Mental, Part 3

Filling out all the paperwork once I was heavily medicated and in need of social services was a challenge. My dad helped me a lot with that as well as staying organized and getting my thoughts in order. He helped me apply for Dial-a-Ride, which was a must for appointments, since sometimes I couldn’t drive.

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what to do with me, two options kept coming up: being referred to UF Health Shands and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). After several months of no improvement, I asked my psychiatrist for a referral to Shands Psychiatric. That would mean a two and a half hour drive, and my appointments were usually late afternoon, which meant an overnight stay in a motel.

Shands had me seeing an intern, with consultation during each visit with a resident doctor. They put me on trazadone for sleep, which helped a lot. Just before I had transferred to Shands my psychiatrist put me on perphenazine, an antipsychotic that would also help with sleep. I tried Shands for about six months, then I started thinking about ECT and going back to my local psychiatrist.

I did a consultation with the ECT doctor and he mentioned Buspirone, which is a non addictive anxiety med. He approved me for ECT, and Jackie’s Mom and my Dad volunteered to be drivers, coming from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom, switching off each week. After the 14th treatment, my memory had taken a plunge and I was still depressed. The doctor recommended stopping there.

I went back to my regular psychiatrist and since the ECT doctor had taken me off the anticonvulsants, Depakote and Gabapentine, they decided to try an old combination that had worked pretty well for a while, Zyprexa and Prozac (Olanzapine and Fluoxetine). Then he put me on Buspirone as well. I had been having mini anxiety attacks with a burning sensation all over my body and my body shook when talking about thoughts and emotions. The Buspirone stopped all that, along with a three times daily dose of propanolol, another anxiety med that I had been on since Shands.

We asked my shrink about memory loss. He suggested referring me to a neurologist. I went to see the neurologist, and he put me through a bunch of tests and memory function was very low, so he started me on a dose of Donepezil. After two months he tested me again and I went from a 70 to a 100 out of 130. He declared it a success.

Back in the Fall of 2017, I started the legal administrative specialist program at Lively Technical School. I had a hard time with the memorization at first, but by the Spring semester I went from D’s and F’s on quizzes, to A’s and B’s. I was very encouraged by my progress. Vocational Rehab was paying for my tuition and books, and after two rejections my SSDI case went to a hearing and I was approved, just as my long term disability coverage was about to run out.

That November my grandmother passed away and a month later I found my friend Curt dead in his house. He had a bad infection in his legs and his body went into sepsis. When I found him all the lights in the house were off and he was laying face up on the floor in his bedroom, with his eyes and mouth wide open. It was a little unsettling, to say the least.

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Mental, Part 2

In 2001, I was in grad school for library science and having trouble with group work. I got into an argument online, then felt embarrassed and ashamed and had thoughts of ramming my truck into a brick wall. Instead I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and got on different meds. This was also when I started seeing a psychotherapist. The same one I see to this day. It’s been 17 years now.

Another thing that contributed to my previous crisis was my psychiatrist took me off my heavily sedating meds and put me on something that allowed me to feel and express my feelings better. I eventually got used to it and my mother in law described me as a flower opening up. After that, I was stable for 15 years.

I started on a downturn when I was working in the yard and got into some poison ivy. I went to a dermatologist, and they didn’t look at my chart. They prescribed Prednisone, and it wreaked havoc with my mood. I changed medications numerous times, but I became more and more unstable.

In the Fall of 2015, my doctor wanted to make some major changes in my meds, and we agreed that the best course of action was for me to be hospitalized. I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and it went pretty well, except I didn’t get much sleep. At the end of the week I finally started sleeping through the night and they released me.

I went back to work, but being in the mental hospital again had changed how I saw myself. My confidence and self esteem dropped significantly, and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I then applied for Family and Medical Leave and was out of work until December. During the time I was on FMLA, I didn’t do much. I was very emotional and fought with my wife, Jackie. She was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I started seeing an art therapist, and doing a lot of marker drawing of abstract designs.

When I returned to work, I wasn’t ready. I was extremely anxious and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I tried for a few weeks, but showed no improvement. I started getting paranoid about my supervisor and fellow employees, thinking they were judging me and being critical of me. I started to regret being so honest about my mental illness. I knew my boss didn’t really understand, but it wasn’t her fault.

