IN/SANITY TRIP @
This was the complaint I sent to Nursing and Medical boards
STATEMENT TO DENNIS MENARD: SECRETARY OF STATE INVESTIGATOR
I admit that even though it was early in the morning on November 18, 2015 on Unit D at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital’s Unit D, I was slamming doors. The noise was very loud. Yet never before had this triggered anything from the unbelievably patient and forbearing staff on Unit D, except perhaps some bemused bewilderment at what set me off. After all, with only 3 patients on the unit at any time and the other two either still awake, or highly medicated and dead to the world, it usually did not matter to anyone if I raised a ruckus. But this time, because Annette Brennan was the nurse on duty, it mattered a great deal more than it should have.
Instead of letting me slam my door a few times and cool off, as I had so often before, Nurse Brennan came barreling through the doorway and into my bathroom, where I had been sleeping on a mattress since shortly after my admission, two weeks before. I backed away. Brennan pushed up closer, yelling at me, “You will not slam any more doors tonight, do you understand?!”
To explain what preceded this, you should know a little of the “backstory.” I had gone to the med window about a half hour earlier, asking for an extra Ativan for “anxiety”. But really I needed it because I had been unable to speak since Nov 15. On November 19, people were coming to evaluate me from Meadowview Recovery Residence in Brattleboro, and I needed to be able to have a voice to speak with them.
Now, you should be aware that for many years catatonia and long episodes of mutism have been a problem for me. In 2003, a Connecticut doctor discovered that Ativan by
IV was effective for my catatonia. When mutism was the bigger problem, my outpatient doctor at the time decided to try Ativan orally, seeing mutism as a feature of catatonia, and she used it with good result.
However, at VPCH the on-call doctor, Dr. Lasek, had not been told about my relapsing mutism, nor my need for Ativan. He only knew about my complaints of sleeplessness and anxiety. So when called around 1:30 AM he refused me a second tiny dose and ordered me to try to relax on my own and sleep for two hours, before he would order another.
This is what occasioned, at nearly 2:00 AM, my panicked outburst of door slamming. But the real trigger for what followed was that Nurse Brennan did something she should not have. My advance directive explicitly warns against it. She grabbed me by
the wrists. Yes, feeling threatened by her being up in my face, I had thrown a notebook at the wall. But I had not thrown it at her, as Nurse Mansukhani who was watching all this, explicitly states in both the chart and her APS interview. Maybe having cornered me in the bathroom, Nurse Brennan saw my mute shaking my fists as threatening. Even so, she ought to have backed away. Just backed away not provoked trouble.
Instead, she approached closer and, here is the thing, she reached out and she grabbed both my wrists. Immediately, the other nurse, Jennifer Mansukhani, watching from the door, said to her, “We don’t go hands on here at VPCH.” I want to repeat this because it is vitally important, even though it was never mentioned in the chart. Nurse Mansukhani cautioned Annette Brennan, even as she grabbed me: “WE DON’T GO HANDS ON HERE AT VPCH.”
But no one, not Jennifer Mansukhani, not anyone, came to my aid. I pulled and I struggled to get loose from her grip but Nurse Brennan only held on tighter. So reflexively, and in terror, I bent my head to bite her fingers with my teeth, desperate to get her to release me. And the chart says as much when it reports, “Patient tried to bite staff times 3.” Well, of course I did not just up and bite staff for no reason. The reason, the only reason, I bit staff, that is, bit nurse Brennan, is because she had me by the wrists and restrained me, without just cause. And because being mute i could not simply tell her to let go!
Of course all hell broke loose. The nurse yelled for help and help arrived in seconds with staff now officially going “hands on” to stop me from biting and to restrain me completely .
As they bodily hoisted me off the floor, screaming but wordlessly, one man asked, “What now? Brennan answered promptly, “Bring her to seclusion!” and so following her directive, without trying any other intervention, they carried me there, even though there was a large armchair right in the empty day room they could have placed me in to calm down…
So there I was, in seclusion largely because Nurse Brennan had backed me into my own bathroom and grabbed my wrists in a moment of inappropriate anger, telling me I was not going to slam doors on her watch.
After staff dashed from the seclusion room, I ran after them but they closed the door, locking me in alone. Dazed and sad, and frightened, I sat back down on the mattress, not moving, my back to the door. I heard them talking. Scarcely listening, I tried to calm myself and wondered how long they planned to keep me locked in that room. Then I heard someone say, “She has her glasses and watch. We have to take them away from her!” (So what? I thought. What is the problem?)
But they piled in again, all of them pushing on top of me at once, knocking me in the face and severely bruising my nose and breaking my eyeglasses in their zeal to take away my glasses and watch and my medical band. Then they proceeded to fondle my body, looking for pockets, of which I had none. All this time I was screaming, without verbalizing a word…and fighting them in protest at their violation of my person. They tried to dash out of the room and lock me alone inside again, but I followed them and escaped, wedging myself in-between their ranks. So someone said. “Back inside!” and we all moved as one, back in towards the mattress.
Instead of trying anything to calm me or disentangle themselves and leave again, or better yet trying to follow the instructions on my detailed Advanced Directive and the one plea I had made from the moment I arrived at VPCH, which was never to leave me alone in a seclusion room, imagine my dismay when I heard nurse Brennan shout, “Get the Bed!”
The bed? The restraints bed? For what? What had I done to deserve The Bed? All I had done was try to get out of their terrifying seclusion room, a seclusion room I never deserved to be dragged to in the first place!
But the bed was gotten and as they clamped restraints on my body, Ms Brennan was the person who held my head between her hands as she commanded me — I was howling in terror beyond words, without any words – “YOU WILL CALM DOWN RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” Again and again, gripping my face between her hands, she ordered me to calm down.
You should be aware that my advanced directive EXPLICITLY states and always has, and they were aware of this, that I have been deeply traumatized by the use of restraints and seclusion and that their use should be avoided at ALL costs.
Holding me down as I screamed, they fastened an extra restraint, a fifth restraint, a thick plate of velcro across my chest so I could not sit up nor do more than bend my neck slightly, before I lost strength and had to put my head flat on the narrow gurney.
Then what I can only term “the goon squad” trooped out, with Annette Brennan and Dr Joseph Lasek leaving last, saying, and I want to emphasize this because of its sheer brutality: “You will tell us out loud when you are safe enough to be released, or you will remain in restraints.” Then they departed too.
Although two monitors were posted in the adjoining room, I could not see them because of the chest restraint, nor were they permitted to say a word to me. I screamed in despair and terror but it made no difference. Yes, I once heard Chelsea’s voice from somewhere, a sweet, female staff member who had remembered my Advance Directive. She took a risk and told me from her position across the other room, “Pam, try to take a deep breath, try to calm yourself, I am here, you are not alone…” I tried to be grateful, indeed I was grateful. But as soon as I heard that Chelsea was there for me, they replaced her with someone who was told in no uncertain terms not to speak to me again.
I remained very still and so was rewarded with an assessment at every fifteen-minute interval to see whether I was “safe enough” to be released from restraints. Time and again they said I was “non-responsive” or non-compliant because I could not answer them in spoken words. Nurse Brennan made a point of checking my restraints and touching my body, without asking permission. You can read this in the chart if you do not believe me. She expected me to accept her touching me, and not flinch or kick in reaction. But no one would frame Yes or No questions to allow me to communicate! Yes, I became increasingly frustrated and upset. I was not unwilling to answer their questions, I was simply unable to. And they would leave me in restraints, again and again, hour after hour, writing in their chart notes that because I “refused to speak” I would stay that way.
First one hour passed, then two, then three. Finally the nurse Jennifer Mansukhani, relented and allowed as how I might answer the “safety” questions with a shake or nod of my head.
