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A Buoy Placed By a Devastated Father

Castlewood Treatment Center, Mark Schwartz, Nancy Albus, Richard Schwartz, Lori Galperin, Mike Rechtein

"Victus quoque rationem ad aegrotantium salutem pro facultate, judicioque meo adhibebo, noxamvero et maleficium propulsabo".

I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief.” – Hippocrates 1638

For as far back as I can remember I’ve been a fan of all things nautical. From the history of early navigational techniques utilizing the stars, fixed objects, magnetic compasses, and sextons. To what we’ve evolved to these days with accurate-to-the-inch satellite GPS technology. From early wind powered sailing vessels to warships powered by nuclear reactors. Then communication at sea has always fascinated me as well. My interests in nautical techniques of communication lead me to learn Morse Code at a very young age, then become an amateur radio enthusiast after that.

Seafaring techniques of communication and navigation have evolved over the decades. Massive brass bells mounted on ship bows phased into fog horns then into electronic radio proximity warnings. Smokey shoreline fires were lifted over the years high into the seaside sky, placed atop lighthouses. Those later became electrified, then ended up obsolete altogether, again bested by electronic technology. Ship to ship communication through flashing lights ended up replaced by radio Morse Code, then by voice-to-voice radio technology. Things evolve, things change.

The buoy has been around since man first set out to navigate the sea. It has roots (or in its case chains) in both areas of my nautical fascination. It is a navigational tool, as much as it is a method of (at least one way) communication.

If you think about it, from very early on a buoy could have a sad component. Massive hand-forged chains would anchor a buoy to the sea floor. Often placed at sites where something really bad happened. A ship ran aground, tearing into its keel and flooding lower cargo holds, or worse yet, crew quarters. The buoy marking the very site of the tragedy, of the destruction, of the lives lost.

Buoys too have evolved over time. They’ve taken on technology. They’re made of newer stuff. But despite often being loaded with modern gizmos and gadgets nearly all buoys still have two things in common with their ancestors. First, they communicate to your senses, to your eyes and ears. They’re colored brightly, reflectively so you can see them. They make noise, so you can hear them. Second, they warn you of something.

As old sailing ships finished long oceanic voyages and approached port the Captain would often double the watch, especially at night and in rough stormy seas. He’d post more crew as lookouts on deck and in the crows nest. These crewmen would watch and listen for the buoys. On moonless nights in high stormy seas these crewmen would look and listen even more intently. Their lives and the souls of their shipmates depended on it.

Then, through the dark, the dense fog and over the wind and waves they would hear the buoy. “BONG, BONG, BONG” off in the mysterious distance. The large dangling clapper slamming against the massive sturdy bell housing atop the buoy. The time between bongs and their loudness determined by the waves and condition of the local seas. Fast, irregular, loud bongs were never a good sign! Slow, softer, rhythmic bongs were better. But either way, the buoy was saying something to the sailor. To the sailor’s ear at first the buoy was saying “DANGER, THERE IS DANGER HERE!” Then, once snapped to full mental attention by the initial “Bong”, the sailor would hear more from the buoy. Perhaps things like “BE CAREFUL HERE, A BAD THING HAPPED TO OTHER SAILORS HERE”. Or “BE ALERT, NAVIGATE WITH CAUTIOUS CARE.” It’s a very basic, simple communication. But I’m sure that very easy to understand, low-tech message, “BONG, BONG, BONG” prevented a great deal of damage over the decades.

So, consider this website our buoys. Tethered to the ground just outside the Castlewood Treatment Center, as well as anywhere Dr. Mark Schwartz sets up a dangerous practice.

Five years ago today on February 14th, 2011 I lost my daughter, my only child, to Schwartz and the Castlewood Treatment Center. Losing an only child in any way is agonizing. Disease and accidents taking a child devastate a parent. You can’t ever get over it. The best you can do is hope to discover coping mechanisms, and simply keep living yourself. No matter how empty that life may be moving forward. But losing a child in the way Castlewood causes you to lose a child adds even more horrible components to the levels of pain the parent experiences. The wound created by losing a child to Castlewood can’t heal. It’s open, festering, and agonizingly painful. There can never be closure. The confusion, deep depression, and daily sadness never go away or decrease. No matter how tough you think you are, the last thing you do just before falling asleep is quietly sob to yourself. Then each morning you wake up, even though you’d rather not, depressed with eyes full of tears. Imagine surviving that ritual 1,825 times, (to date).

