I continue to be assailed by the same demons as usual, of which i will not speak except to say that it is an effort more often than anyone knows not to walk out of here and away into the cold of night, that indeed i feel deeply (and am told by voices much more powerful than they should be) that i should disappear for the good of all. If I seem strong and resilient it is only my fear of death and a rage that so many want me to die nonetheless, but i feel a terrible resulting sadness that i can’t find it in me to comply completely…In fact, whatever life throws at you, one either survives or dies. But no one can possibly understand how much anguish such a conflict causes me daily, minutely, even by the second, even when I appear at my most cheerful.
I give you Rachel Platten’s lyrics, because I like the song, and sing along with it, though I do not in fact believe that I have any right to believe in them for myself.
Fight Song Lyrics
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves Into motion
Just like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
(Starting right now) I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (I’m in too deep)
And it’s been two years
I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
And I still believe
Yeah I still believe
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
(Starting right now) I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
A lot of fight left in me
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
(Starting right now) I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Now I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Bassett, Dave / Platten, Rachel
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
After burning my face with cigars and cigarettes, in response to command hallucinations, I spent the last month in Connecticut’s well-known Institute of Living (yeah the dangerous 6th month was JANUARY not February but nobody thought to check my math) being beaten up and trussed like a pig in four-point restraints almost daily for many many hours. Why did they deal me this sort of treatment? Why? Because “You do not follow directions”.
I DID NOT FOLLOW DIRECTIONS so they beat me up (despite my policy of non-resistance) and tied me, shackled me with leather and metal cuffs to a bed for dozens upon dozens of hours.! Time after time I had to defecate in my own clothing, because they would not even give me bathroom breaks. Get that? I was disobedient, so they shackled me to a bed as an excuse for treatment!
After this experience, I LOST ALL FAITH in the ability of any institution to do anyone any good who has a mental illness or sickness of the mind, or any emotional disorder or whatever you wish to call it. I GIVE UP! I will kill myself if anyone ever tries to send me back to such a cesspit of a place. I do not care if it is appointed like the Taj Mahal. NO ONE who works there is uncontaminated by the evil infecting such places. I may be the devil but I never wanted to be evil while they are ALL EVIL EVERY SINGLE ONE. I have NEVER been to a hospital where the people are kind and well meaning and where the treatment is actually kind and decent. Once in a while a single person, such as the Middlesex Hospital occupational therapist Christobelle Payne, may stand out in memory as being a rare human being of warmth and dignity and caring, but otherwise, they all to a one fail the test of being decent human specimens and all fail royally to be even normally humanly responsive to suffering persons. They are in it for the money and a cushy job, and don’t you forget it if you go into a psycho hospital, DO not expect to get well there. Expect deadening dulling drugs that never worked and the research tells so, and directions (ie ORDERS) that you HAVE To follow or ELSE.
Get out of there as quickly as possible, because your life depends on it. I am serious. DO NOT LINGER expecting care and treatment or to feel better no matter how helpful you might want it to be.
Furthermore. if you are a young person, do not listen to the sweet seductive advice that some may give you that you woul do well to go for “disability” and social security payments. THAT Is a load of total crapola and the worst thing anyone could tell anyone under the age of 40. Too many young people are being 1) told as children that they have Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ADHD, both of which are adults’ and psychiatrists’ ways of saying, “You don’t as we tell you to huh? Okay, then, we will label you mentally ill in retaliation!” But that is not the worst because they then “medicate” you young children or adolescents with Ritalin or SSRIs and if those cause the anticipated problems of irritability and anger management problems, and outburts and moodswings (!!!), then “add on” atypical antipsychotic drugs (and who would not think to themselves, in momentary awe and self-pity, “OOOh, I must really be Mentally Ill if I take an ANTI-PSYCHOTIC drug, right???”)
The thing is, they will justify these drugs with another label, a label imposed because you now have an IATROGENIC or doctor-induced, medication-caused illness, like some version of “bipolar”, or if they really dislike you, the untreatable Borderline Personality Disorder, which only means largely that you are youngish, female and emotional and angry and don’t shut up when they want you do. (Test: Do they want you in DBT classes? Then you have the BPD diagnosis, trust me. Dialectical behavioral therapy is FOR “borderlines” no matter how hard they argue that it is open all…)
NEITHER of these labels reflect your or anyone else’s REALITY, mind you, they are ONLY labels, and neither Bipolar nor borderline have ever ever been shown to be real bona fide physiological illnesses or even (for all the talk) genetic diseases. What is a “real mental illness” anyway? No one agrees on the diagnosis, in any one person, and no one can find any chemical test or neurotransmitter than it out of balance or even an anatomic difference between the ill and the well. They only have the person’s words and the doctors opinions… If you disagree, prove what you what to argue. Do not tell me, well Manic depression “runs in the family” because that is horseshit. Messiness and not making beds can seem to run in a family, you know why? Because NO ONE breaks the cycle and teaches the kids the value of neatness and making beds every morning. It matter where and how and WITH whom you grow up, and the myths you grow up with matter just as much. The notion that Manic-depression runs in your family is only that. A MYTH. but that doesn’t mean you cannot induce it or see it and make it real in your kids or yourself if you try hard enough.Lord knows teenaged angst these days is frequently dx’d as bipolar so jump on that bandwagon by bringing your child to a psychiatrist and they will be happy to oblige!
But do not think that your label of “Borderline” is something elevated and “nearly psychotic” as if that itself is anything superior to other MIs. Trust me, when someone else calls you Borderline it is shorthand for MANIPULATIVE, DRAMATIC, attention-seeking, devious, lying…if you like those words, go ahead and claim the diagnosis for yourself, but i doubt you will. So why do you vaunt it, and flaunt it? Do you not understand that the hospital and therapists actually hate your guts? Get a hold of your chart and READ IT. it is YOUR right and it might open your eyes to what those people REALLY think of you…It won’t be pretty or nice at all, but it will be instructive, and maybe you won’t want to be Mentally Ill with Borderline Personality Disorder any longer, hey?
Another few words as to young people going for social Security Diabilty: Someone asked me about this and my response is unequivocal. It is the very same trap that Welfare was for young mothers with too many children years ago…It had positives to it, but it ended up trapping many and many generations in poverty of the most extreme sport for, well, generations. Speaking just for myself, IF anyone had had the time to find out where my talents lay, in art and writing, and had been able to provide the community and home supports for me that I truly needed, rather than funding my rent and hospital stays largely, plus a visiting nurses visit to bring me medications. I might have blossomed and never ended up recurrently in the hospital for decades. I mean this from the depths of my broken heart. I was always an extraordinarily talented and intelligent person, and everyone knew it. At the same time, I had very real problems. But no one ever said, LET’S NOT FOCUS ON YOUR PROBLEMS. LET’S SEE HOW FAR YOUR STRENGTHS CAN TAKE YOU!
You know, I still cannot socialize or be away from home for long, and I cannot tolerate any 4- hour work day, far less an 8-hour work day…I do not have ordinary or “normal” stamina in any fashion. Narcolepsy is partly to blame and probably the mental issues and whatever else is at fault, I cannot say. But an extreme lack of stamina that eating well and exercise daily does nothing to help is a FACT of my existence. Nevertheless, I do not believe that I had to stay on Disability and “relief” all my life and be a leech on society…No, i just had no one from the ADA or any social services (god forbid a family member or friend) looking at my individual needs and assessing what I could do to earn a living and helping me, in deep and truly helpful way.,..I believe that my life might have been very different and more productive had the AMERICAN system not dumped me onto antipsychotic drugs and social security and essentially thrown me away…
But it will do it to you too, and you are assenting to it, if you go for disability at at young age. DO NOT DO IT. You will NEVER get free from those checks. NO ONE EVER DOES, unless they marry or get rich some other way…It is the worse decision you will ever make. I know that some living situations demand a check for rent, but don’t assent to their demands, make a radical decision to take charge of your own life, CHALLENGE the psychiatrist’s diagnosis. How long have they known you for anyhow???? Challenge the pills, or at least the dosage. DO YOU FUNCTION BETTER NOW???? that is the only question that matters. If not, the pills do not help. PERIOD. NEVER take any pill on a “For the rest of my life basis!”
Oh, I am so angry and broken at the moment that I cannot speak more. But if I can later on, I will say more to explain. At the moment, I have to attend to too many PHYSICAL bruises and to find a way back to sanity on my own, having been driven to the brink of near extinction by one of the best known hospitals in this state. At the moment I am both rigid with rage and so confused and broken that I scarcely know how to continue, or whether I even want to. Why bother? Why bother? How can people be such monsters, and in such monstrously powerful places and ways. I hurt so deeply and feel I will never trust an single person ever again when they say, “Come let us help you. You need our help.” YOUR help? Like being raped, I need your F—ing help!
GO jump in a lake of snot is what I should say to all of you so called helpers. I’d rather die. Go F— yourself.
All I want to say is that someone connected to me died on Saturday and I have reason to believe it was suicide. This is what I wrote to four people:
“The assistant building manager —– died — i am certain it was suicide — Saturday…i feel to blame, to blame, to blame. It is not that i knew or could have helped her, no, i feel like i caused her to kill herself. I’m shaking in –what? — terror, something! Even the music on Pandora is blaming me. What have i done?”
For hours there was no reply. I located two cigars in the bottom of an old purse, knowing what I had to do…I planned to place this photo:
and let fate determine the consequences, both what eventuated in terms of the voices and what happened after that. All I knew is that even Pandora “radio” is blaming me for the death — suicide as I suspect — and I do not know what to do. I have already been responsible for two suicides of friends. How can I take this again>???
Then my shrink brother wrote me back, after I thought he was long ago in bed and asleep. I quote him in part: “you feel guilty for taking care of yourself. I hope that makes sense. I know it applies to me, so I’m not just saying it. Let it go. You had nothing to do
with her death. It’s sad, if it indeed was suicide, but just leave it at
that. I do think it’s more than symbolic that the person you’re guilty about was the manager of the building you hope to leave for good soon.”
Then he suggested that I take an Ativan (for a change?) and go to sleep. I wasn’t going to, I was going to do something that was ordered of me, and which I felt was essential. But I feel a little less alone, and feel as if I can hang on another night. At least he didn’t get angry and tell me I am not his “top priority”…as if I needed that rammed down my throat ever or again.
