I was mentally insane with delusions and voices flying around my head. I was crying out for God to kill me. I blacked out and awoke with a rope in my hand to make it all end when a voice asked me, “Can you go on?” I got myself back into a mental hospital and stayed alive. I blacked out and awoke in a padded cell. They doped me on medications and endlessly, minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day I spent walking the hospital halls. When released, nightly I roamed the deserts around El Paso until I ended in jail, beaten and bruised but still picking a fight with the biggest man in the cell. My wife demanded a divorce. A voice wanted me to stay alive and continue my madness in hell. I said, “I can.”
When I was born as the number two son, my father decided to follow his mentor from college, Aldo Leopold, and raise his family on a farm. Aldo Leopold is a well-known conservationist best known for his book, Sand County Alamac. Pepper, as everyone including us kids called our Dad, helped build the cabin on the Wisconsin River featured in the book. So, to my grand-parents chagrin, especially to my paternal grandfather who was a famous surgeon, my parents brought a farm. My maternal grandmother wasn’t too happy either. She was Assistant Dean of Economics at the University. But to me, the farm – with Pepper’s tutelage – became a place of continuous revelation.
I must have been two or three when we moved on to the sixty-acre homestead with the original wooden cook stove in the kitchen, a coal burning furnace in the dining room, and a two-seater outhouse for plumbing. The cook stove was replaced, and a bathroom was built upstairs, but the coal furnace always remained in the dining room. During the winter, Jack Frost covered the inside of the upstairs windows where we slept with a thick layer of leafy frost.
During these early years on the farm, I was left largely to my own devices and freely roomed around the farm with my older brother Steve, or as was most of the time, by myself. Animals on the farm were always a source of curiosity. From the pigs we raised to Mike and Molly, the family Irish Setters and later to Bart, a German Shepard, and Blackie, a Black Lab mix who showed up one day as a stray. Several generations of cats came and went over the years with each mother catching mice, chipmunks, and gophers to feed and to teach their kittens how to hunt. And there were raccoons, deer, wood chucks and an occasional fox.
There was a connection to the weather and the four seasons that developed because how they constantly affected daily life. Rain was not the sad metaphor of many a song, but meant life for crops. Summer thunderstorms were exciting and winter blizzards were made for play. Every spring we had hundreds of migrating geese, ducks, and even some brilliant white swans stopping in our flooded fields. A neighbor once took us into the woods to show us a newborn and spotted fawn in the brush – curled up motionless. Summer was the brilliant green and life of growing crops. Fall was the harvest and the changing leaves foreshadowing the shortened days of the coming silence of winter.
Months were not measured by a calendar, but by the seasons and the moon. Within each season, one day was much the same as another. What did change from day to day, or should I say from night to night, was the phase of the moon and its position in the sky. Each night the moon changed its shape and would have moved a little further east against the brilliantly lit up night sky amass with stars.
The indigenous people have a different and more personal relationship with the earth and sky. They are Mother Earth and Father Sky. Maybe this relationship exists because they listened and heard the voices of nature and knew and felt its presence. . . as I did. As I grew up and became indoctrinated within the culture of a civilized society, my worlds collided – leaving me imprisoned within the psychiatric wards and medicine of the advanced culture of modern man.
His world was green, vital, and alive with tall fox tail grasses growing in the pastures and rows upon rows of corn in the fields vibrating with energy. Always barefoot, he now carefully climbed the wire fence that held in the farm’s Black Angus cattle. His mother wanted to name him Angus, but the eventual decision was Andrew, or Andy for short. He liked those big black cows and he learned that his name, Andrew Jackson, was special.
There was a special trick to climbing a fence barefoot and he had figured it out long ago. The key was to put the wire just in the right spot on the ball of your foot. It also helped to pull with your hands, again putting the wire in an especially thick part below the fingers. Then you always climbed at a wooden fence post – not those skinny steel ones – because you had to climb high enough and put both hands on top of the post. This allowed you to take all the weight off your feet and swing them over the top of the fence. This was particularly important if there was a strand of barb wire running along the top, which, since this fence had to keep in some cattle, it did.
He was only 5 years old and the fence was very big. His efforts paid off as he was now lying on his back, oblivious of the roaming cattle, on a little rounded knoll in the back-pasture gazing at the white cotton clouds shifting and dancing across the bright blue summer’s sky. As the clouds appeared and rolled and churned within their bright blue canvas, he called out the shapes that appeared before his gaze. A dragon with his fiery breath suddenly loomed over the land. And then a mighty horse appeared, just over to the left of the dragon, running to chase it down. There were many characters in the sky but after a while he grew tired of this game and that is when he heard a voice.
