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OUT ON A LIMB
I was deeply moved by Judith Lewis’ article about Elizabeth Faber [“When the Bough Breaks,” March 10–16]. Especially poignant was the photo of a young Elizabeth, in bed after an auto accident, cradling a small teddy bear, with its outstretched arms and its chest boldly proclaiming the words “Why me?,” as if it were the unspoken plea of her yet-to-be-born infant son, or indeed the cry of Elizabeth herself.
I myself am a “consumer.” I’m a manic-depressive, and I can attest firsthand to the value of Mark
Ragins’ assertion for the need of continuity in the relationship between a mental-health-care provider and a patient. For the past seven years, I have been lucky to have a caring, sensitive therapist, one whom I have called late at night in tears while I was slicing up my arm with a razor blade. Sure, medications may help, but a trained professional standing in the gap for you can make a huge difference. Friends and family are often overwhelmed or simply lack the skills to deal with a mentally ill loved one. Also, my complaints of depression and requests to see a psychiatrist were ignored by my HMO physician until my therapist faxed him a letter stating that I was suicidal and really did need help.
I found my therapist by a referral through my church. My advice is this: Don’t just look to the state for help. Some churches offer low-cost therapy, or they may refer you to someone who can help. I know there are not enough services out there, but get creative and don’t give up looking. Maybe someday insurers will recognize that mental illness can be every bit as life-threatening as, say, cancer and provide more badly needed services. Until then, we’re on our own.
I wanted to feel sympathetic for Elizabeth, but I couldn’t. The idea that she was doing all that dope in a desperate attempt at “self-medication” is pretty absurd. I’ve seen enough tweakers to recognize her symptoms. Also, there’s a glaring lack of concern for the infant that was killed, more like the baby was just a piece of clothing that stopped being stylish and was discarded. There’s no mention where the baby was buried or whether it got a funeral or anything. The thrust of the article seems to be that we’d all be better off if society condoned “involuntary commitment”; however, to this day my father, after a few drinks, likes to go on about how he shoulda had me committed. His reason: I dropped out of college in Maine and moved to California, where I went to work as a bicycle messenger.
Your excellent article on Elizabeth Lynn Faber and California’s mental-health system reminded me of the tenant I accepted who was being assisted by a caseworker and government money to live on his own. When the guy began hearing voices in the walls and pounding on the doors of his neighbors in the middle of the night, I found there was no one to help. The caseworker told me that he could not be forced to take his medicine and that the police would not take him into custody if they arrived after he calmed down. He terrorized an entire apartment building until we paid him to move out. I learned that when you are involved with the mentally ill, everything is about protecting their rights. The rest of us are out of luck.
—Karen Heller Mason
The time has definitely come to get the measure to reopen state psychiatric hospitals on the ballot again. I say this not merely to “lock them all up,” but to give our mentally ill brothers and sisters a chance at a better life, where they have some structure, controlled medications, appropriate groups and activities, and, last but not least, decent living conditions versus life on the streets.
Re: “When the Bough Breaks.” Great article. Horrible cover art. Brian Stauffer’s illustration is a perfect example of artwork being created digitally because the artist cannot, or will not, put in the time to create a worthwhile, lasting image. The same conceptual idea done with a decent amount of skill in pastels or oils would have come off much more effectively and â sincerely. Weighty subject matter demands worthy artwork, especially on your cover. Just because something is done with a computer does not mean it’s better.
ANNABEL CHONG AND OTHER FURRY CREATURES
I was shocked and dismayed to read Manohla Dargis’ review of Sex: The Annabel Chong Story [New Film Releases, March 10–16]. It was nothing more than a reactionary diatribe obsessed with the act of the gangbang itself (“2.5 minutes per dick, the 251st belonging to Ron Jeremy, enjoying his sloppy seconds”), using inappropriate language that was just as degrading to the subject as this reviewer asserts the subject was to herself. I am also very confused about the passage on Edie Sedgwick, to whom I have never seen Chong compared in any reviews or press materials. (Note to Dargis: One reason why Ciao! Manhattan is so morbidly fascinating is because Sedgwick, once the toast of New York, was dead when the film was released. Chong was never the toast of the town, and is still alive and kicking.) Sex is an interesting if flawed film that deserves a real review. What I read in the Weekly was not a review of the film itself, but rather a thinly veiled personal judgment on the act around which the film revolves.
I enjoyed Manohla Dargis’ “dead animals” essay [“Wild Kingdom,” March 17–23], because it took a step back from the traditional “holier-than-thou” stance to a more human “we’ve-all-got-our-vanities-to-deal-with” posture. Even though, as a former furrier, I don’t agree with every one of the criticisms cited in the piece, I respect the opinions expressed.
CHEW CAREFULLY, MR. LEE
Re: Hope Urban’s “Jay’s Last Stand” [March 17–23]. The loss of Jay’s Jayburger is a black eye to L.A. Our city has few such historical icons left. It’s infuriating in every aspect. I love Mr. Coffin’s stand and everything about it. I hope that landlord chokes on his wonderful money. Bastard!
BETTER NEVER THAN LATE?
Re: Lalo Lopez’s article on Proposition 21 [Mexiled, March 17–23]. Perhaps the next time one of your columnists has something so important to say, it would be helpful to run it before the election, when it can still do some good.
—Joan F. Kaufman