Posts Tagged ‘psychiatry’

10 life lessons

By Cortland Pfeffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Be true to who you are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Fear destroys us; and makes others money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Embrace your struggles, they are gifts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Our subconscious is what drives us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vulnerability allows others to lift the mask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no right and wrong. We used to think smoking was okay for you and doctors advertised it. We used to think the world was flat. We used to think Columbus discovered America. There is no truth, there is only perception. You must do what your true inner self believes. Your mask is unique so your mask’s removal is going to be unique. The one thing that is common for all mask removals is connection and love. Science and studies have found out that we are breathing the same air that people breathed in and breathed out thousands of years ago. The air we breathe is composed of mainly nitrogen, gas, and oxygen gas. Very little is lost in space, and only occasionally is there a new source of carbon or oxygen introduced into this planet. So every breath you take has atoms that have been here for billions of years.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is schizophrenia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are schizophrenics seeing and hearing what we cannot?

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

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

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

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

You are changed!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then came that moment, the one that changes everything!

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was all perfect!

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

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

Then more magic happened!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a moral to this story…

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

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

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

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


 


 

 

On July 31st, 2004, David Carmichael took his 11 year old sons life.  We discuss the tragedy, the aftermath, his criminal trial, and what he is doing now.

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Itunes interview with David Carmichael about the Murder of his son

 

 

 

 

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Ep 012 Pills that Kill David Carmichael’s medication induced psychosis leads to the murder of his son

 

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

 

 

In Ep 009 Make America Sane Again: Advocating change for the mental health system, we speak with Emily Cutler. Emily is an assistant Editor for the Website Mad in America and the founder of Southern California against forced treatment. Emily discusses her work for Mad in America, mental health reform, and shares her inspirational personal story.

 

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Ep 009 Making America Sane Again W Emily Cutler

Ep 007: We don’t need no medication, with Daniel Carter, the founder of End Psychiatry. Daniel had no history of psychiatric hospitalization, no history of violence and was held on an involuntary commitment for 6 months and given antipsychotics. He shares his experience and why he wants to stop forced psychiatric treatment. Dan also writes music and has a go fund me page to help support his music. His music is at the beginning and the end of this podcast. You can help Dan out at https://www.gofundme.com/help-produce-antipsychiatry-music

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Ep 007 We Dont need no Medication with Daniel Carter

I just think it is time we try something new,” said the doctor to his patient, “It’s called Abilify.”

But I’ve been doing well,” the patient pleaded, “I have had no problems for over six months and I am feeling fine.”

Well, you are on an involuntary (civil) commitment and I would hate to have to extend that 18 months,” said the doctor, “You understand that the court will always do what the doctor recommends, and I think that you are in need of a switch to Abilify.

This is a conversation that I overheard when I first started working at a county hospital. I was new and trying to learn from these wonderful doctors that I believed were there to help people. This facility saw the “sickest” patients in the county, and I thought this would give me an incredible opportunity to learn. As this was one of the first conversations I heard, I was certainly learning… and slowly discovering that the label of “sick” is being placed on the wrong individual in this context.

Eventually, I worked my way up to a role that included auditing the psychiatrist’s records along with the responsibility of meeting with pharmaceutical representatives who were pushing their free medication samples. The only means of distributing free promotional samples is by the reps being able to talk directly to the psychiatrist along with a signature, and I was like a modern-day gatekeeper. The different reps would visit and provide a pitch as to why they should be able to take the king (psychiatrist) on a date – and unfortunately describing it as a ”date” was far more literal than figurative.

The sales reps entertain psychiatrists with dinners at the finest restaurants in town and grant them access to luxury suites at sporting events in an effort to push their medications. But, they had to get by the guard (me) first. So they started to befriend me and offer similar gifts. They pulled out all the tricks in the book to try to gain access to psychiatrists, just like the Greeks trying to enter the city of Troy. In their finest efforts, the most beautiful women you have ever seen would show up as “sales reps” but they were really no more than a Trojan Horse posing as another false gift to gain access inside the gates. It really is only about one step away from prostitution, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in some cases these reps do take that ‘extra step’.

I had been officially introduced to the dark side of psychiatry, a field I had always believed was a “helping” industry. After battling my own lifelong struggles, I got into the field to help others only to find myself on the truly “sick” side of psychiatry – the side that is fueled by corruption, greed, back-scratching and dysfunction.

And this was just the tip of the iceberg!

