Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer, Consumer, Blogger, Whatever

As in the days of Amos, John of Patmos, John of the Cross, it's the poets who will save us, those of us who have ears to hear.  For the rest, it's the poets who will preserve the evidence, in hope that there will yet be ears to hear.

So today, Wendell Berry's Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.

First, one liner note: Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a drawer.  In the early days of computers, data was recorded by punching holes into cards, literally, card stock, roughly 3"x7".  This was before web crawlers could find the word bread in a Facebook comment and then put up ads for kitchenware on your page.  The line in the poem, first published in 1970, is truer than ever.  The technology has simply got more efficient.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay.  Want more
of everything ready-made.  Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more.  Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you.  When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.









 

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute.  Love the Lord.
Love the world.  Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love somebody who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag.  Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand.  Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.  Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.  Prophesy such returns.


Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world.  Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable.  Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?


Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade.  Rest your head
in her lap.  Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it.  Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.  Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry



And your homework for this week, gentle reader --

What does it mean to Practice resurrection?  What tuition will you pay?


Johannes der Evangelist in Patmos from a triptych by Hans Memling, 1479
photo of punched computer card by Litrefs used under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
photo of Immortal Tree, Humboldt Redwood State Park by Jan Kronsell, public domain
photo of fox from US Department of Interior, public domain
book cover from amazon.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Differently Abled - More, Please

It's like he is in a world of his own.  The first grade teacher, old school, same worksheets for the last thirty years, did not mean it as a complement.

The mom was confused.  She asked her son's Montessori preschool teachers for their take on it.  They, too were confused.  Then the light dawned.  The way they put it was, He has immense powers of concentration.  They thought he was marvelous.


The problem was, he was still absorbed by the story he was writing, when the first grade teacher had moved on from writing to math.  The world he was in was not her world.


His second grade teacher recommended him for the Talented and Gifted program.

His fifth grade teacher thought he had ADHD.

People who are different get diagnosed.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is all about describing the various ways we don't fit.  But if you can pass for normal, you don't have a disability.  If they can pick you out in that One of These Things is Not Like the Others game, then you do.

To bottom line it, normal means that a person can function successfully in the normal world.

So the young man I have described does not have autism, though the first grade teacher's comments were spun in the direction of cognitive difficulties.  Nor does he have ADHD.  Today he is writing his PhD dissertation on the ethics of Nietzsche at a university with a highly ranked philosophy department.  He gets paid to do what he loves, teaching young people to think.  And he has health insurance.

So there.

But I was reminded of him when I read Top Ten Terrific Traits of Autistic People by Lisa Jo Rudy.  Rudy writes,

If you're sick of hearing about all the "deficits" challenging people on the autism spectrum, join the club. But for every down side to autism, there seems to be a positive -- an unusual trait that rarely appears among the "typical" community, but shines out among autistic folk. These pluses are well worth celebrating.

Here is a summary of her ten points.  You can read her expansion at the link.
  1. Autistic People Rarely Lie
  2. People on the Autism Spectrum Live in the Moment
  3. People with Autism Rarely Judge Others
  4. Autistic People are Passionate
  5. People with Autism Are Not Tied to Social Expectations
  6. People with Autism Have Terrific Memories
  7. Autistic People Are Less Materialistic
  8. Autistic People Play Fewer Head Games
  9. Autistic People Have Fewer Hidden Agendas
  10. People with Autism Open New Doors for Neurotypicals
I have a friend with Asperger's, on the autism spectrum.  And this is indeed a list of things that she has brought into my life.

Of course, some of these traits are immense disabilities.  I watched her get ground up in an organziational meat grinder, because she couldn't manage the head games.

The thing is, an organization that runs on head games eventually becomes a Ponzi scheme, a house of cards built by selling a product, service or idea which has no solid foundation in objective fact or even metaphysical reality to people who sell to more people who sell to more people, until the people at the top bail out on their golden parachutes when the house collapses, and every other poor sucker with it.

Whether we are talking about financial institutions, government, churches, psychiatry, just about any institution you can name, the United States of America has a serious case of Ponzi scheme.

I won't bother to document that last statement.  If you think any of the above are innocent of the charge, then howl away.  But here are a couple links on psychiatry, more directly the topic of this blog.  John McManamy's latest post at his blog, Knowledge is Necessity refers to John Gartner's, Has Psychiatry Been Corrupted Beyond Repair?  It really does seem that psychiatrists actually believe what Big Pharma paid them to believe.

