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Tag Archives: mental illness

Clouds covered the sun through the window, and vague darkness depressed the room, crushed it down into a concentration of gloom and despair. I half-awoke and fell asleep again.

Windy Pond

waters of lost souls

” I am named for the saint of lost souls,” I said, though I did not know it to be true. It felt true.

“It’s not ‘souls’, it’s ’causes’,” said Gwydion. “Has your mind exchanged ’cause’ for ‘soul’ for a reason? Are they the same? Or has a cause (a falsehood) been replaced by the truth of a soul?”

“I know I have lost, and though I cannot remember what I have lost, its bitterness and grief and self-pity (self-judgment) remain,” I, Gilvaethwy, replied.

“What is it you have lost?” asked Gwydion.

“I yearn for lost youth, the thick trees that promised eternity.”

“That is no answer, ’tis a complaint. What is it that you have lost? Do you know?”

“Affirmation and meaning through desire and satisfaction, desire and denial, rejection, confirmation of life, or devolvement and depredation of all that might ever have been important, in past or future.”

“Then how is it loss? Is it perhaps no loss at all, but merely an absence of something that never should have been. ”

transformation

transformation

“I know I have lost, and because I cannot remember what I have lost, perhaps my mourning is for something that never existed for me:

The becoming that never became.
The becoming that regretted itself.
The becoming of linearity to pointless circling.
The becoming of faith to utter confusion.”

“Do you know what you have lost?” asked Gwydion again, maddeningly.

“I don’t know. Perhaps because I don’t remember the loss, it was not loss,” I parroted, to appease him.

Then I surprised myself. “It was transformation.”

I awoke, bathed in the dreams of early morning, with the promise of wisdom regained.  Sleep-clouded thoughts that fascinated so greatly, for whatever reason, that sleep was driven off by wonder or confusion. Before the crow of the cock, the spatter of eggs cooking in butter, the search from the ramparts.

Before the explosion in my mind that I could never see coming, the anger and rage and sadness; for happiness never lasts for me. Creativity and insight and temperance do not last with Gilvaethwy, like they do with Gwydion my brother.

I try to enjoy them while I have them, all the while mourning the certain knowledge that they will soon be gone from me.

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Wizard

Wizard

Abused mustangs lash out. It’s not their fault. But if they hurt someone, that doesn’t matter. They must still be shot, punished, or sent away.

I am an abused mustang. Red-dun Utah mustang spirit. Too many have enticed me to trust them.

Too many have I chosen to trust. Too many have caged me, beaten me, and whipped my eyes.

It will take years for any human to gain my trust.

Fleeing Pig

I have wrestled and wrestled with this one. To write about it or not to write about it.

Why, during a crisis precipitated by a therapist at a mental-health institution this past August, with all the staff staring down at me as if I were a disgusting animal, did I become suddenly still–or, “less escalated”, as they call it there–at the sight of the police officers? (for backstory see Part 1 & 2)

It was not, as staff apparently believed, because I suddenly wanted to quit my tantrum and behave to avoid punishment. It was, as I previously said, an instinctive visceral reaction to past abuse by police officers in this town. I was no less “escalated” EXCEPT in my “behavior”–which was all they cared about.

OK, the “abuse” occurred over 10 years ago; it was not being overly tazered or beaten by night-sticks; so why should I be complaining about it? Because I still feel the trauma, that’s why. Thinking of it sends me into acute anxiety attacks. The mere sight of a police car, a cop reality show on TV, or driving past the jail all trigger these attacks. Trauma, pure and simple.

I have had very little experience with police. I’ve gotten speeding tickets, been pulled over because my purse was on the roof of my car, been led out of an Intensive Care Unit in handcuffs, and so forth. So when the police arrived, from the call made by my husband at the time, after I had shoved him away from me because he was frightening me by looming over me and screaming two inches from my face (we had some issues; I was sick; police were called because we needed help), I stupidly, naively, calmly, admitted to having shoved him. Both of us believed the police had come to help us.

