Category Archives: Psychiatric Unit

Natchaug Hospital Stay and Comfort Room

I have been away since December 17th, in the hospital yet again. This time the experience – at Natchaug Hospital in Willimantic — was vastly better than the previous two and not abusive at all. I want to tell you about this, but first let me go back to what happened to get me there.

In the beginning of December I began to have trouble again. The “people” came back with their jeering and mockery and commands. A general confusion assailed me. In my journal I recorded many “cries” of MATOOTAM! : “Kill the Ogre that Ate Manhattan” which many of you know means me. I also began to burn myself under the influence of those command hallucinations. I still believe this was all a Lyme disease relapse, but I had been on antibiotics  previously for 8 years – with positive tests for Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses intermittently during that time — without being cured, so there was and continues to be nothing but symptomatic treatment. This means, as my new psychiatrist, Dr C, argues, at least temporary use of the hated, and loved, atypical antipsychotic, Zyprexa. I already am taking Abilify and Geodon, as well as Lamictal for mood stabilization and possible temporal lobe seizure activity. However, as has happened before, these were not effective enough to carry me through such a crisis, which is why I was encouraged to take Zyprexa, 20 mg to head off anything worse. Despite my resistance – I really hate the immediate increase of appetite and weight that accompanies taking it – I did so, I assure you. But the damage was already done and the crisis took on a life of its own, so to speak. By mid-December, I was  no longer “safe,” the code word my visiting nurse among others uses for my listening to the commands the “people” give me. She didn’t know how true that was, though, until I finally admitted it after four days of what I will only describe as obedience to those same commands.  I saw Dr C that Thursday, and though she was uncertain of my safety, she decided that I would talk with her every evening until I saw her again the following Tuesday.

 

The truth is, I do not really recall most of this, neither intellectually nor emotionally. I have had to be told and to refer to my journal in order to recount all of the preceding. However, I do remember what happened next. In addition to the reappearance of the People, I began to experience what I called “brain blips.” These were very brief episodes in which I felt as if my brain suddenly did a somersault, a little like the feeling when your heart skips a beat, except that it was in my brain and accompanied by a terrible dread and feelings of impending doom. After the fraction of a second in which the blip occurred, I would come back to myself – it felt as if for an instant I lost consciousness, but the blip was so very brief that it didn’t seem possible. These episodes were terribly frightening, even though nothing ever happened during or after them, not at least of the dreadful sort I feared.

 

That Friday evening, my heart racing and my mind itself awry, I was in another world, so confused that I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. I managed to call Dr C, who prescribed Ativan. It was too late to call the nurse to pick it up for me so I got in the car to drive the mile to CVS but as soon as I pulled out of the parking lot, the other world took over completely. I do not know how I actually got to the drugstore. I recall only that I could barely hear or see for the pandemonium in my mind but that I was aware enough of the danger to drive only 20 mph the entire way. Once there, however, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to get home and I forgot about getting the Ativan altogether. Somehow I managed to tell the pharmacist that something was wrong, that I couldn’t drive home, but she thought I meant that the car had broken down, and called a cab for me. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and wait for it, but I was so scared of the shoppers who came and went – the drugstore was open 24 hours a day so anyone in the area who needed something after 10pm came there – that I was unable to take more than a few drags, hiding behind a pillar. I returned to the pharmacist and whispered that there was something terribly wrong, with my brain, that as I felt, bugs had infested it and that I was in another world. Finally she understood and called an ambulance.

 

I won’t go into the drive to the ER except to say that I was so “out of it” that I wasn’t even upset that the EMTs made me get on the stretcher right in the middle of CVS and that everyone saw me being taken out of there. Once in the vehicle, I tried to explain to them that despite the large wound they would discover on my leg, there was something wrong with my brain itself, that this was not a purely psychiatric matter and that I needed medical, neurological care. Indeed, I still feel that way, but much good that did. Once a “mental patient” always a “mental patient” it seems. I admit, though, that having burned my leg did not help much. Still, I tried to explain that I needed an MRI of my brain, that something was wrong, a bleed or parasites or something! You can guess their response: of course, they summarily dismissed all of that and quickly had me packed off to the psych section of the emergency room. Although this is a very comfortable, large and separate unit of the ER, with single cubicles for each patient and a TV but also a video camera in each one, I waited 3 days before a bed was available for me, some 25 miles or more away at Natchaug Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Mansfield Center, in Connecticut.

