Thought for the day

I have many thoughts today.  Here’s one.

There was a conference at my college on March 10th, that is, last month, on the Occupy Movement.  I just found out that this happened.  I hadn’t known, cuz I was wicked out of it for a long time.

The conference was held at Goddard College’s Plainfield, Vermont campus.  I watched a slideshow recap of the event.  I looked at the people’s faces.  Many people were my age.

When I came home from the hospital at the end of February, there was a lot of snail mail waiting for me to open.  Maybe there is some snail mail  from Goddard about the event, around here somewhere, in a “to be opened” pile.

It is 2pm.  I haven’t gone to the mailbox yet.  I am scared to walk from my apartment, down the hall, through the lobby door, to the mailbox area, and back.  Someone will see me, and say, “She’s fat.”

For years, I’ve been collecting my mail when nobody has been around.  Much of the time, when I walk the hall for any reason, I LOOK BOTH WAYS.  And then I decide whether to proceed.

The other day, they were sitting there near the door, staring at me, with their little eyes.  Watching me like they were going to pounce.  I didn’t know where to put my own eyes.  Should I look straight ahead?  Should I look back at them?  Tsk, tsk.

One has her knitting.  She doesn’t actually knit, she just holds it.  The others sit there and stare stupidly.  Get a life.

Sometimes, to tell them Fuck Off, I wear short sleeves, open my mailbox, and slide my skinny, skinny arm all the way down into the way-back of my mailbox.

I love watching them shake their heads at each other and mumble in their language.  Yeah, fuck off you assholes.

I’m sure that at the Occupy conference at Goddard there was no height and weight requirement.  I didn’t see a scale in that slide show.  I didn’t see any banners advertising diet pills.

I saw, “REMEMBER CHERNOBYL.”

You know, I do.  That was one heck of a long time ago.  1986.  I was in the state hospital in 1986, just down the road from here.  The place is closed down now, just a bunch of grass and stones that I know of.  I’ve lived in this town since 1987.  January, that is.  Same phone number.  Still.

I had a TV in April of 2006 and I saw the news about Chernobyl.  I don’t know what I thought.  Probably not much.  I was wicked drugged up.  I got rid of the TV long ago and a lot of the drugs, little by little getting rid of the rest of the drugs.

I’m now at 250 Topamax, 150 Imipramine, 150 Trileptal, 200 Lamictal, and 100 Synthroid.

Topamax used to be 300, and was 350 for a short while.  Trileptal was 600.  Lamictal was a whopping 600.  It was a wonder I could even stand up straight.  A year ago I also took the antipsychotic medications Abilify and Risperdal.  I stopped these cold turkey with no bad effects.  A year previously I stopped Thorazine.  I had Tardive Dyskinesia, according to my psychiatrist, in my tongue and one hand.  I am fortunate that I have stopped all antipsychotics just in time and no longer have these problems.  I now no longer experience any hand or tongue movements.  Usually, TD is permanent.  I was one of the lucky ones for whom TD was not permanent.  I have seen some very, very sad cases.

After the Chernobyl disaster, many people and other living creatures developed cancers and all kinds of diseases from the radiation that spread all around the area.  People were born with Down’s Syndrome, Spina Bifida, and other genetic alterations due to this radiation.

I remember there was the Star Trek episode where this kid had some weird power.  He was an adolescent.  He was playing chess with Captain Kirk.  I guess he lost, and then got mad.  He turned his head and screwed his eyes funny and melted the chess pieces.

I picked up one melted chess piece.  It was still warm, but cooling quickly.  It would never be the same again.

You have to be careful what you say to kids about their weight, cuz you don’t know how they’re going to react.  If something you say, no matter how well-meant, hits them the wrong way at the wrong time, they may never be the same again.

That’s why I’m scared to walk down the hall right now, walk into the rental office, and pay my rent.

I have checked my bank account and I the check won’t bounce.  That’s not the problem.  It’s those ladies in the office.  The way they look at me.  Up and down.  I always plan ahead when I walk in there.  Always.  Plotting and scheming.  Engineering what I am going to say to them as I hand them the check.  And I wonder what they’ll say about me as soon as I turn, receipt in hand, walk out of there, and the door clicks shut.

