Poems start at around minute 9…If you need or want to skip over my reading of the essay. (!)
Poems start at around minute 9…If you need or want to skip over my reading of the essay. (!)
Am I opinionated or what? But someone has to SAY these things!!! Peace!
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!
Take a look at this amazing Youtube Video link PLEASE!
Aside from the fact that it is really stupid and cruel to say this to a student taking your course on creativity, and I was stupid enough to listen to him without objecting…Aside from all that, when Robert Fritz says artists can’t use art to work out their problems, I say, Balderdash! SAYS WHO? SAYS WHO?!!!
Can you imagine what the world would be like without artists who did NOT work out their problems in and through their art? A world without the likes of, and I am just selecting a few very famous examples from all over the art world:
Edvard Munck’s numerous depictions…
Just in case you doubt that he was rendering his emotional turmoil in pastel and paint, he wrote these sentences on the frame of one of the four known original versions of what the world now knows as
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
And where would the world of poetry be without Sylvia Plath. Surely it would be a milder and less rich place without her magnificent and moving poem, “Daddy”, which I will quote only in part below:
A contemporary poet who has for many years mined her life and traumas for art, is undeniably Sharon Olds. But one poet who made art out of exquisite spiritual agonies was the British Jesuit convert,
Gerard Manley Hopkins in the mid-1800s, who wrote what are now called The Terrible Sonnets, terrible because they portray with astonishing depth the suffering and spiritual anguish he experienced as a parish priest going through the dark night of the soul. I do not know of any poet, then or now, who has done it better.
This is one of my all-time favorites of Hopkins. But you really need to read it aloud…
Francisco Goya Saturn Devouring Son
But as Robert Fritz said to me in class, and I stupidly took to heart, “ARTISTS CAN’T USE ART TO WORK OUT PROBLEMS”…
Geee, they can’t? How dumb of me to think they can and do it, all the time.
Remember Franz Kafka? Why do I think he too might have been dealing with his authoritarian father in such books as THE TRIAL, THE CASTLE, THE PENAL COLONY or a story like “The Hunger Artist”…No, that is impossible, right? After all, artists cannot and do not do such things, not real artists…Not according to Robert Fritz, who is the arbiter of all things art!
Songwriters are notorious for displaying their hearts on their sleeves, as most of us know. But VIc Chesnutt, who later committed suicide, did this in spades, with his song, “Coward.” This song is far too raw and painful to me to place it here as a sound file. But I will give you the lyrics and tell you to look for a version of Vic singing it, as no one can do it better.
The courage of the coward
Is greater than all others
A scaredy-cat’ll scratch ‘im
If you back ‘im in a corner
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward
Courage born of despair and impotence
Submissive dogs can
Lash out in fear and be
Very, very dangerous
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward
Anyhow, I think I have made a case for stating that art — which can be used for a great many purposes, in fact can be used in whatever fashion and for whatever use you want to employ it, because truly there are no rules — most certainly one can work out one’s problems in and through using art. What better way to do so in fact? Better than taking a load of guns and shooting up the nearest _________! (fill in the blank with the most recent mass shooting locale.)
I welcome my readers to send me examples of artists who expressed themselves or used their problems to make art. I will add them to the list, especially if you provide a link to an example of their work.
Much love to all,
Pamela Spiro Wagner
Oh, I plum forgot! Here is my own example of using art to deal with problems:
Folks, below this I post part of Hillary Clinton’s grand Mental Health Care plan, not because I believe in it, but because I want you all to see what our next president has in store for us. And because I hope you noted what the last thirty years have wrought in DAMAGES. Yes, after all the miracul0us advances of SSRI’s and SRI’s and adjunctive atypical anti-psychotics added to these so-called miracle anti-depressants. OOOooh, we have gotten so much healthier on our miracle pills.YES! We have gotten so much better that we now, get this, commit suicide at a rate 24% HIGHER than we did in 1999, In fact we kill ourselves at our highest rate in 30 years.
