Hi everyone, do check out my new arteveryday365.com.it should be actively locatable by a day or two. But you can click on the link to see what Art I did today. The photo is not mine but cribbed from the tv
Let me introduce myself. My name is Pamela S. Wagner, and I was for most of my 65 years a resident of Connecticut. I have a long history diagnosed with serious mental illness and have been on disability for many years because of it. Five years ago, I was admitted to the Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living on a 14-day PEC. I would like to tell you about some of the grotesque brutalities that transpired there and the egregious “treatment” that passes for care in that hospital.
Ever since I was discharged from the Institute of Living in February 2013, to which facility I had been committed as an involuntary patient under an order known as a Physicians Emergency Certificate. I have felt too terrified even to read the partial chart which the Connecticut Office of Protection and Advocacy obtained for me. Indeed, every time I recall what I am able to, or reread the brief nursing notes about what was done to me that winter at the IOL, my heart races unbearably, my body sweats and shakes and I start crying. Even so, because of trauma-induced amnesia, I remember the month I spent there only vaguely and in “snapshot” or flashbulb-like moments” of clarity. It is only now that I have acquired these few records, and learned some of the details of what happened that I’m finally able to put some of the pieces together.
Before I say anything further, I want to say that I believe that I was grievously injured by the “treatment” I received on Donnelly 2 South, and that what the staff did to me was not only unethical and cruel but that it crossed the line into illegality more than once.
I was admitted to Donnelly 2 South, and right from the first I made it clear that I wanted to witness their searching my knapsack. I wanted to know what they confiscated from me. They assured me that, Yes, of course, that is our policy, Don’t worry, Pam, you will have ample opportunity to watch us search your bags… I calmed a bit and followed a nurse to a closed room to do an intake interview. When she released me to the Day Area, I was shown to my room, where I found on my bed, my already searched knapsack and bags. Needless to say, this upset me greatly and I made my feelings known, which did not endear me to anyone. I let the charge nurse know that I felt violated and that she had openly broken a promise and my rights, posted prominently on the hospital wall.
As the Donnelly 2 staff learned, I had arrived prepared with a detailed Psychiatric Advanced Directive and I made it very clear that my online electronic medical record was accessible from any computer. I made the Read-Only access code available to the doctor and nurses. That included documents such as my narcolepsy diagnostic consult and special documentation proving my need for a higher than usual dosage of Ritalin, written by my former sleep specialist (also my psychiatrist from 2000-2009.) Included as well was a letter she wrote to my present psychiatrist, Dr. C, explicitly stating her conviction that I do not, and never did have a personality disorder, borderline or otherwise, a conviction that Dr C also held.
According to Dr. Sanjay Banerjee, the doctor who first took over my care, he read every page of these and all the other documents that I brought with me. That is what he told me. Moreover, when he spoke with Dr. C, my outside psychiatrist, he brushed off my concerns about anyone misperceiving me as having a personality disorder. My brother, P, himself a psychiatrist, brought the same matter to the fore again when in discussion with Laurie Denenberg, LCSW. Again, her response was much the same: “Personality disorders are not a part of the picture here. We intend to honor her PAD. We are glad that she has had the foresight to prepare such a document.”
Nevertheless, Amy Taylor, MD, the doctor who took over my care after Jan 27th decided to summarize my psychiatric history from this stay in words such as these: “long psychiatric history of schizophrenia, paranoid type, PTSD, and personality disorder NOS with borderline traits.” I was treated for four weeks for an active psychotic disorder. No one could know – especially with the significant additional diagnosis of PTSD, whether or not I had any personality disorder, given the two Axis I diagnoses already present. I believe she decided to use this diagnosis as a way to “justify” the brutality that she had ordered to be used to punish me during the hospitalization I write about.
