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Ever since I was little, I have been terrified of Ferris wheels.  The feeling of going up, and then down, was what scared me, and that's exactly how I learned to perceive life.  You never know when you are going to go up, or down, or suddenly fall without explanation. Sometimes we even damage ourselves where it hurts the most.  This is how it all came down almost 4 years ago with a close relative of ours. When this young woman was a little girl, people noticed that she acted differently, but as she grew, no one paid much attention to her unusual behavior. Everyone just figured she behaved as she did because she was eccentric and a little bit spoiled.

However, the source of these cute eccentricities continued to evolve undetected, until their ultimate eruption in recent years into a serious nightmare. 

Many families face similar problems, which tend to manifest as a child reaches adolescence.  I have since learned that early unusual behaviors can be signposts that should be heeded, for they may signal the need to consult a pediatric psychologist, and perhaps check the progress of or even reverse the problem.  In this case, during an annual check-up, a pediatrician recommended consulting a psychiatrist. The doctor said years of medical experience confirmed in her mind that something was just not right with this behavior.  No one took it seriously, and the opportunity was allowed to slip away.

It was upon entry to adolescence more than 3 years ago, that the problem really began. This child began to experience severe, constant, depression, major anxiety, and suicidal ideation.  She became angry, defiant, unpredictable, and dangerous to herself and others around her. She retreated every evening and weekend to her phone, headphones, and easy chair, day after day and night after night, avoiding interaction with others on a personal level. She refused to do any homework or even to allow her parents to figure out what her homework might be. It was very difficult for several years, not only for her but for everyone in her home, because no matter how hard others tried, no one could influence her thought process or her actions.  She became super sensitive. With the slightest upset, she either erupted into a raging cauldron or sunk deeper into the abyss.

Experts could not determine a definite diagnosis.  The doctors considered autism, ADD, OCD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and other diagnoses. At one point, her new psychiatrist and psychologist performed a study that suggested that borderline personality disorder could develop; all the symptoms indicated that it was on the way, but her age prevented a diagnosis until she turned 18. 

With these changing diagnoses, the medications and therapies changed as well. The parents tried just about everyone and everything:  psychologists, psychiatrists, homeopathic doctors, counselors, Reiki. They tried anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, mood stabilizers, combinations of medications, multiple camps, numerous schools, psychotherapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, eye muscle desensitization therapy, and more, but nothing really worked.

Although many troubled teens have been given all the necessary tools to navigate their emotions, oftentimes, even using every tool at their disposal, they cannot.  It is not easy.  Her family was always waiting for the moment when she would explode.  When the explosion happened, it was so frustrating and sad that no one could handle it.  Sometimes the episode was aggressive and violent; other times she turned inward, and lay on the ground screaming, kicking, and bellowing as if she were 2 years old. Her pathology took the form of hatred against parents who only wanted to help a child become happy, at a stage in life in which they felt she deserved to be happier.

Her parents were very naïve when it seemed like she was doing better. She was getting better grades at a school for the arts, hanging out with friends, and not having all the meltdowns she had experienced the previous year at a very challenging liberal arts academy.


The biggest challenge occurred in March 2019. Unfortunately, she had been hanging out with the wrong people, engaged in harmful behavior, and self-medicating. This road ended in cannabis addiction, a mental and emotional breakdown, two weeks in the hospital, and another ten days at an inpatient mental health facility.

Apparently, even with multiple prescription medications, she still felt so depressed and unhappy that she tried street drugs as well. As a result, she suffered a major emotional breakdown, to the point that she forgot who she was.  She totally withdrew from reality.  It was lucky she made it. The family learned a valuable lesson, to pay closer attention to clues missed by most parents.

Every day at the hospital was a new lesson.  She had a 24/7 nurse in her room with a security guard outside monitoring the situation. Some days were good, and others weren't.  One day she wanted her mother to help her shower, so her mother went with her, a nurse, and a security guard to the shower area.  For security reasons, they couldn't close the door.  She could only close the shower curtain, because of concern that she might harm herself if her mood were to change. Her mother helped her carry her toiletries to the restroom when, suddenly, she attacked her mother for no reason. Security had to intervene.  They made her mother leave the bathroom and escorted her mother out.  The nurse had to help her finish.

It is shocking to observe a person whose conscious mind can no longer control her actions. Her behavior was so bizarre at times. She would be in a happy mood, singing, and suddenly become aggressive, trying to hurt herself or another. Other times she would be in a very sad mood and become so tired that she would fall asleep for several hours, then wake up cheerful, as if nothing had happened.

After leaving the hospital she was transferred in an ambulance to a short-term mental health facility. It broke her parents’ hearts to see their baby girl in that situation. The parents didn’t know at the time what would be best for her when she got out, but they knew for sure that having her at home wasn’t an option.  They extended her stay as they tried to figure out the next step. I helped with a lot of research trying to find the best option for her and the family. 

Learning about the state of in-patient mental health treatment in the U.S. was a real eye-opener. With a few exceptions, the mental health staff treated the patients like an impediment to their enjoyment of social media on the computer or the delay before their next smoke break. The elements of sincere concern and caring were in short supply. When she was in the hospital, while she was fortunate to have a couple of caring and attentive mental health technicians, the vast majority appeared to perceive the patient as an inconvenience. 

At her next stop, again, the caring healers were in the minority. Moreover, at this facility, she was thrown in with a lot of really sick and even dangerous kids, with little supervision or positive, therapeutic activity. The stay seemed nearly as traumatic as the cause for the stay.




The parents were so lucky to find the Anasazi Foundation, an Outdoor Behavioral Health Program designed for youth. It was not until she, and to some degree, the entire family embarked on the Anasazi 49-day wilderness therapy program (which is newsworthy in and of itself) and learned that “The Walking of ‘We’” must replace “The Lie of ‘I’”, that things began to change. At Anasazi, they truly care; it is their way.

Immediately thereafter, she embarked on a 28-day immersion program at a clinic in Utah, with non-pharmaceutical therapies including Yoga, Biofeedback, LED Light Therapy, and Neuro-Entrainment, which essentially rearranged the neural pathways for her mental and emotional responses to events, to ensure a lasting benefit. The parents continued by enrolling her in Verde Valley School in Sedona, where daily outdoor activities literally keep her grounded with the earth.


Although challenges remain, her parents believe that the “forward walking” which started at Anasazi, and has continued with the other natural treatment methods, has forever altered the path of this young woman, replacing a downward spiral with a generally upward, steady climb.

I realize that many parents are currently living the same nightmare described above, and I think it is important to discuss this topic.  It is very frustrating and downright depressing when parents cannot figure out how to help their own child, no matter how much time, effort, thought, and money they put into it, and even though the parents and a lot of other very smart and very educated people are doing their best to solve the problem. It consumes a parent, not knowing when a child will next explode, or, when the next explosion occurs, when, and how, it will end.  It is unbearable knowing a child could self-harm, get deep into drugs to relieve the pain, or even attempt suicide.

I believe technology, and specifically the overuse of smartphones, video games, and social media, is causing an epidemic of serious mental illness, and poor physical health, among our children.  I am committed to opening a center to help families and adolescents who face challenges to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  The future of our children is at stake. My forthcoming documentary will tell the story of our ordeal, share the reality which parents must face, and offer the hope of a new beginning that these parents were so fortunate to receive.

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