Category Archives: Art

April Blahs?

IMG_1016

 

I realize that doesn’t exactly illustrate the “blahs” but it represents the sum total of all the artwork I have done since I got out of the hospital in mid march…and I did it in one night, on a whim, as a gift to the wonderful social worker who just left a position in our building for the directorship of the community center in town. (I miss her terribly but she needed to move on…)

 

Anyhow, the point of my post title is mostly to explain why I have not written all month: I have not felt much like doing anything at all. I haven’t done any other art or writing, and all I managed to accomplish was to clean up my apartment, which only serves to paralyze me the more.

 

I will write more eventually, but for now I just wanted to assure you all that I am okay, just not feeling up to much and so not writing. When I am back up to snuff I will write more. (I might even film a tour through my apartment in desperation, just for something to post here, that is how bad things are…i am scraping the bottom of the barrel!)  In the meantime, please don’t give up on me. I’ll be back…SOON.

Donna’s Story and More Art

P1020796-001

 

This picture is Tim’s sister in law, Dawn, whom I drew at Christmas, in 2012. It took me about an hour. The elephant below is remarkable only in that it is my first painting, in oils, that I have ever done. And for that matter, almost literally the first time I have painted anything, except for a few portraits. I usually draw, in pencil or oil pastel. I have painted some acrylic portraits, in the past, but none recently, as I told myself I’d better learn to draw a few years back  “before I go any further with painting.” I never ever did anything with oils at all. So if I achieved any success with the elephant it was completely by chance. I find oils very difficult. I do not know how to work with them, nor how to manipulate a brush or the colors, or how to do anything at all with paint. So this is an interesting journey, and transition, if transition it be. I do not know what will happen. Whether I will switch to oils completely, or simply use them desultorily…We will see. I am now working on another elephant painting, just for practice. Both of them started with the use of oil pigment sticks, which enable a sort-of drawing technique, very bluntly, and ended forcing me to paint, using either my fingers or real brushes. So it seems I am being led willy nilly to the brush and paint pot!

 

IMG_0015

 

 

This last picture started as a doodle that I did of another patient at the Institute this winter, but I liked it so much (and the patient hated it!) that I finished it by changing her to make her unrecognizable. I would have given it to her otherwise, but she didn’t want it, so I said nothing more. But I gave it to my friend Bill, who loved it. In the mean time, I figured I would finish it as I wanted to and did. I love it myself, and would gladly have kept it, had no one else expressed interest in it. But once I knew Bill loved it, well, I knew I wanted him to have it. And it meant I took extra care finishing it when I did. I never really knew much about this patient’s story, nor about anyone else there. Nor did they learn much about me. I do not believe they ever knew what the staff was doing to me that last ten days, when they kept putting me into four point restraints. That was the point: I was in seclusion so no one had any idea I even existed by that time. No wonder I ended by screaming non stop and blood curdlingly that last night when they restrained me the second time for no reason. Everyone who had known of me had left by then. All the patients were new, and no one even knew I was there. I was aware of it, and I knew that if I didn’t scream, they would simply four point me for another 8-10 hours and get away with it…Well, enough of that. This patient did not mind my drawing her, for the few hours that I was allowed to be in the general population. In fact, I think she was flattered that I wanted to. Unfortunately, she was not pleased by the results of my efforts when she saw the drawing…and made her feelings clear when she saw the drawing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image

 

___________________________

One of my loyal blog readers, Donna, wrote a long comment the other day, and I asked if I could post it on the blog proper, as I felt it was important for her story to be heard. She said Yes, and so I am reprinting it here.

 

“I have many personal arguments against taking antipsychotics. First of all, I endured schizophrenia since I was about 10 yrs old without anyone knowing anything about it. Without being diagnosed, that is. Yes, I had been thought of as weird and even retarded by my peers, mostly because of social anxiety and being an extreme introvert that were a result of or in addition to the schizophrenia. But my sanity hung on the fact that I was creative and could physically exercise to the point of exhaustion. I think that exercise (running) was the most potent antipsychotic I have ever experienced, probably due to the release of endorphins and the subjugation of ongoing anxiety for a few hours. The hallucinations never really bothered me because I couldn’t remember being without them. Nevertheless, once doctors knew of the hallucinations, that became their excuse for medicating the hell out of me. And subsequently robbing me of my creativity and the ability to exercise. You can see where this is going.

For one thing there was exercise equipment in the hospitals I began to frequent (after starting on antipsychotics, of course.) but I could not use it without a doctor’s prescription, which was never forthcoming. I guess they didn’t put much stock in exercise. It can’t be patented and marketed and sold as a pharmaceutical. Once I began taking Zyprexa, the option was moot anyway, because I gained so much weight there was no possible way to run anymore.

