Sunday, December 22, 2019

My New Life

All information about patients or staff has been anonymized and altered as to gender, age, race and history in order to provide anonymity to everyone.

I am entering my sixth month working with people with psychotic disorders--schizophrenia, schizoaffective, a mere bipolar with psychotic symtpoms seems like a walk in the park. I fell into this job--being offered it after being turned down for three others. It is in an awful building physically, he a homeless shelter in it as well as one for sex offenders.  The population we serve are severely disabled by their psychosis, impoverished, frequently homeless or hospitalized.  I have both male and female patients and some who are gender fluid or in transition.  I have people who hear voices and have command hallucinations to hurt themselves, and I have people who are merely delusional and have fixed and unrealistic or bizarre beliefs about their own lives and that of the people they meet. I have paranoid schizophrenics, a whole other ball game.  I have professionals (occasionally) who manage their symptoms and lead an ordinary life and people who are nearly catatonic and utterly lack insight.

This work is so new to me that I am frequently reminded of my early days as a new mother--my husband and I would turn to each other and say "can you believe it?" because we could remember the time before.  Before needing a babysitter to leave home. Before needing to plan ahead for baby disasters.  For me the time before includes being in control of my own time instead of working (like everyone else! how did I miss this!) nine to five, monday through friday.  I get up at five thirty, shower, and get on the bus and take myself to a cafe for an hour to make notes to myself about the day ahead, or the day before, or to read for my trauma class (which meets most Monday nights at a nearby university for two and a half hours). Then I get on the subway and head into work aiming to be there by 8:15 and work without a break, or only stolen breaks, until five when they kick us out of the building because it is too dangerous to stay later.  If I come in at 8:30 the homeless men and women are leaving the shelter for the day and walking into work through the ugly, basement, door that is assigned to us is like walking through a cloud of smokey zombies.  The ones who are my patients greet me happily, the others who are in various stages of sleepy distress or confusion simply ignore me.  If I leave early, at four thirty, they are coming back into the shelter and there is a lot of sadness and despair pooling in the hallway and the elevator.  I found this daunting at first--and there are other people in the office who tell me that they never take the elevators at all because of anxiety about being attacked or because for an entire summer someone was peeing in the elevator and they never found out who it was.

The significance of the awfulness of the building is this: my "civilian" patients, those who come to us from the outside world that is not defined by poverty and mental illness, have a really hard time accepting that this is their new life. That their new life with their mental illness brings them into close contact with poverty, trauma, grief, homelessness.  There is a safety net for our patients--and we are it!--we treat our patients with the utmost love and respect.  But the environs are scary and the prognosis is not good.  Mental illness such as our patients suffer is no respecter of class or race and even a wealthy, suburban, white family with everything (nominally) going for it can buckle under the weight of the demands that a family member with very resistant mental illness like schizophrenia or psychosis can place on it.

Let me take a moment to praise the people I work with. I can not tell you how beautifully the other social workers and nurse practitioners and doctors that I work with treat our patients. Every patient has someone on staff who just loves them--its almost absurd, some times, the way everyone has their personal angel advocate who will say to you, spontaneously, "I just love X! Such a wonderful person!" Even about people who, at first glance, seem completely unconnected to reality and to their surroundings.  I have a patient who I will call Gandalf who has been hearing voices since his teen years--he is now very, very, old.  He comes in and sits in my office and we have intermittent conversations while he is dialoguing with his inner voices.  When we do speak he is courteous and thoughtful, but what he says is often very bizarre.  One of my proudest moments in treatment, in our first session, is when he commented on flowers I had in my office and after listening to what I had to say about the flowers he said, dismissively, that his voices thought "the flowers are not important." I said "I think the flowers are important because they help people recognize the passing of time, as the flower grows from bulb to flower to seed, and also because they beautify the surroundings." After a long, long, long pause he suddenly said "I think I disagree with the voices, I think the flowers are important."  Imagine that!  I brought this up with one of the other practitioners and they said to me "when I worked with Gandalf he wouldn't come into my office because he thought there were bears in there! He has really come a long way." Their voice as they said this was so full of love and respect for Gandalf, and for the work we are all doing trying to (as we say) "hold" and "contain" these patients--so often lost and disconnected from everyone else in their lives.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I'm Back, Not Sure How To Handle The New Privacy Issues

