Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fear and panic transmission and the hypocratic tangle




We are all prejudiced and we are all hypocrites too. Where we cause most harm to each other is when we lose control of our emotions and feed the negative ones the most. There are times when we are right to be concerned but in doing so become susceptible to panic attacks. Panic attacks do not in themselves kill us but the more we dwell on our troubles the more severe our judgement over what is good for us gets impaired.

The solution as ever is simple. We need to take a step back from our personal situation to gain a more realistic perspective about the situation as a whole. It is true that things are concerning, but not as bad as they could be. The majority of people on this gorgeous planet are not dead. The sun still shines and the rain still falls to enable food to grow to feed us.

It is undeniably harder for those with more than us to have fewer concerns but there is always someone working through far greater trauma than we are because we are individuals with very different fears as to what it the worst that can happen. For some, dying of dementia is the worst, for others it's cancer while sadly, someone else is dying of starvation, Ebola or from torture.

The thing we need to focus on most are all the days we were not suffering in this way and the prospect of those days returning. Then we start to facilitate the means by which such dreams can become possible for ourselves and by ourselves as individuals. The more relaxed we can be and the more we look for the opportunities to make things work from what we already have that does still work the easier it starts to get. But it is hard work and continuous work too.

We all have bad days, tired days, frustrated days and it can all too easily seem that every day is like that but that is merely our perception of things at that moment and it is never entirely true if we choose not to view things that way.

Those with close family and friends can find that easier than those who have none, but even some people with no support from others can find it much easier than those with hundreds of contacts because they are less likely to get muddled and confused by other people's opinions and fears.

"Fear itself is a demon. 
Fear wants us to follow its instructions all the time."

The smart thing to do is to not let fear in. Fear is merely a lack of control over our own perception of things. It is right that we have that emotion because there are dangerous things to avoid but therein lies the answer. Avoid the danger in the first place. If people are confusing you, find someone who doesn't that does not preach or teach harm or hatred or... just ignore them. Let them deal with their fears their way to leave you to deal with yours your way which we hope is to note it as maybe something you might need to be aware of but not to dwell on it as your top priority for now.

"Fear's instructions should only ever be followed
in a genuine life or death threatening situation."

As soon as the immediate danger is past we enter a state of shock which in itself can all too easily lead to panic and more fear that is not based on reality at all, but based in perception. We often trick ourselves into believing we are in more peril than we actually are.

Luckily our emergency services know what to do if we play our part in following their instructions to the letter at that point. When we fail to listen to instructions that lead us to safety we make matters much worse for both ourselves and them. This is why we recommend relaxation so that our natural instincts will kick in as and when they are required to so that we can return to a state of stability far more often and frequently. That way we can enjoy our lives and have happier and healthier ones too.

Most people have heard the term transference and we transmit alarm signals far quicker with our non-verbal senses than we do by any other means - just like any other species in fact. In common with them all we also then explain when, what and where the danger is using language. What we don't currently do is then fall silent to be on the alert for an even bigger danger. In these troubling times it is necessary now to do so, while helping in our communities those who are unable to switch back to standard alert mode quickly.

Physiologically what is happening is that a rush of signals and chemicals whizz round our brains because we are in danger and most people have metabolisms that reset everything quickly given the chance. It's the discussions of every concern in our frantic lives that has become the problem now. Let emergency teams come and ask you for more details, let them do the analysis straight after any upset from anything. Give yourself time to remember more details to help them further and it becomes a much clearer picture than if you try to blurt out everything in one go anyway. Your responses will be less clouded by emotions then which is good news because it means you yourself have recovered from that one incident and are already ready to continue as normal again but primed to respond a bit better should another emergency occur.

The great news is that even severe and critical conditions are greatly eased by learning to relax and switch to making the most of life all by yourself... so long as you're not upsetting anyone else in the process that is. Be respectful of all as you never know what troubles they may have. They might be working on how to save your life for all any of us actually know. Too much noise and fuss is hardly going to help them to think straight, is it?


This article has two pictures of trees. The second is clearly a tree, but the first one has had some human alternations to make it appear more interesting as if it wasn't fascinating enough. Our species has to make some alterations in order to ensure no species takes over everything. It's the same with our own cultures. We're great when we tinker about to make things work a bit better most of the time. It's only when we all decide that we can do much better if we change everything all at once that our species hits brick walls which seem impossible to overcome.

Even so, during major overhauls it always comes down to tinkering with the tiniest of details to make things work best of all for everyone and everything. As a species we've been doing this for centuries, it is time we did so with less fuss and panic. It saves lives by saving time, energy and a great deal of totally unnecessary distress to. We can but do what we can but do.

The whole of life on Earth is a tangled mesh of paradoxes like these because it is so varied. It is what makes it magical, beautiful and worth living for too though. So... enjoy the best of it and work through the rest of it even when it isn't so pleasant because actually, for most of us, that part of life is but a tiny fraction of the whole of our experiences on Earth.  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Perception of Clear Waters

Imagine you have before you on a breathtakingly hot day ten clear glasses of ten clear liquids, only one of which you can drink safely. Imagine you are a child who cannot read or write, or a person from another culture who cannot understand the labels put beside each glass because they are in a language you cannot decipher. Finally imagine you know nothing of science and have no sense of taste or smell to warn you that nine out of ten of those clear liquids will kill you.

What do you do?

If you don't drink at all you will die but if you do drink the wrong liquid you will also die and in either case the death will be painful and distressing.

In no particular order and with the labels incorrectly placed in some cases, but not all that is what you perceive your challenge to be, The clear glasses contain substances ranging from household items such as white spirit, (used to clean paint brushes) to industrial chemicals like acids and of course pure, nourishing, life giving water itself. More commonly what you actually have before you are 8 or 9 glasses of pure nourishing water but this is where doubt and fear trick us into panic mode.

We can tap each glass to see if the liquids move like water and listen to ascertain if it might sound like it but with no sense of smell or taste there is little more we can do except to wait for another mammal to show us which is safe for us to drink. Even then we would be wise to watch the animal closely to check that they picked the right one.

Life on Earth has always been about fighting to survive and taking appropriate risks to enable survival. We have become so familiar with this process that risk taking itself is in danger of being perceived as being of no risk to us at all. Risks do not change. Only our perception of them does. So the real battle we all have is to be as accurate as we can be about our own perception of the world around us and everything we encounter in it. The good news is that most of the time the very people that everyone fears for being in control are actually helping us to survive.

Governments are like medical teams, they at times have to respond to what makes our societies unwell with sometimes drastic and alarming treatments, which of course none of us like having to swallow. The alternative is ever escalating fear, panic leading to chaos and eventually civil if not global war. Not very appealing and it defeats the primary object of our species which is the same as for any other species - to survive.

All nations want as many people as possible to survive but some seem to be better and sharing why that is the case in nicer ways than others. In effect some trust the intelligence and the self discipline of their nation more than others and with good reason. The more troubled any nation's history is the harder it is for it's leaders to safe guard against more rebellion, turmoil and brutal action and the more interference other nations enter into without consent the more it escalates too. So the solution is quite simple. Calm down and work things through by peaceful means and gain control of the situation together by taking time out when emotions are running high.


The risk of being ill
Many more people in the developed world are becoming ill through fear combined with all the natural normal responses to that fear that occur in every animal species on this planet. In the same breathe that we are wise to dangers and take due care we also end up becoming oblivious to other dangers no less serious to our physical well being.

We know we need comfort to calm us down, so seek it to excess by bombarding medical teams, friends, families, colleagues and strangers. We have also gone overboard with many distraction techniques to cheer us up - from modern gadgets to shopping and art and sport. When that is done we then compare our result with the results others are getting and if they are in receipt of more comfort, attention and reassurance than we are, all too often we sulk, become bad tempered, throw a tantrum and start to demand the same amount as we perceive everyone else is getting for conditions as mild as a grazed knee to truly life threatening conditions such as heart conditions and cancer. It perhaps explains why too, so many become seriously mentally ill when this vicious cycle of behaviour gets established. What really happens to establish all this mayhem though? Why do our perfectly capable brains keep misleading us this way?

The simple answer is that we are merely animals ourselves and that is our basic instincts that we can never counteract completely effectively. They will always seek to bring us back down to our most basic animal behaviours. The instinct to find a mate and breed is only second to finding food and shelter. We are prepared to fight and kill for both. What distinguishes us from other species is our ability to massacre ourselves to get what we want but also, rather more comfortingly, our ability to choose not to and work as a team instead so that everyone can get the basics of what they need to survive and continue our species as designed according to the master plan and blueprints. Where they stem from is also a matter of choice in perception and, as we know all too well a trigger point for many a bitter conflict.

The more complex answer involves not just one science but all sciences that we have today. Here we will focus on just three examples that have hit the news recently, with common reactions to those reports.


  • Our hormones send signals to our brains telling it how to behave.
    (Hang on... brains tell hormones what to do, not the other way round... help!)
  • Nutrition advise is all rubbish unless you know your own metabolism inside out.
    (Oh poo, I don't what do I do now? HELP!!)
  • Strange things called synapses and neurons determine if we can think straight.
    (What are you telling me then... that I'm a waste of effort? HEEEELP!)


It's not that the scientific discoveries are inaccurate - the way they are shared though does get distorted because these things by their nature are extremely complex, so short-hand communication is often used. Hence the above statements are incomplete which leads us all to be curious and seek more information without ever knowing who is the boffin that knows the most on any subject. Bombard them with questions and they cannot do any more work to help us though, can they. When we are calm, we are patient and can wait for updates with ease. When we are distressed or panicking we all too often make matters ever worse for ourselves and the very people there to help us. Our perception of even the simplest scrap of information in highly tense times instantly get distorted precisely because our hormones work WITH our brains and switch to emergency procedure mode of fight or flight.

With regard to food, we are not doing that much wrong really. We can ween ourselves off the major culprits and in most cases that is what any medical team would advise the majority of people to do. Unfortunately too many people assume their metabolism is the rare exception to the rule than is actually the case. If you think about, why would your metabolism be that rare case. Doctors will soon tell you if it is and if it isn't then great, because it's easier to treat as a known problem with known cures is it not?

