Another Anything for a Little Attention Man

It’s true that a plastic rimmed hat

That cost me ten cents at a thrift store

Is sitting on my head;

And it’s true that they gave me

A free plastic trash bag

To covers some  of my

Old five and dime store clothing display;

And it’s true I might have taken the bus;

When it didn’t look like rain this morning;

And it’s true that it would have been

Ten miles home, or four miles to the mall

By the time the skies opened

And dogs and cats nailed down upon my face;

It’s true that already have an interview suit

In another state

That my father wouldn’t send to me

When we fought on the phone earlier today;

And it’s true I have an interview on Friday

And it’s true that I have the money

On my card to pay;

And it’s true that I don’t have enough money

To pay four more months’ rent stay;

Continue reading “Another Anything for a Little Attention Man”

Generativity and Recovery! Part Three: Dismantling Industry Constructs to Make Generativity Possible

When I think back to my twenty-two-year career working with other providers, my mid-career first-break, and the things that helped me recover, like my dog, I know for sure that the standard of care needs is a disservice to those who experience madness.

Many people who have breaks from reality get that permanent housing trajectory in their heads and rant and rail against it. They may still believe that there is such a thing as schizophrenia and be disinterested in the lives of their peers who are clearly schizophrenics. Those who have breaks, like me, are extremely diverse with distinctive cultural backgrounds, different access to resources and differing levels of buy into to the concept that they are permanently ill with something that will never go away. Those without a history of privilege become very susceptible for decline into permanent warehousing conditions that make healing very challenging.

Clearly, dismantling industry constructs for things like schizophrenia and poor prognosis is an important component of recovery. I have a hunch that to plan for generativity, schizophrenic constructs, other disorder constructs that block the formation of counterculture, and constructs from developmental psychology need to be challenged.

 

 

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Continue reading “Generativity and Recovery! Part Three: Dismantling Industry Constructs to Make Generativity Possible”

Generativity and Recovery! Part One: The Need to Plan for Generativity from the First Break

 

In the United States, when a person has what is often referred to as a first break, the courses of action that get taken against them may end up being a crime against their humanity.

While there can be very diverse responses from family and friends, there is the unfortunate tendency to turn to the mental health industry for support and direction. Many providers in the industry only know the standard of care which is to refer the person to a hospital and psychiatric medications.

Few providers take an interest in understanding and exploring the important experiences that lead to the break. I call these experiences special messages. Finding a provider who is curious about these experiences, skilled at understanding them, and who knows better than to try to suppress them can be rare.

Many providers fail to acknowledge the trauma involved in the lives of the people who have first breaks and that the trauma that gets worsened as the standard of care—forced medication, social security, revolving hospital doors, and warehousing—get implemented. Many presume this is a necessary process.

Continue reading “Generativity and Recovery! Part One: The Need to Plan for Generativity from the First Break”

Living with Learning Disabilities as a Psychotherapist, Writer, and Mental Health Consumer

Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long

I never heard the melody until I needed the song . . .

. . . I never I spoke “I love you” till I cursed you in vain

Never felt my heart strings until I nearly went insane

                                                           

–Tom Waites, San Diego Serenade

 

It is funny how sometimes one cannot really see themselves until they get a glimpse of a harsh paradoxical reality. Perhaps doing so gives one that alternate perspective that is so necessary to really see oneself and gain wisdom. I think that’s what Tom Waites is getting at in the excerpts of his song I posted above. That is why the ability to relate to others is such a powerful teacher and healer that is so needed in a therapeutic endeavor. Other people’s struggles help us stop and see ourselves better. Even if it is painful, growth is likely.

And, just as the song goes, I never really saw myself as a learning-disabled person until I just recently had the opportunity to sit with an individual while she was receiving a mid-life diagnosis. It was a diagnosis that I thought might be helpful. Little did I know that before this sitting, I rarely considered the full effect of how a learning disorder affects me as a writer, therapist and mental health consumer.

 

***

Continue reading “Living with Learning Disabilities as a Psychotherapist, Writer, and Mental Health Consumer”

A Need for Providers who Specialize in “Psychosis.”

I was hired straight out of college into work in the counseling field. I started to work with an adult mental health population at my second professional job at the age of twenty-three. Since that time I have been increasingly focused on how to make therapeutic engagement meaningful when working with people in “psychosis.” In the field there are many who will say or imply this is not possible. They may argue that the mental health system is the best we can do. This story is for the providers who think more can be done to help individuals who have anomalous experiences.

***

Working my way through graduate school, I can still remember struggling to get my dumb-ass footings as a professional counselor. I remember thinking about how ironic it is that they start you out with the most sophisticated of problems.

“Oh, you’re good,” said this vagabond homeless man who sticks out in my memory.

“What do you mean?” I asked perplexed by how he could affirm me with such confidence.

“Well, I can tell because you just asked me what was going on with my schizophrenia, like you really wanted to understand it.” Continue reading “A Need for Providers who Specialize in “Psychosis.””