One day in mid-January, I didn’t go to work. I stayed home and wrote an essay entitled, “I’m a Human Being, Not a Robot!” I was tired of the way numbers of production and money were the basis for everything. I was interested in quality, but quantity was valued much more. Jackie texted me but I didn’t respond. She tried calling me, but I didn’t answer. Finally, she got a ride home with Uber and she came in furious. I hadn’t even called work to say I wasn’t coming in. She figured I was manic, and she told me I was going to the behavioral health center.

I went along with it at first, but after I was there a couple days, I got angry and wanted out. I didn’t like how I was being treated. Jackie and the social worker arranged a family meeting, and I broke down. I cried for a long time. The psychiatrist changed my code to compulsory, which was like a Baker Act for someone already admitted and my wife signed it.

I had a hard time this go round. I clashed with the nurses and the social workers, and I seriously considered filing grievances. I was also having a hard time with the group therapy. I was so sensitive to everything said, and it was overwhelming. Finally, I asked the social worker if they could give me something to turn my brain off. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We discussed some of the meds I was on back in 1996. Risperdal. Depakote. They gave me really strong doses and put me in a blocked room that was not normally used. They gave me permission to be in the day room to journal and do art during group time.

I talked to the music therapist and she suggested I meet with the chief officer of the hospital. Later that week she came by and introduced herself, but we didn’t discuss any issues. I got really sad one day and cried in my room. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be free again. That day I didn’t go to eat lunch and the med nurse tried to talk me into eating. She brought me a sandwich and I ate. Then I remembered that my family had brought me snacks and drinks, so I started asking for them.

I refused to go to the cafeteria for meals. I didn’t like the atmosphere. One time they made me go. I had a hard time figuring out what to do and I didn’t eat much. One night I started to get delirious and started to think about suicide. I told the chief nurse and she gave me a sedative. She tried to get me to go to sleep but I wouldn’t cooperate. After that happened, the chief officer never came back.

Eventually, I started to sleep through the night. I couldn’t think well, and my speech was slurred. I even requested a wheel chair because my legs would get weak sometimes. Once I was calm and stopped acting out, they started to prepare to release me. When I got home I eventually put in for a medical retirement. I filed for long term disability through my job, and called an attorney they referred me to about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Mental, Part 1

In 1996, I invited myself to the nuthouse. Not the lengthy stay one, but the one referred to as a crisis unit. The first time I went I got in all sorts of trouble for writing down violent fantasies about others, including a woman I had made friends with.

The shrink I was matched with had already decided that I was just having thoughts, not in danger of acting on them. He told me that I didn’t need to be afraid of my thoughts, because that’s all they were. But apparently one of the chief nurses didn’t get the memo, because she made me sit down with my friend and tell her face to face about these violent thoughts, as if I was planning it all out or something. The chief nurse told me I had to stay away from her from then on.

The next day the psychiatrist told the nurse I was not a danger, and he even went as far as blocking my reentry the next time I attempted to be admitted. So I had to go to a different nuthouse, and this time I didn’t write down any violent fantasies and I stuck to my story that I had a plan to hurt a young girl. It really wasn’t true, but I had learned a little bit about how the system works and being a highly self-critical chap that I am I didn’t have to try very hard to convince myself.

I went back to that place once or twice, and the last time my insurance company made me move to a cheaper unit that was mostly for people Baker-Acted for drunk and disorderly conduct. Before I was moved I succeeded in getting into bed with one of the female clients, she wanted to fool around, but not involving her body below the belly button. I also taught a member of the staff to play chess. That was fun. When they moved me to the other unit, I was extremely anxious and my body would shake. It was difficult to eat, even harder to sleep. My roommate was having withdrawals, and it was scary to watch. I dreaded being there so much I tried to call a good friend in another city, five hundred miles away, who was a policeman, to get me out. He said he couldn’t do anything about it, so I resigned myself to sticking it out.

The last time that year, I was in occupational therapy, and the staff member confronted me about my numerous admittances there and said how I needed to make a decision to do whatever it took to rectify my situation. From then on I decided to see a psychiatrist and make sure I took my medicine. It would be five years until I would admit myself again, that time, for thoughts of suicide.

Maybe

When I was fab I got into ivy, poisoned me. Prednisone overtook me until moods went wacky. Tried every thing to fix what’s wrong with me. Even went with ECT. Travelled to Gator country for a while, but no dice, baby. Back to square one now, with zyprexa and fluoxetine. Time will tell if I’ll go crazy. Right now, I’m not sleeping. Is it mania? Moods are swinging me every which way. Just trying to get along with everybody. Looking forward to returning to sanity. Maybe, one day. Maybe.