Some modern food production practices could certainly help us more once science has done it's research to find out which preservatives and flavourings are particularly dangerous and then work through the rest systematically. Many people live to be 100 years old eating all manner of things others say they shouldn't precisely because their bodies can cope remarkably well. Different is never a question of being better or worse; it is merely... different. Getting the right nutrition is only ever going to result in trial and error regardless of whether you see your doctor or not. So why panic?

Brain power
By far the best news of all comes from the mysterious region of research that deals with the understanding our own brains. Increasingly science is learning that we can take ever more control over curing our own thinking and controlling our emotional responses.

This is fabulous news because in essence it means that we can redirect our own synapses (which are like wires that transport signals), to the correct place in the brain. Even better we can also get better control of the neurons (which in essence is the message itself) so that we can all not only cope with fear and danger better but get ever smarter. Think of training neurons in the same way as you would improve your vocabulary or change it to communicate with different people and you're half way there already. We need to be too as we need absolutely everyone's best ideas to ensure we not only rescue our planet from being in danger of running out of resources but also continue to look after it for many centuries to come.

Perception of clear waters is easy when we have the right information and support from others who do know the difference between an acid, white spirit and water. We do not help ourselves by pampering to each others needs to excess nor in seeking such high levels of attention as we have been 24/7. We are far better off stopping and asking our brains this question "Is this situation life threatening this second, minute or in the next hour, week or year?" and "Can it wait just a little until I have rested to think more clearly." More often than not most things can wait. There is no doubt that we are all on high alert for dangers but being on the alert is NOT the same as being in imminent danger. Never confuse the two and all wonderful things are indeed possible.

We can shape our future by what we choose to believe through what we seek to achieve. We at Mindwalking recommend believing in happy outcomes and seeking ways to stay calm enough to never miss the opportunities that are all around us to ensure and secure that future for all.

Postscript:
If you are interested in more information about how our brains work or any part of our bodies, we recommend as a starting point looking for childrens books and websites on these subjects because even the greatest minds in the world often need to read them too to help clear their heads to think straight. We're not sure all boffins will approve of sharing that trade secret, but we know some will be thrilled with us for doing so too! LOL!


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Watching - Scene 7 (Finale)

Watching
Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

*
Scene Seven


Stage Directions: General lighting

Friend: You coming out for footie?

Saul: Maybe, I don’t know.

Friend: Shutting yourself off again isn’t going to do you any good. You’ve got to try.

Saul: I know it’s just...

Friend: Just what? Come on, you’re better now. All that stuff is in the past. Nothing’s changed, life is just as it was. And you’re OK about your Dad now too aren’t you? You said you were. Remember? Remember how you enjoyed football and gigs? Well you can again. It’s still there. You just need to try. Your Dad wouldn’t have wanted you to give up, I know.

Saul: I know but really, it’s not that easy. And things have changed. Everything feels so hostile. Sinister. The world is a hostile, sinister place for me now. Populated by alien beings who are not what I thought they were. They don’t stop and think about others they trundle on regardless. They clutter up their lives with all sorts of crap that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t you see? It’s only people that matter but people don’t care about each other, don’t look after each other.

Friend: Look I’m sorry I wasn’t about OK? I had my own shit and you weren’t making it easy. Jees I thought we’d got past this. I’m trying to help here, Saul but you’ve gotta put the effort in 'cos I can’t do it for you. I did try but it was just bad timing is all.

Saul: I didn’t mean you.

Friend: You’re talking crazy again and I’m no shrink. Aliens? Sinister? Hostile? You know what, fine. Be ill again if that’s what you want and go back to madville and your precious shrink 'cos I’m outta here.

Stage Directions: Cyc lighting and tight but dim centre spot on Saul. Chorus point and jeer at Saul in typical bullying fashion.

Chorus: Nutter! Fruitcake! Weirdo! One slice short of a sandwich that one. Cracked! Crazy! Mad! Should be locked up. Shouldn’t be allowed out. Psycho! Need to watch out for that one. Headcase! Freak! They’re sort go on the rampage and commit murders. He’s bonkers. Cuckoo, cuckoo! Nutjob. A real odd one that. He’s a crank. Who knows when he might suddenly flip?  Nutcase! Loon! Crackpot! Whacko! He’s a screwball kook! A dumbass idiot! (etc)

Stage Directions: DSL area. Saul runs and then sits down with his CPN

Saul: (To audience) The easy part was to knock the psychosis on the head... plenty of sleep, regular food and exercise and a few drugs will do that. The hard part was about to follow. Thank goodness they allocated me a whole team of people to get me back to functioning.

I had a Social Worker to help me with finances and practical things like getting a job. I was allocated my first counsellor to help me with the loss of my Dad. I discovered why I’d been so angry with the world – it hadn’t stopped going about its business even for a two minute silence when he died because it can’t. I discovered that he must have been proud of me, loved me and that I was proud of him and loved him too. I discovered too that it isn’t always that way with people when they lose someone.

I  was allocated a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) too to help me adjust to normal life and keep an eye on my meds

Stage Directions: Lights cross fade to CPN and Saul joins them

CPN: So how has it been since our last appointment?

Saul: Oh just great... everyone one’s been real nice, and real honest with me. Can’t fault that now can we? I had no idea there was such a prejudice or how hurtful it could be. I feel so angry; everything is so vile now I’m out of hospital. Everyone’s so cruel.

CPN: Not everyone Saul. I know it’s hard but there are nice people about. You just have to find them. And you’re going to be very sensitive to these things now, whereas before you would have thought nothing of it. You’re not only a survivor but you’re a fighter too, so keep fighting. How’s the job hunt going?

Stage Directions: Three toplight spots on interview panel only.

Saul goes to sit in a chair DSC with his back to the audience. The Chorus gather as a panel of employers. Snap fade spotlight for each line.

Employer: We really think, given your recent illness that the job would risk your health and we none of us want to do that.

Employer: Off the record... We won’t have the time to support you with your condition, much as we’d like to.

Employer: Perhaps you should aim for something less pressurised.

Employer: Looking at your CV I think you’d get bored as a cleaner. It’s not rocket science and given your intelligence I think you’d do better aiming a bit higher.

Employer: We’re a business not a nuthouse.

Employer: I’m afraid your condition would unsettle the rest of the team.

Employer: I see from your application there’s a gap over the last two years. Can you explain what you’ve been doing in that time?

Employer: Quite simply, you wouldn’t fit in here.

Employer: The other candidates don’t have this history, so tell me why should we employ you?

Employer: What assurances can you give me that you’re not going to be ill like that again?

Employer: Congratulations Saul. I’m please to say you’ve got the job.

Stage Directions: General lighting.

Boss’s voice: Welcome on board to Saul. Everyone. This is Saul and he’s been through a rough patch so make sure you look after him.

Stage Directions: Extracts of experiences at work complete with mimes of tasks and sounds to indicate machinery, beeps, bleeps and phones rining. Lighting stays the same as cast exit and enter. Saul moves DSR and gazes at the audience as he recalls these moments.

Staff: Send the fruitcake out for a sandwich, maybe he’ll find the slice he’s missing!

Staff: I’ll tell you what he said to me, he said he was a banker once. Definitely ga-ga!

Staff: Delusional. (They Exit)

Staff: He gets away with murder with his ‘health condition’.

Staff: Yeah, a clever bugger isn’t he? Wish I’d thought of it!

Boss: Nothing wrong with your work Saul when you’re here but according to our records you’ve had six weeks off already this year for meds changes. How many more are can we expect? Because, to be brutal, we can’t afford it.

Staff: Yeah, he’s upset about his shifts or wages or something. Reckons he’s been diddled somehow. Just ignore him. It’s one of his moods.

Stage Directions: Saul crosses the stage to meet his CPN. DSL area lighting

Saul: I’m feeling really guilty about things.

CPN: What things?

Saul: About the people I met in hospital, the other patients. I haven’t kept in touch because... well because I don’t want their shit on my plate.

CPN: But that’s good. That’s normal and healthy. You need to concentrate on you.

Saul: But don’t you see, that’s the point. I’ve been complaining about the prejudice and stigma of others and I’m doing it now. If that’s normal then it sucks. If people had been about for me then maybe... well maybe I wouldn’t have become ill. All I needed was someone to talk to. And the world doesn’t do that. I’ve been talking to friends of mine from before. Trying to tell them what it’s been like and they’re not interested. They know I’ve been ill but they won’t let me talk about it. I feel like I’m in a world of aliens. I know I’m not but that’s how it feels and it’s empty, lonely, pointless. Hostile.

CPN: You mustn’t wear your illness on your sleeve. People who haven’t been there find it hard to listen to all that’s happened to you. It’s all new to them and a shock for them to hear about it. The way you’ve been bombarding them is frightening to them.

Saul: But if I can’t tell them then how can they understand? And if they can’t understand how can they possibly help? I’m not going to be accepted for who I am this way am I? Look... if it was a divorce, or a car accident, or an operation or any other type of major life event the most natural thing to do would be to talk about it, yes? It’s part of the recovery process. But that’s the bit I’m barred from doing other than talking to medics. How is that going to lead me to living a normal life again when in my personal relationships the biggest events of my life are the ones I can’t share? How can I fully recover unless I do? Is it that much to ask or expect just to have people listen as I do when they’ve been through stuff? I know one thing... from here on in I’m going to let other mentally ill people rant as much as they like. All of a sudden they seem where I belong.

CPN: I know what you’re saying here. Don’t think I don’t. It’s not fair is it? Sadly life isn’t. All I can suggest is that you concentrate sorting your life out for now. Give it time to decide what relationships you want to keep and form in the future. You’re rushing at putting everything straight again but it’s actually putting you at risk again.
Look, when you first meet someone do they immediately tell you their life history or their worst moments? No. They don’t. Trust is built over time. Let people get to know the well you. You are not an illness. Your illness is one tiny part of you. It’s a fact, like the colour of your skin, but it’s not the whole you is it?

(Getting diary out) Keep going Saul, you’re doing really well. Next week I’ve a training course in the morning, so how’s the afternoon for you?
Saul crosses to centre stage.

Stage Directions: During speech lights ‘close in from general area to tight centre spot on Saul for the repeat of the ‘watching’ chorus at the end.

