Hmm world, I have got lots and lots of experiences in life, I don’t know when I’ll be done sharing them lol. I learn too from all of them and find it fulfilling to share these lessons with you all dear gentle readers and followers.
So, I wanted to do an internship as a clinical psychotherapist at our lone public psychiatric ward in our city which happens to be the economic capital of the country, and boy was it tough to get that. I had to go through two interviews. First with the Director of the Hospital, and when he was ok with my head lol, he sent my file to the head of the psychiatric ward who also had to be ok with my head.
Well, I don’t think this happens only in my country, but if you want to get to see any of such caliber of persons, you need two main things in my opinion: A good reference, and a very meek smile which could take you past their secretaries. Of course, the secretary should even be disposed to look at your file/reference and at your face. This is another feat because you are to drop the file off at the ‘mailing service/service courier in french’ and then follow up whichever way you can.
I did you know, because I love following procedure. But I knew waiting for normal procedure to take its course will get me no where. I kept a copy and went out looking for a reference. The first I got didn’t serve the purpose although ironically had once occupied a high postion at the same hospital (talk of life’s shenanigans lol), so I sought for a second which thank God did the magic. In each case, I was received twice by each secretary and given an appointment twice to meet their bosses. You could say I prayed and fasted, and practiced different smiles.
First meeting with Director, barely looked at and told to go wait, but second meeting, different smile, different day, different temperament, Director was very impressed with my credentials and head, and the fact I was coming to start here and not run off to set up private practice or only work with international organizations and think only money money money (his words lol).
Over to psychiatrist, secretary not so receptive first time, but my persistence and perseverance paid off. I even wore my pinky plush superstitious jacket given me by dearest Rachi, and didn’t fear my swollen eyes would sell me out behind the sunshades lol.
Fast forward to today, I am a favourite of both secretaries who call me affectionately ‘ma fille’ (my daughter), and the Director’s secretary recently helped me do up to 100 copies of different worksheets I use. What will you call this now? Wasn’t this worth all that smiling and patience? This is good for our mental wellbeing if you ask me, I am so happy for all these lessons.
Be inspired and motivated everyone especially during this weekend as you muse about life
I wouldn’t have blogged about being sophisticated if that remark hadn’t been thrown at me twice in two days. First on Wednesday and then on Thursday. First case was on a whatsapp forum where I wrote: ‘with all due respect I beg to disagree…’ The backlash was to me ‘complicated’. First I was told I was disrespectful (in writing the way I did – have learnt now), next I was told I was ‘jealous’ (because I said much time was wasted on a professional group wishing happy birthdays unend – like 93 messages that day was just that), and then the: ‘You are sophisticated’ – leave the group if you don’t like… Thursday another incident with an individual on whatsapp again. He write to me a second time without my name – shoots something like: ‘Hey, can we meet…’ I had already told him I find it more personal when my name is used at least in the first exchange for the day, and I had told him so the previous time we chatted… He didn’t take my gentle reminder lightly and: ‘You are sophisticad’ was dished again. So, maybe am sophisticated after all. I really don’t mind how anyone sees me because I see myself as it matters to me the most and am proud of who I am becoming big time. If sophisticated is part of the description by some – then so be it;
It isn’t my business how others raise their kids, but if I have to help babysit them for a weekend, it gets into my business. You see one of my neighbours with whom I have a very cordial relationship lost her grandma and couldn’t travel with her two kids. She asked if I could have them for the weekend and I said no problem. They have slept here before and are quiet kids for their tender ages of 3.5 and 2 years respectively. Her first is a boy and the second a girl. I have observed to her because we talk alot and cross paths a lot, that I think she is clearly favouring her daughter over her son. She didn’t hide from me that he reminds her of their dad and all the pain he has/is causing her. The daughter named after her mum is clearly her baby, fondly called mama and has so much stuff more than the boy. Now when she left them, she packed lots of stuffs and a spare shoe for the girl, and the boy had just a tiny handful and no pair of shoes at all. He came in slippers while the daughter had shoes on. I am none to judge but I personally know such glaring discrepancy can take a big toll on a child’s self esteem and even make matters worse at home for the mother. I was at her back for months before she let go her style of correcting the son. She could trash some life out of him and it caused me real painful flasbacks – of course he just kept ‘fumbling’ and the cycle went on… I see a big difference in that area today;
When others know you take care of them in various ways, it may be difficult for them to think you may need taking care of too…I mean even self care is viewed to them as being selfish – Yep I may be Sophisticated is that it? Since Monday last week I have been fighting inflamations on my knees and eventually right hand, but whenever I mentionned that it was quickly brushed aside like it’ll pass don’t worry and then back to their own concerns… I have therefore decided to step up my selfishness scale until I find a healthy balance. I am therefore home today, done the barest minimum for my boys and ofcourse much for myself starting with a long walk – I am starting a new book, finishing a movie and hoping to start and finish another one…
I am very grateful for my support network (quality over quantity is what makes my network so special). One of those I reached out to FOR FREE (seriously reach out to him if you need any expert assistance – and it’s all FOR FREE how big heart is that), is Doctor Jonathan Coltier who has the incredible blog: It’s all about healthy choices
Mental illness is more often than not associated with incompetence, fragility, frugality, vulnerability, undesirability: And yet we all have minds, which minds could go ill and if poorly managed the illness runs a life time.
Mental health awareness is a call to the imperativeness of taking care of your mind just like you will do your body. It is equally in my opinion a call to demand an equal treatment of those with a mental illness just like those with a physical illness. I know this is an ideal!
And so here we go: Hello World, during this month of May which is Mental Health Awareness month, I also intend to feature authors who have written on mental health, especially about their personal experiences. An author to me is anyone who has written and published their writings be it on or offline, via a blog, magazine, book or etc.