“So, what do you want us to make?” he heard the clouds ask.
He thought for a moment, pondering the question. “How about a teapot?” he replied thinking nothing at all about being asked to alter the sky’s landscape. He then watched the clouds grow here, and disappeared there, and with a twist and a churn right before his eyes, he saw a teapot.
“How about a crocodile?” he exclaimed.
Again, the clouds started swirling and rolling around in no observable pattern. To any passerby, it was a warm summer’s day with white fluffy clouds passing by. But as Andy watched, he began to see a familiar shape as a crocodile appeared. It swam across the sky with its gigantic jaws seizing upon a fish.
After a while, he got up, stretched his arms and legs and walked home without a second thought about his artistic friends in the sky he had been playing with. He was hungry and looming ahead was a fence to climb and his feet were bare and a thistle may appear from nowhere. He turned his head for one last look; in the sky above his head, a Phoenix appeared with his wings spread half way across the sky.
It was a dark late September night without a cloud in the sky. Pepper was on his way to do some last-minute inspection of the pig pens to make sure they were secure. Pigs were very talented and strong and were quite capable of engineering an escape when it was least expected. The stars were brilliant and the Milky Way with its light hue looked like a giant stream meandering across the landscape. Andy had decided he was going out to join Pepper on his late-night chores.
The night was cool and brisk and so Andy buttoned the top button on his green, wool Army Surplus jacket. World War II had just ended a little over ten years ago and Pepper used the extra surplus as a means to save money. Unfortunately for Mom, or Kathryn depending on the situation, these were dress jackets and she had to sew in an extra button and hole to close off the neck. Unfortunate for the three boys in the family, the wool was scratchy under the chin and the jackets were short and cut off at the waste. There was always a cold gap exposing the skin to minus twenty-degree temperatures and blowing snow in the winter.
As they walked between the barn and the tobacco shed, now laced with pig pens – growing tobacco had once been very common on these old farms – Andy stretched and looked around and found the Big Dipper through the leaves of a giant maple bordering the driveway. He couldn’t always find the North Star, but he knew where to look. Pepper had taught all the kids how to line up the last two stars of the big dipper. The North Star was behind him and so Andy knew they were headed South. But that was just a mental exercise because he already knew how the farm laid out to the compass headings.
“Where are you going?” Andy asked his dad while trying to keep up with his long strides.
“I thought I would go out back and check out the corn.”
It was nearing the end of corn growing season. It was important for every farmer to go out into the fields and husk out an ear or two of corn to see how kind the weather was that year. A good season meant a little extra food for the animals that didn’t need to bought at the local feed store and a little extra change in the pocket. Andy was oblivious to the finances and never became privy to them until Pepper died some fifty years later.
As they stood out beside the sow house, as the last little building was named, Pepper looked up at the stars. Andy stared up with him in silence. There was something big, and huge, and mysterious going on with all those stars way up there and Earth way down here floating like a giant marble in space. It was a silent moment of reverence for some great unknown vastness.
“I wonder what is behind the stars?” he heard Pepper quietly speak as if he himself was in some mysterious place.
“Behind the stars?” Andy thought to himself. “Behind the Stars?” Then it hit him like an avalanche careening down the mountain. There was something behind the stars! He was looking up at a wall, or a ceiling, or a floor, he didn’t know what. But he could feel something beyond and behind……the stars! It was the Universe. And… the Universe was alive.
My parents love of nature and for each other was passed on to us kids with our many picnics on the Wisconsin River and at Devil’s Lake, sailing with whales in the Sea of Cortex, the many skiing trips to the mountains out west, and camping and canoe trips to the Boundary Waters and Quetico Canoe Areas. During my seventh-grade year, they built a camper and took us and our school books for three months of exploring the wester national parks, two months of camping on Mexico’s Pacific shore and a month of skiing at Crested Butte, Colorado.
