Tag Archives: mental health

Short Story with “Structural Tension” and more!

Dear Readers, here I am again, some scant four months after getting out of the Vermont state hospital unit in Rutland, Vermont,  after two years of nearly nonstop institutionalizations, and i am dedicated to the proposition that i will never again see the inside of another mental health facility in this state, or any other state for that matter. Nor will i allow myself to be lied to again by a practitioner of mental health care, a subject i consider almost completely bogus, both the diagnosis of so-called mental disorders and their almost universally dangerous “treatments.”

In this spirit of rejecting the mental health system, rejecting even the non-system, except insofar as I need assistance in getting out of it, and rejecting *any* and all mental illness diagnosis, i decided to take a course in creativity for five days in Newfane, Vermont, just to try my hand at something outside the usual realm of  “recovery-” and or madness-oriented activities.

While this ended up being, frankly, a bust — for reasons i will explain, i can report that i  really liked the people i met there, some of whom came from as far away as the UK. As for the course itself, I feel that a requirement of valor means that i leave this at “the less said, the better.” I admit, however, that the teacher, a certain Robert Fritz of self-proclaimed international renown, seems to have been taking out his private pique on me ever since the course ended, for leaving the class early, on a few days, and for not praising him lavishly, or even, god knows, “enough.”

So be it, so be it. If he is so small as to exact such petty revenges, i myself need not stoop to his level.

Alas, the course ended up depleting me deeply and the sole worthwhile lesson it left me with concerned “structural tension.” This, Fritz repeated literally ad infinitum, or at least ad nauseam, all day long for five days, 8 hours a day. Sadly, the one time we did  worthwhile hands-on practice,  when he *first* outlined this notion and gave us a narrative structure — take point A and reverse it to point B (with a character, crisis and certain developing plot points) around which to easily design a monologue — Fritz then gave us an hour to write a piece in the voice of a single person, and was rewarded when every single person in the class wrote what i thought was a professionally competent piece, this was never to be repeated.

How much more he could have taught us and built on that, had he used the  example of what we had learned and done and our confidence to “grow on and go on…” but instead he opted only for more of the same old same old, which was just going over the same ground again and again, with analyzing music video after music video but doing it  FOR us, not even having us participate in any meaningful way. Readers, it truly appeared that class participation in any real sense was simply too threatening for this teacher, who was not one of those who felt he could learn anything from his students, no matter their age and life experiences…

No more recriminations on my part.  I could not have known this would happen, especially since we were provided no clues, no syllabus, no handout that gave any hint as to Robert’s plans…I went in every day, every single day, and to every session with (dimming but) renewed hope that things would change, right to the last session of the last day…To my dismay and  disappointment and growing exhaustion, it never did.

At least i enjoyed the monologue- writing exercise. The following was mine, which is fiction, though it was based on someone i know pretty well (and he knows who he is! )

_____________________________________

I, Winton Wooster the third, had sex for 30 years with one man and one man only, Arturo, whom I’d met in Culinary Arts school and absolutely despised. It took me another three years and five other men, one woman, and an Electrolux, before I came to realize that it was Arturo to whom I was attracted and loved with all my heart and soul and body. “Over The Rainbow” sung by Izzy Kamakawiwo’ole was our song.

Some people think gay men can’t be monogamous. That is so not true, so not true. I might have been promiscuous before Arturo, but A.A, that is After Arturo, I never looked away, that is until…well, how do I explain this?

It all started with cars. And collections. Collections of cars.  And collections of everything else under the sun. I had the car collection, and I had the other collections. I had Kewpie dolls and Christ statuettes and I had spoons and books of spoonerisms, and I had jackknives and jack-in-the-boxes, I had bowls and bowling ball collections.  If there was something to be collected, I collected it and more. I collected art and books, and books of art and china and vintage Chinese clothing and if you think there was no space left in my three-story house, that is saying nothing. I rented space in several other houses, my clients’ houses, which I cleaned each week, and those were soon filled with my collections as well. As for the cars? I had seventeen cars and that was only after culling them down from a high of thirty-seven.

As for Arturo? He had one. One car, and no collections. Only an affection for zinnias, which he called the gay flower and he grew tons of them, for me. His car was named Ada, and she was a 1987 Toyota Tercel.  I always said I didn’t think they still made the Tercel that year, but he showed me the papers and proved that they had. Ada was pale yellow, a custom color, and still had the original fabric on her seats and the same original everything, just a tad creaky and fading. I joked with Arturo that we too were creaky and fading. Now, to tell a gay man of 55 that he is beginning to fade and creak is dicey at best, but we were not just old lovers, we were practically brothers, so the degree of his taking offense surprised me. But then he retorted that I shouldn’t talk, since I needed Viagra more often than not and that was only when I managed to get interested enough to take it.

Oooh, that got me where it hurt. But he wasn’t wrong. The thing is, I had once had enormous sex drive along with everything else but along the way, things seem to have just dissipated. I don’t know why exactly. But it was that remark that crystallized an amorphous dissatisfaction into the huge lump of cruel coal it was: Arturo was the source of my problems and my discontent. If I hadn’t been supporting him, if he didn’t live in my house, I would have more space for my things, and furthermore I would find someone I could, frankly, feel something for and well, get it up for. Period.

The end of our partnership came one night during a quarrel about my car collection, which was occupying several other garages as well as parking spaces in town. Several times a year during snow storms we had to play a desperate game of move the cars – in order to stay ahead of the tow trucks and the tickets to get them out of wherever they might be impounded. Arturo was sick of this, and frankly so was I and I wanted, I proposed, and I had actually had the plans secretly approved by the town zoning board, to build a giant garage in the back yard, a “garage-mahal” that would house my entire car collection on site. The problem was that in order to finance it, I wanted Arturo to pay rent, to help out, that is, with my second mortgage.