Although I had schizophrenia, as I said, for many years before diagnosis and treatment, I was always able to read voraciously, retain what I had read, and use that as grist for the mill of creativity. Once I started taking mood stabilizers (which, btw, never stabilized my mood) like Lithium, Depakote, and Tegretol, I began to REALLY suffer mentally. Yes, I could tolerate hallucinations, but what I found intolerable was the side effect of being unable to be intellectually stimulated. I was laid low. I could no longer read and understand the combination of words. I couldn’t sit through a movie because I could no longer process the sensory input — what I saw and heard became separate entities rather than combining seamlessly into a meaningful whole. It was a frightening, assaultive experience. Even music ceased to be soothing. All I wanted to do, and practically all I DID do was to lie in bed just trying to think one clear thought. It couldn’t be done.

After the antidepressant and mood stabilizer failure, ECT was tried. Again, that only made things worse. Then came antipsychotics. The first one I took, Trilafon, was a nightmare. Kind of like what you said, Pam — I then had an inability to tell dreams from reality. The scary kind of hallucinations started, like seeing a gargoyle when I looked in the mirror. And the parade of multiple antipsychotics drifted ineffectually past the window of my consciousness. Finally, when I was given Zyprexa, I “awakened.” Would I have needed awakening if I had never started taking these medications in the first place? I had my doubts. But on Zyprexa, I could read again. I could tolerate movies. I could write creatively. But the weight gain that started with Lithium began to really pile on with Zyrpexa. My weight doubled within a few months. I had always been extremely weight and diet-conscious. With Zyprexa came mind-numbing sedation and a tremendous 24×7 appetite. So I was eating and sleeping, but I was also reading and writing.

Talk about the horns of a dilemma — I could take the medication and regain my ability to think and create but be a slave to the fork, spoon and pillow, or I could stop taking medication and keep my appetite and weight within normal limits and be insane. What I’m wondering now is whether any of this would have been a problem if I had never taken the medications to begin with. I became much more insane after being medicated and stopping the medication. To my way of thinking, medication had stopped the positive symptoms but had made me especially prone to relapse every time I tried to ease back on it. And the hallucinations had never been much of a problem — not nearly the problem of weight gain and intellectual poverty. Zyprexa did at least give me back a portion of my mind. Medication giveth and medication taketh away; blessed be thy name pharmaceuticals.

SInce then, I have tried just about ever atypical on the market, with the exception of Invega, hoping to find the “right” medicaiton. They were all promising at first, but each with an array of intolerable side effects. Anxiety. Hypoglygcemia. Hypothyroidism. Akathisia. Pruritis. Mania. Severe insomnia. And for a long time, I could return (somewhat relieved) to Zyprexa and what had become my standard of recovery — stabilization and the ability to think and sleep again.

Now, however, I refuse to take the previous 40mg of Zyprexa. My psychiatrist seems to believe the higher the dose, the more effective the medication. I have weaned myself down to 2.5mg which is enough to keep me out of the hospital but apparently not enough to keep my appetite so revved up. It does not allow me to lose all this weight, no, but at least I am no longer gaining. I am writing again. And reading. The problem is, this dose of Zyprexa does not solve the problems of anxiety and insomnia, which are pure torture. So I take the minimum dose for several days, then double that for a couple of nights in order to sleep, then back again. I used to just stop taking the Zyprexa completely because the weight gain frustrated me so much. The stigma of mental illness is bad enough without the stigma of obesity. Schizophrenia is bad enough without metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

The real kicker, to me, is that yes I was having problems before I ever started on the psychiatric medication rollercoaster. I had some psychosis, depression, hypomania. I heard voices once in a while. I had a roster of impossible people renting space in my head. But I lived a close-to-normal existence from all outward appearances. I could hold down a stressful job. I managed to keep a marriage together. I was winning regional poetry contests in my spare time. I had my own home. But it was not until I began taking all of these medications that it all went to hell. And now, from what I’ve read and what I have experienced, my body can no longer tolerate being without the medications. Life is worse off of them now than on them. I have to take Zyprexa or go back to the hospital. I have to take it or I may end up living on the streets. I have to take it or risk killing myself. My doctor says oh, but the medication has SAVED you from these horrors. But am I where I am today — on SSDI, unable to work, a slave to my fat-bound body — because of antipsychotics and antidepressants? Or am I able to be independent, sane, and creative again because of them. Or both? Somehow, something doesn’t seem right.

