I may not be co-operative because of my illness. If you have to treat me against my will in any way remind me that you have my best interests at heart. I may not be able to see how it is best but if you have gained my trust I will be more willing to listen. If I must be restrained physically, or mentally do your best to comfort me beforehand. If it happens I will panic and struggle less. You may need to do to me things that are in my best interest. If I have your respect I will be more willing to accept treatment and your recommendations.
You may be the only one who can comfort me, so try. I may have fears in the world some which may always be there, so make my stay in your care safe. I may need shelter for a while. Make that shelter as much a home for me as you need when you don’t feel well. How I live can be rearranged but ask me what parts I need to remain and am most comfortable with, if I can keep my comforts I am less afraid of what might be happening to me. If I am in hospital, I have lost much of what I recognize. Explain to me why I don’t have certain freedoms. If I can understand why I must live with certain conditions I may be more accepting of them. If I can accept some of my struggle I will have more energy to improve.
To be listened to and witness being heard is a way to empower clients. If you don’t want me to feel like a prisoner let me be heard. Even if what I say makes no sense, I will feel like a human if I know I have been heard. My voice may be the only shred of control I have. I may be experiencing symptoms that sometimes scare, worry or interfere with how I might otherwise be. If I can have control over more of my present circumstances I can at least take comfort in that. If you let me experience life while still allowing for safety, I can better navigate the world when I experience symptoms on the outside.
This may lessen the problems with disempowerment among mentally ill patients. I will see you as an equal who is a professional with skills that are meant to help me. If you treat me with respect you will not be that nurse or that doctor you will be someone who I can trust. If I trust you I will be more co-operative in my treatment lessening the need for coercion or even force. If I can trust one person I will not feel as isolated as I may be. Sometimes you will be the only one that I have much hope of receiving respect from.
Do not point out too much good when I feel bad, respect where I am at. I may be an inpatient or an outpatient but my impression of life is reality for me. Many of us are fragile in moments we would not otherwise be. There may be no cure but I am not a stain on the floor. I am not something to be stared at and I shouldn’t be avoided. There is nothing about me that will infect you other than my humanity and humour if you let it. I bleed red, have the same senses as you (sometimes more) and can interpret some situations in a fashion very near your own. My tears and frustrations are real to me so respect them. I may not be rational in my responses and emotions but that does not make what I feel unreal. I may be unaware of some things that go on around me but I am acutely aware of others. Leave your fear of catching what I may have at home.
During visits in jail lives are sealed from one another. Plexiglas prevents the intimacy of a regular exchange. No kisses, no hugs, no handshakes. Hands pressed on each side of the glass provide only a symbolic gesture of love. In time this was to become a powerful symbol and part of my goodbyes. I have seen friends, my brothers, my mother and step-father, my sister-in-law and even my infant niece on the other side of the glass. I have been manic, psychotic and sane on the other side of the glass. I have had hair, no hair, no eyebrows and beards on the other side of the glass. I have been depressed, euphoric and beating myself with the phone on the other side of the glass. I have been strong and ready to give up on the other side of the glass. I have been through hell on the other side of the glass but you have been there to see me. To witness my world and acknowledge me as I am. You have been there to see me; to see me through. All the while we were kept at a distance we became closer and grew strong together.
I walked to the pharmacy yesterday. I usually try to say hello to the people I meet when I’m out. I’m from a small town and live in an area with a small town identity within the city. The first person I met was a young man. I kept to my side of the walk and was glancing at him for eye contact. When the appropriate distance arrived and I was about to say hello he pulled out his cell phone to take a glance. I was blocked. On my way home from the pharmacy I was approaching a young woman. As I got nearer I could see the wires dangling from her ears. How do you say hello to someone listening to music? My next encounter was with an older woman. She was tiny and had on a bundle of clothes unnecessary considering the spring weather. I said “hello” and she quickly replied “have a good day and God Bless.” It wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t even own a cell phone or iPod. Some would say she has not embraced technology or is at least behind the times. She was unable to avoid my act of civility. She had to acknowledge me and in the process she was acknowledged. I don’t have a problem with technology but like the woman, I don’t have a problem without it.
July 30, 2006
A void threatens to overwhelm me.
I search for meaning in the meaningless.
I distinctly remember a different perception of reality.
Without another word everything is swept away.
No passions at all; the beginning of hunger.
This state of suffering, an invisible pull.
Movements become orchestrated by sorrow
My world aches, I bask in darkness.
Numb thoughts; tears that fail to fall.
Will I emerge from the dark place?
In the things you have me do let some of them be my passion. My passion might be as simple as eating ice cream or as complicated as Classical guitar. If you have listened to me or watched close enough you may even know my passion when I don’t or can’t. Encourage me to pursue my passion it can help build meaning about things I have yet to understand and at the very least will bring me moments of pleasure. I have talents and likes. Find ways for me to experience them. Even though I am ill I can still experience pleasure. Don’t always assume your ideas of pleasure or treatment are mine. Ask me.
I was at a restaurant and a man opened his trunk and began to assemble and adjust a mobility scooter. I was eating and didn’t see everything but the next time I looked he was bringing a walker to the passenger door. I thought I never want to be someone who needs a walker to get to a scooter. Next I saw a woman emerge and use the walker to not get into the scooter but to walk right past it and into the restaurant. Someone opened the door for her and she was in a seat behind me. Her husband finished putting the scooter away and was joining her as I left. He seemed a devout man but he had apparently failed to ask or listen to what she envisioned for her progress. Had he known he could have actually helped when she needed the door opened. At the very least he would have stood a chance at beating her to the table.