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 other people had explained, he hadn’t listened, becasue no one had ever listened to him. He was open, without fear to me.

I only talked to him by chance. I had ignored him for 2 months.

Everyone played a role, the negative mental health practitioner who tried to make a joke of his treatment plan, the great program director. It all played a part.

 

Then I started to listen carefully to what he said when he went on rants instead of just having preconceived notions. I heard him talk about the college he went to.

I decided to look it up, then there it was. I saw a picture of him, clean cut, very well groomed and dressed. He had a 4.0 and was captain of a division 1 golf team. I wanted to be his caddy and get him in tounaments. That never happened.

 

Did he have the talent ot be a pro golfer?, I don’t know, but good enough to make money for sure.

 

My life changed forever, for that first swing was the swing hat changed the world. It came when I had given up on mental health and thought it was a fraud.

Then I realized this wasn’t always a terrible business. Yes there are terrible things that happen, terrible abuse. Horrible things happen. That was not a reason to give up, that was the reason to stay. To stay on the inside and do my best to create change. It is only a fraud if we make it one.

We have the power over every present moment we are in. That will always build on the past moment, much like golf. We can find evil if we look for it.

However as socrates said “Our energy is better spent on focusing on positive future than on the negative past.”

I think ghandi also said that “The best criticism of the bad is the practices of the good.”

Maybe it wasn’t Ghandi, however I know it wasn’t me. Everyone is a human, we are all connected, and we all have things to offer.

If we start to treat people as equals, who deserve respect and love, instead of superiors and inferiors, you start to change.

When you drop everything the ego tells you to truth, magic happens.

When we take that leap, or are forced into it. What we happens is a freedom and beauty that I can’t explain woth words.

My greatest teacher was a “schizophrenic,” that had been committed for over 10 years by the court as crazy. I almost closed myself to him as a teacher because society had labeled him as sick and delusional. That’s how labels destroy.

When we lose the mask, the world becomes beautiful again.

This is my 42 year old cousin Jon tonight, on a respirator, in the ICU barely hanging on.

Gifted people are not those that can act and are good at sports. It is those sensitive, caring, loving people who have been given hate, pain, and abuse their whole lives. Yet they still return with love for the world. They hold the key.

 Currently how our society is set up, is we treat the most caring sensitive souls like garbage. The ones who could save humanity are in psych wards, detox facilities, and  treatment centers. Until we learn to embrace these gifted souls, our problems will continue to mount and destroy us. We embrace the wrong things and this is the result. We are killing  them off. When they become extinct, we will all go away. 
It can be cured. The solution is simple.  Love. Find an addict or someone with “mental illness” and give them pure love today. It will change the world. You won’t see the results, but it will

This pucture is my cousin Jon tonight. This is what an accidental drug overdose looks like. He is on a respirator right now. He is not a celebrity, so people won’t notice. But this happens to people every day and it is an epidemic. 
As a child he was tortured and abused. His stepmother didn’t want him so he was treated that way. His father wanted his wife to be happy so he was beaten and abused. 

Then at 16 everyone said he was “crazy.” He came to live with us and became my hero. He loved us and saved us.  

If Jon makes it out of this, he may never speak to me again or kill me. But at least he will be alive.
This is Jons story.

“The hero, it might be said, is called into being when perception of a need and the recognition of responsibility toward it are backed up by the will to act.” – Mike Alsford

Twelve-Years-Old; Here I am screaming, hitting, kicking, and throwing anything within eyesight. Filled with rage, I only hear the echoes of laughter from my amused audience of family members and a handful of neighborhood kids. It was a show to them, their entertainment for the evening, all while I am crying inside.

“He can not hurt you,” they cackled to each other.

Then the yelling and screaming turned to tears. That was the real pain, I was a hurt and confused teenager and expressing it the only way I knew; with anger and rage. More chatter and laughter from the enthralled crowd intensified my inner torture. While this was outwardly conveyed with more violence and destruction, I am slowly dying on the inside, scared, and lost.

I grabbed a baseball bat. It stopped being funny.

One person in that room saved me from killing myself, or perhaps others in that room. I’ll share exactly how this all transpired at the end of this article.

First, I want to tell you about the story of two boys. The story begins when they are around 7-8 years old. We will call them “Boy A” and “Boy B,” for simplicity.

“Boy A” awakes in the middle of the night with typical late-night hunger and heads to the kitchen to make a sandwich and accidentally cuts his finger on the knife. Scared, he rushes into his father’s room to cry and tell him something is wrong. The father responds by hitting him and telling him that he is, “too fat anyway,” followed by a couple more smacks to the face.

In childhood, we are trying to figure out if the world is safe or unsafe and it is our primary caregivers that give us this message. The message being received is, “you are a bad person, you are overweight, don’t come to me with your problems.” As these regular beatings continue, the neurological pathways are put into place in the developing brain reaffirming his perception of himself and the world. He fears the world, he is not allowed to cry or show emotions, and express how he feels. Everything is stored deep within his subconscious, but he has been trained that it is not OK to be himself.

His mask has been created.

Now, there is “Boy B,” at age 7-8 his father comes home and tosses around the football with him. He teaches him about football as well as life lessons associated with the game; such as being a part of a team, work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, fighting through pain, perseverance, and commitment. His mother offers warmth, kindness, compassion, along with unconditional love and support.

Encouraged to do well in school, treat others with respect, and do the right thing, “Boy B” receives positive reinforcement. He trusts the world, believes in himself, and his life is filled with meaning, purpose, and hope.

Back to “Boy A,” his father decides to get re-married and his new wife wants to start a family of her own. To her, “Boy A” is a reminder of this man’s past life and interrupts with her vision of a happy family. She takes it out on him by abusing him with electrical cords and whipping him with curling irons.

The same message comes around again, “I am a bad person, a jerk, and I am no good. I am getting in the way again.”

Already engrained in his mind and belief system, the same thing comes up again and only deepens his self-perception. During adolescents is when our personality is created as these neurological pathways are created, strengthened, or dropped altogether based on experiences and reactions. The teenager also acts first on emotion rather than on analytical thinking or rationale (due to the natural evolution of the brain) which naturally means more “acting out.” When “Boy A” acts out, everyone’s perception of he being a bad person or jerk is vindicated. Including his own perception of himself.

At the same time, “Boy B” is excelling in school while his parents are putting in extra time communicating with teachers and coaches to ensure their son is growing from child to an adult. The teachers see that they are involved and care about their son, and in turn, spend additional time with their child making sure he is successful. He is applauded for his extra efforts, given awards, and is generally liked by most people. He is free to explore the world on his own, views the world as a safe place, and optimistic about the future. Whenever he is in need, his family is there for him for any advice, assistance, or general support.

And, “Boy B” happens to be naturally gifted in athletics. Along with his revered genetics, he has been raised to work hard, study, and strive for greatness. As he gets older, he begins to receive specialized instruction from the finest coaches around the country. And while he has a burning passion for football and for success, if all fails in college he still has a loving family and community that will forever be supportive.

 

“Boy A” is now growing up with the negative labels connected to his name and any good act is ignored. Like the Hell’s Angles motto, “When we do right nobody remembers, when we do wrong nobody forgets.” Only seeking acceptance he acts goofy, outrageous, and spontaneous. This is the only thing that gets attention, and any type of attention is good for him. A beating is better than nothing at all.

He misses school and gets in different kinds of trouble. As the struggles progress, he becomes more scared, hurt, and alone with nowhere to turn. His father’s disgust for him hasn’t faded, if anything, has intensified. His father destroys gifts the child receives from his biological mother, not allowed to see his mother and is beaten and left outside the house all day on a nearly daily basis.

In school, he has no support. He is in fights, disrupting class, failing grades and the teachers only see a lost cause. Still seeking acceptance, he willingly puts on any mask for approval – the clown, rebel, etc. Anything that grants him the love that every person deserves, the love that he was cheated out of during his childhood.

Looking at the two stories of “Boy A” and “Boy B,” as adults they are souls from two different worlds. People who have been through abuse are living an entirely different reality, how are they supposed to just wake up one day and “just get it?”

This is why we need to look behind the mask.

The adult survivor of child abuse has altered brain chemistry. Early childhood development begins with the primitive structures of the brain known as the limbic system. This deals with emotional learning and survival. Our body has a natural hormone, Cortisol, which is sometimes called the “stress hormone” as it is released to help our body regulate stress. In childhood abuse, the system becomes altered as the child is under chronic stress which constantly sends cortisol throughout the brain and body. At this time, the brain is rapidly developing and the child is dependent on their caregiver for protection – which has significant long-term impacts on these primitive systems. And then as he ages into adolescence and young adulthood, these constant reminders that he is a “bad person” strengthens these already disrupted pathways.

Back to the stories, “Boy B” has graduated high school with honors, receives a football scholarship and has support from friends, family, and his community. He is well-prepared with education, specialized training, financially, and ongoing support and guidance. He succeeds again at the highest level of college football and is dubbed a “real life superhero!” He is strong, athletic, intelligent, handsome, and he pretty good at throwing a football and has a real possibility of becoming a professional athlete.

We call professional athletes, “real life superheroes.” I see it on a daily basis. In fact, just the other night Don Cheadle’s exact words on the Thursday Night Football telecast were, “these guys are real life superheroes.”

Then I watch my son put on his power rangers costume and he hits and punches. From day one we are told there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” We teach them that it is OK for the “good guy” superheroes to punch bad guys. We think it is cute. To me, it has been disturbing to see him enamored with these shows and then fired up to “get the bad guys and punch them.”

So I can bash the system which does no good or I can try to focus on the future. Which is what I am trying to do is to teach him about real life superheroes.

Back to “Boy A.” He escapes the abuse by finding a job and secretly saving money. Once he has enough he drives four hours to his Aunt’s house, which happens to be my home as well. He is confused, lost, lacks acceptance or any belief in himself. He has had a “bad guy” mask tattooed on his skull and has grown to believe that it is true.

Our house is crowded with five children, extended family, neighborhood kids, along with a number of chaotic pets. In the basement lives a 13-year-old child that is incredibly shy, but also remarkably intelligent. This is my older brother, he has basically withdrawn from the world at this point and is also scared and lost.

Then there is a 12-year-old boy who is angry, acting out, constantly in serious trouble, and recently expelled from school – this is me. Then there was another boy, much younger, and painfully terrified of the world, but also very loving – this is my younger brother.

And, now enters “Boy A” into this home. It is a frightening situation to the outsiders in fear that he is going to destroy this home and these kids. They don’t need a “Boy A,” they need a “Boy B.” A Super Hero!

Meanwhile, “Boy B” is excelling in the classroom and setting records on the football field. His fun-loving, down-to-earth, good-humored personality makes him loved my just about anyone who encounters him. He is a good man with true humility. He is not a bad person, we do not get to choose our family and whether or not we receive love and affection – he should not be hated for that. He is an amazing man and is an exceptional role model.

Right now, his biggest concern is where is he going to fall in the NFL Draft? What kind of offense do they run? Will he be able to start right away? Again, to him, these are true worries that create anxiety. It is not his fault, it is just his reality. But in terms of real-life trauma, trials and tribulations, tests of strength, willpower, or character are not likely as significant or battle-tested as “Boy A.”

“Boy B,” could be one of many quarterbacks we see each Sunday, such as Peyton Manning. Great man, good heart, hard-working, and humble. One of the best in the world in the history of his given profession – NFL Quarterback. He is often labeled, “A Hero.” In fact, quite frequently.

In researching a few different studies over the years, athletes and celebrities usually top the list of people we consider “heroes.” Currently, LeBron James tops the lists of a survey of 2,500 people age 16-35. From everything that I have read, seen, and heard, LeBron James seems like a wonderful person with an inspirational story. But a hero?

