oh beast! nightmares of sheep. goats. fire that sinks like water.

We wait.
I may be here when they lock the doors.

I am here to tell someone about the rate of attrition 
how at dusk

all the people disappear.

I live on the hippest street in the nation
Or the second hippest if you are thinking about the other one I don’t know its name myself although I think I know where it is.
Unless it is someplace else.
But I am certain that my street is hipper than any street there could ever be.

Point being there are always a number of people within a hundred yards of me.
Heading in.
Heading out.
Passing through.

Those that I would or have invited to stay for a moment, though.
persistence is agnostic of all of me and so
I place it upon you
a halo
and its displaced space
almost a dent
a trough
where
for a short time
light will chase its tail
ink-tipped
ravenous

They disappear or that is at dusk I am struck with all of their vanishings at once whether or not anything of note happens to occur wherever they are or were or I imagine them to be. The hush is quite nearly devastating the sidewalks bright and empty the sky congested with shadows horsemen without weight or volume nearly almost partially blocking the sun.

As far as I can tell nobody besides myself feels the chill or is it the uptick in humidity yet entire cities vanish some half century ago the heavenly curtain was to be ripped open it would be for certain or for completely unpredictable but certainly soon but unexpected the great surprise predicted with all assurance whole populations slipping quietly from this earth with an ear-splitting shout TOO LATE or SUCKS TO BE YOU DUNT IT except it would not be everyone only the very holiest airplane captains and the crew also if they all of them were really really really truly baptized the single correct way but even some of those would turn out to have done it all wrong and somehow although their true numbers were meager the disaster would be large enough to be disastrous airships abandoned left and right passengers consigned to the collective gravity of their own worldly sins centered as it is within Lucifer’s own playground all the headless planes converge deep in the earth depositing the unwashed directly into the lake of fire below our feet.

Your feet. My feet.
That was a faster trip than I expected.
Oh we have been waiting for you. Waiting and waiting.

I may have been eight when I learned of this freight train of a rapture the one bearing down with all arrested haste as it had already for the hundred fifty-ish years since it was sifted out of the King James Bible with all the hermeneutic ingenuity one could hope to find in an American preacher. My family had not mentioned anything about it yet but early in the school year a Jack Chick tract somehow landed on the windowsill of my fourth grade classroom and as it was made of words and pictures I had no power not to pick it up I would and did and still do read shampoo labels and pill bottles if they appear in arm’s reach along with a moment to fill but this pamphlet existed only to be read thus I trusted it all the more to be rewarding and useful but instead the little comic was almost terrifying only too confusing at first to be quite so. It told of a cosmic endgame of unbridled divine revenge and posed it without any reason I knew of in the place of a future I had not yet even thought about because the other five billion billion possibilities had always been open and always would be unless they were about to be unceremoniously mowed down beheaded strafed pulverized and buried.

Because god was really mad about..

something. To this day none of the excuses offered neither the simple ones nor the sophisticated have ever been anything but exasperating. Arbitrary. Stark naked all resentment and fear hanging out swollen just past the point of restraint so that you cannot decide whether to laugh or run. 

I took the leaflet home. Mom would know if this stuff was true or real or anything I needed to worry about she explained things all the time and it was clear to me then that she already knew everything I would ever need to know.

It was. Something to worry about. Or it would be. I vaguely recall being told I could put off this worry until some time a little later that I would know was the time because it would be the time and I would know by then I would not have to ask I would just know it which indecipherable moment would shortly become the focus of vicious ellipses of thought so quietly insistent how was I to know then the howling the shrieking the twisted diamond bits exquisitely drilled years they were on tight fine points of doubly bound preacher’s logic.

Time was on their side. They would wait as long as they had to but no longer a couple of decades would make for a vast polish of precision-ground glass. One note so high nobody heard it not me not you not anyone still living. Every now and again I find a shard still singing as though it had landed not an hour before.

I am ahead of myself or I would be if I knew where to go to get there.

But I don’t remember much else about the truly bad news that was to get so much worse and for so long only I recall crawling on her lap for some sort of reassurance. The memory ends there. A vague hint of
shock like that was not what I came up here for oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Where will I go now where do I wait.
Could it be time yet.
How about now.

