Thursday, June 26, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ June 25, 2008

I am just now getting back to somewhat of a normal routine after going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Convention in Orlando. I had not spoken at or even attended one since the early 90’s. I went because Dr. Gunnar Christiansen asked me to come speak at the FaithNet Special Interest Workshop on Saturday morning of the convention.
Giving the speech is not the hard part. I have been preaching since I was 12 years old on the mission field with my parents in Zimbabwe, Africa. However, the crowds are a different matter. I don’t care how big the audience is, but the crowds of people before and after are a problem.
Someone asked why do I write so much about myself? Because I am the only person I know well enough to say much about and the only one, I have permission to say personal things about. By sharing my personal thoughts and feelings, I hope in some small way to provide a window into the inside of those of us with a serious mental illness or who have been sexually abused or both.
The stigma of mental illness and of being a victim of childhood sexual abuse has left me with little of what a psychologist would call a self. My anxiety level sharply increases in a crowd. During the speech I am fine because I control the entire conversation and I know I am at least OK at giving a speech, but before it and after it I am at the mercy of the same stigma that has haunted me all my life.
At the convention, Patty worked the FaithNet booth where they were kind enough to allow us to sell our books for Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc. I was not there other than to say hi to Patty a couple of times.
I enjoyed meeting folks I knew and making new friends. I finally got to meet Gunnar and his wife Susan that as I said was the reason I went. I also got to spend time with a graduate of Yale Divinity School, Rev. Bob Dell, who had studied under H. Richard Niebuhr. I also got to meet the founder of Mental Health Ministries, Susan Gregg-Schroeder, who I have exchanged many emails with.
Sunday morning I was headed to the FaithNet Interfaith Worship Service when all of a sudden I saw a person surrounded by security guards. I lost it. I did make it on to the service with the help of Patty and Cassy (my great niece). The service was led by the Rev. Willie Israel pastor of the Rolling Hills Moravian Church in Longwood, Florida. Her message along with the music calmed me back down.
A tie back to the last convention I attended was meeting Dr. Brenda W. LaVar again. We had presented together at that convention. A woman so much alive she is contagious. If she were preaching at a church that had died, she could bring them alive and have them shouting and singing like an old time camp meeting of long ago.
Zimbabwe is in the news more than ever now. Before when I would tell someone I grew up on a mission station in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), they would ask me where it was. Now more people have heard of it because of the election mess, but more troubling than the election mess is that people are starving to death. This is from the AP.
“Bread has disappeared from stores. Previously, a loaf in a supermarket cost 2 billion Zimbabwe dollars (20 U.S. cents at the official exchange rate), or 15 billion Zimbabwe dollars ($1.50 U.S.) on the black market. A shopper lucky enough to find milk will spend 3 billion dollars (30 U.S. cents) for about 1 pint. A tray of 30 eggs, also scarce, can bought in a store for 45 billion dollars ($4.50 U.S.).Butter is hard to find, but 17 1/2 ounces of margarine will cost 25 billion dollars ($2.50 U.S.) and a pack of 10 cookies costs 19 billion dollars ($1.90 U.S.).
Robert Rotberg, director of Harvard's Kennedy School program on Intrastate Conflict, said that while sanctions and boycotts may not convince Mugabe to loosen his grip on power, they are sure to sway public opinion and possibly change the minds of top military leaders.
Without his security apparatus and their intimidation tactics, Mugabe's power "could vanish overnight," said Rotberg, who wrote a column in the Boston Globe on Wednesday comparing the current situation in Zimbabwe to Idi Amin's Uganda.
Rotberg said neighboring countries could "effectively bottle Mugabe up" by banning Zimbabwean aircraft from flying over their airspace and curtailing electricity deliveries to the landlocked country. The U.N., African Union and Southern African Development Community could then push him aside to take over during a transitional period until they can ensure a free and fair election.
"Tightening the noose will make the people around Mugabe realize that this ship is really sinking, and they should get off," he said. “
N.T. Wright in his book Simply Christian writes “There are two sorts of traveler. The first sets off in the general direction of the destination and is quite happy to figure things out on the way, to read the signposts, ask directions, and muddle through. The second wants to know in advance what the road will be like.”
The recovery journey is not an easy road to travel and one must be much more willing to be like the first sort of traveler. You may know the destination, but you will not be able to predict all the pitfalls and side trips. To learn to Dream Again and make the recovery journey takes courage and strength. Remember that when someone is talking down to you or asking you to settle for less. Reach high where God waits with open arms for all of us.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, June 05, 2008


[This Journal is posted at Project Dream Again’s web site, Google’s Dashboard, Yahoo’s 360 beta, MySpace, and 7villages an online community of the United Methodist Church. You can find the internet addresses at our homepage. The Journal is also sent out to an extensive e-list. To have someone added or taken off the lists simply make the request by using the email address found at the end of this Journal.]
Dream Again Journal Online
June 4, 2008 EDITION
The next DAJ ONLINE will not come out until June 25th. I will be speaking at the national convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Saturday the 14th of June during the FaithNet Special Interest Workshop which runs from 9:45 am – 12:00 noon. Patty and I are also making a vacation trip out of going down to Orlando from Glen Alpine, NC along with business stops coming and going.
One of the recommendations of at least one of the three work groups formed some months back by Secretary Dempsey Benton, Department of Health and Human Services, was adding trained investigators with law-enforcement experience to review complaints of abuse and neglect at the state psychiatric hospitals here in North Carolina. [Reported in THE NEWS OBSERVER May 31, 2008] I have debated this one in my head and discussed it with other consumers of mental health services. My first reaction was to agree because I truly do want the most professional investigation that can be done. Then I began to remember the treatment I have personally received at the hands of law-enforcement to say nothing of my fellow sojourners. Without committing a crime I have been treated in ways the two cats that live in our home are not treated. So now it comes down to a matter of trust. Yes we want professional investigations. Can we trust people who have worked in law-enforcement? Would it be simpler to train someone who knew something about us about how to do investigations than to train ex law-enforcement folks about us? You tell me.
There is an interesting question arising in the philosophy surrounding the brain sciences. Will the more we learn about the brain mean we can believe less in free will? The more they find out about my bipolar illness the better it is for me, but if I try to use it to excuse all my bad behaviors then I am the loser. I believe that neuroscience has made my life easier, but I don’t believe it will ever define me totally. Why? Because beyond my brain I believe is my mind which is more than mere brain and beyond that my eternal soul. You say well Ed you certainly have taken a leap of faith there. My reply is we both did when we believed the neuroscience neither of us understands. We operate on faith every day. If my belief in an eternal soul is merely a delusion then please don’t try and “fix” me. Leave me in my delusional state. Let me face this world each day with my faith and my science. I have a better chance of making it this way. Chat with you again on the 25th.
You can reach me directly at

{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I have never done this before on the blog or the DAJ Online, but I am asking those of you who believe in the power of prayer to pray for a friend’s son who is in intensive care in Winston-Salem, NC suffering from a head injury. The last report I had he still had not regained consciousness. Thank you in advance for your prayers and concern.
I have a friend who has created another world which is rather complex. He named it Goosville. One of the meanings of goo is excessive sentimentality. He has spent a lot of time alone and in that world over the years. One of the things I like about the world he has created is that the animals there speak the same language as humans. That would certainly be helpful with my wife’s two cats. The most important thing about this world is he does not seem to think he controls all the people or animals in it. Now if I created a world everyone in it would do as I wanted them to. I think we could all learn from my friend’s created world into which he retreats when our collective world either ignores him or he can no longer deal with it. He is not the puppeteer even in his own created world.
Recently a letter Albert Einstein wrote to a philosopher sold at an auction for $404,000.00. It was a letter about his views of God and the Bible among other things. He called the Bible “pretty childish” and said the problem of God “is too vast for our limited minds.”
At times it seems like I am moving slowly towards 60 and at others it seems like I am speeding towards it. All I am sure of is that this November I have to stay far away from my older sister because she does crazy things to people on their 60th birthdays. Have I learned anything about this problem of God in these 60 years?
Maybe a couple of things.
First, I agree that God “is too vast for our limited minds”, but the story does not end there because I believe we have souls and that it is thru faith not logic that we learn to know our Creator.
Secondly, like my friend in the world he created, I think our Creator is not a puppeteer which means Einstein and all before him and you and all after you have the free will to decide for yourselves what you believe about the Creator.
Even those of us with mental illnesses have the need and right to be in community with folks who hold the same beliefs and opinions we do. When I started my research in 1988 on faith communities and folks with mental illnesses and their families, I was advised not to discuss religion with people with mental illness because it might encourage their delusional system.
On my most psychotic day living on the street I may not have been able to discuss the finer points of Systematic Theology, but I could have understood a piece of food and a hug as being love.
I loved an article I found in The New York Times the other day. It says I may not simply be getting forgetful as my brain grows older, but wiser.
“Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful.”
“It may be that distractibility is not, in fact, a bad thing,” said Shelley H. Carson, a psychology researcher at Harvard whose work was cited in the book. “It may increase the amount of information available to the conscious mind.”
But the best part is yet to come.
“Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.
“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

