Brave Through My Disabilities



Early in 1975, after a linghtly stay in the “psych wards,” I was told by Psychiatrist Gertrude Doughton, DO at Broadlawns (County Hospital) In Des Moines, Iowa that I should give up my dreams of graduate school and a family, move in with my mother, sit back and collect SSI from Social Security. The children’s’ psychiatrist at the same hospital from the infamous West One, West Two, West Three, which used antiquated Behaviorial treatments fot “the poor,” met with me in a single special “old fatherly session,” told me the very same thing; most of their patients, like me, were on Phenothiazine drugs and relegated the scrap heap of Thorazine shuffle, and this was exactly what happened to me; I was drinking heavily on higyh doses of powerful mind altering medications, and I was diagnosed with chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia, a diagnosis which has not been listed in diagnostic manuals for a very long time. At final discharge, I was abandoned after only a spotty four years of unsuccessful therapies and four unsuccessful hospitalizations wityh the misdiagnosis of schizo affective disorder, depressive type.

I was finally “let go.” This was the best thing to happen to me. I ended up in my final hospitalization being flattered by a medical student at the psych wards: awarded to a weekend with her and her parents while I struggled with male, female relationships. I was later to learn that the county hospitals were the worst hospitals to treat psych patients, that their programs defeated most patients. I was misdiagnosed a diagnosis I wrongly carried four decades later while I was simply depressed from insultingly poor care even at public institutions, and treated with a drug that is rarely used today, the drug Thiothixene or Navane, and infamous and Zyprexa in heavy doses. These drugs, like others of their type cause the disease TD, of which today, I have mild jerking and shaking. I had one ray of hope at that county hospital; a therapist Sandra Davies, MA, who used dream therapy, Rorschach tests, and other archaic means of treatment; I was given the special treat of an amatur Psychodrama class, lead by a local theater director with psychiatric disorders, and sanctioned by the hospital; I had likened my experiences as a drug abuser to the psychodrama class, it was still part of my severe drug induced depression. Little was known about drug and alcohol abuse at that time, but a friend mentioned a “Big Book” but I passed it off as another gimmick by frauds like “mega vitamin therapy,” I read Lust for Life about Van Gogh,  spent hundreds of dollars on vitamins at a local health food store, and nothing happened. I abandoned mega vitamins, sunk myself reading into volumes of case studies about promising recoveries, and wished they’d try a new drug on me, Lithium Carbonate, but this seemed remote. Some good things happened. One anonymous nurse placed upon my green tiled cubicle door at West One Security Ward a poem by Robert Frost which brought me to tears, “Whose woods are these, I think I know/his house is in the village though…but I have miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.” My mother honored my request for a Christmas gift, The Complete Poetry of Emily Dickinson. Somehow it had gotten around the hospital that I’d been an English major at Grinnell College, but earlier in my treatment, the psych students who took care of me while I cried at the prospect of never reading my beloved poetry again only chalked it up as a symptom of my disease.  My therapist believed in me, however, as intelligent and creative, encouraging me in my journaling writing, spurred on by my readings of Humanistic Psychotherapy, and she allowed that I was creative.

Even after an unsuccessful serious suicide and miraculous intervention by a man sleeping at in the neighboring room in my poor apartment house hearing my screams, jumping to stop the bleeding in my seriously cut wrist, and shutting off the gas in my oven, calling the ambulance, my attempt was truly serious cutting which caused me the full use of my left hand, deep scars on my wrist, partial use of my whole left arm. I type with right finger and thumb. A very promising sanity hearing actually helped where  I spoke loveling about literature. I actully reciter from memory the first paragraph of William Faulkner’s famous Nobel Prize acceptance speech in which he told the would be young writers that to “stand” where he stood the young writer must “learn the old universal truths of the hmnan heart,” love, pitty, acceptance, etc. I paraphrase today only the first part of the speech because today at age 67 I cannot do this. The judge was impressed and let me go with only yhree weeks of “hospitalization” and my therapist warned me out of another attempt. She told me that if I was not careful, I would end up in one of those long-term hospitals for the insane.  I began to sink myself all on my own at the evening shift as a “desk clerk” where there was little to do but smoke cigarettes and read–a reading campaign of great literature of Shakespeare, of Dante’s entire cannon, Solzenitzen, Dickenson, and many other classics. I reasoned that somehow I’d been caught “midway in the journey of our lives, in a Dark Wood,” that I’d make my own way out of “hell.” My therapist literally frightened me again into sanity, and I have never had a really serious suicide attempt since, though I used to talk insently about it reading Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell, other suicidal poets and writers.

