Tag Archives: mental illness

Judgey, Judgey

Who’s judging whom?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an awful encounter with a new psych doctor at North Central Mental Health –via Stonewall Columbus, the LBGT organization in Columbus. In a nutshell: One Dr. Bela Agabalyan assumed I was some sort of Klonopin addict (because Klonopin is so fun) and induced a panic attack with her slouchy demeanor and accusatory behavior.

FUN SIDE NOTE: I filed a formal complaint against her, which came back finding no fault on her part. I discovered what may have been the reason for this when I got my so-called “continuation of care” paperwork from North Central. For my diagnosis she listed Substance Abuse and Borderline Personality Disorder. For the record, I have neither. Also BPD requires a lot more diagnostics than carping at someone for 20 minutes about how he’s just in the whole mental illness game for the Klonopin.

The good news is I believe I have finally found an organization through which I can get the proper care –and Klonopin. The only downside with AccessOhio is that I have to see a case manager, Peter, each time I go in. Normally, I would think this was just typical bureaucratic hoo-ha, but Peter’s office decor really gives me pause.

His walls are covered with diplomas and memorabilia from Bob Jones University, an ultra-conservative Christian “school” in South Carolina. You hear about the joint every four years when presidential candidates you would never vote for in a billion years stop by to pander to the haters who bleat every second about how much Christ-like love they ooze. I could take this memorabilia on its own. After all, every second inch of wall in Columbus is covered with some sort of paper from THE Ohio State University. But consider what Bob Jones III, the Chancellor of the “university” has said on the record about his feelings towards the gays:

From the AP in 1980: “I’m sure this will be greatly misquoted, but it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality.  I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”

So, I’m sitting in this case manager’s office teetering on the edge of full-blown homosexual indignation. After all, mouth-poop like the above gave cover to all those bullies –especially the Young Life crowd –who felt they were “right” to throw things at my head. Worse yet, it reinforced the idea in my own head that I was somehow misshapen and wrong.

Oh, this hater’s gonna get it. I’m on the edge of my seat, just waiting for him to say even the slightest judgey syllable. Then I will stand up and declare, “I am a homosexual American! You have grievously wounded me. Good day, sir!” Then I storm out, making sure my ass looks good doing it because you know all the haters are picturing us gays naked 24/7. Why else are they so concerned? Continue reading Judgey, Judgey

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Stigmata by notecards

stig·ma /ˈstiɡmə/ —from the Greek, a mark made with a pointed instrument.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which people stigmatize people with mental illnesses a lot in the past few days. This is not because the idea got stuck on the Mobius Strip in my brain, and I can’t let go of it. Eh, who am I kidding? Of course that’s that reason. But at least I had a couple good catalysts.

First of all, a friend of mine in San Antonio was going on a Walkathon for NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, a group dedicated to fighting the stigma of mental illness. She’s a good person, and it was heartening to learn she was doing this.

The second reason was a flood of pictures on Facebook from a former friend’s birthday party. Each time a picture of a current beloved friend embracing this ex-friend came down my feed, and before I could delete it, I wanted to scream, “How could you betray me? Don’t you know how awful this [person]* was to me? I see your embrace of him as a rejection of me.” Then I would jump up and down, pointing and screaming at the computer, “J’accuse! J’accuse!”

[*Trust me, I came up with some pretty good, really descriptive, devastatingly cutting epithets for this person, but upon editing they all seemed as petty as him. So, I just reduced him to generic “person.” Trust me, if I could find something more boring I would.]

Luckily, I had the wherewithal all Sunday afternoon to practice my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. While the immediate response going through my head may be that these friends of mine must obviously hate me as much as this [person] hates on me, the more rational response is that people like a party; that they don’t know how this [person] rejected me overnight in the coldest manner possible; and that people can’t be expected to take my warped and crushed feelings into account every time they pose for a picture.

Yet, the stigma of people being assholes towards the mentally ill is not the most insidious kind of stigma. Trust me, I could write volumes on how this [person] (and his boyfriend) erased me from their lives because they thought a coping mechanism of mine –when stressed I find a quiet place to shadow box a wall, a very private action –was directed at them. Or I could write about how another ex-friend –God, I so want to name names here –shut me out of his life after I called him on the phone looking for a friendly voice to talk to during a period of heavy stress, saying that the had to cut me off because he was worried I was too much of a suicide risk. Or, heck, I could talk about the guy a bar last week who, after asking why I was wearing long pants on a warm night, got flustered when I answered him honestly: “My cargo shorts were covered in deadly Cheetos dust.”

“I don’t know how to respond to that,” he said as he backed away like I was stroking a king cobra.

No, the worst stigmatizers are the ones who think they are helping you. Continue reading Stigmata by notecards

Last 1973 a D.J. Saved My Life. [Part #1: Introduction; Dad]

Recently I made what I trust is a correct decision and opted against that suicide I was planning. [Don’t worry; everything’s great now, even if everything still sucks.] I cannot possibly overstate to you one factor in my decision: I have serious reservations about the availability of popular music in the afterlife, be it as cherub or as wormfood. I would miss music too much.