You can reach me directly at

{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


There are three races 2/3 finished which may turn out to be historic races. I am not talking about the run for the Presidency of this country. I am talking about the running of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (although sometimes shortened to Triple Crown, the full name is used to avoid possible confusion with other sports) consists of three races for three-year-old thoroughbred horses. Winning all three of these thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment of a thoroughbred racehorse. In recent years, the Triple Crown has become a very rare achievement, with most horses specializing on a limited range of distances.
In the United States, the Triple Crown consists of the:
Kentucky Derby, run over 1.25 miles (2.01 km) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky;
Preakness Stakes, run over 1.1875 miles (1.91 km) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland;
Belmont Stakes, run over 1.50 miles (2.41 km) at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
The Triple Crown starts with The Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May. The Preakness follows two weeks later. The Belmont Stakes is three weeks after The Preakness in early June. In the U.S., the term "Triple Crown" is the usual reference for these three horse races unless another sport is specified.
In 1930, Gallant Fox won all three important races, and sportswriter Charles Hatton brought the phrase "Triple Crown" into the American lexicon. In the more-than-125-year history of the U.S. events, only 11 horses have ever won the U.S. Triple Crown; none since 1978.
To a person like me born on the edge of horse country near Lexington, KY these races are important. I grew up either wanting to play basketball for the University of Kentucky or riding a thoroughbred in the Kentucky Derby. I was too big to be a jockey and too short to be a basketball player for Adolf Rupp the then famous coach at UK.
My life took another road. We went to Zimbabwe as missionaries and then in 1967 I entered the US Army. I was trained as a medic and mostly worked in an orthopedic ward in El Paso, Texas. After that I held over 50 different jobs before forming N.O.M.I. Inc. (know me) in 1989.
Am I am thoroughbred or simply a workhorse? Maybe I am not even a very good workhorse. The point to all this is that the road to recovery takes a long term view not a short term one. You will face defeats, but they must be viewed as fire fights or small battles. Not the war.
The Gospels have a long term view as they talk about life after death, but they also have a short term view as they tell about Jesus healing the sick and feeding the hungry. In 1988 before N.O.M.I. Inc. was formed in 1989 I formed Christian Friends of the Mentally Ill which is still a division of N.O.M.I. Inc. I still believe that churches have a vital role to play in the recovery process by providing some of the natural supports so necessary for us to make the journey down the recovery road.
However, just because I am a Christian does not mean that I see no value in other spiritual paths. After last week’s DAJ Online a friend of mine sent me a very uplifting email. She follows a different path, but her email was powerful medicine to my soul.
We need our souls nurtured as much as we need anything bio-psycho-social. Until the powers that be recognize that fact each of us are left to put our own support system together.
Published: May 18, 2008
T.S. Eliot told us in “The Waste Land” that April is the cruelest month, and he may have been right. But for the mentally ill, the cruelest month of the year is May — National Mental Health month.
I realize that I should strike into a paean about how the mentally ill are not treated fairly by society, or that in the United States, there are more than 20 million mentally ill people, or in Virginia, 20 percent of all households are affected by mental illness.
But we are more than the shabbily dressed, smelly man that mumbles to himself as he waits in line. For any parent, the aforementioned scenario is frightening. Nevertheless, there are more than 100,000 of us in Virginia. We cannot all be in grocery store lines. We cannot all be in jail. We cannot all be on a prayer list.
So maybe, just maybe, it is time to look and see us for what we are.
We are better than you are. None save the mentally ill will understand that statement, but I will explain. A great myth in mental health is that we long to be as you are. There could not be greater folly. Every day we must be more than you are. To rise from the bed is no great task for most. Nonetheless, the mentally ill know that there are days, months and possibly even years where the clarion call to rise and shine goes unanswered. We freely take medications that have side effects ranging from a dry mouth to sexual side effects to tremors that are not reversible. We may fly into rages and frighten people.
Still, how different are we from others?
You may know that many of the mentally ill have a drug problem, superimposed over mental illness. I know firsthand, for you learn early in an abusive life that alcohol provides a release. Even though you are sometimes gut-wrenchingly sick, you know it is a palliative of great value, for it aids you as you strive to cope.
Many of the mentally ill were, such as myself, made through verbal and physical abuse. Still others have impairments of thought through accident, through drug use, through fetal alcohol syndrome and, yes, some are just born mentally ill.
Consider yourself, consider your children, consider your relatives and make them one of us. They need services but they have no money or little money. The experts have told them what they need, but they can’t afford the help.
I say that May is the cruelest month for the mentally ill, for much will be said and written. This information is designed to satisfy those that are not mentally ill. More than likely, statistics will be brought forth and they will read we had this much last year and now we have only that much.
The governor recently signed mental health legislation. This means that it will be easy for someone to be committed, but the person cannot as easily discharge himself from a hospital as before.
A great truth concerning this legislation is that none has, to date, addressed what happens if a person with a weapon is willing to sacrifice his or her life. If that’s the case, then there is nothing able to protect a single soul.
Certainly, the Virginia Tech massacre caused people to cry out and demand that something be done. We do not have a voice, but something has been done, and we have been ignored. Our cries are silent, for they are inward.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are in a large hole. The hole is really a chasm so large, in fact, that you have no hope of ever climbing out. As all would do, you cry out for help. When that does not work, you scream at the top of your lungs. None has heard either cry. You now are desperate; you have no energy, no will to even give the occasional shout. Inwardly you scream and inwardly you imagine rescue. It is inwardly you will live out the last moments of being alive.
This is the mentally ill — needing help but having been turned down too many times. All our anger and demands for action take place inside. We have come to appreciate that we are the next highway expansion or the next raise given by the state to its employees.
The month of May more than half gone and the state’s only offer of help is a program that governs commitment procedures and the voluntary discharge of a patient from a psychiatric institute — and purports to increase campus safety.
May is the cruelest month, for many times the mentally ill have been told to buy bread and wait and someone would come and help them. Time passes, the birds eat the bread and, like any dressed-up, stood-up person, they waited. For some time, they believed a new day had come. It has not — and 20 percent of Virginia suffers.
Our goal is that you see us and hear us when you pass by the chasm. We, too, wish to become, in a world of equality, one of the more equal. In the Bible, Job cries out into the blackened void, where now is my hope? It is the same question hundreds of thousands of us will ask during the merry month of May — our cruelest 31 days of the year.
Eanes lives in Danville
[Published on which is brought to you by the Danville Register Bee, the Eden Daily News, the Madison Messenger, and the Reidsville Review]

