I asked the staff about this and every one of the psychiatrists denied these patients existed. This outright and widely-agreed-upon lie really raised my curiosity. Finally after pouring through the journals in the hospital library I found an article describing psycho tropic-drug-induced disruptions of melanin (the dark skin pigment). Thorazine, a commonly used psychiatric drug, when taken in high doses over a long period of time would do this. Excess melanin eventually was deposited in vital organs such as the heart and the liver, causing death.
I found it especially upsetting to see patients receive electroshock treatments. These violent, physician-induced traumas did seem to disrupt dysfunctional thought patterns such as an impulse to commit suicide, but afterwards the victim couldn't remember huge parts of their life or even recall who they were. Like many other dangerous medical treatments, electroshock can save life but it can also take life away by obliterating identity.
According the Hippocratic Oath, the first criteria of a treatment is that it should do no harm. Once again I found myself trapped in a system that made me feel severe protest. Yet none of these specialists or university professors, or academic libraries had any information about alternatives. Worse, none of these mind-doctor-gods were even looking for better treatments.
Though unpleasant and profoundly disappointing, my experience as a mental hospital psychologist was, like being in nursing school, also very valuable. Not only did I learn how to diagnose, and evaluate the severity of mental illness and assess the dangerousness of the mentally ill, I learned to understand them, to feel comfortable with them, and found that I was never afraid of them. Fearlessness is a huge advantage. The mentally ill seem to have a heightened ability to spot fear in others. If they sense that you are afraid they frequently enjoy terrorizing you. When psychotic people know you feel comfortable with them, and probably understand a great deal of what they are experiencing, when they know that you can and intend to control them, they experience a huge sense of relief. I could always get mentally ill people to tell me what was really going on in their heads when no one else could get them to communicate.
A few years later I married an American and became the Mental Health Coordinator for Whatcom County, the northwestern corner of Washington State. I handled all the legal proceedings in the county for mentally ill people. After treatment in the state mental hospital I supervised their reentry into the community, and attempted to provide some follow up. This work further confirmed my conclusions that in most cases the mentally ill weren't helped by conventional treatment. Most of them rapidly became social problems after discharge. It seemed the mental hospital's only ethically defensible function was incarceration--providing temporary relief for the family and community from the mentally ill person's destructiveness.
I did see a few people recover in the mental health system. Inevitably these were young, and had not yet become institutionalized, a term describing someone who comes to like being in the hospital because confinement feels safe. Hospitalization can mean three square meals and a bed. It frequently means an opportunity to have a sex life (many female inmates are highly promiscuous). Many psychotics are also criminal; the hospital seems far better to them than jail. Many chronically mentally ill are also experts at manipulating the system. When homeless, they deliberately get hospitalized for some outrageous deed just before winter. They then "recover" when the fine weather of spring returns.
After a year as Mental Health Co-ordinator, I had enough of the "system" and decided that it was as good a time as any to return to school for a Ph.D., this time at University. of Oregon where I studied clinical and counseling psychology and gerontology. While in graduate school I became pregnant and had my first child. Not surprisingly, this experience profoundly changed my consciousness. I realized that it had perhaps been all right for me to be somewhat irresponsible about my own nutrition and health, but that it was not okay to inflict poor nutrition on my unborn child. At that time I was addicted to salty, deep-fat fried corn chips and a diet pop. I thought I had to have these so-called foods every day. I tended to eat for taste, in other words, what I liked, not necessarily what would give me the best nutrition. I was also eating a lot of what most people would consider healthy food: meat, cheese, milk, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fruits.
My constitution had seemed strong and vital enough through my twenties to allow this level of dietary irresponsibility. During my early 20s I had even recovered from a breast cancer by sheer will power. (I will discuss this later.) So before my pregnancy I had not questioned my eating habits. As my body changed and adapted itself to it's new purpose I began visiting the libraries and voraciously read everything obtainable under the topic of nutrition--all the texts, current magazines, nutritional journals, and health newsletters. My childhood habit of self-directed study paid off. I discovered alternative health magazines like Let's Live, Prevention, Organic Gardening, and Best Ways, and promptly obtained every back issue since they were first published. Along the way I ran into articles by Linus Pauling on vitamin C, and sent away for all of his books, one of these was co-authored with David Hawkins, called The Orthomolecular Approach to Mental Disorders.
This book had a profound effect on me. I instantly recognized that it was Truth with a capital "T", although the orthomolecular approach was clearly in opposition to the established medical model and contradicted everything I had ever learned as a student or professional. Here at last was the exciting alternative approach to treating mental disorders I had so long sought. I filed this information away, waiting for an opportunity to use it. And I began to study all the references in The Orthomolecular Approach to Mental Disorders dealing with correcting the perceptual functioning of psychotic people using natural substances.
In the course of delving through libraries and book stores, I also came across the Mokelumne Hill Publishing Company (now defunct). This obscure publisher reprinted many unusual and generally crudely reproduced out-of-print books about raw foods diets, hygienic medicine, fruitarianism, fasting, breathairianism, plus some works discussing spiritual aspects of living that were far more esoteric than I had ever thought existed. I decided that weird or not, I might as well find out everything potentially useful. So I spent a lot of money ordering their books. Some of Mokelumne Hill's material really expanded my thoughts. Though much of it seemed totally outrageous, in every book there usually was one line, one paragraph, or if I was lucky one whole chapter that rang true for me.
Recognizing capital "T" Truth when one sees it is one of the most important abilities a person can have. Unfortunately, every aspect of our mass educational system attempts to invalidate this skill. Students are repeatedly told that derivation from recognized authority and/or the scientific method are the only valid means to assess the validity of data. But there is another parallel method to determine the truth or falsehood of information: Knowing. We Know by the simple method of looking at something and recognizing its correctness. It is a spiritual ability. I believe we all have it. But in my case, I never lost the ability to Know because I almost never attended school.
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