I was semi-clothed, in years-old, rather un-modestly torn, men’s thermal underwear. They did not allow me to put clothes on. I don’t remember having my rights stated to me. They cuffed me, took me away, and locked me up in one of those cinder block holding cells, still clad only in this underwear. I wonder what they would have done if I was naked?

One of the officers found a black-and-white striped shirt which was too short and extremely baggy, but gave me no pants. I was not allowed to be warm (it was midwinter); they would give me nothing, because it was “not a hotel.” They joked and jeered at me and my behavior, I was crying and upset, and they no doubt get a lot of “crazy” people to torment in there on the graveyard shift.

All the while, I was given to understand later, my husband followed them and demanded they release me, that he was not lodging a complaint and they had no reason to take me in. I do not understand the system, but it appears they just wanted to take me in and would not be dissuaded by reason. I was a domestic violence criminal, guilty until proven innocent and treated as the foulest of scum.

They did give me my meds, and a pen and paper when I asked for one.

The next morning, they still gave me no pants, but locked me in a chain gang with a bunch of giant, overweight men (who all were wearing jail clothes and stinking of alcohol) and took me, still chained to them, into a courtroom that was open to the public–still in torn longjohns and no pants–and put me up in front of everybody, and said stuff. I don’t know what it was. Then they chainganged me away back to the jail. I was pretty mad and still in shock and told them I had used to have respect for the police.

I had nowhere to go and no one to call. I was not allowed to speak to my husband and he was forbidden from speaking to me. I had no vehicle or place to go and my husband was not permitted to supply me with either. I was advised by legal counsel to plead guilty (to what??) because I would have little to no chance in a jury trial.

The story goes on from here, but there it is. The Incident that stopped my “escalated behavior” at the mental-health institution this past August, the sight of the big fat uniformed men I would never before have referred to as “pigs.”

Thus was the conduct of this particular city’s finest 10 yrs ago, and if I had had the money, I would have sued the city.

Laugh if you will, that I call it “abuse,” say I deserved it, say I am overreacting more than a decade later…I’m sure that’s what the compassionate staff at the mental-health institution would do and say about my “behavior” this past August since they displayed no interest in my actual mental state or safety.

I later found out that the purpose of the police who had been called by the therapist in August to the mental-health facility was NOT to take me to a place of treatment. They would have taken me to the cinder-block holding cell at the jail, conveniently located across the street. Since I had been banging my head uncontrollably on the wall and the floor, and had reached a self-harm state of being with very little thought whatsoever (staff could have cared less … they were only concerned with my behavior), my being put back into that cinder-block cell with the specter of its remembered trauma would not have ended well…for anyone…

I have the right to remain silent. If I choose to waive this right, everything I say will be used against me in the Court of Life.

I don’t, really don’t, understand these things. AM I overreacting? Was this, or was this not, abuse?

I am one of those pathological, chronic self-examiners. A form of self-centeredness that concerns itself with worrying that things I said and did will affect others who have long forgotten about, or did not even notice, what I did, said, or thought; and also with analyzing every thought and feeling I have to examine and judge my motivations and their truth or falsehood. It may arise from all those inappropriate behaviors I “acted out” (God, do I hate that term) and said and thought in the past that were NOT forgotten, were held against me, swung around to bite me in the ass, and so forth.

In any case, were I to have been truly ashamed of what had occurred in the crisis assessment, that tendency toward self-examination would be the reason that after a week or so of self-flagellation, I would fall over myself apologizing to everyone concerned for the scene I caused. Which, of course, did not happen. To begin with, I did not cause the scene.

It was later denied by the therapist, and in a so-called investigation of the complaint I lodged, that she was yelling at me and my husband as we left the building. Well, yes, she was. A trained crisis counselor. Yelling out the glass doors into the cold, polished and windowed lobby in front of God, the receptionists, the pens with giant flowers on them, and everybody else: “You had better be back here on Monday morning!”

Very professional.

