Tuesday, 28 July 2009

'The Times' Dear Tanya and monumental hubris

'The Times' has a piece in today, 'Dear Tanya, My son is dealing drugs...' The usual stuff. Sixteen year old, started smoking skunk, personality changed, parents are divorced, don't know how to deal with him. You know, all the stuff you've heard of from me. Father tries to be tough. Mother unravels and enables the son because she's unable to be tough with him. It's nothing new. The kid's also started to deal at school. It's a pattern.

So I wrote a comment at the end of the piece, as others have done too. Only theirs have been published, mine hasn't. In mine I wrote that the kid resembles mine. He also started smoking but that his personality changed and then he developed Bipolar disorder. Because of that I wrote my book and, as a result, I've been going into schools and other venues and talking about it.

I wrote that most sixteen year olds don't have the insight into the consequences of their behaviour; that although they use, they couldn't possibly develop mental health problems as a result. I wrote that when I speak in schools and, especially, read out the chapters from the book about Glastonbury and bringing Zach back from filthy pscyhiatric wards half way around the globe that they do sit up and, to some extent, take it in. I wrote that shock value, talking about someone like them, does have an impact.

The Times, in its judgement decided not to publish my post. Why, I ask, is that, or am I simply being naive, that the piece was simply to fill in space because, as we know, drugs are the topic of conversation this week. That the 'comments' left at the space below the article aren't really 'comments' at all, but all part and parcel of the article, written by the same person in order to give the impression that there is some input from us poor morons because isn't it true that the media believe us all to be morons?

This is not the first time that this has happened. Countless 'articles' in countless columns have been written about drug abuse and mental health problems and I have contributed to many in the comments' sections and only once has one been published. I think that this is a serious question and has to be asked on many levels. This presumably happens on every subject. The perception that it's a free press. Oh, no it isn't!

Back to Leh: Zach's latest three lines of email tell us that he's 'been in the trenches... but that I'm fine and there's no money problems...' Right. Okay. Fine. How, exactly? As of today, he's making his way towards Israel. 'I'll surprise you, he writes. Um. Again, how exactly? From skunk to gear to mania and dirty, nasty wards and even worse medication but no one's allowed to read about that. Hubris.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Is Elvis the new flavour in Leh?

Maybe the boats don't go often enough or maybe you actually need some kind of identification. The latest slurring message on voicemail gave the impression that Zach is still in Leh, not having moved too far towards the icy lake further north. Just another one of those unrealistic ideas he has of moving on to other things. I suppose that it's a case of not having a passport.

The garbled message included news that he was 'heading in the direction of Japan.' He has 'meetings with record producers and publishers...' You have to wonder how he's managing at all. That money is still sitting with Western Union. Pity, because it's not even making any interest while it's there. At least that could have been a good outcome. As it is, what's he doing for money?

What can Leh be like? It's a huge area of land, although the town itself is quite small, I've been told. My impression is that Zach is going from guest house to guest house. Is he paying? Does someone else? Is he playing in the town square like a country roustabout, guitar in hand, chippy scarf around his, probably now, scrawny neck. From the voice, it didn't sound as though he was in the right frame of mind to be giving concerts but what do they know in Leh? Maybe they think he's the best thing since Elvis?

So we're waiting again for another phone call to tell us something else that will, inevitably, have happened to him. As of lunchtime today he was still breathing. That's something...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

German heiresses, Western Union and Indian authorities

A story appeared on my Google alerts about a German woman who had recently inherited wealth. What was interesting was, that apart from her being Bipolar and an addict, she had been thrown out by her mother some years ago because her mother couldn't deal with all the problems associated with her daughter's illness. Now, because the girl has inherited some money, the mother is desperately searching for her. The last time that the girl was seen was on the streets, covered in newspapers and blankets, begging for food. Why do you think the mother is searching for her daughter now? To tell her that she's got money and will therefore live her future life in mad luxury, or could it be more sinister, that she wants to find the girl in order for her to sign over the money to her mother as she's obviously non compos mentis? We don't know. We only know that she's still looking.

I'm writing about this because, notwithstanding Zach asking us to wire him some money as he was 'stony broke', he hasn't collected it. It was £50.00 that can be deducted from the money he owes us when he comes back. I had a short call from him two days ago, when he told me that 'the banks were playing around with him' and that he couldn't collect the dosh. Seems that his passport was still with the authorities. They were 'looking after it for me' he explained. Without proof of identification he couldn't collect the money.