I may not make it all night, but if I can sleep it would help a lot. I barely slept last night at all and all these songs on the Bruno Mars’ station are getting to me. I am crying because of how bad I feel…
Will I get through the night? Only the future can tell. I will take the Ativan, against my better judgement, and I already took the half that I refused of Geodon, much against my judgement because otherwise I would be blamed for everything that happens from now on. I do not need the Geodon, but I know what the nurse will say if I refuse it. Until I get to Vermont and then I am free to do what I choose, and if that means — well, I won’t go there right now.
Thank you for listening, if anyone out there really is — either there or listening.
This is from the New York Times today:
To the Editor:
Re “When Cell Door Opens, Tough Tactics and Risk” (“Locked In” series, front page, July 29):
The events leading to Charles Jason Toll’s death highlight the dangers of prison procedures, especially for vulnerable inmates who suffer from mental illness. Particularly concerning is Mr. Toll’s solitary confinement, a disciplinary technique repeatedly identified as ineffective and counterproductive, and even as torture.
The Justice Department has found that solitary confinement of mentally ill people violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Solitary confinement worsens psychological symptoms and can trigger outbursts tied to the person’s feelings of hopelessness and loss of a sense of self through extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation.
Providing mentally ill people with appropriate and compassionate mental health care, including integration of psychiatric, psychological and psychoanalytically oriented treatments, is crucial in restoring a person’s identity, alleviating feelings of loss and distress and reducing violence.
Mr. Toll’s solitary confinement, suffering and death were avoidable, and again show that the mentally ill are more likely victims of violence, not the perpetrators.
Middletown, Conn., July 30, 2014
The writer is a psychiatrist.
When I was a patient in May and June 2014 at New Britain’s Hospital of Central Connecticut, Dr Michael Edward Balkunas regularly imprisoned me in a horrific seclusion cell, without a single amenity but a concrete built-in bed and rubberized mattress, for nothing more than making too much noise for the approved hospital milieu. In fact, several nurses took it upon themselves, with Dr Balkunas approval, to do the same. This became literally routine. I was NOT, as is required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, in IMMINENT danger of causing severe harm to myself or others. No, I was loud, disruptive and uncooperative, and I was rude. Period.
My first reaction when the double doors locked behind me was immediately to start screaming, at the top of my lungs, from the base of my lungs. But screaming brought no one. Okay, they did soon come in at me with three IM injections, but they came back every time with IM injections anyway, because as I took to calling it, these were part of the drill, they were “punishment injections.” I was pushed onto my stomach and shoved into the mattress so I couldn’t breathe and injected whether I liked it or not. I tried to say, “STOP! I will take the injections, just don’t hold me down.”
But sometimes they didn’t listen to me, and held me down anyway, and I got scared that they would kill me, because it didn’t matter that I didn’t struggle. There were four of them to the one of me, and they expected me to fight and so they forced my face into the mattress and held me tight, hard, and with all their weight….until I felt my breath go out of me. Did they have any idea that I was NOT struggling, that I felt I was going to die? Did they have any idea that they were killing me?
I don’t know. I don’t know. All I know is that I felt in mortal danger when they wouldn’t let me just accept the injections on my own, in my arm, but insisted on giving them to me by force in the buttocks, even when I said I would take them voluntarily.
Then they would leave and lock the double doors. And I would scream, and NO ONE would respond, even though I eventually learned that they could not only hear me through the intercom hidden somewhere in the ceiling, they could also talk to me. They wouldn’t but they could have. When screaming brought no one, I would strip and urinate on the floor, and I would defecate too as much as i could, and smear everything on the walls and floor. I would even eat it and paint it on my body. I didn’t care, I DIDN’T CARE! I just wanted someone to come in and help me.
Several times I washed and colored my hair with urine, thoroughly. But no one came back for hours. The urine, which completely soaked my hair, had time to dry completely. Not that they cared or noticed. If they had, they said nothing. It was nothing to them. Only Barbara RN asked me what was in my hair, and insisted that she wash it out when finally they released me. I went with her to the shower-tub room and allowed her to do so, but only one other person was kind enough to notice and do that. Everyone else just released me and expected me to somehow be reformed and “better” after my hours of punishment.
Of course that wasn’t the case. I got worse, much worse. I started defecating in my bedroom, at any hour,for any reason, any time I was frustrated or angry. They decided I had “borderline personality disorder,” that I was simply manipulating them. They failed to see that they had traumatized and broken me. They failed to see their continuing role in my behaviors…which were getting worse and worse the more they punished me. Every time they secluded me, or four-pointed me, I regressed more.
Dr Balkunas actually decided to commit me to the State Hospital claiming it would help me “get better.” But really he was just in punishment mode. You could tell, because he wasn’t using any of the methods that you are supposed to use for REAL borderline patients….If he really believed I was BPD he wouldn’t have kept at it. But he knew from my brother, a psychiatrist too, and my own psychiatrist, that I do not have BPD, so that was bogus and just an excuse to torture me. He didn’t really think I had BPD. He just needed an excuse to use solitary confinement and he knew that schizophrenia was NOT a good reason. A very BAD reason in fact, so he invented a secondary diagnosis to use. But the thing is, there are other therapies you are supposed to use in BPD, and he never bothered to treat me with anything but punishment and then threw up his hands and said, Well, the antipsychotic drugs take time to work, so you will go to the SH until they do.
Bastard! He gave up on me without even trying to help…so-called saintly doctor. Just a bastard! Because torture doesn’t work to make me better, he decides that I am the one at fault????? Well GO FUCK HIM UP THE ASS WITH A BROKEN GLASS JAR!
Still not playable on ipads or iphones, not sure why. I think the sound will work. for what its worth…
Youtube video with sound available for all devices here:
This picture is Tim’s sister in law, Dawn, whom I drew at Christmas, in 2012. It took me about an hour. The elephant below is remarkable only in that it is my first painting, in oils, that I have ever done. And for that matter, almost literally the first time I have painted anything, except for a few portraits. I usually draw, in pencil or oil pastel. I have painted some acrylic portraits, in the past, but none recently, as I told myself I’d better learn to draw a few years back “before I go any further with painting.” I never ever did anything with oils at all. So if I achieved any success with the elephant it was completely by chance. I find oils very difficult. I do not know how to work with them, nor how to manipulate a brush or the colors, or how to do anything at all with paint. So this is an interesting journey, and transition, if transition it be. I do not know what will happen. Whether I will switch to oils completely, or simply use them desultorily…We will see. I am now working on another elephant painting, just for practice. Both of them started with the use of oil pigment sticks, which enable a sort-of drawing technique, very bluntly, and ended forcing me to paint, using either my fingers or real brushes. So it seems I am being led willy nilly to the brush and paint pot!
This last picture started as a doodle that I did of another patient at the Institute this winter, but I liked it so much (and the patient hated it!) that I finished it by changing her to make her unrecognizable. I would have given it to her otherwise, but she didn’t want it, so I said nothing more. But I gave it to my friend Bill, who loved it. In the mean time, I figured I would finish it as I wanted to and did. I love it myself, and would gladly have kept it, had no one else expressed interest in it. But once I knew Bill loved it, well, I knew I wanted him to have it. And it meant I took extra care finishing it when I did. I never really knew much about this patient’s story, nor about anyone else there. Nor did they learn much about me. I do not believe they ever knew what the staff was doing to me that last ten days, when they kept putting me into four point restraints. That was the point: I was in seclusion so no one had any idea I even existed by that time. No wonder I ended by screaming non stop and blood curdlingly that last night when they restrained me the second time for no reason. Everyone who had known of me had left by then. All the patients were new, and no one even knew I was there. I was aware of it, and I knew that if I didn’t scream, they would simply four point me for another 8-10 hours and get away with it…Well, enough of that. This patient did not mind my drawing her, for the few hours that I was allowed to be in the general population. In fact, I think she was flattered that I wanted to. Unfortunately, she was not pleased by the results of my efforts when she saw the drawing…and made her feelings clear when she saw the drawing.
One of my loyal blog readers, Donna, wrote a long comment the other day, and I asked if I could post it on the blog proper, as I felt it was important for her story to be heard. She said Yes, and so I am reprinting it here.
“I have many personal arguments against taking antipsychotics. First of all, I endured schizophrenia since I was about 10 yrs old without anyone knowing anything about it. Without being diagnosed, that is. Yes, I had been thought of as weird and even retarded by my peers, mostly because of social anxiety and being an extreme introvert that were a result of or in addition to the schizophrenia. But my sanity hung on the fact that I was creative and could physically exercise to the point of exhaustion. I think that exercise (running) was the most potent antipsychotic I have ever experienced, probably due to the release of endorphins and the subjugation of ongoing anxiety for a few hours. The hallucinations never really bothered me because I couldn’t remember being without them. Nevertheless, once doctors knew of the hallucinations, that became their excuse for medicating the hell out of me. And subsequently robbing me of my creativity and the ability to exercise. You can see where this is going.
For one thing there was exercise equipment in the hospitals I began to frequent (after starting on antipsychotics, of course.) but I could not use it without a doctor’s prescription, which was never forthcoming. I guess they didn’t put much stock in exercise. It can’t be patented and marketed and sold as a pharmaceutical. Once I began taking Zyprexa, the option was moot anyway, because I gained so much weight there was no possible way to run anymore.
Although I had schizophrenia, as I said, for many years before diagnosis and treatment, I was always able to read voraciously, retain what I had read, and use that as grist for the mill of creativity. Once I started taking mood stabilizers (which, btw, never stabilized my mood) like Lithium, Depakote, and Tegretol, I began to REALLY suffer mentally. Yes, I could tolerate hallucinations, but what I found intolerable was the side effect of being unable to be intellectually stimulated. I was laid low. I could no longer read and understand the combination of words. I couldn’t sit through a movie because I could no longer process the sensory input — what I saw and heard became separate entities rather than combining seamlessly into a meaningful whole. It was a frightening, assaultive experience. Even music ceased to be soothing. All I wanted to do, and practically all I DID do was to lie in bed just trying to think one clear thought. It couldn’t be done.
