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Listening: My Time in a Psych Ward

I lost my hearing in a psych ward.

Let me explain. It was not so much that I lost my hearing; it was that I could not hear well. I suffered from a terrible earache. I used to get earaches all the time as a small child. This one was the worst, or perhaps my capacity for dealing with such pain had simply decreased over time. I had not experienced an earache in over ten years when this particular earache occurred. When I was in the psych ward.

This earache affected the way I could hear, meaning I couldn’t really hear much at all. I was in the psych ward for a number of reasons, some of which I still don’t understand. The doctors explained the reasons for me being in the psych ward with precise, medical terms. I recognize that that wasn’t all of it, though. Those medical, clinical words could not explain the sum total of why I was there. I did eventually recognize, however, that that is how you get out of a place like that: voicing an understanding of why they say you are there, in their terms, and complying with the way in which the doctors believe you can safely live outside of the hospital. They did not want to hear my side of the story. This was not about justice; it was about compliance, as are so many other things in life.

The doctors thought that my mental illness was clear. They did not want to know what could lead a person to this mental state. They just wanted to diagnose it, and give me pills. The earache, on the other hand, confused the doctors. They could not figure out how to help me hear well again. They could not figure out the best way for my ears to heal. They could not determine exactly what the issue was, although they recognized that an issue existed. The insides of my ears were red and irritated.

I was red and irritated. I wanted the doctors to see that. I wanted the doctors to stop looking in my ears because they were not helping my hearing and because there were much more pressing matters at hand. I knocked on their doors to say, to scream, “I don’t belong here!” I only screamed because I couldn’t hear properly. I did not realize I was screaming. Believe me; I wanted my ears to be fixed as well. I’d have been happy to take medicine for my ears but I didn’t want the medicine they were telling me I had to take for my brain. I wanted to address that medicine, the pills that they wanted me to take, before addressing the issue of my ears. So, I said, “Listen doc, I’ll take a flu shot, I’ll take all the vitamins you have, please give me any antibiotics I need for my ears, but that is all!”

And the doctor asked, “Why are you screaming? Your mood seems elevated. There are pills for that you must take.”

And I said some mean words; I said some paranoid words, but only because I was mad and it felt like he was out to get me, not to help me. The conversation was irritating on several levels, one being that I could not hear very well. I had to listen so closely and I had to keep saying, “Please speak up.” I also had to keep repeating myself with phrases like, “no,” and “that is not true.” There was a lot of explaining. There was a lot of repeating.

Perhaps it is important to talk about how I ended up in a psych ward. Perhaps it is important to talk about how I ended up having an earache. I can explain pieces of the first thing. I still do not know why and how I suffered from the earache. I will never understand that earache. I will never understand why I could not hear. I like to think my ears were protecting me from all the medical language, the words from the doctors and nurses about what they thought was wrong with me; I did not want to hear. I like to think they knew, my ears, that is. My ears knew that I did not want to hear those words. Sometimes, I wonder what it would have been like if I had not lost my hearing, if I had sense of everything going on around me. I think my experience would have been altered completely. But my ears seemed to know that I did not want to be there. I wish my throat had known too. I wish I had lost my voice, so I would not have to comply, again.

There were many senses I wish had been altered while I was in the hospital. The starchiness of the bed sheets against my skin. Clothes worn days in a row, beginning to smell. The hospital food; the heavy feeling that it left in my stomach. The pill I’d let dissolve in my mouth, the pill I did not want to take, day after day—sliding roughly against my dry throat when I finally swallowed, as instructed. The constant over-stimulation of the television, forever on in the community room. People coming and going. The dampness of tears on my cheeks and the cries from others in rooms and hallways and bathrooms. It was too much at times. But I continued to be a part of it, in a way that felt against what I wanted, needed.  

