Ex-patients’ major debate: “Out”? or “in the closet”? What about us writers and spoken word artists?

I am debating this right now. It’s been 12 years since I self-published Breakdown Lane, Traveled.  I was still working on my undergraduate studies.  I enjoyed a tiny amount of publicity.  It was all short-lived.  My undergraduate school, Emerson College, as an institutional whole, refused to acknowledge the book, saying that on-demand publishing “didn’t count.”  Actually, think “mental illness” factored into their decision.  The instructors I knew well had told me in private that I had been one of the hardest working students they’d ever had, stating that I was intelligent, a wonderful writer, had loads of talent, and that they felt honored to know me.  There was an article in the local paper, the Watertown Tab, at the time of BLT’s publication, but I guess everyone forgot about all that rather quickly.

In 2005 someone suggested that I start a blog to publicize BLT online.  I did. I’d say I had about three visitors each month. But it all grew.  I finished grad school in 2009. This Hunger Is Secret, which in fact is my graduate thesis, a memoir, was published in electronic form in 2010 and in paperback in 2012 by a traditional publisher.  My publisher is in the UK, however, the book is available worldwide.  I used my real name and continue to do so.

Names are a funny thing.  Mine is so common that I can easily hide and I am quickly mistaken for all the other Julies and all the other Greens and Greenes that live nearby.  The USPS and UPS delivery is often problematic.  I’ve even had pharmacy mix-ups and I regularly get phone calls for the wrong person, friendly post card reminders, bills, and requests for donations.  I’m waiting for my coffin to arrive for the wrong me.  So long as no one forcefully shoves me into it, I can sell it under the table and make a small fortune, eh?

So meanwhile, I remained underground here locally over a bunch of years until the past year or two.  The 2002 article in the local paper was disregarded and forgotten about.  Emerson College, which is located in the large city here, Boston, had pushed me aside except for the once or twice calls to ask for money.  My grad school isn’t local, in fact, it’s very much far away and my fellow students don’t live nearby.

I was abused in a hospital here in mid-2011.  This was extremely serious abuse.  I’m not talking about someone just saying distasteful things.  This was nothing trivial.  I’m told that I’ve got grounds for a malpractice suit.  Problem is, we’re talking about Massachusetts General Hospital, not some tiny place with no budget.

I was rather shaken by what happened. I didn’t know what to do.  I would grasp onto anything.  I would find any Golden Calf that would listen to my story and then I’d worship that Calf.

At that point, that is, after I got out of Mass  General and later that fall, I truly believe I took a wrong fork in the road. I’ve spoken of these forks before, if you’ve been reading my blog. These forks that change the course of your life.

The day, much later, I realized the Calf was fake I was crushed.  Actually, this realization happened slowly, not in a day.  I’d say this belief, this Calf-worship, eroded over time.

I guess you can’t assume someone, or some organization, is trustworthy. Nor can you assume they aren’t.  You have to wait it out.  It was a learning experience for me.  I revealed within a local organization that I assumed was well-intentioned that I had a mental history.  This, friends, was not a good idea.  Now, some very incorrect rumors have spread.  I nearly died of starvation (which doesn’t mean I’m going to commit violent crime) last summer because I have anorexia nervosa, and again abused in a hospital.  Now the hostility in this town has increased ten-fold.  I guess false rumors spread very fast.

To the local folks now, I’m a dangerous mental patient. A useless Welfare case.  Waste of a life.  Better off dead.  Certainly unwanted here, likely to set off a bomb or do mass murder. Good thing we have no movie theaters!

As for my online presence, that’s entirely separate.  Who reads my blog?  Not local folks. People all over the world, scattered here and there, but not folks who live around the block and around town.

I’m not sure how to deal with this once I relocate. I will surely want to be the writer I am.  I can safely continue my online presence and keep my name, perhaps not identifying my location anymore.

I’m wondering about open mics.  I love reading aloud.  These open mics are usually attended by renegade types, that is, poets and artists, people who live on the fringe, neglected veterans, occasionally homeless people, folks that have been shoved aside by society or ill-served, unless the cover charge is overpriced. There’s nothing I love more than reading aloud to an audience.  I do a damn good reading.

No, I don’t stand up there in curves or a bathing suit or wow them with a pretty face.  I don’t talk about joy or euphemisms or “recovery” or promise great things if only you pay me money and I’m no guru.

I’m a writer.  I read what I write. That’s it.

Okay, you can pet my dog, too.

Maybe, if I do find an open mic, I should read, but be rather vague about my past as “mental patient.”  Surely, there’s a larger global issue going on here and bigotry against “mental patients” is only one form of bigotry.  So perhaps I can be more general without glossing over it.

Sure, I’ve been to talks where the specifics have been ironed out far too much, that is, the details are all edited out to the point that it’s all generic and frankly, boring.  You folks know what I mean.

Heck, I am a writer and when I write, I do specifics such as blood guts and gore.  I don’t want to hear “eating disorder.”  That clinical and it bores me and it’s everyone’s story.  I want to hear exactly how you felt when you saw which dip between your bones, specifically, when you first saw it in the mirror, when you touched it with your fingertips, in secret.  This is real life.  I relate to your story.  When you tell me, I will cry and hold onto you, and you can pet my dog.

See ya later.

When did “crazy” become “sick”?

Was it around the 80’s?  Cuz I’d never heard of it that way before.  Must’ve been in day treatment in 1981, in a group, that a lady referred to herself as having “gotten sick.”  She was referring to depression.  I had never thought of my eating problem as a sickness before, and now, it was being presented to me as some sort of medical problem.  Maybe now, if I thought of it like that, it would be like a cold or flu, something you stayed home from school for, something that people gave you chicken soup  or flowers for or a get well card for, something people said, “I hope you feel better,” for.  No, I wasn’t crazy or bad.  I was sick and everyone should feel sorry for me and now, I had a damn good excuse for dropping out of living.

Not everyone is a blind follower….

Today, the blind followers will hear
That “bad behavior” equals “we don’t want you here”
That “we don’t want you here” equals “mentally ill”
That “the mentally ill should go elsewhere”
That “the mentally ill are dangerous for our children.”

It’s 6am, and I’m sitting here at home and I’m rather certain
That this is what the blind followers will hear in a few hours.

However, not all are blind followers.
I, for one, am not.

I encourage anyone who is reading this now
To walk out, or just not show up anymore.
If you can, speak out.
It’s a tough world out there.

60 Minutes’ coverage of mental health last night, Jan 26

Here’s the link: http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/  I don’t own a TV but someone sent this to me.

So I watched.  Here’s my reaction:

I’m afraid people are going to assume we’re all a bunch of dangerous criminals.  Only a fraction do anything violent.  A very small fraction.

In my 3+ decades of repeated hospitalizations, I was “violent” in a hospital once.  Only once.  I smashed a window, a teensy window put in the doorway area for cosmetic reasons, that had safety wires in it.  Now we’re talking about maybe 60 hospitalizations.  This was my third.  Must have been March 1983.

Weeks earlier, I had been on the ward, watching TV, and saw that Karen Carpenter died. I tried to tell these nurses that I, too, had an eating disorder and I got the usual blank stare.  There was nothing I could do and in three decades, although I begged and begged, I was never able to get “care” for it. Just that stupid blank stare.

I figured pills might help. Boy, was I wrong.  Most had no effect on me except side effects. I was always hoping that if I kept asking for medication, something might work.

Along the way, I ended up with the diagnosis “schizoaffective.” They’d given me so many drugs that didn’t work and by then, I looked “schiz,” as I heard them put it, cuz I was so drugged I couldn’t put a sentence together.

I am not a criminal.  But they lock us up and give us those disdainful looks.  Disapproval.  Hatred, even.  They have to contain us, manage us, beat us into submission, deceive us and threaten us so that we’ll agree to the drugging.

Now, they assume I’m violent without even asking.  I am never believed when I try to speak up.  I am feared and loathed in my community.

When I am treated with such discrimination, I feel despairing.  Yes, true.  I ask myself, how much hatred can one person take?

That, my friends, is the problem. I am one of the 99% that isn’t violent.  Yet we are loathed and there’s no basis for their fear.  Try doing that to anyone and their life is going to turn to crap.

Gus Deeds, I don’t believe in Heaven, but if you did, then I truly believe that’s where you are right now.  I’m sorry no one listened. It’s sad that so many turn their backs on us and don’t listen until after we’re gone.

I gotta stop here cuz I’m gonna start bawling.  And no, quit concluding that I’m “out of control” just cuz I shed a few tears. Another example of societal prejudice.

It’s sad that I don’t get respect in my community here

I am frequently heartbroken over the way communities treat people who are known to have a mental illness.

I am a writer.  My book, Breakdown Lane, Traveled, can be found in two local libraries. One was a copy I donated to the Watertown Library.  The other is in the library in Concord, MA.  I suppose someone requested it and the library decided they’d buy a copy.

My other published book, This Hunger Is Secret, cannot even be found in a catalog search anywhere in the Minuteman system. There are so many zillions of local libraries in this system, maybe 30 or 40 at least.

The listing for BLT has my name spelled wrong in the catalog.

I need to donate a copy of THIS to my library.   It’s just heartbreaking.

I grew up in this area. I was out of town (Western MA and Vermont) from 1975 until 1986.  I’ve lived in Watertown from 1987 on.  When I walk into my bank, I am keenly aware that I’ve been a customer there for far longer than most employees I see working there. They tell me they won’t give me a drink of water when I walk in there and ask.

I feel hated here. Despised and loathed.  Going out is unpleasant.  People see me and if they know who I am, they turn up their noses and act like I’m contaminated.

It’s Julie Greene the Mental Patient, and I guess that trumps Julie Greene the Writer.

I don’t let it bother me the way it used to.  For a while, I wouldn’t use the front door of my building because of the gathering of gossipers around the front door.  They’re not friendly at all and their gossip is unpleasant to witness.  I notice that ever since I stopped seeing mental health professionals, I’ve been less self-conscious walking through that door. I think it’s nice knowing I don’t have to go to someone’s office and get insulted for 50 minutes, every week.  You bet those constant reminders that you’re no good are going to affect your whole life very quickly.  I think my feeling of self-worth has definitely risen up a few notches, and I’m proud of that.  I feel rather good now compared to the way I’ve felt the past couple of years, and that’s progress.

Starting my new book today, right now

Give me two secs to feed Puzzle and I’m going to start.

I wrote to the Grub Street School, this so long ago, and there have been e-mails back and forth. I’m looking for a tiny bit of coaching help.  I would be paying for it, but the response, after all that, has been a flat out NO.  Still trying, but it looks like I won’t be able to get someone, not from there.

These e-mails have been going back and forth since December.   I feel stupid now.  Who am I?   A peon. No social standing.  So few people will even carry on a real, spoken conversation with me.  My general experience is this NO from over 99% of people I approach.

Will you be my friend?  No.

Further explanation: I refuse to be friends with anyone with “problems.”

Will you at least speak out loud to me once or twice?  No.  Can we meet for coffee?  No.

Further explanation: I can’t get anything from you.  You don’t have a car, you have no money.  You live in a crap apartment.  You’re ugly.  I can’t use you as a stepping stone to meet other great people cuz you don’t know anyone.  You are of no use to me.  I don’t want to waste my time.

(To a doctor): Will you please pay attention to my concerns about my body and give me the appropriate medical care?  No.

Further explanation: I don’t dare give you proper medical care.  It will ruin my reputation. Even though I know you aren’t crazy, I don’t want to rock the boat and be oppositional to the other ones who claim you are.

So I’m so accustomed to being turned away.  By over 99% of people I ask.  You guys may remember I made hundreds of calls trying to find a “therapist” over the past few years until I finally gave up.  So why did I expect Grub Street, or anyone anywhere, to be any different?

Why did I waste the past few weeks in this “waiting” limbo? Thinking I couldn’t get the project off the ground without this magic “help”?  There is no “help.” Apparently even if you pay for it.  Not if you are me.  No such thing as teamwork when you aren’t even allowed on the team.

