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Archive for the ‘Narrative competence’ Category

I understood growing up that trusted people were not inadvertently driving me crazy but were instead devoted to the systematic destruction of my sanity. It wasn’t about their behaviors, though I’d make it a point to avoid a beating by wandering the neighborhood til the lights went out, go home and step over mom on the way to the kitchen, eat a tub of Cool Whip, fall asleep on the couch and wake up with a caregiver’s dick in my mouth. Go down to the basement and burn my cum-stained nightie in the laundrytub, thinking, then head off to school in rumpled overalls and mother’s torn nylons, sleep at my desk while intuitive classmates point and ridicule, gearing up for the beatdown I was hoping to dodge by the bullies on the playground. Welp, I told myself, sucks all right, but no one is going to touch my mind.

This is what they wanted, evident, by age eight, the people perpetrating on me attack my body and it hurts but I can ignore that since what they’re really after is my mind, my soul, my freedom, pleasure, my sense of ease and security, my pride, my delight. I’ll tell you how I knew this: My actions had no impact on them. Their treatment of me was inner directed, random, their demands of me non-specific or inconsistent, they didn’t want me to do anything better, didn’t want me to be good, to improve, to behave, and believe me I tried. It wasn’t about that. I’m still learning, it wasn’t about me. Their only goal was the complete breaking down of personality. They needed me to think and feel and become something else, something ugly, corrosive and corrupt, a mirror. They wanted to watch this version of me take form, they wanted to be the ones who caused the transformation and wanted to be known by me as the ones who caused it.

Trauma is not just talk about what the abuser did; welts and bruises fade. Psychic trauma is about who did it, and why they did it, and since going there is inconceivable to most people we talk about CSA, scars and whatnot and PTSD in order to avoid the unpleasant. PS: This too is traumatizing.

I understand dangerous, sadistic twisted fucks tune into my radar, even though I know all this — my caregivers wished to destroy my mind — or maybe it’s because I know all this, you avoid what I invite. There’s always a psychopath beckoning. Something is always tugging, it’s true for you and true for me, all of nature, organisms, living things incline toward particular experience, we do. There’s a hole in my heart where the wreckers crawl in, do I get what I deserve? It’s very screwed up and very understandable in light of the BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder. Which has been established, yes, it has.

I am truly fucking sorry.

Ignorant, judgmental scolds who don’t understand why anyone would want to self-destruct should begin asking why not self-destruct. Then try to spend a single day circumventing your own relief in the familiar.

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It’s not everyday reading something on the Internet can move me to tears, but I’ve given up hope on seeing something like this post (and commentary) at Whiskey Fire. The study is not yet published and I know it only begins to scratch the surface but for the first time since the tests were done on me I have hope, if not for myself I can imagine glad tidings for tomorrow’s little Dickens.

When the neuropsychologist laid it out for me 10 years ago I was crying and he was almost crying, because he couldn’t answer my very pointed questions and account for the disparities in my mental examination. An evaluation spanning eight hours over two days, as comprehensive as it gets, followed by a 25 page report and two hour debriefing and still something missing hangs in the air. In the end I knew that he knew and we both knew what I needed to hear that he couldn’t say. What I didn’t know was that he couldn’t say it because there was no supporting cognitive science to make our unspoken hypothesis official in a formal setting. Correlation is not enough to move the world off its ass, but I have had enough correlation to last a lifetime, and that time is running out. Catch up with me.

He tried to make me feel better like Jake the Snake talks at Whiskey Fire — it’s not a life sentence, keep building up strengths, focus on your incredible resilience and amazing inner resources. Oh please. Show me the science.
Now we’re talking. It’s a start.

“This is a wake-up call…these kids have no neurological damage… yet, the prefrontal cortex is not functioning as efficiently as it should be….researchers suspect that stressful environments and cognitive impoverishment are to blame…The study is suggestive and a little bit frightening that environmental conditions have such a strong impact on brain development…”

Suggestive and a little bit frightening indeed.

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Grazing the Internets this weekend is to follow intimate, overheard snippets in the shaping of a legacy. So I compile what the people are saying in a downright tsunami of link love, the hours well spent.

Studs Terkel 1912-2008

“The thing that horrifies me is the forgetfulness.”

A cigar and martini man, white-haired and elegantly rumpled in his trademark red-checkered shirts, an old rebel who never mellowed, never retired, never forgot, and “never met a picket line or petition I didn’t like.”

He won a Pulitzer Prize for listening to other people’s thoughts, fears and dreams

which he called guerrilla journalism

but writer Garry Wills described as “underdog-ism”

used his words, whether on radio or on the page, to celebrate the People with a capital “P” and to protest their oppression by the stupid and powerful

whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre

married for 60 years to a beautiful woman named Ida

a social worker

“Ida was a far better person than I, that’s the reality of it,” Terkel wrote of Ida, who died in 1999.

