MENTAL HEALTH

Disabilities


DISABILITIES DEFINED: AN OVERVIEW

Readers are advised to go to the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, to get a fuller picture of the various, the myriad disabilities.  A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these. Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.—World Health Organization


MY DISABILITY

My particular disability is bipolar disorder, and readers can access my account at either the depression or the bipolar sub-sections of this website. I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist and treated for "a mild schizo-affective state" in 1968; I was diagnosed again in 1980 for bipolar disorder(BPD), and diagnosed a third time in 2012 for bipolar I disorder.   It is important to include a note of warning here, namely, that: once one goes trolling among the pages of disorders, mental and otherwise, that exist in the medical and psychiatric literature, one can find all sorts of data that applies to oneself or others. Be cautious. One can argue that everyone has some disability; it is all a matter of type and degree, of visibility and of an understanding of self.

The economic impact of BPD can now be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars in the OECD countries(Science Daily, Pittsburgh, 2005).  According to the literature on the subject some 80% of people who have BPD do not even realize that they have this illness. Of those who do, a great percentage do not seek treatment. Of those who do, like myself, many years can be lost in FT employment.  In my case I lost as many as a dozen years of employment in my working life. The lost periods began in 1968 when I was first hospitalized for what was then called, as I say above, 'a mild schizo-affective disorder', and these lost periods ended in 2009 when I went on an old-age pension.  I was unemployed in the last half of 1968 and all of 1980, as well as virtually all of the years from July-1999 to July-2009.  At the age of 65 I went on an old-age pension and the need for employment--being in a job--ceased to be on my agenda.  By 1999, at the age of 55, I experienced difficulty in remaining in FT employment. A minimum of financial troubles followed due to having only a disability pension to live on after most of my working life spent in full-time employment. In the first dozen years of my retirement, 2000 to 2012, I had two major, & four minor, medication regime changes.  Changing medications can be a major problem in the treatment of BPD. The problems involve: the efficacy and safety of the treatments, as well as what are sometimes called tolerability considerations.  I encourage readers with an interest in this subject to google to their heart's content and, if they want more of my story, they can access it at: http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir

MORE ON MY DISABILITY

In some ways of course one cannot, indeed should not, complain since there are billions of people with relationship issues.  There are billions who are certainly far worse-off financially or medically than I am now or than I have been for most of my life.  I only mention these financial issues since they have been tangentially connected with my BPD experience in the last decade, since I was 55.  Over the last several decades I have suffered from a highly varied and sometimes cyclical pattern of highs and lows. They are difficult patterns to define, to understand and, therefore, to seek out and obtain a diagnosis and treatment.  Perhaps by the first decade of this third millennium, that is, by 2001, I had come to have what was then called Bipolar Disorder NOS, sub-threshold BPD.  I seemed to be suffering from bipolar spectrum symptoms, that is some hypomanic and some depressive symptoms. My symptoms and my life-narrative provided the criteria for one of the major subtypes of BPD: bipolar I disorder.  
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My website, the 4th edition, is now in the 33rd month of its operation(21/3/'11 to 26/12/'13) and it is still "a work in progress" as they say. This site was launched at Naw-Ruz, BE168, 21 March of 2011.  Much more will be added here in the months and, indeed, years ahead. My email address is: ronprice9@gmail.com.  Any reader who would like to write to me personally in relation to any personal issues raised here and their relevance to their own disability, whatever it may be, should feel free to do so.


