Wagner is an award-winning poet, author and artist who wrote WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, poems about her life with the mental illness, schizophrenia, and co-author, with her sister, a psychiatrist, of DIVIDED MINDS: Twin SIsters and their Journey through Schizophrenia, a memoir, which was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award and won the NAMI Outstanding Literature Award in 2006. Her work has been published in Tikkun, Midwest Poetry Review, and the New York TImes Sunday Magazine as well as the Hartford Courant and the LA Weekly, among other places. She also won an international poetry competition sponsored by the BBC in 2001/2. Her newest book of poetry, is available for publication.
Her art was on display in Connecticut area libraries in 2011 and 2012 and is always available for sale and donation. She currently lives in Vermont. Her second poetry book including art, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS will soon be published by Green Writers Press and Sundog Poetry.
Excuse the poor video quality here though the sound is fine. Not sure whether using the “selfie mode” on my iPhone made the video poor or what?? Anyone have suggestions? Anyhow I would love reactions to my reading below….(Just nothing obvious on how bad the vid quality is. I ALREADY know this! By the way, I made this for David H. and his project in the U.K. so that is why I referred to the Brits in it…
Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that set them up for success in life. Check out these things that mentally strong people don’t do so that you too can become more mentally strong.
They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.
They Don’t Give Away Their Power. They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone else power over them. They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.
They Don’t Shy Away from Change. Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change. Instead, they welcome positive change and are willing to be flexible. They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.
They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control . You won’t hear a mentally strong person complaining over lost luggage or traffic jams. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives. They recognize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude.
They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone. Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They strive to be kind and fair, but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy.
They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks. They don’t take reckless or foolish risks, but don’t mind taking calculated risks. Mentally strong people spend time weighing the risks and benefits before making a big decision, and they’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action. You may be interested in this too:
14 Things Positive People Don’t Do
They Don’t Dwell on the Past. Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different. They acknowledge their past and can say what they’ve learned from it. However, they don’t constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days. Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.
They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes. As a result, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over. Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future.
They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success. Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life. They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others surpass them. Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.
They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure. Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up. Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.
They Don’t Fear Alone Time. Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence. They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive. They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.
They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something. Instead, they look for opportunities based on their own merits.
They Don’t Expect Immediate Results. Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results. Instead, they apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time
Now I want to share a website where you can find out more about YOU, and why you are the way you are. This website provides a test and a resulting personality profile, which will give you a clue about your ways of being and how and why your interact with others the way you do, as well as your preferences in life for being and doing. http://16personalities.com The test here is free and may be saved as long as you remember to register by putting in your email. The basic profile is free and you can pay for an indepth one but once you get your test results, which is four letter code, much info is available for free on the internet.
Another site, with the official Myers-Briggs test or MBTI, of which the 16 Personalities is a version, and gives much the same results, and this can be found here: https://my-personality-test.com then go to the Personality TYPE test. Now, some of you may be fearful of being labelled but the thing about the MBTI is that it has nothing to do with labels being IMPOSED but any individual’s personal preferences leading to their type being discovered. I found it quite extraordinary, after taking the test a few times, and getting the same results each time, upon reading my profile with an open mind, just how predictive as well as descriptive of my behavior it was. The one thing it never is was prescriptive. It does not tell you what you HAVE to do only what you are likely to want to do or how you are likely to react in any given situation, given your personal preferences in life, and your personality style. Try it, if you don’t like it or don’t respond to it on a visceral level, disregard it!
I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for a while, ever since i first came across the notion who knows when. In fact, i always wondered, even as a child, why this was considered so impossible and the answer given was that “people would become lazy…” to which i had not enough life experience to respond adequately or knowledgeably. Now, however, my own life has given my a tiny hint of whether that answer was correct or not. And my answer comes from a life in which i was provided, by virtue of being “on disability” for decades, a poverty-level income, plus shelter and varying levels of food support. I did not become lazy at all. In contrast, as soon as my life stabilized when i no longer was in constant search for housing and had enough to eat for “the forseeable future” at any given time, i could settle down into my life of low but livable income and i taught myself to write poetry. This was a goal that i could accomplish given that it required very little extras in the way of expenditures, beyond a pen and a notebook and eventually an electric tyoewriter, paper, and a few envelopes and stamps. For 25 years i lived and breathed only to read and write poetry, and became an accomplished poet, with hundreds of poems under my belt.
