Tonight at the restaurant celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday I reminded my Uncle Jimmy of the time he had played the Doobie brothers song Minute by Minute years ago fore some younger guys like me as we sat in his car outside the house. He was feeling cool and enjoying playing the role. He likes that part of the successful uncle, married to the same woman and raising children with her. Now he lives in Georgia and is part of our family diaspora successfully retired. He takes his medicine and listens to his older sister about taking care of himself. I talked with him and my nephew Kyle at the dinner and enjoyed our time together. Minute by minute is how we live our lives.
In my work I often find people are too caught up in what may happen and they fear that the worst is about to befall them. As a result they end up paralyzed. And unable to make a decision. A few minutes ago, seemingly, we were sharing our old house with our cousins and Mom was a nurse. I was struggling with feelings of depression at different points but still managing to hold on.
I got to the point where I was able to see us all growing older. It’s hard to imagine how quickly social change has taken place. It’s hard to imagine my nephew John playing in two bands, raising a family and it’s hard to imagine my recovering from the sadness of lost love and now sharing my life with a dear woman who makes me laugh. Now my niece Grace is bonding with her cousin Brandon.
If you wait for the right moment to do what you have set your heart on accomplishing, the decision may be made for you by circumstances beyond your control. The pictures from our family gathering will be on Facebook later this week but remember this message and have a good night.
My nephew Kyle is kissing his son Brandon in the living room. Mom is getting dressed and my sister Chris is shopping. I had gone to the store a while ago and returned with Howling Wolf, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Drifters and more. It is the day after my mother’s 90th birthday And a day of travel for me that I would not wish on anyone.
It began with my sweet Lizzy dropping me off at the airport at 10:30 AM and ended with my arrival at midnight. It was a day of flight cancellations, a rented car and putting the phone on my lap while talking to Chris as she gave me directions to the house. Don’t it make you wanna go home? There are all kinds of stories and songs about the impact of home on our lives. Due to a simple twist of fate that included the decline of hometown economy, white flight and alcoholism, it was necessary for so many us to grow up and move far away. East, west, north and south. We had to survive. If you can’t find a decent job asd it seems like there is no place for you, then it’s necessary to go somewhere else and make a new start.
Kyle lives in Brooklyn, plays music and lives with his son and a wonderful woman. He is a father now in his early 40′s. The last time I had seen him he was probably a teenager. The first things about him that I noticed was his fingers, the kind that scream guitar player or pianist. He is also the more talkative of my sister Chris’ sons. The other thing I was struck by was that the dreadlocks were gone. If you check on my facebook page, you can find pictures of him as a young man wearing dreads. Don’t it make you want to go home?
I told Kyle about how much a phone conversation I had with him years ago had meant to me. He had been born after my younger brother James died but he took time to connect with James, looking at the things he had written. By talking with him, I learned things that I had not learned from his brother John. I filled in some blanks that he might have had concerning me. And I gave him my one piece of advice, which is not to wait to pursue your dreams. You look up and find that years have passed and it seems that something has been lost from those dreams.
I have almost completely snow white hair but when I first left home, degree in hand, I was still discovering my identity. We have been away from one another far too long but I am hoping we will be in each other’s lives a lot more from now on. Don’t it make you want to go home?
I have been re-certified as a peer support specialist by the State of Wisconsin. This is a testament to my hard work over the past 2 years. Becoming certified was a major step in my life and brought about all kinds of rewards. It’s the kind of thing you guard very carefully. When you think of where you’re going and what you have accomplished, you have that rock upon which you can build. I have started my second graduate school class in community mental health and psychotherapy but I also owed it to myself to make certain I sent out my re-certification papers with plenty of time to spare.
Today I saw the email response to the papers I had submitted. I’m excited as I take this next step. I seem to be in demand. Also in the email were 5 recently completed policies and procedures by the Recovery Advisory Committee that I sit on which is assisting the implementation of a new Medicaid benefit called community recovery services. And I received an email at work that my presence is required at the meetings for the new employment program. I had a very productive appointment today with a consumer regarding her employment goals. Things are moving ahead.
