Ode to a Nameless, Homeless Lady
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 the research that grant them of no more benefit than placebo. Therefore, readers of his blog, and his book, “Christians Get Depressed, Too” are not given true informed consent. Or good information, as when he repeats that canard, that disproven theory about chemical imbalances. And when he was informed about his misinformation, he redacted that blogpost, surreptitiously.
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 most important is that those in the throes of that particular terror — that he prefers to call ‘mental illness’– feel safe, and especially safe in our churches. And that is my passion — that these kinds of sufferers feel safe and really listened to, and that their spiritual crisis not be seen as the product of a ‘broken brain’. Yet it is the meds that break the brains of some.
We must listen, really listen to those suffering. Because 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. That is also part of what is lacking in informed consent. So we must make a supernatural effort to listen to those who might be standing on a kind of holy ground. I think that if Dr. Murray would read my testimony, he would understand what I mean by this.
When those in soul crisis don’t protest when men in white coats come for them — so that feelings of peace and safety might be restored for everyone else– it is really saying something. It says 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, a population that is skyrocketing because of reckless overprescription of psychoactive drugs, as journalist Robert Whittaker documents in his groundbreaking book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic”
It was so interesting to me that after educating all week on this blog 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 — statistically quite likely to be — 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 good care.
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 the pain I felt 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 they 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?
All this effort dear lady, to make felt sanctuary replace
your nebulous fear, 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 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