Farewell, old friends

black women friends

A friend is feeling sad these days because of the loss of her long time companions. People who know you from 30 or more years ago are really special. The people who were there through different hair colors, relationships, songs, concerts, having children and having grandchildren and stuff in between. The ones who you could tell anything. People who know what to bring and what not to say.

We meet these people at a certain stage, maybe when we have just arrived in the city and are wondering what will happen. Or maybe we meet them when they move into our neighborhood at a potluck and ask, who made that dish. And before weknow it we are sitting down and talking together.

A lot of this is theory for me because I have difficulty maintaining close friendships. I remember an old girl friend asking me about who were my close friends and not being able to figure that out. But for people who do remain close over a long time, letting go is so painful. But at some point our bodies give way. It can be sudden, in an accident or it could be the gradual wearing away due to diseases. And then there is sadness.

You will always have those many years of memories but you won’t always have those friends. This is the circle of life. Farewell, old friends. Know that you are loved and will be in one another’s dreams.


Old Friends

by Simon and Garfunkel, who ironically, were not friends

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears


Why did his son kill himself

I have been reading facebook posts promoting suicide prevention and talking about the need to look after one another. The need to offer support, empathy and resources. But there are so many places where vulnerable are most at risk.

Youths are at risk, people in mental hospitals are at even more risk and the most at risk of violence are in prison. I just read a story in the New Yorker about the story of a young man in the New York state prison system whose father was preparing to send of him a care package only to discover he had been buried 6 weeks earlier. The article by Jennifer Gonnerman, told how Lonnie Hamilton II learned that his son had died on March 18, 2016 when he went to the prison website. His son, Lonnie Hamilton III, had hung himself after becoming increasingly depressed in the Marcy Correctional Facility.

This is a story about an involved father who worked long hours to provide for his children only to lose one of them to crime and seeing his son torn away from the community. It is a story about failure to notify the next of kin about what was happening. There were signs especially self mutilation that should have set off a thousand alarm bells. I don’t think that the prison tried everything possible to assist Lonnie.

These kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I don’t think the prison was set up to meet the needs of a deeply troubled African American young man so he became a casualty. This is a cry for help, action and a replacement for the deconstruction. I would hate for this to happen to one of my nephews and hope people will use these stories

Are you excited about the end times yet?

I  have heard that there are Christian evangelicals who thinking about the so-called end times in which there will be a major battle between Christians and Muslims. When I worked for a progressive agency years ago one of my coworkers discussed this idea. I was scared and repulsed by the idea.

In a fight between two religious beliefs I would choose neither one. I’m not surprised that the so-called Islamic State is drawing on the idea of the big war between Christian and Muslim forces in their version of an end times. Humans, for your own sake, you must choose neither. Atheists don’t start wars and we don’t enjoy blowing ourselves to bits.


Is terror a bigger horror than imperialism?

I have been consumed with the horror of the destruction in Paris on Friday. And yet many of my progressive friends and various Africa news sites remind us of the ongoing relationship between France and its former African colonies.

Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast
Central African Republic
Equatorial Guinea

Due to a series of unequal relationships these countries are independent in name only. When we ask ourselves, why are African countries experiencing poverty and instability, we must look at the roots stemming back to the horrendous scramble for Africa in the late 1800s.

There was a book written called Not Yet Uhuru about the struggle for freedom in Kenya after independent from England. The title applies to most of these countries. And if the horrors of colonialism weren’t enough, radical Islamic groups are carrying out bombings. Africa must be free from imperialism and religious fanaticism. As we help the people of France to heal, they must recognize their duty to remove the yoke of neo-colonialism I am hopeful that a new generation of African leaders will emerge to help make independence a reality.

The new asylums

The second story in the Pro Publica series on the best reporting on mental health in prison was called The New Asylums. It examined the dilemma facing corrections official in Ohio, considered a model for treatment of mentally ill prisoners. People like me who work in mental health know that the prisons prove most of the mental health care in America.The New Asylums followed a group of prisoners up and down the mental health ladder.