So, who is “Boy A?” This is my cousin, known to me as Little Jon, although his birth certificate reads Jon Kosiak. He enters this home, goes downstairs to the withdrawn teenager and shows him love and acceptance. He authentically cares about him, spends time with him, listens to his thoughts and interests, and gives him genuine love. He brings him out of his withdrawn sense, talks to him openly and honestly about things, and takes interest in his life. He teaches him not to be afraid of anything and befriends the kid who had all but given up on the world.

By the end of the four years that “Boy A” lived in our home, the withdrawn child is now brave and strong. He goes on to earn a master’s degree, has a family with three children and living an excellent life. He is smart, a good man, and an amazing father. At a moment in his life when he was in greatest need, Little Jon was able to recognize that and willing to act upon it. Not because he felt obliged to do so, but because he wanted to do so. And not because it was difficult, but because it was natural. Little Jon showed him not to fear the world, to love himself, and rise above.

And the younger, scared child is no longer scared. He ends up excelling at sports, receiving scholarships, and now works as a counselor. This is my younger brother. He has been transformed from a terrified child to a fearless leader. He is strong and smart, and at a time in which he needed to toughen up and face the world – Little Jon saw the perceived need, recognized it, and was willing to act.

“Boy B”, Peyton Manning, well he went on to the NFL and is called a “superhero.” He is idolized, loved, adored, and celebrated by people around the globe. He is a great man, with a unique sense of humor, oh and he can throw a football pretty well. But superhero? No.

However, I believe that Little Jon does fit that label. He spent four years in our home and molded us into better people. He was our hero.

And as for myself, well I was the angry little boy. My tendency was to smash things, threaten people, destroy property, and sabotage the entire house. People would either bail or they gave in to my demands in efforts to eradicate my behavior. But, I never was really angry. Anger is just a secondary emotion disguised as many different things – for me, I was sad, lost, and scared. It is an emotional response to an injustice (either perceived or real). That is the response, the rage is the reaction to the response. So the final product may be taking a baseball bat to a mirror, but deep down I felt an injustice creating pain and hurt.

In the opening story, we reached the climax of the action scene. Swinging around the bat, projecting anger, and spreading fear into those who have brought me pain. Then steps in the one person that changed the course of many people’s lives in that moment.

Yep, Little Jon is there. And he refuses to move. This pisses me off to the point that I grab a baseball bat and start smashing and destroying things throughout the house.

The laughter has stopped, the show is over. The bear had been poked one too many times and all hell was about to break loose. And when the bear breaks free of the den, everyone takes off, bails, and hides in the hills.

What would “Boy B” do if they saw something like this? He wouldn’t know what to do. That makes it tough to label him a superhero. We do not know who we are until we see how we handle adversity. When it comes to reading a zone blitz on a 3rd down in a playoff game, sure, Peyton Manning knows how to handle that “adversity.” So we know how he is as a football player. But real adversity, such as the situation above, can not be practiced or coached up.

This is the fight-or-flight system, the most primitive part of the brain. You do not have time to act on logic, you go on instinct, emotional learning, and survival. Nobody else in the room had the necessary tools to defuse the situation, they have not had the intense emotional learning he endured.

Most of the “Boy B’s” of the world have no idea what is going on inside the head of someone who needs love. They have never felt that and that is not their fault and does not make them less of a person. However, stop calling him a hero. If we keep calling him a hero and telling our kids he is the hero, then we have brainwashed them.

Little Jon did know what was going on in my head.

He said, “I am not going anywhere and you need to put the bat down.”

Everyone else is in fear, bailing out, and in full-blown panic. We got these two “messed up” kids about to go at it with a baseball bat and tempers flaring.

The crowd shouts, “Jon!! Jon!! Get out of there!! Leave him alone he is crazy!”

Little Jon did not budge. He said, “Listen, put it down. I know how you are feeling. It is ok Betsy.” (That is what he always called me, “Betsy.”)

I said “I am going to smash your face.”

“No you’re not,” He responded, “You just need love. Give me a hug.”

“No!” I shouted. Then, I started crying.”

The room is empty, everyone is gone into hiding or calling the police – or searching for the “hero.” But, the problem is that the hero was already in the room with me.

“Come here,” Said Jon as he approaches me with a hug.

Complete silence fills the room.

I drop the bat. I hug him and begin to cry and then the floodgates spring open and tears kept flowing. I have no idea what we talked about or what was said. I did not even know why I was so angry on that particular occasion.

But, what I do know is how I felt. Not alone. And loved.

He saw a need, recognized his responsibility, and was willing to act. Just like all other neural circuitry pathways in our brain, these continued heroic actions, develop into a habit, create character, and essentially define the person.

Little Jon has a tendency to bring this feeing to everyone he is around. He gives people that feeling of acceptance and love even though it was never given to him.

He is a true superhero. He is the one we should be telling our kids about, not Batman, not Superman, not Peyton Manning.

But, Little Jon. Jon Kosiak. That’s who I want to teach my kids about. He is a superhero.

It’s time to redefine the definition of a superhero.

Everyone thought Little Jon was a trouble-maker and a bad seed. He is not. He is a good man that gives love, despite the only thing has ever received is abandonment, emotional/physical abuse, pain, and suffering. Prominent motivational speaker/author Wayne Dyer states that the most difficult thing to do in life is to return love for hate. Little Jon exemplifies that without any effort, he does so because it is natural.

By definition, if he instinctively flourishes at man’s most demanding task (returning love for hate), is there any other way to accurately portray and define a superhero?

I Love You Little Jon.

thank you.

The end.

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“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” – Janis Joplin

 

 

As my mind was returning to consciousness, I had no idea what had just taken place. My eyes were still closed and I felt too weak to open them. Bits and pieces of the previous evening started playing in front of me. The laughs, the good times, and the extra shots of liquor, but also there was a lot of missing scenes from the blackout I had experienced. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that brings more pain that the physical pain I am trying to withstand.

It is at this point I remember being the “least drunk” and most OK to drive home last night. These scenes start returning to my conscious memory. I remember the curve in the road and then everything goes blank. My heart starts pounding and I am hearing loud machines and voices of strangers around me.

Out of fear and confusion my eyes open to discover I am in the emergency room of a hospital with excruciating pain in every cell of my body. But, again, there is an overwhelming feeling of guilt pressed against my body as I am trying to figure out what happened last night.