I’m thinking, “Phew!  I did it!  Another month!”

Welcome to my life.

 

 

 

Should adult mental patients be dependent on their parents? My experience

I grew up in a Boston suburb and my parents had enough money to send me to college where I could live in a dormitory.  Like many teens, I had a rough go of it and could hardly wait to be on my own.  I counted down the days.  The night before I left, I screamed at my parents that I would never come back.  In many ways, I never did.

I left behind the two most adorable younger brothers you could imagine.  I felt that I was letting them down.  I had cared for them and had been like a parent to them, loved them because my parents weren’t really loving parents.  I said goodbye to them.  Maybe they never forgave me for leaving them to the whims of my parents.  Maybe that’s why my brothers, now with families of their own, don’t talk to me now.

I brought a lot of stuff with me to the dorm.  I brought everything I owned.  I changed my mailing address, legally, that is.  I registered to vote in my college town, that is, my legal address was my dorm room.  I refused to call that place I once lived home.  Now, it was “my parents’ home.”

The kids at college thought I was a little nuts.  They all called their places home.  They even said they were homesick sometimes.  They called their moms and dads all the time.  I never called, and avoided talking to my parents, even lied to them and withheld information.

The other kids at college formed cliques and stuff.  I kept to myself after a while.  I didn’t really think I fit in.  I got laughed at a lot.  I didn’t like the drinking and partying very much.  I overheard them laughing and gossiping and saying mean things about me that I’ll never forget.  I got confused about what it really means to be a friend because of the things that they said all the time.  They talked a lot about the “good times at home.”  I didn’t remember home being “good times.”

I lied to my parents sometimes.  Why?  Because I felt that they didn’t understand me anyway, so there was really no point in saying anything or going into any long stories.  I just said anything I felt like saying to get off the phone quickly and get rid of them. My friends talked about how they could actually go to their parents for advice.  I couldn’t do this because my parents never, ever knew me.  They never bothered to get to know me since the day I was born.

I didn’t want their money, and I decided to become financially independent as soon as I could.  This was a little complex in the State of Massachusetts.  I couldn’t afford to pay full tuition for college.  That was loads of money, of course, even back then.  I had to get financial aid.  But I had to have received no assistance from my parents for a full year to file for aid as financially independent.  I tried to find a job and there were no jobs.  I went around and around on my bike from place to place, and finally got a job as dishwasher.  To keep my job, I had to do a lot of sexual politics with the manager and assistant manager.  Both were married and both of their wives were expecting babies.

One night, I got raped.  It happened inside the restaurant, after hours.  I was only eighteen years old.  No one had ever told me what this was.  I had no one to go to.  I didn’t know if I was injured or not.  I knew that what had happened was “rough.”  Was this okay?  I didn’t know.

When I sat on my bike seat, I felt pain, so I went to the university’s health services.  I told them a man had treated me “rough.”  A person stuck some instruments in me.  Another person made a disdainful face at me when I mentioned this man.  “You should be more careful,” she said.  The person examining me said something about swelling and about labia and about irritation.  I left.

I wondered if that was what having a job was all about.  Selling your body and feeling ashamed.  I wondered if that was how to survive as a woman.  I wondered if it was all about your body, if that was all men cared about, if that was what it meant to be an adult.

I had little jobs on campus.  This seemed like a gift.  I took notes for classes, typed them up, and had them mimeographed.  People bought them, and they said that they liked the way I wrote them in such an organized way.  I liked that I was valued for my intellectual ability and not for my body.  I got paid a little for this, too.  I got so good at it that they let me take notes for classes that I’d never taken before.  It helped, too, to have a straight-A average.  So the bonus was that I got to sit in on some new classes.

I survived the year of no money, and then got my financial aid package as independent student.  Eventually, I had apartments, and commuted from another town.  I had different jobs.  I was fired from a lot of jobs.  I wasn’t good at them.

I saw things that were wrong, and tried to speak out, and I learned that people don’t like this.  I worked at McDonald’s, a place where they threw out three out of every four burgers they cooked when it wasn’t rush hour.  There was a lot of waste in that place.  One day, I spoke about this waste right in front of customers, pointing out that they had made these perfectly good burgers that could have been fed to hungry people in the town, and then thrown them out into the trash because they couldn’t sell them.  I told the manager right in front of the customers that he should give these burgers to hungry people who could not afford food.