Well, I am sorry, people, but this is fucking BULLSHIT, just bullshit. You don’t believe me? Okay, i am used to that. No one ever believes me. So go ahead and read what dear Hillary posted in her Mental Health Care Plan below, from the National Institute of Mental Health. Those are not my numbers but right from the NIMH. So let’s go ahead, take our happy pills and tell ourselves we feel better, go right ahead, but what do we do when another buddy kills herself or himself despite the sweet help of his or her neighborhood pusher, er, psychiatrist???
Well, don’t tell me they did not warn us: ANTI- DEPRESSANTS DO NOT WORK THEY KILL. And it is posted very clearly right there, above.
Okay. Being forwarned is only part of the battle, we have to listen and we have to act.
Sorry for being so strident, I am really sorry.
I AM JUST SO ANGRY, SO FUCKING ANGRY AT THE LOUSY BASTARDS THAT DID THIS TO ALL OF US.
Go ahead and discount me, I do not care. But look at the statistic I posted above and ignore the implications at your peril.
Hillary CLinton’s MENTAL HEALTH CARE PLAN
Federal Support for Suicide Prevention
Suicides, which are usually fueled by mental illness, are rising among numerous population groups, from adolescents and college students to veterans and older adults. The overall rate of suicide increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, and is now at its highest level in 30 years. Over 40,000 Americans die of suicide every year, making it the tenth-leading cause of death nationally. As the former director of NIMH, Dr. Tom Insel, often notes, suicides have 11 victims: the person who dies, and at least 10 people close to them who will never be the same. Hillary believes that suicide is a critical issue that she will prioritize as president. She will:
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.
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.
Sorry. Sorry! mea culpa!!! i meant to introduce this post with this: “David” wrote me with the following essay about his experience,which I promised to post for him on my blog. It follows:
” I saw Lady Quixote’s story printed out at the Hearing Voices meeting in San Francisco.
“What struck me was how similar was the story she told to my story. When I was a small child I did self hypnosis as a hobby. Later as a young teen I met a senior citizen from the Unity Church who provided me a lot of books about new-age psychic topics. She talked with me about automatic writing and spirits. I did many of these things in hopes of becoming psychic.
“Through my high-school years I continued to be interested in these things but only when the college experience overwhelmed me did I become preoccupied with the voices in my head. I would look for guidance in things as simple as where to walk. Since walking to class was a prerequisite to attending class, if I was guided instead to walk in the woods, I failed at college.
“In addition, throughout my psychic explorations there were instances where there were definite connections between my mind and the rest of the world. Although the number of true experiences were far less frequent than the imagined ones, they reinforced my beliefs.
“After I returned to my parents’ home I had the typical delusional experience of believing that there was a direct connection between the universe and what I was thinking and hearing in my head. Unfortunately what I was hearing was based on what I thought abut myself and as I spiraled downward, I was told that I had to kill myself.
“After getting out of the hospital and the halfway house with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, I returned to my parents’ home. A few years went by with little change but I began to doubt the veracity of my voices and found that I could dismiss or ignore them. They eventually faded away into the benign parade of inner thoughts.
“The thing that struck me after thinking about Lady Quixote and me is that there are some states of mind called schizophrenia that would better be described as suggestibility. In the old days folks like us were seen as having been possessed by demons, and perhaps the exorcisms actually worked when the people believed strongly enough in prayer and calling on Jesus to drive the demons out.
“I think that it is a shame that this type of diagnosis has not been made by treaters because it would be helpful to folks to understand that they can be liberated from their troubles in a much more straightforward way, as Lady Quixote was.
“Because, like her, I had some actual experiences that could be classified as psychic, having a diagnosis that labeled my inner thoughts as strictly delusional confounded matters. The psychiatric community does not acknowledge that some of us have to deal with both real experiences and our overactive imaginations. They are trained in the practice of science, which is opposed to the various phenomena we call metaphysics.