The rest of that fall is a nighttime serial in which I try to cry myself to sleep over and over and over and over but there is exhuasted crying because you have just had enough of the day and there is I cannot sleep with this unbearable knowledge and

there is no unknowing
and
there is no.

There just was not.

I was unable to say what the problem was when asked. Someone would rub my back while I pretended to fall asleep because I could not explain why that was not working either. What comfort could they possibly offer–clearly they had no more power than I to change the ending of this weird-ass stage play we had all been born into without ever once asking. So I stayed still as they left my room. Sleep would come eventually to swallow the ruined cosmos for a little while. By spring I could see that no crying of mine would bring it back to life and so I gave up.

I could not explain that gods plan had drained life of sense and replaced it with a terrible and ruthless joke. All of the color all of the motion all of the life all of the music the running water the rocks and hills and the grass the forests awash in moss and echoes of every breeze every hoof every breath the taking flight and sitting still all of that for one question. One lousy question and the majority of all of this and all of us would flunk.

It did not matter to me that I did not have to worry for myself right then. Add me to the damned biomass of Earth or subtract me: it made no significant difference in the overall volume of the final kill that would not even be final but ongoing and ongoing and ongoing until even a blind idiot god would have to signal somehow that enough was enough as the balances toppled lopsided with recompense.
I understood this then but could not have said even to myself what it was I understood. Besides which understanding could not overcome my absolute inability to disbelieve what my mother told me. My eight was your six besides who at eight is able to back themselves like that to walk unassisted like that to give themselves the benefit of the doubt like that.

I knew. I knew that I knew.
And I knew that it was not possible to go on knowing.

I had to fold.

It was the end
not the beginning of the end
not the end of the end
all of the end all of it
For once and for all

This would not be the last one
but it was the last one where
I was allowed
to maintain that
nobody had warned me.
 

first in a series of series of declared series

I am so frustrated I could file a class action lawsuit! If, you know, I had a lawyer. And money to pay them if they did not want to do all this work for free because I have a hunch the system is rigged and besides I am the most unreliable witness alive.

Ok maybe not the most unreliable. But my credibility and my credit are both shot. Probably it is no coincidence that they would go down together but if I start drawing connections too sharply I am going to look like I am psychotic or something and that would just–

well, underscore the “with psychotic features” portion of my vast collection of diagnoses. Which diagnoses will come up again if I get that far before I die but I am not sure how far I will even get before the coffee wears off or my eyes start aching so badly that I must stop typing and stare at my feet for the rest of the evening.

Personal responsibility. I have a lot of thoughts about that. Of course in late capitalism the persons saddled with personal responsibility are not those persons the Supreme Court saw fit to fashion out of the inherently lopsided autocracies that are corporations. They can do whatever they want; the invisible hand will guide and protect them in its boundless mercy for profit seekers.

The rest of us though. No such protection.

Still I can fantasize that everyone who espouses personal responsibility would actually be happy to take some on themselves and prove to the rest of us that they do believe this responsibility applies to everyone, not just to those other people who are not able to meet the free-market definition of worthiness.

I had the idea today to go out into the world. Because lately I have not been doing a whole lot of that because when I do what often happens is quite a lot like what happened today. I took my camera; I sort of made a new Gregorian calendar year resolution to go take pictures on my block at least once a week for the rest of the year and to try to see things that I have already seen a million times at least differently enough to take interesting pictures. Part of the resolution included posting them, somewhere, for anyone out there to look at. I hope to be able to get to that in between what may be called dystonic storms if what is going on with me is what I think is going on with me.

Really I think this was just an idea I had around the first of the year and I figured well this is a punctual moment so why not start and call it (one of) my project(s) for the year.

Looking up at an old building with columns and wrought iron faux balconies on the boarded-up windows

Today I took pictures of an old building that I am quite certain will soon lose its beautiful crumbling facade when someone buys it and decides that restoring said facade would cut into profits too much and instead they replace the facade with a facile quote of said facade. Because this has already happened to the two buildings adjacent to this one that were built in similar styles some time ago when architectural flourishes were not seen as excessive or if they were seen as excessive then it was still worth the time and money to carry them out in order to simply be excessive.

