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.

Afternoon Again

Three forty. Aesop and I are both suffering from the heat, and I’m afraid of how the Vraylar interferes with my ability to breathe. I imagine it could kill me. Well, with schizophrenia, it’s been kind of a crappy life. Vicki is not much older than I, and she may have bad news to face regarding her brain tumor. I can only say that life has never gone the way I expected it to. Now I look back on the church and wonder if I did the right things. But I fought with the decision for a whole year before finally leaving. A year is a long time. It had to be a thorough process. Every time I think of Jesus, I think no way. A pantheistic god might be possible but not a human god. My reason likes a Unitarian god but not trinitarian. It is simpler and more parsimonious than the Trinity. And any soul that we possess is probably born with us and not given when we are baptized. This means preexistence and reincarnation rather than heaven and hell. Clearly I have thought these things through… I don’t know if I will be welcome to volunteer anymore or not. We’ll see what happens…

Last night I thought of the addiction group I attended two and a half years ago. It was a good one. I was a mere shadow of myself then, however. The upstairs room we met in had a high ceiling and large windows, out of which I could see the sky with birds and planes and things while we had session. It’s kind of interesting to remember now. The group expanded suddenly from being three people to more like fifteen. And then I graduated. All at once I lost my med prescriber and I was stuck with two bad professionals, and then I went to another place only slightly better. It was all a nightmare before I went back to Laurel Hill. It’s tempting now to believe that I did something wrong for the whole world to go so awry. But it’s only a delusion of grandeur. It couldn’t possibly be my fault. China is a long way from Oregon. And I don’t believe in magic, or in being a jinx. It doesn’t make sense.

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

Complaints, Complaints

Quarter after four. Jan from church has a relative, Faye, who told me a bit about her schizophrenic son, also a homosexual. She said it in a whiny drawl with a sneer. Made me want to wring her neck. And ever since I left the care of my psychiatrist, the clarity I used to know regarding my illness has gotten scrambled. All screwed up. I gave up his sparkling expertise for the incompetence of a lot of clowns. All done out of a feeling of wounded pride when he insulted me as looking like a bum. A homeless person living under a bridge. Pride drives people to do desperate things. I defied at least three people who knew me very well and went and did the contrary of their expectations. No one would’ve dreamed that I would join the church and start seeing a therapist. It seemed like the softer way to go. But no! It has been a long, hard journey out of hell. And I doubt if I’m really seeing the light even yet. The process of peeling the onion arrives at nothing. It is like dissembling an automobile to learn its secrets, and then being unable to put it back together, let alone get it to run. If it does become roadworthy again, it ambles along with a shimmy and the putt putting motor sounds totally different… And this is life without alcohol for an alcoholic.

Schizophrenia

Yesterday and tonight I’ve been oversleeping. Bad dreams about my poor housekeeping and hygiene. Therapists and other people in psychology want a why answer to behavior. But you know, sometimes there just is no reason why. People with schizophrenia have hygiene issues and nobody knows why. It’s a brain glitch. I’m simply tired of the phenomenological approach to mental health. I’ve met other people with schizophrenia on the internet who bore a striking resemblance to myself. Same diagnosis, very similar habits and values. The guys in particular were often very intellectual, drawn to music, philosophy, and languages. And the women were fantastic artists! I’m just saying that schizophrenia is a phenomenon in itself, and doesn’t always conform to normal psychological standards. You’d have to be blind not to see this. Imagine going online and finding a bunch of people who are just like you. And that’s the experience of the schizophrenia forum.
Ultimately one must accept what is. And schizophrenia just is.
Am I saying something wise? It contradicts what the experts try to say, namely that schizophrenia is not a person’s identity. That it’s just a disease. But no; I believe it’s a phenomenon. Something that happens. And the rest is merely society trying to force you to conform to the norm.
I believe that no one else in my family has schizophrenia. And failing to understand, that’s just the way it is.

Under the Weather

Ten o’clock.

I went to the church and explained to Pastor that I didn’t feel well due to my medication. He said it was okay for me to go home, so I did. It rained on me, but my umbrella kept most of it off. Pastor still doesn’t understand about schizophrenia. He takes a human and moral approach to knowing people. This doesn’t always work for a person with a chemical imbalance, a brain disease. So I feel kind of sad. I probably should have stayed with my psychiatrist. I don’t think it was Jesus who intervened in my alcoholism. Nobody did, except for me. “All through the years, in the end it appears there was never really anyone but me.” “Take care of those you call your own and keep good company.” Brian May with Queen, “Good Company,” from A Night at the Opera, 1975… I’ve witnessed quite a lot from the phenomenological side of mental health, and now I feel it’s time to move on. I want to know what’s up in the psychiatry world. It might be good to talk to other people with schizophrenia and bipolar. The tinnitus side effect is still with me today. Maybe Todd will switch my medication from Vraylar to Abilify or something I wouldn’t have thought of. But I have to wait until Monday morning to get ahold of him… I’m going to take it easy and stroll over to the market.

Prudence

Midnight. I feel the impulse to pity myself for having schizophrenia, but I also think that being honest is its own reward. Somehow, the truth will set me free, whatever other problems life heaps in my lap. I remember the way people at P—Health were rather awestruck to have a schizophrenic in their midst. I was the only person with the illness in the dual diagnosis group. Yet I was the smartest person in the room. I still loathe the memory of how supercilious those people were. The only person I liked was my young psychiatrist, Iris, who was Dominican and more genuine than the others. The group therapist was involved in some strange practices stemming from an old German man who had worked among Zulus. It was called family constellations. Some critics have called it “quantum quackery.” Whatever you call it, it didn’t sound kosher to me. More like irresponsibility. The last thing a person with schizophrenia needs is additional hokeyness to take them even farther from reality. It just proves that a great many people can’t distinguish between imagination and reality. Those with schizophrenia are not the only ones who ought to be on medication.