Monday, October 30, 2006

today's tears (featuring fff)

although i must admit i titled this days ago when i drafted the note about what i wanted to post (if you'd like to skip ahead to fff, it's the last item) but between the radio station, shakespeare rehearsals and equus, i haven't had a moment to actually write it and just deleted the whole thing to start again- it's too far behind me now to pick up where i'd left it, and sadly, i'm too exhausted to muster the fire and indignation that fueled the tears on the day i read crazy: a father's journey through america's mental health madness by pete earley (local author who previously wrote for the washington post) for the radio gig. i'ma give a brief rundown of some of what i learned because i believe in disseminating information and raising awareness wherever possible, but please understand that i'm too tired to do the topic justice- i just know that if i wait any longer i'll lose the wherewithal to get this post written- we open equus on wednesday night, and i don't really have downtime until after that (at which point i'll collapse and hopefully do nothing for about 24hours) so i need to do this now or i'll never get to it...
the state of america's mental health system is tragic and inhumane- there are more mentally ill people in jails+prisons than in mental hospitals because the system has no other accomodations, so the largest facility for the mentally disabled is the l.a. county jail, in spite of the fact that jails aren't properly equipped with staff or resources to handle the mentally disabled. jails+prisons are designed to punish, isolate and dehumanise so that inmates will never want to return to similar institutions, which is the exact opposite of how treatment of the mentally disabled should be conducted- even on the most basic level, jails are built with metal beds and other standards that are physically unsafe for the mentally ill.
earley witnessed the mentally ill held naked in cells, even women didn't have underwear, even @ that bloody time of the month; they weren't given the basic amenities like toothbrushes or blankets, because those in charge think that crazy people will lose and/or don't deserve them (plus, it's jail)- toothbrushes are handed out for brushing then all collected up in a bucket and hosed off, with no individual having his/her own brush. there's one blanket per cell, and one must be willing to resort to violence to alleviate the chill, because the temperatures are maintained @ 50degrees or lower, since a nearly-freezing inmate (remember they're naked) is less likely to have the energy to act up- the thermostat is used as a sedative. and speaking of sedatives, prison staff often don't have the training to deal with the mentally ill and dispensing medications- there was a story of a man who'd been given the wrong medication daily, and nobody noticed that he lost 30lbs in 30days until he went into a coma and died. the mentally disabled convicted of misdemeanors can spend years (literally; one woman clocked 1,151days) being shuffled back+forth from the jail to the courtroom to be declared incompetent to stand trial, to another institution that's supposed to "make them competent" (but not allowed to treat them and thus mostly sedates them) then back to the jail to wait for their new court date, which takes so long to roll around that by the time a judge sees them again, they're no longer fit to stand trial and are sent back to be "made competent" again...i could go on+on but haven't the energy, and just wanted to say that we can't only pay attention to the treatment of the mentally ill when somebody gets pushed off a platform in the n.y. subway. earley shows the system starting with his discovery (his adult son's bipolar) that the system won't treat the mentally ill (eg. somebody going off meds and having a psychotic episode) unless the person is proven to be an imminent danger to self or others, so he was able to get help for his son (on advice of police and mental health personnel) only by lying and saying he'd threatened to kill his parents- it's a difficult issue, involuntary treatment, because it raises civil rights questions, but at the same time the mentally disabled by definition can't always see what's best for them- i'm no advocate of forced medication, but believe that with the right checks+balances, something better than the current system can be devised- as earley points out, nobody treated involuntarily said afterwards that they'd rather have been left lost in their own minds. i don't necessarily think his suggestions are the best way, but the book's worth reading just so you know what's going on and can decide how you feel about his propositions yourself. treatment should be administered before it's too late, and waiting for someone to try to kill themselves or another seems to me to be too late.

unconnected, but something i wanted to mention: grims has 2 recent posts i'm recommending- one of them just for the photo of the headstone that's tattooed on both of us (we are deeply disturbed by this development), and the other because it highlights some important issues that i've recently started to bring up here (although the london protest's over), and links up rentaempress one of my favourite (or should i say meggietastic?) people/writers in the process.

and finally, big-up jj for providing the opportunity to fff again- i been missing the weekly (fff#57) forays into fiction. this one's inspired by a scene from equus and the richard iii scene for my shakespeare gig and the aforementioned book crazy, which are also unfortunately the reasons this piece isn't as good as it could be since the shows are eating up all my time. but i can't not fff, so bear with me until all the shows are running smoothly (or @ least as smoothly as live theatre can get) and i have time to be better:
he tapped the pencil.
he tapped again.
i closed my eyes…
opened them…
i could hear him speaking. i could hear myself answer between slow-motion blinks. i was cognizant but somehow okay knowing i wasn’t the one in control. that was definitely new.
he kept tapping the pencil and i kept raising and lowering my lids as commanded, responding to questions i’d avoided discussing inside my head, but amazingly, not caring that i was letting him in.
the most revelatory part was how little it bothered me to relinquish control and tell him things i barely thought aloud for fear of endowing them with irrefutability.
i admitted to my secrets. claimed them and named them as demons to be exorcised. betrayed them, and in doing so, myself. and it felt good. at least, it felt good then, in the safety of his office.
at home later though, my angry secrets came back for me. they came back and showed me that simply calling them out didn’t make me any less theirs. they still owned me, and no amount of admitting them to another could erase the grimy caste they cast over my life. they made my ears burn and my eyes water. they infected my mind, multiplying and populating me with their tainted offspring – fear, doubt, shame.
where was the safety of the office with the comfortable chair and his comfortable voice?
i scrambled to find the little card with my next appointment marked on it – it’d have the numbers i needed. i dialed with shaking hands, hoping somebody might answer in spite of it being the wee hours of the morning, knowing finally that i needed help.
nobody answered. but i had the internet.
the rest of the dark time passed in a dream of watching myself frantically searching for information. i couldn’t quite keep track of how and where i searched but finally i had what i needed. as the sun began to show itself, i was at his door.
i knew he’d help me. i just needed to wake him up and get him to come outside.
i pounded and pounded but he couldn’t hear. but i knew he’d come eventually. i just had to wait for him. he’d come out.
i lay on the grass, waiting, looking up at the sky as the sun made its way into full view. i realised i hadn’t seen a sunrise in years. the deep purple streaks gave way to pink and orange feathers which somehow smoothed their way into a pale blue, and as the blue came, my mind felt at rest. i felt as clear as the morning emerging around me.
then the sirens came.

walk good.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your FFF is so good, and so sad. Well done.

10:10 am  
Blogger crazyfool said...

a beautifully written adaptation of that scene. nice work.

1:41 am  
Blogger justacoolcat said...

Powerful and nicely written. The secrets coming back for vengeance was powerful.

6:52 pm  

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