That Can’t Be Right

I’m embarrassed to admit much of my life is lived on a superficial level. Perhaps that’s not always been the case, but in recent years deep analytical thought seems replaced by a placid enervation . “Things” are “okay”. “It is what it is” rules the day.

That’s about to change. Will this new perspective change the world? Unlikely. But I’ll never look again with an unjaundiced eye at, among other things, the field of “behavioral health” hospitals. Having been exposed to that can of worms, I now wonder what other little messes I’ve been ignoring.

Let me provide a tad of background: our family watched a dear family member (henceforth known as XX) slowly slip into what we variously learned was either bipolar syndrom or chronic fatigue syndrome. The competing diagnoses were provided by two different bonafide physicians, neither of whom was particularly helpful in the long-term.

Soon XX couldn’t hold a job, exasperated significant others to the point of divorce and/or estrangement, and finally became dependent upon the state for food, health benefits, and housing. It was through the state’s hospital system that XX was sent to the psychiatric hospital, euphemistically called a “behavioral health” hospital.

Based on a single page, pre-printed checklist, a woman called a “doctor” diagnosed XX as bipolar, and then proceeded to commit XX to a 30-day hospitalization, with no possibility of discharge without the doctor’s approval. The doctor, incidentally, is actually a nurse practitioner, although a psychiatrist is listed as “on staff”. After two weeks at the facility, XX has never been evaluated or even seen the psychiatrist.

Most important to the facility, a nurse told XX, all of the beds must be kept full in order to protect their jobs. (No kidding – this is definitely a for profit facility! But can you even believe an employee was that blunt in conversation with a patient?)

The hospital itself is a large single-story metal building, very secure. Locked up tighter than a drum. Staff use keys to lock and unlock the doors from outside to inside, from waiting area to hall, from hall to offices. Very much gives a confined, imprisoned feeling both to patients and to visitors.

XX says at least the surroundings are clean and the food is adequate. The nursing staff is pleasant, but the supervisory staff mock the patients and are quite rude. Medications are strongly enforced and injections are given forcibly if pills are rejected. XX says several patients vomit every day. Who knows – that could be due to addiction withdrawal symptoms, but in XX’s case it was a reaction to the medication. Whatever the case, XX now finds it difficult to focus, is dizzy, slightly disoriented, and always sleepy.

Group therapy is on the daily schedule. However, that has only occurred twice in the past two weeks. There seems to be no real cohesive attempt at therapy, but only a “marking time” (cynically I think that will continue probably until benefits run out), hopefully to be followed by a miraculous discharge.

Only one wall phone for 20 patients, and only severely restricted times to make or receive calls. Forget about cell phones, laptops, note pads, or TV – ain’t happening. Staff members accompany all family visits, which are limited to a specific half hour dictated by the staff and at no other time. Visitors must leave wallets and phones outdoors in their vehicles. Visitors cannot enter at all unless they already know the patient’s identification number.

From the standpoint of the visitor, this place is the next thing to a benevolent prison. One thing for sure…the entire experience is designed to be avoided! My heart goes out to someone mentally challenged who lands here. If they’re not crazy when they arrive, they may well be crazy when they leave!

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll wrote about his leading character, Alice, finding herself essentially in an alternate reality when she fell into and through a mirror. Those who are much smarter than I am described Carroll’s entire book as a statement on the politics of his day. Dumb as I may be, I tend to agree. Recently, I remembered the entire “falling through the looking glass” scenario as I watched first a bit of a TV program (Fargo – love it!), then bunches of commercials, then a bit of the program, then bunches of commercials – you get the idea, right?

But that’s not the “looking glass” part, though getting to the meat of a program is like cutting through the fat and gristle on a very overdone and extremely cheap steak. No, I became fascinated with how a couple of items are marketed.

First, let’s take cell phones, for instance: I’ve always understood cell phones to be primarily for the purpose of voice communication, haven’t you? Then, text messaging cropped up, followed by emails. But that’s not at all how today’s generation of cell phones are marketed; in fact, voice, text, and email communication is rarely mentioned. Now the ads are all about camera and video capability, remote access to cars, houses, and security systems. I do get a kick out of watching adolescent 20-year-olds jump moguls, but come on, people. These are PHONES, aren’t they? Well, maybe not any more. Now they’re video cams that incidentally include phones.

Automobiles are another product that is very strangely advertised on TV. (Trucks, too, folks.)  The purpose of cars is for transportation, isn’t it? To get us from here to there and maybe back again? Once more, I must say that I really love the erotic element of many car commercials – who doesn’t like a little bit of romantic whimsy, but even that is fleeting. The primary focus of the ads no longer seems to involve transportation, but rather the Bose sound system, the Cue infotainment center, Pandora and Sirius, etcetera, etc.  All these extraneous extras that will make us more powerful and attractive to others, and more relaxed and comfortable in our moving shell. Sorta makes me scared that drivers will be so relaxed they’ll snooze right off.

So when phones aren’t talked about as phones but as cameras, and cars aren’t talked about as cars but as nearly something else entirely, does that mean I have already fallen through the looking glass, but didn’t even know it?

Help! How do I get away from this nonsensical place and back to the land of reason? Or is it too late………

 

The Cosmos TV show on Fox

The reiteration of Carl Sagan’s original series on the Cosmos has me hooked.  I wait eagerly from one week to the next until the next program airs.  The graphics are stunning, and Neil Tyson, the astrophysicist, is great in his job as the apologist (if you can call him that in this context).

Why am I enjoying this so? For one thing, it is a refresher course of scientific history that hearkens to man’s earliest curiosity about the world(s) we inhabit. The program telescopes the centuries of discovery in a way that allows us to marvel about how a few men’s ideas lead other men to hypothesize about greater ideas and grander theorems.

Much of the program is understandable by nearly everyone, but there are tiny bits that provoke thought in even those who have already scratched the surface of astrophysics.

As I watch and listen, I think of the creationists I know, one of whom insists that Earth and the living organisms on it is no more than 6,000 years old. I doubt any of them bother to watch Cosmos, but if they did, the suppositions would probably horrify them as terrible blasphemy.

What I finally take away with awe from each consecutive airing of the Cosmos is that, regardless of one’s position in regard to the universe and humanity’s position in it, the program reaffirms each person’s beliefs. Yet another paradox for believers and nonbelievers…