I Want Change

Judy Murray
34
4266

My son Dan ended his life in 2014, two weeks after a 10-day stay in the psychiatric unit of the hospital, because nobody was listening.

As a child Dan was a happy, loving, energetic little boy. I have a memory from when he was only 5 years old that shows his character. We were standing at the elevator and the doors opened. There stood a little old lady with a cane. Dan stepped inside, took hold of her hand and guided her into the hallway. That was Dan at age 5 and it was who he remained throughout his life: loving everyone equally no matter their age, race, religion or social status. He did have a special place in his heart for the less fortunate, such as homeless people — I would often find them on my couch because Dan would bring them to the house for food and shelter.

When Dan entered the educational system, which introduced him to the mental health system, everything began to change. My son was no longer Dan Kelson. He was “ADHD” at 7, “bipolar” at 13 and “schizoaffective” at 20 when he began hearing voices. It used to be that our children were considered active, not ADHD, or stubborn and rebellious, not oppositional defiant disorder. Somewhere along the way their unique personal identities were replaced with a diagnostic identity, along with a specific drug to suppress who they truly are and rid them of the unwanted behavior — all because of our fears and insecurities. We live in a society that is fearful of difference. We deny the self and the experience so that when one strays from what we understand as normal, they are thought to be ill. Stigma is something we create when we label mental pain as an illness.

By the time Dan was in his teens, I fell prey to the system that told him he needed to take meds to correct a chemical imbalance. I put my trust, my faith and my son’s life in the hands of mainstream psychiatry. But not Dan. He was so in touch with himself and had a knowing that he was just different. He saw the flaws and held on strong to the belief that he was not ADHD, bipolar or psychotic, but that he was just experiencing a different reality from our limited view of the “norm.”

Dan Kelson
Dan Kelson

When Dan was 20 I tried desperately to find help for him as he was hearing derogatory voices that at times told him to kill himself, but he was an adult and had to request the help himself. He denied his experiences when he was confronted with anyone with the authority to take him off to the hospital. He had struggled with our medical model of psychiatry his entire life and was very aware that he was never heard and that the only option offered would be medication to suppress his real feelings and experiences.

At 23, Dan was taken to the psychiatric hospital against his will. His rights were taken away, and regretfully I was a part of that action. This time he put up the white flag and admitted to the voices. I believe he held onto a last ray of hope that someone would finally hear and believe in him, guiding him to a place of wellness. Imagine how he felt when that hope was completely shattered.

He was discharged 10 days later with ineffective meds, still hearing derogatory voices and in worse condition than when he was admitted. I begged the doctor to keep him, but was told my private insurance would not cover a longer stay. As I reflect back to that time, I realize that the tragic ending to our story would remain the same had he been there longer. It’s not the quantity of care but the quality that is lacking, because it offers no option other than medication and therapy based on fear of those who are different.

Only two hours after we got home, Dan fearlessly told me of the suicide plan that he’d devised while in the hospital. He had all that time to think about it while nobody was listening. He’d lost his dignity, his identity and his place in society. He had lost the will to live.

He said he was going to make a statement about world crisis and how the world is supposed to spin on love, not hatred and greed for power and money. He said he would sit on the lawn of the White House with a sign next to him: a picture of a homeless man holding a sign that said “keep your coins, I want change.” He was then going to set himself on fire.

Dan had just left the one place that should have been there for him, a place that I had trusted, but I now had the painful realization that it was solely up to me as his mother to keep my son alive. I knew in my heart that my love was not enough to save him.

The follow-up outpatient care was no different. An appointment with the doctor was not made until an entire week later. Dan told his therapist less than 24 hours before his suicide, on a Friday evening, that he was hearing disturbing voices telling him to kill himself. The therapist’s response was, “I will call your doctor first thing Monday morning to adjust your meds.” Monday morning never came for my son.

Less than 24 hours after that visit, Dan followed through with his plan of trying to be heard in the only way he knew how. The evening before, his voice had been silenced for the last time. His story was never heard… until now. I promised Dan the night he died that I would be his voice. That he and the many others like him would finally be heard.

