I swore that after I left Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living last January, 2013, having spent the better part of a month in seclusion and many many hours brutally and punitively four-point restrained, I swore I would never go anywhere that would treat me like such an animal again. But then, having twice been treated at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital once in early 2013 and finally later on that same year, discharged with piriformis syndrome from having been forcibly held down and injected in the buttocks over and over with 3 different drugs, Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl, I said that I would NEVER again permit such torture in the name of treatment anywhere, no matter what they called it. No not even at Yale.
Given the massive traumas I have experienced these past five to ten years in Connecticut mental hospitals, abusive practices that have only increased since my first hospital stays in the 70s, I decided last August, post Yale: never again. Never again would I go to ANY hospital whatsoever.
To that end, my family, my family of origin, since I never married and have no money of my own, has taken it upon themselves to hire for me (or let me arrange for myself the hiring of) several personal staff members to “come on board” for me in my apartment 24/7 starting in late December and if necessary work through January, if there is a crisis. I haven’t gotten through any January without a hospital stay in several years, so it is a good thing to be prepared, on the one hand. But the very fact that I need not fear the hospital now might also mean I can avert the worst of any crisis! Who can tell? All I know is that we are all talking about how to help me primarily stay safe from what the voices command me to do, and how to do so without panicking or calling 911.
One thing I insisted upon was NOT using any agency, because while they serve a function, I suppose, they also pay their workers shit. And someone who is paid $8 an hour is not going to want to do the same quality of job for me, while sitting with me in my tiny apartment as someone who is getting the entire $20/hour, if you get my drift. And why would they? I need people who are committed to keeping me safe from myself at the height of any craziness that might assert itself, and if the voices command me to grab a pencil and suddenly stab myself with it, as they frequently have, I NEED to know that the person I have hired will be right there with me, ready to grab it from me, not in the other room reading a book, or cooking, or yammering on the phone to a friend. For $20/hour I think it might not be too much to ask. At $8/hour it might be.
For $20 an hour, a person can stay awake all night and not need to work another job immediately upon going home, so I will know that if I wake up in my recliner and hear command hallucinations to set myself on fire, she or he will be right there to stop me. Because that is how it happens, has in fact happened just like that.
It is the only way to do it. Unless $20 somehow is not enough to cut it, pay wise, (and I cannot afford to pay more, over all) (the people I hired are also already not working other jobs either…) I think it is not a bad wage, is it? Honestly now, tell me. I am not asking for much else but for someone to sit with me, talk with me IF i feel like it, and watch me to make sure I stay safe. The worst thing would be boredom I imagine. But I don’t usually bore people even when ill. THat is not often their problem. The problems are other things, for me at any rate, and those are that the people that sit with me in hospitals have NOT done their jobs properly at all, and have ignored all the warning signs, even my open pleas to please please “do your jobs. I am on “one to one” for a reason!
No, in the hospital, the aides just turn their backs and stand in the doorway, facing outward, away from the room i am in, and gab with the other aides, completely ignoring the person they are supposed to keep their eyes on at all times. It is crazy. I remember a woman named Jennifer deliberately turned her back to me no matter where I stood in the room, and if I went in to the bathroom, she left the outer room entirely…which was such a rule breaker. She knew what was happening, I think she was playing a game to see if I was truly dangerous to myself or not…Or really just didn’t give a damn.
Is it any wonder that at one point at one hospital, I asked to get off that status. It was simple: I just told them I was safe and they were so glad to reduce their workload they stopped the one-to- one immediately. The next thing I knew the voices had me begging to use my makeup compact. the one with a small glass mirror in it.
“Sure, you can. Just make sure you bring it back to the nurses station in five minutes,” said the Nurses Secretary, handing me the little black plastic thing.
Well it took all of three seconds for me to stamp on it with a hard soled shoe, break the mirror and slice up my left wrist bad…
Of course, they punished me for that. Or they would have, I know. But I remember, I wrapped a huge wad of paper towels around all the blood and told no one for hours, so when I realized that I needed stitches and had to admit to what I had done, it was too late for them to respond with the punishment of 4-point restraints…
The point is, the aides weren’t evil. Not all of them, or at least their lackadaisical attitude was borne out of a lack of caring which itself was spawned by being paid little to nothing. Why should they care? It was just a job to most of them, and little better paid that flipping burgers at a restaurant. Worse than that, because they had no perks and no tips.
So when I hire someone to sit with me, talk with me, keep me safe both from myself and hospital abuse, I pay them $20 per hour (and even $30 per hour over time during snow storms etc), I expect them to be responsive and not lackadaisical. I do not think that is too much to ask or demand. My life and health and bodily integrity depend on it.
One thought on “Sometimes it Takes a Village …to avoid the Hospital”
The very first time I was in a mental hospital, it was an “upper class” joint that had just opened. So in a way, it was kind of their first time, too. They must have expected me to play nice. (What if, I thought, I was there because I was NOT playing nice on the outside?) Anyway, they took a cursory glance at the contents of my overnight bag. (Overnight! Yeah, sure.) They let me keep everything without question. Since I was a virgin at this, I didn’t know what to expect. Would they make beautiful love to me on velvet divan or throw me down on a steel gurney and give me a hot shot of haldol? I don’t remember that part. Whatever happened, my brain chose to leave it there behind those locked doors.
Pam, your compact story reminded me of something that did occur there. They looked and saw all my makeup, yes. Some in glass bottles, a compact with a mirror, some containing alcohol, perhaps a few yards of strong nylon rope for good measure. Then they handed it all back to me and showed me to my room. Better than my college dorm room by far. Perhaps the ambiance of a table for two in a dark corner of a swanky restaurant. Until someone turned the light on, then it looked like a standard hospital room with better linens and a better color palette. Even nice drapes.
I was in one of those pacing moods, so it was up and down the halls for hours. Two parallel halls with a nurse’s station and conference room in between. I don’t know if the nurses had appropriate training. They didn’t seem to know what to do with me or for me. There was no sleeping going on, though, not even through the night. Just walking. This was my second manic or hypomanic episode although I had never heard the term. I felt wild.
That night, I took my compact and glanced up and down the hall. Then I shut myself in the bathroom and stomped on it. Tough little shit. It was very difficult to break the glass, but not impossible. I put the little shards of glass under my pillow and slept like a baby that night. I just wanted to know I had a way out if I decided to go that direction.
I bet they don’t have that cure for insomnia in any psychiatric nurse’s handbook, but it worked.