Tag Archives: privilege

I Have The Right To Be Treated With Dignity

I must intellectualize this to cut my emotion.

The side walls are gray. Flat paint on the rough surface. The drop ceiling must be 10 feet high, at least. I feel small, but I might be able to touch both walls with my fingertips, from where I’m sitting.

Health Center Office

The far walls make this a five-sided office. They are at weird angles. That might be what sent my discomfort over the top. They are light beige. The one on my right is longer than the one on my left. The air is still, odorless. This place resembles the concrete box that a coffin is placed in.

On my left, slightly behind me, is a picture. Art work, sort of. A mass-produced copy of a watercolor portrait of a couple of kids. On hardboard. Hanging crooked. Below it is a sliding glass window, with a desk on the other side of the wall, with chairs facing the window, and another window like it on the other side of the small, unoccupied office. My neck hurts when I turn toward it.

On the cabinet that was placed against the far wall – the longer one – is two photos. One of a young boy, framed. Probably a school picture. Beside it is one of a young girl, slightly older, propped up in front of something framed (maybe an older photo of her?).

“ID and insurance card?” she asks. I take them out, and slide them across the desk to woman on the other side. I make my breath go as deeply as I can. It won’t go past the top buttoned-up-button on my shirt. I try to push a breath down into my belly. It won’t go.

I uncross my legs to plant my feet firmly on the floor to help me feel grounded. No carpet to settle my feet into. Hard vinyl flooring. It is a dark pattern. Abstract. Angular shapes of grays and tans. These colors might be known for subduing people, but I’m not feeling it. These sedating colors are making me impatient to get out of here. To anywhere. To outside. To sunshine and green and lively colors and traffic.

My breath is deeper now.

“Sign here.” She untangles its cord as she slides an electronic signature pad toward me.

“What am I signing?”

“Forms.”

“I think I should read the forms before I sign them?” I try to look at her quizzically, but I can’t see her face over the top of her computer monitor, even though I’m tall. I have to lean way over to the side to see around it. Leaning sideways makes me feel dizzy in this room.

One of the papers says that I will behave myself, do what I’m told, not carry firearms in this building… I never had to sign paperwork like this before. I tell the woman, “Do you know that studies show that people with mental illness diagnoses are less likely to be criminals, break laws, or attack other people than the general public?” She sputters a response of doubt.

Decision For Dignity

This is not where I want to seek help with my recovery from my mental illness, even though this is the only place, within a two hours’ drive from my home, where I have found psychiatrists who accept Medicare health insurance and new patients. I wish that my insurance covered the psychiatrist who has been advising me brilliantly.

I am following one of the options that I discussed with the psychologist: I am asking my physician (who accepts Medicare) to manage my prescriptions for psychiatric medications, as long as I continue to feel well.

Dignity For All

I am using Medicare this year for a few reasons: I save thousands of dollars on health insurance premiums, I want to know what poorer people experience, and I want to support a program that is supposed to provide affordable health care to everyone who qualifies. I also don’t want to support businesses that make large profits on providing essential services to those who can afford to pay the premiums.

When I talked with the intake psychologist who assessed me, and who assigned me to a counselor and a psychiatrist, he said that the paperwork, and a similar sign in the waiting room, were there to help me feel safe.

I would feel safer if the Center would tell us what we can expect, rather than what we can’t do. I feel safer in other professionals’ offices where I see positive affirmations, rather than signing “I shall not” promises that conjure fear.

My thought is, “why do they think that they need me to sign this?” rather than, “I’m glad that all of the patients here had to make these promises.”

The psychologist finally stated that the paperwork and signs were the result of “overpaid lawyers protecting the Center”. As I suspected, it has nothing to do with my feeling safe; it has everything to do with reducing the Center’s liability exposure. Even when they don’t expect people to read the forms that they’re signing.

As far as I recall, when I previously signed in for services at hospital-affiliated health centers, I have received a Patient’s Bill of Rights. I did not receive anything like that from this hospital-affiliated Health Center.

I share my story with the hope of enlightening you who have never been to such a Health Center, and you who go to such places and see nothing wrong. I want everyone to expect to be treated with dignity. Before my intake for outpatient services this week, I heard from health care professionals, and others, that people were really happy with the services that the Center provided. I wasn’t prepared for the psychologist to be derogatory. I want employees at the Center to sign a form that says:

I will behave myself
I will not carry fire arms
I will not raise my voice
I will be patient with you
I will not call you names
I will treat you with dignity

 

Image Credit:
Claustrophobia by Timothy Allen. Used under Creative Commons License BY-SA 2.0. Modified by Grace Buchanan.

Mental Health Athletes

I greatly appreciate writers who share ideas for attracting readers, for example, at Twitter: #amwriting #amreading; and at Google+: the Saturday Scenes and Writers Discussion Group communities.

Here are thoughts that I would like more authors to consider when sharing what they write about mental illness.