My pre-Castlewood daughter was a joy. She was smart, and cute, and sensitive. Yes, stop, I already know every parent always says this. So let’s just assume we’re all right, so I can tell you about mine.

But of the endless facets that make up my child, a few of her core components always stood out to me.

She had an incredibly strong moral compass. Her sense of right-and-wrong was well honed. Beyond simply never wanting to cause another person harm. She was protective of others, even all living things. If I went to kill a spider, she’d talk me into some catch-and-release deal for the damn thing.

She was sensitive beyond measure. Empathetic with anyone or anything that was suffering. Ecstatic with and for anyone who was experiencing joy.

She loved her family with all her heart. From her mother, to me, to her whole extended family and her relatives. Her love didn’t blind her to any of our, or life’s shortcomings. Life is never perfect in any kid’s childhood. Like all teenage girls she’d butt heads with her mom, or think Dad just wasn’t cool enough. Normal stuff.

Around December of 2010 her mother and I really started to notice a few small behavioral changes. Then some dietary changes. At the time I knew nothing about eating disorders, but I was a super over protective dad, so this did get my attention! Her mother beat me to it, and began researching eating disorders and therapy for them. My daughter lived with her mom 3 hours from me, my wife and step-daughter. But her mom and I were always good team parents. Well, we were a good team at least. She was the parent, and I was the person who spoiled our daughter. Sometimes, in minor ways undoing her parental management. Typical father of a daughter! Always wanting to be the good guy. But overall it worked. The kid was a good kid, happy and fine her whole life.

Her mother’s research unearthed Castlewood Treatment Center. Her mom fell in love with the advertised treatment modalities and success stories. My daughter, as was typical for her, became enamored with the foliage, landscaping, décor, linens, and pretty things. Mom’s insurance wouldn’t cover Castlewood, but my wife’s would. So I did the telephone intake stuff and set up all the financing. Looking back at it all, I think it was a great family team effort. Little did I know what sending my daughter 963 miles away to a locked, gated, mountain-top cult would turn into!

On February 14, 2011 I drove my daughter and her mother to the airport for their flight to St. Louis. To the Castlewood Treatment Center. I yanked their luggage from my truck. Said goodbye and good luck to mom. Kneeled down and hugged my little girl. Explained to her that she was going to a place where she can tell the folks anything that is hurting her, or upsetting her. Anything bad that may have happened to her. I told my adorable daughter to just open up and get the most out of the place. She told me she loved me and not to worry about her. She seemed as worried for me as I was for her. Such a good kid. She towed her little suitcase, disappearing into the airport crowd. That’s what I consider the last time I ever saw my daughter……

I was thinking about how to continue this introduction from here. I wrote several versions, each more painful to author than the one prior. Then I had an idea. Recently my wife decided to post a review of Castlewood on their Facebook page. To continue, here is her review of the Castlewood Treatment Center copied and pasted from their Facebook page:

"It is vitally important that I personally testify about the enormous harm Castlewood Treatment Center has caused to numerous patients and their extended families. My family was destroyed after sending a family member for treatment of a relatively minor eating disorder to the Castlewood Treatment Center, under the direct care of Mark Schwartz, Lori Galperin and Nancy Albus in 2011. Very soon after her arrival Castlewood encouraged her to alienate her family members and this was particularly distressing since family therapy is the empirically supported approach to eating disorders. Instead, to treat her eating disorder, Castlewood used several “memory recovery techniques” including; powerful psychotropic drugs, hypnosis, IFS - parts therapy, regression therapies, guided imagery, literal dream interpretation, journaling,”drama therapy”, and even peer pressure from other patients. According to statements made by several experts in eating disorders, use of these controversial treatment modalities is not the standard of care for eating disorders primarily because patients are malnourished and vulnerable to psychological damage. Clinical Director and Co-Founder, Mark Schwartz, encouraged my family member to remain secluded at Castlewood for months, during this time she withdrew more and more from her family and the world around her and sank deeper and deeper into the inward-directed rituals of recovered-memory therapy. It was an extremely controlled environment where she was bombarded with strange ideas and encouraged to search for buried memories and hidden alter personalities. Over time, she became disturbingly worse, to the point of suffering. Eventually a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) was suggested by one of her therapists, Mike Rechtien. Mark Schwartz even convinced my family member that she would die if she left Castlewood. It was like her mind was in a virtual train wreck. Bizarre and implausible beliefs were developed in the course of her treatment at Castlewood. While under the influence of various medically prescribed psychotropic medications she was coerced into believing that she endured horrendous physical abuse, the kind of abuse that should have left lasting physical scars, and that she was sexually abused by more than 50 different individuals including family members, coaches, lawyers, and policemen. She came to believe that she operated an underage prostitution business from her home, that she was high level drug abuser, and that her family members were aware of all of this abuse and did nothing but laugh at her. The only thing more tragic than actually being subjected to this kind of abuse is to believe it happened when in reality NONE of it is true. After Mark Schwartz and other Castlewood Staff encouraged my family member to cut all ties with us, the remainder of my heart-broken family was devastated by her false and impossible allegations of abuse. Before destroying my family and attempting to ruin our reputation, Schwartz and Albus should have sought out independent validation of her claims, especially the more bizarre and less than plausible stories that emerged. Yet no attempt whatsoever was made to vet or verify ANY of the ridiculous claims she began making as a result of their terrible and long debunked “therapeutic” techniques. Luckily, however, the officials in our state were compelled to look more objectively at these claims of abuse. My family and I were thoroughly investigated by the Special Victims Unit of the State Police, Child Protective Services and Family Court Judges. After many months and several hearings we were officially cleared of any wrong-doing. Beyond being cleared, not a single portion of any of the hundreds of abuse allegations were supported. After almost a year of intensive investigation one lead investigator looked at my husband and said simply, “Sir, there is absolutely nothing here.” A simple sentence that summed up the entire horror story. Sadly, this did little to restore the broken ties with our Castlewood-damaged family member, with whom we remain estranged from to this very day. At first we believed that we were the only ones enduring this hell, but slowly others came forward with similar experiences from Castlewood and Mark Schwartz. There were four civil lawsuits filed against Castlewood, all claiming similar stories of wrongdoing and malpractice. Sadly these cases were each settled out of court with gag orders, probably for large sums of cash. Unfortunately, these victims are now bound to an agreement that they will never disclose the facts of their case to the public-at-large. Even still, victims continued to come forward and we learned of over forty individuals that suffered similar fates after treatment at Castlewood. We joined a support group called Castlewood Victims Unite and discovered truly, that we were NOT alone in our suffering. Therapy should be a very gentle exploration and unburdening of problems, not cause a fresh gaping unhealable wound. Therapy should never manufacture delusional problems and horrors for the patient. Today my family member is left in an untenable psychological state, one that is much worse than when she began treatment with The Castlewood Treatment Center. Their treatment caused serious damage at great expense. I am aware that some patients actually have been helped by treatment at Castlewood. I am grateful for this. But it does not change what happened to my family or the more than 40 other families I know about. As a result, I encourage anyone seeking treatment to get help, but to look at facilities NOT called Castlewood. My family will never be the same as the result of our Castlewood experience, but if I can warn folks and perhaps prevent some other family from going through what we did, I may rest a little easier." For more information on the wrongdoings of Castlewood just google "The Most Dangerous Idea In Mental Health " by Ed Cara or “Castlewood Treatment Center Lawsuit” by Blythe Bernhard.

While I was going through this hell, I thought I was the only man in history to experience these feelings, this kind of wrong doing and resulting pain. I delivered my daughter to Castlewood, and lost her forever. All of a sudden, and out of the blue I was being accused of doing things to her, for her entire life that were so horrendous she couldn’t have survived the described abuse at all. Her entire childhood was rewritten. In each phone conversation with Schwartz he would explain to me how Castlewood had “brought more memories of abuse to the surface”. It was all so ridiculous, so preposterous, so sick. Nothing tied to reality. None of it was even remotely plausible. Then there was the momentum factor. Go ahead, visualize putting the words “rape”, “molest” and “Dad” together in the same sentence! Momentum? This delusional disaster got strapped to a rocket! It got worse, “torture” was alleged and thrown in the mix for good measure. Over weeks my daughter was convinced that more and more men abused her, then that so many people observed it yet neither did nor said anything to help her. Once leaving Castlewood, it was her ever-expanding and increasingly impossible narative that began to bring common sense back into play. Able-minded folks just began to realize none of it was based in reality.

