Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Update Four

Trauma, Diagnosis, and Therapy

Feral Black-Hooded Parakeets in Santa Monica

by Anthony Servante

The Shrink says she wants a bit more about me in this update. So let's talk about drugs. Marijuana is legal in California now. I've run the gamut of the legal system. Served three years probation for possession of pot when it was a felony. Today I'm trying to get my Doc to script me a bud. She says I don't need it, to trust in the meds that she wants me to take. What she doesn't understand (I know you're reading this, Doc) is that bud helps me sleep. Normal sleep. Normal dreams. No anti-anxiety pill does that. Quite the opposite. You can't obliterate frayed nerves. You need to quiet them. A good night's sleep means a good day's wake. If that makes sense.

The quality of my day hinges on the severity of my nightmares. The severity of my nightmares hinges on the side effects of these meds. You don't really sleep. You close your eyes. You know you're awake as the dreams go by. You're awake with your eyes closed watching the dreams. Participating in the dreams. But always aware it's all a dream. Like fever sleep or transparent dream. Only more lucid. You are standing on shore of some unknown beach. It is night. You think, "The dream's begun." Then you're back in bed. You open your eyes. Sip some water from the night-stand. Lie back down. Close your eyes. The beach is cold. You go for a walk. You look for the parking lot. Must have parked somewhere to get to the ocean-side. Only one car. Must be mine. I drive north on the Pacific Coast Highway. There's a six-pack of beer--Michelob Light bottles. But I don't drink anymore. All the more reason to drink. It's only a dream. Then I'm on the train. No beer. Got to get home. Where's home? Have to catch up to my sleeping body and wake it up. Something is following me. Where are all the passengers? I know this thing. We've met before. Do I fight it? Do I run? Do I escape? It's an important choice. Because if I live or if I die will determine my mood when I wake up. I can go through the day dead or alive. It's all up to the dream.

Two things help. Coffee and Church. Not Church. Temple. San Gabriel Temple. The Priest gave me some books to read. To learn. He said there are no answers in the books. Only guidance. I prefer the coffee. It offers alertness over guidance. On the days I wake up On the days I wake up alive... guidance.

One last note about my waking time. The meds I've been taking since late last year, they've suppressed and mostly eliminated anxiety. Nervousness has been replaced by anger just below my skin. Like an itch I can't reach. But don't confuse the lack of nervousness for calm. The rage surfaces in subtle forms. In the form of sarcasm or cruel irony. I've developed a skill for cutting wit. I can see dread in the eyes of baristas at the Starbucks when they see me returning for my coffee. The cashiers at the Target stumble for the correct salutation. Good morning, sir. I mean, Good afternoon. Of course it's not morning. Ha-ha. They wait a moment to see what I say. I smile. It's a good day. I woke up alive. It'd be a grimace if I woke up dead. Or I'd lock eyes with them till they turned back to the cash register to finish ringing up the sale. Ironically, I heard "rage" is a side effect of Xanax. The anxiety reliever.

Doc, you've got a sense of humor.

But let's get to my guest today. I am happy to announce that my old acquaintance, Deputy Steve Baker, contacted me with his account and treatment. It's posted for you below.

Deputy Steve Baker (Trauma) Account

The Sheriff's Department have a routine for helping deputies who have suffered trauma. But let's get the language straight before we begin. They don't use the word "trauma". They call it "critical incident stress" (CIS). CIS is a phrase that applies primarily to law enforcement officers who have witnessed or been involved in a tragic event while answering a call. According to Deputy Andrea Wilcox, spokesperson for the San Gabriel Valley Sheriff's Department CIS Management Division, "Critical Incidents "overwhelm the usually effective coping skills of a deputy [or officer], provoking abrupt stress that falls outside the range of ordinary human experience." Even the most seasoned law enforcers cannot anticipate how they will react to certain events. As such, the affected officers must be debriefed within 12 hours of the event to gauge the level of CIS in order to recommend the appropriate treatment or therapy. The Commanding Officer (CO) of the deputy determines the treatment and decision to return the victim to street duty or reassign them to desk duty pending counseling goals.

