One of my many careers was working at a center for chronically mentally ill adults for several years. I held different positions from treatment plan coordinator to processing Medicaid to social and residential program aide.
Deinstitutionalization happened. That meant that the state mental institutions were mostly emptied. Sick people were expected to be integrated into these community centers, given guidance by mostly non professionals like me, kept on their meds, stablized, socialized, taught daily living skills and work skills. The hope was that many would be absorbed into the greater community as happy, productive humans.
There were some successes but for the most part, it didn’t work.
I got plenty of training by the professionals. Then as now, they debated the cause of mental illness. No one knew for sure. But at least, they had rejected shock therapy.
When I say “mental illness” I am talking about the whole gamut from personality disorders to psychopathy. Our center served people suffering from one of the schizophrenias to personality disorders.
Only one person, a young male in his 20s, was diagnosed with a psychosis. He was taken on as an “experiment.” When his sickness flared out of control and it took five adult males to restrain him, the experiment was shelved.
My first week, I took an elderly client to the emergency room. She was in her 70s, a lovely woman from New Orleans, who was hemorrhaging from intercourse. I was so shaken by the experience that I never asked her whether the sex was consensual. She never said.
A few months into the job and one of my favorite clients tried to kill himself by overdosing. I recall visiting him in the hospital, staring at the hugeness of his sleeping body, at the waste of youth, and that’s when I began to steel myself.
There were more attempts by others. There were suicides. I saw two clients in my writing group disintegrate after years of high functioning behavior. I was attacked by another for getting in her personal space at a huge gathering. I prepared a treatment plan for a woman that was in my high school graduating class. I listened impassively as she laid out her steps to become president of the United States. She took her life years later. I saw sweet men do the Thorazine shuffle, knew they’d likely remain virgins, saw them struggle with the many side effects of those drugs. I watched as the local police manhandled a female who’d been Baker Act’d for suicidal and homicidal ideations.
I finally had to leave. It wasn’t that Medicaid pulled our funding and I didn’t relish reassignment. I needed out. No amount of green light or healing auras or meditation or steeling my core could stop the pain of it all.
I learned something really important during those years. Craziness is contagious.
Point of fact: the presenter of one of the many workshops I attended postulated just this: that mental illness is infectious just as the flu or STDs or other physical ailments can be passed from person to person.
That sounded crazy when I first heard it. My colleagues and I laughed about the idea. I shrink from saying it now.
But – this is the buried lede – I believe it could be true.
For two months, I was banished from Twitter (I still am; I just snuck in). For 60 days, I was removed from the memes and gifs, the snarkiness and rare satire. Loud voices and aggressive arguments were not a part of my universe. I was not fervantly enmeshed in this side or that side.
I’ve returned and… Twitter is fucking crazy.
I’m trying hard to find all my old friends, to find sensibility, subtlety, facts, passion for an achievable cause.
I find a bunch of clueless loudmouths posing as authorities.
Each time that I leave and then return, I’m more aware of the loudmouths. The arrogance decibel is at a high pitch.
I see something else. Repetition. The same old tired stream of brouhaha regurgited ad nauseum. Who gives a flying fuck?, is often my reaction. Who cares about your ten-point rationale for immediate impeachment?
Guess what? Lots of people think these fart blossom arguments smell divine.
Cut to a quote:
That millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.
Erich Fromm, The Sane Society
My point is that I’ve been here before.
I said a few days ago that Twitter has reached the point of diminishing returns.
It’s hysterical nonsense.
It’s crazy talk.
Take a break people. Talk to real flesh and blood sentient beings. Laugh. Enjoy yourself. Ponder a single subject. Get your wits about you. Then plunge into the crazy town that is Twitter. But make sure you exit, often. Don’t be sucked into the vortex of Crazy Town.