But my father’s fortuitous years of abundant love, joy, and the unbridled emotions of his youth were shattered with the suicidal deaths of his sisters and the brutal reality of WWII training with the Tenth Mountain Division. Even the struggles, hardships, and unfamiliar challenges of his early years as a farmer lay cracks in his self-esteem as a successful scholar and academic. These emotional chasms were passed onto me by his absolute demand of obedience. The consequences of disobedience were clearly demonstrated by my witness of his demonic anger while impaling a cat with a pitch fork that mistakenly wondered into the basement of our farmhouse. The howls and screams of that skewered cat in the violent convulsive pathos of its death haunt me to this day. Beneath my father’s benevolent exterior laid a dormant volcano of unresolved nightmares ready to erupt with seemingly uncontrollable anger. Survival became dependent on knowing not my own emotional state, but his.
I was mentally-emotionally broken. My first psychotic episode was in 1979 at the age of 25. I could no longer hold my self together. I stopped…. I stopped at a stop sign. There was “evil” in the car. I stripped off my clothes, got out of the car and started running naked across a corn field trying to align my family and the planets to make things right and to prevent further disaster. From 1979 to 1996 I was in and out of hospitals and constantly medicated. In this time, I was hospitalized maybe 10-15 times for psychotic-manic episodes and ended up on Social Security Disability.
I listened to, and tried to make work, the ideas told to me by the many therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists in my life. It was not working for me. I could not make their world of mental illness, hospitals and medications my life. I was not going to be able to keep myself alive in this hell much longer… I did not know what to do. This usually meant a brainstorm of negative thoughts which would escalate an emotionally negative situation further along the downward spiral. Like a run-away train down a mountain, there is not going to be a good outcome. Or, a brainstorm of positive thoughts which would escalate a situation spiraling upward out of control into manic wonderland. Like, Icarus flying too close to the sun, disaster ensued.
Mania, or depression was all internally suppressed until some constraining dam broke, flooding my life with an uncontrollable swirl of unfathomable realities. I had been trained not to complain about aches and pains. In the cold of winter growing up on a farm, chores were to be done. Emotions, like frost bit fingers, if there wasn’t a medical necessity and the pain could be tolerated, keep quiet and do your job. I had broken my arm, dislocated my wrist, broken my collarbone twice, stepped on nails that went through my foot, as well as tolerating dozens of slivers imbedded into my hands and feet. I had learned to take my frozen hands and run them under lukewarm water. When the severe pain stopped, they were thawed out. Pain, physical or emotional, was a part of life. You tolerated it and kept working. Disobedience was not an option. That is life. My emotional pain was inconsequential and to be tolerated – or so I thought.
My hospitalizations were for psychotic-mania. My depression symptoms were ignored, except one time around 1988 when I was in grad school for my first Master’s in Industrial Management Technology from the UW-Stout, Menominee, WI. I told my psychiatrist that I was having a particularly hard time in a relationship and could he give me something. A week later, I “awoke” from another black out period. I was in a classroom with the teacher handing back tests, including mine. I have no recollection of going to classes, taking this test or anything else over the previous week.
Another time, after being released from the mental hospital from some psychotic-manic episode, I was on 5-6 different medications. I really tried to keep them straight in one of those 7-day med containers, but to no avail. My mind and body were really messed up. My meds were all screwed up. The clock said 5:35 in the morning. My mind was breaking. I reeled in pain, twisting and turning for hours. I looked at the clock. It said 5:41. Six minutes had passed. I blacked out. I awoke with a rope in my hand going to hang myself. A voice asked me, “can you go on?” I said, “yes”. Somehow, I got myself back into the hospital.
My basic medications were Tegretol and Klonopin. I can’t remember the others except I was first given lithium. I quit taking it because of the side effects and ended up going psychotic. Another drug, Haloperidol, I called “the death drug” because of its horrendous side effects. If I felt I was going manic or psychotic, I would take some and “die” in pain for a day or two. The misery it caused was almost unbearable, but it kept me out of the hospital (most of the time). Other times, I just went psychotic. Hell is hell.
Most often my ‘black out’ periods were affiliated with a manic episode. Around 1989 I “awoke” once in a hospital and wondered how I got here. The caregiver said I had gone up to a police car and told them that “my friend” needed help. “My friend” turned out to be a garbage can. During other psychotic-manic episodes I would remember events up to hospitalization and then lose a few days to blackout periods. I once “awoke” at a table in a mental hospital. The nurse gave me a pack of Camel-straights, the cigarette my mom smoked on the farm. Apparently, I now smoked and went outside with the others to have my “first” cigarette.
