Category Archives: Acceptance

Don’t worry, be happy!

Recently a friend wrote to me that she was exhausted with worry about whether the future would work out as she wanted it to. She has many concerns and young sons to generate a lot of worries, so i sympathize completely. Nevertheless, this is what i wrote to her and more…

Remember that there are plenty of futures out there and we have absolutely no way of knowing which one will come to us as the present, not until it is the present. So you can spend your time worrying in the present about a future you cannot change by worrying about it (can you?) or you can choose to ENJOY THE FUTURE now by assuming that it will all work out beautifully. That means of course, that freed from worrying about a disastrous outcome, you will enjoy the present, too. Yes, it is possible that what comes will bring disaster, but that pain will be of its time and place alone. You won’t have spent all the weeks and months leading up to it also in pain, dreading what your worry could not possibly change. If disaster does happen, but you spent all that time anticipating the best possible outcome, then guess what? You enjoyed your life, and if disaster happens you can say, well, so this is disaster, but i did not waste my life in fear, worrying myself sick anticipating it. No, no, i enjoyed every minute of a different future that may not have happened, but i lived life to the fullest. Now, life changed but i don’t regret a thing!

I believe that people who can enjoy the best future imaginable also build resilience to the worst future that becomes present in their lives, and in a feedback loop they end up never facing the worst outcome, because in the simple process of facing it, and facing it down, they have already begun to overcome it. But they could not do this without learning the skills of enjoying the best possible future now, instead of worrying. This is how they have become resilient and their resilience feeds back and makes them even stronger when like everyone else, challenges do come their way.

You can do it. You can stop worrying today. You can stop that flow of tormenting thoughts that say xyz is going to happen to ruin everything. How? Not by stopping them but by replacing them with daydreams that are far easier and better. You know how some teachers used to scold the class daydreamer and tell him or her to come back to reality and Stop daydreaming?! Well, i am going to say the opposite: when you are worrying yourself sick, start day dreaming instead, start fantasizing about the dreamiest most glorious future you can give yourself, and then goddam it, give it to yourself! I mean this. Start believing that that future is real and think about you would act and be “if you really knew this” it would change you, wouldn’t it? Well…be that future, enjoy that future as if you know right here and now that it will be on your plate at such and such a time…i promise you, you will enjoy your present so much more than you ever did worrying! And who knows, instead of Not paying the mortgage on time (your worry) you just might end up buying a boat as well as owning your home free and clear (your fantasy)…but even if not, you have not lost anything but your misery. And that, my friend, is a very good thing to lose.

Love,

Pam

Injustice, and how to fight bigotry, one headscarf at a time

Here is the source for the article i have posted below: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/muslim-passenger-southwest-airlines-khairuldeen-makhzoom-arabic-phone-uncle-baghdad-cair-statement-a7347311.html?cmpid=facebook-post

Southwest Airlines kicks Muslim off a plane for saying ‘inshallah’, meaning ‘God willing’ in Arabic

A Muslim man was told to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger overheard him speaking Arabic on his mobile phone.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, a 26-year-old Berkeley graduate, was removed from the plane at Los Angeles International Airport in April this year.

Once seated, he had made a brief call to his uncle in Baghdad, telling him how excited he was to ask a question to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, during a dinner the previous day.

Before hanging up, he said the Islamic phrase in Arabic of “inshallah”, meaning “God willing”.

He noticed a woman staring at him as he hung up the phone. He thought at first she had been irritated by how loud he was speaking.

“One guy came with police officers within two minutes — I can’t believe how fast they were — and told me to get off the plane,” he told CNN.

An agent escorted him outside and asked him why he was speaking in Arabic considering “today’s political climate”.

“You need to be very honest with us with what you said about the martyrs. Tell us everything you know about the martyrs,” the agent said to him.

The political science graduate explained he had only said “God willing”, and the questioning soon ended – but not before dogs were brought in to sniff his luggage, he was searched and his wallet was taken away.

“The US is the land of freedom. People respect the rule of law. How could people be humiliated like this? That was the real shock,” he told The Independent.

“I lived under Saddam Hussein. I know what discrimination feels like,” he added.

Mr Makhzoomi came to the US in 2010 as a legal refugee with his older sister.

He was not allowed to reboard the Oakland-bound plane, and was given a full refund. He booked another flight with Delta.

Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said in a statement that staff had decided to investigate “potentially threatening comments” made by the passenger.

“Since that time, we have researched the event internally and also reached out to the customer.

“The internal review determined that it was the content of the conversation, not the language used, that prompted the report leading to the investigation. Our crew responded by following protocol, as required by federal law, to investigate any potential threat. We regret any less than positive experience a customer has on Southwest. Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.”

The student said he was left feeling “shaken” and could not sleep for days afterwards. He has called on the airline to apologise since they have failed to do so since 6 April.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings against Southwest Airlines for “racial and religious profiling of a Muslim passenger”.

“We don’t want this to become ‘normal’,” said Saba Maher, civil rights coordinator of the local CAIR chapter.

“We are looking for a federal investigation and for the Department of Transportation to hold Southwest Airlines accountable.”

Mr Makhzoomi said he is applying for his masters and is grateful that the US has provided him with “the best education, and so many opportunities”.

“This our home. We don’t have another home. The experience [in April] was just unpleasant,” he said.