DISABILITIES AND RESILIENCE

Resilience is a well-explored topic in the fields of psychology & psychopathology.  The roots of this exploratrion lie in physics & materials science such as engineering. Resilience refers primarily to the ability of the individual to cope with risk, trauma, or adversity. More specifically, resilience describes: the personal qualities, competencies, processes, or contexts that predict developmentally appropriate or “satisfactory” outcomes in individuals under threat. These definitions comprise the ecological approach to resilience which outlines risk factors including: poor health, low socioeconomic status, or exposure to violence, maltreatment, or community-level trauma. The ecological approach also outlines protective factors including: self-efficacy, self-esteem, academic competence, problem-solving skills, family cohesion, and social supports. The ecological approach attempts to provide a predictive model of such risk and protective factors, and their intersection, in efforts to provide holistic support interventions to those deemed ‘at risk.’  Although this is the most widely invoked approach to resilience, it has not been employed without extensive critique.  In light of these critiques, we propose a ‘cripping’ of resilience — a re-envisioning of its conceptual boundaries, meanings, and utility. For the details of this paper go to the M/C Journal of Media and Culture(V.17, N.1, 2013) at: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/697

LEARNING DISABILITIES

Part 1:

The Journal of Learning Disabilities (JLD) provides a specials series of articles. There is an in-depth coverage of topics in the field, such as mathematics, sciences and the learning disabilities field as discursive practice. There are feature articles, extensive literature reviews, theoretical papers, and position papers, research articles, reports of qualitative and quantitative empirical research, and intervention articles, as well as overviews of successful interventions. 

The purpose of this special issue of the JLD, January/February 2014, 47: 3-12, first published on November 12, 2013, is to bring to the attention of researchers and educators studies on morphology and literacy that either involve students with learning difficulties or have educational implications for teaching such students. Morphology is the identification, analysis and description of the structure of a given language's morphemes and other linguistic units, such as root words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context. In the introduction to this issue, background information is provided about morphological knowledge and consider the role of morphology in literacy, focusing on findings that are relevant for instruction of students who struggle with reading and writing. An overview of the studies included in this issue is also presented, organized by current issues concerning the role of morphological knowledge in literacy.

Part 2:

Collectively, the articles in this issue suggest that students with weaker literacy skills tend to lag behind their peers in morphological knowledge but that all students are likely to benefit from morphological instruction. Morphological interventions hold promise, especially for students who face challenges in language learning and literacy, but additional research is needed to provide a basis for informed decisions about the design of effective morphological interventions. For more on this topic readers should go to this essay by William E. Nagy, Joanne F. Carlisle, and Amanda P. Goodwin entitled: Morphological Knowledge and Literacy Acquisition.

In the final issue of JID for 2011, a range of contemporary issues is explored relevant to family life, the health of young people with intellectual disabilities, inpatient use of services by adults with intellectual disabilities, & social policy. Go to this link for the summary of this issue of JID: http://jid.sagepub.com/content/15/4/226The article by Starke reports on interviews undertaken with 11 young adults with intellectual disability. Her study was aimed at recording their experiences of growing up in homes where at least one parent had the same or a similar disability. Her findings suggest two main themes: first, the majority of the young adults in her study had positive experiences of family life during upbringing; and second, more worryingly, these participants described experiences of being bullied and harassed outside the family context. Her study clearly highlights the importance of parents, the family, & informal networks in the bringing up of children. Her study also portrays potential consequences that the participants’ negative experiences of peer contacts and their sense of exclusion might have for their prospects in later life.
 
ABILITY: A DISABILITY PERSPECTIVE

With its title 'able', the issue of the Journal of Media and Culture(V.11, N. 3, 2008) called for articles and essays which explored ability from a disability perspective, rather than disability from an able-ist perspective. One take on the title 'able', is that it invites a fresh perspective on disability, with a focus on abilities and productivities (defined differently, in non-able-ist terms), rather than lack and aberrance. This affirmation of abilities is characteristic of many of the articles and essays in this issue, particularly in the narrative accounts of lived experience. Another take on 'able' evident in these articles is the critique of able-ist assumptions and discourses. Some writers, such as Campbell, Goggin and Wolbring, overtly address the value of insights offered through disability to deconstruct the ‘able-ist’ perspectives which dominate and limit our social worlds, even within disability studies. Campbell provides an overview of scholarship on disablism and able-ism: ‘Disablism’ works as "a set of assumptions (conscious or unconscious) and practices that promote the differential or unequal treatment of people because of actual or presumed disabilities".

