by Beckie Child
I started graduate school two years ago. I began working on a MSW degree and then was accepted into the joint MSW/Ph.D. program at Portland State. David was always my cheerleader and encouraging me no matter what had happened at school.
During the first quarter in one of my classes, I encountered a fellow student who had some mighty big prejudices when it came to people with mental health conditions. We had to do a project in which we discussed different elements of our culture. I openly discussed my having been homeless and having been hospitalized multiple times. This woman stated quite boldly that she was uncomfortable around the mentally ill. Later in class she made another prejudicial statement that was quite rude.
Needless to say, I was hurt and shocked at what had been said and directed at me and others who experienced mental health challenges in the class. I also was frustrated that the instructors didn't even attempt to address the statements that this student made in class.
David called me that first night of school and asked me how my day had gone. I told him about what had happened and what had been said. He said he didn't have any words of wisdom for me, but he knew that what I was doing was extremely important and if I needed to call and vent with him every week about school that he would listen for as long as I needed. David periodically would send me emails cheering me on during the middle and at the end of the term when life would get quite hectic.
I so appreciated that about David.
Sharing Pain with David
by Beckie Child
One of the memories of David that keeps playing itself over and over happened this past February shortly after the US Department of Justice released its findings regarding Oregon State Hospital which can be found at http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/mentalhealth/osh/main.shtml.
Senator Peter Courtney convened a hearing in a room of a building at the State Hospital that used to be part of the adolescents unit. The room was in the basement of the building.
David and I greeted each other and sat next to each other for part of the hearing. As Micky Logan, the State's Attorney whose job it was to defend the State in a legal process proceeded through the findings. Tears streamed down David's and my faces at different times as we listened to the findings of the DOJ report. David, having been a patient at OSH, and my having been hospitalized more than 20 times, knew only too well what it could be like being stuck at OSH in the conditions reported in the US DOJ report.
After the hearing was over, David went up in the elevator with two OSH employees who had never met David before. Ever the joker, David made a joke about being nervous about being let out of the building to which one of the employees responded, "You should be nervous. We work with animals here!" I don't remember the rest of the conversation that David told me--but I know he was distraught by the meanness in the tone of these two employees' voices and what that meant for the people that they supposedly cared for.
David called me on my cell phone. I hadn't yet left for Portland because I had a meeting with someone else after the hearing. I had just finished up my meeting and was starting to leave Salem when I received David's call.
He told me about the conversation he had had with these two employees. His voice was quite shakey. I asked him where he was at--he had been having lunch at one of the restaurants on Court St. I drove over to where he was at and hugged him. The conversation he had witnessed had caused him tremendous pain and triggered a PTSD type reaction in him. I spent time just talking to him about my cats, Max and Eleanor, and any topic I could think of to help ease his pain.
After we talked for an hour or so, he seemed able to pull himself back together. He had come up with a plan to report the comments to the appropriate people at OSH.
What touched me about that day is that David had been so hurt and wounded by those two OSH employees. However, his main concern was not about himself--but about the people who were in those two employees' care.
I miss you, friend.