Monthly Archives: August 2013

DON’T FEED THE PIGEONS!

 

I wrote a couple of poems before I wrote this but lost them.
This is my third poem. I wrote it in the Summer of 1996
after going AWOL from the U.S. Navy. At the time, I was unmedicated
and living on the streets of Seattle, Washington. Enjoy! :-)


DON'T FEED THE PIGEONS!
My Big Brother said
They're dirty and nasty
And spread germs to your head

They all carry bugs
On the tips of their feathers
And pass them along
In all kinds of weather

DON'T FEED THE PIGEONS!
There's a sign in the park
The police will come get you
Even after it's dark

DON'T FEED THE PIGEONS!
He said with a squeal
They reproduce quickly
With every damn meal

And what about me
In my tatterclad form?
Am I dirty and nasty
And out of the norm?

Do I carry bugs
On the scales of my skin
And lend them to neighbors
Again and again?

He paused for a moment
Without even an utter
Then he began
In a crescendoing mutter

This is absurd!
My Gawd deemed it right!
Here is your sandwich!
Now get out of my sight!!

So I sat and I ate
And I searched for the gist
Of the paradoxical pigeons
And this logical twist

August 08, 1996

 

High-Functioning versus High-Awareness

 

I’ve been told that I am “high-functioning” for a person who has schizophrenia. If I’m so high-functioning, then why am I back in a nursing facility for the seriously MI? I have no job and no prospects for one either. And, save for a daughter whom I love very much but with whom I have little contact, I have no family to speak of.

I know that I need to be in a facility — or possibly a group home at some point. I feel safer here than being on my own on the “outside”. So, how exactly does being in a nursing facility for the seriously MI, not having a family, and not having a career/job work out to be “high-functioning”?

I think “highly-aware” might be a better moniker; however, sometimes I even question that.

Just my thought for the day…

Edd

More Resources for Schizophrenia

Recently, I was asked to provide a list of resources that are related to schizophrenia. In November of last year, I published the following post:

“Three Great Books About Schizophrenia”

I won’t repeat those books in this list; however, if you are interested in finding out more about those books, here is the link to that blog post:

Three Great Books About Schizophrenia

The following is a supplement to that list, and it includes more than just books.

One more reference book, written for the layperson:

  • I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! How to Help Someone with a Mental Illness Accept Treatment. by Xavier Amador, MD (although I haven’t read this one myself, I have heard very good things about this book — apparently the brother of this books author tragically committed suicide, i think from schizophrenia).

Two additional memoirs:

  • The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller (a retrospective, autobiography. She attended and graduated from Tufts University. I have this book on my Android device. Started reading it. Although I got a little bored — probably a little disappointed in it because of comparing it to “When The Music’s Over” — I’ve heard good things about it.)
  • The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks (Elyn is another high-achiever. I started reading this book, too, but put it down due to a touch of boredom, my unfortunate comparisons to Ross David Burke’s book, and to personal circumstances that were going on in my life at the time — divorce, separation from nuclear family).

Movies I have seen:

  • A Beautiful Mind — Not many of us are Nobel Prize winners (regardless of what we tell our therapists during our first office visit with her!) and not many of us end up with the amenities offered at Princeton University. I know John Nash suffered — as did his family; however, I had a difficult time relating to Nash’s experiences. Still, it is a “gold standard” movie, so I threw it in there.
  • The Soloist — Although I didn’t attend Juilliard, I really was able to relate to the main character, Nathaniel Ayers, due to his undying passion for something – in this case, his cello; in mine, my computer’s keyboard. Also, Ayers has spent much of his adult life homeless and oddly enough – like myself – he prefers that to living on his own. Very moving scene depicted by Jamie Foxx (Ayers) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Steve Lopez) when Ayers throws Lopez up against the wall of the apartment Lopez has arranged for him to have and threatens him. The circumstances surrounding the scene, if I recall correctly, were exacerbated by the elevation of Ayers’ symptoms due to his isolation in that apartment. Hit me pretty hard.

More resources:

  • SZ Magazine (a quarterly periodical — have heard very positive reviews of this magazine, though I have not spent much time reading it — requires subscription: available in print or as an e-zine)
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (United States-based, grassroots organization that many in the field do or should be aware of. Good resources — especially the Message Boards, which include “Living with Schizophrenia” and “Living with Schizoaffective Disorder”)
  • schizophrenia.com (a Canadian-based website, jam-packed full of information. Although in my opinion this website has much to offer, it also has a few drawbacks. One seems — or seemed — to be that any information seems to be fair game, including the “Niacin Theory of Schizophrenia” perpetrated by a Canadian physician, Dr. Abram Hoffer, in the 1960s-early 1970s).
  • Treatment Advocacy Center (this site was founded by E Fuller Torrey about 15 years ago. Jam packed full of salient info. Very accessible, easy-to-understand information.)

