Monday, August 10, 2020

Comments by Annette Allen

Showing 49 of 49 comments.

  • I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you @ Lael. Your description of NG’s problems show how, when someone is scapegoated (even before therapy), their identity can shatter and a lifelong label of victim, let alone mentally ill, emerge.

    Imagine a wrld where there were no labels, and we just sat and listened – tuned in – to other’s stories, as our ancestors did? What healing might there be, when people are accepted and we create safe spaces in which they can learn to accept that pain naturally leads us to feeling unwell. How much more quickly might we come back to ourselves and integrate the new self who emerged from the pain/trauma.

    There are such egos in the profession, it makes me sick to think about it. I helped my younger brother when he was judged paranoid schizophrenic, at 48. I was able to tell his team about the childhood dysfunction leading up to it. He was on drugs the rest of his life and didn’t want to risk coming off them. Six years later, he took his life. Such a tragedy and a waste. Peace to all…..

  • Sinead, thank you! I can see from all your replies what a gracious and heart-filled person you are. I will definitely get in touch. I have had Zoom rendezvous with others so am used to the technology.

    What I will say is this: those of us who’ve had to fight our way through the thick and cutting thornbushes to our fragile and authentic souls, must support one another in the midst of a culture which only value things and money. (Prince Charming meeting Sleeping Beauty: the animus and anima of our beings.)

    Enlightenment is strange, consisting as it does of symbols, visions, encountering ‘teachers’ with messages for us just when we need them, lucid dreams and a huge magnetic energy which is both beguiiling and threatening. There is no language for it, really, as it’s beyond the conscious mind. Patience is its bedfellow: watching like a doctor as the patient wakes up. It is encouraging to see how very many people are now waking up, in the midst of very authoritarian regimes and the pandemic.

    The world needs and craves a compassionate response to things now, more than ever. As we learn to be compassionate and gentle with ourselves, so we can model that with others. I’ll be in touch!

  • Yoga is brilliant! I began practising it 5 years ago, when I was very depressed and had decided to quit drinking. It certainly became a reward for not drinking, and over time, even 20 minutes daily practice has led to a quiet mind and a much more flexible body. I recommend it to everyone.

    In addition, yoga teachers are very non-judgmental people with soft, clear voices. (Had 6 different teachers in this time.) Brilliant people to have alongside us in any kind of recovery……

  • Thanks so much for your gracious comment, Penni. I;ve had so many wise and lovely teachers on this journey, it’s extraordinary. Our heart knows which energy to follow: your browsing in a thrift store made me smile. A good friend in the early days (2003) recommended “Synchronicity” by Joseph Jaworski to me. Of course, he was super-successful both before and after his inner journey. I read the “Celestine Prophecy” later. More recently, the wonderful “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” by Gabor Mate, as I worked through my own addictions and “It didn’t start with you” by Mark Wolynn. The latter helped me unpick my family genomes.

    Yes, I’m in a good place, as I resist labelling and instead decide on what is helpful, and unhelpful. Peace to you.

  • Sinead, I was profoundly moved by your experience. In tears, in fact. Mine mirrors many of yours, except for childhood sexual abuse: I did witness my father’s frequent scapegoating of my younger brother, which I found deeply upsetting and his similar treatment of my mother. He was what we’d call a ‘narcissist’ today. (Never diagnosed in the 1950s.)

    I will follow the Sean Blackwell Youtube and perhaps get in touch. I too had deep experienes of the divine at its most intense over Easter 2003, but which remained with me until autumn 2006. I was glad to come off that cloud though, as it was too intense. The inevitable (in my view) descent into darkness followed, during which Eric, my younger brother, committed suicide: something I’d dreamt of 2 years earlier.

    In the midst of all of this, I also wrote a book “An Ethiopian Odyssey” about my former classmates from my schooldays there (1960s) and a very lucid dream which inspired the search. I met priests who were taken aback by my visions, although my parish priest at the time, Kevin Ashby, was totally supportive (now Anglican vicar in Melton Mowbray, Leics.) I’m profoundly grateful to him for his acceptance and support. I included my dreams and visions in the book, and readers largely accepted them, or contacted me about their own experiences, which I was delighted about.

    Like you I decided to follow the road to Meaning, rather than medication, or labelling. I was curious about it all, like a young kid. What did it all mean? During my entire life, I was on medication for 4 months – I found it disconnected me from the part(s) that needed to heal. I decided to tolerate the pain to get to where I felt WHOLE: soul, mind and body aligned.

    Later on, I became very depressed and a series of coincidences resulted in me reading Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” (I recommend it!) I was very fortunate, two years later, to have him as the lead clinician in Open Dialogue therapy, of which many people speak very highly – they are profound and sensitive listeners, enabling patients to weave together a new story from shattered and shattering events and people My life journey finally makes sense. I was on a panel at one of their conferences (2017) and discovered that some ‘experts’ viewed me with great suspicion – I think because I was out of the other side……..

    Are we healers? We give others a glimpse into the Deep Unknown, but each of us has our own unique and sacred path, finding the healers and leaders for each stage of the journey when we open our hearts. This 3D world is real, but subsisting with a grace-filled and extraordinary connected universe. That is my experience, anyway. (I will follow the Sean Blackwell Youtube and perhaps get in touch.) Our experiences are absolutely real, of that I have no doubt.

    Sending peace from my heart to yours. Annette

  • Erin, I totally salute you! You have crawled out of the terrible labelling, medications and therapy that personifies much of “mental health” today.

    I’m so glad that you are free to feel, see, hear and BE who you were meant to be. I hope this story inspires many others to fight the system and reclaim all of their story as their lives, not others’ treatments….. Namaste. <3

  • James, I was really saddened to read of your bad experiences with this treatment. My dad and younger brother, Eric, both had problems with depression and anxiety (possibly bipolar?) Later, they developed paranoid schizophrenia – dad was treated with ECT which definitely helped him. He returned to work. Eric had had himself sectioned: by then he’d been using heroin/methadone for 31 years….. So, he was given some kind of sedative (injected) every fortnight, and lost his short-term memory.

