THE FARM: AFTERMATH
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.