The importance of feeling sad

I think that the attitude of sadness being a thing to be avoided is misguided.

Gandalf’s last words on middle earth included, “Not all tears are an evil”. Gandalf understood the important, and transformative power of sorrow.

Sorrow does not have to be avoided at all costs.  The push in the society I live in to see any kind of sadness as unwanted (in ourselves or in others), has lead to a lack of emotional maturity and awareness.   To see being sad as a kind of failing that needs to be corrected, is a terrible attitude to have, in my humble opinion.

Emotional turmoil can be awful to feel sometimes, but when I cry, I feel alive.  I feel human.

I think that emotions are physiological communication to our bodies and minds.  In the Tolkien Mythology, Gandalf was the student of a powerful Vala by the name of Nienna, who’s power is described as that,”she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom.”

We should no sooner stop a person from exercising to gain strength of muscle, because it is difficult, that it may have pain.  Likewise, sorrow can be an emotional effort, which when we process it can leave us stronger, and wiser.

 


 

 

This ties into the stigma of the mentally ill, because those of us that have mood disorders, do feel sad,  and do so quite often.  What’s worse, is that outside observers can see no reason for us to feel so.   When one thinks that feeling sad is some kind of failing,  well feeling sad “for no good reason”  makes it absolutely unacceptable.

What we have here is in my opinion a societal ill, that affects the mentally ill more than most.

There is a lot of attention for those with cyclic mood disorders, such as my diagnosis of Bipolar I, on the highest highs, and lowest lows.  While those are the most dangerous moods, and when I am at those points in my cycle, I definitely need help and support (at times clinical)  the peak of mania, and the valley of depression, are just two stops on the cycle of my mood.   They don’t even make up the majority of my moods, they are however what gets the most attention.

The microprocessor was invented the year I was born.  My entire lifetime has seen us transition from the analog to the digital, and I see a lot of binary type thinking around me.  Even newscasters wanting to sum up a story as “is this good or bad?”   Thing is the world is not digital (as far as we know) and our brains certainly aren’t.  Things just are not always easily defined by two little boxes and “yes and no” questions.

I think we need to come back to embrace the noisy analog signal.  Am I happy or sad?  is it good or bad?  Well, its a mixture of both, and where one ends and the other begins ain’t exactly clear, and that’s fine by me.

 

 

Discipline is not Medicine

One of the things that I saw while under a 5150 Hold at Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto CA was how patients exhibiting symptoms of their illness were disciplined.

Mental Illness is a hell of a thing, folks.  The symptoms change our perceptions, and our thought processes, and … our behavior.

In  what was supposedly a clinical setting (in my experience an apt description of a mental hospital or ward is “a combination of kindergarten and jail”), patients were exhibiting symptoms of their illness, and it was treated as a disciplinary problem to be corrected, instead of a medical condition to be treated.

Now I understand that recognizing the difference can be difficult.  However if a Mental Health Professional cannot make this distinction, then that need to get A LOT BETTER REALLY FAST. Rikki-Tik!

An unsuccessful approach to ableism

While internet interactions may seem the most benign, they can also be the most public.  When  an online community has a policy against discrimination, yet gives ableism a pass, I think that policy is either flawed, or the moderation is.   Especially when the person stating that they are the object of discrimination is the one that is disciplined for “persistence”.   That is, the continued defense against fallacious, discriminatory assertions of instead of accepting the futility of changing a bigot’s mind.

The group in question is called Jedi church (the original)  the thread in question has already been altered, though by the participants or the moderators I do not know.

In my introduction in this blog  I relate the story of two decades past about an individual who said that they wish they were bipolar so that they “would not have to work.”  An interaction in this group was eerily similar.   A man by the name of Dave Jenson said the following:

As long as people can have an excuse for their behavior, as long as people can make a living by simply being mentally ill, as long as a living can be made helping the mentally ill. And as I had noticed that when mental illness drop in numbers, new illnesses are invented and old illnesses take longer than before to gain a handle on. As long as this persists their will always be mental illness, real or imagined.

