This idea came to me while I was out walking Puzzle this morning. I passed by a couple, a man and woman. The woman was using a blind stick. We crossed paths, and the couple moved off, neither saying anything to me, as they appeared to be engaged in a conversation of their own. I realized, after sneaking another glance at them, that they both were blind. They were a number of meters away by then, still walking.
I thought about the way our computers are now made so that we can adjust the visual effect, enlarge print, and make the computer read the text and speak it aloud. Cell phones have this built in as well. Most cell phones are nowadays hearing aid compatible. I don’t know what that means, but clearly, assistive technology is a given when it comes to these groups of people.
It’s true, too, that amazing wheelchairs are being designed and improved upon as we speak. Before, people who couldn’t get their legs to walk well were limited to a very basic wheelchair. Nowadays, they’ve gotten quite fancy. Joe told me that there were wheelchairs that could climb stairs. His wheelchair was a fancy one that could do a stair or two. I wouldn’t have tried myself, even though he let me “ride” his wheelchair sometimes. You had to be skilled at it to do stairs without toppling over.
I heard recently that nowadays, manual wheelchairs with removable wheels that collapse completely are the norm. Joe had to have his wheelchair fitted for him. If the wheelchair wasn’t fitted right, he’d be uncomfortable or would find difficulty using it. I know he had to rent one while his was being repaired once. He said the rental “sucked” and he looked forward to getting his own back.
What assistive technology is there for those of us who are different in other ways? Very little. Those of us labeled “mental patient” get pills, not technology. In fact, I recall the shrinks being rather uneasy that patients were learning technology such as computers. They didn’t like that we could access information. No, they wanted to keep us in the dark. Anyone can now access the full pharmacy insert for any pill. The shrinks insisted on telling us the side effects and they were rather upset when we read them off the Internet or when smart pharmacy techs gave us the printed insert.
As a person with an eating disorder, I was concerned about unnatural, unwanted, unnecessary, or excessive weight gain from medications. It had happened before, and I certainly didn’t want this to happen again. If my shrink suggested a new pill, I wouldn’t take her word for it that the pill couldn’t possibly cause weight gain, or the chance was very slim. Why should I trust this woman who insisted on keeping me on Seroquel even though she saw with her own eyes what it had done to me? No, after Seroquel, I did my own homework.
I believe social media is a threat to shrinks. They don’t want us organizing. Unfortunately for them, cell phones are so user friendly that nowadays, most anyone has Internet access. Times have changed. Psychiatry is in the dark ages, but patients are empowering themselves and uniting worldwide. Human rights has always been an international issue, and now, we can communicate worldwide in a flash.
Beyond social media, how can technology assist us? I believe apps are being developed as we speak to assist people. You can do a search and find them. (Hint: if you can’t find it, change your search terms.) But why is this in the developing stages, when assistive technology has been around for other people for ages?
Maybe readers are concerned that I am recognizing these “other differences” at all. I don’t believe there’s such thing as mental illness, but I do believe there’s such thing as depression, mood swings, hearing voices, and many other problems folks encounter. I don’t see these as “disorder” or “disease.” I believe calling them this is doing millions of people a terrible disservice.
So I do see, for instance, depression as being real. I myself have felt depressed before. A lot. But it’s not a disease. True, depression can be “disabling.” But if you don’t call it a disease or disorder, you are far better off.
I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s suffering. Maybe it feels good to know you have a disorder. It felt good for me for a while, too. I said, “That’s why my life has been like this! No wonder I suffer so much! And there’s a cure! It’s treatable!” That, my friends, is what they want us to think. That we are maligned in some way, that we have to be “fixed” by outside helpers such as shrinks.
I am only asking you to consider: What if this is a false belief? You have learned in therapy about false beliefs, right? Just consider, what if that “disorder” idea was wrong?
I thought this morning that everyone has ups and downs. People who get labeled “bipolar” are more sensitive or aware of the ups and downs. They feel them more. I know as soon as I was given the label “bipolar,” I sure started feeling my ups and downs a whole lot more than I had been previously. Young people are moody anyway.
