A shocking true story

Dr Romesh Senewiratne


Contents: The Tale I Tell Francesca 6 7 5

First Night in Meduna Ward First Escape 8 9 11

Heading for Parliament Return to Royal Park Day Three 12 13 17

Second Escape

By Bus to Brisbane The Private Professor Digger Eddie 22 24


Heart To Heart With My Father

26 30

Trying to Stay Away From Prince Charles Liberty Theo Billy Faith 36 38 39 40 35

Asking the Private Professor for Help Big Pete The Farmer Rufus James Deva Jason Yvonne 44 46 47 48 49 42 43


Luke Cedric

50 51 52

The First Injection of Many Logos 54 55 56

Bad, Sad and Mad Return to Melbourne Schizophrenia Mania 59 60 58

Committed Again

The Tall Thin Grim Doctor Socrates Paul Maria Sabriyah Joe 70 71 73 74 76 67 68 69 65


Andrew Michael Carl

Fully Committed Jenny Larry Cherie Ahmad 78 80 82 83

Three Young Witches Frank 88 90 91


Too Happy Psychiatrists


The Research Doctor Retrospective Diagnosis Cruel Betrayal Words 100 101 97

92 94

Missing Values


The Tale I Tell What follow, in this book, are poems about folk I met when I was locked up. I was incarcerated for my own good, I was told, and to keep society safe. Not that I was dangerous, but neither were the others, the hundreds of others, I met inside the loony bins. Now this tale is mostly true, though some names have been changed, to protect the identities of people I have met, and sometimes to protect myself. I‟ll tell my tale as best I can, though I am not a poet; I‟m not a doctor now, either, I‟m just a „schizophrenic‟.


Francesca I could see Francesca was scared. She clutched a crucifix tight in her old Spanish hands. She thought the TV was evil, Aussie TV, full of shameful behaviour, and violence, too. She thought the radio was evil, full of angry music and noisy young men. So they locked her up with five noisy young men, a TV and a radio. They gave her injections to treat her „paranoia‟; she shuffled up and down the cold, dark corridor, wailing like a banshee. No wonder Francesca thought she was in hell. No wonder she cried, and wanted to hold my hand.


First Night in Meduna Ward “Go back to your room!” “I need to go to the toilet.” “When you‟ve had a piss, go back to your room.” “I don‟t want to piss, I want to empty my bowels.” “Well do a shit then, and go back to your room!” “It‟s not a room, it‟s a cell.” “Are you trying to be smart?” “No, it‟s true. I‟m being held prisoner here. That makes it a cell.” “This is a hospital, not a prison, But OK, go back to your bed, then.” “Can I have a cup of coffee?” “No it‟s too late, the kitchen‟s closed. Besides, it might keep you awake.” “I‟m not sleepy.” “It‟ll make you less sleepy.” “Can I sit out here, then? I‟d like to do some writing.” “Look I‟ve had enough of arguing. Are you going to your room, or do I have to give you an injection?”


First Escape How dare they keep me in here! How dare they call me mad! These guys who think it sane to wage wars and rewrite history, to stage history and rewrite wars. How dare they give me drugs that‟ll cripple my senses, make me stiff and slow, dribbling like a baby? Don‟t they know I could bring their damn system down? Expose the fact they‟re abusing the public – the vulnerable people they‟re paid to heal? Naked emperors, Some of us see through your jargon! Your terminology is transparent to the millions who shun your hospitals and clinics, realising your professional role in character assassination. Yes, I said I would swallow your poisons, but that was just a ruse – I was pretending compliance yesterday. I‟m afraid I‟m leaving today. Right now, through this door the nurses left open.


Heading for Parliament Flowing like a stream, it appeared the abandoned hut was waiting for me, with a bench outside to write at, and a blue fairy wren to delight my senses. The crows are flying in the direction I must follow, to Canberra, where the real decisions are made. My little green car was loaded with treasures: favourite CDs and photos of my little daughter, the books I loved most and some of my unfinished work: folders of writing and half-baked ideas. Armed with a letter and essays I‟d written, I hoped for an audience with the Minister of Health. Neither to „put her to rights about the health system‟, nor to threaten Dr Lawrence‟s person. These were the claims, faxed and then spoken, in several private phone conversations between those intent on having me treated, in Canberra, the capital of our nation. So there I was in Parliament House, apprehended by Federal Police. Polite men they were, but they‟d been warned I could be after Dr Carmen Lawrence. I was polite in return, and came to no harm,


though taken, in handcuffs, to the local asylum. There I was told I must stay in the ward, the locked ward, where I could prove I was sane. They‟d hold off the drugs, the psychiatrist said, an Indian man with a small balding head. I agreed to abide with this plan of his, and wrote, in his ward on my hypothesis. Three days later I was discharged having alleviated my boredom by writing about medical education, and how we doctors are learning our business from the drug trade. I wrote about schizophrenia, too, and theories I had about this disease: my hypothesis that, like mania, the illness can be cured if the system allows it. The cure, I then claimed, and still claim today, is to refrain from calling ones patients such names. I gave my essay to the charge nurse, who passed them on, as I had requested, to the psychs who said I could leave, when the order ran out; gave me a note to show the shrinks back in Melbourne, my adopted home, to which I returned, the following week.


Return to Royal Park I thought my saga was over, but it had only just begun. The „impulsivity‟ I showed in rashly leaving without saying goodbye, or seeking permission or medication, this was a sure sign I was manic. “We‟ll need to stabilise you on Lithium.” “But that‟ll poison my thyroid.” “We can try Tegretol, or Epilim, instead.” “But I don‟t have epilepsy – those are anticonvulsants.” “You don‟t really have a choice, you‟re regulated you know.” “I don‟t think you have a right to regulate me. I am not mentally ill.” Years later I read the records; how my refusal to accept drugging and a misconstrued label was described –„lack of insight‟. Years later I read the records, and what they said drove me mad. I could not contain my rage. It spilled over, not into violence, as predicted, but into fear and suspicion. Into paranoia.


Day Three Tomorrow they‟ll let me out, I know they will. Yesterday I was sure today I‟m less sure. I don‟t know that I can bear this. Why can‟t they see there‟s nothing wrong with me? I‟m not mad, at least I‟m not madder than anyone else. Perhaps if I write more... More and more... Explain my ideas more fully? Maybe then they‟ll understand their mistake. They‟ll realise it‟s all been a misunderstanding. “Grandiose – writing irrational papers in areas in which he has no expertise. Uphold certification, increase antipsychotic medication, Keep in closed ward.”


Second Escape I didn‟t know her well, but had no one else to turn to. Also, I may as well confess, I‟d fallen for Sara. I was embarrassed to be shuffling and dribbling as I was, in front of a girl I rather wanted to impress. Sara was shocked at my state, and the surroundings of the prisoners. She knew the place wasn‟t right and wouldn‟t make me better. My friend didn‟t think I had gone mad, as my medical family had insisted; though they‟d tried to convince her with impressive jargon, as only medicos can. They told her I had mania ; that my theories were all mad. Judging my unusual ideas couldn‟t have been easy at the age of twenty-three. I lost the appeal that day, the day I escaped for the second time. She was there, my gentle friend, trying to defend me. After two weeks in Royal Park I‟d lost the urge to talk; I‟d gained a fungal infection that made it hard to walk.


