Just wanted to update you on where I have been and how I am: I spent 6 weeks at Natchaug Hospital in Willimantic, Connecticut this past July and August and though I was discharged as much improved, I am still having a difficult time, both readjusting and well, simply having a hard time of it. Although in the hospital they did a little adjusting of meds, increasing both the Geodon and the Zoloft, I am not convinced that either one made much of a difference nor that it did less harm and more good on balance. In any event, Dr C and I (at my request) soon eliminated the 25mg increase in Zoloft, and are now dropping the 80mg increase in Geodon. She is concerned that the 240mg is making me very irritable and more upset and frantic rather than providing enough relief to make it worthwhile. Yes, the voices are much improved, but that could be the passage of time and perhaps due to a general decrease in paranoia, who knows? All I can say is that I cannot take this general state of overwrought irascibility, a tendency to snap at anyone who “looks at me crosseyed,” as my mother used to say.
Natchaug Hospital remains a very good place, the best I know, and just as I remembered, not least because they have a philosophy of kindness and compassion towards patients. In fact, they are excellent because they have a philosophy and are not simply flying by the seat of their pants, hiring whoever comes along needing a job, burned out or not. Not only is their philosophy based on compassion and not on controlling the patient, but they see no point in rules for the sake of rules. It is clear that if there is something in the unit set-up that doesn’t serve a particular patient, the Natchaug staff will bend it as far as they can and try to accommodate each patient’s particular needs. As I was frequently told, why make someone miserable when you can make them happy? It is difficult to be happy in a psychiatric unit, and many patients are miserable because of their illnesses, but not once did I ever see a staff member add to that misery willfully and certainly not to mine. (I frankly could not say this of two Connecticut area hospitals, one in Manchester and the other in Middletown.)
One thing that makes many patients happy at Natchaug, by the way, is that caffeinated coffee is provided at breakfast, a rare blessing in in-patient psychiatric settings. And since everything is served cafeteria style, so you can have all you want.
They used to provide hot decaf coffee on the unit itself, which was a treat. Because one very ill patient tossed a cup of coffee at a staff member, however, and she was injured, and because for some reason they decided that that patient could not be restricted individually from having hot coffee, now no one is permitted hot drinks on the unit at all. Yet, I suspect that even he would have not thought it unfair to be kept from the coffee pot! I know that in other hospitals I have had restrictions placed on me that others have not, and no one thought it wrong or unfair to me…Anyhow, I dunno what to think, but it was their policy, a misguided one, perhaps, but who am I to say? I know everyone went nuts for a while about having to drink lukewarm “swill.” Finally, though, the patients simply gave up on the “coffee” machine and did without. Anyhow, I have to admit that when I first saw the hot coffee machine, I couldn’t believe it, not because I was thrilled — though I was — but because I saw an “accident”or worse already in the making…
Note: one of the few hard and fast rules at Natchaug is one they cannot change because they will lose accreditation: no smoking. Smoking is simply not allowed, not even on hospital grounds. While certain patients have tantrums about this and might cause an uproar from time to time in order to try to force the staff to allow them to use the courtyard to smoke “just one cigarette, just this once, please, I am absolutely desperate!” it is simply not possible. But people are allowed the patch and gum and every effort is made to help smokers quit. Even though some staff acknowledge that the policy is unfortunate, even unfair, nothing can be done about it.
I was not, however, comfortable for most of my stay there, and was paranoid a great deal of the time. Of course, I did not understand that the staff was aware of this, so when I began to come out of my delusions of persecution, it surprised me mightily to discover that they knew that paranoia was the reason for my hostility all along. Nevertheless, up to the very day I was discharged, I was hearing people talk about me up and down the hall and at the nurses’ station.
Well, that is all I am going to write for today because I am, as of a week ago, in the middle of writing my new memoir, and as the days progress I plan to put parts of it up here, for comments and for suggestions. Feel free to do both!
I will finish here with one of my latest drawings, which represents how I felt when I was restrained at Middlesex Hospital, both the time I described in a recent blog post, and the other(s) (for which I have amnesia) when Josephine told me I was more or less “out of control”…to which I can only respond: Violence begets violence, and perhaps if they had not perpetrated on me what they did, things might not have gotten out of hand, But then, that hospital is one that is guided by the Control for Control’s Sake philosophy and the nurses were bitter and angry people…Needlesstosay, they hated me if only because I refused to roll over and play dead, if not die.
Forthwith the picture.