My house burned down last night. No shit. Everything goner in a matter of minutes. Makes you think about what’s important. (Everybody’s okay- even the damn bird.)
Monthly Archives: February 2008
KBOO Radio 90.7 FM
1- 2 a.m. Late
(yes, I know that it is technically – relax, it’s just a radio show)
February 22, 2008
Dedicated to Everyone
who has ever been given a psychiatric label, to anyone who
experiences mental health challenges and to anybody who
has the misfortune (or good fortune) of being awake at that
You can participate!
Call in at
following the full-moon, will be a
segment on KBOO radio (90.7 on your fm dial, to the left of ),
also streamed on the internet on their website,
http://www.kboo.fm/index.php will be time for of Mad Lib by
Moonlight. The program is part of the usual show, The
Your Radio really is talking to
you. Join the conversation.
Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
Up to where you are bravely working
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
Here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
and a silly animated gif (dalerwalkenshoes):
I would have to say that the last couple weeks have not been the best I’ve had. They have probably been the most unpleasant by far for quite a while. It’s not all bad, even so. It’s just that much of the time lately I am confronted with visceral, ugly feelings in myself. I want to push them away but also know they are here to reach me something(s).
One thing about pain, especially the animal level of pain, even emotional, it presents a kind of clarity that cuts through other things that would otherwise seem important. It doesn’t necessarily provide a clear view- it can obscure the the things that you most need to understand. I see the image of Manjushri- the Buddha depicted with a sword, who cuts away delusion. The problem is that if you cling to the delusion, you feel like you are dying.
I cling and let go alternately, back and forth, sometimes see some balance as it swings by.
I am finding challenges in both my personal life and my work that seem to work together to make me feel confused. So, what is there to do with hard feelings? With gut level pain? With uncertainty?
Here is my image that I am cultivating. Instead of pushing away the thing that hurts or causes stress, I try to touch it- feel it in my body and heart, and hold it up to the light. By holding it up to the light I mean that I try to see it’s origins, purpose, meaning. Much of the time I find that it has at it’s roots a kind of lie- or at least a clinging to that which is untrue. It may represent the dying of an act of grasping that has no basis in reality. At the same time, I try to see it with some tenderness- grasping and clinging to things is human and a basis for our grief. Knowing this doesn’t make it less painful. Tenderness may even make it more painful- if I’m really open to the experience.
Then, after holding it tenderly in the light, I try to put it down gently. And let go.
It’s a process that happens many times through my day. It is like the directions on the shampoo bottle- Rinse, repeat. It often provides a few moments of near-joy (I haven’t mastered it enough to get that last part very well but I am inching toward it).
I’m working on a new song. I haven’t written a song in years. I don’t know much about it yet but I feel it coming.
Today my work was satisfying mostly but ended on an overwhelmed note. Then I went to an Interactive Theater workshop (From the Inside Out/ Theater for all). I went because I knew I’d benefit from being around people. Part of me was reluctant- like it was maybe some bad tasting medicine. Like I’m a social misfit and I need to get out and be around people as some kind of treatment. Two odd things happened (or three).
First I got a call from the workshop organizer asking me to pick up someone who couldn’t get to the workshop by herself. The address where she lives is far on the other side of being on my way. I was told that I could say no; I was told that if I didn’t pick her up she would miss the workshop and it was important to her. I agreed. It meant that I had to leave an hour earlier than I would have otherwise. It meant that I would not see my wife when she got home. I went.
About halfway there I got another call saying that I didn’t have to pick her up after all. That someone who lived closer to her could do it. I was already well on my way and I went ahead- driving to the address I was given. When I got there it was familiar. Then I realized that the person I was picking up was someone who I had met and worked with years ago. Someone I had helped. I felt a very positive sense of synchronicity/ congruence talking with her on the way.
At the workshop I ran into another person who I had met at previous events. It’s someone who every time I see him I find out more stuff that we have in common. His name is Tom Widdick and he is sort of famous in the mental health consumer movement as one of the founders of possibly the first modern psychiatric rights group- the Insane Liberation Front, back in 1969 or so. I just met him a few months back but I have since found that we went to the same high school (one that no longer exists), used to sell the same underground newspaper, both have diabetes, both have mental problems, know a bunch of the same people. Tonight I learned that he attends the Bridge City Friends Meeting- a sister community to the Multnomah Monthly Meeting of which I am a member. Wild. “Am I going to the family retreat this month?” he asked. “I’m not sure we can afford to go,” I said.
Oh, yes, this Friday night is MLBM- Mad Liberation by Moonlight. 1 a.m. on KBOO 90.7 or streamed at KBOO.org
All that aside- my latest favorite Rumi poem (I’ve left out the last lines because I am too tired to type it all):
No Room for Form
On the night when you cross the street
from your shop and your house
to the cemetery,
you’ll hear me hailing you from inside
the open grave, and you’ll realize
how we’ve always been together.
I am the clear consciousness-core
of your being, the same in
ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.
