Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Social Worker

Printed out 65 pages of my book for my husband to read. The first half was originally written with a different narrator, all "I" statements, the main character of the book. I went back and re-wrote her first person point of view to an omniscient point of view.

My husband said the writing really started flowing once I was firmly wedded in the new view point of the book. I worried over some of the opinions of the social worker character - she is not really a nice person. I think that the kindest, most perceptive person in the book will be the psychiatrist assigned to my main character. Through his mouth I'll say the most important things I've learned about why not to commit suicide.

But alas, the social worker sees her patients as having forces within themselves that is one step up from monsters. She sees all the patients as having interior "tigers" that are busy "mauling" their victims from the inside. She would like to love her patients, knowing that love is a force that heals (so she's read and believes) but unfortunately she knows herself and she knows that she is incapable of loving strangers. And strangers are what all the patients really are to her. She is not a kind person, she is not a loving person, and I believe that this is typical for what one would find on an inpatient unit on a psychiatric ward in the hospital.

My husband was counseled not to date me by a social worker who called me a monster. He said to my husband, "You don't know what she is like not on medication. You can't trust her to stay on her medication, could go off medication at any time. She could be a monster. If you date her she will only bring you grief, because you know how mentally ill people are, they can never keep it together." This from a man who had a career working with the mentally ill. I knew him for two years before he made this statement trying to be helpful to my husband, and all that time I acted like a poised, reasonable person in his presence. Mostly I was quiet around him. He was friendly with his clients, laughed a lot with them, and never gave the slightest hint as to his personal perception of us. So I know, that no matter what their professional behavior, there are professionals who perceive the mentally ill as monsters and fuck-ups.

It is a human trait to cast some humans in the guise of animals or monsters. The Nazi movement did this to the Jews, and many many people went along with the assumption that Jews were less than fully human. This is the same with Negroes, there were many many people who could use them as slaves and treat them abominably here in the United States because they did not perceive them as fully human. I think it is reasonable that a social worker who sees people at their sickest and weakest, when they have to be hospitalized, should form an opinion about the mentally ill that is not "politically correct", but rather, is instinctive and negative. To know us intimately (as a social worker would on an inpatient unit) is not to love us, it is instead to form an opinion that we are less than others of the human race. Not handicapped, not relapsing, not disabled, not in crisis - those are all terms that don't come from the gut. Those are all terms for people who are capable of having tender feelings toward the mentally ill. To know us, for some, isn't to love us, it is to grow tired of us, to grow scared and wary of us, and to form an opinion that we are something less than fully human.

Just as the Roman Catholic church have pedophiles in its midst, so the mental health community have workers that view the mental ill as monsters. In fact, I would say that there are more mental health workers that view their clients as monsters (deep in their hearts) than there are pedophiles in the Roman Catholic church.

Where do I get the inclination to believe myself as subhuman? Why from the people who have helped heal me of course. I lived for two years in a psychiatric hospital with a therapist who had not an ounce of compassion in her. Upon refection, I may not have made my social worker character in my book sufficiently inhumane. That's o.k. I still have more scenes to write with her in them.

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