While Campbell acknowledges the importance of disability studies with its various critiques of the practices & production of disablism, "specifically examining those attitudes and barriers that contribute to the subordination of people with disabilities in liberal society", she also identifies an ‘able-ist project’ within disability studies, which can serve to reinscribe the able-ist perspective and assumptions. Campbell argues: "the challenge then is to reverse, to invert this traditional approach, to shift our gaze and concentrate on what the study of disability tells us about the production, operation and maintenance of ableism." Goggin also calls for this inverted approach, with scrutiny of the under-examined category ‘able’:

If we think of the impact and significance of “whiteness”, as a way to open up space for how to critically think about and change concepts of race; or of “masculinity” as a project for thinking about gender and sexuality — we can see that this interrogation of the unmarked category of “able” and “ability” is much needed. Goggin notes that while disability has been subject to critique and examination (like the all too conspicuous and scrutinised disabled bodies), there has been surprisingly little critique of ability: "nor have we witnessed a thoroughgoing recognition of unmarked, yet powerful operations of ability in our lives and thought". Wolbring also contends that “there is a pressing need for society to deal with ableism in all of its forms and its consequences”. Through his discussion of categories of ‘able’ and ‘ableism’, he identifies a dominant discourse around ‘species-typical’ versus ‘sub-species-typical, defined from the dominant ‘able-ist’ perspective. For more go to: http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/viewArticle/58

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY: AND DEPRESSION

As I look back over those first episodes of manic-depression, the package of episodes for the first 18 years of my pioneering life, from 1962 to 1980, from the age of 18 to 36, the experience which Thomas Henry Huxley(1825-1895), the English biologist, describes is helpful.  Huxley suffered primarily from depression or perhaps a moderate bi-polar disorder.  The disorder interfered with his life yet, unlike some of his other family members, he was able to function extremely well at other times.  He referred to "the long wait" until "the faith in self" finally seemed justified and then, as he says, a "turning point came."  This seemed to me like a helpful perspective on my own experience.  In the case of my Cape Horn, as Huxley called it, my ship was actually wrecked and its inhabitant withered. But after a recuperation on the shore of life, a sleep on the shore and on the sand, and then a rejuvenation thanks to the fruits of the land, I was ready again for the assault of life.

DISABILITIES IN THE MOVIES

These bizarre, strongly abnormal, bi-polar experiences made me at first attracted to and then skeptical of conspiracy and mental illness themes in films and finally drawn to them again. Characters with mental disabilities or mental illnesses have long been staples of literature.(1) In the nearly fifty years associated with my pioneering days(1962-2011) I did come to enjoy the range of conspiracy films such as JFK, All the Presidents Men and Dave, inter alia with their underlying presence of paranoia; films on various disabilities like Repulsion, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Shine, Awakenings, Rainman, Lorenzo's Oil, My Left Foot, inter alia; and films exhibiting several kinds of visionary or sensory paranoia based on and appealing to feminism or right-wing politics such as: Basic Instinct, Dirty Harry and Rambo, among others. But I am no conspiracy theorist myself like my fellow traveller and academic Noam Chomsky.   Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is a professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


I do not hold the view, as Chomsky seems to do, that if people only knew what was going on, they could rise up and sort out the world’s problems.(2) The utopian force I have been identified with for half a century is no panacea.  The processes of the evolution of this Force, the Baha'i Faith, are slow and complex. It is part of an integrative gradualism.  The revolution at the heart of this new world Faith is silent and spiritual, gradual and very complex.  Even if the world becomes, for the most part--and as I believe it will--affiliated with this new Faith, there will be many problems to deal with, many complexities. The peace, love and unity that the Baha’i Faith offers to humankind is no simplistic rabbit’s foot.  It requires--and will require--tireless, continuous effort on a planetary scale for many generations. This story, my story, is but a small part of one or perhaps several generations.