The one thing that my stable if low income did not do was make me lazy, it did deprive me of many other things, but the basic “security” it provided to me of shelter and food and medical care, however basic level they were, permitted me the freedom at least to write my heart out.
Later, when my income doubled due to a a tragedy in the family that had a positive effect on my social security benefit, once again freedom from penury permitted me to become an artist, because i could buy the art supplies that before that time i could never have afforded.
The point is that people will always do what they do, and want to do, when the chains of utter compulsion are taken off. There is plenty of money in this world, enough to fund a system that takes care of all, if we have heart and soul to do this. The question is, Do we dare?
I remember names…some of them. For instance, the short, chubby, blond nurse, who was worried about her weight and who was so instrumental in torturing me? Her name was Debra. And the head nurse who seemed so oblivious to the fact that her policies were indeed torture, even though she admitted that she expected the guards to inflict pain on patients when “escorting” them to seclusion in order to “subdue them faster” as she put it to me, openly. Her name was Barbara, and even though I was horrified by things she told me, I believe that she was innocently deluded and believed in her job, did not mean to be mean, not the way Debra seemed to, and honestly wanted the best for her patients. But let me start at some beginning which is to say, anywhere at all, and give you an idea of what I am talking about.
I have written in multiple places and on many occasions about what happened to me at New Britain Hospital (aka Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street in New Britain) and I do not want to go into the whole thing here. All you need to do is search on the subject of Michael E Balkunas at this blog and you will get most of the gory details. That said, much that happened has never been told not even here. For instance, that Debra was the nurse who in a sadistic impulse and in an apparent fit of frustration, decided to have the security guards strip me naked when she was secluding me for some unknown (and always unnecessary) reason yet again…as they did nearly daily at W-1 in New Britain Hospital in May 2014….that it was Debra who was directly responsible for this I have never stated. But I remember her name clearly, and her face….And the fact that after she did this the second or third time she went on leave for several days, and when she came back told me she had almost quit her job.
I was momentarily cheered because I thought perhaps she had had some serious regrets about what she’d done to me. I asked her, Was it because of me? I thought she would tell me yes. She looked at me, and nodded, then said, “Because you are such a challenging patient.” Huh? I looked at her, and saw no remorse, no regrets only residual anger and scorn…and a certain unrepentant rancor that I had “made her do what she did.” Clearly she felt that I was to blame for her behavior, that I was to blame in general and that it was all justified.
But to get back to what happened. After she had me stripped naked by four male guards, after I loudly and vociferously protested being left alone in that freezing seclusion cell for I never knew how long, I began mildly hitting my head on the wall in protest. They threatened to four-point me and then they came barreling back in and threw me onto a restraint bed. The thing is, I knew, completely naked, I could not take the cold in that seclusion cell. But if they restrained me they would HAVE to cover me with something, and at the very least I would not freeze to death in that frigid cell for an indefinite number of hours…But when they came for me, they grabbed me and angrily threw me onto a gurney, even though I put up no resistance, spread-eagled my legs, deliberately exposing my private parts, and shackled them to the corners of the gurney with my arms pinioned above my head until I shrieked in pain even as they laughed. Then they held me down, gratuitously I might add, since I was already restrained, compressing my neck and chest, in order to give me the usual three-injection cocktail of punishment drugs — Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl — forcibly slammed into my buttocks. All of this done to me while I was naked and immobilized in four point restraints. Then fearing that they would leave me alone there, freezing cold, I screamed for them to cover me. With a look of disgust, someone threw a draw sheet over me, but no more.
The charge nurse came in for my “face to face” interview to see that all was “proper” and she visibly and audibly shivered, but refused me a warm blanket, or any at all, due to “safety concerns.” Then she left with the rest of them and turned off the intercom, so “we won’t have to listen to her scream.” They closed the door behind them, leaving me all alone behind a metal cell door that did not even have an observation window in it.