    I started going down the same path in my mid 50s, not helped by the alcohol I drank. I was very – and am very – suspicious of any medication, because even mild anti-Ds make me feel ‘whoo whoo’, as though I’m floating around the room. Don’t need that! Nor did I want to be sectioned when I felt particularly ill and vulnerable. One good thing I did 5 years ago was to quit drinking completely, and my depression and anxiety is definitely better without it!

    I found Open Dialogue mental health therapy in the UK and it helped me piece me back together again. Took 2 years, but it was worth it: I now understand how childhood dysfunction (my dad’s mental state) had affected me and all the family.

    I suffer from tinnitus and vertigo. It’s genetic – another sister has it. I’ll try the magnesium. It doesn’t bother me that much, I live with it, my hearing’s good and brain is OK. I do hope you get to the bottom of the damage this treatment caused you: i.e. which part of the brain was affected. Wishing you peace and days when the anxiety lessens……

  • Thank you for this really thoughtful post. It’s brought home to me how utterly vulnerable 95% of us are: many families I know have underlying health issues – even children – placing them at risk from Covid 19. The social distancing is awful, but also necessary. Every day comes with a set of instructions, but……

    As someone relatively new to an area (moved to the west of England 17 months ago), strangers now wave hello and a few stop for 2-3 minutes conversation. Everyone tells me to ‘stay safe’; a month ago, I was just another financial transaction to many; I stand outside my door and clap for the NHS along with 50 others – and was the first to get it going 3 weeks ago! I’ve never heard from so many people as I’ve heard from the past month.

    Many of us can still phone friends or family. Skype/Zoom/Facetime. I hope mental institutions are allowing that? I hope that staff are being kind to those who have to remain indoors. I hope there are enough conversations, enough games and films and computer games and sharing about hopeful things we can DO once this is over, and most of all, I hope that we can collectively build a much more caring society.

    Four years ago, when I began Open Dialogue therapy, my team unearthed a lot of childhood trauma. I’ve often been the outsider, which is a lonely place to be, and at one point I had many symptoms of psychosis, but was wise enough to recognise it was a normal reaction to extreme events. Avoided medication like the plague, and never bothered labelling myself: I am simply and utterly human. it is very reassuring to accept this truth.

    So, whilst I take precautions, I feel better able to survive this pandemic, whilst appreciating the extraordinary courage of our amazing NHS, and all those who put others’ needs first. Wishing everyone resilience and care for others during this time…… <3

  • Hi Laurel, it was really life affirming to read this and to see your growth! I’m really excited and happy for you – and yes, it’s tough, because to be whole in a society which prefers us small, compliant and addicted (that way, we make less noise and don’t advocate for change) is so rare!

    I never knew what it was to be me as I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, where others’ needs came first. There was my father’s mental illness first and then my younger brother’s addiction. I became frozen at 16, and compliant. I operated as a zombie (but not on any medication!) up until after my mother’s death. That was the catalyst for me to explore who I really was.

    I used dreams as my signposts and opened up my intuition to find the amazing connections between people, rather than the differences. I was enlightened (born again) over Easter 2003 for 3 days: a very intense experience – not with drugs. And then it all got very dark from 2006 onwards: I was descending into paranoid schizophrenia like my father and younger brother. I didn’t want medication and knew that i instinctively couldn’t trust doctors, because my inner life is so different from the majority (many prophetic dreams – one of my gifts.)

    I discovered Open Dialogue in 2014, reading Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up”. A great read. A year later, I quit drinking on the anniversary of my younger brother’s funeral (he committed suicide sadly) Two years later, I was lucky enough to be one of the first patients on Open Dialogue’s non-crisis treatment, via Dialogue First and he was my lead clinician, along with Cathy Thorley – wonderful practitioners. The therapy lasted two years and they identified early childhood trauma: also the seat of my intensely spiritual nature. (I had a successful career in corporate communications for 30 years, but then it became meaningless, so I did contract work instead)

    We are ultimately spiritual beings. I’m able to be peaceful most of the time. Self care is a daily and vital practice, along with good nutrition, exercise, writing and supporting others (online sobriety groups and socials/meet-ups). I’m also a much better support for my son (only child), who’s also very spiritual.

    Sending you peace and continued growth. I only started growing at 62, but it is so worthwhile and I’m delighted that, with 2 short exceptions – anti-depressants in 1972 and 2012 – I refused medication. I am all me and that is a privilege to state! Namaste…. <3

  • Bravo, Julia! Your feature makes total sense. I’ve had prophetic dreams, and seen ghosts throughout my life and experienced a spiritual transformation: being born again over 3 days in 2003. From 2012 – 2018, I also had an intense ‘dark night of the soul.’

    I was born into a family which had experienced addiction, trauma and mental illness: a heavy legacy. If we get caught up in labels developed by people who don’t experience such states (whether mental health professionals, or a member of the public) and who don’t know the intensity of intergenerational trauma, we can fool ourselves to believing we’re mentally ill.

    Extreme states are definitely not a “problem”, but they can feel very chaotic and disjointed, like a new cosmos being born within us, essentially shattering our ego mind which clings to the comfort zone and a need to be superior.

    My awakening happened during a period of profound grief and trauma, enabling me to see a much deeper meaning and astonishing (but real) interconnection between people. Ultimately, through altered states and a sense of being guided to answers, I was able to see that unconditional love (which lies beyond all labelling) is able to heal intergenerational trauma. Open Dialogue therapy (2016 – 2018) in the UK helped me reflect and rebuild a coherent me, after a period of dissocation and terrible nightmares.

    The resulting compassion has transformed my life and enables me to work in the recovery community, as a service of remembrance to my younger brother, Eric, who took his life in 2009. Namaste.

