Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Now That Luke Has Moved In.......
Bernie had settled Luke’s parents down, and was explaining to them that they had a very sick son, and that if they wanted to throw him out of the house that they could potentially be guilty of child abuse, for which they could go to jail. I doubted that would actually occur, but Bernie is a police detective, so she knows better than I, or at least can threaten with more authority. When I caught Bernie’s eye, she asked me, “How is he?”
“Quieter,” I said. “But he needs help, now.”
Bernie started to follow me back to Luke’s room, and his parents began to follow. “Stay there,” she ordered.
“That’s my son!” responded his father, with some vehemence.
“Right now,” Bernie shot back, “he’s in my custody.”
“You can’t take him to jail!” his mother screamed.
“He’s not going to jail,” Bernie told her. “He’s going to the hospital.”
Luke’s parents stayed behind with Angela, and Bernie and I went back to see Luke. He and Colette were still holding hands. “Luke,” I said when we got there, “This is Bernie. She is with the state police. Colette’s mom and I have known Bernie for a long time. She’s going to help you.”
Bernie said, “Luke, you appear to be having a health crisis. You are showing severe symptoms of what is known as bi-polar disorder. Do you understand what I am saying?” Luke nodded. “If it is okay with you, I’d like to take you to the hospital.”
Luke stiffened considerable. Colette put her arm around him and told him, “It’s okay, Lukey. I’ll be with you the whole way.”
“Is it okay with my parents”? Luke asked.
Bernie responded, “It’s not up to them, it’s only up to you.”
After a brief pause, Luke said, “If they can make not feel like this, I’ll go with you.”
Normally, when a police officer takes a person having a mental illness crisis to the hospital, they will put that person in handcuffs, both for the officer’s protection as well as the person in crisis. If the officer is properly trained, his is all explained to the person in a slow, non-threatening manner. However, because we all knew Luke so well, and because Bernie was not actually on an official police call, Bernie decided that the restraints were not necessary. We helped Luke to Bernie’s car, and, with Colette accompanying, he was driven to the community mental health facility.
Fortunately, I was acquainted with the intake person at our local mental health facility (you’ll forgive me, but I hate the term “mental hospital”), so it was not necessary to resort to fisticuffs this time. To show you the stigma that inpatient mental health facilities have acquired from nightmares of the past, when Luke discovered that the building was basically a hospital, like any other hospital, with small, antiseptic rooms, white sheets, white walls, and such, he relaxed considerably. He later confided to me that he was afraid the place would be filled with padded rooms, strait jackets, chains, and large, thug-like orderlies.
I left Bernie and Colette with Luke and returned alone speak with Luke’s parents. This time they let me in without requiring a police escort. I explained, again, that Luke had a brain disorder, that he was ill, that he was not going to turn into a drooling, psychopathic lunatic, and that he could still lead a decent, productive life, but that it would take lots of time for him to heal. His mom sat and listened silently, but his father looked positively uncomfortable. I was afraid that he still thought that Luke was just rebellious and lazy, and could simply get better by changing his attitude. When I asked him if that was what he was feeling, he said nothing, but got up and left the room.
When he was gone, Luke’s mom told me what I had kind of guessed. Luke’s father had an aunt who had committed suicide when he was a lad. This lady was always considered that crazy relative who never went out and always stayed in her rooms with the lights off and the drapes drawn. One day, Luke’s father and his parental units were visiting this aunt. Before leaving, the woman was told that she would feel better if she just took a nice, hot shower. Two days later, the poor woman was found dead, hanging from her shower head with a cord around her neck. Luke’s father always blamed his parents for his aunts death. I also suspected that Luke’s father was in denial about Luke’s illness because he feared that it was the fault of his genes that his son was ill.
Now, there definitely is a hereditary component to mental illness. However, I would never consider that this was anyone’s “fault.” We know that there are hereditary predispositions to other diseases as well, such as diabetes and some types of cancers, but we don’t blame the parents for those disorders.
At this point, I brought up my feelings that Luke should live with us for a while as he was recovering. Luke’s mom was quiet for a long time, and then told me that she would discuss this option with her husband. I told her that she did not have to make a decision right away, but would need to let me know before Luke was released. I left shortly thereafter, knowing what the answer would likely be.
Luke’s mom called the next day and confirmed my suspicion. Luke would come home with us.
Luke spent about a week in the hospital. He was diagnosed with not a bipolar disorder, but with a schizoaffective disorder. This is sort of like a combination of bipolar and schizophrenia. Luke had told the doctors that sometimes his thoughts were confused and jumbled, and that they would coalesce into strange sounds. This, in combination with his symptoms of depression and mania, led to his diagnosis. He was given medications and a referral to a therapist, and, with his parents written permission, was discharged to me. I won’t mention the pathetic lack of supportive care that Luke or I were offered, the absence of any information about his disease, and no discussion as to what to expect as the disease ran its course. This is a universal failure of our health care system, and something that I suspect that I shall rant about another time.
