Monday, August 23, 2004

Street Legal Part VIII

At the hearing, each member asked Sally a number of questions. She had to explain herself and defend her position. It seemed to me that as the questions and answers progressed, they were geared to culminate in a bad showing on Sally's part. Some of the time, I felt that she was being railroaded into answering negatively and other times I was afraid they were going to say she was just fine, needed a good dose of tough love and sent on her way. One of the final questions was asked by a psychiatrist, regarding hanging from her toes 5 stories above the ground. Until then, Sally's actions seemed to be regarded as highly self destructive. This doctor said, "By the way, have you had any gymnastics training?" Sally replies, "Tons, I was enrolled in gymnastics every year from the time I was 5 until 16, and I am particularly good on the parallel bars, would you like me to show you some of my best moves?" After we all had a good laugh, she was asked why she did it, her reply was that someone dared her, she needed the money and knew she could do it. She ended with "do you think I'm nuts? I wouldn't do anything on a dare that could kill me, would you?" It was funny at the time, but it did put into perspective that although her behavior was dangerous, it was less dangerous for her than for someone else and at least she was thinking, maybe not well, but still thinking.

The evaluation was that Sally was not psychotic, nor was she normal. She required behavior modification, drug rehab. and a good dose of introspection. It was recommended that Sally check herself into a 6 week program (at the same hospital) with a followup in 3 weeks time. Sally said yes. Both her mother and I were very relieved to hear this because by the time she would be released, it would be fall, and too cold to go back to the streets. Maybe she would go home.

Sally stayed in hospital for 2 weeks. I came to see her everyday during the first week. Sometimes she was in good spirits, others not so good. Most of the time she was like a little child needing her mother. I did what I could to help her, mostly it was just bringing her pretty underwear, a teddy, chocolate and cigarettes. The second week, Sally started acting out aggressively. I saw her twice that week at her request. The week after that, Sally was back in the park. Some of her park friends arrived for a visit and she signed herself out. She was gone.

It was now the end of September, and most of the park kids had gone home, after all, summer fun was over and school was in session once again. We didn't hear from Sally for another 2 weeks, then one day, she phoned and said that she wanted to go home. I purchased a bus ticket for Sally and put her on the next bus for home. I was relieved to see the last of her I confess.

Sally went home, tried to work for a while, but then left again for the coast. She sought out a "commune" and has been living this lifestyle since then. At the commune, each member must be willing to carry their share of responsibility and at the same time, there seems to be a sense of personal freedom associated with that lifestyle. I think Sally found her spot within the commune, at least I hope so. We don't hear too much about Sally anymore. She keeps in touch with her parents from time to time, so I guess no news is good news.

One beautiful fall day, I was in the city on business, and out of curiosity, I thought I would drive over to the park to see if anyone was still hanging out there. I parked and took a look around. All the homeless seemed to have left. There were one or two old fellows lying on the grass, but mostly, the park was just that, a park. I was about to leave when a group of 6 girls arrived. They were wearing the uniforms of a closeby private girls school and had school backpacks loaded with books. One began swearing like a sailor into her cell phone. Now, I've heard colorful language before and used it myself from time to time, but I never heard such verbage as that from the mouth of this "upper class" girl! She, a privileged 16 year old along with her privileged friends had come to the park to buy and sell drugs. She was upbraiding her dealer for being late for their appointment, and if he didn't get his #&%xx!ass over there within 5 minutes she and her friends would be dealing with his rival across the street forever! After that her voice changed and I heard, "Hi mom, yeah, we're in the park hanging out, what are we having for dinner? yeah, I'll be home soon, love you too". I left. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Peace out!

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Comments from last Post

Again, I have to respond to my readers in a post as I have more characters than alloted. I would purchase further capacity if my bloglife was not covert. It is so I can't. Thank you gentle readers for your comments.
Kevin,
Thank you for your comment. I thought the same way before all this happened, but I have found over the years that one can never judge how another reacts to life events. Our life experiences and our personalities (mindsets) dictate our reactions to events in our lives. We all have a breaking point and who knows what it takes to reach that break. Some lucky souls may never experience that point in life. The rest of us, well, who knows how we will react. Peace to you..

