Ode to a Nameless, Homeless Lady — and Stop the Murphy Bill! (H.R. #3717)

The general rule is that those who listen most and speak least will be the most useful to sufferers. —David Murray

At last, Dr. Murray and I are in perfect agreement!  I am appalled at his reckless recommendation of the use of anti-depressants — dismissing their considerable harms, and ignoring meta analysis that grant them of  no more benefit than placebo. Thus readers of his blog and book, “Christians Get Depressed, Too are not given  real informed consent. Nor do I regard him as a reliable or well-informed authority on Depression, and this is why.

But, as he says here, it is  good to just listen to those in crisis, and not to be overfond of your own rhetoric and presuppositions. What is important is that those in that particular terror that he prefers to call ‘mental illness’ and that I would term a ‘spiritual crisis’ feel safe, and especially safe in our churches. And that is my passion — that these kinds of sufferers feel safe and really listened to. Sometime in its distress, a body can speak in its own idiosyncratic language that disturbs the social order, and instead of being respectfully listened to, sufferers are treated with means that if they had any agency over their own bodies, they would vehemently protest. We must especially make a supernatural effort to listen to those who might be standing on holy ground. I think that if Dr. Murray would read my testimony, he would understand what I mean by this.

When those who suffer these crises of soul don’t protest when the men in the white coats come for them to restore  feelings of peace and safety for everyone else, that is really saying something — that these hapless individuals feel so unsafe and so helpless that they would permit even this kind of huge indignity. I saw this kind of emergency in a nameless, homeless lady  who allowed herself to be straitjacketed and carted away this week at our church’s outreach to the homeless, a population that consists of a good portion of the intractably mentally ill, population that is skyrocketing, as journalist Robert Whittaker documents in his groundbreaking book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic”

It was so interesting to me that after educating all week about the Murphy Bill, which would legalize such callous disregard for basic human rights in a huge government power grab, I found myself kneeling on the ground, getting as close as I could to a hostile frightened woman — really trying to listen to what she said, and in her babblings of government conspiracy to cut off peoples’ feet, I heard her fear for her own, perhaps someday gangrenous legs.  She had contempt for  authorities who exploit and mistreat, yet she submitted to the eyerolls of the fireman who came to give ‘medical treatment’. That was really saying something. I heard her fear, and her desire for medical attention. I fervently pray that she got some.

Because on the ground in our church fellowship hall, it wasn’t about me and my campaign against coerced care, and mandated chemical lobotomies for the poor and the socially inconvenient. It wasn’t even about my grief about my mother and daughter who went one day into that same locked ward. It was about this woman and what she really needed. And knowing that Diabetes Type 2 is one of the hugest risks to this overmedicated population, I heard her fears for her hurting feet — and though I  felt anguish as I watched her go meekly into that ambulance, I understood that this pain was more about me.

Sometimes when I am really in a great amount of grief  I have to express it in poetry. I think this one in particular comes from a general feeling of not being respected or really listened to in the conversations I have about these issues.  At times like this, I really identify with the homeless mentally ill population that is so outside the camp, whose inchoate passion is never properly interpreted. That doesn’t feel safe.

 

Ode to a Nameless Homeless Lady

I know it was just that my friends wanted you to be safe,
that is why we called 911
after you wouldn’t get off the floor after our dinner.

Oh, I hope you really enjoyed
the food we made, it was a feast wasn’t it?
One of my best  cooking nights! With plenty of volunteers
so we could really pull out all the stops.
Enchiladas,chile beans, mexican rice, an amazing salad –
(Frazier, I need your recipe for that broccoli bacon slaw.)
And the best brownies my own little girls made.
We wanted you to feel loved
and honored, which is why we used our china plates –
(Oh thank you Steve N., for telling me this!)

All this effort dear lady, to make  felt sanctuary replace
The real fear you feel, so that surrounded
by the presence of  the One  God you can palpably sense
every week, you’ll be so God-haunted you’ll hunt for him
as you walk your lonely roads on your hurting feet.

My friends just wanted you to be safe, and that is why
that scary ambulance came. And why everyone came to look.
And really, you did not protest too much about it,
this might be the only occasion when you are paid attention to!
Except at such a costly price of  indignity.
But I am the one who took offense
at the patronizing tone of the fireman
as he got you into that chair they straitjacketed
you to, and wheeled away!

Because I remember my mother.
She was once at that same locked ward,
a literal padded cell — I saw it!
I peeked at her through the window there.
Are you really someone’s mother, too?  Oh that
You would be my mother, my sister —  and feel  safe
as you find your home in Him.

But you went meekly.
Perhaps you are used to such insults,
Or you were too distracted by your own real pain.

From the way you talked about conspiracies
the authorities have to cut off feet, I could hear your fear
for your health. I hope you got good medical attention!
When you are hearing  your voices sometimes
you aren’t listened to
at all, and your symptoms are commonly dismissed
as “Somatic Symptom Disorder” — do you hate the way they
can dismiss having anything Real to do with  you, except
to increase your dosage — because of convenient categories?

How sometimes they don’t listen, and  don’t remember
that diabetes is definitely one of the most common
Adverse Effects of the expensive atypical anti-psychotics
you are probably prescribed to control your
anti social behavior and your anger at your mother –
with little regard for serious side effects.

“These include major, rapid weight gain
— 40 pounds is not uncommon — Type 2 diabetes,
breast development in boys,
irreversible facial tics
sudden heart failure with polypharmacy
in the young, and among the elderly
an increased risk of death.”

No wonder your pain is ignored.
No one ever really listens to the ravings of a lunatic
who says everything’s  a conspiracy.
Even the  very real pain you try to describe in your feet

with your own bodies unique language.
And you are curled up into the comfort of a womb
like my own daughter did that day
because no one cares about your dying, really.
Only a daughter would, or your mama who is probably  dead.

No one cares to connect your babblings
to the the common side effects of the drugs
they use to dose you to your death,  never
really listening to you! But you have seen others
in permanent wheelchairs, and you are afraid.

And you should be! I wish I could help you
but you will not even tell us your name,
and why should you? They won’t even let
you choose your own name for your
infirmities, the way Jesus did with Legion,
before he brought him to his own right mind.

Jesus gives even demoniacs some human agency.

Jesus let Legion diagnose his  condition.
He  wanted Legion to know he was known, and to
Comfort him before he set him free.

Keep your name secret from your captors,
and from me too, until you know me.
Jesus knows your true name
and he will connect me to it
when I pray for you.
So I don’t blame you for not sharing
the very last thing
you have left, for we have stolen
from you the dignity of  body agency
and forgotten that you, too
are made in the image of God.

You are invited to eat with us again, dear Nameless Lady,
at our delicious feasts we host for madwomen
and prodigal sons and hobos — all sinners and good
for nothings like me, who will sit with you
at your table and bring you a cup of cold water
and touch your hands, and pray for healing
for your feet if you let us. But first you give permission.
We long to  restore some measure of nobility
that the harsh streets and a corrupt system
of ‘care’ have ripped away from you,
oh dear Nameless Homeless Lady!

 

 

 On this 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, please oppose the Murphy Bill HR #3717, because:

“People will turn away from forced and coercive services.
We need to feel safe and understood to connect with others.
We also need hope and a sense that we can get what we need.

So many difficulties arise in life,
especially when our parents, schools and communities
have their own problems and don’t understand our perspective.

Connection, unconditional positive regard,
trauma informed services and safety
must replace coercive, medical models
and forced services if we hope to help others heal.”

words of Cindy Peterson Dana, as a comment on a thread at Mad in America, titled– Murphy Bill: Violates Civil Rights, Increases Government Intrusion and Control, and Ignores Scientific Research

 

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2 Comments on “Ode to a Nameless, Homeless Lady — and Stop the Murphy Bill! (H.R. #3717)”


  1. […] You must listen too, to these voices. I highly recommend it. It changes your life. And listen with greater skill to those who are hearing them, and try not to be afraid of them. They might be speaking the ‘tongues of angels’ — or of devils. But we can’t know until we have patiently listened, and interpreted their words and their bodies own distinctive language, perhaps of spiritual distress. Those in the Critical Psychiatry movement understand these things better than we do, and that is why I am going outside this camp and listen to them more and more. And talk to them about how Jesus saved me from certain death. Because I would have been a raving bag lady, on and off her meds, rambling on the streets of San Francisco like the tragic figures I serve today if he hadn’t. With a few awful poetic scribblings among the aluminum cans and dirty detritus in my shopping cart, … […]

  2. Karen Butler Says:

    My daughter read this poem and teared up. That is all the feedback I really need.

    And I always, always let her vet it first, before I put any of her story out on the internet.


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