One Small Step : The Conversation

This should link to our hourlong conversation, if you are interested or copy and paste link below.

https://archive.storycorps.org/search/interviews/?q=Phoebe+Wagner

STORYCORPS ONE SMALL STEP

https://www.vpr.org/show/vermont-edition/2021-11-12/vermonts-one-small-step-adrianna-phoebe

you can listen or read the transcript of this 8minute snippet of our hourlong conversation.

check out Violet Protest, referred to in the conversation above. https://violetprotest.com

SAYING YES SOMETIMES MEANS SAYING NO 

Many of you know that I have been learning French non-stop for the last three years, and some are aware that I wanted to go back to France to visit or live. Moving there is not possible, due to the difficulties of acquiring a visa without actually owning a home or having relatives in the country. And these same visa requirements, meant that I had to limit any temporary stay to 3 months or less. I had begun to plan a trip that would have allowed me to visit friends in Paris and Rouen, and near Lyon and finally a month in Guillestre in the French alps, visiting one of my favorite French friends. I had looked at certain Airbnb places in those three regions and was on the cusp of making reservations, when I was temporarily halted in my plans by two small retinal hemorrhages. These likely represent nothing serious, but it did force me to put off planning the trip until after my November 19 appointment with the eye doctor. However, in that time things have changed, or my thinking has. 

I have been advised that my stance is useless, that someone will be in that seat, aboard that plane, if not me then another person, that my denying myself a trip to France won’t make a dent in climate change, that individuals’ efforts are for naught when it’s the big corporations that need to change. Maybe so. As an individual I already do what i can to diminish my carbon footprint: I eat no meat, fish, eggs or dairy products. That is because I have learned that it is animal farming that is at the base of most deforestation and our billions of cows are a huge global source of methane emissions, bigger than all transportation combined, according to some sources. Since methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, this is something I encourage in others: cut back on your consumption of animals even if you feel it is impossible to go plant based entirely. I use a washing machine yes, but I dry my clothing on a line. I rarely drive when walking is possible (yes I do own a used car). I have flown in a plane maybe a handful of times over all my nearly 69 years. I keep the heat way down in my apartment, despite the fact that my rent includes heat. BUT…

The things I do that add to my own carbon footprint are typically American. I use a small air conditioner in my bedroom in the summer, just for sleeping but I do use it and would suffer without it as my bedroom gets stifling in the summer heat, even in Vermont. And I confess to shopping online, largely because I do not want to drive to a far-off store or the store is simply too far away to get to. But transportation is transportation whether I do it, or I purchase something that forces someone to drive to my apartment to deliver it. I don’t only buy locally to sustain the local economy, no, as the local prices are sky-high for art supplies that are not the quality I need. And so on and so forth. I’m sure there are a dozen other behaviors I could name that add to my typically American carbon footprint.

But “everyone else” is flying, or would if they could, so why do I insist on not going to France? The French need tourist dollars, I’m told, and they would love to meet someone who loves their language and has devoted herself to learning it. Maybe so. Vermont needs tourist dollars too. In fact many of the world’s local economies depend on tourism just as much as France and Vermont do. Something is wrong with this. It used to be that a town sustained itself with local dollars and local crops and local tradespeople. We didn’t need to order most goods from afar, with invisible energy costs. Local consumption didn’t carry a hidden price tag in terms of the poor people in other countries employed to manufacture what we want more cheaply than we know it ought to cost. We have become addicted to bargain prices, to everything being made cheaply elsewhere and to low fuel costs so transportation doesn’t add visibly to the price we pay either. 

I see I’m going beyond my level of expertise and also straying from my subject. 

Someone recently said to me that if one country does the right thing, in terms of climate change, that could start a snowball effect, with other countries  vying to do the same or better. I believe that individuals can spark this sort of thing too. I’m not going to France, because I cannot “justify” the energy usage. I will be just as happy as i am now, France or no. So, yes, I’m setting an example. Were you planning a trip overseas or by airplane?  Well, maybe we can start a movement by changing our minds and our plans, and saying No. Because every such No — to eating meat or fish, to flying, to excessive energy use, among other things  — is a heartfelt Yes to the world, to the environment and to the planet’s future.

Relaxing Ribbons

These drawings were to help me understand how intertwining works in drawing and painting. how to make things look intertwined etc. it ended up being quite relaxing and even a kind of meditation. i hope you enjoy them. The go from last to first one drawn, starting with last one first. I am still working on a full rainbow ribbons drawing.