Studs relied on Ida for, well, almost everything

“It was those loners — argumentative ones, deceptively quiet ones, the talkers and the walkers — who, always engaged in something outside themselves, unintentionally became my mentors,” Terkel wrote in “Touch and Go.”

When Ida grew older she refused to use a cane, “because I fall so gracefully”

he was envious that her FBI file was thicker than his own.

He chronicled the lives of almost everyone who mattered–the hundreds include Martin Luther King, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Toni Morrison. Just as important, he chronicled the lives of those who officially didn’t matter, and in doing so made us understand they did.

He searched for the decency in everyone

illuminated America from the ground up, seeking out stories from bartenders, housewives, businessmen, artists, doctors, social workers, coal miners, farmworkers, bookmakers and convicts

coaxed extraordinary tales out of nobodies

shined a light on the kinds of people that most people look right through

the ghost-town storekeeper in Kentucky who says: “The last flicker of my life will be against something I don’t think has to be”

completely free of sociological claptrap, armchair revisionism and academic moralizing

His method was to travel the country, sometimes for years, interviewing hundreds of people about some enormous epoch or theme. Terkel essentially asked everyone a simple question: What was it like?

The result — a series of oral histories — was the poetry of ordinary people, shot through with desperation, hatred, love, dreams realized and lost

Shame about losing a job and going “on relief.” Shame about not being able to provide for one’s family. Shame about the breakdown of families and, almost, the fabric of an entire society.

police officers and convicts, nurses and loggers, former slaves and former Ku Klux Klansman — a typical crowd for Mr. Terkel

“To count is very important.”

“Who built the pyramids?” he once asked in his inimitable sweet growl. “It wasn’t the goddamn pharaohs who build the pyramids. It was the anonymous slaves.”

Terkel’s politics were liberal, vintage FDR. He would never forget the many New Deal programs from the Great Depression and worried that the country suffered from “a national Alzheimer’s disease” that made government the perceived enemy.

“How did the eight-hour day come into being? It began in Chicago and four guys got hanged for it—the Haymarket affair in 1886. What were they fighting for? The eight-hour day.”

He wrote about “the good fight” of World War II because he wanted to remind new generations of Americans that this country had once united to battle fascism.

It would be wrong to say Terkel was colorblind…he was deeply curious, deeply intrigued with all colors of the rainbow…not afraid of other cultures…the only white writer to be inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent at Chicago State University… The approval vote was unanimous.

Studs developed self-deprecatory clowning to a high art–getting into pitched battles with recording equipment, for instance — as a tactic for putting anxious interview subjects at ease. Authors on his show were almost invariably impressed by how he would enter the studio with their books scored with his scrawled notations as if he were preparing a term paper.

“It isn’t an inquisition; it’s an exploration, usually an exploration into the past,” he once said, explaining his approach. “So I think the gentlest question is the best one, and the gentlest is, ‘And what happened then?’”

As you listen, you know in your bones that each person has never told their story as cogently or as fully before and will never do so again, for that was Terkel’s art.

“He liked to tell the story of an interview with a woman in a public housing unit in Chicago. At the end of the interview, the woman said, ‘My goodness, I didn’t know I felt that way.’ That was his genius.”

He didn’t just carp at the failures of society, he was a drum major for life—a celebrant of the joy of living.

Politics was never a game for Studs. It was the work of a lifetime. He wrote brilliant books about the lives of working people not merely because their stories were fascinating but because he wanted to get a conversation started about class in America.

My friends and I would sit around the radio like it was a little fire we warmed ourselves by. He read everything. He led such an examined life. He remembered everything.

Our Boswell, our Whitman, our Sandburg

“She was really something,” Studs recalled, “with that gardenia in her hair.” Holiday once sang Willow Weep for Me for Terkel and nine other people. “We weren’t weeping for her, we were weeping for ourselves,” he later said, “That’s an artist.”

There was the time he was robbed in his house. The thief said “GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY” so Studs gave him all his money from his pocket. The thief turned to go and Studs said “Wait a minute! Now I’m broke! Give me twenty bucks!” The thief smiled and peeled off a twenty, then left. Classic.

People call Terkel’s business “oral history”, but it is more like the weaving of a fabulous verbal tapestry, the threads of which are human preoccupations. It is the rich art of taking the vernacular, and making it eternal. Such a process does not merely record the details that keep people’s minds busy, it gives them value. Terkel harvested not only the most complete American history of this century, but the most compassionate.

“My epitaph? My epitaph will be, ‘Curiosity did not kill this cat,'” he said. He then said that he wanted his and Ida’s ashes to be scattered in Bughouse Square, that patch of green park that so informed his first years in his adopted city.