As I said, I was on the Donnelly 2 unit for almost a month. But I was admitted on January 10, 2013, right into to seclusion because of putative “blepharitis.” They called it “infection precautions” but never took a culture of my swollen eyelids to determine if there truly was any infection present. They simply said it had to be blepharitis – as if saying so meant that it was so (but the fact is that blepharitis generally speaking is a benign non-infectious condition, and one that doesn’t produce massive swelling in the entire facial region). There were other factors however that accounted for my swollen face: prime among them the self -inflicted second degree burn on my forehead the size of a half dollar. Knowing this, the fact that my face had swelled to 1½ its size should not have surprised anyone. Blepharitis? The doctor was looking for zebras instead of seeing the common nag right in front of her…
I know I was a difficult patient. I was loud and paranoid and hard for some staff to deal with. That is precisely why I wrote out my Psychiatric Advance Directive the way I did, with explicit and detailed instructions for how best to deal with me when I was upset… When ill, I am frightened, paranoid, and hostile, which makes me easily roused to irritability. I know this, from a distance as it were. But knowing this now does not mean I was in full control of my behavior at the time.
On Feb 5th, I was being held incommunicado in the so-called “side room”, which, when I called it seclusion, the staff insisted it was not so. That afternoon, I simply walked away from it. I had had enough of them saying it was not seclusion, then preventing me bodily from leaving it. So, when I could do so without someone actually wanting to fight me, I walked away.
I proceeded to enter the unit and walk down the hall to the end and looked out the window. I took a deep breath, heard staff 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 upon me, 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 where 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 twisted me over onto 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. I had, just a half hour before, been doped up on involuntary Zyprexa 10mg. Then they walked out, leaving someone just outside the door for the usual monitor, and did not release me for 19 hours, despite the fact that I was sleeping much of that time.
Of course, this was punishment. The very fact that they told me it was “not punishment” only “what your behavior brings on every time, Pamela,” 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 of harming her 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.
They always restrained me in an X, spread-eagled so tightly I couldn’t move a muscle. They never permitted bathroom breaks or even let my hands free to eat, so several times I had to pee and even defecate in my clothing. I would fall asleep rapidly after those three injections–whether I was restrained while calm or not, it was routine: punishment needles in the buttocks of Haldol 10mg, Ativan (up to 5mg at one time) and Benadryl 50mg—and then they would invent reasons to maintain me in restraints even after I was asleep for hours. When I woke, hardly dangerous to anyone, they would grill me with questions that I was too groggy to answer, and they would use my inability to respond as reason not to release me.
Later in the evening on Jan 5 or 6thth, for the second time that day, they restrained me, this time for throwing half a graham cracker at the wall. Then they left me like that for hours, even after I fell asleep. In point of fact, I could never earn my way to release from restraints by good behavior or quietly, calmly asking for release. Of course not, because I hadn’t done anything to “deserve” them in the first place. They always refused to release me, always, until I cried, “Uncle” when they told me to.
As to those vaunted “shows of force” what does anyone expect? Presented with a cohort of threatening staff personnel I saw only one thing: an impending assault. I know they anticipated my panic; it said as much in my chart. Isn’t that the point of a planned “show of force” – to induce fear and panic? (which when you think about it is grotesque…What sort of person wants to induce fear and more panic in someone who is by definition already terrified?) But why else do it? So why should it be any surprise, when I defended myself as they grabbed me? When they stuffed me into a body bag and were trying to tighten the straps, surely you can understand why anyone would bite the hand of an attacker whose digits came near. It was a matter of life and survival instinct…
But none of it should have happened. My PAD explained in exquisite detail exactly what to do and what I respond to better than fear tactics and force. In fact, it is beyond comprehension, knowing that one of the admission diagnoses I came in with was PTSD, how the director of patient care at the time pre-approved on paper the emergency abrogation of my PAD and a “just in case they are needed” use of restraints and seclusion. Why didn’t he counsel the person asking for this advance “right to restrain” to do instead all in his power not to restrain me and to work with the PAD instead?
TO BE CONTINUED… SEE NEXT ENTRY.
FIXING YOU – A REWRITTEN POEM
Recalling my month-long “treatment” at New Britain Hospital a.k.a Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street, in May 2014, under the supervision of Dr. Michael E. Balkunas
Only nine days after that last adders-pit hospital —
You still wear sunshades to protect others from you
though no one out here believes they are in peril.
Nevertheless, the staff there described you
as “assaultive,” dangerous to self and others,
unfit for company or visitors.
Neither accurate nor truthful
they wrote lies for the sake of their convenience.
Now you are a week from making new friends
in far northeastern Vermont,
in a place magically named the Kingdom
and it’s a move your bruised mind
requires, still unable to let go of
the half-nelson grip of hospital guards
bent on eliciting pain, who, when told to strip you
then four-pointed you naked to a mattress,
replaying their favorite rape scene,
yanking each limb apart to expose and humiliate, knowing
that the nurses’ own official policy was hands-off
and would protect their asses.
