Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

This interview with Stephen Buhner was conducted by Matt Stevenson,  a young man who has recovered from challenges associated with multiple “severe” psychiatric diagnoses and who is building a bit of a reputation on the Mad in America site by interviewing leaders about alternative ways of conceptualizing distress, as well as about about paths to recovery outside the mainstream system.

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

One day on the ISPS listserv, psychologist Paris Williams shared a chapter from a book in which an herbalist and alternative healer named Stephen Harrod Buhner described his approach to working with the extreme states of mind commonly labeled as “schizophrenia” by psychiatrists. The chapter was entitled “On the Healing of Schizophrenia” and the book is Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm.

Buhner described concepts which I knew from my study of psychoanalytic approaches to these problems, such as profound fragmentation of the mind into part-selves to counter overwhelming anxiety, and the great care and lengthy time frames necessary to help severely traumatized people regain trust in the outside world. Buhner described how the dedicated healer could painstakingly be permitted access to the fragmented inner world of a terrified person and help them reintegrate their mind. Of “schizophrenia,” Buhner said, “The cultural paradigm or view of the condition is itself dysfunctional, to the extent that the paradigm is crazy.” (Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, pg. 503)

Finding myself intrigued by this man who’d never trained in psychiatry or psychology but who nevertheless worked effectively with people in severe distress using self-developed theories, I tracked Buhner down. I asked him to speak to me about these issues, and here is what resulted:

Read the interview in its entirety  here  Be inspired!

What I’ve been doing lately

I haven’t posted in quite a while, mainly because, as usual, I’m hard at work getting my memoir The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness ship shape and ready for launch. But, it’s taking much more time than I ever imagined possible. It seems I been saying this for years, and, well, it’s embarrassing that it’s taking so long.

For the time being I’ll opt for a more newsletter style of delivering future blog posts. My random musings will go straight to your inbox.


Recovery course starting Sept. 15

If you’re looking for some expert family oriented advice on how to practice recovery, I see that Krista Mackinnon is running another Recovering Our Families online education course beginning September 15th.


“Krista Mackinnon’s facilitation and training on family recovery provides vital, practical tools for supporting someone struggling with psychosis. I encourage everyone I work with to take this class: it’s a wealth of useful learning that can immediately improve family relations and help find a way through the labyrinth of madness.”
Will Hall, MA, DiplPW
Therapist and schizophrenia survivor, Madness Radio host and trainee
in Open Dialogue at the Institute for Dialogic Practice.


Lyme disease and autoimmune issues

I’ve become quite interested recently in two medical conditions associated with psychosis symptoms: Lyme disease and a rare autoimmune disorder.  When my son Chris was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002, no blood tests, no tests whatsoever were done, except for the MRI that my husband and I insisted on. He was diagnosed based on a doctor’s opinion of what his symptoms represented. In the years since, Lyme disease has received a lot of attention because of its growing prevalence. (It seemed nobody was talking about it in 2002, and now it appears to be everywhere!) Several people I personally know have tested positive for Lyme disease and received treatment. In June of this year, the amazing story of musician Kris Kristofferson’a recovery from dementia induced by Lyme disease hit the news. http://tinyurl.com/hlk8r9d

Research on autoimmune issues and schizophrenia is still in its infancy. But, for some people, this may eventually prove a game changer. In 2008 Josep Dalmau presented a paper on anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a schizophrenia like condition caused by the body’s immune system attacking a protein in the brain.

“Markx and Dalmau are planning to collaborate with German researchers to study patients who have either come to the hospital with a “first break” — an initial episode of psychotic symptoms — or who are showing early signs, such as social withdrawal or cognitive problems, that typically precede the onset of psychosis. Blood and spinal fluid samples from these patients will be tested for antibodies to the NMDA receptor, and other antibodies. The results might change psychiatry’s approach to patients with new-onset psychosis, Markx said.”




And my book publisher will be . . .

I’m proud to announce that I have recently signed a publishing agreement with Inspired Creations LLC, I love how the company describes itself:

Publisher of

Socially Relevant Culturally Significant and Individually Transformative works

I hope that my memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness, to be published later this year, will live up to Inspired Creations’ mandate: “dedicated to promoting works that entertain and enlighten, inform and transform, and possess the potential to impact individuals concerned with nature, culture, and the future of our beautiful planet.”

