Puzzle close up

Pz2 1_12_07

Pz1 1_12_07

Pz3 1_12_07

Pz4 1_12_07

Pz5 1_12_07

Pz6 1_12_07

Pz7 1_12_07I’m participating in an open mic tonight.  I’ll be reading my post, “The Death of QB,” (November 13, I believe) and the recent post, “Dream.”  I wrote “Dream” specifically for the open mic, because I didn’t like the other piece I had planned.  It’s nice to be able to tell myself, “I don’t like this one, so I guess I’ll write another.”

Puzzling, isn’t it?


I am sorry to bring grim news on such a festive occasion, but I feel it’s necessary to remind everyone that patient care is not necessarily rosy:


That story shocked me.

But this site brought me to tears, remembering QB, who accurately reminded me to take my PRN medication and nighttime meds:


It was uncanny the way QB “knew” not only the times that I was symptomatic, but when I was about to become symtomatic. His accuracy was 100% or nearly so.  My psychiatrist had faith in him and so did I.

Aren’t dogs wonderful?

(Never mind how many hours of sleep I didn’t get last night.)






You dream that you are falling.  Perhaps you have tripped, or you fail to see a pit before you.  No matter, you are falling now; you can see the ground approaching, and as it does, faster and faster, time speeds up, for a nanosecond–yes, one nanosecond, space shrinks and your breath pounds: the distance between you and the ground halves; space gushes through your heart and halves again–your hands, your throat–then halves again, while time accelerates and your blood bursts–


Then, you wake up.




Suppose you didn’t wake up.


Suppose you stayed suspended in that fear.


Suppose you stayed suspended in that fear for a long, long time.


That is what it felt like when my illness was at its worst.




The likes of Sudoku, the Rubik’s CUBE, Crosswords…

Puzzle asleep 1_3_07

Here are some more photos of Puzzle and her family:

Puzzle lap 1 1_3_07

Puzzle 1_3_07 #1

Puzzle 1_3_07 #2

this is another one of the puppies:

Puppy #3 1_3_07

Puppy #3 2 1_3_07

Puppies 1_3_07 #1
Looking for Dad 1_3_07
Isa 1_3_07

I have more to tell you about, lots more, plus I need to scan a photo of Captain, the dad of the litter, that Elaine, the breeder, kindly gave me, but it’s getting late and I’m tired.  I hope you enjoyed the puppy photos.

What happened next at the farm








You may be wondering how things ended up at Gould Farm, how I happened to leave the place, whether it was a happy or tragic ending.  Certainly, the story was headed for tragedy, because one weekend on our staff-supervised trip to the village, I had headed off secretly and purchased a bottle of aspirin and hidden it in my room when I got back; we had single rooms and were not supposed to keep medication of any sort, even over-the-counter meds, in our rooms, for reasons you can probably guess at fairly readily.  My intention wasn’t to kill myself.  I wanted power.  I wanted power in a place where I had no power.  Every morning we were given our medications in little brown envelopes.  Every evening we were expected to return these envelopes with the pills removed from them (taken, hopefully, by those for whom they were intended).  We were not allowed to keep any quantity of pills beyond what we needed for the day, and some “guests” had to be given their pills in two or three times daily increments.  For this reason, and for the reasons stated in my previous blog entry http://juliemadblogger.wordpress.com/2006/12/30/farm-living/, I, as a sovereign individual who lived and breathed and had real feelings and hurt deeply inside, felt so discounted, that I needed to have a quantity of pills in my possession to feel any sense of self-empowerment whatsoever.



I didn’t know what I would do with the pills, except that I did recognize their importance.  I knew something big was going to happen, and that it would happen soon.  I knew I couldn’t bear much more of the loneliness, the tedious work, the daily frustration, and mostly, the growing exacerbation of the symptoms of my illness.  Something was going to snap and I knew it had to do with the pills, but I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, put two and two together….





Charles Capers, MD was a smart doctor.  I needed a smart doctor, and Capers happened to be the outside doctor that visited Gould Farm once a week, and though that week I wasn’t scheduled to see him (we saw him once a month), Nancy Smith, the one nurse at Gould Farm, took me aside one Thursday morning and told me, “Dr. Capers wants you to take Lithium.  I’ve put some in your envelope along with your usual Thorazine.  Three hundred milligrams lithium carbonate.  See if it helps.”



Dr. Capers and Nancy were the two redeeming features of Gould Farm for me, the two gems, who, in the end, saved me.  Nancy listened.  Nancy even hugged me a few times.  Capers was a strange fellow, a Texan, but he knew his meds and was also someone, to my relief, that I could talk to about my symptoms, and he would respond in a kind way.



Imagine that you are having a blood sample taken.  You roll up your sleeve, and say a few words to the phlebotomist, who applies a tourniquet and pokes around to find an appropriate vein from which to draw blood.  He wipes the area with alcohol, then says, “Just a little pinch.”



What he means is that there will be a jarring discomfort, and then further discomfort as the blood is sucked into the tubes, then the test is over with and the phlebotomist will bandage up your arm and you’ll be through.