I seem to have been gone from my own Blog for so long that just finding it and finding my own way in was quite the struggle. The reason is that for the last two years, since 2016, I have been back at school getting my MSW and interning at two places where I felt that the privacy issues for my clients and/or patients were too complex for me to handle with a quasi public blog. That's even more true now that I've graduated and begun my first full time job as a newly minted LCSW.  However I also feel like I really want a place to explore some of the theoretical and intellectual issues in my new work--which is providing clinical care to people with psychotic disorders.  So I think I will open up my blog again to at least post about the things I'm reading and the issues that arise for me theoretically while doing this work.  So: stay tuned.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Combating the Sore Loser Meme

The Boston Globe published a story today about the mammoth pro-refugee/immigrant rally in Copley Square yesterday. I was still nursing a broken toe and didn't go and I'd be kicking myself for missing it but...broken toe.  On the other hand I forsee plenty of chances to rally and protest in the near and far future so I'm not heartbroken.  There were two quotes from Republicans in the Boston Globe story. Charlie Baker gave Mitch McConnell's response which was to pretend that this was all business as usual and that "the courts" would fix things, somehow.  Not a constitutional crisis, not an unconstitutional act, not immoral, just...kind of not great but if we'd all calm down and let the grown ups handle it things would be better. The other was from Trump's MA campaign manager--interesting that they couldn't get one or two of our few Republican State Reps to comment--and he gave the other party line "you were warned, you can't complain now."  Actually, what he said was even more interesting, deliberately drawing attention to the fact that President Obama had delivered this mild rebuke to the Republicans after his election he said "Elections have consequences and President Trump promised to do all this during the campaign." (Paraphrasing).

We are going to hear a lot of this in the future. But its not really an answer to the protests. We aren't protesting because we don't realize the election had a consequence that put Trump into power. We are protesting because his actions are illegal, immoral, and we don't like them. This has nothing to do with the legitimacy, or otherwise, of his election.  And it has nothing to do with numbers for or against his policies. It has to do with legal, illegal, moral, immoral, justice, and injustice.

And this is a point we need to be making to the remaining Trump voters as well as to the voters and non voters who were essentially on the fence, or ignorant of the choice they were making, or voting out of spite.  We need to emphasize (as people already do in their signs) the larger moral and safety issues.  I also think we need to start banding together in affinity groups and showing up at rallies as groups--I suppose I'm thinking this because now that I am a Social Worker I finally have a ready made group to affiliate with.  But no one will be surprised when Social Workers show up en masse.  I am thinking of smaller but bigger groups--PTA, a whole street, churches, new mothers, grandmothers, bowling leagues.  I'm also a Weight Watcher and I want to organize a "Weight Watchers Against Deportation" group.  I think back to a sign my mother saw forty years ago at a big Anti-Nuke rally in NY "East Village Weight Watchers Against The Bomb!"  When every subgroup in society comes out, loud and proud, and its not clearly "interested parties" or the phantom "paid advocates" we will start to see cracks in the complacent ice that is the majority of white people in this country.  I hope.  

Friday, January 27, 2017

Long Time No See

I went back to school this fall--just slightly before the crack of doom that threw the entire country on this dystopian footing.  Because I am getting my MSW (that's Master's in Social Work for those not in the know) I have mixed feelings about maintaining a blog.  But I was reviewing my posts today so I could send my daughter some of my Proust posts and I decided that, come hell or high water or, in the case of our post Trump world, both, blogging my experiences as a Social Work student, intern, and practitioner is worth doing.  So here goes!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

On The Occasion of Our Twenty First Wedding Anniversary

 The Second Day of July... will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America--John Adams to Abigail Adams

Mixed Media Anniversary Gift.  Aimai to Mr. Aimai
Hand Made Pryographia Glove Box (1906), Ketubah Poem, Carved Shell Buttons, Gilded Vintage X, Found Iron, Antique Postcards, Found Images, Tin Hand, Hand Made Book, 19th Century Newspaper Clipping on the Duties of Husbands
Left Hand: 13th Century Hebrew Poem from Our Ketubah
Right Hand: Meditation on A Midsummer Night's Dream

I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was... The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

My Grandfather!