More about: CAIRBerkeleyCaliforniaAnti-MuslimSouthwest Airlines

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Now, in this same light, due to recent incidents directed against Muslim women, acts of violence or vitriolic speech just because they happened to wear a hijab, or the religious headscarf that marked them as Muslim, i have started a Facebook group and page of similar name called WEAR A HEADSCARF ON JANUARY 20th…IN SOLIDARITY  WITH OUR MUSLIM SISTERS.

Please do not accuse me of supporting ” a religion that oppresses women” by these acts. I do not know that true Islam oppresses women any more than christianity has the face of the likes of soon to be Vice president Pence . I would venture however that his brand of Christianity is just as women-oppressive as any radical Islamic woman-hating sect. The thing is, this is not about someone’s beliefs about women. This is about the freedom of any person, whoever they are,  to believe what they want to and dress accordingly, and to not be attacked either physically or verbally because of their beliefs.

i know what it is like to be abused because of things i said and believed that others felt were “unacceptable” to them…and they had more power than i did, the power to physically  hurt me and force me to comply with their norms. But now that i am a freed citizen i will never let someone else suffer as i did without standing up for their rights to wear what they want to and believe whatever they want to, so long as it does not hurt others. And you know, so far as i can tell, Absolutely nothing in Islam is innately more harmful to me or to anyone than christianity is at the present time.

 

So please join me and WEAR A HEADSCARF ON JANUARY 20th, stand up against bigotry and stand up in solidarity against the forces of Hatred in Trump’s government and cabinet. Dont let hate trump the forces of love and generosity. Stand up and wear a headscarf for all the kindness and generosity and compassion that we have always stood for. Stand up and be counted!

Just for starters, here is a photo of me, “brazenly covered” by my January 20th inauguaration headscarf:

Wear a Headscarf on January 20th in solidarity with our Muslim Sisters
Wear a Headscarf on January 20th in solidarity with our Muslim Sisters

Toltec Wisdom (and a Little of My Own!)

Despair on Park Bench
Despair on Park Bench

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?

You Can’t Really Change Your LIfe, After All, Can You?

You Spew Poison into the World
You Spew Poison into the World

 

Of course you can’t change your life. Your “giants go with you wherever you go,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many many years ago, and it is still sadly true.

 

I left Connecticut, thinking I could escape, at least the hospital torture, but I cannot escape the voices that hate me and the demons that I carry with me, the fact that I burden the world, poison it when I exist in it, and that wherever I go I leave a slime of pollution and hatred..I cannot help that. It is a genetic flaw, no matter what good I try to do, the generosity I practice, the kindnesses I have done and preached, it all goes for naught in the end, when the poison leaches from my marrow and through my skin and permeates the world. People feel it then and run away, screaming…

 

I know this and feel it. and I cannot take it any longer. I have had it. Lord knows I have tried and tried to obviate it, to deny it, to remove the stain or fix it, but it has never worked. I am done. I can’t do it any more. It is over. I cannot deal with the voices and the evil that I am and cause any longer. It is so clear to me that others want this end from me too, because although they talk a good game about help and programs to assist me, they actually refuse to make them available to me, and deliberately– DELIBERATELY —  turn a deaf ear when I overtly say, I NEED HELP NOW…How much more obvious and clear spoken can I be?

I will NOT beg for my life or my skin. No. I do not deserve that. And if not one wants me alive or intact, then there is a reason for it…and I know what it is, as I have stated. So if I get the message that “this is it” today, at my appointment again, that We HAVE NOTHING FOR YOU, that YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN, that “we do not really care what happens”. then it is OVER…I cannot care for myself, the devil, and I know what must be done…

I have done all I can, I really have. Do not try to tell me I haven’t tried for 62 years as bravely and carried on ALONE as I could possibly do it and be. But I cannot do it any longer, I am sorry, But this is it. Either PROVE to me that YOU CARE THAT I EXIST AND DO NOT WANT ME TO DO…whatever.

 

No , in fact YOU cannot do anything, any of you out there. Frankly. This is strictly between me and the folks here tasked with making sure I am safe and it is clear that I have poisoned all of them already, I have used up my quota of caring and assistance and that is that. It’s gone. It’s over. I’m gone. GET LOST. YOU BAD RUBBISH. We have had it with you. You are worthless shit.

 

Goodbye.  I don’t know what will happen to me. But I can’t do this any longer.

TooGoose Lautrec, the Papier Mache Goose and How I will Miss Vermont, the state of my Dreams…

Pam with unfinished paper mache goose, TooGoose Lautrec....
Pam with unfinished paper mache goose, TooGoose Lautrec….    

 

Across the driveway llive some great people...
Across the driveway live some great people…

 

Kitchen and work area in cottage
Kitchen and work area in cottage

 

More of Work area and art area
More of Work area and art area
Stephanie is "gods gardener" or so I call her!
Stephanie is “gods gardener” or so I call her!
Steffie at the state park
Steffie at the state park

 

As my time here comes to an end, I will miss it and my neighbors terribly., I don’t know what I will do without them, and Lydia my wonderful companion. Returning to Connecticut with its horrible hospitals and indifferent treatment just feels like a disaster waiting to happen. I want to move to Vermont but I don’t know how I can make that happen. I have felt amongst friends everywhere here, but isolated completely for years in CT, despite my lovely dear friends there, I wish I could bring them all up to VT with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem about Forgiveness,Translated into Chinese

TO FORGIVE IS

To begin  要寬恕的實是太多

and there is so much to forgive:  頭一樁要算

for one, your parents, one and two,  你父母那麼偶然的一或二次

out of whose dim haphazard coupling  於幽暗中的契合

you sprang forth roaring, indignantly alive. 你呱呱來臨,憤然降世

For this, whatever else followed, 為此, 為這帶來的一切

innocent and guilty, forgive them.  無意也好作孽也罷,寬恕他們.

If it is day, forgive the sun  若是白天,寬恕太陽

its white radiance blinding the eye;  原宥它的奪目光芒

forgive also the moon for dragging the tides,  亦要寬恕月亮帶來的潮汐

for her secrets, her half heart of darkness;原宥它的弔詭.它的暗晦

whatever the season, forgive it its various  管他冬夏秋春.寬恕季節的多端侵擊

assaults—floods, gales, storms  水患,疾風,暴風雪

of ice—and forgive its changing;  原宥它的更替變易

for its vanishing act, stealing what you love  它的掠奪行徑

and what you hate, indifferent,  把你所愛所恨無情的奪去

forgive time; and likewise forgive its fickle  寬恕時間

consort, memory, which fades  同樣地原宥它的變易不忠,連記憶也不放過

the photographs of all you can’t remember;  以至你把擁有的拍照忘得一乾二淨

forgive forgetting, which is chaste  寬恕失憶

and kinder than you know;  它實是忠貞和比你所認知的仁厚得多

forgive your age and the age you were  寬怒年齡

when happiness was afire in your blood  原宥當年的你,那時幸福在血液沸騰

and joy sang hymns in the trees;  喜樂在樹 叢間高唱聖歌

forgive, too, those trees, which have died;  寬恕那些逝去的樹木

and forgive death for taking them,  原宥奪走它們的死亡

inexorable as God, then forgive God  若感上主不仁,則寬恕上主

His terrible grandeur, His unspeakable原宥祂畏人的堂皇和禁說的名字

Name; forgive, too, the poor devil  亦勿忘寬恕那倒霉的撒旦

for a celestial fall no worse than your own.  他那屬天的失足並不比你的過犯糟糕

When you have forgiven whatever is of earth,  當你把地上天上水裡

of sky, of water, whatever is named,  有名的無名的

whatever remains nameless,  通通寬恕了

forgive, finally, your own sorry self,  最後切記寬恕

clothed in temporary flesh  那包裝在短暫肉體內

the breath and blood of you  血氣正在消亡的

already dying.  悔疚的你

Dying, forgiven, now you begin.  垂死,被寬恕的你,現在要重新開始.

 

 

By Pamela Spiro Wagner, “Divided Minds” 胡思亂想

Chinese Recreation/Translation by Kenneth Leung Sep 3rd 2012, Labour Day Scarborough,  Ontario

 

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I received the email below very recently, explaining the poem above. The only thing missing is the translation of the title, which segues on purpose directly into the first line, and so it too is essential. I hope that Jackie’s father might one day provide that title line. Nevertheless, I am thrilled that anyone likes the poem enough to translate it. Thank you so very much, Kenneth Leung. And thank you Jackie, for sharing it with me and allowing me to share it here.

“Hi Pamela,

“I recently picked up your book “Divided Minds” and I couldn’t put it down.  Thank you for sharing your story with the world.  I’m an Occupational Therapist working in community mental health on an ACT team, so I interact regularly with people with schizophrenia.  Your story allowed me to see how difficult it is to first accept a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and then the difficulties of adhering to treatment.  I especially love your poem on forgiveness and shared it with my dad, who translated it into Chinese.  I thought you might be interested in posting it on your blog so Chinese readers can enjoy it.

“Blessings,

“Jackie Leung”

Different kind of artwork for me: Car Picture for Tim

Okay, this is for the boys!

1956 Mercedes Benz 300c 4-door sedan: What can I say, except Tim owns one and it is truly a cool car, if you care about cars! Anyhow it is my very first car drawing, so I am rawther proud of it.

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Some sad news that I only feel able to share now, is that  I had to put my beloved cat of 17 years to sleep on Friday last…and it was truly awful. I didn’t understand that it would be so fast. The vet injected something in Eemie’s vein, and she lifted her head as if in curiosity — then put it down — I asked how long it would take, and the vet said softly, “She’s gone…” I burst into tears, having had no understanding that in fact she wasn’t curious, she had been taking her long last breath. Oh god, I miss her so. I keep wondering where she is when I get up in the morning, and when I get home from wherever I have gone out to, I feel that someone is missing, that I need to feed her, and find her… and then I realize I don’t have a companion any longer, that Eemie is no longer…I am tearful even as I write this, and I wish I could post the video that a friend made of us a week or two before she became seriously disabled. She was ill, yes, but you couldn’t really tell on the video since we just cuddle. I am so glad that the friend had the foresight to encourage it. Because now I have that to remember Eemie by. I know it wouldn’t mean much to anyone else. But like any doting grieving mother, I would post it because I still feel the grief and feel somehow that everyone else would want to see it too. (Which of course would be silly but the grieving do silly things. I know that.)

To lose Eemie on top of my father, Leo, and Joe too just exactly one year ago April 27th feels like really too many losses piled on top of one another. But one gets through or breaks and I cannot let that happen. I do believe that I am strong enough in general to get through it, and while I did take Haldol for a few days it had more to do with the Middlesex stress (yes, a little to do with Eemie I admit) than anything else…Okay, it did have to do with Eemie, but I think without Middlesex coming up I might have weathered Eemie better.