 

I name the hospital openly – as opposed to the others I have written about — because it was  amazing in so many ways that I want both to sing its praises and to “advertise” it so to speak, to describe what a really good psychiatric hospital ought to be like. It is true that most people were in for a very short time, Connecticut having virtually no long term beds any longer, not even in the state hospital, but whether acute care or for somewhat longer stays, Natchaug was quite simply the best place I have ever been. From the food, to the – well, let me go into more detail rather than a mere summary (though in my opinion, the food was indeed a cut above that in any place I have been in, both in availability, and, with a salad bar at every meal, quality.)

 

Upon admission there was, to my dismay, a requisite “clothing and body search.” This procedure was done in such a way as to preserve as much dignity and privacy of one’s person as possible but I feared at first that it boded ill for the rest of my stay. Also, I discovered that although there were, I think, two private rooms, I had been assigned a double, a semi-private room, with a roommate already installed. This was upsetting to me, as I had almost always had a single, or been moved to one because the unit staff either felt I was too disruptive or unable to tolerate the stress of a roommate. However, when I saw how the semi-private rooms were carefully partitioned with a floor to ceiling wall in between the bed areas, I was much reassured. Although I eventually did for a short time have a private room, or a double that was designated as private – I frankly do not remember why! – I was not bothered by either roommate that I had while there. The one who did try to get me to – Oh, I dunno. I just am no longer one to “socialize” with other patients and I simply did not feel like getting to know her, or to excessively “sympathize” or otherwise expend my limited energy on her problems. I feel a little bad about this, but this one roommate, the second one, at first tried to involve me in her “stuff” and even left a journal or something next to my bed “for you to read to find out more about me.” Well, this was so very intrusive, and nothing I had asked for at all, that I rudely, but decisively said, “Why would I want to do that?”

 

I know that I would have been terribly hurt and humiliated by someone’s saying such a thing to me, but on the other hand, I would never have been so forward with a complete stranger either. In any event, she quickly took the papers back and left the room. However, a day later, she seemed to have no hard feelings, and we got along, if distantly at least as well as I wanted to.

 

Where was I? Well, I will tell you that the worst thing about my stay, and I suppose unavoidable, since I was there over the holidays, was that I had three different doctors for the three weeks I was there. but the best things were two, or more, but two in particular. One was that there was NO seclusion room, that is to say, the seclusion room that they used to have was not only now designated at the Comfort Room, but in fact was comfortable, and open at most times for use by anyone needing comfort. In it, there were thick mats on the floor, a Grandma Moses-like mural painted on all four walls by artist staff members and best of all a “therapy chair.” This is a very large and comfortable rocking recliner that is built in such a way as to elevate your legs, while you recline against the back, and let your feet dangle over the end. This allows the person to position the very lightweight chair near a wall so as to be able to lightly touch the wall with the feet and keep the chair rocking with little effort all the while lying back and relaxing. Their next improvement planned is to get headphones, wireless, or MP3 players with a  selection of music for additional relaxation and comforting.

 

I usually tell staff at hospitals that they “cannot keep me safe” and indeed “prove” it by obeying in some fashion the commands the People give me…This never exactly endears me to anyone, and in fact has more often than not earned me a reputation as very difficult, even as having a “borderline personality” as an Axis 2 diagnosis (not true). Be that as it may, I was in fact kept safe at Natchaug, and when I was not, I was on a very helpful rather than punitive 1:1 or constant observation. At Natucahug, one-to-one staff were supposed to talk to me, rather than kept from doing so as at other hospitals, “so that you won’t come to like the attention too much.” The few times I became very upset, screaming, just screaming, at the top of my lungs, and rather than choosing to go on my own was escorted to the Comfort Room, by “staff assist” people (there is no “Dr Strong” goon squad of uniformed security guards), the door to the room was open and someone talked to me the entire time. Thus, when I left, on my own, when I felt calmer, I also felt that the reasons that I had been so distraught were also alleviated.

