Thursday, August 11, 2011

Insight to Psych

Psychiatric refers to mental illness. Like the body, the mind gets sick. Actually, our health, mind and body, sits statically on a spectrum. Our bodies are assembled, built-up, fortified, remodeled, and broken down. Dust to dust. By 90, almost %50 of people will have some sort of dementia. Which makes me wonder, what are my chances? But over the last six weeks I've come to learn, it's not about chances. We get sick because we are human. And our minds get sick like our bodies. You can count on it.

The difference between having a down day and two straight weeks of down days might not seems like much, but it's enough to tag you with Major Depressive Disorder. The difference between you checking your locked door three straight times versus 30 straight times is the difference between "normal" and OCD. And the only thing keeping a drunkard on the streets from being petitioned into a psych unit is the fact that there's no loved one willing to sign the paper to get him forced treatment.

Those patients in psych units are not far removed from us on the outside. Yesterday they went to work. Tomorrow they'll go back. They are our co-workers. Our neighbors on the bus. They are not different. They have the same mind, the same neuro-chemical pathways susceptible to imbalances, and the same responses to medication.

But they are inpatient because they or a loved one thought they were more sick in mind than the rest of us. It's amazing to see the anti psychotics or mood stabilizers restore an individual back to coherence, back to the ability to carry out activities of daily living. Olanzapine works on the mind no different than hydrochlorothiazide on blood pressure. There is a physical receptor the medicines affect. It's not just theory to me anymore because I've witnessed it work.

It's strange to see fourteen people in a living unit on lock-down. We have them diagnosed and packaged. We feed. Me medicate. We often condescend. But if you sit and talk, you'll hear something familiar, and before long you'll be saying to yourself, "I think that way," or "I've done that." I just haven't thought or acted in such a way to be a threat to myself or others. But being idealistic, I believe ever threatening thought or action is actually a calling out for help. Whether conscious or not, it's a calling out for help. Why else are we here? And not being a humanist, I think we all cry out, looking up. Ride on!

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