Thursday, August 30, 2007

SAFE,DREAMING AGAIN,WITH HOPE

In this morning’s Washington’s Post on the front page we find a story about Cho.

“The panel appointed by the governor to investigate the massacre at Virginia Tech is critical of the university's response to the shootings and its treatment of Seuing Hui Cho, concluding that lives could have been saved if officials had issued an alert sooner that a gunman was on campus. The eight-member panel also found that Cho went to the campus counseling center after he was ordered to do so by a judge in 2005 but that the center failed to treat Cho. The panel's report, which was posted online late last night, also says the center was passive in its follow-up and is missing important records about Cho's visit and telephone conversations with counselors. But the report reaches no conclusions about what many people are wondering: What Cho's motives were for the rampage April 16 and what triggered him”

I was tempted to write another blog about the matter. However, I decided enough has been said and I really had nothing to add. The truth is I don’t know anything and from reading their conclusions neither do they.

Getting inside someone’s head and heart after they have done an evil act and are dead is an impossible task. Placing blame on others who may or may not have acted as they should before the act took place is not real productive since no one can really determine what was going on with the person at the time of the act.

The only thing we know for sure is that it was a horrifying event that has resulted in pain and anguish for so many and the unexplainable loss of life. For that the entire country feels like it has been attacked. In a way we have. Each act of evil we encounter casts a dark shadow on our souls.

I have been thinking about recovery a lot lately. The recovery from a trauma like the massacre. Recovery from an auto accident like Patty and I just had. Recovery from childhood sexual abuse. The recovery path everyone with a mental illness must take. I am not saying all of these traumas are equal, but all traumas must be recovered from. What are the keys to recovery?

First, one must find a safe harbor. You can’t begin the recovery process if you feel like a ship caught in a hurricane. Part of that safe harbor is food and housing, but it is also being in a place where you are not afraid of further violence or abuse. Few people have been able to begin their recovery journey while living on the streets or still in the home of their abuser.

Second, one must learn to dream again. By this I mean to have a dream that they are working towards. You can’t get anywhere if you don’t have a destination. The person needs to decide the destination and then folks can help them reach their dream. We have all needed help and need help each day. As the old saying goes no one is an island.

Third, one must have hope. Where does hope come from? Being a Christian I can only give you a Christian answer. My hope comes from the Spirit of the Creator that lives in my soul. I work so hard to get faith communities to reach out to those in recovery because not only do they offer an natural community to belong to, but they hold one of the big keys. The key of hope that comes into one’s heart when they know they are loved by the Creator of the whole universe.

Stigma, the big enemy of recovery, can beat you into the ground, but if you know you are loved by the Maker of the world then your heart and soul will fill with the hope it takes to dream again and walk towards the destination you have decided on.







You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Monday, August 27, 2007

MY FAMILY HAS SUFFERED MORE THAN ME

On the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ web site they answer the question “what is bipolar disorder?” this way, “Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a person’s life as well as among individuals. Over 10 million people in America have bipolar disorder, and the illness affects men and women equally. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and occasionally even in children. Most people generally require some sort of lifelong treatment. While medication is one key element in successful treatment of bipolar disorder, psychotherapy, support, and education about the illness are also essential components of the treatment process.”

I think a good way to describe living with bipolar disorder is by saying it is like driving in the mountains of western North Carolina where I now live. Sometimes you are high on a mountain and feel like you can see the whole world clearly and at other times you are in a hollow between mountains without much sunlight and the darkness seems to consume your soul. The problem is I am not always the best judge of exactly where I am at. Am I really on top of the mountain or is my brain just tricking me. Sometimes I ask my wife Patty, but then sometimes I don’t trust even her enough to ask her the question. At times it is very hard for me to tell where on the spectrum from depression to mania I am, but it is equally as hard for me to trust someone else to make the judgment for me.

Trust is an issue for most of my fellow sojourners or at least that is what I seem to have determined over the years talking with folks like me. It becomes even more of an issue for those of us who have been sexual abused as kids or abused at anytime in anyway. I guess I just haven’t met very many of us that don’t have some story of some kind of abuse to tell. I am not crying poor us here, but I am saying trust is a big issue for a great number of us.

Many times over the course of my life I have left my home and gone to the streets to live simply because I lost faith in the people around me and would rather take my chances where no one knew who I was. That was the period before 1989 that I call pre-Patty. I have not lived on the streets since I met Patty. That is not to say I always trust her when she tells me whether I am on the mountain on in the valley of the shadow of death.