 

Thinking that I might be perhaps misreading the situation, I asked that if the three points I was inferring from this statement was true, the three points being:

 

  • People wrongly use mental illness as an excuse for what Dave Jenson considers bad behavior.
  • People use claims of mental illness in order to receive income.
  • The Mental Health Profession is takes advantage of the first two points to justify a wage for those that work in the profession.

Instead of clarifying or correcting, Dave Jenson used further fallacious arguments and untrue statements of fact to support these initial claims, about how much money that Disability insurance is paid fraudulently so that fakers can “earn a living” and I used congressional testimony that his claimed number was over 51% or DI payments, which in turn makes it seem to me that Dave Jenson was inferring that if someone receives DI one is more likely than not to be a fraud.

Other assertions in this thread alone were:

From Talon Trevor MacDonald:

Emotion is natural, and necessary for most. Some get lost in Emotion, and cannot contain or control it. This is generally due to Mental Illness, but also in a few cases, It is on purpose.

This infers to me an assertion that lack of emotional control is generally only represented by 4.1 percent of the population in the United States (the percentage of Adults in the USA with Serious Mental Illness according to NIMH)

and Bae Ryder, a moderator had this gem:

There are only two reasons why a professional will use the DSM: 1- insurance purposes and 2: for personal information. The DSM is defective in more ways than one. I would not use that creditable source because no professional would. Just a suggestion.

You know, instead of using a diagnostic manual to CORRECTLY DIAGNOSE AN ILLNESS.

What makes it rich was from a post immediately following the above again from Bae Ryder:

With a topic like Mental Health, unless you are a professional sitting inside your office, don’t try to give someone advice on Facebook about it. It is dangerous and unethical not to mention, it can kill. Do everyone a favor and just don’t go there. The government is not a good source of information and neither is someone that does not have at least a masters in mental health or websites that have agendas.

This seems to imply that a person LIVING with mental illness is unqualified to speak on the matter due to a lack of formal schooling.  Which is rich coming from a person that just said that the DSM which is written by such is not fit to be used by the same professionals  to diagnose.

 


 

The silencing of those that advocate against the stigmatization of the mentally ill,  including those that self-advocate like myself, is itself a further stigmatization.   In the above groups  it was explained to me by two moderators (one of which I consider a friend) (again after I made no move to or expressed an interest in rejoining) in extended conversations about my banning, that the owner of the group “Paladin Carl” values harmony, and it was me voicing my objection to discrimination in a manner he finds unbecoming more onerous than the discrimination itself.  My friend Alethea Jolene Thompson, also a moderator  there, explained to me that it was my tenacity of trying to “win” that was unwelcome.

Rather than explain in detail my objections to these views, I recommend the following reading http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

 

Those named in this post are more than welcome to make their case in the comments, I give you my word, that I will not censor or silence, as I have been in the named facebook post.

For further reading on my thoughts of applied Jedi Philosophy see:  http://jedipath.org or my associated facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JediPath

 

 

The DBHC Journal: Excerpt.

While committed at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA as a survival mechanism I kept a handwritten journal which during my 2 and half day stay there ended up being 42 handwritten pages.  I shared the excerpt below on my Facebook wall shortly after I got home, my plan was to transcribe it in its entirety.   I put that project on hold when I decided to use a public-facing blog (and here you are, reading it!)   Once I finish with the “archival material”  my plan is to start posting sections from this journal.

 

This was during intake, after my clothes had been returned to me after my medical clearance at the ER — I was feeling desperate for help at this point, and quite angry I has not getting any — this is several hours into my experience there:


I decided to wander the halls to ask the first employees I could find to ask if mental health was exempt from the Oath of Hippocrates. The pseudocops who found me never heard of the Hippocratic Oath, one claiming, “I just got here.”

I informed them that the first tenet is, “Do no harm.” and asked why for the first five hours I have been subjected to things DETRIMENTAL to my mental health. I asked to see a clinician, and was sent back to my featureless room with no stimulus.