I arrived at that institution for responsible reasons; to seek treatment for my condition before a crisis occurred that would have a damaging impact on my family. Instead, the crisis was initiated there in the therapy session. It was by no means over when I was thrown out, or as they call it, “left voluntarily.” I was in far worse condition than when I arrived. Truth be told, I struggled into my old, deteriorating car, whose door is literally falling off, in a truly suicidal state of mind. I was ready to kill myself. There was no help, no hope.

There was the list of things, embedded in my mind, that I had planted there myself to automatically prevent suicide. They were MY safety, which I invented, with no help, suggestion or input from their behavioral therapy, whether dialectical or cognitive.

Why was she yelling? Maybe it was indirectly because I froze when I saw the police officers. That instinctive reaction to past trauma and abuse may have been interpreted as me subsiding from my “tantrum” at the prospect of “punishment” by the authorities, which of course would lead one to the conclusion that I had “worked myself up to it” as she put it, for the purpose of creating a scene, flouting every behavioral skill that I had ever been taught. This is only speculation on my part. A mere crazy person cannot fathom the sublime workings of the vast, disciplined minds of her betters, even if her betters are just kids.

When one breaks apart as I broke apart, the one thing they need is tolerance and competence from their therapist(s). If an institution’s “trained professionals” cannot discern the difference between a real breakdown and a tantrum thrown for the purpose of making a scene, but the institution stands with moral certainty behind their employee’s incompetence as professional, appropriate and effective handling of the situation, then that institution needs to be nuked.

I of course filed a grievance, instead of engaging in the more favored behavioral skill of “Opposite Action” by apologizing and sending them roses. They responded to the grievance with what they called an investigation, which, as described in the Resolution of Grievance they sent me afterward, consisted of interviewing the therapist about what happened. They did not interview my husband, who was there, the only witness throughout the farce.

Throughout the Resolution of Grievance, the language referred to everything the therapist said and/or chose to write down during the session as factual and honest. Throughout the same document, the language referred to everything I reported that I  experienced, observed, felt, and heard, as mere “belief.” As in: ‘[Therapist] did (or said, or said you did) blah blah blah. You believed that blah blah blah. So the therapist was correct, and you were incorrect, because you merely believed, while whatever the therapist said is what actually occurred.’

This language conveyed quite clearly that they held nothing I said as credible. It demonstrated total lack of respect for the patient as an intelligent human being. It revealed that the patient’s point of view is insignificant to them, because they view the patient as insignificant and, indeed, crazy.

Do I want this institution nuked? I don’t want this institution nuked because it is my only treatment alternative in this tiny, redneck town. So, what do I do? Protest their “Resolution” of my grievance? Their Grievance Resolution invites me to. Or should I bend over and take it up the ass because if I would only practice the skill called “Radical Acceptance” my ass would hurt less.

In the end, I wrote out my entire dispute to the “Grievance Resolution” and then employed the behavioral skill of  “Opposite Action” by not sending them the disputing response. Now I practice the behavioral skill of “Interpersonal Effectiveness” by being as sweet as sugar, or at least as sweet as I can be, whenever protocol and hoop-jumping require me to be in their office. So you see, the behavioral skills as practiced save me from alienating the guardians of my only avenue to my doctor who prescribes the live-saving medications. Isn’t behavioral therapy beautiful?

A couple of days after the incident, the medical assistant called and told me that my doctor had prescribed a change in my medication. I noticed INSTANT improvement (which is rare). I had gone in there seeking just this kind of treatment–medical–and had I received it when needed, none of the rest of this would have happened.

Within three days of the incident, people from Social Services invaded my kids’ school, ripped them from their classrooms, and threw them into closed, lonely rooms and interrogated them. Then they came to my house and tried to be disarming. They found no danger to the children, only love and an uncommon maturity and intense loyalty to their mother on the part of the children.

The one thing I have learned from all this is that the mental-health institution is NOT a safe place to go when I am in crisis or in imminent danger of crisis. All crises must be worked out on my own now, as there is no safety, respect, or confidentiality extant in the institution any longer, if ever indeed there was. I go to the treatment center only as needed in order to continue medical management by my very competent and respectfully-behaving psychiatrist.

o

Behave, or you’ll end up here.

