X-ray Eyes

Ten thirty.

It was kind of a hectic morning, but I got the X-rays out of the way. The nicest people I dealt with were the actual X-ray technician and a young girl named Ophelia who helped me with the lockers. The rest were rather perfunctory. And the cabbie on the return trip was also kind. On the way to the hospital, we passed the park under the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge, where I saw a number of homeless people camped in particolored tents. I hadn’t been to that part of town in many months. It was an alarming sight, quite a shock to see it suddenly again. I got a sense of coldness and apathy from the general scene beneath an indifferent gray sky. These were the dispossessed and forgotten, but still not invisible. The feeling of coldness extended to the waiting room of the imaging place. The clients in their masks eyed each other with mistrust, and the receptionists were either dull and impassive or else obsequious and fake. I ran into a Black man from Belize I had met in church riding the elevator. He didn’t recognize me, nor I him until I thought about it later. Evidently he was employed with P—Health; he and a lot of people. All in all, it felt like consorting with a bunch of robots except for a few who were more personal and organic. In every way possible, the scenario was one size fits all, right down to the chaplains. It was so much like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time, where the suburbs were run by a huge ruthless brain called IT… 

Mental Healthcare: a Letter

It’s been an inauspicious day for my writing today. It was a dud. Well I had my one liter of Coke and suffered no ill effects except for a little hypertension. Okay, and a twinge of conscience for being reckless. I did enjoy the taste of the Coke, but was it worth the self scourging? Probably I was flirting with disaster, knowing as I do that my motive for having a Coke was submerged alcoholism. Tomorrow I’ll have a decision to make: repeat this behavior or force myself to leave it. Before long I could be addicted to caffeine again. The way this works is quite mysterious, but everybody with an addictive personality understands it. My brother has been addicted to Vicodin at least twice and kicked it, but he always returns to alcohol. My sister had a good start on quitting smoking when all of her teeth were pulled— and went back to it again. The thing about alcohol that makes it so maligned by culture is the way it alters behavior. I don’t believe that God and Satan have anything to do with it, although I’ve been indoctrinated with this nonsense so that I know it far too well. But the real mechanism of addiction is poorly understood, and whoever solves the puzzle will be a very rich individual. It is because no one understands it that people resort to religion for treatment of it. My sincere hope is that, someday, reason and science can expose the workings of addiction to the light of day, bringing us out of the Dark Ages and ending the blame and shame that addicts unfortunately have to go through. It was never a fair situation for people with this problem to browbeat them with a guilty conscience. Some healthcare professionals are downright sadistic toward alcoholics. I’ve witnessed this at the emergency room and even been a firsthand victim of it. I despise PeaceHealth and the RiverBend hospital for demeaning people with alcoholism. They also suck at helping people with schizophrenia. And as I write about this and ponder it, I think there must be something I can do to improve these conditions. The days of chaining schizophrenic people in dungeons are not over, yet in the name of decency they ought to be. The dungeons just have been given a facelift. Strangely, where healthcare professionals have failed, I find that a random cross section of people can be quite progressive and accepting of the mentally ill and addicts. So that all hope is not lost for humanity as far as keeping an open mind.

Bureaucracy

Nine o’clock 🕘. Aesop has been panting and wheezing in the heat, so we got up again. Tomorrow I will buy some ice 🧊 in the bags they have at the market, or buy a couple of trays for making my own ice in the freezer. It only occurs to me today that I have none… I am quite thrilled with the Ayn Rand books I received this morning, but why did I get three copies of the same title? I wanted to solidify the story for myself, making it more real. But this behavior is compulsive, as Bonnie understood when I described it to her. She wanted to diagnose me with OCD on top of schizophrenia, but I left her care and things were rather unresolved. To be honest, her own behavior had become very strange and forced for some reason. She was under pressure from her supervisor not to just visit with me anymore, but instead carry out a structured program. It was a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Looking back, I feel bad for Bonnie now. The organization she worked for was very weird. It treated Iris badly as well, and who knows who the people were in charge. Anyway, Bonnie’s assessment was probably on the right track if she’d been allowed to be human in her job. Bureaucracy is a crappy thing when it distorts people out of human shape, constraining them against their will and their beliefs. Maybe someday P—Health will get it together, but it will require a lawsuit against them first. They really need to treat their employees better so they can care for their clients better. My impression of the organization was always right, and now I’ve put my finger on the problem a bit more. Everyone who worked there was a robot 🤖 except for Iris, and they moved her to a different department, a sort of demotion from being a private psychiatrist. It was just awful. Now I’m a total dissident of P—Health. They control two of the hospitals in the area, but I hope I can be admitted to the third one the next time I need help. I fired my PCP with this bureau and last December started seeing a new one somewhere unrelated. I hold out hope that the more independent organizations can thrive and maintain a semblance of humanity in doing their work.

Humiliation

Three o’clock. I gazed through the collected poems of Mallarme and remembered how Kate and I analyzed a couple of them together one night. It would be about eight years ago. I was stinking drunk as always, so this poetry was perfect for the occasion. Life was so lustful when I was just a bit younger, aided by alcohol. Without it now, life is the undiscovered country. I may never know myself this way, nor where I’m going. Part of me longs to regress to the old drunkenness, but I don’t because it has no future. I couldn’t function as an alcoholic; that’s simply me.

A doctor told me I had looked like I wouldn’t live much longer on booze. I used to get edema in my lower legs because my liver was malfunctioning. The phlebotomy nurse pointed it out to me. She tried to give me the benefit of the doubt and say it was the summer heat, but she knew better. Joann was very sympathetic, but I ran into many professionals who were not. The worst worked at the hospital. Some were downright sadistic toward alcoholic people. For that reason I wouldn’t want to drink again. I saw how they treated another drunkard one night. They humiliated him and made an example of him. My own bad experience happened on Labor Day of 2017, at the RiverBend emergency room. Now it seems like something that happened to another person. Anyhow, I lost all desire to drink after that ordeal. No more hospital trips for me.

Advocacy

One fifty. I guess I’ll just start writing and see where it goes. Maybe there’s not much to say. Except this: life doesn’t take a dump on me like it used to. Life respects me a little better than in the past two decades, which seems like a miracle. I remember the uphill battles I fought in the workplace 12 years ago, and how guilty I always felt. What was that all about? More recently, I was able to go back to L— H— and get a little revenge. Truly it was criminal how they arbitrarily closed Harmony House and began to crack the whip on the mentally ill. I never felt that that was right. The agency transformed into a labor camp, in my opinion. I only know what I saw firsthand: participants shredding documents, mowing agency lawns, and washing agency cars. Only once I saw a guy watching a movie by himself in what used to be Harmony House. I felt a strong sense of injustice at what I saw happening. For their part, the Republicans at L— H— were loving it. But it was just wrong. Those participants deserved to have fun and to be human. Instead they were treated like robots. My resignation was in large part a conscientious objection to the injustice I witnessed. Call me a radical, I don’t care what people say.

Nefarious

Nefarious

Was it a dream or did it really happen?

Remembered in my sleep while I was napping

This dungeon called the Quiet Zone was real

And all I did to merit sentencing

Was just to have a diagnosis dual

Enough to get my backside in a sling

They treated schizophrenic drunks like me

Sometimes with pity, or sadistic glee

Would lock me in a chamber in the dark

Expecting me to sleep on a bare table

And give me a dry sandwich for a lark

But one time my heart rhythm was unstable

It was my life light feebly flickering

The while the nurses glibly dickering

Prepared to shuttle me to RiverBend

The rest is history but there are times

When dreams assail me— will they never end?

There seems to be no respite for my crimes

It’s a Racket

Three twenty. Suddenly, I feel a little tired from our wild trip to the animal hospital. Everybody was pretty nice, considering Aesop being so nervous and difficult. After all, he is a dog, not a monster. Big dogs are vulnerable and fearful like small dogs sometimes. I was able to weigh him on the scale at 68.2 pounds. The vet found no fleas in his coat. His heart sounded fine, no murmur. She prescribed a sedative for him for the next time he goes to the vet. And then, the walks to and from the hospital went without incident. Aesop was pretty good on his lead. He didn’t try to chase cars or attack any people.

Four thirty. The sun is westering outside my back door, and in some ways my yard looks beautiful. The four trees make it what it is… Looking back, I can’t believe I took Aesop to the vet this morning! You mean, we were actually there? We were assigned to a small exam room with a metal table that doubled as a scale. Debbie showed me where the treats were in case Aesop was inclined. She said she didn’t know what to do. The vet’s assistant came in and spoke to me with a quavering voice, asking about Aesop’s general health. Then Dr Y—- entered and gave a cursory exam and the two injections of serum. Aesop was muzzled for these procedures. But I think I was a little bit in shock during and after the appointment.

Ten thirty. We hardly ever go to the vet anymore. Aesop had one toenail trim that turned out disastrous, so after that I’ve kept him home. We only go in to keep his vaccinations current. He gets his annual physical exam, and that’s all. When he needs flea medication, a euphemism for poison, I go over there by myself and buy it. Whether deliberately or not, I’ve taken the dice with Aesop’s health and saved myself a lot of money and grief. He is just as happy without frequent visits for toenail trims and dentals and whatever else they can dream up to gouge money out of you. When we do put in an appearance, the game is Howdy Strangers. And then we’re all done and set up for another year.

Through with the Two Step

Nine thirty.

It was sort of a nothing day today, or anyway, nothing on my plate. The rain was constant but light, not torrential. My only excursion was to the same old places on Maxwell Road. I got a great haircut, however. One thing I notice about my thinking is the absence of paranoid thoughts. I can detect them and weed them out with hardly any effort… except when I’m under high stress, as I was in the situation with D—-. I felt trapped in the job search thing. I feel glad that I let myself off the hook before I was in over my head. There’s a lot to be said for authenticity of motive and action. Your heart will tell you when things are right or wrong. My symptoms acted up, so that told me I was making a mistake. And then the final meeting with him was so uncomfortable, with me having an episode on the spot. He thought it was a real religious experience; asked me if the devil was punishing me. He had no idea what happens with schizophrenia. It was embarrassing for him. It’s only a disease, which people with Christian beliefs will never understand in a million years. My sister thinks the delusions are real, too. The ignorance of these people takes my breath away. Being stuck in S—- Lane was the worst experience of my whole life. Even my old psychiatrist is blameworthy for such a mistake. I could never convince him of how intensely religious the program was. He was on the advisory board for the organization, which probably means he got kickbacks. He was fully as corrupt as they were rich. Now, S—- Lane has built a sprawling “campus” in the tiny town of C—-, and refuses certain kinds of health insurance. They want cash out of pocket. In return, clients get indoctrinated with absolute bullshit… That does it, I’m skipping church tomorrow. I don’t care what they think. It’s not a good place for a person with schizophrenia. I can’t take any more.

Indefensible

Just a note:

There is no excuse for bigotry in this or any other country on earth.

The mental healthcare system is in bad need of reform, at least in Oregon. Everyplace I go for care I run into skinheads and other racist creeps. It will take many more years to overhaul the status quo, but it must come about. Public opinion is a snail to catch up to the wise, unfortunately. Still it is an eternal verity that racism is and always was indefensible.