DISABILITIES IN THE MOVIES: Part 2

Sometimes with genuine and believeable story-lines, such films were often fanciful, delusional and irrational. Sometimes inspiring, they were not always the visionary films, not examples of the visionary paranoia and the heightened awareness of real possibilities their producers claimed them to be. If they did illuminate the hidden dimensions of history and of the personal, they were dimensions that for this Baha'i illuminated the political and the social, the historical or the contemporary in quite different terms than they did for the mass that watched them, although that was not always the case. Baha'i perspectives provided for me, anyway, representative glimpses of a counterpoint to the conventionalities and social puerilities often conveyed by these films. My own experience of mental hospitals and mental illness gave me, I often felt, a depth and a nuance and, as the years went on, a quiet and realistic base from which to assess the many emphases and claims that were voiced in the visual medium on these subjects.(3)  I have probably bunched together too many films here, but during these epochs there were films that dealt with so many of the personal and social problems of our times and problems I suffered from as well. They were films that were entertaining and informative, inspiring or dull. I could write my autobiography solely around films that served, in some ways, as the backdrop of my life.

If I were a Hollywood actor in the last quarter-century (1986-2011), I would be calling my agent to be on the lookout for roles in which I could play a mentally troubled character. Anthony Hopins in Silence of the Lambs(1988) and Hannibal(1990), Kathy Bates earned her Oscar playing a madwoman in Misery in 1990; in 1993 Holly Hunter was the mute heroine of The Piano; 1994 produced Tom Hanks as the strange but winning Forrest Gump; in 1995 there was the alcoholic Nicholas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas; Geoffrey Rush won the Best Actor award for his 1996 performance as schizoaffective pianist David Helfgott; 1997 was Jack Nicholson's turn for doing obsessive compulsive disorder; James Coburn picked up his Oscar as the sadistic paranoid father in 1998's Affliction; and in 1999, Michael Caine was a narcotics addict and Angelina Jolie co-starred as the sociopath of Girl, Interrupted, an 18-month stay at a mental hospital. Ten Oscars in ten years and I am not counting many films since then and the many borderline cases like Jessica Lange who is half mad in most of her movies and has already collected two Oscars.(4) For those wanting a more comprehensive list of films featuring mental illness go to Wikipedia.(5) The illness I had suffered from, starting to manifest itself over forty years ago, had become, in some ways, a source of claim to fame.

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES AND TELEVISION

But it was not all a story of a new age of understanding. On television, that most popular medium of story-telling in modern society, people negotiated their attitudes to and their understandings of different social and political issues of which mental illness was but one. The most common disability portrayed on television during the years that my autobiography was being written, 1984 to 2011, has been mental illness in one form or another.(6)  People’s information and knowledge of the subject comes, for the most part, from TV which often perpetuates the stigma and the negative sterotypes by inaccurate depictions, misinformation and uninformed dramatic sketches. This has been part of the world of the mentally ill for centuries and it has been part of the backdrop of my own experience in these several epochs, years that in some ways felt, in retrospect and while they were being lived, like geological eras.  In some ways it is difficult to appreciate how far society has come in its knowledge and understanding; in other ways the problems assoicated with mental health are still massive.

My autobiography suggests, exemplifies, a psychological reality that opposes on the one hand and atttempts to withstand on the other the plague of popular fantasies that bombard consciousness in these epochs.  My identity is not merely an image, ultimately empty, a symbol of another's demand on my life in an image-conscious society.  I accept that image has become a central aspect of life today; indeed to some extent I revel in it. I play the game, but realize it's a game. I know that much of my desire I have been taught through my only partly avoidable immersion in society's realities. I have been hooked, as we all have been to varying extents, by the "aesthetics of consumerism.” "Coolness" and "glamorousness" I am aware of in some symbolic world that I inhabit in a depthless realm of masks, of images and brand names whose cache and status inevitably change, revealing no stable core at best or no substance at worst.  Some media analysts call the substance of the visual imagery a secondary reality.  I know my reality is not this. The movies I have seen are entertaining, but have only that secondary reality. 