  This is a link to a Vimeo which has just appeared.  I'm not sure whether its a clip from Jerry Bruck's film about Izzy, or where it comes from. The person who posted it on Vimeo isn't sure either.  There's only so much footage out there about Izzy and though I've seen bits of this before I haven't seen any film of him in a long time.  I want to thank the person who put it up on Vimeo.  I miss my grandfather very much, and wish he were here to comment, pungently, on the current state of US politics.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

These comments are in support of Betty Cracker's brilliant blog post today "Quibbling Over The Script." 

"Christ! Between the bernie leftists for whom no democratic initiative is effective if it doesnt involve birds, giant puppets, or farting and the ACLU’s crack team of concern trolls worried that the democrats will lose the commanding heights of the moral hillock if they once stoop to noisy street theater, cruel manipulation, broad strokes, politics even (faints!)Or anything that smacks of stooping to conquer its no wonder we can’t have nice things. if the various flavors of left purity trolls could stop stabbing us and each other in the back perhaps hillary clinton and the kick ass dems could start to commit some god damned political winning up there. Oh, ok, I think I should take this one. I referred to the ACLU (and I’m a member, by the way) because djw, over at LGM, in a staggeringly stupid thread, referred to himself as an ACLU’er at heart. The ACLU are not concern trolling us here–but concerned citizens are behaving like concern trolls and using the ACLU’s issues and concepts as the method by which they do it."
"Here’s the thing–and stay with me for a moment–the ACLU does a very specific kind of legal work. Their opinion on a matter of politics, and especially electoral politics, is not dispositive. For one thing they tend to think in terms of end products (a law) with a specific set of possible precedential outcomes in a court battle. But a politician, even one who is engaged in potentially writing a law has a different set of priorities, a different understanding of the stages by which an idea becomes a law and then gets submitted for review when challenged in a court case. For one thing a legislator has to deal with time, committees, negotiations, trade offs, gestures, outside pressure, tv, as well as the bald language of the legislation. All of these things intervene between the proposal (we should do something about something) and the execution (this is the thing we are going to do). Short circuting that process for fear that the Democrats are going to turn into the Republicans on minority or muslim rights, or that their very proposal gives aid and comfort to the Republicans is absurd and, frankly, insulting.
And the proof of the pudding, by the way, is in the eating. The Republicans are so terrified of linking gun rights (constitutional right, fetishized idol) to the NFL and the Terrorist Watch List that they literally had to shut down congress to escape debating it. I always know when a thread is over–because that’s when I really get started posting! I want to say something else about the ACLU/naysayers group of commenters. There’s a whole lot of accusations floating around that people who applaud the Dem sit in are “acting like Republicans” and “using Cheneyite” language, or blurring a necessary distinction between our essential Democraticness (goodness, honesty, openness, purity of speech and deed) and their essential Republicanness (ugly, lying, mean, etc…). Politics–the art of the possible, always local, etc..etc..etc… is, in this model, irremiediably filthy and therefore not becoming to Democrats. Because politics always involves a lot of stuff that seems kind of wrong. Like accusing your opponent of pig fucking just to make him deny it. Or putting your oponent into the position of telling you when he stopped beating his wife. Or drawing his policies out to their absurd conclusion and making fun of him. All these things are certainly very messy, and involve passion (and faking passion) and involve arousing the passions of the voters. They are not the platonic ideal of rational debate of a subject on the merits.
Well–boo fucking hoo. If that is what it takes to get stringent gun laws passed I’m for it. I’m not for extra scrutiny for Muslims, the no fly list, or stripping my fellow citizens of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but I am for damned sure pro getting guns out of the hands of ordinary citizens.
Time is what makes kittens into cats, and what keeps everything from happening all at once. The Democrats are fighting just to get the chance to talk about gun laws at all. After that we can argue about how new legislation gets drafted. And if you think anyone is listening to the details and will throw in the Democrats faces that they once, for a day, argued that “terrorists” should not be able to buy guns, well–you really don’t know the first thing about the American Public which would have to be hit in the face with a two by four, repeatedly, day after day before they woke up and said “huh? Whuh hoppen?”