Just-Got-Here popped his balding head in the doorway a few moments later to inform me that a nurse will be transferring me to a unit “soon” and I will be helped there.

Among my skills, and past professions is computer programmer. I know the value “soon” is never a small amount of time, but rather, a value starting from 3 times longer than you expect, and as long as “never”.

 


 

As commentary on the above, the first “help” I got on the unit came 22 hours after I first arrived, with my first one on one meeting with my clinician.

Suicidal Does Not Mean Sad

A post from Facebook giving some context of what my mindset was during the August, 2014 Crisis

 

L. Christopher Bird
August 29

I want to address a topic that seems to keep coming up, when talking with my friends about the event of the past few days.

I was not suicidal because I was “sad” or even “depressed” it was an expression of an illness I suffer from, that had gone untreated for far too long (some of the responsibility for the lack of treatment falls squarely on my shoulders, SOME).

If anything, I was SUFFERING, and I sought and end to that suffering. One of the avenues that I could figure out while in the state I was in, was suicide, the other was gaining treatment.

Even though I was not quite rational, I WAS “working the problem” as is my practice. I did seriously and sincerely contemplate suicide, so much as researching a method, and taking steps to carry it out. Before doing so, I sought other alternatives — which including finding and calling a suicide/crisis hotline.

I knew even there, that gaining treatment was ONE path to mitigate my suffering, and suicide a way to end it — however it would also end many things I enjoy — but could not enjoy while my suffering persisted. One of the reasons I was placed in a 5150 hold, because when asked my intentions, I clearly stated that they were predicated on if I was able to receive treatment or not. If I could not receive help, then it was my sincere intention to come back home and continue with what I had researched.

I do not know if it had to come to such an extreme crisis for me to be able to receive care in a timely manner, but by my perception (which I admit may have been flawed) it seemed to be to me.

I am on the mend…

“I am ill, I am here for treatment.” “Great, hands on the wall, feet on the yellow line.”

imagesterryfrisk
This was the first account I wrote in detail of my experience at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA.  From August 28th.   I will let it speak for itself. 

L. Christopher Bird
August 28

A more detailed update, taken from my handwritten journal will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, now that I am home for the night, and can type on a full-size keyboard instead of on my phone.In brief, the intake process was damaging to me, it has introduced trauma that will take time to recover from, on top of the issues presented by my illness. In short, the first part of seeking treatment for my illness, was an injury.

The first staff I interfaced with after the receptionist was a security guard. The first procedure I was subjected to, was a feet on the yellow line, hands on the wall pat-down, described by the guards as “for our safety”. At this pat down, my wallet and cell-phone were confiscated.

I was then, a mere hours after contemplating, researching, and taken initial steps towards suicide, deposited in a featureless room, with no stimulus. I spent hours in this room, unattended. A couple hours before being sent to the ER and many more hours, after being medically cleared, and driven back in an ambulance, with the my requests to do so in my own clothes. At the ER I was put in a gown to be examined, and my clothes were kept from me for and after my return despite assurances they would be given back to me.

Kept in a featureless room for hours, with uniformed security guards in the hall, nearly all my autonomy taken from me, I exercised what I could. I took off, and folded neatly, the hospital gown I was issued, and sat in that featureless room in my underwear and socks — the only clothing I walked in with that I still possessed. Once I had done so, my shirt and pants were produced and brought to me.

While in that room, on more than one occasion I was weeping openly, with body racking sobs at my situation. At one point, I saw a security guard peer in the window in the door, snarl, and look away, disgusted, while I continued to weep, cold, alone, and unattended for hours.

There is much more, 45 pages of handwritten notes detailing them, but it will have to wait. Of my experiences, this was the most traumatic, but not the last of the continued humiliations, degradations, and dehumanizing practices I was exposed to, because I was an ill person seeking treatment.

More to come, true believers, but I need some rest.

Facebook Posts leading to the August 2014 crisis

I am copying some Facebook posts which will put the posts following some context.   In the previous post, I wrote about my medicine respite, and like any untreated illness, the situation was untenable.   These posts were leading up to me being hospitalized under a 5150 stay at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA.