At first I tried to palm the pills, but wasn‟t good at that. Back then I was clumsier – hadn‟t yet learned to hide tablets under my tongue. I was caught out, and the nurses told the doctors of my deviousness. „Change to Haldol syrup‟, A new order in my files. Confident in my lawyer, I was sure I‟d be discharged, Until, that is, the Mental Health Review Board was spun a web of lies. The Board was told how I had changed and wasted all my money, neglected my work in pursuit of fun, saying too much too fast, „pressure of speech,‟ they called it; writing about things I had no expertise in like the treatment of mental disorders. I‟d settled down now, the psychiatrist said, but definitely still not well. “Might seem that way, but if that‟s the case it just proves the medication‟s effectiveness.” I was appalled when the panel agreed that I needed more treatment, because of the danger, not to others, but to myself. I could damage my reputation by irrational claims about their profession: that they relied too much on their drugs, that they needed to be more holistic, if they wanted to heal, not make people sick.


People with minds that are unlike their own, who live under different stars; people who aspire more to freedom than money but they had the right label for such crazy ideas. Hypomania, the shrink explained to the Board, is a dangerous state for society. “Could be that he‟ll speed and run someone over. Impulsive behaviour‟s common with this disease.”

I wept for the first time since I‟d been imprisoned. I lay on my bed sobbing, until I decided I‟d get out, with the help of my new friend, Sara. But how? Should I plan it? Or improvise? I phoned her and asked if she‟d come in and see me; the hour she took seemed longer than usual, but then the locked door was opened. “Your friend‟s here,” said the nurse, a tough looking man with hair on his face and none on his scalp. “Can I go outside with my friend and have a cigarette? We‟ll stay just outside the front doors.” I was hopeful, even if expecting refusal. Permission was granted, though I knew that it hadn‟t been authorised in the charts. I guess the nurses felt sorry for me they‟d expressed surprise


when I was returned to the ward after losing the appeal. “Keep walking,” I urged Sara urgently, “keep walking!” Her face was paler than usual. “Where are we going?” She sounded alarmed. “To your car!” I was trying to seem calm. “Hey, Romesh!” I heard the shout behind me, but didn‟t turn my head. We broke the pretence of strolling. We ran to the car and were out of there, with the nurses in rather sluggish pursuit. Sara drove safely, though she looked as if she‟d seen a ghastly ghost. “I‟ll drop you in Brunswick Street, you can stay in the studio.” So there I was, free at last, though I didn‟t have my keys. I had no money, my property had been seized, and the police would surely be after me. My legal rights had gone to the State Trustees and they weren‟t on my side. I didn‟t trust the state any more, and I was on the run. But I was out of the loony bin and heading for the sun!


By Bus to Brisbane He was kind to me that evening didn‟t call me ill, though my legs were shaking. They wouldn‟t stop, like there was a motor in them. “I‟ll get a bottle of white, and you can stay here for the night. Tomorrow I‟ll organise a ticket; we‟ll get you up to Queensland.” Brisbane was the home I‟d been brought to as a child. In memory, if not in fact, it was safe, a perfect place to seek asylum from the asylum I‟d been confined in. I dreamed new dreams on the long bus trip, I had grand visions of how my ideas might turn the tide, and turn the pages of the history books to a new age of enlightenment, when the insane World Wars are done, and peace has been won, by the intelligence of not buying bombs. When a synchronous rhythm, the rhythm of life, guides harmonious rule by our leaders. When free to think, and see and feel, the people of the world unite to melt the guns and missiles, into metal to recycle, using energy from the sun. When no one remains hungry


in a world devoid of greed, and resources now wasted feed everyone in need. In retrospect I must admit that these were delusions, plain as day is day and night is night, with nothing in-between. Except for dusk and dawn, that is, and how many of these have gone unnoticed, when humanity wakes to alarm clocks, and the awe-inspiring sunset missed since it wasn‟t on the idiot box?

My 1997 book Psychiatric Tales and Words About Life. Sara painted the abstract portrait on the front cover.


The Private Professor She peered at me over those half-glasses intimidating women sometimes wear, so they can peer over them before looking down and writing notes about you. She didn‟t write the notes till afterwards though, so she got the story wrong. Not all made up, of course, since I had opened up my heart. Not all my heart, I must admit, just the part of relevance to a private psychiatrist who was once head of the College. “So what is an „alpha state‟ doctor?” she asked with little interest. I tried to explain, as best I could, my ideas, still in evolution. “Well it‟s a flow, a creative flow when everything‟s in rhythm the rhythm, the timing of life, if you like, can guide us in decisions.” I knew, if I was to be judged as sane, I had to hold my tongue about distrust of the whole psych system. I knew I had to be judged as sane to be allowed to work again. I‟d discovered my theories,


innocuous as they were, appeared to threaten interests I hadn‟t known existed the interests of an industry that thrives on other‟s misery, denying cures and pushing drugs. This doctor was outraged. So I opened up my heart, about my work in physiology, how positive thinking and optimism could improve people‟s health. I tried not to blurt out too much, lest she think me radical. I tried not to hurt her ego, by arguing my case too strongly. Maybe I tried too hard, maybe not hard enough. After an hour or more, she looked at me above her scary spectacles. “You seem OK,” she said, “but I don‟t think you are. A little grandiose, I think – and I don‟t think you should work.” I was angry now, but knowing not to show it, asked, “In what way am I grandiose?” Her reply would surprise anyone who‟d done a medical course, “You‟re grandiose to think your ideas are your own. Our registrars, they learn this stuff in every hospital. It‟s possible that you‟re ill, doctor,” she told me with a smile. But I saw nothing to smile about, being labelled as defective. I thanked her for her trouble, though my heart was in my throat. I started getting paranoid about what the bad guys wrote.


Who the bad guys were, I couldn‟t even guess. Maybe my family, I thought, maybe the authorities, perhaps my enemies, whoever they might be? “Could the CIA be involved?” I wondered, knowing little of such things. Could it be my sister‟s boyfriend, who stalked me on the weekend? Things were getting out of hand. I needed somewhere safe to stay. Fortunately I had Digger, my old friend from Uni days.


Digger When God made Digger, if indeed he did, he fashioned him of broken bits of sinew mixed with steel. He gave him scars to wear with pride, upon his face, and smashed his nose for good effect... or maybe it was boxing that did that. Or maybe he was punched when arguing the case with a weak array of facts. Digger likes to argue, that‟s what the profile says; his vignette in the magazine the Med School published every year. This was back in eighty-one, Trephine the name of the student rag revealing his mates amusing view funny in parts, but cutting too. His favourite occupation, according to his friends, was “boldly prophesying hypotheses on minimal factual evidence”. After staying there with Digger and his lady, I agree that Digger likes to argue, especially after a spliff. He‟s not one to listen, either, and likes to raise his voice; I guess it makes him manly in his eyes, but that‟s just hypothesis. Though Digger and his lady let me stay there in their house, and he shared his ganga with me, and shared his food as well, unfortunately I was scared, getting paranoid about


my father and my family and motives on their part. Many families have secrets that one is loath to tell, and cruelty to children is not a subject easily written about. Digger confronted me with statistics I could not, in ignorance, refute, about the monstrous incidence of child abuse. He said the recent claim of twenty percent was a gross underestimate. “Most children are abused,” he yelled, and I didn‟t want to argue; Digger had a forceful way of making a point he shouted louder until you shut up. Then he‟d make a joke, smile and roll another joint. Now I was getting stoned as hell on Diggers hooch, it‟s true. I was tripped out, stressed and homeless not the best place to be. I thought I might feel better, if I talked to someone else; maybe visit my friend Eddie and his lovely Marxist wife.