Legal and Historical Perspectives in the Treatment of the Seriously Mentally Ill (Introduction): Who flew over the cuckoo’s nest?

If most of us are not familiar with Ken Kesey’s revolutionary novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, then most of us are familiar with the blockbuster movie of the same name. In a nutshell, the main theme of the book/film (yes, I’ve read the book, but it’s been some time) is, if I recall correctly, two-fold.

The main theme is that seriously mentally persons should have the same civil liberties as the general population. The underlying theme is that persons afflicted with serious mental illnesses simply experience the universe in a different manner than most. The implication is that we all experience the world around us in different ways, so that doesn’t make any one person’s experience any better or worse than anyone else’s.

This 1960s idealism, of which Ken Kesey’s novel was a subscriber/proponent, resulted in the “letting go” of many thousands of seriously mentally ill persons out of asylums and into the general population. Was this a good thing, though?

The following few paragraphs are from The Treatment Advocacy Center’s website:

Quote from a California prison psychiatrist in 1971, two years after California enacted the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act:

“We are literally drowning in patients, running around trying to put our fingers in the bursting dikes, while hundreds of men continue to deteriorate psychiatrically before our eyes into serious psychoses. . . . The crisis stems from the recent changes in the mental health laws allowing more mentally sick patients to be shifted away from the mental health department into the department of corrections. . . . Many more men are being sent to prison who have serious mental problems.”

Before giving my own interpretation, I would like to quote the noted psychiatrist, E Fuller Torrey:

“How can so much degradation and death – so much inhumanity – be justified in the name of civil liberties? It cannot. The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays a profound misunderstanding of the principal of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness – free them from the Bastille of their psychoses – and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.” 

The above quote is again referenced on the Treatment Advocacy Center’s website:

The Treatment Advocacy Center 

My personal belief is that Dr. Torrey is 99.99% correct. This de-institutionalization of seriously mentally patients was, for the vast majority of us, a tragedy and, although counterintuitive to the layperson’s commonsense (which is often erroneous), actually resulted in a loss of civil liberties for the seriously mentally ill.

In this series, entitled “Legal and Historical Perspectives in the Treatment of the Seriously Mentally Ill,” I plan to begin with this pivotal point in the history of the treatment of the seriously MI. I chose this point, because of the dramatic leap that took place at the recent treatment of persons with serious MIs. 

Prior to this important juncture, there was a “contain, maintain, and treat” strategy for treating persons with serious MIs.

This series is biased in many ways. The most obvious way is that it is slanted toward Western civilization. I may do a series on the same subject but from the Eastern civilization perspective. If I do, I will make it clear that I am focusing on such a perspective.

My hope is to bring some breadth and depth to this subject, to provide an historical framework for understanding the present, and — within that framework — to attempt to ask questions and (possibly) to provide my own ideas about where we as a society (or even better, as a group of societies) can form our futures.

Pretty big endeavor, I know. Hopefully, I can do it justice. 

There will be plenty of gaps in this series. Some may be small, while others may seem rather large. Please, if you read this series and have additional insights, feel free to add to this. The more people who are involved, the more educated and insightful we all will be. Hopefully, that will lead us to more effective solutions to the dilemma.

Thanks and take care…

Edwin

Anosognosia

 

Anosognosia – “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness” – is believed to be the single largest reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do not take their medications. A result of anatomical damage to the brain, it affects approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of individuals with bipolar disorder. When taking medications, awareness of illness improves in some patients.” ~from The Treatment Advocacy Center’s website

Treatment Advocacy Center – Anosognosia

I didn’t have anosognosia, so I don’t have the experience or ability to offer you a personal account of it. I knew I had a problem. Even before getting help in January 1997, I researched schizophrenia. In fact, while I was homeless in Seattle, I carried around a piece of yellow legal pad paper that had the following words written on it:

“I think I’m schizophrenic.”

Still, the delusions were so convincing. Convincing isn’t the right word for it, in fact. They were as much a part of me as cocoa is to hot chocolate. Without them, I — as I knew myself — would have been nonexistent.

Anosognosia must be a very difficult affliction. Bewildering, I would imagine, for onlookers. Even more bewildering for those with it.

If you have experience with anosognosia or if you know of someone who has experience with this, perhaps you would not mind leaving a comment here explaining what that was like for you. Those comments could be very helpful for those families who are going through it now. They may even be read by someone whose life you can affect in a very positive way.

Take care…

Edwin

 

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