Writing for Mental Health: Six Basic Considerations

I like to think that I could recommend writing to some other people who have been subjected to a diagnostic labeling process that diminishes their hopes and potential. Indeed as emotional tension pulses through my back and appendages, I have found few other outlets that are there for me like the mixing and mastering letters.

Sure, I have been sent to a shrink for being who I am. Sure, I have been buried in institutions at different points of my life. Indeed life on that trajectory has filled me with loss and lack. But when I’ve found myself incarcerated immobile, I’ve been blessed to find value in defining it. Initially as a teen, I found  appreciating expressive words through music got me started. The more I switched from song to verse to story, I found the problem-solving that takes place in the editing process satisfying. Indeed for me there are few other outlets that rival writing in terms of learning about life and wellness.

Continue reading “Writing for Mental Health: Six Basic Considerations”

A Vacation Day for a Schizophrenic:

Fifteen years ago, I remember hearing a psychiatrist who had just been away for two weeks say, “There is no such thing as a vacation when you are schizophrenic!” As an unlicensed professional vying to get a staff position on the unit, I had carefully avoided rolling my eyes. I had politely nodded my head as though it had been a thoughtful thing to say.

***

This year’s weekend of April 1st, my wife supports me in insisting that we take a vacation day. She packs up her hybrid SUV with camping materials and when I finish my Friday commute, we hit the interstate headed north. We plan to camp and hike at the Kings Range on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County, but we know even before we sift through the remains of the Bay Area traffic, there’s no way we are going to make it the whole way.

We make it to the city of Ukiah and drive until we find a Safeway. I am about ready to drop as we load our shit into the front of the car and depart to hit the restroom. We pass the panhandlers and the no camping sign and I start to stress about the possibility that the security will force us to move on in the middle of the night.

“Don’t worry about it my boobie,” says my wife.

I look into the eyes of a particular panhandler and hate our privilege. There sure are a significant amount of late night shoppers who are finishing their long weeks. I ponder the meaning of it all over the urinal. After we regroup, we steal into the back of the SUV.

Continue reading “A Vacation Day for a Schizophrenic:”

Stigma

Jargonizing the Stigma Concept:

Stigma is a mysterious external process that becomes internal that all message receivers face. Though stigma works in many different ways, I think it is particularly astounding and deceptive that it is not considered part of the definition of all forms of schizophrenia disorders. In my mind including it in the definition is a way of acknowledging and respecting that part of the negative outcome for those who suffer is the way society and our culture defines and treats the phenomenon of special messages. Acknowledging the role of stigma suggests that the outcomes of people becoming resigned to isolate, to sit and smoke all day in a board and care setting, is not only the result of their internal choice or abilities but the systemic interplay of individuals and the community that surrounds them.

For example, having myself transitioned from being treated like a hard-working, conscientious social worker who inspired social change, to a mental patient who needed to be locked on a ward for my own safety, I know that the power of this concept first hand. The transformation was profound! Suddenly my strengths were no longer defined by me. As I walked in circles on the floor to maintain my need for exercise, the only strength my psychiatric nurse gave me was that my family, in spite of all the hurt that I had experienced over the past fifteen years, was good family support. Two years later stigma still dogged me as a deli worker who worked under the constant threat of being fired. Now, fifteen years later, in spite of the fact that that I have a house, a wife, and a job where I am appreciated, I still battle with a sense of being slandered and rejected while my work remains unacknowledged. While I have not let stigma ruin me, I work with people who are extremely undervalued who are fighting the same demon. I write notes that diminish their efforts so the organization I work for can get paid.

Continue reading “Stigma”

Nine Social Skills Continued

Nine Social Skills I Developed for Myself:

Though in developing these social skills, I initially took a stab at writing from a universal perspective, I have had enough experience running them by people in groups to recognize that many of these are personal. Mad people are very diverse. As a result, the following are meant to be helpful in helping message receivers consider social skills that they need to penetrate the cultural enclave of their choosing. However, it is a wide world with very distinctive individuals and cultures so message receivers need to be constantly exploring their social skills even if they are neuro-divergent, like me, and struggle to do so.

I, for example, have learned to adapt to a ghetto culture and am somewhat comfortable in these contexts, however, have a difficult time switching so that I can be in mainstream culture without losing my social skills. When I feel excluded or sense gossip and slander, I withdraw and lose my ability to socialize. Thus, my ability and sometimes willingness to overcome deficits varies.

The following are set up to help me survive and overcome hostile environments. I’d argue that all message receivers need to consider adjusting social skills to overcome stigma and work together to help each other be successful. Perhaps some of what I have put together for myself may help message receivers and their helpers spot these issues in others and better reflect on the social skills they need to use to replace their retaliation reactions. The goal is to build relationships instead of break them.

 

Social Skill #1: Learning lessons from being punished or unjustly victimized
Continue reading “Nine Social Skills Continued”