I was kidnapped. I was held against my will for over a month. Maybe longer. Time passed strangely where I was held. I didn't eat or drink, but I never felt the need to. I don't remember sleeping. It all felt like a dream. Shock. That's what the CO told me it was. It was dark, but I could see everything. Workers going about their business. Tall supervisors keeping the work moving. Like ants. I didn't work. I watched. At first, I tried to talk to my fellow hostages. There were several. All ages. Men. Women. But no one talked. Except for one little girl who kept taking notes. I looked at her notebook and I saw my thoughts written down. Did I say that out loud to her? How could she hear me over all the noise? The clanging. The thud of rocks. The echoes. We were in a cave. It was so loud. Did I scream so she could hear me? Was I screaming from lack of food and water? The tall guards. They took one of the hostages. Put her to work. I tried to stop them. They were wearing masks. Awful masks. Bird masks. When my CO debriefed me to determine my mental fitness to return to work, he asked about the masks. Told me it was probably homeless men holding us hostage because we closed their camp. He told me to follow up on the bird masks on my own time as therapy and to report back to him if I recognize any of the birds. Then I got a new partner. And returned to patrol duty in the Santa Monica area. 

I found an article about birds when I started my home therapy. Figured the more birds I knew, the sooner I'd remember the type of masks the tall guards were wearing. The article talked about the infestation of parrots to Southern California. Wild parrots from Brazil were smuggled into Los Angeles via LAX in poster tubes. But these weren't the talky birds Angelenos know as parrots. These were feral birds that weren't afraid to attack humans. We were just another prey animal until they determined otherwise. The family that bought the smuggled parrots quickly learned that their toddlers were easy targets for the birds. And they were smart beasts. They could open the cages by trying this and that till the door opened. Then they attacked the smallest humans in the room. The kids. So the family released the parrots into the Los Angeles skies. 

In the past twenty years, these feral parrots have kicked out weaker birds from their territory. They've partnered with Black Birds to fend off attacks by hawks. Hawks now know to avoid the parrot territories across the southland. They've also learned that by gathering in hordes on the telephone wires above the suburbs, they can chase away the humans who are easily annoyed by the noise. Squawking, cawing. Even speaking the words they've learned from the humans who curse at them. "Fucking birds," they mock the humans. "Shut up!" they scream. The people who hear these voices in the early morning hours are at first surprised. But as they get used to it, the bird noise has joined the rest of the "white noise" of traffic and helicopters. There are those, however, who decide to move. But where can you go? The parrots are everywhere now. And now I hear that Black-Hooded Parakeets are infesting Santa Monica and other beach towns. 

I reported these infestations to my CO. He thanked me for the information. He didn't know but I heard him talking to my new partner. He told him to keep an eye on me. Come to think of it, some of the kidnappers took off their masks sometimes and I could see their human faces. But the human faces had bird costumes and the human clothes had bird masks. Fucking birds.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Update Three

Trauma, Diagnosis, and Therapy

Hardcore Chema shows her tats but not her face
(Born again Cholas show their face and not their tats).


This is the latest update following my therapy and re-adjustment to my home life after surviving a near-death experience. I see my Psychiatrist twice a week. I am currently taking Tramadol for headaches, Xanax for anxiety and sleep problems. I started my sessions late last year after my health care provider approved my doctor, but denied my request for counseling with a regular Psychologist. As such, in exchange for short talk sessions with my Shrink, I maintain my medicine regimen.

The drugs are starting to kick in. They're placing distance between good memories and bad. It's like the schizophrenics conundrum -- only sick people take meds, but if you take your meds, the voices stop, so you are not sick anymore. So we stop taking the meds, and the voices return. But since we're well, the voices must be normal. They are good voices. Sick people hear bad voices. In my case, the meds are supposed to help me deal with my dreams, but the Tramadol makes them worse. My conundrum is that only sick people have bad nightmares; I have good nightmares. The Shrink says that they are good because I can remember them. I can't remember the bad ones, the ones that wake me up all shaking and sweaty. Another thing that the meds do is make me want to stop writing this blog. The Shrink has to twist my arm to return here with more accounts, but I guess I get it. These are the normal voices telling the Schizo that he's getting well, that I'm not the only one with these problems.

A friend of mine from the Maravilla Projects in East Los Angeles shared her account with me for Update #3.

Cecilia s Account 

I was 16 years old. I was living with my mom and two younger sisters in a duplex in Boyle Heights, California. I was attractive in my tight jeans and bra one size too small for my bust. The boys were always dropping by to see me, but my mom didn't let me go out. She didn't mind when her dates paid attention to me. She mostly dated old gang members. Veteranos (veterans). They dressed sharp and smelled nice with cologne. Sometimes two guys would visit me and my mom in the same evening.

Once my mom went to bed early and two guys showed up. I don't remember exactly because I change it so much each time I remember it, but I do remember teasing them. The younger one of them got mad and tried to slap me. The older one took out a knife and swung it at the angry one, backing him up.

That's when I noticed it. The young guy's eyelid was hanging. You could see his whole eyeball. It was looking for its lid. The older guy with the knife took off running down the long stairway leading to the street. The injured guy blinked his other eyelid furiously as if that would reattach his lid.

Mom woke up from the guy's screaming. So did our neighbors. I didn't even hear the screams. My mom told me to call 911, but I just kept staring at that naked eye. My neighbor, the nosy old lady, kept asking me, "What have you done this time? " So I punched her. She fell down the stairs. The ambulance took the guy and the old lady. He survived, but the old lady died, the police took me.

The cops didn't charge me and ruled it an accident. They said I was in shock. I stopped going to school and started dating older guys. My mom kicked me out when I got pregnant by one of her boyfriends. He ditched me. I lost the baby. I was smoking crack back when it was new in the hood. Lots of times it would explode. I had burn marks on my face. I wasn't so pretty anymore.

I joined a girls gang, the Maravilla Projects Girls (MPGs). Got busted a lot. But lucky I found God after I ODed on some good caballo (horse, herion) going coming through the neighborhood when the Salvatruchas tried to muscle the Mexican Mafia (LA EME) out of East Los. I wasn't used to such strong drag. I couldn't straighten up. I was in the hospital in a coma for about a week. When I woke up, I looked down at the floor and saw some sandaled feet by my bed. It had to be Jesus.

I cleaned up my act. I'm 40 years old now. Got two kids. Yeah, they're cholos but go to school. I go to church and go to therapy with our Pastor. I talk to him about my nightmares and my paranoia. I'm taking antipsychotics and antidepressants. I also counsel young cholas who recently joined girl gangs in the Montebello area. 

If there is one image that stayed with me that all the sex and drugs and shit couldn't erase, it was that naked eyeball. That young dude died a couple years ago. He once said hello to me, but I threw up and told him to leave. The second image is the one of the old lady at the bottom of the stairs. She appears all the time in my dreams. I can't tell her I'm sorry, but God forgives me. That's all that matters now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #1
On the Bus

When I got on the San Gabriel Valley Foothill Bus yesterday, the driver was engaged in conversation with a man in a wheelchair. They were both black, in their fifties. They were reminiscing. From sweet, poignant, to bitter. When the conversation turned to high school girlfriends, it got tense.
"Remember Eloise?" asked the driver.
"I spent the night with her," said the handicapped man.
"Eloise? Tall girl. On the basketball team?"
"That's the one. She lived with her mother. No daddy. Had a younger sister. Also played basketball. Her and her sister moved in together and went to the same college after their mom passed."
"Sounds right." The driver's doubt began to dissipate. "You spent the night before or after her mom passed?"
"Before. Said I was the only man to spend the night at her mom's house. Her sister was gone for the weekend with her mom and she had the house to herself. I called her and asked what she was doing and she told me real sassy like 'What's it to you?' And I said, 'Cause I want to go over, is what.' 'Come on over then.' And I went."
"Eloise." It was no longer a question. The driver just said the name. Passengers got on and off over the next few miles and he kept repeating every few minutes, "Eloise."
Last few miles were quiet although the wheelchair man tried to re-engage the driver in talk. The driver just said, "Wow, Eloise."
At the Santa Anita Avenue stop the driver unhooked the safety belts from the wheelchair tires. He lowered the ramp and the man rolled out the bus. The passenger and driver didn't even say goodbye. The ramp rose up and the driver eagerly closed the door with the flip of a switch. As he lowered the seats that folded out of the way for wheelchairs, the driver looked at me, smiled, and apologized for the smell of urine that the handicapped man left behind. He sat, clicked on his seat belt, and turned on the ventilation fans as he resumed his route.