tasked

In the next few days – no earlier than wed. dec 12, and no later than friday (i guess), a report and some recommendations will be released from the city for council to consider the following week. it is the result of the meetings held in the last few weeks. it’s been a scramble and that was the easy part. 

the Community Action Team meeting last week would have been to venue for people to ask (as there were many city employees present) who was on the mayor’s advisory panel, or what my role was (as obviously i am not representing an organization or a member of one), since apparently what i do is a distracting concern for some.

during the meeting itself, i was accused by a VANDU member of not doing enough to address drug user labour issues, which is the closest i’ve ever been to punching someone in the face at a city meeting. This is a good indication, though, of the level of general dysfunction as well as the specific tone of the anti-me (in particular) resentment, well over a year after my resignation from the place. 

so now we’ve come to a place where at a meeting of mostly drug users, convened by the mayor of vancouver, we have one person accussing another drug user of not doing enough for drug users, and some people parroting a bunch of nonsense condemning the meeting for even happening and making no difference, while it is happening, and they are in the room.

i don’t know, for example, if anyone took a moment afterward and thought “wait, does the mayor of this city or any other call a meeting of drug users in their first month in office, to consult with them on social policy as it relates to overdose? is that the usual thing?” 

it’s really not. 

perhaps you’ve heard about anti-drug user stigma. the mayor could easily NOT have convened a meeting. or had an emergency task force at all. it would have been easier to just do a bunch of random things, and not associate himself publicly with drug users (as sensibly cautious politicians do).

i don’t find sensibly cautious politicians very interesting or fun to hang out with or helpful in terms of our overall policy goals (particularly the “drug users not dying like this” goal). and it will take a lot of support and help for him, as an independent, to get something bold passed by this council next week.

“it’s the same old people on the advisory,” i heard someone say. again, really, no. there are drug users on it. i am on it, and so i am busy, advising. i don’t represent an organization or agency and i don’t work for anyone (including “the City”). it is not the same old people, and i wouldn’t be on an advisory if i thought that nobody was listening.

actually, what i’d like is for drug user organizations to notice that there is a drug user on the advisory, and when doing so, support my (unpaid) efforts, rather than call for me to be removed. maybe even those organizations could suggest that i should be employed to oversee the implementation of the plans that i have been working on, and paid to do so, like people are. at the very least, if they are interested in their members at all, the leadership of these organizations could facilitate access to accurate information. 

i remember going on about how not listening had everything to do with why all this happened, that there are consequences to silence (in this case, silencing drug users’ warnings about the potential mass casualty event fentanyl could cause), way back in May when, as Kennedy pointed out, we started discussing ideas for ending this at the Ovaltine. 

#20 bus song

What makes the bus go? asked the man I’d been talking to, as he prepared but slowly to get off the bus. What makes the bus go? to mostly bored faces. Electricity, says one guy. No! Does anyone know? We rolled to a stop. The wires, said someone else. No! I’ll tell you. Art makes the bus go. Later, after cornering, the silent man with the coat made of stuffed animals smiles. Others mutter, Crazy. The city rattles by all these facades where lives might be, another man suddenly screams It’s my stop! And we do on a route visible only to him, lost in a daydream and caught unawares that the bus would soon pass into dangerous territory. You’ve got to pay attention: Keep Hands Clear: The city is indifferent – these are bus lines not leylines, traplines, songlines – don’t be so heretical, these don’t mean. For your safety, Please hold on.


2009-11?

Both Sides Now: Reclaiming Treatment

apparently this was published in 2011 in The Network, the newsletter of the West Coast Mental Health Network. who knew. 

Name-Calling

After the dust clears from your first encounter with the apparatus of psychiatry, you’re diagnosed. “Dia” as in (“diameter” or “dialogue”) means “across.” “Gnosis” means “knowledge”. So the psychiatrist is naming you according to his knowledge of you, acquired during a meeting of perhaps five minutes, which likely occurred while you were in a bad way and completely unable to resist such naming.

The big book containing all the names is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), and has been through four editions so far. New, exciting names are expected in the upcoming version. And, by the by, once you are named, it sticks. You’re “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” – and keep in mind that you may get the wrong name; misdiagnosis is common. 

Disorder This

When you’re loaded up with psychoactive pills that knock the energy right out of you, you have lots of time to think. “Treatment” mainly means pills and visits (assuming you’re lucky enough not to be subjected to electroshock). In many ways, both constitute an invasion of the privacy of your own mind. You end up in a struggle for self-preservation, resisting the silence that pervades the world of mental illness, still stigmatized and relegated to the margins.

Then too, psychiatric treatment is generally uniform, taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Regardless of your uniqueness – your glorious difference – you’re reduced to a peg hammered into some pill-shaped hole; which of course does not leave you whole. The integrity and complexity of your personhood – the most important aspects of what makes you, you – is part of what ends up being subsumed under the label of “illness.” But illness/ disorder doesn’t define who you are, and no pill can do that either.

Resistance is Useful

I’m not suggesting that pills are all bad: I take mine, and they help alleviate the debilitating symptoms of serious mental illness. But we must always be careful – they are overprescribed, and their long-term effects (despite the claims of safety and efficiency promulgated by the pharmaceutical industry) are unknown. All of us who receive psychiatric treatment are experimental subjects – or rather, objects. And part of our struggle is to become subjective persons again. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished, including joining with others who have had similar experiences to share knowledge and ideas, and initiate action.

An army of lovers cannot fail, and treatment can be redefined as the way in which we work with each other.


postscript 2018

i was taking my meds at the time, apparently. this was also a time of very disordered and chaotic illicit drug use for me. everything exploded, soon enough, and i wound up in the hospital, “on leave” from gachet, and because drugs, respectable types in the art/mental illness space deleted me from relevant existence. i tried to fight my way back…

i don’t like that last sentence.

An army of lovers cannot fail, it’s said. But this war makes everything a battle. The treatment we get every day can really only be changed by the ways in which we choose to treat each other.

very local media at the end of the drug wars

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