I wasn’t even sure what I meant that night, but within time it became clear. A few months after Dan passed, D.A.N. (Dignity and Advocacy Network) was created to shed light on what was really happening to him and so many others, and to strive for change. This was the end of Dan’s journey and the beginning of a new chapter in mine. Although Dan’s voice was never heard in this lifetime, he is the driving force behind mine as I feel him teaching and guiding me every day from the other side.

I read my son’s hospital records. Almost every day, a staff member documented a conversation with Dan and this is how it went: “Dan, you are bipolar. You have a chemical imbalance and need to take medication for the rest of your life, and these are the symptoms. Do you understand?” Every time, Dan’s response was documented: “I’m not bipolar, I’m just different.”

That was the end of their documentation, the end of the conversation, and the door was closed on my son for the last time. A quote by Emily Dickinson says it all… “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” The tune stopped for my son and that is when he lost his last ray of hope and the will to live.

Since Dan passed, I have gained so much knowledge and insight as to what was really happening with him and so many others like him. Not just from the endless research I have done, but from how it correlated with my memories of Dan’s lived experiences and that of the many survivors I have connected with since his death — those who have recovered from the most extreme states of psychosis by using a different approach. They escaped the trenches of our medical model of psychiatry, and learned how to integrate their voices and other unusual experiences into their lives in a meaningful way. This approach focuses on holistic recovery rather than symptom treatment.

I now facilitate a weekly Hearing Voices support group for the inpatients at Yale Psychiatric Hospital on the adult unit, and will soon be starting one on the adolescent unit. This is significant as the hope is that they will not end up on the adult unit years down the road. I know my son would still be here had he been offered this complimentary humanistic approach.

There are several causes for the experience of what is called “psychosis,” such as spiritual awakening which can lead to spiritual crisis without the correct support from one’s external environment. One may enter this inner world, an unconscious place of the mind, where they encounter mystical rapture, visions of Nirvana, past life memories, an overwhelming feeling of oneness with God and unity with the universe. This is when they are thought to be “psychotic.”

They may also experience destruction of the self and the world as their two worlds collide, leaving them disoriented with no sense of self from the inner world and a fragmented pattern of society in the outer world. A spiritual transformation is trying to occur, but has gone awry for lack of understanding as to what is happening. With Shamanism, the oldest religion in the world, the Shamans go to this place in the mind intentionally to experience death and rebirth — to return to this reality with a higher level of awareness and personal transformation.

This is what Dan was experiencing while being told he was ill, all the while struggling to hold onto the belief that he was just different. My son’s pain, his comments to me along with the lyrics he left behind all echoed the details of my research and what I now know to be the truth.

Existential depression can be another cause for manifestation of “psychotic” symptoms which is similar to spiritual awakening. One begins to question their purpose and even their reality in this physical world. Past traumatic events may result in unusual behaviors. This may occur as a result of dissociating from the emotional part of a past event that was too difficult for one to face at the time. A person tucks it away in a deep unconscious place of their mind, so that after the physical event has passed the emotional part remains unprocessed. Weeks, months or years later, the unconscious material merges with consciousness, manifesting in depression or anxiety or voices, visions and intrusive thoughts.

Now one is placed into the “illness” category with suppressive drugs to keep their emotional pain unprocessed even longer. But when the story can be told, as with the Open Dialogue approach, the voices or experiences come together like pieces of a puzzle. Recovery can now occur.

We all know the famous comedian Jim Carrey, but I am sure that not many are aware that he is one of the most enlightened beings of our time. He said, “Our eyes are not only viewers, but also projectors that are running a second story over the picture we see in front of us all the time. Fear is writing that script.” Our reality is how we as an individual perceive it. When we learn to question our own reality, then we are able to create a safe, mutual space with the individual that sits across from us.

I lost my beloved son because this space was not created. His cries were never heard and his spirit was broken. As James Thurber has said, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” This quote was found in Dan’s belongings and is written on his plaque. I have learned to live by this motto, as my son has taught me. He was and is a wise old soul.

