Tag Archives: Recovery
Happy Father’s Day, all you fathers. May your day be sweet. May you forgive yourself for all the things, big and small, that cause you shame and suffering. May you be at peace.
In My Life, part 1
My relationship with fatherhood is complicated. It’s complicated in origin- my dad was a good man plagued by bad demons. He could not be the father he wanted to be. It’s complicated also in it’s fruition of the parenthood experience- I am the parent of a dead girl, a suicide. I can’t claim to have been the father I wanted to be.
My dad struggled. He was deeply guilty, shamed by his mistakes. For many years I resented him. It took me a long time to see him as a “man”- subject to error and utterly worthy of absolution. I am so glad I came to understand that before he died. I am so sorry he died so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to really tell him. In the end, I was proud of him for everything he endured and overcame. I pray he is at peace.
My sons would probably disagree with my eligibility to wear the above button. I would have to say that over all, I’ve done a good job; certainly the best I knew how. Still, in my heart, I feel that I have failed deeply in ways that are both vital and obscure.
Maybe we all fail. Maybe none of us can claim honestly
to have passed every test.
But wait! There’s more! In truth I have gained more peace as time moves along. Not just the peace of dimming memory but peace that comes from perspective. I see the essential rightness of even my worst mistakes. Like I said,
I was born in Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii. My father was in the US Navy. He served aboard the class of ships referred to as “Destroyers”. His job, as a Gunner’s Mate and later a Chief Gunner’s Mate, eventually killed him. (He died over 30 years later from Mesothelioma). My dad was often gone during the first 5 years of my life. He would be “at sea”. That left my mom, bless her heart, to care for the 4 of us kids. She was tired. It was hard. It was probably harder and more tiring because she drank. Drinking enabled her to tune out my incessant crying (“colic”- my dad says I had the 6 month colic for 3 years but that it didn’t affect him much because he “would be at sea”.) My earliest memories are of standing in my crib, crying, and no one would come to pick me up or hold me. My oldest memories of my mom are of her seated at our cheap dining room table with a glass and a bottle of wine. Anyway, the thing is (this is the thing), I’ve been wanting to do some storytelling. As a subject, I find my life to have been extraordinarily interesting. This most likely means that it has been remarkably average. As average stories go, it has been chock full of twists, drama and dark humor; all the elements of a reasonably good strory. This is the start.
I just got a call from my oldest son. He lives near San Fransisco. He called to say “Happy Father’s Day”. I really can’t fault myself too much. He is the nicest, best, most gentle man I know. My younger son is also wonderful- smart, funny, creative and caring. They are both excellent men.
I work at Oregon State Hospital (OSH) in Salem, OR. It exists because in Oregon as well as most everywhere else, there is an assumption in the legal system (in society in general) that the people who have a mental health diagnosis are more prone to violence than others. This assumption is reflected in the functioning of the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB), the primary instrument of oppression of those with a mental health diagnosis in this state. This is a direct opposite to reality/ evidence. (See also reports here and here and here. Or here– or even here.)
The best research available is the The MacArthur Community Violence Study, a gigantic longitudinal project spanning several years and thousands of people. This study included 1,136 male and female civil patients between 18 and 40 years old. The project monitored violence to others every 10 weeks during their first year after discharge from a mental institution. Patient self-reports were augmented by reports from collaterals and by police and hospital records. The comparison group consisted of 519 people living in the neighborhoods in which the patients resided after hospital discharge. They were interviewed once about violence in the past 10 weeks.
The most comprehensive study ever done regarding mental health and risk of violence found that even among the “mentally ill” who commit violent crimes, the likelihood of that person committing further violence is considerably less than an individual who has no mental health diagnosis. For individuals who simply have a mental health diagnosis, the likelihood that they will commit an act of violence is substantially less than the average person.
(The MacArthur study is so named because major funding was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Research Network on Mental Health and the Law with a supplemental grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (grant # R01 49696) to interview the collateral informants.)
One factor is that many people who have behaviors labeled as mental illness have developed these symptoms as a result of (and a coping mechanism for) being victims of violence. Having a “mental illness” actually conveys a certain degree of immunity from any tendency towards violence.
The one variable that really messes up this finding is substance abuse. People who have both “mental illness” and active substance abuse are more likely to commit violent crimes.
It would make sense that if people have adequate support in their community they would be less likely to use alcohol or street drugs to self-medicate. In this way the mental health system as it exists in the United States today contributes to violence.
So- I propose that Oregon do the following:
- Reform the PSRB system- starting with the elimination of the PSRB.
- Eliminate the State Hospital (and quit building the new replacement facility- maybe the building could be turned into something else- another prison?).