It's worrying that Zach hasn't collected the funds, for all sorts of reasons. He's usually adept, even in the height of insanity, to collect money from Western Union. He's even able to conrol himself to make reverse charge calls. He's not reading my emails and I don't know from where he made the call earlier this week. In any event, from my understanding and reading between all sorts of lines, he's broke. So where is he, without money and what is he doing to survive? Did he lose it with the Indian police and, if so, are there repercussions? I can't believe that he's on a slow boat to China without money, passport or mind.

I think that it would be rather nice if Zach were to inherit some wealth from somewhere but what would I do if he did while he is in the outposts of India or on a rowing boat along the Indus? Would I go out there and search for him and if I did, would I bring him back here and esconce him into rehab or would I leave him to it and see if he would surface and repeat all the patterns ad infinitum? It's a conundrum.

To be continued...

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A Slow Boat to China

Pangong Lake is 13,900 feet up in the Himalayas. It's 83 kilometers long and a raggedy five hour drive from Leh. They say that it's the place to 'see before you die.' You drive through spectacular valleys towards the disputed border between India and Tibet, now China. The Chinese, always in for a bit more territory, incorporated Tibet and now Tibet is China. Pangong Lake is patrolled by the Chinese navy and the Indian navy and you need a special permit to visit it. Not the sort of place to go to if you have any kind of health problem.

Of course, being Zach, is exactly the place that he has had to go to. 'I've organised a visa for a week for China,' he told us in a later email, when he wasn't sounding too bad. I mean, I guess that you have to have some kind of reasonable mental health to organise a visa to anywhere. But in these nether regions, maybe it's easy to deal with officials.

Pangong Lake and the whole of this area of northern Ladakh is remote. So remote that there's just the one road that curls around the mountains and sometimes into the mountains in order that another car can snake around. Apparently it's an area for those of us who are the real adventurers. Consider the thinness of the air and the sparkling quality of the sunlight and the lack of comfort. There's the hippy trail of travellers and the locals who visit the lake but not much else apart from soldiers.

Zach said that he had 'visited a psychiatrist' and 'has medication.' I doubt that there are too many English speaking psychiatrists in the locale, although I do know that he has some medication. The last email isn't much of a testament to that. He doesn't respond to questions. He jumbles off a stream of consciousness of what he says is happening but who knows?

Whatever... So now we have to extend our imagination to a slow boat trip to China and whether or not he makes it back and how and when or what they do with Englishmen who display erratic behaviours in Tibet.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Twenty Quid and a laptop to Ladakh

So yesterday morning the phone went and it was Zach. That's after a manic message left on Sam's mobile. 'I'm great. Everything's great. Yesterday was great. I did a thirty fucking mile walk to China...' etc. You get my drift. When Sam spoke with Zach he could hear from his voice that although he didn't appear to be grandiosely manic, he was levelling up to a good seven or eight on the scale.

There were things he wanted, he said. Stuff to be sent out. His laptop for one and twenty quid too. 'Yeah, we're going to send you a laptop to Ladakh...' Sam, 'How are you doing for money?' Eyebrows raised, for a change. 'Don't worry about me,' Zach's retort. 'I know the meaning of finances. But twenty quid will be fine...' We know it's still cheaper in India than here but twenty pounds will not go very far.

Zach intends to stay there until the 'end of August and then go on travelling.' On twenty quid? Show's where his head is at. There was other nutty stuff too but it was typical. It still comes down to the fact that he was meant to come back home this Tuesday and he didn't. He made the choice to use all over again and lose his mind again. This is where we are at once more. I've really no ideas this time. I'm not going over to bring him back, nor do we intend getting involved with other options over there but I don't know how he's going to get back here or when and if. It's all rather peculiar.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

'Mainly ok' means what in Ladakh?

So what does 'mainly ok' mean when you don't really know the person you are talking about? This was Jonathan's answer when Sam asked him if he had seen Zach and, if so, how was he? It was a rough line. There were shouts and laughter and the sound of traffic in the distance and Jonathan sounded as though he was doing four things at once. Difficult for anyone. Especially difficult for a man (sorry, men...) We couldn't really hear him and, I think, he's probably already at patience's end for dealing with Zach. Just like we all are. Now more than ever. 'He's mainly ok...' he responded.

For someone who's 'mainly ok', he hasn't checked his email and he hasn't written any more asking for money and he hasn't made the usual reverse phone call requesting same. So for once the pattern has changed. At least he's still in Leh, wandering the streets, so far as we've been told.

He has no money. We don't know whether he still has his belongings or his passport. The passport was supposed to have been retained by the police until he left. It's unlikely that he will leave now. I can't see him getting on a bus and spending 17 hours travelling to Kashmir. Previous episodes have painted a picture of him becoming more and more disorganised and irritable and impossible to be around with for any period of time. I can't see the so-called 'friends', a bunch of low-lives from Sweden and Italy, continuing to pay for his food and accommodation and drugs - even though they've used him as entertainment to see just how much stuff they can enable him to smoke and choke.

He's probably skinny and dirty and wild-eyed and hungry and desperately tired and if anyone gets on the wrong side, quite likely to hit out and eventually be arrested. That would be the best outcome - yet again.

He was supposed to have flown back from New Dehli yesterday. The plane flew, one seat empty. How on earth does he intend to get back here? Is there the usual subconscious knowledge that whatever happens we will make sure that he does? The way it always happens?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Amy Winehouse: Eat your Heart Out. Ladakh, China, Pills and Smokes

Well, it had to happen, didn't it? Firstly the SIM card. That's gone. The phone? Who knows. The phone call on Thursday night, 'call me back'. Then nothing. Friday no news at all. The phone appeared to be switched off. Then an email, 'the SIM card's disappeared. No worries...' Yup.

Just a manic spread of words. The air is thin, the altitude high, the weed strong. There's no insight and his judgment is severely impaired. His judgment of the humans he's involved himself with. Nothing for two days, then yesterday afternoon at a party the phone call came. We'd been laughing, 'How long do you give it?' I asked Sam. 'Shall we make a bet at a betting office?' Here the sun shone and white wine and salmon and good conversation. I saw Sam at the doorway, gesturing to me, his eyebrows raised. 'It's India,' he said, my heart leaped. Ohhh, not again!

Jonathan in Leh. The police have Zach's passport. Three days of ketamin and no sleep and no food and he's with a bunch of people who think it's fun being with a loony. They're feeding him drugs and watching what happens to him. No responsibility on their part. Zach had gotten into a fight in a restaurant and the police took him to hospital. Wise police. There's no psychiatric ward there, so they gave him some medication and Jonathan, who works for an Israeli outreach programme that repatriate young Israelis who get into trouble, gave him soup and a hammock and Zach slept in his garden overnight. They were going to somehow get him onto a flight back to Dehli and into a psychiatric hospital but, as usual where Zach's involved, it's not going to end like that.

Zach was supposed to be flying back to London tomorrow. How likely is that! He's completely manic. While Jonathan was asleep this morning, Zach's 'friends' came to the garden and gave him two joints that he smoked with abandon. He's still got some medication but, as of 8.00am our time, was intending to go with his pals onto Srinigar in Kashmir. A really poor choice of location, for all sorts of reasons, one of which is Zach's propensity to discuss the Israel/Palestine issue to all and sundry and get into fights about it. The fact that Kashmir is mostly Muslim doesn't bode well. Zach's out of control.

Sam received an email that shows just where Zach's head now is: "before the 7 helicopters that i saw on their runs, ladak was just like another indian town with indian police... now... all the top ranking ones have chinese stars... i would say that the chinese took ladak 2 or 3 days ago... there has been a lot of chaos... either way ... this is as far away from a manic episode as..." Yes, as? And this was after he'd said that he was going to be staying in asia for the next few months and then going to China and now learning Han from his 'friends' the Chinese. Who knows? Has there been a coup in Ladakh? Have the Chinese extended their control to India? What is he putting into his mouth? What is he smoking, popping, snorting...?

The tale continues.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

In Residence. Diabolus. For how long?

'I'm on the back of a motor bike. I can't talk now...' No stigmata as yet.

Nothing changes except the scenery. You could almost write the script. I'm waiting for the phone call at 2.00am detailing the injuries. Generally nothing more than bloodied skin. Sometimes a twisted limb. More often than not generalised bruising and deep gashes. Into ditches, on-coming traffic. He's on the side of a mountain. Maybe into a gorge? Over the edge? How deep are those valleys?

Still, he continues to maintain a vigil over his phone. That's a first abroad. But it's the response to intelligent questioning that demonstrates the mania. 'When will you make your way back to New Dehli?' from Sam. 'I think I'll stay here for some time....' As if India needs another passenger. 'What about money?' Again from Sam. 'Don't worry.' How can we not worry?

So he intends staying there or travelling on or making his way - to where...?