Bughouse Square, the park across the street from the Newberry Library that was home to all manner of soap box orators.

“Scatter us there,” he said, a gleeful grin on his face. “It’s against the law. Let ’em sue us.”

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She shouts for a reckoning with entire mouth and unspoilt heart. My friend Poodle (“Ursula”) from Christchurch NZ declares her joy, in love with these times. (rule for radicals: that’s why she’s a teacher and you’re not)

so thats me in the corner-thats me over there–was a hard arse interview 2 do-my dyslexia gets in the way some-times-just bear with it and it will show its beauty

Living With the Scars of Abuse

by KIM THOMAS
Source: Press, The Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted on: Wednesday, 1 October 2008, 15:00 CDT

New Zealand’s mental health system has a dark history, with hundreds of former patients alleging abuse in state hospitals. Kim Thomas tells the story of one woman who suffered abuse and explores what former patients are doing to try and take back their lives.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Ursula spent her 22nd birthday huddling near naked in the corner of a bare room at Christchurch’s Sunnyside Hospital.

She was incarcerated at the now defunct mental-health hospital for slicing her arms from wrist to armpit with razors.

During her year-long stay at Sunnyside, Ursula (not her real name) was abused and humiliated.

For at least two months she was housed in an isolation room where she was stripped, sometimes by male nurses, and dressed in a thick woollen smock as punishment for her rowdy behaviour.

Her underpants and bra were taken from her and she was forced to use a pot as her toilet, in a room visible to staff and other patients.

More than 20 years later the scars of Ursula’s Sunnyside experience are still as visible as the razor marks lacing her arms. She is not alone.

Scores of former Sunnyside patients have disclosed abuse during their stay at the Gothic-style institution.

Nationwide, about 300 former patients claim abuse in mental hospitals during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Many were sent to psychiatric institutions because of behavioural difficulties but then treated as if they had serious psychiatric illnesses. Some were as young as eight.

Allegations include physical and sexual abuse, long periods of solitary confinement and the use of electro-convulsive (electric shock) therapy (ECT) as punishment.

In 2004, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson announced the establishment of a confidential forum where former patients, their families and hospital staff could tell their stories.

It recently announced a new forum, called the Listening and Assistance Service, for people who allege abuse or neglect during their time in state care in the health, child welfare or residential special education sector before 1992.

Justice and compensation is also being pursued in the law courts.

Wellington lawyer Sonia Cooper represents about 200 of 300 former psychiatric patients, including Ursula, seeking compensation for abuse.

They filed their first claims for compensation in 2004 but the matter remains unresolved. Cooper says she tried to negotiate with the Government out of court but failed.

In the latest chapter of this long running legal process, the Court of Appeal recently passed a judgment saying the Government had to prove that the actions former patients say was abuse was actually treatment, Cooper says.

“We want an acknowledgement that this abuse happened and an apology. If the Crown had been willing to deal with this out of the courts we wouldn’t be pursuing legal action,” Cooper says.

The Government has already made one large settlement to former psychiatric patients; in 2001, 183 former patients of Lake Alice’s adolescent unit received an apology and a share of $10.7 million compensation for claims including receiving ECT and injections as punishment, sexual abuse, ECT on the genitals in several cases, and one of being locked in a cage with a deranged adult.

About 240 civil cases are still pending.

A Crown Law office spokeswoman says it is reading the very complicated Crown Law judgement to decide what steps to take next.

Ursula says she would be dead had she stayed longer in Sunnyside. She sought legal counsel and had herself checked out of the hospital.

Ursula has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She says 20 years ago the disorder was poorly understood.

As a result, treatment for her self-harm and erratic behaviour involved being put into an isolation cell as punishment. Good behaviour was rewarded with treats such as winning her underwear back.

For a sexual abuse victim such as Ursula, being stripped was the ultimate in humiliation.

“I saw it as an extension of the brutality I had already had forced on me.”

She says she cannot believe the way people such as herself were treated in an environment that was supposed to be therapeutic.

Sunnyside was demolished last year. But even after its demise it holds a significant and sinister place in Christchurch’s collective conscience.

Christchurch theatre director Tony McCaffrey has recently secured Creative New Zealand funding to develop a play based on the goings on in the former mental-health hospital, which he hopes to open the stage curtains on next year.

As part of his research McCaffrey visited the ruins of the old hospital and pored over patient log books and photographs.

He also interviewed former nurses, superintendents and patients.

“I believe it’s important to acknowledge the huge role Sunnyside played in Christchurch’s history and craft a memorial to that,” McCaffrey says.