I feel like I am always complying. It makes me so sad; compliance is a complicated thing. That complication may be one reason I ended up in a psych ward. There are a lot of reasons I was there, but compliance is a recurring theme in my life, or maybe just in life, not only mine. Maybe I’m just bad at dealing with it. Maybe I’m bad at not being heard. Maybe I’m bad at those times when “no” is not an accepted answer. I had been in such situations, several times. I’m angry about them and so sick about them, mentally ill, some may say. I am not only mad (could be read as “angry” or as “crazy/insane”) about those moments but mad (the same thing goes for this “mad”) about the way in which they are dealt.

I wanted justice, not compliance. I wanted justice; I did not want to prove myself. I did not want to always fight for my case. I did not want to always explain the ways in which I was not crazy, the ways in which I was just in fucked situations, the ways in which I was fucked, literally fucked. I did not want to explain. I did not want to need medical proof. But they wanted it, the justice folk; the folk who served the justice. They wanted all of the proof and paperwork. They talked about it in a dramatic, legal way. Again, I didn’t want to comply. I was done dealing with all of it, with all of them. I was going to deal on my own, I decided. So I ended up in a psych ward with an earache. It was painful in so many ways.

When I found the way out of the psych ward, (that way, of course, being compliance), I put some ear drops in my ears. I could hear again, but it sounded too loud. So I cried. I cried for all the loudness. I cried for the lack of understanding. I cried for having to interact with the noise constantly. I was confused and the volume was suddenly so loud. I adjusted though. We adapt; we comply. Sometimes we can hear the things and sometimes we choose not to hear. I’m trying to figure out how to do this and remain thoughtful and aware. I consciously check out a lot these days; I make a decision to choose not to hear. I think it’s what I have to do, for now. I hope it is not what I have to do forever.

EDITOR IN CHIEF: Gabriel Nathan | EDITORS: Bud Clayman and Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Episode 1: Trauma, EMDR Therapy, and Asperger’s Syndrome

In this first ever podcast episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio, join Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman as they interview each other about their own mental health journeys.

EPISODE 1 – Podcast Hosts, Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman discuss trauma, EMDR therapy, and Asperger’s syndrome on first episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio

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A LETTER FROM BUD AND LAURA:

We invite you to listen in as we discuss our own bouts with trauma and how we have used EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing Therapy) to cope.

We also read from our own first person essays, which appear on the OC87 Recovery Diaries website. Laura speaks candidly and thoughtfully about her battle with PTSD and sexual assault, while Bud reveals his journey of learning to trust again after a bitter emotional trauma that occurred in his own life.

Recording this episode was a significant emotional experience and catharsis for both of us.

Laura says:

Recording the first episode of the podcast and sharing my personal mental health journey was both an exciting and nerve-racking experience. The message and mission of the podcast is so important, but disclosing personal information about my mental health and experiences with trauma is something that produces anxiety within me. This is elevated by the fact that the podcast is a personal project—something we want to feel proud of sharing.

 

I think it is crucial to have conversations about these things and I feel fortunate to have a platform to do so, nonetheless it is an experience that can create fear—will what I say be clear and relatable? I cannot let my fear prohibit me from doing this work. I am fortunate to have a co-host & co-producer who helps create a safe space to begin these discussions. I am excited to continue working and starting a dialogue around mental health that I feel is urgent to have.

Bud feels similarly about the project:

Doing this podcast brings me back to my routes in radio. When I was seventeen, I recorded the 3:00pm Sunday news for a Jewish magazine format radio show. I started out wanting to be an announcer before I got into filmmaking and writing. When Laura came to me and said that she wanted to do a podcast, I was leaning towards other projects at the time. But her enthusiasm and drive won me over and I was completely on board to help co-host and co-produce a show dealing with mental illness.

 

I particularly like this first episode because Laura and I have both been through traumatic experiences and, as a result, have to deal with similar issues of trust and interdependency. I think we both understand how the world can come crashing down on you and how devastating it can be to have to pick yourself up again and go on with life. What I most admire about Laura is her kindness. And she remains kind despite going through a horrendous event in her life. In EMDR therapy, her trauma would be considered high level, whereas mine would be a smaller level trauma. Paradoxically, I think she is more open and accessible than me, even though what she went through was more severe. I guess we all experience things differently and I hope Laura continues to remain positive.

We hope you will relate to our discussions and our guests in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks for tuning in to OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio.

Sincerely,
Laura Farrell
Bud Clayman

 

Mental Health Recovery Stories: 2015 In Review

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Another year has come to an end. I have to say that this is one of the quickest years I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Many people I’ve spoken with have felt the same way. I’m not sure why people are experiencing this phenomenon but so be it. One thing is for certain: the world is going thorough great change now. There is an upheaval that is present. Mass shootings, conflicts overseas, and a race for the White House in America that is causing controversy like we’ve never seen in history.

This all has to be weighing heavily on the minds and mental well being of everyone. We here at OC87 Recovery Diaries recognize that. We know that life can often be unsettling and tumultuous. That is why we want to be the place that people can turn to for moments of inspiration, growth, and hope. It’s that hope that all of our brave writers have given us this year and in 2016, we will bring you more stories of courage and resilience.

As this year closes, however, I want to thank our excellent staff who has dedicated themselves to shining a light on people’s recovery journeys in a way that has been both informative and compelling. This is truly a team effort!

While we look forward to a new year, it’s also a good idea to pause and reflect. We asked our team to share the OC87 Recovery Diary posts from 2015 that had the most significance for them. We hope these pieces resonated with you as well. In addition, we asked our staff to recommend a book or play or mental health interest that captivated them or will be of interest to them in 2016.

Finally, we are presenting our top five viewed posts of the past year.

On behalf of the OC87 Recovery Diaries team, I want to wish you and your family a happy holiday season and a joyous new year!

Sincerely,
Bud Clayman
Editor in Chief
OC87RecoveryDiaries.com 
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Recovering From Trauma With EMDR Therapy

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“Violence is a change that happens too quickly,” a professor of mine once said in a literature class. At the time, I found the thought interesting, like many ideas you are exposed to in a classroom. It wasn’t until I experienced a violent act, however, that I had to return to this concept and wrestle with it. To me, violence did not feel like a change because I have always associated that word “change” with positive movement. To me, violence was a sudden distortion of my life. A distortion that has had a long-lasting effect.

If violence can be thought of as the moment of impact, then trauma is something deeper. Trauma is defined as “a body wound or shock produced from sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident… an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.” And yes, it did feel sudden — a change that happened too quickly. For me, the distortion took place in my mind, but I also carry the impact in my body in ways I could not at first see.

One sees things differently after a traumatic experience. A world is forever changed, and changed “too quickly” indeed. The experience of such a trauma is like being struck by lightning, it’s something one hears about but would never expect to happen to them. It makes one fearful to ever go outside in a storm again. Lightning has struck me on multiple accounts. Trauma has made me feel more intensely. I am often triggered by the smallest, seemingly random things.

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Things Blur

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“Things Blur” is a story about a time in my life in which I had a “break from reality.” Due to PTSD (among other things), I had what was later described to me as a manic episode. I was deeply affected by trauma. My mind could not quiet and I stopped sleeping. After hospitalization, I first wrote the piece, in the form of a diary entry, to understand what had happened. Later, with time and space, I developed it into a story.

I submitted the piece to the Brooklyn Non-Fiction Festival and I was selected to read. The experience of reading this deeply personal story was nerve-racking. I was relieved when the reading was over and afterwards felt unsure if I should have shared the work or not.

Recently, I was sitting in a coffee shop when someone came up to me. They told me they had been at the reading and were moved by my words. It made me feel proud of sharing and created a desire to share more often. I think it’s important to talk about trauma and mental health but it’s a difficult conversation to have. I don’t know if I will ever feel comfortable doing it completely, but I know it is important to try.

Read & Hear