Arturo was hurt and he said so in no uncertain terms. He had lived with me and paid me in so many other ways, he told me, how could I do this to him? He cooked, he cleaned and he shopped and he did everything in the house to have made it a home for us and now I expected him to pay rent like a mere tenant? Firmly and obdurately I stood my ground and said, yes.

With tears in his eyes, for which I admit I felt a small pang, but not as big a pang as I ought to have, he turned around, climbed the stairs to our bedroom and packed a suitcase. Then I heard him tread the stairs downward, open the front door, and close it with a thud.

I was such a cad I did not even ask him where he was going or see him off. I felt a relief just to be rid of him. I can’t even say why. It was only the next morning that I discovered, in the small car shed I was planning  within the week to tear down and replace with my garage-mahal, Arturo’s pale yellow Toyota Tercel, which  he had left behind, for reasons I did not know and could not divine. After he didn’t pick it up for a month, I decided that he likely could not afford the payments or the gas, now that I was not paying for everything. Nevertheless, I could not bring myself to get rid of it, so I paid the insurance and made sure the registration was up to date and kept it on the first floor  of the new enormous garage that was soon built on the back of my property.

I did not hear from Arturo at all after that. I learned from friends that he was renting a small first floor apartment on the outskirts of town, in exchange for taking care of the owners’ property.  He was rumored to have neither phone nor email. I did not try to contact him but got absorbed instead in my own busy-ness.

In the garage-mahal there was room for all of my vehicles, all the ones in driving condition, including the Bentley for which I had paid only $22,000.00 but kept in mint condition. I had some cars on lifts and others were withdrawn down into specially constructed rooms underground. Only my special fire engine red Mustang and Arturo’s Tercel were in the front bay, readily available for driving.

I spent many of my leisure hours polishing and cleaning the cars, as the house had gone to seed, ever since Arturo was not there to pick up after me or sort the collected items. Also, it was – to be honest — lonely. I was able to have sex after Viagra, yes, but then only to have  the Electrolux as my partner — what was the point?  I gave up sex altogether. But that made me feel even worse. I tried the gay dances and party scene, and once even an “orgy” that a friend urged me to go to. But all of that just made the loneliness worse.

One night in the summer, sitting in a deck chair, under the bright LED lighting in the garage-mahal, I thought I heard someone’s radio playing a yard away.  I got up to listen and heard our favorite song, “Over the Rainbow” performed by Izzy. I stole down the street, and listened to the radio on a porch nearby, and found myself standing in a clump of tall bright-petalled flowers as if by coincidence. No coincidence, I thought, there are no coincidences.  I am a total cad, but I can’t let this be. I have left the love of my life and I need him back.

I ran back to the garage-mahal and jumped into the red Mustang, but the starter just made a coughing sound, as if it had just then given up the ghost. “Damn!” I yelled, then I realized that Arturo’s Tercel was still insured and ought to be drivable. Ought to be. Hell, yes, why not?

It was. As if it knew just where it was going the Tercel seemed to drive me all by itself to a small pink stucco house on the edge of town, a house surrounded by trees and with planters filled to the brim with zinnias. To this day I don’t know how it was that Arturo happened to be there, or why he did not seem surprised or even taken aback that I’d come. But without questioning anything, he just smiled warmly, opened the door and opened his arms.

AWAKENING

image

 

 

 

I do not know where this photo came from originally nor who made it but i obtained it from Sarah Grace Wolfram’s facebook page, so i am crediting her. In any event, what it says means the world to me.

I DID NOT CHANGE…IN FACT, MAYBE I NEVER NEEDED TO CHANGE, I JUST WOKE UP…to the fact that the world i had been living in was wrong.

I don’t know what to do. My skin is thinner than gossamer yet people think i am thick-skinned and hide-bound as a hardbound book packed with information and feeling nothing. They have no idea i feel everything from the words people speak to the experiences they have and they describe. I feel it all in and under my skin down to my marrow, i feel, how to explain the knife-edge sensitivity of my life? When Jesse blithely talked about breaking glass and stepping on it, the shard penetrating his foot, MY FOOT felt the glass pierce my arch and plunge straight up through my entire foot until it broke the skin at the top of my foot, and i had to muffle my scream of pain so i did not embarrass myself…it is always this way.

I do not “like” dogs but i feel them too. I feel them! I know where they need to be scratched under their chins and between their ears…always. And why? Because i myself feel it under my chin and between the ears. I love cats, yes. Dogs and cats both understand that i feel them. All animals know that i feel them. But it is too much for me. To feel everything and all that pain. In medical school i could not draw blood from another student because i was too inexpert at it and i felt the pain i was causing him…and despite my hardened exterior, i feel everyone’s pain and sensations, except perhaps their pleasure….i might be able to feel that too, but i distance myself from that because it feels like an intrusion on their privacy. When teddy lays his head on someone’s shoulder, i can feel that pressure on my shoulder. I do not know whether Teddy feels pleasure or relief, that is to say, viscerally, i could feel it, but i must not enter that feeling because it is too private.

I also know what people are thinking. I read people’s minds. They speak what they think to me, and i hear it out loud because they think too loud, but then i get confused between their thoughts and what only i can hear and i respond to what i heard out loud. Then things go haywire, because they say they never said such a thing, and others agree, and i look “crazy” because they did only think them. But in fact, i did hear them think it and they spoke it to me out loud with their thoughts, and my only crime was not knowing the difference and responding out loud. In such cases, they always have the benefit of plausible deniability, and i have nothing…but the truth of knowing what i know, which is that i know what is really going on.

This exquisite sensitivity is both a gift and a curse. Over the years the brutality of hospitals and “treatment” has forced me to try to ignore what i feel or at least pretend to. But things keep happening between me and others that force me to know more than i would ordinarily — if i did not have this gift/curse — want or have to know.

