In the World of Peas and Corn


Ode magazine is changing its name to The Optimist.  The magazine was conceived in France, born in the Netherlands and grew up in America.  It says it is for “pioneers of the possible” and I like that phrase.

What if we were all pioneers of the possible?  What if each of us set out as independent free-thinkers, instead of sheeple, to see what could be done?  What is possible?  Yesterday I was watching “60 Minutes” do a segment on the Bloom Box.  It’s a cube about five inches on a side that can provide total power for a typical American home.  The inventor has gotten $100 million dollars of venture capital investment.  Imagine that!

As a pioneer of the possible, what I’d like to work on is removing psychological care from the medical establishment and replacing it—where?  The psyche is the mind, soul or spirit.  When the psyche is ailing, where should it be cared for?  As soul or spirit, the kneejerk reaction would be the church, but no way would I want to go there.

The church in America is narrow-minded and judgmental, and willfully excludes people demonstrating symptoms of “mental illness.”  Healing for mental illness should be spiritual, but the church currently doesn’t qualify as a primary spiritual center.  So what would I do if I had a child or partner whom and I loved and who was apparently experiencing psychic pain?

I would start by sending him to a farm—not just to any working American farm but to an Amish-style farm.  No electricity.  No television, telephone or computers.  No cars.  I’d send him out to work the land and live in silence.  Going back to nature is basic.  Working on a farm, you are grounded in solid reality.  You don’t have to guess at what words mean—particularly when mental distress is so often the result of a dissonance between what is said and what is done, between what words are used and what actions are taken.

In the world of peas and corn, what is, is.  You plant, you water and you watch it grow.  I know of no greater confirmation of hope than to watch plants grow.  Have you ever seen a weed sprout through a blacktop pavement?  What strength!  What power!  What a miracle!  If a weed can grow through blacktop then I can grow through my personal disaster.  If you want to heal a damaged psyche then go back to the land.  A cornfield cannot be raised by government edict or because you have an advanced degree.

Farming is done by the sweat of your brow and the strength of your muscles.  All that hard work outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine results in going to bed early and sleeping deeply.  Instead of taking drugs to sleep, take exercise—and not the pseudo-exercise of working out in a gym but the real exercise of growing your own food.

In the silence of growing vegetables, fruits and flowers, there is God.  Many a man, riding his tractor, has contemplated the God who is creating growth.  God speaks to man, but only if man has embraced the silence in which to hear him.  You can’t hear the voice of God when you’ve got music plugged into your ears all the time.

On my psyche-healing farm, I’d start each day—right after breakfast—with spiritual time.  I read somewhere that if people prayed more in the morning, they’d have less need to pray at night.  I’ve always found that to be true.  My spiritual regime would consist of reading the source documents of all the major religions (Bhagavad Gita, Holy Bible, Holy Koran, etc.), then group out-loud prayer, and then we would go off to work singing hymns.  There would be no preacher or doctrine to mess up the mind/soul/spirit that is working to sort things out and recover health.  Provide core teachings from the Lord, a context for communion simultaneously with the Lord and with others, and then sing your way to work.

The diet, of course, would be the food grown on the farm.  No pesticides, no deep-fat-fried, no caffeine, alcohol or nicotine.  As a Midwestern guru said, “No smokes, no booze, no drugs, no news.”  A sojourn away from ingesting toxins of the body and the mind.  Healthy food, healthy action, healthy mind.

Disturbed people working shoulder to shoulder with healthy people in a healthy environment.  That ought to do it.

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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