“Since I started this project almost everyone I talk to has some connection to the place, whether they knew someone who worked there or stayed there. Everyone has a story.”

McCaffrey says Sunnyside housed people from all walks of life and the way they were treated is an insight into the community’s psyche over the past century.

Sunnyside’s history also provides a window into the dark history of Christchurch because of some of the inhumane acts that happened there.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said abuse that occurred in institutions is a crying shame.

She says many staff from those times still feel ill at the things that went on.

However, they were often only doing what they were told or what was best practice at the time, Clements says. In time, people will probably look back at certain practices which occur in the mental health sector now, such as electric shock therapy, and condemn them as cruel or unnecessary.

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Doop doop I’m putting together that follow-up post as mentioned, can’t sleep while they’re filming FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in my backyard and they’ll go til 4 AM again, no sleep and just got home from my 4th day in training and I couldn’t concentrate because of the clip in my head the last 2 days, which happens to be the first one added to Writher, the writhe safely rock-n-roll VODPOD, from which I’ll highlight a video every week, and make like a format. A show. A production, a playground, slightly twee but highly exacting. My task is to get you interested, this is still in my blood, and don’t it make you wanna get right back home. Remember, if you click the video two times it takes you to youtube where you can access the full-screen. Guess I should mention this is probably not safe for work, and that breaks my heart too.

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Welp, I’m back from my break. Feast your eyes to the right of this blog, after 3 months over-thinking how to set it up we now have a world of VODPOD, and I think it’s going to help. I’m just building the library now but once it holds a hundred or so clips will find a way to order the narrative so we can get lost for a day or two in there.

So what’s new? I took off a few weeks because I’ve been animated by a real serious project that I didn’t want to jinx by blogging about and since this project is uppermost in my mind found I couldn’t blog about anything until I feel secure it’s going to work out. I feel secure it’s going to work out and will explain everything tomorrow but as a tease will just share that due to this new and mysterious activity I am barred from employment at the United States Department of Justice. Of course since I live on Social Security and won’t be seeking fulltime employment any time soon, it’s only a symbolic gesture, but I am very flattered, Mr. Inspector General and will do my utmost to earn the distinction on your federal no-hire shit list. La!

I have to run now, iron my hat and polish my shoes so I can look victorious tomorrow during my special secret activity mission serving Amerikkka, but this Obama video making the news sure tickled me and I wanted to highlight the psychological two cents of his snarkiliciously broad and populist message. La la!

His top economic advisor

said the other day that

Americans should stop complaining; they’ve become a nation of whiners.

That all these

economic

problems everybody’s talkin about is just a

mental

recession.

And if you would just change your mind

everything’d be okay!

Somebody’s been laid off

Their plant’s closed or gone to

Mexico or China?

Change your mind!

It’s all good!

…True quote!!!

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Our sensitive overlords at the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care are holding a conference this weekend; their 3rd in a series spanning two decades. I must be in pretty bad shape to consider this good news, but beneath the layers of shmooze and self-congratulation must lie some potential toward changing hearts and minds in the bureaucracies they toy with. That’s what I tell myself, looking over the program schedule (PDF), which kicks off July 10 with a private all-day Consumer/Survivor/ Peer/Expert Meeting to develop a National Consensus Statement on Trauma-Informed Care. Heaven knows it is time for that or something like it.

From the pink flower-embossed, healing brochure:

The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) has been sponsoring conferences that have defined the agenda of what needs to be done to recognize, understand, spark, and speed the healing and recovery process from violence and trauma.

From Dare to Vision in 1994, to Dare to Act in 2004, and now Dare to Transform in 2008 we are moving closer to real action for positive and lasting change. Our Goal: Revolutionizing Human Services with Trauma-Informed Care.

Trauma-informed programs and services represent the revolutionary transformation as the “new generation” of mental health and allied human services organizations and programs that serve people with histories of violence and trauma. Trauma survivors and consumers in these programs and services are likely to have histories of physical and sexual abuse as well as other types of trauma-inducing experiences.

These adverse experiences often lead to mental health and other types of co-occurring disorders such as health issues, substance abuse, eating disorders, HIV/AIDS, and contact with the criminal justice system. Unrecognized trauma also may lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment of consumers and survivors.

When a human service program becomes trauma-informed, every part of its organization, management, and service delivery system is assessed and potentially modified to include a basic understanding of how trauma impacts the life of the individual seeking services. Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the trauma survivor’s vulnerabilities, which traditional service delivery approaches may inadvertently exacerbate and, as a result, cause re-traumatization.

This shift marks the change from a place that merely
carries out services to one that becomes a safe place of healing for the people it aims to serve. It is from this place of understanding that we have come together at Dare to Transform – a starting point for revolutionizing our systems of care.

Program highlights:

(more…)

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