A poem plus art.

Edited on July 29, 2016 and reposted.

The poem below is the introduction to my third book, and my second book of poems, this time with art, which should be published in the spring of 2017 by Sundog Poetry and Green Writers Press, both Vermont publishers.  Wowee!!! I am thrilled. Tamra Higgins of Sundog has generously said that she wants to make sure that I have an art show and reading at the time of the book launching. Moreover  I believe that Sydney Lea, Vermont’s wonderful former poet laureate, who had agreed to write the forward for it when it was still going to be published by CKP will still do so for the new publishers. I feel especially blessed!!!

I am very much a novice watercolorist and these are two beginning paintings.

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TO THE READER

who may be sitting as I am
in a green recliner with a cup of tea
staring out through the porch
to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,
with a book in her lap, mine, I hope
the only one I feel I should have to mention
if I mention a book in a poem I write;
to the reader, the nitpicker, the one
who may be wondering why
on p. 47 there are two ands, one
right after another, and whose fault that is;
and to the reader, who may be tired
after a long ride home on the bus
after dark and a meal not worth mentioning
who picks up my book but finds his eyes
closing before he has opened the cover,
I say: Forgive me
I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner
with a cup of tea, I can’t explain
those two ands or the mysterious
streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired
reader in his bed. I can only put music on
and tell him stories to make movies
turn in his head, to let him wake
with the sudden understanding that poetry
may be all it takes to make a life—
well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,
and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,
staring through the porch to the streetlamp
where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—
and the whole night is wrapped
in the words spoken by two strangers
meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,
and all of us who listen are waiting
for the music of what is to happen.

Ice Hospital: Poem and Art

Five Watchers at the Tree of Creation
Five Watchers at the Tree of Creation

 ICE HOSPITAL

Living in a hospital is like living in an Ice Hotel

where all the appointments beneath the furs and fleece

are hard frozen to the floor

Like Ice Hotel staff, the nurses try their best

to be kind, to find compassion for those suffering

here on their sub-zero beds.

But really, they have their warm lives elsewhere.

The psychiatrist knows better. She visits briefly

once a day at the height of the sun, chewing her Vitamin D,

and encourages Hotel visitors to Happy Talk

and Life Skills. If she fails to ease their suffering

in any part, it is because she does not see it, blind

to the fact that the beds are frozen pallets that chill

to the bone. She sees only the furs and warm fleeces.

She cannot fathom why one would not rise and walk

under her cheerful ministrations after a few nights

spent on a banquette of ice. Only the aides

are savvy enough, being low-paid and long-working,

to bring in oil lanterns and hot water bottles.

The patients love them and when finally it comes time

to leave, strange how difficult it is to say good-bye

to even the hardest corner of this place.

_________________________________

luckily i no longer live in a hospital but in a little corner of paradise, in Brattleboro Vermont. And soon I will be writing you about my place. All week i had a headache, which was a beach that was decidely not Miami. But I stopped taking the Abilify on a whim, and wouldn’t you know, immediately the headache ceased. I cannot tell anyone this, because they will become up in arms at my stopping a “necessary medicatoin” but if I do not tell anyone, and things go just fine, won’t that be funny as hell? I think so. And that is precisely what happened when I stopped the Zyprexa, the last time. Everything was fine fine fine,. for six months, and never stopped being fine. I mean I did just as good off it as on it, and we never started it with any good being done, again.

 

But no negativity from me today. Instead I will leave you with the sunny face painting I did for a member of BRattleboro TIme Trade, in preparation for a papier mache sun we want to work on. Love to all of you!

Sun Face Painting By Pamela Spiro Wagner - plan for papier mache sculpture
Sun Face Painting By Pamela Spiro Wagner – plan for papier mache sculpture

Restraint Chair Use at RRMC

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Please note that i am reposting this frorm a week ago as it got accidentally deleted, but i cannot repost the comments. Anyone who wishes to recomment is welcome to.

It all started when i bodily “escorted” the nurse,KJ out of my bathroom, where I had situated my mattress, and had her leave my lunch on the table outside. I had been vocalizing loudly and softly virtually only the three words, “oswall wistofi matootam” for days uncontrollably, and over the past hour i had screamed at the top of my lungs from my room, which the nurse had to have heard but made no response. When she simply left my lunch at the table, i felt utterly ignored and abandoned, and in a rage of certainty that she was plotting against me, picked up the cup of coffee and threw it straight at her. With unusual accuracy, it found its target in her center. My next lob hit only the wall.

