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May You Live In 'Interesting' Times

Hello reader. Whatever has brought you here, I hope you find something of use in this journal.

I've stopped keeping it, partially because blogging is kind of silly. But more importantly, because I wish to put some distance between myself and my struggles with the psychiatric machine in late '03 and the first half '04. Unfortunately, there's stigma and discrimination associated with having been institutionalized for any reason. So though I speak openly about my experiences, I don't need *everyone* I meet to start our conversation with "so tell me about the nut house". I'd also prefer to separate these matters from my professional life to the extent that is possible (while still publishing my findings freely, here and in press articles).

For those who want an aerial view, I'll make a long story short:

Inexplicable shifts of perception (later identified as a chemical imbalance) led me to behave really oddly, and my neighbors were rightfully concerned so they called 911. I went cooperatively in an ambulance, but where I ended up didn't resemble a hospital. Thinking of myself as a patient and not a prisoner, I did not know that locking someone up in a creepy room and refusing to talk to them is standard practice. The rights you have in this nebulous state of "mental evaluation" aren't something we're taught in high school civics, and they won't explain it to you (they are busy, and will tell you so). Repeatedly insisting to speak to whoever-answers-the-intercom's-manager isn't just going to get ignored, it gets you tied down.

Perhaps a reasonable person would quietly ask "pardon me, when will I be seen"? and wait indefinitely when they said: "when we get to you"--but brain disorders like mania aren't associated with patience. And I challenge anyone to not freak out when silent people (who obviously dislike you) lock you in increasing restraints and chain you to a wall in some windowless room. I also question the practice of choosing to make intercoms beep a la Chinese Water torture when someone is stuck in this state. But anyhow, after some hours of this and a minor stroke or two, the evaluation period was up and they let me go. I walked (ran) out the door with a prescription for a batch of pills (which cost in excess of $300/mo), which they pronounced I'd need to take for the rest of my life.

I'd have been better off checking into Shady Palms and taking the tranquilizers for a few weeks, so I could calmly fill out a complaint form regarding the two-thousand-dollar medical bill. Instead I went pretty much ballistic, and the value of any specific personal relationship came to seem irrelevant when no one would confront the hospital, or me. Unfortunately my condition was going untreated during this time, and whether you are sympathetic or think I got what I deserved depends on a number of factors. The behavior of those in power takes on an aspect of sinister cruelty when you view it as the treatment of a person with a disability. I don't see it all like that, so I cut a lot of slack for reactions to my more incomprehensible activities, though even in that context there's a lot to account for.

Where this stands these days is that The Establishment has set me up with a decent drug that has pretty much taken care of my symptoms. They've dropped charges against me--which is good--but also means there won't be any forum for my complaints unless I choose to sue someone (which I've been taunted to try doing if I feel so inclined). Yet it's nearly impossible to attack an intertwined government system that has its own "internal justice" and won't put anything in writing without a court order...it's kind of like Jack Nicholson's speech from A Few Good Men. The relativists, including extremely well-meaning ones who work from within the system, say: "Count your blessings, Mr. I-Didn't-Die-In-A-Tsunami. In the end, you got the medical intervention you needed. As for criticisms of the process, why don't you put together a made-for-TV-movie or something?"

I might. In the meantime, don't think I'm somehow defined as a person by wanton challenges to authority. I also wantonly challenge subservience. Plus, I'm kind of funny, a passable artist, and am (obviously) willing to put my cajones on the line for any perceived furtherment of mankind. I have one or two other talents, and an otherwise productive life. For that matter, the potential impact I have to make by spreading this information could far outweigh any other achievements I have to point to. Time will tell.
  • Current Music
    Crystal Method - I know. It's You.
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Request for Jail Photographs

note: I backdated this entry, but that doesn't stop it from showing up on your "recent posts" lists, apparently!

To: Ken Ray (DAJD director, King County)
Date: January 12, 2005
Subject: Request for Jail Photographs

Dear Mr. Ray,

I have asked the Department of Adult Detention about getting recent pictures of the inside of King County Jail. I’m most interested in the specific isolation cells on the seventh floor where I spent several weeks pre-trial in 2004. I’d also appreciate photos of the common areas, booking rooms, and the holding tanks used to move prisoners to the municipal court (though these are of secondary importance). If images are not readily available, I’ve offered to come onsite and take them myself. Obviously none of these photos would feature guards or inmates.