- Use the money saved to create a system of community services that is fully funded, consumer driven and based on a compassionate, recovery oriented ethic.
- Create an emergency/ acute care system that is based on the Sanctuary model, that makes use of natural/ holistic medicine and provides a variety of choices in terms of treatment styles and settings.
Meanwhile, I won’t hold my breath. The public perception of those of us with “mental illness” is such that fear over-rides sense. A inmate escaping from the State Prison merits 2 inches of news space on page 6. A patient who leaves OSH (“absconds”) without PSRB permission is front page, lead story and a week of prominent follow-up articles.
Re: Looney Radio 5/15/09
Mental Health consumer-talk-radio
Tonight, Friday night, 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.-
May 15th, 2009
KBOO 90.7 FM or streamed on the web: kboo.fm
Call in at 503-231-8187 to be on the radio (or show up at the studio).
Please set your alarm if you aren’t up at that time- we need your voice.
There are people listening
(all over the world, by internet)
Call in at 503-231-8187
Archived shows are available at
KBOO 90.7 FM or on the web at kboo.fm (note the repetition)
The next Full Moon is June 7th.
With any luck at all next month’s show will be June 12th- the Friday following the full moon.
No poetry this post, sorry. Tune in next time, soon.
Yes I take drugs.
I take 4 different psych meds, not high dosages and I’m unable to notice any annoying side-effects. There have been several times in my mentally-ill life that I have been med free and doing fine, thank-you. The last few years I have needed, or seemed to need, some chemical support to stay operational. This doesn’t count the insulins I need to survive type 1 diabetes.
Late last week I got 2 calls in one day telling me I was “not selected” for jobs I interviewed for, both were jobs I’m very well qualified for, thought I did great in both interviews. The clincher on one was when they said they found someone who was more experienced in a particular area. It just so happens that, no ego here, I am probably the very most experienced and qualified in this specific area in the state. Made me feel like a loser. Made me feel paranoid about my mental-health rep and the possibility that people I had listed as references who are so very supportive to my face may actually be undermining my job search. “Objection!”…” But Judge, this goes directly to the subjects state of mind!”… “Okay then, I’ll allow it…”
A few days back (…4?…5?) I ran out of 2 of the most important psych meds. One helps me sleep (among other things) and the other is an SSRI. Now, I know all about abrupt SSRI withdrawal, personal and observational data gained at some difficulty. But, thing is, I have been broke. Can’t afford even the co-pays. Also, 2 days back I ran out of one of my insulins; again, can’t have what ya can’t pay for. My sleep has been very odd- it;s like I’m sleeping but can’t tell if I’m awake or dreaming. I sweat very heavily (yeah,too much info, sorry).
I have been getting more and more “weird”. I have thoughts and perceptions I know aren’t right. It has become harder to carry on even simple conversations with family members because I have to keep editing myself, trying not to say something too strange or something that might worry my wife or younger son (who still lives at home).
I haven’t brought my lack of meds up at all. I know we don’t have money. I have feared that my wife would call my mother or some other family member. I am so sick of begging, being dependent. It reinforces my feeling of being a pathetic loser. BTW- I know that this is also probably an example of not thinking right.
I haven’t called anyone who might be helpful- well, I called someone but they weren’t answering and so I stopped trying. I have become more and more paranoid that people will find out how worthless, pathetic and crazy I am. I have become increasingly afraid to talk to anyone.
Friday, 4 days ago?, I was already losing it but the day went to hell way beyond what I could handle. But I tried to handle it anyway. I did everything wrong, at least in the eyes of the people around me, especially my wife. Her car broke down (I’m no mechanic) and she took my car to work, swapping it back later in the day. The bank account was overdrawn and I ended up using the last of my unemployment money to get the balance back to zero.
Thing is: I was so shocked to find the account overdrawn. I knew exactly what was in the account and the day before I talked to my wife about not using the “apparent” balance showing on the account- it was just ghost money that would soon be gone. She made 2 relatively small payments- for gas and $20 cash (perfectly legit uses for money)- and added to the two $35 overdraft fees put us a hundred bucks in the hole. I saw in our future a black hole of overdraft fees that would continue to pile up until we couldn’t do anything about it. (This is not an unreasonable fear in itself- it’s happened before.)
During the day she wrote another hundred dollars in checks to cover important medical co-pays she needed to get her insurance set up with a new provider. I talked our son into getting a $100 cash advance to cover the upcoming overdraft.
She got a ride home from work after suggesting that we get a “drink” on the way when I picked her up.
She got home from a co-worker. She indicated she still wanted to go get a drink.
We’re still on Friday. Instead of taking her to get a drink I took my son to his bank to get cash and then went to our bank to deposit cash. I went home. My wife was half asleep but I could tell she was mad. Why had I prioritized going to the bank (before it closed)? Why had I spent all our cash covering the bank overdraft?
