Family Therapy With Dr Velvet Thong
Dr Velvet Thong, Blinky, Okti and Velvet are in the process of
drafting an apology to Don Quixote's family, as well as to Australia
and the entire planet. We're sorry for trying to colonize you with
Dr Velvet Thong:
Let's try to sort this mess out, if we
A little more than two months ago, Don Quixote's
family sent a message that I perceived as an attack disguised as a
book, a tea towel, and a birthday greeting. I fought back by
sending an email, and asking that we have no further communication.
They accepted my wish, but the message itself was not something I was
able to shake off in a day.
I asked that we have no further contact because the ideas expressed
were what I had thought would have been conveyed in email if I had
allowed it to all play out in slow motion. I had 'guessed' or
speculated correctly. I asked for no further contact because I knew I
wouldn't have a chance of stopping drinking while we were emailing. I
wanted to at least have a chance.
I have so little power, but it feels like all of
Australia hates me.
I've crossed oceans of wine to make it to this
Dr Velvet Thong:
Family therapy exists because many families
have communication problems and because family members have trouble
understanding each other.
If there is a problem, it is best to speak directly to the person/s
involved. However, I believe these are special circumstances, and
that it would be harmful for you to do so at present.
I am wondering if all of this could have been avoided if
30 years ago in family therapy we had received some guidance
regarding how to handle the social awkwardness of my
Dr Velvet Thong:
When you received a POOR prognosis and were
granted disability, they were saying you were a hopeless case. It
took about a year to make that assessment, including a two month
hospital stay. After that, they knew you didn't have the
psychological infrastructure to join society. You had known it before
the process began, but you weren't the one with psych training and
What they knew that you didn't was that you were in for a lifetime of
horrifying struggle. They knew you were likely to face judgment and
shunning, social isolation, poverty, homelessness, abuse, physical
ill health, addiction, institutionalization, suicide, and that as you
got older (if you got older) it would get worse.
When I meet people now, it's like I have to go
through a version of that assessment process with each of them. They
might have prejudices regarding mental illness, addiction and body
image issues, and they might not have conscious awareness of these
prejudices, or in which ways they have absorbed or accepted incorrect
or incomplete information.
Many people are genuinely kind and want to help, and I
don't want to go through the long, stressful process of elimination
before they finally feel cheated, disappointed, or angry, or before I
have to make them feel better about how bad my situation is. It's
difficult to know how to explain to people that the experts didn't
think it was possible to build the infrastructure, because then we go
through the first things that occur to most people - that psychology
is rubbish, or, you met the wrong practioners, you can't give up on
people in those ways, all you need is love, or a kick in the pants,
I'm not sure, but although it seems likely such cases
also exist in Australia, Australia's way of handling them, even if
amongst the doctors themselves they admit there are hopeless cases,
is to pretend it's not true, and just medicate and institutionalize
such people or let them make a 'choice' to live on the streets. I
find the idea of extended, over-medicated, psych hospice care for the
rest of my life abhorrent.
All of the attempts I have made to give myself some
relief or to connect with the world in my own ways end up being
interpreted in ways I can't relate to.
It's been 20 years. I can't give Don Quixote's family
any more of my time. I can't trust that there is the potential for
the understanding and validation I crave. At this point, there isn't
trust on either side.
Dr Velvet Thong:
They lack the psychological infrastructure to
understand why you lack the psychological infrastructure to join
society, or participate in a family.
Although steps have been taken toward equality, Australian society
isn't completely equal when it comes to race, cultural background,
sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability, but to prove
one's value, it is now necessary to demonstrate qualities that
reflect Australian Identity. Work hard or smart, give back to the
community, give to others, be loyal to family, don't complain
(everyone has problems), be responsible enough to seek help if you
If you have a personal website that represents a lifetime of
experiences, difficult thought, creativity, and effort, it won't be
considered a contribution if it is interpreted as one long, selfish,
self-absorbed whinge. It would be considered cruel to put down a
person with quadriplegia for needing to use a wheelchair, but still
not bad form to criticize an apparently able-bodied person whose
unaddressed trauma prevents connection with the world.
This situaton became another version of an original
trauma that all my life I have kept trying to avoid.
Trauma, and re-traumatization, occur when a situation
is left too long, resentments and misunderstandings build, and then
finally explode, and unfortunately it's like I become the scapegoat
for all of it.
With Don Quixote's family, it wasn't possible for me
to make a clean break early enough to avoid the later
It is a tragedy of errors, in which we have all
contributed to the mixed messages, bad timing and good intentions
gone awry that led to escalation.
Don Quixote's family's beliefs are at odds with my
identity, and contact with them isn't helpful in my ongoing struggle.
There isn't a nice way to say that. I don't have a strong enough
sense of obligation to family or society, or enough basic trust, to
want to continue to interact.
I can accept that we have different beliefs and I
can't change theirs. I can see the ways in which they are
intelligent, good people. I know that people are formed by diverse
and complex influences and experiences, as well as the interactions
amongst these influences. Sometimes we can agree to disagree, and
sometimes we can't.
