Monday, June 30, 2008

Beating the blues

It has not been the best week to be the parent of a mentally ill son.
For a start, our justice system decided it was okay for policemen to bash someone in a locked cell if they were psychotic. Four middle-aged, white Whakatane policemen were found not guilty of assaulting a young Maori man, Rawiri Falowasser. They beat him with batons and filled his cell with pepper spray because he would not co-operate with them.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes psychotic people behave oddly. It’s what psychotics do.
Then, Saturday's Weekend Herald carried a story about Ruby Wax’s new show about he depression. The headlined it by referring to her ‘blues.’
Depression = blues!
It is sort of like describing someone who has had their leg mauled by a shark as having minor abrasions.
Still, it is good to know the mentally ill are still there for us all to have a laugh at.
During the past month or so our son has been in psychosis. Not a lot of laughs for anyone close to the action, but no doubt others will have managed a cheap laugh or two.
Like the mental health “crisis team” who saw him when this episode first manifested itself, about a month ago. He was talking to the clock, and running a continual stream of consciousness conversation with himself.
The crisis team consisted of two people, one of whom complained they had been dragged away from their favourite television programme on a Sunday evening, the other of whom said we should be on medication as well as our son.
Still, I guess they got a laugh out of that.
As did the receptionist at the mental health clinic who, later that week, told our son he was ‘bleating’ about his illness.
Good supportive people work in the mental health field.
One of the many frustrating things about being mentally ill is that your diagnosis changes all the time. You are schizophrenic. No, this week you have schizophrenic affective disorder, and next week it will be bipolar, and then ... well, you get the picture.
Our son has had eight different diagnoses in as many years. This time around he has a ‘creative mind’. Apparently that is a disorder now and he needs to learn to make himself uncreative, presumably.
Fortunately he also has a wicked sense of humour – sometimes quite bleak, as you might imagine. The Mental Health Foundation has run a campaign to convince us not to judge the mentally ill. Our son does a little piss take on it.
“Hello, my name is Fred. I am mentally ill. Don’t judge me until you know me ... not like those bloody voices in my head do!”
He might need to change that.
“Don’t judge me ... not like those mental health workers do!”

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