 

Also, although Natchaug, like any other hospital, did have a restraints policy, they did not use them a single time the entire three weeks I was there. In fact, though there was a very disruptive, troubling patient there the entire time (for once it was not I) I do not believe they even came close to considering using them. This time I believe it when they said that they almost never have to use them at all.

 

But the very best thing about my stay was something quite serendipitous: it turned out that the Director of Nursing for the whole hospital is Sharon H, the very same APRN who had been head nurse during my many stays at a Hartford hospital, and who had taken upon herself to supervise my care, or at least seemed to have in some sense “taken me under her wing.” Sharon is, and always was, both extremely bright and compassionate beyond words. She is also insightful in a way that I found the first two doctors I had were not, and if the third was, I did not have a chance to find out because I saw her only 4 times. It is true that Sharon had the advantage of having known me well, if 17 years ago, but still, she seems to have this ability to size up a situation, at least with me, and both to calm me if necessary and to suggest a solution that simply fits…I have to say that I felt especially well taken care of. Sharon made sure she saw me every afternoon, though this was above and beyond the call of any duty.

 

This description scarcely does my stay at this hospital justice. Although, like any hospitalization, it was not an easy stay, nonetheless I can only say that I cannot thank Sharon and the Natchaug staff enough for all that she and they did for me.

(PS Forgive any typos I have not yet corrected but it is getting late and I am too tired to go back and check for them at the present time…Lazy me!)

Schizophrenia and Traumatic Treatment: Continued Use of Restraints and Seclusion

Please note: For my final take on what happened at Middlesex, please jump to this link: https://wagblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/useless-psychiatric-mediation-and-a-poem/   (added in September 2012)

First, before I start my post today, I wanted to share my newest artwork, which is a colored pencil “painting” of a woman who lives in my building, whom I will call Rose. She did not ask me to paint her; she was simply someone who sits quietly for many hours in the community room, and so was a good subject for a portrait, and a photo. I also happen to find her a very agreeable person, one of the nicer ones here (most are gossips and backbiters, or if not most, then the most vociferous and visible of the residents). I think she will be quite pleased with how it turned out, so long as she does not expect anything but a portrait that is faithful to life, rather than an idealized one. I believe, however, that Rose is very down to earth and knows what she looks like, and will appreciate what I have painted.

Rose, intent on her needlework
Rose intent on rugmaking
Rose comparison of painting with photo

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Now I want to discuss, yet again, the use of restraints in Connecticut psychiatric units, particularly as it pertains to my treatment there. As I recall, I have not gone into much detail about the last hospital stay, back in April and May, largely I think because it again was so traumatic and in many ways similar to the previous one, that I could not bear to contemplate it.

However, as very little as I recall, I do remember more of the stay than the complete amnesia I still experience for the stay in Manchester, back in October or November of 2009. When I say I have a loss of memory with regards to this other hospital stay in the spring of 2010– in Middletown — I meant it more for the specifics of certain episodes. And for any of the people there who staffed the unit. (Except for Christabel the OT).  With regard to much that occurred I believe a lot could be brought back to me, under the right circumstances. I do, for instance, continue to have an overall memory of what the place looks like and where my room was and some details about what happened. What I do not, and did not remember, not even the next day, was most of what precipitated the use of restraints and seclusion during this stay. Or at least, of the two or three incidents of S and R two are jumbled together, so that it takes some mental probing for me to straighten out any of it. but one incident remains too clear in my mind for comfort though even at the time, or immediately afterward, as well as now, I have no idea what was the actual precipitant.