I see that it's natural for them to attack me, because
they felt attacked. They'd have been content with small efforts on my
part to participate, and I've been trying to help them understand why
that is not possible, or positive for me.
I wanted to be understood, and like most humans, I
wanted to be loved. Both were off the table. Without understanding, I
don't trust love.
Dr Velvet Thong:
When you can't trust family, society, or
institutions, you feel you have no choice but to come here. This is
your church, your support. This is not backstabbing. Others who are
isolated might not relate to your experiences and assessments, but
you are trying to contribute something to the discussion, in the only
ways you see possible.
When I originally met Don Quixote's family, I often
had the feeling that I was being judged. I tried to just accept it
and focus on how lucky I was to be in Australia. I didn't plan to
live very long.
As time went on, things felt more uncomfortable to me,
especially considering I had a public website in which I explained my
state of mind and behavioural dysfunction. They never tried to bring
it up, and it seemed to me they were ignoring it because they found
It was extremely difficult to even broach the topic, and
eventually it felt to me that I needed to. It seemed like there were
so many layers to the situation, and walls upon walls preventing
access to the necessary data for interpretation.
I understood they didn't like what they considered the
superficial and meaningless aspects of modern life. Social media,
fast food, beaches, gym bodies, television, fashion and makeup,
anything populist. They seemed allergic to any sort of Drama. What I
was trying to assess was the extent to which they believed I fit any
or all of these categories or groups. I didn't know how to even begin
Some of my frustration regarding this began to appear
on my site. I was mostly trying to challenge prejudices, but I was
doing it blind.
I'm not confused about it any more. It was very tricky
getting to the beliefs through the layers of politeness and propriety
and familial obligation. It doesn't seem likely to me that the
unconscious beliefs about character or mental illness and addiction
will change any time soon. I can't hang in there any longer.
Dr Velvet Thong:
Until Authority of some kind (those who work
in Psych professions, for example - that is, those with more credible
credentials than mine) backs you up, I don't think hearts and minds
are going to change. You may have to accept that even if their
hidden beliefs regarding mental illness and addiction change, they
will still be within their rights to think of you as someone who is
mentally ill, an addict, and
a bad person.
I'm not saying I'm worse off than the people all over
the world who are suffering painful and debilitating physical
conditions, or who have more serious skin conditions or deformities,
or that people with comparable pain should want to die. I'm saying
that I am unable to bear my level of personal pain. A lot of the
people in horrible circumstances do not have a voice. They might
exist in a kind of isolation I don't, they may lack resources or
physical strength. I think if we knew more about the numbers and
severity of types of suffering, it might help us act to give people
humane options. I don't believe everyone would choose to end their
lives, even if they are suffering severely. A lot of people believe
it's shameful to let others know they are in pain, and the reactions
I've received confirm this - there's a lot of pressure for me to just
shut up and go away.
I know that people with physical conditions are likely
to be considered first. I understand that and am not complaining
about it. I just want to be one of the ones who is campaigning for
the rights of those with unbearable psychological conditions, as
well. I'm putting my vote in early. The problem with actual ongoing
or regular 'campaigning' relates to the severity of my particular
illness and lack of psychological infrastructure. I'm doing it in the
only way available to me, using the tools in my particular
environment that are available to me. If someone tells me I'm doing
it the wrong way, it seems like they're missing the point.
I don't like going out into the world, because I feel
judged in every possible way. I know that I can get away with brief
interactions, but conversation is never far from a problematic
My website was only originally meant to be up long enough to attract
a partner for a suicide holiday. It became an ongoing suicide-note-in-progress,
as well as an ongoing ROARSCREAMHOWL.
We can break off relationships that aren't healthy for
us, and we can outgrow friendships, but we have to maintain ties with
ex-inlaws we don't genuinely connect with? All of the current mess
could have been avoided if we all weren't so concerned with
politeness and obligation. It wasn't one-sided. If we're honest we
will all admit that we weren't generally interested in each other,
and we didn't genuinely connect.
I can't trust that finally now I've written something
they understand and it can all work out, or that either of them has
genuinely positive feelings toward me. I've given the situation 20
years. It's not a case of having dished it out and not being able to
take it now. I've been taking it for 20 years. I have exchanged
enough communication now to be able to identify the 'process of
elimination' or assessment I'd have to go through. I opted out.
Rather, I speeded it up.
I think it's likely that my lack of participation at
times felt hurtful. Human beings need feedback. I've always felt
sorry about the possibility of having hurt them in this regard, and I
was genuinely grateful for some of the practical help they gave. I
had no framework for explanation. I had to know what their beliefs or
feelings were before I could try to offer an explanation. They didn't
expect reciprocation in the ways some others might, but I think they
expected more than what they received. I was depriving them, and they
were depriving me, of necessary feedback.
Gifts of food triggered addiction issues, as did the
prospect of any social gathering. The public perception is that those
with bulimia are silly, they cheat, and that they hide their
behaviour. I have been completely open with two long-term partners
about all my behaviour, and they've developed an understanding of
what the eating disorder is or was, including how serious it is, that
their families haven't. I didn't ever fear that I would binge in
public or feel the need to purge after. After a social gathering,
once home, I'd have weeks of breakdown bingeing. This all became more
complex once caffeine and alcohol were part of the mix.
I couldn't ever look forward to or enjoy social
interaction, because it was always about trying to be considerate
enough not to involve them in my silly problems, and it was about
knowing the disruption to my usual life would likely have
repercussions. I was almost never in control. I was in constant
distress regarding my inability to cope with the very basic task of
self-nourishment, and social occasions increased the level of
When family members don't live in the same city or state/province,
how do you stay in touch when one member is so ill they can't use a
phone, make it to occasional dinners, or deal with posted gifts or
handwritten letters, and the other members of the family have made
comments to the effect that email is an inferior, impersonal,
superficial form of communication?
Dr Velvet Thong:
When you know most people would think of this
as utterly ridiculous, and would expect you to snap out of it, it
gets harder to motivate oneself to socialize at all.
And even if they try to keep things open, and give you time, and say
if there's anything I can do, let me know, it is scary when you know
they don't really perceive the severity of the situation, and when
you know there isn't really anything they can do.
There was a more serious underlying issue. I knew, and
Don Quixote knew, that what I wanted was to meet a new partner and go
on a suicide holiday. Yes, I could try to discuss environmental,
political or social issues, I could have discussed books and films,
but I was constantly aware that I wasn't really 'there' in any social
gathering. I wouldn't have been authentically participating. I didn't
want to try to build a network to life. I wanted help leaving life.
What I wanted was for them to understand that I am
trying to explain to the world what it is like to live with a poorly
understood condition. If they don't agree with my findings, or don't
like or respect my method of delivery, we can decide that it's better
for our collective mental health to cease contact.
Dr Velvet Thong:
people on your side who get
what you're saying and genuinely support you.
Dr Velvet Thong:
Go New Zealand!!!
When it comes to euthanasia, it's a definite step
forward to have a referendum like the one in New Zealand.
Dr Velvet Thong:
There's still a long way to go.
I can get involved in a diverse selection of
Australian stories and root for the heroes and feel sad for the
losses and understand the messages. I can perceive a lot between the
lines, too. It's just that I don't see any realistic way for me to
connect in Australian society.
This does not mean that I want other mentally ill people and addicts
to give up on that possibility for themselves.
Dr Velvet Thong:
Maybe you should seek help.
If I already know I'm supposed to contact a GP to set
up a Mental Health Plan and my distress relates to not trusting that
can work, and not having the psychological infrastructure to uphold
my obligations of making and keeping appointments, then 'reaching
out' to Lifeline seems likely to result in the kind of confusion that
occurs when I've tried to contact phone/internet companies.
Dr Velvet Thong:
If your issue doesn't fit onto the drop-down
menu, you might find yourself in an endless frustrating loop of
having to explain from scratch over and over, as they keep finding
more and more respresentatives who can't understand what you're
saying or who are not prepared for your unusual issue.
When I was in a large public hospital for a week, and
explained my situation to many people, it was extremely difficult to
get any kind of psych consult or appointment, either while they had
me there, or after, and in the end I had to give up because of
A person who has been isolated for almost 40 years had
trouble getting help when asking for it directly, and asking
repeatedly. I think this says something about mental health in
Dr Velvet Thong:
It could be that you were supposed to call
Lifeline, because maybe all psych services in the country are hooked
in to Lifeline. You had a serious accident and couldn't get psych
help in a major hospital, but possibly if you had called Lifeline
they would have:
1. Assessed whether you were a danger to yourself or others, and
taken appropriate action (putting you in hold), depending on level of
risk, as well as available beds. It seems like at present there is
a shortage of spots, for those who are violently mentally ill, as
well as for those who would harm themselves.
2. Suggested a shelter, depending on what beds were available, or
suggested abuse, neglect or substance abuse counselling.*
3. Let you talk it out, if that's what you needed to get through a
4. If you seemed open to considering it, suggest you contact your GP
to set up a Mental Health Plan which may consist of 10 sessions of
CBT and some group therapy sessions. There are some conditions or
circumstances for which you might be eligible for more.
5. Suggest you reach out to someone you trust in your family, a
friend, a priest, a nurse, etc, and that you try to take care of your
physical health, by eating well, remembering to get enough rest and
exercise, stay away from drugs and alcohol, stay connected to the
community, including to an online community or support group.
Velvet: It sounds reasonable, except that I can't imagine it
working for anyone who is already too far out of the system.
I'm not even able to deal with email any more.
*I did recently hear of counsellingonline.org.au where you can chat
online or email, and this sort of option might be better for someone
like me. However, I think in my case the situation has been left too
long, and I don't really want to talk now. I'm now too ill to even
try out this option. I'd ask that this be factored in when
assessments are made about how 'evil' it is of me to post these
transcripts. Without my website, I have no connection with the
outside world. I have no voice.
