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My introduction to the health care system 20 years ago happened when I was a drug addict; my boyfriend knew the distinguished therapist that ran the out-patient rehab at St. Luke's / Roosevelt. From John I learned that the nervous system is a spring, that it will bound from one extreme to another as it seeks equilibrium. That took two sessions, to which he concluded that their program would not be a good fit, as many of their patients live in the projects, and would make me feel uncomfortable. He recommended a one on 5th in the 30's, with several floors of a fancy office tower, as rich as its fees. (I heard years later that John went back to absinthe and lost everything, his position, his wife and his wits, living as a derelict in the Lower East Side.)

On 5th, I nearly gasped when the elevator door opened to the waiting area. Better to call it a lobby, the kind that exist in fancy boutique hotels which endless nooks and crannies have overstuffed antique furniture where the famous can park their privacy as they pause. The magazines were Conde Nast's, current. I studied this program's literature and noted how the majority of the groups centered on sex. What struck the most were the people around that evening, all well-dressed white middle-aged, all angry, though if I was spending such rates to talk about not getting laid, I would be angry, too. The initial evaluation / interview was $400 for two hours, and consisted of filling out a 10 page multiple choice form, going through the answers with the clinician, an appraisal, and questions. The form took 20 minutes, and reviewing it with the therapist was not less than silly. She spoke words in gobble-dee-gook; and the only one's I took away were her grave "Your case is going to be very difficult because your problems go so far into your past. In my experience it will take at least ten years of work to put this behind you. Before we can accept you as a patient you will need to schedule more evaluations with our doctors. Any questions?" To this woman not older than 30, dumbfounded, "Well, yes, since I have time with a professional I can be candid with. What about PCP? I have always wanted to try it." "The paranoia you feel on crack could become permanent if you try PCP." Better this nugget be only $400 than five! The process took an hour-and-a-quarter. F stands for Fraud. I can talk to my friends about not getting laid, for free.

There was an in-patient rehab at the Westchester Psychiatric Hospital, a complex covering many acres. There were two camps to this rehab, one for those who paid to have their own rooms with meals served by staff in a private dining room with crystal and china, also with daily horse rides, and, for us others. The majority of 'us' were young heroin addicts who opted out of jail. These kids seemed normal American, though washed-out and inarticulate, but their stories were alarming, disturbing. So much Death. Why did I have to know these people, their lives? The days were exhausting, filled with unrelentingly stultifying group meetings, ending with an AA led by a happily departing inmate or guest speaker. One therapist had six speeches that he would hand out, and deliver by memory each hour long show verbatim. The food in the cafeteria was adequate enough that the doctors ate there, though we were strictly told we were not to interact within anyone outside of our program. There was never enough time to wander about, though the endless corridors in the never ending heavy stone buildings of the psychiatrists' offices inside, and, outside, the shuttered windows of the dorms of the patients, were marked by the creepiest silence. There must have been birds, but I remember not one. There was a small hall with a Steinway, but it was distressing that when I sat in front of it, I could remember nothing, not even a scale. There was an upsetting and unfair experience with one of the staff that caused me to shut down, to not eat for three days, and they finally told me I could leave, that I was not mandated to stay. I was alarmed when, back at my apartment, I didn't recognize it, my street, my neighborhood, my friends, numbers and letters, music. It took months to relearn so many things, an agony. The medical industry endearingly calls it PAWS, Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, but I am convinced the trauma of a hospitalization and the destructive methods of this AA based rehab zapped my mind. I still have nightmares. informal bridal wedding items With Lace

A dear friend suffering through a terrible family tragedy medicated herself with pills and alcohol. She was fortunate to take a 'vacation,' to visit with her family and friends from long ago, to walk in the gardens, to detox with all of this love and support. How marvelous! and she came back almost good as new.

The last rehab I was placed in was an out-patient at Union Square. It had a sense of optimism and cheer from its Executive Director, an older cowgirl lesbian. Its policies were strict, so the unruly were dropped. Unfortunately, the Director's girlfriend was her partner both in life and business, and it was obligatory to go through several of her lectures a week on 'the diet.' To spend hours scolded by an angry vegan about what we ate in pseudo-science was senseless. It is not amusing to carry one's pee in sanitary cups four times a week. It was not impressive when the Director, not a doctor, forbade the psychiatrist to refill my Ativan. The Director kept the gay groups lively by bringing up sex when things got dull, but did not discourage when things degenerated to a boxing ring. How odd to see grown men revert to pre-school behavior to express their discomforts with others, with themselves. Though reticent, I was conspicuous in jacket-and-tie, but I would politely respond to questions, and my answers baffled. The inevitable pecking began, but I was indifferent, until the Director's topic of the day was "What would make you happy?" The responses were typical, but mine, "I would like to play important concerts in the world's capitals with our greatest musicians," was mocked first by the Director with "Hey, is there anyone here who can help Eduard with some contacts?" A young Hispanic thug working in construction addressed me with "You remind me of actor X in the movie blah where he plays a serial killer." Ciao!

F is for Failure.

Maybe AA is for another day...