In certainty of repercussion, i slammed my door and waited. Soon the usual code was called, but instead of burly men bursting in the door, i heard them packing up the sitting area for quite some time, and it knew it took them some several minutes to prepare an injection of my medications. But my terror only increased, so i grabbed a chair to defend my self. Finally they opened the door. KJ in an oh so nice voice said, “pam, i have medication for you.” And they quickly grabbed the chair and four men upended me and laid me on the floor near the bed frame, which was covered in my artwork and books. It took quite some time for the staff to methodically pack up all items they feared, apparently, might go flying at them afterwards ( though if proper protocol had been followed from tHe first, nothing would have).

This proper protocol, by the way, had been developed by another nurse and i after much discussion of my detailed advanced directive and my intense horror of locked seclusion and mechanical restraints, both of which i have experienced in abundance and usually for discipline or convenience, almost never for any truly emergent reason. That said, i believe the first nurse, KJ had lost her temper with me, and decided not to follow this protocol on the unit because she wanted to punish me, as will be demonstrated by what followed.

Having brought the two IM medications with her, which the protocol for agitation we had worked out calls for, she eventually called for the men to deposit me on the bed frame so she could inject them, one in each leg. She did so. Then, instead of having them keep me in a protective hold for as long as i needed to calm myself and potentially fall asleep, which usually took little more than 10-15 minutes, she said, she was having everyone leave and locking me alone in my emptied room. I screamed aloud at this. “I have an advanced directive! You cannot do that!” I pleaded but they forced the door closed against me and locked it.

I screamed to no avail and then started hitting my head in terror against the door in an effort to get them to open it. This worked in a short time, and three aides were sent in. We sat on the bed frame and they actually held my limbs, i thought in such a way as to comfort me. Little did i understand the truth, because even as i very quickly calmed down, soon through the door, the same angry nurse pushed a big prison-issue restraint chair. She yelled at me, “now you are going to have to sit in this!!!

I yelled back, “No!!! No restraints. My advance directive says so!”

I want to interrupt here to quote the government’s own research. SAMHSA’s issue brief #1 March 2010 on promoting alternatives to the use of seclusion and restraints says:

“…the use of seclusion and restraint has often been perceived as therapeutic to consumers. This misconception has been challenged and refuted. Increasing research has identifed the role of trauma in mental and addiction disorders. Research into trauma and trauma-informed care identify common themes about the impact of trauma and how traumatic life experiences can impede an individual’s ability to manage his or her own behaviors or engage in appropriate behaviors in the community.

“Also, there is a common misconception that seclusion and restraint are used only when absolutely necessary as crisis response techniques. In fact, seclusion and restraint are most commonly used to address loud, disruptive, noncompliant behavior and generally originate from a power struggle between consumer and staff. The decision to apply seclusion or restraint techniques is often arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and generally avoidable . Moreover, some studies indicate that seclusion and restraint use leads to an increase in the behaviors staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.”

But they grabbed me and forced me into that chair and despite my struggles and terrified screams of protest they forced nine straps around my body, yes, 9-point restraints because K— J—-, RN, was still angry with me and refused to utilise our calming no-restraints, no seclusion protocol. This protocol had not only helped me but had also since then, so i was told, been used to calm and help other agitated patients without seclusion cells or mechanical restraints after i insisted that the unit staff start doing their “best to avoid restraints” with everyone, not just for me because my A.D insists on it.

Once strapped in to that horrendous chair, i screamed at the nurse, “You are just punishing me!” And calmly, she answered back, “Well, you threw hot coffee at me, what do you expect but punishment!?”

Then she walked out of the room, leaving two aides in the room to tighten the straps so tight that i could not move and felt the circulation in one hand go dead.

In horror, i shrieked for help. I pleaded for anyone to help me, for god’s sake. What the hell were they doing to me?!? Please just help me, someone!!? It upset the other patients to hear this just outside my room. I even begged them to put me in regular 4-point restraints on a bed where at least i could relax and fall asleep. Why hadn’t the nurse not brought me to the seclusion room to begin with, where the walls and door were all were padded if she was not going to follow the protocol?

In the end, it took two hours and two episodes in that terrible chair before they freed me.

That evening, as a response to the trauma, i defecated on the rug in the dining area, and painted with feces on the wall.

Surely this is no way to treat an animal, let alone a troubled psychiatric patient, especially not when there is already a calming,non-violent protocol set up to deal with her when she is agitated?

I say, chairs like this need to be trashed. Once a hospital orders one — and where do they get them? From prison suppliers!) they will use it. They say they use it for emergencies only, but as i have shown, once they have such a chair, it will be used abusively–always, always, always.

The only way to end seclusion and restraints is to stop it now and. For good. The more hospitals dilly-dally saying, soon, we will when we can, they will never stop. There will always been someone to say, no, what about this or that. But abuse is abuse and restraints are abusive by definition. Stop the use of a restraint chair and bed and all use of mechanical restraints by stopping. And then you will find a way to deal with problems arising that work better.