The point of my field trip was not necessarily the photography although I was aware this might be the only thing I was able to accomplish if I did accomplish anything at all. My general plan was to walk somewhere where there was a place to sit and then to sit there and maybe write a little bit about one or two of the million things that have occurred to me in the last couple of years and then gotten lost in the ceaseless clatter that is my central nervous system looking for itself or America or some other nostalgia-ridden peaceful ideal and that also makes starting andor continuing to write or think on any of these things into a challenge of modestly exhausting proportions.

I got as far as the parklet outside of a cafe over on Valencia just south of 22nd Street. I had thought maybe to try for the library at 24th Street but my back did not like all the standing still I had done while using my camera so I stopped here. I even got some coffee although I could not really afford it because why not go all out?

So I took my coffee to a parklet table and got myself seated which is itself an involved affair for reasons I do not fully understand except that it might have something to do with how I hang half of the things I think I might need from my bag and so they often get tangled up in each other and me and the dozen or so wallet chains I decorate myself wtih besides. Plus today a camera on a strap around my neck and you would think that carrying a bag would make organization easier instead of harder but no. It gets even worse if I put things in or on a backpack with carabiners and velcro and paracord. Backpacks are made to keep things out of reach until you Get There but I usually need things enroute and I should probably just get a toolbelt or something similar that could hold lots of things without using up my hands and neck.

Eventually though I was seated with my iDevice out and my coffee in front of me and I opened a note-taking app all ready to start. And then I realized that my eyes, neck, and head were all throbbing. At slightly different frequencies and also and this has been going on for a while but I do not notice that much here in my house because I guess I do not look down much at home if I look down that is if I bend my neck rather than, say, my waist in order to see something below my current horizon line then my head starts to ache or in this case ache worse. My neck muscles apparently do not like to be stretched that way because the ache starts in the back on one or both sides of my cervical spine and apreads from there to my temple(s) and forehead(s–oh wait. I only have one of those!).

This can be annoying when trying to use an iDevice without holding it up so that I can look directly ahead at it. Holding the iDevice up in that way makes my shoulder muscles angry if I do it for too long especially if the reason I am doing it is because the muscles in my face are angry because they will just spread the love on down to whatever part of me tries to do anything but remain still and as relaxed as possible which often is not at all possible but you have to try anyway if you want to be able to do anything at all the rest of the day.

My nose was twitching. Not so that anyone could see it but some nerve in my right-nostril-flaring muscle(s?) was unhappy or alarmed or something and so sending a repeated signal to a tiny bit of that muscle to contract and then shiver at about 70Hz or so for half a second. A half second of rest and then another signal. You might say it was on a 70Hz over 2Hz sort of signal. Or the other way around.

I don’t know which.

But most of the muscles in my face twitch for short periods at about 70Hz and in the night when it is quiet I can hear them, you know, from the inside, through whatever bone is between the muscle and my inner ear. Because my jaw is trying to shut itself with great emphasis much of the time and with varying amounts of force fueling that emphasis, I can only tell if it is relaxed if I stop hearing it strain against itself. Sometimes this means my jaw can be fully slack, but it usually finds rest somewhere between clenched tight and teeth not quite touching. A point of homeostasis between warring muscle groups, always at a slightly different length of the arc that defines the full range through which my chin can move all by itself. “Slack” jaw for me actually requires continuous muscular effort against the contractive forces almost always exercising themselves. And this generates that same hum slightly higher in pitch than the familiar sixty cycles of AC power. Or wherever those sixty cycles come from. Wall socket I am pretty sure but don’t quote me on that.

My eyes do not hum. They just ache if I try to swivel them upwards or sideways. You know, in their sockets. Not moving my head. Not all the time but if my nose or cheek or eyebrow are twitching it is usually the case that my eyes are not wanting to do any work at all other than the heavy-lidded unfocused meditation gaze at forty-five degrees of nothing. And so that is what I let them do even if I am not formally meditating right that minute. In fact this whole symphony of muscular restlessness will sometimes relent of I meditate on the spot. Or at least I can keep it toned down a little for as long as I look down with my eyes half-closed and my neck absolutely straight or even bent back slightly. If I wait long enough I can say I was meditating even if I was just waiting for the storm to pass and trying to think calm relaxing thoughts to help it on its way as well as to retain my own composure for another few minutes.

Klonopin can help a bit too, so I took a quarter of one and washed it down with my coffee so as to maybe counteract its sleepier-making effects. Oh and also water. Especially if I have eaten recently, half to a full liter of water can hurry my face along towards placidity. Of course then I will be hurrying myself along to the restroom soon enough but I know where all the good ones are in my neighborhood plus if all else fails I can just use the one in my therapist’s waiting room I mean hallway.