This close call has led me to think a lot of grateful thoughts about how music got to be such an integral part of my life.

It always knocks me slightly off kilter to walk into someone’s place and not hear music. Why don’t they have music on? They’re just walking around their apartment in silence? Is their version of silence actually silent? They have to have voices like everyone else, right? I would kill to swap the voices in my head with the voices in their head for five minutes. How can these people walk around not wanting to have the voices in their heads silenced? Do their voices tell them things like “You’re lookin’ swell today, Greg! Keep up the good work!”? When they close their eyes do they see one of those old Successories™ posters from the 90s? Do they recite to themselves that “Footprints in the Sand” tale?

My voices say things like, “You know you’ll be first on the conveyor belt when they start up the Soylent Green factories. Let better people snack on you.” I could try to drown that out with “Footprints in the Sand,” but that story just reminds me that the middle toe on my left foot has been hurting for weeks now. I assume it will need to be amputated. That’s why I always have music on whenever I can help it. Right now it’s the “Mellow New Years” playlist and The Posies’ version of “O-o-h Child.”

As a lot of bipolar folks will tell you, our minds tend to wander. Music is a low fence that keeps me from sauntering out of the yard and into dark traffic. Eventually I get back to the task at hand.

As soon as I got a radio in my room around the age of 8 or so, it went on, and it stayed on. The only reason I ever turned it off was I was leaving the room, and I only did that grudgingly because President Ford told us to. I would lay awake at night tuning in far away AM stations, feeling an electricity whenever I tuned in a station that began not with a boring W, but with the exotic K or even the weird-tingly-feeling causing C. Even in far away Canada they listen to the same music we do. Somewhere, some other kid was listening to “Kung Fu Fighting” at the exact same time. I’ll take connection where I can get it. Continue reading Last 1973 a D.J. Saved My Life. [Part #1: Introduction; Dad]

Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

[As part of WordPress’ “Blogging 101” I received an assignment to write a post based upon that day’s writing prompt question.]

QUESTION: You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?

First, I would head to the 99¢ Store to round up some duct tape, Saran Wrap, chicken wire, and a teaspoonful of neutronium (behind the counter, next to the watch batteries). Yes, I know that much neutronium would weigh 100 million tons, but I think if I bring the granny cart, I’ll be able to get it home. After getting the stuff home and up the stairs, I would combine them in the usual manner to create a wormhole in my hall closet. After carefully adjusting the tension on the duct tape, I would step thru the closet to the campus of Bowling Green State University in June of 1983. There I would hunt down the seventeen-year-old version of myself, who would be up there for a week to participate in the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State, and I would ask:

“Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?”

For the roughly five years after my mom passed away, from junior year of high school then through three different undergraduate institutions, a quick tally comes up with at least a dozen trips to the emergency room. Of course, some of these were for bona-fide emergencies, but way too many times I ended up in the back of an ambulance because of –for lack of a better word –“escalations.” In this case, I had run into a doorjamb… Continue reading Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

The white cassette tape with no writing came from that particularly messy corner of my bedroom. I knew exactly what was on it without playing it: Me singing Paper Lace’s #1 hit from 1974, “The Night Chicago Died” in a karaoke bar. In Burbank. With seven vodka tonics in me.

It’s not perfect.  It starts late and drops out once or twice.  Also, I suck.  Come, discover why my brother-in-law wouldn’t allow me to sing the “Please don’t eat all the morsels” song to my future-niece in utero:

 

But, you have to admit, those voddys sure gave me some stage presence. Continue reading The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

Why ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES?

As I was typing the introduction, I knew the name of the blog was going to be an issue. For 30+ posts, it’s been just been a cute little bit of wordplay, shiny stories just hanging there. But now that I’ve declared the blog’s dual purpose of being a writing blog that also deals with my struggles with mental illness, it just seems about four clicks past cute… Continue reading Why ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES?

Welcome to ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES…

Back in the early 90s, I was in Los Angeles embarking on what was sure to be a promising and lucrative career in arranging words on pages. A screenplay I had written as a masters thesis at Michigan won the Hopwood Award. With the hubris only a 23 year old could muster, I took to telling everyone that this was the same award Arthur Miller and Lawrence Kasdan won when they were at Michigan. I took the prize money, plus a thousand dollars I won on a 900-number version of Jeopardy! while drunk at 3am, and moved into a bougainvillea-encrusted dingbat apartment building called The Pink Flamingo in Studio City (but really North Hollywood). And, most amazingly of all, through some tenuous connections I was working with an agent who went on to be Jeremy Piven on Entourage. There were meetings in Burbank and a desk on the Universal lot between where the Classic Hollywood impersonators hung out and the Backdraft ride. Rhett Butler reeks of weed.

Then I went crazy. And I left. And I stopped writing. Continue reading Welcome to ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES…