Personal Stories

Observations on My Journey by Richard Gray

Richard grew up with a mother who experienced Nervous Breakdowns every 6-10 years after her first born, a sister who developed a severe sleep disorder and panic attacks after a burnout, a daughter who entered the psychiatric system at around 14 years old, and a burnout himself after too many life issues “ran him over!” Through these, he attended a number of polytech courses in mental health, did Integrated Mental Health Training at Supporting Families, and was member of a number of related boards and quality groups. In 2001 he gave up Consulting Engineering to join the mental health workforce, and has continually studied as required for work since then. However, he says that it is his more esoteric education at places like Theosophy, the Western Buddhist Centre in Auckland, the Awa Tawa Marae healing nights, New Age centres and Esoteric Christian teachings which has taught him the most – along with his own personal experiences, books, meditation and groups like the Hearing Voices Network.

It is from this perspective and an engineering mind for logic and practical common sense that he wrote an article from which the following is an edited version for the HVN.

In 1998 I had a burnout and was given the names of the four Psychologists that the Taharoto Mental Health Unit used. It took me some time to decide which one, but in the end the guy I used was both a qualified psychologist and an ordained minister, though never practicing. He was happy to take any approach that suited me, and we followed various paths at different times. He said three things that stuck in my mind; one, that I had a force 10 burnout – one of the very most severe, and two, that I was the only person he’d met who was able to direct his own therapy sessions whilst in this state, and three, I was the only person he’d had who was not on drugs. Because of this, he called me an amazing person.

It later occurred to me that the reason I was the only one able to lead my own therapy sessions was the same reason as number three; I was not on drugs and therefore fully functioning. And because of this, I was able to observe and learn a lot about the process of what caused me to be unwell, and the healing through it.

It became very evident early on that this was a “whole person” experience. Spirit, Mind, Body and needed to be treated this way rather than the standard western way. In medical language, the west see it as the mind that is having problems, caused by a physical or pathological condition or imbalance that can be treated only with drugs, like all other medical treatments! The happy consequence of this is lots of money can be made; mental health drugs are by far the most profitable branch of all in medicine...

However, not all agree with this approach. Professor Stanislav Grof (Researcher and ex Director of Psychiatric Research at Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre) says, putting off what is frequently a spiritual emergency is not the best solution, but is an option that is not too harmful provided heavy medication is not used to enforce the process...

In his work, and in the even wider research with his wife Christina into “unusual” emotional and mental states, there comes evidence which suggests that drugs are often detrimental to the healing process. And in my own experience, the natural alternatives that work on the brain alone, rather than the whole person, are just another temporary measure also whilst one prepares themselves for the journey. The problem with us western people, we so often want the quick fix, and we want it now. And because we have so often detached ourselves from our true spiritual nature, we fear what lies beyond that which we consider normal in everyday life.

A good healer who can see the various etheric layers of a being can see a dis-ease forming in the outer layers long before it shows itself emotionally or physically. However, in mental health, by the time the dis-ease descends from our outer layers and reaches the mind, it is also often evident in the physical too, if one knows where to look. The medical model of mental health does not take the whole person into account, and treats only the brain as having a chemical imbalance. We are not a brain separated from a body, but a multi-functional interdependent unit. Orthomolecular treatments - as promoted by Abram Hoffer, and their practitioners, look at and treat the total person, to find the overall picture. If the body is out, so is the brain, and vice-versa. 

I have found it important to look at and treat the whole person. This is where appropriate and correct use of herbs, homeopathy and orthomolecular are so useful. The mental health drugs do nothing to help here, and just keep on bombarding the brain and stopping it from functioning as it is designed to. And in so doing, actually weaken the brain’s ability to act as the command centre for the body, and so a wider range of ill-health issues often start to follow their use.

The term appropriate and correct is used here on purpose; if one simply floods the body with a whole range of herbs, vitamins or homeopathic remedies without proper knowledge and understanding, the result can make a person even worse. In the west we are accustomed to taking a wide range of medicines almost blithely at times, but these natural treatments are often very specific, and if the wrong ones are used one’s condition can worsen. I would recommend that if you are interested in natural remedies, to visit a qualified practitioner. Once any physical imbalances are treated, we are left with the mind and the spirit.

