#5 Welcome to the Jungle
-The Absolutely Unofficial Underground Newspaper of Metropolitan State Hospital -
Alright, people, it's time to once again to gather 'round , fill your glasses and brace yourselves for another totally uncensored look at reality, as brutal as it may be, with no excuses and no turning back. If you have a need for your denial to remain intact, or if you have a weak stomach, then I suggest you turn back now. We deal with the truth here, in all its gory glory, and we don't let a little blood stop us. The combination of a scene involving treatment of the severely disturbed which was already unnaturally weird, the arrival of a school of sharks bent on preserving their political standing within the department at all costs and a total lack of leadership has reduced Metro to a primitive state. The meat-eaters are all around and there is less and less cover. No one is in charge and if you try and step in to help, you'll feel their long sharp teeth dig into your back and their razor-sharp claws begin to rip the flesh away, and soon you will be added to the mounting pile of bones gleaming white in the sun. Yes, welcome to the jungle. The question , then , becomes who is sane and who is insane?
"The keepers found themselves pinioned hand and foot and thrown into the cells as if they were the lunatics themselves by the lunatics who had usurped the offices or the keepers" Edgar Allan Poe
Indeed. Who should have the keys and who should be getting a PRN of about 5 of Haldol (IM of course) ? Can you imagine doing a takedown on Willie Weld? Can you picture the look of pure terror on his face when he realizes that he's going to get 4-points in locked door for a minimum of 3 hours? Even better, how about inducing EPS on Wee Willie and watching him flop around on the floor with his tongue sticking out of his mouth?
But enough of these fiendish fantasies. We have some ugly facts to deal with here and spinning tales about lashing Weld to a bed in a dark concrete room is not going to make the nut. Jesus, I've got to stop this late-night, half-ripped typewriter-humping bullshit. Fucking around with friends and hanging out until everyone crashes, and then sitting down with a head full of chemicals to pound out this gibberish is more than I can handle. It's all that keeps me from coming completely unhinged, though. I gave up trying to deal with the scene at Metro as though it should be taken seriously months ago, and now it's all I can do to keep from losing it completely right there in the Administration Building you know, waving a big marlin spike around while jabbering about reptiles and pools of blood and all the rest of it. How you people who actually have to work there take it I'll never know.
But we were just about to talk about ugly facts when I zapped off on that mindless tangent. Things have degenerated, somewhat predictably, to levels of hopeless madness in all corners. Everybody is working in isolation from everyone else, partly because you never know when the person next to you is going to be taken out by a transfer or just leave the system altogether. And you don't know when your turn will come. It's Vietnam all over again. Total chaos, sudden death, and the best you can hope for is to survive the carnage only to have nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of your life. The job was hard enough to begin with, and now the cage is being shaken every few days as the staff turns over and everybody feels lucky to be getting one more check. It's no wonder that everybody needs some nurturance these days. It's no wonder that everybody needs something.
"For People like us, In Places like this, We need all the hope that we can get" The Call
Is this any environment for the work we're supposed to be doing? And through it all comes this distinct, sickening, enraging feeling that there is no one at the helm. There is a total lack of leadership. No one is attempting to grab the wheel before we are smashed into a million pieces. No one is devising a realistic, coherent plan for what is going to happen which allows the workers to have some faint idea what may happen to them. You may get laid off. You may get transferred. We can't tell you. But you don't worry about it, you just keep pickin' cotton until we tell you to quit. Who do you think you are, anyway? A person? HA!
And of course, whenever you put these questions to anyone at nearly any level of the System; they will babble and gibberish like "Well we don't even know what's going to happen to us!" or "We're just going week by week or month by month by ourselves!" or some other equally chicken-shit excuse. And I have chosen that word carefully, because chicken-shit is just what it is. The whole point is that, in times of confusion and uncertainty, people have the choice of either passing the buck and bullshit onto the next level below them or refusing to let the shit go on and taking the heat for it. Leaders stand up and say "Okay, here's what we do know, and here's what we need to do." That means making some tough choices and biting the bullet. That means rolling up the sleeves and getting with it. And whether or not the leader's plan is good or successful, just , just having a real leader ( and gender does not matter here) making a stand and doing something makes all the difference for the people on the bottom of the stack and the whole system stands some remote chance of working. But it has to begin with some authority taking charge.
"The men who hold high places, must be the ones who start to mold a new reality" - Rush
Idealistic adolescent bullshit, you say? Pie-in-the-sky jabbering delivered from a safe distance? Perhaps. But the criticism doesn't change the truth of these mad ravings. Ass covering has reached an all-time high while genuine clinical care has reached an all-time low. And right there, dangling like Damocles sword is the state purpose of the 17-member committee appointed by Weld: to determine which (if any) DPH,DMH, and/or DMR facilities should be closed. Jesus. Talk about the hammer coming down! Nowadays whenever anyone is talking about their plans or the future of a group or a patient, there's always this ominous qualifying phrase: "Or, at least as long as the hospital is still here" Un-fucking-believable. And some people wonder why there is a "morale problem." So shall we raise our hopes that this commission will come to our rescue, reporting to Gov. Weld that DMH has already been saddled with more cuts than it can reasonably handle and recommending that staffing patterns be returned to humane levels? Not likely kiddies. When all said and done, this commission will amount to a formalized execution procedure, in which our heartless governor will be handed the authority to do what he has to do to toss a few thousand of weak and defenseless out of the lifeboat. Sharkbait!
" The real problem lies with the ponderous bureaucracy of DMH which does not compare with anything I have seen..." - Dr. David Bulmer's letter of resignation as Medical Director of Northampton State Hospital 4/7/91
No shit, Dr. Dave! DMH has rotted from the inside becoming rife with parasites and evil bastards who like pilot fish attach themselves to the belly of sharks and the bigger shark, the better you eat. One look at the members of the commission will tell you that they are not going to change things. It is heavily stacked with the existing top level DMH people who have the most to lose in any significant tampering with the system which they have been carefully tinkering with for years so that it suits them best. Then come a few State Reps whose input will be determined entirely by which way the goddam wind is blowing when the report is drawn up. And who are these other losers? Do you see a single clinician, a single well-known name from the ranks of Mclean or B.I or even Cambridge goddam Hospital? No, Hell no. No one who could give intelligent clinical insight into the state DMH plan.
And certainly no one who can tell how things really are. What are they going to do? Ask the Administration how things are going? Give me a fucking break! Those poor fools couldn't tell anyone how things are really going if they tried! All they see are numbers like total census and scheduled discharges. Or total seclusions and deaths. They don't see that some patients, inpatient stay is increased by months because of a senseless transfer to some other hospital. They don't see how some patients are falling apart because they're being rushed into poorly planned and poorly developed residences by order of the Administration. They don't see how the treatment of so many patients is being set back because of unprecedented shuffling of clinicians fleeing from the axe of layoffs. They don't see how "the 1991 downsizing of Met State" is going to become a very common phrase in the psychiatric histories of hundreds of patients, cited as a reason for another decompensation or otherwise senseless change in the course of treatment. And they don't seem to care that in some unwritten history, it will be evident that the blood is on their hands.
Whew! That was one killer paragraph that I wasn't sure I would get through without bursting a blood vessel in one of my temporal lobes. But so far, so good. The going has been weird no doubt, but lately the emotional torque has been almost too much. When I sit down at the typewriter, the rage takes over, I begin frothing at the mouth and it's all I can do to keep from going into a grand mal seizure. But most of you know exactly what I'm talking about. Metro has always had a special place in mythology of most community mental health systems as a sort of brutal purgatory (this is common for state hospitals) but fantasy has become reality and it is (naturally) harder and harder to face the fact that our days may be numbered and the number may be few.
"Cryin' wont help, and prayin' won't do you no good"- Led Zeppelin
For most of us, this is a sad but all-too-evident fact. For some of the team players and Administration types, however, who think they have done tough job in difficult times but have come out smelling like a rose, the ugly truth awaits. Our acts will speak for us and winners will not be measured in terms of rank or privileged or prestige. For the jarheads and yahoos who don't realize this, I can only offer pity. The clock is ticking, people. Now's the time to kick out the jams and wind it out on some serious effort in the treatment of the severely disturbed. Who's really doomed? The heartless managers, that's who. So fuck the doomed eh?