So Luke has moved in and taken up residence on the third floor of the barn. Our new resident has presented a number of challenges, not the least of which is the fact that his girlfriend sleeps in the same house, one floor below. So far, the medications have kept Luke stable, but he is still growing, so his brain will change considerably for a few years yet, so we are on the lookout for signs of relapse. There are no support groups for adolescents with mental illness in our community, which is also not unusual, so we are trying to start one. Luke seems accepting of his disease. Angus has paid us a visit and spent a lot of time talking to Luke about what he went through when he was first diagnosed. It is very difficult for Angus to travel, yet when I first told him that Luke had taken up residence with us, he immediately offered to come and meet Luke. Angus is a good soul.
Luke’s parents have been quiet so far, which is to be expected. There is a period of anger and grief that everyone has to go through when they find out that a loved one, especially one of their children, has a serious illness. Further, it is very hard to admit that sometimes you are not able to properly care for a sick child. I think they will come around in time. I have not put a timetable Luke’s stay. At this point, I am considering Luke a member of the family.
Another challenge that I have faced has been with my employer. I have had to miss some time from work in order to get Luke settled and cared for, and this has not pleased my employer. I was not on this imaginary earth to make a corporate entity, who really does not give a shit about me except as far as I can used to make them money, especially happy. Besides, I have made them considerable money. I was not averse to pointing both of these items out to my slave masters. When they ordered me to spend more time with them and less with Luke, I told them exactly which small, dark, smelly orifice they could insert their pointy little heads into.
And then I quit.
But that is a story for another day.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
A Spanko Christmas Carole
Rupert The Red-Bunned Reindeer
Rupert the red-bunned reindeer
Had a very shiny tush
And if you ever saw it
It would surely make you blush
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh at Rupert’s buns
They never let poor Rupert
Join in any Reindeer fun
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rupert with your butt so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
At this point in our song, it is necessary to pause and offer a bit of an explanation. As you’ve undoubtedly ascertained by now, Rupert’s butt was red because he was a spanko. Please don’t ask how a reindeer could be a spanko, just go with it. I promise that I won’t ask you how reindeer can fly. In any event, Rupert enjoyed the fine art of spanking, and would partake in said spankings with his elfen friend and fellow spanko, Mimi. Of course, since reindeer do not wear clothes, after a session with Mimi, Rupert’s red bottom would be on display for all to see. Since Rupert was something of an outsider, anyway, this fact did not bother him. Also, since Rupert was a Christmas reindeer, his butt didn’t just redden, it would glow like a beacon. After an especially good spanking, Rupert’s butt could be seen for miles.
On the particular Christmas Eve in question, apparently Rudolf was suffering from a severe head cold. This caused the glow of his red nose to dwindle until it was barely lit. Santa went looking for a replacement, and then saw Rupert’s red buns lighting up the horizon. He summoned Rupert and asked if he would like to lead his team. Rupert naturally was honored, and agreed immediately.
So all of the reindeer were hitched to Santa’s sleigh, with Rupert at the head. There was a problem, however. Since it was Rupert’s butt that provided the illumination, he would have to fly backwards. After several attempts at takeoff, which all ended in near-catastrophic crashes, Santa realized that reindeer were not designed to fly backwards. Suddenly, Christmas was in jeopardy. Fortunately, Mimi, being the elf that she was, had a solution. The other eight reindeer were perfectly capable of pulling the sleigh, they simply needed Rupert for the light. So Mimi devised a sling that would hang below the sleigh that Rupert could comfortably dangle from, ass first. Thus the glowing rump was facing forward, providing the proper lighting.
As the team began to take off for their yearly trip, they realized that they had another problem. Rupert’s butt had begun to fade. Just like any spanked bottom, the redness will eventually go away. But Mimi had a solution for that, too. She disappeared and then returned moments later holding her trusty paddle. She jumped on Rupert’s back, facing his tail, and smacked him on his ass. The brilliant glow returned. Santa would be able to safely navigate the globe, delivering toys to all of the good little boys and girls. Rupert and Mimi had saved Christmas!
Then all the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with class,
“Rupert the red-bunned reindeer,
Saving Christmas with his Ass!”
It must have been quite a sight, seeing Santa Claus flying through the air, being capably pulled by eight flying reindeer, with a ninth dangling from beneath the sled, ridden by a girl elf, backside glowing like a lantern. The periodic CRACK! sound heard that night would have been Mimi’s paddle landing on Rupert’s haunches, keeping the guiding light shining.
It is not known if Rupert was a part of Santa’s deliveries for more than that one year, nor is it clearly understood why Rupert’s butt was immortalized in song but Mimi was not. But, since Christmas is a mystical and magical time, especially for children, those trivialities are not important.
The only important thing was that, thanks to Rupert, everyone had a fantastic Christmas.