And so once the Klonopin and water and coffee were administered I sat somewhat Buddha like in the parklet chair with my head facing forward and my eyes down. People walked past with great commotion of noise and light. They say that the eye thing–if dystonia is the cause or rather the effect become a cause of the twitches and contractions–is a slow spasm of the eyelid muscles, but that does not explain at all why sound becomes all clanky loud and light all knife-edged bright while I cannot look at anything that requires eye muscle movement of any kind not just lid-raising.

In any case. I managed to type two paragraphs into my iDevice eventually but that was all my body would let me do, so I got up and walked home after getting my bag and my jacket and my camera all tied on in the right places. I rifled through the things I keep in my head to write for the one that would be a useful tangent for the story I keep saying that I want to write which is my own story of which there are thousands if not tens of thousands or more and it hit me: fucking class-action lawsuit! The mess I have been in the last several however manies is one that others share and not one of us chose to place outselves here.

But against whom? I start to make a list:

Jack Chick, most definitely, or whatever he left of his little evangelistic comic empire.

The Southern Baptist Convention?

How far back into the multiple, ramified chains of events would one want to reach?

I think the statute of limitations has passed to try to find the dude who raped me.

Not my brother. I know where he is.

The other dude.

How about a class-action lawsuit against the whole of compulsory anatomically essentialist heteronormativity? Who precisely is responsible for that?

Billy Graham Industries or LLC or Incorporated or however his offspring continue to make money by threatening the masses with the Lake of Fire. Oh, sorry. This one belongs up there with Jack Chick. I would not say the Grahams are completely to blame for the heteroassumptions into which they were all born.

I am refraining from naming what might be the most obvious entity to sue if the symptoms that started as soon as I stopped taking Zyprexa and continue to this day are actually somehow even in the most tortuous of ways connected the drug itself or its method of discontinuation. I will just leave this here though.

OK this was going to be a short intro? And I was going to write the story of why Jack Chick is the first culpable party that sprang to mind upon imagining financial compensation for chronic daily annoyance? But probably I have lost most of my audience already so I will try that a little later with some luck and Klonopin and water oh and lots of just. breathing.

 

 

uncle sam? is that you?

Context matters:

I live in the US.
I receive Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, because I am disabled.
I do not receive Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI. I will explain why that is.
The Social Security Administration administers both SSI and SSDI, determining eligibility and overseeing the continuing disbursement of benefits.

please sirs and mesdames may I have another:

Less than a month ago I received a letter from the Social Security Administration saying that I needed to come in and apply for SSDI to make sure I was not eligible for it, because if I were, that would affect my SSI payments. They had scheduled me an appointment. The day I got the letter, the appointment was a week away. It did not contain any other clues as to why SSDI had become an issue in my case.

I did not go to the appointment. I wish this had been a casual oversight; it would have been much less painful that way.

Depression and PTSD can–and usually do at the slightest opportunity–make it extremely difficult for me to keep any sort of engagement on anything like Earth time. It took me six months and three consecutive appointments to finally be able to appear for a CT scan this past spring and summer. Part of the holdup–but by no means all of it–was that it took me several weeks to be able to begin to take a shower. Once started, the shower itself occupied the better part of three days. Well, as far as I was concerned showering was in fact the worst part of those three days. Figures of speech do not always line up exactly the way you want do they.

I should mention that the CT scan was ordered in part to rule out cancer. So you see what it looks like when I am highly interested in getting something done while that something happens also to set off a variety of emotional/physiological disturbances despite my best efforts to remain undisturbed–or sufficiently undisturbed that I can see to the doing of the something. Thus, seeing to it will take a very. very. very. long time. And that is with lots of help, lots of rescheduling, lots of no it’s okay let us know if anything would make it easier. Absent the help and yes this extremely slow response time might be what kills me. Chronic problems are chronic.

So that is an example. To keep an engagement with an entity holding a great deal of power over me entails a great deal of anxiety management, behavior management, cognitive management, and autonomic nervous system management–short of heavy sedation, this last is hit-or-miss at best. These all require very careful planning to prevent, where possible, and manage, where not, unrelated stressors that inevitably pile themselves on in obeisance to the sheer randomness of the universe.

The chances of me being able to keep such an engagement when issued one week in advance without the slightest warning or indication are, practically speaking, just about zero. This is something I have learned I cannot beat out of myself, shame out of myself, berate out of myself, or even softly cajole out of myself. The only way to work around it at all is to proceed slowly, attentively, and without coercion, whether internal or external. You could say I have a hair trigger for coercion. The slightest hint of it and I just, sort of, stop.

In that week’s time leading up to the appointment I was able to: consider emailing my former advocates for advice; notice on their website that they strongly suggest calling instead of emailing if time is short or the need urgent; decide instead to call them; spend a few days trying to move myself to pick up the phone and make the call, without success; ask myself whether I might just email them anyway; reach no conclusion on the email question other than that maybe I was not supposed to do that so I should try one more day to call; figure out for myself why I was finding it so difficult to call them when I had done it before without having to overcome quite this much resistance; realize that I needed to change tactics; and then to–ok, by this time the appointment was three days in the past. I did not make it to the step of finding someone to call Social Security for me to request a later appointment. This would have occurred just after I considered whether or not I could do that without help. I did not get to that step either.

I should probably add that during this time I was also confronted with some bare hint of return of the mental phenomena that Zyprexa had been medicating me against (nominally or presumably or in effect–no idea which) up until just about a year ago, when I had to be taken off the drug after developing tardive dyskinesia. That whole episode is not over yet, but the week with the whirly thoughts turned out ok only it required nearly all of my concentration and energy to ascertain how best to respond to the whirly thoughts and it left me a little jumpy about how the whirly thoughts might respond to my response as time goes on. I did not spend all that much time trying to call for help with the Social Security appointment because there was not all that much time left over. I was also sleeping ten to eleven hours a night but still waking up exhausted.

The next week and a bit more consisted mostly of what now and how fast or how slow should I go and what do you suppose will happen next and I wonder what I need to do about that appointment. While I was looking into all these questions, another letter arrived from Social Security.

Paraphrase:

Your SSI benefits are being suspended beginning next month because you did not do as the law required, which was to apply for all other benefits for which you might be eligible. You have ten days to file an appeal to keep from interrupting your payments. You can have someone represent you but you should probably get in touch with them very soon because we are not fucking around.

love, your friends at the SSA

ok.

uhm,
ok.

well.

[insert here several days of immobile freakout ending with one very short very intense very impromptu surprise extra therapy half-fifty-minutes. no spinning headlines but maybe some black and white noir-psychedelic effects to stand for confusion and distress and then thick cloud cover but for a tiny pinprick of sunlight]

1. I actually did apply for SSDI in 2010. I was determined not eligible because in my entire working life I have not paid enough into the system to be able to get anything back out of it. Have they forgotten? Did something change? I have done no paid work in the last three years and thus have not paid any more taxes of any sort. I will take SSDI if they want to offer, but why is this being held over my head all of a sudden as though I have been neglecting some essential duty for some very long time?

2. I have PTSD from childhood emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse/rape. There simply is no way for me to approach an authoritative entity without fairly involved preparation. Without preparation I am looking at extremely painful and possibly dangerous physiological cascades that among other things dump so much cortisol into my bloodstream so quickly that I can feel it overflowing its well-marked trenches–the ones it has eroded out of my nervous system over the last fifty years and which we are working constantly to fill back in so that my neurons can more easily reconnect in less alarming ways. Sometimes these reactions occur despite our best efforts to stem them, but usually they can be mitigated in some way if we have some time and space to work with them.

Given this–that is, given the nature of my disability–why and how is it ok for the Social Security Administration to send me these kinds of communications? This whole sequence could not be any more restimulating of trauma-produced neurological pathways if it had been planned expressly for the purpose.

And this was their opening move.

3. I don’t even know. I seem to live in some insane unintuitive upsidedown opposite land. Or I got moved here at some point. Which is it and where is the reasonable universe.

 
 

not an epilogue because time is weird

Today is Sunday. Two days ago I walked downtown to the office of the organization that helped me apply for SS(D)I the first time around. It looks like they will help me now but I still have to figure out how best to light a fire under someone in a very short time when the most I personally can do is say help. um. help? help. With just about that much volume.