You can reach me directly at

{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Friday, May 16, 2008


[I received this e-mail after the last Journal went out.]
Just a few thoughts on your most recent blog that I just received in my email.
I had a great friend who was a vet that committed suicide in the VA hospital in Asheville. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was coming out of a psychotic depression. Unfortunately a staff member gave her belt back to her and she went to the bathroom and hung herself.
Talk about guilt! I knew that she would eventually succeed....and I knew (looking back) that she was slowly but surely telling everyone goodbye in her own way. She and I lived together....she gave me my one and only dog---Rascal. She said that he was to give me company and comfort while she was hospitalized.
She was a wonderful person.....when she was on her medication. As you and I both know (I know about this one) if one doesn't take their psych medicines....then they suffer needlessly incredible symptoms of their disease.
I really do miss her! About 3 weeks ago, I found myself at her gravesite---don't normally visit but the anniversary of her death was coming up....and then 2 weeks later I attempted suicide by overdosing on my Klonopin. However, there were other factors that were there also!
Do I regret what I did? Every moment, every day of the life that I have been given to live I will regret it. Did I learn something from it, definitely....and still learning from it! Will I do it again....well, not right now. I can't promise anyone that it will never happen again cause one never knows what kind of extreme stress one can be under (and I was there!).
Thanks for writing your blog and being kind enough to send it to me. Congratulations on your being invited to speak at a convention.
Susan (This is not her real name, but the one chosen by her when I asked permission to publish her letter here.)
Some of you who read this Journal know me, but most of you don’t. I use my own experiences to try and explain what life is like living with a mental illness or living with the results of having been sexually abused as a child. I don’t know any other way to open a window into our world. I can’t really tell you what it is like for someone else. I can only share with you what it is like for me and for those who I have known.
Usually spring brings not only new life to the earth around me, but also new life to my spirit. However, this year has been very different. I am guessing it is because my physical health is not up to par and I am not as active outdoors as usual. I have never really had to deal with my body letting me down. My brain has never worked as it should consistently and I have come to terms with that. I have even learned how to live with a dissociative disorder caused by early childhood sexual abuse. This broken body thing is different from a broken brain.
When I don’t feel like getting out of bed is it my depression from my bipolar disorder or my broken body? What doctor can I go to who can tell me? Are there specialists who can do a diagnosis and tell me whether my symptoms are coming from my bio or my psycho or my social or my spiritual?
I think I may be in trouble this year. This year may be a struggle. North Carolina did not even stock their normal number of trout for those of us who like to trout fish because of the drought. At least I have my family, friends and church family.

You can reach me directly at

{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, May 08, 2008


I have been afforded the honor of being invited to speak at the FaithNet Special Interest Workshop on Saturday, June 14th at 9:45 am at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Annual Convention in Orlando, FL. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
12,000 veterans a year attempt suicide while under the care of the Veterans Affairs Department. This piece of information was revealed in an e-mail written by Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s Mental Health Director. He started his memo with, “Shh!”. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calf accused the agency of criminal negligence in the handling of the data. Is the word criminal related to crime? Does that mean someone did something wrong? Will someone be prosecuted?
Since I am one of those veterans getting mental health services from the VA and have been since 1969, I have lost vets I knew who just didn’t attempt, but who completed the act while under the care of the VA. They have committed suicide while locked on the same psychiatric unit I was.
What are the numbers for our state hospitals across this country? Our private psych hospitals? Our community mental health centers? Our drug treatment programs?
How many folks actually complete the act while under the care of some system or mental health professional? I have not seen that number. Have you?
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded $14.8 million to five sites around the country to replicate the PIER program's approach as part of the Early Detection and Intervention for the Prevention of Psychosis Program (EDIPPP). PIER also serves as the foundation's National Program Office for EDIPPP.
McFarlane [psychiatrist leading the Pier program] told Psychiatric News that preliminary data indicate that the rate of acute schizophrenia per population has dropped within the PIER catchments area compared with the rest of Maine. Though those data remain to be confirmed, staff at PIER who are familiar with the long-term nature of schizophrenia express a genuine awe at the results they see at the clinic.
"I have worked in mental health at the other end of the spectrum with adults who have had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for years," said Nelma Mason, R.N., a nurse at the clinic. "And I have worked with so many people who are one hospitalization away from never leaving the hospital again. How could you not be excited about being part of a program that might prevent that?"
Thomas Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute on Mental Health, who has visited the PIER clinic, said it represents a new direction in the treatment of schizophrenia.
"We have largely defined schizophrenia as psychotic illness, meaning when someone has a psychotic break," he told Psychiatric News in an interview. "That's a bit like defining coronary artery disease by having a heart attack. It's a late stage in the disease.
"What we have been thinking about is how to get people much earlier in the disease," Insel said. "If you think about schizophrenia in stages, stage 1 is early development and genetic risk; stage 2 is when people begin to develop very early, subtle symptoms such as social withdrawal and cognitive problems.”
"Stage 3 is a psychotic break, and stage 4 is when a person becomes chronically ill and disabled. Most of what we do in 2008 is focused on stage 4. And it is no wonder we have not much to show for it.
"At PIER they are really going after stage 2 and identifying people who may be at genetic risk and exhibiting very early behavioral symptoms," Insel told Psychiatric News. "So they are going down this very interesting path to see if we can have a bigger impact on the disease by identifying and treating people much earlier."
[from Psychiatric News]
The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence.
My family went there in the late summer of 1960 as missionaries.
Zimbabwe is now in the middle of an election mess bigger than we had here in this country in 2000.
The hope for the future rests with the people of Zimbabwe. That may sound like an obvious statement to you, but if you look at how we have treated Africa it really isn’t. Missionaries did not just take them the Gospel. They wanted the African people to adopt the American culture as well.
I would like to point out one of the rays of hope which was highlighted at the General Conference 2008 of The Untied Methodist Church.
“Delegates were told that while Zimbabwe has an inflation rate of 200,000 percent – the highest in the world – the university, with a few challenges, continues to operate and fulfill its mission of educating its 1,400 students from 24 African countries.”
"The political situation has not affected the university. Your investment is secure," Tagwira said. "Both government and opposition politicians have great admiration for what Africa University has achieved. We remain open and following our normal calendar. We thank God for his divine favor," he said.
Earlier in the conference, delegates voted to increase theological education on the continent and to make the country of Malawi a missionary conference. Congolese Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo, chancellor of Africa University and chairman of its board of directors, thanked the General Conference for its support of funding education on the continent but cautioned that the effort "should not be at the expense of Africa University."
Ntambo assured the conference that "Africa University does not take away anything from The United Methodist Church or Africa. It only adds to the growth and strength of the entire church." [from]
My father was an educator/minister/missionary. Give the people the tools to help themselves. The same message I have been writing about here for months about us. Don’t just label us help us learn something useful that we have chosen.
My wife and I recently made a trip to Eastern Kentucky. The mountains of Eastern Kentucky don’t look like the mountains of Western North Carolina or the foothills of WNC where we live. Eastern Kentucky is coal country and Kentucky is the third leading coal producing state in the country. It also has the highest rate of prescription narcotic abuse in the United States. It averages one drug-related death per day. Is there a relationship? Not directly to coal, but to the conditions the coal economy has produced. Our response to the problems of Appalachia, Africa, those in poverty, the disabled and those of us with a mental illness seems too much alike. We offer our solutions rather than asking how we can help. If only we believed more in the people we were trying to reach out to and less in our own wisdom, then we might find the real truth that God implanted more wisdom in the least of us than the greatest of us could ever figure out how to use.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