My first author to be interviewed in this series is a dear friend and one old enough to be my mum actually. I clicked with Pamela Spiro Wagner around January 2014 via my blog. We have been friends since then and she is the only person from the US I met through the blog and have had the honour of meeting in real life.
I have done a modest review of her epic memoir on my blog, as co-authored with her twin sister, and have also read some of her poetry. Pammy did my portrait even though hospitalised, and it took 3 visits spanned over 6 – 9 hours. It is among my most precious possessions. Without much ado, I’ll interview her for your reading pleasure and let her tell us more about herself and her life journey, especially that to become this published author she is today today mindful of her Schizophrenia diagnosis.
1) The Profile
Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit about your Childhood:
I am an identical twin, the older one, and the slightly bigger one at birth. Pigeon-holed as stoical even in childhood, I was given the message, often voiced aloud, that I did not need anything and that I did not have feelings. My twin was given the opposite message, by the way. Nevertheless, my childhood was relatively uneventful until 6th grade when 2 things happened. First President Kennedy was assassinated, which changed my life in terrible ways: this was when I started hearing voices telling me that I was evil and that I had killed the president. Then a couple of months later I had a very traumatic accident while skiing. I broke my leg and lay on the freezing ski slopes for hours waiting for rescue. When they finally brought me down my leg was first set without anaesthesia, which I endured, as I knew I had to, without making a sound. Then only hours later it was set a second time. This time, the surgeon clamped a mask of anaesthetizing ether gas on my face but failed to initiate the air intake valve, in effect suffocating me. I tried to resist, because he was killing me, and was restrained. The last thing I heard before I passed out was him saying, “Oh my god, I forgot to turn on the gas…” Then all went black. I told my parents nothing about either of these events. Why? Because of course I was stoical and did not need anything. And because I also knew in my heart that no one would believe me or take my struggles seriously. Nevertheless, these things – believing I had no right to feel, hearing voices and the trauma of my accident, deeply affected me all my life.
About your Memoir, how did you come up with the title?
Our publishers chose the name, DIVIDED MINDS, which was a title they had used before with success. We had nothing to do with it. Alas, our original title, which I had chosen and always prefered was SOLO FOR TWO.
2) The Soul Journey
I read that schizophrenia affects 1 out of 100 Americans; what’s your take on that?
Well according to most statistics this holds true, pretty much world-wide, the 1 in 100 persons being affected by schizophrenia. But you know, I doubt the validity of this number. And I doubt it because it is really a matter of opinion and nothing more. What is schizophrenia? Can anyone tell me? It is not anywhere in the brain that one can point to and despite the lies we have been told , it is NOT a chemical imbalance or some overproduction of dopamine. No one HAS schizophrenia, , not the way you have malaria or measles. It is a matter of what you say and do that in the opinion of another person makes them judge you as psychotic and out of touch with reality. I do not in fact believe that a person with schizophrenia in the USA would be accounted as schizophreinic or “crazy” everywhere, not in say, India or Africa … and so forth… Times change, definitions of madness change. That does not happen with malaria or measles, does it? Because judgments change and opinions change so notions of so-called mental illness change too, but usually facts do not.
How did you get your diagnosis and how have you fared since that diagnosis?
I was first informed of my schizophrenia diagnosis when I was about 28 or thirty, but that was the first time I was told any diagnosis at all. I had been hospitalized several times before then and as early as 18 but literally no one had ever spoken to me about diagnosis. This doctor came right out and told me, “You have schizophrenia”then he said, “You dont have to end up on the back wards if you take your medication, properly, and for the rest of your life.” Then he started me on Mellaril (Thioridazine), which I took at higher and higher doses and along with doses of Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) as high as 1500mg for years. These did not keep me well, not by any means, despite the medications I was hit with more and more frequent stays in the hospital. Knowing what I know now, that antipsychotic medications do not work and only increase the tendency to relapse, I would not say that the decision to put me on Mellaril was the best thing he could have done for me. In fact, I would say that it is possible that the diagnosis itself was the worst thing that could have happened to me, or the best, depending on how you look at things. Life is life and depending on where you are in your journey, things can seem like a mistake or a miracle. To me, now, despite my take on diagnoses being wrong and just name calling, I nevertheless believe that what happened to me at that point in time was possibly the best thing that could have happened. I do know it was inevitable and that it happened for a reason. And that things that subsequently occurred because of it have all led me to where I am today…And where I am today I would not change for the world.
Can you tell if there was a difference in the way you were treated and the way you perceive stigma before and after you got a diagnosis?
I was never once put into four-point restraints until I was diagnosed and then they tied me to a bed with my arms stretched above my head and shackled to the bed posts and my ankles shackled to the lower bed posts and kept like that for three full days. Later I learned from an aide that the doctor told him “schizophrenics” do not feel restraints the way normal people do…they do not suffer the way WE do.” I did not know what to say to that. This aide had heard me beg and beg him to let me free and knew how I had suffered, so how could he make such a statement? It confused me terribly. Later on, they put me in restraints to punish me and knew perfectly well that I suffered for it, and I know they enjoyed hurting me. I did not know a thing about schizophrenia before I was diagnosed and little really after it except that people would talk about “crazy people” and make fun of them, but NO one was ever so crazy to me that I did not understand them. I am a poet, and I know that people sometimes have to be understood the way you understand a poem, not taking every word literally but just taking their words in whole, accepting them with your whole heart and mind and body, and knowing that you “grok” them. No body has ever been so psychotic to me that I did not “get” what they meant fundamentally. They just speak in poetry not prose.
PS: If you have read this far… wow thank you… P2 tommorrow, as Trevor Noah says on the epic Daily Show: So Much News So Little Time
mum, author, mental health advocate, therapist, inspires & motivates with personal experiences