Thursday, October 25, 2012


Every now and then I get weird moments of sudden lucidity.  Sometimes this is experienced as a sudden awareness that I am in the middle of real life.  I attribute this to the amount of time I spend with video games and table top role playing games where the feeling is expansive and immersive but not real.  Sometimes it's the reverse.  Sometimes I have the feeling of looking up and seeing that the things being put forward as though they had meaning have none.  Other times these sensations come in the form of the sudden revelation of absurdity.

I hadn't realized it before but my job is absurd.  Right now I'm on a couch listening to the client trying to get to sleep.  If it wasn't my job this would be really weird.  The fact that this is a job is also kind of weird.  It seems like one of those things that should be be resolved either by a family or a tiger.  What I'm saying is that this is not the way the weakest among us are usually managed.

It's absurd, and it's specifically absurd, not crazy or stupid, because I genuinely do serve a roll, and in the absence of family/tiger based solutions the government funded nonprofit is probably the best way to handle it.  Society has just gotten really big while at the same time teaching us all to be independent.   It seems like it's destined to break down when we run out of room to be solitary individuals in.  I'm going to mark that as "not my problem," for now though.  After all I have a job to do.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Every now and then when I write something I find myself aware that I'm writing without a clear mind.  That is true of this writing.  The full story is long, and the agreement I made with the Crisis Clinic prevents me from telling you most of it, but the gist of it is this.

I just spent two hours talking to a woman who is dying and it put a lot of things into perspective.

First of all if you're one of the four or five people who know about this blog, Thank You.  The people who know about this are all people who have meant something to me in my life.  They've been formative influences, they've been sources of support, they've been a lot of things at a lot of times, and I love you all and I thank you all.

This whole experience makes a lot of things seem absurd but it also brings a lot of things back into focus.  These days there are basically three things on my mind.  1. Graduate school and the ongoing process of becoming a therapist.  2. Bridget.  3. Everything else.  These last two hours reminded me why I want to be a therapist, and what it is to provide that kind of help, and have reaffirmed in me that I can help people and that the rewards will be great even if the money isn't.

The fragility of life, the thing she asked me to remember, makes some things seem stupid.  Every time I have ever cared about the outcome of a video game or sporting event or political function, for example.  It also makes the fact that I live over a thousand miles from my fiance seem stupid.  And I know there are reasons, but they're just straw dogs.  Whatever happens with the graduate school thing, even if I never reach those life goals, even if all of those pursuits crumble in my hands I think I'll be okay as long as I can be with her.  I miss her.

Everything else seems kind of insignificant next to that.  I still don't like my job, I'm still concerned about a thousand little things, but those things are so little, and the important things are so fragile.  I guess really it's just important to take the time to be grateful, and to remember what matters, because life is fragile, and unpredictable.  Every day is a gift.  I know it's a meaningless platitude by this point.  It's a sentiment that has been driven into the dust by a thousand chain e-mails and greeting cards, but in the end it's still true.  And it's something that we can't afford to forget.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Better living through chemistry

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought about psychoactive drugs I would tell you that I was against them.  I was quite staunchly against them, perhaps even vehemently opposed.  It's been a while, and further study and the stories on the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast have softened my views a bit.  I still think that psychoactive drugs are being over prescribed to address the common maladies of life which would be better solved by sleep, sun, exercise, diet, and rigorous truth. 

The minor ones, the one's you've probably heard of and seen commercials for, are not the ones I want to talk about now.  I'd like to talk about Thorazine.  Thorazine is an old school tranquilizer and was one of the first psychoactive drugs.  It's invention ushered in the age of chemical solutions to behavioral problems, and it scares the hell out of me.  It scares me because I've seen what people who are on a steady dose of it are like.  They're zombies.  That's the only good word for it.  They shuffle about in a haze, semi-aware, and docile.  I saw Thorazine zombies when I visited the Western State mental hospital.  It disturbed me.

Today though, today I understand.  The person I work with is on the bad end of the autism spectrum, and the job occasionally allows me a lot of time to think about it.  I thought that my views on developmental disabilities would soften as I spent time working with someone who has one, but they haven't.  The client lives a kind of sad life, and spends a lot of time resolving his emotions through violent outbursts and self harm because that's kind of the only way he has to resolve his emotions.  If he was young I'd have a lot more faith, but he's not.  He's in his late 50s.  His cognitive state is only going to decline.  It's only going to get worse from here, and here it sucks.  Today I began to wonder if being put on a steady dose of a tranquilizer might be a good thing. 

It's not my place to make this decision.  I'm there to support him, and I'm going to keep doing that, but I got into this field because this is the kind of thing I think about.  The client doesn't seem happy.  Based on talking to my teammates who have been there longer he isn't really getting any better.  Without a miracle he's never going to get better.  He's in a bad place and it's all downhill from here. Without going into the incredibly morbid discussion of 'Is his life worth living?' I find myself wondering if he would be better off zombified. 

I'm inclined to say yes.  Once again it's not my place to decide this kind of thing, but it seems like a steady haze would be better than hopeless violence. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Forest Gump

This one is out of left field, but I had an odd moment today and it bears a bit of reflection.  I first saw Forest Gump in theaters.  It came out in 1994 so I was about 7.  To me this was the story of a weird dumb guy who did a lot of interesting things.  I didn't realize until today that it was the story of a mentally retarded guy who did a lot of interesting things.  I think that when I first saw it I didn't know about mental retardation.

I can't decide if this perspective is more or less offensive than if I had just known.  Theres a bit of the whole 'innocence of the child' and 'I don't really see people that way' thing that fits the idea that the viewpoint was more tolerant or simply more politically correct.  But in the absence of the ability to say "Oh, he has a developmental disability" I instead decided that he was weird and stupid.  Is that better? 

I think about this now in part because I now work with a developmentally disabled gentleman.  After enough time looking at the way it affects him the best phrase for it in my mind is "not neurotypical."  It's not a matter of intelligence, it's not even his fault, his brain just isn't normal and it has radical effects on his behavior.  In a weird way "he's retarded" is a lot less condemning than "he's stupid."  It's equivalent to saying "he's sick" instead of "he's lazy." 

Perhaps there's no point to this except to remark on the experience of being able to look back and  remember what life was like before a whole concept made it into my head.  Something to consider though.