The point is it is not easy to know where I am at a given time on the spectrum and whether I am headed up into mania or down into depression. It is not easy to know whether it is the disorder or just the ordinary up and downs of life that is causing the bumps.

I have said from the time I began writing and speaking about this issue that it is harder on the people that love me than it is on me. My family has suffered more than me because of my mental illness. That is why it is so important that faith communities reach out to those of us with mental illness and our families.




You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I GOT SOUL WORK TO DO

Folks this is what I call a heart to heart or a little chat. I came home last night with two psychiatric medications that they added to the three I am already taking and started reading those papers that come with them. I should never have learned to read. My new psychiatric medications are not suppose to be taken with some of the medications I am now taking both for my psychiatric and my physical problems. It says so right on those papers. Now the little trust I had is even more eroded.

We need to go back a few years. The first psych med I was ever given was Thorazine. I was given it while in the Army and after our morning medications they would take us outside for morning exercise. The hot Georgia sun and the Thorazine would make me break out in nice red spots. It had other unwanted effects also. During those months on that Army psych unit I certainly did not build any trust in psychiatric medications or psychiatry for that matter. The year was 1968.

A few years ago a person working with my son said that he was the only person he had ever known that could make the words “mental health professional” sound like a cuss word. How did my son get to that point? Why has my trust eroded?

I live in a beautiful old home on 15 acres in Glen Alpine, NC. I have a wonderful wife who loves me. I have a great family and my wife’s family has made me most welcome. I go to the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church where the folks have bent over backwards to make me feel at home. Why then do I still feel like I do not belong anywhere? Why do I not trust anyone?

When you struggle daily with a serious mental illness it erodes your confidence in yourself and it cuts into your trust of others. As you age and you face the normal physical problems of that along with those caused by the drugs you have taken over the years for your psychiatric illness your confidence slips some more. Add childhood sexual abuse and trust becomes almost impossible.

A few years ago they started asking about sexual abuse, but the funny thing is they did not fund any programs if you answered yes. I guess they just wanted to ask the question. Voyeurism is a disease and as far as I am concerned if you only ask the question without any help to offer you are simply a voyeur. It takes more than a pill to help folks who have been abused and we seem to have trouble even funding the pill part much less the long term therapy that it takes to truly be helpful to those of us who were sexually abused as kids. There are other kinds of abuse and I am not ignoring them. I simply am using childhood sexual abuse because I know about it firsthand .

The point of this heart to heart is simple. I have soul work to do. No pill will give me back what was taken away in the barn by my abuser. No pill will restore what the years of the stigma of mental illness has done to my soul. I have soul work to do that no pill can do.




You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Sunday, August 19, 2007

THE FACE OF GRACE

These are the words from a hymn penned years ago.


1. Early, my God, without delay,
I haste to seek thy face;
My thirsty spirit faints away
Without thy cheering grace.
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748


Grace is the face God shows us and it is the face we should show others. This may be the hardest concept I have tried to write about on this blog to date. Grace sounds like a simple term, but it is not.

1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans
2 a : APPROVAL, FAVOR b archaic : MERCY, PARDON c : a special favor : PRIVILEGE d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency e : a temporary exemption : REPRIEVE
8b : the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful
(from http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/grace)

Above are only part of the definitions found for grace, but they give us the idea of what I am trying to say here. Kind, considerate, and thoughtful acts towards our fellow sojourners without regard to measuring worthiness. Folks are worthy of our grace simply because they are our fellow humans beings.

I remember living on the streets in Los Angles one time and seeing large signs over buildings in a distance proclaiming the love of Jesus. I started walking towards them, but when I got there they were closed. Later I found out they were just places people raised money from pretending to help the homeless. The big sign hanging above the building saying “JESUS LOVES YOU” did not fill my empty stomach or hug my lonely tired body.

Days later grace was shown to me by a lady in an aid station in the main bus terminal in downtown Los Angles who saw me and called my parents back in Atlanta from a number she found in my wallet. I was so sick I was not much help to her, but her help was not based on any merit she could see. Her help was based on her heart and the fact she saw me as a person who needed her help. I saw the face of God’s grace through her face that day. I was lost on the streets and I got home to my family because of her.

Another time I was locked away on a military psychiatric unit not eating like I should. Some of the nurses were civilian employees. A civilian nurse fed me not because of merit, but because of what was in her heart.

Folks please show others the face of grace because it has healing power. It will help you and it will help the person you show the grace. You both will be winners and feel the joy that only comes when GRACE is SHOWN.