Saul: So that’s what I did. I lost most of my old friends. Formed new ones, stayed clear of fellow nutters for a long time but eventually found some decent friends among both camps who accepted me as I am, why I am, and the things I’ve been through. I never turn anyone distressed away, and don’t fear madness or the crazies like I used to. But I have learnt my limits on what I can do for others. When it gets too much I point them to sources of help that have helped me.

I’ve been to hell, seen hell and lived there and come back again, so now there’s nothing to fear about living in normal-ville.

I’m beginning to train as a counsellor now. Not sure what Dad would make of that, but so long as I’m happy.

Most of all, as never before, I embrace life, I consume it, I devour it and demolish it when it’s stimulating and walk away and dismiss it when it’s not. I’ve returned and I’m back to watching. The difference is that now I’m watching with a purpose. I watch out for things of meaning, like words such as please, thank you and sorry, and get angry when they’re not used. I’ve developed a new paranoia (or meaning to life) whichever you prefer for I am ever vigilant now; watchful for my own symptoms showing signs of recurring and I watch out for yours too. Watching you to prevent you getting ill. Watching. Ever watching. Watching out for which one of you may be next.



Stage Directions: Tight spot on Saul begins here. Breaking the word ‘watching’ up before they join Saul to resume the tableaux at the beginning.  Overlapping syllables (wa, t, ch, ing, chi, ng, etc) The cast appear and sit as if watching a performance or film, facing the audience. Long silence and slow fade to blackout. Lights up for curtain call with ‘Saul’s song’ as Dream One.



PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional wears white coats and seldom wear uniforms of any kind unless they are nursing staff. CPN is the abbreviation for Community Psychiatric Nurse and they do not wear uniforms. Sectioning in other countries is the term that used to known as committed i.e. placed in hospital by decree from a medical team. 

In the UK it takes a committee of medical staff trained in mental health to agree that you are too ill to be left to cope on your own and it is very common for a member of public not related to you to ensure that medical staff are not in breach of the law. 

All people in the UK can appeal against being placed in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

By kind permission of Mel Dixon, the Mindwalking team is proud to publish a joint venture in the form of a play. Copyright and performance rights remains with Mel Dixon who we would like to thank for writing this piece with us and for all of us. 

We hope this will enable every to understand what both isolation and loss can lead to if people are left unsupported. No one should suffer alone, but sadly all too many still do.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Watching - Scene 6

Watching
Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

*
Scene Six

Stage Directions: Lights cross fade as Saul steps forward to face the audience centre stage.

Saul: Life is full of miracles and make no mistake it was a miracle that I got better. It was a miracle because of where I was sent to get better; a mental health unit where I met others who were also ill.

They came from all walks of life, from doctors to clergy to businessmen to parents, OAPs, teenagers; rich and poor, intelligent and stupid, the well read, the illiterate – you name them – they were there. There were as many people burnt out with other people’s woes as much as they were with their own. Even medics worn out with the amount of suffering they saw pitted against the timewasters who got in the way of those they could’ve helped instead; business types exhausted with the pressures of some target driven career; the poor stripped of all reason to fight to survive – their self-esteem being non-existent; the bereaved, the oppressed, the neglected, the tortured, the abused.

There’s quite a few self-harmers there. Plenty of them – one was rushed to A&E for slashing their stomach open, I never found out why. I know they didn’t hear voices though – oh yeah. They were there too. And some weren’t just talking voices, there was that one who constantly heard a furious Brian Blessed screaming at them to go and throw themselves under a train. Imagine living with that if you can. The eating disorders were there, schizoids, addicts, neurotics, obsessives, compulsives, bi-polars and psychotics like myself. Some I met I knew would never be free of their demon illness and had to learn ways to live with it but for some – and thank goodness I’m one of them, it’s a temporary blip.

Yes, life in a mental health unit can be a melodrama a minute, but surprisingly it wasn’t like that al the time for there were quiet days too. Long and tedious with nothing happening at all and nothing to do past 5pm on a weekday when all laid on activities stopped; and no way out. And in the tea room, late at night you’d have the most interesting discussions. People comparing drug regimes, suicide attempts along with trying to fathom who would get better and who wouldn’t as well as the deepest of philosophical debates on what a mess world leaders had got us into, religion, politics, holidays, travel, family, work, sport, art, food and fashion just like normal people do.

I have been in many tea rooms and cafes since but in none of them have I come across anything which compares to those conversations and nothing in comparison to the understanding, compassion and tolerance of those people who, like me were so very very sick in the head simply because they were sick of the life they were living.

I have often wondered if therein lies the connection. Too much compassion and you risk going mad. How often have I been told that I was too sensitive - a neat way of saying I don’t want to listen to you, I want you to listen to me instead. How often it silenced me too.

But no, I’ve learned that I was ill because it happened to be my brain that malfunctioned – it could just as easily have been my appendix, but there’s no stigma attached to appendicitis is there?

When all is said and done a brain is just another organ in the body – why wouldn’t it be susceptible to illness? Silly to think it wouldn’t, let alone couldn’t be. What fools we are to think otherwise. I was so naive, so complacent, blas√© before; so ignorant, arrogant and stupid to think I or anyone could be immune to mental illness. It comes down to the luck of the draw as to what life throws at you. It’s a lottery from what you were born into or who you bump into as you just do your best to make the best of things. Yes. Yes. I was very naive.


PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional ever wears white coats and seldom wear uniforms of any kind unless they are nursing staff. CPN is the abbreviation for Community Psychiatric Nurse and they do not wear uniforms. Sectioning in other countries is the term that used to known as committed i.e. placed in hospital by decree from a medical team. 

In the UK it takes a committee of medical staff trained in mental health to agree that you are too ill to be left to cope on your own and it is very common for a member of public not related to you to ensure that medical staff are not in breach of the law. 

All people in the UK can appeal against being placed in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

By kind permission of Mel Dixon, the Mindwalking team is proud to publish a joint venture in the form of a play. Copyright and performance rights remains with Mel Dixon who we would like to thank for writing this piece with us and for all of us. 

We hope this will enable every to understand what both isolation and loss can lead to if people are left unsupported. No one should suffer alone, but sadly all too many still do.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Watching - Scene 5

Watching
Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

*
Scene Five

Stage Directions: Spotlight USL.

Saul: Oh god! How am I ever going to face anyone? Why would anyone want to cope with me after this? The people I’ve shouted at and told to fuck off! The unpaid bills, I’m losing my house. Where are my spirits now when I need them to guide me? Please... please come. Help me!

Stage Directions: Crossfade to spot DSR.

Psychiatrist: (To audience) To continue our lecture... The first step toward recovering from a mental illness is self-awareness. Realising you are ill is the first step. Records show that among the mentally ill the suicide rate goes up at this stage. Or to put it another way, when a patient starts to recover by first understanding that they are ill, that’s when they are most at risk of taking their own life.

This is because at that point of realisation the social stigma affects the patient so profoundly they reject all possibility of recovery. Often they can remember thinking they were immune from mental illness and so they see themselves as having failed as a person for becoming ill. Guilt and shame for being ill along with this overwhelming feeling of failure can lead to suicide attempts. In the long run, it is actually the stigma that will be the harder battle to fight as never again will the patient feel completely at ease, complacent or blasé that they are immune.

The stats are that one in four people in England suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. I suspect the figure is much higher as in England so much goes unreported. In fact I can testify to that as every day I can spot plenty of people who are not under mental health care but ought to be – I suspect you can name quite a few yourselves. People with ‘attitude problems’? Being outspoken and sharing what you are thinking and feeling can seem much more acceptable in other cultures. We’re not the best, nor the worst in that respect.

You’d think once a person sees that they’re ill and accepts it that it’s simple, but it isn’t. It takes time to unravel and discard the crazy habits and beliefs they’ve formed and all the while they acquire a new perspective.

Stage Directions: DSR area where the psychiatrist joins Saul.

 Psychiatrist: (To Saul) Do you hear voices or have visions?

Saul: No, I imagine voices like you do.

Psychiatrist: You ‘imagine’ voices. How do you mean?

Saul: I think them, as in I can imagine your voice when you’re not in the room but I don’t hear it. I can imagine what you might say or think. Are you telling me I’m the only person that does that?

Psychiatrist: No. But you must understand why I might need clarity in order to be able to help. Some people do hear voices, and if you did there are things I can do to help. Have you had any visions of people being there that you are aware of. Some people imagine imagine a very angry Brian Blessed shouting at them to throw themselves under a train and can see him too.

Saul: Bloody hell! How do people survive with that going on?

Psychiatrist: Amazingly they do so by taking their prescribed medication. It tends to get rid of such delusions. Difficult though it maybe to believe it. Have you had any such experiences that you know of?

Saul: No. (Pause while the psychiatrist studies Saul) Well I don’t and never have.

Psychiatrist: OK good. A word of advice – never assume anything and especially not what people think. We all do it, but it’s best to try not to. Now, I understand you were in the garden collecting pebbles yesterday. Can you tell me about that? Are you interested in geology?

Saul: (to himself) Shit, they ARE spying on me now! (To the psychiatrist) If you must know I was collecting them as Christmas presents for people. I don’t have any money and they struck me as quite pretty, there are forms of pink granite or something like it among the cobbles just as an example. I would like to know more about them so I might well take up geology. I personally can’t fathom why one rock that’s classified a gemstone is more valuable or considered more beautiful than any other, can you? But I can’t even afford a box to present them nicely, far less the varnish or polish.

Psychiatrist: (Smiling and making a note) Fair point.

Stage Directions: DSR dims. Lights up DSL area. We are in the garden of the hospital and a helicopter is flying over head and flies away. The appointment continues as a mime as lights now reveal other patients and Saul soon joins them.

Patient: So what’s the new guy like?

Patient: Which one? You mean the smelly one that’s hidden under a blanket or the one just out of Intensive Obs?

Patient: The one, I saw you talking to in the garden.

Patient: Delusional. Thinks it’s all a government plot, that half of us patients are really government agents and the helicopters are spying on him and him alone. All one big old experiment.

Patient: Oh, a bit like woman last month then?

Patient: Yeah, still it makes a change from aliens. You’re family visiting this week?

Patient: Nah, which is cool 'cos they only fuss. Yours?

Patient: Yeah, complete with bags of goodies. It makes them feel they’re doing something helpful. You want anything, I could ask them for some extras if there’s anything you fancy?