When you are just a peon, you learn that you gotta “do it yourself.”  Why?  You have no choice. You stand alone.  And you become very, very strong because of it, a massive force to be reckoned with.  That’s why I’m alive today.  In fact, I’m more than just alive.  I am a writer.  Not everyone can say that.  I like the person I am, and am continuing to become, and I can get through this.

 

Are mental patients a danger to society?

That look of disdain.  The way they wipe the sweat away, like they are truly scared of you.  You ask yourself, “What the heck did I do wrong?”

The person is shaky and tense.  You can hear it in their voices and see their hands shaking.  I have seen doctors who were afraid of me, one had BO even.  I could see the reflection of the overhead lights in his tense brow. I told myself how stupid it all was, that I surely wasn’t going to attack the dude, but he was acting like he was dealing with explosive chemicals and he had to be very, very careful otherwise, POOF! I’d attack him.

I mean, really, that was stupid.  He sectioned me.  I couldn’t believe it.  This was a long time ago and I still cannot believe he considered me “dangerous.”

Check out this article, kid with schiz diagnosis killed by cops when parents called for help…Keith Vidal…and my commentary, as usual

Here’s the article:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/07/justice/north-carolina-teen-killed/index.html

As you know, I have certain…er, feelings about cops.  No, I don’t truly believe all cops are bad.  Cops are human so I assume some are nice and some aren’t.  However, I’ve had so many bad experiences that I am scared when I hear a siren or see cops, cuz I associate them with being forcibly taken from my home.

So I imagine this 18-year-old kid had the same expectations and the same fears.  Why wouldn’t he?  He was probably scared to death to end up in yet another mental hospital.  I have seen the way they treat kids with schiz diagnosis in hospitals, they are treated the worst, often like they aren’t even human, they are violent animals that must be contained, creatures that have no real human feelings. They will speak of this kid right in front of him like he’s not there.  I know, I had schizoaffective disorder (supposedly) and they sure did the same thing to me often enough.

I don’t know what to say about the parents or what they were trying to do. Guess it was just a family fight.  Eighteen-year-old kids have fights with their parents all the time.  And lots of 18-year-old boys carry screwdrivers and odd tools around with them, by the way.

As you know, I was recently profiled. That’s right, profiled.  I wrote a letter that contained in it no violent threats, but the letter was misinterpreted as  a threat and the police and a couple other people came to my home yesterday.

Someone misinterpreted the whole thing somehow and the information got skewed.  I never posted a violent threat publicly. This was a private e-mail I sent.  I would never post in a public forum about the touchy matter contained in the e-mail.

I discussed mental illness stigma, and because I brought up the name of Adam Lanza, someone assumed I was dangerous, possibly armed and out to get someone.

The police who showed up at my door were not the regular, er, combat police. This was the police social worker. Still, I know she’s got “sectioning” power.  These people can section based on opinion, there doesn’t even have to be real fact!

So based on no real evidence, it was assumed I was armed and dangerous when in fact, I certainly wasn’t.  I was armed with my pen and I was writing, that’s all, no violence here.

So…apparently because of my “diagnosis,” something harmless I said was misconstrued as a threat

I now see what it was that I stated, in a private e-mail, that was completely misinterpreted as a threat that I would commit some terrible, violent act, (such as a mass shooting) or that I would do physical harm to a specific person.  However, I have no clue where this comes from.

“I will not sit by and do nothing” is my modus operandus.  If I see something wrong, I’m not going to turn my back and forget it exists.  If I see someone that needs help, I’ll help that person instead of turning away. This was why I went to the protest yesterday, and why I speak up.

“I’ll figure out some other way to deal with it” isn’t specific and in no way did I have any clue this was going to be misread as a threat of violence.

Wow, a person like me has to be so darned careful!  Everything I say is assumed to be some kind of “mental fit.”  If I show any expression in my voice at all, I get jumped on and someone assumes I’m “terribly upset,” when all I am doing is making sure I express myself in something other than an unfeeling monotone.  Everything I do that isn’t boring seems to get turned into some indication that I need to be locked up.  People are so scared of me and I’m downright disgusted.