* * * * *

Previous articleEscape from British Columbia
Next articleUsing Breathing-Based Meditation to Treat Depression
Judy Murray
Judy Murray is a registered nurse whose journey took a turn when she lost her son Dan to suicide in 2014. This guided her to found D.A.N. (Dignity and Advocacy Network) with the mission of promoting mind health through research, education and advocacy. Judy sits on the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board and is a member of the Yale Behavioral Health Advisory Council and a facilitator for the Hearing Voices Network. She is also a member of ISPS.

Support MIA

Enjoyed what you just read? Consider a donation to help us continue to produce content, provide up-to-date research news, offer continuing education courses, and continue building a community for exploring alternatives to the current paradigm of mental health. All donations are tax deductible.

$
Select Payment Method
Loading...
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: $20.00

34 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Judy, first, my heartfelt condolences for your loss. Obviously Dan had a very loving and sensitive heart, evolved consciousness, and he had valuable wisdom to share. Sounds like you are following through beautifully with your intention to keep his vital message alive and spreading.

    I had the same diagnosis at one time, starting over 30 years ago, and it has since evolved into exactly what you say this is, and to what Dan apparently knew to be the truth. I took an alternative route to healing to which I was finally guided, which was an entirely different–and much, much broader and *inclusive*–perspective on humanity and personal growth & evolution than I had been taught by the world of psychology, and as a result, I was able to ditch the drugs (it had become a total of 9 by this point) and leave behind the mental health world altogether in order to, once and for all, complete that awakening that had begun decades before. But it was not without a terrible and almost life-ending struggle, thanks to the mental health system’s extremely limited perspective and spirit-sabotaging practices.

    I was extremely fortunate to have survived my suicide attempt. It was a very humbling time for me which prompted similar thoughts—”no one is listening to me, even though I know I’m speaking a valuable and necessary truth as I see and feel society degenerating around me.” I felt value-less to society at this point, and alone in my truth, even though I knew it to be real and valid. I still carry that same truth with me, expanded and deepened now, thanks to life experience, although I’m no longer alone in it, which makes all the difference. I know so many now who have awakened to the truth of all this, and who are trying to awaken others, at least hoping to have some influence here. People need to be ready on their own to awaken, it cannot be forced, obviously.

    And not only that, as you well-describe, I was being demeaned, drugged, and dehumanized, simple for having my truth and daring to challenge those around me with it, all for the purpose of hoping others around me would wake up to what was happening in our society. I, myself, was feeling stuck, and in order to get past that, I had to call a few things out, so it was really all in the name of my own self-care and desire to grow. But these basic and seemingly inalienable rights were simply not respected or even regarded as reasonable, and I consider that to be a travesty.

    Instead, people wanted me to simply stop talking, to shut my mouth, because I was making “others uncomfortable.” I actually had a therapist say this to me, that I should not go around “pushing other people’s buttons,” that I should actually take to heart what others think of me, personally, and that I should bear the burden of responsibility for their feelings as a reaction to my truth. I don’t think so! I can’t imagine anything more powerless-making than that.

    At one point, I literally lost my voice for 2 months, could barely speak above a whisper; I hardly had the strength to project air from my lungs in order have my voice heard. I imagine it was because I felt it was useless to have a voice by this point. It eventually came back on its own, and I started talking up a storm about all of this—very loudly, directly, and persistently.

    From your video, this especially got my attention:

    “We have to step outside of the box and open our minds and start accepting these different beliefs and perspectives and allow them to heal and to travel their journey and bring us to a better place, because things must change.”

    Amen, Judy, truer words have never been spoken. God bless you in your continued efforts to help bring the truth to light, for the sake of us all, as a society trying to heal. Your work and Dan’s message are sorely needed in the world. I want change, too, without a doubt, to a heart-based, creative, just, safe, and spiritually enriching world. I will accept nothing less. What on Earth would be the point? Your post here fills me with hope and encouragement. Thank you from my heart.

  2. My sincerest condolences on the loss of your son, thank you for sharing his story, your son’s story is representative of the complete failure of today’s ‘mental health’ system.

    “Dan, you are bipolar. You have a chemical imbalance and need to take medication for the rest of your life, and these are the symptoms. Do you understand?” This is called gas lighting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

    And gas lighting someone is mental abuse, not ‘mental health’ care, shame on your son’s ‘caregivers,’ especially since the chemical imbalance theory of ‘mental illness’ was disproven decades ago.