When I was a kid, I guess we learned about adolescence differently than it’s taught nowadays. I feared adolescence. I had heard about sturm und drang. (I hope I have spelled this correctly.) I was scared, maybe around age 11 or 12, that my adolescence would be rocky. I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that adolescence is a time when kids are growing so fast that they can get depressed and even suicidal. I learned that this was a part of growing up. I never thought that adolescence was a disorder, nor did they teach us this in school.
I was depressed as an adolescent, as were many kids I knew. I was considering suicide as a possible option. However, I didn’t act on that idea. I heard about kids that had died of suicide. Other kids shared with me that they wanted to do themselves in. I kept my own feelings to myself for the most part. I found that if I told someone how I REALLY felt, that person would stop talking to me. I decided to keep many secrets, figuring it was best to keep it all hidden.
What if we had really cool assistive technology to help people with these things? I’m not enough of a techie to know what’s possible.
We know animals help people in ways that even science cannot explain. I can train Puzzle to do many things. I hear that dogs are amazing for military people who are suffering from trauma. I think if I didn’t have Puzzle, I might not be as well off as I am now. I have never heard of a service animal trained to help people with eating problems like mine. But why not? I trained Puzzle to remind me to take meds. She finally figured out I don’t have meds anymore, but she was confused for a while and had to unlearn the reminders. She could remind me to eat, too. She knows if I am dehydrated and need to drink fluids.
Assistive technology could do that, too. I hear that some people use text messaging to help with urges to self-harm or binge eat. Who are these texts sent to? I don’t know because I’ve never done something like that. But technology could be used so much more.
I like the idea that the originators of AA started, of those with a common problem coming together, and that no one knows like another alcoholic. I don’t like the idea that a person must go to AA for life. Many don’t and end up fine. I think if I were in that position, knowing what i know now, I’d continue to attend AA meetings only if I found them enjoyable, if I liked the social part of it, or if I wanted to attend to help others. But I’m not an alcoholic so I don’t go there.
Shrinks don’t like it when we do anything to empower ourselves besides bow down to them and their “treatment.” I think if you have any problem at all, the best way to solve it is to do something on your own to make a change. I honestly think if there’s any “help” from anyone professional that’s really help, it’s very short term. Not this “shrinks for life” business. Because if shrinkage is forever, they haven’t helped.
Open letter to inpatient “staff” in all the psych units I was in, regarding those “groups” they made us go to
Dear Brave and Fearless Leader,
I wonder if I were to total up all the “groups” I’ve been to, how many were there, total? I stopped counting how many psych hospitalizations I’d had once the total reached 50. After that, there were no more than 10, but I thought counting them was dumb anyway.
Maybe 30 years ago, that number was a status symbol. We’d ask, “How many times have you been in?” and we’d ask, “What’s your diagnosis?” and “What pills are you on?” and “What got you in here?” Sure, it was good on a patient resume to have done the worst crime, endured the longest time in restraints, escaped perhaps, and then, endured the tortures you go through if you get caught.
All this, of course, might have been a good fit for me at first. Then I decided it was all designed to keep us sick. And coming back. Around and around the merry-go-round.
Any patient who stays in the system as long as I did will collect a lengthy list of diagnoses. When I took a look at how ridiculous it all was, I realized I wasn’t sick at all. There’s a huge difference between being truly sick and having a diagnosis.
I know people who have been sick. In fact, most of us have indeed been through this. How many got measles, mumps, and chicken pox? Or strep throat? I think if you got anything like that, you need to stay home, stay out of the library or any public place, get rest, and call your granny and tell her to bring over the chicken soup. And probably a few other things.
The “staff” saw us as sick and weak creatures. They claimed we needed to learn from them. I know what learning is cuz I went to college. I never missed a class. Why? Because in college, we learned stuff. If I didn’t think I was going to benefit from a class, I’d drop it or switch. That didn’t happen too often. Occasionally there were classes that were required and maybe I wasn’t fond of the topic, but I went anyway because learning is good. I was usually pleasantly surprised. “Wait, this is really interesting!”