OLD AGE: AN OVERVIEW

Old age consists of ages nearing or surpassing the life expectancy of human beings, and thus the end of the human life cycle. Euphemisms and terms for old people include: (I) old people, a worldwide usage, (ii) seniors, an American and developed countries usage, (iii) senior citizens, a term found mostly in British and American usage, (iv) older adults, a term used in the social sciences, and (v) the elderly, and elders, used in many cultures including the cultures of aboriginal people. Old people often have limited regenerative abilities and are more prone to disease, syndromes, and sickness than younger adults. The organic process of ageing is called senescence, the medical study of the aging process is gerontology, and the study of diseases that afflict the elderly is geriatrics. The elderly also face other social issues such as retirement, loneliness, and ageism. The chronological age denoted as "old age" varies culturally and historically. Thus, old age is "a social construct" rather than a definite "biological stage". For more of this overview go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_age

DISABILITIES AND OLD AGE

Part 1:

The industrial revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 & 1840. In the two-and-one-half centuries since its inception, the first rich nations to provide for the retirement of their elderly did not do so until roughly a century ago. Until the late 1800s, when agriculture still dominated the newly industrializing economies, old people, especially in America, usually owned their farms or passed them on to their children, who looked after them. Those who worked the farms were also, at least often, taken in. Suffering among the elderly existed, of course, but life spans were relatively short.  As workers were forced off the farms and into factories & mines in the second half of the nineteenth century, however, more and more of them had no assets to fall back on, and the poverty of growing numbers of the elderly turned into a crisis that could no longer be ignored. Many people had to go on working until they were physically unable, and for most the possibility of a comfortable retirement did not exist. For more on historical perspectives on old age and disabilities go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/mar/20/the-specter-haunting-old-age/

Part 2:

A useful review in The New York Review of Books(5/3/'15) of the following three books is relevant to the subject of disabilities & old-age: (i) Falling Short: The Coming Retirement Crisis and What to Do About It by Charles D. Ellis, Alicia H. Munnell, and Andrew D. Eschtruth(Oxford University Press, 160 pages, 2014); (ii) Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All by Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingson(New Press, 300 pages, 2014); and (iii) Steering Clear: How to Avoid a Debt Crisis and Secure Our Economic Future by Peter G. Peterson(Portfolio, 200 pages, 2014).  The review begins: "Social Security may well be the most popular social program in America." The review continues:

"It is without question one of the nation’s two or three most significant of the past century, the great accomplishment of the New Deal. Some 52 percent of all married couples sixty-five and older today receive half or more of their income from Social Security. Three quarters of unmarried retired people do. Social Security has been a major factor in the reduction of poverty among the elderly from 35 percent in the 1950s to about 9 percent today. It pays benefits to disabled workers, widows, & children of deceased workers. Moreover, those payments are mostly progressive; higher-income recipients receive more in absolute dollars but less as a proportion of their preretirement income than do lower-income recipients." For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/mar/05/rocky-road-taking-it-easy/?insrc=toc


A NEW BOOK ABOUT DEATH AND DIEING

Marcia Angell, in her 8/1/'15 New York Review of Books article "A Better Way Out" reviews Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (Metropolitan, 300 pages, 2014). Angell begins: "In his newest & best book, the surgeon Atul Gawande lets us have it right between the eyes: no matter how careful we are or healthful our habits, like everyone else, we will die, and probably after a long period of decline & debility. The average American, he tells us, spends a year or more disabled and living in a nursing home. Furthermore, the medical system will be of very little help at the end. In Gawande’s words: 'The waning days of our lives are given over to treatments that addle our brains and sap our bodies for a sliver’s chance of benefit. They are spent in institutions—nursing homes and intensive care units—where regimented, anonymous routines cut us off from all the things that matter to us in life. Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.' For more of this excellent review go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/jan/08/better-way-out/?insrc=hpma