The painting i did below depicts the chair they held me in, minus the waist strap but with the toe restraints.

“There is no negative space, only the shapely void. Hold your hands out, cup the air. To see the emptiness you hold is to know that space loves the world.” P. Wagner
Pamela Spiro Wagner
rutland regional medical center
Rutland vt 05701

802-747-1855 until i can use my cell phone

Rutland PICU art

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.

 

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Art from Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU

waiting for meds at PICU
waiting for meds at PICU
Sad self portrait done in mirror after restraint chair incident
Sad self portrait done in mirror after restraint chair incident

 

 

(Sorry but my last post about their use of the restraint chair was very unexpectedly deleted…i still have the draft and can find the emailed comments, but i dunno that i have the heart to repost it unless someone requests it…)

Fractured Portrait of Lene
Fractured Portrait of Lene

 

I’m still here…

So sorry to every one for disappearing so unexpectedly. I was sent to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Emergency Room on December 31, 2015, largely because MRR was short on staff, and there i was brutalized for 6 days before Rutland Regional Medical Center took me in, on their state hospital PICU unit.

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In the ER not only did they restrain me as i have depicted, but they injected me with 15mg of Haldol and much more over the course of those 6 days, despite my advanced directive, signed by four people and notarized, that explicitly states that under no circumstances am i to be given Haldol!

 

The ER doctor admitted that he violated, knowingly, my advanced directive.  Due to facebook supporters calling the local newpaper in outrage, the newspaper called not the hospital–that would have violated my privacy, so they claimed, even though i had alerted the paper myself to their treatment of me! No, the newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer, called my twin sister, Carolyn Spiro MD and asked her if this treatment of me, her sister, and her twin, was proper, and her amswer was, Absolutely!!!!

 

So you see where she stands on the issue of the torture of both psychiatric patients and her own twin sister! I have had nothing to do with her for years because of this.

 

Meanwhile, i have many many good words to say about the Rutland Regional Medical Center PICU but i don’t have enough time on my iPad tonight to say them all. So i will just end with this other artwork. I hope tomorrow i can tell you more about RRMC where they are trying, in a very small constricted place, to do things right, at least in terms of seclusion and restraints.

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Trauma Art

John Dempsey Hospital Psychiatry First Floor, U-Conn Health Center, Farmington, CT
John Dempsey Hospital Psychiatry First Floor, U-Conn Health Center, Farmington, CT.  PAM  IN RESTRAINTS AND  SECLUSION for 3 days and 2 nights alone  in the 1980’s

 

I was left alone like this, offered neither food nor water and given only an apple when I begged for one, for three days and two night at John Dempsey Hospital in the 1980s at University of Connecticut Health Center, in Farmington Connecticut. If anyone remembers having been through this, Please get in touch with me! ( If anyone know whether Jim or Don Steadman, the aides, are still alive, please let me know…or have them get in touch too. I believe they would remember attending to me while the doctor kept me trussed up like this…)

Dreamer with Vulture Tearing At the Fabric of the Universe
Dreamer with Vulture Tearing At the Fabric of the Universe

 

Oil Painting, Maybe unfinished…..

 

 

 

 

AWAKENING

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I do not know where this photo came from originally nor who made it but i obtained it from Sarah Grace Wolfram’s facebook page, so i am crediting her. In any event, what it says means the world to me.

I DID NOT CHANGE…IN FACT, MAYBE I NEVER NEEDED TO CHANGE, I JUST WOKE UP…to the fact that the world i had been living in was wrong.

I don’t know what to do. My skin is thinner than gossamer yet people think i am thick-skinned and hide-bound as a hardbound book packed with information and feeling nothing. They have no idea i feel everything from the words people speak to the experiences they have and they describe. I feel it all in and under my skin down to my marrow, i feel, how to explain the knife-edge sensitivity of my life? When Jesse blithely talked about breaking glass and stepping on it, the shard penetrating his foot, MY FOOT felt the glass pierce my arch and plunge straight up through my entire foot until it broke the skin at the top of my foot, and i had to muffle my scream of pain so i did not embarrass myself…it is always this way.

I do not “like” dogs but i feel them too. I feel them! I know where they need to be scratched under their chins and between their ears…always. And why? Because i myself feel it under my chin and between the ears. I love cats, yes. Dogs and cats both understand that i feel them. All animals know that i feel them. But it is too much for me. To feel everything and all that pain. In medical school i could not draw blood from another student because i was too inexpert at it and i felt the pain i was causing him…and despite my hardened exterior, i feel everyone’s pain and sensations, except perhaps their pleasure….i might be able to feel that too, but i distance myself from that because it feels like an intrusion on their privacy. When teddy lays his head on someone’s shoulder, i can feel that pressure on my shoulder. I do not know whether Teddy feels pleasure or relief, that is to say, viscerally, i could feel it, but i must not enter that feeling because it is too private.