Blinky: I suspect that in calling anyone and trying to tell my
story, it will all come back around to bureaucratic platitudes about
how the system will support me to 'get my life back' if I do my part.
In online support chat, I think the aim would be to help me get
through rough nights, and see if it's possible to connect me with any
resources that might reduce the amount I drink or give me breaks from
drinking. I'd want to have the opportunity to seriously discuss end
of life options, and I doubt this would be acceptable, and I'd
quietly go away, to free up my spot for someone with a more 'positive
Okti: My original family was not a healthy family. I don't
think a family that can attract a person like me into it, and ignore
the level of suffering expressed (for one year, let alone 20), is a
healthy family. I don't think everything was fine in that family
before I came into it. However, they didn't have a framework for
communication, either. There are suggestions online about how to talk
to depressed people, but not regarding how to talk to someone in a
situation as extreme as mine, or even how to identify a situation as
extreme as mine.
Blinky: I had already been isolated from society for about 18
years at the time I met them. They inherited a problem my family
ignored, and they went on to ignore it in similar ways, and I was the
one who had to try to get through the impenetrable wall of politeness
Dr Velvet Thong: Again, I think decent societies should
recognize that any person should have the right to decide if their
quality of life is acceptable or not, and that humane end of life
options should be made available, and that this should not be limited
to those with terminal physical illnesses. We don't ask to be born.
We should have the right to decide if we accept the Terms and
Conditions that go with Life.
Okti: I am not repeating this to be annoying. I'm not sure if
Don Quixote's family have ever fully accepted my pain as valid. I
think they believe I can choose to be responsible, or that I can tell
them, step by step, what to do and say. It's more complicated than
that because I know it's unreasonable to tell people their beliefs
are an obstacle to any authentic solution, or that untangling those
beliefs is going to be astronomically difficult, partly because it
seems like most of Australia shares those beliefs and will back them
up. Ten years ago, I might still have been game to try, but I'm not
now. I see this as learning how to set limits for myself.
Velvet: In email and on my website, I called them out. I tried
to uncover and make them own their prejudices against me.
Blinky: Don Quixote doesn't know how to articulate my
situation well himself, and often I've felt scared when listening to
him do it, but it's possible his unconscious understanding of it is
starting to trump ingrained familial and societal beliefs. Or, my
sickness is making him sicker. At any rate, in this most recent
debacle, he took my side.
Okti: His family sent literature which triggered associations
with a seriously traumatic incident from my past, and has also seemed
to trigger PTSD nightmares again after they had lessened in frequency
some months after my hospital stay. My self-isolation was ignored in
my own family for too long, and then an escalation of tensions
resulted in me being sent to a horrifically bad psych ward, with my
father having done no research into the matter, and not knowing the
stay and his violent anger and misunderstanding would traumatize an
already traumatized person further. I felt like Don Quixote's family
were sympathizing with or supporting my family, as well as their
misunderstanding of me.
Velvet: Perhaps I was seriously misreading the situation, but
I felt waves of anger and hatred coming from Don Quixote's family. I
felt they (or at least one of them) believed I was a horrible person,
and that they deeply resented having to deal with me. It seemed to me
that they might be feeling social pressure, that if others they knew
observed the situation with me, they might think of them as a 'bad
family'. And I felt they were trying to say to Don Quixote that we
need to get together and do something about this situation now, and
that they were trying to get him to be the one to have me 'assessed'
somewhere, or to get on me to 'get my act together', or 'grow
Blinky: I perceived the kind of anger coming from them that in
the past I have associated with loss of all power and rights, and the
negation of identity, as well as the feeling that no one in the world
was on my side.
Velvet: It felt to me like they were, whether they understood
it or not, using mainstream Australia's prejudices regarding mental
illness, addiction and body image issues against me. It felt like I
was being ganged up on. They support authors who perpetuate outdated
ideas and prejudices regarding all of these issues. They pay money to
buy copies of books not only for themselves, but for others. They
used their status, and the status of paid authors, to beat me, a
person of zero status, down. They reduced all my previous
communication down to useless or malicious intelligence and poor
Blinky: I had explained in the past that in some of the
literature they sent, stigma and misunderstanding regarding mental
illness were reinforced, and this time, they sent a book with a wider
range of stigma and misunderstanding.
Velvet: I've already expressed that I feel the world is
against me and that I experience a feeling of persecution that others
may dismiss as unfounded paranoia.
Okti: It's perhaps unfair that if they send a gift as
innocuous as a tea towel with cute endangered Australian animals on
it, I suspect it might be a personal message meant to suggest it's
worthless or irrational to help Common Brushtail Possums or Common
Ringtail Possums, who don't need our help. Or, that it might be a
'survival of the fittest' jab, directed at me, regarding comments
I've made about unhealthy competition between us.
