President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, July 4 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The social media have been filled with the prayers and well wishes of people hoping that former South African President Nelson Mandela will hang on after his latest trip to the hospital. Only rarely do you hear voices tell us that the frail shadow of President Mandela that we see barely resembles the man who inspired millions. Instead, he spends his life in and out of hospitals.
Who would want that for their last days? I saw a twitter message from Donna Brazile, a former adviser to President Obama calling for prayers and I told her that Mandela needs permission to say goodbye. He seemed so indestructible for so long it seemed he would never grow old. But as it does with everyone, time has taken its toll. I am glad that I have had Mr. Mandela throughout my entire life and I will miss him. We will all miss you, sir. Thank you for your long life.
After yesterday’s meeting, the Program Director stopped me in front of the copier to have me sign a paper. It was for my new pay raise. I was so surprised I couldn’t say anything. Except thank you, of course. I had recently signed up for health insurance and the Simple IRA. So it’s been a busy couple of weeks with company paperwork. On my old job none of these thing every crossed my mind. We didn’t even have direct deposit. Because of this, I was periodically calling home for help. But those calls have stopped. I fell silent for a little while However now I am keeping in touch a little more often.
Good news is very pleasant to hear. I try to call not during dinner and not during their hockey game. This is the birth order part of our relationship. I’m the once who is still working so I have to be aware of their habits. That’s considerate, which is something I have worked on over the years. Yesterday I had some intestinal problems that kept me away from the introductory yoga group. That will be a great thing to start doing.
There are so many signs of wellness: calling your sister with good news, doing well on the job, accomplishing a log-sought after goal, and others. Let’s start on them one at a time. That can be my bucket list.
Every time I see a copy of Bp I feel like they are writing about my life but I should be wary. It’s a very handsomely produced magazine with the kind of stories I would like to read. They write about the importance getting rid of clutter, finding your right job and financial stability. All of these are thing I have struggled with. The cover price is $7 . The magazine is a partnership with several mainstream mental health groups including NAMI, DBSA and Bring Change to Mind. I found a very discreet drug company ad at the back of one issue.
So committing to buy an issue or subscribe means that you have faith in the organizations that produce it. You feel that they are credible and the information, while it reflects their bias, will lead you to a positive recovery. I receive a lot of information from these groups and I also check out Mind Freedom, Beyond Meds and I used to listen to Madness Radio. To be honest I am working in the mainstream mental health field and I am a consumer of their services. Although I have a history of skepticism about medications and publish articles about the abuses of the drug companies I have tied my recovery to using their medications.
I think some of these mainstream mental health groups are also behind a magazine about schizophrenia that I picked up at the NAMI Wisconsin conference a few weeks ago. And I am planning to join a professional association for those who are assisting consumers working on employment. Especially since so much of my work is focused on this area.
This sounds like I am listening to a reggae song “Coming in from the Cold” which has a line “it’s you I’m talking to.” And an even more memorable line “Would you let the man take your sister? No, man, no. ” I am coming in from the cold and gradually letting go of my old fears because it’s me the mainstream mental health groups are talking to.
I am at the NAMI Wisconsin annual conference in Madison and I decided to check out the business center because I am through with meetings and mental health for the day. I have heard some good information about the Veterans Administration, Supported Employment and Bipolar Disorder. I also literally ran away from a woman who was attempting to tell me about borderline personality disorder. Having been in a relationship with a woman who had that diagnosis, I was pretty much overdosed.
I met people at the conference from Milwaukee who I should have met back home. But as always my mind drifted back to a coulpe of questions it has been asking me for many years. The two questions in the title of this entry. It has been something I have learned in the negative, through uncomfrtable feelings of not belonging and wondering whether anyone else shared them and where they originated.
Quite often I defined myself through my occupation, so I was a librarian, a child care administrator, or a grant writer. Sometimes during periods of unemployment I lacked an identity. I was isolated and did not have a direction. Now there is the even greater temptation to say that I am a certified peer specialist. But is that all that I am? How am I performing in my other roles? Is this all that I am? I sometimes think when people are judging me that these people have no right to do so because they have no idea who I really am.
