"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tagging dilution

There's always a game of Tag going on in the blogosphere and I'm usually the one that says, "Not on my watch, bucko!" and then I badmouth whoever tagged me. And then I usually do what the tag says, but I don't pass it on.

The latest one has people saying what one thing from their past they would change. Well, if people were as attuned to autism-spectrum disorders 40 years ago as they are today, my life would've been a whole lot more comfortable, but that's not what I think was meant - the question is really more about regret: what did you do (or neglect to do) that you wish you could change?

That's a tough one. If you have no regrets in life, you either never did much or you're a sociopath. I'm reminded of a man imprisoned for murder who said, "What if your whole life was just about the worst thing you ever did, some snap decision you made when you were a kid?" Well, you don't have to commit murder for that to be true...

Locked Wards

The first one was rather nice. I could visit you whenever I wanted to and the only sign it wasn't a standard rehab was that I had to punch in the access code to get on the elevator. You thought it was funny that I didn't realize the plants were fake. Your roommate recognized me whenever I came and would leave to give us privacy and I remember that we could've locked the door from the inside, had we wanted to. Many of the residents had come to live in their bathrobes, but you made sure you didn't get that comfortable. You could go onto the balcony of the communal room for fresh air; the plants there were real and they were set up to keep you from getting too close to the railing. As long as I checked you out at the nurse's station, we could leave the grounds whenever the mood struck.

The second one was a natural progression. You had to go through the first one to get there and this time one needed a key, so I had to have someone on staff let me in. You had a room to yourself there, not that it mattered, as there was no door, so you could always be seen from the nurse's station. The furniture was bolted in place. I remember you were able to tune out your neighbor's constant screaming and banging on the walls and could even sleep through it. It was much harder to get you out of that ward; I made up a lot of visits to specialists to get you out of the building.

Then, that one time out, you assaulted someone. That led to the third one. It was a legal, not a medical decision that put you there. It was a long trip for me and I could only come briefly at inconvenient times. I'd walk past the barracks where the 20 of you slept on the second floor, where the only window was so the guard could see in, to the "great room," where we could visit. The floors had that overly shiny lacquered finish that made me think of old elementary schools. There were a lot of windows in that room, making it much nicer than I expected, with a lot of heavy dark wood furniture. I had to bring you new shoes, as you weren't allowed shoelaces. You would've done anything to get out of there, but you weren't strong enough to get into much trouble by then and you rebelled by refusing to eat or take your medication.

That led to the fourth room, where you were strapped to a gurney and given nutrition and medications intravenously. That was on the first floor, past the guards, past the nurse's office, past the storerooms and other facilities. The walls were painted with that pea green that was everywhere in government buildings in the 1930's. There was nothing in that room but the table and a light and there were two locked doors to go through, one requiring being buzzed in remotely. End of the line.

The fifth room wasn't locked. It didn't need to be. You never saw it, as you never regained consciousness. It was there that I finally met your parents and they blamed me for what had happened. And they were right. I had decided that it was more important for you to be happy than to be healthy and it wasn't my decision to make and you ended up not being healthy or happy.

30 years later and I'm still dealing with that mistake.


wildknits said...

Wow - that is a heavy thing to carry around.

One of the hardest things to do is to respect someone's autonomy and right to make decisions for themselves. It becomes harder when we:
- don't believe that what they are doing is right
- know, or think we know, that they are not thinking clearly enough to come to a fully considered decision.

Often severe mental illness so warps a persons thinking that it is hard to truly make an informed decision. Add to that the horrible side effects of psychotropic drugs(especially 30 years ago) and it becomes easier to understand why someone may refuse to use them. Or feel better enough once on a stable dose to decide to go off.

When you love someone you want to support them in their decision making and see them happy. This often brings us into direct conflict with what might be best in the long run.

It is agonizing for all involved.

And leaves the survivors always wondering if choosing a different path would have changed the ultimate outcome.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

This is vague, but even in that it is telling, because the vagueness prevents us from knowing the circumstances that would allow us to say with some sort of basis in fact that what happened wasn't your fault.

Which itself leads me to believe it wasn't your fault, but you don't want to hear that or you wouldn't have been vague about what exactly it is you allegedly did that made this your fault.

And so it is hard to know how to react to this except to say I am deeply sorry for your loss and the fact that you are still dealing with it even now means you are a person of deep empathy and feeling and I am always happy when I see that there are people like that around and even happier when I feel comfortable enough to say, perhaps presumptuously, that one of them is my friend.

SteveQ said...

Presume away, G.

One reason for being vague is simply having SOME privacy, another is that there's no time limit on manslaughter charges and, well, you never know...

RBR said...

30 years ago you were a kid. If I continued to judge myself by decisions and actions I made at 18 I would barely have the wherewithal to lift the razor blade.

And you know as well as I do that nothing you could have done would have prevented it forever.

Be nice to you.

That is an order, not a request.

SteveQ said...

RBR: That's sort of my point. The crap we did as kids tends to stick with us forever, like it or not.