Group, on the other hand, didn’t teach me anything, If I once thought it did, I realize now that what you staff were teaching us wasn’t too useful in real life. In hospitals, there were no human rights groups, no empowerment mentality, and no patient-led groups. I liked the occasional AA, but…it wasn’t run by you. Outside people did it. Real people. They weren’t collecting a paycheck, either. I went to Mass because it was sometimes the only contact with clergy.
What of “group”? Why did it suck so bad? At first, I bought into it, didn’t I? I even wanted MORE groups. I guess the ones I was going to were kinda boring. I thought it was all making me “better,” but really, I was taught how to be a better and sicker patient.
We’d get taught how to act in group. But group had no relevance to anything. Only to more and more group. We were taught to defer to the leader. I went under that assumption, that this leader was some all-knowing God, for decades. You could tell by the questions I’d ask of this leader. I lost all awareness of who I was, and believed everything they told me I was.
Just watch. A “staff” says, “Go to group!” What percentage of living, breathing, free-thinking adults obey like sheep? If they don’t, you “staff” yell louder. Or you say it in baby talk. We’re too stupid to have heard the first time, so you had to talk down to us. It’s bad to skip our little brainwashing sessions.
Of course, there was always a time I thought SOME groups sucked. But I believed we all deserved better groups, did I not? I criticized group leaders for being unethical when I was young, or not as skilled as they should be. I didn’t do that very often. I thought most groups were great. Decades later, I tried to point out when in the group that the leader treated us like children, or were demeaning to us. Now, I believe the whole idea of group is certainly harmful to most patients. The whole concept needs not to be revised, but abolished.
I remember feeling insulted when we were asked to draw stuff and given children’s crayons. I used my mechanical pencil instead. I started refusing to go when they brought out the Bingo games. I rejected stuffed animal play. I resented that sing-song kindergarten-teacher voice of the leader. I didn’t mind writing. That was my private thing and no one could touch that. I would rather have been doing it at a real desk and by myself. Which is what I am doing now. It’s more conducive to creativity.
But of course, creativity wasn’t the object, was it? No, we weren’t seen as capable of learning. We weren’t seen as sexual. We weren’t seen as problem-solvers, leaders, inventors, artists, students, negotiators, friends, or healers. No, we were recipients. Just that. You assumed our relationships were shallow at best.
Our sex lives were reduced to risk-taking behavior. Staying up late to work on an exciting project was mania. Fatigue was depression or anxiety. If we complained, we were delusional. Pain was med-seeking, so better call in the addiction specialists. Those that were clever enough to run away were seen as “dangerous.”
I’ll never forget the times I tried to warn other patients about side effects of drugs. I was telling the truth, but I was almost always told to shut up. I was told, “Other patients aren’t supposed to know these things.” Or, “Not everyone gets these side effects so don’t talk about it.” Or, “We only give a partial list and only if you ask for it.”
I think it was 2000 that a gal said she was being put on tons of Seroquel. I approached her and said, “I think you should be aware that that drug can cause a person to gain tons of unintentional weight. It happened to me, so I thought I’d warn you.” For that, I got chewed out.
But why? I was incredibly sorry I ever took Seroquel. I was trying to protect her. I was trying to help. No, that wasn’t an okay thing to do. Even the gal herself, brainwashed as most of us were, turned against me and said she didn’t want to hear it.
I remember when I was in a religious cult called the Moonies, we were told that if we spoke out against the group it meant we were being led by the devil. So in a similar manner, I got chewed out on one of your “units.” Devil. Sinner. Don’t listen to her.
Then, finally, you claimed I was delusional when I tried to point out the truth. You said human rights didn’t matter. You said dignity wasn’t important. You said we didn’t deserve respect because we were “mentally ill.” To be imprisoned in those hellholes was defined as a “higher level of treatment.” No, it was worse torture.
In one of the last units I was in, I decided to put in a human rights complaint. The reason it took so darned long to get done was because I was repeatedly told I was delusional about human rights. I pointed out the law over and over. Finally, I got action. The state agreed that I was right and demanded that the “unit” make changes. And that “unit” decided they could pull the wool over my eyes and simply not follow through with the demands legally put upon it. They lied and made excuses for why they weren’t following through. If I weren’t seen as “mentally ill,” they would have taken a human rights complaint far more seriously.