But I got through it and I stopped taking Haldol on Monday, haven’t needed it since then, or have slogged through without it. Did the car picture since then, so things could not have been too too bad. Artwork is always good therapy anyway. Better than drugs if I can get myself out of bed and organized enough to do it.

By the way, my art show is up and on exhibit at the WETHERSFIELD LIBRARY right now. I have work on three walls, plus the display case, for those of you who live near enough to Wethersfield or Hartford to stop by and see it. If not, you can always check out Photobucket and see what is there, though you lose a great deal by not seeing things “in person” of course. It cannot be helped, naturally!

Enough for now. I hope last night’s post was not too negative, not too mean-spirited and revengeful. I was very angry, and very upset. The very idea that the director of the Middlesex Hospital psychiatric unit said anything at all, rather than simply remaining silence just incensed me. I think that was a grave mistake, and he likely regretted it afterwards. I suspect that the CEO probably told him that it was not something he should have indulged in…But what he said is said, and it only retraumatized me if anything. The notion that he, who wasn’t even there during the episode, and ought to have been appalled, simply took the side of my torturers was to me itself disgusting and appalling. But he will get his comeuppance, one can only hope, and I won’t have to do anything about it, since presumably the Joint Commission and the DOJ will do it all.

Enough of that. I am really tired and need to eat something. Ta ta for now.

Hospital Artwork

Me as the Ogre that Ate Manhattan

I did the last two of these at Natchaug Hospital this past winter, both of which may be obvious. The first, Under Attack from All Sides, was meant to express how I felt at the time, with the fingers pointing at me literally showing what the voices do, and the red high heel with a hand, strong, hefting that lethal looking spike — well those both belong to a certain someone I cannot name who wants me deader than dead and will do anything in her power to achieve it.

The second of the hospital pieces (I did others, but alas I gave them away and so never did have a photo of them to share…) is the last one posted here, the Ogre that Ate Manhattan, which is written partly in Spanish and partly in acronym. The message is KILL the Orgre that Ate Manhattan, but I figure you don’t need to understand that to enjoy the artwork…Not quite finished yet, but there is not a huge amount left to go…

Finally at the top is In her Hands, which is not done, though it may look it. This is a partly 3-D high relief piece, and partly a flat piece of acrylic painting. In truth a lot of it is optical illusion but not as a joke. The detail shows how her hands are painted onto the globe, not actually three dimentional at all; they just look 3-D because of how I painted them. I need to write more about more “important” things in my life, but for now this will have to do. (Addendum: I realized, days later, that I must have written the text of this very late at night, and possibly after I’d taken my Xyrem, the narcolepsy night time med. Why? Because a great deal of it was so badly spelled and some of it made no or little sense at all. I mostly do that sort of thing, dream talk, if you will, when I make the mistake of trying to write after I have taken my medication and get busy and forget that I am not “with it” entirely…so I am not aware when sense devolves into gibberish! Forgive me, anyway, if I seemed somehow sloppy if not wholly out of it!)

Pam W

Poem about My Father and Me

TYRANNOSAURUS REX

by Pamela Spiro Wagner

Tyrant, they called you, emperor, bully,

the first time I was in the psychiatric wing.

You finger-painted, yes, getting down on your knees

to smear pigment with stiff abandon

but afterward, in the hall, when I froze, contorting,

you let the whole world of the ward know

your scorn, imitating me, calling me “crazy.”

I seemed finally better. I came home.

But when I failed you, leaving med school,

an embarrassment and a humiliation

who couldn’t even keep work as a clerk or waitress,

you claimed suddenly “three children” not four.

Between us interposed silence for thirty years

as I learned to live on $3 a day, to write my life

into poems when I had words to share.

Years passed in “the bin” and out “on the farm,”

as I called the hospital and those programs by day

that structured my life. But hospitals shape-shift

after a dozen or more and there are decades

of my life that are lost even to memory,

each melding into another like shadows

on night-lit walls in carbon paper alleys.

One keyhole through which I see the past:

Shock treatment with its drowning anesthetic drops

and stunned awakenings. Then there you are,

standing in the seclusion room door

resuming conversation as if begun just yesterday

not thirty years before, no older, or at least

no grayer than “Daddy” again, shorter, yes,

but kinder. What could I do but respond?

I never dreamed that at eighty-three

you’d lose your fire, habanero, old Nero,

or that I, Rome, would ever stop burning.

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The above poem tells a long story in a few words, though necessarily only part of it. I have to leave it there for now, as I lack the energy to flesh the story out further. But in later days, after the memorial service and as the spirit moves me, I will try to write more. Thanks for your patience. As a good friend said, It — grief, tears, feeling alone or lost– comes in waves, but when it hits, it hits hard…

Photos from “Reflections on a Psychiatric Seclusion Room”

Reflection of Seclusion and Restraint : There is hope and freedom somewhere.

NOTE: this is a link to the finished collage, sans border of which I have no photo: https://wagblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/reflection-on-room-101-in-ward-d/

I now call this Reflections on Room 101 in The Ministry of Love, as a reference to Room 101 in the book “1984” by George Orwell. The place where recalcitrant prisoners faced torture with the things they feared most in the world.