After the antidepressant and mood stabilizer failure, ECT was tried. Again, that only made things worse. Then came antipsychotics. The first one I took, Trilafon, was a nightmare. Kind of like what you said, Pam — I then had an inability to tell dreams from reality. The scary kind of hallucinations started, like seeing a gargoyle when I looked in the mirror. And the parade of multiple antipsychotics drifted ineffectually past the window of my consciousness. Finally, when I was given Zyprexa, I “awakened.” Would I have needed awakening if I had never started taking these medications in the first place? I had my doubts. But on Zyprexa, I could read again. I could tolerate movies. I could write creatively. But the weight gain that started with Lithium began to really pile on with Zyrpexa. My weight doubled within a few months. I had always been extremely weight and diet-conscious. With Zyprexa came mind-numbing sedation and a tremendous 24×7 appetite. So I was eating and sleeping, but I was also reading and writing.
Talk about the horns of a dilemma — I could take the medication and regain my ability to think and create but be a slave to the fork, spoon and pillow, or I could stop taking medication and keep my appetite and weight within normal limits and be insane. What I’m wondering now is whether any of this would have been a problem if I had never taken the medications to begin with. I became much more insane after being medicated and stopping the medication. To my way of thinking, medication had stopped the positive symptoms but had made me especially prone to relapse every time I tried to ease back on it. And the hallucinations had never been much of a problem — not nearly the problem of weight gain and intellectual poverty. Zyprexa did at least give me back a portion of my mind. Medication giveth and medication taketh away; blessed be thy name pharmaceuticals.
SInce then, I have tried just about ever atypical on the market, with the exception of Invega, hoping to find the “right” medicaiton. They were all promising at first, but each with an array of intolerable side effects. Anxiety. Hypoglygcemia. Hypothyroidism. Akathisia. Pruritis. Mania. Severe insomnia. And for a long time, I could return (somewhat relieved) to Zyprexa and what had become my standard of recovery — stabilization and the ability to think and sleep again.
Now, however, I refuse to take the previous 40mg of Zyprexa. My psychiatrist seems to believe the higher the dose, the more effective the medication. I have weaned myself down to 2.5mg which is enough to keep me out of the hospital but apparently not enough to keep my appetite so revved up. It does not allow me to lose all this weight, no, but at least I am no longer gaining. I am writing again. And reading. The problem is, this dose of Zyprexa does not solve the problems of anxiety and insomnia, which are pure torture. So I take the minimum dose for several days, then double that for a couple of nights in order to sleep, then back again. I used to just stop taking the Zyprexa completely because the weight gain frustrated me so much. The stigma of mental illness is bad enough without the stigma of obesity. Schizophrenia is bad enough without metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
The real kicker, to me, is that yes I was having problems before I ever started on the psychiatric medication rollercoaster. I had some psychosis, depression, hypomania. I heard voices once in a while. I had a roster of impossible people renting space in my head. But I lived a close-to-normal existence from all outward appearances. I could hold down a stressful job. I managed to keep a marriage together. I was winning regional poetry contests in my spare time. I had my own home. But it was not until I began taking all of these medications that it all went to hell. And now, from what I’ve read and what I have experienced, my body can no longer tolerate being without the medications. Life is worse off of them now than on them. I have to take Zyprexa or go back to the hospital. I have to take it or I may end up living on the streets. I have to take it or risk killing myself. My doctor says oh, but the medication has SAVED you from these horrors. But am I where I am today — on SSDI, unable to work, a slave to my fat-bound body — because of antipsychotics and antidepressants? Or am I able to be independent, sane, and creative again because of them. Or both? Somehow, something doesn’t seem right.
This is the drawing I finally finished that I did at the horrible torture chamber of the Institute of Living. There are all sorts of hidden things in it that you must rotate it to see fully…
Hi Everyone, Sorry to worry Lady Quixote and anyone else. I was in Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital for last several weeks. A much better stay by far of which I have much to say. But I am recuperating for the next few days as I just got home a couple of days ago. Forgive me for being so out of touch, but even making a long distance phone call was nearly impossible from there…Luckily, the staff and doctor treated me and everyone with immense kindness, gentleness and dignity and respect, so I got what I needed, which was some weeks of healing. Praise whatever force of the universe you believe in for that! More to come as soon as I am able to write more and many thanks for all your concern and your patience.
These are the first two pages, including a note from the cover page, of my very very detailed Psychiatric Advanced Directive, and I think you will see why what happened at the Institute of Living, the psychiatric section of Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital, NEVER should have happened. Not only did I bring a hard copy of this PAD, but I wore a medical bracelet with a code for a very complete online medical record, with uploaded documented evidence, both of narcolepsy diagnosis and need for medication, proof from longtime outside mental health providers that I do NOT have “borderline personality disorder,” and other such assistive documents…ALL were soon ignored completely in the effort to discipline and punish me “for not following directions” i.e. not getting better fast enough and speaking my mind to the psychiatrist.
Prominent NOTE on cover page:
Miss Wagner has experienced multiple episodes of severe psychological and physical trauma. She must NOT be subjected to either physical or mechanical restraints or involuntary seclusion at ANY time. The use of either imposes a serious risk of re-traumatizing and injury, leading to regression and severe worsening of symptoms.
HOW TO INTERVENE IN A CRISIS:
DE-ESCALATION IS ESSENTIAL
- 1. PLEASE REMEMBER: I can calm down if YOU follow these steps and do not threaten me, order me around, or approach me in anger or in fear.
- I need one person to talk to. I should be approached calmly, by someone who will speak in a kind and respectful manner, understanding that above all:
- I AM SCARED and my anger masks fear. I am not dangerous. I WILL ONLY FIGHT IF YOU ATTACK ME. Please remember that any show of force and people ganging up on me to administer forced medication will be felt as an attack.
- I can be persuaded to take oral medication, usually, if this is negotiated with dignity and kindness and not by means of threats.
- DO NOT ISSUE ULTIMATUMS you won’t back down from…That will push me into a corner and you too, and will serve nothing but to escalate the crisis.
- A calm unthreatening and unthreatened person should ask me calmly and patiently if I can speak in a lower tone of voice, so she can hear me better. Ask me if I can take a deep breath and try breathing techniques that will have flown my head in the moment of crisis.
- Should you have a COMFORT room available, you can guide me gently to it but do not close me alone. Make sure I am warm…
- ABOVE ALL YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED TO LISTEN TO ME. This is not just a matter of forcing medication. Medication may not even be needed if you hear what is going on and what the problem is.
- If you take these simple steps, it is virtually guaranteed that the situation will resolve calmly and without any need to resort to the sorts of violence that would permanently damage and re-traumatize me (or produce secondarily negative behaviors afterwards): seclusion, forcible injections, or mechanical restraints or physical holds.
STATEMENT TO CAREGIVERS
It is vitally important that you understand that despite a few previous in-hospital assessments, I do not have a personality disorder, borderline or otherwise (you can confirm this with any of my longtime outpatient providers) and that if my behavior seems out of control, it is because I am out of control: I literally do not at the time know what I am doing or why. I am not manipulative or attempting to achieve secondary gain. The fact is I have had tertiary CNS Lyme disease and after positive PCR and Western Blot tests during treatment, I was informed the condition is likely incurable. (Dr ******* of ****** NY, will confirm this.) During the initial illness, my brain developed multiple lesions, visible on MRI, which may predispose me to temporary emotional and behavioral extremes and abnormalities but these are NOT my norm. Anyone who knows me well would confirm this, if you asked them.
You need to understand that I am not always able to communicate the extreme fear I feel, the global paranoia that I experience, but because I feel so threatened and unable to communicate clearly about it I may become very angry at the hospital situation. I am not an angry person. I do have trauma issues, as many people do, which may be exacerbated by being in the hospital.
Please be aware in advance that my “memory in the p.m. for what happened in the a.m.” is often faulty. That is just how it is. When in crisis, I have little ability to recall from moment to moment what happens. This is why it is essential that I be able to write things down. I have lost many years to this amnesia and if I suffer additional trauma it will only make it worse.
I beg of you, do not make assumptions about me. Do not make assumptions about my state of mind. Do not “put two and two together” in your mind without asking me if the conclusion you have drawn is the correct one. You do not know what is inside my head without asking me.
Ascertain whether the information you have at hand is correct. Too many records and hospital charts have been drawn up (because “patient is not communicating”) on faulty information from earlier charts or information gleaned from others but not from me, and the consequences to my treatment have been devastating. PLEASE CHECK MY INTERACTIVE HEALTH RECORD ONLINE at www. — .com Use code ***** to get access.
I have been traumatized by abuse, sexual assault and by brutal treatment in hospitals, from being deliberately choked and given forced ECT to being kept in four-point restraints for several days at a time. So if I experience seclusion or restraints or even that euphemistic obscenity called a “therapeutic hold” it will be devastating and counterproductive. Such treatment invariably leads to increased anger, regression and worsening of symptoms, and my behavior becomes unpredictable afterwards. This is a response to trauma NOT because of any inborn temperamental disorder. I have already outlined a better way to deal with me and help me on page 2.
I KNOW YOU MAY NOT APPROVE OF POLYPHARMACY. But you need to understand that I must take the antipsychotic drug combination: Abilify 15mg with Geodon 160mg, a TWO-Drug regimen. Monotherapy does not work. I have tried many solo drugs over the course of 4 decades – Thorazine, Mellaril, Haldol, Prolixin, Clozaril, Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa and others – ALL monotherapy has failed.
I will not take any drug that induces weight gain. If you force the issue, know that it will be a useless endeavor because I will stop taking it immediately upon leaving the hospital.
Finally, understand that if I am here in the hospital it is for a reason, and I want only one thing: to get better and be out of here as soon as possible. You can traumatize me and worsen my symptoms and keep me here too long, or you can work with me to achieve my goal, which should be the same as yours. I don’t see any other alternative.
Pamela S. Wagner
Now, I think that is about as crystal clear as it can be, no? And indeed, Dr Banerjee, my first psychiatrist LOVED it. Said so, and raved about how complete both were, both the PAD and the online medical history which he downloaded, printed out and brought with him to our first consultation. So what happened? YOU tell me! I will write more about what I think happened later. I am still trying to figure it all out.
I was a prisoner at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living’s Donnelly 2 South from January 10th until February 7th, 2013, the day before the east coast blizzard, and I only “escaped” because the torturing doctor went on a four day vacation and the substitute decided that I was not actually psychotic any longer and did not need seclusion or restraints after all…and opted to let me go the very day I was freed from both.
