Archive for the ‘suffering’ Tag

A Tisket. A Tasket. Let Me Decide When I Want to Get in My Casket.   Leave a comment

Suicide.  A dirty word.  Taboo.  Something so bad that it’s against state and federal law.  I find that kind of funny.  If you do commit suicide, how are they going to punish you?  Put your corpse in prison for twenty-five to life?   Make you do one-hundred hours of community service as a speed bump?  Statistically, it’s actually a good thing.  It has a 0% recidivism rate.

Of course we all know why suicide is illegal.  The illogic is mostly based in Christianity, as is much of the foundation of our country and it’s laws.  And don’t get me wrong, I agree it’s wrong to murder, steal, rape and all of those other horrible transgressions against others.  I’m not even fond of coveting another’s wife, although I’ve been tempted.  But suicide is illegal because Christianity is, as are other western religions, afraid of the unknown.  Religion makes people less afraid.  God will take care of them in death as in life.  God is good.  We even say how much we trust him on our national paper currency.  But if you take your own life, God is going to be really pissed.  So our largely faith-based society made suicide illegal.  Life and death are God’s decision.  Unless you are sentenced to death for a crime.  Then it’s back in the government’s hands.

What nobody ever accounts for is the individual.  A person does not ask to be born.  Personally, I don’t remember giving my permission to be ripped out of a vagina, smacked on the back until I started screaming and live with Bipolar II and a visual impairment for the rest of my life.  So why is it illegal for me to terminate my life when I see fit?  If someone is on life support it’s acceptable to pull the plug if their quality of life will never surpass a vegetative state.   However I can not pull the trigger if my life has been nothing but depression and misery and all I can do is lie in bed like a rotten turnip?

If you are Bipolar and in severe depression, the phrase “snap out of it” is probably the most ignorant thing a person can say.  And if you are suicidal, “things aren’t that bad” are the words that put them on the fast track for stepping in front of the five o’clock commuter train.  Notice this popular nomenclature doesn’t put the emphasis on how you actually feel.  Just once I’d like to hear someone tell a suicidal person the truth.  “I can see why you want to kill yourself.  I think if I were in your situation I might want to do the same.”  Has anyone ever considered being genuine?  Would you tell a double leg amputee dragging their torso around like a snail that it is more fun than walking?

A lot of Bipolar people I know tell me they think of suicide every day.  This doesn’t mean they are suicidal, but the thought is always in their mind.  Others are in a constant holding pattern waiting for clearance from the tower;  the incident to throw them over the edge… When the depression gets so bad that they can’t take one more second of consciousness with the possibility of waking up.

For me suicide is my safety valve.  Something I know is always there when I’ve had enough.  It doesn’t mean I walk around with a pocket full of sleeping pills.  I just know I can always stop my car on the Golden Gate Bridge and do a swan dive over the edge if it gets to that point.  And just knowing I have the option helps me cope with life.  I think the original astronauts carried cyanide into space in case they ran into some other worldly beings that were going to cause them great harm.  Why can’t those who suffer from a lifetime of deep depression be offered the same compassion?

I leave you with this, figuratively and not literally. As a forty-six year old Bipolar II man I know what it is to suffer deep depression my entire life, smattered with bouts of mania where I do things that only increase my despair.  Those who condemn suicide either don’t understand what it is to spend a lifetime of debilitating depression and the havoc which ensues, or, they are projecting their fear of death on others.  Either way they are focusing on themselves and not the individual.

Suicide is a crime that will forever be broken.  So for all those who are going to kill themselves today, may you get the relief from the suffering you so sorely desire.  I hope your last decision was the best you ever made.  And for those still suffering who decide to stay with us for however long you wish to go on,  all I can offer is to share my mantra:  A tisket.  A tasket.  Let me decide when I want to get in my casket.

Suffering in a Six by Nine Cell   2 comments

He left the classroom, which was nothing more than a converted trailer, and walked out onto the San Quentin prison yard.  He sat down on the deserted baseball infield legs crossed in his prison blues.  Nobody noticed him at first until he started ripping up handulls of grass and shoving them in his mouth.  Finally a guard took note and walked over to the fence surrounding the baseball field.  He wanted to know what the prisoner was doing and ordered him to stop.  No response.  It was obvious the man was having some kind of  mental breakdown.

Guards at San Quentin, as they are in other jails and prisons, are taught not to enter a potentially dangerous situation with a prisoner without at least eight other guards.  This is to completely imobilize the inmate and not risk their own personal safety.  This particular one was sitting quietly on the ground shoving gobs of turf in his own face. He was obviously a threat and needed to be beaten down before things got out of hand.

So, when the proper amount of guards amassed, they proceeded to approach the man and do just that.  In fact, they protected the prison so well  the man was actually removed from the institution…  By ambulance.   Once again things were safe again inside San Quentin from grass-eaters experiencing psychological breakdowns..

And the volunteer teacher showing great concern who ran outside to see what was happening to her student?  She was also removed from the prison.  Told she needed to concentrate on teaching, and not the delicate prison security maneuvers she knew nothing about.  “Next time stay in the trailer,” were the gruff instructions meted out to her.

If you are not shocked by this, you should be.  But go inside a prison like San Quentin for any length of time and you’ll start to see such abuses of the mentally ill.  Sans the beating,  many are not getting the proper treatment or follow up they would get on the street.  Most of these men, and women in crisis, don’t end up in the hospital.  They are thrown back in their six by nine cells to silently suffer by  themselves.

However, if inmates are hearing voices or anything that pronounced, they could be fortunate enough to end up in the prison hospital where they have a better chance of being treated for their mental illness.  But if you are severely depressed from bipolar illness, that’s ok. “You’re in prison.  You’re not supposed to be happy.” is what you might get back from a guard.

Can you imagine hitting bipolar rock bottom, locked in a jail cell and not getting the right medication, if any at all?  Writhing in deep depression, unable to sleep, not knowing if anybody will come help or if anyone is even thinking about you?  Or to be mistakenly denied your medication and going through serious withdraw symptoms?  And in the middle of your dry heaving, severe muscle pain and uncontrollable tears, you’re told the prison psychologist already went home for the weekend and will see you on Monday morning?  But you are expected to sit in your hot little decrepit yellowed paint peeling cell and wait while he plays a little golf, barbecues a few steaks, gets his Lexus detailed, screws his wife, takes an aspirin for a headache and indulges in all the other pleasantries of being free and mentally stable?

It pains me to my core to know things like this are going on everyday in the California correctional system.  And, I’m sure we aren’t the only state without basic compassion for human beings in mental crisis.  I don’t want to hear, “well, they did commit a crime.” I drove in the car pool lane two months ago by myself intentionally.  It was faster and I was late.  Spotted by the California Highway Patrol, I got a $350 ticket. Does this mean I should be denied on the scene care from an EMT if I ever get into a serious car accident?  Because I once drove in the carpool lane without another passenger on purpose?  Of course not.  So why is it if you commit a crime are you denied psychiatric care, or competent psychiatric care, for that matter?  Why don’t we just stone mentally ill prisoners while we’re at it?

Nobody knew or ever reported on the San Quentin incident.  How many more went un-noticed?   Think how you would feel being incarcerated and bipolar.  Would you feel confident you were getting the right care?  How would your anxiety level be locked in a six by nine cell with another grown man you don’t like?   Everyone is complaining around you.  Can you even make your voice heard?

Being locked up and denied your freedom is the punishment for committing certain crimes.   Mental suffering while locked up is not something the judge orders.  Yet, our prison systems in the United States continue to serve it up.  We have to learn to slip the cuffs of silence on the subject.