Right then, the assistant manager had a tantrum, right in front of customers.

I hope that any customer who didn’t have any money was able to get what they needed out of the trash that night before the rodents got to it.  But more likely, McDonald’s locked up their trash real tight to keep out anyone who might rifle through it looking for food, maybe even someone with an eating disorder, passing through in the night.

Eventually I had a live-in job.  This was really my last job before I became mentally ill.  I lived with a family and cared for their kids.  This was a good thing because I felt like I was valued as a person and that I had a role in the kids’ lives.  I was only twenty years old.  There were a lot of kids.  There were kids everywhere and I was a kid, too, in many ways.  I learned many things about families and about parenting.  When I thought something wasn’t right, I usually didn’t say anything.  I just let someone else say something instead.  The dad blamed me for things that weren’t my fault.  We argued often.  Maybe he thought if I weren’t there, his life would be better.

I left.  I stepped on the scale and ended up with this thing called anorexia nervosa.  I lied and lied and lied to everyone to keep everything secret.  I ate already.  I’m not really hungry.  I have a stomach bug.  I’m allergic to that.  Of course I’ve had some, it was delicious.  I’m full, thank you.  I’m going out later.  Oh no, I’m not on a diet, me?  I just doing a study on grapefruit for a research paper.  I haven’t lost weight.  It’s just that these clothes are hand-me-downs.

And so on.   So a year later, I tried therapy, and I found out that this wasn’t going to work real fast.

What did I do?  Here’s the shocker: I was twenty-three years old.  I had lived away from my parents since 1975.  It was  now 1981.  So six years.  I went running back to them.

It was very strange, and strained.  We didn’t get along at all.  Like it was horrible.  There was no discussion of finances.  Within a month they were paying huge amounts out of pocket for my mental health care.  I mean wicked.  So I went from taking nothing from them to them taking me in and paying full fee at a day treatment center.  We had family therapy and this is all in my book.  When it comes out in paperback in a month you can read it and see how trite and meaningless the sessions were, how hopelessly shallow any discussions with my parents tended to be.

My guess is that this is what it’s like for many people when they become ill.  They are doing fine and them boom!  Financially dependent on Mom and Dad.

I am wondering how much our moms and dads are actually delighted to have us back under their control again.  I think my parents were thrilled to see me come back to the nest.  I think my parents were thrilled to see me weakened and flawed.  I’m sure my parents were thrilled to take away my legal financial independence and make me their little girl once more, someone who could be their little doll that they could show off to the other people at Temple.  But now, I was kinda sick, and they really didn’t want the other people at Temple to see me.  I was a wild one, too.

I went off again out of state after day treatment, which turned out to be a big joke anyway.  It was a giant push-me-pull-you with my parents for years financially and otherwise.  They joined NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness), which was a blessing and a curse.  NAMI is for parents to get off the hook.  They had this support group, where my parents learned that I had this brain disease and that it all had nothing to do with the way they brought me up or the way they treated me.  All they had to do is to make sure I took my meds.  They learned from NAMI ways to ensure that I took my meds.  They learned from NAMI ways to get me into a hospital and ways to get me committed.  They learned ways to shut me up.  They learned how to support me, that is, monetarily.  They did not learn how to love me.  I don’t think NAMI teaches love.   I never heard my parents talk about love.  I never thought love had anything to do with it.

I got on disability when I was twenty-six.  I would say that this is a good thing.  Of course, I get very little, but it’s a step away from my parents and that was how I saw it.  Getting on disability was a no-brainer because I sucked at jobs to begin with.  You could give me shitloads of education and I’d still get fired.  Training is not the issue.  Morals is not the issue.  It’s not that I’m stupid and it’s not that I’m lazy and it’s not that I’m weak-willed and it’s not anything like that.  I’m super intelligent and I do make good moral decisions and I work my ass off (ask my grad school advisor) I just suck at jobs.

