Real Illusion

Perhaps our suffering is a wake up call that our investment in what we call reality—feelings, forms—is misplaced. We are more than just individual life, but life itself. I’m always struck with the limitations of language and the assumptions inherent within. Words relate to the experience of physical reality. Yet much of what words mean is metaphorical. You see a tree and call it such, but what is the reality of a plant that is connected to the ground and the air and sun for food?  At an atomic level there is no “place” where the “tree” starts and the “not-tree” begins. Atoms are 99.9% space. What we see are merely vibrations that seem like dense forms. But that is an illusion. Our assigning of names to things somehow makes them into separate things, with separate realities. We see ourselves the same way, individual entities formed by events, tempered by happenstance, and independent of one another. But maybe, just maybe, we are really the 99.9%, the unformed consciousness, the simple experience of awareness, the light in the darkness. And our thoughts are just a projection of words—words that assume a density that isn’t real.
Kind of makes those “thoughts” about our “problems” seem just a little less important. Maybe the real illusion is that there is anything beyond the here and now. Dealing with two RAD kids has taught me to dig deep and realize that my new education had more to do with unlearning things that seemed so evident before. And in the end we can experience the awe of All.

Marc Deprey, Learning Media Coordinator

The Third World of Mental Health

This Sunday, my daughter was given a new regime of meds to address her increased oppositional and violent behavior.  Unfortunately, the wrong drug was written on her prescription and between that drug and all the other changes made she went into a severe manic episode. Over two days she just got worse and worse. By Monday night she was seeing things that weren’t there, trying to jump out of her window, screaming, and trashing her room.

We took her to the local emergency room where we spent 5 hours waiting for the psych evaluation unit to take her in to be evaluated. During the initial time at the ER, tey kept giving her more and more sedatives, which just made her mania harder to control. She was literally walking into walls, grabbing at things that weren’t there, confusing us with others, etc. I was alone with her most of the time, trying to keep her near her bed, but I can’t restrain her anymore, she’s too big. This went on for hour after hour. They finally admitted her to the Psych evaluation unit and the ambulance took her there (BTW restrained, which calmed her) and they put her in restraints there as well.

For 12 more hours we waited for a bed to open up at a psyche ward for adolescents. During some of that time she was being restrained, but no hospital would take her unless she was not under restraint for at least 2 hours. So, you need to be not sick before you are admitted to a hospital? I guess since there are so few beds they can pick and choose. So here we are in an adult mental health crisis unit with grown men screaming and freaking out for 12 hours trying to keep her from hurting herself with little help from an obviously understaffed facility.

She was finally accepted at a unit 2 hours away from us and once she got there she began to slowly improve. But I have to say that the whole experience was not only traumatic but also downright embarrassing. This is how we treat our children who are sick from getting bad medicine from professionals? The whole mental health system is abysmal and we should be ashamed. These are our children, for God’s sake!

Marc Deprey, Learning Media Coordinator  

Meaning Behind the Suffering

It is always hard to find meaning when under a stream of unrelenting suffering. The tragedy of early trauma, the resulting pain, the stress, the strong feeling that some great potential is being lost—all this characterizes the experience of a parent of children of trauma. I certainly feel this myself often—how could all this rage and tumult add up to anything meaningful? Seems like toil with no value. Yet if we were to think of this experience as if it where a minute dark speck on a colossal painting, then we might realize that we are inhabiting a smallest of dots on a canvas light years wide. By itself, our dot is seemingly full of darkness—meaningless suffering, unearned pain, —but as a part of the whole, this dot provides an important contrast, pops out a crucial feature, helps define the smallest dark ripple on a vast ocean of jeweled waves, brightened by sunlight—a light not real unless darkness also exists.

We as individuals cannot see the grand painting as a whole, we are too small and too limited by our belief in a separate self. But what we can do is rest into the faith that a grand painting does in fact exist and that we are an essential part of it—an important aspect of what Is. Of that, there is no doubt.

So liberation, enlightenment, true freedom is in the realization that you are, at bottom, the painting itself—not the dark spot your thoughts tell you you are. You are the space the thoughts are happening in, unlimited by any canvas or any frame. The suffering you are experiencing is trying to wake you up to what’s real—that you are so much more than you think. Our kids are waking us up, if we allow them to.

Marc Deprey, Learning Media Coordinator

The Manner of Goats

I don’t know everything about goats, but I do work in land conservation and deal with landowners who face problems with invasive species of plants and livestock issues. What I do know is that goats are nature’s eliminator. They really do eat anything and everything.

Around here in northern California, we have a species of blackberry (see that is not native and is extremely invasive. It pretty much takes over any place that has water anytime during the year and since we usually have rain all winter long, that pretty much means everywhere. The blackberries are as delicious as the thorns are sharp and gnarly. So picking a berry can be a bloody affair. Birds somehow get the berries on top of the bush, but everyone else needs to prepare for a prick or two, except the goats. They eat the berries, the stalk, the thorns—well, the whole darn thing! And it doesn’t effect them even a little.

I can’t even put my hand near these bushes before I get my shirt grabbed by the thorns and I find myself trying to walk backwards while being seemingly dragged in. I’ve seen people use a bulldozer on these berry bushes and two weeks later they’re regenerating. People around here hire goat herders to get berry bushes removed and it takes about a day and costs a couple of hundred dollars. They also fertilize the ground for free while doing it.

Why write about goats here? Because when it comes to chaos, stress, dysregulation, and manipulation, our kids are goats. They don’t get pricked when hurling insults at us, they can eat the thorns of anger, and they are suited to a way of being that is unhealthy for us. I can’t eat blackberry vines. But my kids can. Now figure we are trying to teach a goat manners. Sounds hard, huh? You’ll never know unless you’ve tried.
Marc Deprey, Learning Media Coordinator           

Getting Their Ticket Punched

I’m not sure this is some great revelation, but this idea came to be this morning and it put a lot into perspective for me. We all know as adults (or at least I hope we all do) that we can’t expect the world to fit to us, that we know down deep that we need to fit the world and meet its basic requirements. That’s a fundamental truth we accept almost unconsciously and it allows us to navigate things pretty successfully overall. But we forget that this was not always true for us. When we are first born, we got a free pass as far as any expectations. Back then, we had no ability to fit into the world. We were completely unable to meet any of its requirements. As a baby, we depended solely on caregivers to meet our needs unconditionally and our caregiver had no expectations for us either. Our needs were anticipated, our moods quelled, our excretions removed—we could do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to and not face any consequences. But as we grew up things changed. More and more we were expected to understand limits, be respectful of others feelings, to be civil and flexible. Now doesn’t it seem interesting that our kids with attachment trauma cannot do these very things? Is it possible that since they didn’t get their unconditional free pass at the very beginning of their lives, they are still waiting for it to happen? That they are insisting that their ticket get punched now?

If there is any central issue that characterizes my kids dysfunction its their complete lack of flexibility and cooperation—their inability to meet the world. They assume the world must fulfill their needs, that things must line up neatly, and on their schedule, that parents are here to do as instructed, to please them and never correct them or upset them. It’s as if they are demanding to be able to be like babies, but with kid bodies, appetites, vocabulary, etc. An insistence that they get what everyone else got, even though it’s simply too late to get it—living with a ticket with the first hole unpunched.

Marc Deprey, Learning Media Coordinator