Sunday, March 14, 2010

OK, I will finally start to write about Gem

It is a lovely, sunny, warming, late-winter day. I have been rambling about outside, here at my Moody Ridge home, less than 3 miles from where Gem was born, puttering at tasks, just generally loving this place, loving life, loving Gem, missing him. I have been realizing how deep and wide my bound-up, postponed expressions of that love are — I'm bursting with it this morning. So I will let loose a little and see what happens.

Where do I start? Sometimes I think that the story starts at the ending. I don't always dislike knowing the ending of a tale first, (or is it maybe, a middle after all? or even a beginning?) — that would imply that a subsequent reading of a book could never be as right, as satisfying, as a first reading. Simply not true. Maybe I can get more out of recounting Gem's story starting from his death and working back. That's what I'm inclined to do.

Gem Emilio Wiseman. On July 5th, 2009, he leaped off the 700+ foot high Foresthill Bridge near Auburn, CA to his death. He was 28 years old. He was my first-born son.

He had struggled mightily and painfully for the four years just prior with psychotic episodes, swirls and swamps of mind disorder, interspersed with relatively normal periods of productivity and self-sufficiency. Ins and outs. I can't give a formal diagnostic label to what ailed him. Largely because of the cyclic (or rather, the increasingly wide extremes of a sine wave pattern) nature of the thing, one of the first diagnoses we got was bipolar disorder. I read a lot about that, and I don't think the patterns match very well, but what do I know? We never got a confident diagnosis from any of the psychiatric medical people who interacted with him. Gem himself did not participate willingly in their efforts to label him with a mental disorder. He said he was fine. "I am not sick, I do not need help," as in the title of the insightful and helpful book by Xavier Amador.

But something was not "normal"—he would become so neglectful of the needs of life that he would be at risk sometimes of dying in one way or another—several incidents happened. He would get dysfunctional, or he would act in a way that scared other people, and then security, police and/or medical people and/or family/friends would step in and corral him into a forced treatment regimen—until he again met expectations. The forced treatments included locked-door, prison-like shelter, forced psychotropic and other drugs, frequent group counseling sessions with seriously disturbed, dysfunctional people, behavior modification reward-punishment systems, isolation from exposure to healthy people and environments, and huge mega-thousand dollar billings, followed by bill collectors, loss of home, car, etc.

I can't diagnose, but I can describe the symptoms I observed. I'll get into that in my next post.

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