Whether or not Rupert, Rudolf, Olive, or any other extra reindeer fly this year, on behalf of all of us at Fantastic Spanking, please have a safe, peaceful, and joyous holiday season. I wish all of you the gift of Fantastic Spankings now and throughout 2009 as well.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
And Now, Back To Luke
The Luke front was rather quiet for about two weeks after his adventure with jail. He went home, saw a doctor, and received a referral to a psychiatrist. Our town is fortunate in that there are a reasonable number of psychiatric doctors who work with adolescents (most places are severely underserved in this area), but it was still a month before his appointment. Luke started spending a considerable amount of time with Colette. Angela and I chose to carefully monitor this situation, but it appeared to be a case of “new boy-girlfriend-itis.” Besides, Colette and Angus were friends, so Colette was not afraid of mental illness. She is also quite an assertive girl, and Luke is not a large fellow, so I was not afraid of any unwanted physical advances, at least those initiated by Luke.
I had asked Colette to let me know if she saw any changes in Luke’s behavior that concerned her. For a week, everything was fine. Then Colette started getting calls and text messages from Luke at very late or very early hours. He did not seem to be interested in food. He seemed to be irrationally happy. Angela, Colette, and I sat down with him on the Saturday and went over the basics of mental illness and bipolar disorders. We explained that mental illnesses are due to physical problems with the brain, not because of a lack of discipline or character. We told him that we were not doctors, but that his behavior, while not yet dangerous, were clear symptoms of some kind of problem, and that the psychiatrist would be able to determine the problem and prescribe medication that would help him. We also explained that bipolar disorders are not, at this time, curable in the general sense, but are chronic diseases that require lifetime management, like diabetes or epilepsy. We told him that there was no reason why he could not lead a reasonable, productive life if he did indeed manage his disorder. Luke seemed to understand what we told him, and indeed confided that he did not feel “right” and was glad that relief was possible.
Unfortunately, Luke’s parents did not seem to be of the same mind. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, they continued to tell him that he wasn’t really sick, that he need to “apply himself” more, study harder, and stop hanging around with “bad” people. I found that last one particularly irksome since the person with whom he spent the most time was my youngest daughter. If Luke’s parents thought that Colette was a “bad” person, he was going to have to deal with Angela, and nothing stirs my lovely wife more than someone doing wrong by her daughters.
The situation came to a head one evening when Colette was paying Luke a visit after school. I found out later that Luke had not attended classes that day, but I did not know it at the time. I only knew that she was to be going there at the conclusion of the school day.
It was about 4 pm when the phone rang. I answered, and before I could even say “hello,” Colette began screaming, “DADDY! Luke is really sick and his parents won’t do anything!” I found this statement somewhat bewildering, so I asked for clarification. “Lukey (Colette’s pet name for the boy) is curled up in his bedroom, crying and shivering, and his parents are just yelling at him!” Alarmed, I asked to speak to one of Luke’s parents.
Colette put Luke’s father on the phone, and I asked about the situation. “The kid decided that he didn’t want to go to school today,” he said. “I told him that if he didn’t go, that he could find another place to live. He moped out of the house, but came back an hour later and went right to his bedroom. So I told him that I was going to pack up his stuff!”
I heard Colette begin shouting obscenities, which would not do. Luke’s father returned the phone to her, and I told her to remain calm and wait outside of the house. Then I called Bernie and informed her of the situation.
There are little-used laws in most states that allow a police officer to have a person who is clearly suffering from a mental illness crisis to be committed to a hospital for 24 hours without the consent of the person or a judge. Most police do not use this authority because they are afraid of being sued, despite the fact that no one has ever won a judgment against a police officer for using this authority. I was afraid that Luke needed to go to the hospital, but that his parents would forbid it. Bernie could authorize hospitalization for 24 hours over his parents’ objections, and if he did not respond in that time, the hospital could keep him longer.
Bernie usually works in plain clothes, but she changed into a uniform for this occasion. She met Angela and I at Luke’s house, where we found Colette pacing frantically on the front sidewalk. We heard commotion coming from the house, and indeed Luke’s parents were shouting. Bernie pounded on the door, announced herself, and proceeded to enter the house before she could be invited in. Angela, Colette, and I followed her. Colette showed us where Luke’s bedroom was, and there we found the commotion.
Bernie’s presence, uniform and all, brought the room to silence. Then Luke’s father blurted, “See what’s happened now, you little idiot! The neighbors have called the police!”
“No they didn’t,” responded Bernie. “I was called by a concerned friend, who said that there was a sick child here that was being abused. And, from what I’ve witnessed so far, they were exactly correct!” This brought Luke’s father up short.
Bernie and Angela herded Luke’s parents to the living room, and Colette and I went over to see about Luke. He was indeed curled up into a ball, shaking uncontrollably. His back was to me, but when I looked over him I could see that his eyes were as wide as saucers and filled with terror. “Go away,” he whimpered.
“Fuck you,” responded Colette. I’m sure that she meant it in the nicest possible way. However, sometimes I think that little girl is perhaps a little too much like her father.
I beckoned Colette to silence, then sat down on the edge of Luke’s bed. “Tell me what you’re feeling right now,” I asked him, quietly.
“I don’t know,” he said, shakily. “I’m scared. I can’t move. I can’t stop shaking. I think I’m going to puke.”