Another time, in 1990, I “awoke” with my mother in a drug store. Somehow, I was now in Madison, WI, 200 miles from UW-Stout where I had just finished my second master in Tech Education. We were getting my prescriptions refilled. I carefully started probing about the circumstances. I was on my way to teach industrial management in Xianyang, China. I have no idea of how many days or even weeks had gone by. Apparently, I had “lost” about 10 months of meds for my trip. We got my meds refilled and the very next day I was on my way to China.
Psychotic/manic episodes were never a “high”. When recalling a psychotic episode, I would describe them as scary, frightening, and even terrifying. I had no control. I was an observer watching somebody do crazy stuff. My reality was a “trip” that “I” participated in. It was like a “dream” …… events just happened. An idea to do something would come to me and “I” would do it. I had lost all sense of propriety accept within some very narrow stream of psychosis. For over a decade I was in and out of hospitals, miserable, depressed, manic, psychotic and wheeling from a whole range of different emotions.
Not until the illusion of emotions is understood will the power of emotions be revealed.
High Desert Pilgrimage
Call it chance, call it luck, call it what you will…. I left my job as quality manager and followed my wife, a first-generation Chinese from Rio de Janerio, to El Paso, TX where she had gotten a “better job”. Everything kept getting worse. I was ready to die when, through the power and strength of my wife, I met 3 key healers who reintroduced me to a long, lost stranger, my joyous self.
Sharon, my new therapist, found my descriptions of my psychotic episodes hilariously funny and she created a path for me to join her in her laughter. We both had a good laugh when I described the time, I brought the police over to my friend who was in trouble and he turned out to be a garbage can. She gave me a task, “Can you find something for yourself, today, under these miserable conditions, that will make you feel a little better, make you feel a little less pain? Can you do something for yourself today? And can you do it again the next day? And the next?” From then on, I made the time to bathe in the sun’s light while floating on the water of our apartment’s swimming pool. Drifting with my face mask and snorkel, I just stared at the flickering shadows at the bottom of the pool. She had skillfully led me away from depression’s suffocating grasp and onto a path of self-empowering hope. She called it Neuro-Linguistics Programing (NLP) and Centerness Therapy. She saved my life. I call it a miracle.
Another person who taught self-empowerment through joy was Esther and her inner circle of friends called Abraham. They introduced me to the power of my inner guidance through listening to my emotions. They spoke of emotional guidance as the key to my inner strength and power and connection to my inner-being. As a cognitive-emotional cripple, I did use my emotions to guide me to a place of respect, of honor, wealth, justice and freedom.
Then I met the “Salsa Doctor,” so called because he played in a salsa band in Ciudad Juarez. Like a hamster running nowhere on a wheel in a cage, I was caught in an endless loop of being drugged when on medications and going psychotic when off medications. He actually worked with the idea that I could get better. As I gained more control of my psychotic mind through the guidance and power of my emotions, I needed less invasive medications.
It was 1992 and I was in the high deserts of El Paso, TX, when I initiated my “Program to Freedom” (in deference to Fort Bliss). I was betting my life that on a new idea that came to me. For over a decade all my psychiatrists told me I had a bio-chemical “imbalance. If I was depressed, manic, or psychotic and I had a chemical imbalance, then when I felt better would my chemical imbalance be more of a chemical in-balance? That is, in the times when I felt a little better, or actually less bad, was my biochemistry also a little better? I became my own lab-rat.
Every time I had previously stopped taking my medications, I eventually went psychotic, only to prove my doctors and parents right, that mental illness was a lifetime sentence and a lifetime of medications. I always felt they were wrong and this time I was going to prove it. I worked very hard over these next few years to change my mental-emotional state to change improve my bio-chemistry.
I started applying an idea of using my emotions to guide my behavior, especially to guide my mental behavior of what I was thinking, dreaming, imagining or even contemplating. It was obvious to me that my emotions correlated to my mental activities. I was betting that these cognitive activities also correlated with my bio-chemistry. I began to use my emotions to guide my mental activities to improve my “bio-chemical imbalances.” If a thought brought about an emotionally negative response, I would make attempts to “eliminate the negative.” If a thought brought about an emotionally positive response, I would make attempts to “accentuate the positive.” I was becoming more confident with the success of my “Program to Freedom” and its path to my recovery.