This was the most recent ribbons drawing

MY INCLUSIVE BAND OF PAPIER MÂCHÉ MUSICIANS

This quartet is papier mâché, all women, but I tried to include as many different types of people as I could (so far)…of course not all peoples are represented, as that would be impossible with just four individuals. But starting with the pianist, we have a zaftig, older, white haired crone, with beige skin; the guitarist by contrast is tall and very slender, and dark of hue; the singer is Latina, and because of cancer and the treatments, she is missing a hand and her hair; finally we have the young prodigy drummer, a tiny Asian “jeune fille” who has to play drums that are sized to fit her. And in case you are in doubt, I made them all, each one, from materials I had on hand. 6” to 14” high

Nous Toutes Ensemble

CRAZY OR NOT, HERE I COME

first published at https://www.blog88.org

by Phoebe Sparrow Wagner

       I used to be “crazy.” Labeled CMI, chronically mentally ill, prone to psychosis, i was a revolving door mental patient, one who spent almost as much time in her adult life in the hospital as out of it. Although I had various diagnoses, the main one was schizophrenia, or the variant of it, schizoaffective disorder that some claim combines features of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Over time, as I bounced from hospital to home and back to the hospital the doctors would tack on other labels as well, like PTSD and different personality disorders. 

     Although I occasionally was admitted “voluntarily,” most of these hospital stays started out involuntary, until nurses, brandishing paper and pen, advised me of my right to sign in as “voluntary.” I would sign, but this did not mean I could leave because not even voluntary patients could leave at will, not in the state where I lived at the time. If you wanted to leave before the doctor thought you should, you had to sign a  paper stating this. Then wait to see if the doctor challenged the paper. If she did so within three days, you could be taken to probate court for a judge to hear the case. This was never good. We patients knew the judge virtually always sided with the doctors, since we were by definition “crazy” and could not know what was good for us.

         But let me go back to the schizophrenia thing. I heard voices, most of the time. They were usually awful voices, voices that jeered and mocked and threatened me, voices that led me to burn myself dozens of times in an effort to rid myself of them. I heard and saw messages to me in everything, from the television and radio ads to newspaper headlines. I saw tiny scintillating red lights that swarmed about me like a cloud of gnats, and which I called the Red Strychnines. I saw Alan Arkin, the actor, and Senator Joe Lieberman dressed as Nazis supervising a conveyor belt sending bodies to the crematorium, and I heard music, people chanting in low voices, unintelligibly at first but later changing to threats. As is often the case, these voices and visions led me to distorted thinking, and to “paranoia,” based on what I heard and saw.

      There were other voices. Brother Luke was the name I gave to the one good guy in the lot. He talked to me about time and space and humanity and love, and I felt safe with him. And there were the voices I called the Little People, to distinguish them from the main voices, the bad ones. The Little People occupied objects I used, like my comb or paint brushes and they would talk to one another but would almost never speak directly to me. I could listen in on their lives and concerns, but mostly could not or did not want to interfere. They kept me company with their constant chatter, but they were never threatening or upsetting to me.

         The bad voices did bother me, however, and I would often end up in the hospital because of them. But living in a hospital is as bad as it sounds, with horrible food, and little to do, and really no help at all except the constant pressure to take medication, which could turn to threats if you didn’t comply. Worse, if you got out of line, that is, if you got too loud or angry at being kept there or treated by force,  they would do things like have a team of security guards strip you naked and lock you in a freezing seclusion cell alone, or shackle your wrists and ankles to a bed, leaving you like that for hours, even days at a time. Or both at the same time. I know this because everything I write about happened to me and on multiple occasions.

        Staff called seclusion and restraints measures of last resort, claimed they were only employed when necessary to maintain a patient in safety, but we patients knew they were used almost always as retribution and for punishment. Even SAMHSA (the Federal agency concerned with such things, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) knew that restraints and seclusion were not helpful, and were not used as a last resort at all, as they stated in one of their pamphlets:

“… there is a common misconception that seclusion and restraint are used only when absolutely necessary as crisis response techniques. In fact, seclusion and restraint are most commonly used to address loud, disruptive, noncompliant behavior and generally originate from a power struggle between consumer and staff. The decision to apply seclusion or restraint techniques is often arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and generally avoidable (Haimowitz, Urff, & Huckshorn, 2006; NASMHPD, 2003; SAMHSA, 2003).”

In another publication SAMHSA writes:

“Seclusion and restraint were once perceived as therapeutic practices in the treatment of people with mental and/or substance use disorders. Today, these methods are viewed as traumatizing practices and are only to be used as a last resort when less-restrictive measures have failed and safety is at severe risk.”

And this:

“Restraints can be harmful and often re-traumatizing for people, especially those who have trauma histories. Beyond the physical risks of injury and death, it has been found that people who experience seclusion and restraint remain in care longer and are more likely to be readmitted for care.”