“Will you remain safe and not hurt anyone?” she asked me, standing above me.
I nodded my head.
“Will you remain safe and not attempt to harm yourself?”
I nodded again.
Will you get up go back to the unit to and to your room and continue to behave safely if we let you out of restraints?” (I am writing these questions from memory so they won’t be exact, but you get the gist of them.)
Nod, nod, nod.
Ms. Mansukhani seemed pleased with my responses but also at a loss as to what to do with them. She paused. “Okay, Pam. I have to go back and confer with Nurse Brennan and the doctor.”
She left, turning her back, promising to be back shortly.
Instead, it took an hour, and when she did come back, she arrived with Nurse Brennan and a plan. “We have decided that we want to free up a hand so you can write a safety plan. Then if we approve it and if it is adequate we will see about taking you out of restraints.”
I frowned. Annette Brennan had in the meantime moved to the end of the gurney where my stocking feet were exposed. Her groin pushed against my toes and the soles of my feet. I felt an immediate revulsion, feeling molested by someone who knew I was vulnerable. Helpless to resist, I kicked out mightily. If I could have spoken in words I would have yelled too, but I could say nothing, only scream wordlessly and kick. This got her to swiftly move away. Someone else present suggested that she pass me at the head of the bed next time.
But writing up a safety plan was just upping the ante. I shook my head emphatically. They trooped out, leaving me alone again, still in restraints at 5:00 o’clock in the morning.
My muscles and veins hurt because I had remained still for so many hours. Afraid I would develop a blood clot, I carefully circled each leg ten times, restraints clanking as I did so. Then I bent each knee a few inches up and down, up and down. Ditto with my arms, until I was satisfied that I had done enough and could relax into the absolute stillness required for an assessment. I later learned my self-administered range-of- motion exercises was described as “patient flailing in restraints.”
Jennifer returned around 6:30. Making motions of desperation, I offered to write a safety plan. But the night shift was leaving. “First shift will have to take you out of restraints. It is too late for us to do it now.”
When I heard this, I let out a despairing howl and suddenly urine poured into my clothing. That meant little to the third shift; they left doing nothing about it. Only when first shift came on and found me, soaked in urine, and still in five-point restraints at 7:00 am did they relent and give me both Ativan and my morning meds. Even so, I wasn’t actually released until 7:30 am.
A patient has the right to be free of unnecessary restraint, and to have the least restrictive environment possible. The fact is, I DID NOT POSE AN
IMMINENT THREAT OF HARM TO SELF OR OTHERS when this incident occurred. I only fought when assaulted by people restraining or secluding me!… I should never have been placed in restraints. Any possible danger – kicking when Annette’s groin pressed against my bare feet? or merely grimacing? — that I may have seemed to pose was wholly induced by the situation.
It is repeatedly on record that Annette Brennan, RN, with the doctor’s complicity ordered that I was not to be released from 5-point restraints until I spoke aloud, stated multiple times in multiple ways. This led to many instances of grotesque abuse, including when Nurse Brennan pushed her groin against my bare feet and then accused me of kicking her.
Please understand what happened: I was immobilized in 5-point restraints, including a large chest restraint. She herself noted that I was lying quietly at the time. So why and how did Ms. Brennan’s groin make contact with my bare feet? I could not “lunge” at anyone, despite the notation later made in my chart. I could not even see Nurse Brennan unless she was right at my side. She pressed her groin against my feet while I was in a helpless and vulnerable state. So I protested by kicking out to the very extent that my restraints allowed. Her behavior violated every professional standard and code there is. It was indeed abuse of everything a nurse stands for.
Abuse was intrinsic to the situation that Brennan (with Dr. Joseph Lasek’s complicity) set up. I should have been released very quickly, except that the staff involved repeatedly refused to ask me their “safety questions” in a manner to which I could respond. Since they had decided I “refused to speak,” they would not permit me to communicate in any other fashion. They acknowledged this was deliberate both verbally and in writing. Several times, the chart says, I was lying quietly in 5-point restraints on the bed, but as I “refused to speak” I would not be released.