Somewhere not too long ago I read something about how the fight/flight/freeze response can become “stuck” in PTSD and that many abused as children learned to freeze and so this is where they get stuck as adults and if this is so then it explains a number of things about weeks like the one that just passed.

I have people. I said to one of them yesterday: I guess I am lucky. And it is true. I am. On my own, I would already be on the street.

post-post-epi-script-logue

To be clear, I am complaining here about how the Social Security Administration is making my life unnecessarily stressful by thoughtlessly taking advantage of my disability to try to shake me off their rolls. But I want also to emphasize that I am lucky because I have help. I will be ok, one way or the other.

See, I do not know if this is a procedure that ticks off every few years for anyone on SSI, where the computer says oh it is time to harass this person for a little while to see if they can be got rid of, and so happens regularly, or if this is a one-time push to see how many people they can cut costs on at one time. But either way it seems abundantly clear to me that it is a deliberate effort to cull people out of SSI benefits, whether they are taking us one at a time or targeting several in one go.

I will leave to the side the complex and worthwhile problem of whether this sort of bureaucratic action is being taken actually to trim payments to people who might no longer need them. It does not look that way to me; they want to see if another agency can fund my benefits. Paper money shuffling. The point, though, is that this sort of maneuvering will undoubtedly cause people like me to lose their benefits quite aside from any question of whether any of us are in need of them: and it will do so by exploiting the fact of our disabilities. They are betting that I will not be up to the challenge of taking them on. They would stand a very good chance of winning that bet very quickly if I did not have access to external resources. Many disabled people do not.

And so this letter is not something that just happens to upset me. It is a manifestation of a systemic failure to address disability in terms that are appropriate for addressing disability without causing further harm.

I do not mean to make claims about some grand conspiracy to bully disabled people out of their benefits (even though my definition of “conspiracy” is shifting these days to include those that are enacted without any well-organized and deliberate agency to guide them). But there certainly is a widespread mythology about disability benefits being abused and individuals getting rich off their Social Security checks. In response to this mythology we certainly can see an array of forces trying to make it harder and harder to obtain disability benefits. And further arguments over who should and should not get how much money for what.

What there is not, that I am aware of, is any conversation in the US that looks at how the Social Security Administration itself treats disabled people, and whether it treats us equitably in its administration of SSI and SSDI.

My way or the highway, and if you choose the highway it’s all his fault

My biorhythms were doing whatever it is they do when I strolled into Mad in America and read about Robert Whitaker’s presentation at NAMI. Or really, its aftermath.

Whitaker, as you may or may not know, is taking all sorts of flack for his research into the current state of psychopharmacological research and marketing, which you can find out more about in the books Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic. I have read both of them and although they are not without their rhetorical excesses (and of course I adore rhetorical excess but not usually mixed with science unless for artistic effect), the research Whitaker has put into them is thorough and very hard to argue with without resorting to very very tired canards about the plight and safety and whatever-tugs-your-heartstrings about the “mentally ill” as long as you don’t have to actually talk to any of them.

One day I will explain why I always put that term in scare quotes. Unless I already have, in which case I will probably do it again even so. But not just now. The short version of Whitaker’s message is something like: we–or those of us not involved in or with pharmacology industries–have no idea how little information we have been given about psychiatric medications, nor how much of what we think we do have is completely without empirical support. Whitaker has unearthed repressed research, inadequate methodologies, and a number of not-too-surprising instances where profit has short-circuited the scientific skepticism that is necessary to keep us from proclaiming that our knowledge is complete when it is in fact completely unmoored from any empirical observations because the money is nowhere near them.

Whitaker has made some enemies, of course. Many of them seem to think that the complexities of reality need to be hidden from some of us for our own good: specifically, those mental patients currently taking antipsychotics who truly need them. As you might suspect, precisely who needs their antipsychotics can vary depending on their relationship to the person you are asking.

A summary of this whole argument would take more energy than I want to expend at the moment, but Whitaker is currently living a snapshot moment that illustrates it, to my rickity mind, particularly well. So a link, and then the comment that those aforementioned biorhythms told me I had to leave after pouring one more cup of coffee, but with the part stuck back on the end that I cut out for the sake of not covering someone else’s blog page with my ranting. If you have time, read the comments (you can skip mine, I am reproducing it right here!); they shed quite a bit of light on the scene and had a great deal to do with whatever induced me to stop everything else I was going to do today to write what follows.