April 30, 2008/ EDITION
Rather than writing twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays I have decided to change it to a weekly schedule. I have also changed the name to the DREAM AGAIN JOURNAL ONLINE. We published the DREAM AGAIN JOURNAL for a few years in the 90’s and so this is the resurrection of an old endeavor for Project Dream Again. The DAJ Online will come out on Wednesdays. Along with those folks who receive it by email it will be posted at the sites listed above.
According to findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outdoor activities is on the decline while people spend more time online or in front of the TV. For example fishing peaked in 1981 and by 2005 had dropped 25%. Visits to U.S. national parks are down 23% from their high point in 1987. Why does any of this matter? I could give you reasons like if you aren’t out in nature you will not be as interested in the conservation of it. However, let me see if this one finds it way into your inner being. Have you ever been feeling low and heard a bird singing and the sound lifted your spirit? Nature can nurture your very soul. Merriam-Webster Online defines nurture as “the sum of the environmental factors influencing the behavior and traits expressed by an organism.”
Mark Penn has written a book titled Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes in which he argues that it is the little things that shape the big things of the future. I want to share just a couple of things from the book. (1)The top 1% of American pets live better than 99% of the world’s human population. (2) 54% of black 12th graders said religion played a very important role in their lives, compared to only about 27% of white students, and their church attendance correlates with lower drug and alcohol abuse, later sexual activity, and altruistic attitudes. [Seems if they make it to the 12th grade their religion played a major role] (3) Ten times more men regularly visit Internet pornography sites than regularly watch baseball.
Reinhold Niebuhr was one of the seminal religious thinkers of the 20th Century. As a theologian, ethicist, and pastor, he worked to make the Christian faith comprehensible to and responsible for the modern world. The legacy of Reinhold Niebuhr, along with his brother, H. Richard Niebuhr, is a socially engaged tradition of thoughtful Christian activism, and a realistic and sober recognition of the limits and possibilities of human aspirations.
Niebuhr began his career as the pastor of a German Reformed congregation in Detroit, but very quickly grew to national prominence as a writer and speaker on the issues of his time -- war, poverty, racism, and social inequality. He stood for a progressive Christianity that believed in making a positive difference in the world.
As his theology matured, he came to argue that the human capacity for evil could not be easily overcome by simple appeals to the love of God and neighbor. In rejecting those versions of the Social Gospel movement that seemed to be too reliant on a naively optimistic assessment of human nature, he began to develop his own approach, which came to be known as "Christian Realism." This realism stood in contrast both to the idealism of Christian pacifists and socialists who believed that social change could be brought about by pure moral suasion, and the cynicism of the more Machiavellian brand of realism, that believed that politics was a realm of power not subject to moral critique. Niebuhr sought a middle way between these two positions, recognizing politics as the realm of the struggle for power, but affirming the need for principle to underlie and uphold the human conscience in that struggle.
We need some of his realism today. We can’t afford more talk or study groups. We need action based on realism. What is really going on with real people in their daily lives? To learn to Dream Again and begin the recovery journey takes looking realistically in the mirror not rhetoric from Raleigh.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I am not sure if my parents were happier the day I was born or the day a psychiatrist in Atlanta told them I had a brain disease called bipolar disorder and that all my problems were not their fault. You see before that day they had been blamed for my actions and how I turned out.
It seemed to weigh harder on my father than even on my mother. My mom told me more than once how hard my birth was on her and I was never really sure she forgave me. Dad seemed more concerned about how my behavior looked to the community. He was a minister, missionary, school principal and church leader. Having a son who did not conform to the norms of the day was not a comfortable feeling for him to say the least.
In our society today we place so much emphasis on the individual it may be hard for some of you to understand what I am talking about. Hebrew tradition and the fifth commandment says “Honor thy father and mother”, but we have mostly pitched that out with the other ideas we consider archaic in favor of making sure we do not infringe on individualism.
In Christian teachings we find in the 6th Chapter of Ephesians the same words as in the Hebrew fifth commandment. When Dad would remind me of this, I would quote from the 4th verse of the same Chapter where it says “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger” and he never seemed to find any humor in my response.
Along with the fact that Mother’s Day is almost here and Father’s Day is not far off there is another reason I am talking about family. Those of us with disabilities are going to need our families. We are going to need our extended families which include our FAITH FAMILIES.
We are in what I call silly season. Other people refer to it as election time. Right during election (silly) season President Bush has decided to cut Medicaid funding. These cuts could cost North Carolina almost 12,000 jobs and over a ½ billion dollars in Medicaid funding.
I have been writing, speaking and teaching about natural supports for years. Natural supports are things like family and faith communities that folks like me can rely on for help and support.
I don’t care how you vote or what party you belong to. This is not a political blog. I am saying we had better stop making the individual the focus and make our communities the focus. The early church practiced something I would call communal democracy. They took care of each other. It might be wise to look back to the early church and to Hebrew law and traditions and take a second look at the idea that maybe community is more important than the individual. Maybe the whole is greater than any single part. Maybe the least is the greatest. All I know for sure is we are going to need our families. Yes, our FAITH FAMLIES TOO!
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, April 21, 2008


This is one of the responses I got to my last blog.
Hi Ed:
I had to look up this article; I also looked at the review article written by Compton et al from which he quotes. Reading between the lines it would seem the esteemed Dr. Geller has something personal against CIT—but hey, that’s just an opinion. The disdain for “many folks who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of frequent police pickups which lead to jail, emergency room, psychiatric hospital, or shelter…” is obvious. After all, “In a short time they’ll be back on the streets, and the play will repeat itself.” In other words, CIT is a waste of time and money because training cops to take people to treatment when the people don’t want it doesn’t work. It didn’t make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; it turned my stomach. But you can ask Dr. Geller any question you want. At the bottom of the first column on the first page of the article is his contact information:
Jeffrey L. Geller, MD, MPH
Department of Psychiatry
University of Massachusetts Medical School
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
Better yet, his email is
I’m too pissed to email right now; if I ever do, I would ask what he would recommend, in light of the numbers of people who are on the streets untreated. And I would disabuse him of the delusion that treatment is readily available and accessible, because you and I know that it is not. And I would remind him, because he might have forgotten, that mental illness is a relapsing, chronic condition, and that we are prone to setbacks. Unlike superior specimens like him, of course, who have no need of professional help and who never have encountered the criminal justice system from the bottom side. By the way, his disdain is not only for consumers—did you catch the “I’ve trained police officers, and those who are interested pay attention; those who are not, do not.” This, obviously to him, is because police officers are different than other people? I know lots of psychiatrists who don’t listen or pay attention to their own patients!
What, I wonder, does he really want? Maybe he thinks cops should just be cops, and leave the treatment of mentally ill persons to the professionals.
He is a pompous ass. All that intelligence and all that ability, and this commentary is nothing but a mean spirited criticism of people who are trying to help. There is not a single positive recommendation, not a shred of evidence of concern for consumers, or for police officers, or family members, or anyone. I think we do need research. Evidence-based is always best. Always. I think CIT can be improved. So---we wait and do nothing until someone conducts a multicenter, randomized, double-blind study?
E-mail him if you must, Ed, but let’s not you or I spend too much time fretting over this. We have our own recovery to work on, and lots of friends to support in their recovery.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, April 17, 2008


When you read an article you can’t ask the author questions. I would like to ask Dr. Jeffrey L. Geller a few questions about his article “Commentary: Is CIT Today’s Lobotomy?”. {I found the article online in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online} Dr. Geller, MD, MPH is a Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School and I am person with less than two years of college. So let’s come up with a title for me. I am an ordained minister, but that does not get me into this discussion. I am a primary consumer ( meaning I have a mental illness) and a family member ( meaning one or more of my family members has/have a diagnosis), but that does not get me in the discussion either. Maybe if I called myself a folk anthropologist I could get into the discussion. Well I declare myself a folk anthropologist. Do I now qualify for the larger discussion or am I still on the sidelines?
“Being in favor of educating officers of police departments about mental illness and mental health services is like being in favor of motherhood and apple pie. Who could be against it? Refining this educative process to cadres of selected officers who become informed, benevolent interveners on the streets of our cities (and maybe even our towns and villages), saving from jail those whose mental illness-driven behaviors bring them to police attention sounds even more right. It is this first-blush appeal that accounts for the proliferation of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) from their origin in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1988.”
That was how he began his article. He ended it like this.
“Finally, there's the cost of CIT. First, to train officers, police departments must carry part of their workforce on overtime since the officers in training are in addition to the normal workforce. This, in and of itself, hinders police departments from endorsing CIT. Second, there is a cost to the mental health system, since it is burdened repeatedly by receiving those who do not want services. Hospitals are called on multiple times each year to provide care and treatment to the same cohort of unwilling consumers CIT delivers to it. This is, in part, because CIT is an unleveraged process. There is no contract, the prospective patient has no responsibility, and there are no consequences. For many folks who are the "beneficiaries" of frequent police pick-ups which lead to jail, emergency room, psychiatric hospital, or shelter, the immediate outcome is irrelevant. In a short time they'll be back on the streets, and the play will repeat itself. For far too many, "CIT" might just as well stand for Consecutive Interventions without Treatment.”
Is this a sound argument? It sounds right. It is well written. It is argued by a prolific author and a highly regarded man in this field. Why do the hairs on the back of my neck stand up? It almost seems like in the end he stops writing about CIT and takes a shot at us. If we were not on the streets we would not be costing so much.
Well as he points out in his article we have been guinea pigs for many ideas over the years and eventually we seem to be resented for our mere existence.
My question to Dr. Geller and to my readers is very simple. As I have revealed before in this blog, I have spent lots of time on the streets too sick to even know my name at times. Do you think I would have rather been confronted by a trained CIT team or a SWAT team when I was so sick and living on the streets?
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I know I am a day late with this blog. I would not make a very good newspaper publisher or editor because you wouldn’t get your paper on time and if it was a daily you probably wouldn’t even get it every day. I spent yesterday with two great friends driving up from Glen Alpine, NC to Stone Mountain State Park, NC. Yes there is a SMSP here in NC as well as the more famous one in GA and I am sure there are more I don’t know about. We stopped in North Wilkesboro on the way up because we saw an antique store that looked interesting. Once inside we discovered it had four floors and decided we would need to come back because this store alone was a half-day adventure. It was full of the dreams of folks from the past and held dreams for new folks from the future.
We finally made it to the park were we saw deer, turkey and beautiful trout streams. I saw the biggest tom (a male turkey) I had ever seen in my life. There were three men there with packs on their backs and poles with round circles on the end. We tried to guess what they were geared up to do. We could not. Finally I walked over and asked them. They were student researches from North Carolina State University and the devices were to shock the fish in a portion of a stream so they could get a count of the fish. I wanted to go with them for a spell, but they didn’t invite me.
I don’t know much about being outdoors, but what I know I have learned from other people being kind enough to share their knowledge. The person who has been most patient with me and taught me the most about the outdoors and fishing is a guy named Russ. It isn’t the fact he has a graduate degree in the subject or worked and wrote in the field his entire working career that makes him a good mentor. It is first, that he is willing. Secondly, that he has the patience to deal with even me. Thirdly, he knows when to teach and when to let you try on your own. He makes a good mentor.
I found this in yesterday’s New York Times “On Saturdays during the school year and all week in the summer, PinChang Huang, 16, leaves her home in Queens just after dawn and boards a crowded van bound for a nail salon on Long Island.
Through a long workday, she gives manicures, pedicures and massages, and observes her clients at the Aroma Spa with a careful eye. Older women are most prone to yell if you make a mistake. Customers who read books tend to tip the best.
PinChang has not seen her mother since she came to New York with her father and brother four years ago from a small village in China. She spoke no English and had no friends, and all the buildings looked the same to her, so she often walked into the wrong apartment complex on her way home from school. To ward off frustration and loneliness, she started keeping a journal. “I wrote down everything I saw, everything that made me happy or upset,” she said. “I wrote the things I wished I could say out loud.” In front of a packed auditorium at the New School in Manhattan one night recently, she got her chance. PinChang and her mentor, Deborah Kolben, a former managing editor at The Village Voice, read an essay they wrote together about PinChang’s getting her first manicure. PinChang spoke about the peculiar sensation of being on the receiving end of an exchange that often makes her feel “like a slave.” The reading was hosted by a nonprofit group that pairs high school girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to be writers with women who are authors, journalists, playwrights, poets and editors. The group produces an anthology of student writing each spring, and puts on several public readings.”
My point is simply that whether you are suffering from a mental illness, sexual abuse or spiritual pain everyone needs a mentor if they are ever to learn to DREAM AGAIN.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Another resource has been added to the resource list at the bottom of this blog. It is the web site for the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. Their site reminds us that “May is Mental Health Month. The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health again declares the first full week in May, May 4 - 10 as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Chapters and State Organizations across the nation are meeting weekly to share ideas and resources for how to make Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2008 the most successful week ever!”
Children’s mental health is on my mind because the other night I watched PBS’ Frontline program “THE MEDICATED CHILD”. You can go to their site and watch the entire show and there are other resources.
Their site is
Most of the program is a discussion about childhood bipolar disease. Does it exist? If so how do you treat it? Are kids over medicated? What are doctors to do? What are parents to do? The only question really not asked that should have been is what are kids to do?
Christmas 1963 my parents and I returned from the mission field in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and I was enrolled in Berea Foundation School, Berea, Kentucky which was a boarding high school run by Berea College. One of my sisters was attending Berea College and the other was married to a minister of a church about 65 miles away. One day I stole a car (I was not old enough to have a driver’s license but had learned to drive in Africa) and ended up at my sister’s home who was married to the minister. Needless to say she was surprised. I spent a year going to the University of Kentucky Medical Center for both group and individual therapy before going back to the mission field with my parents in 1965. I did not know at the time what was wrong, but now I know I was in mania when I stole the car.
I tell this very personal story simply to say I may not be smart enough to tell you what medications (at that time I was not given any) children should be given or what age, but I believe from my own experiences that bipolar disorder can begin at a very early age. The episode at Berea was not my first and of course it was not my last.
My prayer is that someday we will care enough about children that we will take seriously the task of protecting them from abuse which I wrote about in my last blog and care enough about their mental health that we will invest the dollars needed to discover the truth and stop guessing and using them as guinea pigs.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, April 07, 2008


Recognizing the alarming rate at which children continued to be abused and neglected and the need for innovative programs to prevent child abuse and assist parents and families affected by maltreatment, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives resolved that the week of June 6-12, 1982, should be designated as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. They asked the President to issue a proclamation calling upon Government agencies and the public to observe the week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
The following year, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Since then, child abuse and neglect awareness activities have been promoted across the country during April of each year.
The federal law does not give definitions for all types of abuse such as physical, neglect or emotional abuse, but it does give a definition child sexual abuse.
(4) the term “sexual abuse” includes—
(A) the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or
(B) the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children;
As you can see it is not a very full definition. I am aware that each state also have their laws, but I still have to ask the question are our children any better protected in 2008 than they were in the 50’s and 60’s when I was being sexually abused?
I also feel the need to raise a question most people feel uncomfortable with. When I was training as a medic in the military during the Vietnam War, I did my training in Texas. Part of my training was on the burn unit. I was unable to complete my entire rotation there. Working with burn patients was the only thing I found I simply could not do, but I was there long enough to learn the difference between first, second, and third degree burns. Why do I bring this up? Because I think there should be a language for talking about childhood sexual abuse that takes into account the different factors of the experience.
There is a way of talking about the severity of burns or pain. Has your doctor ever asked you to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10? I am not trying to say that a child touched in a sexual way has not suffered abuse. Most of the folks that have been sexually abused from an early age by a family member or someone close to the family and over a long period of time are either locked up on the backward of a state hospital or commits suicide at an early age.
Our ways of coping are different and believe it or not we recognize each other with very few words being exchanged. I had that experience with a lady in Florida and everyone wondered how I knew and why she was drawn to me when she turned away from most people.
I am saying we need a language that addresses the severity, physical pain associated with it and longevity of the sexual abuse along with what coping strategy the person used to endure the ordeal. If one created people to survive then the help needed is certainly different from a person who used another mechanism.
The language may be out there and I have just not been exposed to it. If that is true then will you please tell me where to find it? If it is not then help me develop it. We need a language that reflects the truth not some theory from an ivory tower. I was not abused in an ivory tower. It began in an Appalachian barn.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, April 03, 2008


The first public meeting I attended in Florida in the early nineties I got in trouble with a segment of the consumer advocates in Broward County. When it was time for public comment I stood and spoke forcefully for the need for a state hospital. I spoke against closing it and using the money for community programs. The phrase “in the community” was the popular and trendy idea to support, but I saw it a little differently. In the community for most of us meant living in isolation and poverty. Alone without much of a support system and besides I thought the person should be asked where they wanted to be.
My point was that if the state said it had a right to lock me up then it had an obligation not just to put me back into the community when it was convenient or cheaper for the state. I should have a say. I was not a very popular person at that meeting and I have found myself in a similar position at other meetings. I am not always on the side of the majority to say the least.
South Florida State Hospital changed from a state run hospital to a private run hospital. Yes they got a new building, but they also got other things. Like more restrictive movement on the grounds for example. A much more authoritarian environment. In my humble opinion a place much less conducive to healing. What a price is being paid by those of us with mental illness for the state to get a new building and spend a few less dollars.
Here in North Carolina Broughton Hospital, the state hospital here in Burke County, is going through some rough spots. They lost more than $1 million in Medicaid and Medicare money a month and are working hard to get it back. It is state run with the culture that comes with a state institution. It is making progress and may have a bright future. Is it needed? Yes.
They removed in from the division that was directly responsible for mental health to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The other division was in the same department, but now the state hospitals are directly under the Secretary of HHS. Is this a good idea?
In my opinion no. Here again I am running against the current. In this state we have what are called Local Management Entities that control the state money for certain geographic areas. The state hospitals should be under local control. The LME that make up the area served by the hospital should form a governing body to run the state hospital in their area. Funds saved by wisely using the state hospital could be used in the community. Local control always makes more sense than top down control.
Who knows best? The people on the frontlines. Give them the power to make the decisions and you will see better decisions being made. Make sure they include primary consumers and their families on these governing boards and you will see better state hospitals.
How do I know? I saw it work before South Florida State Hospital was turned over to a for profit company to run. In fact one who’s only experience had been running prisons. Let the people closest to the problems solve them. Believe in ordinary people. They will surprise you. They really do know something.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Friday, March 28, 2008