“Where is John?” I asked. John was my boyfriend and father of our six-month old child and was also the passenger in my vehicle last night.

Nobody answered.

“Where is John!?” I managed to shout louder.

But the louder I cried, the quieter the room grew. The police officer in the back approached me and took off his cap and with a tear in his eye, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Holly,” he couldn’t even maintain eye contact, “He didn’t make it. He was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact.”

With so much intoxicants still in my system, I could only hope this was part of the worst nightmare of my life. I yelled, screamed, tried to do anything to escape reality but nothing could be done. I had just killed my boyfriend and my child’s father because I drove drunk and lost control of the vehicle.

Powerless, hopeless, trapped, and unable to escape, I momentarily lost touch with reality.

Once stabilized and deemed safe for discharge from the hospital, I was put into handcuffs and walked to the back of a squad car on sent to the county jail. I sat there in a lifeless form of a body as they took my mug shot and notified me of my charge – homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

I only sat two days as my wealthy parents were able to post $5,000 bond. I felt like I had cheated the system as I had a far more severe crime than any of the women in that jail, but I was able to go home due to the condition my parents had money. While I awaited my court date, I felt completely numb and they had checked me into a psychiatric unit but they did not keep me because I was not suicidal. Honestly, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had a six-month old daughter that I was trying to raise the best I could before my judgment date.

I signed the rights over to my parents, knowing that I would be facing prison time in the near future. There are no words that can describe the pain trying to play with your six-month old daughter, knowing she will never know her father and the most crucial parts of her development her mother will be incarcerated. But beyond all of this, all I wanted to do was to apologize to John and his family.

On the day of my sentence, I couldn’t even bare to have words come out of my mouth as the state prosecutor questioned me. All I could repeat that I was sorry and that I feel nothing and only want to make sure my daughter is safe.

At this point, there was nothing anyone could say to me that hurt any more. I have heard it all. My name is on the front page of the paper, I read all the comments on the article, I read the comments on John’s social media pages, along with many hate messages of my own. There was nothing that could be said that could push me down any further.

“The maximum sentence for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is twenty-five years in state prison,” the judge looked at me as my heart sank.

He went on and explained the results of the Pre-Sentence Investigation and how I would be better served to be a part of society as opposed to a long prison sentence. Following some more lecturing he handed down my sentence – two years in state prison along with seven years of parole.

As tears rolled down my cheeks and I hugged my parents and kissed my child, I knew how fortunate I was to only be serving two years. But at the same time, I realized that my life was forever changed. My name will always be linked to the word homicide. How will I explain to my daughter when she asks about her father? Every time I apply for a job, this will come up on a background check or a simple Google search and you can see my mug shot.

 

Welcome to the Jungle:

My attorney had pleaded for a lesser sentence and argued that I was not mentally prepared to handle being incarcerated with the general population. Terrified for my life, I was sure my parents would find a way out of this. But, there was nothing anybody could do. The judge informed us that I had taken another person’s life and if I am capable of doing so, then I am capable of living with other criminals.

I was powerless, hopeless, and terrified for my life. For the first time, things were completely out of my control. I had no choice but to fully surrender. And it was this forced surrender that granted me this irony – finding greater freedom while locked behind bars than I had ever experienced in my privileged life in the affluent suburbs.

As I sat alone in my cell, I refused to talk or make eye contact with anyone.

“Welcome to the jungle princess,” said one of the guards as he smiled at me and seemed to be getting joy in my anguish.

For the next two years, nobody used my name. I was always referred to as “Princess” due to my privileged lifestyle outside the prison walls. I would estimate that ninety-percent of the people in that prison were minorities and came from poverty. In those that I got to know, I would argue that 100-percent of them have experienced some sort of trauma or abuse in their life.

And then there was me, the incarcerated princess. I had been sheltered my entire life and had no idea how the rest of the world lived.

Every day, I witnessed the prisoners being abused and ridiculed. Nobody deserves this type of treatment. The guards were untrained, highly judgmental, and abusing their power daily. If anyone saw how they treated the inmates there would be a public uproar.

 

Punishing the Abused:

Since I was a young child, it had been engrained in my mind that prison was the place that the “bad guys” go for committing crimes. It did not take long to realize nobody in this prison was a bad person. Nearly all of them were in there for drug-related charges.

And why did they do drugs? They turned to drugs to escape the trauma and abuse they had suffered their entire lives. What kind of system is this? We are punishing people for being abused without giving them the tools they need.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all the people serving time in prison for drug offenses, 45-percent were black and 30-percent were white. Yet, the general population is 77-percent white and 13-percent black.

Now the logic, that we are brainwashed by the media would tell us that the reason for this inequality is that black people are committing more crimes and doing more drugs. But the factual studies discredit this racist rhetoric we have been fed our entire lives.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that a greater percentage of white people use alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, nicotine, methamphetamine, heroin, and all opiates. Yet, blacks are arrested three times as often as whites and the sentences are always more severe.

In fact, the only drug that blacks use at a higher percentage than whites was crack cocaine with a slim margin of 5.0 percent to 3.4 percent, respectively. And, not coincidentally, that is the one drug that receives the higher sentence.

In the past, the ratio was 100:1 for the sentencing of crack/cocaine. This meant your sentence would be 100 times larger for possessing the same amount of crack than if you had the powder cocaine. The “Fair Sentencing Act” reduced this, albeit still not “fair,” as it is not reduced to 17:1.

 

The New Slavery:

However, they did offer people to get diplomas and certificates while incarcerated so they could adjust to the outside world. They granted us opportunities to work and “build skills”. While this seemed like a great opportunity at first, it was brought to my attention that it was an extended form of slavery.

One of my cell mates informed me that we were working for corporations who wanted cheap labor and they set up contracts with the prisons. She explained that America was built into a economic superpower by stealing the land of native Americans and using free labor from slaves stolen from Africa. The greatest exports were tobacco and cotton which were labor intensive and required great amounts of land. After the slaves were freed, the prisons started incarcerating African-Americans for petty crimes for long sentences and corporations would hire them out to work for free.