When a person is in crisis, I know better than to make any sudden movements or touch them without asking them first. “Luke,” I asked, “is it okay if I put my hand on your neck and head.” Luke drew a shaky breath, then nodded his head. His forehead was warm and clammy, and the muscles of his neck were completely rigid. I took his pulse, and found it to be extremely rapid but strong. “Do you hurt anywhere?” I asked.
“Only my gut,” he replied.
“Have you thrown up?” Luke shook his head.
“Okay, this is going to seem like a silly question, but please bear with me. Tell me exactly what you are thinking right now.”
“I can’t think!” he almost screamed. “My brain is full of stuff, but none of it makes sense. I’m so sad I feel like that all of my friends have died! I want to out and run as fast as I can until I either crash into something or collapse and die!”
The symptoms seemed to fit. Luke is suffering from a bipolar disorder, I thought. But I am not a medical professional. He needed to see a doctor.
Colette came over. “Luke,” she asked, quietly, “can I please hold your hand?” Suddenly, the shaking subsided somewhat, and Luke rolled over onto his back and offered his hand, which Colette gently took.
I realized at that point that Luke had just one chance if he was going have any chance at recovery. He was going to have to come and live with us.
Tomorrow, I hope, I shall complete this story of how the Spanko family grew by one.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Angus: Not Cured, But Recovering
Didn’t resist, that is, until the medication made him sicker.
Angus was also fortunate that in that his parents accepted his diagnosis and wanted to help. No, help is not the correct word. Angus’ parents wanted to be part of his recovery. There is a subtle but important difference between the two. You might be trying to help a person with schizophrenia by trying to get them to leave, go to school, get a job, et cetera, but these efforts will fail. After a severe attack of the disease, a schizophrenic cannot just go back to what used to be his normal life, any more than a person who loses his legs in a car accident can just go back to being a star on the track team. The schizophrenic, like the amputee, needs time to heal. He needs support and rehabilitation. He needs to find out new ways of doing things, and to realize that some things he will no longer be able to do. Most of all, he needs time and patients. He has to heal at his pace, not at yours.
Back to Angus’ parents. They undertook a process to learn as much as they could about Angus’ disease. They listened to Angus when he told them about his hallucinations, and they did not deny them. When Angus was tired or irritable and just wanted to stay in his room, they left him alone. They let Angus know that it was okay that he was sick, for him to want to isolate himself, and that if he did want to come out to talk, that they would be there to listen, but they weren’t going to force him to talk. They told Angus that he would always have a place to stay with them. In return, Angus promised them that it was okay if they monitored his medication to make sure he was taking it regularly. He told them that, when he left the house, he would let them know where he was going so that if he didn’t come home they would know where to start looking for him. Perhaps most importantly, he promised to let his doctors share everything with his parents, that they could call the doctors to report worsening of symptoms, and that if they thought he needed to go to the hospital, he would go. They trusted Angus, and he trusted them.
Angus and I talked for hours that day. We talked about the dopey stuff, like school, girls, sports, and what the worst of the new rock bands were. We talked about our dreams, our plans for the future, as unrealistic as they might be. We talked about our sexual exploits (this was a very short discussion since neither of us had much of any sexual exploits at the time). Mostly, we talked about nothing, which is what friends mostly talk about. I left knowing that Angus was feeling more peaceful than before I got there. However, I also left feeling scared shitless for my friend.
Remember when I said that he gladly took his meds until they made him sicker? I had returned to school, and near the end of the semester, I got a call from his dad that Angus was back in the hospital. The medications had started to make Angus frequently nauseous, and had given him twitches in his hands and face. He had started to drool. Then his kidneys began to fail. His doctor was reluctant to reduce or eliminate the meds because they were controlling his schizophrenia. After peeing all over himself one night because he was too doped up to get out of bed, he struck a deal with his parents to slowly stop the medication to see if these problems went away. They did. But the hallucinations became worse, and Angus’ thoughts became so scrambled that consciousness was agony. He managed to obtain some hashish, and that calmed him down, and some cocaine mellowed the visions. But when the drugs wore off, his symptoms returned with a vengeance. He couldn’t sleep. He started taking his meds again, but they didn’t help, and he began to slip into psychosis. Finally, Angus remembered his promises to his parents, and agreed to let them take him to the hospital.
Except that the hospital wouldn’t admit him. Angus was responsive when he arrived, and the admittance person said that because “he wasn’t a danger to himself or others,” he didn’t need to be hospitalized. Nothing could convince this person otherwise. Not the hallucinations. Not the psychotic symptoms. Not the extreme agitation. Finally, Angus reached over and punched the admittance man in the nose. Even that didn’t immediately achieve the sought results. Instead, the police were called. However, when the police arrived and Angus was screaming at the admittance man that he was going to “tear off your fucking horns and shove them up your shiny red ass, just below your fucking pointy tail,” the police said that they couldn’t take custody of Angus because he was “too fucked up,” and Angus was admitted.