I used to threaten suicide, and in the decade 2001 often to 2011 often called the 211 hotline, but my involvement with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and great care after 2011, at One of the best Behavioral Health Hospitals has kept me safe. Over our state’s 211 hotline here in South Dakota there is outstand help, but I had stopped abruptly seeking only relief from the sea of pain in my talk about my disease Ankylosing Spondylitis even with the 211 hotline helping though not like their usual callers talking of suicide,. After three near death hospitalizations seven years ago I could seldom think of suicide, and at age 67, I still do not, and these near death experiences were from a drug, not by my hand, a psych drug as it were; it had poisoned me, my wife and daughter franticly driving me to the ER after weeks of nearly comotose behavior. Then I suffered a horrible GI bleed while in that great Hospital which saved my life–ulcers on the the duodenum, saved by Dr Christina Hill-Jensen in surgery at ICU ater spending three days there then requiring ten units of blood from that October third, 2011 Gi burst ulcers, and for units of platelets all over a five day period, and then almost full kidney shutdown later that spring. This was how I learned how to pray, but I was not ready in 2011 to truly admit God’s full interventions in my life. I learned to meditate as it relieved pain, then became a member of a wonderful online Zendo and I still meditate, sit as it were with and as part of these people many of whom are, like me, Christian.

Today I have black memories of drinking heavily on my medications, thinking I was homosexual–not bad if I had been. However, I took a beginning Psychology class at the community college back in 1976, easily earning an A.  Davies believed my use of alcohol and drugs were normal as she did my forays into experimental heterosexual sex, though kinky, quite normal. But, she believed in my intelligence and abilities as a student and had no problem telling me so. Although our treatment modalities were largely Freudian and unsuccessful in a harsh world of 1978 with hippie-want-to-be-s in my life, and my friends largely gay men who accepted my deficits because they were very kind and accepting people, and even parts of my psychotherapy. My gay friends offered this straight male companionship like no other friends could offer save a few friends from college, but we smoked large quantities of “dope,”  drank many cases of beer, hard liquor and took hard drugs. I went to Grateful Dead Concerts, spent lots of money on trendy rock albums that sometimes I found intolerable often turning to softer tones of classical music, and continued my reading campaign. These two gay men were the real voice of sanity in my life.

When my therapist falsely accused me of stealing a therapy tape about rats, and my mother wanted $50/mo rent, it was time to move, and I left with my my mother’s battered old Rambler and a borrowed flatbed trailer with all my stuff, mostly books. I rented a U-Haul trailer hitch, and I drove the 212 miles to Iowa City to start my life over! Then somehow, I returned car, hitch and trailer. I acted honestly for the first time in a long time. A great friend in Iowa City had found me a little one-room apartment I could afford, I began two writing classes, one poetry, the other interpersonal. I was eventually to marry an intellingent, and honest woman who has been my best friend for over 38 years and today, after I quit drinking more than 31 years ago, our daughter is 29, yes, we had a little girl: yes, a gifted daughter who has a BA from Midlebury College, Phi Beta Kappa, Suma Cum Laud in Japanese studies, MFA from the University of Iowa’s translation program on full fellowship, the school where mom and dad grew up together Now our daughter is working on a Ph.D. in Japanese studies/comp lit, full fellowship with teaching this time at Washington University in St. Louis, fluent in Japanese, working on Korean on her own and memories of straight A s in two years of High School Spanish, runner up in the prestigious Pen Award, in London, for translation of her MFA novella/thesis, articles and translations in academic publications, and like like mom she had been valedictorian award, co-valedictorian award in high school, and mom with BA cultural anthropology, Phi Beta Kappa, Highest Distinction, 4.0 BA, and MA cultural anthropology/museum studies, field work in Arizona, and New Mexico among Navajo women, and me teaching two courses at Navajo Community College while disobeying the tribe, secretly drinking  on the reservation, yet offered full-time teaching at that Navajo Community College.

Now my wife with more than 30 years service with the federal government, house holder along with her, husband, me, has retired to rest, be creative as she reads great volums of contemporary literature drives me my doctors. I earned an MA in English and an Ed.S. in higher education at Iowa, we were married that same spring in the University chapel with 50 of our friends and family present, and I had done honors in my research project on “Journal Writing in First Year College Composition in the Community College.” I had been a very successful TA. I assume my research is still in the education Library at University at Iowa. I made great friends among the faculty at the Rhetoric program where I taught, friends like Dr Bill Clark, formerly from the Air Force Academy who attended our wedding, and Lois Muehl who became my mentor as I was hired to teach in the Reading Lab as an Instructor, and beloved Cleo Martin who taught me how to teach without the red pen, with kindness and questioning, to always ask, “where do we need more information” when commenting on a student paper, to sit in circles with students commenting on their own work. Many institutions still teach with the heavy hand of authority, and the red pen dampening student spirits. But these techniques were developed through The Iowa Writing Program.