Crossing a Line

I met a patient that I will call “Ronelle.” She was in the state hospital and preparing to be discharged after six months. She was assigned to my caseload for when she returns. Ronelle sent me a six-page letter describing herself and her situation. However, the doctor took this from me and informed me of her “delusional thinking patterns” and then coached me as to how to handle her care. He was still her psychiatrist and was ensuring I was aware of the extremity of her “sickness.” I was naïve, and had no reason to question this prominent psychiatrist.

Prior to my first encounter with Ronelle, it was already engrained in my mind that she was sick and delusional. While reviewing her medications, I noticed she was taking four different antipsychotics – one of which was 30mg of Abilify. There it is again, Abilify, the latest atypical antipsychotic. “I really do not need to be on all these medications,” she told me, “I really am not that sick.” Another delusion, I thought. So I blew her off, just as everyone had always done. I didn’t realize I was another cog in the psychiatric industrial machine.

As months went by, our talks were always the same and I was getting tired of hearing how she did not need her medications.

One night, while out on a date at a fancy restaurant – courtesy of the gift cards from the sales representatives – we headed upstairs to check out the view of the city and I recognized the same psychiatrist providing an educational talk to nurses and mental health workers about Abilify. He was sharing all the wonders of this drug and how more people need to be pushed towards this magical medication. As he took his seat, he was embraced and kissed by the same young Abilfy sales rep. I had to take a second-look as I was taken aback by the blatant corruption that sat before the entire crowd. Next day back at the office, I asked other sales reps about this encounter. They laughed and said, “Didn’t you know that? They are married.”

What!?

Shocked, upset, and in disbelief, I came to discover this prominent psychiatrist was pushing a medication on his colleagues that his wife was selling! Is this really about helping people? Or is it about expanding their personal portfolio?

Disease Mongering: The Selling of Sickness

After discovering this new information, I had to find out more about Abilify. Every single doctor I spoke with provided the same answer, “No, it doesnt really work.” One doctor even referred to it as “Vitamin A.” Abilify was introduced as a new atypical antipsychotic medication to treat schizophrenia but never gained the market-share they were expecting. A few years later it was approved to treat bipolar disorder. Later, the FDA approved its use in conjunction with other medications to treat severe depression – which is when it soared to become the top-selling drug in America.[1]

So, following the failed experiment of treating schizophrenia, the pharmaceutical company simply changed the “purpose” of the drug to treat other indications – specifically depression and anxiety – which is what you will see it marketed for today. In fact, you will find it marketed for just about everything.

“In the 12 months ending August 2011, more than [US]$453 million was spent promoting antipsychotics through physician details, direct-to-consumer advertising, and professional advertising. Abilify led with over $174 million, or 38% of the total market… Clearly, Abilify and Seroquel have performed well… in part because of the investments their marketers have made, both in promotion and acquiring expanded indications.” [2]

Yet, despite raking in more than seven billion dollars per year, both the USDI and FDA state the way Abilify works is “Unknown.” This is a very common practice in the pharmaceutical industry. It works like this:

  • Create a new disorder (identify a new market)
  • Hire a firm to spread awareness (disease branding/marketing)
  • Convince the normal person they have this disorder (creating a need)
  • Use a new drug to treat that disorder (solution)
  • The patent for the drug is good for 7 years; apply monopoly prices
  • Once patent expires, repeat step one
  • Repackage the “new” drug under a different name
  • Repeat steps two through five

Patents for new drugs are applicable for 7 years. Once it runs out, it allows the generic brand companies to make the same drug at reduced prices. To avoid this, the large pharmaceutical companies simply adjust a molecule of the drug and repackage it, allowing for a new patent. This process has been repeated throughout the past few decades as the psychiatric industry has abandoned psychotherapy in favor of drug management.

Valium was the highest prescribed drug in the world in 1978 and earned the nickname “Momma’s little helper” as it was marketed to stressed out housewives; and also referred to as “Executive Excedrin” for the overworked businessman. This was the turning point of America becoming a choose-your-mood society. As far as the pharmaceutical industry is concerned, there is a pill for everything, and the goal is to find the right pill for each person.