Slavery never ended, they just got smarter at hiding it from the public.

Here I was among a group of African-Americans that grew up in poverty, were abused, and lived traumatic lives. Then they were arrested for doing the same drugs that people in the suburbs do just as much, yet they were locked up for years and put to work for free to help the rich get richer.

 

Freedom:

When I was released, I went back to being the “privileged, white, stuck-up, greedy, ignorant bitch” as the day I came in. My father would easily be able to get me back into society as if nothing had happened. People were ready to give me opportunities.

And I said no.

I am a convicted felon, a killer. Why should I get to just jump back in as if I did not do this crime? I had to struggle to find places to live, places to work, financial aid for school just like all the other “felons” who only crime they committed was being born into poverty.

John’s family, once accepted me as their own, has disowned me as I took their only son from them. Which I did, I am sorry, but sorry does not bring back their child. As I look into my own daughter’s eyes, I am not sure if I could forgive someone who did that to her – so I get it and I do not blame them. They did not deserve this pain and anguish that I put them through.

My parents hardly speak with me since I was released from prison because I refuse to live their phony existence and I refuse to take the “get out of poverty” free card. They still do not want to hear about my experiences in prison and the lessons I learned about how the rest of the world lives.

I regained custody of my daughter and met a guy from the recovery community that has a son of his own. We are doing fine, working our way back up in society without the handouts we had been accustomed to based on the color of our skin.

We are more free now than ever before. It is highly liberating to be able to see through the lies of society, the lies of our teachers, parents, government, and culture to see the world as it truly is. There is an incredible feeling of inner peace to live without a mask, to be your true self, and enjoy every minute of the people you are with.

I already know the comments that will come from this article. I’ve already seen them all before – I am a criminal, I am a murderer, I am privileged, I am a bitch, I am a slut, I am a terrible person and do not deserve to live. I’ve heard it all. The one comment that I have never agreed with is that I should not have had my child so young – that I do not agree with you. But, go ahead and type it for the world to see, I’ve seen much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not a single day that I wish I could go back in time and bring John back and have our little family again. But each time I try to resist, try to change the past, I start to build those mental prison walls. Freedom comes from accepting the past as it is unconditionally.

We grow up believing we live in a “free country” and proudly proclaim this is the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Yet, we never teach anyone to be free. In fact, we teach everyone to be slaves and go along with the masses – buy this, do that, talk to this person, don’t try that, conform, and be like everyone else.

It is comfortable with the masses and knowing what to expect, but it is not true freedom. Freedom comes from surrender and removing our masks.

So write your comments and judgments, but realize that is just you building your own mask. You have already seen behind my mask, let me seen what is behind yours.

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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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“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

By Irwin Ozborne

“Susie is dead.”

I still remember the text message on that fateful morning.

Susie is a 24-years-old, hard-working, good-looking girl without an enemy in the world. She is the type of person who naturally connects to everyone and genuinely cares about others. How could she be dead?

“She died from a heroin overdose.”

I heard these words and it literally floored me. We hear the figurative expression of being brought to your knees – well this is where it comes from. It literally occurs when you cannot physically stand and the pain and anguish is so unbearable that you involuntarily sink closer to the earth.

Who does heroin? That was my instinctive reaction.

It must have been engrained in our culture and generation that if you touch the stuff, you instantly die. But, in a way, that is not too far from the truth. Heroin is back and stronger and cheaper than ever previously known. And what comes with that is a desensitized public attention and understanding of our nation’s most recent drug epidemic – Heroin 3.0.

Beginning of the Epidemic:

In 2013, an average of 23 people in America died from a Heroin overdose each day.

Heroin is a drug on the other side of the gateway, with preceding drug abuse swinging the gate open. According to a 2013 SAMSHA study, nearly 80-percent of new heroin users had previously abused opiates.

The United States is home to just five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume 80-percent of the world’s prescription drugs – primarily opioid pain killers.

And this is where our epidemic begins.

Eighty-five percent of households in America have prescription medication in their house. Most of this medication is not locked up, typically found in the bathroom medicine cabinet. The ease of obtaining prescription drugs legally is a joke, but perhaps more disturbing is that fact that it is easier to get them illegally.

This is called supply. When supply is up, prices are cheap. When prices are cheap, new customers are found. With new customers, it increases demand. If this sounds like I am describing how to operate a for-profit business, I am. This is the for-profit business of legal drug dealing.

In the 1990’s there was a shift in the way pain was treated in hospitals. They used to only use morphine-based substances for major surgeries. But the hospitals were in agreement that they had been doing a terrible job treating pain and the consensus was that pain needs to be addressed with each client and monitored as a vital sign. Then this trickled down into primary clinics and it became our God-given right to have our pain needs met immediately.

Side Effects May Include…

We know the names of these drugs – Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin – because we have been bombarded with advertisements for the past 20 years. It started with the 1997 FDA Modernization Act, allowing drug companies to advertise directly to consumers.

The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow this ridiculousness. The laws previously stated that all side effects must be included, but that is not possible with the number of side effects of drugs toppling the thousands. Instead, they are only required to list a few of the side-effects “that may include…”

This led to pharmaceutical marketing blitz of the late 90’s. Patients flooded clinics demanding new drugs and doctors felt pressured to take out the prescription pad. Because, if doctors were to “just say no” to the patient, they lose business. The inmates were running the asylum.

In 2012, more than 41,000 Americans died from a drug overdose – including 16,000 from an opioid analgesic (300-percent increase since 1999). Meanwhile, sales on painkillers alone have topped $1.3 billion in 2013 – preventing any desire for the legal drug cartels to pull back the reins on this gravy train that is destroying a generation.

With an astonishing number of overdose deaths reported each year over the past 20 years, eventually congress had to act on this self-induced epidemic. Programs were put into place to discover who was overprescribing medications – known as “pill mills.” While well-intended to put an end to the unexpected surge in overdose deaths, this system also became available to the legal cartels. Pharmaceutical companies used this information to help increase sales by finding patterns in physician’s prescribing tendencies and knew which doctors to target. Top salespeople were sent to clinics utilizing the finest tricks in the book – free gifts, vacations, sporting events, and free samples.