Even when Nurse Mansukhani relented enough to ask me the requisite “safety questions” in a yes/no fashion, I had not met their conditions for release so they left me there. This was punishment, and it was abuse, pure and simple.
Finally, I want to show you just one example of what these illegal conditions of release led to, the supposed violence I exhibited and their claims that “patient still needs restraints.” The chart states that they offered me “patient’s own blanket,” when they discovered that I was cold. My response is described as “violent.” What they don’t say is that this was the hospital’s extremely heavy weighted blanket, filled with shot pellets. When Nurse Mansukhani had a male tech bring this and try to drop it on top of me, a patient shackled in 5-point restraints, I was terrified for my life and I responded from that fear: I could not understand why anyone would do such a thing unless they were trying to suffocate me.
(Why in god’s name didn’t they just release me from restraints at that point? I was obviously not trying to harm anyone or myself. I was shivering from the cold that was all…Why? Because they were intent on punishment, not in fact on safety.)
But you see how interpretations written in my chart became inaccurate in the extreme? Because Nurse Brennan insisted on my speaking aloud rather than finding some way for me to communicate, she deliberately rejected any attempt to understand what was going on.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that whether I refused to speak, as she claimed, or whether I could not speak, which was reality, it does not matter. I had the right not to be restrained as punishment or for coercion. I also have always had the right not to speak and to communicate however I so choose, whether VPCH staff, or you, or anyone else likes it or not.
I believe that because she got angry Nurse Brennan grabbed my wrists, restraining me inappropriately, initiating a chain of events that eventuated in my torture.
Instead of stopping the chain reaction at any point along the way, Brennan kept it going, wanting to force me to speak. She chose to further punish me with seclusion and 5-point restraints. She did this for four and a half hours with deliberation and full knowledge of the possible consequences for me, consequences she checked off in boxes (“trauma to patient”) each time she had the doctor renew the order for restraints. I live with those consequences now and have had to live with them every day of my life since that night.
This is the truth of what happened, and I have told the truth on every occasion about this terrible incident at VPCH on the night of November 18, 2015, even when it was unpleasant and did not make me look good. I hope you will see that.
I recently sent the letter below to Amazon.com. For those who wonder, I used the name they still had on their account for me, as my new name, Phoebe Sparrow Wagner, was not recognized. In return, I received a nominal customer service email, but none of the promised (or implied) follow-up after that.
The art posted at top was designed for a stop restraints and seclusion group logo in California, which ended up not using it.
Please feel free to use my words as a model or template for your own.
Solidarity! and in several other languages (chosen mostly at random): Solidarité! Solidarność! Solidaridad! Undod! סאָלידאַרישקייַט, համերաշխությու,სოლიდარობა Mshikamano!Umodzi! Ubumbano! تضامن (tadamun), Dayanışma,солідарність!
Pamela S Wagner
A once extremely loyal customer, leaving In disgust
I think it is time to explain the trigger for my being mute these five days now, and what happened to start the voices unloosing their barrage of hatred on me. In order to do so, I take a huge risk, because I may unleash more of what happened rather than less. But at least part of what happened was real, the trigger was at least, and it disturbed me deeply. I need also to say that when I tagged yesterday’s audio file “abuse” as well as “health” I meant it. It is almost always abuse of some sort, verbal, emotional or physical abuse that triggers the voices and self-hatred has in the past triggered muteness.
So let me be up front: It was “Alice’s” comment five days ago in which she said, “I think you are a bit of a bully”…which was the specific trigger for all of this. Now, as I read through it — reposted below — I see that nothing she wrote has any bearing on either the post she commented under (which I didn’t write) or anything else I have had to say. But first let me take it point by point. Note that Alice’s comments, for clarity, are in color.