The 1980s saw the next “breakthrough” — the drug Prozac was released to treat symptoms of depression. And of course, the diagnoses of depression skyrocketed as public campaigns (funded by pharmaceuticals) let us all know that we, or someone we know, may be struggling with depression. Then in 1999 came “news” of the latest epidemic – Social Anxiety Disorder (ie. shyness). A coalition was created to help those suffering from this “disorder” and those targeted were told that there was a drug to alleviate their symptoms – Paxil. What is generally unknown to the public however, is that these coalitions to ‘spread awareness’ are funded by pharmaceutical companies, and psychiatrists are paid to give speeches about the newly devised “illnesses”, along with the accompanying medication.[3]

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The Legal Drug Cartels

Paxil was FDA approved in 1992, and to get approval status, the FDA appointed a board of psychiatrists – all of whom had financial ties with the pharmaceutical companies. In 2001, the infamous Paxil 329 study attempted to “prove” the effectiveness of their antidepressant in adolescents – another then-untapped market. Martin Keller ran this study on behalf of Glaxio Smith Kline and tested 100 children on the drug. There were 22 co-authors of this study, all ‘important’ psychiatrists, which concluded the effectiveness and safety of Paxil. The FDA granted their blessing to the faulty study and within a year, more than 55 million people were taking Paxil.[4][[5]

However, what was omitted from this “study” was that seven of children on which Paxil was tested were hospitalized and another 11 experienced serious side effects. Keller admitted no fault and simply did not count those individuals in the results of the study, and labelled them as either “noncompliant” or noted that they had “dropped out.” In 2004 he settled out of court for $2.5 million dollars for his role in the fraudulent study, but in 2012 the US Department of Justice brought a civil case against Glaxio Smith Kline which resulted in the company being fined US$3 billion dollars! [6] In that same year, however, Paxil brought in US$11.6 billion in sales for Glaxo Smith Kline which, from a business perspective, still made the fraudulent Paxil study a valuable corporate exercise. You can read the guilty plea in the case US vs Glaxo Smith Kline here.

In the book, “Sociology of Health and Illness” by Peter Conrad he writes:

“Marketing diseases, and then selling drugs to treat those diseases, is now common in the “post-Prozac” era. Since the FDA approved the use of Paxil for SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder] in 1999 and GAD [Generalized Anxiety Disorder] in 2001, GlaxoSmithKline has spent millions to raise the public visibility of SAD and GAD through sophisticated marketing campaigns. The advertisements mixed expert and patient voices, providing professional viability to the diagnoses and creating a perception that it could happen to anyone (Koerner 2002). The tag line was, “Imagine Being Allergic to People.” A later series of advertisements featured the ability of Paxil to help SAD sufferers brave dinner parties and public speaking occasions (Koerner 2002). Paxil Internet sites offer consumers self-tests to access the likelihood they have SAD and GAD (www.paxil.com). The campaign successfully defined these diagnostic categories as both common and abnormal, thus needing treatment.

Prevalence estimates vary widely, from 3 to 13 percent of the population, large enough to be a very profitable pharmaceutical market. The marketing campaign for Paxil has been extremely successful. Paxil is one of the three most widely recognized drugs, after Viagra and Claritin (Marino 2002), and is currently ranked the number six prescription drug, with 2001 U.S. sales approximately $2.1 billion and global sales of $2.7 billion. How much Paxil was prescribed for GAD or SAD is impossible to discern, but by now both Paxil and SAD are everyday terms. While there have been some concerns raised about Paxil recently (Marshall 2004), it is clear that GlaxoSmithKline’s campaign for Paxil increased the medicalization of anxiety, inferring that shyness and worrying may be medical problems, with Paxil as the proper treatment”. [page 484]

Then there was the Cymbalta clinical testing that resulted in five suicides, which somehow still managed to pass through the FDA approval process. 19 year old Traci Johnson had no history of depression, suicidal ideation, or any mental illness. Yet, after being involved in this clinical study she ended her life – one of five suicides resulting from the in clinical testing of Cymbalta. After her death, 20% of the volunteers withdrew from the study, and these ‘dropout’ numbers (again) were simply not accounted for in the final data analysis.[7] In 2013, Cymbalta delivered more than $5.1 billion in sales.