Angus later told me that he wasn’t really hallucinating that badly at the time, but the admittance person was too stupid to realize that Angus needed help right then. So Angus got pissed and drilled the guy in the face, then purposefully started ranting about devils because he knew it would scare the cops and get him admitted. Angus said if he described an asshole, the cops would know he wasn’t hallucinating. My friend was sick, but he wasn’t stupid.
This time Angus spent six months in the hospital. For the first three months, he was mostly psychotic, and usually sedated. He remembers very little from that time. But then God, or at least medical science, intervened. Some of the early, second-generation schizophrenia medication had started to come out, and Angus was given that. It started to work. The psychosis finally receded, the side-effects were much less severe, and the hospital was able to successfully treat his ailing kidneys.
Lest you think the story ends here, I should now like to point out that it took Angus almost ten years to achieve some long-term stability. He had almost two dozen hospitalizations during that time period. He would occasionally disappear for several days, leaving his parents petrified that he had come to a sad end. He always reappeared, thank goodness, often calling his parents, or sometimes me, to pick him up since he had no idea how he had gotten to where he was.
It was about this time that I discovered an organization called NAMI, the National Alliance On Mental Illness. They are a wonderful group that offers support groups and classes to those who suffer from mental illness, as well as their families and friends.
I need to pause here. Please take a moment to scroll to the top of the screen and once again read the description of my little corner of the internet. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
OK, welcome back. Hopefully, you noticed the part where it says that everything in this blog is NOT REAL. At this point I feel the need to clarify that statement. I, Francis Spakowiak, a.k.a. Frank Spanko, am imaginary. I, and all of my exploits, are fictional, made up by the strange and twisted imagination of my author. However ……
NAMI is real. And they really do help people. A lot.
NAMI offers a class called Peer-To-Peer, which is for people who are recovering from a mental illness. It is taught by others with mental illness, not by some doctor or anyone else who has not actually experienced first-hand what it is like to suffer from the disease. The class talks about how the brain works, what breaks down when someone has a mental illness, how the meds work, how to recognize when they are suffering a relapse, and where to seek help when they do. Most importantly, the class teaches its students how to cope.
After attending the first two weeks of the class, Angus told me that he “learned more about his disease than eleven years of fucking doctor and hospital visits.” Angus likes to say “fuck” a lot, and I like to type the word.
The class is also free, which is important because so many people with a mental illness cannot work, so they survive on social security and Medicare benefits. If they are lucky, they get some help from their family, too.
Today, Angus lives alone in a very neat, small apartment about two states away. Whenever I happen to be passing through his state, I try to take time to stop and see him. We speak on the phone occasionally, and email frequently. Angus works primarily as a health care journalist, writing articles on mental illness, medications, treatments, and ways to cope. He is an excellent blogger, and his blog receives several thousand hits a day in my imaginary world. Despite this success, he rarely leaves his apartment. He does not own a car, and is afraid to drive or ride in one. On the rare occasion that he travels, he refuses to fly, but rather will take the bus or train. He used to do most of his research at the local library, but now does most of it on the internet. He says that the internet has saved his life, because it helped him stay in touch with so many people without having to leave his apartment. He is a wiz at VOIP and video-conferencing. He still sees and hears the devil, but has learned to ignore it when it is angry and converse with it when it is not. In a way, Angus’ imaginary friend is real. TO HIM.
I used to feel sorry for Angus because of his reclusiveness. Then I thought of myself. I work from home. I don’t travel much. I often world rather not leave the comfort and familiarity of my apple barn-turned-house. I don’t really like flying, although I will when it makes sense. I take meds for my ills. And I spend a lot of time on the internet. So I needn’t feel sorry for him because I’m not really much different than he. Which, when you think about it, is pretty fantastic. Except, perhaps, that my imaginary friend is indeed imaginary, but, then again, so am I.
Although, if I am imaginary, and I have an imaginary friend, that might mean, by the rule of double negatives, that my imaginary friend is actually real.
Monday, December 15, 2008
More About Angus
“Angus?” I called quietly.
“Go away,” he responded, without moving.
“Fuck you,” I said in response. Of course, I meant it in the nicest possible way.
Angus whirled on me, eyes wild and teeth flashing like an animal. I was startled at first, but just stood and stared at him. After a few seconds he relaxed and slumped back down on his bed.
“Holy fuck, Frank,” he said. “I thought I’d never see you again.”
“You look like shit, Angus.”
“Thanks. So do you.” Considering I usually walked around in old jeans and ratty t-shirts, and was not yet inclined to shave daily, he was probably right. We were friends, after all.
Angus sat up and motioned for me to sit, so I started to join him on his bed, but first I flicked on the light. “Turn if off,” Angus told me.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because the devil can’t see me in the dark.” This, too, seemed odd, but I complied.
“What do you mean by the devil can’t see you in the dark.”
“There’s a devil that follows me around, driving me nuts, telling me how evil I am, how I hurt people. But he can’t see me in the dark. He’s outside the window right now.”
I peeked out the window. “No devil there,” I told him.
“He’s there, all right. You just can’t see him.” I sensed fear in Angus’ voice.
I thought for a moment, then blurted out “Angus, that’s bullshit.”
Angus sat up straight as a rod. His eyes were wild with fear and hatred. Then he sat back and rubbed his eyes. When he finished, they were calmer.
“I know that,” he said. “But I can’t get the thoughts out of my head. When I look out the window, I see the devil. When the lights are on, I hear the devil. He tells me all of the things I’m going to do, like kill and eat little children. He blames all of my problems, my family’s problems, on my violent behavior. He even blames my sister’s death on me!”
“Your sister’s dead?” I asked incredulously.
“No, dammit, she’s fine. But the devil keeps telling me she’s dead. He showed me her funeral!”
I had never known Angus to be violent, either. I considered for a moment. “Angus,” I said, “You are seriously fucked up.”
“No shit!” he responded, and then he laughed. At that point, his mom burst into the room.
“Are you all right, honey,” she asked him. Then I saw the smile on his face. She turned around and gave me a big, long hug. “You must be a miracle worker. I haven’t seen Angus smile for weeks!” Angus’ mom was quite sincere, so, at that point, I really knew that something was seriously wrong.
Angus told me what he had gone through since we had last seen each other. Apparently, Angus’ thoughts had been gradually getting confusing and bizarre since his senior year in high school. At the time, he attributed it to the stress of graduating, but the problem got worse. He had moved out because he was convinced that his parents were planning to kill him. He moved into a small, ramshackle house that he shared with five other guys. He tried alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and quaaludes to calm his thoughts. Often, the drugs worked, but never for very long, and when he came down from them, the problem worsened. He started smoking because the nicotine calmed his nerves, and admitted that his nerves needed a lot of calming.
Angus’ parents filled in the rest. Two months previous, Angus had purchased and taken a considerable amount of different controlled substances, trying to find a combination that would “get rid of the devil.” He had passed out on the street. One of his roommates apparently alerted the police, but did not stay around for them to arrive. The roommate also took whatever drugs Angus might have been carrying, although it is unknown whether this was done for selfish or altruistic reasons. Either way, Angus was taken to the hospital. When he regained consciousness, he began screaming about being chased by demons who wanted to kill him, and desperately tried to leave. Instead, Angus was held down, restrained, and sedated.
It took Angus about three days to come back to his senses. At that point, he saw a psychiatrist. He described what he thought he saw, answered several thousand more questions, and was promptly diagnosed with schizophrenia.
At this point in the narrative, I find it necessary to pause and lecture a bit. First, take most of what you’ve heard or seen about schizophrenia on television or in movies and throw it into the trash bin, since it is probably bullshit. Schizophrenia is not split or multiple personalities. Schizophrenics are not prone to violence, any more so than the rest of the population. Schizophrenia is not caused by bad parenting. Schizophrenia cannot be cured by simply not wanting to be schizophrenic. I could go on ad nauseum.
Schizophrenia is a disease of the brain. It is a thought disorder. It occurs when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, or the brain does not process the chemicals correctly. Its sufferers can have visual and auditory hallucinations (seeing or hearing things), severe anxiety, confused thinking, hyper- or hypo-sexuality, alogia (lacking speech), anhedonia (unable to experience pleasure), and catatonia, among others. While theories abound, it is not known what actually causes schizophrenia, although ones heredity does play a part. About 1 percent of the population suffers from some form of schizophrenia. About half of all schizophrenics suffer from a co-occuring addiction disease. Over half of them smoke. Worst of all, about two-thirds of all schizophrenics receive NO TREATMENT AT ALL.
After talking to Angus, I realized a couple of things. First, when Angus saw the devil, he really saw the devil. You’re probably asking yourself, huh? How can he see something that isn’t there? Isn’t this just his imagination gone wild? The answer to the second question is no. As to the first question, Angus’ brain was sending signals to his visual receptors that the devil was in front of him, even though there was no physical devil there. Between his eyes and his brain, the signal was getting scrambled, so his brain gets the signal of a devil. So he is really seeing the devil. While the devil is not real, the devil is real TO HIM.
I’ll repeat that because it is very important. The devil is real TO HIM.
Now you know why schizophrenia is such a scary disease.
OK, end of lecture. Back to our story.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Before Luke, There Was Angus
When I use the term “serious mental illness”, I am referring primarily to the bi-polar depressions, major depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and perhaps obsessive-compulsive disorder. In many cases, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can have serious symptoms that mimic the above as well. I don’t wish to trivialize or dismiss less serious mental illnesses or less-serious cases of PTSD. I just want to point out that, at least as far as this story goes, I am discussing a mental illness that is disabling or debilitating.
When I was in junior high school, I met Angus Dorriman. Angus and I became fast friends, and spend considerable time together during our teenage years. Upon graduation, I headed off to college, whereas Angus was still weighing his options. We wrote and called each other the first year I was away, but contact became less frequent as the year went on, and dried up completely after spring break.
