More Prop Than Person

I got the last word , the most genuine thing I could say out loud and not get kicked out of the rotation . What I wanted to say was that most of the patients are restlessly meandering , drooling , sleeping , or loitering around the nurses ’ station all day long . I wanted to comment on how they’re hunched over in a lobotomized line for a cupful of pills or a tray of food and look more like bizarre props than people. I wanted to tell him to forget the medication and give them something meaningful to do. But I didn’t say any of that.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Expert Destruction

I’m in disbelief . The tension between Jamal and Dr . Patel is rising . Their cultures are relentlessly clashing right in front of my eyes , like a sword fight between wealthy India and West Philadelphia . My honest impression of Jamal is that he’s bright , sane and doesn’t need medication . If anyone sounds crazy , his mother does . Some part of me will not allow me to remain silent . Jamal’s young and smart , he has a future . He doesn’t need big – gun medications , and I’m overwhelmed with an urge to save him .

“ Dr . Patel , ” I respectfully say . “ When Jamal says he spits in the mirror , it means he’s rapping . He’s a rapper and that’s how he practices . ”

Dr . Patel stares at me blankly . Nothing registers . I’m a stupid , white girl. “But he hears voices . Why else would he talk to himself ? ” Dr . Patel asks.

“No , he spits . He raps . He’s not hearing voices . He’s practicing to be a musician,” I explain. The conversation continues in this relentlessly circular fashion . Nothing is sinking in . I give up and excuse myself to the bathroom. Let the “expert” seal the young man’s fate .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Tattoo Relief

Tory continues to work while I mentally command my body to adjust to the pain and discomfort . The needle spills color under my skin. Tory doesn’t say a word . I break out in chills . My pain tolerance is high, but each time the needle hits, I feel a new, excruciating sting. It hurts but part of me loves it. All I can think about is the growling device marking my back, and not the morbid sentences in my pathology book. The physicality is a relief .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Death of a Mind

I leave the books behind and go to my room. I cry, as if Chase recently died and isn’t brooding in the room next door. I almost wish he’d die. Seeing him lose his mind feels more painful. At least if he died, I wouldn’t have to be teased by seeing his physical body, because the Chase I adore doesn’t exist anymore. His body is a house that is falling apart, and his mind is a prisoner in the upstairs attic. I have no hope. Still, sometimes, a glimpse of his malnourished body makes me want to violently shake him until the chains holding his mind captive fall free. As if that would work.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Army of Dolls

Dr . Jonas is a psychologist . She’s petite with short grey hair , wears thin glasses , and dresses like a nun . I heard about her through a friend who told me she’s not only good , but sees students at a discounted rate . I’m like a desperate whore these days when it comes to therapists . I’m willing to give anyone a go. She’s currently on the phone.

While I wait across the desk from her, I glance around her peculiar office . It’s actually a spare room in her house , and that makes me uncomfortable. The walls and floor are a pale pink . Numerous old – fashioned dolls in Victorian dresses and doll houses are scattered throughout the room . It reminds me of a five year – old girl’s playroom . I hate dolls . They’re creepy, plastic , miniature humans who probably come alive at night and kill people…The label doesn’t feel right to me, like an ill – fitting jacket . She’s the expert , so there’s no convincing her, but it can’t be right. I squirm in my chair. I want to tell her every single person on earth exhibits some traits of mental disorder, but I don’t want to start a fight . It’s not like she’d believe me . She’s the doctor and I’m the patient, even though seeing patients among an army of dolls hints of her own mental issues . I look up , straight into the eyes of a beautiful doll with long locks of golden curls. I want to smash its porcelain face .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

By the Book and According to Protocol

She nods but looks dissatisfied. Her expression betrays that she already knows the root of my problem and wants me to provide her with supporting evidence. I don’t think she’s going to change what she’s decided , even if our conversations don’t support her theory. I sigh . She’s one of those people who goes by the books . The medical rule books, that is . The books are the rules that shrinks and therapists follow, full of guidance and expert opinions, the Bibles quoted by professionals when their judgment is questioned. Deviating from the books is too risky , both emotionally and legally , too intimate , and too involved . No one has the time or the energy to deviate from the books , and no one wants to get sued . It’s tough to get sued if you follow the rule books exactly .