You want truth, you wish for reconciliation
but how, you wonder, does any Truth or Reconciliation proceed
when so many refuse to acknowledge
that hospital staff broke every rule,
stopping short of murder only
because you submitted nick of time,
your terror strangled in a towel they wound
around your head and face,
before they injected punishment drugs into your buttocks,
then muted the intercom and sealed the door
No one was ever there to bear witness.
That was always the point,
from your father to the hairdresser
and all the hospital staffs in-between.
They’ve made a religion of secrecy
and no one Outside wanted to know
what they didn’t want to know…
Call this, “our family business,”
call it, “a private shampoo,”
call it, “necessary treatment.”
they could always do what they wanted to you.
And when it broke you, as it eventually would,
when your sudden screams split the night,
and no one could explain what drove you
to empty your lungs,
ripping the air to shreds,
they stood aside and declared you
just “one of the family” now,
no better and no different than anyone else,
now that they’d finally fixed you for good.
Do take a look at this site, both for my newest artwork, (only a detail is the featured image above) which is featured at the link, and for the AMAZING pictures of the birds you can find there. You will learn so much from browsing at Hemant Kishan’s DigitalPlumeHunter blog, as I did when I was looking for photos of the birds I needed for this fractured portrait. DPH’s photos are so crisp and clear and beautifully shot they are artistry embodied. Just click the link below!
My drawing of my mother, Marian Wagner Spiro, suffering from the effects of dementia, wearing the iPod and headphones I gave her. (from a photo taken by my sister, Martha, in the last weeks of mom’s life…)
There is so much to say, and so little that I find myself capable of saying at this time. The loss of one’s mother, no matter how fraught the relationship, is always incalculable, quite literally unable to be calculated. Because of the divorce from much of my family, included the extended network of cousins and so forth, imposed by my father for nearly forty years, I lost many years and many memories I might have made with my mother, and needless to say with the rest of my native family. However, because of this, along the way I learned the value of friendship, not just the emotional support and love from some one significant other, since I had none, but the kind of friendship about which it has been written: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I learned what true friends are, and that they can love a person and care about a person perhaps with deeper love and kinder regard even than one’s family of origin.
This is not to say that I do not love and care about my family, of course, but it is my friends to whom I dedicated my newest book of poems and art, my friends both old and new. And they know who they are, I am sure they do. Because I feel it and I know it.
But that much said, I loved my mother, and what is more, I know she loved me and would have wanted me to have these loving friends in my life, especially once she understood that having a nuclear family of my own was not in the picture for me. I do not believe that she cared about whether I ever became a doctor or even a successful poet or artist, but only that I found contentment and love in my life, somewhere, somehow, and that she would be proud of me now, not for my achievements but for all these wonderful friends whom I love and who I know love me in return ( and in return for nothing except being me).
I love you, Mom, and I wish you well on your journey, wherever that takes you…Be at peace and know that all is well.
I wrote this poem, or started it the night of my last visit to my mother, after weeks of not being able to put pen or pencil to paper. My younger sister, Martha and I had been splitting up the time and watch at the Hospice, though Martha had done the lion’s share of everything, living as it were just around the corner, while I needed a driver to get me first to Agawam and then to from Vermont to Amherst each day. In any event, just as I was finishing it, Martha called me with tears in her voice telling me that mom had passed away more suddenly than expected, no time to call me to come down to the hospice to be with her at the end.
HIATUS – June 18, 2017
“Just letting you know I am taking a hiatus because my mother is in the process of passing away and I need to give that my full focus.”
In the snapshot I take, you are almost not there,
barely stitched to your body by broken breathing,
those strands of beads upon which none of us pray
to keep you here, still here, still here…
the seeming years of days and nights
of your going having frayed the long wick of your life
till it seems impossible your heart pulses and breath
still clings to the flesh that clings to your bones.
In the stillness like stopped breath,
as the clock duties our days, from your morphine remove,
you can’t know how we mark a terrible time
while we wait for what is to come,
the inexorable exit-gong sounding: It is done.
All the same, they say life starts over, Mother,
if there is ever any life on earth without you,
as if we believed this day would come, or any other,
as if anything without you can ever be the same.