Eddie I knew Eddie as the tall guy who almost bought my shirt. That was before I found it in the Red Cross op shop. We were in the refectory at lunch, as I remember; I was wearing the brown shirt with beige and yellow spots. “I almost bought that shirt, but it was too small.” I was not surprised since Eddie‟s so tall. Despite our differences, we became good friends, but time is a ghost, and recollection sometimes offends. My memories of Ed form a homunculus that‟s empty and vacant, and still has no soul. I know little of him, other than what he‟s divulged, and he doubtless understands just as little of me. But when I was in need, with nowhere to stay, this kind man invited me into his home. His wife, whom I‟d met just a few times in years, let me talk, talk and talk... about all my traumas . I tried to be quiet, and respect their space. though I tried, I am sure now that was not the case. Eddie and Gab are patient and generally wise; they listened and gave me the chance I needed, to explain my theories about health and the psyche. They agreed with much and debated with some, but then I was foolish enough to stray into territory no visitor should, if in his right mind. With no first hand knowledge of what he believed, I recklessly declared that Marx had it wrong. “After all it‟s just an economic theory,” I repeated, like a robot, from some book I‟d read, I don‟t know where or when. With fair reason, Gab was outraged. “Have you read any Marx?” she exclaimed. I had to acknowledge I hadn‟t,


but didn‟t admit talking through my hat. I was then still too pompous and arrogant for that. Nevertheless, I assumed I had been forgiven, when Eddie helpfully gave me a self-help book. It was written by a famous men‟s liberator, Biddulph the Bold. “Take off your tie, if you want to be free and make sure you have a heart-to-heart with your father, possibly the first in your life.” “Yes, good advice,” I thought. I‟d already discarded my tie.


Heart To Heart With My Father This evening is not easy to write about, but without it my story cannot be told not with any clarity, so I will try to be bold. Not everything I might say can be said, not right here and now, I‟m afraid. Suffice to say there were some issues I had hoped could be explored in discussion, and settled by apology. For one thing I was angry that my father had not stayed the hands of the psychiatrists when I was first committed. I‟d rung him in distress, when the CAT team first came and threatened to take me away, saying I was insane. I didn‟t know, at this time, that my father played a part In my initial referral – he was involved from the start. Back then, in early 95, my theory of motivation: that humans have instincts for communication, along with those for learning, called curiosity, and judging by what I‟d seen and felt, also for play, Was diagnosed as delusional, because it was not what was thought, not what was taught by experts in treating the mind; medical doctors trained in scientific diagnosis,


doctors like my father, sister and myself, trained in prescribing the right drug for the right condition, asking for assistance from experts if not sure about the decision, to check in MIMS before writing the prescription; trained to frighten patients into changing their habits; to demand they stop smoking, if they want to stay alive, that they must eat less fat to keep their hearts beating; to order they abstain from grog if they cared about their liver, and insist they obey the drug regimen, as determined by specialists in the public hospital system. This was the system that trained all of us, the topic I most wanted to discuss with my father, but although he lived at the place, he wouldn‟t come there, he said on the phone to my mother who turned to me, “now please go home.” “My home is in Melbourne, and I don‟t have a car, I have no money and they‟ve frozen my cards. Can‟t I stay here, Amma?” I felt my voice choking but I held back the tears. “No you can‟t stay here, he won‟t allow it. Eddie or Digger, won‟t they let you stay? Maybe your friend Glen, who you knew from Mt Isa?” But I was intending to wait for my father. I walked outside and had a smoke; knew I‟d need courage to face a man I‟d always feared, and try to have a frank and open, heart–to –heart conversation,


just like the Young Men‟s Liberator, the famous Steve Biddulph, had advised, in the book of wisdom my enlightened friend Eddie lent me. I heard the garage door open; the thumping footsteps meant he was angry rather than scared. But there was another voice he‟d brought someone with him, and what a welcome surprise! My old mate Brett, who‟d driven us from the airport when we first arrived in Australia. I was but fifteen at the time, and he‟d just got his licence. His father, a medical professor of note was said to be a world expert in gout. Brett‟s brother, I liked a lot, and his mother, I liked too, but Brett himself, I must admit, I‟d always thought a bit of a drip. His brother, quite a genius when young, played piano like a pro. That was when he was only sixteen, and I admired him far more than Brett, who could play flute well, but studied medicine, instead of following the music of his soul. Rather than music, Brett had devoted his years to climbing the medical ladder. Though such was my view, I knew not to voice it. Instead, I smiled


and, extending my hand, said “Ah Brett, it‟s good to see an old mate.” “I‟m not here as a friend, I‟m here at the request of your father.” “Oh,” said I, with just a trace of mock horror. In a perfect world there would be nobody like Brett - officious and defensive, and so bloody straight, you could rule a line with his one-track mind, and this mind was set on getting home. After all, it was Sunday night, and Brett‟s weeks are longer than those of mere mortals. His job that night was to diagnose, and that is what he did; while I explained my theories about schizophrenia, and how play could help autistic kids. Drawing diagrams on paper, I tried to explain how the pineal organ might be a theoretical link between mind and body. But Brett, he wasn‟t with me, I could see it in his vacant eyes.


Trying To Stay Away From Prince Charles “You‟ll have to come to hospital,” Brett declared. “You‟ve got to be joking,” I replied. “I‟m not joking, I‟ve signed the papers.” “With what diagnosis?” my anger was rising. “Mania” he answered and to my regret, I yelled, “What would you know? You‟re an administrator, Brett!” “I was chief psychiatrist of Queensland, though not any more, and I‟m currently Director of Mental Health at Logan. I‟ve signed the papers, shall we go?” But I knew I did not satisfy the criteria “OK,” I asked, “what are the symptoms of mania?” I was getting alarmed and annoyed. “What, according to the DSM?” The shrink was getting angry, too. “Yes, OK,” said I, “the DSM will do.” “Elevated mood, reduced need for sleep, grandiose beliefs and schemes.” He recited the list like a parrot. “Anything else? What about increased creativity?” I dangled him a carrot. “Reduced appetite, weight loss, overactivity, impulsivity,” He continued like a zombie. I had him on the ropes, I knew. “You mean spontaneity?” “Look, I‟m not going to argue with you,” Small beads of sweat coalesced on his brow.


“ I‟m not certain you have mania, just a feeling that you do.” “A feeling? What kind of feeling?” I must have showed surprise. “Call it an intuition,” he replied. I laughed aloud and teased, “An intuition. I didn‟t think you guys believed in intuition! So you agree we have more than five senses, do you, Brett?” But the man was not amused; he was getting more irate. I felt a strange delight in Brett becoming so upset, but then, his wife had called asking if he‟d be long. It was Sunday night, and yes, it was getting late, nevertheless he engaged me in debate about what kinds of senses we humans have. You see I thought it important, back then, to establish that the establishment was wrong to limit its research into only five senses, largely ignoring even these in the fields of clinical medicine and psychiatry. So I led Brett on at my peril I could see he was getting frustrated. Me, I was starting to have fun. „Hearing Vision,‟ he began. I listed them on a new white sheet, while we sat at the table where I‟d been drawing diagrams, to explain to Brett ideas he just could not get: my theories about schizophrenia and autism and the role of the mysterious pineal gland. The pineal,


according to some ancient views, is involved in our dreams and intuition, too. But the organ Descartes called the „seat of the soul‟ had been consigned to the waste, along with the appendix: a vestigial organ, it was taught in Cambridge University, and Harvard, too back in the fifties. When I studied medicine, in the early eighties in Queensland, two years after Brett himself, I learned that the gland produced melatonin but not how this hormone affects all the rest; how it affects the pituitary gland, and our sleep; how the melatonin is secreted during the night. We were not told the truth about serotonin, the amine from which it is synthesised. The reason for this was not that it was new or that these are contentious, disputed claimsat the time the drug companies were using this knowledge, with certain university academics spearheading the research, to come up with tablets for the treatment of depression, drugs like Prozac that was flooding our nation. It was in this direction I intended to lead Brett the psychiatrist, now stressed and tired. “What about smell, taste and touch,” I asked. “And intuition, is that a sense?” I added. At that point Brett lost it, his voice became shrill, “I‟ve had enough of this, are you coming or not?” I knew I was now in great danger of being locked up again in a hospital ward, so I asked my mother if I could use the phone, called Digger and Eddie, and asked them to come. They both came over, and Libby as well,