Vader, why do some people manage to survive terrible life circumstances and others do not? Why did Frances Farmer self destruct? Why Jim Morrison, why Jimi Hendricks, why Kurt Cobain? why anyone? And why do other survive? Gods grace or personal integrity? Either way, we will never know, just hope we are one of them. Love to you..

Jake, my friend, thank you. All this is now past and eveyone has moved on to new circumstances. Whether or not the circumstances are better depends on each person. Father - new marriage, Mother - still smoking up with young people, Sally - unsettled lifestyle, Brother - hurting but ok so far. xxoo

Jamie, no Sally didn't have chance. I think she did the best she could in an abnormal household. No one was in charge, so the child takes charge. Tried to Link to mental health site but its all messed up. That's what I get for trying to think I am so smart! Love to you and hope your mom is doing well.

Leese, thank you for caring. And thank you for all your support. You are one fine lady. I dare say that you would have done the same in the same circumstances, as would have most of our friends here. Love...

Thanks Esther, yes, all has turned out as well as could be expected. Everyone is still alive and living their lives the way they want. xxoo

Aimee, funny how life is. Yes, it seems that we all follow the path laid out. I have always been a non professional 'caregiver'. It's not a role I would have liked (I always wanted to be a pampered bitch eating chocolates and doing my nails in bed) but there you have it. Everyone is always telling me how "wonderful" I am, but I don't feel that way really. Most of the women I know, you included, do much more than I do. I am always looking for advise and have found it in real life and here in Blogland. I have probably told all of you too much already. One funny thing about me is that most people will sooner or later tell me everything. I wouldn't say I'm a great listener, but I try. Another thing, I forget the details of all this personal information, and that's probably good because then I can't go repeating stuff. Yes, I am strong, but only until my son takes a turn for the worse, then I'm a mess. So far, he is doing well but it's always an up and down existence for him and for us. Thanks for your loving comments. xxoo

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Street Legal Part Vll

Sally was of course in the locked ward, so when I arrived at the hospital, I had to show ID before I was let in. There are quite a few locked wards, women's section, men's section, childrens, general etc. Depending on individual cases and the circumstances of each, a patient is assigned a specific ward. Sally was in the general ward. That meant there were both men and women of all ages except small children residing there. It is very quiet, more so than regular hospital wards. This is deliberate as mentally ill people do much better if there is serenity. I guess we all do in fact. A very sweet nurse took me to Sally's room and cautioned me to not be afraid of what I was to see. Sally was being restrained for her own protection. Nothing on earth will ever rid me of the image. There she was, this tiny 85 lb. girl, wrapped in white sheets but with both wrists tied to the rails. One ankle was also tied to a rail. The other was loose as it was quite chaffed from Sally's struggling against the restraints. She had been given a sedative but was fairly alert. "So much for freedom" says Sally, as ever, the cryptic one. I think that a mothering instinct sets in when you see such vulnerability. I just held her restrained hand and talked about the family. I told her that her mom (D) was coming, and isn't it just the way, even with the worst of mothers, children's eyes light up when they hear that word! MOM. At this point I wasn't very impressed with D's past behavior, but I would learn to be more tolerant.
Sally was ok, she was calm, and began to relax a little after I arrived. I suppose she didn't feel so alone anymore. At least I hope so. I didn't stay long that day, as Sally was being sedated quite heavily and she needed a lot of sleep.
I called D as soon as I returned home. I actually expected to hear that she was on her way to the city. But no, she decided that she really didn't need to come right away. She would arrive in time for the Hearing. Now, to my way of thinking, if it had been my child, I would have been on an airplane the moment I received the call that my child was in trouble. But D decided that Sally was fine in hospital, so she would come and spend a day or two after the hearing. She would go to the park and talk to some of Sally's "friends", walk around the area, and visit with Sally, then return home.
I didn't see Sally the next day, as a Social Worker called and said that Sally had a bad night and needed the day to recouperate. Her night was terrible because her body and mind were reacting to fear of the unknown, as well as all the street drugs she had ingested over time. I arrived for the afternoon hearing on day 3. D was there. Sally was dressed, and looking quite refreshed condsidering all her bruises, cuts and infected mouth piercing.
I had known D for many years, we became friends when Sally's father and D met in University. We weren't close, but I knew her personality well. She was a "Hippy" then and she remained true to her "Hippy"nature. Most "Hippies" grew older, grew up, and moved on, but D remained the same. She was always a very nice "laid back" girl, she still is. The only problem was, and still is , no one told her that smoking cigarettes, reefers and other drugs with your child and her friends was not really a good idea. D's father's philosophy was that he had no right to impose his will on anyone even if he disagreed with their actions. So in essence he disagreed with D's smoking dope with his child, but hey, if that was her decision what could he do? Sally asked me to take notes at the hearing so that she would have information if anything went wrong.
Seated at a boardroom table were about 10 people including Sally who was given a seat in the middle of one side. Her assigned psychiatrist flanked her on one side and her social worker on the other. The others in the room were various doctors, and a citizens advocate from where I am not sure anymore. D and I were given seats behind all of these people. As Sally was over 16 she had to speak for herself. A parent has no input unless asked specific questions from either their child or a member of the Board. I was there for moral support for both D and Sally. I'm afraid I needed it as well. It was quite intimidating at the time. However, Sally did extremely well, being an articulate and gifted girl. I was afraid D was going to pass out a couple of times though. Fear, no cigarettes or dope and no alcholol for three hours can be taxing indeed! By the time the hearing was complete, I needed a drink too!
Final installment to follow.