Anyhow, what I recall of  that episode is this: I had been taken off Geodon, which I took regularly with my  Abilify up till then, both in order to boost its antipsychotic properties as well as to temper any Abilify-induced irritability. The irritability was physical as much as mental — and with the resultant tendency to get into verbal fights and arguments with anyone who, as my mother used to put it, looked at me crosswise. I have no idea why they did this, took me off Geodon, given that I know I explained the rationale for the use of two antipsychotics. But many MDs seem to find this objectionable, however effective. Perhaps they considered the 20mg Zyprexa, which they had talked me into taking on an acute basis, would be an adequate substitute for the calming effect of the Geodon. They had wanted to stop the Abilify, too, using Metformin, a diabetes drug, for weight control, but I had insisted on taking it both in an effort to combat Zyprexa’s tendency to cause weight gain, but also because I believe that it is the Abilify that has so massively enhanced my creativity.

So there I was, on Abilify untempered by Geodon, and taking Zyprexa, which induces its own “upsetness” when my weight invariably increases…I assume that I must have been hostile, loud, and disruptive, for I do not know why else they would have made me go into the seclusion room. I do remember that I could not calm down, and that in the flimsy johnnies they had clothed me in, I was freezing, so that even when the nurse doing constant observation told me to lie down and rest, I was unable to do so for all my shivering. I begged for a blanket, but no deal. I pulled the entire bare mattress over me as a covering. Well, this was apparently seen as a self-destructive act, or something, as immediately they pulled it off me and dragged the mattress itself from the room. Now I had nothing for warmth, except my own anger at having been treated  in such a fashion.

I remember that I was yelling a lot, and that I wouldn’t lie down on the cold linoleum and “calm myself.” No, I wanted to talk, and begged the nurse to do so. Instead, she only turned away and told me again to lie down on the floor. Well, this enraged me, and I went to the door to complain again. She said nothing, only stood in front of the open door so that I could not leave. Finally, getting no response, and still anxious and “het up” I suppose you could say, or over-activated by the Abilify, I tried to push my way through her into the opening. Immediately two “guards” pushed me back into the room. I yelled at them, and pushed back. One of them asked me what was wrong with me, why I didn’t just ask to talk with the nurses instead of resisting physically…I looked at him and said that I did ask to talk, and she refused. He seemed somewhat surprised by that. Nevertheless, he ordered me to go back into the room and lie down.

I was having none of this dictatorial behavior on their part, and as I recall, at one point — no, I do not remember what happened. I only know that suddenly the guards were on top of me, and one had pinned my arms behind my back and was pushing my face into the linoleum floor. It was as if I were a recalcitrant inmate of a prison and this was a cell “take-down.” I was hurt and I was furious.

When they let me up (and why they had pinned me to the ground I have no recollection, only that when they let me up, I was finally allowed to talk to the nurse nad stand out in the hall with her. I heard some talking behind my back and a commotion, followed by feet going down the hall away from us. I had a bad feeling about it, and asked the nurse, “What are they doing?” She responded, ominously, “They are preparing a bed for you.” “a bed? what sort of bed? She remained silent and I understood that they were putting restraints on my bed…”You can’t restrain me, I am out here calmly talking to you. You haven’t even offered me a PRN and I will tell you now that I would be more than willing to take one. But I am NOT a danger to myself or others, and you cannot legally put me in restraints.” The nurse continued to remain silent. My heart began to race. I called down the hall, “I will not let you use restraints on me, I am calm and this is not allowed.”

Some of the staff approached me and told me to come down to my bed room with them. I complied, because I knew that if I didn’t they would have some reason to say I “deserved” to be restrained. When I got to the room,   I found I had been correct: there on my bed were the straps and shackles of four-point restraints, attached to the bed frame.

“I am calm and I am not a danger to myself or others,” I carefully declared. I will take medication and I do not need restraints.”

“Lie down on the bed, Pamela” someone told me. I refused, saying that this was punishment pure and simple and that they had no cause to do this nor any legal right. “I will ask you one more time to lie down on the bed, Pam, or the security team will help you do so.”

At this point, I understood that they were going to use this form of discipline on me no matter what I did. That they were out to get revenge and that they would use any excuse to excuse such measures. So if I “made” them force me into the restraints, that would by itself prove that I “deserved” them. So, more humiliated than I believe I have ever been in my life, I sat down on the bed, then lay down on my back and said out loud, “I am now placing my limbs into four-point restraints, and I want a record of the fact that I am calm and not resisting and that I have asked for a PRN instead.”

It was no use, though, as they went ahead and shackled me, then left me alone in the room, except for a staff member monitoring me through the door, left partially ajar. My heart was racing with rage, and I could feel the pain of such profound humiliation surging through me. But I did and said nothing, I think, because I was going to prove to them that the drastic measures and punishment they had inflicted on me was WRONG. After about an hour and a half someone came back and let me out. I was neither compliant now, nor placated and as soon as I was free and out of that room, I let it be known, loudly  that I intended to file a complaint. But no one said a thing, no even spoke to me the rest of the night…

THAT is what I remain so traumatized by, at least with respect to  this time: the utter humiliation of what you might call “cutting my own switch,” along with the clear understanding — even mutual acknowledgment — that they were punishing me.

This continues to preoccupy me, that is when I allow myself to think about it, or when I continue to try to read the records of that stay, which records I only a week ago obtained (having sent for them many weeks ago…). I cannot help but re-experience the same brutality and the same extreme and exquisite humiliation, and once again it hurts beyond belief. The worst thing perhaps is that when I told my family about what the staff had done to me they didn’t come to my support, they didn’t unconditionally defend me. They didn’t even  seem to care, or to believe, that I had done nothing to “deserve” four-point restraints (as if anyone deserves them). Another family would have automatically come to their member’s defense and declare that NO one deserves such brutality, and that as their family member I should never have been treated that way. Another family would have done  –oh forget it!  No, my family is always so eager to please the staff and to believe that I am in the ‘wrong” at these hospitals, to believe that I am at fault, (this is the story of my life!) that they simply told me I must have caused their use of such brutal methods of control by my own behavior, I surely deserved it, and besides “what else could they do?” Shackling me, calm and rational, me to a bed was clearly the only option and entirely justified…So much for MY family’s loyalty and compassionate support, huh?

Well, bitterness solves nothing, so I won’t dwell on the last subject, but I will say that if I can, I intend to file an unoffical complaint, or barring that, an official one. The problem with the latter is that I will not then be able to confront my persecutors. whereas if I did so unofficially, it might yet be possible, if only to avoid a messy public affair. After all, I could easily write something…No, I won’t go there. For now, I only wanted to describe what continues to occur at Connecticut psychiatric units, despite the regulations and general disavowal of the use of cruelty in the treatment of those with mental illness. It still goes on, it just happens behind the closed doors of the hospital and the continued use pf seclusion and restraints as discipline and as a salve for frustration, depends on the assumption that no patient will bother, after the fact of discharge, to do anything about it, except try to forget.

Things are better than this, but do not feel it!
Note the linoleum and bare mattress. I have never seen a windowed seclusion room!

The Painted Woman, Poem for 350.org, plus yada yada

My newest artwork is what I call The Painted Woman, for I think obvious reasons.

The Painted Woman, in all her glory

It is not meant to be a parody or an insult to any sort of woman, just a study of an overly made-up  “older” woman who might drink a bit too much and get loose around the edges when she does. I think it is clear that she has had plastic surgery, though it hasn’t done a lot for her, with  her artificially plumped lips, which do not work at all with her boozy aged face that the exaggerated make-up only serves to enhance in the worst sense of the word. If her botoxed brow doesn’t disguise her real age, neither do her drawn-in eyebrows, which is something women do that I never did understand: Isn’t any sort of eyebrow better than the kind that are just a line drawn or painted on? even Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows!

Frida Kahlo, with her eyebrows, of which she was NOT ashamed...She was proud to paint them and did so without shame or trying to disguise them. In fact, she even painted herself with the mustache...

I love those eyebrows, full of character and strength, and the portraits, which could be seen as brave and wonderfully lacking in vanity,  I prefer to think Kahlo painted because she saw herself simply as beautiful, eyebrows and mustache and all, and painted herself on that account, not at all “in spite of” her flaws…

That said, I do not believe that my painted woman is beautiful, perhaps for much the same reason that I hope Kahlo felt herself to indeed be beautiful: this, my pictured woman, is not only artificial, she is desperate, pathetic and even tragic…I feel sorry for her, who is, after all, my own creation!

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All that aside, the reasons that I have not written are several, including my having to get that poetry book manuscript rewritten and out by the 15th of October (not that I have a chance to win a contest that is judged non-anonymously, but it does no harm to try, so long as it doesn’t tie the book up for the next 6 months…). Then I had that Life Drawing class at the Creative Arts Workshop, which is still difficult for me, partly because I cannot see well, and cannot translate what I see to a large piece of paper on an easel…I don’t have any difficulty with the gestural drawing, the loosening up exercises, actually, I have more difficulty with the longer drawing periods. The trouble is that I do not want to take the time to do a drawing for only 30 minutes that I know I cannot do in that short a “long” period, and also, I find it hard to stand on my feet for that long. The class is 3 hours long in fact, and all of it is standing at easels, while when I do my portraits I mostly just sit in my recliner or at a table with my paints and canvas on a table or at most at a little broken table easel that I bought at the CAW tag sale and fixed myself.

Nevertheless, it has been a good experience, if exhausting.  I drive to New Haven then stay overnight and drive home on Tuesday morning. So the night spent away from home feels like a big deal every week, not just a mere evening away…though I could treat it as such, I suppose.

ALSO, Dr C wants to see me twice a week for the time being — actually for more than just “the time being.” It is a very complicated situation that I cannot go into here, but this 2X a week set-up may not continue, I dunno, I would like to, and I know it kept me out of the hospital in October, but but but…I am simply getting very mixed messages from certain people (decidedly not Dr C) about it, and it is hard to know what to do. I sometimes think that it was easier for people to have me in the hospital twice a year, despite their protestations, than to keep me out if keeping me out entails my seeing Dr C 2X a week. It is certainly less expensive to hospitalize me, since it saves money coming out of their pockets ( I am not a drain on the “system” otherwise, because I do not need public mental health services or ask for anything from those strained agencies, for which fact they ought to be grateful…though not for my hospital stays, of course).

But no more on that subject, which is utterly confusing to me and frightening to boot. I cannot bear the thought of ever being forced into a hospital again, where I am ALWAYS ABUSED and BATTERED by the staff, despite being tortured by myself and my own demons already. Even thinking about it makes me tremble…

Will be returning to Wisdom House in two weeks, for another weekend. I hope to write some more poetry, and perhaps “fix” the ms, by writing up an introduction and putting in some divisions between groups of poems, rather than the vague segues I have now. I thought  they were obvious, but others do not seem to “get” why one poems transitions to another…So I will group them better, and put what feels like artificial divisions between them. That way, readers will feel there is some shape to the book, a clumping, rather than a thread that one must follow…

There is much I would like to say, but it is already 2:45 in the morning, so I needs must cease and desist and get to bed. I will try to write as soon as I can, but if nothing else, I promise to write when I am at Wisdom House on the 19-21 of November.

The following is a poem I wrote last year, and put one version here then, after I went to a vigil for the organization 350.org, a website devoted to the cause of getting our atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350 parts per million, because that is the level at which life continues to be possible…whereas if we continue to let it go up, global warming will continue to such an extent that life on the planet will be impossible.

But that said, here is the poem, for what it is worth. If it sounds familiar, it is, but I have also reworked and changed a lot of it…

 

FRIDAY NIGHT VIGIL

Shivering in the wind, we fight to light our candles
as we gather in the darkness of an approaching storm.
But the icy blow keeps snuffing out each flicker
so we just stand, our signs alone aloft to passing traffic,
standing for the stand we take: for the changing world,
for a last chance at change. We smiling stand for photos,
taken from across the streaming street –
and smile into the night, display our handmade signs.
One car beeps, a driver gives the V-sign in support.
But most drive on without a single word or sign
that they have heard or seen a thing, or even recognized
we’re standing here for something save a hopeless cause.
My hands freeze stiff, release their glass and candle with a crash,
a glint of shards, a splash upon the sidewalk. Someone
with safer gloves stoops to sweep the shards away…
I think, How lovely is the world today, even dying.
Though it’s all we have (and lord knows, it’s more
than we can handle) we stand here in this freezing dark
against the darkness and light one candle.

Collage of Christabel: Middlesex Occupational Therapist (finished)

Finally I have finished the collage here with the background completed and the candy foil earring (I saved foil from innumerable chocolates…and they have no come in handy as I know eventually they would.  What do they say? Everything can be an art supply, looked at with a creative spirit. Who says that? Well, I dunno, I guess I do! 8D

I call her Christabel, who was one of the occupational therapists in the hospital this past April and May (all of the OTs were great.) She was a wonderful woman who was the one person who consistently treated me like a human being at a place where I was often not treated much better than an animal or a bad child. Consequently, I never once, as I recall, had occasion nor impulse to scream at her in rage or frustration. Lkewise she never felt it incumbent upon her to withhold from me such ridiculous items as gluesticks or magazines, the sort of carrots with which the nurses attempted to “tame” me. That is, negatively, by taking them away from me until I ‘behaved’ according to their rigid standards. Never once did they acknowledge what I had begged them to understand from the moment I walked in there, which was that I suffered from Lyme disease-induced schizophrenia, and that both the rage episodes and my impulsivity were uncontrollable, (i.e. literally OUT of my control, and “not me” — as the weekend doc herself, Faye H., who knew me well from treating me for years in the past, noted several times in dismay).

Be that as it may, when the nurses, or one of them, the one who really hated me, refused to grant me permission to use a gluestick one afternoon in order to work on this collage, it was Christabel who came to my rescue, by bringing some from the OT office, without so much as a word or caveat to “not tell the nurses.” She simply handed them to me, along with a handful of new magazines to tear colored scraps from, so I could continue work on my face, which I had only just begun.

Everyone asked me, as it was coming together, if I was modeling it on  anyone. But the truth is, though I call it Christabel, it is more in honor of her, than intended to be a true likeness. True, she is African American, and has very close cropped hair, but that is as far as the similarities go. In fact, the face is pretty much imaginary and generic. I took the features from, well, my mind, mostly, though I used various faces from magzines to give me an idea of how the light would fall and create shadows, and how the various contours of the features would look. Also to give me a better idea of proportions. The nice thing about these kinds of collages is that paper is very forgiving, so if I made a huge mistake, and made the nose too big or put the lips too close to the nostrils or, as I did, make the eyes too small and close together, all I needed to do was paper them over and start again. In fact, the more layers I used, the stiffer the underlying “post-it note” kind of thin paper foundation became, which proved a good thing when it came to finishing off the edges and finding a way to hang it. I cannot f rame it, as it is 46 inches by 32inches, approximately, and formally framing it would cost a mint. but I polyurethaned it, one, so it would not distintegrate, and bound the edges neatly, and think I will attach a dowel or piece of thin wood at the top to which I can affix a wire and hang it by that. The person, the woman who runs the solo shows every month at DHMAS in Hartford, said that though everything was supposed to be framed, basically as long as it can be hung by a wire, my plans sound fine.

Well enough of this. I think the new photo shows how I finished the face better. Though I could not get the bound edges into the photo alas.