Treating the mind is important for people who have experienced trauma. There is a good article on this by Jacqui Dillon in one of the PSYCHOSIS magazines, published by ISPS. Jacqui is Chair of the Hearing Voices Network in UK and a Director of Intervoice. Jacqui had parents who were part of a paedophile ring and suffered abuse from a very early age. She explained that like children who end up with multiple personalities, her voices are her inner self finding ways to cope, warn and sometimes comfort her. When her voices are trying to warn or teach her, they can be very insistent and often downright harsh and derogatory. It took her years to work this all out, and it only really started becoming a healing process when she got loving support, acceptance and help from knowledgeable others who believed in her.

Two things she did say in the workshop I attended were: that the drugs only made her worse. When she admitted herself to hospital in the hope of getting help, the help she got was not help at all; the psychiatrists, she found, had no understanding or comprehension of what was making her “unwell”. She soon realised this and because she was said at that stage to have a personality disorder, which in the UK at the time was not listed as coming under a compulsory treatment order, she managed to extract herself from the system by telling the doctors that their drugs and treatment had worked wonders, and she was now fine again. Jacqui said it helped heaps at this stage that she had become a very good actor, acting out the various parts of her life so no one outside her home and paedophile family knew what she was going through when growing up.

People often have difficulty, frustration and anger with the mental health system and its’ treatment of them once they get committed and become a mental health patient or service user. This situation is amplified by the fact that when the person expresses how they feel about their treatment – often in anger and despair - there is a backlash... the doctors claiming that this is proof that they are even less well than originally thought; they are quite delusional, psychotic and un-insightful for not recognising how good this treatment they are being given is for them, and so even more medication is heaped on them.

As a result, the person becomes withdrawn; both under the heavy load of drugs, and fearful of further medical abuse. This withdrawn state is in turn seen by the medical profession as simply proving that this person is really unwell. And of course they are unwell! They are depressed and anxious as a result of the suppression, and the effects and side effects of the drugs; they experience a feeling of utter despair, all heaped on top of what caused them to get there at the start!

A lot of pressure is put on psychiatrists to take charge over patients’ lives once they have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act (a thing that happens with consummate ease). A psychiatrist is given the role of a god - the Act almost requires them to lay down the law and take charge over all the important things of a person’s life. This must be a very difficult position to be in for anyone in touch with their soul and conscience... but it is even worse for the person on the receiving end. As many have described in their own way when speaking out; it is like being a criminal in a prison, with no say over their life, and a fixed Full Term Life sentence with no parole. It spells hopelessness.

For most the drugs have unpleasant side effects, and often quite unhealthy ones, and while for some people they help calm and tranquilise, they commonly cause other mental health problems that are generally seen and labelled as part of the “illness”, but are in fact caused by the drugs themselves. It is simply explained away as “once people get Schizophrenia their brain deteriorates”. Not knowing any different, most people just accept this explanation, but once you have seen people who have come off all or most of their medication, you will start to have your doubts! What really seems to make the brain deteriorate is the toxic material of the drugs.

Of course, the drugs, because they are major tranquilisers, can quieten the mind, but they rarely make the voices or visions go away, and if they do, it tends to be time limited before they return. At best, they can be said to take the edge off the experience so a person can feel able to cope – a bit like drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. And these aren’t considered the best idea for anyone suffering from mental or emotional problems...

A journey of discovery:

Since returning from 3 months overseas in 2006, I started researching and also doing more activities like going to the HVN. The Herbalist I originally took my family member to about 9 years ago came from a medical family, was an RN specialising in Mental Health, but had had an about face when she became very sick in Australia. She said the Doctors’ treatments nearly killed her and was saved by an herbalist. She then decided to do her Diploma, but still works in Mental Health. She told me to buy the book, “Toxic Psychiatry”, which I did, but never read. It was heavy going, quite medically technical for me at the time, and I guess I did not quite believe it – it went against everything the Doctors had told me.

I think it was the big brown book called “Natural Treatments for Schizophrenia and Other Common Mental Disorders” and the Video “Masks of Madness” that came from the Mental Health Foundation that really made me think. From previous ‘experiments’ I knew the herbs helped a lot, and had had long chats with a Nutritional Therapist whilst in UK who trained at Patrick Holford School of Optimal Nutrition. Patrick also set up the “Brain Bio Lab” which specialises in research regarding the association between mental health and nutrition. He started his early research with the well known and respected Professor Carl Pfeiffer of the Pfeiffer Clinics in Canada, USA and now Australia. And although I had considered nutrient treatments before, this was my first in-depth foray into the use of orthomolecular treatments (mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc).