Whitaker’s post

My comment, plus extra bonus words:

No, you don’t have blood on your hands–and wouldn’t have even if Earley’s son had fared worse.

My very honest opinion, given the information given/linked here? Mr. Earley, I have no doubt, believes that he is trying to do the right thing for his son, and believes that “tough love” is a perfectly useful tool in motivating people to live up to their families’ and cultures’ expectations of them. But what I think I see is not at all unusual in the culture I live in (US, western, anglo-american–lots of names and none of them sufficient): our emphasis on individualism and personal responsibility often passes into brutality and abuse despite good intentions and in spite of every bit of love we believe we hold for those close to us.

Take your meds or get out of my house? It looks to me that Earley’s son was given a choice between two barely tenable alternatives, and the son took the one that he himself considered less painful, less risky, less likely to cause him great harm: he left home, alone, knowing what he surely knows about his capacity to handle difficult situations.

Being diagnosable with mental illness does not render us incapable of looking out for our own interests. Not knowing anything about Earley’s son, I can only speculate about why he chose to leave home rather than continue treatment when those were the only options available to him, but if I were going to analyze the situation further, I sure would want to know why he made that choice. I suspect the answer as to how best to serve his son could be found by listening to his son–for Earley, for anyone else.

Earley instead blames you for daring to uncover empirical facts and pointing them out where his son could see them. Controlling information access is a display of power. Possibly an abusive one. But it is endemic in our paternalistic culture and, for too long, has been an acceptable practice in caring for those whom we deem incapable of caring for themselves.

And yet Earley’s son did care for himself. He left home. This seems plain to me from here.

I suppose it might be a relief to be told that one’s child is suffering from a brain disorder and not reacting to, say, inhospitable conditions at home, using whatever means they can. But what I dearly wish could happen in public dialog would be for us to recognize that not only can no human behavior can be explained so simplistically, but there exists little evidence for those explanations we are given–or that we receive–as though they were studied, nuanced scientific conclusions.

We do not have to make a choice, when trying to explain emotional or neurological distress, between blaming refrigerator mothers and attributing it to well-documented brain disorders. Both of those figures are mythological and completely divested of any attention to the reality we ourselves live. But we do need to recognize that upbringing–and this is not a process confined to the traditions of any nuclear family, but a cultural and sociological process that continuously changes its focus–cannot be untangled from the physiological structures we inherit, in whatever shape, and which then develop in response to everything we ever perceive.

And, now apparently, we hear that we are shaped by many of the things our parents and grandparents perceived before any of us had begun to be iterated and reiterated by our own experiences. Take even the briefest critical look at our current understanding of neurological change and the mechanisms of inheritance: less comprehensive, less efficacious than our level of knowledge of these processes is only the degree of control we have achieved over any of them. We fancy ourselves master wizards when we are the neo-ist of neophytes.

My sense of what is called mental healthcare in the US is that, at the level of public discourse, it remains stuck in the positivist, enlightenment-era myth that not only will we be able to categorize and analyze any problem to complete resolution if we apply the briefest effort, but that we are always just on the verge of doing so, or that the last discovery finally put us over the top and now we have the magic key!

You know. Like Zyprexa, the wonder drug, showed us the way to cure psychosis. And a whole bunch of other disorders that we didn’t even know were disorders, much less similar enough to psychosis to be treatable with the same drugs!

I understand why we want these sorts of answers, and why we want them to be easy and without any implications for those considered normal, well-adjusted, and in need of nothing but their own self-sufficient selves. But as complex, intelligent, sensitive, and intensely social creatures, we are all implicated in each other and have been for millennia. Our relations are so complex we might never be able to name them all, but like our old Freudian unconscious, they will make themselves known whether or not we recognize them when they show up.

The desire to assign blame is tempting, I suppose. The more quickly the singular, locatable culprit can be found and punished, the earlier we can forget our own implications with what goes on nearby and return our self-image to its unblemished, untouched ideal. But it almost always leads us to overlook a great deal of detail and a great deal of what could be useful information.

And of course, a compassionate practice aimed at sorting out connections rather than offloading guilt onto the nearest neighbor might also stand some chance of making our multiple connections with our world much less painful.

It is apparent that many of us find those connections painful, is it not?