Pam W – Various photos

This is Pam W. in the spring of 2009. I am standing in front of the Inn on the Broad St Green in Old Wethersfield.

This is the famous and faithful old green recliner (Command Central) in which I do everything but Artwork and Jewelry making..I even sleep here at night.

In April 2007 I interviewed my best friend Joe for StoryCorps. This is the photo they shot of Joe, Me and Karen in front of the StoryCorps Airstream which houses the mobile soundbooth and recording studio. During the interview, which was aired on WNPR the following Friday morning, I had also to translate for Joe, who was losing his voice to ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. By then Karen and I were the only two who could still understand him.

My official author picture, in color rather than the B & W version on the book flap. I do not like it as much as the one being used for publicity, which has been cropped from my photo in front of the inn.

My cat Eemie, about whom this poem has been written:

TOOTH AND CLAW

With silk sufficiency the cat,

that pedigreed aristocrat,

stalks her prey, the Rattus rat

amid the sun-dazed blades of green

where grackles feed on haute cuisine,

of kibble that was meant for Eem,

my scrappy feline, who’d prefer

the tang of rodent blood and fur

while June bugs rasp and locusts chirr.

With one sure leap of grand design,

she hooks his nape and snaps his spine

‘mid cabbage rose and columbine

then daintily she sniffs the gore

and drops her tribute at my door

as if I’m her conspirator.

Seclusion and Restraints: How it feels

I remember, I remember, well, I remember very little, except in flashes of dim light, like a candle held up by which to read the fading pages of an ancient diary. I remember a sign with my name on it, taped to the door of a room, and how hard it was to find my way back, no matter how many times I made the trip. I remember a nurse with blond hair named “Patty,” whose real name, Lil, I learned only the second to last day I was there. I think I liked her, or that she treated me with kindness, and another nurse named Mary Ellen, who was kinder still, but not always there to save me.

I remember too, but again in uncertain flashes that tell me only that something happened but not exactly what: Being carried by arms and legs into a cold, empty room lined with linoleum, dropped onto my back on the floor, dressed in just two hospital johnnies and pajama pants and locked in there alone. I remember begging for a mattress, then screaming in outrage when I was refused.

This is how it goes: There is nothing in the room but me and air conditioning turned on full bore, though it is October and in the 50s outside. Why do I need johnnies or the huge pajama pants that are falling off me without ties to hold them up? Alone in that room, I take them all off, then squat to pee and take a dump. Good, that feels better. Blankness. Cold, cold. Again I scream for a blanket. Of course, nobody answers. I try to push the johnnies under me to cushion my bones so I can sleep, but the shivers prevent me from relaxing. I have to do something.

I make a long rope of the silky acetate pants then form a slip-knot and put the O over my head with the knot to one side. I pull tight, figuring it won’t take long. I sit to one side of the little window in the door, so no one sees me immediately. Finally they come running. But they don’t understand it is a slip-knot and that pulling at it only tightens it  more. I am struggling for air. A nurse yells for scissors, bandage scissors the only ones available and they cut the pants free. Still, I am in big trouble. I would tell them I only wanted to get their attention, that I just wanted a mattress and a blanket, but what good would that do? Still, do they really think their act of violence, which will follow, will solve anything? Blankness. I have been thrown onto a bed in another seclusion room. As staff and goon squad wrestle my wrists and ankles into padded cuffs, I kick and bite in protest, all of which will be written up as my being “assaultive.” In the end, it is no use.  I scream and scream until the usual injections – 5 mg Haldol and 2 mg Ativan – take the scream out of me and I finally fall asleep.

That should have been the end of it. “Wake up calm and they take you out of restraints.” That’s the name of the game. But this time, I wake and I am still in full 4-points. I ask the nurse why. “Doctor’s orders,” he says. “But that’s punishment!” I answer, shocked. “No,” he says, “restraints are therapeutic. We never use them as punishment.” “Bullshit! Dr Z is punishing me because he doesn’t like me and you know it. He is a sadist.” The nurse doesn’t answer immediately and when he does, he just says, “Go to sleep.”

I remember how they kept me in restraints for 12 hours that time. The chart summary tells me more, that I spent a good part of 5-7 days in seclusion and/or restraints, so there is a lot I do not remember. Am I better off for not knowing? That’s what some people tell me. How would you feel? Would you want to know, or not to know?

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I realize that the above is simply a restatement of an earlier more detailed post, so it must be obvious that I am still very troubled by what happened. Indeed I am. I am even more troubled by my lack of memory the rest of the three weeks there…which fact was noted even in the summary of my stay, which Dr B (Li) got from the hospital the other day (in lieu of what he requested, which was my entire chart.) Memory loss has dogged me for many many years. Only now can I acknowledge it, and only because Lynnie and others witnessed it. But for so many years I felt desperately  troubled and, well, desperate to hide it, afraid lest anyone know how little I could remember of what happened from day to day. This was especially extreme when I was in hospital but even afterwards it was troubling to me; sometimes I felt I was missing half my life! People — that is to say,  doctors. nurses,aides — expected me to remember ordinary happenings, because they obviously  thought that I was responsible for what I did from one day to the next, which you are not, not in the same way, if your memory is impaired. This expectation was so stringent that I dared not admit how little I did remember of events after they passed. I thought the scant trace they left would somehow prove my evil, prove that I was a shameful deficient person. So  I desperately took cues from others about what they wanted me to “remember,” tried to “pick their brains” about whatever it was that had happened, or that I had presumably done, whatever it was that they expected me to recall. Sometimes a concrete clue might help me piece things together – say for instance if I had scars or wounds that hinted at recent self-injurious behaviors or if there were scribbling on the walls that suggested another sort…But if there were no cues, it was much harder to ferret out what was wrong. Sometimes I might have to come right out and ask, “And you are referring to…?” But I didn’t dare do that often or it would have given my lack of memory away, something I didn’t dare permit…

Now here is the other side of the story, which I find hard to square with my experience in October: one  psychiatric nurse’s account of how situations involving restraints can look to staff.