 

I want to post today some photos from the progress I have made on my large collage of the restraint room (seclusion room) in a psychiatric unit. I must say that it gives me the shakes whenever I work on it, or at least whenever I look at it afterwards, and certainly when I photograph it. But I think that the fear and heart-racing palpitations are slightly diminished compared to this time a month ago. Possibly. That is what I am hoping for at any rate. The process of doing this is my attempt at “exposure therapy” I suppose, because I cannot live with what feels like PTSD any longer. (I know, I know, according to the New Rules, you cannot, by definition, have PTSD unless your life was mortally threatened; unless you experienced a tsunami or earthquake, mass murderer, or Hurricane Katrina, it does not count as “real trauma,” so say the doctors, and they should know, right? After all, they are the ones who defined the illness, and keep redefining it, and who made it up! Well, since they have the initials MD after their names, standing for Missed Diagnoses, I dunno if we can trust them on anything as important as deciding for us what it is that counts as traumatic. It seems to me that WE ought to be the ones telling THEM, no?) Be that as it may, let me change paragraphs and resume the discussion I left off so abruptly above.

Whatever the case, I do suffer with heart-racing fear and sweats and tremors that make it difficult even to take a clear photo of the collage after working on it but whether it is PTSD, I care not.  All I care about is 1) communicating the experience, or at least what the rooms look like, and 2) purging myself of the residual fear.

I don’t want to go on any further with that. It truly does cause me great anxiety. And I prefer to work on the collage and on forgiving the specific people who did those things to me. It is likely that they had grown to hate me, forgetting that I was a troubled and profoundly ill person because I was also loud and frustrating and violent…(treated with violence didn’t make me any more docile, I might add). So  things only escalated and escalated, when from the start their goal was to have a quiet unit that ran smoothly and had everyone get discharged in a matter of days, no questions asked. They did this by helping no one, by talking to no one, and by questioning no one. All they cared about was making sure that everyone stayed “safe” for as long as they were in their clutches. And that they would say so until they left. BUT I said I was working on forgiving them, and trying to see them as tired human beings, flawed but human. It does me no good to get all riled up again.

so I will leave it here, with the photos of the art. I will add only that I plan to redo the curtains, since as it is the blue competes with the sky. Also there will be a curtain rod, and such…But as you can see, it is still a work in progress!

You see the mirror now, and the bed with the restraints? The garden below the window?
No those are not “banjos” on the bed…Look closer. This is a psychiatric unit…
But so is everything it sees and reflects…
Behind the mirror, beyond the window, an open garden gate…

Psychiatry and Authority: Restraints Update

 

 

 

I want to update my “On Psychiatry and Authority” post, especially about what they did to me at “MIddlesex Hospital, which I can now do with more accurate data. I gleaned a lot of the following directly from my records, meaning both the nursing and progress notes and the “event” notes, which should have been written after each and every incident in which they felt obliged to use measures against me involving involuntary seclusion or restraints, including such things as: physical/bodily/painful holds, physical/bodily/forced escorts, physically preventing me from leaving a “time-out” room, i.e. a seclusion room, as well as a locked door seclusion or the dreaded four-point restraints . I have also used my own journal writings here as counterpoint, some entries of which were penned as soon after these things happened as possible — that is, when I could obtain a writing implement.

The first time I wrote about the particular incident I focus on here, I did not understand why I was naked. Having read my entire medical record from the stay, I now understand more about what happened, so I will start this account where it really began, somewhat earlier in the day. Also, and this is important, while they perpetrated a criminal act on me in this incident, there were others later ones as well. During those, I am described in words that make me sound as if I have gone something near berserk…though not in those words of course. Now, there is no context given, nothing is said, not a word, of what the staff is doing TO me or with me at the time that I am going so wild, but nevertheless, the chart describes me as biting and kicking and screaming and peeing on the floor and smearing urine all over the walls…and then there are repeated use of restraints and locked seclusion where neither were “necessary” and were always destructive and traumatizing. Well, unfortunately I have no journal entries after that first time. Why? Perhaps because by then they had drugged me up on Keppra (having decided I could not take the 2 separate ones I came in on though they worked fine and without side effects ) an anti-seizure med that made me so dizzy I literally could not walk, and my vision so blurry that I could not write even if they had not prohibited the use of all writing equipment. So I can recount here only the most egregious incident, the one that I believe triggered for all the others that followed, the one after which “all bets were off” as to any future “behavior” on my part, and from which I emerged so traumatized that I didn’t give a hoot what they did to me after that…

Before I get to  it though, I want to briefly recap where I am in my struggle to recover from the trauma that this stay at Middlesex Hospital occasioned, which only increased the trauma already inflicted 6 months before at Manchester hospital. Up until the night before last, as you know, my state of terrible upset had been growing worse and worse, so that I’d gotten to the point where I could scarcely think about my 6 week stay at Middlesex without becoming nearly hysterical with trembling and anger and anxiety and terror all mixed up together. I  felt as if death impended, my heart pounding wildly,  fear screeching like a car swerving at high speed until it nearly hit a bridge abutment. Every night, every day it comes back even now (new edits 3/2012) as if happening again. Then one night, I wrote the blog entry about Trauma and Acceptance, and I began to try to think about things differently. I realized that I could parcel out thinking about Middlesex little by little so the trauma of it didn’t have to eat me alive. I realized that I might be able to save my sanity, and spare my life from total destruction at the same time, if I decided to accept what I could not change, the first step of the Serenity Prayer.