she‟s Digger‟s lady, an anaesthetist. With numbers on my side, Brett had to back down, though he said the next day I must present at Logan. “Where‟s Logan?” I asked, but Digger assured me, “Don‟t worry Romesh, I know where it is.” So I went back with Digger and stayed at his place, but the order had been signed, and I had to obey: present for admission to the hospital my gormless mate Brett was director of. There was no way I was going, I said the next day. And Digger was angry, because he gets that way, “I don‟t want the cops here, you‟ll have to leave, mate.” I had to agree, though in quite a state. So I walked and half ran, because of the rain, and got to the Med School, the one in Herston. This is where I was trained, before I worked at the adjacent hospital, the Royal Brisbane. I was scared now, indeed I was terrifieddidn‟t know where to go, how to hide. Perhaps I could get help from my bosses of old, the senior doctors at the hospital. But when I walked in I realised the magnitude of my folly, as they ushered me into a closed room and said they would call Dr Pillai. I knew this doctor, from when I worked there. He was a senior doctor in casualty. I knew, if he saw me in my dishevelled state, no way would he fail to diagnose me. So I gathered my nerves, walking out of the room before I was locked in, as I would have been soon. Clutching my folders


of research and writing, I decided to escape across the bridge to the north side of the river, the suburb of West End. From there I phoned Eddie, my old trusted friend. Unfortunately, Eddie was by now convinced, after discussing me with others concerned. The law was the law, and I‟d been committed, though, back at this time, these things were not admitted. He said that he‟d meet me down by the river, near the phone-box I‟d called from, and soon he was there. Asked if I‟d like a cup of coffee; I needed one badly so we each took a chair at a small corner cafe, seated outside, where I told of my saga, shaking with fear. As I calmed down, in the comfort of company, I noticed a paddy wagon coming our way. The cops paused, asked if someone had called them I said no, and then I heard my mate Eddie say, “Well, yes!” Then I knew that I had been betrayed; I saw Digger in the back of the cop car, too. I knew there was no escape from the boys in blue.


Liberty Liberty was in lockup the night I arrived. There were twenty or so, I later discovered, inmates like me in the ward at Prince Charles. A large woman with the complexion of honey, a wise crone prone to excesses of love, she immediately engaged me in conversation, explained to me the complex connections of her family, both in Jamaica and here, she appeared as a woman without any fear. But that was disguise, I later realised, Liberty had plenty of fears but kept them to herself. At this time she joked she was „hypomanic‟, like she was when overjoyed at the birth of her daughter. “How old is your child now?” I asked with concern, since to me this lady seemed sane as they come. “Twenty one years, and I‟ve been on meds since, they‟ve tried it all on me, lithium and the rest. The drugs killed my thyroid and I gained all this weight, but I‟m told these new ones are known as the best”. Maybe not quite as sane as they come: Liberty still swallowed the chemical paradigm.


Theo Theo was twenty one and rearing to go. He thought he was God Almighty. That‟s what he said. Theo had read that God is love, and Theo was full of love. He told us so, as he put out his fag. He loved everybody, he said, but especially, he loved women when they gave him head. The young man said if he snapped his fingers you could have whatever you desired. “Any car you like”, he declared, So we put him to the test. He snapped his fingers like crazy and blinked his glazed eyes, but no car I could see appeared, nor a lorry or truck, van or coach. Still, Theo was not daunted. “You have too little faith,” he reproached. Theo was confused. Many young men are. He thought loving women meant wanting to have sex with them. A lot of guys do, I guess, and not just the young ones. The psychiatrists probed Theo‟s delusion. Mania, perhaps schizophrenia, the likely diagnosis, I suppose. Not that it mattered, the drugs were much the same. They covered all bets: gave him four different drugs at the same time. They humoured his delusion;


saw no point in reasoning with a point of view they assumed in their rigid minds, to be „fixed‟. The other inmates were much more direct. They debated with Theo and laughed when he said loopy things, like he did. Theo did get saner, admitting that he was more like Moses or John the Baptist. The doctors were sure the drugs were working. Eventually he was discharged, and he took the drugs until he died, when he swallowed all of them at once.


Billy Billy always seemed happy, if not content. He didn‟t appear to give a hoot about the system, or what it did to him. If they locked him up, he‟d leave at first opportunity. „Impulsive behaviour‟, they called this, when they locked him up again. But who could blame him for trying to escape? Drugged to the eyeballs with lithium, tranquillisers and sedatives. It inspired me that this young man refused, point blank, to give in. He‟d sing and walk along the corridor, listening to his Walkman and dreaming of the day he would play in his own band with his greatest love – his trumpet. He didn‟t care if they thought he was mad, He knew he was sane. In fact, his sanity was obvious to anyone who listened to him with an open mind.


Faith Faith was eighteen and pregnant, so thin, so mixed up; big blue staring eyes, clouded by a haze of drugs. She was born into a family of avid Bible readers. She read that to be a saint you must love everyone. Faith liked boys, loved them, in fact. She liked to kiss them, and more. Her family thought that mad. The psychiatrists agreed. They locked Faith up and gave her chemical restraints, this being standard treatment. They wouldn‟t have discussed her views with Faith, psychiatry being divorced from religion. Her „aberrant behaviour‟ continued, so they increased the dose, eventually gave her ECT (they don‟t call it shock treatment these days). When I last saw her she was in a wheelchair. I heard, many years later, Faith was still angry at having lost her baby.


Asking the Private Professor for Help There was no alternative, I needed an independent report. That‟s what the lawyer told me, and the State Trustees agreed. “You have a right for a second opinion. Yes, that‟s in the law.” “I‟ll ask your consultant if he minds. I don‟t think he will.” So she arrived, the expensive professor. Her report would cost me four of the last five hundred dollars I had. After two weeks in the locked ward on antipsychotic drugs my movements were slow, and my face, like a mask, showed none of the torment I felt in my heart; anguish that wasn‟t documented there in the charts.

So, after perusing the notes and the essays I‟d written, after talking to others, all doctors, of course, the professor earned her fee of four hundred dollars by sending my lawyer a typed report. He wasn‟t really my lawyer, but I thought that he was, I‟d paid him once, but for a different matter. That was before I was first committed, At the age of thirty-four, on a night I‟ll remember forever.


The story of my life is a long one to cover in half, three-quarters, or even an hour. When I read the report, a week later it was clear that she‟d got it all wrong, once again. I knew I would just have to wait out my time. Like the nurse had advised me, “Just play the game.” Eventually they‟d have to discharge me, or at least move me to the open ward. There was a piano there. They‟d let me play for an hour, a couple of days before, when I had impressed them by my obedient behaviour.


Big Pete Big Pete sits alone, another fag in his shaking hand. So terrifying, to a frightened community of anxious hospital staff, just because he was huge, a rough, tough diamond with a belly and a half, and a bellow and a half. Pete‟s voice boomed loud when driven to swear but the big man was slow to rise in anger. Thirty-eight years he has come, since the age of eleven, locked up with the disturbed, the violent, horrible old days of cells, bars and drugs and shocks. So little has changed, since the hospitals achieved (In their own reckoning) „World‟s Best Practice‟. Except the bars have mostly been replaced by reinforced glass, through which one can see, but not feel, freedom.