Ironically, Gartner writes for Psychology Today.  Just last week I was ragging about another Psychology Today article on anti-psychotics.  (You didn't miss the rag.  It was a Facebook comment.)  The article was accurate, but missing the basic and very simple information that would have made it a useful contribution to people attempting to weigh their risks and benefits, instead of what it was, a sensationalist headline grab that would discredit any patient who brought it into a doctor's office -- thereby contributing to the mass of flotsam and jetsam that passes for information in the information age, overwhelms our poor pitiful processing units, and making us vulnerable to the loudest, sexiest, next Ponzi scheme come down the pike.

What to do? Take a deep breath.  Find a friend with Asperger's.  Learn to accommodate the challenges of communicating with a person whose brain is wired differently from yours, so you can benefit from what that person can figure out which is beyond your poor pitiful processing unit.

Then get that passionate, bullshit-detecting, truth-telling (read: diagnosable) person into the leadership circle of any organization you care about that could use some authenticity at its core.  Because without leaders who are passionate, bullshit-detecting and truth-telling, we are going under.  We are going under.

Having done that, it would only be fair to stand with that person when the shit hits the fan, i.e., when your friend is rejected because you encouraged him/her to share the brilliance of his/her difference, thus outing him/herself as diagnosable.

Oh, well.  Maybe next I'll get around to writing the column in which I serve up us bipolars as the season's sacrificial lambs.  Or maybe not.  People with bipolar are good enough at throwing ourselves into the flames as it is.


photo of student taking test by Patrick Hannnigan and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
flair by facebook
photo of house of cards by Lost and used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Friday, September 16, 2011

Survival - Three Things Learned From Danny MacAskill

1.  To keep your audience, edit out most of the falls.

2.  To help your audience, keep some of the falls.

3.  Find the Iron Rule and do not break it.  In MacAskill's case -- the front wheel is for steering; you want to land on the back wheel.  In my case -- the frontal cortex is for steering; I will inevitably land on the amygdala.

A repeat from:

Thursday August 26, 2010

Tribute To Survival

This is dedicated to those who are surviving the Chemistry Experiment, and to those who hang in there with us.

Bring your courage and your hope, whatever you can manage.

And your helmet.




Thanks to Danny MacAskill and Band of Horses.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Suicide Is Not a Mystery

This is Suicide Prevention Week

When I started Prozac Monologues, I didn't know there was a Suicide Prevention Week.  I spent a month writing about suicide in June, 2009.  I chose June because it is the month when the highest number of suicides take place.  So I wonder why the officially designated week is in September.  Maybe because when everybody else is so happy about the sunshine in June, they wouldn't give any thought to the darkness?

If you want to know my take on suicide prevention, here is the link for those original posts.  Among the Labels in the right-side column, you will find links to other posts tagged suicide, suicide prevention, and the like.

Looking back at these posts, I wish I had less to say about suicide.  But having this much to say, and frankly, a lot more, I think it's best I go ahead and say it.  I urge you to take the same approach.  If you have something to say about suicide, say it.

You know, all those years we never talked out loud about cancer, our silence never saved a single life.

Two years ago, John McManamy, Knowledge is Necessity, gave the day over to an exerpt from Nancy Rappaport's book, In Her Wake: A Child Psychologist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother's Suicide.  Rappaport wrote about how even psychiatrists sit around and wonder how a person comes to the conclusion that he or she wants to die.  Most of us want to live.  Even those of us who want to die, for the greater part of our lives, we want to live.  Her mother's diaries are full of her struggles to survive.  What happens in somebody's mind to make that change?  Rappaport says it is a mystery.

In Her Wake is a powerful memoir of the aftermath of suicide.  People who struggle with suicide need to read such accounts to fortify them in their struggle.  But I think she has misidentified the mystery.

I think every person is a mystery. 

We have our joys, sorrows, strengths, dreams, fears, failures.  We have capacities and weakness that sometimes we tell to others, and sometimes they divine.  But the core of the person remains a mystery.

I am a Christian, so I believe there is One to whom we are not a mystery, One who knows our true name and calls us by it.  And we ourselves don't even know that name until we hear that One call it.  And when we do, then we know ourselves for the very first time. 

But I don't think suicide is a mystery. 

Suicide is simple.  Each of us wants to live.  That is how our brains and bodies and souls are constructed, for life.  And each of us dies anyway, when our brains and bodies and souls give out.  Suicide is one way that we give out.  We don't give up.  We give out.  We reach the limit of what we can survive, whether it be a tumor, lack of oxygen, or a knife that turns in our chest, whether figuratively or literally.