Wonder of wonders, after two days of not letting the trauma appear on my radar screen, except insofar as I gave a talk about it for the Farmington, CT, NAMI book club last night, which included reading the Acceptance blog entry as its conclusion, I have made an astonishing discovery. Up till now I had had almost complete amnesia for the Middlesex hospitalization. However, it seems that as I remain or try to remain calmer, certain episodes are coming back to me. Not fresh, not by themselves, no, but when I read in my journal or even in the records something that I did not recall on my own nor even believe was true it feels, well, possibly real, and I can just begin to “get” a sense that indeed it feels familiar, that perhaps I did do that, did say that, that it did happen, even if I would not have remembered it without the journal jogging my memory. I am wary of induced false memories, but in this case since I have records of the bare bones of what did in fact happen, I have to try to trust that at least some of what I am retrieving is not pure confabulation woven from only my imagination.

I cannot bring my mind any further down that memory path yet. But I suspect now that I formed some memories after all, that they are simply buried for some reason, and that perhaps the trauma and fear have kept them from me. Now that I can relax a bit and not feel so angry and terrorized by my amnesia and by the one clear memory I have, perhaps some, if not all, will slowly return. Since I prize my memories — they are all I have and without them I have had no life, — I want them back, as many as possible bad as well as good.

Now let me continue on to the account of  Middlesex hospital in late April, 2010 and the first time they put me in 4-point restraints.

During the MD visit the morning before, Dr N wrote: “Patient later ..(?) ..to me that she didn’t trust anyone, that no one wants to help her and she is being punished by staff. I repeatedly said that she is not being punished and she is projecting….Patient escalating tension with staff. Rigid. Wants to die. Wants to sign 3-day paper to leave.” (It is not clear what he means by “later” — did he write this after the episode of restraints, when I did in fact tell him that they punished me? It seems likely. IN which case he did not listen to anything I said…)

RN note 1:30 PM: “Alteration in thought: Patient continues on constant observation. Continues negative, irritable, testing limits. Refused initially to shower, then changed mind and agreed to, then wanted to walk out of shower into dayroom naked. Agreed to dress after informed security called to unit…”

About these notes: one, what was I projecting in thinking they wanted to punish me? What? And it is typical that Dr N blamed me for “escalating tension” with staff. I wonder if he ever saw how they worked, saw in action the mechanism by which they’d cause an  escalation. 2) Most likely, in this case, I was threatened that if I did not shower I would not get off 1:1, so I “changed my mind.” And it seems to me that if someone “wanted” to get out of shower and walk into dayroom naked, it is a matter that the nurses could handle and ought to. I weighed all of maybe 98 pounds then. And if they had closed the door and made me dress, they could have. Why call security unless they wanted to threaten me, terrify me? That was neither compassionate nor caring. Methinks it was, aha, punishment.)

Moving right along…

All the details  that follow are “accurate” insofar as they are derived from official documents or my journal. Accurate in that sense. But remember that in the records, NO context is ever given, the behavior of the staff is rarely described, or only in the briefest and most self-serving ways. NO context is even given to MY behavior.

The nurse who wrote up the night’s notes says that I was angry the entire evening and demanded continuously that she call the on-call doc to discontinue my 1:1 status.  For some reason she writes that I was “unable to follow directions” when she tried to assess me for, I presume, safety, perhaps so I can get off 1:1. I don’t know what she is talking about here, but it is typical that the nurses cared only about a patient’s taking orders and following directions.

Anyhow, at around 7:30, she wrote that I “walked into the dayroom” and according to the RN notes, without any provocation (which is highly doubtful) began shoving and turning over chairs and then picked up the patient trash can and put it over my head. Although at that point the staff told me to “walk with them to the “time out room” I refused and “went to bed instead.” (That was written in the chart: I WENT TO BED INSTEAD.) Now, you would think that this would be fine, after all, would not they want me to go to bed and calm down? But no, I had not “followed directions” and so of course “security was called and patient required security to carry her to time-out room as she refused to move or walk.” Remember that this “time-out room” is exactly the same thing as the “seclusion room” — it is the same room, with the same “withouts” — without heat, without windows, without anyone to talk to, without blankets, without a toilet, without anything to make one comfortable…just a thin mat on the linoleum floor, unless they have taken it out. So they barged into my room where I had gone to calm myself down, and picked me up bodily and carried me to the seclusion room. That means by definition that they physically restrained me and physically, forcibly escorted me to the seclusion room where they prevented me from leaving, all of which are NOT permitted except in the case of “severe and imminent danger to self or others”…(so an event note should have been written up and a physician’s orders should have been gotten). There I took their Ativan and was told that I had to stay in the room for 30 minutes.  Why not in my own room for 30 minutes?  Because time spent in the time-out room is a punishment. Parents make children stay in a time-out room (usually their bedrooms!) when they don’t obey. Why? Because that’s their punishment. But staff doesn’t punish. No, they don’t punish…

Now this is how I remembered it the next morning in my journal: “I had been told to go to the time-out room, which I did voluntarily…” (apparently I did not remember that I had been physically carried there, but there is some confusion in the records too, because I went and then left and then was carried back…). “But it was cold and they wouldn’t give me a blanket so I didn’t stay long…This only led to more goons pushing me back into that cold and sterile room, 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 it this way: “Patient refused to stay in time-out room, 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 agree that I stripped off all my clothing. But the official records state only that fact, and that I “was changed into hospital garb” but in my journal I write something entirely different and rather revealing: Left alone in that cold and sterile room, I decide “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 got up and tried to push through the woman barring the unlocked door. She called for reinforcements and they came en masse. (Note: I spelled this “unmasse” — a dyslexic spelling of the first order. This is a symptom of my acute neuro-Lyme disease, since I was always a first-rate speller and would never have had difficulty with “en masse” had I not been in the middle of a flare up… as they knew full well).