I want my book to do all of that and more – to offer hope to parents caught up in the current biochemically derived definition of mental illness by showing by example that there are choices. You can take the road that everyone else takes, often unsuccessfully, OR, you can take the scenic route and discover things about yourself and your relative that you may find interesting, empowering, fun (yes FUN!), educational, literary, dramatic. I want to blow your mind by introducing you to some off-beat therapies and thinking patterns  that nudged my son towards wellness. I want you to return from the trip, wondering “was that all a dream or was it real?”

I came across Inspired Creations when I read A Moment of Time, by Jilaine Tarisa and was impressed by how neatly this book wove together a lot of millennial themes in a tightly written mystery. I thought to myself, this is a publishing company I’d love to approach, because my book has a lot of themes in common with the publisher’s aspirations.

Stay tuned.

Australia: first in overall health and life expectancy for schizophrenia

The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death. It was developed by the World Health Organization in the 1990s as a way of comparing the overall health and life expectancy of different countries. (Wiki)

Australia ranks dead last (#192) compared to other countries in the measurement of the effect of the overall disease burden (DALY) for schizophrenia. Which means, people diagnosed with schizophrenia enjoy longer lives, work more, and have better health in Australia than in other countries.

Could this surprising finding be due to Australian’s well known consumption of Vegemite, that foul tasting brown yeast that gets spread on toast starting in infancy? Vegemite’s got plenty of B vitamins: B1 – essential for brain vitality, B2 to support the nervous system, B3 energy release, and folate to fight fatigue. Sounds exactly like what the doctor ordered. Well, Dr. Abram Hoffer, at least.

Other countries have their own versions of spreadable B vitamins, notably Marmite (United Kingdom) and Vitam-R (Germany), and these countries have got respectable DALY scores (185 and 179), but Australia is still far in the lead. In World War I, Marmite was supplied to British soldiers’ as part of their rations, in order to prevent beri beri, a B vitamin deficiency disease.

The only reason that I can think of as to why Australia is on top is that Vegemite is a part of their culture and children start eating it early, rather like what peanut butter is to the average North American diet. Sure, Germany’s got Vitam-R, which tastes way better than Vegemite and Marmite and has more B vitamins, but I don’t think it’s a cultural phenomenon to the same extent as it is in Australia, and therefore it may be consumed less.

If you are living in one of those countries that doesn’t have a tradition of liking dark brown yeasty goo on its toast in the morning, think about making a switch.

Donald Trump – the Master Builder

You may well ask, why am I putting Donald Trump in my schizophrenia blog?  The short answer is to drive traffic to it, lol. But I was both amused and horrified today to discover how much the Donald and I have in common beyond our blond good looks, some Scottish and German ancestry, and latent Presbyterianism: We are both, according to numerology, life path number 22. Though separated at birth by several years, our birth day, month, and year add up to 1966. Who knew?

Well, I kind of had an inkling. My interest in finding out the Donald’s number was piqued when my husband sent me a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post, written by Farroll Hamer: “Building developers are reactive and megalomaniacal. Just like Trump.” Mr. Hamer was a former city planner in the Washington D.C. area, and, from years of working with clients, he has developed what he calls his Developer Profile.You want to know what kind of President Trump will be? Find out what developers are like. Not surprisingly, we learn from Mr. Hamer, that, if Trump were elected, he really would build a wall.

On those few issues he identifies closely with, such as trade and restricting immigration, he would be unrelenting and inventive. He really would build a wall. He can’t keep Muslims out of the United States or return lost jobs to the country, but he would do what he can and call it a success.”

The number 22 is the most powerful of the life path numbers. Successful number 22s are number 4 skyscrapers. Number 4 is the foundation stone upon which the master builder builds. Some of us step up to the glory of the number 22, but many of us, probably most of us, just live quiet, unassuming lives because we are stuck in our windowless basements. We are neither creative, intuitive, nor inventive. Number 4s tend to be boring, predictable, averse to risk taking, and therefore miss out on a lot of opportunities because we are too late to the game. (Now, that last part doesn’t sound at all like Trump!) As 4s, we work so hard that we often can’t see the forest for the trees. As a developer 22, Donald Trump would bulldoze those trees. What makes us potential 22 superstars like TRUMP is that some of us may have in our numbers the intuition of number 11 (22 = 2 times 11) on top of being efficient and pragmatic.

If you want to know Donald Trump, appreciate the fact that he’s a developer AND a number 22. Being a 22 is no guarantee that someone will become the president of the United States. (You might, on the other hand, own your own media empire, like 22 Oprah!) It does mean that someone has a shot at larger things. In Donald’s case he was fortunate enough to work hard at doing what he’s good at. (Working hard, building, bulldozing.)