Art from Yale Psychiatric Hospital #3

104_3432

This was the third picture I did at Yale. During the three weeks I was there, I often had a difficult time when I heard another patient yelling or getting angry. At one point, a young woman (younger than I at any rate) did a fair amount of screaming and complaining. And I heard a lot of noise that I thought portended or suggested violence was happening. I became very scared, terrified in fact, not because I thought I would be hurt, or that she would somehow hurt me. I am never ever afraid of other patients. My only fear at any time, aside from fear of the staff behavior towards me, is fear that another patient will be hurt or traumatized by staff use of seclusion or restraints or other violence on them.

Christine Simpson, the LCSW assigned to me on my team, recognized that I was panicking, and at least three times that day sought me out and just sat with me, talking to reassure me both that I was fine and that the other woman was fine, whatever was going on. She even came back before she went home to check on me and make sure I was okay before leaving, well after 5pm. I don’t think I ever thanked her enough for her support in the other posts, so I hope this does so. She was wonderful and I think she went out of her way to make sure I was not only “just okay” but that everything was as good as it could possibly be.

I am so profoundly grateful and remain astonished, both, that YNHPH  has a philosophy of patient-centered care, of dignity and respect for the person, and also practices it so well that it doesn’t need to preach anything to the patient at all. You know, I believe the Washington Square 2 unit “advertises” itself online using the words Dignity and Respect, but I did not know this before I wrote my first blog post about yale or went there. I simply understood it from the way they treated me and everyone else. It was also perfectly obvious to everyone who visited me there.

I have donated picture #2, the one with the red bird of fear (“oiseau de peur”), to Yale Psychiatric Hospital, because of Chris Simpson  and Dr Milstein and everyone else on the team and all the aides and counselors on the unit who work so well together.  A huge thank you, to all of you.

 

Art Trading Cards at Yale Psychiatric Hospital…plus

These are the trading cards I made at YNHPH…each is only 2.5 by 3.5 inches. I think most need little explanation. I originally offered them for sale, though I usually just give them away, until i read about the new tradition (started in 1996) of artists actually trading these cards and never selling them. So if anyone would like to send me a card they made, in the proper proportions, 2.5 by 3.5 inches, i will send you one back. No requests for any specific cards please, as many are already spoken for or given away. You can ask for a specific subject but no guarantees. B)   That is an emoticon for me in  glasses with a smile!

IMG_0020 IMG_0015 IMG_0035 IMG_0025 IMG_0038 IMG_0021 IMG_0006

I also wanted to repost these two pictures for staff members who wanted to see them…finished. The first has been renamed and is now bound with light brown origami paper on the edges so it is finished and no longer rough.

Reflection on Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, it is approximately 5 feet by 4 feet.

IMG_1326

The other used to be called In Her Hands, and still is, but is also clearly a version of the well-known tradition of Black Madonnas as I ought to have recognized all along. but was too dense in doing my own thing to see…

2.5′ by 3′ approximately, with built on papier mache frame (work is made of papier mache, collage, painting and the kitchen sink…)

20121222-234814.jpg

BLACK MADONNA

At Yale Psychiatric Hospital: Respect, Dignity and Kindness

104_3425

Large picture I did at Yale Psychiatric Hospital, the second one.

The pictures below are actually only 2.5 by 3.5 inches and are artist trading cards. I drew many of them, especially when I did not feel like working on my larger drawings at the hospital.

IMG_0028

In mid-February, after a week out of the hospital  (and you can read about my hospitalization by scrolling down to the previous post, but, in brief, this had been at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, during which I was kept in seclusion for the larger part of a four week stay and put multiple times, sometimes twice a day for many hours in 4-point restraints. Why? Why? Although I ONCE threw a chair, they told me it was for “not following directions.” To add insult to injury, every incident in which they restrained me was accompanied by three injections in the buttocks of Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl, despite my policy of passive, completely non-violent non-resistance.)

 

In any event, in mid-February, after I had spent just a week at home, I became acutely psychotic again, and in consultation with the only doctor I trust, a friend drove me to Yale New Haven Hospital’s emergency department. There, after a very long and arduous wait  — alas, I cannot say much that is good about Yale’s ED. It felt like the psych/alcohol patients – and there were no discriminations made between the drunks and anyone else — were lined up on their beds in the hallway like buses at a terminal for what felt like “miles.” In fact at one point there was probably a line 15 gurneys long snaking around the corner until I could not see the end.

I was there for two and a half days, maybe longer, I do not recall. In fact, I remember nothing about my ED stay after I was finally “admitted” to the actual psych portion of the ED, as opposed to the hallway. I believe I was finally given medications, but also that I was no longer permitted access to my artist crayons, which meant that I only wanted to sleep and likely did until I was admitted to the Yale Psychiatric Hospital, a street or two away.

