Archive for the ‘community and mental illness’ Category

“Can you spare some change?” he asked a citizen!

The Vancouver Province's solution to troublema...

Image by sillygwailo via Flickr

How dare he ask for change in this great place we live!  A place where we are full of higher education and very busy living our green worthy lives.  How dare he bother us!

Our bags are filled with organic locally grown produce and righteously so.  Our achievements are certainly worth noting — so how dare he ask us for change!

They say he has schizophrenia so he might well, he might kill us!  You don’t know what he might do.  Did you hear in the news about that guy who…

Dial 911!  Tell them we are being harassed by a schizophrenic who is asking for change.  Put him in jail — that will teach him!

“Can you spare some change for a cup of coffee?”  he asked a citizen near the center of the lovely town considered one of the best places in America to live.

He needed fifty-cents more for a cup of coffee.

Most of the people asking for change are kept in one place and it isn’t near that part of town.

The praised area of the lovely town includes the organic market, which is the center of living green; a gathering place for locals, most of whom have a higher education.

Medical professionals, scientists, students and plenty of people with PhD’s in just about every field you can imagine patronize the market and the surrounding shops.

Students, natural healers, and many professed open-minded free-spirited folks are to be reckoned with in this great place, which is what I love about living here.

Since it isn’t illegal to ask for change then a person who asks can instead be charged with other crimes.  Harassment, trespassing and several others that will land him or her in the same jail that holds violent criminals waiting for a life sentence.  But then, I guess,  all county jails are created equal.

I had been sick and my son was not well during this time.  He was however enjoying tutoring sessions via the local literacy council.   The offices are located on the same property as the organic market.

He and his tutor were studying the Cherokee language, the learning of which is by no means an easy attempt.  The tutor didn’t know anything about the language and nobody there seemed to know about the working memory.

One thing was clear.  My son loved the class.  He absolutely loved it.  He talked about it.  He thought about it in between classes.  He was getting a lot out of the class.

He wasn’t even on the property of the market and was on a public sidewalk when he was seen asking for change, but the private security guard didn’t care.  He hadn’t cared a week earlier when I went there and asked him if we could talk.

I thought that the security guard might have some empathy for our situation if I explained to him that my son was not well and that I was trying to get him some help.  I went to see him.

He was nearly unapproachable and it was clear he wasn’t interested in talking to me.  When he did he was very rude.

“My son would like to talk to you,” I said to him.

With a look of contempt he turned towards my son who was standing by the smoking station.  Arrogantly the guard remarked,  “No he doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does,” I repeated.  “He’s waiting over there because he said you told him he could not smoke anywhere else.”

“Well.  Yes he’s right.  I did tell him that.  I’m surprised he listened.”  What a jerk.

My son walked up and held out his hand to shake the guards hand.  The man stood as still as a robot with his arms behind his back.  I wondered if he had been in the military and maybe he thought he still was!  I looked him in the eyes.  A few seconds later he held out his hand to shake my son’s, but when I held mine out he refused.

I have no idea what that man thought of me.  I dress in clean clothes.  I’m pretty clean cut overall.  I mean I don’t stand out or anything.  So why, I wonder, did that man treat me with fear of contagion,  looking at me with total contempt and only staring at my hand when I held it out as I introduced myself.

Who knows what he thought of me –the mother of a son who would ask a citizen for change?

My son apologized to the guard.  He told him he wouldn’t do it again.

I wanted the guard to care.  I wanted him to care that this young man has a mother.  I wanted him to know that I am trying to get help in this community.  I wanted him to care that we are a part of the community.  He did not care about any of that.

He said if he saw my son ask for change again that he would call the police and have my son arrested.

I was having a terrible episode of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  My son was not well.  His ACT team wouldn’t help so I was doing everything for my son.

A couple of days later, my son made a very poor choice and again, ask someone for change.  I had just talked to him that day and told him I was coming to town to give him some of his money but he didn’t wait.

He was banned for one year from the entire property, which not only includes the market but the grocery store, the drug store, our favorite restaurant where we’ve dined since he was a boy, along with the place where he was being tutored.

I was very angry at him but I also knew he needed professional help and he was not getting any.  None.  No doctor visits.  Nothing.

He was dismissed from the tutoring services a couple of weeks afterward.  The director said they stopped tutoring him because he has memory problems.  I pleaded.  I nearly begged them not too dismiss my son from all services.  I tried to get them to teach him something easier to remember than the Cherokee language.   I asked if it was because of any other reason –(I suspected it was related to him having asked for change) but they said no, that it was because of his memory problems.   I believe they lied.  A memory problem is part of my son’s disability.  The literacy council receives government funding so this doesn’t make sense how they could legally dismiss my son from all services because of his disability.

Why couldn’t his ACT team act?  Why couldn’t we come together and try to solve the issue and help my son?  I asked if we could meet and perhaps go talk to the guard.  Their response was they thought it best to simply leave it alone.  Do nothing.  Not even talk about it.

Why can’t we act like a community who cares not only for people in other countries but about our very own neighbors?

How can we feel so good about living green and doing right by the land and saving all the animals and doing all the zillions of good deeds, while we turn our heads to our own neighbors in need?