“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. The security guard seemed taken aback. All these personnel hours wasted when all I wanted was one 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

“Well?

“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.”

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 and got me onto the hard floor, my cheek on the dirty linoleum and breathing dust. At first I struggled but then I realized that the less I did so, the less they applied pressure (there must have been six people or more holding me face down on the floor,  one of them practically sitting on me…).

Finally I stopped resisting and they let me sit up, finally giving me a blanket or sheet to cover myself with. The room cleared as everyone left except for one nurse, who was on one to one with me. She apparently was now allowed to talk with me and we conversed calmly. The door to the seclusion room was also now open.

However, there was some soft talking outside the door and I heard someone walking down the hall and opening a cabinet. I had a bad feeling about it and asked the 1:1 nurse what was going on. “Don’t worry. They are just getting you some meds or making up a bed for you.”  This gave me a very bad feeling, and I suddenly 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 calm. You know that.” I said that again loudly, loud enough so whoever was down the hall could hear me.  I began to tremble, but forced myself to remain as composed as I could. Another staff member then came into the room and asked me to come down the hall. Did I need an escort or could I do so myself. “Oh I can walk by myself. But you can’t put me in restraints, I am calm and it is illegal.” Nevertheless, I followed her to the empty room — I felt like “dead man walking” when I saw indeed that they had fastened restraints on the bed. The room was filled with staff members and security 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 said anything except to reiterate that they would assist me if I did not lie down on the bed myself. I was so terrified that they would assault me and hurt me, terrified of the fear itself, that I simply got it over with, lay down on the bed, naked, and let them do what they wanted to do, gritting my teeth when they removed the blanket that was covering me. Well, here is what I did not remember, the account after that from my journal:

“Well, you know that despite my complete lack of resistance, they shackled me 4 points (badly as their restraints did not actually fit the bed — restraints are supposed to keep the arms at your sides not below the level of the bed, and your legs are not supposed to be spread-eagled! I protested this fact but not so loud as to disturb others [when they released me] my back hurt so badly I could barely walk and once more my scapula muscles felt as if they had been separated.”

“I plan to sue you for doing this to me.” I said calmly to all as I left the room. Nobody reacted…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.”

Nursing notes were rather different, and I think were written after the fact, and hastily, perhaps not exactly ‘fact-checked” for accuracy after all. [Did a family practice doctor really see me? I do not believe so…why else would I not tell anyone about the pain, which she reports as non-existent.) But here is what she writes about the “scuffle” in the seclusion room:

“Patient was changed into hospital garb which she also stripped off. she demanded a blanket which was not given due to concerns about her tying it around her neck. [Note that I was ALWAYS under one to one surveillance!] She was encouraged to put the johnny back on and she refused. After staff left the seclusion room, patient placed mattress over herself where no staff including her 1:1 could visualize her. When staff entered room and removed mattress, patient again darted toward staff and attempted to flee. Pushed at staff, then kicked at staff, and attempted to trip staff  wrapping her legs around RN’s leg. During the scuffle patient ripped bandage off her leg and yelled, “I have AIDS. I didn’t tell anyone that before!” She refused to remain in locked seclusion without attempting to harm others. Patient covered with sheet and walked to empty patient room where 4 point restraints were applied. Patient continued agitated initially then was quiet lying still.” [Patient can come out of restraints when able to refrain from aggressive behavior towards staff and property and can follow directions.]

Now you get the picture. I was put into restraints as punishment, but as an excuse for it, they made up a reason, which is is how I can get out of them: stop being aggressive towards, 1) staff ( remember who dragged me into seclusion room? I had gone to my room and they dragged me out of it just to teach me a lesson in the punishment room! 2) property – I was a danger to property… I do not think somehow that danger to property is one of the reasons a person can be put in restraints in this state or this country. And the danger was that I had put a wastebasket over my head! 3)  following directions, well I won’t even go there. Just look at those “justifications” for keeping me in restraints and you will see just why I know they “had it in for me” that particular episode, but in fact were trying to get me most of the time I was there.

Be that as it may, I have contacted the Commissioner of Mental Health, and hope to contact the Office of Protection and Advocacy, which oversees the private hospitals in the state as opposed to the state hospitals, though I do not see why the commissioner is not involved in any hospital that takes state money, as all the private ones do…And seeing as I am a Medicaid patient when hospitalized, I would be a state patient were it not for the private hospitals being forced to take such patients in this economy, whereas years ago they could pick and choose, and did.

Finally, the MD’s “event note” observes upon exam in the restraint room that  the patient is “generally agitated, very verbal, lying in bed with the help of staff and security to calm her down…” I beg your pardon? Calm her down?! I was being restrained, one, and two, I was being tied to the bed with my arms over the edges of the bed, below the level of the mattress, and my legs were spread-eagled –I was naked, remember? and all of them knew it.

So that is all I have to write tonight. I am appalled. What sort of people could do that to anyone? Who were they once, and how did they become so jaded and cruel? Surely, as nurses, they must have once been idealistic and good-hearted and compassionate. Most people who go into nursing are and I doubt that many go into it for the money or for any other reason than that they care about people. I simply have never met any young nurse who was not idealistic and caring, but I suppose there might be one or two. So what happened to this group? Could it be their own “society” is not supportive, is backbiting and so lacking in cohesiveness that they take out their own frustrations and lack of positive feedback on those patients who least please them?