Patient: I could murder some chocolate if that’s OK?

Patient: Pst... he’s coming over. I wonder which suicide method he tried.


Patient: Dunno but I expect he’ll tell us in the end.



Patient: Been to see the shrink?




Saul: Yes.

Patient: Any use?

Patient: Oh don’t start, he’s new.

Patient: How do you know?  He might be an old hand like me. I didn’t quite make it you as you can see... I tried ending it all by throwing myself off a multi-storey car park and ended up in this ancient excuse of a wheelchair instead. So chucking yourself off a roof is not something I’d recommend trying. Still there are other options...


Saul: Yes. Thanks for the advice.



Patient: You see, he’s not a newbie at all! I’m Greg, pleased to meet you old chap.


Saul: Saul, but I am a newbie so how do you get out of here?


Patient: Well... that rather depends.


Saul: On what?

Patient: On what you want to do when you get out, of course.

Stage Directions: Crossfade up on psychiatrist and Saul and down on DSL.

Psychiatrist: So how are you this week? You seem to be settling in.

Saul: Well that’s just it, I don’t want to settle here. I don’t belong here. There are inmates who are victims of child abuse. One guy was raped by his father who then passed him round a paedophile ring, did you know that?

Psychiatrist: Yes we know who you’re talking about.

Saul: Why isn’t he the one defecating in the corridor, nor the one screaming, or the one in the corner sitting silently? He’s not even the one weeping and wailing. It doesn’t make sense. In fact it was because he did none of these things and seemed really together that I asked him why he was here and that’s how we got talking. He said he self-harmed because (in his own words) it was quicker and less obtrusive than crying – his arms when he showed me are crinkled up like old tin foil with year upon year of scarring. But I expect you know all about that too.

Psychiatrist: Yes we do. But Saul that’s him, not you. We have these reviews each week to see how each of you are doing. I know it’s hard because you’re a caring person and want to help others, but you’re job is to concentrate on getting yourself better. If you’re worried about anyone else tell the staff and let them deal with it. We’re trained, you’re not. You’re main focus and only focus in here should be YOUR health.

Saul: Will he ever get better?

Psychiatrist: I can’t discuss that, but he is making progress. So... how are you? I hear you were found curled up under the shrubs in the garden earlier this week. Can you tell me about that?

Saul: (Embarrassed) I... just wanted the earth to swallow me up. I don’t like being here. Compared to others here I should feel pretty lucky I suppose but it was before I got talking to them and well... I just want to go home now. (Long pause) The other inmates I find rather disturbing if the truth be told.

Psychiatrist: That’s a pretty healthy sign to feel that way Saul. It isn’t anything to feel ashamed of.


Saul: But it should be, shouldn’t it?


Stage Directions: DSR dims. Lights up DSL area. The appointment continues as a mime as lights now reveal other patients and Saul soon joins them.

Patient: She didn’t!

Patient: Yep, in her nightie down the High Street in broad daylight. She’s in the Intensive Obs Unit now.

Patient: Hi Saul.

Patient: How’d it go? Going home yet?

Saul: Same as last week. Another week, but I might get into town on a Section 17 accompanied with a nurse. In any case I’ve said I want to go to church on Sunday so that will at least get me as far as the chapel as a change of scene.

Patient: Well you’re making progress to get that far that quick.

Patient: No he’s not, they can’t refuse church.

Patient: Yeah but he’s already on a ‘might for a 17’.

Patient: Well I’m next so wish me luck. Wish they’d hurry up, I mean it’s not as if they need to say much about boring old Saul here.

Saul: Oh they won’t be, they’ll be wading through the volumes of your notes by now.

Patient: I suppose I asked for that!

Patient: And you did say you thought Sonia was probably an alien in front of Bernie on Monday so I don’t reckon to your chances.

Patient: Oh shut up you lot. He knew I was joking. What do they expect when they muck you about so much? Us to worship the ground they walk on?

Saul: You have to be so accurate here; you have to be so precise in order to communicate. I told one of them that I wanted to move to Alpha Centuri and they thought I was serious! Two days later I told them I no longer wanted to move there and waited for the expression of relief to show on their face and then added that I’d decided on Andromeda instead. They didn’t see the joke at all and asked why there? I tried following it up with saying I was joking and telling them I wanted to move to London so now they know I’m crazy. And still they didn’t get that I was joking.

Stage Directions: Fade up on psychiatrist and down on DSL. Ambiguous machine noises before the psychiatrist resumes his lecture.

Psychiatrist: (To audience at the lectern) Listening attentively, carefully, in detail to patients provides the biggest insight. You have to set them at their ease no matter what they come up with to enable them to relax enough to share what’s going on in their heads. Key words like ‘I want to move’ are a giveaway for trouble at home, which could be neighbours, partners, family, landlords, all sorts. So we start to explore all that. One patient of mine was open about the death of his father, but he’d shut himself away for so long that he had added problems with finances and was about to lose his flat simply because he hadn’t any support from the community, not even via his chums at work or socially. In many ways, isolation in a community can be thought of as one of the major contributors to mental illness. And often it’s the simpliest of things that can make a difference, such as a chat about a program on telly, or someone making sure you can get a a cup of tea. Without those everyday practicalities we can all be reduced to throwing tantrums, but when it’s the very last shred of comfort left, going without a tea bag or breaking a finger nail can be the very last straw of all before a suicide attempt. When it comes to psychosis though, often it’s deadlines that figure large. If xyz does not happen by such and such a time then that becomes the appointed time to begin to plan and, (pardon the pun), execute one’s own suicide.