The problem is , I don’t feel like my mind fits an exact diagnosis . My mind , like everyone’s mind , is a mysterious , vast world that’s barely been explored . How could it fit under one confining category? Whenever I see a shrink or a therapist, it seems as if they purposefully tweak and manipulate my mind till it does fit, or until I believe the label I’m given. The goal is a nice clean classification, and since I despise labels, I despise the books.

Again , Jessica interrupts my internal monologue and asks me a few more questions . I stay pleasant and answer as best I can . She hands me a few forms to fill out , mostly surveys , and excuses herself . She is back in a few minutes and hands me a script along with a sample of pills .

“I want you to try these,” she says , handing them to me . A psychiatrist , who oversees the Eating Disorder clinic, has prescribed them . I haven’t met him and probably never will . The drugs are given to me almost like protocol.

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Admiration List: Jennifer Brea

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Jennifer Brea has been suffering from an un-treatable and not-yet-properly-identified neurological disease. She has been given diagnosis (e.g.: chronic fatigue syndrome) that basically mean nothing and was told it was ‘all in her head.’ This woman has been through the proverbial fire.

Yet, despite extremely difficult physical and social barriers, she has persevered, created a film about her experiences and pursued a life of activism, acting as a voice for all people suffering from invisible and un-diagnosed illnesses.

From her TED talk, you can see her strength, attitude and remarkable good will, as she expresses her hope that one day the medical community will learn how to face a disease like her own and speak the honest truth: I don’t know what is wrong with you.

I have to agree with her statement that this ability to be able to admit to not having an answer is a key step in eventually finding an answer.

Fear, Resistance and Risk

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“Take This job and Shove It”: How Targets and Witnesses Fight Back When Faced with Bullying

Seeing what happened to others communicated in no uncertain terms what would happen if witnesses became targets. There was no question that bullying environments were marked by profound fear within entire workgroups.”

Resistance is risky business for workers, and there is always the potential for unintended consequences: they want change but are punished; they report abuse but are stigmatized for reporting; they fight back and are called insubordinate. The inherent risk is why most resistance is covert. Resistance always holds risk for workers, but the risk is even more pronounced in environments where employees are systematically abused.

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

 

Anti-Inspiring

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“Take This job and Shove It”: How Targets and Witnesses Fight Back When Faced with Bullying

When abuse persisted despite working harder, participants reported giving up. Working harder resulted in a brief respite but was inevitably followed by more demands and further demoralization…Thus, abuse engendered noncooperation rather than cooperation and consent.”

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

 

Spotting Bad Management

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The following quote suggests that managers who bully subordinates also hire people with the intention of abusing them. It’s a little unnerving to think blatantly (consciously?) predatory behavior is behind some new-hire decisions.

This begs the question – how does a potential employee spot a predatory manager, or an abusive work environment, during the interview process? Are there techniques for identifying and avoiding the problem all together?

Serial Bullying: How Employee Abuse Starts, Ends, and Restarts with New Targets

The most common occurrence coinciding with the onset of abuse is getting a new boss or starting a new job: “A surprising number (19%) are bullied almost immediately on starting their new posts. The recent job change and a change in manager account for 82% of the offered events relating to bullying onset.””

Adult Bullying-A Nasty Piece of Work: Translating a Decade of Research on Non-Sexual Harassment, Psychological Terror, Mobbing, and Emotional Abuse on the Job by Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Note: For more information about combating workplace bullying, visit the Workplace Bullying Institute, Beyond Bullying Association, the International Association on Workplace Bullying & Harassment (IAWBH) and the International Conference on Workplace Bullying.