There was a period years ago when I said that my name meant He Who Perseveres. More recently I say that I am a local oddball without defining those terms. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
What is more true than ever is that I am learning to become the persn I was meant to be. I have been opening doors that lead to the secrets of those feelings and saying, yes I do belong. Each step of the way I get a little closer and I people saying thank goodness, Kenyatta is here. So I am learning to belong. What took me so long? How long did it take you?
Yesterday I finally accessed my HealthEvets website. I had originally signed up for the site several years. I don’t know why I did it. I was probably fairly new in my career as a peer support specialist and was living in rather poor conditions. I had a lot of concerns about being able to access my care team at the VA. It’s one thing to be living in vets housing and you just have to go downstairs to the nursing office to make an appointment. It’s quite another to be off in the community taking care of things and needing to figure out things on my own.
So a lot of things I was doing did not quite fit together. I must have heard about the HealthEvets at an appointment and decided why not? This could be a lifeline. Flash forward to the Obama administration which seems to be making more efforts to promote accessing your health records over the internet. This includes lab tests, immunizations and self reported health data. Curiously, mental health information is not yet available. This may seem a little contradictory given what I said yesterday in my post about the greater emphasis on preventing suicide among vets and active duty personnel.
My latest experience with the HealthEvets program was last week when I went to the VA for a flu shot and a TB skin test required for work. There was a guy near the front door (one of our favorite sayings at work is “shut the front door” which we use instead of cursing) who had a beard that reminded me of the guys on the old cough drop packages. I figured that he doesn’t eat spaghetti or if he does, it was a major production. He also had a prosthetic left hand probably a result of his military experience. As I was passing by him thinking about going back to work, he called out and asked whether I had signed up for HealthEvets. I told him that I had not. So he asked me to come over and it would take just a few minutes to complete the application.
I was more interested in the oatmeal cookies on the table that looked so enticing. The process was fairly quick, as he had promised and he was efficient with his typing. That is, until we came to a glitch. It seemed that I had already signed up for HealthEvets because he was able to find my name. Unfortunately I was unable to recall my answers to the secret questions that I had entered years ago. He gave me the name and contact information for the program coordinator to help me figure out what had gone wrong and sent me on my way.This week I decided to try registering again. This may be typical male behavior. If something doesn’t work the first or second time, we try it again. And again the system said I was already registered. I called the national HealthEvets program and the local office to figure out what I had been doing wrong. They helped me find the answers I had given when I signed up for the program and get access to my records.
By Friday afternoon I had a full report at my fingertips. I also sent an email message to my care team and got a response. I printed out a health card that carry in my wallet and it gives me an added level of protection. I need to find the information about my blood type and add it to the card. This will be handy in case I am unable to speak. I am happy and hoping that the glitch in the system as far as not having access to mental health data will be fixed. After all, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
I just listened to the story about the federal suicide prevention hotline for veterans. Face with a growing suicide rate of veterans and active duty personnel President Obama called for increasing the telephone support available. When I visit the VA the signs are everywhere promoting the hotline. Veterans are encouraged to Call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1) or chat online. Suicide has emerged as a greater threat to our military than terrorism as people weary from repeated deployments and family stresses take their own lives.
In a very real way this can be seen as blowback from the global war on terror which includes the longest war in American history. I know that the blowhards in the Bush administration who championed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars never gave a second thought about the impact of these wars on the troops and their families. They were brazen in their ability to ignore cries from across the globe to stop the wars before they began.
And now, after 4 years, these are President Obama’s wars. We have the low grade occupation in Iraq with socalled advisors and then there is the increasingly unpopular Afghanistan War that he thought that he could win. He too ignored the maxim of never fighting a land war in Asia. (The night shift arrives and the calls keep coming)
I think about the despair that must have carved holes in dozens of lives from returning combat veterans who were horrified by what they had done and witnessed. The upcoming battle over the nomination process for the secretary of defense will provide another opportunity for those who seek to continue the bloodbath to voice their opinions. They will say that the president must be prepared to back up the feverish rhetoric on Iran with the very real threat of launching an attack on people who pose no threat to Americans. And the secretary of defense must share that same passion for war.