In the past, all messages were signed with 'love', and this one was
not - it was signed 'from'. And never before has Happy Birthday Grey
Monk exclamation point ever appeared, and so I suspected it might
have been facetious. Birthdays are usually avoided altogether, and
Don Quixote doesn't even know the dates of birth of most family
members, so I've never known them.
Velvet: I'm still ruminating on it. I am able to think and
write my way through it. It's still taking a lot of my effort. The
way I'm thinking about it is that it is therapy, and I have to 'do
the work', to try to understand them, and my own reactions to this
situation. But it becomes more difficult to find the difference or
distinction between understanding what I really want, and feeling
pressure to rid the planet of myself for the good of everyone.
I do not wish the stress I've felt over this situation on
Contact with them, even when they try to be kind, ends up with me
thinking that what they are really saying is that I'm worthless and
fundamentally unlovable, whereas what I think I'm saying to them is
that they have prejudices that could potentially be changed.
Blinky: I'm trying to say that some incompatible beliefs
relating to identity can be dangerous, but maybe I'm missing the
mark. I think it is valid to point out that sometimes people believe
harmful things, and sometimes whole societies can have beliefs that
are difficult to challenge. Maybe in some circumstances, the best
thing is to concede irreconcilable differences, when incompatible
beliefs are psychologically harmful to the individuals involved.
Dr Velvet Thong: I know there are people who work in mental
health who are very kind and compassionate, and some have an instinct
for the work others never will, but the policies and protocols will
have been created by those who represent the interests and agendas of
the governing bodies, and the resources allocated will also depend
on these same governing bodies.
Velvet: When Don Quixote's family sent their message, I feared
they were going to try to involve the Professionals, when they don't
know how the system works, and that it's not likely to help someone
in my position. I felt they were trying to get Don Quixote to be
the one to have me committed or held for assessment. I even suspected
that if I refused to 'do my part', mainstream Australia would
understand they'd be right to distance themselves from me, and that
they wanted that validation.
Okti: I think they believe people have the right to self-
terminate if they so choose. However, it feels to me like they are
frustrated I don't just shut up and do it - that they think a person
of character, or someone who really wanted to die would have done it
Velvet: I emailed to let them know that after all I had
expressed previously what they sent felt like hate mail, and to say I
don't want any further contact, that I'm no longer undecided.
Blinky: I haven't had any more direct contact, and I don't
want any. Don Quixote phoned them and expressed that he supported me
in this matter, and his sister said she apologized and that I was
right to see it as I did.
Okti: I have no way of knowing if an apology was sincere or
facetious. There was nothing to indicate that anything could or would
change. If after 20 years something like this could be sent, it
shows there's an issue big enough that it's not going away overnight.
However much was about conscious vs unconscious intent, I think the
fact something like this could be sent after all I've explained
proves that the prejudice I have perceived is there, and it proves
that I am not understood.
Velvet: I am living out the poor prognosis in slow motion and
it's not fun. I think most people would give up trying to explain,
and would have quietly gone away, taken down their website, and it is
for that reason that I need to leave mine up, so that another view is
seen, one that might be suppressed or beaten out of everyone
Blinky: I know I don't speak for all of those who suffer from
mental illnesses, addiction, and body image issues.
Dr Velvet Thong: I know it's hard, but it's about trying to
learn to think about all the layers. People with a certain mental
illness or addiction in common might have other influences that
affect how they interpret their illness, and how it is interpreted by
those around them.
Ultimately, families would be aware enough and understand each other
well enough to know when one member is suffering and needs support,
as well as how to ask for help, before the problem is too huge and
intractable to solve, and before the inhumane dismissal of identity
leads a person who feels like a trapped animal to start lashing
Velvet: In Australia, I don't trust the approach to
psychological care, and suspect it's going to reflect the policies
and interests of either of Australia's two major political parties.
Dr Velvet Thong: I suspect neither party would have a clue
about a holistic or sustainable psychological environment, whatever
buzzwords they might throw around, and despite the true kindness and
compassion of some who work in the field who do not have the power to
override policy or designate resources.
Blinky: If Lifeline is open to all 24/7, you need a lot of
volunteers. How do you train so many volunteers effectively? Mental
illness is an extremely complex issue.
Dr Velvet Thong: I think Australian Identity includes a lot of
ideas that are in conflict with or might prevent understanding of
mental health issues. I'm not sure most Australians are ready to
accept that mental illness, addiction, weight and body image issues
aren't a matter of character or lifestyle choices. If all they have
is a vague idea of what these conditions are, and a vague idea that
help will help if you fulfill your obligations as a responsible
citizen and seek it out, there's a long, difficult road ahead.
Velvet: Even when I've tried to select psychologists, they did
not respond to my emails, not to refer me to anyone, make a
suggestion, or even acknowledge me as a human being. Maybe there are
laws or rules that prohibit psychologists or therapists from
contacting me, but I'm guessing more than one or two have come across
my site over the years, and not a single one has offered me a kind
Blinky: Me, either.
