Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Comments by Ken Braiterman

Showing 34 of 34 comments.

  • Corinna –

    I’m honored and delighted to read thay something I told you 5 years ago to help you through a crisis is sill helping you through your current crisis

    As you know, I’ve been going thru a spiritual emergency myself since September, related to a possible diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Diease (ALS), a hopeless disease with a certain horrible death.
    You helped me enormously by telling me about the mind-body connection and the biofeedback loop, where emotional distress causes physical pain, which causes more emotional distress, which cause…

    You also tried to explain, in intellectual terms I was too scared to understand, what another friend told me was ACCEPTANCE. That’s what allowed me to live with my fear and uncertainty, and start learning new, less frustrating ways to do simple things that had become very hard, that made me furious, and fed my biofeedback loop several times every day. I’ve resumed my normal activities and positive attitude, though my medical condition will remain uncertain for at least three more months.

    Here’s a link to the blog I posted about it Dec. 5 on Wellnesswordworks.com.

  • If you keep a gun to protect againsst home invaders, and keep it locked and hidden to protect your children from the gun — as you should — how will you get to and unlock and load the gun in time to protect against the intruder? I’ve never understood that.

    Here in NH, we have a federally-funded state-of-the-art teen suicide prevention program. They’ve learned a lot about it along the way:

    1. It’s the 3rd largest cause of death among people 13 to 25 (2nd in NH, where we don’t have as much violent crime or gang violence as many other states.

    2. There is no hiding place a teenager, highly motivated by a suicidal urge, can’t find.

    3. The trouble with guns is they are so much more reliably lethal than poisons, pills, or hanging. A quick suicidal impulse is more likely to kill a teen. Adults tend to plan suicide; teens tend to attempt on impulse.

    In New Hampshire, if you tell people to get rid of their guns, they’ll stop listening, and possibly beat you up. So our suicide prevention educators recommend that parents of teens who display suicide risk signs give their guns to a trusted friend or neighbor — outside the teen’s home — for safekeeping.

    What I like best about this program is that it treats teen suicide as a public health issue, not a personal or family issue. It involves everyone in town who has regular contact with teens: teachers, school officials, coaches, church and Scout youth advisers, etc. We teach these people to be “gatekeepers,” not counselors or clinicians, to spot the warning signs, and help the kids and families find support.

  • We’re an “other than” in this country, a “them,” or “those people.” You can solve almost any social problem by blaming and beating and locking up those people. The only problem is that, when they come to lock you up, those people won’t protect you because they’re already locked up.

    I knew a guy once who had the answer to this dilemma. When the government comes to take away his rights — and it could be any time, he told me — he’d break out his supply of loaded assault weapons and defend himself, which is his obligation as a man, and his right under the 2nd Amendment.

    True story. Gunnies like him don’t care about their right to hunt deer, which even Sylvia Larson supports.

    On Constitutional issues, I think we should be governed by the strict intent of the Framers, nothing more. That means the 2nd Amendment authorizes the right of the people to keep and bear muzzle-loading single-shot flintlocks and blunderbusses, which were colonial shotguns. Each time you shoot, you have to load powder and ball, and stuff it down the batrel with a rod. Not appropriate for for mass murder.

  • In a way, I did make a career out of being bipolar, but I like to think I made the little piece of the system I touched a little better. The work gives meaning to my years of senseless starving and suffering.

    Several people in my WRAP groups say i changed their lives. They really changed their own lives based on an example they saw in me, and a recovery message I gave them when they were ready to hear and act on it.

    I do some conference presentations on surviving suicide crises without attempting, or going to the ER, and losing your autonomy, and police recruit training on crisis intervention, that people say are helpful.

    As chair of the state mental health consumer council, I organized a grassroots lobby that defeated a 55% budget cut to our peer support centers that the state bureaucracy and mental health centers were supporting. First, I had to convince members of those peer-run agencies, who had been marginalized and ignored all their lives that they could defeat people in suits, with advanced degrees, in the state Legislature. I also had to show them how.

    We won because Legislators received dozens of personal messages from voters in their districts explaining, in their own words, how a crippling budget cut to peer support would damage them personally, and that peer support made them much less dependent on more expensive state services.

    Also, I started a move, joined by others, to change the state guardianship law to give more legal protection to parents in crisis, who came under pressure from the state, and their care providers, to give up guardianship of their children.

    Sorry if that sounds like bragging, but I treasure those achievements more than any of the journalism awards I won.

  • Duane, I think black-snd-white thinking is an unrealistic picture of the shades-of-gray world,that leads to incivility, bad decisions, and terrible public policy.