I was always told, “you are just paranoid” …”this is not happening”. And was made to ignore the reality of what i felt was going on around me, rather than speak about it and explore it.  But i knew it was true, it was real, it was happening. You see, i feel people too, the way i feel animals, and i understand them, and i knew that they could not bear the fact that i heard their thoughts and knew what they really thought.

i always knew it was not paranoia, just truth they needed to conceal, due to fear and other difficult emotions. So they labeled me paranoid as a way to escape from admitting that i was able in fact to read their minds….

There is more but enough for now.
.

 

Demons of Power and Sadness

I continue to be assailed by the same demons as usual, of which i will not speak except to say that it is an effort more often than anyone knows not to walk out of here and away into the cold of night, that  indeed i feel deeply (and am told by voices much more powerful than they should be) that i should disappear for the good of all. If I seem strong and resilient it is only my fear of death and a rage that so many want me to die nonetheless, but i feel a terrible resulting sadness that i can’t find it in me to comply completely…In fact, whatever life throws at you, one either survives or dies. But no one can possibly understand how much anguish such a conflict causes me daily, minutely, even by the second, even when I appear at my most cheerful.

I give you Rachel Platten’s lyrics, because I like the song, and sing along with it, though I do not in  fact believe that I have any right to believe in them for myself.

RACHEL PLATTEN

Fight Song Lyrics

Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves Into motion

Just like how a single word

Can make a heart open

I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

(Starting right now) I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep

Everybody’s worried about me

In too deep

Say I’m in too deep (I’m in too deep)

And it’s been two years

I miss my home

But there’s a fire burning in my bones

And I still believe

Yeah I still believe

And all those things I didn’t say

Wrecking balls inside my brain

I will scream them loud tonight

Can you hear my voice this time

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

(Starting right now) I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

A lot of fight left in me

Like a small boat

On the ocean

Sending big waves

Into motion

Like how a single word

Can make a heart open

I might only have one match

But I can make an explosion

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

(Starting right now) I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Now I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

SONGWRITERS

Bassett, Dave / Platten, Rachel

PUBLISHED BY

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Praying For Foolishness: A Poem

THE OLD STORY

My father spoke of atheism as if it were a religion,

pounding the points of his argument into the dinner table,

spilling the salt with the seed of his own bad temper.

He raised me to be an atheist, too,

and I learned well the commandments of godlessness.

But at night in bed I suffered for it and was penitent

memorizing prayers buy the pages

glossing the psalms with a litany of pleas

that somehow God would find me, small as I was,

and make me a believer,

and, though a prodigal daughter, much loved, much loved.

How I longed for the sweet blow of grace

coming upon me like a hammer on a nail,

or a beggar on a penny

or raindrops on the parched red clay

turned to rust in the arid fields of my soul.

 

One night – I was under the covers saying the Lord’s Prayer

with a lengthy meditation for each line –

my father, making the rounds, heard me.

What are you doing? he asked, more awful than the God I longed for.

I told him, expecting punishment,

expecting a lecture on the purity of the godless intellect.

He stood a while in silence

while I waited for the one blow I didn’t want.

Then he said, laughing,

you’ll grow out of such foolishness, I hope.

 

I didn’t grow out of it.

Though I never found God and stopped looking for Him

I remember my father’s laughter,

the hard, cold sneer of it,

laughter at his daughter longing for God

and hoping for love

that would come like a thief in the night.

 

Now that I am older I know that belief’

doesn’t fall like a hammer

that the beggar is always penniless

and that rainfall soon evaporates returning to the cloud.

Atheism is a creed I have lived by, learned by,

and have at times been comforted by.

but if God should ever find me

I pray for foolishness.

 

1988

10-Year-Old Nigerian Girl Top in UK University Mathematics!

Esther-Okade-200x150

Just thought this, from allAfrica.com: Nigeria, should be publicized as proof positive that girls can do just as well as boys in math…and maybe better, when they are not discouraged or told they have “math anxiety”! Go for it, all you ten year old University-bound young girls!

allAfrica: African news and information for a global audience

via allAfrica.com: Nigeria: 10-Year-Old Nigerian in UK Varsity.

Ten year old Esther Okade, one of UK’s youngest students from Nigeria, has been accepted to start her maths degree at the Open University. Esther, who enrolled three weeks ago, is already top of her class, scoring 100 per cent in a recent test.

Esther’s mother, Efe, said the process of applying to the university was ‘an interesting one because of her age.

she said “We even had to talk to the VC and after they interviewed her, they realised that this has been her idea from the beginning. From the age of seven Esther has wanted to go to university.

“But I was afraid it was too soon. She would say, ‘mum, when am I starting?’, and go on and on and on. Finally, after three years, she told me, ‘mum I think it is about time I started university now.”

Esther applied in August, and after a phone interview, an essay and a maths exam, she finally got the news in December that she had been accepted onto the course.

Though she watches cartoons and plays with barbie dolls, Esther’s aim is to get First Class honours degree in two years and start a PhD programme. She also intends to run her own bank.

PSYCHIATRIC ADVANCED DIRECTIVE -2014 – Words to Caregivers (Short and Simple)

I am uploading my new PAD, IN ORDER TO AVOID INJURIES SUCH AS THESE, brought on in Jan 2013 at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living. and photographed the very day I was released.