We believe, without knowing that someone is helping them.  We believe, without knowing, that our community is set up with services to help people, like my son, who does things we do not find acceptable, such as asking for some spare change.  We believe our tax dollars have secured such services.

I have since made sure that my son has money for coffee, but I do not want to go to that market and shop anymore.

I guess if it was an area where tolerance was not so widely professed then it would be easier to accept the kind of intolerance that seeps out of the pores of the people with power, such as that security guard.

He ought to be keeping his eye out for thieves.  But then, I guess, we often associate a person asking for some change with thieves.  I had told the guard and a friend of his had told him as well that my son is a good guy.  He didn’t care.

I have turned my head plenty times when asked if I could spare some change.  I have judged without knowing anything about the person asking.

I believe this year, in the spirit of Christmas, I will spare some change.

Schizophrenia and community

Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margh...

Image via Wikipedia

In Schizophrenia, I believe there is more to recovery than antipsychotic medications.

“Meaning, Mastery and Membership.  Without these people go nuts,” a former anthropology professor told our class one day.  “The three m(s),”  he called them.  I remember this because it made a lot of sense to me.  I really like things that make sense.

I’m not against using medication to treat symptoms of a mental illness, but it doesn’t make sense for this to be the only treatment method used.  I’m also not referring to an immediate mental health crisis.  I’m talking about the ongoing trials and tribulations of living with the symptoms of a mental illness.

I used to plant flower gardens to attract butterflies.  Butterflies are smart.  They would come when I arrived on the scene with potted plants that hadn’t even bloomed yet.  They would wait, for days and days, while I dug holes and prepared gardens.  Many times they would drink from the sweat on my shoulders, hanging out with me while I worked.  I felt good about myself when I planted those gardens.

I found personal meaning and a sense of mastery when they came to drink nectar from the flowers they had waited for, that I planted for them, and sometimes to lay their eggs on the glorious Bronze Fennel.

Mastery refers to the experience of being capable of doing something.   We don’t have to literally be masters or experts.  Being good at something of course gives us a sense of mastery, but also believing we can learn something new or get better at something we are interested in can also be empowering this way.

Membership is about having a sense of belonging.  Getting paid for my gardens included me in the work force.  I felt too that I had a place in my community as a business owner with a service that I felt good about.

In my personal experience, with my son and other adult children who have schizophrenia, work is either minimal or absent.

I think it’s true that if you work in a career or at a job doing something you enjoy, it’s more likely you’ll be happy and successful.  This is especially important for people who struggle with a thought disorder.  There is a symptom called disorganized thinking.   It is very much the same as being in a room where nothing has a place, a lot like my son’s apartment.  It’s completely overwhelming.

It only makes sense, at least to me, that he would succeed in an area that allows for free thinking, creativity, and time for him to focus on one thing at a time.

He got fired from a pizza parlor because the manager said he took too much time making the pies.  My son said he couldn’t make them unless he could make them just right and that the people deserved better than what they were getting.  He liked to decorate the edges and make sure the crust was perfect.  This took time he said.  He was passionate about the pizzas.

He had made pizzas before, when he was only seventeen.  His pizzas were famous among the locals and with the manager for being the biggest pies in town.  Once I went there and ordered one with artichokes.  The owner, who liked my son’s enthusiasm, laughed that night saying that there weren’t any artichokes left.  They had all gone on my pizza.  My son was proud, watching me as I ate so heartily.

This symptom of disorganized thinking is the main reason my son is not making pizzas as I write, along with the fact that most managers will not allow him to create his own masterpieces.  If I had the money I’d open him a pizza place.  It would have to be known for the biggest pies in town so he could pay the overhead.

There are residential therapeutic living centers in the northern and western part of the US, along with one in the southeast that has become popular.   Some of them have farms and animals.  Some of them teach certain trades or skills.  Unfortunately they are expensive.

I honestly wish that our local neuroscience teaching hospital included a residential living place for the patients who are able to leave and expected to survive in the community.  A place where meaning, mastery and membership could be cultivated and nurtured.  I wish we expected the patients leaving the hospitals and institutions to thrive and not just survive, even as I am certain that every single day my son survives is a blessed day.

Sometimes surviving each day is the very best you can hope for.  I understand that.  Most of my life is like that.

I know it’s dreamy to imagine a place, such as a residential healing farm, as being part of modern-day America’s approach to treating mental illness, but I think it’s a reasonable and rational imagining.

People who have the money are paying and saying wonderful things about some of the therapeutic residential living centers.  Plus, modern medicine doesn’t have illnesses such as schizophrenia figured out.  Recent studies show that being a friend to a person with a mental illness can change brain chemistry.  Well, I figured that all along.

We are told by psychiatrists that schizophrenia is a chemical imbalance in the brain and that antipsychotics are the only answer.  We are told schizophrenia is a lifetime brain disease.  This may all be true, but it doesn’t mean these are laws written in stone or that they apply to every individual diagnosed.

I think there is more to treatment, healing and rehabilitation than medication alone.

Meaning, Mastery and Membership.  We all need a healthy dose of each.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

I’m a just a mother with a few dreamy dreams.

I am not a doctor, therapist or medical professional of any kind.  I am not attempting to give advice about treatment of a mental illness.

Image via Wikipedia (click on image for details)