I lived out of state in an apartment for a bunch of years, in and out of the hospital and with this and that doctor, on meds, nothing worked, and then moved back to Massachusetts into an apartment I couldn’t afford and meanwhile applied for a subsidized apartment in the town where I currently live.  This I was able to get in 1993.  (I remember this because my dog, Tiger, was one year old at the time.)

Still, my parents pretty much ran the deal.  They knew my therapist and had communication with her.  I felt like they were butting into my business too much.  I didn’t like that they knew what my meds were.  Why should they?  They had no medical knowledge.  Why were they always complaining to my therapist about me?  Wasn’t I an adult?  I felt like my therapist was going along with my parents’ wishes and treating me like a child, too.  They were all in cahoots.

Because I now had subsidized housing, I was now able to pay my own rent and control my finances.  I had a credit card and made sure that no one declared me incompetent and that I held onto that credit card and kept paying it every month.  All my medical bills were covered by Medicaid and Medicare.  There was the phone bill and a couple of other bills, food, and I don’t recall what else.

For two years I had a job doing telephone surveys.  Everyone, that is, shrinks, make a big deal out of this job.  It was part-time and it was in my thirties and it was meaningless.  I’d sign up for three shifts per week, that is, twelve hours.  An hour and twenty minutes to commute to work.  Two hours before the shift begins, I get a call that the shift is cancelled.  This happened all the time.  After a while, I started to suspect that they were calling people that they were paying more per hour, that is, the people who had worked there longer (like me) and telling them not to come in, lying to them, just having the lower-paid workers come in.  Shit politics.  No, I didn’t say anything.  The real reason I left was that I was so depressed that I was incapable of continuing working.  Period.

Shrinks would harp on me and harp on me about this job.  Why don’t  you go back to being a telemarketer?

I would tell them, telephone surveys, not telemarketer.  I would also want to smack them.  Is that all they thought I was good for?  Is that what I have my MFA in Creative Writing for?  Telemarketing?  You fucking assholes.  Why don’t you go call people and sell your drugs.

Anyway, I never went back to that job, and left the therapist that was in cahoots with my parents.  All my care was centered at one hospital after a while, and my dad got real sick with cancer.  I took this opportunity to distance myself from them because they were pretty much into their own thing anyway.  I was really really sick and they were incapable of listening or caring.  My dad said he felt frustrated like I did, having a disease that never went away.  That was one rare time that we connected.  He was real sick and every now and then my mom would call me and bitch and moan about how she hated changing his diapers.  I was real sick but she never knew about me.  My dad saw me and asked why I was so skinny, and said maybe something was wrong with my metabolism.  My dad died on April 10, 1997.

Our family pretty much fell apart after that.  I talked to my mom in the morning on the phone but it was kind of stupid.  I didn’t want it to be this “mom and me” thing, seeing as I was her nearest relative.  No way was I going to be pals with her or even try.

Wonder of wonders, I did get better, when I turned forty, very suddenly, and wrote my first novel, went back to school, and did many things.  There hasn’t been much communication between my family and me.  So I guess you could say that I am independent in that way.  I cannot say that this is entirely by choice.

My mom fell one day.  This was back in February, and it coincided with the day I went into the hospital, or just about that time, the first week of February.  There was a lot of family stuff going on then.   I may or may not have talked about it here.  I got calls from my brothers about my mom.  I told them I can’t deal with this, I’m about to drop dead.  I didn’t hear from them after that.  One of them I got a message from about two weeks later, and apparently he hadn’t heard me when I had told him I was headed for the hospital.  Apparently he didn’t think it was very important that I was about to drop dead.  The other one I heard from maybe the night before last.  So I guess he didn’t think it was very important to stay in touch with a person who is hanging on by a string, either.  He patted himself on the back and washed his hands clean of me.

If I had my way, I would have loving brothers.  I would have brothers that I could call up and talk to like they were my brothers and not feel a lot of pressure like I do now.  I feel like I have to impress on them that I’m a certain way.

Since my mom’s fall, things have been better, I think.  She didn’t hurt herself.  They didn’t find anything wrong.  She’s just old.  I think my brother Phil really likes that she’s weakened and needy and dependent and helpless.  He is a person who likes taking charge.  He’s been able to take over her finances completely and found her unpaid bills in the nick of time (condo fees, electric bills, etc).  I’m impressed.  It’s sad that it had to take something like this…I will not say more.