My desire to acquire this documentation stems from a larger objective of building a comprehensive and “reality-based” roadmap of Seattle’s mental health landscape. I am sure that a civilian review board exists that understands most of the puzzle. Yet the complexity of managing the mentally ill has given rise to institutional structures that easily baffle the average person…not to mention clients of the system. There is no question that some of these clients have developmental disabilities preventing them from navigating the clearest of situations. Yet I speak from experience when I say that the facilities themselves play a big role in disorienting those who might otherwise be much more compliant. This aspect is not adequately captured in words.

The hopeful outcome of such openness would be to bring more public attention, understanding, and funding to the area. Despite that, this request has been orally denied in visits with several jail officials. They cite security reasons that exempt this information from the umbrella of disclosure that applies to other public facilities. Elizabeth at the Department of Adult Detention was willing to give her first name and serve as a spokesperson for refusing the inquiry. Yet she indicated that even a written denial signed by a representative of the D.A.D. would only be provided in the event of legal action against King County.

Though I have not yet been able to get a truly explicit rationale of your department’s policy, there are three main reasons that I can think of offhand:

* Increased jailbreak potential from exposure of locking mechanisms, window barriers, and cell layouts.

* The safety of a civilian photographer in a potentially unstable environment.

* Serving every photograph request would lead to increased costs and administrative burden.

It seems to me that we could strike a compromise that would serve the interests of operational "transparency" while addressing these concerns. The visible features of the cells are extremely simple and could be verbally recounted or drawn by anyone who has been inside, so the first issue does not seem relevant (especially if cell numbers or other identifying information were voluntarily "blacked out"). Since physicians and lawyers are admitted on a regular basis, I would also not be personally concerned with safety of a visitor…and a waiver of liability could also ease this concern. The third points to some possible solutions, such as limiting the number of requests served on a semi-annual or annual basis.

As for whether a lawsuit deemed to have merit by a court should be a prerequisite to any official response, I’ll only suggest that few inmates who spend time in the facility could reasonably afford to file legal action. Additionally, a case against King County might be disproportionately difficult to sell to judges who are (understandably) empathetic to the constraints placed on their peers in the correctional system. In any event, I only ask that an "in writing" expression of that policy be provided--outside the context of a lawsuit.

Thank you for your time.
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TURNAROUND TIME (poem)

TURNAROUND TIME

Sweeping the dreamscape
were radian clocks --
ticking and talking to me
as I watched them
clean every man's mind.

They didn't clear mine.

It appears I was flawed!
A sick voodoo god
who misunderstood pain,
and time and again
pulled pins off grenades.

Mistakes had been made.

Taking E before I
tended ordered events...
rules persistently bent
caused memories to melt
of those who meant well.

There is asphalt in hell.

Here tides play me music -
it's sometimes confusing.
I still pick up seashells
to answer her calls...
selling oceans to ears.

If you listen, you'll hear.




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GREEN (poem)

GREEN

from out of a keyhole
too long look-ed through
came an inkling that inkled
(as inklings oft do)

and I knew then I'd lost it
distracted because
of the has that had been
and the never that was

this reflection I share
with the man in my car
it's best not to know
how unhappy you are




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REGRET (poem)

REGRET

I asked those questions
  long ago
of Heaven's lofts
  and realms below
she sadly smiled,
said "I don't know -
  but hell is where
    the quitters go."
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FINISH LINE (poem)

FINISH LINE

I ran mechanical
as broken clockwork
each alarming minute
turned metal to ribbon
heartstrings snapped
like thin red tape
gears spinning so fast
I forgot to say
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REVELATION (poem)

REVELATION

Lost upon the causal sea
I’m sickened by the salt
that fell from favor
with the savior
for it can’t affect the rot

Edicts must have been in order
For I couldn’t sleep at all
took two tablets
in my habit
and awoke too late to call

So if worms would chill my body
While these locusts warm my head
then the rapture’s
Just a chapter
in the final book I read




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