Tag Archives: mental illness

The Treatment Advocacy Center

Treatment Advocacy CenterIf you’re interested to learn how an absence of nationwide mental healthcare assistance contributes in a very real way to violent and aggressive events in the U.S., please check out the website for the Treatment Advocacy Center. This organization was founded by the prominent and distinguished psychiatrist, E. F. Torrey, known for his exhaustive research correlating a decline in therapy (especially outpatient follow-up) with violent crime in the United States.

 

The Treatment Advocacy Center website provides access to a wealth of information and statistics surrounding mental health and crime; you can see how your state measures up against others with the laws they have in place, the population of severe mentally ill persons, an estimate of how many severely ill people are incarcerated, and the ratio of the likelihood of incarceration vs. hospitalization for the severely mentally ill. There is also a database of preventable tragedies, options to become involved, and media to explore surrounding the issues.

 

Torrey’s book, The Insanity Offense, also provides excellent reading on the rise of a national problem, how state governments and politicians have without fail misunderstood (or not cared about) the root of the problem, and how many of the U.S.’s violent crimes stood a chance of being prevented had common sense measures been in place. All too frequently laws have been written that seem to encourage the violent act before any action can be taken (are they a danger to themselves or others?), and enforcing measures that encourage the severely mentally ill to take their medications. Forcing people into institutions and to take their meds has often been viewed as barbaric and an affront to personal liberties, but the severely ill cannot live ‘freely’ unless they are treated (humanely), and neither can their family or friends.

 

Clearly, it is time to acknowledge that mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and sensible, common sense, and compassionate measures need to be put into place.

 

A wonderful resource if you have the time.

Swanland Park

Swanland Park 2-1-

Swanland Park, 28 Estuary Lane, 2am (Monday, 1st November, 2004)

With the cold twin barrels clamped firmly in his mouth, David could hear the dull ring on the steel with each desperate breath.

A salty mixture of saliva and tears ran down his hot clammy face and down to his middle finger that rested on the curl of the trigger.

The lights were out in the cramped room, with only a pale streak of light cutting through the gap in the curtains from a lamppost outside by the street. David sat on his blood red beanbag, next to his single bed. The gun butt rested on the floor between his legs, and the barrel extended up his center in perfect symmetry.

David had an awkward and lanky frame, with sharp knees and long feet, and with his elbows out he had positioned the gun with such grace and precision, he could’ve been holding a member of the brass family.

He sat, patiently, waiting to play.


 

-2-

Swanland Park, 28 Estuary Lane, 7am (Monday, 1st November, 2004)

With two hands, David clasped his oval shaped coffee grinder and used the side of his thumb to press down on the black switch. The blades whirred to life and the grinder vibrated within his palms.

The scent from the freshly ground Panamian beans wafted up to his nose, tantalizing and teasing his brain with what was to follow.

There was no doubt about it, coffee was the sexiest drink of them all.

The downstairs bedroom door opened and the hallway floor creaked, and that could only mean one thing.

“Morning Davey boy.”

A doughy baby-faced and sandy blond haired man in his early twenties entered the kitchen, tucking his light blue shirt into his only pair of black stiff trousers. Beany stepped through the crooked doorway with the missing door onto the faded beige linoleum.

“You know how I don’t like to interrupt your coffee foreplay in the morning,” he said, pulling his hand out from over his balls, “but I would love a cup.” Beany used his fingers to flick out the hair from inside his shirt collar.

David flashed a painful smile from one side of his mouth in manner that resembled somebody pulling on a fish hook lodged in his cheek. “Of course, I’d be happy to share,” he croaked in his morning voice, and held out his hand. Beany deposited a fifty pence coin. David nodded. “It’ll be about five more minutes, and don’t interrupt.”

Beany turned on his heels. “Don’t worry. I’m going out to get a morning paper.” The floor boards creaked once more and the front door opened and closed.

David dropped the coin in his plaid pajama pocket, next to the shotgun shell, and unlocked the black safe that he kept next to the microwave. He reached in next to his raw green coffee beans, and removed his French press. With the aid of a small silver serving spoon, David emptied all of the coffee from the grinder into the glass cylinder and then dropped the spoon into the sink and flicked on the kettle.

A thought of catching the bus to go to work entered his mind, and cold-hot waves of disgust dropped liked bulbs of snot down his spine from the base of his skull. David fingered the shell in his pocket and felt his rage subside. He picked up the grinder, which had trace amounts of coffee dust clinging to the blades, and pushed his tongue out with the grace of a mamba until the tip reached the shallow steel base.

