NAVIGATING A SEA OF INVISIBLE HANDS
By Adam Crosthwaite
I started a new profession as a Case Manager with a large company that manages and provides services to the Severely Mental Ill (SMI) community here in January. I told my friends from my last job were I was going they called me crazy. Most of them snickered and remarked, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire hey?” Others simply wished me well and said good luck.
In my first three days I witnessed and assisted in three crises involving clients as I trained under other Case Managers and Clinical Liaisons. I had spent more time with the Mentally Ill in one week than most people would in a life time. As I watch these people struggling to make sense of a world which I myself understand very little about, and at times wonder why I would even care to, one common denominator presents its self. Never in my life have I ever seen a group of people more concerned about not harming any one than these people. Mind you I only have one year of professional experience with the SMI community and I am referring to people who have received treatment and are in on going recovery, even though the most recent of my encounters have been crises interventions in the homes of these people and in public places.
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they interact with or, as in most cases, react to others. You can learn some very interesting things about a person’s thought process when they are faced with someone experiencing mental illness. 26.4% of the U.S. population suffers from mental health issues and mental illness according to Harvard Medical Mental Health Studies held in 2004, as you may recall from previous writings from Dr. Strickler, and we see some interesting interactions between people. (Resource: Study: Mental Illnesses Are Under-Treated By Lindsey Tanner AP Medical Writer )
Just the other day I was standing with one of my supervisors at a local pharmacy with one of our clients. This client was experiencing one of the unfortunate set backs with the new Medicaid Part D. As we attempted to work with the pharmacy manager to provide this individual with their insulin a line begun to form. As the client signed for the prescription and stated his name repeatedly a man in line snickered and begun to giggle. If you can imagine, me six feet two inches with a 325lb. frame, and my supervisor, six feet five inches with a 215lb. frame, slowly turning and glare back at him you wouldn’t need to guess what we were thinking simultaneously as that arrogant little twit melted in front of all those people in line behind him.
As awareness grows in this country of oversights and mistakes here sits one glaringly obvious issue staring us all in the face and we have yet to hear new voices out side if the mental health community question the powers that be on the topic of this growing crises. It is abundantly clear that as a general rule people tend to avoid that which makes them uncomfortable but this is ridiculous.
America is considered a world power. She is regarded as rich and powerful, unfortunately we lead the world in Mental illness and which dose not seem to be a major concern to people until they are forced to face this issue ether on the streets with a total stranger or lord forbid, a loved one has a crises and is in need of treatment. It is disgusting to see the level of dissociation (Resource: Wikipedia, Dissociation) in this country regarding mental health. Most first hand accounts of those who are diagnosed with mental illness report isolation from family and friends. In fact most of the support these people receive comes from people in the mental health field, case management and therapists. What’s more appalling is the level of ignorance which is growing to ridiculous heights as time progresses in all areas of awareness, not just in the mental health field. In the past ten years the rate of mental disorders has increased from 1 in 5 from 1999 to over 1 in 4 in 2005 in this country. It would appear that the “NOT IN MY BACK YARD” mantra is failing the mass mind as the general public seeks further isolation to spend more time in fantasyland.
When was the last time you heard about new programs to assist with Severe Mental Illness in your neck of the woods? Aside from the drug companies cramming pills and injections into the hands of CONSUMERS, not too many people care to associate with mental disorders. Unfortunately the coping mechanisms used by the general public to deal with reality are multiplying the difficulty level for those who have to fight through coping mechanisms just to find reality. Once again the cliché “NOT IN MY BACK YARD” ripples through the thoughts of people every where. There is a fine line between coping and avoidance and it is time for people need to grow the hell up and learn to deal with issues. In the case of SMI one of the hardest obstacles is to decipher what is reality. Here we are in a world with potentially prosperous individuals with so much to offer who are struggling to make sense of an insane world. AND THEY ARE THE ONES WITH DIAGNOSIS OF SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS! Still they put more effort into one day of survival than most people would put into a week of living.