Good thing too, because it was a Thursday and all travel stopped the very next day and for several days after that. The picture above is one that Shedana, RN liked very much. She said it captured her “physique” and while the flooring is imaginary, the unit was structured much as it is pictured. At least while I had a bed on the unit, with my door facing the med room and another bedroom opposite. Shedana was a “good egg” but of course it didn’t help when they decided to attack me in force and secluded me for two weeks and worse…But more on that later.
The first doctor I had merely convinced me to take, semi-voluntarily, a fairly stiff dose of Zyprexa. which I tried to do with regularity. I soon found, however, that far from being the miracle drug it had once been, mixed with Abilify and Geodon it induced a state of apathy and boredom. As if the Intake and Feeding drug, the drug on which I used to feel enthusiasm to learn and read, Zyprexa, simply mixed very badly with the Output drugs of Geodon and Abilify, such that I neither could read and learn, nor do art or write. In any event, this abysmal lethargy pushed me out of desperation to paint this, in oil pastels.
After that, I simply started refusing to take the Zyprexa, and refusing a lot of other things…A great deal of abuse happened. But I did this picture before all my art supplies were confiscated for no reason other than punishment (you cannot damage yourself or others with soft oil pastels)
Before I tell you some of what happened, without naming names, lest a legal case be made against them, as there might possibly be a chance to do, let me show you most of the rest of the art I did there, though one of them is unfinished and may never end up being finished, since it was hospital art and may stay that way.
This one is an oil pastel, me with a dung beetle pushing a ball of shit around on my cheek…Says enough just that, doesn’t it.
This one can be turned any which way to see all sorts of things buried in the picture. It was the one I started first and never did get to finish. What I can point you towards is the central object at the very bottom, which you can trace up to the blue figure and see what is happening. It should tell you something…The hand on the upper left is pointing at this process. Also, the exploding biohazard ball is part of it all, representing me, the all-polluting biohazard…But you have to look at the picture carefully. There is a Boat To Nowhere, and there are a couple of turtles, why, I don’t know…yadda yadda.
Finally, the very last time I had access to any art supplies, and I do not recall whether it was my last morning or some other time, I painted this one with oil pastels. I believe it speaks for itself.
What happened was that they were routinely, literally routinely restraining me “for not following directions” as they would quite openly state. Four-point restraints, in a tight no movement position, for many many hours at a time, with absolutely no indication of how, just how, I might “earn” my freedom. Of course they wouldn’t tell me what I could do to “be good” because I hadn’t done anything to ‘deserve” restraints to begin with as they knew perfectly well. For example,. and this was typical, but it was one of the few opportunities I managed to document because they ha removed all my writing materials, illegally, but I forgot that I had a right to a crayon and paper until Feb 6th. That afternoon, I simply walked away from my seclusion room. I had had enough of them saying it was “merely a side room” not a seclusion room, then preventing me bodily from leaving it. So when I could do so without someone actually wanting to fight me, I walked away, and proceeded to enter the unit and walk down the hall to the end and look out the window, I took a deep breath, heard THEM behind me, and sauntered back to the proper end of the hall, the “lost end” where they kept anyone from seeing me or knowing what they were doing to me. Once I got there, they descended on me, the horde of the goon squad, some staff I knew, but most I did not. I did not bother to look at who was doing what to me. I simply lay passively on the bed, and put my arms out so they could do what I knew they would do. Tightly, they shackled my wrists out past my hips so there was no play in the restraints and I could not turn on my side or do anything but lie stiffly on my back. At the same time, others jerked my feet apart and just as tightly shackled my ankles to the lower corners of bed. Then came the coup de grace. They pinioned me on my side somehow, pulled down my pants, and injected me with three drugs: Haldol 5mg, Ativan 2mg, and Benadryl 50mg. Why, except as punishment I do not know. because I had, just a half hour before, been doped up on involuntary Zyprexa 10mg.
But of course it was punishment. The very fact that they told me it was “not punishment” but “what your behavior brings on every time, Pamela” only proves my point. At first and usually they only said, it was because I “didn’t follow directions” so if they were not punishing me, what were they doing? They most certainly were not following Centers for Medicare and Medicaid regulations for the use of Restraints and Seclusion only in cases where a person is in imminent danger or harming self or others! Indeed, the best they could do, when I protested, passively, saying just those words, was to respond, “You are not safe” as if that proved somehow that I was in danger or posed any imminent threat to the safety of anyone.
No, I did not. I didn’t threaten or harm anyone. I merely walked the length of the hall and looked out the window and then went back to my solitary confinement. But it was enough to trigger their retaliation, and that started at 1pm. I was not released, not even to use the bathroom or eat supper, no never even was a single hand freed to permit me to eat supper — until 7pm.
THEN, at 8:30pm, I became upset and frustrated because — well, I do not know now why, but I “threw a half a graham cracker at the wall” as I recorded later. And the goon squad descended on this dangerous patient again, not only with the strait jacket of four point restraints, but with the same 3 drug IM-in-the-ass cocktail.
This time, however, passive as I was as they trussed me up — and I said only, “For shame, for shame. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, doing this to me…” — passive as I was, allowing them to seize my limbs and tightly shackle me yet again in truth I dared not resist, as that would only have justified their violence, and i already had my share of bruises. Bur I had come to my limit of the abuse i would silently tolerate. They could restrain and seclude me but they had up till now only silenced me in restraints because iu wanted to earn my way free quickly. THis time I didn’t give a damn. It was nearly nine o clock and no one knew what they had done to me. Everyone was getting their bedtime meds and going to bed without any understanding of what was going on. I was a stranger to most people on the unit, who had no idea I even existed. THAT was a situation that had to change. NOW.
After they trooped out of the room, stationing a 1:1 sitter at the door as usual, I stopped my merely silent and passive resistance and started to scream. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to scare people. I wanted them to wonder, Who is that person,. and what in god’s name are they doing to her? Are they torturing her? And I wanted them to ask questions of the staff that the staff could not answer. I screamed and I screams in desolation and despair, feeling like my life was at an end. The plan they had set up for me was impossible for me to live up to. In nearly 10 days I had not even earned my way to a pencil and my journal. Only to restraints and more restraints. I saw no way out of the hospital. So I screamed, long blood-curdling, heart-wrenching screams that I assume did the job of scaring all, as eventually they closed my door, much to the disgruntlement of the sitter who was forced to come inside with me and was no longer free to socialize. But not for a while. I kept on screaming until my voice gave out and I felt asleep.
The next day the substitute doctor freed me, I dunno why or how, but she did. and I thank my lucky stars as the staff doctor was a sadist and never would have. I have a lot more to say, but for now I am hoping to hear from a sympathetic lawyer who will take on my case for some reason for some purpose…Unlikely to happen. despite my bruised body and joints that are so out of whack I cannot sit indian fashion or cross my legs. Why won’t they help me or respond? I didn’t die, so they won’t earn a lot of money from my case, nobody gives a damn about mental patient abuse…
You really know when you are a third class citizen when you only MIGHT be worth more to them dead than alive.
We are what we do. As a society we are what we teach our children to do. And we are no better than what we allow to happen by our inaction, if we don’t act to stop it. Our gun laws permit, nay, they encourage gun use by everyone, they enthusiastically promote gun ownership and usage, and they turn a blind eye to gun ownership and usage by those who should never lay their hands on a toy gun, much less a loaded one.
Guns kill. They are not decorative or ornamental items. They are not collectors items. So let’s not fool ourselves. It may take a human agent to pull the trigger, but it is the bullet from a gun that kills. And get this straight: when a gun kills 20 little kids, it matters not whether the slugs come from a sig sauer, a glock, a .22. or a Saturday night special, what kills is a gun that does the only job it was designed to do.
When it comes right down to it, it is far too easy to kill someone when you have a gun, any gun: if you push or punch someone because you are angry, it is likely that he or she will be bruised, but they will live. It is only when there is a gun attached to your fingers that lethality comes attached as well. GUNS KILL PEOPLE. People using GUNS KILL PEOPLE, but people without guns do not so frequently kill people.
Let’s face it, Adam Lanza would have found it extraordinarily difficult to have murdered 20 children and 8 adults in less than an hour without his two handguns. The guns literally empowered him to do what he did. Without his guns, he would likely not even have attempted such a deed. Guns made him a god to grant and take away life, and in a moment of passion, he decreed that 28 people would lose theirs. Now, I don’t even believe doctors should be playing god, so I am horrified that all it takes is a gun, and Everyman has the power to do what only god should be in charge of.
Check out the website created after the Newtown, Connecticut, kindergarten shooting this afternoon, http://wearebetterthanthis.org, sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. God bless them, I fully support the Brady Campaign. However, I am not sure we — whoever we are — are truly better than any “this”…Who are we anyway, and what proves that we are actually better than we witness happening around us?
The stats are ominous and more than distressing. And they speak volumes about whether perhaps it’s just a big fantasy, our being any better than the murderers among us.
For one thing, you should know that while there are 34, 589 hardware stores in the United States, there are more than 129,817 licensed firearms dealers as of Aug 2012 . Of those, 51,438 are retail gun stores, 7,356 are pawn shops and 61,562 are collectors. The rest are manufacturers and importers of firearms and destructive devices.
There are also 80,000 ice cream parlors. Ice cream does 18 billion in sales a year, which isn’t bad considering an average ice cream cone costs only between $2 and $4. An average Glock 17, “America’s favorite gun,” costs around $500.00 You do the math and then tell me how easy it will be to convince gun dealers to change their ways…
But right now, why should they bother? Guns are great business! In 2010 the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) ran 16,454,951 background checks for firearms purchases. Only a small number of these purchases (78,211 or 0.48 percent) were denied. During Obama’s first term, and well before it ended, more than 50 million background checks had been run by the NCIS. This was a bonanza for the gun industry compared to the same 3.5 year period under George W Bush, when “only” 28 million such checks — background checks are an index of the demand market — were run. So clearly, if guns in the hands of the wrong people kill, chances are that more guns had to be getting in the hands of more wrong people than ever during the last four years…many many more.