It tingled. The coffee was good.

David dampened a cloth and wiped around the inside. Once satisfied, he tucked it away in his safe, and used the kettle to slowly pour hot water down the inside of the French press.

The coffee consumed the water as the water consumed the coffee, and pale foam with dark brown steaks ejaculated over the surface with the vibrant grace of a supernova.

The best things came from explosions.

Once the water had teased and reached the desired level, David dipped a long glass rod that he’d stolen from a Biology lab into the dark foamy coffee, and stirred gently with slight flicks at the end of each cycle. The rod was then rinsed in the sink and the lid placed on the press, and he plunged down with the exact amount of pressure to massage the coffee away from the used beans.

David removed two white espresso cups from his safe, and trickled the coffee in, filling the cups. He left Beany’s on the countertop and shuffled in his worn fuzzy green slippers down to the French doors at the end of the kitchen that overlooked the weed-ridden patio and grubby white patio chairs. Three cracked wooden paneled fences enclosed the sloped back garden, but over the farthest fence one could see the bay, which always looked blue from far away.

With eyes and mind in the distance, David sipped from his cup, and felt the hot silky coffee flow over his tongue and down his gullet. He closed his eyes and felt his fragmented brain vibrate and desire to click back together, like iron filings in the presence of a magnet.

His ebony lover was now inside him, working her magic. The darkness and the fog subsided, and real life awaited outside the front door, which opened to let Beany back inside.

“Yasser Arafat is dying,” said Beany, folding over the Independent to make it easier to read. He looked up, “Oh, coffee.” He tucked the newspaper underneath his arm and picked up his drink.

David turned his back on the bay. “Who got him?”

Beany sat down at the circular kitchen table and moved a dirty plate aside so he could put his cup down. “What do you mean?”

David pulled back the other chair and sat down. “I assume someone is to blame?”

Beany skimmed through the rest of the article with unnatural quickness. “Jilted rent boy, rediscovered Israeli heritage, found poisonous basilisk fang in basement, put it on Arafat’s chair during ‘Save the Pigeons’ gala.”

David nodded and supped his espresso. “Those rockets have been reducing the pigeon population.”

“There’s just speculation of poison,” Beany clarified, and turned to the sports pages at the back.

David picked the small gap in his front teeth with his thumbnail. “I wonder who will take his place?”

Beany flicked the paper to straighten out a crease. “Some poor bastard. A racehorse with a broken leg has a brighter future than trying to solve the Israel problem from the Arab side.” He paused to sip his coffee. “Fuck, I hope Arsenal beats Chelsea this season. Who does Mourinho think he is?”

David knew nothing about sports, an aspect of his ignorance that made him smug and swell with pride. “Bastard,” he said, and finished his drink.

When the time was nigh, David always tried to make a swift exodus to work to clear his brain of the images and sounds of his house. These things, if given half a chance, would place their sticky hands all over him and pull him back until they had him in a headlock and he would never make it to work on time.

The house had an enclosed walkway out the back that ran next to the wooden fence and down to an alleyway. From there it was only a few steps to the bus stop.

David stepped out of the side door in his white shirt and red tie, and finished pushing his arms through the sleeves of his black raincoat. His bushy dark brown hair had been half-tamed by a comb, and he chewed on the gum he always kept in his coat pocket as a substitute for never brushing his teeth.

The wooden stairs that led down to the alley had never been treated, and were now all green, scummy, and dank, waiting to claim someone’s foot at any time.

David slowed his pace when the air became thick, and he held up his hands in front of his face, suddenly feeling very peculiar. They were cold, clammy and pulsating, and a warm buzz trickled down on the right side of his head over his face, like bees trapped in honey, stinging as they dripped down.

David closed his eyes, wobbled over to his right, and pushed out his tongue in anticipation of catching the sweet sticky ooze.

“It’s missing, isn’t it?”

The voice jolted David back upright. An elderly woman stood hunched over in a vibrant and sparkly dark blue gown on the step behind him. Short curly horns corkscrewed from either side of her head, and the skin on her face was leathery and wrinkled, with a small mole cluster on her chin.

The sticky buzzing feeling had gone. “I’m sorry,” David said, and turned to face the elderly lady, curious. “What is missing?”