A FILM ABOUT DEATH AND DYING

Perhaps what distinguishes Amour from its literary counterparts is the intimacy of film. There we are, up close and personal, flies on the wall of the Paris apartment. Nothing, we feel, is being held back, nothing concealed; we are witnessing every stage of the decline of someone to their death. It is in itself cruel, even merciless. Yet the film's maker, author, almost manages to formulate a harsh critique of Europe’s failure to come to terms with the needs of its aging population;

In “The Death of Ivan Ilyich,” Tolstoy also gets in very close to his characters, escorting us into the room of a dying judge who realizes he’s led his entire life wrong and screams for three days and nights. And Shakespeare puts us out on the storm-wracked hill, along with the raging, powerless Lear. But nowhere in Tolstoy or Shakespeare do we see a helpful nurse teaching the Fool or the peasant Gerasim how to change the old man’s diaper. There’s no transcendence in Amour, no comfort. In the final scene we see Eva, alone in the apartment where the smell of death still lingers and where, amid all the cherished possessions, the remnants of two full lives, there is nothing but a wrenching sense of loss and absence. For more on this poignant film go to:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2013/jan/07/haneke-film-not-to-see/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=January+15+2013&utm_content=January+15+2013+CID_c2a4f5c3916b9810a149c7f7e2cc6902&utm_source=Email%20marketing%20software&utm_term=A%20Masterpiece%20You%20Might%20Not%20Want%20to%20See

WE ARE OUR CULTURE

Part 1:

That distinguished professor emeritus of history at Yale University until his retirement in 1992, Firuz Kazemzadeh, used to say that 1% of our attitudes and behaviour, beliefs and knowledge is a striving and attaining the ideals of the Baha'i Faith, and 99% is the culture we have grown up in and inhabit. I'm not so sure he is right about these per centages, but I get his point and his point is part of what I am trying to say in the above.  But there is much else. "Look within thee and thou wilt find Me standing within thee: mighty, powerful and self-subsisting."  This is the indwelling God.  There is also the Unknowable Essence.  I don't want to get into the complex and emerging field of Baha'i theology here. For a discussion of Baha'i theology go to the following link. It is an article written by a fellow Baha'i youth I used to know back in my teens in the early 1960s in Ontario:http://bahai-library.com/mclean_prolegomena_bahai_theology

Part 2:

The subjects, which I have alluded to above and only briefly, are long and complex.  Many of the statements I have made in the above analysis are arguable. The topics are also sea of contradictions, paradoxes and complex dubieties which only future generations will unravel and analyse, discuss and comment upon in learned tomes.  It is also a world with a burgeoning literature which media studies analysts as well as Baha'is have begun to explore in more than an ample beginning. But I shall leave the subject here.

----------------------------------------------------------FOOTNOTES---------------------------------
(1) Claude J. Smith, "Finding a warm place for someone we know: the cultural appeal of recent mental patient and asylum films," Journal of Popular Film and Television, Spring 1999.
(2) Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, editor: Mark Achbar, Black Rose Books, London, 1994.
(3) Ray Pratt, Projecting Paranoia: Conspiratorial Visions in American Film, University Press of Kansas, 2001.
(4) Alan Stone, "A Beautiful Illusion: John Nash and the Hollywood Romance with Mental Illness," Boston Review, April/May 2002.
(5) Readers can type the words "List of Films Featuring Mental Illness" at Wikipedia for a surprisingly long list of examples.
(6) Rachel Gans-Boriskin & Claire Wardle, “Mad or Bad? Negotiating the Boundaries of Mental Illness on Law & Order,” Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, Vol.12, No.1, 2005.


Part 3:

In may ways everyone is disabled in some form or another. For several years I taught students taking courses in disability studies and often came across this idea. The following prose-poem entitled: Sheehy  refers to this idea of the pervasiveness of disabilities.


SHEEHY

SECTION 1:

Gail Sheehy was a writer whose books I got into occasionally from the late 1970s to the late 1990s while I was involved in the earliest stages of community building in Australia’s Baha’i community. During these years I worked in: Ballarat, Launceston, Smithton, Zeehan, Katherine, South Hedland and Perth. By 1999 I was so tired I had to take an early retirement at the age of 55.