Now I have a torn left rotator cuff..anything to do with this, I wonder? from IOL 4 point restraints
Left shoulder,,,
Left shoulder,,, caused by brutality  or four point restraints at IOL
Bruises from locked leather retraint cuffs on for many hours, immobilizing me
Bruises on bare ankle from long term use of 4-point  leather restraint cuffs, locked so tightly i could not move. — from IOL 2013

Although I brought the PAD both to the Institute of Living in Jan 2013 and to Yale in Aug 2013, I don’t know what happened that it was abrogated so deeply and so widely. At Yale, they forced medication on me, holding me down three times daily at times, resulting in such psychic regression that as you have all read, I routinely stripped naked, defecated on the floor and smeared feces all over the wall. That I was at one and the same time attempting to communicate with these people, by WRITING WORDS IN MY SHIT, was utterly disregarded by all at the time. But I assure you that if I was regressed and psychotic in doing such things, I was nevertheless still verbal! I am also virtually certain that had they not grabbed me, pinned me to the floor and held me down for three painful injections in the buttocks of a drug that Soviet dissidents have long called pure torture (Haldol in the 60s/70s was the subject of many a televised congressional hearing, and discussed in just such terms…) my response would have been very very diffferent indeed. 

 

That said, they did what they claimed they had to do, and when I left, I left feeling absolutely convinced that my life was and had been mortally threatened, that I could NEVER return, that I would literally be murdered if ever I dared.   Nothing more need be said about such sadistic places as the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital. Even in the Patient Care Guide and Journal, they are at pains to make it clear that any loud or out of control behavior will be dealt with swiftly and severely, with seclusion, restraints, and even charges pressed by the local authorities! (NO attempts to soothe the traumatized patient or act on what CMS has urged be the best practices of trauma-informed and patient-centered-care at the IOL. No, at Hartford Hospital, it is all about NO SWEARING and staying quiet, non-disruptive. The “Or else” threat behind it all is not even implied but openly stated in their rules and obligations section. Why ANYONE would want to set themselves up for treatment in such a place is beyond me…They have even edited out any attempts at kindness from the old handbook that I was given just a year ago.   Yale at least attempted to live up to a policy of Trauma-informed  and Patient-centered care. When they said No Restraints policy, I believe they meant it, at least in terms of NO MECHANICAL leather and shackles restraints.

 

And I believe that had Robert Ostroff MD, NOT been in charge of my care during the week or two that Robert Milstein MD was away, some of the brutality might not have occurred at Yale and I might be writing less devastated things about the Washington Square 2 unit, a place I had once so hopefully described as a “soft, gentle place to land in a psychiatric crisis.” But as much as because of my outrageous and disruptive behavior in response to their trauma as because of their repetitive violence and cruelty, I can never return there…a sad thing I suppose, since there is literally no safe place in Connecticut for me.* *more on this later or in another post.  What I have posted here is an update in order to Keep me OUT of the hospital as much as to direct my care if I am put inside, It is not the whole thing, only the first two or three pages, I would be happy to upload the whole thing so you can see how I did it, if anyone indicates interest. Let me know. So far it was always the first three pages that got people’s attention.   ______________________________________________________

Pamela Wagner’s

PSYCHIATRIC ADVANCE DIRECTIVE 2014

 

FOR WHEN I AM HOSPITALIZED OR INFORMATION TO HELP TO AVOID IT

 

Miss Wagner has experienced multiple episodes of severe psychological and physical trauma, including date rape, the suicide of two friends, and domestic abuse by caregivers. She should NOT be subjected to restraints, involuntary seclusion, or forced medication. The use of these inevitably leads to re-traumatizing and injury, regression and severe worsening of her psychiatric symptoms.

 

HOW TO INTERVENE IN A CRISIS:

  • DE-ESCALATION IS ESSENTIAL  
  • DO NOT TOUCH ME OR GRAB ME.
  • DO NOT LAUGH AT ME.
  • I WILL CALM DOWN IF YOU REMEMBER THAT:

 

  1. I AM SCARED AND PARANOID. I ONLY FIGHT IF I FEEL UNDER ATTACK.  DO NOT USE A SHOW OF FORCE, AS THIS WILL FRIGHTEN ME MORE.

 

  1. DON’T ISSUE ULTIMATUMS…That will push us all into a corner and serve nothing
  1.  AN UNRUFFLED PERSON SHOULD ASK ME TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH, and try other verbal calming techniques. I am always grateful for people remaining calm when I am upset.

 

  1.  NEVER LEAVE ME ALONE IN A BARREN (seclusion) ROOM.

 

  1. A WEIGHTED OR WARMED-UP BLANKET SOOTHES ME. SOMETHING ICY TO EAT CAN ALSO HELP.

 

  1. PLEASE LISTEN TO WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.  Medication may not be needed if you hear what the problem is.

 

  1.  IF NECESSARY, YOU MAY PERSUADE ME TO TAKE ORAL MEDICATION, if you negotiate this with dignity and kindness. Keep speaking to me calmly and explain your reasoning.

 

*I cannot reiterate enough that if you utilize 4-point restraints or seclusion, it is virtually guaranteed that you will see regression, increased hostility and aggressiveness as a result. Please don’t do something everyone will regret.

 

 

ADDITIONAL STATEMENT TO CAREGIVERS (PLEASE READ)

It is important that you understand that I do not have a personality disorder (you can confirm this with Dr Angela C——, or any of my longtime outpatient providers and friends and family members). If my behavior/emotions seem out of control, it is because I am out of control – temporarily.

I have had tertiary CNS Lyme disease, which I was informed after multiple positive PCR and Western Blots during treatment was likely incurable. During my initial illness, my brain developed MRI lesions which may predispose me to temporary emotional and behavioral abnormalities but these are NOT my norm. Anyone who knows me well would tell you that, if you ask them.

I am not always able to communicate my fear but because I feel so threatened and unable to communicate clearly about it (lest there be consequences to me) I may become very angry at the hospital situation. I am not an angry person, but I do have trauma issues, as many people do.

Please be aware that I am sometimes mute, in frustration and overwhelmed by circumstances. You can provide me with a pad and pen to facilitate communication, but berating me into speaking will no purpose and may only precipitate anger.

Ascertain from me whether the information you have at hand is correct. Too many records and hospital charts have been drawn up on faulty information from earlier charts or information gleaned from others but not from me, and the consequences to my treatment have been devastating.

I would prefer NOT to take any medications and will resist them. I want to experience my LIFE AND MY FEELINGS. If you insist on meds, the ones that work best are _______.

I will not take any drug that induces weight gain. If you force it, know that I will fight you, tooth and nail.

 

Wagblog Nominated for the Liebster Award – Wow!

Note that this is a two part posting. First half is my Q and A part of the Nomination, and tomorrow’s will concern the nominees that I select for the Liebster Award. (I see no other way to do it, as I have already spent four hours on this and it is midnight now).

The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. So, what is a Liebster?  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Isn’t that sweet? Blogging is about building a community and it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and help spread the word about newer bloggers/blogs.

Here are the rules for receiving this award:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves. 

2. Answer the questions that the tagger set for you

First half is done here. Second half of the award will be done tomorrow in the post then.

plus create 11 questions for the people you’ve tagged to answer.
3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them.
5. No tag backs!

FIrst things first.

11 Things about me.

1) I am a twin, most likely identical, though  there are some questions about it. I guess that has to be said first, though I am pretty certain it is not first and foremost on my twin sister’s mind much these days. In fact, I am pretty certain  that she cannot stand having me in the world.

2) I have never been able to work a full-time job.

3) I recently taught myself to use my left hand for a lot of things, including using scissors.  I write exclusively left handed, though I would be naturally right-handed.

4) There have been four miracles in my life, field botany, poetry, Zyprexa (an anti-schizophrenia drug) and art.  Each miracle involved my mind more than my body and each completely changed my life for the better in ways I could never have anticipated.

5) My idea of a great meal would be to forage for berries and greens and wapato tubers during day and prepare and cook up what I gathered that evening…

6) I love eating vegetables and fruits. I love healthy foods, like quinoa and flax meal, and amaranth and yes, brussel sprouts and jerusalem artichokes.

7) I am teaching myself Italian. Come stai? Sto abbastanza bene.

8)  Tuletko ouiman? (If I remember the spelling correctly, that should mean something close to “Do you want to go swimming?” in Finnish…but I am reaching into deep down memory banks because  I learned that when I was 16 and spending the summer with a Finnish family in Helsinki. That and “kitoksia palmin” or thank you very much, are the sum total of all the Finnish I remember from that summer of 1968.

9) I quit smoking two weeks ago. Blimey!

10) I like new shoes, though I never buy them.

11)  Generosity, kindness and honesty are my core values.

11 questions for the nominees:

1. What food do you eat that people around you find extremely weird and/or disgusting?

Sorry, I hate to be boring, but I don’t regularly eat much that is weird or disgusting, except maybe brussel sprouts. I love those….Yes, okay, I have eaten grasshoppers.  I even made a youtube video of that. 

2. Why do you choose to blog?

I was first asked to blog at schizophrenia.com. and I would still be there writing the original Wagblog except that they experienced a most unfortunate server crash which made the site go down for more than a year, devastating all their blogs. Wagblog was their first, and for many months the only one, so I had a great deal of traffic in the early 2000s – and to my knowledge, while the site is back up and running the blogs remain still only archives of their former selves.

I waited about 6 months, hoping that I could return to my schizophrenia.com “homebase” but no word ever came from the webmaster, so I decided to start Wagblog elsewhere, that is, here at WordPress.

I know that’s only a partial answer. I could have chosen not to blog at any point even after they asked me to do so, and especially after that devastating server crash, but I have always, always been a writer, paid or unpaid, and it never occurred to me to quit just because I had no sponsor. I have never needed outside motivation to write. I write because things just need to get written down. Period.

3. Where do you get your inspiration for your posts?

Hmmm. Inspiration is a tricky word. I believe that if you need something as insubstantial as inspiration to trigger your writing or any other art, you are going to be on shaky ground and had better rely on something else for your bread and butter, better choose a different career. Not that I am anything like a career writer, or a professional journalist, I have no career or profession at all. But I do know that I can and could write on demand, mostly because I have practiced it. If I want to write on a subject, if I am asked to write on a subject, I know how to approach it and all things being equal, I can and will do an okay, and even a bang-up job most of the time.

That being said, I do pick and choose what I want to write about in my own blog, and I don’t write all the time or even regularly, mostly because I am too busy with my art projects. OTOH, I have plenty I could say and plenty to talk about. So I would never be at a loss for things to write. I guess it just feels like a weird question, The entire world is out there so how could there ever be a dearth of subjects to be “inspired by”?

As William Blake wrote in Auguries of Innocence:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

That’s the key, that’s the mindset one must get into. Then everything is a source of inspiration, and you never again need to worry where the next blog post inspiration will come from because everything will inspire.

4. What was your favorite subject in school?

School? Yeowch, that was, what? 40+ years ago now…I can scarcely remember what I gave a damn about in school. In high school I was good in history, mostly because the teachers understood never to call on me, but to let me decide when I wanted to volunteer a comment or question. When thus permitted to choose, I would come out with something worthy of being said…I could not be badgered into speaking. In all other classes if called on, I would be mute, but the history teachers hit on the right solution, and so we got on okay. I did not know how much I would love ecology and botany at the time. Not until college. But I wish I had learned field botany in high school. I wish we had been introduced to natural history and ecology in my day. It wasn’t a subject of as much interest in the 60s..  Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” had come out, yes, and other books, but there were so many social ills and protests going on then that “eco – anything” was just one movement of many that needed attention. Plus, I was already getting ill and unable to attend to anything beyond my own little world. Eventually my own little world did include field botany and ecology, mind you, it just didn’t include much of the rest of the world in addition.