I had found a refuge in Iowa’s higher education unlike any I had ever found in a hospital, and unlike anything since. In short, I grew into manhood at Iowa, except for one thing; my drinking which nearly shattered my dreams. But, I found the love of my life still with me in spite of many physical impairments caused by the drugs prescribed, older doctoring techniques and genetic predisposition. Then there was my drinking which at the end of my beloved Iowa City was already beginning to deal deadly blows to my teaching as I fell back to heavy handed methods. Drinking being over a very long time, now I know why I drank and doctors make use of advanced medications, and old reliable drugs in proper doses and care in implamentation to ease my mind and body and extend my life in peace from the horrible disease of Ankylosing Spondylitis which attacks specifically the spine, then other parts of the body, and bipolar disorder. After completing Iowa, we moved to Columbus, Nebraska where I began my first teaching at Platte College, Central Community College System, and everyone but me knew I was alcoholic.

I taught three years, and we moved to Greeley, Colorado. I eventually earned an MFA in creative writing poetry with a 3.9 GPA in Fort Collins at Colorado State University, the place of the First public MFA in Colorado. I had my chance, after sobriety to teach at Front Range Community College though I had made more money the year before as a part-time deli-clerk at Safeway. Finally, I got sober, and two years later became the father of a bright baby girl. I was a drunk on and off during my teaching stint at Platte, and as a TA at CSU. It was at CSU I where I reached my “bottom,”kicked” out of the TA program, forced to resign in disgrace after six students reported me drunk while trying to teach, and my students gave me the poorest evaluations of any teacher at the university; my wife pleaded for me to find another way, but me thinking I’d never teach again. Within a month most of my cravings went away, but still follow me but for the help of 31 years of sobrietr, with the help of dear friends and most by my Higher Power. One the year I celebrated one year without street drugs and alcoholo, I threw my fancy can of Marijuana and my purple bong, unused for 18 months into our apartment dumpster,  My three sections of writing that previous fall were given away, and I pulled back to a lighter load of studies as I continued my beloved poetry and tried a professional essay writing class. I finished the MFA in three and a half years instead of two. I had earned my only B that spring of continuous drinking, but eventually I was helped back to academic sanity by Bill Tremblay, full professor, and my thesis director, who had written many national publications, and I began to publish here and there in little art magazines and newsletters, even being published in the Connecticut Review, and a prestigious Nebraska State Journal.  In Nebraska I had begun to suspect I might be an alcoholic when I began drinking on Antabuse while seeing a substance abguse counselor, but there not willing to admit utter defete. My sober life has not been easy because I still have dual diagnosis; recovered alcoholism of 31 years and a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder has helped vastly. However, as I retired from working at our local grocery because at age 58, my Ankylosing Spondylitis got the best of me, and I could no longer lift more than 20 lbs, now less, has made me unsuited for all work in Hartford, South Dakota, my two self-published books were successful as literature, Both in the Platte College library and I had taught a total of 22 years of good, solid writing. My books were placed at Sierra College Library,  books sold at the Grinnell College Book Store, and both books are in the Grinnell College Library.

My wife completed her employment at more than 23 years of service at our VA in Sioux Falls, and30 years total with the government. It is she, and always has been, the one who brings in the bulk of our money with generosity and love, and her money that brought the home which is “our” home. She even saved enough to make major renovations to home by working overtime and socking money away over the years. She helped our daughter through college, as did my father; she helped with money from many hours of overtime. My dad has recognized me as a Christian friend, fully returning to me as a friend in Christ after bitter divorce when I was seven. My loving mother who told me after I had tried to kill myself, “Chuck, I don’t understand, but I’ll listen” prayed for me my brother and me many years. If only now I could spend a comunion with her as I haqve with dad. She passed away from breast cancer more than 20 years ago, and her life might have been saved had she been diagnosed today. My wife retired, GS 12, step 8 as quality control officer and trainer at comp and pension from the VA, coming up from GS 5 file clerk, and I have helped working part-time and accepting help fron Social Security Disabilty Insurance, and now with Social Security retirement. I have had Medicare for about 25 years, awarded to those who have S.S.D.I. but me also with cripleing Ankylosing Spondylitis. Medicare was saved by Senator Tim Johnson’s great staff who along with my wife showed mistakes in my Medicare record. I nearly had to pay back $18,000 in what they claimed in S.S.D.I. were over payments for a part-time job in fast-food, the only job Vocational Rehab could find an educated man. Later I returned to part-time teaching with The University of South Dakota and nearly lost a return to S.S.D.I. because I had worked a part-time teaching job. The pressure of  even part-time teaching was too much. Disabilty is a lowly situation for people in our country, but I am into retirement, will never work again.