To say that my experience at YPH was an order of magnitude better than it had been at the IOL or even at Natchaug Hospital is truly not to give YPH enough credit. I scarcely want to mention the other two hospitals in the same sentence, that is how different Yale is and I say that even though I once considered Natchaug my “gold standard.” No longer, no longer. I think Natchaug was decent once, but only because of the civilizing and humanizing effects that the director of nursing, Sharon Hinton, APRN, had on the hospital. Once she left, the whole place went to pot, as evidenced by my experience during the last two stays, which went progressively from bad to terrible without her there…literally without her protection I was brutalized by a dehumanizing medical staff that had been left to do whatever it wanted to on its own, to hell with the consequences to the patients.

Be that as it may, and we know that the Institute was never humane, Yale took me completely by surprise. I was hard to surprise, and hard to convince that they were for real in their gentleness and kindness, let alone in their determination to treat me and everyone there with respect and dignity. I was certain that they would prove me right, that SOMEONE would be put into restraints, that someone would be violent enough to push their buttons and get 4-pointed. But it never happened, not in the entire three weeks I was there. Not even when a patient threw a punch or a push. Not even when a patient screamed bloody murder or used foul language. Nothing that earned me or anyone else seclusion or restraints elsewhere even came close to pushing the staff’s anger buttons at Yale. Instead, they persisted in using persuasion and gentleness and kindness…and if anyone lost it, if anyone became angry and could not keep it together, so far as I could tell, that staff member took themselves away from the situation to cool down, and did not take it out on the patient.

The most amazing things happened. No one forced me to do anything. Not even to take medication. I agreed to take it, after some discussion with the doctor and social worker…but when I evinced some doubt about the side effects, instead of pooh-poohing them as the doctor had at the Institute, Dr Milstein agreed with me, saying that the Zyprexa definitely increased appetite, and that it was not imaginary or something that was in my control, the way Dr Banerjee did at IOL. Instead, he and the other team members not only agreed to help me control what I ate, but went out of their way – I believe they actually went “Stop and Shopping” – to provide me with my own private supply of raw vegetable snacks in the staff refrigerator to eat at any time of the day…just so I wouldn’t have to be tempted by the hospital snacks of Doritos etc.

 

Dr Milstein asked me not to worry about what they did or did not do “extra” for me,  and I tried not to. But when two large bottles of brand name Diet Coke kept appearing for me every day, and when the resident was sent to buy me batteries for my personal pencil sharpener (with a grinder not a blade), just so I could continue to do my artwork and not rely on the staff to sharpen my pencils in the back, well, I knew 1) they were truly watching out for me and treating me with TLC, or what certainly felt like extraordinary care, and 2) they were in fact spending “extra” money, if not indeed their own money just to supply these special needs…All of which – or NONE of which would have mattered at any other hospital or to any other staff. If I had no pencil sharpener, who would care? If I had to eat hospital food, who gave a damn? Dr Banerjee basically said it was MY fault and only my fault if I gained weight on Zyprexa, that none of his other patients, the good ones, ever did. But at Yale, all these matters were important to me, and so they were important to Dr Milstein to to Chris Simpson the social worker and to the other team members. Not just as a matter of words, but to be taken care of so I could both take the Zyprexa and do art.

Just as important, Dr Milstein took at least a half hour every single day, and I think sometimes it was more than that, simply to talk with me and listen to what I had to say. Even if it was only to rant about how badly I had been treated at the IOL. He repeatedly told me that he just wanted me to learn to trust again, to believe that not everyone was against me or would hurt me…And if I did not learn that precisely, I did eventually come to believe that the staff at Yale were trustworthy and kind and meant what they said about their NO restraints and NO seclusion policy, for everyone. I may had still had frissons whenever someone screamed or threw a fit, panicking, believing that 4-point restraints were finally going to be resorted to. PTSD is not that easily overcome after all. But I grew more trusting, and by the time of discharge, I was able to thank them all for everything, to know that they had gone out of their way for me,  and not feel too  guilty.

I did  a fair amount of art while I was at Yale Psychiatric Hospital. I will post more in the coming days.

Update: All is well

104_3423

This is the drawing I finally finished that I did at the horrible torture chamber of the Institute of Living. There are all sorts of hidden things in it that you must rotate it to see fully…

Hi Everyone, Sorry to worry Lady Quixote and anyone else. I was in Yale New Haven  Psychiatric Hospital for last several weeks. A much better stay by far of which I have much to say. But I am recuperating for the next few days as I just got home a couple of days ago. Forgive me for being so out of touch, but even making a long distance phone call was nearly impossible from there…Luckily, the staff and doctor treated me and everyone with immense kindness, gentleness and dignity and respect, so I got what I needed, which was some weeks of healing. Praise whatever force of the universe you believe in for that! More to come as soon as I am able to write more and many thanks for all your concern and your patience.

Pam

Art created at the Torture Chamber called the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital

104_3377

 

I was a prisoner at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living’s Donnelly 2 South from January 10th until February 7th, 2013, the day before the east coast blizzard, and I only “escaped” because the torturing doctor went on a four day vacation and the substitute decided that I was not actually psychotic any longer and did not need seclusion or restraints after all…and opted to let me go the very day I was freed from both.

 

Good thing too, because it was a Thursday and all travel stopped the very next day and for several days after that. The picture above is one that Shedana, RN liked very much. She said it captured her “physique” and while the flooring is imaginary, the unit was structured much as it is pictured. At least while I had a bed on the unit, with my door facing the med room and another bedroom opposite. Shedana was a “good egg” but of course it didn’t help when they decided to attack me in force and secluded me for two weeks and worse…But more on that later.

 

The first doctor I had merely convinced me to take, semi-voluntarily, a fairly stiff dose of Zyprexa. which I tried to do with regularity. I soon found, however, that far from being the miracle drug it had once been, mixed with Abilify and Geodon it induced a state of apathy and boredom. As if the Intake and Feeding drug, the drug on which I used to feel enthusiasm to learn and read, Zyprexa, simply mixed very badly with the Output drugs of Geodon and Abilify, such that I neither could read and learn, nor do art or write. In any event, this abysmal lethargy pushed me out of desperation to paint this, in oil pastels.

 

104_3389

 

 

After that, I simply started refusing to take the Zyprexa, and refusing a lot of other things…A great deal of abuse happened. But I did this picture before all my art supplies were confiscated for no reason other than punishment (you cannot damage yourself or others with soft oil pastels)

 

104_3404

 

Before I tell you some of what happened, without naming names, lest a legal case be made against them, as there might possibly be a chance to do, let me show you most of the rest of the art I did there, though one of them is unfinished and may never end up being finished, since it was hospital art and may stay that way.

 

104_3410

 

This one is an oil pastel, me with a dung beetle pushing a ball of shit around on my cheek…Says enough just that, doesn’t it.

 

104_3402

 

This one can be turned any which way to see all sorts of things buried in the picture. It was the one I started first and never did get to finish. What I can point you towards is the central object at the very bottom, which you can trace up to the blue figure and see what is happening. It should tell you something…The hand on the upper left is pointing at this process. Also, the exploding biohazard ball is part of it all, representing me, the all-polluting biohazard…But you have to look at the picture carefully. There is a Boat To Nowhere, and there are a couple of turtles, why, I don’t know…yadda yadda.

 

Finally, the very last time I had access to any art supplies, and I do not recall whether it was my last morning or some other time, I painted this one with oil pastels. I believe it speaks for itself.

 

104_3412

 

What happened was that they were routinely, literally routinely restraining me “for not following directions” as they would quite openly state. Four-point restraints, in a tight no movement position, for many many hours at a time, with absolutely no indication of how, just how, I might “earn” my freedom. Of course they wouldn’t tell me what I could do to “be good” because I hadn’t done anything to ‘deserve” restraints to begin with as they knew perfectly well. For example,. and this was typical, but it was one of the few opportunities I managed to document because they ha removed all my writing materials, illegally, but I forgot that I had a right to a crayon and paper until Feb 6th. That afternoon, I simply walked away from my seclusion room. I had had enough of them saying it was “merely a side room” not a seclusion room, then preventing me bodily from leaving it. So when I could do so without someone actually wanting to fight me, I walked away, and proceeded to enter the unit and walk down the hall to the end and look out the window, I took a deep breath, heard THEM behind me, and sauntered back to the proper end of the hall, the “lost end” where they kept anyone from seeing me or knowing what they were doing to me. Once I got there, they descended on me, the horde of the goon squad, some staff I knew, but most I did not. I did not bother to look at who was doing what to me. I simply lay passively on the bed, and put my arms out so they could do what I knew they would do. Tightly, they shackled my wrists out past my hips so there was no play in the restraints and I could not turn on my side or do anything but lie stiffly on my back. At the same time, others jerked my feet apart and just as tightly shackled my ankles to the lower corners of bed. Then came the coup de grace. They pinioned me on my side somehow, pulled down my pants, and injected me with three drugs: Haldol 5mg, Ativan 2mg, and Benadryl 50mg. Why, except as punishment I do not know. because I had, just a half hour before, been doped up on involuntary Zyprexa 10mg.

 

But of course it was punishment. The very fact that they told me it was “not punishment” but “what your behavior brings on every time, Pamela” only proves my point. At first and usually they only said, it was because I “didn’t follow directions” so if they were not punishing me, what were they doing? They most certainly were not following Centers for Medicare and Medicaid regulations for the use of Restraints and Seclusion only in cases where a person is in imminent danger or harming self or others! Indeed, the best they could do, when I protested, passively, saying just those words, was to respond, “You are not safe” as if that proved somehow that I was in danger or posed any imminent threat to the safety of anyone.