I also know what people are thinking. I read people’s minds. They speak what they think to me, and i hear it out loud because they think too loud, but then i get confused between their thoughts and what only i can hear and i respond to what i heard out loud. Then things go haywire, because they say they never said such a thing, and others agree, and i look “crazy” because they did only think them. But in fact, i did hear them think it and they spoke it to me out loud with their thoughts, and my only crime was not knowing the difference and responding out loud. In such cases, they always have the benefit of plausible deniability, and i have nothing…but the truth of knowing what i know, which is that i know what is really going on.

This exquisite sensitivity is both a gift and a curse. Over the years the brutality of hospitals and “treatment” has forced me to try to ignore what i feel or at least pretend to. But things keep happening between me and others that force me to know more than i would ordinarily — if i did not have this gift/curse — want or have to know.

I was always told, “you are just paranoid” …”this is not happening”. And was made to ignore the reality of what i felt was going on around me, rather than speak about it and explore it.  But i knew it was true, it was real, it was happening. You see, i feel people too, the way i feel animals, and i understand them, and i knew that they could not bear the fact that i heard their thoughts and knew what they really thought.

i always knew it was not paranoia, just truth they needed to conceal, due to fear and other difficult emotions. So they labeled me paranoid as a way to escape from admitting that i was able in fact to read their minds….

There is more but enough for now.
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New Art from VPCH

 

The first picture is of Danielle a staff member who was the first person to meet me when I was transferred to the state hospital from Central Vermont Medical Center. The black and white drawing is of Erin, who also spent much time with me, as I was on 1:1 and 2:1 the entire time I  was there. The last picture is of a potato beetle I found in a national geographic magazine on the unit.

Portrait: Three Greenlanders- Art from Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital

Three Greenlanders:A Portrait
Three Greenlanders:A Portrait

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art from State Hospital Vermont, November, 2015

 

The optics of unwanted  "treatments"
The optics of unwanted
“treatments” (you may have to scroll way down to see the next two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Markus-a staff member
Markus-a staff member

 

SISTERS OF NO MERCY

I just reread my poem and the incredible comments i posted from “Rachel” –who knows who she really is, a loyal and wonderful reader of Wagblog and a terrific writer herself — and i thought it bore a reblog right here on my own blog. Rachels comments about the difficulties of nursing in this insane world are right on! Thank you.

WAGblog: Dum Spiro Spero

POEM IN WHICH I SPEAK FRANKLY, FORGIVE ME

GOMER: ER-speak for a troublesome, unwanted person in the emergency department, acronym for Get Out of My Emergency Room

So many times gurneyed in by ambulance and police escort
“dangerous to self or others,” and too psychotic
to cooperate or scribble consent, you suspect by now
you are just a GOMER to the snickering scrubs in the ER
who whisk you in back with the other disruptives
lying in beds, waiting for “beds.”

One time you dip paranoid into the inkwell of your purse
extracting a paring knife more amulet than effective protection,
they strip-search you, then, unblinking, eyeball you all night
through a bulletproof plexiglass window.
In the morning, 15-day-papered so you can’t leave,
they send you ominously upstairs.

Later, at home, the voices decree your left leg
should go up in flames to atone for the evil within,
and you listen…

View original post 2,615 more words

Demons of Power and Sadness

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.

RACHEL PLATTEN

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

Into motion

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

SONGWRITERS

Bassett, Dave / Platten, Rachel

PUBLISHED BY

Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

HOW NOT TO DIE IN 13 EASY STEPS

This is an incredibly uplifting and inspiring post by Kurt Brindley.

RELATING TO HUMANS

On this day five years ago, I got the news that a recent lung biopsy showed that my lungs were inflicted with a severe form of graft versus host disease (GVHD) called bronchialitis obliteran syndrome (BOS). BOS, I came to find out, was a known but uncommon side-effect resulting from a bone marrow transplant (for leukemia) that I had had earlier in the year. And by severe I was told it meant the BOS was incurable, non-reversible, and, in most cases, aggressively fatal. I was also told — because I had asked and insisted on an answer — that, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of the time, BOS had only a 13%, five-year survival rate. In other words, there was an 87% chance that within five years I would be dead.

Well, it’s been five years and here I am – a newly…

View original post 2,096 more words

"While I breathe, I hope"– Surviving Schizophrenia

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