    But it’s an argument I want to win on the merits,through persuasion, not cenaorship or thought control, which are the most malignant, dangerous forms of black-and-white thinking. They became possible only when black-and-white thinkers have power, as they do in medical psychiatry today. They are certainly NOT on any agenda of mine.

    To repeat what I said in the piece, I am not for medication. I’m for full disclosure and truly informed consent. I’m against a medical psychiatric system based on labels and meds first for everyone for life. I believe in trying alternative treatments BEFORE resorting to meds.

    Being AGAINST meds all the time for everyone, black-and-white, and censoring people who disagree, is also unrealistic. It does not account for my 35 years of experience taking meds, and that of many people I know. (I’m tapering now based on recent long-term outcome studies.)

    I did have a bad experience the one time I took an atypical anti-psychotic briefly. I got off it. The difference between me and people who complain about long-term side effects might be that the meds I take are old, not modern anti-depressants or anti-psychotics.

    I’m also proud of other friends who had long-term problems with meds, were able to get off, and are happier, and doing much better now. I haven’t been able to do that yet.

    That’s nuanced thinking IMHO.

  • By Ken Braiterman

    That way of living and working is unsustainable over tme, and a sure ticket to misery.

    Elvia Knoll its so true!!!!!!! i have a hard time focusing- or dividing space for different things. when i read- it relates to work. when i go buy a book- i’m tempted to buy psychology books. i get so frustrated. i have a kind of obsession about my passions. i do them until i can’t stand them anymore. i’ve always been like that. i need balance
    22 hours ago · Like

    Ken Braiterman Me too. Even at my age, knowing what I know now, having gone thru what I have, I still fall into workaholic sieges, and since my work as a writer is solitary, they soon become isolation sieges that cause emotional problems. I have to be creative, resourceful, and disciplined about being with people and enjoying play time.
    22 hours ago · Like · 2

    Elvia Knoll i loved that in your article you mentioned all the different things you do… i have a terrible habit of acting like or thinking “what for” “what’s the point”… I live in a GREAT city for music and art and everything and i talk myself out of it. I don’t know why. I have no problem meeting people- but i have developed a fear of social situations. its very unlike me- so its really a weird feeling. i spend a lot of time with family which is good….but i try to have my own life also. i feel inspired by your article to try some new things… and i’m going to need to spend some energy on creating that life balance.
    21 hours ago · Like

    Ken Braiterman My friend who is in AA talks about the “velcro couch” and “thousand-pound phone.” Isaac Newton said a bady at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion, In other words, it takes a little extra effort to start in motion. It’s easier after that, and worth it. Sometimes, you do things just because they’re different from being home. You make yourself do it because too much home alone has a bad cumulative effect.
    about an hour ago · Like

    Ken Braiterman Doncha love those wise, pithy sayings AA is so good at making up?

  • by Elvia Knoll:

    very good article!

    what hit a chord for me was that life was work and work was your job. i am like that. everything runs together like a big clump of things that intertwine. I don’t have a good work schedule sometimes and then i feel like i’m “always working” which i’m not. but i’m always thinking about work. I haven’t figured out how to be an advocate and do this work without burning out every few months….

    also. i did not realize that “strength-based” was an actual term. i had heard it, but didn’t really know too much about it. i use the term also to describe what i want to see in our systems- because i think of it as ABILITY… that the person with the “illness” has to realize their ability to recover- there is too much enabling, disabling, crippling “help”- which i think is very tricky. in my opinion, in order to recover you have to want to survive…and stop being a victim or a patient… people don’t always like that option. it can sound like i’m just telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. which i’m not really. but yes- you do have to use your own potential to get through the obstacle…

  • Look at CW’s face in the picture of her fighting above. See how fierce she looks. That is still in her. The same drive, discipline, and sacrifice that got her to the Olympics got her out of the mental health system, and out of a mental health agency, into developing distress model alternatives to the brain disease model.

    Her programs are designed to become economically self-sustaining, except for start-up grants. Keep an eye on my dear friend. She’s only 38. In 25 years, she’ll be only 63. Where will she lead us in that time? I predict she’ll have the persistence to overcome the resistance and go the distance.

    That’s why, at 63. I’m board chair and a full-time volunteer in Wellness Wordworks. She’s a winner. She’s a champion. She’s tough. (So am I, but that’s another story.)

  • May I have y9ur permission to take this comiment, and convert it to a blog for wellnessworks.com? We’re a think tank that tries to build a new system based on recovery brom emtoinal distress, not managing a chronic brain disease. Our founder Corinna West also blogs for this site. I’m board chair and website eidtor. You;ll see the final version before it’s bposted, and have a chance to make changes. Thanks so much.

    Ken B.