Alice, you wrote: “I must say there is no consistency in your writings. You say about how well Yale New Haven Psychiatric – Hospital treated you and the next entry indicates the opposite- how awful they were to you.”
I must write about inconsistencies and the facts as they happened, and I am sorry if that discomfits you, Alice. But the first experience in the early spring was very gentle and positive, and the other, as I wrote before, was brutal. Nonetheless that is not an “inconsistency in my writing” just an inconsistency in my treatment. You must be someone who is very unhappy with the world as the world tends to be “inconsistent.” Even the weather has a habit of changing, at least it is famously so in New England and I suspect that nowhere in the US has entirely “consistent weather.” Of course there are those people who need hobgoblins…
Alice continues on the issue of consistency: “You say you don’t like anti-psychotic medications yet you take them (and you also don’t like anti-depressants – yet you take them…”
In my defense,I think mature adults often do things they don’t like, even taking medications they don’t like. Most cancer patients hate chemotherapy but take the pills etc anyway. I don’t think merely disliking a medication is reason by and of itself not to take it. Nor to criticize anyone for being inconsistent. There are plenty of reasons to do things you may not like. Many people don’t like eating vegetables, but they sure as shooting ought to eat them!
On one other hand, I more than dislike antipsychotic drugs, I deeply distrust them. I do not believe they work. I do not believe they were developed on any scientific basis or are necessary on any but the shortest of short term bases, if that.
That said, on the other other hand, I both took and was forced to take antipsychotic drugs for decades, from the oldest Thorazine and Mellaril at doses up to 1500mg, to weekly IM injections of Prolixin, then on to Clozaril, which nearly killed me, transitioning to seizure-inducing Seroquel to catatonia-inducing Risperdal then eventually to 35 mg of Zyprexa, which made me gain 70 pounds. Given this history, I think I can be excused from blame for withdrawal-induced psychosis when I try to stop my present two anti-psychotic meds, a very real and difficult situation that a growing number of researchers and physicians now acknowledge, including Robert Whitaker and Joanna Moncrieff among others.
Alice notes: “for example why would you need your Zoloft reinstated when you had your sudden “depression” after it was taken away. )I thought these pills didn’t work.”
What I said was that SSRI’s do not work as their developers state they do. They do not relieve depression by selectively inhibiting serotonin re-uptake at the pre-synaptic neuron. Yes, they DO selectively inhibit this process, but it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t an anti-depressant mechanism. Why? Because the serotonin levels in depressed people’s brains have been shown NOT to be lower than anyone else’s. If you had read what I wrote, you would have understood that I indicated that SSRIs are not placebos, they are not inactive substances, so they do something. They are psycho-active, after all they alter serotonin levels! So they change something in the brain, and that change — any change – may make a depressed person feel better, temporarily. But I have never met anyone who felt permanently better on a single level dose of an SSRI and no one knows for certain what these drugs are doing. I think this is problematic. But I especially think it is FOUL and dangerous to tell a depressed person that they have a chemical imbalance of serotonin that the drug is regulating. That is just a downright lie.
As for my sudden “depression” when my dose of 75mg of Zoloft was lowered? Who can say what happened? It may have been that the nurse/director who was my protector at the hospital was away for a few days too at the time, and I sensed the difference…All I know is, well, what happened. I only report the events, neither justifying them nor attempting to make the case that Zoloft “works.” In fact, 6 months later at Yale, when I was down to 50 mg of Zoloft, Dr Milstein felt that I should just come off it entirely, which I did without difficulty. I have no wish to start it again
Oh yes, Ritalin you take but that’s for a “physical” problem so that’s Okay.
Yes, in fact that is the case. My question is, why is it any of your business and why do you care?