Does 22 sound like a TRUMP and a developer? Visionary, intuitive, practical. Able to turn someone else’s dreams into reality (e.g. build a giant wall or skyscraper), dictatorial, insensitive, and overbearing. 22s are also described as a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.”

Of course, TRUMP had an added advantage at birth by being the son of a wealthy developer. He didn’t get sidetracked into thinking he might be an artist or a humanitarian, where clearly his talents don’t lie. Although, to be fair, it’s not like we number 22s aren’t capable of empathy or creativity. It’s just that we’re so damn efficient and practical that we cut corners to keep it simple. We can do what other people need of  us!

Have you taken up numerology yet with your own son or daughter who is going through a mental health crisis? If you can see how Donald Trump has made the most of his number, why not indulge in a little numerology to help your relative find his or her potential?

You might also like:

How numerology increases understanding

Schizophrenia and numerology

Getting to know you


Don’t miss signing up for the next ‘Recovering Our Families’ course

I’ve taken two modules of this course. Believe me, there is nothing like it out there. To get the best flavor of what it’s about, read the testimonials from mothers who have taken the course.

“Recovering our Families” introduces families to key recovery principles, leaders, research and resources that are person- and family-centered, trauma-informed and strengths based. This interactive, facilitated online class combines emailed lessons with recovery exercises, videos, online resources and a password-protected website with private facilitated group discussions and peer support. The “Recovering Our Families” course was written by and is facilitated by Krista MacKinnon with the help and support of Family Outreach and Response Program in Toronto Canada, and The Foundation For Excellence in Mental Health in Oregon, USA.”

To learn more about this innovative course click here

The next course begins Monday, March 15th.


Interview with author Stephanie Marohn

Episode Description

Trying to pick up the pieces of shattered minds, those with schizophrenia are a source of mystery and misery. Schizophrenia is a devastating disease affecting 51 million people world wide, and an often misunderstood condition. It is a multi-causal disorder with a wide variety of factors that need to be addressed. Stephanie Marohn will discuss natural medicine treatments such as nutritional protocols, anti-viral protocols, heavy metal detoxification, allergy elimination, cranial osteopathy, constitutional homeopathy, family system therapy, psychosomatic medicine and shamanic healing to address psychospiritual factors. Stephanie Marohn compiled interviews with brilliant doctors about their approach and care of society’s forgotten patients.



Stephanie Marohn is the author of 10 books, including What the Animals Taught Me: Stories of Love and Healing from a Farm Animal Sanctuary, seven books on natural medicine, and the anthologies Audacious Aging and Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change. Her writing has also appeared in magazines, newspapers, and poetry, prayer, and travel-writing anthologies.
Stephanie runs the Animal Messenger Sanctuary, a safe haven for farm animals, and has an energy medicine practice for animals of all species. Since 1993, she has operated Angel Editing Services, specializing in books on mind-body-spirit topics.

Natural medicine books by Stephanie Marohn:
The Natural Medicine Guide to Addiction
The Natural Medicine Guide to Anxiety Disorders
The Natural Medicine Guide to Autism
The Natural Medicine Guide to Bipolar Disorder
The Natural Medicine Guide to Depression
The Natural Medicine Guide to Schizophrenia
Natural Medicine First Aid Remedies

REAL LIFE starts with a dream (guest post)

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see himself as he is, infinite.” Aldous Huxley, written in my yearbook 2002

“Met him what? he asked. -Here, she said. What does that mean? He leaned downward and read near her polished thumbnail. -Metempsychosis? -Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home? -Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It’s Greek: from the Greek. That means the transmigration of souls. -O, rocks! she said. Tell us in plain words.” James Joyce, Ulysses p. 64, The Modern Library

I’m to tell you about a dream I had, a bad dream, but one that leads me to acceptance, not, in so many words, giving in. In itself, it has no meaning for anyone, and I expect the following is not of general interest, except something has to put an end to this story.

I still loathe myself often, loathe all of my circumstances and it doesn’t matter how many people I ask for their point of view. That is, I feel evil. I don’t want to convince you of this at all, and I was hoping distracting myself with James Joyce might, I don’t know, put a rosy hue on things. There is one alternative.

(There was a retired teacher whom I would meet from time to time on the corner, I mention now that she was a teacher of English, and when I told her my name, she straightaway nodded ‘Dedalus’, Stephen, my namesake of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses.) When sometimes I find life so very ordinary, I tell myself that must be because I’m something like the Wizard of Oz behind it all. This cannot be explained, I reckon, it must be experienced, much like Joyce’s books, and I find I tell others I’m ‘away with the fairies’ thereby placing myself as an odd relative, out of reach. Who is deceiving whom?