THANKFUL/Entry for March 28, 2008

As you can see the next blog will not come out until next Thursday because I am celebrating.
First, I am celebrating the fact that today is my 17th wedding anniversary. Patty has been and still is the best thing that ever happened in my life. I have often said in speeches and meetings across this country that the solution to the problems in the mental health systems in the different states is to find a Patty for every one of us. She is more than I ever hoped for and far more than I probably deserve, but she has chosen to stay with me and for that I am grateful. It has not been easy because it is not easy to be with someone too depressed to get off the couch or so manic they can’t stop. Or a person sexually abused so many times as a child that they find trusting another person almost impossible. I can’t count the times I have tested her love or for that matter my family’s love. If I am this bad will you still love me? How about this bad? Patty has stayed.
Second, I am celebrating a year since my surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in the aorta, the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body. The aorta, about the thickness of a garden hose, runs through the center of your body. Because the aorta is the body's predominant supplier of blood, a ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. Although you may never have symptoms, finding out you have an aortic aneurysm can be more than unsettling. Each year, approximately 15,000 people die of an abdominal aortic aneurysm in the United States.
I had my surgery on March 28, 2007. Patty said it was not a very good anniversary present. The next morning she heard one of the nurses come in and say something like, “he is still alive” sounding surprised. Yes I made it and the year since I have only had to deal with a couple of minor heart problems and some kidney problems. I feel truly lucky to be alive. They found it while doing a liver scan. Well actually I don’t feel lucky. I feel like God is walking beside me.
Which brings me to my main point. When the sexual abuse started I was only four years old and I cried out for Jesus to rescue me. He did not come. It hurt like hell. When I started getting sick from my bipolar illness I asked to be healed, but it did not happen. I turned away from God and the church. I stopped preaching or even going to church. Then at Patty’s Dad’s death bed I was asked to say a prayer. The moment I said amen he passed on. I felt God in that room for the first time in my life. I had been in Sunday school since I was a baby. I began preaching on the mission field in Africa at 12 years old and was pastor of a church in Kentucky when I was 17, but I felt God for the first time on the hospice unit of the VA hospital in Asheville, NC in May 2006 when Patty’s dad died.
The odd thing is I now know he has been there all along. From the first abuse in the barn, each time I lived on the streets, every time I was locked away on a mental ward and each step I took in life. How do I know it? Because if He had not been I would not be celebrating today. You would not have been reading my blogs. Patty and I would not have had these years together.
Oh yes, He has been there each day, each hour, each minute. Now I know it. Now I feel it. Call it another of my delusions, but this one please don’t try to take away. This delusion I need. He kept me alive all these years for a reason. This is the season of His reason.
You can reach me directly at

Monday, March 24, 2008


When I went to my first National Alliance on Mental Illness meeting in Asheville, NC in 1988 you heard mostly about folks with Schizophrenia. Then the talk turned to what I call the big three. Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder and Major Depression. Now you hear more talk about other disorders like Dissociative disorders, Panic disorders and Anxiety disorders along with dual diagnosis meaning a mental illness and substance abuse. Post-Traumatic Stress disorder is also coming to the front of the stage. Partly because of the five year war in Iraq and because we are learning more about it.
I found this interesting article in the Sunday Charlotte Observer. “Dr. John Kelsoe has spent his career trying to identify the biological roots of bipolar disorder. In December, he announced he had discovered several gene mutations closely tied to the disease.
Then Kelsoe, a prominent psychiatric geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, did something provocative for the world of academic medical research: He began selling bipolar genetic tests straight to the public over the Internet last month for $399. ……Kelsoe, 52, acknowledges that bipolar disorder, whose sufferers experience intense mood swings, probably results from a combination of genetic factors and life experiences and that the presence of these gene variations does not at all mean that someone will, in fact, develop the disease. “
I wonder if my wife got a call from me and I was standing on the pier in Santa Monica, California (2,375 from Glen Alpine, NC) and had just put a few thousand dollars on our credit card would I test positive with Dr. Kelsoe’s home bipolar genetic test? Just a thought.
Another article in the Charlotte Observer caught my attention. It says, “Groundbreaking research suggests genes help explain why some people can recover from a traumatic event while others suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.
Though preliminary, the study provides insight into a condition expected to strike increasing numbers of veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, one health expert said.
Researchers found that specific variations in a stress-related gene appeared to be influenced by trauma at a young age -- in this case child abuse. That interaction strongly increased the chances for adult survivors of abuse to develop signs of PTSD.
Among adult survivors of severe child abuse, those with the specific gene variations scored more than twice as high (31) on a scale of post-traumatic stress, compared with those without the variations (13).
The worse the abuse, the stronger the risk in people with those gene variations.
The study of 900 adults is among the first to show that genes can be influenced by outside, nongenetic factors to trigger signs of PTSD. It is the largest of just two reports to show molecular evidence of a genetic influence on PTSD. …….About a quarter of a million Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives after being victimized or witnessing violence or other traumatic events. Rates are much higher in war veterans and people living in high-crime areas.
Symptoms can develop long after the event and usually include recurrent terrifying recollections of the trauma. Sufferers often have debilitating anxiety, irritability, insomnia and other signs of stress.”
The truth is that many of us with a serious mental illness also have been abused. Many sexually abused. Many over a long period of time by either a family member or someone close to the family. We are mostly found on the long term wards of state hospitals. Some of us are lucky enough to have pulled ourselves together enough to live in society, but just barely.
When I am struggling I don’t know which is causing me the most trouble. The sexual abuse as a child or the bipolar disorder which started manifesting itself as I grew into adulthood.
Read the symptoms of PTSD and you are looking at the same list they give for hypomania, the stage right before you break into full mania. How am I to tell the difference?
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, March 17, 2008


Saint Patrick's Day (Irish: Lá ’le Pádraig or Lá Fhéile Pádraig), colloquially St. Paddy's Day or Paddy's Day, is an annual feast day which celebrates Saint Patrick (circa 385–461 AD), one of the patron saints of Ireland, and is generally celebrated on March 17. In the past, Saint Patrick's Day was celebrated only as a religious holiday. It became a public holiday in 1903, by the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act 1903, an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament introduced by the Irish MP James O'Mara. O'Mara later introduced the law which required that pubs be closed on 18 March, a provision which was repealed only in the 1970s. The first St. Patrick's Day parade held in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931 and was reviewed by the then Minister of Defence Desmond Fitzgerald. Although secular celebrations now exist, the holiday remains a religious observance in Ireland, for both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Church. The New York parade has become the largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in the world. In 2006 more than 150,000 marchers participated in it, including bands, firefighters, military and police groups, county associations, emigrant societies, and social and cultural clubs, and it was watched by close to 2 million spectators lining the streets. The parade marches up 5th Avenue in Manhattan and is always led by the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment. New York politicians - or those running for office - are always found prominently marching in the parade.
Some Time in New York City is John Lennon's third post-Beatles album, and fifth with Yoko Ono, and was released in 1972. Primarily for its distinction as a dual "Lennon & Ono" album and being preceded by a controversial single, Some Time in New York City fared poorly critically and commercially compared to Lennon's previous two albums, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. On it was a protest song The Luck of the Irish.
Which raises the question is the luck of the Irish good or bad? If we are to believe Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill not only do the Irish have bad luck we all do and because we all suffer it proves there is not a God. In a review written for The Charlotte Observer by Rev. James C. Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church Ehrman is quoted as writing, "I could no longer reconcile the claims of faith with the facts of life. In particular, I could no longer explain how there can be a good and all-powerful God actively involved with this world, given the state of things. ... Life is a cesspool of misery and suffering."
Ehrman seems to assume nobody ever thought of this before. He noticed the Holocaust, hungry children, Katrina -- and he concluded something titanically brilliant: God has a problem, which is God's failure to deal with suffering, so all that is left to us is to conclude God just plain isn't.”
Rev. Howell in the review comments, “I was shocked by this book, but not because Ehrman rejects God. Ehrman is a very fine scholar, and a task incumbent upon a scholar is to engage the best scholarship written on a subject. Christians have known for 2,000 years that suffering happens, and theologians have grappled with many wise, meaningful approaches to how we believe in a good God in a world where bad things happen. Ehrman seems not to have made himself aware of any of them, or he ridiculously misrepresents various ways we understand the intersection of God and suffering. None of the great theologians who have deftly explored these matters is ever mentioned.”
One of those theologians was C. S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain is a 1940 book by C. S. Lewis, in which he seeks to provide an intellectual Christian response to questions about suffering. The book is a theodicy, an attempt by one Christian layman to reconcile orthodox Christian belief in a loving and omnipotent God with the fact that people suffer, and is not intended to provide comfort to those actually suffering. Some have felt that it is useful to read it together with A Grief Observed, Lewis' reflections on his own experience of severe emotional pain.
On this St. Pat’s day I could deny God because I have a mental illness and was abused as a child and now find my health failing. However, I would have rather lived my life a free man with free will and suffered the natural course of life than have been a robot. God created humankind in His likeness not as computers or puppets. I thank Him each day for my freedom and for His grace and I serve Him of my own free will as was His plan from the beginning of time. Ehrman’s book is titled God’s Problem. God’s only problem is that His creation keeps rejecting His grace.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Friday, March 14, 2008