If I had my way, and I had loads of energy, I’d have complained about every single psych situation I was put in. In fact, my complaints were so numerous that those places might be better off closing down, if I were taken seriously. But no, I was a patient. Automatically wrong about everything.
It’s not me, it’s the premise. The whole model needs to go.
The “skills” I was taught were hardly useful. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy meant being treated like six-year-olds. It was boring, and I felt insulted because we were taught common sense. We were told we didn’t have common sense. So we were told, in effect, that we were stupid. We were taught how to breathe. After a while, I knew it was bullshit. Why was some kid one-third my age telling me how to breathe, when I’d taken far more breaths in my life than she had? I learned how to breathe the day I was born, well before DBT was invented.
Most of the groups were worksheet-style. This was so the group leader wouldn’t have to do much. Just spend 3/4 of the group reading it aloud (taking turns, like we are in grade school) and the rest of the group explaining the worksheet. Note that many worksheets were illustrated with children’s cartoons. Like we couldn’t understand the text.
Most of the groups were so insulting that I didn’t even bother to go after a while. Then, I was told I “couldn’t handle group.” That seems to be one of the many ways “staff” gaslighted us. No, it wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it. I chose not to subject myself to any further insults. Just having to be there was an insult.
Patients go to those places and get insulted over and over. It’s torture, but they are hardly aware of it. I wasn’t, either. not for decades. I thought your groups were great, but they aren’t.
I was so bummed. I told myself I usually feel better if I show my face at the feria. Usually I have a good time. Sometimes, I need something I cannot find anywhere else. Or the prices are tons cheaper. The veggies you get there are fresh as can be. Like anywhere else, you gotta use common sense. If you look at something and you think it’s kinda flimsy, it is. On the other hand, you can find good products there if you look.
When I first got here, I was too shy to go. I didn’t know enough Spanish nor was I adept with the currency. It took a while for me to learn how much a lot of money was, and what were good prices. I learned. Still, I mix up the coins sometimes. I know the ten peso coins cuz they have a silver ring around them, but those 5, 2, and 1 peso coins look similar. They are differently sized, though. It took a while to recognize them quickly. Sometimes, even now, I mix up the 2′s and the 1′s. Yes, they have numbers on them but I can’t read them easily.
Now, I can hear someone say how much something costs and usually know what they are saying. There are different accents here, so there’s a bit of a problem if you learn from one person and then find out someone else pronounces their words differently. That’s true anywhere you go. Sometimes young people speak so fast or they shorten their words or use slang. I am rather lost then. When I screw up, no one can understand me at all!
Here’s an example: Nuevo, nueve, nieve. New, nine, snow. I mentioned that already, did I not? There are a few more that are similar, too. When I went to the vet today I had to say that Puzzle needed a bath and a haircut. They are so kind there. They asked me slowly and I was able to not only say what i wanted but to describe the cut. I think Puzzle communicates much better than I do!
Today at the feria I was laughing to myself, telling myself I will come home and feel one of a few possibilities: One would be tired. Another, I’d tell myself I made out well. Another would be, “Oh my goodness, why on earth did I spend so much?” What I told myself today when I got home was that the muslo I bought for Puzzle sure is big! Are chickens getting bigger? Or are Puzzle’s eyes bigger than her stomach? This is gonna last a while if I can keep the meat cool.
It’s done cooking so I am going to take the meat off the bone. I think Puzzle is getting impatient.
My mom used to say life doesn’t come on a silver platter. Or something like that. I got a stainless steel plate, though, and a stainless cup. It runneth over. Like a river. Just wait.
She got a crewcut this time to beat the heat. Adorable! I will post a photo when I can. You can still see where she was bitten, but soon, her fur will even out. She’s asleep now, on top of me! Her birthday is next week. I will have to wake her up soon, cuz I wanna get up. What does she dream about?
Okay, I am getting over my hissy fit that I had yesterday after finding out that my book sold one copy last year. Or maybe I am still in the tail end of the hissy fit.
I am waiting for some good luck to come my way. I love good luck. I want to stumble onto a mountain of it. I want so much that I have some to spare and end up giving chunks of it away.