Note that it doesn’t matter how many guns are purchased at one time, there is only one background check per purchase. After that, what you do with the guns and how many you have purchased at one time, is your business and yours alone… Oh and lest you think the so-called “mentally ill” would be screened out by the NCIS background check, think again. Being “adjudicated mentally ill” and barred from buying a gun is not at all the same thing as simply seeing a shrink or even being hospitalized in a general hospital, with or without your consent for 15 days.
I have been kept in a hospital against my will for even longer, but I have not been formally adjudicated mentally incompetent, or if I ever was, now that I am OUT of the hospital, I am no longer considered non compos mentis, and I could buy myself any gun I wanted to.
Frankly, I think that is only right. Why should some angry redneck be able to buy himself a Glock 17 semi-automatic handgun and I, peaceable and very, very unlikely even to pick it up, let alone use it, could not buy a sweet little .22? Furthermore, I would be far more likely to use it ON MYSELF not on others…
This last is a notable case in point, because unbelievably, suicide far exceeded homicide as the cause of gun fatalities at least in 2005. In 2005, 5.75/100,000 people committed suicide with a firearm, whereas “only” 3.43/100,000 people caused firearms homicides in that same year. Since in 2012, the suicide rate has hugely increased, probably due to PTSD in returning veterans, this ratio likely has only increased.
Approximately 34 persons are felled by guns each and every day in the US. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, between 2006 and 2010, 47,856 people were slain by gunfire in the U.S., more than twice as many as were killed by any and all other means.
Whether or not the suicidal mentally ill should have access to guns – and just how to prevent it, just how to define who is mentally ill would be a huge problem — I see a bigger problem with an angry man of any stripe being able to purchase a handgun. Anger is a big spur to impulsive behavior and impulsivity and guns decidedly do not mix.
So I ask you: How can we be better than Friday afternoon’s Glockencatastrophe if we buy or permit/encourage the purchase of so many more handguns than ever? We are a gun culture, we worship guns, we hav a national love affair with guns. What do we expect?
You know, one of the first rules of writing fiction is, if you “plant” a gun in the early scenes in a story, it must go off by the end…Similarly, if we have and are a gun culture, who are we not to expect to be a culture of shootings? We have the guns, how can we expect people, both good and bad, not to use them?
During the Newtown shooting, from what I gather, the shooter killed himself after he shot all the 28 other victims…All the high tech and paramilitary heavy weaponry with which the police have equipped themselves did zilch in the end to prevent mass murder. No, 20 small children and 8 adults were quickly and savagely murdered, a horrific act accomplished largely so it appears with two handguns, a plastic and metal glock and a sig sauer. The shooter supposedly had access to a Bushmaster combat rifle it is not clear that he used it for the killings.
Whatever is the case, things will become clearer in the coming days as the police reveal more information.
Perhaps I should be softer and sadder right now, perhaps I should not bring up things like slugs and guns and such at this moment. Forgive me for not wailing and beating my breast or crying but many more are doing that tonight elsewhere, so I am just going to save my breath for rage on behalf of those poor murdered children and the eight others…Any more tears added to that ocean would just be wasted salt and water.
One of the terrible consequences of the APA’s DSM is the Multiple Personality Mayhem that resulted from that fad diagnosis of the late 80s and 90s. I was hospitalized many times in those years, and I was appalled even then at how this once extraordinarily rare diagnosis was suddenly “popping out of the woodworks.” Somehow, multiples, with their putative history of extreme childhood sexual torture, were everywhere. At any time on a psychiatric unit of 18-20 beds, you might see 4 people supposedly suffering from MPD. It was absurd, but try and point that out to the professionals! No, they were much too busy creating very sick individuals out of the whole cloth of their own — the psychiatrists’– minds!
Even at the time I felt very frightened by what was happening, as I understood how difficult it was going to be, when it was all over, for such patients to come to grips with the fact that their disorders were invented for them by the doctors who wanted to have their time in the limelight. Now that the fad is over, where have all the multiples gone? Have all of them been converted to DID — that is, are they still being lied to? or has anyone decided to be honest with them and admit that the Dx was bogus all along, that they never did have MPD or any other such disorder. That their so called multiple personalities were suggested to them by the therapists and invented for them ditto.
It was a horrendous situation, and one that I do not believe anyone has dealt with completely honestly or fully to this day…Of course not. When did you ever meet a doctor, much less a psychiatrist willing to admit he or she made a terrible mistake, or say, I am sorry, I will make amends. Hah. That’ll be the day.
What is real? Is anything true and factual? Or are we all just deluded and mad as hatters? This is a serious question.
What I recall and what was written down in my chart about a certain four days in July 2012 are so different it is difficult to figure out whether my experience was fact in any sense of the word or, as “they”claimed, simply paranoid and delusional. Of course there is some truth in paranoia and delusion, since even a paranoid’s beliefs are based in feelings that arise honestly and from a foundation, I firmly believe, in true things sensed but unacknowledged. Feelings always have their own veracity. But whatever the philosophers may say about the fiction of facts, still there is, there must be, something more to the consensual world of what happens than mere perception.
I mean, either that security guard in the Emergency Department last July deliberately attempted to strangle me, or he did not. Either it happened or in some fashion I imagined it. It is that simple, isn’t it? Yes or no, red or green, one or zero. Like a digital configuration, there’s nothing vague about it: either it happened or it didn’t.
There are records. I know what the ones they wrote say, as far as they go. But how to interpret them since so little was written down, and unless my memory is so completely at odds with reality as to have confabulated the entire episode – which by the way, is what they claimed all along – how to explain the discrepancies when so much is not even mentioned. That they whisked my gurney into a seclusion room and assaulted me en masse is my version. In theirs, the room change is noted only in passing, and of the IM medication all that is said is that it was given “NOW”. Nothing else of the incident I recorded in great detail in my journal some days later, and raged about from the first day I was admitted to the day I left. In fact, I’m still outraged, months later.
I wanted to go home, they wanted me to stay. That I was abjectly terrified of being kept there meant to them that I was “paranoid.” I claimed I had no problems and had never been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. That was a problem for they had more power than I did as well as my lengthy psychiatric history on their side to prove I must be crazy to make such a claim. Worse, I was loud, demanding, and in my increasing panic, getting angry. They saw my screaming as a threat. Even though I was blind to what was going on, any onlooker could have seen that I could not win and in the end of course I lost mightily.
But let me go back towards the beginning.
It didn’t help that I had arrived at the ED by ambulance and immediately refused to have my “vitals” taken, asserting that I was “fine!” I then accused the nurse of just wanting to get paid for taking them. In short order I was whisked to the so-called “purple pod” where the psych patients were buried for hours until the on-call psychiatrist deigned to come down to see them.
“Here,” someone said, thrusting a hospital johnnie and a pair of pajama pants at me. “Undress and put these on.”
I looked down and saw that I was already wearing pj pants from another hospital. No one ever knew the real nature of what I wore — they simply passed for scrubs — and they were so comfortable that I kept them on day and night. “I’m already wearing pajama pants. I only need to change my shirt,” I said.
“No, you are wearing very nice blue slacks. Now, put on the pajamas, or do you want a couple of strong men to put them on for you?”
“Actually,” I sniped, “they are hospital pajama pants. I pilfered them from –“ and I named the hospital. But I made a show of undoing the snaps so they would see that I was going to comply. The last thing I wanted was anyone touching me or “helping” me undress.
Soon an APRN, came by and I thought, Wow, they are quick here, maybe it isn’t so bad being taken to a big hospital. Maybe I can get discharged from here in no time. Unfortunately, she was there only to do a 15 second “physical exam” that consisted of looking in my mouth and listening to my back with her stethoscope. Period. Pronouncing me cleared for a psychiatric interview, she rushed off to clear someone else. Then I sat on the gurney in my cubicle and waited. And waited.
I remember being cooperative for what felt like a long time. I tried to sleep, and I listened patiently to what was going on around me. I swore that I would simply hold my breath and bide my time until someone saw me, so that, calm, I could present my case and they would see I was safe and sane enough to be sent back home, not admitted or sent to some hospital against my will. But it was taking so long, it was taking hours for someone to see me, and I knew they were doing it to me on purpose. Did they think I, too, was drunk or on drugs just like the others here? I started to complain that I had waited long enough and needed to see someone. I was NOT drunk, did not need to dry out. Where was the doctor? There was nothing wrong with me, I did not need to be here. I wanted to go home!
Things started happening then. Memory fails me however and even the chart, which I just obtained a couple of days ago leaves out way too much. All it says is that I was uncooperative, then irritable, screaming and combative. Meds were “offered”.
I remember this: When I refused to take soul-deadening Haldol by mouth, they descended on me, wheeled my gurney into a solitary room and jumped on me, intending to inject me by brute force. In the struggle, a guard gripped my neck and compressed the arteries, strangling me. I tried to get the nurse’s attention, burbling through forcibly compressed lips that I could not breathe. But her response, attending only to her needles and not even looking at me, was an impatient, “You’re all right!” In a pulse of panic, I jerked away as she started to shove the first needle into my arm.
“Damn!” she cried as a rush of blood spattered us and the needle danced away from my skin. “Hold still!”
I’d hoped to get some respite from strangulation but instead of letting go of me, the guard reasserted his grip on my neck and pressed down harder. I felt the light go black as blood failed to reach my brain. Darkness descended. Sounds grew confused and dim. Suddenly I knew that I could die, that this was how patients had been “accidentally” killed during notorious restraint episodes in Connecticut. I did the only thing I could: I went limp, hoping the nurse would get the injections over with quickly and that the guard would not kill me before she was through.
One, two, and then, astonishingly a third needle punctured my arm. She wiped my deltoid muscle with an alcohol wipe then removed herself from the gurney. “All done,” she said, removing her gloves with a smack and she nodded, indicating the door.
With a cruel leisure, the guard let go of my neck, but he leaned down as he did so and muttered in my right ear: “That’ll teach you a lesson about bringing a JCAHO case against M— Hospital…” Then he and all the others strode out of the room, leaving me alone in what I had already been warned was a soundproof room where you can “scream all you want, but no one will hear you.”