It all started coming together at the end of 2006. I started reading more, and then started meeting people who’d come off medication, like Ron Colman. I recall him saying they’d used a straight jacket on him at times; now he is a top UK consultant! Then there was a Special Edition “Sunday” Magazine brought back from UK that told stories of people’s journeys through mental health, and their recoveries. Rufus May featured, and many other well known faces, and then I saw someone I had worked with come off medication, and plus a friend’s son function very well on none – he went back to Uni and did another degree, plus held down a demanding job! He is Bi-Polar, yet in my experience, Bi-Polar people seem to need mood stabilisers more than SZ people need their drugs. Like depression, it seems there is a definite bio imbalance occurring, but this can often be treated with Calcium-Magnesium a lot better than with Lithium, Epilim and such like. The only thing is, the drug companies were not able to take a patent on Calc-Mag, but because no one used Lithium salts as it is a poison and is not natural in our bodies, the drug companies were able to take a patent on a synthesised version of it. They then developed further drug treatments from that, but Magnesium is about the 9th most abundant mineral in our body, so is natural to us. And it also treats high blood pressure, and helps in the fight against diabetes and cardiovascular problems too!

Sure, the drugs are major tranquilisers which tend to disconnect the frontal lobe of the brain from the rest of our body – a chemical lobotomy as they were originally called; so if a person is having a severe problem and is not coping, they are of some benefit. But they start to work at relatively low doses and should not need to be continually increased to the doses commonly used. I have seen people do very well on a quarter to a 10th the standard dose, and function much better than the people on normal doses. Even so, these people say that they do not like the effect of the drugs and would still rather not be taking them. Indeed, they are often more clear about that than those on the higher doses, because at higher levels the drugs start to disorientate the thought process, making it difficult to achieve clarity of mind and thought.

However, one can also use natural products which affect the brain such as St John’s Wort, Kava extracts etc. These often interact with the “anti-psychotic” medications; it would appear because they too are working on numbing the brain – like alcohol. Indeed, Lorazepam et al (benzo’s) are said to be a synthetic form of pure alcohol... and are used for the very purpose of treating anxiety, but like alcohol, can have an adverse affect on depression as they are depressants, and are very addictive. I would not recommend taking the natural product tranquilisers all the time; only when really needed, but once again, under the advice of a qualified practitioner.

There is a very good little book by Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, William Glasser, called “Defining Mental Health as a Public Health Issue”. He does not believe in using drugs and has worked with and written books for families living in poor areas and kids who experience trauma when growing up. He talks about the problems associated with these things that can lead to mental health issues like Jacqui’s, and sees it as a public perception and behaviour issue, and also talks about ways of handling it. The book is short and easy to read.

Mind experiences from what I have observed can have both an internal source and an external one – subconscious memories of abuse, but are not cured by anti-psychotic drugs. It is recognised that the term anti-psychotic drugs is in reality an oxymoron, as indeed they are not anti-psychotic, but ‘mind numbing’ drugs, with a major tranquilliser effect as noted.

What I believe is needed for treating the mind aspect is loving support and talking and dialoguing therapies that understand the various sources of the mind’s experiences; these help the person themselves understand and work through them.

‘Mind experiences’ can also have an affect on the spiritual self too, as well as the physical, however seldom do people get a balanced treatment covering all aspects. Quite often people having essentially mind-only experiences don’t connect much at all with any spiritual aspect in their journey, and do not think to seek herbal or orthomolecular support in a western medical orientated world. I found the nutrients and herbs of great help (I used a plant derived nutrient powder containing all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids etc that our body needs on a regular daily basis (RDA), and at times herbs for the same), but did try and did not like the effects of Kava or St John’s wort, so only tried them once each. Herbal Becalm and Bark Flowers were Ok for me, though. These staved me over the worst moments of my journey, but I took them only as a PRN, not regularly.

Other helpful practices include learning to breath properly, to relax, meditate, find a therapy that suits your being; talk groups such as the Hearing Voices Network. It is a journey of self discovery, and in this the term letting go and letting God is helpful, for it helps us, like positive prayer, to let go of fear, anger and pain, and move on to calmer waters.