Link

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Street Legal Part VI

Aside:
I have started this last episode about 5 times and deleted everything I've written. It just doesn't sound right. I am trying to make sense of what happened next, correctly remember all that transpired and wondering what to include and what to leave out. Many of the comments I received praised me for my part in this story, and I thank everyone very much. However, I think when called upon, most people would step in and attempt to do what they could in the same circumstances. I have not tried to make myself a hero, I just want to write about the facts as they transpired. I don't even know if there is a moral to this story. Maybe it is just an episode in my journey through life and it is I who must learn from it rather than Sally. I hope I have. I will try to start again and if some facts are not exactly correct, I apologize to you my readers, Sally and her parents.

The Social Worker who contacted me on the morning after my last visit to the park, said that Sally was taken to the hospital and placed under a 72 hour assessment period. That meant for 3 days she would be stabilized, and her general mental and physical health would be evaluated. A staff meeting would then be held and a decision would be made whether or not Sally would be discharged, allowed to stay voluntarily for 6 weeks of therapy or be assessed as dangerous to herself and/or others and further action would be taken.
Sally had given them my name as the person to call. She wanted me to be at her Hearing in 3 days time and she gave her permission for me to come to the hospital to see her. I don't remember if I was called first or Sally's parents. I hope they were called first, I know that I called her mother immediately. I don't remember if they already knew of Sally's predicament or not. Sally's mother said she was making arrangements to come to the city as soon as possible.
I went to see Sally that morning. I was not really looking forward to this as I had been through the mental health system with my son, and going to this hospital to support another patient was not easy. I did not want the responsibility. It is one thing if your own child is in trouble. Then as a parent you will fight, scream, do anything to get the help they need. You have that control. Someone else's child is another matter altogether. However, I learned some valuable life lessons when trying to advocate for "someone else's" child. I am going to state those lessons here before I forget or loose sight of them.
1. Never judge how other parents react to high degrees of anxiety regarding their children.
2. Advocating for someone who is not your immediate family but is very important to you can result in rational and sound decision making. I don't know if this holds true if you are advocating for someone with whom you have no strong emotional attachment. I hope that it does.
3. The "system" at least as I know it in the western world, is there to support its citizens as humanly as possible.
4. A person in distress will be better served by the system if they are fortunate enough to have someone who will never let go of them. I learned this lesson when my son was so very ill, and it was the same with Sally. I believe the same holds true for all people including wayward children, street people, everybody.
5. This is a very difficult concept to live by.
6. Am I my brother's keeper. (Gen. ch.4 v.9) Yes, I am. If we as humans do not look out for each other, celebrate the good in each other and reject the bad (very important), we cannot flourish.
7. This also is a very difficult concept to live by.

This is all for now, I must go and do a work out now and calm myself down a bit. Peace Out!

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Comments Fom Last Post

I reeceived some very interesting comments from my last post. (Street Legal Part V). I tried to reply to them but I was not allowed to do so because the comments would have reached over 1000 characters and I will need to upgrade. So I will post my comments here. If anyone else wants to comment please do. This is a topic that may bring insight into a serious societal problem. Thanks.

Jake the Lad stated that we are often frivolous in our treatment of others. I think that is what you meant Jake?

Jake, I believe that our laws are frivolous in allowing people to live on the street. My feeling is that we should be tougher but society does not allow us to force our wills on others. I guess that is our right as individuals - to be frivolous with our lives if we so wish.

Todd V stated that we should not allow our loved ones to live on the street. Very interesting comment.

Todd V, just how do you get someone off the street when they are of age (over 15) and will not go with you or listen to reason? Do you kidnap them and then take them to an institution to deprogram then? What do you do when they run from the institution and go back to the steeet? These are the questions and dilemmas parents whose children are on the street have to deal with all the time. The law does not allow us to kidnap people. If kids are 14 or under the police can pick them up. Other than that, there is nothing we can do. Even being a good parent doesn't always work with some kids. They just don't behave in the ways we expect. Also, no one is coddled on the street Todd V, not aunts trying to help, not kids crying in the park because someone beat them up, no one. It is a very selfish and cruel place. Unfortunately, by the time this lesson is learned by some kids, it is too late. If anyone is coddled it's the street people. Society gives them food, sleeping bags, free clinics, free needle exchanges, clothes, shelter and chances to get off the street. Why don't they? Maybe we give them too much. I don't know. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you will keep reading my posts as I do yours.

Kevin, what you say is true. All we can do is assure our loved ones that we will help when they are ready to accept it, and of course follow through if they ask for help. Very complicated problems. Thank you for your insight you really said it all.

Esther related a story of concerning what can happen when we try to help.
Esther, these terrible situations with kids happen all over the world. We all try to help but often it ends in disaster. There just doesn't seem to be any way to adequately address this problem.

On my next post, I will conclude my story about Sally and what happened to her after she was brought to the hospital and where she is today.Thank you everyone

Link

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Friday, August 13, 2004

Street Legal Part V

I've written about our niece Sally and her forays into the underbelly of society. I will continue with her story. It was now apparent to us that Sally was truly living on the streets. That meant sleeping in parks, lying around on the sidewalks and panhandling. There was little we could do for her other than keep in touch and hope she would decide to go home soon. Sally called me about once a week. Our conversations consisted of: "Aunt Maddy?" "Hi Sally how are you?" silence. "What's wrong Sally?" silence. "Are you hurt" "Yes". "Are you alright now ?" "No". "Do you want me to come down?" "Yes". "Do you want me to come down right now?" "Yes."
I would then drop whatever I was doing and drive downtown. It would take me about 40 minutes to get to Sally's home park. Each visit would be similar. I would bring something Sally needed, such as antibiotic ointment, bandaids, chocolate bars, toothpaste, new socks, underwear.
Sally's home was a little parkette in the Soho District of our city. As I described in a previous post, this area was inundated with panhandllers and other street people. You could barely walk by without being accosted for money. Sally fit right in. I would park my car in an alley beside the parkette and just ask anyone around if they had seen Sally. Someone would get up and wander down the street. In a few minutes, Sally would show up and we would drive to a resturant away from the area. (Sally's choice). I suppose she wanted to get away if for only just an hour. This weekly visit became a ritual. The park kids were soon calling me "Aunt Maddy". As soon as they would see my car, one would go look for Sally. They always found her for me.
Invariably, Sally would have a new physical injury. The first week, it was a shoulder blade that was twisted. Her explanation was that she jumped on some guy's back to protect her "friend". Another week is was an infected nose ring, and another was an ulcerated wound on her leg. This explanation was falling off a bike. All these injuries were treated at a free clinic in the area, but living on the dirty street did not aid healing, so Sally was always suffering.
I believe Sally called me becasue she needed mothering. I tried not to be judgemental but I think she often wanted to hear that I disapproved of her lifestyle as it was not a good for her, but cared for her anyway. Unfortunately, her own mother was not a "mothering" kind of woman so at the time I guess I filled that role.
Each week I went to see Sally, she was thinner and more ragged looking. Even though a larger park a block away had outdoor showers available for public use, the grime, grit and dirt clung to everything and no amount of showers could keep anyone clean while living on the street . Also, I think that even with the showers available, many homeless don't use them too often because they don't have soap, towels, clean clothes and mostly they lack the will to feel good about themselves.
Sally was deteriorating daily, but we couldn't do anything to help. I spoke to the police who were always around keeping an eye on the park, and was told that the law stated that unless she became a danger to herself or others, we could do nothing. They said that the best I could do was to continue visiting the parkette and to continue watching out for her. I became "Aunt Maddy" to the police as well as the street kids in the parkette.
I could never could fathom why seemingly bright, healthy and good young people opted to live this life. Certainly there were mentally ill people, and runaway abused kids, but the majority were just average kids from suburbs and small towns. Most were rebelling against parental rules and planned to go back home to school in the fall. Some made it home and some did not.
Street life is very intersting on many levels. It's a family, it's a tribe and it's a culture. It is a haven for the homeless, but it is also a nightmare. Those who leave home because they reject parental authority, quickly find that the street has an authority far darker than parental restrictions could ever be. A runaway who experienced abuse at home, would find the same treatment on the street. The mentally ill, have the worst experiences on the street. They are the least protected and they are prey for every kind of cruelty. Women on the street, like the mentally ill, are also prey for every kind of degradation. Our society allows all this misery in the name of individual freedom.
One day I decided to just go down to the park and try to discover what was really happening to Sally. Since I was known to the "family" of homeless in that area, I was hoping they would talk to me. They did.
I parked my car in the alley and sat down on the grass beside a group of girls. If they hadn't known me, they would never have allowed me to "invade their space". The homeless are very protective of their individual space. We talked a little about the weather etc. I then asked them to tell me about Sally. Sally, as it turned out, despite her tiny size, became belligerant and combative when she was high. She would fight with anyone including the biggest guys around. All those injuries were now explained. She was just trying to hold her own in a primative world where the strong survived. I was told that if she didn't get out of this lifestyle very soon, she would die. I believed them. I knew that she had been beaten, and raped, I just don't know how many times. I asked the girls to tell Sally I had been by and that she should call me as soon as possible. Sally didn't call me, but a social worker with our major mental health facility called me the next morning. Sally was alive and had been admitted under the 72 hour assessment policy. One of the homeowners whose townhouse overlooks the park called the police. At 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Sally was hanging by her feet, face down 5 stories above the ground. She was finally a danger to herself.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Monday, August 02, 2004