This unsavoury marriage between pharmaceutical companies and psychiatry goes back over 100 years. While it was highly publicised that Sigmund Freud touted the use of cocaine – both recreationally and therapeutically – what is not widely known is that his well publicized passion for this ”magical drug” was actually the result of hefty payments he received from the newly-formed pharmaceutical companies, Merck and Park Davies, for his professional endorsement for their drugs. [8]

Drug Pushers in White Coats

The story I related earlier about the psychiatrist with the penchant for Abilify, is one of possibly hundreds of thousand of other examples of this sort of prescribing within this industry. Drug companies are profiting by more than US$80 billion each year as a result of ‘mental disease mongering’, as well as ludicrous mark-up pricing. These medications are incredibly cheap to manufacture – i.e. the cost to produce 100 Xanax pills is about $0.025 (yes that is 2.5 cents) yet they sell for $136 at the pharmacy – a 500,000% profit margin. [9]

With these kind of profits, the pharmaceutical companies are able to pay enormous settlement fees which hardly crack their bank account. In 2007, Abilify paid a $515 million settlement for illegally marketing their drug in nursing homes, despite knowing that it commonly caused death for patients with dementia.[10]

In April of 2015, Abilify’s patent expired for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and generics can now be purchased at discounted prices. So, in turn, in May of 2015 its maker the Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. attempted to sue the FDA, claiming that the drug was now an orphan-drug in treating pediatric Tourette’s syndrome and thereby extending its exclusivity period.

So why do we keep prescribing people these medications?

Simply, it is because we have created a gravy train that is producing a lot of money for a lot of powerful people – drug companies, doctors, pharmacies, and investors. In creating a new disorder, it is marketed as a lifelong and incurable disease, creating a customer for life. The first problem for the drug companies in marketing their pharmaceutical ”solutions” is if it kills a person; the second problem is if they actually cured someone – imagine the financial hit they would take. Their aim, therefore, is to create addictive drugs that don’t kill but also don’t cure.

Upon learning more about this dark side of psychiatry, I literally grew nauseous. I started to examine this psychiatrist’s charts to find that nearly every one of his patients was prescribed Abilify. In comparison, other providers prescribed Abilify an average of 4% of the time… compared to his rate of 75%. Then, of course, he is also married to the pharmacy representative for this company. For each prescription he writes, she gets paid a commission. She also gets paid for talking to doctors because of her free pass into the clinic. He also is funded by the same company to give speeches on this drug, and for signing off on peer-reviewed articles and studies on these drugs – again 100% funded by drug companies. They are making exuberant amounts of money by medicating people with a drug that in their own words ”doesn’t really work.”

I was reeling over how it is possible that this level of corruption is happening right before our eyes. But the chief of psychiatry didn’t seem at all concerned — he was busy playing golf with the Risperdal sales representative! Upon hearing this, I was prompted to look into the Risperdal Consta injections that were administered at our facility, only to discover that more than half of our one-thousand patients were being given this drug — a procedure that runs a bill of more than $1,000 per injection. This has all been given the ‘green light’ by our “Chief of Psychiatry” — our facility’s ‘pillar of respectability’ who has been featured in studies in medical journals and other publications and studies for the past fifty years.

This kind of corruption is, unfortunately, not uncommon in the psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry. Peter C Gøtzsche, a physician, researcher and professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis at the University of Copenhagen, has firsthand experience with the criminal workings of the pharmaceutical industry, which he exposed in his book “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.” Gøtzsche detailed the corruption behind exorbitant prices for branded drugs, and outlines that clinical drug trials are often fraudulent, with pharmaceutical companies selecting populations and comparison groups that will support the preferred outcome of the study, controlling and filtering data in-house, cherry picking the results to suit their marketing needs, and hiring professional writers to document their “findings”. He also claims it is not uncommon for academics who were not involved in studies to be paid to be listed as contributors, to give the study credibility despite its “shamelessly biased data.”

A number of other prominent scientists — including 2 former editors-in-chief of major scientific journals — have also publicly stated that up to half of published research is biased or simply untrue. Says Dr. Marcia Angell, physician and longtime editor-in-chief of the New England Medical Journal:

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Recent Headlines

Recently Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals made the headlines after he increased the price of the AIDS medication Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 — a 5000% increase. Yet, the drug companies are adding these huge mark-ups all the time. According to a recent article from LiveStrong.com:

“Insight Journal” reports that many of the active ingredients in prescription drugs are manufactured overseas, and that the pharmaceutical industry earns from 2,809 percent markup of the cost of active ingredient in Zestril, to as much as 570,000 percent markup in Xanax; the markup for Xanax is based on a consumer price of $137.79 for 100 tablets and $0.024 for the cost of the active ingredients.

Now, a startling new development comes from the manufacturers of Abilify, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. The corporation intends to turn Abilify into a “digital drug”, and are seeking approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to insert a chip into each capsule that can measure whether a patient is taking their medications as prescribed. If approved, this move would give doctors and courts the power to monitor whether people prescribed these drugs are complying with the dictates of their financially-motivated prescriptions. [11]

While the moral and legal implications of this proposal are staggering, the ludicrous insensitivity of such a proposal was highlighted by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert who joked:

“Nothing is more reassuring to a schizophrenic than a corporation inserting sensors into your body and feeding information to all those people watching your every move.”