 

No, I did not. I didn’t threaten or harm anyone. I merely walked the length of the hall and looked out the window and then went back to my solitary confinement. But it was enough to trigger their retaliation, and that started at 1pm. I was not released, not even to use the bathroom or eat supper, no never even was a single hand freed to permit me to eat supper — until 7pm.

 

THEN, at 8:30pm, I became upset and frustrated because — well, I do not know now why, but I “threw a half a graham cracker at the wall” as I recorded later. And the goon squad descended on this dangerous patient again, not only with the strait jacket of four point restraints, but with the same 3 drug IM-in-the-ass cocktail.

 

This time, however, passive as I was as they trussed me up — and I said only, “For shame, for shame. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, doing this to me…” — passive as I was, allowing them to seize my limbs and tightly shackle me yet again in truth I dared not resist, as that would only have justified their violence, and i already had my share of bruises. Bur I had come to my limit of the abuse i would silently tolerate. They could restrain and seclude me but they had up till now only silenced me in restraints because iu wanted to earn my way free quickly. THis time I didn’t give a damn. It was nearly nine o clock and no one knew what they had done to me. Everyone was getting their bedtime meds and going to bed without any understanding of what was going on. I was a stranger to most people on the unit, who had no idea I even existed. THAT was a situation that had to change. NOW.

 

After they trooped out of the room, stationing a 1:1 sitter at the door as usual, I stopped my merely silent and passive resistance and started to scream. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to scare people. I wanted them to wonder, Who is that person,. and what in god’s name are they doing to her? Are they torturing her? And I wanted them to ask questions of the staff that the staff could not answer. I screamed and I screams in desolation and despair, feeling like my life was at an end. The plan they had set up for me was impossible for me to live up to. In nearly 10 days I had not even earned my way to a pencil and my journal. Only to restraints and more restraints. I saw no way out of the hospital. So I screamed, long blood-curdling, heart-wrenching screams that I assume did the job of scaring all, as eventually they closed my door, much to the disgruntlement of the sitter who was forced to come inside with me and was no longer free to socialize. But not for a while. I kept on screaming until my voice gave out and I felt asleep.

 

The next day the substitute doctor freed me, I dunno why or how, but she did. and I thank my lucky stars as the staff doctor was a sadist and never would have. I have a lot more to say, but for now I am hoping to hear from a sympathetic lawyer who will take on my case for some reason for some purpose…Unlikely to happen. despite my bruised body and joints that are so out of whack I cannot sit indian fashion or cross my legs. Why won’t they help me or respond? I didn’t die, so they won’t earn a lot of money from my case, nobody gives a damn about mental patient abuse…

 

You really know when you are a third class citizen when you only MIGHT be worth more to them dead than alive.

 

 

iPad Art, also Portrait and Poem: In Memoriam Howard M Spiro, MD

IMG_0770IMG_0772

IMG_0771 IMG_0030 IMG_0739

The first three pieces here were done with my finger using the app, Art Set, on an iPad 2. I had never used any digital means to do art before, and in fact had just started drawing a few months before. So when I did the window curtains drawing, it was really among my earliest drawings anyway. The “hand with pencil” was just for fun, because I had nothing else in front of me to draw, and I used my right hand to draw my left, I think, though I could have reversed it. Not sure, as I was doing either one in those days. Now I tend to strictly draw with my right hand and write with my left hand… Anyhow, I must have drawn my feet in flip flops last summer, since it is more sophisticated than the other two and I don’t think I would have been able to do that sort of thing until last year.

The pencil sketch, which I took from a movie of Athol Fugard’s play “Boesman and Lena” (staring Danny Glover and Angela Bassett), I drew off the television, stopping and starting it until I couldn’t bear to not know what was going to happen any longer, and gave up and simply watched the movie…It was a terrific if also very dark play. I watched it twice in a row, one night and then again the next night. Then I even went so far as to look for the text of it, which is apparently difficult to find…I did get a study guide though, which may have the text embedded in it. At any rate I hope so.  Anyhow, I had planned to do other studies from that movie but I got so engrossed in the actual play, that I failed to stop the action long enough to do so. I guess that speaks volumes for how good a playwright Fugard is (was?). In fact, I watched yet another of his plays/movies and even sent for a third, “Tsotsi,” that was unavailable any other way the following night. “Master Harold and the Boys” was incredibly difficult, yes painful, to watch,  and should not have been easy anyway, not for anyone with a light skin in this country and any conscience. We are ALL implicated, we are ALL guilty…