I often perceive an “us and them” way of thinking, for example when a writer claims, “it’s very easy to tick them off.” I suggest that we all have triggers that are easy to spark; people with a specific issue aren’t unique in that regard. The quote conjures visions of a herd of people with the issue, wound tight like springs, ready to attack. With this image in mind, I can see why some people try to keep a wide berth between “us” and “them.” Remember that all people are people. Attackers attack, resilient people bounce back, doormats are trampled, and so forth, regardless of specific issues.

Attack

Fiction can be better at building understanding than nonfiction. Novels can make challenges and solutions vivid for the readers. I’m thinking of Hamlet and Don Quixote, Sybil, and more recently Cut, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Mental illness is like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes: all can be addressed with preventive measures and therapies, and all are invisible to most of us.

A person who is not dealing with a mental health issue, but is writing about a character who is, is like a male writing about a female, or a European writing about an Indian. It is like being a real person writing about someone who is not. A key is getting feedback from people who have similar characteristics.

The most enthusiastic readers might be those who recognize something in common with at least one of the main characters. Therefor, reaching out to people who have an illness that is similar to the fictitious condition should be effective. However, main characters have more to them than just one issue. Draw on those other similarities as well.

Consider that the only difference between someone who has a mental health issue, and someone who doesn’t, is that one is seeking treatment. Everyone deals with mental health; the people who are working on their mental health issues are like athletes who are working on their physical health issues.

Healthy-Athlete

We are all working on putting our best foot forward.

P.S. I found more guidelines for writing about mental illness, for people who are looking for more specific advice. What are your favorite resources? Which resources have you discovered recently?

 

Image credits:

Woverine vs. Hulk, by Marcel Trindade.

Fields Squats, Fields Prosthetic, and Fields Runs 200, by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs.

All images used under Creative Commons License by-2.0.

The Longest Night

Thank you Liza for reassuring us that we can bring back and expand the light.

photo: Candle in the dark, by Andy Hay

Like Liza, I have been sifting through memories of my Christmas Pasts, to find ones that nourish new possibilities. I am so content with what I have, my seasonal joy is now from gifting things to people who are in dark times, to surprise and delight them.

When I studied Psychology, I learned that people collapse under crises just after the worst is over. Forget the common idiom, “the darkest hour is just before dawn”; the darkest hour is the one just after dawn. People tend to give up just as things start to get better. That is one reason to appreciate that Christmas and New Years are after the Solstice; after the darkest, longest night. That means that the most important time for action is now.

What is making your days merry and bright? How are you brightening the dark times of others?


(This might be especially true for people close to the North Pole. I have not found a comparable tradition for Southerners; short days are less drastic for them.)

Deeper Roots

Tonight is the longest night. At 5:03 the shortest day of the year ended and the winter solstice, the longest night began.

My family lit candles – six candles on the menorah for the six (thus far) nights of Hannukah and four candles on the Advent Wreath for Peace, Hope, Joy, Love. We won’t light the Christ candle until Christmas Day. My family gathered in the flickering flame. The light looked so fragile, the shadow and the darkness beyond so vast and enclosing.

It feels like it is the longest night in our nation as well.   The President of the New York Police Department Union said “There’s blood on many hands tonight….That blood on the hands starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.” In fact there is blood on many hands. There has been for many generations. Since the first Native was murdered, since…

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Police Brutality and Fear

Howard University students protesting police brutality in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
A conversation is taking place at Dungeon Prompts regarding whether, and how, race colors our perceptions of police brutality.

My perception of police brutality is colored by my personal experiences, which are colored by my racial status.

The Context

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Brown — an unarmed black young man — was shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Witnesses say that Mike’s hands were in the air when he was shot.

My Personal Experiences

As a white woman, I was raised to present myself effectively in a non-threatening way, and people perceived me as respectable and trustworthy. They didn’t read my mind. I was fantasizing about using my advantage to become a professional criminal when I grew up. (My desire to continue to be trusted, and to feel free from the haunting paranoia that I stifled after each incident, deterred me from following such a plan when I was still a teenager.)

As I was deciding to be a criminal, someone very close and dear to me married a man who became a police officer. As he took on the responsibilities of being a rookie, he had to walk the beat in the most dangerous areas of New York City during the most dangerous times. Their relationship became explosive. One day, while he felt enraged during an argument, he took out his gun and pointed it at her. Eventually, she discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and she filed for divorce.

Years later, I was in a similar situation in which I no longer felt safe with my husband. Eventually, I, too, discovered that this was not acceptable behavior in our culture, and escaped to safety, with the help of supportive friends.

Around the same time, someone very dear to me found police waiting for him at his home. They strategically persuaded him that he met the description of someone who had committed a violent crime. The long and aggressive interrogation ended with, “We know that you did this. We’re going to get you.”

Conclusion

In these three cases, each aggressive man — who was a highly valued member of his community — felt fear, and misdirected it toward someone whom he identified as a threat, like in Ferguson, Missouri. How can such behavior ever be considered acceptable?

I want to feel safe. Even though my race and socioeconomic status assure me that I am not a likely target, events of police brutality hinder my trust, and feed any paranoia that has a chance to dwell in me.