Families change, I guess.  I don’t know if anything I’ve said has anything to do with forgiveness.  Sometimes I get scared when I think about seeing my mom again and I ask myself if I dare or not.  I’m scared she’ll call me fat again.  I’m scared that the words will stay with me forever and I won’t be able to erase them.  People have told me that she’s my mom, duh, go see her, but venom is venom is venom and if a weakened, sick, frail old lady tells me I’m fat….

No, I’d like to remember her the way she was when I last saw her.  We were in Starbucks.  She had forgotten her hearing aid.  Again.  Not that it ever made a difference cuz she never listened to begin with.  We had a meaningless conversation.  And then it was over.  I didn’t take off my jacket and she didn’t take off hers.  It was December.  And she didn’t call me fat or talk about eating, food, exercise, or weight, or put me down.  It was all very brief and she didn’t hear what I said or see that I was skinny or know that I was suffering from the illness anorexia nervosa.  She went her way, and I went mine, and that was the last time.

 

 

My experience being brainwashed by the Moonies in 1979 and my experiences as a patient in therapy 1981-2012

In the summer of 1979, I met a couple of guys on the streets of San Francisco who invited me to lunch at their cooperative home where they lived with a bunch of other people, and then to stay for the weekend at their commune in Boonville, California.  Within days, I was going to give my life to them, give up everything, my job as nanny, my education plans, my future.  I was twenty-one years old.

When you become brainwashed, it doesn’t mean you are weak-willed or had bad parents or are unintelligent.  Plenty of stable, educated, and scientifically-minded people fall prey to brainwashing.  When a person gets brainwashed, what it does say is that the brainwashers were skilled and used good brainwashing technique.

How does this happen?  Looking back, the Moonies did a lot of things to brainwash me that worked.  I go into this a lot in my book, Summer in November, but I don’t really discuss it from this angle.  Summer in November is about spirituality but it is also about the body and it is also about being controlled.  In This Hunger Is Secret, I refer to the Moonies as The Family, which is what they called themselves.  They didn’t say that they were the Moonies because I would have run in the other direction right away!  At any rate, on the streets of San Francisco, the first thing was that these two guys assumed that I was straight, so they were guys, and this supposedly was going to appeal to me that they showed interest in me.

I was kind of suspicious, actually.  What were their motives?  What did they really want from me?  I liked that they showed interest in my dog.  I liked that while kneeling there petting him, they weren’t staring straight at my boobs, cuz if they had been, I would have walked off immediately.  So I decided that they were okay.  But it took a bit.

So this whole sex appeal thing they try on you.  Then the food.  I haven’t a clue if they drug it or not, but it was very high in starch and they did add sugar, interestingly.  It was usually beans and rice or something like that, vegetarian.  High sugar and starch is part of the brainwashing.  It is supposed to do something to your brain, and the timing of the meals and the “lectures” to make you more suggestible…trust me, this was all based on careful planning on their part.

Sleep deprivation.  We got five hours.  They had us go to bed real late, and then woke us up super early, like 5am.  Old-timers fell asleep during lectures even.  This makes the brain more suggestible.

Well, on and on.  Eye contact.   People cried a lot, too.  Gearing the lectures toward individual members.  I have a book about a guy that went through all this a few years before I did, called Crazy for God.  It’s out of print but that’s about what it was like to be brainwashed by the Moonies in the late 1970’s.

After ten days, they kicked me out.  I think that this is really similar to what happened at Alcott last month, actually.  I figured out what was going on, that we were being deceived.  I tried in every way I could to communicate to other newbies that this was brainwashing.  I had to do this by secretly passing notes.  They were always watching.  They quietly took me aside.  They had all my things.  They didn’t allow me to say goodbye to anyone.  I had to go into a van.  They shipped me off and abandoned me at a dark, closed-down train station outside of Oakland at 3AM.

I have said it before and I will say it again, my experience with the Moonies changed me for the rest of my life and this experience makes me who I am.

Okay, okay, that isn’t what happened at Alcott, but there was a lot of talking I could have stirred up among the patients about this thing called “human rights” that I didn’t do.  I was hush-hushed out of there for sure.

