Return to Self an Alternative Medication?


After nearly two years in Utah, from 2008-2009, I made the decision to return to the splendor of the Pacific Northwest where I had previously practiced as a psychotherapist.

Relocation is one of the most profound experiences. I noticed and said many times that “people are the same no matter where you go”. And just as in therapeutic work, you will find yourself and your issues in your case load/in your community. It happens without fail.

I was in tears moving back to Seattle. I listened to these lyrics over and over, “It’s a dream, only a dream and it’s fading now. A dream, only a dream. Just a memory without any way to stay.” (Neil Young)

I think it is very important that we mourn. Not to the exclusion of organizing. But to enhance it. The trick is steering clear of sorrow’s quicksand. I was washing away the current of life losses and the circumstances found in today’s societal woes. Barely seeing through the windshield of my own dreams I dragged myself forward one foot in the past, the other in the perplexing unknown.

Following the signposts on the ragged trail has always been one of my strong suits. One week before leaving Provo, Utah I received a call from a dear old friend of mine who asked me for a referral for a friend of his. One of the first things I did upon arrival in Seattle was to return that call. I placed myself in a period of exile, not telling more than two or three souls of my changed location. A self-imposed deep sabbatical lasting for a few months was initiated. I highly recommend this to anyone with the luxury.

My friend in need of a referral is a medical professional, not in psychology. Someone, though, who has done a mound of work on himself. He was preparing to teach me about fate and destiny. I helped him several years earlier in an effort to heal another friend of his and we developed a strong bond through that restorative experience .


We agreed to meet to watch the Super Bowl (as men may do) and discuss the matter at hand. The sports bar was dark, boisterous and smoke free. Pouring rain in the early weeks of February 2010 I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. I wasn’t quite certain why. I took a deep breath regaining my composure. The game was a blur in the background. At half-time the band performed the number ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. A fitting theme could not have been more imagined.

As the third quarter got underway my friend proceeded to describe the problems of his old friend. Many years lay between their communications. He told me this woman had just been released from the hospital. She had spent a week on the psychiatric unit after becoming extremely distraught and following an effort to take her life. She recently went through a contentious divorce, was having financial troubles and strains in parenting. She was facing the prospect of a regimen of electric shock therapy should all else fail.

By chance this woman contacted my friendĀ and reached out for help. Social internet provided the venue. She had been on many varieties of psychiatric drugs for dozens of years and had been through numerous psychotherapies for depression. At one time she was a vibrant, curious and self-assured younger person. My friend asked her if she would consider a completely different approach to her problems. She said she had come to the end of lifes rope and was open to trying anything. He told her that he knew a therapist who might be willing to help. I responded with a hint of sly irony, “I guess that would be me,” as the 3rd quarter drew to a close.

The crowd was getting louder while our conversation wound down. The medical professional, a fan of the men’s movement and folks like Michael Meade, was clear he felt a natural path was the next step for his long-time depressed companion. I listened and smiled without comment. I was thinking the same thing though I knew that I would have to speak with the woman before any course could be determined.

These words came next, “I moved two years ago to Utah in order to take a break from the action but within a week there I found myself facilitating an intervention for a case involving substance abuse. Then within another year I became involved with inpatient rehab. Now, having returned to Seattle, I am being asked to help someone presumably debilitated by years of treatment in the mental health system (among other things) back onto a more natural healing path. Is someone trying to tell me something?”

When I departed the high desert of Utah, I thought that I was coming home to the glorious Puget Sound. Little did I know, with everything that came before serving as preparation, I was returning to myself.



Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussionā€”broadly speakingā€”of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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