“Completely fascinating,” were the words in a review of her 1981 best-seller Pathfinders in the Washington Post, “This is a wonderful book based on four years of formidable research. What gives the book its power is the frankness with which the people whose stories she quotes open their minds and hearts to expose their frustrations and pain. These people speak with voices that cut right through you." They certainly spoke to me.

Sheehy established her writing credentials with the best-selling Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life published in 1976 when I was a lecturer at what became the University of Ballarat. In this book she argues that adults pass through four distinct phases during their lifelong maturation. Subsequent books in the Passages series explore such topics as menopause, male aging, and changing social perceptions of the aging process. I came across her work while teaching the social sciences and humanities in post-secondary schools and colleges in Australia. Yesterday, while waiting for a friend and while sitting in a soft and very comfortable lounge-chair outside the University of Tasmania library at its Launceston campus, I browsed though Pathfinders, the sequel to Passages, focussing as I read on all the underlinings I’d made more than 20 years before in my copy of that popular book. It was the first day of winter in the Antipodes and I was about to have a light take-away lunch and a refreshing swim in an indoor pool. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs: A Five Volume Memoir, 2 June 2010.

SECTION 2:

It has been many years, Gail, since
I was into your writings. Still good
stuff in the tradition of pragmatism,
Erik Eriksson’s stages of life & now
here I am, a child of those sixties &
into the evening of a life imagining
new possibilities, giving voice to…
what I’ve been thinking all my life,
well, at least since those sixties just
when I was starting out so long ago.1
Yes, I see myself as an observer who
sees, a sentinel who warns and a not-
lone-witness who testifies with a wife
who helps me to keep my ego in place,
manageable, my life in order and my
disabilities—how shall I put it—lived
with a stability, sanity and pleasure!!!

As you say, Gail, in your Afterword,2
maintaining, recombining, enduring,
integrating around one transcendent
moral issue is crucial-a seed of seeds:
seed for disastrous & immortal worlds.3

1 I was 15 in 1960 and 25 in 1970. Some have said the sixties did not end in Australia where I had come to live, by my late 20s, until the mid-1970s, by which time I was in my early 30s.
2 Pathfinders, p.528.
3 Conrad Aiken, “Preludes for Memnon or Preludes to Attitude,” quoted in Pathfinders, p.533.

Ron Price
2 June 2010


HOMELESSNESS AND DISABILITIES

The experiences of poverty, homelessness, loss, and physical disability are often intertwined in any discussions of the sense of social defeat. This has clearly been demonstrated in many social settings such as permanently supported housing tenants with physical and mental illnesses.  The onslaught of deprivation and humiliation generally comes with the territory of poverty and homelessness. Clinicians, social service providers, and scholars analyse the specific instances and experiences that people have of social defeat. Any specific experience of defeat cannot be adequately understood in isolation.  Such experiences must be understood in relation to individual life histories of experiences of defeat, deprivation and humiliation.  Homelessness must also be understood in terms of memory and a sense of the future.  Citizens who occupy the homelessness section of social space in a given society live under the threat of limited symbolic and material sources. These resources measure success and failure. 
Readers with an interest in this subject should go to the journal of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry(June 2014, Volume 38, Issue 2). The article is entitled "Keep Your Sunny Side: A Street-Level Look at Homelessness" by Stephen Giles Frischmuth. Go to this link for more: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11013-014-9372-0#page-1

CRIPPLING DISABILITIES

About four weeks after I began my pioneer life in Dundas Ontario, in September 1962, the American poet Sylvia Plath began to write her famous Ariel poems. Her first Ariel poems in late September and October were an expression of a "turbulent struggle with her inner demons." Her normal preoccupation with self characterized this poetic outburst. This concern with self was a feature of her poetry which she never abandoned. She never really came to terms with these inner demons. Her raw-edged response to sorrow and joy and her apprehension of the world's horror and beauty were unusually excessive, very intense. Through many years of writing poetry she forged a universal art and transformed her crippling personal disabilities into an exalted achievement and gained much public recognition. In retrospect, her work seems like a set of intricate and obsessive variations on a few themes which press into a crescendo, into an immense passacaglia or musical dance with a very melancholy mise en scene. -Ron Price with thanks to Anne Stevenson, Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1989, pp. 287-303.