It will be good to go home and see my family feeling positive and spreading the news. I know that everyone will be happy for me.
Last week I was at a surprisingly interesting training session at the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex by Dr. Gregory Jerenec an Associate Professor at the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology. His topic was schizophrenia: what is it, what’s it like to have it and what to do about it.
Dr. Jerenec gave the standard description of schizophrenia as a brain disease. However, in his discussion about what to do he seemed to break new ground. He described our current mental health system as a medical model that often creates an adversarial relationship between the helpers and the consumers. I understand there are many politically correct words to describe persons living with mental illness, but consumers is concise and fits my purposes. In this case people are consuming medications designed to alter their brains He said that many of the anti-psychotic medications will make people drowsy.
Clinicians spend a lot of time trying to force people to take these medications, which results in repeated hospitalizations. These hospitalizations create an atmosphere that is counter to the notion of recovery. He would like to create a therapeutic alliance that does not place the main focus on medication but instead helps people mobilize their own resources while remaining connected to their communities and other resources. As I have learned from life experience and course work, many people living with mental illnesses want what everyone else wants and needs. Someone to think well of them, to listen and to build relationships including love. There are many people living outside the case management system who are living normal healthy lives.
There are models, according to Dr. Jerenec, that should be tested in the United States and considered for application. There are some tests underway to help determine the feasibility of using this approach. Even Dr. Jerenec has some hesitations. There may be some persons who have been in the current system so long that they have been trained to expect forced medication and hospitalization. There might be others who have poisoned their social support networks. There could be people are are flourishing and recovering. All of these factors need to be considered.
Milwaukee County is supposed to be resigning its mental health system to be more community based. I hope we have the political will and the financial resources to look at some truly innovative techniques to assist people.
What I am writing will seem like so much common sense you will wonder why you never considered it. Working for a bad boss can make you sick. On my Facebook page, I recently sad that consumers should never tell their bosses about their mental health status. The reason is that I have seen too many ways in which it can backfire. I see it as one more thing that can be used against you when they decide for whatever reason that you have done something wrong.
I have worked for a lot of terrible bosses. This includes black and white people. One company I worked with in Waukesha was filled with racists who wanted nothing to do with African-Americans. These were people who did everything possible to change the rules to be able show you weren’t living up to their standards. People who talked about not wanting to have you around.
I worked for the of Milwaukee which had a bunch of racist white librarians. Who knows, some of them may still be there. They made it clear they didn’t want me around and ignored or minimized anything positive I had accomplished. In the Waukesha and Milwaukee jobs, I felt miserable. What makes a miserable situation even worse is when the company finally puts the knife in your back because they will twist the terms of your firing to make it seem as though you were the worst employee they ever had. After firing you, they may put you on the work schedule without your knowledge and then claim that because you did not come in, you were a no call, no show.
A former employer did that to me in a shabby attempt to deny me unemployment. Unemployment can be a lifeline for people while they seek out new jobs but increasingly companies claim that their former employees had somehow broken the work rules. One company used two shills to claim I had sworn at work, which was so unprofessional I needed to be terminated. At another agency, two seemingly sweet women business owners fired me for not changing the water bottle and then made up a ridiculous story. Of course, I was awarded my benefits.
I heard of a case in which someone was given an unsigned disciplinary note only to learn from unemployment that the company accused the employee of insubordination that had nothing to do with what the person had been told. All of this to be able to fuck the former employee out of unemployment.
When you are mistreated, and told people can’t stand you, it hurts your self-esteem. It makes you wonder what you were doing there. It gnaws away at you. When you worry whether unemployment benefits will be there for you, it creates anxiety. It can worsen your mental health.
Be especially wary about the honeymoon period during which you seem to be praised to the sky. No one is really that good but also no one deserves to be walked on or lied to regarding their performance. It’s demeaning and anyone who would act that way should be unemployed to be able to get a taste of their own medicine. Consumers, beware.