Finally, the picture, at the bottom, is of my father. Oddly, my first title of this post (edited out) called him “my dad”; I usually refer to him as my father, but always, always, always called him Daddy..When I did this portrait  a couple of days ago, it scared me: the eyes began to move and the mouth made sounds, as if he were trying to tell me something, and I was afraid, so terribly afraid he wanted to say that he didn’t want to be “there,” wherever he is…I was so scared in fact that I left the painting room and said I wouldn’t listen to him. But then my cat, Eemie, who died not too long after he did, also came around. Literally, or as literal as a dead cat can be. Visual and audible! I dunno how that can be, because she was NOT a ghost, but a real cat, really Eemie..which only adds to my consternation. Finally I decided to take a teensy bit of Zyprexa to stave off any potential disaster. This is a bad time of year for me, 5-6 months along after “the last time” and after last summer I know I have nowhere I can trust to turn to, no place that is safe for me (Natchaug Hospital is too dangerous, and they wouldn’t even take me back if I needed it, if I even agreed to go should I need to).  I frankly dunno that such a tiny dose of Zyprexa makes any difference, but I had to do something…

Oh, I have a lot to say about Natchaug still, but that would take another post, and a lot of thinking. I just might post it as another open letter to Natchaug’s CMO…Because she is the one to whom I wish to speak, and who really needs to hear what I have to say. But we will see. In the meantime, I want finally to post the poem that I wrote for my father after he died. A lot of people have asked me for it. I read it at the memorial service at the Unitarian Church in Hamden, CT.  Alas, I see that it won’t paste in single spaced lines nor will it preserve the proper large blank spacing where it belongs, so you should know that it ought to look a bit different on the page than it does. The only other words of explanation you might want are these: when Martha, my younger sister, read her own eulogy, her major metaphor was water and the ocean and waves, because our father, was so very fond of swimming, especially the breast stroke, or a weird kind of what seemed to me a modified-dogpaddle-cum-crawl, his head more out of the water than in. We were shocked to discover that water and swimming were the governing metaphors in my poem as well.

(You might not need this information, but in case you do,  Tir Na N’Og is a mythical Irish “Land of Youth.” Island of the Seven Moons is meant to stand for much the same thing…)

This is for you, Dad.

BUOYANT

The dead cross the river, swimming.

Past drowning now,

some crawl,

some leisurely sidestroke,

some float on their backs,

toes pointing toward the sky.

Who knows what lies ahead:

Tír na nÓg, Valhalla,

Island of the Seven Moons?

No one can say for sure

if there’s any shore, far or near.

Some have cracked their teeth

on bitterness, believing

that to die is to lose all.

Others say there is only light

shining on the best of what used to be.

We dream, we dream and wake,

we wake and hope our dreams

mean something,

that the dead know more

than just the river

and that they must swim.

Daddy, keep your head up,

kick your feet, push the water

away.

MORE than just my Review of CREATIVE MARK Squirrel LE Brushes and Set

Originally submitted at Jerry’s Artarama Art Supplies

A limited edition series of CREATIVE MARK  fine blue squirrel hair brushes! For centuries, natural blue squirrel hair has been one of the most cherished hairs for making high quality artists’ paint brushes. This traditional hair is extremely soft and highly absorbent, and offers several advantages over modern…

Horrible, worthless brushes….

By PamWagg Artist from Hartford, CT on 1/6/2013
1out of 5

Pros: Fails To Glide, Rough, Stiff, Fails To Hold A Point

Cons: Poor Quality

Best Uses: Maybe Not Even For Glue, Maybe For Glue

Describe Yourself: Artist

Primary use: Personal

Was this a gift?: No

As an artist I need good brushes for all my work, and I invest in them, so when I saw these, I thought it would be a good thing to try them out. Unfortunately they were definitely nothing like the packaging asserts. Not at all. All I can tell you is that you have to say NOT to every single promise, including believing that these are even made of natural blue squirrel hair. NOT “soft and absorbent, hold lots of color.” NOT “handmade” NOT “round shape with fine point”. The tips are waxed into a pointed shape and you have to literally break off the coating to use them at all, but then you have a brush without any shape whatsoever, never mind a fine point. The brushes are quite literally worse than the cheapest department store brand. DO NOT BUY THEM. You will be wasting your time and anything else you expend on them. Jerry’s sells VERY good brushes, but these are not they.