You can read about this development here.

So, who are the sick ones in this industry?

Eventually, I started listening more to what ”Ronelle” had to say about her ‘drugging’ — I felt it only right to hear her out. With some collaborative efforts and a bit of manipulating, we were able to switch doctors. Her new doctor met with the legal drug cartel sales representatives but didn’t ‘buy into’ the shiny objects they tried to use to bribe him. “None of these meds really work,” he told one of the drug dealers, “Maybe 15% of the time at best, so we really shouldn’t use them unless it is absolutely necessary. They are only to be used as a last resort.”

Imagine that?! A doctor who still cared for patients, stands by his morals and ethics, and could not be bought-out. Of course, he often was shunned by his colleagues for his ethical tactics that made waves and exposed their corruption.

However, once he began working with Ronelle, he gradually got her off her medications to see how she would function without being doped up 24 hours a day. Eventually, she was reduced from 4 antipsychotics to a more suitable anxiety medication and an antidepressant. She was doing fine and never returned to the hospital again; she was happy, excited, and managed to lose a lot of the weight she had gained from the ‘doping’ her previous psychiatrist had forced on her to line his own pockets.

Unfortunately, the patient that I described in the beginning of this article was not so lucky. He did not get to switch doctors and was forced to continue taking Abilify since he was on civil commitment. He ended up fleeing for two years, taking a flight to Africa, and doing himself serious damage in the process. From what I have heard from others since, he eventually returned to the United States but his life has been destroyed.

Ironically, this doctor we have been discussing prescribed a cocktail of drugs that literally drove a troubled man to desperation, fleeing to Africa as a last ditch effort to escape his mental torture. Yet at the same time, the doctor responsible for this poor man’s state-enforced over-medication — the ‘professional’ who earned enormous sums of money pairing patients with his preferred drugs — used his ill gotten gains to funds his own vacation to Africa later that year, an expedition to escape the stress of “dealing with the mentally ill.”

In Conclusion…

In rounding out this article, it would be remiss of us to not point out the fact that more people die from overdose deaths from taking ‘properly prescribed’ prescription drugs each year than from illegal street drugs. Writes Scott Bonn, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University, in a 2014 article for Psychology Today [12]:

Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. At least 100 people die from drug overdoses every day in the U.S. More than 36,000 people die from drug overdoses annually and most of these deaths are caused by prescription drugs…

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of antidepressant use in the United States rose by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008…

The problem is getting worse and, frequently, medical doctors enable their drug addicted patients by frivolously filling prescriptions.

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.

shadow

In Episode 5: Beyond Meds, We talk with Monica Cassani a person who has been a social worker in the mental health system as well as a patient. She talks about her time as a patient, her own healing , transformative healing, and epigenetic trauma. As well as what she sees as the holes in the psychiatric system and how we can make it better for those seeking help now. Monica has an award winning website with over 6 million views. https://beyondmeds.com/

 

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Art by Pamela Spiro Wagner

In Episode 004: Unmasking Schizophrenia, We talk to Pamela Spiro Wagner, someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia for 36 years. She discusses her voices, other symptoms, and how she feels they started. She talks about her treatment by society and staff at mental health hospitals, and medications. She also speaks about how she has been able to get her life to place where she is comfortable and content. You can find her art, poetry, music, and books on her blog. You can follow Pams Blog as I do at https://pamelaspirowagner.com/  

Links to her Book At Bottom of Page. Her Blog is Amazing I follow it, there is nothing else like it.

Listen to Pamela’s amazing story here on WordPress, ITunes, or Sound cloud

Here is link for the podcast from WordPress:

pamel spiro wagner unmasking schizophrenia

 

Here is link for you to Listen, Rate, and Review on ITunes:

 Itunes Taking the Mask off Ep004 Unmasking Schizophrenia

 

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To See Some of Pamela’s Books, Click Link Below:

Pamela Spiro Wagner Books

 

dickens

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He then asks the patient, why he is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He saves lives, He saved this patients life.

 

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

The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.

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

 

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

 

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

 

I am alive today because of him.

 

Thank you Dr Broeker.

 

The End

 

 

saving-drowning-man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rest of the story is for another day.

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

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

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

Thank you crisis. You helped awaken me.

On this day, I saw what real love was.