One salient fact is that due to conduct violations n prison, it is common to serve far longer than the stated prison terms mandated by the courts. thus, one could be imprisoned for many years on relatively minor crimes due to behavior issues related to one’s state of mental health.

Do not expect a lot of person first language in the video. Most of the men who were interviewed had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  They were labeled as “schizophrenics in the narration. iIt was jarring to view often articulate men talking about their hopes for recovery juxtaposed with pictures of them being being tackled by squads of SWAT type guards trained to enforce rules. An angry, naked man attempts to resist authority and receives the full force of the prison authority.He may face the same terror up and down the corrections system resisting less restrictive prison environments and going all the way up to maximum security. There was also a hospital attached to the prison when mentally ill prisoners were referred to help them with conduct adjustment.

People would be offered supports that helped clear their minds enough to be able to transfer them back to the general population. All of them men eventually were granted parole and every single one returned shortly afterward for another violation. Will the circle be unbroken? One man facing parole said that he hoped to be locked up for the rest of his life because the thought of living in a less restrictive environment terrified him.

What do you feel about this cycle of temporary recovery, stabilization, breakdown and re-incarceration? write your responses below.


Functional depression

At different times in my life I have felt that I was fighting a low grade depression. I carried out many of my regular routines of school, work or other things but in general I felt that the joy had gone out of my life. I mentioned to a co-worker that I was feeling that way.I develop headaches and other body issues. I drink more alcohol than is healthy. I struggle to make phone calls or do much of anything outside of my work. Completing the work day or beginning it can be very challenging.

I know the usual thoughts that will come to mind. I have been taking my medications as prescribed. I am satisfied with my jobs and feel that they bring me hope. Unfortunately, they don’t bring me happiness. So that is what I am working on. This is particularly ironic since a large part of my work involves inspiring others. And I have told people about the wonders that Vitamin D have brought me.

There is the song “What’s it all about Alfie?” which has a line “without true love, we’d just exist.” And that’s about where I am. Well, not really. Is everything we are a symptom in the DSM 5 or do “normal people act like this? whoops, I’m manic today, sorry for calling. Hmm, I watched a little too much football. Perhaps, that’s why I’m depressed. Or maybe how I feel has nothing to do with my diagnosis. Do you know anyone who does not feel depressed? Even for several days at a time and yet goes to work?

When I began this blog entry I meant to educate my readers about this idea. But in reality there is a lot more going on. I have been wishing I had a girl friend. It’s perfectly normal. I went to work, enjoyed myself and did what was expected of me.

So, how many others are thinking the way they act fits some kind of category? Not everyone feels the same way and I am like that, too. We need to give ourselves permission to be different.

Death of Joan Lawrence

This week I learned that Joan Lawrence my former boss had died on Sunday. I was not surprised because when I saw her several weeks ago, for the last time, she didn’t look well. I spoke briefly about her at the farewell organized at Our Space on Friday. She practically invented peer support in Milwaukee and was responsible for spreading its use throughout the city. She was astute at politics and a shrewd fundraiser. She was an excellent grant writer and was proud of the organization’s sound fiscal health.

I have said elsewhere that Joan inspired many enemies and that it was not necessarily a bad thing. Joan and the agency were criticized over the years and there was a letter that sparked an investigation into the organization’s practices. I described my relationship with her as love-hate. It’s hard to feel completely comfortable when you’re threatened with being fired so often. It was also hard to earn a living wage. Evaluations were hard to come by. Joan ran things by the seat of her pants. She was the kind of person about whom people had strong opinions.

She did a lot for mental health in this county and possibly neglected her own health. She was a terrible smoker. I remember her struggling with the many issues presented by the long time building at 5th and Lincoln. A building with a leaky roof and a balky furnace. And I remember the cat she made the Our Space pet until it was adopted when Our Space moved to 15th and National.

There was a Led Zeppelin song about good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share. It was definitely that way with Joan. I got to where I am because of the training and experiences I received at Our Space and with her help. We never pretend that things are always all good or all bad but learn to understand the greys and in between.

It should also be noted that many peer specialists in Milwaukee are former Our Space employees. This resulted from the development of certified peer support. The organization is still a leader in the field of peer support.