Our daughter has been a blessing from birth, and her room has a new bedspread and new curtains when she comes home this year for Christmas when we will celebrate our traditional meal of crackers and imported cheeses , beef sausage, and pickled herring and sparkling grape juice. Christmas Eve I will go to candlelight service at my church knowing Christ is my Savior. Since daughter went on to college, and four years teaching English in Japan her room has been there for her and finally last year at age 28, she cleaned out her belongings. She has been called a bright new star in her PhD program publishing articles, even in academic books, translating small assignments outside her regular studies, delivering papers at prestigious conferences. She is our bright star with major publishing I could have made were it not for my drinking and drugging through college and graduate school, there untile I found a truer easier softer way oif complete abstonance with the help of my Highter Power, a Power which also helped me stop smoking all tobacco almost 18 years ago. Yet, my little family has mad my return to writing possible. Now I have a new book in the works, Portraits of their Lives, making my accomplishments in advanced photography a metaphor for poems. My therapist, Dr. J. Chris Nordgrun, a C.B.T. therapist of note, has pronounced me nearly normal though I still see him every two to three months, and yet, my pastor at Hartford United Methodist Church says he can tell I have a mental illness; however, most people cannot. I work successfully on my third book which will be finished as a Kindle Book, the other two being softcover and electronic, expensive publications done by a national company, and a costly way to go. Sometime next year the next book will be completed and will mark a book about five or six years from the last, helped along by the expert help of my loving wife familiar with layout and design. The book first I published as Charles Taylor, Winter from Spring, 2009, second as Charles E Taylor, Meditations on gratitude, 2014, both available through Amazon which helped me with an author page.  The next book, poetry nearly complete, will be Portraits of Their Lives, Charles E Taylor, 2019; my books are great work, but most poetry by unknown authors does not sell.

I am happy, however, my Ankylosing Spondylitis is serious and devastating. Funny, the damage to my spine goes largely unnoticed by ordinary people; damage is internal though there is marked scoliosis and my eyes have often been seriously affected. My bipolar disorder is something others never could never see. Disability for me has been invisible to others. My pain is controlled with a cocktail of drugs, pain patches, and periodic Radio Frequency treatments at The Intervention Pain Clinic of Dr Scott Lockwood Avera; my Primary, Dr Allen Funk, Internal Medicine, Sanford Health is outstanding, has helped with pain management and I have a kidney specialist because of all those drugs over the years, Dr Dana Brandice, my Heart specialist, Dr Scott Pham who says my pacemaker needed to be placed partially because of Ankylosing Spondylitis. He tells me I may die of this genetic disease with reasons undetectable, and these doctors form my Health team, along with a great PA Troy Vanoverbeek and my pharmasist Vince Riley, and I thank God every day for these helth care providers; now even my eye clinic Ophthalmology LTD, my psychiatrist Dr Michael Bergan who I see every two months, and he is from Avera Behavioral Health, University Psychiatry. Finally a fine new arthritis specialist Dr Tantoush from Lebanon, residency at Creighton University, medical fellowship as many of my caregivers, and Dr Tantoush has hopes for a new biological for my AS. I have assembled the finest medical team in the area, and I’m proud to say Avera Behavioral Health saved my life twice, Sanford once. I have Dr Funk to thank the most and at the local Sanford Clinic, Troy. Both men have gone over and above the call of duty for me, instrumental in my critical care. Finally, I wish to thank Avera Behavioral Health for Doctors who have been there with most life giving care, proper mental health treatment, and innovative pain treatment pain therapies. Avera Behavioral treatment with their partial program, and nationally known Behavioral Health Hospital more than any other team has given me a complete new outlook, and today I am a Christian with  Jesus as my Lord, and intervention in my pain which has sometimes reached level ten the most in help given me in my struggle through the fine efforts of pain therapist Dr Donald Baum and, and of course Dr Nordgrun who helped me through nightmare of feelings from boyhood; I never recognized Jesus until Dec 10, 2017 when by surprise I blurted out to my new pastor a spontaneous phrase I never thought I’d say, “I believe in the Lord Jesus as my Savior.” Looking back over my life, God has always been there for me. It should have been obvious when I put down the first drink and asked two total strangers for help, and of course unwittingly, my God , and two guys came in to bring help when again I called a local hotline in Greeley, Colorado Love and help came my way with two men carrying the message of love and tolerance.