  • There was a protective order. He did not admit breaking it, and the issue was never resolved. The police took Conrad’s denial as a tacit admission of guilt: “She can’t prove I was there.” That became the crux of the state’s case. The jury did not buy it.

    The judge did not comment on that when he overruled the jury. He said the police sincerely believed they were acting lawfully, and had reason to believe holding Conrad was necessary to protect his family, the public, and himself from himself. The sincere belief in what they were doing made them immune from civil damages under the law, the judge ruled.

  • It’s called open minds, open communication, and good manners, Ted. Being angry at psychiatry does not mean you have to be angry at Dr. Moffic. He is interesting and interested. Treat him and people like him in the system the way you want to be treated, without labels, prejudice, and hostility. They might listen to you that way.

  • This is what I said, Darby:

    “I don’t necessarily think we in the empowerment movement should spend a lot of time reaching out to NAMI. But we should not shut down potential allies just because they affiliate with NAMI. That’s shooting our movement in the foot.”

    That means individuals who affiliate with NAMI but do not agree with everything NAMI stands for. There’s lots of them.

    I had a working relationship with them on certain public policy issues we agreed on in New Hampshire that was extremely useful to consumers. When we disagreed, we said so publicly and to each other, but we did not beat each other’s brains out, in order to preserve the productive part of our relationship.

    To be productive on guardianship, peer support, choice and control, and reimbursement formulas (the CMHC’s blocked those changes), we had to talk to each other on a regular basis.

  • I respectfully disagree. How can you persuade people and win them over without associating with them. I don’t associate with anyone who is completely closed, but I’ll talk to anyone who is minimally open to what I have to say. NAMI NH is more than minimally open to the distress and trauma model. And I’m not a NAMI member or financial supporter. I’d do my police training the same way no matter who paid for it. It’s just a bureaucratic arrangement between NAMI and the Academy.

  • I teach exactly what you hope I do at the Police Academy.

    You might disagree, but I have no problem disagreeing with people on some things and working with them on things we agree on.

    When I worked in Washington long long ago, that’s how most people did things. People were involved in a lot of things, and their adversaries on one would me their allies on another. They did not get personal because those adversaries might become allies someday.

    That’s where I learned my advocacy. Too bad Washington no longer works that way.

  • NAMI NH supports me. I get a stipend from them for training police under a contract they have with the Police Academy. But $100 for two hours every six weeks is not enough to buy me. I say what I want. If I have something to say about them, we know each other well enough for me to say it to them, straight from the shoulder. I’m able to speak to the issue without attacking the people on the other side. Good advocates have to do that. If people feel defensive or angry or threatened, they stop hearing.

  • I don’t support NAMI either, or walk on their walks. I don’t like their support of outpatient commitment, 72-hr forced treatment, or Big Pharma any more than anybody here.

    I wrote the piece because NAMI hatred hurts our cause and does not hurt NAMI. We can’t create beachheads on their shoreline if we can’t get them to listen. And we can’t get them to listen if we approach with hate, and put them on the defensive and they throw up walls against us.

    The remark at the top about NAMI haters was an afterthought in anticipation of the hateful reaction I excpected. I don’t consider this reaction hateful or personal. Thank you for that.

    The other reason I added it is that I looked at my lead about Peggy Straw and realized I needed something provocative to draw in the reader. I was a newspaperman before I was anything else. The lead (first paragraph) is everything. If it’s weak, nobody reads the second graf. A good lead answers the question “why should you care,” and makes the reader mad, glad, sad, or scared.

  • You don’t sound mean-spirited to me, Duane. But the women in my story are 80 years old. They fought their fight and have earned a rest.

    NAMI, on the other hand, does have moral responsibility to undo the mess. They think they are, but say it has to be an evolutionary process. Whatever they do will be too slow, the wrong way, and the wrong thing to us.

    Many state affiliates are evolving faster than National. NH has always been way out front. That’s why I could work there. At National, they knew me as acutely critical and confrontational. They made me so mad.

    I just want to de-escalate the hatred. It doesn’t hurt NAMI, but it hurts the NAMI haters and our chances to make things better.

  • Some things you can’t say, or even think, about yourself, like “Hero” and “Phenomenal.” I just did the best I could every day, even when moving from my bed to the sofa was the best I could that day. What else could I do? I didn’t want to stay on the sofa or die.

    The heroes were my mother and father. They had no guarantee I’d ever get off their sofa. There was no NAMI then to support them. And they were doing the opposite of what the experts said – that keeping me home would keep me sick and dependent on them forever. They got scared and frustrated sometimes, but never thought about throwing me out.

    The one mistake they made was confusing getting well with getting a job. I applied for jobs whenever I could, and got a few lousy ones, before I was really able to work. So I got fired a lot and had setbacks But I figured out on my own that you can’t measure progress by looking back a week, or even a month. There might not be any. But when I looked at where I was six months or a year ago, I could always see how far I’d come.

    I teach that principle now in my recovery workshops, but there were no recovery workshops then, so nobody taught me.

  • I’m a consultant at the state hospital. I teach recovery principles to inpatients and new staff.

    It’s a good medical model hospital, which is not a complete oxymoron. People go there in crises and come out better than they went in, stable on medication, usually in two months or less. They get referred to community mental health centers, about 35% on conditional discharges. They also get referred to peer support centers, but attendance there is not required.

    I don’t think anyone keeps data that will answer the question why the re-admission rate is so high. I could ask. Someone might answer anonymously, if no one talks on the record. It’s a good question. I just learned about the re-admission rate writing about this case.

    One possible reason for the quick re-admission rate, I believe, is because they release patients to long waiting lists for outpatient treatment. They run out of meds, go into withdrawal, and get re-admitted while waiting for a first appointment in a mental health center. That’s an educated guess. I’ve seen it happen to a couple of people.

    Another possible reason is people getting re-admitted for violating conditional discharges. The community mental health center has a lot of discretion on what to do when a person fails to take medicine. One CMHC violated a client for talking about going off her meds. That person took the CMHC to the state Supreme Court a few years ago, and won.

  • Thank you all for the validation and support.

    I was thinking at the time about the Native American concept of an animal spirit guide, though I did not study the idea in depth. I never doubted that the bear was my spirit animal. I have the bear cheeks, nose, toes, tummy, and short bear legs.

    When I moved to New Hampshire, and had my first chance to swim in open water, not a smelly pool, I taught myself to swim like a bear, and could soon swim indefinite distances, like a bear.

    The strokes the lifeguards taught me at the Y were for racing, not transportation. You could only swim back and forth in a pool, until the chlorine burned too bad.

    The Bureau of Bears began during my first marriage. My wife and I collected stuffed bears and displayed them on the bedroom bureau. To entertain ourselves, we gave the bears individual voices, character, and attitude, and made up stories about them.

    When my life fell apart — I lost the marriage, my home, my savings, and my physical and mental health — the Bureau went with me in the cab as spirit bears. Every kind of bear had a representative on the Bureau: Polar Bear was chair; Grizzly, the director of security; Old Bernard Bear (Russian brown), director of research.

    His mate, Honeybear (Alaska brown), the only female, was director of health, education, and welfare, and Black Jack Daniel (black) was secretary and parliamentarian. The three small bears from the Southern Hemisphere, Sun Bear, Moon Bear, and Sloth Bear, were ministers without portfolio.

    My favorite was Charley Bear, the panda, director of transportation, who could travel at will between the Human Sphere and the woods because he ate only bamboo leaves. Since I was trying to travel back to the woods, he was my main guide and travel agent.

    The plot got more and more elaborate over the years.

    I never made a conscious decision to keep the bears secret from the doctors. You just don’t talk about your innermost spiritual life with hostile, spiritually bankrupt strangers. They had already turned an inaccurate version of my Jewish spirituality into a symptom of a chemical brain disease and a dangerous Messianic complex.

    Driving the cab was the perfect isolation strategy: I could have mood swings, and be as angry and psychotic as I wanted, as long as I kept it quiet. Nobody was with me long enough to notice. The docs told me it was the cure — nasty work, but honorable. What’s wrong with it, they asked.

    I said it was too dangerous. If they said that, it would prove they were sane, but when I said it, it proved I was arrogant, lazy, and looking for a free ride from the system. They viewed everything through the prism of “we’re OK and you’re sick.” So I had to do what they said, and nothing I said could possibly interest them because it came from a sick mind.

    That really was the state of the art, not an arrogant group of Harvards who got me wrong. Two years later, in North Carolina, another doctor and social worker from hell tried to pressure me into driving a cab for my own good. Both groups said I was crazy to think I could be a writer again. The Harvards doubted I ever had been, and refused to look at my published magazine articles.

    I needed one stroke of unearned luck to survive that treatment. My parents did not listen when the doctors said the their overblown expectations of me made me sick and would keep me sick until they cut me loose. They let me stay in their house rent-free till I was on my feet. They had no guarantee that I’d ever get off my back, but they decided I was worth it. I was the only one who knew for sure I would get well.

    I lived there off and on for three years. When I got 37 months of retroactive disability payments, I paid them back by replacing the car that had just died on them unexpectedly. They never asked me for money.

    By then, I was able to restart my writing career.