At work last night in the mental hospital I heard Bob Dylan’s song Blowin in the Wind. There were those chilling words “too many people have died” referencing the wars we had fought up to that time. And yet a new generation has come and the wars keep coming and so do the calls to the suicide line.
Were you ever seized by the idea that you had better do something now, immediately, as in this second? Do not pass go, do not collect $200? You have to pull over by the side of the road and do whatever is on your mind. If you are at work, you must leave and whatever the consequences, well they will be dealt with tomorrow? Did you ask yourself, where is my mind? And what was the response? If it’s not where you thought it would be, where is it? How did it get there? And by the way, is this mania yet?
Good question. For me what happens is that a thought becomes an imperative. At some point I have to act upon it. And things go from there. Are there good and bad sides, yes, for sure. The good side is productivity. You can make decisions, open up businesses, create empires and become an emperor in mere minutes. But the consequences of manic actions can last a lifetime.
Is there a stop button on mania? Some call it depression. What do you call it?
Manic (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Barbara Beckert head of Disability Rights Wisconsin in Milwaukee has called for the state of Wisconsin to appoint a state official to run the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. Disability Rights Wisconsin is the state mandated agency to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are being respected. In their view the problems at the Mental Health Complex are endangering patient safety. A patient recently die of a broken neck under circumstances that are still being investigated. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm is conducting an open John Doe investigation into the matter.
Yesterday Joseph Sanfelippo, outgoing County Supervisor echoed Beckert’s call call for a state takeover due to the failure of Milwaukee County to make a good faith effort at downsizing the facility. Last week one of the units was closed. And I know there are plans to close something called Hilltop. I’m sorting out these issues for myself I’ve been working alongside some very dedicated people on my ward and I am wondering there the people they are caring for will get their assistance in the community.
How many people can the private hospitals care for? What is their willingness to accept the people at the Mental Health Complex? I was asked to join a Mental Health Redesign Working Group which is supposed to be looking at how to increase the number and pay rate of Certified Peer Specialists. While I understand the impatience of people who complain about the pace of change and the resistance to change, some things were very recently implemented. The Community Linkage and Stabilization Program, for example is very new. That program is designed to help reduce the demand for inpatient services. In addition my community job is like than six months old. We are working to link people with education, employment psychosocial rehabilitation services.
But this is a process. The people who are receiving case management services may have already received referrals from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. They might have a record of failure in being able to sustain education or they might have outstanding college loans for private and public institutions. And the mental and physical challenges of the people who have been using our inpatient mental health facilities won’t disappear overnight.
I am a small piece of the solution but I will be interested in seeing the bigger picture at the Redesign Task Force meeting.
Well I have finished just barely half a year at my agency. In another lifetime I was involved in evaluation: qualitative and quantitative. We are finishing up a report for our funders about the impact of my working and so I created a chart showing who I had been working with though one of our programs and what I had helped people achieve. I also asked the woman who recruited me whether one of the achievements could have happened without me. Obviously it was an unfair question, so I asked anyway.
I think that people often try things but whether they stick with them is an entirely different story. We may suggest that people do something but whether we can take the time to show them may be different.
I am excited about my work and it is interesting to see how things look on paper after the idea of peer support was presented. Our agency has definitely embraced the concept. Occasionally I have struggled to figure out exactly what I was supposed to do. But I am still lurking around.
I got a message from a friend on Facebook about a monthly meeting involving the Mental Health Re-design. There is an Action Team talking about expanding peer support and increasing the pay. I would have an interest in both of those areas. I want to speak up because my opinions are unique, like me.
I will have to check and see whether I have any time to spare. It’s just a couple of hours per month. I discovered that I am a little obsessive. I kept trying to figure out how much time I spend working with people last week until finally I figured out the problem. We have a fast paced scene. My work involves those aspects of wellness that don’t involve medication or physical exams. The case managers were struggling to complete what they had to do so after a while they welcomed me.
So life goes on and recovery happens, ever so slowly.
A cat lurking in the grass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- What is Peer Support? (peerwork.wordpress.com)