In my dream, I awake from a deep sleep (called so softly but I’m waiting expectantly) and in a flash, I’m running ahead, there’s so much to do, my recording session, my family will be here tomorrow, wow! I’m really achieving something, being somebody! And then….

Is it raining? I pause to try to read the weather, then I see my body blocking every point of view, any feeling, and I disbelieve in myself. Any observation or attempt at thought pulls me toward the ground, a beast of prey. I can’t see my clothes, then my body dies part by part. I’m urged to forget everything, and as I wake, I challenge myself to let go.

The disapointment concretely set in, that just as I could visualise my own life, boldly independent, but it’s just a story, and what’s more, I identify my dreamself as Stephen Hawking, and so I tell my mother later that morning, and next my psychiatrist. Imitating Hawking, I try to think through the drama. It’s impossible. Still fresh in my memory, I know then I believe Stephen Hawking to be a true hero, his inward world matched his outward reality, his thinking so peerless, singularly screaming I AM WHO I AM to the whole universe, but unable to find and name God. I want to see things from his eyes, paralysed, like Abraham Lincoln at his memorial sitting, that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. could stand there and proclaim, I have a dream, a word, a thought, and I hope, realize his relationship with God was just once, mutual.

I tell myself this, but it’s a rationalization. Why shouldn’t I be able to just collapse, and truly it will mean nothing? I don’t feel like I’m achieving anything, except something to do tomorrow. “Curse your God and die,” said Job’s wife, but I am not Job. I remember being sad for the writer Douglas Adams when he died, just collapsing on his treadmill. Now, I think, that must have been some relief. I didn’t know Douglas Adams, and if he collapsed in my arms, I wouldn’t have tried to resucitate him but stupidly, called for help.

If I acknowledge that the alternative to fear and loathing is action, and I’m drawing again on my English classes with Shakespeare, and that I don’t have the genius of Stephen Hawking, well, then, I think the letting go of life will be continual, that whenever I act in favour of change, I also release my desire for change, and that I may be getting in my own way by being so stubborn. I don’t want to justify myself continually, it is very hard on my own sense of self. The thing is, if I’m really stuck, like quicksand, I can only let go, and how then can I be afraid of death? I can’t lie to you about how afraid I feel, I’m deceiving myself, and getting deeper into the sand.

Then I guess I’ll really have to write my own account of my life where somehow it doesn’t end where all the details have been revealed but somehow create a story I can love where the end is only the beginning.

Today’s obituary

Ziggy Stardust, a.k.a. David Bowie, a.k.a. David Jones, was born in Brixton, South London, on January 8, 1947. Died in Manhattan, New York City, January 10, 2016.

Beneath the glitter and his untethered to earth weightlessness lies androgyny, exile, alienation and ch-ch-ch-ch changes. The hallmarks of the schizophrenic experience.

According to The Daily Mail:

David Bowie never crossed the divide into mental illness. But he shared a number of the quirks shown by his maternal family. He would suddenly burst into tears, for example, and was said to have had a particularly active imagination.
One family friend told me that, as a four or five-year-old, David had phoned to summon the local ambulance one night, and successfully persuaded the operator that he was “dying”.
That Bowie was conscious of his heritage seems obvious from the number of songs he wrote touching on lunacy or schizophrenia. Of the Oh! You Pretty Things lyrics, Bowie said: “I hadn’t been to an analyst – my parents went, my brothers and sisters and my aunts and uncles and cousins, they did that. They ended up in a much worse state. I thought I’d write my problems out.”

Read more here

Today’s obituary

Sounds like Norman Mailer was simply violently drunk when he stabbed his wife, Adele Morales at a party in the New York City apartment way back in 1960.

Nevertheless, being committed for psychiatric observation earned him several labels: paranoid, delusional, homicidal, and suicidal.

“Some guests recalled that the point of no return came when she told her husband that he was not as good as Dostoyevsky.

Mailer stabbed her in the stomach and back with a penknife, puncturing her cardiac sac.

Mrs. Mailer initially told doctors that she had fallen on broken glass. Later, in the intensive care unit of University Hospital, she told the police that her husband had stabbed her.

Mailer was charged with felonious assault and committed to Bellevue Hospital for psychiatric observation.

“In my opinion Norman Mailer is having an acute paranoid breakdown with delusional thinking and is both homicidal and suicidal,” Dr. Conrad Rosenberg, the doctor who first treated Mrs. Mailer, wrote in a medical report to the judge.”