The fine art of living is gradually giving way to the con-game of avoidance. As is in the case of the ignorance, with the occasional glare, these people live through every day. Added to the mix is the feeding frenzy of marketing. With the inundation of subliminal advertising feeding into this narcosis, which by the way any one with a shred of intelligence could see how you either need to be extremely greedy and harbor resentment for other humans or at the very least have ulterior motives for controlling the emotional responses of the general public in order to authorize such a blatant misuse of knowledge, it is no wonder that we are witnessing an increase in diagnosis. Oh I forgot, most people are avoiding that subject. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be: those who chose to investigate are witnessing this trend of domination through emotional manipulation. It comes as no surprise that we are seeing more diagnosis of mental illness. And the silent hum of avoidance echoing forth from the offices of our government may shed a silent light on the possible culprits! You can almost feel the invisible hands pushing, pulling and manipulating the minds all around the world.
We walk through a sea of invisible hands pushing and pulling at our minds and emotions every minute of every day. Some of these hands reach us by sounds and visions by the various agencies of marketing manipulation. Stress levels are higher than ever and the increasing rates of mental as well as emotional breakdowns are catching up to, and in some cases devouring, people everywhere. Now keep that thought with you for a moment and take yourself to your worst day ever. Pull in your worst fears, saddest moments and feeling of complete lack of control. You are on the edge of reality scratching for a point to ground yourself back to the real world. Welcome to the world of SMI.
Hold this in you mind a few minutes more. Are you feeling a little nervous? Imagine you are walking down a busy street. Cars whizzing by and people staring at you as your body twitches uncontrollably because of side effects you experience from the medication the government was so happy to provide free of charge. Perhaps you forgot where you are or where you are going. You are alone and still a voice screams in your ears. Someone passes by you and they speed up their steeps to distance themselves from you. How dose it feel to be avoided due to something beyond your control. Not because of your ethnicity, social class or any other affiliation. You are avoided because people don’t want to cope with the thought of your existence.
Sound harsh? Welcome to the world of SMI.
All it takes is one brief encounter with a warm gesture, perhaps something as simple as a smile or a wave, to keep the invisible hands from pushing you completely over the edge into a full blown psychotic episode. Still no one seems to care. As hard as it is to interact with people in this life, not through profit driven interfacing technology but real face to face interaction, imagine the feeling of bring ignored save for moments of fearful reactions from other people. Imagine being locked up so your family members can feel safe. Even if it means you can’t go to the restroom with out an orderly watching to make sure you don’t do anything CRAZY!
There are people who live this way twenty four hours a day. Yet they still brave the streets driven by the hope of spending even one brief moment in reality. Brings a new meaning to the line: Home of the brave, doesn’t it? Our society has fallen so far that mental imprisonment is now accepted as a way of life. Now question, for yourself, is this truly the land of the free?
It takes very little to become one of these people. A simple bump on the head, witnessing a horrific accident on the way home or any other traumatic experience which may or may not occur as early as tomorrow morning to you or a loved one is all it would take to put any one in those shoes. Will you be the one sitting in a support group for Mental Illness this time next year? Or will you still be hiding your eyes from the faces of the brave individuals who deal with this issue not just today but every day for the rest of their lives?
There are plenty of hands pushing people up to the edges of cliffs in this world. Be the hand that pulls them back, not the one that pushes them over. The eyes of justice may be blind according to some statue in front of the court house. But keep in mind, perception is NOT reality. Things have a way of catching up to people. Reach for understanding as I have learned to by experiences in my journey through the wilderness of this screwball world. Some of the greatest fears in this world hold the most precious jewels of knowledge and understanding. There is to many people in this world that get over looked and so often they are the ones holding keys that can only be obtained by the way of experience. This has been one of the most difficult lessons I have come to learn in my journey. Perhaps someday someone will find a cure for the damaged psyches spawning from the manipulations of those who wish to abuse and misuse the knowledge uncovered by the greatest minds of our species. Till than we should all be conscientious of our interactions with those around us and stop ignoring the lives of those who could be enriching our own.
It has been four months now that I have had the privilege to serve these people. You should see the tears in their eyes when I ask them what I can do to help them make it through the day. I have found the blessings of serving those that are truly in need.
We will never find a cure for this world. Yet the cure for ambiguity is obtainable for those who dare reach for the knowledge of the masters.