I left my fingers holding this uncropped so you could get an idea of just how small the portrait really is. Watercolors and caran d’ache luminance pencils.
The following poem is by sufi muslim poet Hafiz, and it just blows me away:
“Light will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain
You hold the title to…
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy
Even if your mind is now
A spoiled mule.
A life-giving radiance will come,
The Friend’s gratuity will come
O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation.
From a sacred crevice in your body
A bow rises each night
And shoots your soul into God.
Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One
From the lunar vantage point of love.
He is conducting the affairs
Of the whole universe
While throwing wild parties
In a tree house – on a limb
In your heart.”
I did this chair tonight with drawing Vine charcoal I made in the grill. I peeled wild grape vine then roasted the pieces in wired-together tin box pierced with a nail to let out the gases, for an hour..Inside after that was nice black vine charcoal!
The Second piece is my drawing in progress of which I will try to post a few stages..I have not come anywhere near to finishing it! Nor do Have any idea what it will look like when done!
These are the latest fractured portraits and artpieces i have done at Rutland Regional Medical Center’s PICU. The portraits are not meant to be recognizably anyone, unless of course, they are. The set of small oil pastels were just experiments. The last picture is a gouache painting, about 22″ by 36″. The others are about half that size and in colored pencil.
i started this portrait, derived from photographs seen in a National Geographic magazine lying around on Unit D, with the detested Crayola pencils that had to be a requisite 4 inches long or shorter…but eventually i was permitted to use ( and try to repair the portraits) with my Caran D’ache pencils, though it is very hard to try to layer anything over crayolas, especially on paper that is too thin to accept multiple layers…
Sometimes you never know who it is that has a disabling mental “illness,” not even when they are right in front of you. Not every person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, for instance, looks like it or pushes a shopping cart laden with household “extranea” down the street, homeless, filthy, and laughing wildly to themselves…Not that this is so terrible either, frankly. We should all not be so quick to judge. And no, we should not judge even this notion of the homeless-shopping-cart-person as “bad” or “wrong” — not until we know the person and understand what he or she wants from life and his or her history. I am not saying that anyone should freeze to death from exposure, or suffer from hunger or from any unwanted basic deprivation, only that no one understands the life conditions of another until you talk with them and come to know that person…
Too many people make assumptions that are wrong and/or erroneous based only on what they want and are comfortable with, not on what the other person needs and wants. Believe me, I know, having been there way more often than I wish and experienced it from that “other side.” Far too many times have people claimed to be “helping me” and have only hurt me! It is not that I think they were badly intentioned, so much as that they were only thinking about how they felt or would feel. They were not being truly empathic, not giving an inch or a nanosecond to trying to think about how I, personally, did feel nor for that matter asking me what I might want or need at that moment.
I want to remind people to remember that “ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and Me..” so instead of assuming anything about another person, especially someone who has an apparent mental “illness” or someone who at any rate seems somehow “different” from the people who are familiar to you, ask them questions…Find out what they want and what makes them comfortable!
As Toltec spiritual advisor Don Miguel Ruiz tells us in THE FOUR AGREEMENTS, which is the best book of its sort I have ever read, you can and should ask any question you want to, so long as you are honestly prepared to accept the answer.
By the way, the Second Agreement, in his book, an Agreement I find so fundamentally important, is Do Not Take Anything Personally. By taking things personally — that way danger and disappointment and all distress lies. Truly this is so. People are all in their own little bubbles, taking their own lives personally and frankly, think about that! We are only on the periphery of everyone else’s thinking and living, and in a very real way they cannot ever know us as we know ourselves, they can only know us through the lens of their own lives, their own bubbles. This revelation can be freeing if you let it…
That is why we should not take anything personally — because other people are too busy doing the same thing and not seeing us as we are, but only as adjuncts to their lives and thinking. If we truly knew and accepted this, we would be free from a great deal of angst and upset. But of course this is a very difficult thing to do…to free ourselves of the notion that we are as important in others lives as we are in our own. No, they are the important actors on their own stage, we are not. We really need to get over thinking that we are prima donnas in everyone’s drama as well as our own…Is not our own life enough? I should think so. Who would want to star in more than one drama at a time?
Gotta credit SNAPFISH for helping me make this movie…Thanks!