Putting a Face on Schizophrenia

I find myself obsessed with watching YouTube videos produced by Jacob Bowman on his well-received channel, “ I have Schizophrenia.”  Jacob Bowman has quite a following. One commentator praised Jacob for his charisma, calling him the” Schizophrenic James Dean.” This viewer finds him so cool he could listen to Jacob for hours, even if was he talking about something as boring as paint drying.  I, for one, agree because Jacob is extremely cool in an almost retro way, even when describing “schizophrenia on a bad day,” or hygiene—relating, of course, to the subject of mental illness –or how he believes that no one, whether schizophrenic or not, should ever give up hope. I am grateful Jacob does not talk about paint drying, although I’m sure he would make it fascinating. Rather, he connects with people who have mental illness and to the people who love and care for them. His insight into his own illness helps me to understand what the hell is going on.

Understandably, Jacob Bowman manages to win the hearts and minds of many who search their way to his channel—some have mental illness themselves. Not only is he beautiful to behold even “on a bad day,” but he’s honest.  He also smokes like an anti-hero from the 50’s, loves Stephen Hawking, which makes him intellectual, and knows exactly when to inject expletives into  his presentation. His large YouTube following is from my point of view, entirely well-deserved. He helps to educate through his honesty and he helps to de-stigmatize mental health disorders through bravery and unabashed transparency.

“There’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life… We who struggle with these disorders can lead full, happy, productive lives, if we have the right resources.”
– Elyn R. Saks

Now, why would I be a subscriber to his channel and one who offers frequent likes on his videos? I do not have a mental health diagnosis and consider myself simply a garden variety neurotic with my share of issues and dysfunctions. I find listening to Jacob helpful because my adult son has been living with me for eight months and he has taken up residence on the living room couch. I have had to up my Wi-Fi gigabytes to the speed bump level because the streaming goes on 24/7 and I am not exaggerating. The television is on day and night as a distraction to the constant unwelcome commentary in his head. I’ve come to except that he will not make use of his bedroom for the time being and I’ve come to except that he may not bathe for a week or more at a time and that he does not like to talk. He has been diagnosed. Now, I have to go places I have never gone before, like in Star Trek, and be willing to venture into outer space for understanding.

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”
Philip K. Dick

My support group has been amazing—my God, these people actually get it when I complain, “He is still on the couch.”  Or, “He refuses to take a shower.”  They understand when I complain that I am sick of people saying, “I don’t like to label people,” or “Medication is bad for you. What about herbs?  What about diet?” As a society, we need education on mental illness before rushing to judgments or offering advice. There are no easy answers, or perhaps, answers at all.

Thank you, Jacob Bowman, for being real, for putting a face on schizophrenia, for being out of the closet, for your bravery, and for telling us all to NEVER GIVE UP HOPE.

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Lost in the City of Angels

homeless.jpg

It is easy to be lost in place, and he is. Well at least, I console myself, he isn’t lost in Jesus Land. He isn’t wearing a tin-foil hat. He isn’t sitting up all night in some fast food restaurant like McDonald’s trying to avoid the streets, waiting for the time when he can return to the camper after its resident goes to work. He might have been able to rest during the day, to sleep while the voices say, no one loves you, you are worthless. He lives with me now, so he does not have to go hungry.

Our refrigerator is well-stocked. The freezer is filled with Amy’s frozen lasagna, macaroni and cheese with broccoli, enchiladas with beans and rice, and all manner of organic meals. He won’t be stealing sandwiches out of grocery stores. He will not have cops pushing and bullying him for staring at cars. He will not be beaten up by law enforcement for hanging out in airports. Police will not be dislocating his shoulder while pulling him over on a side-walk. It is common for police to treat the homeless and the mentally ill as criminals. When someone is both, it is a double whammy– cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

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Letting Go

A blast of prose from my past…going through my files.

I woke up this morning thinking about what my dead cat looked like when I discovered her lying on my bathroom floor three years ago. My female calico of 14 years, with long hair and eyes that looked like they had been lined in kohl, was stretched out ridged as an ironing board, with her blue eyes open, staring blankly. At the time, what struck me was she was now dead. To put it dramatically, I was looking at the face of death. There was no light in her eyes, no movement, no energy, no dance, no play, no expression. Wow – it made me think, death is pretty lifeless, not much going on. Shocking, in fact. Perhaps taking life for granted, and the adage, “Life is a bitch and then we die,” is a bit too cynical. Perhaps, that look my dog gives me when he has not seen me for a few hours, is actually precious and tied to a force more powerful than gravity. Maybe the force is love.

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Collage by Kartika

I contemplated what it would be like to be faced with death each day, forced to face the absence of light in the faces of the bombed or butchered. If I lived in Palestine or Iraq or somewhere one cannot escape the faces of the dead, where the dead are not taken away in the middle of night and sanitized by undertakers, placed in $5,000 velvet-lined coffins, and placed in immaculately manicured cemeteries, then grieved over by the well-dressed and well-fed still living, would I become desensitized? Or, would that spark that animates trees and waves and wild horses become even more precious? Would the miracle of seeing your grandmother live to be 100 seem even more miraculous?