The spiritual emergency, as psychiatrists Grof, Maslow, Sutich, Campbell, Jung and others have called it, and still others like Aristotle have recognised it, are another aspect of mental health that is best explained by Grof’s book “The Stormy Search for the Self”, but include unsolicited Shamanic journeys, Past Life experiences, Clairvoyance, seeing of the Diva Kingdoms, even experiences of extra terrestrials, and out-of-body and near death experiences. Some people come through these with compunction yet gentle ease, while others have an all-on hard-out journey of self discovery. The end result when one does take the journey, and does not take ways of avoiding it, is a hugely expanded view and perception of the world and universe – the depth and expanse depending much on the depth and expanse of the journey itself.

Most, if not all of the experiences people have in both the Mind and Spiritual emergings / emergencies, would be considered psychotic behaviour by western medical doctors and psychiatrists, and people would be drugged and consigned to a life of nothingness, unless they had the strength and will to work their way through their ordeal by themselves, and or the good fortune to have an insightful clinician to help them reduce their drugs to a minimum and support them with the right therapies – and just quietly being their when needed.

Sometimes people who have experienced and come through severe life traumas, like Jacqui, Rufus, Ron Coleman, Arana Pearson, Deborah Lampshire, and many others, still have voices from time to time that can be bothersome. These usually arise at times of distress and external pressure. A few of them will then use some of the drugs as a PRN, but seldom are they taken on a continuous basis and if so are taken at quite low doses.

In my work as a mental health worker I know people who come under the ‘life trauma’ banner- who have completely recovered since removing themselves from the mental health system and its treatments, and moved on to everyday life.  Sometimes it takes time to reach this state, especially if one has been under treatment for several years.

People who expand through the traumas of the mind become amazingly broad, resilient and whole people, at least by everyday average world standards. As we know, it is often life challenges which prompt us to question, learn and grow - they nudge us to open our minds.

The people who expand through the spiritual emergency often become other worldly in the way they see and experience the world. Because of this, many people would not understand them if they were to speak about what they really knew and saw.

The problem we face at present with most Doctors, Psychiatrists, Nurses, trained support people, and family members who have been ‘educated’ in the ins and outs of mental health by these medically trained people, is; when they are challenged by being exposed to another set of teachings that are totally opposite from what they have been taught to believe, what do they do? Go into denial...

So when you, or your family, medical people or whoever are presented with information that makes you/them feel uncomfortable, I ask you to question why. The discomfort, if faced honestly, may be because somewhere deep inside it is challenging the validity of current wisdom...

Some may wish to challenge this, but in my work I have seen it time and again, with everyone, including ‘patients’ too... When they come to me expressing unhappiness with their lot, and I reflect on what they are showing me about their life in a way that challenges their present perceptions and paradigm, some will at first go into denial, but in almost all cases the patients, at least, return to explore more, though many are not ready or prepared to give up what has now become a habit of ways. This is not a criticism. When a Heroin or Crack addict is told they need to stop their drug and face themselves in order to get out of the gutter, most do not want to hear.

The teachings of many great thinkers, such as Pythagoras (who founded the first modern university which taught the sciences of maths, astronomy, alchemy) were not just rooted in the physical; they had all three mystical dimensions of spirit, mind and body. The great physicists, scientist, mathematicians, musicians etc of the past – those that created new rather than simply regurgitating what they had been taught, all had strong spiritual connections. Without it, they would have been just another standard old “production version”; Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Beethoven are some easy to recite examples.

Our worldly layer of living is the densest and as such, the least en-“lightened”. These people were masters, able to go beyond our realm and see things in the next layer. That is why they brought to humanity what they did; things beyond the then present every day understanding. For example, it appears that Newton knew about relativity and other distant matter, but did not reveal it publicly knowing that society was not yet ready for it.

So if you have got this far, and are, or know of a person who has voices and visions, just think; there is a reason for this. It may be your sometimes sweet, sometimes angry internal helpers (since you have not listened or understood them all these years), or remnants of abusive dialogues, or other-dimensional spiritual awakenings, that all need taking note of. Trying to run away or ignore them does not work, as once seen, never forgotten – they will remain with you for ever. All those who have opened up to these things have expanded significantly as whole people – and in the end, almost without exception, they become grateful for their teachings. And they are genuinely enlightening people to be with!  

Richard Gray