A Troubled Mind

Training one’s mind to not think in

Circles can be tricky if one is focused on

Other things, besides what is happening

At the present moment. Sometimes, we

Get trapped in the past or the future, and

We forget to enjoy right now, we lose any

Effective concentration, and short circuit

Our ability to communicate with the ones

Around us who really count. We also do

Not tell ourselves what we need to hear,

That times of trouble will pass, or have

Passed, and that we will be okay. Either

We will survive, or we will not, but

Neither result is reason to fear. As the

Apostle Paul wrote, “Oh, Death, where is

Thy sting?” So many things cause us fear,

And yet most of it is an illusion. As FDR

Said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear

Itself!” Those are truly words to live by.

Strife steeple apple clarity boom

Strife steeple apple clarity boom

Stack swordfight against an orangutan

From the head clerk of the zoo.

The orangutan would only be

Supplied with a plastic spoon, so

Easy to cut a man’s skin off the

Bone, into an artery, sever a vein,

Something, damn it, there’s a walk in

Place for taking a piss. Ouch your sigh.

Life sucks. And I would agree.

Sometimes, maybe for most people,

Life does suck. Maybe if they turned

Every church in town, staffed, organized

And otherwise provided for it to function

Like any other mental health unit of a

Hospital, and then took on the insurance

And pharmaceutical rackets, you’d see

Healing right away.

 

 

Humanity: The First and Last Form of Capital

Capitalism is an ugly thing. Really ugly, at its worst. But you wouldn’t expect it, except when you see it in action in the poorest of countries, those we don’t care to help, in contrast to the way our Defense Department spends millions of dollars of our tax money to help, assist or protect other countries. At first, capitalism seems harmless, helpful, even wonderful. People just using whatever given resources they have, and then building something out of nothing. What happens, is that because each creator of a new business, especially once the business begins to take off, perhaps through their own ingenuity, hard work and lots of luck, they feel like they are an artist looking back at her canvas, and the end result is something beautiful. A religious person might say the creator and sustainer, can just sit back, make a few adjustments here and there, and let the god of capitalism bestow upon her one and only beloved daughter, the holy grail. And if this daughter does exceptionally well for herself, she will be able to shower the gift of salvation with all the true believers, the ones whom have been faithful with their talents, multiplying each for much more. Sounds like a beautiful thing, right? First, a story.

 

It all started out with a creator of an object. As the creator started to use the object, all were inspired by the god of capitalism, and the god gave it a blessing, that the daughter of god, would have dominion over her object, with a power to give a name to her creation. In her eternal wisdom, the creator gave such a beautiful name, it seemed to surpass even the beauty of the object itself. This miracle was required to save all of humanity, with this one, great and powerful gift. Her followers would then be given a greater gift, which she then revealed to them, was instilled inside their souls, a true reflection of herself, even though they themselves had not seen it. When she spoke these words, they knew in their hearts it was true.

 

Later, the creator called together her followers for a banquet, during which she explained she would reveal to each of them, what her purpose was on earth. During the banquet, she took out her object, and held it up to them once again, and they felt blessed and privileged to see it again. Suddenly, within their minds they saw a vision of a heavenly kingdom, which would be built upon this one object, and they knew that they were witnessing the god of capitalism in their midst. The creator pronounced that from this one gift, they would all be able to do as she has done, indeed, even greater things. She proclaimed that all that would be required from her children, would be for them to always remember her, as well as the object she had created and shown to them. Then she told them that she would have to leave soon, but that a great Comforter would come to them, bestowing on them all the strength that they would need. The followers of the creator felt a bit nervous with this announcement, but with this great Comforter coming, they still had hope, if they could only let it all settle into their souls. “How can we do the same thing?” they asked themselves. After the creator left, however, great success was achieved by many.

 

Capitalism was created to benefit the one with the capital, not the ones who may be the greatest asset to the business. This is because of a great hierarchy that exists. The farther down the totem pole you are from the owner, the least value you have to them, and, in turn, the further you are from getting paid what you are worth. This is the case with companies with a fast turnaround, because pay should be according to the value you have to the company, in general, excluding how much money you make for the owner. Hourly pay raises should be according to a quota, but that quota should include all types of work done, not just the kind of work that can be seen from an ivory tower, i.e., on a spreadsheet full of dollar amounts.

 

Companies who truly put their employees first, time and again, have the best chance of reaping the most profits, the least turnaround, more loyalty, more job security, best training programs and the happiest employees. But the first step is to pay them what they are worth. None of these things will happen without that. With it, they will be more interested and even excited about how the company is doing, because they will know that the company’s success is their success. If your employees don’t feel appreciated, and if it’s not reflected in their pay, you are not doing everything you can for your company, yourself, and your most precious resource, your employees.

Alas, Writing!

Writing is the most impersonal, insensitive, unfeeling, inhuman, damaging, humiliating form of communication ever invented. We don’t need education, ever, even as children. What we need is love, and there is no more powerful love, than physical love, not sexual love, but hugs and kisses, rubs and holding hands, that love found today between family and friends, sometimes, if at all. After physical love, we need a spoken form of love, another form of communication, an embrace that travels quickly to the heart. This form of love is possible, along with physical love, even as we are in our mother’s womb, by both the mother and the father. Tranquility begins long before we are born. The more peaceful and healthy our present and future family is, before birth, and after, is key to our ability to trust our mother and father, siblings, and later, other children and adults.

 

My prediction, as it seems that there are more single-parent and abused, abandoned and neglected children in our midst, is that mothers and fathers as physical and spoken communicators and lovers, are quickly becoming a dying breed. Eventually, there will be none. So, really, we’re all left with everyone else around, whom all have shared the pain, of being, thinking, and especially, feeling alone. We will need to help each other, but to resist the interference of family, friends and even doctors and therapists. They all have their particular roll in getting us back to healthy living, and because family and friends are as ignorant as most of the rest of us are about dealing with extreme pain, unhealthy ways of thinking and living come to the fore. The doctors and therapists are in a difficult position because they are all specialists. Psychiatrists deal with medicine. Psychotherapists deal with our thoughts, where they come from and where they are going. Art therapists deal with art. These are those who remain, and it’s because of how inhuman and industrial our world has become. So impersonal. All of us have shared pain in our lives. The pain of being, thinking and feeling alone.

 

So, back to writing. It is a gift, and a curse. I believe when the person who became ostracized from their community, because of pain that they and those around them believed they could not handle, he or she was ostracized, kicked out of their group because they had lost their handle on reality. They then started doing strange things, making strange medicine, drawing on the walls of caves, even developing an alphabet in an effort to communicate with anyone who would listen. When the alphabet was discovered, it helped their community, and an art form, meant to communicate, was turned into a science. And that’s when we really got in trouble. Science is okay in itself, but the lengths that people go to this day, just to present news or drama, to the rest of the country, is just crazy. News programs are more about drama than anything else. But that keeps people addicted to it. They’re terrified, that if they don’t watch, they might miss something. Next time, go outside and ask someone. Connecting with real people is always better. I don’t care how much you hate your family. They are the only family you’ve got. You can set boundaries and rules, to protect yourself. You can say you need to leave. Tell them you’ll try to call (or email) them back soon. As far as writing goes, it can be a useful tool, if your family refuses to communicate in any other way. Writing is calming to me. I feel like I am accomplishing something. And it is not as much in your face as calling or texting. Also, writing is smoothly indirect, and easier to say what you want to say. Some of us do our best communicating through writing. We feel safe, secure and protected, which we might not feel in person. Speaking in person, especially if we’re put on the spot, can be hard for anyone. Writing is just a necessary evil. As long as people struggle to be understood, there will be writing.

Loving Yourself Through Expressing Your Needs


(“Fear”, 1995, Watercolor)

 

When I spend time doing artwork, it is usually because I am in pain, very upset or both, but I am attempting to express my pain or strong emotion, and thus release it. One, I devised intuitively, back in September of 2015. (See below) It is a meditative, very pure and easy method. You start by drawing a combination of intersecting lines, lots of them, up close to and in between the edges of all four sides of the paper (all this is just the basics, feel free and empowered to improvise!). Make sure all these lines cross over each other, and, if you’re up to it, make the spaces between the lines relatively small. This allows for a large amount options for the next step, coloring.So, then you start filling in each area with different colors, if possible. If you don’t have many colors, just spread out each instance of color, but make them appear as randomly chosen as possible. Then, begin to fill in each area with a variety of color.


(“Tribal”, 2015, marker drawing)

The second method is drawing a vortex.  My art therapist says these can work as a soothing mechanism. Often I like to combine a number of different sized vortexes in each drawing, giving the sense of emotional strain in life.