Okti: But it would be something if somehow we managed to
influence those who work in the system, even if they never
acknowledge our contributions.
Velvet: I do not support either of Australia's two major
parties. I think the Greens are too wimpy on euthanasia or voluntary
dying (or were the last time I checked). I like The Pirate
Dr Velvet Thong: Yay Pirate Party!
Velvet: Originally, it took about a year for the professionals
to observe me and make a decision about whether I qualified for
disability. I think they were very careful. They didn't want to make
any hasty decisions. I was still quite young, and seemed to have
certain potentials. They didn't want to slap any negative labels or
stigmatizing personality disorders on me in case anything like that
became my 'identity'. They didn't want me thinking like a 'hopeless
case', and it was an unfortunate slip on the part of a therapist that
allowed me to see that the professionals do indeed think of some
people as hopeless cases. However, the slip was made at a time when
the therapist thought I was so close to normal there was no way I
wasn't going to make it. She was talking to me as 'us', not
Dr Velvet Thong: When someone is given a "POOR" prognosis and
is put on disability, it means they think that person is a hopeless
case. Those who have to give this prognosis probably feel bad. They
have studied psychology or psychiatry because they had an interest in
the subject matter, and because they wanted to help people.
Velvet: I went through the original assessment process a long
time ago, and aside from brief and misleading exceptions, my ability
to function in society didn't improve since that time. And now, when
I meet people or have contact with people, it's like I have to go
through an unconscious assessment process with each of them, and they
are people who for the most part haven't studied psychology and
aren't interested in it, and who are more likely to accept mainstream
prejudices against psychology and mental illness.
Okti: I know many people think I'm selfish for only posting
about my issues and not helping other people. I can't manage to get
my oxygen mask on.
Blinky: I realize that many people have been mad enough at me
to think, 'If you're so smart, you should be able to work it
I've never been trying to prove I'm the most rational or logical
person in the world, or that I never make mistakes. I've being trying
to get people to recognize that I am able to think rationally and
logically, while the behaviour and illness don't seem to make sense.
I've been able to analyze the behaviour and illness in rational ways,
and I've tried logical methods and plans to address them. I'm trying
to get people to understand how bad this discrepancy is for me, and
how impossible it is to have a positive identity and self-esteem
when I have contact with other people.
Velvet: I have watched movies, television programs, current
events and news programs, discussion programs, read books, and I
can't see any way out of my personal isolation in Australia. I can
see parts of my story or aspects of my experiences in many places,
but it doesn't look realistic to me that I can participate in
If at the age of 24 I had the option of a peaceful death, I would
have taken it, and two families would have been spared the stress and
shame of being associated with me, and society would have been spared
the negative ripple effects of my self-expression. I would have been
spared the endless judgment and the horror of being perceived as
something monstrous, evil, or worthless.
I completely support all of those who are fighting for equal rights,
and fighting for their own survival. I can't fight for my own
survival. I can't believe it's important. It is important for me to
fight to be understood.
I don't identify as Australian. I don't identify as Canadian. I
don't relate to any of my parents' heritage. I feel like I am one of
the displaced and dispossessed people of the world.
Okti: My story isn't going to fit easily anywhere on TV, even
with lighting that disguises me. I'd have a problem with anything
that required me to have or use a phone, or in any circumstances
where I might be photographed or filmed - when most people accept
these as normal parts of modern life. This does not mean I don't
support many causes or think the fight is over when it comes to
LGBTIQ rights or other equality issues, or that I think the refugee
crisis is over.
I have received various newsletters over the years from various
causes, and I know I do not have the psychological infrastructure to
become more involved in these causes. I love possums and other
Australian wildlife, but if I have to have ongoing contact with
people in order to help them, I don't think I can do it.
And even if a kind word would help indigenous youth, and I don't have
to be respectable mentor material, I'm not stable enough, and that
instability might do more harm than good to those who need stability
and reliability. Who's going to recommend that any young person spend
time with a person who believes all people should have the right to
turn down the terms and conditions that come with Life?
Father Bob is so popular that if I volunteered to help the 'unloved
and unlovely' I probably wouldn't make the cut, even if my drinking
didn't prevent regular attendance. I actually tried once to find out
about becoming a Lifeline volunteer, but their website crashed, and
it was more about curiosity about how volunteers are trained than
based on thinking I could do it. I also doubt I could quit drinking
long enough to become a sponsor or counsellor, and the drinking would
also impact every other type of volunteer work.
Blinky: My illness is now so advanced that I don't think I
could manage any email interaction at all, let alone ongoing
Velvet: I considered obtaining an Australian Psychology
degree, basically with the motive of exposing the problems in
education and in the system, through obtaining the 'correct'
credibility. It's bloody expensive, and I know I wouldn't be able to
do Skype type classes.
I'm just meandering. I know what I really want and I knew 30 years
ago. I'm still just trying to explain to people who don't get it.
I want the Peaceful Pill, Pentobarbital, or something like
it. I want it for me, and I want it for the others who want it.