When the school year ended and I returned home, I called Angus to let him know that I was back in town. His parents informed me that he had moved out of their house into a room of his own. He had not made them privy to his new address of phone number. I thought this was odd, but Angus had always had an odd relationship with his parents. I asked around to some of our other mutual friends, but then did not know where Angus was, either.
The summer passed with no word from him, but sometimes high school relationships change when one leaves for college. I returned to school in the fall, and asked Angus’ parents to, if he surfaced, have him call me. There was still no word, though, until spring break of the following year.
When I was home during that week, almost on a lark, I called Angus’ parents to ask about him. They said that he had returned home, and that I should come over to see him. They were mysteriously vague to my obvious questions. However, I did miss Angus, so I headed over. What I was confronted with was a shell of the person who I had known earlier.
(Tomorrow, I shall describe that encounter with Angus and what I learned)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Luke Gets Out, But........
Luke’s father flatly refused.
“There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s not crazy, he’s turning into a drug addict, and I’m not having any drug addicts in my house. Let him spend the night in jail. Maybe that will teach him a good lesson.”
I tried to explain that, if Luke did indeed suffer from depression, that it was simply not possible to “teach him a lesson” in this way, that he was quite possibly self-medicating, and that he needed treatment, not punishment. But the man would have none of it, and refused to come down to the police station.
My next thought was that I should call a lawyer. However, I didn’t know any lawyers, so I tried the next best thing. I called Bernie. After all, she was a detective for the state police. She would know what I should do.
Bernie’s first suggestion was to call a lawyer. And, being a police detective, she knew some good lawyers. However, when I told her that Luke’s parents were not interested in bailing him out that night, Bernie decided that it would be better if she drove over and handled the situation in person.
Bernie arrived in record time. Colette only had time to pace the room and call Luke's father a “mean bastard” 57 times. Bernie was allowed to talk to Luke for a few minutes to see how the boy was coming along, and then talked to the desk officer at length. However, there was still no way that the boy could be released without a parent present. So Bernie came out and said, “Let's go talk to Luke's parents.”
When we arrived there, the house was dark. We rang the bell a couple of times, but, to no one's surprise, there was no answer. Colette began shouting obscenities at the door, but I quickly quited her. Even though the man might be a mean bastard, one should still show some decorum, I admonished her. Fortunately, having police training, Bernie knew the proper technique to compel someone to open the door when they were not inclined to do so. She pounded on the door with her fist and shouted “Police officer! Please open the door!” until Luke's parents appeared.
When the door opened, Bernie showed her badge. “May we come in?” Bernie asked as she barged into the house. Colette and I followed her in. Colette started to say something to Luke's father, but I shot her a dark look, and she chose to be silent. Bernie strode into the middle of the room and began to speak.
“I'm from the state police, and I'm investigating your son's case. I just interrogated Luke. He was almost incoherent. His speech was slurred, he could barely keep his head up, his pupils were dilated, and he was sweating profusely. His breathing was shallow, and, judging by the veins in his neck, his heart rate was accelerated. He was in shock. I think that something was in that dope that he was smoking.”
“Serves him right,” replied his father. His mother looked shocked, but did not say anything.
“Excuse me?” responded Bernie. “Did you plant those drugs in Luke's bedroom? Or did you spike his stash so that he'd get sick?”
Luke's father's face took on a look of outrage, and he started to say something, but Bernie cut him off. “If you planted those drugs, not only are you guilty of possession, you're guilty of supplying drugs to a minor. That gets you ten years in this state.”
“I'd never plant drugs in my son's room!” hollered the father. “What kind of father do you think that I am?”
I quietly answered that one. “The kind that sends his sick son to jail and won't bail home out.”
A sudden quiet engulfed the room. After a long silence, Luke's mother started to walk away. “Where are you going?” asked Luke's father.
“To get our son, you fucking jerk,” replied his mom.
Five minutes later, Luke's parents were driving to the police station, and we were following them. During the drive, I mentioned to Bernie, “I didn't notice any of those symptoms in Luke.”
“Of course you didn't,” replied Bernie. “You're not a trained detective like I am.”
To which Colette replied, “Bullshit.” Colette is such a sweet girl at times. “You lied your ass off. And you did it very well. Thank-you.”
“You're welcome,” responded Bernie. “I love doing things like that.”
So Luke was bailed out and went home with his parents. I reiterated my fears that Luke was suffering from a mental illness to them. Despite some skepticism from his mother and outright denial from his father, they promised to have him examined by their doctor and obtain a referral to a psychiatrist.
This sounded like a happy, or at least promising ending. Such was not the case, as I shall explain in my next entry.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Colette had come bursting into out bedroom, waving her cell phone I knew immediately that something was very wrong, because Colette NEVER comes into our bedroom. She says that Angela and I do “icky stuff” in there. At first I thought she was referring to our spanking proclivity, or perhaps our sexual activity. However, Colette later explained that she was talking about “icky stuff” like trimming toenails or plucking eyebrows. I didn't understand, either, but then I've never understood adolescent girls. But I digress.
