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.

 

 

bring me the pill for infelicitous birth

This was going to be mainly about what is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but now since two of its very close relations–abuse, especially sexual abuse, and narcotics addiction–have entered the internet news cycle for which I am probably way too late at this point but I am actively ignoring myself as I offer myself rationalizations not to write or not to put it anywhere anyone will find it if I do write something and so because virtually anyone with a decent-sized megaphone with which to address addiction gets it completely and horribly wrong just as those speaking about trauma and PTSD also get it completely and horribly wrong I found myself with more to say than what I started out thinking I was going to say.

Neither of them, for instance–PTSD nor addiction–are diseases.

psych drugs and warning labels in psychedelic blue and hot pink

take this medication with resignation and bare faith

We would like them to be. For a million reasons but mostly nobody has to address anything they themselves might be doing to exacerbate a problem if that problem can be relegated to medical management and pinned on some vague notion of inherited disorder for which we have almost no empirical evidence that is not deeply founded in the sort of already-given interpretation my culture demands regarding health and disease, order and disorder, normality and perversity, function and dysfunction, productivity and loss, and–this list is endless as these lists always are. The point is still that blaming (genetic, medical, physiological) fate is slightly less odious than blaming those suffering under that fate but still too easy when problems are manifestly rooted in the specific cultures in which they appear, and in very complex ways that might cause discomfort to many who consider themselves beyond reproach because they did not really enjoy heroin that one time they tried it or maybe the painkillers they occasionally need to take are effective for the bluntest of physiological pain but no more than that and so they have managed so far to avoid becoming junkies of any kind.

Lucky them.

Three things:

In North American cultures, addicts of what are called hard drugs are almost always survivors of trauma–trauma severe enough that anesthesia from life itself can become the only thing that makes life bearable. And so addiction is what you do if you cannot kill yourself on a punctual, finalized schedule.

I cannot put it any more concisely than that. Probably one could investigate neural pathways and what sorts of environmental variables affect endorphin production in some cases or dopamine in others and oxytocin in other others and probably some indefinite several of neurological signaling agents we do not know very well yet. But my experience tells me that when a drug can simulate family in the absence of, you know, actual family, it answers a primal need that will not be denied once it finds what it thinks it is seeking. The idea of “will power” is laughable in the face of this sort of need, but my confused critique of whatever it is we call will–I haven’t a clue, honestly: I cannot find will in any of my personal faculties and would not recognize it if it were there staring me in the face and enacting things all on its own power as I squinted in incomprehension because where on earth did it find this original power because I have never come across any and believe me I have looked everywhere–ok well besides that much critique I am leaving the rest for later.

This will probably not make sense to you either: addiction can signal a tenacious sense of self-preservation and something like an inextinguishable hope: whatever and wherever my place is here on the planet I am doing all I can to stay here and make it into a dwelling place familiar enough not to set off serial panic even if my life will turn out to be nothing much else beyond surviving my own murder/suicide. The junkie shooting up is refusing to die even while taking into her body what may be that one bad hit. The chamber with the bullet. The all it took. The we knew this day was coming.

Sometimes that day never arrives. Contrary to legend, addiction is no surer a predictor of death than any other dangerous and desperate bid to stay alive long enough to give sunrise one more opportunity to justify its arrival.

Not entirely unlike life itself: a mortality rate of one hundred percent. Not one of us has survived it yet. I know some of you believe that to be untrue but the evidence is overwhelmingly pessimistic on this one.

That was just one thing.

Here are the others or some others or something:

somethings, I mean:

In the cultures I might call my own, PTSD is usually figured solely as either a soldier’s burden or the occasional outcome of large-scale disasters. Of those I have spoken to who are diagnosed or diagnosable with PTSD, I have known a handful of soldiers and maybe one or two survivors of the flood fire famine sort of disaster that we recognize as disaster. I have not counted up the rest but that is mainly because they are one of those vast majorities that are really hard for one person to count especially when every other day I meet another one of us. The rest of us are survivors of the more private disasters of childhood abuse, domestic abuse, andor rape.

“andor” because abuse is almost always sexual at some point whether it is primarily sexual or also physical, emotional, spiritual, or some terrible cycle of All Of The Above and so abuse and rape often as not are synonymous and even simultaneous. Other times they happen in succession. And maybe some more abuse later on because you were taught that it is part of the natural order and so it just looks like another day to you.

That’s two things. Here is where I stick my neck out:

The medicalization of addiction and of many conditions called mental illness, including PTSD, functions in part to divert public attention or maybe the public itself is diverting its own attention this way which seems a more faithful description but we whoever we are we cite models of disease for this among other things in order not to have to address our own complicity in one or another tradition of abuse–traditions which precipitate what is called mental illness and what is called addiction. Repeatedly. Predictably.

Those traditions of abuse are endemic to that culture or cultures with which I am most intimately familiar because they permeate me. Or us.

This is something I proclaim as a strong strong hunch and one for which the research necessary to show it conclusively is more than a single person could do or at least if I were the only single person doing it it could take a very long time and not just because I spend most days tending to some PTSD-related intermission or another. Statistics on childhood abuse, for instance: completely unreliable, and by the researchers’ own admission almost every time I look up another batch of them, almost certainly leading to gross underestimation of the extent to which the practices addressed in their studies are accepted as normal or at least tolerable by the participants/respondents.

Here is an interesting study on public perception of child abuse in the US (pdf file).

The Framework Institute has done other research on child abuse as well, all of it interesting.

That is almost all I have to say right now. But the other day I ran across another glib homage to the power of modern medicine or that is the power of the myth of modern medicine and it was so cheerfully reductive that I wanted almost to curse the very idea of research because no animal who forces itself to be as obtusely optimistic as we have seemingly become should be trusted with the care and feeding of a whole planet based on whatever knowledge it can produce for itself.

The most recent upsurge in despair followed this which is how this all got started insofar as my deciding to write something down goes:

A comprehensive PTSD drug would be the holy grail, of course.
well.

no.
actually.
the holy grail would be

a culture that does not deliberately impose multiple traumas on its offspring over and above the unpredictable and inevitable injuries that are standard-issue living.

the holy grail would be

a culture that does not use shame and silencing as its primary methods of discipline when overt violence seems unacceptable if that ever happens to happen.

the holy grail would be

directing some of the obsessive energy devoted to identifying the neurological and genetic causes of psychiatric disorders toward identifying and eradicating the cultural, social, and familial causes of those myriad physiological changes that so often result in syndromes we call mental illness. because we cannot bear the possibility that we may ourselves be the primary vectors of this sort of pathology we look for isolated, simple biochemical interactions where nothing isolated or simple ever takes place: in and among the bodies of complicatedly social, intelligent, and sensitive animals.

the holy grail would be

examining cultural assumptions about family that chronically make children open targets of abuse while simultaneously depriving them of the security they would need to be able to talk about what was happening to them without fear of retaliation for telling the truth.

the holy grail would be

asking ourselves with unhesitating honesty why our culture predicates itself on scarcity, competition, conformity and exclusion, deprivation, and a general hostility toward life as it occurs on Earth as the pillars of social, spiritual, and economic order and security. we have chosen homelessness as the guarantor of stability and I mean that both literally and metaphorically although the metaphor is itself as real as any shopping cart and tarpaulin city.

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?