The woman, with deep mischievous blue eyes and a tight smirk, examined David’s face. She raised an index finger with a long yellow nail and waggled it as she pointed into his chest. “You’ve felt it for a while now, haven’t you? There’s a piece of you missing. You thought you were just broken, and once all the pieces were back together you’d be whole. But you can just never feel together enough, can you?”

David glanced down to the door at the bottom of the steps and then back to the strange lady.

She was still there.

David ruffled his hair and scratched his face. “Who are you?” he asked. “Are you Beany’s grandmother? Some kind of weird and spooky psychotherapist with a penchant for fancy dress? Do you know you smell of mackerel?”

“You know I speak the truth. If the last piece would only click into place, you could finally get on with being normal.”

David scowled and pinched the flesh of his bottom lip in his teeth. “What is your name, so I can report you to the authorities?”

The woman grinned and her eyes twinkled. “My name is Mercia. And you should know it, because soon you will need me.”

David blinked and the woman was gone.

He looked once more up and down the steps, but she had vanished into the now thin air. David pulled his hand out of his pocket, and noticed his fingers wrapped around the shotgun shell.

He cradled it as though he expected it to hatch.

The Impossible Chess Game

Chess QueenAs the guard led me to the patient’s room, I had the odd sensation that the walls of the corridor were being sucked up into my brain through my eyeballs.

I wondered if I moved close enough to the guard if my brain would swallow him up, too.

The guard stopped. “This is his room. He is ready for you.” He unlocked the heavy metal door and pushed it open.

I nodded and smiled, and watched as he too vanished into my eyeball.

Looking forward to the game, I stepped through the doorway, eager to meet the man I had heard so much about. The room was dingy and metallic, but there was enough light to play, and Charlie was already waiting patiently, sitting quietly at the other side of the table.

I stepped into the room, pushing the door closed behind me. There was hardly any furniture. Just one wardrobe, a bed, a toilet, a sink, and the table – a square table with viciously sharp metallic corners.

The chessboard was already set up.

I could not tell exactly where Charlie was looking, but it looked to be somewhere between the board and the vacant seat opposite his own. He raised his right hand, gesturing to the empty seat. A long and unbuckled strap hung loose and limp from his sleeve.

“Thank you, Charlie,” I said, and sat down opposite him at the table.

Charlie’s head was clean-shaven and there were black rings around both of his eyes. His mouth hung open, too, revealing one missing tooth as well as a broken one.

I glanced down at the board, noticing that I was to play as the white pieces. “I’m white,” I said, feeling that I should perhaps validate how he had positioned the board.

“Very well,” he replied, and moved his target-less gaze down to the board. He seemed to be taking in everything and nothing.

I took a deep breath, and wondered if I could recall the rules. I had not played the game since I was a child, over twenty years ago. I moved a pawn forward two spaces, eager to see what the master’s first move would be.

Without really looking at the pieces, the same arm he had used to gesture to me hovered over the table, the strap still hanging down low and dragging over the board. He took hold of the pawn on the far left side and moved it forward one space.

“I don’t know why,” I chuckled, “But I expected you to move a knight first.”

Charlie raised his head slowly, but his eyes never really met mine. I thought he was going to say something, but instead he simply took a deep breath and lowered his head back down to the game.

I moved my bishop out, hoping to make some good early use of the powerful piece.

Charlie’s arm moved again, much like the claw in one of those arcade machines where you try to win a small teddy bear. His hand descended and he moved the same pawn as before forward one space.

The move shocked me at first, mainly because he could have moved this pawn to that space on his first go, but then I realized he had probably responded to the movement of my bishop.

Only, that did not make much sense.

I shrugged, and moved my bishop out to the center of the board.

To my astonishment, Charlie’s hand descended on the same pawn and he moved it forward one more space. I tried to read his face to see if I could glimpse any betrayal of an expression that could clue me in to these bizarre moves, but he gave me nothing. Just those empty eyes and a half open mouth in a head that was cocked down towards the board.

I decided to try and forget about what he was doing and focus on winning the game. I moved another pawn forward, wanting to free my queen. What would he make of that?

Charlie’s hand came up, moved over, and he took hold of the same chess piece, moving it forward one more space.

There was no way he could know what he was doing!

I could take the pawn on my very next turn. But is that what he wanted me to do? Was he setting me up somehow?

I decided to throw caution to the wind and take it, anyway. I could take the pawn with one of my own, or I could jump my knight out of the ranks and take it that way. There was something more satisfying about this latter option. I grasped my knight by the head and imagined a bold and gallant horse leaping over my foot soldiers and trampling the enemy combatant. I knocked his pawn to the side, triumphantly, positioning my knight on the space before moving his pawn to the side of the board.