Stage Directions: Saul returns to psychiatrist for another weekly assessment meeting

Saul: Crazy people are not so crazy as I thought. You get the odd one that swears and kicks off, the odd one that sits in silence and doesn’t move, the odd one that is forever weeping but most you can hold a normal conversation with, chat about music, the latest mobile phone, have political debates with them, discuss the weather, hobbies, interests anything really or almost.

Psychiatrist: It’s a funny thing but while people with mental illness can spot illness in others, they seldom see all the symptoms they themselves display. So how did your weekend at home go?

Saul: Alright. Quiet. Nice to get out of here, could have done without the chaperone and checks but I expect you’ll say it was for my safety. (pause) I didn’t really want Ronnie to even visit, but I was so desperate to get out of here and as he offered. Never rated him as a friend at all as we have so little in common, but you take what you can get. I felt like some freakshow for the handful that bothered to pop by, and with Ronnie too. But, it was good. I...(Long pause)  I came across some of my writings, notes and stuff. I remember that the letter E equalled everything but I couldn’t follow any of the rest. Total gibberish. I can’t believe I could think like that. It’s like the connections I made make no sense at all. Like I forgot how to count or something. Two apples and three oranges somehow equalled five pears in the way I was thinking.

Psychiatrist: Instead of five pieces of fruit you mean?

Saul: Yes. Yes exactly. At least there was a semblance of accuracy eh? I mean I got the number five right and the fact it was all fruit of some kind.

Psychiatrist: Did you feel you were being watched or followed still?

Saul: No. No one watching me. No one cares a bit about what I’m up to. They’re just ordinary folk about their ordinary lives again. No cameras, no microphones anymore which is a relief in a way but still depressing. Except of course there are cameras all the time these days with CCTV, but I remembered what you said and not exactly ignored them, more fuck ‘em. Not as if the government gives a shit anyway, or does anything useful anyway. There’s probably loads of pics of me by down doing an up yours sign at them, but not from this weekend. 


I can’t believe what a state the house is in. I feel really shaky and cringe at the thought of how I’ve been and how I was living, what I was doing and thinking. How could that have been me?


Psychiatrist: You were ill. Everyone’s behaviour changes when they’re ill even when it’s a simple cold or stomach bug. If we all protest and get grumpy over those things, is it surprising we get into a state over more serious things?

Saul: I suppose.

Psychiatrist: This type of illness happens to people more than you think. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here. Like any other type of illness, you didn’t ask for it; didn’t wake up one morning and decide “Hmmm today I think I’m going to have a breakdown.”  Did you?

Saul: No. I suppose if you put it like that...

Psychiatrist: I think we can start looking at sending you home now, don’t you? Would you like that?

Saul: Given how I’ve been I think it’s a miracle you got me back. Thank you. As to liking the thought of going home though, it’s kind of not as appealing as I thought it was. It’s never going to be the same as it was before, I mean when I was well... I mean before I lost my Dad and there’s all that to wade through yet too.

Psychiatrist: One step at a time. All major events change our way of looking at the world Saul, but you are a survivor, just like your Dad said you were. Try and give me a little credit for knowing the difference with all my years of experience. You are not a recurring... to use your words, inmate of a mental health hospital. Stop trying to cross bridges before you get to them especially when you might not even need to cross them. That would not be the behaviour of the Saul I’ve come to know now would it?


Saul: Shall I tell you something funny?




Psychiatrist: Go on.


Saul: Now I wish our conversations had been recorded so I could keep playing them back whenever I need to.




Psychiatrist: You don’t need recordings for that... you have the capacity to remember. Don’t you?


Saul: Yeah. Damn you’re good. I hope I find a career that I can be good at.



Psychiatrist: I have no doubt you will, so long as you take your time and enjoy exploring to get there.


Saul: Hmmm, maybe I’ll be a shrink one day too.



Psychiatrist: If it feels right, why not. You’ll find your way Saul. Of that I have no doubt, so long as you cling onto rocks and not flimsy heather, right?



PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional ever wears white coats and seldom wear uniforms of any kind unless they are nursing staff. CPN is the abbreviation for Community Psychiatric Nurse and they do not wear uniforms. Sectioning in other countries is the term that used to known as committed i.e. placed in hospital by decree from a medical team. 

In the UK it takes a committee of medical staff trained in mental health to agree that you are too ill to be left to cope on your own and it is very common for a member of public not related to you to ensure that medical staff are not in breach of the law. 

All people in the UK can appeal against being placed in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

By kind permission of Mel Dixon, the Mindwalking team is proud to publish a joint venture in the form of a play. Copyright and performance rights remains with Mel Dixon who we would like to thank for writing this piece with us and for all of us. 

We hope this will enable every to understand what both isolation and loss can lead to if people are left unsupported. No one should suffer alone, but sadly all too many still do.