  • I found your feature utterly heartbreaking. When I look at society these days (I’m a Brit, living in the UK – Brexit: ugh 🙁 ) the tendency to look down on others is utterly apparent, and to me, utterly abhorrent. I had a younger brother with lifelong mental health issues, as well as drug use, but he had a wonderful outreach team in the last few years of his life. He was always a very gentle man and misunderstood as such.

    I’d go and see him and take him out for walks and meals. He was also terrific at supporting other drug users whose families didn’t want to know, just as the NAMI families don’t want to. (The rest of my family found him difficult or frightening – he was more likely to cause himself harm than anyone else.) And I’ve had mental health issues, too. Coming out the other end (via Open Dialogue therapy, which is very holistic!) has made me very compassionate.

    Answering WHY people are so sensitive/addicted is much, much more important than condemning. I hope you’ve found a role which makes the best use of your experiences, in a proactive way, Mike. Good luck to you!

  • Kelly, I loved and savoured every deep and true word of your quest. Yes to lack of intiatiion! How we’ve lost the wisdom of ancestors while we’ve been taught to worship things, and power.

    My son is very much at the point of initiatiion. I’m trying to help him: he’s been through so much rejection, pain and trauma, yet he remains stuck, when he is so strong. He doesn’t believe his strength. I didn’t believe mine but when I had no option four years ago, I was re-birthed and came out the other side. (I had Open Dialogue therapy.)

    Earlier today, reminded by you, I asked a group of friends to pray for him, to uplift him. I know from my life that prayer works. Namaste to you. xxx

  • Thanks Larry. I think my sense of self was very deep, even at a young age, so I critiqued what was going on and how I was treated by my parents and teachers – and how they treated my siblings and other young kids. Also a belief in something greater and much more healing than the world around me (which I still have). Could you explain what IDB is, please? Not an acronym I’ve come across (I’m a Brit!)

  • Thanks Dan. I congratulate you for the work you and your partner are doing – it makes a huge difference, no doubt about it.

    I believe that my healing is now complete – I understand the trauma and feel that my life is meaningful now, (as opposed to disconnected, and dissociated (from my soul)) which is all I ever wanted. I do think, however, it’s time to write that book about my father and younger brother and my personal healing as I faced it all, head on, five decades after it all began in the hope it will help others. Namaste. xx

  • Thanks Ron, in fact, triple thanks as you were the one who reached out when I posted about OD over a year ago, and suggested I write my story. I needed to find the right time and also, compassion, to do so. Please continue with your work and I hope that some day we will meet. Anything is possible – our minds really ARE limitless when we allow ourselves to become our true selves. Namaste. xx

  • Thanks J, I often feel like one – and it helps that I’m tall too, with my Viking ancestry! Most of all, I’m overjoyed that I could write about my spiritual experiences in my book – and have them accepted by readers in many countries. Plus the UN book talk in September 2007 – noone can take that away from me. (check out http://www.anethiopianodyssey.org)

    I LOVE life, and I saw all of my pain as some deep, ancestral drama waiting to be explored and named. Named by me, not by anyone else of course, J! Namaste. xx

  • Thanks for your comment, Someone Else. I’m sorry for the way you’ve been treated. I agree that this is a time of both great darkness and light. I left the church (Anglican) in 2015, as I support same sex marriage and two priests told me that I’d better find somewhere more in tune with my views to worship (this was after 12 years reading lessons, writing prayers and many features for the monthly newsletter which many loved.) Was it jealousy? It hurt deeply at the time, but I’m so happy to be flying free, able to do what I can to help the marginalised without criticism (weirdly, Christians were always telling me either not to help, or how exactly I should help. Just so much bullshit!!!!)

    I really don’t worry about what people think of me and that’s TOTAL freedom. And I’ll always be brave enough to challenge what I see – I’m not here to win popularity contests. Namaste to you.

  • Many thanks Dan, and what fascinating and life-changing work you do. Four years ago, I bought Mark Wolynn’s book “It didn’t start with you” which really opened my eyes. I have listened to family stories from friends and many strangers (people seem to want to open up to me, which is one of my ‘gifts’) and I can see their grandparents patterns repeating in them. The trauma is like a psychic bloodstream.

    My father never spoke of his parents – sadly – and I only met my grandfather 3 times. I heard more about my father’s childhood and grandparents from my aunt (his last remaining sibling), and learnt that my father was the first child conceived after my grandfather returned from the Front Line in WW1. ( My grandfather served with the Gloucester Regiment and was one of the ‘war horse’ soldiers taking frightened horses and the shells to the front, and back again. He amazingly, wasn’t injured – one of the lucky ones!) My father’s moods often reminded me of bombs going off, and I think that’s where it came from – he wasn’t in charge of his moods, I knew that. But we had happy times too, and when he was ‘him’, he was very kind and jocular – as a little girl I found his mood swings very frightening, I just remember that.

    I thank dad and all my ancestors every morning, for giving me life and the courage to investigate all this deep pain. And Dan, I always trust my heart – my strong sense of self comes from there, it’s where I encounter the myriad and astonishing interconnections between us all. Namaste. xx

  • adikanda, I’m so sorry for all that has happened to you, your son and your family. To a slight degree, similar things have happened to me, with my son (and our only child.) His uncle Eric (my younger brother) suffered from paranoid schizophrenia too, and became a drug addict at 14 (cannabis) then moving onto heroin.

    What I’ve observed is this: my younger brother was the most beautiful of the 3 of us, and was born at a time when my father was experiencing professional grief (the De Havilland Comet – the world’s first jetliner – on which he worked as an engineer) crashed three times, and had to be withdrawn from service. This was the pinnacle of my dad’s career; my mother also suffered from postnatal depression after Eric was born, and then, 2 years later, she was diagnosed with cancer. My father (a widower when he met mum) couldn’t see this as unfortunate life events, rather he looked to BLAME someone for these events, and Eric, as the most vulnerable became the SCAPEGOAT. Eric was a very happy child, full of light, and I think my father couldn’t stand it – he was a ‘dark’ man, who would spill over with anger at the slightest thing. All 3 of us walked on eggshells in our early childhood and my mother tried to run away several times (I learnt from my two half-sisters who came home from boarding school, and who were also very relieved to return there – the family dysfunction was very tough to see.)

