Have you been taking your medication?
There’s a question I must have asked people a couple of million times.
The mentally disturbed are really not a police problem, but way too often cops wind up dealing with them.
Talk about a recipe for a fucking disaster.
Whatever you want to call them – emotionally distburbed, mentally ill, crazy as hell…they present a challenge to law enforcement that we’re not very well prepared to deal with. Sure, past tragedies (and resulting lawsuits) have forced police agencies to become better prepared, but the truth still remains that it’s just not our role in society to try and help folks who are mentally ill.
And still we get called.
We get called when someone’s illness manifests itself in dangerous ways. When nobody else can deal with them the police get the job. And when we show up we find ourselves stuck in role conflict hell.
When the police deal with someone who is acting unreasonably there are two basic routes to take: Logic or force. When you can’t appeal to someone’s sense of logic, i.e. “Stop doing that or you’re going to jail”, you resort to force “Okay, it’s time for the cuffs”.
But way too often, when we encounter the disturbed, we find people who are endangering themselves more than anyone else Their ability to sense logic or respond to force has gone haywire. It’s like a pack of chimpanzees has gotten loose in the wiring and are busily yanking out connections when they’re not randomly making new ones. Sometimes you can talk them into compliance, and other times you can force them into it. But there are uncountable occasions in which neither works very well. And good old option B, “do it my way or I’ll make you”, can be so ineffective with people who just don’t react to pain and seem to have incredible strength.
One night in the lobby of a private mental hospital, me and six other cops found ourselves fighting an older woman who stood 4’11” and would need lead weights in her pockets to tip the scales past 90. There was a point when we all thought we were losing.
It’s pretty damn sobering to realize that someone the size of an elf is kicking your ass.
It got really fucking serious when she started waving around the razor blade.
It wasn’t her first trip to the hospital. She been diagnosed years earlier and was on a regime of medication that let her lead something pretty damn close to a normal life. Not perfectly normal, I’m sure there were side effects, but it was close enough that she could enjoy freedom, her family, and all manner of things that beat the hell out of duking it out with the cops. Especially so when the reasoning was because the voices told her we were monsters intent on murder.
But she had gone off her meds. The thinking goes something like this: “I’m doing so much better on this medication. But only crazy people need medication, and I don’t want to be crazy. Hmmmm, if I stop taking my meds then I won’t be crazy anymore.”
It’s a scenario played out a thousand times a day. Right after hearing all about how the black helicopters have been using special rays on them, their spouse is poisoning their corn flakes, or there are a nest of snakes underneath the sofa; the first thing the cops want to ask is “Have you been taking your medication?”
The answer is always no. Because it’s only the ones who stop taking the damn pills that start doing weird shit that makes someone want to call the cops.
Whatever the outcome, you always want to know the answer to one question. “If the medicine keeps you from miserable instances of insanity like this, why would you ever stop taking it?”
And that is the subject of a profound and moving must-read article by Heather at Dooce, a woman who is one of the superior authors in the blogosphere.
But I don’t understand why being right is more important that being happy, why someone would go on living with a sick, nauseating swarm of junk in her stomach rather than trying to figure out how to fix it, because the act of even admitting that she feels this way is somehow a character flaw.
Heather is not just another concerned onlooker wondering “why won’t that crazy person take her meds?” Her medication saved her life and continues to do so every day.
Sometimes I have bad days, sometimes bad weeks, but the medication enables me to cope, to see a way out and over those times. I am not ashamed of any of this.
An absolute great read and one of the best uses of your browser today.