         But both seclusion and restraints are still used and increasingly so as staff to patient ratios are decreased in psych hospitals and units, with more patients per staff and many staff members poorly trained, if at all. 

         I don’t believe mental illness is a real entity any more, I don’t believe in schizophrenia or manic-depression or depression or the notion that anyone’s personality can have a disorder. I don’t believe that psychiatry is a valid science or even an art worthy of the name. And I do not believe that we are right on the verge of finally (for the umpteeth time?) discovering the truth about the origins of “mental illness”. We were told the same thing many times before. For instance when the “miracle of psychosurgery” maimed or killed thousands by “helping” them with ice pick surgery and pre-frontal lobotomies. We were told of the miracles of shock, when a variety of drugs as well as electrical current applied to the brain “helped” thousands more, even when bones were broken and people died. And we are still being fed the lie that neuroleptic drugs like Thorazine and Haldol  and the new generation of similar drugs like Zyprexa and Risperdal are in fact “antipsychotic” and are an effective treatment for, well, whatever ails you…*

     But it was not true that lobotomies helped anyone, shock treatments, which induce grand mal seizures, are by definition brain damaging, and the drugs rarely help more than they hurt, since it has been shown that long term they create more illness, chronic illness, than they ever alleviated. 

        We should have known this. Back in the 50s when Thorazine was seriously referred to as a chemical lobotomy (which was seen as desirable) doctors noted that the drug was not in fact a treatment that helped the person who took it, reducing symptoms or restoring health. What they saw was that those given the drug became subdued, even immobilized into the infamous Thorazine shuffle, and more “compliant.” This helped the nurses be nurses, as the formerly disruptive were now bludgeoned by Thorazine into mild, shuffling sufferers. They were no longer mad-men or mad-women, no, they had been disabled by the drug and  could now be nursed as  true patients, patients who were sick and needed nursing care.

       I have been given high doses of Thorazine and know from experience that it is a horrible, deadening drug. I have been forcibly treated with soul-killing Haldol and Mellaril and Stelazine and the others, and when Clozaril came out I was given that (thankfully, because the side effects were horrendous, I developed agranulocytosis, twice, so I was taken off it) and then Risperdal and Zyprexa and again, most of the others that later came onto the market. None of them helped me or reduced the voices or made me happier.

     Two things did help. Art, which became my life’s passion, and therapy, therapy not with a psychiatrist or an LCSW working under the auspices of a psychiatrist, clinicians who saw only so-called mental illness, but with a woman who does not even have a license to practice in this country. She never saw schizophrenia or bipolar or personality disorders in me when we talked, she saw me, the me beneath all the labels, and she saw me as good, she saw a good person, not the “Satan’s spawn” that the voices derided. She saw me healthy and thriving, even before I did. She did not want to control me, in fact human freedom was and is her main concern. But she accepted me as I was, and her unconditional acceptance and love (for what else was it?) gave me back a sense of self and the self-esteem to thrive and move forward into my life.

     I want to say a word about my falling in love with art. I became an artist very suddenly, overnight, in 2008, and this was a miracle in my life. I did not at the time understand how or why it happened, but I woke up one morning with a voice inside my head (all the others seemed to emanate from outside me) telling me, “You must build a human, you must build a human.” Well, I thought, this voice is not telling me to harm myself, so what’s the problem with obeying it? So I set out to build a human, and did in three months, create a life-size papier mâché woman, seated in  a paper mâché chair.

Decorated Betsy

Later this won a prize and was bought by an art collector/friend. But it seemed to unleash something in me that drove me to make art constantly from 2008 onward.

It was only in 2017 and later in 2020, when I managed to get off all my psych drugs, that I realized I had also stopped doing art. Was it possible that the drugs were responsible, then, for the miracle I could no longer live without? I went back on them, and within a week or two I was doing art again.

And a second trial of slowly stopping them, which also resulted in my stopping my practice of daily art, led me to the conclusion that without at least one of these drugs, I could not do art. And art was my raison d’être, something I could not live without.

After some lengthy experimentation, I finally determined that it was a drug called Abilify that had produced the miracle of allowing me to do art. Abilify, which I had started in 2008, and which is technically in the “anti-psychotic” class of drugs, is also used along with antidepressants purportedly to help in depression. Nowhere has anyone ever noted its use in stimulating creativity. But that’s what it does for me, and it does so reliably.

Off Abilify, I do no art. On it, on a “therapeutic dose,” I can access my creativity in a way that I can no longer live without. But it decidedly does not act as an anti-psychotic, or as an anti-depressant, because I’m fine these days, and all my “symptoms” — a term I never use except in quotes — all the voices and visions, the distorted thinking and “paranoia” I used to experience are gone, whether I take the drug or not. 