I learned this perspective from David L. Conroy, who learned it from his practice and from his own experience.  And I confirm it in my experience.  He says, and I repeat it from time to time in this blog, 

Suicide is not a choice; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. 

After a suicide, the survivors are indeed immersed in mystery.  It is the mystery of the heart of the person who died.  It is the pain of questions we cannot answer.  We never know the sum total of the pain another had to bear, or was able to bear, or not, nor who or what was available to help, or not.  I don't know that psychological autopsies ever satisfy.  What we really want to understand is the core of a person.  That is the mystery.

But we can understand suicide.  We can recognize its broad strokes.  And we can prevent it, not every time, but most of the time, the way that suicide crisis lines do it, by relieving pain and by providing resources for coping with pain.  If we can help shift that balance, between the pain and the resources, then the person at risk will be able to do what he or she really wants, to live a life worth living.

45,000,000 Suicides Prevented

Fifty million people who are alive today in the United States have or will at some point struggle against suicidal pain.  I am one of them.  I have a disease with a 15-20% mortality rate.  Someday I will die of something.  It is my fervent prayer to be one of the forty-five million who survive suicidal pain and die of...

something else.

It doesn't improve my odds for me or you or psychiatrists or anybody else to ponder the mystery of suicide.  You can't prevent mystery.  You can provide resources to prevent suicide.  Here is a list to get you started.

If it is your own suicide that needs preventing, tell somebody.  Tell somebody who cares about you (and is not an idiot).  Or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in the US.  The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386 is particularly for young people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, and the people trying to help them.  There is a link at the top of this blog to find numbers outside of the United States.

I want you to die of something else, too.

photo of candles by Nevit Dilmen,  Permission granted to copy under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
book jackets from amazon.com
photo of geode by Didier Descouens, made available through wikimedia.org
photo of scales from Deutsche Fotothek of the Saxon State Library
 flair by Facebook

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Prozac Monologues - How It Began

First conceived as a stand up comedy routine, birthed as a book, morphed into a blog, on August 29, 2011 Prozac Monologues came full circle at Happy Hour at the Pato Loco, Playas del Coco, Costa Rica.  This was the very spot where in January 2005, the book was originally written over the course of eight heavenly (my wife wouldn't use that word), hypomanic days.  Micah pulled out his laptop.  Patricia set it up on top of a bar stool.  And I held forth.


You can hear a bit of our little beach town's rush hour in the background.  So here is the text:

Prozac Monologues - How It Began

2004 was not a good year for me.  My doctor tried to make it better by prescribing Prozac for major depression.  Only Prozac didn't make it better.  So she prescribed more Prozac.  And that made it so much more not better that I concluded the only way I could describe how much more not better would be a stand-up comedy routine.  And thus was planted the seed for what has become Prozac Monologues.

So I went off Prozac, and on January 25, 2005, I boarded an airplane for Costa Rica, armed with a yellow legal pad and a ball point pen. 

Hypomania In Action

For eight days in beautiful, tropical Costa Rica, my wife went to the beach, explored neighborhoods, visited with family, tried new foods, while I wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote.  When I filled up one side of the yellow legal pad, I wrote on the back.  When I filled up the back, I wrote in the margins.  When I filled up the margins, I wrote between the lines.

I came home with seven chapters.  Two weeks later, the book was done.

I told my doctor about my book and maniacally writing it.  That word maniacally raised a red flag.  So she screened for bipolar.  She said, Are you manic?

I said what anybody who thought she was Jesus Christ come back as Jessica Christ might have said, I'm not manic.  I'm excited!

Oh.  Okay.  So she prescribed the second antidepressant, and began what will have to become a new book, but I haven't recovered enough to write it yet.

Was I manic?  No, I was hypomanic.  But I didn't know that word.  And maybe you don't know it either.  So I submit for definition and for evidence the first four pages of

Prozac Monologues

by
Willa Goodfellow

Chapter One
Bizarre: In which I decide to write a book

Okay, let's start with the basic Prozac dilemma.  Just who is the crazy one around here?  If, after you read the morning paper, you are happy, content, secure, at peace, able to get up, go out and carry on your activities of daily living, full of confidence and a sense of purpose, then tell me -- are you pathologically delusional?

Or are you on Prozac?

Citizens of the United States of America (called Americans and thereby hijacking the identities of thirty-eight other nations in the Western Hemisphere -- Remember Canada?  Every heard of Paraguay?) make up 5% of the population of the planet and consume 24% of its energy resources.  We spend more on trash bags than the gross national product of 90 of the world's 130 nations.

What was that?