So, I made it worse. I went out and found a mechanic neighbor who said they would help me diagnose the problem with her car. We found that things were much worse than I could fix on my own (or without money to invest in a real mechanic).
By the time I got back I knew I was in the doghouse and in the very back of said animal abode.
The next day she was still mad. I was beginning to really lose it. My brain was definitely not functioning well. Being incapable of reasonable conversation, made the relationship problems worse. I was even more afraid to tell that I had no meds and was experiencing alternate reality that was more and more scary.
I didn’t go to Friends Meeting- I was too agoraphobic at this point. I didn’t wantto have to talk to anyone if possible.
The saga continues: So, over the course of the weekend I got weirder and weirder. Tried to stay inconspicuous. Not a complete success.
This morning: cried from 8 am to 10. Then walked around the neighborhood trying to find cans and bottles that I could take to Safeway and get some oatmeal and toilet paper (I judged these to be the most important things I could get). Cried from 12 to 1pm, until got a call from my wife at work. She asked me what was wrong. “nothing”. She said she was going to call my mother and get money to buy meds. I begged her not to do this. She hung up. I cried some more. She called back and said that she would go to the pharmacy and write hot checks to cover the meds. I sobbed until she arrived with a bag of drugs. I had shit in my head that I will not share with you, kind strangers, but just know that it was very bad.
Now I have taken pills, even ones I don’t usually take (some sedatives). My wife has some difficulty being around me when I’m “not right”. I have stayed mostly in our room and either just kept my eyes closed or read a stupid crime novel.
Why did all this happen? How come I let it get so far? Why can’t I call on people when I need help? (Wait: I can answer that last one- Most people don’t want to hear from you when you are “not right”. They want to have you feel better, right now. When you don’t get better right away they get nervous, impatient and can’t wait to hang up. Also, I am not good on the phone. I can’t usually talk comfortably to people I can’t see.)
Madness, feeling like you can’t think right, feeling pathetic/ worthless and suicidal- these are not good ways to be. I don’t go out of my way to feel like this. In fact I have put an extraordinary amount of time and thought into making sure I don’t go there. But sometimes, the best laid plans….
I know I’m not alone. I spend a lot of time with people who walk the edge. I know that slipping is common and that isolating is a very common response to the slippery slope.
Later this week I will be teaching 3rd through 5th graders at a conference in Corvallis, as part of a children’s program designed to allow parents to attend and give children a pint-sized dose of the conference topic: That of God in Everyone (It’s a Quaker conference- North Pacific Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
The main result of this engagement that relates to issues at hand is that I will have to postpone the monthly radio show till next week- a full week after the Full Moon. So:
Mad Liberation by Moonlight is postponed until Friday 7/25, I think.
What is it with me and comic book characters today?
BTW- this following false Advertisement was done by a woman who is “sick of the pink, flowery, sound of music” shtick that goes with feminine hygiene products.
Good luck, stay safe, do as I say, not as I do, please be as happy as the circumstances will allow, if not more so. Until next time…(soon)…
UK study/ SSRIs
Millions of prescriptions for SSRIs are written up in the UK each year, but a major study says they’re no better than placebo. What now for the citizens of Prozac Nation?
“Perhaps the next time half a million people gather for a protest march on the White House green,” wrote Elizabeth Wurtzel in her bestselling book Prozac Nation, “it will not be for abortion rights or gay liberation, but because we’re all so bummed out.”
From the West Virginia Gazette
West Virginia disability rights groups are fuming after the owners of a pre-Civil War mental hospital in Weston renamed the property the "Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum." article here-
Looks like Andrew is drawing on the sidewalks again
My son Andrew, who lives in the SF area, likes to draw on the sidewalk. These and other illustrations of his well-spent time are on his blog- listed to the right- Better Bees Than Bears. Click for larger picture.
Mad Liberation By MoonLight
KBOO Radio 90.7 FM
1- 2 a.m. Late Friday night
(yes, I know that it is technically Saturday morning- relax, it’s just a radio show)
June 20th, 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 hour.
You can participate!
Call in at (503) 231-8187
Please call in! Set your alarm!
Friday nights from 1 am to 2 am usually following the full-moon, will be a segment on KBOO radio (90.7 on your fm dial, to the left of NPR), 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 Friday night show, The Outside World.
Since this Friday is Mad Liberation by Moonlight, these pictures are to help stimulate your memory so that you stay up at night to listen. Click to make larger.
Mental Health and the ADA-
This is a packet I put together for a training I gave to State of Oregon Human Resource managers.
Click for doc.
BTW: Here’s how the frogs are doing:
Also, check out new recording on the music page…