You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

THERE AREN'T ANY EXPERTS ABOUT WAR WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO THE BATTLE FIELD

THERE AREN’T ANY EXPERTS ABOUT WAR WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO THE BATTLE FIELD

I did my first advocacy as soon as I left my mother’s womb and squalled to let the world know I was here and had needs independent of my mother’s needs. I am still at it today. I am 58 now still trying to advocate for my independence and rights as an individual. I guess I will be until the day I die.

I also try to advocate with my fellow sojourners who like me are on a pathway of recovery, but I find my hope dying day by day. I am not losing hope about our recovery. I am losing hope that we will ever be heard by the decision makers.

Oh they pretend to listen. Lip service is given to what is called person-centered services. I receive some of those person-centered services. I have family members who receive some of those person-centered services. I talk to others who receive those person-centered services. Few of the services are person-centered. Few of us even feel like we are seen as persons by the folks and organizations providing the services.

Don’t tell me about your satisfaction surveys. We tell you want we think you want to hear even on surveys we don’t have to put our names on. You have taught us to. We are as compliant as any well trained animal.

I went to a meeting here in NC the other week were the lady brought a plan for family and consumers to approve which was not even finished. Briefly went over a few parts of it. Folks ate pizza. The plan was approved. Everybody was happy. The organization will claim they met the requirements of the law I am sure and they may have because I am not a lawyer, but I can assure you it did not meet the test of truly getting input from that group. I know the difference.

MY HOPE IS DYING DAY BY DAY because we are not listened to in real ways that matter and change the way services are provided. The experts are those of us with the illness, our family and loved ones, and the frontline workers. Who is listened to as experts? The folks with $1,000.00 briefcases who have consulting firms. Anybody can form a corporation for a few hundred dollars and become a consultant, but it takes years of pain to learn enough to be called an expert about recovery. There aren’t any experts about war who have never been to the battle field and there are no experts about recovery who have not either in recovery or lived with a person recovering or worked shoulder to shoulder with them. It is that simple folks so start listening to the real experts and then doing what they say.




You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Sunday, August 12, 2007

NEW TRAUMA CAN KILL BECAUSE of OLD TRAUMA

I looked up the definition of the word trauma at http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/ and this is what I found. “A disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury” My wife Patty and I were traumatized August 5th and we still show signs of trauma. The following is part of the newspaper account of the event.

“I-40 crash ends on a sour note
By RICHELLE BAILEY
rbailey@mcdowellnews.com
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Ever heard the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? Well, a wreck on Interstate 40 Sunday morning could have produced gallons.
A tractor-trailer hauling 22,000 pounds of pears and 21,000 pounds of lemons overturned about halfway down Old Fort Mountain around 9:30 a.m. and straddled the concrete divider.
The crash scattered fruit for yards, and littered the highway with mounds of boxes.
Melvin A. Franks, 63, of Bounnios, Ill. was driving the 1997 Western Star east, when the brakes on the rig failed, according to Trooper J.E. Reid of the N.C. Highway Patrol. Franks told the trooper there were vehicles in front of his, so he moved into the far left lane to keep from hitting them. Part of the transfer truck jumped the concrete median barrier, and the trailer overturned, Reid stated. Franks was en route from California to Salisbury and Maryland.
MAMA, the helicopter from Memorial Mission Hospital, landed in the eastbound lanes of I-40. Rescue workers spent an hour cutting Franks from the wreckage, and, once he was freed, he was airlifted to the Asheville hospital. Officials said his injuries were not life threatening.
Hundreds of lemons and pears flew across all three westbound lanes, striking and causing damage to three other vehicles driven by motorists from Tennessee, Glen Alpine and Mooresville.
Patty Cooper and her husband Ed from Glen Alpine were on their way to visit Ed’s sister in Greeneville, Tenn. Patty said she saw the truck barreling down the mountain. The trailer began to tilt, and she doesn’t remember much after that.
"It all happened in the blink of an eye," she stated. "I don’t know what all hit us or exactly what happened. It was terrifying. … The Lord was with us because we were not injured."
Boxes of fruit were lodged underneath the Coopers’ van, and the right front wheel was knocked almost completely off. It was taken away on a rollback wrecker.”

As usual the paper did not get the quote right. When the reporter approached me I told her I had nothing to say, but Patty was talking to anybody and everybody. Patty did not say “we were not injured.” She did say, “The Lord was with us.”

This is a quote from the New York Times in an article By ERICA GOODE AND ROBIN POGREBIN Published: September 25, 2001
“In the dreams, George Humphrey is running for his life through a dark tunnel, his pursuer close behind him. He startles awake, his sheets drenched in sweat.
Mr. Humphrey's nightmares originated in a war fought three decades ago in the jungles of Vietnam. But the terrorist attacks have reopened old psychological wounds for Mr. Humphrey and for others whose carry the scars of earlier traumas, as well as for people who were already struggling with depression, anxiety disorders or other psychiatric illnesses before Sept. 11.
''New trauma awakens old trauma,'' said Dr. Rita Seiden, executive director of the Park Slope Center for Mental Health in Brooklyn.”

I am not comparing a fruit storm to 9/11 so don’t write me nasty emails, but I am saying plain as day that the trauma of the fruit storm has taken me straight back to the barn on the farm in the hills of Kentucky where my childhood sexual abuse began. Dr. Rita Seiden is right and folks working with trauma victims need to pay attention.

You may think you are merely dealing with an accident victim, but you may be looking at a young child repeatedly raped taken back there by the new event. I learned this phenomenon during Hurricane Andrew in south Florida. Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive United States hurricane of record. It blasted its way across south Florida on August 24, 1992. NOAA's National Hurricane Center had a peak gust of 164 mph—measured 130 feet above the ground—while a 177 mph gust was measured at a private home. Andrew caused 23 deaths in the United States and three more in the Bahamas. The hurricane caused $26.5 billion in damage in the United States, of which $1 billion occurred in Louisiana and the rest in south Florida. The vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. Now in a fruit storm going up the mountain from Old Fort towards Black Mountain, NC I learn the same lesson again. New Trauma Can Kill Because of Old Trauma.



You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I"LL NEVER GET IT RIGHT!

I’ll NEVER GET IT RIGHT!

I will never get it right. Someone will always have to correct my language. It is not that I don’t understand the importance of what Harold Maio or Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder, who among other things has a wonderful web site www.mentalhealthministries.net, is saying about the way I put things on this blog. I am just not a good student.

I have known Harold for years and he has gently corrected me many times going back to when Project Dream Again was publishing the DREAM AGAIN JOURNAL. He and Rev. Susan are right. Language is important.

Why do I at times have more trouble with it than at other times? I have written and taught person-centered curriculum. I believe deeply in the concepts both of them are trying to get me to be sure I always use. What is the problem?

The truth is at my core I do not truly believe I am fully human. The results of the childhood sexual abuse and living all these years with a broken brain is a damaged inner core. Deep inside is a dark place where the light does not reach. I can write and teach about person-centered principles. I can talk the right stuff, but deep within me I feel the wrong way. That means at times my writing is not person-centered. It is not as respectful as it should be.

Don’t feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for those around you who don’t even know they have the problem. At least I know why I can’t always meet Harold’s standards for language. DO YOU?


You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html

Sunday, August 05, 2007

FEELING ALMOST NORMAL!

I just got back from a trip to Fort Lauderdale, FL. While I was there I saw some of my friends and even had the opportunity to go out to lunch with one of my best friends in this world. I missed seeing one of my other best friends because she was busy the day I had free, but somehow just being in the same county made me feel closer to her.

I attended an ADM Planning Council meeting while I was there and got to go to PEER Center, a drop-in center operated by mental health consumers. At both the meeting and the center I saw old friends and made new ones.

One day we made the drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and back to Fort Lauderdale. Driving through the Keys is one of the top five most beautiful drives in the country and ends at one of the more unusual places you can find anywhere.

So for a few days I have almost felt normal. Sometimes I pretend I am a “chronically normal person” then something happens to remind me that I am not. Either someone will simply say “remember your illness Ed” or words with that meaning or I will feel so bad I can’t forget I have a mental illness.

I am writing this at 2 am. My mind will not be still. At this moment I can’t forget I am bipolar. I can’t pretend I have a normal brain. I almost felt normal seeing friends and going to Key West, but my reality is that I must live daily with a mental illness they call bipolar disorder.

The other reality that I must deal with is the fact that as a boy I was sexual abused. It started the winter before I was old enough to go to school. Although it physical stopped at some point, it has never really stopped because it can happen again any night. Any night I can be taken to the barn and raped again and then the blood cleaned off me. I usually wake up in the tub being washed and cleaned up, but it seems I just never get clean.
Feeling almost normal is simply a delusion for me I guess, but it was nice. A peek a being fully human. How wonderful. Recovery is about turning that delusion into reality. Maybe someday I will, but for now I am still on the journey. I am just grateful for any moment a friend makes me feel ALMOST NORMAL.






You can reach me directly at eecoop_2000@yahoo.com
HOMEPAGE: http:// www.geocities.com/eecoop_2000/ed.html