    Eric never escaped that role – I stood up to my father and blamed him for his aggressive and cruel behaviour and was told to “mind your business, you bossy child.” So, I became the observer/witness to it all. We were a really unhappy family, it must be said.

    Some of these events repeated themselves in my own family. I chose a husband similar to my father and my son was severely scapegoated for a while, about events over which he certainly didn’t cause (my husband’s escalating alcoholism when his father was dying from terminal cancer.) It was devastating – and Eric was then in the final years of his life (by then a registered methadone user, no longer working after my mother died) and he sectioned himself twice in that period.

    Eric took his life on Good Friday, 2009: an appropriate day for a scapegoat. (He did have several years of happiness with an older man – Eric was gay – who acted as the father Eric had never had. It was great to see him happy and out and about, enjoying himself being fully accepted for who he was – finally!)

    All of this was very tough for our lovely son to witness. He’s had many setbacks in his young life.

    So, the karmic theme I’ve seen emerge is Prodigal Sons. My father was a prodigal son (apple of my grandmother’s eye), my husband similarly. They have an unspoken belief that everything must go well for them – a huge sense of entitlement. When things don’t, they get very angry and look to blame. I see this in all institutions, by the way, which is one of the reasons we’re not evolving spiritually. We’re stuck in the continuous aggressor/scapegoat cycle, largely because the AGGRESSOR refuses to look at his/her darkness. and do the work required to change their mindset and thus the energy.

    I’m much more assertive at home these days, and many things have healed. This is because of the Open Dialogue therapy and my courage of immersing myself in the deep pain of dysfunctional family narratives. My husband and son now take more responsibility for their behaviour, because they’ve seen the damage it caused me psychically and emotionally. Progress, not perfection. (And my son and I speak of many spiritual things together, and the need not to repeat the drama – we’ve seen the terrible things repetition causes.)

    I don’t know enough about people doing work in this area, but what I am 100% confident in is that the Scapegoat is a universal symbol and is there in all tribes. The tribes form around an agreed view on who the scapegoat is (whether an individual, tribe, religion etc.) and then marshall to remove or destroy them. Look at the Rohingya Muslims, for instance. There is a bloodlust for destruction rather than the slower, deeper creation of changing our beliefs and becoming TOTALLY responsible for the ways we think, speak and live, which is how more evolved souls live. The Earth was created for all of us to walk on, enjoy and live peacefully with one another, is my belief. Sharing and Caring…..

    I hope that my words may give some hope, adikanda. Namaste. xxx

  • Thanks Michael, for this fascinating, honest and deep exploration of what it means to sit with others experiencing deep, extreme states. The places where there are no words, because healing is the imperative and we must touch, soul to soul.

    My father and younger brother both suffered with paranoid schizophrenia. Both highly medicated: my dad had ECT and medication (mid 70s), my brother injections and weekly outreach meetings: mid 2000’s – his team were fantastic though, I met them at the psych. ward where he had himself admitted, twice and then at his funeral. Later on, I descended into what mental health ‘professionals’ would call psychosis when some of my childhood trauma repeated itself in my own family.

    But, I saw the ghosts, visions and prophetic dreams as friends, that was the difference. I have an open and deep spirituality and practice, which is where I differed to my birth family. And in 2014, after 3 years of searching, I found Open Dialogue and was lucky enough to be one of the first treated via “Dialogue First” the non-crisis pathway in the UK – and it was free! I’m grateful that I instinctively distrusted the mental health profession, as far too many lack the courage to explore and be with the soul, which you and I and all patients who somehow make it through, know all about.

    We’re the wise ones! Keep on with your holy and much needed work. Childhood joy and peace is our natural state when all is said and done. Our toxic institutions (all kinds) don’t want us peaceful though: we’re much wiser and much tougher to manipulate and control. Namaste. xxx

  • A very deep and heartfelt story, Starr. Thank you for sharing. I resonated at every single level, except that I managed to avoid medication, pretty much, believing profoundly that my feeling ill and even “psychotic” had something to teach me. And I’m a Brit with the happy experience of living in Ethiopia as a kid, where diversity was the norm and VALUED!

    I recommend Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” and Mark Wolynn’s book “It didn’t start with you.”

    (When I was very ill, I found Open Dialogue therapy, which is also in the US, which helped me accept and heal my childhood trauma, without any medication.)

    Sensitivity and a deep spirituality appears both in light and dark ways, as we both know. Two sides of the same coin. I’m so very grateful that you are a Wounded Healer able to help many others. You clung to your dream and are now living it, and that’s amazing. What a hugely resilient woman you are. Not a survivor – a Thriver. Namaste sister…..

  • Lee, thanks for a really helpful blog, which helps me understand the state of play in the US, which of course flows across to the UK. Mental illness is in my genes: my father, although he held down a full-time job, developing paranoid schizophrenia in his 50s: he had ECT and strong medication, and gradually re-emerged as a humbler, softer man: a big relief. And then my younger brother, Eric. Eric became addicted to cannabis at 14, and then heroin at 18. (Eric had been my father’s scapegoat, as he denied his mental health problems and extreme anger.) It was a sad and very chaotic upbringing.

    Some of those events repeated in my family. How our young brains map and then unconsciously repeat warped patterns. (No blame, or shame, just observation.)

    When my mental illness popped up in 2012, I saw it for what it was. Deep and utter grief at the poor relationship between my husband and our only, much loved, son and 4 family deaths in 7 years: one a suicide (Eric.) I see it all as expressions of Grief. Grief makes sense to me.

    When I was really ill – what some would describe as ‘psychotic’, but I describe as grief-stricken, I found a counsellor who was somewhat smug; the next year I found a consultant psychologist who really didn’t help. I tried Sertraline – 50mg – but tapered off after 3 months, as it made me feel ‘whoo whoo.’ Both found it hard to accept the soulful me, who has prophetic dreams and a deep Christian faith (I no longer go to church – I was asked to leave after 12 years because I support same-sex marriage.)