Laws were finally put into place to reduce prescription practices to risky clients, along with mandating education programs to health providers on how many prescriptions they were signing.

Slowly, the supply in the general public is shrinking but the problem is we already created record-high demands for these drugs. And, when the demand is strong enough in any industry – people will find an alternate supply.

Enter Heroin.

It is more potent than any pain killer on the market. In many cases it is easier to obtain and oftentimes cheaper. Basically, we created a demand for a product and then increased supply to fill that demand. Then the new laws took the away the supply, leaving a huge unmet demand for a product.

History of Heroin

Around 10,000 years ago in ancient China, the indigenous poppy plant was sliced open and they discovered a white-milky substance. When ingested, this substance gave intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

Primarily used as a spiritual ritual and then as medicine for pain in ancient Greece, opium eventually made its way into the public realm and was used recreationally. This led to early preaching against the drug and efforts to encourage recreational use in moderation as early as 160 AD.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus brought tobacco back to Europe which introduced a new method of administration. In smoking any substance, it is in direct contact with your lungs and then rapidly enters the bloodstream, bypassing the liver and gives a much more intense high at a quicker rate.

This helped fuel the opium epidemic in China in the 1800s. The British Empire grew opium in India and sold to their Chinese neighbors to the east. China had an alarmingly high rate of opium addiction at this time and the emperor attempted to ban the substance on multiple occasions.

But state-sponsored drug dealing is lucrative business. Drugs are ridiculously cheap to make and the mark-up is astronomically high. Some estimates report as high as 17,000-percent profit margins! And when we are talking that kind of money, fines and legal expenditures can never alter the way these products are pushed to the public. Two wars were fought between Britain and China over the opium trade, but with an advanced military the Brits won both wars and were allowed to continue to sell opium to a nation that saw over one-third of its total population addicted.

Technology continued to evolve the drug in Germany as scientists discovered the curing molecule of Opium – Morphine. This became the world’s new “magic drug.” It became a popular medication in the United States during the Civil War for the ailing soldiers in the battle field. However, even the strongest pain killer in the world was not acting fast enough to ease the pain and shock of wounded soldiers.  Leading to another technology shift – the hypodermic needle; the newest method of administration to quickly get the drug into the bloodstream.

This led to the “Army Disease,” referring to civil war veterans that came home addicted to Morphine and a drug epidemic was rampant throughout the country. It turns out, not only is morphine addictive, but is the most addictive drug known to man.

Then the Bayer Company in Germany synthesized morphine further – developing the world’s newest “magic drug.” Heroin was introduced in 1898, and made available to the public while being deemed non-addictive, a cure for morphine addiction, and no side effects.

In less than a decade the negative effects of heroin were glaringly obvious. In1914, the Harrison Tax Act placed major restrictions and by 1925 heroin was forever banned – just 27 years after celebrating the title of “magic drug.”

The demand for heroin slowly faded along with the supply. Mandatory sentencing laws also turned the public off to the drug and it stayed that way for about 50 years. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the next wave of heroin use arrived in America.

The War on Drugs

It was an interesting time in America. The country was divided by the war in Vietnam, kids were being drafted to serve in the military and fight a war they knew nothing about. People stopped believing the government, and with good reason, as we were fighting secret wars in Laos, Burma, and Thailand – an area known as the “Golden Triangle.”

The Golden Triangle produced 90-percent of the world’s opium during the time of American occupation from 1954-1974. A secret war, with a secret army, needed a secret airline. Air America is the name of the CIA’s owned and operated airline in which its fleet supplied arms and ammunition to the rebels and insurgents of the Golden Triangle to help fight the war in Vietnam. In exchange, Air America transported opium grew by the Hmong farmers to the area and made its way to South Vietnam and sold to American Soldiers.

In 1971, Richard Nixon declared the “War on Drugs.” The war is still active today, making it the longest war in the history of America. While much is to be said about this complete failure, its beginnings stemmed from the soldier’s addiction to heroin in Vietnam.

The Nixon campaign launched “Operation Golden Flow” before ending the war in Vietnam. This was an effort to get the soldiers clean before coming home. Just like the civil war, this was a generation of soldiers addicted to a derivative from opium.

This newfound control of the world’s opium production gave Americans a peak in supply, and as history repeats itself, a demand would surely follow back home with Heroin Epidemic 2.0 coinciding with the Vietnam War and military occupation in the Golden Triangle.

American withdrawal from the Golden Triangle subsequently slowed the heroin epidemic of the 70s. And the “War on Drugs” found a new target in South America, in which the CIA empowered dictators that favored American corporations. Drug trafficking, and the huge profit-margins, ran under the cover of “War on Drugs,” led to an increased supply in cocaine and crack during the 1980s.

At the same time, there was also a new switch in the world’s leader in opium production – the “Golden Crescent.” This is an area is Central, South, and Western Asia defined by three countries – Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – with Afghanistan being the world-leader in opium production since 1991. During the 80s, the CIA funded a group of rebels – involved in the opium trade – to fight off Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. One of those rebel groups funded by the CIA is known as “The Taliban.”

Dr. David Musto, a member of the Carter administration’s drug advisory board, issued a prescient warning that the United States was moving “into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets. Shouldn’t we try,” Dr. Musto asked, “to avoid what we had done in Laos?”

In 1979, the DEA agreed with Musto and already anticipated huge shipments from Afghanistan to reach eastern shore of the United States. To give perspective on how supply/demand work in the drug industry along with profit margins, during the Soviet-Afghan War, annual heroin sales in Pakistan peaked at $8-$10 billion – about one-fourth of the country’s total GDP. At the same time, the rates of addiction increased by 26,000-percent! Just 5,000 reported cases of opium addiction in 1980 up to 1.3 million in 1988.