But what of the initial, “jarring discomfort,” during which you, for a nanosecond, believe you are going to die from the prick, during which you, for the next nanosecond feel an indescribable shooting pain in your arm, during the next, you see yourself fall, and come nearer, and nearer and nearer to death–all this prior to your blood entering the tubes?



What if this initial “jarring discomfort” were to last and last?  What if it lasted for five, ten minutes?  What if it lasted for days or weeks?



This is the stuff of mental illness.



And friends, that evening, and over the course of the days and weeks that followed while I began a course of treatment with Lithium, the needle removed itself from my arm.





So the outcome of Gould Farm was a good one for me, but not for the reasons most people thought.  The environment, 99 percent of the people, and certainly the work itself were no help.  It was Lithium that helped me.  Gould Farm provided the backdrop, and I won’t forget that.  It would have been nice if those crackerjack doctors I had seen years before Gould Farm could have tried me on Lithium, but there’s no sense in looking back on things that way.  I left the farm and returned to my apartment in Vermont, where I attended practical nursing school briefly.  Although the events that followed were less than fortunate, I see the introduction of Lithium into my life as one of the biggest miracles I’ve experienced.


Farm Living





In researching aggression in dogs, I learned that sending an aggressive dog to the idyllic “farm” is not a cure, but a myth.  Such a farm does not exist.


So it is with people.  In earlier centuries people were frequently sent to country settings for a “rest.”  I highly recommend reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a woman sent to “rest” in such a place.  Virginia Woolf, my favorite writer, was brought to the country on many occasions with a private nurse to relax and heal.  The idea was that the stress of city life pushed many people over the edge–did it?  I don’t know.  The isolation of living in the country could do it to one, as well.  Statistics bear this out.


I found out that the “farm” cure, for me, was a myth, as well, when I stayed for five and a half months at Gould Farm in Monterrey, Massachusetts, in 1984.  This slideshow that I am about to show you was put together at a much later time, but it accurately describes the farm as I knew it then; little has changed.  Take a peek now, then continue reading my article:




Seems ideal, doesn’t it?  So why aren’t there more places like Gould Farm dotting the countryside?  Why aren’t more patients enrolled in such programs?


First of all, what they didn’t tell you in the slide show was that it costs over $200 a day, out of pocket, to stay at Gould Farm.  That’s right.  Do your math.  It’s like owning a second home.  The price is on par with the most exclusive halfway houses I’ve seen.  They offer a sliding scale but don’t be fooled. Gould Farm is for the rich.  I mean the rich.


Patients, who are called “guests,” have to work 30 hours a week on top of paying over $200 dollars a day to stay at Gould Farm.  This is hard labor, folks.  I’m talking about shoveling cow shit, carting pail after pail of maple syrup out of the woods in miserable weather, mopping floors day after day, shoveling snow for six hours until your back breaks, and so on and so forth.  This is not meaningful work; these tasks are menial and boring.


The speaker states that Gould farm is a place “where stigma does not exist.”  Actually, Gould Farm is a place where illness is ignored.  Their PR literature doesn’t state this, but once you start at the farm, you are told that you are not allowed to talk about your illness or your symptoms with other “guests,” or about hospitalizations or suicide attempts.  The latter I can understand but to ignore symptoms?  To pretend you’re not hurting inside?  To pretend you’re normal and stuff it?  You later find out that none of the staff want to talk about illness or symptoms, either.  I think they are trained this way.


The slideshow does mention “treatment.”  What treatment?  Yes, “guests” (I hate that word) meet with an outside psychiatrist once a month.  The psychiatrist comes to the farm and meets with patients for med checks, and bills the patients separately.  This is the treatment.  “Guests” learn to stuff their feelings, hide their illnesses, ignore their symptoms, and fake being “normal,” so they can lead “productive lives,” and this is the “healing” that the slideshow talks about.




1984: This is my fifth hour shoveling snow.  At lunch I went into my room and took off my boots because my toes were killing me.  I noticed the toes on my right foot were frost-bit.  It’s useless to tell my supervisor.  Randy S had the same problem and he was told to get warmer boots and get back to work. 


Who can I talk to?  It seems that the guests don’t really talk to each other or relate on a meaningful level, or have any sort of closeness whatsoever; everyone seems to be in a world of his own.  I tried to strike up a conversation with Dave P, but he winced in pain when I mentioned “father.”  Maybe his had died, but of course it was yet another taboo subject.  Ryan H and Joy L talk to themselves all the time.  I am so lonely.


I tried talking to the staff.  They’re just as bad as the guests.  I tried talking to Tim M about the Monsters in my head that tell me to kill myself, and Tim grunted a reply.  Grunted, like an animal!  Why won’t anyone talk to me?


We are so isolated here at Gould Farm.  No one is allowed to have a car.  We aren’t within walking distance of town, by far.  They take us into the village once a week for supplies, and to Pittsfield, a small city, once a month.  We are not allowed to have visitors.  We are allowed home visits once a month if we can afford transportation.  Once a month.


I call my parents collect all the time because there’s no one else to talk to, but they get mad at me because I’m running up a phone bill.  I call them and I cry and cry: “Put me in a hospital!”