Not Enough Time to Live

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who has been wondering where I have been. It is really nice to know that I was missed, even if just a little bit. There doesn't seem to be enough time to do anything anymore. No, I'm not depressed, maybe a little. For a while, I was thinking that maybe I should quit blogging, but it's not so easy to do. I just didn't have the energy to post, but I did continue reading everyone's blogs when I could. What I found was that as we get to know each other better and better, personal truths come out over the network that we did not ever expect to reveal. I found that we all worry about each other and try to be supportive in difficult times. We even get into fights just like "real" friends and we make up just like "real" friends do. I guess we are real friends. I think it was AJ who mentioned that sometimes what you plan to post turns into something else entirely. Funny how that happens. I know that has happened to all of us at some point. It just happened to me. I was planning to write about our trip to California and it turned into a personal lament. I will write about California because it was a beautiful trip and a beautiful place, even though my marriage almost disintegrated in Pebble Beach. It's been disintegrating for quite some time now. I wonder if it will continue or will we be able to stop the bleeding. It's strange how every relationship is different even though we all have the same expectations. What one person will put up with, another cannot. I have been married for 34 years. We married as kids in college and weathered everything together. Ours was a normal marriage, We had a lot of fun in our 20's. It didn't even feel like we were married, just 2 kids living together with no money and little worldly goods. It's true, you can live on love, but just for a while. Then as is normal, we matured together and worked hard to build a life. We moved to the city and began building our careers and we still had fun. Next came kids with many years of great times and the usual troubles with little ones. Looking back, I think we lived a charmed life. If I could have known what was to happen, I would have..but no, what would I have done? Thank God I didn't know. We should have known it wouldn't last. Everything went downhill when our son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. We weathered so much together, but this we couldn't weather. When catastrophe happened in our life, the world we knew suddenly turned upside down. Nothing was the same anymore. The fallout was that a marriage made of steel, suddenly snapped. Never to be the same again. Funny how life goes. Thank you for your gentle thoughts.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home