I rest my case…

thumbnail

Tags: Unusable, After one use, Picture of Product

proof that these are Creative Mark brushes

thumbnail

Tags: Picture of Product

I wrote this review at Jerry’s site, but I wanted to add since I did write it, that the packaging pretends that these brushes are, and I quote, “entirely handmade”  — the brush head is “hand-shaped and tied” and yadda yadda yadda.. But how can this be? Do they really expect us to believe that the metal ferrules were individually metal-worked? And the wooden  lacquered handles, that is, painted with shiny paint, were individually painted and for that matter carved by hand? NOT! NOT! NOT! I do not for one second believe any of it and it bugs me that they think that they can get away with it. These brushes were NOT entirely hand-made, that is just plain masculine cow flops! I wouldn’t even give a hoot about the lies, if the brushes were decent but the idea that they could call this set worth  nearly $70 or so, for 6 brushes, and then pretend to drastically mark it down for a once in a lifetime CHristmas sale just burns me. They are and always were crap. And they knew it. They know it now. I don’t get it. Why are people so dishonest. Wouldn’t they rather put out a decent product for a decent price and have some pride in what they make? People would buy it, then, and not complain.

But no, they would rather CHEAT people, once, but a lot of people. Once. Than have a limited number of repeat customers who were loyal to a good and trustworthy manufacturer. Oh, I will get off my soapbox but this sort of thing just disgusts me.

SAILBOAT PAINTINGS AND A CAT PAINTING

I am posting these four eminently “sane” paintings for a friend who wanted to see them all together here. The first and the third are still available if anyone is interested…Contact me through the About page. Availability of the others is pending.

IMG_0105

Three Catboats in cove, in mist. ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reservedThis one was inspired from a photo but is not a copy, done in colored pencils and oil pastels.
Three Catboats in cove, in mist. ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
This one was inspired from a photo but is not a copy, done in colored pencils and oil pastels.

20121117-041338.jpg

Boats at Evening, after Monet
Boats at Evening, after Monet

Doing Art to Save My Sanity

THey Love You So Much, You Hate Yourself… © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
This one you have to look a little closely at to see what precisely is going on…It isn’t obvious at first glance…

 

Unnatural Still Life or Natura Morte, as the Italians call it. Not your typical fruit bowl, I leave it up for interpretation, but will let you know that the two aqua items are from left to right a packet of Bugler cigarette papers and a bugle cigarette roller. © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

 

 

A left handed doodle © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

BioHands 1 ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

BioHands 2 ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

Three Catboats in cove, in mist. ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
This one was inspired from a photo but is not a copy, done in colored pencils and oil pastels.

As I have been having a hard time dealing with things,  I do art and do art and do art…It is as good a way to cope as any other I suppose. Anyhow, I hope to get back to writing here soon. In the meantime, I am investigating more about temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia/bipolar illness. It seems to me very significant, and at the same time strange that so many people who bear the diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or bipolar are also supposedly burdened with yet another condition that is so tricky to pinpoint, so I may also be posting more about that in the future as well.

 

The more I read the less I am convinced that schizophrenia, as an entity, exists, one, and two, that if there is any such thing as “schizophrenia” no one has yet figured out what it is. Which is the same thing as saying it is an imaginary/artificial illness. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that mental suffering and psychosis do not exist, only that no one has proven, not to my satisfaction, that there is any such illness constellation that can go by the name of schizophrenia and be recognized as such by a preponderance of physicians world-wide… That offers a lot of leeway by the way. I don’t ask for a lab test or even a set of hard signs. Only a reasonable way for psychiatrists around the world to agree on symptoms that  constitutes a recognizable disease that is the same thing no matter where you go, just as measles is measles and the flu is the flu…

 

But there won’t be any agreement, as we know. Because schizophrenia is a cultural construct. It is imaginary and largely meaningless. Except within the society that uses it as a concept in order to disapprove of and stigmatize certain ways of being, speaking or thinking. In that sense schizophrenia is more than just a construct or concept it is a social tool. It is a weapon used to keep people in line. In western society, if one doesn’t keep to the obligatory path,  some semi-acceptable social role, the result is the withdrawal of social approvals and the substitution of punishment — think drugs, hospitals, seclusion, restraints — in their place. And yet, in other cultures, the very same “out of bounds” thinking or behavior, rather than being labelled schizophrenic or “crazy” is regarded as the mystic’s path and spiritual, highly regarded rather than  anathematized.

 

This is nothing new. It has been observed before. So why do we keep going back to beating the same old same old drum: “We need better drugs to treat mental illness.” “We need better diagnostic methods to pinpoint mental illness. ” “We need better interventions to help the “mentally ill” who cannot  or will not help themselves.”…YOWCH! Yada yada yada. Maybe we continue to bark up the same wrong, wrong, wrong tree. Maybe there is NO SUCH THING AS MENTAL ILLNESS, perhaps all along there has always only been physical illness. Perhaps much suffering, emotional and mental though it may be, is not illness, just part of the human condition, and while we want to ameliorate it, we call it illness at our peril.

 

More to come.