We spend more on trash bags than the whole gross national product of 90 nations.

So who is the crazy one around here? 


The Crazy Delusion 

We get such a sliver of time to enjoy this wildly extravagant planet, and we spend precious moments of it, watching couples on TV compete for cash prizes on the basis of how many maggots they can eat. 

Until the maggot-eating is interrupted by somebody who wants to sell you an air freshener that uses an electronically operated fan to circulate chemical compounds around your living room to make you think you are out of doors. 

The fan is the latest advance in civilization which will enable you to stop feeding your Shiatsu little treats, which you previously had to do to get it to wag its tail to disperse the chemical compounds around your living room. 

So now you have to take Prozac, so you can get yourself up off the sofa where you have been sitting in a semi-catatonic state, watching the maggot-eating and dog-treating, out of your pajamas and into your four-wheel drive SUV, which you were compelled to purchase after viewing those commercials of SUV’s climbing over mountainous terrain beside raging rivers,

But which you happen to use to commute an hour and forty-five minutes on some freeway to work in a cubicle with a picture of mountainous terrain and raging rivers and some motivational caption underneath, so you can buy the air freshener with its self-contained and electrically-operated fan that disperses the chemicals that make you think you are out of doors, because you wouldn’t want actually to go out of doors – the air is so nasty from the fumes of your SUV.  Who is the crazy one around here? 

And don’t even get me started on the taxes you will pay from your job in your cubicle to fund somebody’s research into that missile that can shoot another missile out of the sky, to protect us from the bad guys who can bring down two 100-story buildings armed with the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.  If it’s your job to figure out how to shoot that missile out of the sky, stop taking Prozac and go do something else to do with your life.  Or just go back to your sofa.  Please. 

Okay, now I sound like Michael Moore.  Let’s just call this the Crazy Delusion, a concept not original to me, and of which you can think of your own examples, so I don’t need to continue this rant which is not really the point of this book, but only the context of our consideration of the title of its first chapter.

In short –

It’s hard to know whether depression is a problem of distorted thinking or the result of clarity. 

In either case, sitting on the sofa in your pajamas does not turn the economic engine of this great nation, no matter what you’re watching.

Except for the pharmaceutical industry’s economic engine.  They keep making money, as long as they are able to sell you images of people who are happy and confident, popping their Prozac, (nowadays it’s Abilify), which you really start to believe when you’re still sitting on that sofa, watching those images over and over and over again. 

Ads For Antidepressants

Have you noticed how all the ads for antidepressants run during the afternoon soaps?  (If you are not depressed, you haven’t noticed, because you’re off at work, turning that economic engine.)  No, those pharmaceutical guys know where to find their audience, and when, on the sofa, in our pajamas, in the middle of the afternoon. 

Now I’m talking to you, the one in the pajamas.  You thought you might get up and go for a walk, like you promised your sweetie (who has gone to work) that you would.  But here it is, two o’clock in the afternoon.  The recap of yesterday’s episode comes on, and before you can find the remote to turn it off after the last soap, that theme song begins.  It sounds inspirational, but for some reason, you start to cry. 

After the theme song, and before the start of today’s episode, it’s time for that gentle, compassionate voice, who lists all your symptoms, including another one you have, now that the voice mentions it, but up until now you didn’t realize that it also is on the list, so you must be even sicker than you thought.  Who is that voice that understands you so well, better than your doctor, it seems, and so must know exactly what you need to ask your doctor to prescribe.

Symptoms Of Depression

Here is that list, by the way: sadness (no duh!), sleep disturbance (too much, too little ) weight gain (or loss), lack of energy, loss of interest in the things you used to like to do, loss of motivation (hence, all that time on the sofa), slowed pace, poor memory, poor concentration (they don’t want you at work anyway – you might break something), loss of self-confidence (like, they really don’t want you at work – you might break something), guilt, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts or attempts.

If you have been sad or lost interest in things for at least two weeks, plus four of the others, I’m talking about you.  You and 12% of the population who will experience an episode of depression sometime in their life (that’s major depression), plus another 6% who just feel lousy all the time (that’s dysthemia), and another 6.4 who sometimes are way up and sometimes way down (that’s bipolar), or …

One in twenty people in any given month.

When you have so much company, how is it you feel so alone?

You are not alone. 

Prozac Monologues 

photo of Playas del Coco by Helen Keefe, used by permission
photo of trash bags by Yuyudevil, in public domain
photo of Cubicle Land by Larsinio, in public domain
photo of prozac by Tom Varco, used by permission
photo "Loneliness" by graur razvan ionut