I must admit that 1995 was not a good year. A couple of manic episodes ended up in the mental hospital and the last one ended up in jail with my wife asking for a divorce. I understood completely and I was very sorry I couldn’t be the person she married. That person was alive because of the medications he took but he was also dying because of those same drugs.
By the end of 1995 I had again stopped taking any medications though I still depended on cigarettes to ease my turbulent mind. I was rolling my own…Bugle Boy tobacco. I couldn’t afford the commercial variety. I started to go a “little” manic and was spending my nights walking the desert mountains around El Paso. I emptied a 2gal coffee maker daily trying to keep up with my mania. Eventually I came down, though with a couple more tattoos, but I was able to stay sane enough to stay out of the hospital. That was my last manic episode. I stopped taking my meds, permanently. In 1996, I saw my last psychiatrist.
In May of 1996 I left El Paso, TX and returned to my roots in Madison, WI. I sold my grandmother’s prized secretary desk, which I had inherited, to pay for an airline ticket home to Madison, WI where I had family. I shipped what few other possessions I had. My ‘ex’ drove me to the airport and I never saw her again. I was going home to start a new life. I heard years later that she had died of cancer. I was really pissed at her. I had gotten her citizenship and a divorce so she would no longer be constrained by my illness. Finally, she could live the life she deserved. She becomes free and dies….
Over the next few years back in Madison, WI I was still not in great shape but getting better. My mother helped me find an apartment and bought me a car. My father would not speak to me. I went from Social Security Disability, to packing grocery bags, to cashier, to quality inspector, to a drafting and CAD teacher in a local college. I visited a good college friend of mine. We were roommates before my nightmare into mental illness began. Our meeting was like the story of Rip Van Winkle. Mentally, it was twenty years ago and I was back in college talking to my old roommate. But he was now married, and had children in college. Tears came to my eyes as thoughts of my last twenty years flashed by, my god……
My first psychotic episode was in 1979. Because I always felt psychological and psychiatric “science” was wrong, I was on my own. I was exploring unheard of territory, a territory forbidden to me by an industry dependent on medicating mental illness and my well-meaning family who would not listen to my “insanity”. After over a decade of “their insanity”, in 1992 I began attempts to change my bio-chemical balance by correlating my emotions with my bio-chemistry. It took me four years to “regain” some semblance of mental-emotional health and well-being. After four more years of “stability”, it took several more years to stop using tobacco as a crutch. That was an acceptable transition for me.
It is now 2019; I am happily remarried, retired from mechanical engineering and living a good life…sailing with friends in the summer, football game parties in the fall, winter skiing trips with my wife and our cats to Colorado (I was once a ski instructor and daredevil doing flips and ‘helicopters’ off any little mogul) and with spring as a time of earth’s great green revival from a winter of sleep reminding me of my youth on the farm.
I believe I can now relate to others my experiences that resulted in leaving the endless ideas, theories, paradigms and beliefs of the mental illness industry behind. I now live and believe in mental health and well-being. I work at mental health every day. Mental wellness is no longer a mystery to me and I wish to share the many ideas I used to bring my life back to the living. I wish to explain the methods I used, and that everyone can use to improve their mental and emotional well-being.
For the past fifteen years I have been working on a paper explaining my return to well-being. I have written and re-written this paper 100’s of times. These ideas have now evolved into a psychology of their own…. Symbiotic Psychology. The book is “Symbiotic Psychology: The Synergy Between Mind, Body, Emotions and Consciousness” and presents a scientific argument and logic identifying where the mental health academia has gone wrong.
There is a correlative relationship between cognition, emotions, and biology, but instead of emotions changing the body’s biology as modern psychological theory professes, emotions are a sensory awareness of the biological states/changed precipitated by cognitive activities. The world that erupts with this paradigm change presents an idea of self-empowerment where anyone, with diligent awareness to their own emotional guidance, can better their lives with greater mental and physical health, well-being, and prosperity. And for the cognitive/emotionally injured, there is a path out of hell to a life of wellness and well-being free from doctors, therapists and medications. The book is laid out as a website for anyone to use on https://symbioticpsychology.com/ where the book can also be downloaded as a PDF.
Over the last year, I sent out over 5000 emails explaining the flaws and dangers of current psychological emotional theory to university academia around the world. They have yet to understand; one day they will hear.
Do not fixate on the broken and mangled hand, for it is indeed a soreness to any beholder. The message is not within the hand, nor within the moon and stars at which it points but lies within another Universe that surrounds us – known only through its quiet revelations