Today because of the finest care available, I enjoy a mostly happy life with new drugs on the market all the time. Nearly all the photography in my creations, all but four pictures in the hundreds, many on my three blogs, and thousands, 12,500 on Microsoft One Drive alone, many more on Google Drive, some on hard drives that are mine. I have earned two certificates in photography from The New York Institute of Photography with a specialty in Nature and Scenic. I love the Lord with all my heart and know he has brought me here to help others. I have great friends throughout Hartford, even throughout the the US and the World because of the internet, and Sioux Falls is our playground. My wife loves movies and libraries. Both of us enjoy the many parks for walks and photography in spring, summer and fall. Winters in South Dakota are Harsh, sometimes giving me great photo ops, and we enjoy the seasons. I no longer drive but the internet and my silver haired loving wife take me places I never thought I’d go, like church, and clinics with care and understanding, and I love being of service at our local senior centers, only occasionally Hartford and always Sioux Falls Active Generations. Most all my health issues have been caused by Ankylosing Spondylitis and bipolar disorder, but today I love my wife and daughter, both giving me true special life-saving interventions in my diseases and, because of God, I am lead by the Holy Spirit. If I had followed the plans set forth at that county Hospital, I would doubtlessly be in a long-term institution never married, never my advanced education, and never my daughter. I praise the Lord, and thank my friends at Treeleaf Zendo for I have come to love them as brothers and sisters, all accomplished online with my four computers. Today I know God is Love. I wish the world to see this. Maybe someday! I have the National Alliance on Mental Illness to thank for my education about mental illness, and truly Phyllis retired executive director and now Sara and Wendy for my many awards of service in NAMI, and they are one of God’s miracles–my re-diagnosis of bipolar disorder, away from presupositions, antiquated ideas of health has given me hope. I have accepted that others cannot be locked into their devastating mental illness.

One thing in our care is insurance, for just the two of us now, is expensive; most people are being strapped with unethical hospital bills, and in some cases poor care or no care. The current trends in our country are that people will be squeezed between expensive insurance, or nothing to pay large bills. We need a universal health care systems from birth to death. In places like England, Canada, and Japan plans cover everyone; even India is trying to get into the insurance game and most of the European continent provides care for citizens. It’s dangerous not to have care for children, and why not expand Medicade clear to Medicare years for everyone? There just is no good reason not to give descent care to every citizen, from birth to childhood, through adulthood, and into senior years till death with dignity. Medicare does a good job so long as a supplemental is there for retirees. We already have some measures in place for care. There is the argument that a healthy workforce is a better workforce. Much has already been done with education by non-profits; because of lawsuits against big tobacco, money against tobacco, telling ads which are seen regularly on television, and the smokers are quitting, youngsters never take it up. My uncle, who I loved, died of lung cancer at age 55, and he’d been smoking since age 11. I quit years ago after 27 years of heavy smoking, and so far I am here. We can do more with a plan in place like in Japan where a dental crown costs $10.00, not $1000.00. Why must citizens have bad teeth because they can’t afford dental work? And, consider this–saving lives is God’s work, and doctors must not allow people to slip through the cracks. I have descent care, but that’s only because my loving wife worked all her working life for our government, and now I am 67, and we can afford our health care. Without our insurance, we would be bankrupt, or I would be dead. Consider the alternatives and pray about it, or sit Metta, or chant your loving kindness acceptance. Whatever your Higher Power gives you, give back, and I can say this–God has blessed me. Take care.

Charles E Taylor




Published by elgwynone

I was a University and community college instructor before retiring. I also worked in fast food restaurants, and retail stores. I am an ordinary man writing for because I want to write and because my education prepared me to write; BA English lit, MA English, EdS higher education, and MFA creative writing, free verse poetry and essays. Blogs are an answer to high-priced self-publishing. Walt Whitman had to self-publish his first 1000 copies of the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass because in 1855 poetry did not sell. Most poets make a living in other ways than writing. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive, and TS Eliot was a banker. Many writers teach, and always there have been writers who have written because they needed to express their thoughts and feelings. They wrote not necessarily to make money but to express "the old universal truths of the human heart" according to Faulkner. Here I reach a wider audience I missed than by self-publishing, and I stand a better chance to reach a wider audience for less expense than self-publishing. I self-published my first books, Winter from Spring, and Meditations on Gratitude; poetry and photo books which were easier to self-publish than to seek a not to seek a publisher company. This blog allows me to write for an interested audience because I write poetry and personal essays. I write for a friendly audience and present to you a slice of my writing. Perhaps you will enjoy what you read.

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