I dunno, I have been told that this mechanism is sometimes at work on units where staff behavior is out of control in such a way. But what made them in fact so much into control and coercion at all? Why were they not themselves empowered by compassion and kindness, which would have fed them better as it fed the patients better as well? How did it come about that they learned the wrong lessons? I don’t know, and probably will never know. But I did catch a sense of these strengths in one or two of the nurses, just buried in fatigue or long ago burned out…

Too many were too personally invested in the patients liking them or in behaving for them in such a way that made their jobs easy! That was stupid and nonsensical. Why should the patients have to be or do anything for the nurses? The patients cannot control their illnesses and staff forgot that in their own need to be in control and to have their own need met by their patients. I think  that is what it comes down to: at Middlesex, the staff’s needs were not being met by each other, or by the supervisors and colleagues, so they looked outward, and who did they expect to meet their needs but their patients, who could not, and could never do so. So they tried to make them, force them to. Or at least to toe the line and make each day quiet and easy to get through. What a farce. What a lousy place to be sick in, what a sick place to try to get well in…

That’s enough for tonight.

Trauma and Acceptance

 

Snowdrops accept the snow, grow through it, are first to see the spring

These past several weeks have been pure hell for me. In fact, despite some of my “up” posts, these past 18 months have been hell. I have found it nearly impossible to move beyond my experience and the trauma and degradation, the deliberateness with which they were visited upon me by people who should have not only known better but should have…

Wait, I have determined not to go there, not to revisit that dark place in my mind any longer, or not for now, after I can handle it better than I can at the moment. It serves no purpose, one, and two, it only feeds the fever of despair and revenge-seeking, an emotion that can eat you alive if you let it.

It was the notion, the actual feeling of wanting revenge and Dr Angela’s dismay when I said so this morning that brought me up hard against my own deficit of forgiveness, my own inability to accept that which I cannot change. I suddenly understood not only the horrendous feeling that parents must have when a child is murdered, how they must want to see the murderer killed, and how they must want the death penalty for the killer…I felt that much anger for my torturers. And at the very same time, I suddenly saw how useless it was, that nothing could be done, that in fact they would and had “gotten away with it” but that my only recourse was not revenge but to accept it and move on, because not to was to get mired in fury and bitterness and the morass of despair that was weighing on me and driving me nearly to madness every day. I had to stop, I had to stop and find a different way to deal with it, or I would die. Simple as that.

So I considered that family of the murdered child, and I understood that if that killer were executed to serve their revenge fantasies, would it actually bring closure and peace to them? Time after time, that has been promised, and time after time, people have not found peace in the killing of another human being because it never works. Violence to revenge violence cannot relieve the trauma of loss, or make anyone feel less awful. It would be far better for that family, and for me, too, to learn better ways to cope, to breathe through the despair I suppose, or even to work so that others do not go through what they or I have experienced, as long as doing would not reignite the trauma for us.

I am not sure I am ready to do that sort of thing just yet. I do not want to get angry on behalf of anyone else at the moment, for fear that I will only get angry, and anger by itself for its own sake will not help me. But already I speak out about these things, say what happened to me but in my speeches I try to end with words that segue into messages that bring hope to my audience. I could never speak about those traumas without something that would bring it full circle to recovery from trauma or I would leave them in despair and myself as well. As in a poem, you start with darkness but leave with at least the assumption that light is on or just below the horizon, headed in the right direction.

So there I was in Dr Angela’s office, and even though I was sobbing about this trauma that I could not surmount, that was eating me alive, the picture of that angry but grieving family appeared in my mind’s eye, and I realized that I had to find a way to help them, to heal them…and how would I do that? I would, I would, I would…First I would help them stop ruminating about the killing, since rumination is itself a way of making the injury or trauma worse, like continually picking at a scab. I would have them open up to the world and see what is around them, see what remains alive, what has not died. For me, I would look and see what in myself was not violated, what I can do in spite of what they did to me, understand that I still write and draw and paint, that in fact they did not take those things from me.

They hurt me, but they did not kill me. They only degraded my feelings, they only humiliated my feelings, they only frightened me. They made me feel as if they might hurt me when they attacked me and pushed me to the floor. I felt scared but they did not do anything that permanently injured my body or caused irremediable damage to my brain. I am still alive and in fact can still do what I used to do. I only feel hurt, feel traumatized. Feelings are feelings, and while they are not nothing, you can change your feelings. I might not be able to change an injury that led to an amputation or brain damage and I certainly could not if they had killed me.

I need to think about this differently in order to change how I feel. I need to think about what I can do, both constructively and creatively. What I can do about it and what I can do instead of thinking about it day and night. Well, tonight what I can do is prepare my speech for the Farmington Library tomorrow, and pick out the poems I am going to read. And tomorrow I will be cleaning my apartment and then meeting my ride and going to the library early. I won’t have time to brood or ruminate. I will bring my sketchpad and pencils, so I will have something to do while I wait.

One thing I won’t do is leave myself time to think, no, that will not be an option I am going to allow myself. If the Commissioner of Mental Health contacts me after reading the letter and documents I sent her, so be it, I will leave the issue in her hands. But otherwise, the case is closed, at least for now. I have a life to live, and I need to get on with it. If one of those people who deliberately hurt me, just one of them, went home that night with a bad conscience, ashamed of herself, ashamed of herself as a nurse, I am glad. But it may not have happened and in any event I will never know. But i will not brood over it, and I am not going to think about any of it tonight.

One day at a time, just take it one day at a time.