Transcendental Medication – Irregular Perceptions Of A Mental Health Services Consumer

Have you ever been under observation at a hospital psychiatric unit? Do you know anyone who has? I have, and as an enthusiastic people watcher I have observed some unusual things.

Marketing teaches us why people buy. It tells us what they expect from the products they purchase and what emotional and physical needs motivate them to take an action, specifically, to make a purchase. It suggests that all actions are driven by the human desire to rid oneself of discomforts brought about by changes in life. When we are hungry, for example, we prepare and eat tasty food until the pain of hunger is displaced by intense satisfaction. When we get hungry again, we eat again. The process is repeated automatically.

Does the repeating process itself fill a need or serve someone’s purpose besides our own? We know that the purpose of a machine can be understood by its function. It does what it is designed to do. By watching its actions we can determine its purpose.

Because the actions people take are always to remove pain and replace it with happiness we might suppose the design purpose of our discomfort is to cause us to take action. After all, this is what we do. To rid ourselves of discomfort we must perform certain things and we must figure out how to do so. And we must think about what we are doing to some extent. We are always thinking, always processing information, always seeking and applying solutions for ourselves and for others. Even in our sleep. It never stops and we are told if we meet the requirements it will continue mercifully forever. Perhaps the process is the purpose, and our purpose as well. Perhaps the process accomplishes something important to the designer, if there is one.

The extreme change in my life by the incarceration certainly created discomfort in me. It caused me to intensely seek relief. I was highly motivated to regain comfort. I was told, “It is up to the doctor.”

I was placed under observation because someone with the authority to insist wanted to know if I was a significant threat to others. If there was any question about it, I suddenly had the opportunity to establish myself firmly as a reasonable and well behaved citizen who could be trusted to live peaceably with his neighbor regardless of what I might have done to raise the question. Did I succeed?

Yes, and no.

Most of the patients were much angered by the disruption of their lives but also attempted to demonstrate the ability to think and behave rationally. The unit staff shepherded us around, made observations, and simply wrote them down for the doctors. The patients also made observations in order to evaluate their plight and to strategize accordingly. My plan was to simply be polite, answer questions intelligently,and to avoid conflict with the staff. After all, someone who had the power to get an answer wanted to know if I was dangerous.

Some patients succeeded in the plan quickly and were released right away. Others stayed longer. Upon release they were expected to report to community mental health centers for followup and ongoing evaluation. And to take medications regularly. They did not forget if medication was refused during the hospital stay the patient was immediately stripped of his clothes, publicly paraded to a bedroom, strapped down and shot in the butt with a tranquilizer guaranteed to induce sleep for as long as the doctor wished. I opted to swallow my bitter pill voluntarily.

Upon release my need was to stay out of the hospital. After describing the various services I would receive from the neighborhood mental health facility by the polite case manager assigned to me, I found the featured benefit for my cooperation was freedom from further hospital incarcerations. I would also be considered for training and job placement if I feigned gratitude. I could do things the hard way or the easy way.

Well, life goes on, so they say. I am still wondering who got me into this long standing life style 34 years ago at 26 years of age and why. As far as I know I had not harmed anyone, if that matters. When I ask about it the doctor or case manager shows disinterest in my query by changing the subject and not answering. At one point a doctor advised me to inquire at the original hospital instead of just telling me herself. The original hospital said they no longer had the records.

As a marketer, my observation is if a need is not met by a specific solution the person with the need will sometimes find his general situation does not change over a long period of time. Sometimes it never changes. Like the guitar player who dreams of stardom and never achieves it, his actions to become a star are repeated by him forever. Perhaps the desire for such things is built into us all and is nothing more than a motivator. If allowed to achieve his goal, the want to be rock star would not function as intended. Would you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

To the mental health providers, my need was not the issue. The need being met was the community’s need to believe I had been rendered harmless and would be kept that way. That is what staff in Government funded mental health systems are paid to do. It was decided by them that a life time of forced medicating would achieve and maintain the desired outcome. For compliance I was paid a small monthly entitlement check, an apartment in a subsidized building, and the promise that I would not be hospitalized again if I kept taking the so called medicine. That was the sum total of the benefits to me.