The Farmer I met a farmer who told me he saw auras around people, reflecting their emotional states. The activity of their chakras, he‟d been told by a friend. The farmer came from a culture that didn‟t believe in such things thought such perceptions are a sign of being mentally insane. That such odd perceptions are typical symptoms of a chronic disease of the brain. The farmer suspected he might be crazy. He asked the psychiatrists, who concurred. They had the tablets, they said, to treat this weirdness in his head. When he came into hospital and experienced their „treatment‟ he changed his mind in days. Thought he might put up with his unusual powers of observation after all. But it was too late. The doctors wouldn‟t stop till the farmer‟s perception was like theirs. Dulled.


Rufus It may have been speed that drove him mad, or maybe it was the videos, maybe it was ignorance that compelled the young man to follow his friend and swallow his seed. The theory was this, as odd as it is, one based on the male DNA. It followed, said Rufus, if XY made a man and XX made a woman, as thought; Well surely, an extra Y chromosome, ingested by way of the mouth by swallowing semen, could make him and his mate supermen! I laughed at his theory, and also his hope that with such help he might beat Mike Tyson. Now Rufus was big, at least by my standards, but Tyson is built like a bison. Rufus liked boxing, and maybe someone had punched the sense right out of his head. Could be he got deranged from watching men kill each other in violent movies, instead of talking gently to his child and his wife, saving graces in a virtual life. In the weeks that I knew him, while in hospital, I realised that Rufus was kind and gentle. Though trained to throw punches and dodge a right hook, he was far from aggressive, except when he took


speed, as one refers to amphetamines on the street. Ironic indeed that the same was prescribed to Rufus, when labelled as a child with ADHD, a disease now described in textbooks and journals, those of the trade, as a „disorder of children‟, who act like they‟re bored; running and climbing and talking too much, disobeying rules and not waiting their turn, blurting out answers and annoying adults. Hardly surprising if children trained to take pills from before they start school, or not long after, turn to the same when they reach adolescence, remembering the assistance prescribed amphetamines were said to have given their academic performance. Rufus got better, once off the speed, though they made him take lithium too. And he agreed he‟d been in a state of psychosis, accepting a double curse called „dual diagnosis‟.


James James was pissed off, He was seeing red, because they wouldn‟t let him stay. “You‟re not ill”, they had said, “You‟re Personality Disordered.” James wanted admission because the alternative was jail. Bailed out, at first, by the mind police who then threw him out on his ear, on his one leg. He came to us with tears in his eyes, “I‟m mad, can‟t they see? I didn‟t ask to come from a sad, broken life full of violence and anger and mixed up people, and the ever-present mist of alcohol.”


Deva Deva was a grandmother. She was seventy-eight and full of wisdom. She loved people and she loved life. Deva did not fit in in a society that treats elders like children; insisting on obedience under threat of medication. Deva threw back her head and laughed her toothless laugh; at a society that was mad at her because she refused to act her age and dement as demanded, compliantly swallowing her tablets, playing bingo and spending her last pennies on the pokies. When she spoke, Deva spoke her mind. She knew no other way of speaking. And her mind was full of opinions, full of experiences and kindness. Deva served as a grandmother to anyone who needed one. Who wouldn‟t want a grandmother as grand as Deva?


Jason Jason‟s not crazy. He was just locked up because he got faceless, in the valley, and didn‟t make sense to the cops. The police thought he seemed disorganised. Jason is always disorganised. He travels where he feels, usually on his legs; serendipitously collects seeds and pods, and curious bits of metal. “Things that are useful,” he says. Some call this obsessive, others think it bizarre. The shrinks call it „hoarding‟, a sign of schizophrenia. But Jason is getting prepared for the stock-market crash, with mind full of hope, drugs and no cash.


Yvonne Yvonne was depressed. She was paranoid. Thought no one liked her. The truth is, few did. She complained all day about the smallest of woes. She saw in her neighbours undeclared foes. Yvonne saw the worst, and expected worse. All she needed was a change in perspective and some healthy advice: that if she smiled more people might well smile back, to think before she spoke if others wanted to hear about her troubles. The doctors didn‟t tell her this; they just gave her drugs. Like many others, Yvonne‟s real therapists were the friends she made in the asylum real people, unafraid, when it came to their friends, to speak frankly and honestly about uncomfortable truths.


Luke Luke had recently graduated, qualified as a doctor. He immediately diagnosed himself with depression. Luke signed himself in, took the tablets as prescribed, accepting he had a „chemical imbalance‟ that would plague his brain for life. He dutifully swallowed his meds and lay on the bed, waiting for them to work. The young physician took his tablets though they made him very tired; couldn‟t have a decent conversation with so little concentration. I suppose they did work, eventually, since Luke‟s got a new job, now collecting trolleys at the supermarket.


Cedric Cedric was negative. He disliked everyone, thought everybody was „boring‟ and „stupid‟, so he brought out the worst in the few people he met. Cedric signed himself in to hospital, so he could be given the finest newest meds on the market. He sat in his cubicle doing jigsaw puzzles, or staring at the mirror, hoping he didn‟t look older. When I was released Cedric was still there. Maybe he‟s there still Cedric didn‟t like change.


The First Injection of Many “Flupenthixol, what‟s that?” “One of the new antipsychotics.” “You plan on trying it out on me?” “You‟ll have to have the injection if you want leave.” “But you‟re only letting me out for the weekend how long does the injection last?” “Only a couple of weeks.” “A couple of weeks?” “You‟ll be given another one then.” “Unless I‟m successful at the appeal.” “Unless you‟re successful at the Mental Health Tribunal.” “You don‟t expect me to be, do you?” “I don‟t expect anything, it‟s an independent tribunal.” “So, if I let you give me this injection you‟ll let me out for the weekend?” “That‟s right, doctor.” “OK, but can you give it in the arm?” “Your nurse will be giving it, you can ask her.” The nurse had a large handle-bar moustache and eyes too small for his face, but he managed to see my arm alright, I guess, because I soon felt the effects of the drug they injected that blocked the receptors for a chemical called dopamine, here in my brain. Now this chemical‟s important: a neurotransmitter that stimulates movement and other abilities, including the ability to feel and create, the ability to speak, and sing and debate, the power to move,


the energy to escape. Dopamine-blockers like flupenthixol dull the mind and stifle the soul. They made me shuffle and walk like a man afflicted by Parkinson‟s Disease: a disease of the brain also caused by lack of dopamine. Now the Parkinsonism that these drugs induce is caused also by others in their class the drugs they now call „anti-psychotics‟ but used to boast were liquid lobotomies. „Neuroleptics‟ are the same drugs as well, with „major tranquillisers‟ an older euphemism. This is not the worst that these drugs can cause, these drugs whose enforcement‟s upheld by our laws poisons injected in, through the skin, to the minds and the souls of the young and the old. If „psyche‟ means „soul‟, and I‟m told that it does, those treating the psyche, are hurting the soul.


Logos In the beginning there was the word and the word was good. Logos is the word, the word for word. The word brings knowledge, logos again, but not wisdom, sophia, premise of the friends of wisdom, wise to the wisdom of friendship, philosophers by many names and of more doctrines. All teaching their masters‟ logic, men (mostly men) who profess to know more than mere teachers, the doctors who, not bold enough to claim healing, treat more than they teach. So we have been taught, by this great system of thought, that healing comes from God and not man, and miracles are the antithesis of magic healing occurs only by prayer. Doctors are only allowed to diagnose and treat according to institutional doctrines of the day. Some based on established ideas from the diverse field of psychology, but only those schools devoted to statistics and lab rats those agreeing with the medical classification of humanity into marketable anagrams.