Sharon Begley writing in the March 17th issue of Newsweek wrote, “When you write about science there is no shortage of topics that incite the wrath of readers.” I may be fixing to do that with this blog, but please stay with me till the end before you dismiss me as a total nut.
She went on to write in the article , “In a bizarre finding, sham surgery of the knee, in which patients got sedation and an incision but no actual procedure, relieved the pain of osteoarthritis better than actual arthroscopy—and produced an equal improvement in joint function, scientists reported in 2002. And last month an analysis of clinical trials of a range of antidepressants found that, except in the most severe cases, placebos lifted the black cloud as well as meds did. To be sure, no study is perfect. In the antidepressant one, the placebo might not have looked as effective if it had been compared with the drug that worked best for each patient, rather than with the one that happened to be chosen for the clinical trial. (Some patients respond better to Paxil, some to Effexor or others, for reasons that remain murky.) But the fact remains that placebos are at least somewhat effective and sometimes very effective for some patients. Rather than railing against that finding or pretending it doesn't exist, what we should be doing is learning how brain activity that corresponds to the expectation of cure translates into clinical improvement. As Dan Ariely of Duke University says, "It's not that medicines are crummy, but that the placebo effect is so powerful."
The consumer movement and the recovery concept as a whole have been saying for years that expectations play a key role in the whole process. The fight for a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model or way of seeing the whole person is to get away from labels and low expectations and into the realm of hope and being able to dream again.
The medications I am on now are causing trouble with my kidneys. The ones before that my liver. Now they are trying to figure out what medication to use to control my bipolar illness. I am going from one doctor to another. There is not a team working with me. There is no such thing as a bio-psycho-social-spiritual specialist or a bio-psycho-social-spiritualist team that I am aware of anywhere. Why not?
If the whole person needs to be treated where is the team? Where can we go? I was sitting in a planning session the other night here in North Carolina and the subject of barriers to treatment came up. I said I thought stigma was a major barrier. A member of NAMI said a great deal of progress had been made in that area. My reply was that she must not have filled out a form at a doctor’s office lately and that asked what meds you were taking and listed a bunch of psych meds. I am and have been since 1989 a member of NAMI. I am proud of the work they have done, but the fact remains stigma is well and alive for all of us with a mental illness in this country and to think anything else is simply being an ostrich with your head buried in the sand.
Our only true hope in my humble opinion is when more folks buy into the concept of the bio-psycho-social-spiritual concept and recovery, hope and being able to dream again are the norms. Medications play a role, but they can’t hug you. They can’t listen to you. They can’t love you. They can’t dream with you. They can’t ……….
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, March 10, 2008


Although I got replies to my last blog, I did not get anyone to take a stab at answering the question about the first use of the word/words bio-psycho-social-spiritual. Nevertheless let’s try to define at least what I mean when I use it by coming up with examples.
I consider when I have a manic episode caused by my bipolar illness that I am dealing with a bio or biological phenomenon. Since I consider my bipolar disorder a brain disease, I put it in the bio category. That is not to say that the other three don’t influence or play any part in the manic episode, but the main factor is a malfunctioning body part we call the brain.
When I am depressed it is a bit more complicated. It can be bio, but it can also be mainly psychological. This is sometimes referred to as situational depression. How can I tell the difference? Certainly not by how I feel. However, if I am not so depressed that I can’t do it I can think back to see if something happened that started it. If I can’t identify a reason for it starting then I assume I am in what is commonly referred to as clinically depression which means it is caused by my biological disorder called bipolar. Now to be sure this is not an easy thing to figure out and at times I am both depressed and manic.
A social situation that those of us with a mental illness and our families are very familiar with is stigma. Another one that most of my fellow sojourners deal with is poverty. You put stigma with poverty and you have created a social crisis for the individual.
To understand spirituality does not require you to believe in a soul or God or a life after this one. Let me clearly state I do believe that we have souls which live for eternity and that God created us and all we see around us. However, to get the meaning of the fourth word you do not have to believe as I do. Spirituality does not mean a church or a certain dogma. It means we all have an inner life and much of how well we do on our individual recovery journeys depends on how we learn to deal with our inner life.
For example during a manic episode my actions are more determined by what is deep inside me than from any psychological insights or social morals. My mind is racing and I am acting faster than facts can keep up with. You might say I have to hope my guts will keep the ship on course. From deep within is my only hope.
Now I believe that deep within me is the Creator’s Spirit helping me keep this manic force on some sort of course. You may have a different belief about how you get the help you need when the world seems to over take you, but whatever the view most folks still say they feel it deep inside themselves. In their souls.
We will never get to the place that we can truly be useful to others on their recovery journey until we see them in their complex state as all humans are. We live in a complex yet fragile universe among people who are both complex and fragile. Brave and weak. How would one ever know how majestic an elephant was if they could only see the tail?
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Thursday, March 06, 2008


What do you believe Ed? I ask myself that question about a year ago as I found myself facing a serious surgery to repair an abdominal aorta aneurysm. As I listen to the political rhetoric this year, I ask myself the same question. As I read about the mental health reforms that were begun in this state (North Carolina) in 2001, again I have to ask myself what I believe.
It is important to have a solid foundation of beliefs by which you test the assertions of any idea. If you don’t have these concrete principles or beliefs then you can be blown around like tumbleweed on the desert landscape.
At a news conference this week North Carolina’s governor said, “We had our concerns about the reform of 2001. We believed that it was a privatization that went too far too quickly.” (THE NEWS & OBSERVER)
I think this is 2008 and if I had thought something was wrong in 2001 I might have started sooner saying so. The governor sounded like he has been helpless over these past years to stop the train wreck. If that is true then why would anyone agree to give his appointed head of the Department of Health and Human Services more power?
THE NEWS & OBERVER put it this way, “ Gov. Mike Easley called on state legislators Tuesday to give his administration more authority to fix the state's troubled mental health system. Though he said he was not attempting to lay blame for the problems, the governor repeatedly pointed to the General Assembly and local mental health agencies as those primarily responsible for bungling the 2001 reform plan. Easley again contended that his administration "vigorously" opposed the plan from the start -- a version of history that does not square with the written record or the statements of the bill's primary sponsor. Implemented by the Easley administration over the past six years, the reforms dismantled an established system of county-run mental health offices and sought to pay businesses to do the work. It also sought to reduce the size of the state's four psychiatric hospitals in favor of more treatment in the community. “
So what are some basic building blocks one might look for in a plan or system to ascertain if it is built on a solid foundation?
1) Is the system First-Person? One of the first things that hit me head on when I returned to North Carolina after being away for more than a decade was that primary consumers are generally included only on advisory committees or in advisory roles, but not in the real decision making process other than maybe a token position. The other thing that amazed me was that the individual plans were not really driven by the person, but everybody under the sun was asked their opinion about what the person ought to do. Looking at these two facts alone one can tell the decision making process is not First-Person or consumer driven and nor are the service plans.
2) How many independent consumer run programs are operating in the state? The answer to this question gives you some idea to what degree the power structure believes in the recovery movement. Count the number of independent drop-in centers, safe houses, crisis services and other consumer run programs and you will know if they believe in us or themselves.
It is important what you come to the table believing. My fear is that there are few people at the table here in North Carolina who truly believes in us.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, March 03, 2008


John Muir (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914) was one of the first modern preservationists. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, and wildlife, especially in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, were read by millions and are still popular today. His direct activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. His writings and philosophy strongly influenced the formation of the modern environmental movement.
John Muir once said everyone needs, “places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” I was in Eastern Kentucky last week to attend the funeral of my Aunt (mother’s side of family) and I certainly needed the healing power of God’s creation. I drove through Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky. The reason for the trip may not have been pleasant, but the trip going up was God’s finest creation of nature. Coming back to Glen Alpine, I was in snow most of the way which lends a beauty to the landscape all its own. Thank God for the beauty he has provided us to live upon.
The cover of NEWSWEEK dated March 3, 2008 has these words, “The Hunt for an Addiction Vaccine.” In the article we find these words, “In the current jargon of the recovery movement, addiction to alcohol, drugs or nicotine is a ‘bio-psycho-social-spiritual disorder’, a phrase that seems to have been invented by the treatment industry to emphasize how complex the problem is and how much more funding it deserves.”
I have tried to find the origin of the word or its first use, but can’t. I know I used it first in 1988 in relationship to my own mental illness and at that time I had not read it anywhere else. If any of you know the beginnings of this word please let me know. I know I took bio-psycho-social and added social, but I would like to know where it was first being used.
On the editorial page of THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER this past Sunday there was an editorial titled RETHINKING REFORM speaking of the mental health system here in North Carolina. Most important fact in it is the fact we are spending $16.80 per capita on mental health care. The national average stated in this editorial is $91.12 per capita. You are argue about the details of reform, but one thing for sure if you don’t fund it you have made sure it will fail before it gets off the ground.
On the front page of the same paper was a story about the deaths in our state hospitals here in North Carolina. “Most died of natural causes, but a News & Observer investigation shows that 82 of those patients died under circumstances that raise questions: homicides, suicides, accidents, inadequate treatment or mistakes.
Family members of the deceased, who have a legal right to receive complete information about how their loved ones died, often are not told the full details. State reviews, death certificates and autopsy reports confirm the death toll. Of the 82 deaths that are questionable, 20 who died were above the age of 65. A review of conditions in North Carolina's state mental hospitals by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004 concluded that employees routinely violated patients' civil rights. The inappropriate use of physical restraints and seclusion were cited as major problems, as were inadequate mental-health treatment, unsafe building conditions and the failure to ensure the reasonable safety of patients."
We need to know that someone cares. I guess that is why I turn to faith communities and say to them it is time to embrace us. To open your arms. To seek us out and let us know you love us and want us among you. It is time to stop sitting safely in the pew and boldly reach out your hand and heart open to those of us with broken brains and shattered souls.
You can reach me directly at

Friday, February 22, 2008


In an article in the Raleigh, NC News & Observer dated February 17th we find this statement. “We don't have a system that recognizes or identifies a crisis at a stage where we can give them services until it becomes a problem," said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Democrat from Carrboro on state legislative judicial committees. "We've got to change the whole thing.”
The root meaning of system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. As the commercial asked years ago “where is the beef?” we can ask today “Where is the mental health system?”.
The above quote is from an article telling about the death of a young woman in one of our prisons here in North Carolina. Speaking of her the article says, “ The mental health diagnoses were long and complicated. Bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse and borderline and antisocial personality traits. “
It also says, “Officials with the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women say Bouleris wrapped a sheet around her neck and hanged herself from her prison bed, leaving a family wracked with grief, guilt and haunting questions.”
It is not unusual to get a number of different psychiatric labels if you come in contact with the system or non-system over a number of years. That is my own experience. I have gone from paranoid schizophrenia to bipolar disorder since 1964 until now and I am leaving out a number of others simply because I can’t remember them. One point it makes is that making a psychiatric diagnosis is not a science.
However, the death of this young lady makes a far greater point. The lack of a system in this state and certainly an apparent lack of forensic services. This brings me to a point I have made before. We needed someone in charge with experience. We are people not natural resources.
In the same article we read, “Kidder [the mother] has heard from friends and relatives of inmates still behind bars, prisoners too fearful of retribution to risk corresponding on their own. They have relayed that Bouleris was very open about her suicide plans. They say the guards did not check on her at the 6 a.m. shift change on Jan. 26, the day she was found dead at 8:30 a.m.
"This just totally changed the grieving process," Kidder said. "Now I'm angry."
Why, Kidder wonders, were the suicide threats not taken more seriously?
"If she's telling people she's suicidal, you just can't ignore this," Kidder said. "Even if she cried 'wolf' 100 times, guess what -- it's time 101, you still listen."
Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, said the State Bureau of Investigation was looking into the incident, standard procedure.
The autopsy report was not complete last week, according to Chief Medical Examiner John Butts, but his office is investigating the death as an apparent suicide.
State prison officials, too, are examining their actions, Acree said, but their findings will become part of Bouleris' inmate files and not available for public scrutiny.”
Consumers and family members can no longer tolerate this non-system that shatters souls and leaves broken brains feeling helpless. What System I ask?
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}

Monday, February 18, 2008


One of the issues I worked on while I was in south Florida was the relationship between primary care services and mental health services. I have always had a problem getting good health care as soon as the provider asked what medications I was presently taking. It seems like the list of psych meds I take deafens the medical doctors’ ears. Studies support that we die at an earlier age than folks without a mental illness and I don’t think all of it can be contributed to our bad habits which they tell me research shows we have at a higher rate than chronically normal people do. The truth is we get poorer health care than the average person in this country.
In today’s New York Times in a piece by Kevin Sack we learn about another study. “A nationwide study has found that the uninsured and those covered by Medicaid are more likely than those with private insurance to receive a diagnosis of cancer in late stages, often diminishing their chances of survival.”
When I moved here to Morganton, NC I picked a local physician who was just starting her practice. Soon after seeing her a piece appeared in the paper that she had just successfully completed the Certification Examination of The American Board of Family Medicine. I was surprised to find out that the ABFM is one of 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties and is the second largest. However, my biggest surprise was what the exam covered. It covers (but not limited to) the disciplines of the specialties of adult medicine, care of newborns, infants, children, adolescents, maternity and gynecological care, community medicine, care of the older patient, human behavior, care of the surgical patient and mental health.
When I went to see her the first time I had to take the list of the meds I was on just like all the other times I had seen a new doctor. I have kidney and heart problems. I had had surgery to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm in March 2007 which involves removing the damaged section of the aorta and replacing it with a synthetic tube (graft), which is sewn into place. This procedure requires open-abdominal surgery involving a large incision and a lengthy recover time. An aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in the aorta, the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body. The aorta, about the thickness of a garden hose, runs through the center of your body. Because the aorta is the body's predominant supplier of blood, a ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. I was lucky (or God was not done with me) that while doing an ultrasound of my liver the tech saw the aneurysm. My point is I am not the easiest case she ever had walk through her door either medically or personality wise, but because of her training and because of the person she is she has done an excellent job with a difficult patient. I don’t make a good patient.
What I am using all these words to say is that if I can be provided good medical care then any of us can. Just before this past Christmas I was awaken from a deep sleep with severe chest pains. I sat in my office almost hoping it was my time to go because I have been suicidal since I was sexually abused at four years old and it did not stop then. My bipolar illness has not done wonders for the suicidal thoughts either. Finally, I woke Patty and off to the hospital I went by ambulance with them popping nitro pills in my mouth. I was in the emergency room until about noon waiting on a bed. Through a mix up the cardiologist never got called, but even though my doctor does not see patients in the hospital (they have hospital doctors) she came by. She did not stand by the bed. She sat in a chair like she was visiting me. They wanted me to have a heart catheterization, but when things got so confusing I told Patty to either take me home (it was almost midnight) or I was just going to the street. I have not had the catheterization yet, but my physician is still working with me. I may be the most distrusting patient on earth, but she has not thrown me away.
I tell you this story because I want you to dream of the day when all my fellow sojourners will be treated by a physician with the same respect I am by her. She sees me as a person. The key to all of this folks is when the day comes we see ourselves as a person. When the world sees us as fully human too and not just as a diagnosis, we will have really won.
You can reach me directly at
{Being on this resource list does not imply their endorsement of this BLOG.}