(“Moving outside”, 2015, marker drawing)

The third method is using a combination of the two previous methods, intersecting and overlapping, which creates even smaller spaces, because of all the many spaces, and then continuing to fill in random colors. I’ve never done one yet that looks just like any other, and it tends to display a beautiful, centering, or, because of the tension, a display of extremely complex possibly mixed portrayal of a conflict, inner or outer, mental, emotional, psychological, etc., combined with a soothing method of relaxation, distraction, focus, and A meditative state, which once you can learn how to balance your feelings. We just need to learn to balance in a healthy way.


(Compartmentalizing Your Breakage”, 2015, marker drawing)


(“Pushed and Pulled”, 2015, marker drawing)


(Coming Apart  at the Seams, 2015, marker drawing)

Then, there’s the poetry, which I have been doing for a long, long time. I began consistently, when I was in high school, I had spent a lot of time listening to rock music, hard rock, and I had been in several years of chorus in school, then in rock and roll bands, as the lead singer. In high school, I started out trying to sort of mimic the typical teen love/angst/anger/yearning to be understood/to find my own identity/ and to dream of bigger things, situations, states of being, that I believed would be a better state of existence, both for me, and for the world.

Then, that got put on the back burner, but I continued to write. Poetry became my big thing, but I didn’t show it to anyone until years later, after I had dropped out of church and school. All this anger was coming up, and there was no stopping it. I let a friend of mine borrow my printed stuff, then my word processor died, so all I had were the hard discs. No telling where they might be. I might have even thrown the discs away. Hundreds of poems. Never got the hard copies back, rather.

 Later I came up with my own form of poetry called Unpoetry, which breaks every rule. I still do it to this day. When I started painting abstract expressionist water colors, I was asked by my teacher if I’d like to take part in an exhibit in the Student Union Art Gallery. I had a ton of paintings, some huge, wall sized, and some much smaller. My exhibit was called “Abstract Splattings: Shredded Views. A series of my poetry was displayed beneath the paintings, in print and in Braille. I showed a few in a coffee shop, submitted a couple to a local arts and literary journal, and that’s about it. The journal printed two paintings, one, on the front cover, and the other upside down in the interior. Also, I showed a few in a long gone coffee shop, Epitome, whom never returned them and I think they hung them incorrectly, too.

Fast forward twenty years. No more painting, only poetry. Then, I was introduced to adult coloring books, then came up with my own style. I’ve been doing mostly marker drawings for about 5 months, now. I saw an art therapist for a while, showed her my book, then we discussed the Unpoetry. She saw me as trying to show lack of meaning through a medium full of meaning. We did a few pieces of art, but mostly talked.

Now, my focus is in nonfiction writing. I’ve become more aware of the world around me, the pros and cons of it all. I want to help change things. I used to be asked, “what would you want on your tombstone?” My answer was “He made a difference.” For so long I abandoned that thought. Now I’ve come full circle, and I’ve had new experiences that have shaped my determination and inspiration about certain topics, specifically related to mental illness. I want to advocate and be an activist. Maybe then, I can make a difference.

The God Who Stopped Loving Herself

   
The universe is a mystery to me. I do believe there must have been one being who must have created it. My question is, why? In a sense, it is related to why we love other human beings. We love, simply because we want to. We love, we create, because it soothes our souls. It reminds us that we are not alone. There is such great fulfillment in each act of love, a kind of spiritual love, which can be objective and subjective, understanding and empathetic. We always want to mess things up by over-thinking everything, with negative thoughts.Having said that, I think that first being of the universe, despite either being independent in existence, or composed of an infinite amount of objects and beings, all connected, like the Earth and all its creative wonders, became lonely. With love, comes pain, the pain of separation, rejection, betrayal, etc. Then comes fear. Then anger. I think that being should not have, in the act of creating the universe, allowed any part of that being’s self to be separated into any other additional beings. We have all spent our entire lives trying to return to that eternal, everlasting womb. 

But, I think I understand why God did it. Because feeling alone, in any form of existence one can imagine, is the most painful experience, in all of life. I believe, in my heart, what happened, was that she stopped loving herself. God lost an appreciation for her infinite gifts. She lost her fellowship with the glory of her Creation, which began long before Earth. She forgot who she was. But she also remembered that she loved her children: planets, Suns, galaxies. She began to stretch her imagination, until she came up with the idea of human beings. These beings would be the roughest creation she made. She was taking a risk. These humans would have an intellect, second only to hers. But their hearts could be as soft as pudding, or as hard as stone. The difference would be determined by two concepts: the ability to trust or mistrust, influenced heavily in childhood, and the choices each human made, each day, all day long, for the rest of their entire lives.