       I believe that the extreme mental states called “mental illness” all have their origin in trauma, childhood and otherwise, and often these traumas are re-enacted and reinforced by what is absurdly called “psychiatric care.”

      Forced medication and forcible treatment, restraints and seclusion and involuntary commitments, all these are liberally employed, as if shackling a person to a bed or chair for hours at a time, or holding someone down for forced injections, is an act of compassion. Note that these measures are undertaken most often against poor people or minorities, and buttressed by the same lies about “anti-psychotics” and “anti-depressants” that are also foisted on the general public. 

      If psychiatry was a profession entirely dedicated to the truth about each individual and the truth about trauma, and was not so tied to the mercenary interests of the pharmaceutical companies, maybe today it would be a healing profession and not the corrupt, pseudo-medical cabal it is.

       The profession could change, become what it purports to be, but this would necessitate psychiatrists looking honestly at history. Alas, I doubt that those who have arrogated so much power to themselves will ever relinquish it, much less acknowledge with remorse the immense harm psychiatry has inflicted on the world.

     ————————————————————-

* Dr. Heidi Fowler, a psychiatrist at HealthTap wrote this: “Abilify (aripiprazole): Abilify (aripiprazole) is used to treat Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, as an adjunctive medication for recalcitrant major depression; autism spectrum disorders. Off label uses include: dementia; alcohol abuse/dependence and the following for which there are no trials or minimal efficacy: Generalized anxiety disorder, Social phobia, ADHD, agitation, Eating disorders, insomnia, borderline personality disorder.”

* If you subscribe to Quartz you can read this: https://qz.com/293932/how-this-antipsychotic-became-americas-best-selling-drug/ 

*Another article on Abilify: https://medtruth.com/drugs/abilify-side-effects/ 

*Abilify became America’s best-selling drug in 2013-2014, and it was used in myriad ways, not just to “treat” schizophrenia or depression.

DANDYBLEND CINNAMON CAKE


Dandyblend Cinnamon Cake

DRY INGREDIENTS

3 C flour, all-purpose or a mix of flours, but use at least 1 cup of white flour

1 1/4 C sugar, white or brown

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1C chopped nuts (I use pecans)

2 Tbs Dandyblend* beverage powder (optional but it adds flavor and color)

1 Tb cinnamon

WET INGREDIENTS

2 eggs (I used egg substitute) 

1/3-1/2 C oil

1/2C -1C milk or nut milk, or another liquid, even water

1 tsp vanilla or almond extract

TOPPING INGREDIENTS

3 Tbs sugar and 1 Tb cinnamon, mixed to make about 1/4 c.

Mix dry ingredients well with a fork in a large bowl, to ensure good blending.

Add wet ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients, using smaller amounts of each suggested liquid first and only adding up to the second amount if the mixture seems too dry. Should be a thick wet batter, not a dough.

Spoon or scrape mixture into a well greased loaf pan.

Sprinkle topping all over top of uncooked cake batter. If you like, with a knife swirl topping into cake. Or just leave to form a crust on top.

Bake at 350F for an hour, 

but start checking for doneness after 45 minutes. 

An inserted toothpick should not come out wet with uncooked cake batter, but clean and nearly dry. My oven sometimes needs a bit longer than this, but it depends on how much liquid I’ve used in the cake.

  • Dandyblend is an instant no caffeine beverage, made from dandelion and chickory roots and a few other natural ingredients. I love this blend as a hot coffee substitute and for a cold drink too. You can find it of course on Amazon or at https://dandyblend.com

"While I breathe, I hope"

Silicon Valley Types

portraits & figures by an older woman artist, with blue collar roots

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The opinions expressed are those of the author. You go get your own opinions.

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blogsy

the easiest way to discover your next favorite blog

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Kingbird Graphica

All content copyright (c) 2017-2019 by the author.

Amdall Gallery

Artwork, data analysis, and other projects by Jon

Art Every Day 365

My Life is Art, My Art is Life

Silicon Valley Types

portraits & figures by an older woman artist, with blue collar roots

Polyglottes

Apprenez les langues !

Art by Daz

Life is too short to be petty-minded

bluebird of bitterness

The opinions expressed are those of the author. You go get your own opinions.

soulipsis

What sense in chaos.

A Pause for Nature

A pause to admire nature's unparalleled beauty.

The Drawing of the Words

Strange Anatomy, Awkward Perspectives

SUCCESS INSPIRERS' WORLD

The World's leading success industry

Abuse with an Excuse

Punishment is just Abuse with an Excuse

YennPurkis

Thoughts on all things Autism and mental health

Gourmet Paper Mache

Not your third grade paper mache

blogsy

the easiest way to discover your next favorite blog

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