    My soul knew it needed the right teacher and helper. Happily, I discovered Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking Down is Waking up” in 2014, and went to the first Open Dialogue conference in 2015. The dialogic, family systemic therapy made total sense to me: the listening and sitting with what emerges, not labelling or judging it. Just sitting with, and repeating the patient’s phrases: very life-affirming.

    I was lucky enough to be in the first pilot when it was rolled out across the UK, via GP recommendations. (Two stipulations: not being on any other therapy and being able to travel to their offices in Barking, east London.) Even more fortunate that Russell was my lead clinician! Slowly, slowly, he and his team helped me root down to and explore the real trauma in my childhood (not imagined) and gradually rebuild my shattered, grief-stricken psyche.

    I spoke about my experiences at the 2017 conference, along with 3 other patients. (I was the only one who wasn’t hospitalised.) Afterwards, two mental health professionals accused me of being mentally ill – for those few minutes, I saw the deep problem in the profession. The unwillingness to accept people’s vulnerability as part of being human. I challenged both, firmly telling one “you may consider me mentally ill, but I see myself as spiritually well.” He had no answer – he thought like a robot!

    Today, I’m part of a small group of OD Champions (most are parents with children in long-term institutions) helping to re-educate professionals and over time, society, to the need for a gentle approach to shattering times. I’ve read about RD Laing and Soteria. There are times when all humans are unwell, because they’re so grief stricken – naturally – about events, and sometimes people’s cruelty not of their making. This manifests in all kinds of ways. I don’t label it as I’m not a professional, but I am compassionate.

    Today, I’m retired and mentor people to quit drinking (alcohol misuse was one of my problems – now that’s well behind me thankfully). I also chat to and buy food for homeless people, both here and wherever I travel in the world (there are far too many in the US, too.) In other words, I have an abundant life and share my abundance with people cruelly stigmatised and marginalised. We are all frail and fragility is part of the human condition. Society is conditioning us to be robot-like, of that I am sure. In the months and years ahead, I look forward to sitting with and affirming those suffering distress. I’ve been there and know how dark it is. My darkness is also utterly me, and where my light also resides: the eternal Yin and Yang. No competition just collaborating with each other…..

    Namaste, Lee and everyone here……

  • Manuela, you are doing very important and vital work in a system that doesn’t support you, but that wants reports which get turned into more reports and stats for some government agency to report on. And mental illness is a true and valid reflection of the shattered, battered world we now inhabit…..

    I’ve never been in the system (I’m in the UK), but my dad and younger brother – both deceased – were. They found it helpful, but then things were better funded (mid 70s and early 2000s respectively). But, I’ve had psychotic episodes, and chose to avoid GPs and hospitals, because I found meaning in the psychosis. It was difficult for my husband and son though, I can see that now. (I found Open Dialogue therapy which pieced me back together again, thank God!)

    Perhaps a group of you could get together and plan a better system. Nothing changes without a small community. Look into Open Dialogue too – far more holistic, open and polyphonic. All the voices are important and resonant. Sending you warm wishes for the work you do. And Portugal is a wonderful country – your harm reduction strategy is so much wiser…..

  • Thanks for this wonderful, life and soul-affirming post. Aaah, it helped me understand so much about me, and about society.

    I had early childhood trauma, but what began clarifying things for me was spending two formative years in Ethiopia (1962 – 1964) where society was much more right-brained. Apart from my mother, I learnt about caring and community there, as well as the glories and gifts of multiculturalism. Wow!

    I’ve often felt out of step with this world, and I now know, through research and my own, persistent exploring (including Open Dialogue therapy), that I’m completely right brained and that my left brain most definitely serves it. That makes life spontaneous and amazing. It’s also easy for me to help others, because I don’t doubt the need to help (I feel that doubt, but ignore it.) This is a real blessing.

    From a conventional standpoint, I’ve had a lot of “failure” for 26 years, with a smattering of success, but boy, it’s been such a rich and meaningful life. I’m really happy to think like a 10,000 year old woman – it rocks (without any medication, or need for dulling substances e.g. alcohol.)

  • Thanks Will for your honest and raw unveiling of all the trauma. Both which you experienced, and which you then gave to a former client. Good on you for being honest about your cohorts’ reaction and your subsequent self-reflection. Your relationship will have hurt her, for sure. I speak as a woman here.

    It’s my reflection, after some very intense family trauma (grief and addiction related), now thankfully over, which was a repeat of my early childhood, but worse, that what we experience we then give to others. Usually unconsciously, because that’s human nature. Rarely intentionally, but when we see the damage WE have done (rather than scapegoating others) it rightly brings us up short, and can tip us into ‘madness’. (Although I don’t like that word!)

    I always challenged the wrong-doers, from when I was very young (4): my dad, teachers, bosses. I had to live with being unpopular, and respected in equal measure. It takes a fierceness and a willingness to sow your own furrow and accepting the loneliness which comes from speaking out. Never shouting though – all done quietly and with the “guy in charge” face to face. My complaints about sexism in the workplace DID help other women, of which I’m proud. I and a small team reported a director for his very drunken behaviour and 3 months later, he left the company. I hope he learnt a lesson. Because I’m gifted with a very powerful voice, I’ve stopped many fights, and calmed down very angry men.

    Would I trade it to fit in with the ‘status quo’ and keep shtum? To have been a more popular woman? No, a thousand times no! Gandhi, King, Mandela, Tutu and Sylvia Pankhurst are my icons, even with their flaws. There are no white men amongst my icons! Too much damage done – I see what you have to trade in order to be part of this incredibly corrupt system: inner integrity.

    I’m a big fan of Carl Jung and remain so, despite what I learnt from comments here. “Dreams and Memories” helped me when I was entering my slow fall into crisis (never medicated, btw, nor went to a ‘shrink’ because I instinctively distrusted them. I hung on until I discovered the Open Dialogue team in the UK, in 2016!!) I also enjoyed “Man and his Symbols.”