 


 

L. Christopher Bird
August 26 near Modesto, CA

I need someone to come get me and take me somewhere — anywhere. I do not want to be here, and I have no means to leave.Things are becoming untenable in my current situation.


L. Christopher Bird
August 26 near Modesto, CA

I am seriously considering ending my relationship, but also among what I am considering is just ending …. everything.

L. Christopher Bird
August 26

The last two posts were a classic, but sincere cry for help. Though I was triggered into contemplating suicide, I still have not allowed myself to indulge in my emotions, but have been working the problem, and putting in place a possible solution.After googling fatal doses for medication I have on hand, and ascertaining I probably had enough, I contemplated a bit and decided to see what other options there were I could seek help, and what the process was.

Julian Girouard Jr. is on his way to get me and take me to where I was directed to go. I suspect that soon I will be out of contact until Friday at the earliest (remember that it is better to seek help for suicidal intentions before Wednesday rolls around. ).

I feel angry towards some people that I love, but it is all tangled up as to what is justified, and what is delusion and pathology. I literally have to get my head straight to even contemplate repairing my relationships.


Julian Girouard Jr. posted to  L. Christopher Bird
August 27
A brief update:Last night (Tuesday, August 27, 2014, for you conventional-time keeping folks), I drove Christopher, per his request, to check himself in for a psychological evaluation. I went to visit him tonight, and long story short (although still longer than visiting hours), in spite of the many outrageous things he is enduring to get it, he is receiving treatment. I would not do justice to his story by trying to recount it here myself, and expect that you will hear it in his own words soon.

Right now, he is essentially cut off from the world except for visiting hours and limited access to a Neanderthal-style telephone. He has no access to the internet, his personal phone or to any contact information for his friends and loved ones. If you would like me to pass along your phone number to him, please send me a private message. Please bear in mind that I cannot guarantee that I will be able to get it to him, or that he will be able to call you once he has it. I cannot see any therapeutic value in the isolation and loneliness that has been suddenly thrust upon my dearest friend.

-Julian

— with L. Christopher Bird.


L. Christopher Bird
August 28

I have been discharged, and have a treatment plan in place. The path to get here was horrific. Although that sounds like hyperbole, it is not. Details to come later from about 45 pages of handwritten journaling of my experience.

As a preview, the booking process for my overnight stay in jail in Casper, Wyoming for a failure to appear over the matter of a traffic ticket (the failure to appear was in part due to a depressive episode) was MUCH more pleasant and less traumatizing and less dehumanizing than the intake process at Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, California.

Up Next:  Accounts of my hospitalization

Medicine Respites, personal illness, and societal ills.

This was originally a Facebook note from August 11, 2014

 

My recent note touched upon how I have not had any pharmacological treatment of my Mental Illness for quite some time.   This has come up here and there, and quite some time ago, I promised a post about my “medicine respite”.  This is it.

Originally, I went off my meds for a variety of reasons, many of which were to be honest based upon being impoverished.  Yes, I had MediCare part D, which made my medicine available for a small co-pay, but that was not nearly the only factor or cost in obtaining my medicine.

To get a prescription, I had to see a Psychiatrist.  These visits cost out of pocket $50 a piece.   Because I had no car, I had to take a bus.  To take the bus, I had to have a pass.

Also riding the Bus took an investment of a minimum of two hours of time, and usually up to three or three and a half hours.  The time was spent getting to the stops, waiting, the actual ride, and the same process on the way back.  More than once, I got stranded because when I got out of my appointment, the routes I needed either initially or during a transfer had stopped for the day before I was able to  avail myself of it.

Then there was the matter of actually picking up the medicine at the pharmacy.  While at times, I was able to get a ride, mostly I had to ride a bicycle for about 30-40 minutes through a high-crime neighborhood to get to the pharmacy, and then the same amount of time (actually a bit longer, as I would be more tired coming back) to get back to the squalid little room I was living in at the time.