“I am happy that my inexplicable experiences usually involve rather mild, not very intrusive thoughts, as opposed to noisy voices. I try to practice good mental hygiene to keep the inner critic mostly at bay and avoid overstressing myself. It has been about 40 years since I was troubled with my inner voices.
Dear R, you who have asked me,
via my Service Offer (“I write personal poems”),
to “create” you a poem, can’t know,
when my second late night email
fails to elicit a prompt response,
how my certainty of rejection hammers me
into old penances, and how I tinfoil walls
and barricades against my extruded poisons.
Then when your emails resume the next day
mentioning your little white house,
a she-owl who watches you with soulful eyes
and your growing “sense of despair”
I imagine a woman of mature years,
alone, though perhaps through choices
not always made freely. So to meet you
I navigate unfamiliar and unpaved roads
parking behind a half-built barn
and a muddy old green Subaru.
Younger than I expect, you’ve moved here
to escape precisely what we never discuss.
You reference only the need for peace of mind,
and a relief from startling triggers.
Nevertheless, I understand your need to know
that spirit-familiar, the barred she-owl, Strix varia,
roosting on a white pine bough
outside your window all winter,
less guardian than too starving to move away
or predate the small animals atop the ice layer
between her and proper voles held in safety beneath.
Only when deep-freeze breaks in early March
and a shadow swoops silently across your pane,
do you know who’s won the battle,
and cheer for a raptor’s kill that saves her life.
The world, after all, is all about killing or being eaten,
which is true even in the human world
where your neighbors stalk you with barking dogs,
and talk nights, beneath your bedroom window
of that woman next door, who is not like them,
with her window salad garden and that owl.
Fearful, blind, they believe that hoot owls
harbinger death. Instead you try to see
the way a mythical Owl might see,
through cold and black of night
for clarity, for lucency, for whatever it is
that warms the living embers
and rem-embers your mind to peace.
This next poem describes the present situation, which continues…with the following explanations.
In the Greek myth, Philomela is raped and has her tongue cut out by Tereus, the husband of her sister Procne. Rendered mute, Philomela weaves a tapestry detailing the crime to inform her sister, who, enraged, takes revenge on Tereus. At the end of the story, both Procne and Philomela are transformed into birds. In some versions of this story, Philomela turns into a female nightingale, while in others she becomes a swallow. However, neither of these birds can sing.
Jerry Mahoney and Charlie McCarthy are two famous American ventriloquists’ dummies
I haven’t spoken out loud for many weeks,
bullied by “voices” to a frightened into myself silence.
Still, what does “speechless” mean
in these days of text-to-speech software,
with its choice of Vikki or Samantha or Victoria voices,
especially when I’m possessed of a blog and writing fluency
enough to speak my mind to my heart’s content?
Even so, being mute is not a manner of speaking.
Yet I tell you I can talk. Nothing physical impedes
my tongue, or locks my lips
except my brain’s hallucinated snarls,
Jerry Mahoney and Charlie McCarthy thrown
into surrounding shadows
ordering up this stoppage, blockage, blockade.
Now, like Stevens’ fire-fangled bird at the end of the mind
feathered unlucky, tarred, locked in golden cage
my voice remains only a memento
I wanted to say, but could not get out,
I couldn’t get it out, I could not get it out…
If this doesn’t make you happy, I am very sorry…I myself despite a massive migraine and fears of vascular bleeds found mysefl directing a virtual orchestra in the midst of my pain and by the end, PooF! magically it was GONE! Miracle of miracles!
I swore that after I left Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living last January, 2013, having spent the better part of a month in seclusion and many many hours brutally and punitively four-point restrained, I swore I would never go anywhere that would treat me like such an animal again. But then, having twice been treated at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital once in early 2013 and finally later on that same year, discharged with piriformis syndrome from having been forcibly held down and injected in the buttocks over and over with 3 different drugs, Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl, I said that I would NEVER again permit such torture in the name of treatment anywhere, no matter what they called it. No not even at Yale.
Given the massive traumas I have experienced these past five to ten years in Connecticut mental hospitals, abusive practices that have only increased since my first hospital stays in the 70s, I decided last August, post Yale: never again. Never again would I go to ANY hospital whatsoever.