    You became yourself, Will, when you wrote this post, in being utterly honest about your faults. Thus, you are more raggedy and utterly human, which is, I believe, the path that anyone in the mental health profession needs to walk and help from: raggedy and utterly human. Or to quote Jung: “there is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

    Namaste, good man.

  • Hi Tim, thanks for your honest and raw story. I know nothing about medication, nor DSM categories, but I have struggled with my mental health for some decades, pretending all was well, when it patently wasn’t. I’m glad you escaped your overbearing parents, who believed they had a right to determine your future. They didn’t!

    My father had mental health issues too, became paranoid schizophrenic in his 50s, had ECT and powerful drugs. He was more mellow afterwards, but never really recovered his fighting spirit. He died, 8 years later. I see him in me: my mental health issues also got worse in my 50s. What we have most in common is a strong liking for sugar, and I find that I’m mentally so much better and brighter without it.

    I’ve been lucky enough to survive my “psychotic” episodes, (bad in 2012) because I believed that the pain was telling me something. I totally trust my soul on this (strong faith, rooted in compassion.) My mental health is all linked to my physical and social environments, which is NATURAL. And grief: 4 family deaths in 7 years, including a suicide 🙁

    What’s most important to me – and I think us – is how we love and value ourselves, despite it all. I love myself infinitely, because I know I’ve survived quite extreme trauma. A love based on compassion, not arrogance. I find that I can help others in small, quiet ways, because of this love. Open Dialogue therapy in the UK (for 2 years), definitely helped me piece me back together, but I’ve recognised that if I avoid sugar, I feel really well and grounded. Diet, exercise and doing something to help others creates a meaningful life, which is all I ever wanted!

    I do wonder, really (after a few conversations with rather arrogant psychiatrists and psychotherapists) the past decade, whether their mental model is all predicated on “success”, rather than meaning. If we’re struggling financially, have really tough life stuff to deal with and our family appears dysfunctional (often because of trauma and grief), they seem to reach for the pills. No real exploring – I’ve yet to meet any who have any real answers. Vulnerable people like us have sooooo much more to offer.

    Congratulations with your happiness and marriage – you were meant for each other! Namaste, Tim. xxx

  • Hi Ekaterina, there are a group of us who’ve just formed an “Open Dialogue Champions” group. We will be lobbying and campaigning for change in the system. Two of the members are leading people in Soteria Bradford and Soteria Brighton, which is wonderful. Safe places are vital…… <3

  • HH, a deeply thoughtful comment – thank you! As a former communications manager (now retired), I’d recommend using terms that the audience is familiar with and your own language. That modifies what can be a dismissive or threatened response from the audience. (We all switch off when we don’t like the language, don’t we?) Thank you for your contribution…..

  • Hi Ekaterina, I loved your post. I had to check where you live, as I thought you were a patient in the US. Wow, so some British psychiatrists are the same as in the US: very, very close minded.

    Scientifically, we share 99.99% of our DNA with each other. It’s very possible that you were Ann Frank in another life and especially possible that you were/are the Buddha. Buddhism teaches that we can obtain enlightenment, even At One Ment, through careful, diligent daily ritual and practice. These rituals change our neurons, making us deeply aware of the incredible humanity which exists in each and every one of us. And also, through this awareness, that we can overcome suffering and turn it into something which helps others.

    Medication stops this process. I remember my younger brother in rehab (just 16) and how drugged up he was; the same with my father when he developed paranoid schizophrenia and had ECT and medication. He was able to return to work though.

    So, throughout my visions, voices, prophetic dreams and being born again (2003), I avoided the medical profession, like a plague. I allowed it all to unfold and incubate within me and then, slowly, slowly released it into becoming the compassionate woman I yearned to be (healing childhood trauma.) Open Dialogue therapy here in the UK was fantastic and very instrumental in helping me gain this peace when my childhood trauma repeated itself again with my own family. (Thank you Dr. Razzaque and Cathy Thorley!)

    In 2017, I was one of four people talking about my experience of the therapy (and the only one not admitted to hospital, despite my ‘psychosis.’) I talked about the soul, that we each have one, and that working in mental health, people need to recognise that they are doing SACRED work, helping the soul emerge. Many nodded, but after I left the stage, a psychotherapist introduced himself and told me that I must have had a spiritual emergency. I replied: “You may consider me mentally ill, but I’m actually spiritually well.” He turned around and walked away. I had a similar insult from another guy – poor, deluded individuals…..

    This psychiatrist’s treatment of you is not about you: it IS about the very, very deep fear that many in the mental health profession have: that the visions and dreams and voices we hear do really exist, as we all know they do. They are utterly terrified of having a “spiritual emergency”, because who might THEY become when they are ‘awake’? They will be like us: utterly beautiful and vulnerable and totally ourselves…… <3

  • Dear Judy, thank you for your lovely son and wise soul, Dan. What an amazing, thoughtful and loving boy, teen and young man he was – and as a loving, soulful person, he would have been thought of as “odd,” or even “weird” in our hypercompetitive, cruel world. So very sorry to read of your loss, and I’m thankful for all you’re doing to keep his memory alive.

    I was similarly sensitive, saw ghosts, had visions and prophetic dreams since I was a young girl. Fortunately, I never told anyone after my parents didn’t respond positively to my stories! (This was 1950s Britain.) The dreams disappeared for a while and then reappeared when Eric, my younger brother became a drug addict, sadly.

    I tried to be normal, held down a good job for a while, but money and status were always meaningless to me. I cared for outsiders and the marginalised and longed for freedom. Once my mother died, I was able to be freer and express myself and the dreams and visions re-appeared once more.

    For 20 years, I trusted that these insights – including voices – were there to help guide me to my rightful path. I had major psychosis in 2003, when I was ‘born again’, but again, things settled down and all the insights were valuable. I became kinder and more considerate, caring for Eric who by then was paranoid schizophrenic (something my father was diagnosed with in his 50s and he had ECT and drugs to control them). My younger brother had drugs and injections for the rest of his life.