I have reached a conclusion, and it is this:

Beware of all therapies with the word “behavioral” in them.

While in some certain aspect, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is useful (all people, mental-health patients or not, benefit from understanding the dialectic), behavioral therapy in general has its own hidden agenda.

To brainwash the patient in order for other people not to be inconvenienced by the patient’s illness.

Behavioral therapy teaches the patient how to exercise appropriate behavior in a variety of situations. This behavior suppresses the expression of the patient’s true feelings and the symptoms of their illness, not for the patient, but for the convenience and comfort of others. This is all good and fine up to a point. Most of us are not considered brilliant or indispensable enough to be tolerated for being unapologetically who we are.

But the other thing behavioral therapy does, the brainwashing and ultimate damage, is more insidious.

It puts back on the patient the responsibility for having any symptoms for their illness. That’s right. It’s our fault for having symptoms, if we don’t practice the skills, whether or not the skills work or help at all. That’s what I was taught four months ago at the institution where I receive treatment. The problem there, of course, is we’re right back where we started: being stigmatized. If we cannot exhibit the right behavior, it is our own fault. We are mental cases. We are nuts.

I have the institution where I receive treatment to thank for this revelation. I was nearing a crisis, and my husband rushed me to the treatment center for help. We knew it was a matter of medication adjustment, partly because I was on Seroquel, which was giving me terrifying cardiac symptoms; and partly because my new “behavioral” symptoms were frightening ones that I had never experienced before.

Instead being allowed to see my doctor, we were told I must see a crisis counselor. I explained to this person that my “skills” (DBT, mainly), were no longer working for this alarming condition I was in. In response, she mildly asked me what skills I could use to deal with this. I explained again that I had tried all my skills and none of them were working or else were inaccessible to me in my current state. Again, she responded by asking what skills I could use. This went on and on, trying my patience, and hers. I begged her for help. To no avail. At last the effect of her mounting contempt and annoyance at my mounting emotionalism reached a breaking point.

I began screaming and banging my head on the wall.

I am not proud of this. Nor did I choose it. It chose me, I suppose, my crisis, which I had arrived there in a responsible manner to avert, precipitated by the excellent and flawless job this therapist was doing. Who knows. In retrospect, I have to think, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that banging my head against a figurative wall was not effective, and so my disease directed me to bang my head against a literal wall.

This did not end well for me, as you can imagine.

The therapist had the police called.The staff’s single objective was to be rid of me, my symptoms, and my behavior. Mind you, the staff of a mental-health institution that is supposed to help people wanted to be rid of the crazy person. Call the police!

My poor husband tried to get ahold of me. No one stepped in to help. That in itself is understandable; physical involvement in situations like that are not allowed. However, a group of staff people simply stood around me, staring down with disgusted, fascinated, or shocked looks on their faces at my disgusting behavior. Not one person offered a comforting word to my husband throughout the whole incident.

Or to me, though it might have helped to resolve the inconvenient symptoms I was having, panic being among them.

Then I saw the police officers. I froze in instinctive terror. I had been severely abused by that city’s police officers, and still suffer flashbacks of the shameless humiliation they inflicted.

The staff took this instinctive freezing to be self-control, apparently, and seemed to have concluded that the crisis was resolved.

Far from it.

Pain is not the same thing as behavior. Pain is pain.

So why is all the “therapy” available around here “behavioral” therapy of some kind?

Does “behavior” manage pain? Really? Or does it just make  “behavior” safer and more appropriate in spite of pain, much like intolerance training of horses makes them run and perform while they are in silent agony?

Huh? Am I stupid?

Has pain made my cognitive function below acceptable standards?

St. Jude candle

“I was named for the Saint of Lost Causes. It’s true. You can look it up.”

That’s what one of my long-lost half brothers told me many years ago, and I thought it was cool. It fit in with my insanity so perfectly, and I envied him. At the time, I was clinically psychotic.