The CIA’s control of the Golden Crescent put America in control of the world’s opium production again. The formula stays the same – increased supply precedes an increase in demand. But this time, corporations found their way into the world’s most profitable business. Remember this is only years before the healthcare industry decided that pain management is needed at every level of care, new laws allowed for direct- consumer advertising, and customers were literally demanding opium (pain medication).

Opium is grown in four places in the world today; Southwestern Asia (Golden Crescent), Southeastern Asia (Golden Triangle), Columbia, and Mexico. The majority of illegal heroin in the United States comes from the Western Hemisphere, but prices remain at an all-time low because the world’s supply has created competition. Lower prices will encourage more people to use and with the astronomically high profit-margins, the loss is minimal to the cartels – both legal and illegal.

The Business Plan

The 1997 North American Free Trade Act passed by the Clinton Administration also had substantial indirect consequences to the current epidemic. This act allowed free trade between Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico, which flooded the borders with traffic and customs agents were unable to stop the increased flow of illegal drugs.

While well-intended, this law led to an increase in black tar heroin in America and put the control of the supply in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. And while the Cold War ended in 1990, Afghanistan became the largest producer of opium, and Americans no longer had a reason to occupy the Golden Crescent – Until September 11, 2011, and the “War on Terror” was created.

The Taliban had controlled 90-percent of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, but was quickly eliminated following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01.  Since the fall of the Taliban, opium production has actually risen each year since American occupation.

The terrorist attacks also changed things back home. President Bush created the NSA and Homeland Security which put tighter restrictions on the Mexican border. This meant we cut off the largest supplier of illegal drugs in America (Mexico), but we already have established a new demand. With such large demand and our hands in the world’s new largest supplier of opium, a need surely will be met to feed addictions.

President Bush had the answer with the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003. This act was a handout from the United States taxpayers to the Drug and Health Care Corporations of $800 billion. This bill gave pharmaceutical companies freedom to charge whatever they wish, healthcare as the middleman, and the consumer as a life-long customer (also called a drug-addict).

Now we have a need for drugs (literally addicted), the supply in Afghanistan, and cut off supply from the biggest competitors from Mexico, and free reign to the corporations (the same corporations that lobbied billions of dollars to congress to pass this bill).

The industry known as “health care,” does absolutely nothing to care about our health. The for-profit system is a business, just like any other major corporation, with intents on minimizing costs and increasing revenue.

And Now Comes the Sick Part…

Corporations are making huge profits by getting people addicted to drugs (pharmaceutical industry), by creating diseases to justify drugging them (psychiatry industry), and then denying them the help they need for this addiction we created (health insurance industry).

In sharing Susie’s story, it is clear that the sick ones are not those addicted to heroin, but those in offices deciding the fate of those in need.

Susie had completed residential treatment months earlier and had a chance to clear her mind and work on skills to avoid further harm. While working on building support, Susie had a relapse by injecting heroin over the weekend.

Heroin relapse is often fatal because after abstaining from using for a period of time, your tolerance significantly drops and your body can no longer handle the effects. Furthermore, heroin is at an all-time high as far as lethality. Back in the 1970s it was about 10-15 percent purity and now the numbers are closer to 70 percent pure heroin. Dealers have typically mixed alternative products in heroin to maintain greater quantities of their product, but with supplies and competition escalating, dealers need to provide higher quality for repeat business.

Susie survived the relapse but was in need of further treatment.

But her fate is handed off to a “clinical specialist” at the insurance company that lacks education, experience, or licensure. Instead, it is just a young kid in their mid 20’s that has been trained to “JUST SAY NO!”

Literally, they are told to deny claims. In the medical industry, a claim is referred to as a “medical loss.” Think about it; if you deny care, it saves the company money. If you save the company money, they have more profits.

How did such a corrupt system begin? President Nixon passed the HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) Act of 1973, which eventually gained many federal subsidies and virtually eliminated affordable individual health care plans.

In a meeting at the White House between President Nixon and John Erlichman (speaking for Edgar Kaiser) in promoting HMOs, Ehrlichman quotes Kaiser stating, “All the incentives are toward less medical care, because—the less care they give them, the more money they make.”Mr. Ehrlichman quoting Edgar Kaiser to President Nixon on February 17, 1971

The Story of Susie…

Susie’s insurance company offered to cover four days of treatment following her relapse. The “specialist” performs a role of reverse-salesman in justifying reasons for denying coverage. They ask questions such as “Wasn’t she just in treatment?” “Where is she getting these drugs?”

After four days, the insurance provider comes back and says that since Susie is doing well she no longer needs residential services.  They view the client as a number and a bottom line and have become desensitized to the word ‘heroin’ because the epidemic has normalized its use.

“This is too serious and I am terrified that if we do not authorize services, that we both might be attending a funeral,” said Susie’s counselor, “Actually, only one of us will, because papers and numbers don’t have funerals. But I’m dealing with a human life, unlike you.”

Two weeks later, Susie died from a heroin overdose.

United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley is paid a salary of 3.2 million dollars (with a total compensation package of $34 million) and owns a $10 million home in Wayzata, Minnesota. Every day in 2009 he earned $819, 363.10.

The best treatment center in Hemsley’s home state is Hazelden-Betty Ford Center. A 28-day residential treatment program at the world’s finest facility costs $30,000.

Hemsley’s hourly wage was around $102,741.68 in 2009. At this rate, if Mr. Hemsley were to not pay himself for 17 minutes of one day in 2009, he could have paid for full services at the world’s best treatment center for this kid for 28-days.

But let’s not single him out, the top ten health insurance companies CEO averaged a salary of $13 million per year, with their average worker making $35,000.

With all that money, imagine all the services and care people could receive, instead of increasing the wealth of one person? We could create an entire industry and call it “health care.”

robinwilliamslarge 

“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   Photo by Brian Meyer @artbybrianmeyer

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

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

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

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

We, as a society, we do this. This is why people with great talents still kill themselves. Much has been written about Robin Williams; however why do you think he was such a good actor?

I’ll tell you what I think, it is because he got to wear a mask and pretend he was somebody else. That is easy to do when you 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. I still cry as I write this.

