YO psyche ward!

These are quotes heard from my 40 hours a week working in mental health... some of these are quotes from me some from other staff and some from patients.
No names are used to protect peoples rights. I will not... tell you if it was a patient or a staff member I am quoting...
it's the old saying you can't tell the difference between the staff and the patients.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anniversary of the death of a crisis worker

Today sept 28th was the day I got the call from Mark Wedeven (RIP) that Issac Zito (RIP) was missing. He asked me feverishly what places I thought he might be at, I thought of the last place we had seen each other down by the rail road tracks on the bay. We had sat there that last night with one of his lovely lady friends and I expressed to Isaac that perhaps it was time to lay down the sword, both of us always felt that our work was that of protection, that of the warriors work, like field medics on some great psychic battlefield.

I have moments of clarity where I look at the qualities of a person and tell that person what blessings they have to offer the world. When it comes out it is always sort of soul shaking for both me and the other person, humbling to say the least for both of us. I pointed out Issac's ability to sense aesthetic value of life and the ethics necessary to appreciate and communicate it to others in a way that altered peoples perception of the world in a balanced and beautiful way. I told him that it was time to put down the sword and to become the artist, the creative, the poet, to put his academic lingo slinging mind to the grind stone and change what people believe about the world, thus changing how they lived in it. Ike grew quite and we watched with wide open minds and eyes at the lights reflecting on the water, commenting on their beauty. I felt as though I had humbled him, and I hoped that it would move him out of the mental health field and into teaching, or writing...

A sample of his writing can still be found in a letter to the editor of the Olympian news paper...

"Pledge of Allegiance has been amended four times

Hannah Palo's letter pleads to keep the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, invoking historical review.
The pledge, first published in 1892 in Youth's Companion magazine, by socialist and Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, aimed to teach, "Obedience to the state (as) a virtue." He created the "Bellamy Salute," performed during the recitation, which resembled the Nazi salute, and was obviously discontinued during WWII. In 1940, the Supreme Court ruled that children could be coerced to recite the pledge, even those who considered the recitation worshipping false idols. In 1943, the court overturned this, citing that "compulsory unification of opinion" violated the First Amendment. This led to some attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses by pledge propagators.
Schools started recitation, spreading without state intervention. Ministers pushed to add "under God" in 1953, which was absent in the original pledge, under the specious argument that it was in the Gettysburg Address. The phrase "under God" was legally added on Flag Day in 1954, when Eisenhower ratified it. Actually, the pledge was amended four times, lastly in 1954.
Palo's argument dismisses history under the false auspices of its necessity, while relying on a straw man implicating the pledge, at its present incarnation, is and always has been immutable. Finally, I would ask whether a free and open society needed to rely on inculcation of propaganda to its children, or if this practice actually belies the professed liberty of the United States? Peripherally, U.S. currencies read "In God We Trust," not "under God."
Isaac J. Zito, Olympia

The man was brilliant... and he would tell you this often...
But Ike was a Dog soldier... he would not leave his position once he had put his stake in the ground, until he was relieved by another dog soldier, had won the battle or died strapped to his spike in the ground. He and I both lived by this moto and it drew us together. At times I believed that Isaac would be the person to relieve me of my sense duty to that psychic battle we where both in... the battle we fought was endless... and I am still there strapped next to where he fell. Fighting the same battle...
I am of the opinion that the way we fight this battle is what perpetuates it... I have no faith in community mental health, and in some ways I blame its systems and bureaucracy for his demise... just a little. Enough to almost be considered part of the enemy that we are fighting itself. His friend Mark saw it that way... Ike would get phone calls from Mark in the middle of the night running from cops and needing a pick up after mobbing the police dept with anarchist protesters. I admired both of them for fighting with all they had, and with what ever presented itself to them at the time, as unjust, or just plain in need of an ass kicking. But those two both where shining examples of people who gave every last bit of themselves to the world. Helping the homeless or the mental ill or challenging those  powers at be that perpetuate this mess we all find ourselves in.

Later in the morning last year today, I received a call from Mark at work. He found Ike dead, my heart sank and utter madness ensued... grief is an amazing force. What grief can do is incredible. It is like a black hole opens up to the underworld and starts sucking people in the first thing to go is inhibition, the second is self awareness... we loose a part of ourself often when we loose someone, native shamans called it soul loss some times... In away if we allow ourselves to feel that greif and just be possessed by it; maintaining enough self control to keep ourselves from going into that black hole, we come out more whole, stripped of so much we have held within us... and left with new questions that I would hope could provide us some needed wisdom the next time one of us is taken below. In this case it happened soon and it was Mark Wedeven, he died in an avalanche not long after Ikes death, and they still have not found his remains. He will not be having a beer in Ikes memory tonight with the rest of us... But we will toast to him and strike the earth with our glasses.

I lost my job shortly after that and went back to working in mental health again... something I loathed to do. But here I am again with my stake in the ground... It is the stake that I gave Isaac this time. I picked it up took it where it was needed and placed it in the ground again. But this time I know that that battle has to be fought in another way, and I do it for Isaac. In remembrance of those last words of hope, encouragement and acknowledgement that I gave him down by the rail road tracks drinking dandelion wine. The battle will  be won by turning the sword into the plow, by being the creative force that changes the hearts of those we encounter, the battle will be won not through our self sacrifice but through just giving creatively and often, and often to ourselves, it will be won through nurturing the gifts we see in others... and by not working in a system that refers to the ill as "consumers".

A friend of mine, probably the most enlightened being I ever met has two PhD's in psychology. He was telling me of his frustration with the system and how limited it is in his ability to authentically help people. In a rare moment of clarity I was able to give him some guidance... usually it's the other way around. I said to him don't try to profit off of their illness, don't make a living off of it. Do something else for a living and just be there for people as much as possible, give, and make yourself available to the families in your community. Encourage people to help each other and co-counsel each other... Lead ceremonies that bring community together.

For me this is my next step... I see what the mental health system does to its workers... I saw what it did to Isaac, there is no one to go to, there are no systems in place to help us, there are no mandated weekley therapy sessions, just bullshit classes on beating burn out.

I only wish he was able to put down that sword with me, so we could move in that direction together.

I personally believe in the transmigration of the soul, and that it sticks around from time to time, I feel that Ike will get his chance to make that choice to lay down his sword again... and that this time he will make that decision, I just hope I know him in that life to come, before he died we would talk about knowing each other prior, that we had been brothers before and we where brothers again. Ike and I shared many powerful spiritual experiences before he died, in some ways I felt that his meeting me inspird him to do the work he needed to do to make this decision to take his own life. Our military freind Todd pointed out that taking ones own life is the most difficult thing one can do and thast it takes courage and strength that many people do not have, a rare perspective... but my feeling will always be that it may have been perspective he lacked one he saught through his relationship with me. He would come so close to putting his personal suffering in the lake instead of the glass, but there was always a powerful inner conflict working in him that prevented him from doing so.

Until we meet in our next incarnation I hope to embody the characteristics I had the privilege to learn from my brother Ike so that a part of him will continue on here fighting and soon creating along side me.

1 comment:

Lady J said...

I want to thank you for your post. I read your initial post when Isaac passed and just came upon this one.

While I think there was much more that contributed to Isaac's death I do agree that his job caused him much distress. I too am in the mental health profession and can relate to many of your statements.

I continue to mourn for Isaac (and Mark). Grief is ineed a strange concept, one that I have not fully grasped.

I live in California and do not know any of Isaac's friends. Mark was the only one and then he died too. So, it definitely helps me to read your words and know that I am not alone in my grief. Thank you again for your post.