In other circumstances, I would have screamed, soundproof or not, as the door was left open. But nothing was ordinary anymore. A guard – thuggish bully, no doubt a reject from the police academy — paid to protect people, had just partially strangled me in revenge for – what? What had I done to him? My case against that other hospital should have meant nothing to him. But what was clear to me, trying to get a breath and calm myself, was that I was not only not protected in the this ED, I was in mortal danger. I could not scream or rage in outrage, I could not even complain or demand to see a patient advocate. My life was imperiled. Still panting, trembling, in shock, I lay in the semi-dark of that single room and prayed — not to any god, mind you, but simply for my life, prayed to get out of that ED alive. I promised myself that I would not say or do anything “wrong,” would comply with everything they asked from then on in order to survive the night. But it was a long night ahead of me and I had no idea whether or not the guard would come back and finish the job. I was so terrified my teeth chattered. I felt a hollow coldness inside me of unutterable fear. And there was nothing I could do but lie there and hope he did not return.
I did not name the hospitals in the piece above, though I usually do, and I refrained from doing so because I do not know whether what I am going to write now is indeed true or not. But if it is not, then I do not want certain people being alerted to this blog post and reading it and taunting me with “Yehaw, we got away with it!” Read on, and you will see what I am talking about further on.
So as I said, I am in possession of my chart, the entire thing, 60 pp for a mere four day stay in the hospital about which I speak, including an approximately 10 hour stay in the ED. In it, there is absolutely no evidence that anyone ever took me or what I had to say seriously at any time. Everything I said was dismissed as paranoid and delusional, grandiose, disorganized or confabulating. (BTW Confabulate does not mean lying, it means to unintentionally “fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory.” But whatever they thought I was confabulating I have not the faintest idea. Or memory. Alas, the chart says nothing of what I spoke about.)
What has completely upset the applecart is my own statement, written in my journal and elsewhere: “Why on earth would that guard care whether or not JCAHO was involved in that other hospital?” On that thought rests everything, because of course, he had to have cared mightily to have wanted to strangle me for it. Or did he? Did he care, and in fact did he try to strangle me, and did he even say those words in my ear? I am serious.
You have to understand something: Once, years ago, I heard, or hallucinated, hospital nurses announce over the public address system in nearly the same words how they were going to “teach me a lesson” about — whatever it was I had done…and I knew I had heard it, knew I was hearing it at the time, except for the fact that I was on the phone with my sister at that time. I held out the phone in the air so she could hear it too, but she told me she heard nothing, assured me that I was hallucinating. What I described was not only unlikely but so beyond the realm of the likely that she was certain it could never have happened. “Its just your voices, Pammy,” she said, “you have to trust me, you are hallucinating.”
So remembering this, it gives me pause. For why would that guard care about JCAHO and that other hospital in the first or even the last place? What could it possibly mean to him? Security guards are usually hired from outside agencies so his over-involved concern with another hospital’s accreditation suddenly seems to me absurd. And if he did not care, why would he have tried to strangle me? Oh, maybe he did hold me down too hard, and I felt that, yes. But if I could speak, then I know I could breathe, so I was not actually being strangled either.
Perhaps I was simply frightened? And could it be that in fact he never said anything at all? That I “imagined” those words, hallucinated them, and then continued to believe that I heard him say them and that he wanted to kill me, all the time since then? Could it possibly be that some of what the hospital personnel said was true — NOT all of it, but some part of it. That I was in fact hallucinating and delusional? It doesn’t make their behavior right. It doesn’t justify throwing me into seclusion and injecting me with IM meds when I was not a danger to myself or others. It doesn’t even make admitting me to the hospital the proper thing to do in the first place. But, but, but…if I have heard people say things, visible people say things that they simply have not said, when they have not said anything at all, and I know this has been the case, then it is, I admit, just possible that what happened at the ED this summer might be another instance of the same…It pains me to think this. It frightens me to think that I could have been so mistaken for so long.
But what’s more, I worry that I am wrong to believe I might be wrong! That the guard DID say what I think he said, did intend to strangle me, and that I am giving him what he wanted: I am letting him drive me into believing I was/am crazy!
I do not know what to think. And I may never know for certain what happened. Not about this. However, one fact that I can corroborate in the record I am painfully aware I “knew” for months: I was given 3 IM drugs during that episode. Yet you only have to read my chart to see that I was given only 2: Geodon and Ativan. The third drug, Haldol, was canceled immediately after it was ordered. The records clearly state that only the Geodon and Ativan were ever administered. This is so striking an error of memory that it too makes me think again about trusting what I was certain I heard in that terrifying room where they held me down and injected me.
I don’t know what to do with this…I don’t know how to handle it or deal with it. It doesn’t feel good, or give me any sense of relief. I dunno how I feel. Just shocked, I guess. And perturbed, because I don’t know what else I have experienced that never “really” happened.
Thanks to the excellent blog, Dispatches from the Underclass, we have the post above. It is disgusting but true that in some – too many states! – “we” are still executing the most severely mentally ill…
This is an extremely interesting article. Not for everyone, perhaps, but well worth reading.
I am reposting the next one, a very painful if a not very skilled drawing, because I made some changes. I put a very mean smirk on the face of the woman in the front, who is meant to be facing us and pointing over her shoulder, though it was hard to get this in, given how little space I’d left myself… Also, I wanted to change the face of the man kneeling on me, and strength the look of the grip of the hands on me. If you compare the old version to this one, you will also note that I am purely naked here where as in the other, I have underpants on. This is the accurate one, but I didn’t understand that at the time I started the drawing. Alas, or perhaps this is good, I am rapidly recalling things I had not for two years about my experience at Middlesex. At least I remember stuff that happened BEFORE April 28th. For the other two restraints incidents, I still have no recall whatsoever or what I suspect is mostly confabulation drawn from what I read in my chart, though of course I cannot be certain. In any event, what I am remembering is not good at all, and I cry a lot…it is very difficult, and I feel so very very alone, because NO ONE understands and can talk to me, or more to the point can even stand to listen to me talk or cry about it. But it is difficult even to keep it under wraps all the time. If you have survived trauma, I think you know how it is. And that is why I avoid people when I think I cannot be “good enough company.” I don’t want to bring my friends down, but I cannot control the tears and shakes when they start…But the picture forthwith. Although it is disturbing as is, be aware that in the real incident, there was a great deal more violence, and more guards and staff members involved…these are just a paltry few. I simply didn’t know how to draw a crowd or a crowded room yet!
This next picture I did as an attempt to express the guilt and shame I feel over having been traumatized at all. But I do not think I succeeded at all. Why? Because it became too intellectualized, with symbols like the Scarlet A and the guilt-crucifix, and even the hands wringing in shame, rather than pure expression…I want to do it over again if I get inspired to do so.
The next three drawings were just “fun” or for practice ones. The first two are presents for Tim, simply because he likes cars and is so wonderful to me. The third was an exercise in drawing two people together, and was copied from an “old master”, the name of whom I simply cannot recall at the moment. It might have been — nope I don’t dare guess! I would have to get up and search for the book, and I ain’t gonna do that at the moment — too danged lazy. Anyhow, here are 1) two 1973 Volvo Sportswagon ES 1800 2) jaguar XJS and 3) the sketch taken from the old master’s painting.
NOTE: As I wrote this, “dream” talk, that is to say, nonsensical writings seemed to keep appearing in the middle of what I wrote. I seemed to find myself in another world every few minutes. I would write about that world, then “come to” and start writing about the subject below again as if nothing had happened. But when I reread the paragraph it made no earthly sense whatsoever, being an amalgam of two entirely different trains of thought. So a caveat: if some of what follows devolves into gibberish at any time, forgive me, and be patient. You can email me to alert me, if you wish, that would help. But otherwise, know that I will eventually come back more able to proofread and catch such idiocies…and fix them. For now though, you are on your own. (The reason for these brain blips, I think, may be, but may not, the fact that I took a very small amount of Zyprexa today in order to be able to read and concentrate. 2.5 mg 2X a week should not make me gain weight, according to Dr C, But we thought it might do some good, without doing the usual harm. So I agreed to try it out once more, just at the minimal level as a PRN. Well, I find that I am very sleepy, have been ever since I took the pill, except for when I took a walk and for about 1/2 hour afterwards…and I do think that I slip into dreamworld while awake, and literally dream while writing this. Hence the gibberish.
I have put the statement I read to the CEO and various administrators etc of Middlesex hospital on Youtube if anyone is interested in hearing it read outloud. Do a search for “Psychiatric restraints and seclusion abuse” and you should be able to find it if this link doesn’t work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhZybDwMbzA (I realize that I read it without much feeling, but it is hard to do so accurately and also look up at camera, and read without losing my place. Anyhow, it might be worthwhile to check it out.
The newest sorta development in the “case” this week was that a lawyer from the hospital, or someone who told my advocate he was a Middlesex Hospital lawyer, asked Wiley R (who is behind me 100%) “what does Pam want, what can we do to have her drop the complaint or withdraw her complaint to the DOJ and Joint Commission?”
Now everyone I told this to almost to a one, and immediately said this meant, “We are willing to pay handsomely in order to buy a gag order from her” I had trouble digesting such crassness, but to a one, those to whom I related the words of this inquiry told me the lawyer was insinuating something about paying me off. I mean: money. I felt slimed, completely slimed. For a few days this was the sole topic of my conversation, but to make a long story short, after I had decided to ask for several sessions with the hospital psych unit staff, educational sessions with me, to teach them how better to deal with patients, and have them experience forced restraints themselves…and so forth, my brother and I met with WR my advocate from the Protection and Advocacy (for persons with disabilities and mental illness) Office, and he informed us that the lawyer really was offering nothing, not even an official apology. Clearly, if so, then my real desire, to do hands on, face to face work with the staff that had so tortured me, was going to be out of the question, utterly forbidden. So we just decided in practically the same words, to let them “swing” in the wind.
In point of fact, when WR said that the DOJ might bring them up “on charges” if it was warranted, I asked him why I didn’t do that myself. He looked at me, and then narrowed his vision looking at a point beyond me. “Hmm, let me ask around and I’ll see what we can do.” I hastened to assure him that it wasn’t malpractice I was after. I knew that I had no real case, even if the statute of limitations hadn’t just run out a week or a few weeks ago. After all, what lawyer is going to take me on one a contingency basis, and what jury would find for me in any event, seeing as how I did not die in their “care” nor suffer “grievous BODILY injury” which of course is all that counts…as usual. I am not sure what sort of case I would have in any sense of the word now at all…But as I told him, that is in his hands, and certainly is his bailiwick (and if not his than that of my lawyer-friend, Sharon Pope’s. If there are other “cases” to be made of any sort, I am more than game, I am ready and on alert to go and do whatever is needed in the pursuit of justice and reform of the Middlesex Hospital psychiatric system. It was really shameful, and despite the Public Health Department’s so called investigation, it was such a shameful joke, that despite WR’s impassioned plea to investigate MY case, and the psych unit in particular, they did no such thing. All they did was go back to spring 2011 (ie looked at the records of the entire hospital, or one of two representative records from most of the units, except for Psych so far as I could determine…) and do a random case study to look for general evidence of irregularities. Sure, they found some, and one case even involved the ER use of unnecessary or at least excessive use of restraints in a dually diagnosed young man…
But NOTHING was even looked at that had anything to do with what they did to me, or even the psych unit in particular. NOTHING was specific to my complaint, so I don’t know how they expected this evaluation to give them any sort of reasonable results. They may or may not have censured or sanctioned the hospital. I did not read the entire huge file of support the bill got over the years. But I got the drift and the worst punishment meted out for repeated violations seemed to me to be a whipping on the wrist with a flimp ramen. Period.
Yet I was punished by the psych unit staff time and time again.
I know, I know! I was loud, I was angry, I was impossible to “handle” — I know this. Partly this was par for the course for a Lyme disease flare up for me. But I think Lyme wasn’t all of it. Why else was I so irascible (aside from them giving me Abilify without the requisite Geodon…) if not in response to perceived and real threats from them? I am not generally irritable and snappy at Natchaug, and never was at Hartford Hospital in the 80s and 90s. ONLY at hospitals where the standards of care are coercion and control and abuse is the name of the game do I react with anger and hostility…I wonder why.
More to tell, more to say, but as I wrote in the first paragraph above, sleep is overwhelming my desire to do just about anything. I will try to get back to this asap.
(Before I write this blog entry, I want to send this message:To certain people from Middlesex Hospital who read this and are following developments in my case against you please be aware that I know who you are and I am watching you. You do not and will not get away with what you did nor with what you are doing now.)
That said, let me tell all the others of you out there what happened at the mediation- meeting-that- wasn’t, this morning at Middlesex Hospital.
As you know, I have been wanting this meeting for a long time, but when I got there not only did I discover that they were playing the game of “Oh, I had no idea that you wanted a mediation meeting, I didn’t know what this meeting was about at all…” but that the CEO had actually cancelled on last Friday the people that he had arranged to meet with me. So in fact the only people who came were administrators, not anyone who had treated or dealt with me on the unit itself, except the doctor who saw me for the last 11 days of my 6 week stay. He may have been the director of the unit, but he was hardly the main doctor I saw, despite what he claimed.
Anyhow, the meeting was extremely — well, first of all, it was largely a waste of time, because NOTHING was said of interest to me. Except that Dr Grillo, the unit director, after I read what follows, actually had the gall to claim that restraints were entirely appropriate…He said nothing whatsoever about what they did to me. OTOH, I can understand why. After all, he had already been told that we were writing the Department of Justice and the Joint Commission regarding his unit, so he must have felt supremely threatened. Naturally he could not have admitted wrong- doing. Not that any god, excuse me, doctor that I have ever met has ever admitted doing anything wrong or ever apologized. God forbid, a doctor apologize! No, that would be too hard and too demeaning for them to ever do. Better that they go along and permit torture and abuse than that they admit that there was wrong done to a patient on their watch, much less that they personally even made so small a thing as a leetle eensy meestake…
Well, I know what they did to me and I know it was abusive and wrong, and so far, except for Dr Grillo and that lot, NO ONE I have ever met outside of Middlesex Hospital has ever ever agreed with him and said, Yes, in fact the use of restraints was proper and necessary, and they were right to do what they did to you.
So take that, you watchers from MH. I hope you tremble in your boots for torturing me so. Because you never apologized, and wouldn’t’ meet with me to talk about it, it serves you right whatever happens now. I came down there today , and it took all the courage I could summon up to do so. I came down there, after two nights without sleep, just to meet with you and talk about what happened on April 28, 2012. But you couldn’t be bothered to deal with me, and so now you will deal with the DOJ and JCAHO. And too bad for you if that means that heads roll and some of you lose your gd jobs. I do not care any more. I tried, I tried to reconcile and talk with you about it, but you didn’t have the courage to do so, you wouldn’t deal with me, and so now you can deal with the powerful ones, and not me. Now I don’t give a damn what happens to you.
Meanwhile, this is what I was going to read to all of you, and what I did read to the hospital CEO and the administrative personnel, and what the advocates are sending along with the letter to the DOJ and JCAHO.
STATEMENT TO N-7 TREATMENT TEAM & CEO OF MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL et al.
Although I have a longer statement, I first want to read you a poem that I wrote about my experience here. It is only half a page long, but like any decent poem, it says a great deal in few words. The expression “Long pig” means a human being intended for eating.
TO MY PROTECTORS
I came to you fractured,
splintered to syllables,
all-fired to incinerate
the house of my body
where the devil lived.
But I was not nice,
not nice, not nice, no,
I was not nice enough
for balm and kindness,
or to win back my art
or my writing supplies,
so I upended a trashcan
on top of my head
and uniforms nailed
me, naked X, to a bed.
It gouged my brain.
Freight train. Tank.
Two years: still blank.
thieves: you knew, you
knew. You made of me
pulled pork, long pig
X-posed and pinioned,
not quite a specimen
for your knew the subject
and your objective :
your satisfaction showed
as you struggled to hide
I was admitted to North-7 in extremis: confused, psychotic, and traumatized. Exquisitely vulnerable, my sole comforts were doing art and writing. These were also my strengths. Yet instead of using these to help me, you consistently employed them against me–withholding supplies as punishment when you felt I was not behaving nicely and worse, using loss of them as a stick when they were most needed. The first time this happened was on April 9th, nine days after I had been admitted. I had been using glue sticks freely to make a large collage for several days. Angry at me for yelling at her, one of the senior nurses whom I won’t name, decided to withhold them. She would no longer give them to me until, as she put it, “the team puts them on your treatment plan.” This frankly felt like such gratuitous punishment, and so unnecessary, not to mention counterproductive, that I could see nothing in it but petty revenge. Nevertheless, not myself and not in control, I screamed, “Fuck you!” and ran to my room. Luckily, Christobelle from OT, the one person who consistently treated me not only with understanding and kindness but with respect and dignity as well, came in shortly thereafter carrying two gluesticks. I do not know whether she knew of these new restrictions or not, but I was grateful.
On another later occasion, I had been using my soft felt-tipped markers, which my old treatment plan permitted me until 10pm. That treatment plan had been changed, however, and the new, more relaxed one said nothing about markers, so it seemed to me that I was now allowed markers in my room just like anyone else. However, around 10pm, someone called Bob came in demanding them. He threatened that if he had to ask, quote, “a 3rd time you’re in for trouble.” My pulse ratcheted upward. Uh, oh, uh oh. Why was he doing this? Was he deliberately baiting me, trying to pick a fight? He could so easily have discussed my understanding of the new plan. It wouldn’t have been so hard to figure out a compromise. After all, they were just Crayolas, not carbon steel knives. I was sick of the power plays, and sick of the way staff just wanted to control me instead of talk to me and of how they insisted on domination at all costs. Well, this time I was not going to give up without a fight, and it seemed that a fight was what Bob was itching for. Instead of negotiation and attempting to find a compromise, Bob reached out to grab me, which I construed as an assault. I screeched, “Don’t touch me!” Someone else grabbed me from behind. I kicked and punched. Someone told me later it was Ruth I kicked. In my journal I wrote this: “she was furious enough to lie and scream that I caused an uproar ‘every single night and I’m sick to death of it!’…”
I fought them then, clawing and screaming, trying in vain to resist, my body flailing as the chart itself notes, my heart hammering. Why were they doing this to me over a few markers?! I wanted to scream. Why were they being such bullies? They were hurting me! But of course there were several of them against the one of me and they were much stronger than I at 102 pounds so naturally they overpowered me. They literally dragged me to the so-called time-out room and dumped me on the floor, ordering me to calm down. Then they closed the door. No they didn’t lock it, but they kept me from leaving by leaning against the door.
You know, I don’t know why you bothered calling it a time-out room. No one could use it at will. And when you put me there, I didn’t ask to go – I was forcibly dragged there — and I didn’t want to stay: you kept me there by force so it was the same thing as seclusion, literally and legally. Time-outs have to be voluntary, you have to be able to come and go if and when you want to. When it is forced, it is by definition a seclusion. Period. That cold barren room was not a time-out room. Who did you think you were you kidding?
And listen, did it never occur to you that it was always your treatment of me that generated my behavior, yes, the negative behaviors as well as when I was in control? You could have found out what was going on by talking with me. Instead, you decided to dismiss everything I said and did as manipulative and acting out so you didn’t need to listen to me. Perhaps you thought this disregard was kept secret from me, but I knew it at the time and it caused me enormous anguish. All I wanted was to be treated like a human being. All I wanted was to talk to someone and be listened to. But all you did was make assumptions. You never checked them out with me to find out if they were true and they almost never were. Assume makes an ass out of U and me…But mostly it does terrible damage when the assumptions are wrong. I was so afraid, I was so terribly afraid, but you never knew the half of it. All you did was to dehumanize me, ignore my pain and order me to shut up and be quiet. I know I was difficult for you to quote unquote “handle.” Hell, I was difficult for ME to handle. But I do not have a personality disorder. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask my family. Ask the psychiatrist who saw me from 2000 until 2009, ask the psychiatrist I see now. But you decided that you could detect borderline traits (somehow transmogrified into the full-blown disorder upon discharge…) despite the presence of an active psychosis. By decreeing that I had such a disorder, you put me in an utterly untenable position, because then you had a justification, so you thought, for taking nothing I said at face value. To me it felt like nothing less than soul murder and I will tell you that this particular form of soul murder makes a person want to die. It makes a person want to bash their brains out in public just to get someone to acknowledge them and take them seriously.