You can hear the mania in the voice, even in two or three sentences. The pressurised speech. The grandiose ideas. 'I'm organising the music festival here...' The instant vilification of me, as if it was my fault that he's now manic. But, then, it always is. Has to be someone's and I'm easy prey.

I don't care about the mouthfuls of invective. The blaming. The apportioning of responsibility to someone else so that he doesn't have to take any himself. It's boring. I know that the incubus - let's call him Diabolus - is now in residence. He'll stay there until he's burned out again. But how does that leave Zach? And, more pertinently, where?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Is No News Good News and Richard Bentall's Doctoring the Mind

Monday morning, London. After the sickly heat of the last two weeks, it's now a breezy, showery city. There's no news though. The manic phone calls of Saturday have left a void of nothingness over the weekend. I sent a text. 'How are things today?' No response. I'm perturbed and anxious. Don't know whether to call for the fear that a)I'll just get a mouthful of invective; b)someone I don't know will answer the phone because it will have gone the way of all the others - lost, stolen, bartered; or c)someone from a jail or a hospital will answer...

Whatever I do will be wrong. If I try to ignore what's going on in the mountains of Tibet, because, after all, he is an adult and should be left to do what he wants - irrespective of his mental health issues - then is it irresponsible of me as a parent. Conversely, should I try and find out where he is and how he is AND if he really IS as bad as I think he is, should I contact some kind of authority that will apprehend him and help him? Is there such a body or person there in the foothills of the Himalayas, among the monks and the travellers and the mountain goats?

In the past Chabad have helped. In Ecuador and Thailand - twice. If I were to contact them in Manali, will they have an archive of those foolish tourists who come to these areas highlighted with the dangers that they present and then, through invariably their own fault, get into the most grotesque scrapes? If they did, then their dossiers on 'Zach' will be immense.

However, who's to know whether should Zach be assisted medically in Tibet or India that it wouldn't be better than here in the UK? In 'Doctoring the Mind: Why Psychiatric Treatments Fail'. Richard Bentall, a professor of clinical psychiatry, argues that one's chances of recovering from an episode of psychosis are worse in a western hospital than in the Third World. From my own experience, I can concur. I believe that in the UK we just don't have a handle on the mentally ill.

When we were so desperate to get Zach into hospital during his last acute episode two years ago now, the local mental health services were irresponsibly unhelpful. The consequence of this was that Zach was eventually arrested and taken to jail. The fact that the police were involved instead of mental health 'professionals' is testament to the unwillingness of these 'professionals' to carry out their remit and actually help.

Two years ago, Sam and I should have left Zach in Thailand in the hospital where he was being cared for on a 24/7 basis. There he was given no choice but to take the medication. He was safe and secure and he had no availability to drugs. He would have come out of the episode well and, no doubt, drug free. What happened was that we were leaned on and we had to bring him back to London where he almost died. So, yes, who says that there's decent medical provision in the west?

Meantime who knows what the sprite is up to in the valley of the white tipped peaks?

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Five on the insanity scale - deliver me from heroin

We had two years. Two years while things have been quiet. No madness. No sections. No irate phone calls. Just a semblance of calm. How deluded we become. We believe that the heroin keeps him sane. It does, in that the opiate effect is the same as a mood balancer. The problem is that it's addictive and the problem is that it is hugely expensive. It is because of this that he decided to take himself off to 'somewhere hot' and go 'cold turkey' and come off it because, frankly he said, 'it's just a waste of money. God knows how much I've spent on 'gear' over the last twelve years.' Well, actually, he told me but it's so astounding that I can't physically write it.

So off he went to 'hot India' while we've had the hottest weather here for decades. He could've done it here of course. For the first week it appeared as though he could manage it. The flight. The different time zone. The lack of sleep while travelling. And unravelling because he no longer took his 'meds' - the hyper-expensive, addict craving heroin.

The first emails were ok. Then they became more noticably strange. Sam picked up on it initially. I noticed but pretended they were alright. Beth did too. Then another one and it was the collective sigh. The deep groan of groundhog day. He kept it together for the first phone calls but we knew it was only time. On Thursday he was a five on the insanity scale. Friday was almost a six. Today, after the phone calls, we realise that he's closing in on an eight. Where do we go from here?

Dateline July 2009. He's catching a flight from India on the 14th. Will he? What will happen between today - after he's ridden his mountain bike in the hills above Ladakh and said a blessing for the Sabbath and eaten the chicken soup? 'I've met so many great people - we're organising festivals...' - and tomorrow. Interested? Then keep reading.