That day, I did not. I sat and I was there for her. She said to me, “I don’t know what to do. My husband’s going to leave me if I don’t change and I don’t even know what that means.”

She paused as she saw me pause. Looking at me with eyes like a child saying “make me feel better, help my soul, this isn’t fair.” I didn’t save the world this day. However, for this moment, I was able to take away some pain, or teach her how to do this for herself in the future. That is good enough, because that is all we can do. That is how we can cause a mass ripple affect and stop suicides and pain. One moment at a time, every single action and every single moment matters, every single one.

So what I told her was “I know you’re feeling like somebody just hit you in the stomach and you have a dull aching pain that will not go away and you just want to keel over and surrender.” I knew this because I have been there. I spoke from the heart, not from a book.

However in my experience, this kind of pain is a beautiful thing. Why I say that is because in the moments like this in my life, this is when the truth entered me. Rumi says it best in my favorite quote of all time, “The wound is where the light enters you.” There have been times in my life where everything was ripped away. When I lost all the things that I thought that were important. Things like cars, houses, fake friendships and relationships with family members. These were the things I grasped to. I was certain I needed them or I would die. The beautiful thing about adversity is that it will rip away everything, so you can see what really is important. However, I wouldn’t recommend saying that to someone while they are going through this, unless you want to get punched in the face. It is painful, but it is beautiful if you let it be, then it becomes a wonderful gift.

She said “All I want to do lay down and go to bed.”I know she meant forever. The pain she was experiencing was shame. She felt like she was not ok. She had to change. She was sick. Her whole life as she knew it, her husband, her son, and everything she had ever known was going to be taken away from her because she was sick. She then put her hands on her head and cried.

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 illness. 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. I have to talk about something else first.

The reason I tell this story is because of the stigma and how stigma destroys people, and stops the patients who are suffering from asking for help. It prevents people from wanting to get help because they are scared they are going to lose everything. They are scared that people are going to look at them weird and tell them to just get better. Stigma, that’s what it is. People don’t want to ask for help because of STIGMA.

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

Loud, opinionated, yet uniformed people have power. They assume everybody in psychiatry is faking an illness. That is why we must stop stigma by education, not by hating. If we treat them the way they treat those with mental illness, then we are no different. 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, then you will see more opportunities come, and that’s when you jump at them.

I want to talk about the most stigmatized illness in mental health. It is the illness that “Sammy” had. We call it a “disorder,” however, I want to try and show you how it is a gift, and not a “disorder.”

I want to talk about Borderline Personality Disorder. This is what they say is the single most difficult mental health diagnosis to treat, and the most difficult illness to have as a patient.

What is said is that those with this illness depend completely on the external enviornment for clues as to what emotion to feel. We say that they are manipulative, they are gamey, and they are attention seeking. We say they want everybody to love them and that they feel like it’s up to everybody else to make them feel good. We say that they don’t know how to feel. They feel intensely connected to everything therefore, affected greatly by everything. We say we need to teach them how to handle emotions. If you ask me, the wrong people are in the role of teacher.

The truth is that science is finding out very quickly that we ALL ARE IN FACT connected. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen, gas, and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.

There was a computer program set up in various spots around the world. It would shoot off random numbers, there was no pattern ever seen for years.This is called a Random Number Generator. However when the September 11th attacks happened, or other moments that human consciousness became coherent, things changed. For instance, in the case of a severe tragedy in which all humans are thinking about similar things and having similar emotions, all the numbers become structured and organized. They show an unpredictable sequence of one’s and zeroes.The odds of this happening by chance is one in a trillion.

Some people still think that Darwin said evolution was about competition, survival of the fittest.However, that’s just the part that got popularized by people who had a hidden agenda. The truth is he said compassion and cooperation is what is essential. This is truly what he was about.

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.

I could go on and on. My point is, we are all connected. We use our genes differently, express them differently.

Science is figuring out what borderlines and great sages and philosophers have always said. We are all connected. So why is this a disorder again?

What we do is tell the people with this “Disorder” we call BPD, who have always felt connected to everything and everybody. We tell them that they are too emotional. What we are doing is we are telling these people with a gift, the gift of the truth, that they are crazy.

There is a trick that I see, especially in the hospitals. Someone comes in with Borderline Personality Disorder, and it is very easy to look at the mood swings and say “It is a chemical issue.” 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 be sleeping and tired all day. Then what we say as we pat ourselves on the back is “Look, no more behaviors, we cured them!”

We 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 20 years ago and I was training in, I was told this was all attention seeking behavior and manipulative. I watched the elder staff roll their eyes so then I started doing it. I thought it was fake and I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to have to dig deep.

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 to deal with. I have had relationships with some of them and it is difficult to understand. They are not bad, they have a gift. They know your emotions instinctively and they sense and feel things that we can’t feel. They know how to make people happy, they can read your soul.

In a way they are lucky, and in a way they are not. The way they are not is the way that our society treats them and tells them that it’s not okay.

Back to the story I started with. This patient was crying with her head in her hands and trembling in fear while her husband was about to take her life away because she was sick. How is this justice?

I said “What do you need to change Sammy?” and she said “I don’t know.”

I said for the second time “There is nothing wrong with you.”

I didn’t save her life. A few months later, she killed herself.

However, for that one day she felt she was ok. I know this because she was brighter, and happier.She looked better. She felt ok.

That is all we can do is embrace every moment with each other and make it the best moment possible. In that room, for that day, she felt ok for once in her life. She got better and was discharged in a week.

So to all you Sammy’s out there, and all the Sammy’s I will meet in the future. My message is you are ok, we are not.

She didn’t kill herself, Stigma killed her. This is the same thing that killed Robin Williams. He will get enough attention, the Sammy’s of the world will not.

We will never change the problems of the world until we start embracing diversity and gifts.We have these intuitive, special people and they are invalidated and abused. We continue to abuse and punish them. We need to stop punishing them. I agree, yes , the behaviors are tough. But there is truth in their behavior.There is a truth that sometimes we do not want to deal with.

We have to simply change or reframe the way we see things. See beyond the mask. To do this, sometimes we have to forget all the knowledge we think we think we have.

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