April 28.. April 28, 2010. You wrote in my chart your interpretations of my behavior that day and of what happened. Yes, your nursing and physician notes were supposed to be objective but dispassionate as they may have attempted to sound, all observation is but interpretation. I repeat: All observation is interpretation. Now I want you to know what happened from my point of view. (I know that some of you have been snooping around, reading my blog just as you did during my hospital stay, but you will have to sit through this anyway…)
At around 7:30pm, so the evening nurse reported in my chart, I “walked into the dayroom” and if one can believe this, without any provocation I “began shoving and turning over chairs. I then, quote, “picked up the patient trash can and put it over my head.” Staff ordered me to what they called the “time-out room.” Nursing notes report that I refused and, I quote, “went to bed instead.” Because I had not followed her direct order, the nurse wrote that “security was called and patient required security to carry her to time-out room as she refused to move or walk.” No, I simply lay on my bed, mute, trembling with terror when the phalanx of guards roared in.
Despite my lack of resistance, the guards physically took hold of me – unconcerned apparently with my known history of rape and of recent trauma — and took me from my bed where I was calming myself in the least restrictive environment. They physically carried me to the seclusion room and together with staff they forcibly prevented me from leaving.
This is what I wrote in my journal: “It was (freezing in that room) and they wouldn’t give me a blanket so I didn’t stay long…This only led to more goons pushing me back… this time strong-arming me and forcing me to a seated position on the mattress before quickly leaving but not locking the door.”
The nurse wrote this: “Patient refused to stay in time-out room… Patient attempted to shove staff, kicked at staff to get out of room. Patient was instructed several times to sit on mattress and stop pushing at and kicking staff. Patient refused. Seclusion door locked at 7:55pm.”
At this point both records state that I stripped off all my clothing. But the official records record only that fact, and that I then “was changed into hospital garb” and that I immediately stripped these off too. In my journal I wrote something else in addition that is rather revealing: Left alone in that room, I decided, and I quote, “they’d have to give me a blanket if I was [naked] so I quickly undressed and just hid under the mattress for warmth. This caused a stir for some reason and I was forced to put on hospital pj’s and lie down on the mattress. This would not do, not without a blanket which they continued to refuse me.” So once again I took them off and got up and tried to push through the woman barring the [temporarily] unlocked door. She called for reinforcements and they came. In fact, they came en masse.
“At this point” my journal continues, “they again subdued me and told/asked me why I was fighting. I said [it was] because I needed someone to talk to. That was all I wanted, just someone to talk to. One guard seemed taken aback. All these personnel hours wasted when all I wanted was a half hour of one person’s time? It seemed to strike him as ludicrous as it did me….
“Why don’t you just ask to use this room when you feel anxious or upset?” he then asked me.
“I do, I have!” I replied
“They always say it has to be reserved for an emergency.”
He seemed completely flummoxed by that reasoning but there was no arguing with Policy so he fell quiet. Finally they decided to leave, telling me to be quiet and lie down.
I did. I did. But I was cold and I begged for a blanket.
“Sorry, it is too dangerous. You will have to sleep without one.””
Why was it so dangerous when I was on one to one and had an observer at all times? It made no sense. And why wouldn’t they just give me a sweatshirt and socks then? Or turn up the heat. How did they expect me to sleep, I was too cold!”
But this last categorical refusal was just too much. No, no blanket, no nothing. Just shut up and freeze. “That was it, I’d had enough! I dashed at them head-first and they parted, only to grab my arms and try to stop me. Someone twisted my right arm and held it behind my back, but I knew how to get him to stop it, so I tried to bite him and he briefly loosened his grip. I twisted my own arm back to me and my left pinky, held, closed tightly onto something, hooked so tightly it wouldn’t budge. My legs, the right one, grabbed the thin leg of a woman behind me, making her lean back off-balance and lose her grip on me. Then I switched to holding both my legs in a death grip around the legs in front of me. It didn’t matter one iota that [I had taken off my clothes again to get a blanket and] was naked…Anyhow, they eventually overpowered me.”
As one guard shoved me onto my stomach on the hard floor, his knee in my back, he muttered in my ear, “You bite me, I’ll teach you a lesson you won’t forget!” Then he mashed my cheek hard against the dirty linoleum till I was breathing dust.
I knew he was capable of hurting me, they all were. I also knew that people can die during prone restraint as the Hartford Courant and others have documented. Adrenalin flooded me, my pulse threatened to rocket out of control but I knew I had to calm down. Very deliberately, I forced myself to lie still, barely breathing.
Fortunately, when I stopped resisting, they released me and let me sit up. Someone gave me a sheet to cover me. The room cleared, except for a tech who was on 1:1 with me. She apparently was now allowed to talk with me, and for this I was supremely grateful. We conversed calmly. The door to the seclusion room had been left open, a big relief.
However, people were still talking in low voices outside the door. I heard someone trot down the hall, heard the open-and-shut of a cabinet door. I asked my 1:1 what was going on. “Don’t worry. They are just getting you some meds or making up a bed for you.”
“A bed?” I said. That gave me a bad feeling…Then I understood what was going on. “Uh, uh. They can’t put me in restraints, I am calm and it is illegal to restrain someone who is not a danger to self or others. You know that.” I repeated it loudly, loud enough so the other staff could hear me. I began to tremble, but forced myself to remain as composed as I could, mustering all the arguments I could against the use of restraints. A nurse entered the room then and asked me to come down the hall. Did I need an escort or could I walk there by myself. “Oh I can walk by myself. But you can’t put me in restraints, I am calm.” I was barely able to speak. I felt dizzy and short of breath but I tried desperately not to show it because I was afraid that if she knew how terrified and upset I was that it would actually give them justification. Nevertheless, I followed her to the empty room — my heart went cold, I could feel urine leak — I felt like “dead man walking” when I saw that in fact they had fastened four-point restraints to the bed.
I entered the room filled with staff members and guards. I told them over and over that I was calm and willing to take PRN meds. I said I knew they were punishing me and that they knew it too. No one contradicted me. The nurse in charge ordered me to lie down on the bed. I protested. She threatened that if I didn’t “they would assist me.” I was terrified of another assault. In fact I was so terrified just of the physiological consequences of fear itself – the flood of adrenalin and painful tachycardia — that I made myself get it over with. I lay down on the bed. Gritting my teeth, I said nothing even when they pushed aside most of the sheet that covered me.
I meant to remain silent. I meant to remain completely still in order to shame them. But when they pulled my wrists right over the edges of the bed, shackling them painfully below the level of the mattress, and spread- eagled my ankles to the corners of the bed, I broke that silence and objected — vociferously. I was appalled at their barbarity but my protests did nothing. I fell silent and let them do what they wanted. Finally satisfied, they trooped out, some of them actually smiling, leaving me alone in the room. I fell asleep quickly, a narcoleptic stress reaction. Nevertheless, no one returned for an hour. They extracted a pledge of obedience from me before taking off the shackles.
“When they released me,” I wrote in my journal, “my back hurt so badly I could barely walk and…my scapula muscles felt as if they had been separated. ‘I plan to sue you for doing this to me.’ I said as calmly as I could as I left the room. Nobody reacted.” As I wrote in my journal the next morning, “I woke in severe pain, the muscles in my chest felt torn from those that connect it to the shoulder… the pain went clear through to the scapula.”
That was not the end of it. Once you treat a human being in such a fashion, all bets are off as to how she behaves from then on. I no longer cared what you did to me after that. When you threatened me with restraints a few days later, I dared you to do it. I egged you on and so you did. My capitulation showed subsequently when I stripped naked multiple times, even voided on the seclusion room floor and smeared urine on the walls. You reduced me to an animal. I hope you were pleased with the results.
From what I witnessed, many of you — on the nursing staff at any rate– took no pleasure in your jobs. You apparently didn’t want to work in psychiatry, and wanted nothing more than peace and quiet and an easy day’s work. When one of you actually screamed at me, after that staff assault occasioned because I didn’t hand in my crayons on time, that you were “sick and tired” of listening to me every night, that was stupid and nonsensical. How can any hospitalized psychiatric patient be expected to worry about what makes a nurse comfortable? By rights it should be the other way around.
I think what it comes down to at the North-7 secure unit is that you expected patients to meet your needs and make you happy and you tried to force us to. In my case, and in at least one other patient’s that I witnessed, you even tried to physically assault us into doing so. But what a farce. Patients in the outer unit warned me to get out of there; they told my friends they were worried staff would hurt me. They were right. By the time I was discharged, I had almost no memory of what had happened over the previous 6 weeks. It is only in the last couple of months that anything has returned to me. Yet every single day since my discharge, when I least expect it, something triggers a thought or bodily memory of my stay here and instantaneously my heart starts hammering, I get dizzy because I can’t breathe, and I tremble and cry just thinking about it because I’m right back in that seclusion room and April 28th is happening all over again…
Now, I don’t expect to recognize any of you. How could I? I still don’t remember much except those episodes I wrote about, and some little snippets here and there. I am told that some of you will be nursing staff on N-7 and some my so-called treatment team. Well, if you were my treatment team and you just turned a blind eye to what went on, for that you are just as guilty as if you accomplished the acts yourselves. Of course, the worst of it mostly took place in the evenings, in relative secrecy and when few were around. But if you knew it was happening nonetheless and If you approved, well, then, I have nothing to say except shame on all of you.
I felt helpless and utterly alone. Frightened beyond belief. No one defended me, no one helped me or came to my rescue. No one except Christobelle Payne. Christobelle treated me with compassion and kindness. She always made sure that I had gluestix and magazines for my artwork, even when your every impulse was to withhold them as punishment. I cannot tell her how grateful I was and how grateful I remain to her for treating me so humanely. I have never forgotten the oasis of kindness she provided in your North-7 desert.
Apparently no one else on the unit understood how to behave humanely or to treat patients with respect, or no one else gave a damn.
Punishment is the nature of what you did to me. You lost your tempers and you punished me. The result was that you permanently damaged and traumatized me. I believe you did what you did absolutely on purpose and I believe you did not care what the consequences would be to me.
Some of you deserve to lose your jobs because of it and because of what I’d venture to guess you have been doing for a long time to other patients. Perhaps you will. You all need to be thoroughly retrained, if that is even possible. Certainly the secure side of the unit needs to be completely reorganized and re-staffed. But that is not my job. You’ll find out what will happen after the Department of Justice and the Joint Commission do their thing.
I hope you remember me and what you did to me for a very long time. Unfortunately, I know I may never be able to forget you. I wish I could, believe me, I wish I could.