In my situation it made it all the way to a real hearing. One I INSISTED on and fought to initiate in order to clear my name. Even this in many ways only caused me more pain and agony. For hours I sat in a hearing room listening to my daughter say and describe things that no father, no man should ever have to hear. About me, then about other men, then even horrifically demeaning and completely untrue things about herself. All this after wading through hundreds of pages containing affidavits and progress notes from social service and police authorities. All based on "memories" of a life never lived, but "recovered" at Castlewood. "Memories" alleging a complete lifetime of abuse at my hands, and the hands of what ended up being nearly one hundred people, counting all those who supposedly knew all about the abuse yet did nothing to help. The result of the hearing of course cleared me of any wrong doing whatsoever. Then, the finding ended up hurting me deeply in yet another way. Essentially just stating that my little girl is severely mentally ill, and completely incredible. So while I was cleared of all this Castlewood poppycock, my pain was just as acute. My daughter still believes these sick delusions, I was and am so painfully embarrassed for her, and she is still gone. It is so bad.

After the hearing concluded I began to get curious about the then two pending cases against Castlewood. Cases where the plaintiffs walked into Castlewood with no memories of any abuse, then left “remembering” basically a lifetime of abuse. Only to realize years after leaving Castlewood that the abuse never occurred. Wow, I remember thinking how could a tiny little innocuous facility create THREE cases (my daughter, and these two) of delusional false memories? So I put my thoughts into the Facebook page Castlewood Victims Unite. The floodgates opened. Two more high profile and eerily similar lawsuits hit the courts. Then former Castlewood clients with the very same experiences and stories began rolling in. Describing how they and their families were destroyed by Schwartz and Castlewood the same way I was. My wife maintains the spreadsheet of our CVU Facebook members, and what categories they’re broken down into. Actual client-victims that were there, those who were there but escaped before being damaged and tell horror stories of what they witnessed, family members of those damaged, etc. The saddest category is the one I’m in; innocent people who have had their lives destroyed by Castlewood and still don’t have their daughters back. For me, the heroes, the most inspiring Castlewood victims are the ones who took the full measure of Castlewood damage. Accused loved ones of all the horrible deeds you see here. Then climbed out of it, realizing it wasn’t true. These folks saw what was done to them at Castlewood, saw how their families were damaged and hurt, and are now making repairs WITH their families. To me, that takes guts! Please click on our Facebook page. Read the most important part! The COMMENTS on posts made by the Castlewood SURVIVORS! You have to dig around a little. But it is worth the trouble.

We are also aware that there are folks that have been helped at Castlewood. Folks that were never lead to believe any family member abused them, and actually went through Castlewood without blaming loved ones for their eating disorder! Which leads US now back to my nautical thing…

But first, before I go back to sea, and for the first time in five years I do need to say one thing…

To my Dear Sweet Daughter,

If you should ever stumble on this poorly written and surely confusing post I want you to know that I never have, never will give up hope. I can’t pretend about this pain I'm in, I’m completely shattered and broken hearted. Mad as hell and as depressed as a parent can be. But you are my daughter. You are my only daughter. You are my only child. I love you completely and unconditionally as every parent should. I miss you with every ounce of my heart.

Despite all that has happened and all that has been said NONE of these feelings for you have or ever will change. No matter what, and through anything I will be there with and for you. I will stand by you. I will walk through hell holding your hand to help you if that what it takes. I am a father. I am YOUR father. That’s what Dads do. From now, until that time I take my last breath I am here for you in heart and in action, anytime you need me.

I love you honey. Always have, always will. I want you back in my life with all my heart.

Remember folks, a buoy doesn’t say “Run away, don’t come ashore!” A buoy is a tool. It can guide you. It can show you the path to a safe port. It can warn you of danger. If your daughter is going through an eating disorder, your whole family is in rough, high, windy, storm-swept seas right now! If your family’s ship is heading for Castlewood Treatment Center, I’m not going to tell you what to do. But if you listen real carefully, above the sound of waves and rain crashing into your bow, way off in the distance I hope you hear,,,,,, “BONG, BONG,,,,,BONG”.

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