To that end, my family, my family of origin, since I never married and have no money of my own, has taken it upon themselves to hire for me (or let me arrange for myself the hiring of) several personal staff members to “come on board” for me in my apartment 24/7 starting in late December and if necessary work through January, if there is a crisis. I haven’t gotten through any January without a hospital stay in several years, so it is a good thing to be prepared, on the one hand. But the very fact that I need not fear the hospital now might also mean I can avert the worst of any crisis! Who can tell? All I know is that we are all talking about how to help me primarily stay safe from what the voices command me to do, and how to do so without panicking or calling 911.
One thing I insisted upon was NOT using any agency, because while they serve a function, I suppose, they also pay their workers shit. And someone who is paid $8 an hour is not going to want to do the same quality of job for me, while sitting with me in my tiny apartment as someone who is getting the entire $20/hour, if you get my drift. And why would they? I need people who are committed to keeping me safe from myself at the height of any craziness that might assert itself, and if the voices command me to grab a pencil and suddenly stab myself with it, as they frequently have, I NEED to know that the person I have hired will be right there with me, ready to grab it from me, not in the other room reading a book, or cooking, or yammering on the phone to a friend. For $20/hour I think it might not be too much to ask. At $8/hour it might be.
For $20 an hour, a person can stay awake all night and not need to work another job immediately upon going home, so I will know that if I wake up in my recliner and hear command hallucinations to set myself on fire, she or he will be right there to stop me. Because that is how it happens, has in fact happened just like that.
It is the only way to do it. Unless $20 somehow is not enough to cut it, pay wise, (and I cannot afford to pay more, over all) (the people I hired are also already not working other jobs either…) I think it is not a bad wage, is it? Honestly now, tell me. I am not asking for much else but for someone to sit with me, talk with me IF i feel like it, and watch me to make sure I stay safe. The worst thing would be boredom I imagine. But I don’t usually bore people even when ill. THat is not often their problem. The problems are other things, for me at any rate, and those are that the people that sit with me in hospitals have NOT done their jobs properly at all, and have ignored all the warning signs, even my open pleas to please please “do your jobs. I am on “one to one” for a reason!
No, in the hospital, the aides just turn their backs and stand in the doorway, facing outward, away from the room i am in, and gab with the other aides, completely ignoring the person they are supposed to keep their eyes on at all times. It is crazy. I remember a woman named Jennifer deliberately turned her back to me no matter where I stood in the room, and if I went in to the bathroom, she left the outer room entirely…which was such a rule breaker. She knew what was happening, I think she was playing a game to see if I was truly dangerous to myself or not…Or really just didn’t give a damn.
Is it any wonder that at one point at one hospital, I asked to get off that status. It was simple: I just told them I was safe and they were so glad to reduce their workload they stopped the one-to- one immediately. The next thing I knew the voices had me begging to use my makeup compact. the one with a small glass mirror in it.
“Sure, you can. Just make sure you bring it back to the nurses station in five minutes,” said the Nurses Secretary, handing me the little black plastic thing.
Well it took all of three seconds for me to stamp on it with a hard soled shoe, break the mirror and slice up my left wrist bad…
Of course, they punished me for that. Or they would have, I know. But I remember, I wrapped a huge wad of paper towels around all the blood and told no one for hours, so when I realized that I needed stitches and had to admit to what I had done, it was too late for them to respond with the punishment of 4-point restraints…
The point is, the aides weren’t evil. Not all of them, or at least their lackadaisical attitude was borne out of a lack of caring which itself was spawned by being paid little to nothing. Why should they care? It was just a job to most of them, and little better paid that flipping burgers at a restaurant. Worse than that, because they had no perks and no tips.
So when I hire someone to sit with me, talk with me, keep me safe both from myself and hospital abuse, I pay them $20 per hour (and even $30 per hour over time during snow storms etc), I expect them to be responsive and not lackadaisical. I do not think that is too much to ask or demand. My life and health and bodily integrity depend on it.