I looked up and smiled, wondering how an expert would respond to such an act of bravado.

For the first time since entering the room, Charlie’s eyes found mine and he punched me so hard in the face I fell backwards over my chair and hit the floor.

I screamed out loud and clutched my face to contain the throbbing behind my fingers. “Oh my God, Charlie! Why did you do that?” I yelled, wondering if my nose was broken.

Charlie did not reply, and when the tears and water stopped gushing out from around my eyes, I could see that he was still sitting placidly in his chair.

I picked myself up off the floor, soothing my face with my hand, checking to see if there was any blood on my fingers.

There wasn’t.

I dusted myself off and sat back down at the table. I was determined to keep playing. “Dammit, Charlie,” I said, “That was completely unnecessary.”

Trying to put the incident behind me, I went to move my queen out from the back line, but his hand came up like lightening.

I quickly moved to the side, anticipating another punch, but instead the hand moved over the board, and I realized that it was still his turn.

I watched with intrigue as his hand moved mechanically over the board, wondering if he was about to take his next pawn in line and move that forward with each turn.

His hand kept moving, however, and he picked up the pawn that I had just taken, put it down on his queen’s space and moved the queen to where the pawn had started.

“Are you sure you can do that?” I asked, wracking my brains to see if there was a rule I had since forgotten.

For the first time, Charlie’s left arm lifted up from underneath the table, and he was clutching a stack of yellow Post-it notes. He put the stack down on the table, and then pulled the head off his queen to reveal the nib of a pen. He wrote on the top Post-it note with his queen, and then pealed it off the top and handed it to me.

It read, “I just did.”

“Touché,” I replied, eyeing him suspciously. He replaced the head on his queen and put her back down on the board.

I put the Post-it note into my mouth and chewed on it, not wanting anyone else to to share in its secret, and I watched as Charlie took his queen and moved it all the way up diagonally next to my queen. “Kiss,” he yelled, staring at me.

There was now fire in his eyes.

“What?” I yelled back.

Charlie looked painfully confused.

He pointed to his queen, and then to my queen and yelled ‘Kiss!’ one more time.

I knew he was a master, but I was also sure that this was just madness.

I shouted. “There is no kissing in chess!”

Charlie continued to stare at me, like he was trying to melt me with his eyes. How could I communicate with such a crazy man?

I picked up his Post-it notes and pulled the head off my queen, only there was no nib and I had only succeeded in snapping her head clean off her body. I tried to swallow the head before he would notice, but he saw me and laughed.

“You lose,” he snickered. He lowered his head and spun in his chair to face the opposite wall.

The game was over.

Literary Asylum Disorder

I have started another blog, Literary Asylum Disorder, which I intend to use for short stories and self-counseling. While I have tried to keep this blog relatively academic in nature, I intend Literary Asylum to be raw and even a little demented.

I love to write and play around with words, but I wish I wasn’t typing them. At least when you write with ink you can smell it or stain your fingers. Typing is so sterile. When I type an awesome word or phrase, or blessed be, create a phenomenal metaphor or euphemism that becomes a meme for intense social criticism, I don’t want to type it. I want to go beyond that, and smash it into some slate, hack off a chunk of ice, or burn or blow something up. Maybe even lose my fingertip in the process. While my brain is at war with ideas that seek validation in the smoky ethos of finding a consciousness that accepts the world, my body sits numb and lifeless in a chair.

The eyes flash with rage. The mouth drools by the keyboard.

I wanted to create this blog as a literary outlet for the times when I feel seriously dissociated and fragmented. My asylum stories, which you can read on the Asylum Stories page, are really just the times when I feel that I’ve hurled my brain against the wall and tried to pick up the pieces.

I have often wondered if the depression I get is clinical, or if it’s just part of the natural course of life. However, now I don’t even want to consult anyone about it because I have grown accustomed to it. After the bouts of depression, almost as if my body is trying to make up for it, I feel over-alive, where my senses and creative faculties are enhanced. I wouldn’t change these moments for the world. I’m also not sure if one leads to the other. When I experience heightened creativity, I feel like this very act is like digging a hole down into my brain, and I’m just waiting to fall in and experience the depression as I attempt to claw my way back out.

Anyway, this blog is about me being lost in my brain, and my humunculus vibrating in my nervous tissue like a fly caught in a spider’s web.

I may even try to eat myself.