    Eric took his life on Good Friday 2009. I still talk to him most days – he was as sensitive as Dan, and totally aware of the huge damage we humans were doing to the environment.

    Addiction appeared in my family – alcoholism. It took a big fight between husband and son to start healing it, and today things are peaceful. My son is as gentle as Eric was, and so much misunderstood. He’s held down jobs and is a trained stonemason. His compassionate nature makes him very vulnerable – which is pretty disgusting, when I think about it. My husband would prefer him “normal”, but I know that he’s fine and super-sensitive like me and Eric.

    I’ve just completed 2 years of Open Dialogue treatment in the UK, and it helped put me back together again. I’m very, very fortunate that I understood, instinctively, that to talk to the medical profession about what I experienced (and continue to) would be considered insane, or psychotic. My view is that we are all innately divine, but we’ve forgotten it, and that we all have to wake up to this nature, to begin healing this fragile, shattered earth we live on.

    Recently, a group of parents of young adults (many still hospitalised) formed a group to lobby in the UK for more use of Open Dialogue. So far, I’m the only ex-patient, but we hope to grow and lobby for change. Our mental health profession doesn’t understand spiritual breakthroughs: in fact, I’d say that they’re terrified of it, hence the over-medication. (In 2012, I was on low dose Sertraline for 4 months, but tapered off it, because I’d rather experience the fluctuating moods and insights than be a zombie.)

    My spiritual transformation is complete. I am myself, raggedy and quiet: I am kind and listen to many, most days, and help people recover from alcohol misuse. Everything has its place and money is only the means, not the end. And peace is here now, in my heart.

    Doing good and bringing hope are what matters – just like you’re doing. I’m sure, beyond doubt, that Dan would be so very, very proud of you! I hope that he comes to you in your dreams? Eric often does in mine – at peace in ways he never was on earth. Blessings, Judy.

  • Thanks for sharing your incredible and uplifting story, Catherine. What a journey – and how wonderful that the REAL you has come through it, and that you’ve written about it for others.

    I have similar genes to you: mental illness from one parent, and alcoholism from another parent (actually a great grandparent). Also travelled a great deal as a young kid and similarly disconnected 🙁

    Whilst I read widely and have been to many spiritual workshops, nothing was better than investigating my genes to understand why there was so much addiction.

    In 2012, I had a breakdown, and many psychotic episodes. The nightmares were terrible and whilst I just about functioned at work, at home I was disembodied, disconnected and felt my mind biting on every single word I heard – conversations or on the TV. I went to two psychiatrists, but I didn’t trust them to help me. I wanted something deeper.

    In 2014, I discovered “Open Dialogue” (the Finnish therapy), with its emphasis on letting people and their family system speak their truths whilst minimising medication. Two years later, I was accepted onto their UK wide trial for therapy (this was with the proviso I wasn’t on medication) They helped me unpick my childhood trauma, name it and come to terms with it. It was very hard and I felt very vulnerable. At last I was able to cry and feel properly after many years of numbing.

    I love and appreciate my spiritual gifts, insights and the deep sense of connection I have with most people. Talking to many people on my travels, I’ve noticed that people from the global south: south America, Africa and Asia can accept and appreciate our innate spirituality, but it’s regarded with great suspicion if not cynicism by many in western Europe and the US. I see breaking down as really waking up – and those of us who have, can help others. Every blessing on your journey: may you inspire others!

  • A very raw and insightful post – aaaaah, so glad you made it out the other side and had the incredible insight and resilience to trust your psyche and embark on the physical wandering it so needed, Laren! Lots of very wise comments here too.

    My younger brother, Eric, was depressed and then became addicted (to cannabis, then heroin) in his early teens. He had two rehabs, but frequently tried to take his life. When on methadone (as a registered addict) in the UK, he was able to function and had happy times living with our mother after our father – who’d always scapegoated him – died. He developed paranoid schizophrenia in his late 40s and sectioned himself. I – out of 4 siblings – was the only one to stay in regular contact, partly because they were afraid of his symptoms. He took his life 9 years ago. It was his birthday on Monday, so I remembered him with a visit to Coventry where we were last happy as a family in the 1960s.

    Like Eric, I had visions and heard voices. All were incredibly meaningful to me, so I felt no need to seek medical help. (I suspected I would be labelled and given drugs if I’d opened up about my experiences!)

    I rejected the western view of life very early, as we were fortunate enough to live in Ethiopia for a time. That taught me about love, compassion and humility, not the ego-centric, fearful drama that goes on here in much of the west – and other countries who follow our “winner takes all” delusion.

    I’ve had “psychotic” episodes since, and dark prophetic dreams which although deeply upsetting at the time, have always prepared me for tough life events to come. Latterly, I had Open Dialogue therapy to help deal with deep trauma over the poor relationship that manifested between my husband and son for a time (a repeat of my father and younger brother.) A wonderful team and therapy who accept unusual episodes as real, and having value. I found that it’s our Darkness which heals us, not the light. Many can’t accept this – especially intensely religious and spiritual people. I welcome it…..

    Today, I’m very grounded and use my experiences to help others – addicts and family members – simply by sitting and listening. A great Truth begins to emerge where there is no judging, just sitting and listening. Peace to you and your family, Laren. May you continue to value these experiences as evidence of your soul emerging.

  • Kermit, thank you for sharing this profound wisdom and experiences. It moved me to tears. How Nature and open hearts can mesh together, bringing silence and a sense of liberation and deep acceptance.

    I’ve had OD therapy in the UK for two years now. Reading Jung, listening to my voices and accepting my visions as real and meaningful meant that I was never, ever going to share my distress (not mental illness) with someone who wanted to medicate me. Russell Razzaque’s book “Breaking down is waking up” made so much sense. To be listened to, have spiritual and ancient ancestors accepted in therapy, to have a team mirroring my feelings in their feedback is like bathing in light. No water is needed, just light.