I screamed from the base of my lungs as deeply and as loudly as I could for as long as I could last. No one took mercy on me or brought me water or a blanket or spoke to me the entire time. Only when, exhausted, I finally lapsed did they relent and ask, from outside the door, “can we turn the intercom back on? She is quiet now…” And apparently got assent for that… Because eventually I heard someone flip a switch but nothing more.
After I was released, the next day, I told the unit director, Dr Michael E Balkunas what they had done to me, and he must have recognized the egregious nature of it because his response is telling. Instead of dismissing it as not so terrible, he said: “They would NEVER do such a thing as that in my hospital. You are a liar!” So he saw how awful it had been, what they had done to me, he just refused to acknowledge it had happened, and that he did not in fact what his staff were up to. But I was never in fact the liar he believed me to be. His stock answer to everything he did not want to see or believe was routinely that I was lying, but this was not true, and he was so sickeningly dismissive of the truth that I did not wait to listen to more this time. I was so wiped off the map by his response that I got up and walked out of the interview room and did not bother with him from then on…I KNEW I was never a liar, and that in actuality it was the STAFF who lied all the time, but telling Balkunas that would have done no good. He wanted to believe what he wanted to believe and nothing i said got through to him from day one…So I thought, so why bother ? WHY BOTHER. Balkunas wanted to murder my body and my spirit, and I could not let him succeed. He could imprison my body in his hospital, but i was damned if i would let him get my spirit. FUCK HIM!
But Dr Balkunas, Michael, you did not in point of fact know what went on at W-1 ever, nor at the ER, when you were there. Abuse was rampant because you encouraged it to be…and you never cared much what they did to achieve “order” so long as it was “quiet” when you were around. So you gave tacit assent to the tortures that they inflicted, and you likewise tacitly approved the very behaviors that you told me would “never happen on your watch”…Yeah? Well, I feel certain that if they behaved as they did towards me, they had done it before me, and did so to others after I left as well…and they continue to inflict these things on patients to this day.
I will leave it there. Your unit staff and you too, Balkie, are Out of control, and deserve, as my Obama post notes, to be CLOSED down for good.
The other day I made this little polymer clay figure to illustrate what Debra did to me.
It blew me away and I could not sleep all night the night I made her….Until Wendy and I decided to heal her, and perhaps heal me, from the experience, First, talking to the figure in the little bed calmly and with compassion, we covered her with a thick cotton blanket. That brought me some relief as I no longer felt chilled. Then we took off the restraints, which despite being made of polymer clay actually slipped right off, and we brought her arms down to her sides so she could sleep in comfort. By the time we were through I felt immensely better.
Neither of us could even imagine treating another human being as Balkunas had had me treated on numerous occasions by routine.
Yes, i will sell or make you jewelry. Please contact me with queries. I do sterling, wired with beads, and netting, but i tend not to do plain beads on beading wire as many others do that so you can find it elsewhere.
Although I added a coat of protective varnish to this at the last minute, I don’t think this ruined it or justified Bulkeley high school in Hartford, Connecticut hating the piece so much that they would have refused to acknowledge receiving it…But indeed, that school, located on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford, CT took this beautiful piece, but decided I did not deserve either a word of thanks or even notification of receipt that the piece arrived.
I cannot tell you how much this hurt me, but what do they care? I imagine the probably hated it, but why take it if they were only going to store it in the basement? I would’ve gladly kept it and NOT given it to those ungrateful wretches…I LOVE the piece and even with the shiny varnish I loved her…And I hate to think that the so and so’s at Bulkley high school just threw her in a hole so no one would ever see this lovely Black Madonna, and they never even told me they did not want her!
How dare they? I mean, if someone offers you, an organization, a piece of art and You do NOT want it, please do not take it, for it is an insult beyond insults not to display it. Furthermore, to not even thank the artist who likely spent many hours on the piece, is really an abhorrent act. But what do you expect from administrators of a high school? Apparently no more than boorishness just like this…
Screw them…But it makes me want not to donate art anywhere ever again if their response is typical.