So the process of getting a prescription took 7 hours minimum over two days at about a cost of about $65 or so.

Because of my Psychiatrist’s penchant for micro-managing my life, and my occasional non-compliance with my medication, she would have me come see her as often as once a week — writing me a one week prescription at a time (no refills).   So with an income of around $730 a month  about $260 was devoted to getting medicine.  Rent for my squalid little room was $400 a month.   And the time spent obtaining medicine, added up to over a week out of the entire month pretty much devoted to just obtaining my medicine.

It should be clear why this situation was untenable.  But this is only ONE of the points in the matrix that lead to the decision.

While there are others (such as what medicine was covered by my insurance, the efficacy of such, and the bureaucracy of obtaining it), the one worth mentioning is the actual intended effect of psychiatric medicine (side-effects aside).

There is no other way to put it, Mental Illness is a hell of a thing.  While the politically correct thing is to not identify a person AS their illness, the fact of the matter is, with (at least MY) mental illness, the symptoms are expressed as, well WHO I AM.  So any pharmacological treatment,  in essences, changes my mind.  It modifies my very personhood and identity.

While during the worst of my mood swings, this IS, believe it or not, actually the preferred path to take.  But it is a hell of a choice, and it is a hell of a COST.

I know many of you reading this care and love me.  But something to understand, Christopher ON psychiatric medication is for all intents and purposes a DIFFERENT PERSON than I am right now, off of them.  While this medicine, in part, is to help prevent suicide (and other dangerous behaviors) being on it, IS a kind of suicide.  The worst part of this, is that Meds-Christopher is AWARE of the change, and knows that the change is imposed on him.   I gotta tell you, when I am on meds, I do feel like, an emotionally stable (if the medicine is having the desired effect) COPY of the “real” (unstable) Christopher.  Many (but not all) times I feel like an inferior or “less than” copy.

So, let’s talk about imposition on the mentally ill.  Medication imposes a different mind upon my brain, that is one level.  Another level is that society imposes the medication on the mentally ill.

The usual reaction when someone (both friends and strangers) discovers I am mentally ill and not taking medication is “you NEED to be on your meds!”   It seems to be an acceptable reaction from when someone has a psychotic break in public,  to when someone even may just be casually annoying  to state that “wow they must be off their meds”.    I have even seen friends share posts from a Facebook post called “Mom is off her meds again” or similar.  To me, I find this societal attitude very, very hurtful.  The reason such attitudes hurt, is that such expressions imply that treatment in general, and psychiatric medicine in particular, is not to treat or address the suffering of the mentally ill, but as a mechanism of control so that the mentally ill do not inconvenience others.  In short, that if one is mentally ill, then their health decisions are not theirs to make autonomously, but something to be imposed upon them.

It should not matter in my opinion,  what other people think one should do about an illness, mental or otherwise. It is, like all medical decisions, that of the individual and their physician(s).

Being mentally ill, should not mean that one’s health decisions are up for public review, approval, or disapproval.  Unfortunately in the society in which I live, it in fact IS.  Not just by entitled individuals, but by the power of LAW. Let’s put it this way, the worst day to feel suicidal is a Wednesday.  In California a statute enshrined in the title of a Van Halen album, 5150,  REQUIRES that if an individual is “a danger to themselves or others” that they be hospitalized for a “72 hour observation”.   This happened to me on occasion, but one that stands out was in the mid 1990s.  Why?  It happened on a Wednesday, and that evening I was committed to a County Mental Health hospital. When one is committed under a 5150,  you actually have to sit before a Judge to be released.  In this case, I did not have to go to a courthouse,  the court came to me.  Court was held in a small room at the hospital.  “Court” here, not being a euphemism, but an actual legal hearing with a Judge in the room hearing it.  But here is the thing, I should have gotten my hearing after 72 hours — which put that mark, late Saturday evening.   They do not have Court on the weekends.