But, I live in a world where I don’t see many dead people, and so, seeing Cinnamon my cat, stretched out, was a shock. I didn’t understand my tears. After all, she was old and had been ill for a very short while, and her death was merciful and natural, but I still cried looking into the face of death and felt the loss of her. And then it took me over – that we are all made of more than our miraculous flesh and bone. We are animated by that abstract something we call life, that mysterious energy that puts light into faces, and makes our eyes shine with love and hate, and makes our bodies climb mountains, and makes fish jump in the water, and the flowers bloom. And, it hit me like a gentle yet forceful wind that without life, the moon would not shine and the sun would lose its heat, and the planets would collapse, and the wind would cease, and the tides would no longer hypnotize lovers, and the stars would lose their mystery.

Perhaps I should let go of being pissed at life for its brutal blows and heartbreaks, at least for long enough to consider the possibility that our pain is part of the mysterious spirit we call life, and cannot be removed from that to which it is intimately connected.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen

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The Facts: What’s Broken in Our Juvenile Justice System and How to Fix It

Kids in the system

An excellent visual analysis of what is wrong with our juvenile justice system and how to make it right from Youth Transition Funders Group.

http://ytfg.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Blueprint_Infographic_RGB1.jpg

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You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners

Excellent work and a very informative piece of writing!

Mephitic's BS Ramblings

“You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The last executions in the UK took place in 1964, with capital punishment for murder being abolished in 1969 (1973 in NI)  subsequently it was abolished in all circumstances in 1998. Since 2004 the UK has been prohibited from restoring capital punishment as long as it is party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this, recent opinion polls suggest that the majority of the British population remain in favour of capital punishment.

In stark contrast, the death penalty in a majority of US states is flourishing, as of January 1st 2012 there were 3189 people on death row.  Matthew B. Robinson, PhD Professor of Government & Justice Studies of the Appalachian State University offers an explanation as to why:

  • History & Culture: The US has a long history & culture of violence…

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Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

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Source: Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

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Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Nelson Mandela

December 31, 2015

Dear Readers,

I would have liked to follow up on the last letter I wrote, but something happened last night, or rather, early this morning that has prompted me to write this letter to you. I want to disclose in this letter something I’ve seen many times over. What I am about to describe will give you a glimpse of what inmates throughout the United States must endure on a daily basis.

At around 5:00 a.m. this morning, an inmate from General Population was brought and placed into an empty cell two doors from mine. The correctional officers who escorted this young man to the Segregation building in which I am housed, are as follows: the two highest ranking officials—a Lieutenant and Shift Supervisor, a Sergeant, and three low ranking officers.

The inmate, whose name I will withhold, was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. He was place in that cell by these officers, ranking officials included, and assaulted without remorse. The officers are the same officers who are there to ensure our safety, not to jeopardize it. As I stood at my cell door feeling angry, helpless, vulnerable, and a little frightened for the safety of my peer and myself, I couldn’t help but kick my cell door while at the same time, yelling “GET OFF THAT MAN!” over and over again.

The assault of my peer seemed to go on forever as the seconds ticked by. The assault lasted for about two minutes, but they were the longest two minutes of my day. As the assault concluded, all five correctional officers approached my cell door and the Sergeant asked me, “Do you want some too, Bitch?” As he began to produce a pair of hand cuffs from his back pocket. “You know that shit was wrong Man!” I could not help but respond. A small slot on my cell door which opens to give inmates their trays and also to handcuff inmates before opening the cell door was then opened. I was ordered to stick my hands out. “Stick your hands out inmate!” As the anger got the best of me, as well as knowing what to expect, I responded “…I ain’t doing shit! If you want to smash on me too, you gonna have to come in like that!”

Before a decision could be made, the lieutenant spoke up to say it was time for a shift change. My slot was closed again and before the sergeant walked away from my door he told me, “I’ll be back. Count on it, bitch.” The shift change saved me from also being assaulted.

Even though assaults like this are the norm for inmates, I cannot help but ask,” Are these the repercussions we as inmates deserve for the crimes we have committed? Even after harsh sentences? Is this humane? Would people on the outside believe this treatment is justified? Will it help rehabilitate those who are incarcerated to be treated this way? Acts of violence like this occur throughout the system on a daily basis and we have no help to stop such injustices. I am committed to help raise public awareness on violence against the incarnated.

“To know and yet not to do, is in fact not to know.” – Wang Yang Ming

To me, this means that if humans know of any type of injustice done to another human, community, or even to the environment, and we do nothing, it is as if we did not know it in the first place. In other words, without action, there is no knowing. With that said, I would encourage anyone, whether or not they know someone who is incarcerated, to visit the following web site: www.justice.gov/gov/crt/about/spl, case number: 168-74-0. On behalf of inmates everywhere, I ask that the public not turn a blind eye to the reality of violence against the incarcerated.

More to come…Sincerely, Gilbert V.

More from Gilbert:

Open Letter from an Inmate

About Circle of Love:

Circle of Love Inside – Writing to Prisoners

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