Here’s the prayer on the pretty St. Jude Tadeo candle I bought at the dollar store.

“Most holy apostle, St. Jude, Faithful Servant and Friend of Jesus, Patron of Hopeless Cases, of Things Almost Despaired Of, pray for me. I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. I promise to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron. Amen.”

Actually, that’s a pretty good prayer.

All of us at one time or another feel like this. I often like to think we bipolar people feel these sorts of things more keenly…maybe “we” do and maybe “we” don’t. I don’t, can’t, presume to speak for any person living in bipolar other than myself, and I am very aware of my tendency to elevate my condition to an epic sort of stature, knowing full well that it’s no more epic than a host of other conditions, mental and physical.

There are a lot of good words in the St. Jude prayer.

Today, since I’m in a more healthy frame of mind than I was when I made the first post, I shall latch on to the most helpful word: Mindful.

Mindfulness is the core skill taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT was created for Borderline Personality Disorder, but it teaches a skill set that is helpful to all. All skills in DBT come back to this one core skill, being Mindful.

What does mindfulness mean? I can only tell you what mindfulness means to me.

It means being fully present in your mind, body, emotions and environment. It is a means of grounding oneself and finding rest inside the turmoil. It means pulling back and acknowledging your feeling and accepting it without judging it. It’s not a good feeling or a bad one, not right or wrong, no matter how strong it is: It is what it is, nothing more or less.

Say that I feel anxious. I also feel the chair against my body, the responsive keys under my fingertips, and I hear the keys clicking and the rain and thunder outside. I concentrate on these things, allowing the feeling to exist but not allowing it to take over, or to represent things that cannot be helped or may be “despaired of.” Rather than allowing the anxiety to direct me to worry over whether there will be a job for my husband, or dwell on the fear that a horse will colic, or obsess that posting this stupid blog caused people to un-friend me on Facebook, I simply accept the feelings of anxiety as I accept the smell of the rain and the wet dog under my desk. I am Mindful.  And the anxiety feelings often will slip away.

There is also a technique of breathing, which is pretty much the same as any relaxation technique of breathing, I think. You breathe deep, and concentrate on it, and you let the thoughts in your head be there and go on their way, without judging them or berating yourself for having thoughts.

Hypocritical Quandaries

I am still not sure what I am trying to accomplish with this blog. I certainly don’t intend for it to be a vent for negative feelings, though that is what started it. I am sure the good people at the National Alliance on Mental Illness would not look approvingly on my previous post, although I stand by it as expressing a valid point-of-view, that is, one point-of-view among multitudes.

For those who might wonder, yes, I have dealt with cancer. More than one member of my family has battled it. Not me personally. But I live with chronic, often debilitating pain, and I have experienced at least part of my share of pain so severe that hospital medication is inadequate to assuage it.

More troubling to me is that after all that spouting off about the injustice of being misunderstood and stigmatized for a mental disequilibrium, I find myself on the other side of the river! I wish to cut all ties with someone because of that person’s behavior, and I know that behavior is at least partly the result of the heinous bipolar mania that the person is currently trapped in. What a hell for this individual, and me over here a freakin’ hypocrite.

I want to help the person, and the person does not appear to be managing the condition responsibly. I, who should know how to help, can’t figure out what I should say or do. Whatever it is would be proactive on my part, because the person in question doesn’t call me and isn’t really that big a part of my life. Maybe I am questioning whether it’s my place to jump in. Maybe this person has a support system of friends and doesn’t need me.

But I expect this individual is suffering alone, alone as I was, because except for a very few exceptional people, no one wants to be around a person acting like this unless they are paying them money. This individual is pushing people out of connection, whether intentionally or not. I can relate to this person. Oh, can I! But there are certain attitudes I do not want to enable by agreeing with them.

I do appreciate the quandary my manic depressive episodes place people in. Most of the people avoiding me during the worst of it did not have the tools and perspective that I have, so how can I blame them for jettisoning me, if I can’t figure out what to do here and now?

Well, until I work it out, I can pray.

Most Holy Apostle St. Jude…

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