My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Friday, January 18, 2013

How Mental Illness Became the Boogeyman-Part 1

Buried deep within the discourse on gun violence and gun control is a much more insidious mechanism of control that is being injected into the mass consciousness. It is presented with the same fear inducing 'professional' research and statistical slight if hand that drives a vulnerable population to the brink of becoming a torch wielding angry mob of outraged citizenry feverishly targeting the scapegoat du jour in an attempt to preserve safety and freedom for all. Even more frightening is that the engineers of this design for social control are making enormous profits by offering the magic bullet that will keep us all safe from this threat to modern society and safety.

See it is not the guns that are the problem, we are now being told, but rather it is the Mentally Ill individuals who misuse this great and glorious symbol of freedom and liberty. These crazy people are ruining the second amendment for all the rest of us. How dare they? Obviously we as a nation would be just peachy keen with our semi automatic weapons, if only these mentally deranged people would just take their meds or better yet just go away somewhere and leave us alone to play target practice or hunt bears or whatever fun and freedom loving activities it is that people do with military style weaponry.

Of course no one in their right mind would argue that someone who is delusional, psychotic and completely out of touch with reality should be given any weapon of any kind. That would be dangerous. Never mind the fact that people with these diagnoses are far more likely to harm themselves than others. But then again there are some people who do not meet the diagnostic criteria, people who mesh quite well within the fabric of 'normal' society who are also potentially quite dangerous. The difference being these people are not dissociated from reality, in fact many of them are quite masterful at manipulating reality in such a way that they appear to be responsible and likable folks.They know enough to hide their prejudices and hatred so as not to appear to be a threat to the safety of society. Many of them probably belong to the NRA. Or Congress. Either way it is unlikely that these people have sought out mental health counseling or have been subjected to involuntary psychological screening, we may never know, right?

The language that is being used to describe the kind of people who should be prohibited from owning weapons is disturbingly vague. The exact type and level of screening, who would administer said screening and the criteria for disqualification of gun ownership seems to be one of those minor details that congress will get around to ironing out at a later date. Or maybe it was ironed out but the state department spokespeople and the media have just decided that those details weren't newsworthy. It was mentioned however that there will be recommendations to reform the standards of client therapist privacy and HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations that will encourage mental health care providers to report incidences or situations where safety may be a concern. But again, the specific criteria the factors that are to be considered when determining if a client is potentially dangerous, or simply not ok to own a weapon, are absent from any report or public statement as far as I can tell. (Please if anyone has found specifics do forward them to me and anyone else who has expressed concern about this.) I have some very serious concerns about this, not because I am a huge fan of guns (I'm not) but I also believe that we need to protect our rights and until otherwise stated, we as US citizens to have the right to keep and bear arms. More than that I am concerned that those rights be equal and accessible to all citizens.

Those of you are familiar with the Wacky World of Mental Health Practice may see where I am going with this. Thanks to managed health care systems and insurance company regulations, anyone who is seeking mental health treatment must be given a diagnosis. Anyone. So if I am stressed about my employment situation for example, as many people in today's economy are and rightly so, I will most likely be labeled as having anxiety or perhaps mild depression, or an adjustment disorder. These labels pathologize the beliefs and emotions which within context, are actually a pretty normal reactions to a stressful environment. Furthermore taken out of context and interpreted by someone who is unfamiliar with the definitions and criteria of the DSM-IV I may look like an unstable tinderbox of irrational emotion, read to explode at any given minute. Will this alone be sufficient 'evidence' to deny me a handgun permit?

Of even more grave concern is the example of survivors of domestic or sexual violence. Many of us would meet the standards to qualify for labels like "depression", "anxiety disorder" of even PTSD. Again, if we are being actively threatened by an abuser is our response pathological or is it a typical reaction to a potential danger? Will the determination of such diagnoses prohibit us from owning a weapon with which to protect ourselves and our loved ones from an abuser? The most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is immediately after leaving the abuser. It is also the time when most victims seek out support and counseling and are therefore most likely to be hit with a diagnosis.

Again I do want to restate my personal belief that there are many other ways to defend ones self, and most of them are less likely to be taken from us and used against us; but I would not deny a survivor the right to have a weapon if that's what they feel they need to be safe and they are properly trained to use the weapon in a way that is responsible. The question is will the people making the decisions to grant permits do the same?