Hey, God, do you exist anymore? Was I a bad girl in Hebrew school? Are you mad cuz I didn’t keep Kosher or hang out with other Jewish kids? Ones that were proper Jewish patriots? Is that why I am getting shit on now? Tell me.
Oh, no, I forgot, I don’t hear voices. God has never spoken to me, therefore I don’t know if God has a big booming voice or a very small voice…or no voice at all.
I remember once, when I first started in the MH system, I was with a bunch of other patients, some of whom heard voices. I remember the therapist asked one guy who was complaining about a single voice if the voice he heard was his own.
What a concept. My mom used to say at times, “You kids need to quiet down. I can’t hear myself think with all this racket going on.” It was true. I think the youngest was the noisiest, especially if his diapers needed changing or he was hungry. All babies are that way. It’s built in. It’s a terrific way to remind the grownups that you need something. I guess my mom, like anyone else, wasn’t fond of the sound of overly noisy kids. We grew up and became a bit more reserved.
After that, the diaper bit, what happens to God? Does God just stop loving you? Just cease to exist? I guess so.
I am only being facetious. Farting around with words. Till later.
Don’t you want that, too? You can go out and seek Ms. Right, by joining clubs or going to bars or joining some matchmaking scheme, but does actively seeking a partner really work? I wonder about that. I have heard of matchups that happen via dating services that work out. I think a good relationship can save a person’s life.
I met Joe in a rather unlikely place to meet a partner. We met in the smoking room of a psych unit. I wasn’t seeking a partner. I was young, single, and female. He was young, single, and male.
We were both so surprised and amazed when it all started coming together. I thought of it as something magical, a blessing.
We met when we were both 28. He died when we were both 45 years old. Our birthdays were a little over a month apart.
Now, I am middle-aged, single, and female. I think of myself as widowed, but I am not legally widowed.
Right after Joe died, there were a number of men who insisted on hanging around me. It was so tasteless and stupid of them to try to hit on me. After a while, I made up my mind I would try again. But until I made that decision, I didn’t want a date.
I tried a few things. Reached out. I met some very nice people. But I am wondering now, what’s better? To aggressively seek a partner, or to wait till one shows up? Which is the better approach? Is it as random as it seems?
There are billions of humans on this planet. You walk past them and you wonder what their lives are like. Then, in an instant, they are gone, and the street is empty again.
I thought up a few more:
“You must not be a very good skier if you fell.”
“You fell while skiing because of a moral problem.”
“Why didn’t you listen to MY advice?”
“I always knew something was wrong with you.”
“You are my friend temporarily until your painkillers run out.”
“I don’t associate with people in castes.”
“You are only using your broken leg as a crutch.”
See you later. Humans suck, don’t they? I think Puzzle is nicer.
I am going to go to bed. I’m sick of discrimination from people in USA. I can’t speak of the latest incident, but I have verified with attorney specialists that what happened wasn’t lawful. I am not sure what to do now. I am not going to commit myself to anything just yet. See you later.
When most people think of psych abuse, they think of restraints, seclusion, forced drugging, ECT, locked wards, and forced treatment. While these things are certainly horrible, I think focusing on these things too much is harmful, because it overlooks the obvious.
The real abuse begins when we are told we are incompetent. We are told we are incapable of managing our lives without these Gods called “staff.” We are told we don’t know what we are talking about because we are sick.
We are treated as subhuman. That’s the worst of the abuse.
Once the patient is established in the caste of subhuman, he no longer has a say in what happens in his life. He will never be listened to again. He will be brushed aside. Everything he says or does will be pathologized.
For instance, imagine the following: He tells “staff” he has a rash. He is told the rash comes from anxiety. Or he’ll be admonished and told he scratched his skin too much, and therefore is a danger to himself. Or he’ll be told he’s hallucinating, or exaggerating or trying to get attention, or trying to get pills, or trying to get off pills.
Then, the patient gets pissed off. He is forcefully injected to cure his anger.
One day, he tries to get what he needs. He steals some Cortisone cream from the nurses, so he can put it on the rash in hopes that it will heal. Then, he’s put into the State Hospital because clearly, he’s a criminal.
Society has no use for people they hate. There’s no recourse.