ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Two Topics This Week

Jack Bragen
Saturday April 11, 2015 - 03:06:00 PM

Nineteen Years

April Fool's Day marks the nineteenth year since my last hospitalization.

I recall that when I was in the psych ward upon being 5150'd, I was reinstated on medication, but at too low a dosage. (I initially refused medication, and a Reese Hearing was done in which a judge ordered me to take medication.) It was a level of medication that barely stabilized me enough to function out of the hospital, and the dosage was soon raised.

I had been 5150'd at a church in Pleasant Hill--I had walked there from where I lived in downtown Martinez. I had been seen wandering around the streets of Martinez in a delusional state.

That last episode, although not much different of an experience than the previous one of six years before, had more long-term bad effects. It was a struggle of a number of months before I could get my mind freed of a bad case of psychosis. Even after that, and even to this day, I find things are more difficult than they were. Many of my symptoms affect types of functioning that ninety-nine percent of people probably never question. For example, I have acquired a case of agoraphobia.

I owe my lack of relapses since that time to having made an irrevocable commitment to compliance with treatment. 

I also get a lot of help from my wife, who is my soulmate and who is not afraid to criticize me if I am doing something wrong. She is the first one who didn't scram when the path was a bit rocky. She is the primary person who helps me "reality check"--she doesn't suffer from delusions. If I get paranoid, she is the first one to point to that. 

We became engaged in 1996 on the same day that I was released from the psych ward. Under normal circumstances and in a state of mind that I would consider normal for me, I would never have had the guts to become engaged. A friend loaned me ten bucks, and I bought a cubic zirconia engagement ring. 

I continued to be delusional for months afterward, but knew that Joanna was (and is) the right person for me to be with. 

Once clear of most of the delusions, I was on my way to creating a mind that is better than it was intellectually and in terms of realism. I spent hours every day thinking, meditating and journaling. 

I discovered tools of thought that eventually led to becoming a better writer. I created cognitive tools that today allow me to dismiss delusions soon after they occur, that allow me to understand myself better, and that allow me to correct some of my bad habits. It seems like a type of attainment, in the Buddhist sense of the word. However, I continue to have other problems. 

Crashed Germanwings 9525: What is the Lesson?

In general, I feel very strongly that mentally ill people ought not be discriminated against in employment. Persons with mental illness potentially have a lot to contribute. In fact, at least one mentally ill individual has served as a member of Congress. Patrick Kennedy is bipolar and is a former U.S. Representative. There is no reason why a mentally ill person should not be in public office. (A mentally ill President, I am not so sure. We wouldn't want the Commander-In-Chief to have symptoms of mental illness that could affect judgment.) 

An airline pilot is directly responsible for the lives of hundreds of people if not more. In the name of equality, it isn't necessary for mentally ill people to be allowed to pilot passenger jets, or any type of aircraft. 

The copilot of the crashed plane apparently committed suicide and homicide in a manner that I would describe as criminal. If he did intentionally crash the plane as is thought to be the case, mental illness is not a good enough excuse for obliterating hundreds of lives. 

Most people who have attempted suicide have done so because it seemed that life was unbearable. Severe depression is nothing to sneeze at; it is a severe illness, and it can be incredibly painful. The individual isn't ordinarily blamable for their actions. 

But the man who crashed the Germanwings jet, Andreas Lubitz, apparently was out for revenge and wanted to do as much harm as he could. 

When I had suicidal thoughts a couple of times in my past, my awareness that I have family who care about me prevented me from acting on these thoughts. Suicide harms other people. 

Perhaps Germany doesn't have the same level of screening that pilots probably undergo in the U.S. Mentally ill people should not be pilots, and also should not be permitted to own firearms. This is a no-brainer