That night, when you escape the fear of snakebite
and all irritation with ants, you’ll hear
my familiar voice, see the candle being lit,
smell the incense, the suprise meal fixed
by the lover inside all your other lovers.
This heart tumult is my signal
to you igniting in the tomb.
So don’t fuss about the shroud
and the graveyard road dust.
Those get ripped open and washed away
in the music of our final meeting.
And don’t look for me in a human shape. I am inside your looking. No room
for form with love this strong.
I had a scary experience today-
I’m a type one diabetic and take two different insulins to live. One of them is a slow-release, 24 hour shot (Lantus, 48 units in the morning), that provides a background level of insulin that helps keep things level from the sugar that my liver naturally adds to my blood throughout the day. The other is a fast acting insulin that helps me deal with food intake (Humalog). In using the Humalog I may over the course of the day approximate the same amount as the Lantus but it depends on my food intake and other factors. Since I generally don’t eat a lot of breakfast, my morning Humalog is in the neighborhood of 6-8 units.
Today I got them mixed up. I was distracted. Partly it was because I was reading a poem I really like to my wife- a devotional poem by the Persian mystic, Rumi. Partly I was distracted because I’ve been under a lot of stress (don’t want to go into that now- very complicated). Basically, I took an accidental overdose of the Humalog. I wasn’t really sure what I had done, still distracted, but noticed that the vials were not in the “order/ position” where they should be when I have just taken Lantus. I couldn’t be sure if I had taken the wrong insulin or if I had just messed up my usual practice of how I kept the vials(my strategy for avoiding this kind of mix-up). I felt fine- my blood sugar level had been moderately high this morning- 220 just before I took the insulin. I took a shower, my wife left for work. I figured I would know soon enough if I had made a mistake.
While in the shower I was thinking of this passage from the Teachings of Don Juan. Not that I have that great a memory (hadn’t read those books for almost 40 years) but I remembered the gist of a certain passage. I really don’t recall the exact words but the point was that death is your constant companion; “Always standing to your left, an arms length away. Usually you don’t notice him until he taps you on the shoulder.”
What I remembered was the description of how this companion could be an ally in times of confusion or indecision. The advice went something like this: “When you find yourself in doubt about how to behave/ decide in a certain situation, look to your left and ask your companion. Sometimes you will hear what he has to say and can learn something about how to respond. If instead you find that your companion turns and looks your way, you will know in a moment the triviality of your problem.”
Thinking along this line I was going about my business of the morning. Very suddenly I became disoriented, sweaty, weak- I knew what had happened and I knew I was in some serious trouble. I grabbed a liter of Sprite that I keep in the fridge for blood-sugar emergencies. I started slamming in while simultaneously dialing 911 and trying to take a blood sugar reading. I was becoming so dizzy I wasn’t sure I would be conscious for long. I got through to 911 immediately, they were very helpful, very fast and said that an ambulance would arrive soon because one was in my neighborhood. I managed to wake my son so that he could let in the EMTs when they arrived if I was incapacitated. Before I was done waking him, they were at the door. By this time I was barely conscious. and had consumed most of the Sprite.
Next thing I knew I was in the hospital with an IV getting pumped full of sugar. I was beginning to feel okay, my blood sugar readings were climbing at an acceptable rate. They kept me there for as long as it took to know that the Humalog had been depleted from my body- several boring hours. My wife Julie left work and came to keep me company. This had never happened before but we figured out a strategy to make it even more unlikely in the future. I missed work for the day, my boss/ co-worker had to cancel my appointments.
Most of the experience was boring but there was that brief moment when my “companion” turned toward me and made everything I’ve been worried about seem very trivial.
Here’s the rest. The poem I was reading to Julie when I mixed up my insulin vials:
Rumi: The Seed Market
Can you find another market like this?
With your one rose
You can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
For one seed
You get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
The divine wind?
You’ve been fearful
Of being absorbed in the ground,
Or drawn up into the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
And drops into the ocean,
Where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
But it is still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
Marry at once, quickly,
For God’s sake!
Don’t postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.
A perfect falcon, for no reason,
Has landed on your shoulder,
And become yours.
and I may as well throw in a stupid animated gif:
WHAT: Live interview on KBOO-FM radio about an
coalition of Mental Health Consumer & Psychiatric Survivor groups.
WHO: David Oaks, Director, MindFreedom will be interviewed by KBOO-
FM radio journalist Marliese Franklin.
WHERE: KBOO-FM Radio
HOW: Listen in
*or* listen anywhere live online at http://www.kboo.fm
WHY: Support the state-wide voice of people on receiving end of
mental health care in !
Here is a page with a nice collection of space pictures:
Some interesting medical animation:
An animation I made back when W was running for president:
Proposals to Force More Involuntary Treatment Stir Debate
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2008; B04
In the debate over Virginia’s mental health system, they’re called
“consumers.” Some of them call themselves survivors.
They are mentally ill people who have been through the system and
didn’t like it. They criticize the humiliation of being handcuffed,
the forced administration of antipsychotic drugs or the debilitating
side effects of the drugs. And they don’t think the government is
best suited to choose their treatment.
Rather than forcing more people into involuntary treatment by
lowering the legal criteria or enforcing outpatient treatment —
approaches that Virginia’s General Assembly is considering —
consumers and their supporters say they think the money for those
approaches would be better spent on counseling, housing and jobs for
the majority of the mentally ill, who aren’t dangerous or helpless.
Since the Virginia Tech shootings in April, which were committed by a
mentally ill student who did not receive mandated treatment, many
mental health advocates have called for a lower standard for
involuntary treatment and easier access to patient records for
determining a person’s treatment. Under Virginia laws, some of the
most stringent in the country, a mentally ill person can be committed
only if he poses an “imminent danger to self or others” or
demonstrates an “inability to care for” himself.
But a group of consumers is fighting back. They say they think that
changing the imminent-danger standard is a bad idea and that opening
patient records will discourage people from seeking treatment.
As the debate heats up in Richmond over how to fix Virginia’s mental
health system, consumers are lobbying legislators and testifying at
hearings. A consumers’ rally outside the state Capitol last week
attracted more than 650 supporters and a number of legislators, said
organizer David Mangano of Chesterfield County.
“The problem has much more to do with the system’s failures, not with
the language of the law,” said Mangano, a consumer and family
advocate for Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services. “The actual
number of people who are great safety risks and great risk to the
community are very small compared to the number who need services. If
you start changing practices, changing the code, to try to catch
those people [who are risks], what really have you done with all the
people who don’t belong there and have really good reasons not to
comply with treatment?”
Consumers say that providing counseling, peer support, housing and
jobs should take precedence over forced treatment. Michael Allen, a
lawyer formerly with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in
Washington, said: “The problem in Virginia is not [revising] what
standard is used to treat people against their will. The question is,
do we make mental health services available in a timely fashion? Do
we make it comprehensive and holistic or wait until they fall to the
Some consumers have had positive experiences with treatment and are
also fighting to revise Virginia’s system. Jonathan Stanley said that
in his 20s, he spent three years in a cycle of increasingly psychotic
episodes, ending with an incident in which he stood naked in a New
York City deli and was forcibly hospitalized for seven weeks.
He said doctors determined the proper medication for him. He finished
college and law school, and now works for the Treatment Advocacy
Center in Arlington County. He is lobbying for change in Richmond,
including modifying the existing imminent-danger criteria, which he
called “the most restrictive in the country.”
Stanley is seeking support for more mandatory outpatient treatment,
modeled after New York’s Kendra’s Law. He said that 80 percent of
people emerging from such programs “say their coerced treatment has
helped them get and stay well. Those are the consumer voices that I
listen to the most.”
Most mentally ill people are functional and want to make their own
choices but need help, many consumers say.
Yaakob Hakohane of Arlington had been through decades of legal and
mental health experiences. In the early 1990s, he helped create a
group to advocate on behalf of the mentally ill. But even he said he
was amazed by how easily he was involuntarily committed to a mental
hospital last summer.
Hakohane, who suffered a brain injury as a teenager, said he fell and
hit his head on a sidewalk one afternoon in July in Crystal City. He
became disoriented and said police and paramedics who responded “were
kicking and poking me,” so he decided not to talk to them.
Hakohane was also suspicious of the people who treated him in the
emergency room. He remained silent and was temporarily detained. When
he went to a civil commitment hearing two days later, despite the
testimony of two people who said he was perfectly rational, he was
ordered into treatment for up to six months.
“It seems obvious from this experience [that] it’s not hard to commit
people,” said his friend Diane Engster, who attended the hearing.
“It’s easy,” Hakohane said. “Anybody can commit anybody else.” He
said he cooperated with his doctors and was released in a week.
Consumers such as Engster, who founded the Northern Virginia Mental
Health Consumers Association with Hakohane, are also troubled by
attempts to open up patients’ records. Special justices who decide
whether to commit a person typically do not have access to
psychiatric histories, and legislation is pending to allow that.
Alison Hymes, a Charlottesville consumer advocate who served on a
state Supreme Court task force on mental health law reform, writes a
blog about such issues. She wrote that if the state requires mental
health providers to turn over patient records, “mental health
practice in this state will never be the same. Patients/clients/
consumers will not be able to trust their secret thoughts and
feelings with their clinicians. Clinicians will not be able to abide
by the ethical standards of their professions. People will not seek
help and those who are already receiving therapy, such as myself,
Virginia is going through an unprecedented examination of its mental
health system after the slayings at Virginia Tech. This is one in an
occasional series of reports about problems in the system.
I haven’t much to say. What I do have to say, I don’t want to talk about it.
So, here arte some links to things I’ve been reading:
And a link to Car;l Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories
Have a nice weekend. Here’s a cute kitty (thanks, Nyomi):
First, check out the UDF Skywalker/ Hubble Deep Field explorer:
Next,expand your mind: