Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I decided I had to write another entry to deal with the memory of "Broken Dreams" I experienced when I was incarcerated in a mental ward

This has been an upsetting day with some residents making plans to go over to the art gallery Saturday where the portraits of Westward Ho residents have been transformed into art. Their spokesman will be Daniel, my neighbor, who is openly frank about being bi-polar. He will try to talk to the artist about how portraits of real people transformed in the name of art can be very disturbing, especially to one diagnosed as chronically mentally ill.
I can remember how all my dreams about a bright future as a playwright turned to ashes when I emerged from the psych ward so broken that if I experienced the slightest too much stress I would start going numb and would have the sensation of dying again. I did not know how I was even going to survive let alone pursue any of my dreams. I would ask people to help me, saying please don't let me die when they hardly even knew what was going on in my body to cause me to make such pleas. It is no wonder they thought I had gone crazy. I remember doing that to a family reunion and both my grandfather and my uncle who was a doctor termed me 'hysterical' and my uncle had me blow into a paper bag. This helped me some since he was a doctor doing it, but neither he or my grandfather had any idea that I had almost died in the mental ward. They never did ask me what had happened in there either. Nobody did. I did not know what spin was put on this experience to my parents. They never mentioned anything they had been told.
But I had been alone when I quit breathing after the volunteer grasping that comes when you begin to quit breathing, which I started to do after four hours in a semi conscious state. The nurses and attendants left not realizing that I had quit breathing while they were still there. Since it was a mental ward they had not recognized the previous sounds as serious. So they had only what I told them to go on, but it was enough that they decided not to give me electric shock treatments, but instead to let me go as I had requested after ten days to make sure there was no re-occurring of the seizure activity. They called this catatonic. I called it the result of being highly stressed combined with serious chronic fatigue symptoms I had already experienced as a child. These can be accompanied with extreme weakness. I told the doctors about them, but the psychiatrist in charge of my case was still kind of holding electric shock therapy over my head.
On the patio today some of us residents who have been incarcerated were talking to a new resident who had just come out of a treatment center for the mentally ill. We discussed new techniques in treating the mentally ill, and I wondered if electric shock was still being given to patients against their will. He thought not. Daniel assured the new resident he would like it here in the WHo once he got used to it. We also discussed the younger resident who has been having a meltdown. He was finally picked up by the cops today. Out in the patio he laid down in front of another resident's door who thought he had gone unconscious, but when a resident hollered at him, he turned his head.
We wondered whether illegal street drugs had countered the effects of his meds and helped cause this last meltdown, but how could mental patients who seek hard drugs be kept stable in an independent living environment? I felt that my last neighbor was made worse by doing drugs. Cocaine, meth, or alcohol combined with what he might already be taking, what could that do to anybody's stability?
A resident had talked to the father of the man in the meltdown and found out he had been in the service where he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.
We are doing our best here to deal with the mentally ill who do go into meltdowns. We have to ask the community not to add to the stress by irresponsible actions involving the mentally ill.
I was appalled because the photo featured in the New Times was that of a very sensitive woman resident who is quite withdrawn. We all try to be very sensitive to her feelings. She was told last night about her portrait in the New Times squiggled on by the artist, but she did not say much.
I think people in the community could be a lot more aware of the mentally ill in their midst and could do their part in trying to see that their struggles are recognized.
My chronic fatigue symptoms are always with me to slow me down should I try to take on too much. They have been with me since I was a child, shackling me like hobbles, keeping my steps small and limited.
Terrible horrible stress caused this. Night mare scenes for a child to have to endure. Bad experiences. Thus my dreams were broken.
It makes me sad to think the public at large might be so callous and unfeeling as to risk upsetting the mentally ill, or any other disabled people for that matter. There are all kinds in here. People who have been disfigured by strokes, car accidents, getting shot, crippled before their time. Yes, people contribute to their problems by drinking, drugging, eating too much, in many ways they do stuff that makes life tougher for themselves.
But I think the public needs to work harder trying to recognize what the disabled and aging do to help themselves and each other. That is the good part of what they do in here, extend helping hands to each other, words of encouragement and caring.
We are all learning how to deal with the mentally ill. We have to recognize that their numbers bear witness to a broken society, a breakdown of a sorts in people's ability to handle stress.
Times are hard, and people are more stressed than ever. So dialogues between all kinds of people are needed to shed light on what we can do for each other. Wherever we are and whatever we are going through.
Those whose dreams have been realized in part, who have gotten that book published, who can make a living in theater, who are successful artists, should remember that not all people can fulfill their dreams. Oftentimes held back by circumstances beyond their control.
I love to see people try to fulfill their dreams, become successful, get recognized, but for everyone who can make it that far there are many who cannot. For me that is what America is all about and should be about, trying to see that more people get to fulfill at least a part of their dreams.
I see people blossom when hope of some recognition is held out to them. When people perceived as better off and more successful recognize what they have to say as something worth listening to.
With my writing ability I try to connect to people who have a hard time connecting, help them to get their voices heard which gives me great joy when I see how some attention is sometimes better than the most potent medicine.
Give me a reason for living! That's what most people are saying. Tell me that my struggling against disability, poverty, accidents will get me somewhere.
Today I was reading the story of a woman's life in slavery and before I was done I was crying, it so saddened me to think what this woman had to endure in this country not that many years ago.
We have come a long ways since the days of slavery and we have got a long ways to go to keep compassion in our hearts and make sure every citizen is treated as an equal.
We love success in this country and America can sometimes be cruel to those they think can never be successful but are simply a burden on society because they have become too disabled to carry their weight.
The disabled and the aging can still contribute if they are guided to what they can do.
I am always trying to unlock the door to each person's strength, which we can only find if we listen to these people, if we know their story. Only then can we take the measure of their strength with accuracy and help convince them what they can do. All is not lost.
Hope to me is what is needed the most to fight drug or alcohol addiction. You have to give people hope. You somehow have to inspire them to want to give up drugs and alcohol. There has to be a reason for people to dedicate themselves to the struggle to overcome addiction. And you can never give up on trying to reach these people. Figure out better ways to light a spark in them, some kind of determination to take on what might have become a terrible task, doing something about a raging addiction.
Now I feel a little better. Maybe I can go to sleep now.


kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

It's disturbing what people go through and hardly talk about it.
I am reading What is the What? about the lost boys of Sudan. Deng's story is hard to take in, to know that millions died in terrible ways and he was part of that. He talks and talks trying to tell what happened. People need to talk about what happens.
I don't know what to say, but I am reading...

~mel said...

I think what that artist did was terrible. He had absolutely no consideration towards his subjects feelings. I'm glad you're speaking out about it! So many people judge others without thinking first.

Have Myelin? said...

I loved what you said about alcoholics. We do have to give them HOPE and a reason for living.

But sometimes people around them keep a pair of deaf ears on along with blinders and become enablers instead of giving them what they really need.

Have Myelin? said...

Oh- I meant to add you really look good in that photo! =)

LaRena said...

My heart was touched. Thinking of this young, lovely intelligent girl having her dreams broken in her early youth. Every child has a right to fulfill their dreams and should have enough protection and support for this to happen. Terry once sent me a cope of the Desiderata. The line that made me cry was."In spite of broken dreams life is good." I think you have found this to be true. You have fought hard to make it so, for yourself and others.Keep your hopes high.


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