    “There are several causes for the experience of what is called ‘psychosis,’ such as spiritual awakening which can lead to spiritual crisis without the correct support from one’s external environment. One may enter this inner world, an unconscious place of the mind, where they encounter mystical rapture, visions of Nirvana, past life memories, an overwhelming feeling of oneness with God and unity with the universe.”

    This concisely explains a spiritual journey, which was similar to my experience, as I was healing from my psychiatric assault. And it is very sad today’s psychiatric industry is claiming spiritual journeys are “psychosis,” since they are not, they are spiritual journeys. And unfortunately for the psychiatric community, drugs do not “cure” people from belief in the Holy Spirit, although I’m not certain why the psychiatric industry believes it is their right to try to “cure” people from belief in God, since that’s technically still illegal in the US, at least to my knowledge.

    Your son was correct, “the world is supposed to spin on love, not hatred and greed for power and money.” We currently live in an insane society, controlled by psychopathic corporations. Your son was not the insane one, he was a sane soul living in an insane society. I’m so sorry the decent and insightful are being defamed and drugged by today’s psychiatric industry, I’m so sorry the psychiatric industry intentionally takes hope away from their clients, leading them to commit suicide. Today’s psychiatric system is deplorable. I’m sorry your son didn’t survive.

    Oh, by the way, today’s “bipolar” drug cocktail recommendations, especially combining the antidepressants and antipsychotics, are medically known to create the negative symptoms of ‘schizophrenia,’ via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and the positive symptoms of ‘schizophrenia,’ via anticholinergic toxidrome poisoning. Today’s psychiatric industry is made up of people who utilize their medical knowledge to harm fellow human beings for profit, after hypocritically promising to ‘first and foremost do no harm,’ which in my opinion is pure evil.

  3. Dear Judy,
    I’m very sorry for your loss.

    This article is a fantastic contribution towards hope and Recovery. I attend self help groups myself – and I have gained an awful lot from the collective wisdom.

    These groups want people to get better – whereas the medical services seem to want to keep people “sick”.

    (When I was 23 years of age and in hospital after “relapsing” after coming off a long acting injection, I got talking to Psychologist who promised me that I could make complete Recovery without medication – and that’s what happened).

  4. “My son was no longer Dan Kelson. He was “ADHD” at 7, “bipolar” at 13 and “schizoaffective” at 20”

    It happened to me as an adult, those stimulants and all the crap they pile on would make almost anyone “bipolar” then the bipolar drugs, the one I was given ‘for insomnia’ Zyprexa (Olanzapine) that zombie poison cooked up in hell that created those withdrawal reactions they labeled “schizoaffective” disorder. Not just angry words coming off that was a trip to psychosis hell, a hell I never saw before. Hell, the real thing, is feeling of impending doom amplified farther then you can possibly imagine unless you have been there.

  5. “still hearing derogatory voices” My roommate during one of my hospital stays was dealing with this, he was voluntary and tried what they gave him it and did not work. I know he said Risperdal was one of the things. He liked his beer and said he is just going back to that and how he does his best not to over do it and live to much like a homeless alcoholic. This was in the Hellhole UHS hospital I write about sometimes.

    • Hi Cat,

      I was in a Self Help Group about 3 weeks ago and a New young lady started talking. She said she had been diagnosed ADHD when she was younger , and had been put on “cocaine” type medication (but had got off it).

      She said she had now become addicted to non prescribed substance – but she intended stopping, and she sounded determined.

      (When I quit medication I was madder than I had ever been).

  6. Thanks for sharing this. So much insight. Life is really hard sometimes. Who am I really? This is a tough questions that for some people (like me) is a tough, paralyzingly one that can cause enormous depression and angst. If a psychiatrist gets involved and there is a bad reaction to meds then all bets are off.
    You are so brave for turning your pain into helping others. You have so much insight into the causes of angst and intense depression. So sorry for your loss.

  7. Hi Judy,

    My sincere condolences too. I saw your display at the ISPS Boston meeting and already knew about Dan.

    No matter how many times I read it, it’s shocking to hear versions of the following coming from mental health professionals:

    ““Dan, you are bipolar. You have a chemical imbalance and need to take medication for the rest of your life, and these are the symptoms. Do you understand?” Every time, Dan’s response was documented: “I’m not bipolar, I’m just different.”

    For a “professional” to be able to say that, to have the degree of ignorance and lack of understanding of frequent experiential causes of extreme distress, is profound and beyond words. I almost feel as if saying such a thing should be a crime, given the outcomes it leads to and the emotional state of terror and despair it puts a vulnerable person into.

    My story almost ended permanently as well at the hands of this type of treatment by the system. With a little less luck I could be dead too. It’s disturbing to think that there is no real help available at the psychiatric hospital and you are essentially on your own – when you get really distressed in our society, survival becomes a zero sum game. Too often the professionals are not on your side, but are instead adversaries who attempt to impose misleading conceptualizations of extreme distress on to you.

    I still remember the psychologist at the mental hospital who would loudly pronounce to us (young people gathered in a group therapy room), “Bipolar disorder is a biologically-based mood disorder. You can’t cure it but you can manage its symptoms.” I mean who the hell wants to hear that? Now I know it was all a lie, although one the professionals didn’t even know was a lie. Mind-bending.

    Like you described well about many of those who get better, “They escaped the trenches of our medical model of psychiatry, and learned how to integrate their voices and other unusual experiences into their lives in a meaningful way. This approach focuses on holistic recovery rather than symptom treatment.” I had to abandon the notions of “symptoms”, “illness”, and so on before I really became hopeful and started to feel calm, secure, ok and then alive again.

  8. [This is NOT addressed to Judy Murray, to whom I extend my sympathy and respect.]

    I have to honestly say I find it highly ironic on this day in particular that one of the most active MIA discussions is under the heading “I Want Change.” Ironic because the supposed thousands of people who read MIA are sitting around conversing as the MURPHY BILL IS BEING VOTED ON TOMORROW. How can people talk about “change” when we don’t do the most minimal things to pursue it — like keeping tabs on the most important attack facing us and making some key phone calls?

    PHONE CALLS NEED TO BE MADE TODAY! MIA has apparently dropped the ball here, but all the info anyone needs is posted at the Organizing Forum.

  9. A tough but necessary read. Thank you, Judy. I am sorry for your loss, but grateful for your work.

    Many survivors have helped me to care for my son. His last hospital experience was very similar. When het got out, I promised him that I would never, ever involuntarily commit him. But, what I wanted him to know was that his reality was something I could accept but not see, hear or know. I could not protect him from the world. But, he would have my love, a place to live, and food. I would always be there for him.

    He has managed to live two more years now. While he is isolated, he has been stable. I believe he uses the internet to help him fuel his self-care. He has managed to leave alcohol and cigarettes behind. He sleeps often. For 27, I think he has done incredibly well. It’s a long journey he is on and we will be there for him.

    What you are doing with Yale is phenomenal and good for them. I love Open Dialogue and believe it is the best platform to work from. While I participate in NAMI, I keep an open mind about all approaches. My only concern is care. And, I don’t think the pros know much of anything. People like you do.

    Thank you again.

  10. Thank you Judy for writing this. Testimony to how they break and destroy human lives. There was a word that I think was originally used to describe the worst child abuse but applies, I believe, to this type of psych abuse when they totally destroy you. Soul-murder. They leave us devastated and of course many then choose suicide. Thanks for describing it so eloquently. I have seen so many die. This article made me cry.

  11. We want change OK how about going after the worst of the worst, think that is UHS at least in terns of size.

    This site is dedicated to all the people who were harmed or killed in UHS facilities. They speak for those who have no voice, to protect others from experiencing the pain they endured. https://watchinguhs.wordpress.com/about/

    And in Austin, male nurses stripped a teenage sex-abuse victim and shut her in solitary confinement, naked. http://interactives.dallasnews.com/2016/danger-in-the-psych-ward/

    I don’t know what to do but this http://www.ripoffreport.com is a good tool, all the consumer complaint sites are, before the internet maybe you could stand outside with a sign or hope the local paper published something to have a voice, today you can write on the internet and when people search the name of the facility a link comes up leading to your story and alot of people see it. Then when others see it many add their own story and show how its not just an “isolated incident” or just the ranting of an ex mental patient.

    Enough of our stories online tagged with hospital names and they would be forced to change.

    You can even go in the forums right here on MIA and start a topic with name of an abusive hospital in the title and describe what goes on and a link to the testimonial will almost always show up when people search the name of the hospital AND then people would find this website at the same time who otherwise wouldn’t.

    I want change too.

  12. Thanks for writing this. Psychiatry, especially coercive psychiatry, increases the risk of suicide rather than decreasing it. While psychiatrists love to claim they are preventing suicides, that is not the case. I think some people who are thinking of suicide do so because they are fearful of psychiatric interventions. People don’t want the suppressive drugs, ECT, nor do they want the permanent zombification that psychosurgery would cause. They don’t want miserable lives imprisoned in institutions. Psychiatrists only want to make money labeling and drugging people and most don’t want to help them. Psychiatry is only designed to control people and not to help them.
    ADHD, the first label given to Dan,is just a pathologization of being a child and it’s not a real illness. The drugs and other forms of “treatment” given to this young man man caused him to have more problems. This caused him to be given escalating labels.

    • And no one deserves to be locked up, especially with no end in sight, human rights denied, privacy denied, or to have to fear it while at home, fear of being taken any minute now, hearing those sirens and that stretcher, or to be threatened or told one deserves or needs lockup due to a fake disease.

  13. The very terrible thing is that the people who repeatedly insisted that Dan accept an idiotic, invented diagnosis won’t be charged with emotional abuse and harassment. This story moved me to tears, because Judy is so intelligent, yet she was fed a bill of goods and mostly accepted it, probably because the sales people seemed intelligent and serious. We’re not meant to know that “healthcare” professionals are sales people, selling a service that does no good. If we recognized them as salespeople, we could overlook their intelligence and see them the way we see door-to-door swindlers and carnival hawkers, many of whom are quite bright, selling ineffective potions, over-hyped gadgets, and magic spells. We could thanks, but no thanks, and close the door, walk away.

  14. Thank you Judy for your courage and I weep for your loss. Recently I met a woman who, within an hour or two of our meeting, told me about her son who was in a similar position to your Dan. For 15 years he’d been at the mercy of the Mental Health System in Australia and she was devastated. From her story I got the impression that his plight was probably totally iatrogenic. Unfortunately I live in a different state and was only there for a few days so couldn’t source any alternatives for them other than to try to get him to the local Hearing Voices organisation. By this time he is so hostile to the authorities and her as an extension of them, (like you she’s been told the `chemical imbalance’ lie), that without active intervention from a third party it will be unlikely that he’ll ever get there. My fear is that his hopelessness and anger will lead to his death.
    I agree with you, The cat, we need a lot of people to see these stories, but my experience with the ECT issue is that despite the legion of voices telling of ruined lives that are obviously not just isolated incidences, psychiatry still claims those thousands really ARE just the `ranting of ex mental patients. And the government agrees with them because THEY are the `authorities’. `Doctor knows best.’
    The best chance for change will come from the public finding out things like the GSK 329 study with its $3 billion fine against GSK, the $11.7million damages payout for suicide, again GSK, the continued success of damages against Eli Lilly etc, and stopping coverups and gagging of outcomes. Education will eventually seep through to the mental health professionals who are so destructive in their ignorance.
    A movement like yours, Judy, and the offer of a drug company free family support organisation, (unlike NAMI) might offer help to people like the woman I met, to understand and ultimately help her much loved son come in from the cold. I would like to set up something like this here but don’t know where to start.

  15. Dear Judy
    so sorry to hear your story and about the loss of your beautiful boy.. it is a very familiar one
    We only learn about the alternatives after it is too late and the damage is already done and I dont know how we change that fact.
    Its not as though we prepare for this situation or think it will happen so we only come to the alternatives too late and when we are in the thick of it often our first response is fear not awareness
    I’m a nurse too..
    take care of yourself too
    You are very brave and making a difference
    much love and thoughts to you karelX