I was just entering a different
poetic world back then,
a world I did not put into form,
into words for thirty years.

By then I, too, had found
my demons and become
all too acquainted with
a set of crippling disabilities.

I dealt with an intricate
and obsessive set of variations
on a few themes and they pressed
to a crescendo as the millennium
turned its corner, as the world
sank deeper into its slough of despond
and portentious happenings cut across
the divide in time in its fin de siecle.

Ron Price
14 November 2001


Some of my internet posts below in relation to disabilities and other subjects:

http://www.moviecompound.com/forums/index.php?action=profile;u=1141;sa=showPosts

http://www.australiaforum.com/education/5956-retired-canadian-australian-teacher-writes.html

ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

Part 1:

With the growing number of the elderly in society and with the rapid advancement in medical knowledge and technology, we are recognizing an increasing number of individuals who suffer from a progressive impairment of intellectual function first discovered at the turn of the 20th century by Alois Alzheimer, a German physician.  Alzheimer’s disease usually strikes those who are elderly; its cause and cure are unknown. Caring for victims of Alzheimer’s disease, either by family and friends or by nursing home and health institution staff; is a formidable task. Even though patients in the advanced stages of the disease may be disturbed, suspicious, & ultimately become helpless, caregivers should be aware of the patients’ spiritual & psychological needs. This paper offers some suggestions, based on clinical observations and illumined by the Bahá’í teachings, for meeting those needs: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/1.3-Ghadirian.pdf   

This noted professor and practicing psychiatrist, in one of his many books, explores the link between suffering, creativity, and spirituality! This is an intriguing combination of psychiatry and spirituality that illustrates the power of creativity to treat suffering.  An examination of the lives of famous artists who suffered, including Van Gogh, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven gives insight into how they dealt with their adversity through creativity.  He explores how various conditions such as alcoholism, depression, bipolar disorder, and dementia can influence a person's creative impulse and how creativity and spirituality can help a person deal with trauma. Read how Helen Keller, Christopher Reeve, and others were able to overcome suffering and emerge victorious. Drawing on principles found in the teachings of the Baha'i Faith, Ghadirian attempts to explain suffering, its place in human society, and how it can lead us to a closer, happier relationship with God, as well as a better relationship with ourselves and others. For a list of Ghadirian's publications go to: http://www.medicineandspirituality.com/wordpress/?page_id=93  For more on Alzheimer's disease go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_disease  and 
http://www.nrimed.com/   (Alzheimer's)


Part 2:

Although the risk factors, biomarkers, and medications for Alzheimer’s disease appear to be almost identical in 1993 and 2013, profound changes can de detected throughout this time period. There are now articles which map these recent changes in the conceptualization of Alzheimer’s disease, especially the emerging trend toward prevention. While some preventive practices such as brain training, and the search for early signs & biomarkers (such as APOEε4) have existed for a long time, the recent broadening of scope to include cardiovascular risk factors & their prevention, paired with pre-symptomatic detection of disease-specific biomarkers, has considerably impacted the conventional understanding of this syndrome and the possibilities for pharmacological & non-pharmacological interventions. The rationale for emphasizing multiple logics when explaining these changes is to avoid simplified argumentative pathways that exist among some scientists.

When people imagine someone dying from dementia, they think of a bedridden, non-verbal patient. But some people with dementia are both verbal and non-bed-ridden right until the end. The diagnosis 'dementia' can distract us from seeing the reality that we are dealing with old people who have problems with memory and whose bodies are shutting down. In other words, with the push for a cure comes an emotional and intellectual refusal to deal with the normal process of dying.​