In med school, by the way, my favorite subject was probably hematology, but that was because it was a little like field botany and natural history, using my visual skills to identify blood on slides.

5. If you had a million dollars, and could NOT use it for charity, what would you buy?

Ah, what a lovely question to have to ponder…I would buy, I would would buy…I know exactly what I would buy: land somewhere in New England, with a big old house, nothing too fancy but with potential, and turn it into a eco-friendly Wholeway House and Healing Community for me and other recovering (or getting older) so-called “mentally ill” persons who need a permanent home. Ideally, it could be built into the side of a hill so as to take advantage of natural geothermal heating and cooling properties, or a would love to do that…and be as green as humanly possible.

6. Biggest pet peeve? You really shouldn’t ask me because I will only irritate people by admitting that “my biggest pet peeve is when” 1) people who should know better say things like, “I should have went” instead of “I should have gone” 2)  “I think I will lay down on the bed” instead of  “I think I will LIE down on the bed.” Oh, you know I am SUCH a language snob!!!!! Beat me, beat me, beat me with that wet noodle! 8p

But you know I cannot help it, I really get peevey when people say, 3) “I would have been rich too, if I would have had your luck…” instead of “I would have been rich too, if I had had your luck!” You know, it is only a matter of knowing the proper use of conditionals. But we don’t teach conditionals any more in this country, the US at any rate. I don’t know about England, but proper grammar seems to be a problem here – at least to my ears. No one cares any longer, maybe no one understands that there are rules in the first place.

Lordy, Lordy, where are the English (Language) Teachers of yesteryear?

7. Are you one of those people who keeps focused and organized, or are you one of those that keeps open and a bit messy?

Here are a few photos of my apartment, which should be answer enough.

8. One word to describe your blog. (I almost wrote “yourself” instead of “blog” but remembered that is the most cliche question EVER and that I absolutely HATE it!)

Enduring (I cannot think of the word, the one word I want to say to mean, “Not temporary” but one that has lasted…I started the first Wagblog in 2003, at schizophrenia.com and here it is, still going strong ten years later at WordPress.

9. First book you ever read (or remember reading)?

Black Beauty…I had no idea what it was about, and was disappointed when I found out it concerned a horse. Read it through to the end purely out of duty and a sense of competition with Los Bender, who had told me only that she could not put it down. She was an “equinomaniac” so to speak, so I should have anticipated the subject but having never read an entire book before then, I didn’t know that one could write nearly 300 pages about a single horse . (It is possible that I misremember, that this was not my very first book per se. But at any rate. it is the first book I recall being disappointed by, and that stuck in mind more strongly apparently than whatever the very first book was.)

10. Do you blog only when you want to, or are there times when you feel you need to post something to keep a routine?

I confess I do literally nothing by routine. I do not even eat on a routine or at regularly scheduled hours. Sigh. Oh, yeah, I do see my psychiatrist at set times, because she keeps a regular schedule of appointments, and I cannot exactly subject her to my sort of whimsical lifestyle, but otherwise I cannot think of a single thing that I do on a regular, literally routine basis, the same time every day, on my own by choice.

11. What is your real job? (Yes, the answer can be blogging, Mom or Dad, nothing, etc. No judgement, just curious)

No real job, alas. Not for pay since I suppose that’s what you mean by “job” is what do you do for a living…? I have been considered and designated officially “disabled” by ther federal government since 1980,  I believe. Since that time, I have been in and out of hospitals, halfway  houses and lousy apartments…until and even after, I landed here in this “safe” elderly, disabled HUD-subsidized housing complex. Very nicely kept up, 250 people or more live here. Community living in a way, though I keep to myself. And while I am not hugely unhappy here (I just used a figure of speech called a litote, if anyone cares) I do not like it, and want to move out someday if I can, before I am really too old to be able to…And I want to be UN-disabled before it is too late.

Truth is, I was always too ill to work, all my life until I became an artist five years ago by a stroke of happy accident. But now that I am able to do art I think I could actually earn some income from it, and in that sense earn my way and a living by hook or by crook, and get off some of these programs, if only I had a chance. It is just that so many people are worried that I would lose my actual living, housing situation and be out on the streets if I left here and couldn’t earn enough…As am I, as am i. I am too old to fend for myself as a homeless person. I never did have any savvy even when I was homeless. Luckily, I was always rescued and hospitalized by those who knew the street was no place for me…I was not someone who would have survived there, or would ever have preferred the street to the hospital…That said, I have had it with hospitals in CT and the abuse heaped on me here. And I do not want to be disabled any longer. I want to make it on my own. And regarding my last twenty or so years or however much time that may perhaps be granted to me, I would love to know that I  would have some freedom to use the time as I chose. That’s why, purely selfishly, if I had that Mythical Million I would buy a big house on land in New England, preferably Massachusetts or Vermont where there is universal health care already set up in a liberal state, and create a Wholeway House and Healing Community.

SISTERS OF NO MERCY

POEM IN WHICH I SPEAK FRANKLY, FORGIVE ME

GOMER: ER-speak for a troublesome, unwanted person in the emergency department, acronym for Get Out of My Emergency Room

So many times gurneyed in by ambulance and police escort
“dangerous to self or others,” and too psychotic
to cooperate or scribble consent, you suspect by now
you are just a GOMER to the snickering scrubs in the ER
who whisk you in back with the other disruptives
lying in beds, waiting for “beds.”

One time you dip paranoid into the inkwell of your purse
extracting a paring knife more amulet than effective protection,
they strip-search you, then, unblinking, eyeball you all night
through a bulletproof plexiglass window.
In the morning, 15-day-papered so you can’t leave,
they send you ominously upstairs.

Later, at home, the voices decree your left leg
should go up in flames to atone for the evil within,
and you listen, and you do it, you do it:
the searing flare of cobalt actually crackles.
This time you tell no one, the char too deep for pain,
until fear of worse trumps your fear of being taken away.

This is not the story of your life.
It’s not the story of your life–
but every time a hulking goon squad clamps restraints
around your flailing wrists and ankles, threatening
to prosecute you for biting those hands that shackle you,
you wonder if there will be any other…

© Pamela Spiro Wagner. All rights reserved (Please note that I request that you do not reblog, reprint this poem or save this poem for anything but personal use. The rest of this blog post may be used if you credit Wagblog properly.)

________________________________________________________

A new reader, Rachel, has had training as a nurse, and is not reluctant to share her insights from the other side of the gurney, so to speak. Her comments have been enormously illuminating to me and contain so much helpful information that I have asked her if I might post them on Wagblog itself so others might have the opportunity to read them “first hand.” I have collected all of the ones here at Wagblog (there are others on my http://www.aboutschizophreni.blogspot.com site) and will try to provide some context for each one so they make sense, if they do not by themselves.

This first comment was in response to my post, AM I CRAZY…Nov 4, 2012 — when I doubted the veracity, of fact if not experientially, of what happened to me at the ED last summer.

Here is what Rachel wrote:

“OH….. Pam. I completely relate to this post…

Is anything more traumatizing than not being able to trust your own perceptions? I don’t think so.

I have so much swirling around in my head that I could say about all this, it’s hard for me to sort it all out, but I will try.

15 years ago I went through nursing school. One of the things that was greatly impressed upon us in our training was the fact that medical charts are Legal Documents – therefore, you must be ultra-careful about what you write in the charts! Also, there is so much charting and other paperwork required, to meet the legal demands of insurance, etc., that it is truly impossible to do the charts “right,” and still find time to do the actual job of patient care. So… just because important happenings are not recorded in your medical chart, that should by no means be taken as proof that it did not in fact happen, in some fashion.

As for that security guard…. sigh… I’ve led a strange life… about 20 years ago, for part of one year, I worked as a security guard in a bank. The security guard who trained me was one very scary dude. All he did was talk about his wonderful collection of guns, and his beloved hobby of shooting those guns, and bragging that he would have made a satisfying career out of being a hit man, if it weren’t for these pesky laws against being paid big money to commit murder! I became so alarmed by this fellow’s homicidal rants and ramblings that I told our boss all about it. The male boss, a retired U.S. Marine, dismissed my concerns out of hand. “People who talk about killing never do it,” he said.

A few months after I left that job, the hit man wannabe shot his fiancée. It was an accident, of course, he having so little experience with guns….

I am so sorry for this latest cruel trauma you have endured, Pam. Just being treated so roughly is enough to put any person at risk of losing touch with reality. As the late Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD, survivor of nearly 3 years in Nazi concentration camps, said in his life-changing book, Man’s Search for Meaning: “An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

I believe that is probably what happened with you this past July. You were thrust against your will into an abnormal, traumatizing, soul-annihilating situation, which undoubtedly unleashed multiple memories of similar traumatic indignities in the past. You were being treated, not with the kindness and compassion that you needed and deserved, but with palpable disdain. Harsh thoughts and hateful emotions are communicated, far more than with words, via body language, facial expressions, the eyes, the tone of voice, the “vibes” – even a so-called dumb animal instinctively knows when it is not safe, when the people in charge are not to be trusted.

A nurse, concentrating on giving injections in the proper way and in the proper amount, is not going to be paying any attention to what exactly a security guard is doing, or saying. Also, if she realizes after the fact that she gave an injection for which the order had already been cancelled, I am sorry to say that too many nurses, AND nurse instructors, are NOT going to admit that in the chart. I know this, for I’ve witnessed it firsthand. It’s sad, it’s illegal, immoral, and potentially deadly dangerous , yet it is true.

As for having a run-in with a security guard who has a homicidal attitude? I’m sorry to say that they are not at all uncommon, either.

Did your terrified, traumatized mind fill in the blanks with words he did not actually say, as a way to make some kind of sense from what he had done to you? Maybe. But the fact remains that your autonomy, your power, your rights as a human being, were taken away from you, and you were thrust into a terrifying, traumatizing, abnormal situation. For you to be put into such an extremely abnormal situation, particularly in light of all the old trauma memories it undoubtedly evoked in your mind, an abnormal reaction on your part in such an abnormal situation is, really, truly, Normal Behavior.

Rachel

My response to her comment:

All I can say to these things, Rachel, is WOW! I may have to rethink my blog post. Maybe some of what I thought was not delusional but did in fact happen. For instance, I wrote so often that I got those 3 shots. Now I am thinking, maybe i did indeed get them, because why would I pass out so immediately from a mere 20mg of Geodon and 1 mg of Ativan. But with 5 mg of Haldol added it would make more sense.

As for the guard (I refuse to call them security guards as they provide NO security and are in my opinion out of control thugs) I think he may indeed have compressed my neck, if only by holding me down in such a way as to restrain me roughly. Whether or not he intended to strangle or kill me, I dunno. And I have no idea whether or not he said those words, only that they do echo precisely what those nurses said or I hallucinated they said over the hospital PA system about my phone call, which they claimed to have recorded and were also replaying over the same PA system…So if those were the same words, perhaps it was only a hallucination. But perhaps only the words, not the rest of it. Thank you SO very much for validating as much as you have. I truly appreciate your contribution to this site and hope you will continue to offer what you know and have experienced. It is so welcome!

Pam

Rachel’s next comment was in response to my two new artworks: first the Killer Nurse collage, and then the Monet “take-off” of Argenteuil boats at evening…:

…Killer Nurse, HAHAHAHA! When I was in nursing school, a group of my fellow students dubbed themselves (oh you are going to love this): “Sisters of No Mercy.”

They were, too! By the way, I was elected class president by my fellow nurse students, an honor I did not seek out. When I realized by the end of the first semester that I am not cut out to be a nurse, I thought I could not let down my much-younger classmates who had honored me so, by dropping out! Thus I kept slogging doggedly away, and made it through to the bitter end, making all A’s or 4.0s, I’ve forgotten now how we were graded. Then I took the final big test that determined one’s eligibility to get a license, shocked myself by scoring in the top 1% in the entire nation, gave the big Class President year-end speech at graduation, got my diploma, obtained my license, and…. I worked 3 or 4 days as a nurse, hoping to get my money’s worth out of my costly education, but I still wasn’t emotionally cut out to do the hard job of a nurse and I knew it, so I abruptly quit, and let my license expire.

If you have to be a “Sister of No Mercy” to make it in that profession, you can count me out!

Rachel

Then her latest comment is again in response to my blog entry titled AM I CRAZY? and  my response to her first comment.

You are most welcome, Pam, I’m so glad my words could help.

I just want to add this, though: most of the security guards I worked with so long ago were very good people. There was only a small percentage of guards who had that scary macho-swagger itching-for-trouble attitude. You find people like that in every segment of the population, as I’m sure you know. But it truly did seem to me that a higher-than-average percentage of such types are drawn to work that allows them to wear a uniform and carry a weapon and push people around. These types are more like children playing at cops-and-robbers, than adults doing a serious job.

On a typical day, standing around in a security guard’s uniform watching the world go by is the most boring job on the planet. When finally “something happens,” these “Make My Day” gung-ho types come alive, and in the worst way.

As for the job of nursing… that’s a very different thing. I worked for a couple of years as a nurse’s assistant, before I finally went to nursing school. Nursing is HARD. Really, it’s an almost impossible job. There are never enough nurses, meaning most hospitals and nursing homes are chronically understaffed, and therefore there is never enough time to get everything done that needs doing. The work is absolutely overwhelming at times. You can work your entire shift at a flat-out RUN and STILL not be able to do it all, and do it “right.” You need 6 hands, you need a stomach made of cast iron, you need a backbone made of steel, and you need feet that can take an unbelievable pounding.

A person can go into nursing with a heart of pure gold, caring and compassionate and empathetic to the max, and the day-in-day-out unrelenting MISERY you see all around you will either kill you, or make you harden your heart in self-defense. As a nurse in a busy hospital, a nursing home, and most especially in an emergency room, the world is one big gaping aching wound, a bottomless pit of sorrow and need, and nothing you do is ever nearly enough. You need to be in 10 places at once, doing 10 different things, and almost everyone demands and criticizes, if not the patients, then very often their family does the complaining.

Stay in nursing long enough, and it is almost impossible to hang on to both your sanity, and your heart. This is why I could not do it! I only worked one week in an emergency room, this was as part of my nurse’s training, and that one week of non-stop, often life and death emergencies, almost did me in!

As I read your vivid, beautifully written description of what you endured last July, I could SEE it in my mind. In the eyes of the nurses, you were not a suffering human being with worth and dignity and rights no less important than their own, you were merely an unwelcome interruption, a problem to be dealt with, quickly and firmly and with a minimum of fuss and paperwork. This was not YOUR fault, it was the fault of the system, for want of a better word.

But knowing how HARD nursing is, does not in any way excuse the harsh, hateful, disrespectful attitude you were shown.. yet it does, in my mind at least, explain it. I have seen and experienced it myself, from BOTH sides of the medical charts, this harsh, disdainful attitude.

I have witnessed this, both as a nurse-in-training, and as a patient. When you’ve been called from the bedside of a child whose body was crushed less than an hour ago in an automobile accident, and his mother is dead, his father is hanging by a thread, and if the child survives, he will most likely never walk again… and here is a patient who has nothing visible wrong with her, only she is “inexplicably” freaking out – the disdainful, put-upon attitude from the medical personnel who simply do not “get” the first thing about the very real horror of psychological distress, is very real. It’s not your imagination, and it’s not your fault, either. It’s just that they don’t get it, and they are overworked and exhausted and stressed and overwhelmed with the horrors of life in the trenches.

I hope you know what I am trying to say here? To you, in your time of extreme duress and suffering, the snappy bitchiness and cold-heartedness of the medical personnel, coupled with the terrifying physical roughness of the guard, must have felt so very personal. But YOU were not the real target, in my opinion. The nurse was probably (inexcusably!) bitchy because she was already behind in her duties when you were brought in with your immediate pressing needs, and the guard was probably an overgrown boy playing macho-cop-wannabe, who finally got to see some adrenalin-pumping ACTION.

Someday, if they live long enough, that guard, and the nurses, will become old and infirm, and they will most likely experience, in some fashion, what it is like to be the one who is disempowered, hurting, fearful, and in need of compassionate help, while being treated like they are nothing more than an unwelcome interruption, a pain in the ass, an unimportant, non-person. Someday, I believe, it all comes back around. At least, that’s my hope!

Rachel

Finally, the following comment concerns my post “Open Letter to Dr Deborah Weidner (Sept. 9, 2012)”

The memories this post brings back…. I was shaking inside as I read it. It was hard enough going through this kind of mistreatment as a powerless teenage girl in a state mental institution, I can’t imagine going through this now, at the age of almost-60. I’m so sorry you were put through this. Until I read this just now, I thought your emergency room mistreatment of last July was the worst you had gone through recently. But this…. I don’t know how you came through it. I think if this had been done to me, I would have permanently checked out of reality.

Your feistiness is what’s keeping you alive. The very thing in you that the “wardens” of the mentally ill want to drug and shame and torture out of you, that undying spirit of yours is why you are still here, still breathing, still functioning, and still able to coherently tell your story. You are amazing.

Rachel