Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Anarchism and Science (3)
Mental Health and Counter-Culture
- Madi, Bloomington, IN
I know demons are real because I can see them.” I’m sitting in my mother’s car alone with my sister; outside snow falls slowly to the barely too warm pavement. “We can’t always trust what we see, Paige,” I offer back. After that it was over, I’d lost her trust for the remainder of my visit home. She wants to be dropped off at her apartment, she won’t hug me goodbye. Malice, fear and hatred is the look of farewell I receive from my beloved sibling. It had been the most she had said to me in two weeks and I was stuck in a hard place; try to help her recognize her delusions or enjoy the brief moment of connection she was offering me. I chose the former and proved myself untrustworthy. What was I doing wrong and why does my own sister not recognize me anymore?
My sister is crazy, paranoid schizophrenic, an extreme case. She was first hospitalized and put on meds after she kicked a cop in the nuts at DIA. She was twenty-three at the time. God spoke to her and told her that her home was going to be bombed and that he was going to give her France to rule over. Paige kicked the cop because he was thwarting her escape, and she feared for her life. This was a real and terrifying experience for her. My mother and I drove behind the ambulance where she lay in four point restraints (she had also assaulted several medical staff) on her way from emergency room to mental hospital. Her face was the only part of her visible through the small rear window. Her eyes were wild and hair disheveled. She wore her mouth in a grin twisted to the side. I sat passenger next to my functionally schizophrenic mother, trying to hide my tears, my face contorted into an expression similar to Paige’s. Even through the bitter pain, we were relieved that Paige would now be getting the help she so desperately needed.
The onset of the disease, “the blossoming” as they call it, is a difficult time for any family. It signifies the death of your loved one as you know them. Most people however, can find solise in their unshakable faith in western medicine and the mental health industry. I, as a radical, had a much harder time. I’ve always preferred herbs, diet and stress-free living over drugs and medications. My lifestyle worked for me and I only heard stories from those whom had survived western medicine’s sordid version of mental health and now rallied against it. I had no reason to ever challenge my mistrust of the mental health industry. From my experience psychologists existed to pump money into the pockets of unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies. I couldn’t stand the idea of my darling Paige, my best friend, being turned over to these predators to be used as just another lab rat, pumped full of meds to feed the machine.
That was before I saw her inperson, that was before she shared with me just what was in her head and what the consequences of these thoughts were. That was before she proved she was literally unable to care for herself.
People, friends who are fellow radicals, mostly, ask me about Paige. They tell me how sorry they are that she is medicated, tell me that the side effects are worse than the symptoms. They say things like, “Who are we to deem her thoughts and her reality false.” Well intentioned though these people may be, they infuriate me. Where does this deep understanding and knowledge of schizophrenia come from? Have they ever intimately known a schizophrenic? Have they ever been one? Or are these just ideas free-floating amongst the radical “free thinking” populace about what the disease is. People often confuse schizophrenia for multiple personalities disorder, or think that schizophrenia is akin to the last time they took mushrooms and saw pretty pink ponies and silver snow flakes. Why medicate that?
My sister sees demons. She believes people are trying to kill her. She has told me that she has felt someone stab her in the chest, watched the blade enter, felt the blood trickle out. She hears birds demanding her to kill the sinners, dogs bark of god’s anger towards her. Paige has seen her boss pour her a dose of poison, then drink it for fear of loosing her job. These are her hallucinations, not pink ponies and silver snowflakes, but rather a living nightmare. They are terrifying, painful and debilitating. She cannot hold down a job; she leaves home in the winter wearing nothing but a shirt and jeans and is an easy mark for predators. I’ve watched forty year old ex-cons, scum fucks and generally unsavory folk drawn to her like flies. I’ve had to assemble groups of friends to chase abusers out of her life. Paige’s disease renders her scared, pained and vulnerable. However, once on medication her delusions fade, hallucinations lessen and she begins to trust her family again. Her outward behavior improves, and on a good day she can pass as a little awkward. She even smiles sometimes.
It is for these reasons I advocate for medication. Sure, Paige has suffered side effects such as lethargy, weight gain and depression but the positive has by far outweighed the negative. I’m not saying that I’m endorsing the rampant prescribing of depression and anxiety medications. The industry is still corrupt, but there is a basis for it’s inception and sometimes it gets something right. I will never trust the western medical institution implicitly, the way the majority of Americans do, but my ideas on it have turned around, considerably. I have no choice to trust the doctors, as they have held together the most broken of people, and because, without them, my family would crumble.