But anyway, there’s one brainwashing technique that I want to focus on and that’s the lecture style that was used.  It pretty much goes like this:  Talk about the evils in the world, and how bad the person is, break him down, make him feel real bad personally, get him crying, and then insert the idea about how he can be better and improve and be saved and maybe it won’t be so bad after all.

Example:  There are many diseases in the world.  It’s terrible that so many suffer from these diseases while the rest of us walk around with money in our pockets.  When was the last time you thought about Blue Hair Disease?  Look at this photograph of children crying who have Blue Hair Disease.  You have not helped them all these years.  This is why your life is so miserable.  You will feel so fulfilled when you give money to the Blue Hair Disease Fund.  You are One of Us in the Blue Hair Disease Fund Church now that you have given us money.  This is the Way.  This is the Light.  Feel the Light.

And so on.  You can structure many forms of writing in this manner, actually.  It’s like a plot structure.  It’s a simple essay form or sermon form or political address or form for creative nonfiction.

But just think about using this technique as a form for the 50-minute therapy session!  A gold mine!

Typical therapy session:  How are you?  What have you eaten this week?  You won’t tell me?  That means you haven’t eaten anything.  You are starving yourself.  You are addicted to starving yourself.  You are doing this to be manipulative and provocative and are playing games.

To continue: This eventually will become a crisis and you will end up in the hospital.  Is this what you want?  Do you want to end up in the state hospital?  Or do you want to listen to me?

[Insert suggestion here.]

Just think of what this suggestion could be!  It could be anything, because the patient, if broken down enough and hopeless enough, will agree to anything.

This might be a good thing.  Might.  Like a therapist might save a person’s life and suggest that a person not jump in front of a train.

On the other hand, this technique, this brainwashing technique, can be used to convince a patient to do something that is not in the patient’s best interest, but in the therapist’s interest.  Or perhaps the therapist is just plain wrong.  Or perhaps the therapist wants to convince the patient to do what is in the patient’s parents’ best interest, because the parents are paying the therapist.  Or the spouse is paying the therapist.  Or the daughter or son.  Or maybe these well-meaning family members are sitting in on every therapy session, as “support.”

(How many times I have heard other patients tell me how frustrated they are that their domineering spouse or kids insist on sitting in on every therapy session and every psychiatrist session!  These patients tell me they have never been able to meet with their treaters alone!  What kind of treatment is this?  This is not treating the patient with respect and dignity!  How can any humane doctor allow this?)

Okay, like I was saying, the “inserted suggestion” could be anything.  The therapist could convince you to give up your apartment and move into a halfway house.  The therapist might convince you that this would solve all your problems.  I was afraid that my therapist might use my DMH services to find a group home for me and then try to corner me into giving up my Section 667 housing and move to this group home.  I was scared that she would present this to me in such a way that would make it look like I had no choice.

I HAD to get out of mental health altogether because I foresaw this down the road.  That is, I saw the end of the road.

The “inserted suggestion” could be some treatment that might save your life.  I have seen staff at hospitals talk diabetic patients at psych wards who have refused their insulin into agreeing to taking their insulin.

When I started going to therapy in 1981, I was not going there because I was “curious.”  I was desperate for help.  I was ready to try anything.  I had already contemplated suicide because my eating disorder was killing me.  The following October I entered day treatment, again ready to try anything and still desperate.

I was ready to try anything.  I had my ears tuned in and I was open to suggestions.  I believed everything anyone told me.  I didn’t question.  I didn’t look at anyone’s qualifications.  I did as I was told.  I followed suggestions.

Wimp.

I took the pills that were given me.  They didn’t work.  They said when I felt bad, I should ask for a pill, so I asked for one.  I said please give me pills that work for my problem.    I said these pills don’t work.    They said, “What problem?”  I took two bottles of pills at once.

Then I lost a bunch of friends, of course.

And on and on.  Brainwashing for 30+ years.  I’m out.

****************

Stay tuned for a report on my FIRST EVER ACUPUNCTURE SESSION!  Absolutely amazing!

Also stay tuned for a piece I plan to write on How to Lose Friends (written by an expert in the field, me)