The next, and final concern I will address is the danger of painting "the Mentally Ill" with a broad brush, throwing us all into some category of unpredictable, potentially dangerous criminals. The DSM-IV regardless of what you or I believe about its validity or appropriateness is the Bible of diagnosis. It is the mental health providers most commonly used tool. It contains thousands of diagnoses and several categories of disorders. Pretty much any single human being could be given a diagnosis using this tool. It is designed that way on purpose Remember the thing about needing a diagnosis to get any kind of counseling? The vast majority of diagnosis describe relatively harmless and very common behaviors. But does the average American realize this? Do they even care? And even those who do know better can easily manipulate the information provided in a clients case summary to paint a very different picture than was originally intended. Don't think for a minute that it doesn't happen on a regular basis. And worse yet, now that the media has created a heavy fog of fear and sensationalism around the "Mentally Ill", I for one am bracing myself for a whole new attack on personal freedom and civil liberties. I really hope I'm wrong, but don't say I didn't warn you.

For more information om the DSM-IV:

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Little Talk With Myself

I was looking through Pintrest at some craft rooms just to get some ideas. I was struck with the beauty and efficiency of the spaces that various crafty people have designed and organized as their workspace.
I was also struck with something else, something that I thought I had left behind in one of the several therapy sessions I've been through. Envy. And Envy rarely shows up with out her good friend Self Defeat. There they were suddenly, unwelcome, whispering in my ear. "Why can't you do that? you know why? Cause you are not an organized person. You never follow through on anything. Oh and even if you did, you can't afford a nice antique shelving unit like that. Where are you going to get the money for all that stuff." an so on and so forth.
Seriously I can imagine them like the creepy twins from The Shining. Staring at me with blank, no mocking, eyes telling me what I can't do. Fortunately for me I have learned how to fight back against the bullying that happens in my own mind. I realize that these mean little girls are simply ghosts of an unhappy child who didn't always have the fashionable clothes and the newest fad item that all the other kids had in school. They felt worthless because of it, but only because they were little girls and they didn't know any better. Like most misbehaving children they were really hurting inside and just needed someone to set boundaries and to let them know that they are loved.
So the Adult Jenny did just that. Yes I have conversations with myself, it's therapeutic.
And if you don't believe me just ask that sassy little girl in the corner.

Image retrieved from
© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard

Monday, January 14, 2013

Your Words of Wisdom

Words of wisdom are recorded and passed on through generations for a good reason. They are well, wisdom. They are messages from those who have have drawn conclusions about matters that concern us a human beings through experience and observation . Some people have an artists way with words and they are blessed with the ability to string them together in such a way that powerful messages are encapsulated in a quick phrase or one liner. I admire people who have this gift. I have been known to come up a few brilliant quips myself on a lucky day when my brain is sharp or maybe on those occasions my consciousness is just a little more open, providing a clear channel for what one might call my higher self or oversoul. I'm not alone in this. I think every single human being has at one point or another been gifted with one of those moments of brilliance where Truth suddenly takes form in one's mind and the words of wisdom flow effortlessly as if released by the opening of a dam. Not everyone thinks to take note of these rare moments, not everyone carries s notebook and pen just in case they are suddenly struck with the Enlightened Moment. And more frequently people don't always believe that what they have to say is all that important. Which is sad because they may often be mistaken.
The individuals whose words are recorded and preserved for future generations are typically those who, for whatever reason, people are listening to already. Their mastery of language or some other art form is probably what got them their place in the spotlight to begin with. Great philosophers, spiritual leaders, writers and poets and sometimes those who are famous for other reasons are the ones who are most likely to have their words captured and preserved like rare and valuable objects.  Due to the mystique of  fame and the idol worship that accompanies it there are some cherished quotes that aren't really even all that brilliant, or witty or even original and yet they endure because of their association with the source. On the other hand there are indeed some words that so completely encapsulate the human condition and universal experience that they strike a chord deep within. These are the words of wisdom that  resonate so clearly us that we feel a bond with the person who crafted the phrase, even if the words were spoken centuries earlier. These words, phrases, poems, lyrics, whatever form they take are cultural gems that are worth remembering and repeating. But anything worth repeating is also most effective if measured and used sparingly within context and with care. They deserve to be treated with respect and tenderness that one would afford to any other work of art.
Another problem with the easy reach of a clever quote is the temptation to use another's words, even if appropriate to the situation, to create a surrogate interaction. When we look outside ourselves and our own hearts and minds we rob ourselves of the opportunity to create something original. When we don't formulate our own answers we shut off the part of our brain that is essential to critical thought. We sell ourselves short by not drawing on experience and lessons we have learned to share that story that is unique to us as individuals with individual life experience. The loss then is not exclusively our own for we also deny others the gift we have that may enrich their lives as well.
Each one of us has a history, a tapestry of events that is assembled using the pattern of our unique perception. For the most part we are not taught this simple concept, but instead turn to "experts" for advice and inspiration. But we all have stories, we all have had experiences that have pushed us to our limit and have taught us precious lessons. We all have Words of Wisdom within. They have come to us through our struggles, mistakes, joys and triumphs.  I will leave you with this thought; who other than you is the author of your life? And who better than you can tell the tale?

© 2010-2013 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard