Friday, December 20, 2013

The mutants are revolting: The treatment of the mentally ill in today's society - Part II

The content of this post was originally planned for the first part of this series, but something happened that I needed to focus on first, so now this has become the second part.

I have another post already on the time I was in the schizophrenia ward, but that was not the only time I was in a clinic, I have a total of three so far. The first one was a rather naive attempt at improving my situation that did little but waste my time, and the schizophrenia ward was the third and most recent. In between I've spent 14 weeks in something called a day clinic, a place where you go every morning and spend your day there and return home every afternoon. It was actually quite cool and I made a bit of progress there. The daily structure was what did the most, getting up every morning and bicycling my lazy ass to the clinic (in a harsh winter by this region's standards, temperatures down to -17C), doing a sort of morning ritual, then therapies to do all day, various weekly tasks and all sorts of stuff, I felt quite good there after a while.

Now there is one thing that was the same for all three clinic visits. As you near the end, they try to hit you up for some stuff to do after the clinic to reintegrate you into the workforce. That doesn't sound half-bad in principle, but it soon appears that things are not as nice as they seem at first. That is because the end result of all these "measures" ("Ma├čnahmen" as they are called in Germany) is always the same: The sheltered workshop.

What is this, you may ask if you're unfamiliar with the subject? Well, it is a workshop for the disabled. Basically, you are sent there if you are deemed incapable for a "normal" job and do simple tasks without pressure. Pretty great, huh? You see, the problem is that there is no differentiation. These workshops operate on the principle that every chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so the work is tailored to those who are the furthest gone. For anyone with a shred of sanity left these tasks can only seem utterly banal. There is not a hint of challenge. You are either bored to death or quickly build up a level of frustration that can only develop into aggression, whether you like it or not. I still think it's good such places exist for those who are really that far gone. It gives structure and a sense of purpose to those who cannot get these any other way.

But what about the rest of us? I estimate that 95% or more of all people going in for psychiatric treatment do not fall into the category of "that far gone." I mean, if you are part of these 95% (or more), you don't HAVE TO go to one of these workshops, do you? Personally, there were two things I experienced. First, there was the schizophrenia ward. They wanted me to do that stuff, I did not agree because I had ambitions of my own. Well, tough luck, buddy, because if you don't want to do that, we'll get a warrant to keep you in the clinic. Agree to join the workshop program or we won't let you leave. Am I making this up? Am I exaggerating? Nope, that is what they told me. So, not wanting to be locked up in the clinic for the rest of my life, I agreed to sign up for the workshop gulag. I did manage to weasel myself out of there eventually, but the fact that they threatened to lock me up in the clinic if I didn't agree to join that thing remains.

Then there was the second thing I experienced. Remember how a few paragraphs ago I thought the day clinic was a good thing and considered it helpful. Well, as I said, I had and still have ambitions of my own. I want to go back to school and re-do my top level high school graduation (Abitur in Germany) so I could go to university and study, and I feel well and capable enough to pull this off. So I go to the day clinic's doctor to sign up for a second term, and I told the doctor that my idea was to use the day clinic as a way of preparing for going back to school. Well, pardon me for showing a spark of ambition, because I was quickly told that they can't let me into the day clinic as long as I have such plans. She was however kind enough to let me know that if I changed my mind and agreed to join a sheltered workshop after my stay at the day clinic they could grant me a spot. So I was denied the treatment I needed because I wanted to make my own decisions on how to run my life, but if I decided to let THEM run my life I would mercifully receive the treatment I need.

That's not even as far as they are willing to go. A friend of mine is on social welfare (as am I, at the moment), and the social welfare office told him if he did not agree to have the sheltered workshop recruitment Gestapo run his life, his welfare payments would be cut to zero. Like me, he planned to finish his Abitur, but that's not supported in the Orwellian psychiatrist police state. Can't show a spark of ambition, because if you do, you are overstepping your boundaries as a second class citizen. You can't be trusted to function. You are a liability. We have to protect society from you.

This really is the issue. They are not doing this for your benefit. They claim they do, they only want your best and shit, but really, you're not getting anything out of it instead of being put in a backwater to rot in misery for the rest of your life. They are doing this to remove you from society. They are doing this so nobody has to see you, let alone interact with you. So that nobody has to deal with you. People don't want you around them, because who knows what you might be up to? So they create and maintain a system in which you are shoved to the side and locked up in a little workshop so your poison does not seep into the world of the healthy. It does not matter how intelligent you are, how many crafts you may excel at, what excellent skills you may have to make a valuable contribution to society - as long as you have this illness it is best you do nothing, as long as you do it out of everybody's sight. And if you disagree, well, get used to spending the rest of your life locked up in a clinic or be denied treatment you need or money you cannot live without.

That's the reality of things, my friends, and it will never change as long as our voices are not heard. We may never win our right to be considered valuable members of society, or at least win our dignity, but shouldn't we at least try?

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe that they would actually keep you in the ward. I suffer from depression. I am however, not closed off about it, but tell people and yes I've lost a friend or two but it just means they weren't really my friends. I feel I like I'm banishing that sigma about mental health in some small way and I couldn't give a fuck to people who think that having a mental illness is bad, they are just plain ignorant!

    As for what you say about the therapies, although I have never been to a mental ward, I have been to some of "Lets Talk" things over here, in Britain they aren't all that good, I mean I can sort of see maybe it working, but somehow i don't think it helps sitting in front of a power point presentation with two upper class women trying to say they've been there and thinking that we have all the motivation in the world when we don't! But I guess we are lucky over here to have freedom to choose if we want to go or not and have the NHS which has not yet gone privatized, but sadly it'll probably happen soon.

    oh a happier note, this is very well written and lovely piece of critical writing which is rare to see these days, blunt, honest and to the point! keep it up and I wish you all the very best with your ambitions and bullocks to lose who think that having a mental illness means becoming a zombie and losing the will to dream! All the best Emma :)