Bad, Sad and Mad “It says here that I am BAD.” “You misunderstand, that stands for Bipolar Affective Disorder.” “You mean, like SAD?” “That‟s right, like Seasonal Affective Disorder.” “I thought SAD is an anagram for Schizo-Affective Disorder.” “It‟s an anagram for both.” “Isn‟t that confusing?” “To the public, maybe, not to the profession.” “Because they‟re all mad anyway?” “Learning psych terminology takes years. Being facetious won‟t help your cause.” “My sad cause, bad cause or mad cause?” “Your case.” “My sad case, bad case or mad case?” “Are you writing „flight of ideas‟ and „tangential thinking‟?” “Just writing notes.” “They‟re classical symptoms of mania, aren‟t they?” “You can get tangential thinking in schizophrenia, too.”


Return to Melbourne I lost the appeal, once again, but was discharged soon after. I‟d spent six weeks in hospital, six weeks with little laughter. I flew back down to Melbourne and found a house to rent, glad to be free, but sad to be afflicted with manic-depression. „Thought disorder‟, I‟d been told, when patients can‟t think straight, is no-ones fault, except for genes nobody can be blamed. Half-believing I‟d become obviously mad to others, I avoided social contact and stayed inside my house. There I wrote about my tale, of people I had met sometimes mad, sometimes sane, like everybody else. I wrote these things as verse and wrote some prose as well, slowly, since the injection had made me stiff as hell. The flow I so enjoyed, earlier that year, was gone, to be replaced with loneliness and fear. But soon I was delighted by the return of my friend. Sara had been gone for months,


since I‟d gone round the bend. The truth is, I had lost the plot. Thought I could save humanity from drugging and self-destruction in psycho-religious wars. I thought, by honestly describing what I‟d seen and heard, the system, actually benign, would realise what I meant, and engage in self-reform. The hospitals would stop the drugging and release all their captives, realising that their treatments were bad and getting worse; that their diagnostic labels, these terms they insisted we accept like SAD and BAD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were working like curses. Such was my delusion. One that lasted for thirty, or so, more admissions.


Schizophrenia Schizophrenia can be diagnosed for reading people‟s minds, hearing people‟s voices or thinking them unkind. Schizophrenia can be diagnosed for thinking that angels can make you do odd things, like talking to birds. Schizophrenia can be diagnosed for making up new words or talking about matters obscure, or diverse. Schizophrenia can be diagnosed for wearing gloves indoors for strange attire, or laughing at the interviewer‟s clothes. Schizophrenia means split mind, but that‟s not what it is. Schizophrenia‟s a label that creates the disease.


Mania I‟ve been told I have mania. Doesn‟t that mean I‟m a maniac? Just as those with schizophrenia are called schizophrenic? But I like reduced need for sleep, increased zest for life as well; and increased goal-directed activities are great, as far as I can tell. „Pressure of speech‟ is fine, too unless talking to someone whose thinking is slow, and „flight of ideas‟ is another term for thinking on a flow. Lateral thought has been taught, by people like De Bono, to increase intelligence, while „tangential thinking‟, exactly the same thing, has been pathologised, by inference. I must have lack of insight, to be thinking such heresies: that mania, like schizophrenia is an iatrogenic disease.


Committed Again It was a hot February evening, the twenty-ninth in a leap year. I‟d left the front door open when the CAT team had appeared. The team had called for backup, and the police had responded. I was talking on the phone, when I was apprehended. “The police have come,” I said aloud, to the person on the line. That person was my mother, who I phoned from time to time. I phoned when I was angry about things that had been done the year before, when I was said to have had mania. I was angry, and wanted to sue the doctors who had drugged me and taken away my rights. They might as well have mugged me. I‟d reported, to the police, what I called a conspiracy; about lies that had been fabricated in efforts to suppress me. But such views as I held were obviously false, to those who were convinced that I was paranoid. Distance can be frightening, when imagination runs riot. Two thousand kilometres away


my parents felt disquiet. Not knowing how I spent my time and hearing only snippets, my father once again decided I must be committed. The letters that he faxed that day, I read only years later; including one he sent to Dr Carlyle Perera. This doctor, I discovered was the Chief Psychiatrist; he ordered that my mental state be more thoroughly assessed.

My friend Sara was there that night when they took me away. She tried to stop them, saying that my thinking was OK. But the papers had been signed, so I was handcuffed in my hall, and taken in the paddy wagon back to hospital.


The Tall, Thin, Grim Doctor The cops released the handcuffs, but I was trapped again, inside the stark confines of a psychiatry ward. There was only one room with locks to keep you in in this new hospital, at least in this new wing. But I was in this room and I would not be released until I‟d been assessed by the doctor who‟d been called. I waited there impatiently, and after a couple of hours a tall, thin man with grim visage came in, carrying my chart. He said he was the registrar; I didn‟t catch his name. Shaking his hand, I tried to start to explain that I‟d been framed. “They said I was deluded, thinking I am registered to work again as I was trained as a family physician.” I explained to the tall, thin man with cold fish-like eyes about the recent work I‟d done on physiology. I said I had discovered new ways to use the brain to maximise creativity


and minimise the strain of living in this stressful world where all are driven faster. “What you call mania,” I said “Is not such a disaster.” I realised, in his sunken eyes, my words had all been wasted; not least of all, because the man could not speak fluent English. In fact, when I was able to read the notes he wrote, it became clear that this poor man was thicker than a goat. Not thick because he could not speak English like an Englishman; not thick because he thought me mad and wrote that I had „BAD‟. He was thick because he‟d learned to write and not to think; to write poisonous anagrams and order drugs to treat them. One might suppose, one well might, that to assist the psyche, to hope to help heal troubled minds, one needs at least to understand the language with which this mind speaks, and to respect the culture of the mind one claims the right to treat under committal. It is a farce that continues, in this land and in others, that doctors claiming they‟re healing minds, are torturing


our brothers and sisters. They‟re torturing themselves, too, with these words they‟ve memorised terms with which we‟re stigmatised.


Socrates Imagine my surprise, having been thinking deeply about the curious art of philosophy, to meet a lad called Socrates in the adult psychiatry ward. I thought Socrates a wise young man, when I met him in the asylum, where he had been locked up for meditating, he said, and ignoring his parents. They thought he‟d gone into a trance; he would have explained, if they gave him half a chance. Once he was in the lock-up he argued with the psychiatrist not a wise thing to do, not wise at all, for every word they twist to their advantage. Socrates was bold. He told them they were old school squares with too much confidence in theories based on books, not life; so they wrote that he was „grandiose‟, and increased the medication. Socrates was kept in the ward And slugged with neuroleptic drugs. Once he was humbled they added lithium to keep him down and out. He was glazed and dazed, and just a little bit fazed. Socrates was wise, but not wise enough; drinking his hemlock


under duress, but this Socrates survived. You might see him on the street I heard these days he even drives.


Paul Paul went technology mad couldn‟t help talking about hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid and what a disaster it would be if it spilt on the floor. Poor old Paul was regulated for being such a bore.


Maria Maria had her bags packed and was ready to go; didn‟t know what she was doing in a strange place full of strange people who told her she couldn‟t go home. “Not past this line here,” they said pointing to the yellow line, over which we „involuntaries‟ were not allowed to step. “Take these pills – they‟ll help you sleep” “I not slip. I Maria, I want my home. I not like it here. Take me home, please. I want to go my home, please,” she begged. The nurse rolled her eyes and went back to her newspaper. She‟d had enough of Maria, who walked away slowly, sobbing.


Sabriyah Sabriyah was worried. She had been locked up with people who stared at her and cast spells on her. She shouted when she got angry her elderly father was deaf. Sabriyah was alarmed; looked at the tablets in the nurse‟s hand with suspicion. Maybe they were trying to poison her. She spat them out, so they injected her instead held her down, while she screamed that they were demons, possessed by evil spirits. She was so desperate, so confused, so scared. What had she done to deserve such torture In a foreign land? Why would no one help? If only she could speak to her brother back home, in Turkey. „Preoccupied with spells and making bizarre phone calls about torture, poisoning and abuse‟, the nurses observed. „ECT to start, Monday,‟ the psychiatrists wrote. Sabriyah was terrified.


Joe Joe was a mountain of a man. He said he was a criminal, spent many years in jail. I didn‟t ask for details could see he was not well. I didn‟t want to know, anyway. Some things are best left unheard. Joe leaned across the desk of the nurses station. “I need some Valium,” he yelled. “I need my methadone. The doctor said I need it. Give it to me now, you bastards.” “That language is inappropriate, Go to your room.” “Fuck you,” Joe shouted. “Go to your room, or we‟ll call Security.” Joe shambled off, shaking and broken. “The screws in this place are fucked,” he crankily complained.


Andrew Andrew is a gentle soul. He plays guitar and worries about the state of his mind.

Andrew is a gentle soul, who philosophises, and worries about whether he has been logical.

Andrew is a gentle soul, who converses honestly, then worries if he has offended anyone.

Andrew is a gentle soul, who swallows his tablets, and wonders why he feels so ill.

He talked about his memory, concerned he can‟t remember what happened when they first locked him up and gave him electric shocks

Andrew wishes…he wishes


his brain would recover from the cruel treatment he still believes was necessary.


Michael Michael was shaking. He was sure he was divine. He sang about smiling, colours and the fine line between madness and sanity, compliance and control, treatment and torture.

Michael was shaking, because the drugs made him shake.

He was suffering, but laughed at the poison. “Zoo-penthixol,” he chortled, “they think we‟re zoo animals, but they can‟t put me down. They know that I‟m special. They know of my power, my special ability to make people laugh and sing.”

“I‟m a mental musician,” he said. “They can cripple my hands, but not my head.”


Carl Some years ago, when studying philosophy Carl wrote throughout the night. He wrote about freedom freedom of speech.

Carl went to University, to the philosophy faculty, to develop, he hoped, his mental faculties.

Back then, his mental faculties were full of freedom. The university faculties were not.

Carl felt free to debate, he felt free to argue the point of freedom with his professor.

The professor did not agree. The old man became angry. “The rule here is clear. Students respect their teachers that is the way, round here.”


Carl was diagnosed. He was institutionalised. He was drugged, but not broken. He now shows compliance. He complies with the poisons, under threat of injection, but waits for the day... the day he will be free... to speak his mind without dribbling, and write steadily, without trembling.

Zyprexa (Olanzapine) advertisement in Jan 2007 MIMS


Fully Committed In the years that followed I lost count of my commitments. I do know it was more than thirty times they locked me up and injected me, in various hospitals. And so, I learned my lesson: not to talk too much or criticise the powers that rule the medical profession – that control the behaviour of doctors. I met many more inmates like me, committed for various crimes. Some were loud, Some were quiet, Some were way too polite. Some were rude and unfriendly, Some were low, some were high. Some were warm, some were cold Some timid, some bold. The people I met transformed my life and inspired me. They gave me purpose, changed my priorities. I knew, by the time of my next incarceration, that freeing the slaves and captives


was my medical responsibility. Liberating them from labels, cruel, denigrating labels my profession was inflicting. How dare they say these delightful, unusual people have sick minds! How dare they justify their stultifying drugs by convincing the impressionable that they have chemical imbalances! How dare they call originality and lateral thought „mental disorders‟! How dare they call happiness madness!


Jenny When I first met Jenny she was unconscious, lying on a couch, heavily drugged. We were locked up together in custodial care by people who judged our thinking bizarre. A week or so later Jenny could talk, and she asked me some questions about matters I‟d considered. She had a concern she could rarely share that her brain was implanted by the CIA. She asked if I thought that this could be true – that a microchip had been surgically placed in her brain. I answered with what I thought that I knew, “I‟m sure it‟s not possible, though they might if they could. The fact is, they can‟t.” She smiled, and said, “Good.” Jenny‟s delusion was why she was there, but nobody tried especially hard to ask why it was that she held this belief, before drugging her for „schizophrenia‟.


She listened carefully to my opinion before smiling, “It must have been all in my mind.” Three days later, she was discharged, the doctors convinced that their drugs had worked fine.


Larry He told me he fought and killed in Vietnam. After years of abuse, he returned even worse, depressed, and addicted to smack. Larry told me his story one night, with the candour of a broken man; how he once shot his friend to save his injured mate from the „gooks‟. Years later, he found that he liked Vietnamese he liked the people and liked their food. He hated war and the fact he‟d done, “A lot of bad things,” then he paused, and I saw a single tear run from his crinkled left eye. He sucked on his smoke, but the fag had gone out, so he looked at the night sky, out there in the courtyard and told me the cause of his greatest anguish. He once left his mother in hospital to die; said he drove her there, and left her. Never saw her again. But then, she had deserted him when he was a boy, less than 10 years old. Larry became, then, a ward of the state, and this was when his abuse began. Scolding and beatings and rape, he endured, as his skin grew harder and his mind more fragile. And then he was conscripted and trained like the rest. He gave it his best and came back more broken; solace in injections and numbness from heartache diagnosed as psychotic, with personality disorder.


He tried out the drugs. He said some made him feel better. He loved some, in fact, said they beat heroin, and cheaper too, if you got them on script. But then he got AIDS, contracted by needles he stuck in his arm, that he stuck in his veins. Yes, he followed advice, and took all the drugs “I‟m better, you see, fighting fit, I am.” But he looked to me like a wasted old man. The old-timer told me of the shocks and the needles, of the treatment for what were presumed as delusions: that the terror we see is engineered by warmongers, that weapons are sold, while the poor die of hunger, that what passes for news is more propaganda, that a man to be trusted shows you respect. His eyes became moist as he tried to explain what he said he had heard was wrong with his brain. “I am Bipolar, the professor said. If I stop all the drugs I‟ll be better off dead. But they make me so sad, I prefer when I‟m „high‟, when I float on the ocean and soar in the sky.”


Cherie Cherie thought she was a prostitute, because she didn‟t know she was a poet. She sold the only thing she owned, to finance her habit. Cherie looked for love, accepted any consolation; appreciated deeply a stranger‟s conversation. In return she gave her poems, little pearls of wisdom of beauty and of honesty, sincerity and kindness; of happiness denied and the courage it‟s taken to survive this long in and out of confinement, where her poems, neatly written are discarded in the waste by the doctors and the nurses and the others, in their haste to get her to accept she‟s nothing but a „street worker‟ with a „chemical imbalance‟.



“Do you hear voices?” the doctor asked. “Of course, I am not deaf!” “Whose voice do you hear? Can you recognise it?” “It is your voice, I hear, Sir.” “Only my voice?” “Why, is someone else here?” Ahmad looked around in surprise.

The nurse who alerted the doctor to Ahmad‟s state of mind came to the rescue, “He said he was trying to communicate with his girlfriend, doctor. She‟s dead.”

“Is this true?” Ahmad was caught between a rock and a hard place. He knew it. Growing up in Arabia he was aware that talking to dead people was forbidden in Christian countries.


“Only thinking about her, Sir. You cannot talk to people who are dead.”

But the registrar knew he was onto something. He noticed the migrant seemed suspicious, “We‟ll have to transfer you to the mental health unit. Just for a couple of days.”

“Are you saying I‟m mad?” Ahmad was incredulous “I speak five languages...I write poetry. It has been published in my country.”

“No need to get stroppy, mate,” admonished the registrar, writing the word „irritable‟, in typical crude scrawl. Just a mental aid, he‟d be writing the notes up later. Writing them properly and legally, if not legibly.

