I have seen a lot over my twenty-four year history in community mental health. It can take a little while in my opinion to go from being part of the problem to being part of a solution. Working against the shadow of institutionalization, my experience has taught me accepting the status quo is not treatment.
As I was attaining my Master’s degree, I tended to be willing to do what I was told by my supervisors. Too often, I didn’t feel I was part of the solution. I believed schizophrenia was a medical condition and the best that could be hoped for was to have the afflicted take their medication. But I was also curious and respectfully listened.
As I went from working in a small day program to being a case manager, I started to be far more aware of the warehousing effect. I started having more power and responsibility to take action to challenge the norm and provide talking and relationship support in addition to the service provided.
Six years in I moved and took a job in an urban section 8 housing authority project where I witnessed first hand warehouse environments that can be oppressive, dangerous and real. Conspiracy theories started to make a lot more sense. As I was investigating and getting closer to understanding how so much crime, oppression and violence could be so covered up, I received personal threats from a credible source. I tried to escape to Canada and being hospitalized in a State Hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
A Mole in the System
Eighteen years ago I landed at Highland Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry, a voluntary day treatment program that provides individual and group therapy primarily to people who are warehoused in Oakland CA. Breaking back into mental health had been a challenge as had the two years of crisis I endured during and after my hospitalization.
Initially I was cautious. It took me six years and plenty of side gigs to get my license. Though many program participants still lived in warehouse conditions, the program was a good learning environment. People naturally improved and healed along the way and I learned to defy the power imbalance and optimize this. I took a WRAP Facilitator Training and started using my story in my work. I took one on one encounters very seriously and I developed my specialty writing out and sharpening my interventions in carefully thought out manners. Developing such interventions involved going where everyone else said not to go and listening to my own recovery instead of text books.
I did leave Highland for approximately two years to be an administrator for peer counselors in a county initiative. Being in contact with the corridors of power caused me to see myself more as a healer. Seven years ago I went back to Highland Hospital and helped the program develop and adjust. My focus continued to be to bring in peer services and promote recovery practices that would inspire social integration. We started providing individual services to people with Medi-Cal insurance and a clinic where participants could follow up with one-on-one therapy.
Sharing the Stories of “Psychosis” or Special Message Crisis
In 2008 when I got my license, I started writing my memoir and developing my specialty. I developed a curriculum that I used in collaboration with participants in professional groups. Not only did I practice sharing my story in these groups, the task became about reconstructing a new definition of “psychosis” with solvable components and eclectic strategies for promoting health. I developed power points, drafted original documents, refined the power points. and drafted a book I would like to someday publish
Special Messages Groups In Alameda County
In 2014-2015 I authored a local Innovations Grant during which I utilized this curriculum. The grant trained four peer specialists under the direction of a project manager with lived experience to outreach into homeless encampments and local agencies to establish peer-led group therapy. The final findings of the Special Message Project Grant Project can be found here.
A Training For Provider-folk
In the course of the grant, I became a speaker at a host of local venues and I drafted an extensive unpublished write-up. Through collaborations with the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network, I have narrowed my work into training for provider-folk. I believe this training can prepare them to understand the value of Special Message or Hearing Voices Network groups and learn to work with individuals through their psychosis. As a result, I have developed a six-hour CEU credit class and am available to come and train Bay Area Programs in segments.
I am in this work because I think we need to challenge the medicalized cultural delusions about poor prognosis of our people! On this site you will find many stories in my writings that seek to provide shamanic support to help you understand the wisdom being revitalized by the hearing voices movement.
I tend to trust my own lived experience and encourage other diagnosed people to do the same. Text books, statistics, and labels are often full of misinformation that can impede progress. In blogs to other professionals, perspective partners, and family members I am largely reflective and using only facts and references that are already stored in my head.
Straight Outta State Hospital!!!
I also write creatively on this website. My award winning memoir is in my creative voice. An outsider’s perspective, these posts of poetry and narrative essays, blast through the bedrock. In these pieces I remain vulnerable, meticulous and raw. I am:
- the male anorexic straight outta Camden,
- the whistle-blower for the Seattle Housing Coalition,
- the paranoid schizophrenic of the Montana State Hospital Chronic Unit,
- the job-hunting, homeless drifter in Fresno,
- the paranoid servant peppering the olive oil at an Italian delicatessen,
- and the psychotherapist from the backward in Oakland.
And I am never going back to the private Quaker Prep School where I was raised.
Fighting for Freedom in America: Memoir of a “Schizophrenia” and Mainstream Cultural Delusions, chronicles my mid career plight taking on a section 8 management company, police, and black market forces that intermingled to run things. The outcome has been a unique perspective on mental health informed by both sides of the broken tiled corridor. My hope is this publication will open the eyes of those who believe that psychosis is irreversible and show you the world full of extraordinary experiences and covert realities from an ex-patient’s perspective.
My work received five-star reviews from authorities such as Readers Views, Readers Favorite, Midwest Book Reviews, and Book Viral Spotlight. It ranked 8 out of over a thousand in the 2015 Book Viral Contest. In 2016 it received an Honorable Mention Award in Reader’s Favorite Annual Contest. It received four awards in 2016 Human Relations Indie Award, including Directors Choice for Outstanding Human Relations Life Adjustment Indie Book and Gold for Inspirational Human Relations Indie Book. In 2018 it was a Finalist in the Top Shelf Indie Book Award.
At the current time, I am a board member of the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network. On the weekends I publish blogs and vie to add to my publications list. Additionally, I speak at local venues and annually at CASRA (California Association of Social Rehabilitation Agencies) Conferences where I provide segments of my training.
When I am not engaged in meaningful work or using writing to be thoughtful about the care I provide, I further heal by getting out into nature with my beloved wife, Barbara, and dog, Jayla. This is done daily at the local dog park, weekly at regional parks, and a couple of times a year in our national parks.
I was raised as a faculty rat at a private Quaker School. My family spent the summers in Upstate New York in a town that was built up around the family’s lumber business. The business had been closed for a generation and therefore I was surrounded by rural poverty and friends that were artificially nice to me. We all appreciated the wilderness that surrounded us and I became mindful of disparities of wealth at a young age.
At Quaker school I never quite fit. I was discouraged from embracing materialism amid a majority that did. Though I graduated with honors, I struggled with learning disabilities. I developed a contrarian relationship with the mainstream that failed to recognize or respect me. I spent my last year in and out of mental hospitals.
I moved from the hospital to an inner-city commuter campus to hide my history of male anorexia. There I could keep people out of my business. I got most of my social support among the local community with whom I worked and socialized. The locals seemed to respect me more than many of the commuting students who remained connected to their high school cliques. I tended to make friends with older students who were returning to school.