Dr Velvet Thong: Knowing that something like this is available
might actually make it easier for Australians and others to enjoy
their lives. Many people fear not having choice, control, or dignity,
and they fear pain. Their quality of life might actually be better,
people might feel more motivated to accomplish life goals if they
know it's not all going to end in misery and lack of control.
Velvet: If psychologists and psychiatrists know there are
'hopeless cases', and they also know that a lot of them either won't
qualify for disability, or their behaviour is too disorganized for
them to be able to stay on it, they should be allowed to ask for this
option. Not everyone would take it. I want psychiatrists and
psychologists to speak up, and validate that some patients are able
to rationally and objectively assess their prospects. I would like
them to give me that validation, as well.
Blinky: I know that mastering social media is one of the
modern ways to demonstrate adaptability and survival skills. I can't
adapt in these ways. The structure is always wrong for me, my life
and experiences don't fit the formats or rules, and I've had to
create my own structure. It's weird if the structure I've created
strikes Don Quixote's family as the same as Facebook. To me, it's a
fucking Franken-Facebook, but it's not really an experiment or
creation, it's me.
Dr Velvet Thong: Attitudes, beliefs, customs, and laws would
have to change, and they probably won't in my lifetime. Without
Authority to back you up, I think your experience and expressions
will continue to be ignored.
What I would suggest to Australia is that we need more programs,
discussions and movies that deal with different types of mental
illness, addiction and body image issues, and we need to learn a new
language to help people feel accepted in society.
Blinky: In my teens, I could already identify with the
'hopeless cases' in AA's book, the ones who didn't go on to be
success stories. The eating disorder was affecting my life in the way
that a serious addiction would have. It affected my ability to attend
school, maintain relationships and plan for a future. And now it's
alcohol, but alcohol is not preventing me from going to school,
working, maintaining relationships or planning for a future. If I was
able to successfully give up alcohol for an extended period, I would
not be able to do any of these things. I have no desire to live.
Okti: What I'd ask people to think about, if they can get over
the judgment I deserved it or brought it all on myself by being an
alcoholic, is if I am indeed a major whinger, and someone who doesn't
know what it is to work or try hard, how the hell did I rehabilitate
a trimalleolar ankle fracture with almost no help or guidance? I had
a lot of physical discomfort and pain (as well as PTSD), and I had to
do the work. I had to be aware and mindful enough of my body and
abilities to be able to figure out what to do, and 'strong' enough to
ask Don Quixote for the help and support I thought he could
contribute. I still had to do the work. It has now been a year since
the accident, and the ankle is fully rehabilitated. My guess is that
my results are above the norm.
Blinky: I knew in the hospital even when the feeling of trauma
was at its highest that the accident wouldn't be enough to result in
me being able to stop drinking permanently, and that scared me.
Velvet: The more I feel my website and insights have value,
the more the world seems to put me down. It's like that's built in to
the program. So, I understand what it means to fight for a cause you
All through the years there have been times when I have been tempted
to take my website down at last, but this time, that didn't occur to
me once. Instead, I thought about how others might be so angry they
might try to punish me or silence me, and I wondered how well I'd
cope with that kind of obstacle. I started to think about as many
ways as possible to save or cache my site.
Okti: This situation has affected me in a serious way. I did
feel bashed. I felt hated and misunderstood. It doesn't make sense to
me to avoid commenting about it on my website, but I am in the
position of having to think about my 'mistakes'. If I comment, it
comes across as more 'backstabbing' after an 'apology'. I need to
comment in order to do something 'meaningful' and that shows
'character' in standing up to prejudice, misunderstanding and
injustice, and trying to help more people understand complex
issues, but if I do, I might just participate in continuing a
shitstorm, and 'proving' to Don Quixote's family that I lack
'character', if I'm not conciliatory enough, or unless I cave to
pressure to let certain things go, for the greater good. It's
difficult to find an authentic balance.
Velvet: It is difficult to know what the most far-sighted
and genuinely compassionate approach would be, what would ultimately
be best for the individuals personally involved, including myself,
and what would be best regarding contributions to raising the
collective consciousness in a larger sense.
Dr Velvet Thong: Why can't we just understand that we all need
help understanding sometimes, and not hold it against each other or
ourselves? Sometimes there will not be an authentic solution within
the span of a lifetime. Sometimes problems have been left so long
that damage has reached a point of no return, or psychological
climate change cannot be reversed. Doesn't it make sense to think
about irreversible conditions in the psychological environment that
might have been unidentified, at the same time as physical
Okti: There was another situation, over a year ago now, in
which something I wrote affected friendships of Don Quixote's. I want
to address that in this session, as well.
I thought I was trying to explain something in a reasonable way to
his friends, but that's not how it was intepreted. Don Quixote had
been an exceptionally good friend to them, but because of something I
wrote, and possibly because for some time there had been some
unspoken or suppressed resentment regarding me, he was harshly
I apologized as best I could, considering I didn't know exactly what
I was supposed to apologize for, and tried to open discussion, but
was ignored. I don't like the way they have treated me, or Don
Quixote. I think they are the ones who owe him an apology, but I'm
going to leave it up to the three of them to sort it out.
Okti: I would like Beany to know that I was thinking of
her on her 50th birthday, and that I honestly wished for it to be a
happy one, and that I sincerely wish for her to feel happy and
fulfilled in her life.
Velvet: Can I find some way this time to better care for
myself, or not let myself be controlled by aspects of life that are
beyond my control, including the feeling I am hated for a problem I
have tried and been unable to solve?
Dr Velvet Thong: Originally, you felt satisfed to have come
up with the whole 'psychological infrastructure' thing and wanted to
keep this entry as brief as possible when you came back to it.
Velvet: I think I'm always over-explaining. When I don't get
enough feedback, or I get feedback like the kind I referred to here,
it makes me feel I haven't been clear enough, when in reality the
problem probably is the lack of psychological infrastructure.
Dr Velvet Thong: I don't think there was anything anyone could
have said or done. You had to understand the belief systems better in
order to be able to ask questions and communicate with his family,
and his friends, and by the time you understood enough, you knew
there wasn't an authentic agreement to be had, and you'd made the
situation worse. Because it had dragged out for 20 years with the
family, you weren't able to guide all the repressed tensions and
resentments efficiently, or calmly enough, and in the end, the
conclusions reached weren't fun.
Velvet: Until those with Authority and power can offer people
like me some kind of support or validation, the people in our
families and in society might not ever understand, and might suffer
themselves as a consequence of our suffering.
Blinky: In the year since the accident, I have asked Don
Quixote for his help in different ways. When I went back to drinking,
I kept trying to re-focus and stop again, and I would sort out the
motivation and possible triggers with him. I wanted to find the right
balance between doing things for myself, and asking for his help in
making the environment and atmosphere as conducive as possible to a
long run without alcohol.
Okti I think it's taken a toll. While there has been some
success with this method (approximately 3 months sober, 9 months
drunk, in total in the year since the accident), in the longer term
he might come to feel as disheartened as I have over the years, or he
might need to disengage, for his own survival. I think it's possible
he might eventually side with his family, and society.
Xesce: I think now if I were to have contact with people, I'd
want to try in all situations to be open about where I stand, about
what I consider my real name, about self-isolating for almost 40
years, about addiction, about not having a paid career, about my
writing, about wanting to move out of Don Quixote's house, about not
relating to my 'natural' appearance, and not seeing any place I can
fit into society, and about wanting the option of Pentobarbital,
without feeling pressure to hide for the sake of social comfort, and
without risking I'm going to be sectioned for my own good, or
It's natural that people ask questions to get to know each other, but
I can't deal with any of the familiar roads and journeys into stress
If you're going to go around saying the solution you want is Pento,
obviously people are going to have questions and are probably first
going to assume that if you're depressed, you are not capable of
rationally assessing your situation or prospects, maybe you can get
treatment, or maybe even they themselves can help. In that regard, I
don't want to have to individually answer to people. That's what my
site is for. I don't have the energy now to keep trying to help
anyone understand through a customized communication.
New Zealand showed us it is possible to have a referendum on
euthanasia, now, not later. I would be grateful for even small steps
forward, for all those who are suffering with no way out, and
currently no voice, even if I never get to avail myself of those
If you want to help, you can vote for those who support euthanasia
and voluntary dying, and when you get together with people, you can
discuss in what circumstances you would like to have the option of
support in dying, and in what circumstances overall you support it
for others. You can discuss whether you support this option for
people with psychological conditions.
The more open people can be about death and end of life options, the
more likely it is that this issue can move forward.
I'm not saying I believe in hopeless cases. What I'm saying is that
factoring in all current treatment options, resources and realities,
there are times when a person can know they don't want to continue,
and they would choose death. Mental illness does not necessarily
preclude the ability to assess one's situation and prospects in a
realistic way. It should be up to an individual to assess if quality
of life is high enough to continue living.
While I'm still alive, I don't expect to connect, but I have more
hope for it, and more of a sense of peace, when I don't have to have
contact with those whose beliefs or identities are at odds with mine
in harmful ways. It would probably help, even in having contact with
those whose beliefs contradict or indict my identity, if I thought
there were people who understood what I'm saying, and who support
When I say I can have peace if I don't have to have contact with
people - it's that I don't know if anyone can genuinely like my
identity or connect with me. I do think there is a real connection
with Don Quixote, with Boo and with possums, but I still feel that I
want to leave life.
My accident and hospitalization last year showed me that I do not
want to live if I have to face hospitalization again. I very well
could have another accident. I don't trust that I can stop drinking.
I've been trying to make lifestyle changes for 40 years, and I don't
believe I can improve my quality of life enough.
I want Pentobarbital.
Dr Velvet Thong, Velvet, Blinky and Okti have decided that they
are not sorry. I'm not, either.
->exile on meme st: a diary