Colette started hollering, “Luke is in jail! He needs our help!”
“Why doesn't he call his parents?” Angela groggily responded.
“Because his dad put him there!”
Since I didn't want to go back to my odd dreams right away, I told Angela to go back to sleep, and I got up and asked Colette to explain.
Apparently, Luke's father found a small amount of marijuana in his bedroom. The man decided, for some curious reason, that it would teach Luke a “lesson,” that he would call the police. The police came and arrested the boy for possession. He was lead away from his own home in handcuffs and locked up. Since it was clear that his parents wanted him to spend the night in jail, Luke placed his one phone call to Colette's cell phone, and he was still on the line.
I spoke briefly with Luke, who was so scared that he could barely speak. I told him to sit tight, and that Colette and I would come and assess the situation. So I brewed myself a quick cup of tea, threw on some clothes, and splashed some water on my face. Then Colette and I piled into the car and headed to the local police facility.
When we arrived, we discovered that, thankfully, Luke was not in the general lockup but was instead being held alone in a separate room. He was physically fine, but was sitting in a corner, quivering and staring into space. He did not respond when we first came in, but when Colette ran over to him and sat down next to him, holding his hand, he came back to earth.
He told Colette that he had been out with friends when his parents had gone through his room. They had found two small marijuana cigarettes hidden with his underwear. Luke insisted that the reefer was not his and he did not know how it got there. His father decided that the proper way to “teach the boy a lesson” was to contact police, who were waiting for Luke when he returned home. Luke was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the police station, where he was put through the humiliating booking process. The police did not have a separate holding cell for juveniles, and fortunately they felt that it might be dangerous to put Luke in with the general population, although there were only two other men in there and one was soundly asleep.
At that point an officer came over and asked if I was the boy's father. I told him that, no, I was Colette's father, and that Colette was “a good friend.” I was informed that, because he was a minor, they could not release the boy to my custody. Only his parents could come and get him.
Luke and Colette both broke into a panic at the prospect of Luke being forced to spend the night in jail, or perhaps longer if his parents refused to have him released. I took a long look into the boys eyes, and I saw abject and nearly irrational fear. I knew that, if he stayed there for long, it would take him a long time to recover and would perhaps do irreparable harm to the boy.
How can this be, you may ask. He had illegal drugs, so he belongs in jail. And a night in jail should scare a normal adolescent enough to realize that he cannot be using marijuana.
The problem was that Luke is not a healthy adolescent. He was showing all of the symptoms of bipolar depression, also some known as manic depression.
(to be continued, again)
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Trouble In Spanko-Ville
Luke moved into our school district about two years ago. He was one of those quiet boys who people whispered about. He's a troublemaker, we heard. He uses drugs. He has a violent temper. He wants to make our local high school the next Columbine. Colette told us it was all bullshit. Since we've never heard her use that word before, we figured that she was probably right.
Colette and Luke became friends during the previous school year. They seemed to have some similar interests. Both liked to read, both seemed to have analytical minds. Both like to make fun of the “popular” kids at school. Colette is an excellent student. Luke is not, so Colette spent some time with him helping him get his grades up.
Colette had mentioned Luke a few times, but when her mother and I first met Luke, we weren't sure what to make of the young man. He was not well dressed, wearing torn blue jeans and a white undershirt. His hair was long and greasy, and he always covered it with a baseball cap. However, he was always respectful to Angela and me. He always calls me “Mister Spankowik.” I'll forgive him for the mis-pronunciation (it's pronounced Spa-KO-wee-ack), and I am usually a pretty informal kind of guy, but there are two types of people who I prefer the more formal title: Those who want my money, and any male friends whom my girls bring home. Luke was in the latter class, and followed my rule without being told, so that made him okay in my book.
Luke began to follow Colette around like a puppy. He went to all of her softball games both when she played for her school as well as in the recreation league this summer. This fall, when school started, they officially started dating. They make such a cute couple. They're both afraid to be too affectionate lest they offend the other, so they tentatively hold hands and sneak a few kisses. They text each other lots of smileys, but nothing too blue.
As nice as Luke is, he is also, as some might say, troubled. He will occasionally smoke marijuana, despite the fact that Colette strenuously objects. He is subject to long periods of moodiness for no apparent reason. He will periodically miss school even though he does not appear to be ill. He sometimes has trouble sleeping, to the point where he will be awake from Friday morning until Sunday or Monday night. Once he disappeared for three days and not even his parents seemed to know where he was.
However, he seems to be very bright. He is an avid reader. He loves to draw. He is also musically inclined, and plays the piano and guitar. Luke and Colette can sit for hours listening to music ranging from Miles Davis to Dido and Fiest, or latest hip-hop artist. He even likes Steely Dan, which is another point in the plus column for me.
If you recognize Luke's traits, you probably can predict where this story is headed. If you think that Luke is a typical, lazy, teenage slob, you're not looking closely enough. My reasoning will become clear soon enough.
(to be continued)