So Ahmad was brought to the ward by security. He wasn‟t cuffed or anything – the police weren‟t involved, but he was upset, I could see it on his face, so I asked if he‟d like to join us.

We were having a jam in the art room; it works as a music room too having a few, mostly broken, musical instruments.


Ahmad could hear where my sympathies lay, though he couldn‟t quite get the groove. He asked me later how to get out of the place and told me of his story. This took quite a while, and charge nurse saw us talking;

I was asked inside, taken to an interview room, and asked to sit down. There I was told not to interfere with patient management on the ward.

“I just suggested Ahmad ask for an interpreter,” I said. “Fair enough”, said the charge, “but that‟s a job for staff.” Ahmad, like me, was taken for a chat. He was given a booklet entitled „Patient‟s Rights‟.

The next day, or perhaps the next, Ahmad was discharged, having learnt something about the land he‟d migrated to:


not to go to hospital because he feared

the pain in his heart.


Three Young Witches I met three young witches that‟s what they said they were. They told me they performed spells, and those who wronged them were cursed. The three young women I met in the ward had made friends with each other. Interested in the same books, they shared magazines on witchcraft, whispering together, in the far corner of the courtyard. They‟d all been labelled with „schizophrenia‟, but nobody asked, because they never do, how they became possessed by such views. The drugs they were given were destined to fail to change the ideas the witches obtained from copious literature and the Internet about crystals and spells and New Age rituals. So they talked furtively of what they believed, and the nurses made notes and the doctors ignored them; they swallowed the tablets, at least while confined, and they said they were ill, if that helped win their freedom. It‟s hard to believe that in this age of computers girls calling themselves „witches‟ are still persecuted.


Frank Frank was mad and Frank had good reason. They wouldn‟t let him go to his only son‟s wedding. Might cause a disturbance, might be too intrusive; he might make a „scene‟ or voice his delusions that the people he‟d met were drugged more than needed; that the freedom we hear of is not shared by all. “You‟re not well, yet, Frank,” he was told by the nurse. „In what way?‟ he sullenly responded. “You‟re still a bit elevated”, was the reply, “and the more you argue, the more it seems so.” Frank knew not to persist, but his sorrowful visage said it all. His anguish was clear, to the cold floor and walls, but the colder hearts of those who could free him were engaged in a session of character assassination. They call it a „ward round‟ or just a „ward meeting‟; the patients discussed behind closed doors where opinions expressed by judgmental fools who‟ve read all the books and know all the rules but, in their haste to climb up the ladder, neglected to learn how to listen with compassion. So Frank, denied the one thing he asked for stood miserably in line, queuing up for his lunch.


From being too happy, he clearly was better since tears had welled up in his eyes.


Too Happy Who is mad? A person who is „abnormally happy‟, or a person who believes that such a condition is a disease for which the best treatment is imprisonment and toxic drugs? What is an „elevated mood‟? What about an „expansive mood‟? Sounds like a nice thing – and it is. How much zest for life is „too much zest for life‟? What‟s wrong with „Increase in goal-directed activities‟? When does a healthy ego become „Inflated self-esteem‟? These are textbook signs of „hypomania‟, a weird concept dreamt up by peculiar psychiatrists less than a century ago. Sounds to me like a description of normality. You can never be „too happy‟. The concept is ridiculous. It‟s insane.


Psychiatrists Acting like the mind police Regulating our moods, our emotions With drugs, toxic chemicals Instead of nature‟s own cure Meditation, not medication Concentration On the good things in life Focusing on music Beauty, harmony, rhythm Enjoying the moment Those rare moments of freedom. We can keep people Out of psychiatric institutions By educating them, the psychiatrists About how to teach people to be happy Rather than drugging them into apathy.


The Research Doctor The doctor struts his stuff; he carries his head high. He carries his opinions over those who ask why.

They ask why his patients weep and why his patients cannot sleep. They ask him why his wallet swells, while people dwell in living hells. He justifies with lies and tricks, to prove his victims are really sick; that those he tortures truly are ill and in dire need toxic pills.

With self-fulfilling prophesy he explains why the mentally ill will never be well “It‟s in their genes,” He says earnestly, “That‟s accepted at my University.”

“Good for research funding in this new age of eugenics. There‟s no simple cure,


there‟s no easy fix, but the clues may be revealed by dissecting brains and genetics.”

The doctor sucks up to the professor. The professor has been indoctrinated, too, subconsciously doctoring his statistics. The doctor swallows the semantics.

Both see themselves as independent, exercising their free will, though following the advertising hype and contributing to the health of the pharmaceutical industry, while contributing also to the rising rate of suicide.


Retrospective Diagnosis

I ask, as I read your diagnoses of the dead, of the madness of artists and the ravings of poets, do you consider what‟s said? Do you think any poet sane? How can you understand such a brain, when you treat metaphor with disdain?

I ask as I read, when you write on Van Gogh, diagnoses are made and his brilliance fades, viewed as a freak with diseased imagination that glorified sunflowers and saw beauty in the mundane.

I ask as I read the criteria you make


to call artists mad, synonymous with bad; prejudiced rules constructed by fools, in your stupid textbooks, created by crooks with hidden agendas building academic empires,

do you consider any poet chemically balanced? Do you consider any artist appropriately behaved? Or are poetry and art themselves the „diseases‟ that you would rid the human race of?

The human race, tired of running round in circles, driven ever faster.

The human race,


sick of competing, climbing the ladder deeper into the sewer of greedy profiteering, relentless careering, artists exploited, poets tortured;

the victims cry out but fear to be clear. They speak in metaphor to hide their horror. They have seen the world as poets. As sensitive people, not “schizophrenics.”


Cruel Betrayal Escaping in terror from Nazi eugenics, the bewildered were herded onto the ship.

The British Empire promised to provide full protection, asylum to those called insane defective, greedy, degenerate races judged by murderous monsters according to face, race and colour; judged cruelly, tortured, prescribed euthanasia „mercy killing‟ by the merciless, poisonous chemicals, outright mass-murder.

The poor people fled to escape the dread weeping, as they left their dead behind, weeping, with their dead in mind.


They prayed for relief; they trusted the soldiers of his majesty‟s army, who told them, though saved, they‟d be safer still in the great southern land.

Betrayed by the Red Cross they suffered more torture guinea pigs for ICI, martyrs for humankind.

Australia, the scene of countless betrayals but none forgotten by the long memory of history.

The news now resurfaced, fifty years later: army used disabled soldiers and interned Italians, and also used Jewish refugees to test out new chemicals, drugs to make profits for British and American pharmaceutical companies.


The victims were infected, transfused and injected with no less than malaria, a fatal disease, a parasite that kills millions.

They now have a cure, too expensive, by far, for nations kept poor by debts they incurred to the empires that raped them, enslaved their people and destroyed their treasures, or took them as plunder to display in museums and private collections.

The Third World cries out, but nobody hears the stifled screams of children in horror. The terror of war brings profits for companies producing more treatments for the problems they created.


Words If we don‟t understand The meaning of words How can we make sense? When they speak of defence But they mean fighting wars When they speak of „the facts‟ When they mean propaganda? If we don‟t understand The meaning of words How can we understand truth? When spontaneous is „impulsive‟ And happiness „elevation‟ When concern‟s „paranoia‟ And sadness „depression‟? If we don‟t understand The meaning of words How can we honestly communicate? When emotional means unstable And curious, „intrusive‟ When talking „too much‟ Is a sure sign of madness? When poisons are „medicines‟ And beliefs are „delusions‟ When the system that schools Is full of confusion?


Missing Values Truth, beauty love, compassion never in the index of a medical text, but essential values, essential concepts essential to healing, without which life is empty, and devoid of meaning.

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