Alice, you then proceeded out of the blue to write: “I think you are a bit of a bully and I think that you think you are profoundly smart. But I’m not taken in…………”
First I want to say, Alice, that I’m not too concerned about my intelligence…I’m certainly not worried about you think about my intelligence, in any event. But it was here, where you called me a bully, that the voices were triggered. Instantly, specifically, instantaneously. In fact, the minute I read those words, the trouble began. And even though I managed to pen a calm enough response, my heart started beating rapidly and the voices muttering louder and louder in the background even as I wrote. I cannot explain — though of course this whole post is trying to — just what happened. I felt my ears explode with the pressure of deep sea diving and as if a huge bell were clanging in my head.
You called me a bully. Me, a bully? Why? Were you just reaching for the worst name you could call me? Certainly, it incorporates my worst fear in the world and it was as if you just knifed my jugular… I didn’t know how to defend myself. Before I knew it, the first thing that happened was that the voices zeroed in for an attack, snarling, blaming me for everything wrong I’d ever done. Believe me, they remember every detail! And more and worse, they blamed me for everything wrong ANYONE had ever done! Before I knew it, I was Dr Mengele, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Hitler rolled into one.
Did you, Alice, know this? Did you intend for this to happen? Did you want this shit to hit the fan and intend for me to feel so terrible? Did you want me to feel in fact God-forsaken? I sensed that you did. I sensed that you wanted me to feel desperate, and desperately alone. I sensed then that you wanted me to HATE myself and perhaps even to KILL myself as a response…After all, you called me a bully! You would only do that if you wanted repercussions to ensue: Bullies make people commit suicide, so wouldn’t the punishment for bullies be to kill themselves in turn? What else can they do to make up for the evil that they have caused? (NOTE: I would never ask anyone else to so punish themselves; only I myself can never be forgiven for the evil I have done. I am unforgivable, nothing I do can ever be forgiven…But you, Alice, who know me so well, knew this, didn’t you?)
You see, Alice, what you unleashed? Do you see?
No, you wouldn’t see. You couldn’t possibly see. You would have no idea, because you don’t know me at all. You don’t know anything about me, not in the way you pretend you do…The person “Pam” you think you know is all in your mind, a fantasy created out of your imagination to suit your own angry needs and purposes.
But the thing is, Alice, you know what? It is not I who am the bully in the end. I understand this now. I may be a lot of things, and I may be Evil, but I am not a bully. You do not know me. You know nothing of me but my writings. Even if lurking incognito on my blog you are actually one of the staff members at Yale or Hartford Hospital, pursuing me, you would still know nothing about me, not really, and would never be qualified to call me a bully. None of my friends have ever called me a bully. No one who has ever met me socially even briefly or just once has ever called me a bully. Why? Because I am nothing even remotely like a bully.
Instead, Alice. you have proved yourself to be an abusive person who lashes out at strangers and who says harmful and hurtful things to vulnerable strangers, regardless of whether you know these things to be true or not. Look in the mirror, Alice. Look yourself square in the face because you are angry and you are bitter, and you, Alice, YOU ARE THE BULLY.
Now, let me tell you something else. You think you can get away with it because you did not use your last name, safely tucked away at several states distance or at least protected by your anonymity.,. That because I don’t know who you are, I can do nothing about it. But ALICE, I have my methods of investigating and I know your last name. I also have two photographs of you — and I will post them and name you publicly right here on my blog if you EVER write anything cruel or abusive like this to or about me or to or about anyone else on my blog again.
I hope I make myself perfectly clear on this.
Now, you know what? I was going to go on to “disprove” the rest of your comment, but suddenly I realized I don’t have anything more to say you. Nothing you wrote holds any value .
I’m tired, and it has been a long devastating night. I am going to bed…We will see what the day brings. Whether it will bring back speech or more devastating voices I do not want to say. I can only hope things improve…If not, at the very least you know where I stand.
An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success. Henri Matisse
All content copyright (c) 2017-2019 by the author.
Artwork, data analysis, and other projects by Jon
My Life is Art, My Art is Life
An artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success. Henri Matisse