 

If you are suicidal on a Wednesday, you have AT MINIMUM a 5 day stay at a mental hospital ahead of you.  If your doctors or the Judge are not convinced you are well enough, your stay can be much longer.  But the point is, the choice is not that of the individual, at all.Now, I am not saying that involuntary treatment is never necessary.  While at times, it is the correct thing to do, it should be motivated by compassion for the individual, not by the fear from others.  I would like it to be understood, that it can really suck for the individual involuntary treatment is being imposed upon,  and if it IS indeed necessary, a RATIONAL reaction should not be expected (like at all) due to the nature of the illness, the reason for commitment.  When the inevitable irrational response is received, the individual (who figuratively and literally is not in control of the situation) should not be responded to with criticism, shame, or punishment.  Compassion tempered by empathy and understanding, in my opinion should be the guiding principle for these interactions.

L. Christopher Bird

The Craic House

Modesto, CA

August 11, 2014

An Important Note for those I love. (Facebook Note Aug. 10, 2014)

This is a Facebook Note from August 10, 2014

 

I hate to break it to you,  but I am living with a serious, debilitating, and possibly fatal illness.  While there are treatments, with different levels of efficacy, there is no cure, nor is there likely to be one for Bipolar Disorder within our lifetime.

You are probably aware that I have not been using an pharmacological treatment for this illness for about 10 months or so .Some of you have mentioned, how well I have been doing, and my skills at mitigating some of the effects of my illness.   What I would like  you to know, is that my illness has not been mitigated these long months at all.  I still suffer from the effects of Bipolar Disorder, not daily, but moment to moment.  When I seem “well”  that is not because I am not experiencing symptoms of this mental illness.

What appears as “stability” is nothing of the sort.  I am not stable, and have not been for months.   These moments of calmness and lucidity come with great effort on my part.  It is not an affectation, but it is not  a state that happens organically.  Any calmness, lucidity, clarity of thought, etc, comes as a result of work i have been doing that you have not, and cannot see, for it is internal.

I need you to know, that these periods also have to be maintained by a great deal of effort.  Sometimes, I am simply not strong enough to sustain it, and I will have periods of moodiness, or as has been often lately, quick, explosive irritibility.  For that unpleasantness I apologize.  I do not want to hurt any of you, but be assured I am doing my best, even when my best is pretty goddamned awful and pathetic. Your happiness is very important to me, and I would lovingly do anything within my power to increase it.  However that being said, your happiness is NOT my RESPONSIBILITY.   Nor is mine yours.   There will be times that I will fail to be able to do things that may lead to your happiness, and I regret that, but please understand, that I do not have the intention to willfully do things that decrease it.   If that does occur, I ask you to please let me know kindly and compassionately, so that I may correct such things.  While it is my responsibilty to make those corrections, help doing so would be appreciated.

I would like you all to know, that I love you, however, I ask for your understanding about the seriousness of my mental illness, and be mindful of the effort and work I am doing to live with it at this point in time.

August 10, 02014 The Craic House Modesto, CA (The people tagged in this note, are those that I feel are most impacted by my illness, but this note is for everyone in my life, from partners, lovers, to the most casual acquaintance, new friends, and even potential friends whom I have not yet met.)

The plan going forward

I have been writing about my life, my struggles, and triumphs for quite some time.  First on Livejournal, and for the past few years Facebook.  I had a recent event in my life (stay tuned, true-believers!) that I began documenting on Facebook, only to find that many of the people that I wanted to relate my story to, did not use Facebook for a variety of reasons, and even though the posts were “public”  they are hidden from anyone who does not have a Facebook account.

So, I made the choice to have a public-facing blog where I talked about the mental health aspects of my life. I am sure other areas will creep in, (bisexual! atheist! pet-owner! Jedi Knerd!) but my mental illness will be the main thrust of this blog for the forseeable future.

I will begin with some older work, saved here and there,  then I plan to write about a recent crisis where I was hospitalized, and the issues that brings up.  Once that is done, then I will probably begin to post less-frequently about events and thoughts as they occur to me.

Thank you for reading this, it is my sincere hope that I will illuminate, inform, and at times incense in a way that is entertaining and engaging.