    I experienced the judgement of two mental health ‘professionals’ at an OD conference in London last year after I spoke of my experience at a patient, and that therapy is, in fact, soul work. And that we all have souls, whether we choose to recognise it not. Their bombastic comments made me feel quite ill, but I was able to rebut them, and informed one that while he may see me as “mentally ill”, I was in fact spiritually well. All I ever wanted to be! It left him open mouthed!

    Our ancestors knew what was needed: connection to the earth each day, families and people around us who accept and love us as we are, rather than judge us and enough work to use our skills and be of service, without exhaustion. In my heart, I hold a profound gratitude for all indigenous peoples – wisdom workers. Thank you!

  • A very thought provoking post and some great comments here! Out’s comments particularly resonated.

    18 months ago, I attended the annual Open Dialogue conference in London, as one of four patients reporting to the audience how OD had helped. I talked about becoming mentally healthy as real soul work, and that society has lost its connection to the sacred, and to one another. My OD team were open to the sacred, which was very helpful – they also helped me appreciate that my visions and dreams (what many would call psychosis) were very healthy.

    Some professionals seemed upset by what I said. When I left the stage, one approached me, introducing himself as a pychotherapist and asked whether I’d read Stanislav and Christina Grof’s book “Spiritual Emergency.” I was taken aback – where was this guy’s humanity? I told him: “you may consider me mentally ill, but I consider myself spiritually well” and left him open mouthed. As I went to sit down, another guy told me: “well, you’re very brave, a middle class woman admitting her mental health problems.”

    These two guys are an example of just how far the profession needs to go – such trite comments at a mental health conference, FFS. If you don’t have humanity, why are you practising? My humanity enables me to be compassionate and connect easily with others. Perhaps those in power are terrified of being human?

  • Hi Ron, I will definitely submit my story, and follow the guidelines (checking it out with my therapist first.)

    I was very lucky to have lived in Ethiopia in the 1960s, when my dad worked for Ethiopian Airlines. I observed ancient ways of community and sitting with. That has stayed with me through thick and thin all my life. (I wasn’t taught this by my modern, European parents, btw.) Any problems I have, I sit and allow ‘it’ to speak to me.

    I agree, for some (many?), it’s unwise, if we’re not rooted in ancient customs (which is also where my faith lies, not in religion!) No need for ayahuasca, just sitting with, as Setoria and Open Dialogue so eloquently demonstrate….

  • Hi Auntie, I found your story fascinating and very helpful. i’ll take a look at your book too, btw!

    Open Dialogue was rolled out to all NHS Trusts in April 2016. That means your GP CAN refer you to the team. The drawback is you must be able to travel to London (Barking, Essex, to be precise) to have the treatment. They are training many people in the therapy, throughout the year. As I had a 90 mile journey, each way, I’ve been able to Skype my appointments in the past year. I spoke to my main therapist who told me they’re full right now, but that may change later this year, as more are trained up.

    Might be worth calling their central number and see when/if new appointments are available, via your GP: 0300 555 1200
    https://www.nelft.nhs.uk/dialoguefirst

  • Hi Fiachra, are you a mental health professional? Just interested in your perspective.

    The whole of our NHS is in crisis, owing to successive governments the past 20 years NOT raising income tax to pay for a service which is still regarded by many as the best in the world. Incredible staff. There are private psychiatrists using the Open Dialogue methodology in the UK already, fyi.

    I will definitely draft an article for Mad in America. Not sure if it will be accepted, as I have a British perspective, but it’s worth a shot! Thanks for the suggestion. xx

  • Ron, I’m coming to this debate very late. I’m a Brit, who’s had psychotic episodes – and what I’ve experienced is how they’ve healed and transformed me. The me I thought I was, and instead, these events pushed me to be someone much more compassionate, leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.

    The psychosis also cured me of my addiction: alcohol.

    One thing I absolutely avoided, even when I was most terrified and ill (but still functioning enough to work part-time) was medication, as I knew (in a gnostic sense) that the pain was trying to teach me something, if only I would sit still and listen. Sitting with it all led to the transformation on many levels.

    Here in the UK, I discovered “Open Dialogue”, the therapy I’d been searching for, for 5 years. Dr. Russell Razzaque, who brought this wonderful therapy to the UK, authored a great book: “Breaking down is waking up.” That helped me see that what I’d experienced was natural and – over time – incredibly healing. I took part in their first tranche of the roll-out across the UK. One of the preconditions was that patients could not be using medication. Yes!

    I can’t express in words, how utterly restorative and healing it is to be listened to and heard by a team unbound by time (my first session took 3 hours) to unpick the early childhood trauma which had led to deep depression, anxiety, and addiction. They valued my prophetic dreams (which two other therapists were dismissive of) and insights into the sacred nature of our soul. I told them that what they’re doing is sacred work: helping people rebirth their real selves. The whole, spiritual, emotional and physical person they were meant to be.

    Interestingly, I spoke at their annual conference in 2017, shortly after I’d read Stanislav and Christina Grof’s book “Spiritual Emergency”. I talked about the sacred nature of our soul, and how paying attention to it, along with dreams and what appears to be synchronicity (the real way of the world, in my lived experience) heals us. Afterwards, two professionals approached me: one to tell me that I probably was mentally ill and had I read Stanislav’s book? I informed him that while he may view me as mentally ill, I’m in fact spiritually well. The other said: “well that was brave, middle class and owning up to mental illness.” I was totally stunned by these responses. There is HUGE work to be done in the profession, to put it mildly.

    I’m absolutely clear: my ‘psychosis’ healed me. No medication, just sitting with it all, because I knew that most practitioners wouldn’t get it, because many aren’t open to the reality within themselves waiting to be birthed. Does the profession prefer to medicate others, because they are frightened of who THEY could become? In the coming months, I hope to help Open Dialogue roll out across the UK, because to have such quiet, non-judgmental “sitting with” sessions is astounding in its ability to birth something and someone far richer and deeper.