Dear Dr Mucha and Ms Blair,
Forgive me if I must read this instead of simply speaking extemporaneously, but while I may seem collected to you, inside I’m shaking. Indeed, every time I recall what I recall, or reread the nursing notes about what was done to me this past winter here at the IOL, I start crying. I need to stay in control in order to retain some credibility and so I have written this out in advance in order to make sure that happen
Thank you for meeting with me today. Ever since I was discharged from the IOL in February, I have felt the need to come back here to speak to someone. Yet because of trauma-induced amnesia, it is only now that I have acquired my records and learned the details of what happened that I’m finally able to do so. But at the same time, I wonder why I bother, since it is not as if I expect you to do anything or say anything that will make a difference. You won’t. You can’t. No one ever does, not even when faced with the reality of the most egregious abuses.
Please understand that I know I was a difficult patient. I was loud and upset and hard for some staff to deal with. That is precisely why my Psychiatric Advance Directive was written out the way it was, and why I made my medical and psychiatric history online so available. When ill, I am frightened and paranoid, which makes me easily roused to irritability and hostility. I know this, from a distance as it were. But knowing this now does not mean i was in control of my behavior. I am by nature neither temperamental nor prone to temper eruptions or throwing things. In addition, I am extremely modest, hardly one to disrobe or urinate in public. My friends and family have at times variously labeled me “stoic” and “peacemaker,” which should tell you a lot. But that I did all these things on Donnelly 2 South both horrifies me and concerns me because these behaviors point to something going on distinct from psychosis: they point to abuse and trauma.
Let me make it very clear that I have behaved in such outrageous ways before, yes, but only in response to extreme circumstances – as when i was subjected over and over to restraints and seclusion in a horrific and sadistic fashion at Manchester and Middlesex hospitals in 2009 and 2010. It is too bad that when Amy Taylor took it upon herself to violate my HIPPAA privacy rights and investigate my previous admissions, without asking my permission (which I never would have granted) she failed to make the connection between their abuse, and my subsequent behaviors there…It turns out all she drew as a conclusion was that if those hospitals could use restraints and seclusion ad libitum, well then, so could she. It didn’t seem to matter to her that in 2009 and 2010 those measures not only didn’t work, they made things worse when Dr Taylor followed their examples, the same results ensued, just as my PAD predicted.
I was admitted to Donnelly 2 South, and I came in with the very detailed Psychiatric Advanced Directiveas as I said. I made it very clear that my online electronic medical record was available. It 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 who was also my psychiatrist from 2000-2009. Included as well was a letter she wrote to my present psychiatrist, Dr Angela Cappiello, explicitly stating her conviction that I do not have a personality disorder, borderline or otherwise, and never did.
According to Dr Sanjay Banerjee he read every page of documents that I brought with me. That is what he told me. Moreover, when he spoke with Dr Cappiello, he brushed off my concerns about anyone misperceiving me as having a personality disorder. My brother, Philip Spiro, MD, himself a psychiatrist brought the same matter to the fore again when in discussion with Laurie Denenberg, but 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 an document. “ If this was so, then how did it come to pass that Amy Taylor wrote on my discharge summary that I have a “long history of Borderline personality disorder” and herself diagnosed “Personality disorder NOS with borderline traits”? I was being treated for four weeks for an active psychotic disorder. She would have no way of knowing whether or not I had any personality disorder, given the axis I diagnosis and you know it. She did too.
Dr Mucha and Ms Blair, you were not there on the unit or in the quiet room with me, so were you even aware of what happened half the time? Did you know for example, that on Februrary 6, I walked away from the quiet room, strolled down the hall, looked out the window and slowly retraced my steps back to the quiet room. But when I arrived I I was confronted by a cohort of staff who proceeded to 4-point me, even though I was quiet and put up no resistance? Not wanting to give them any reason or justification, I passively lay down on the bed and placed my own limbs out for the restraint cuffs, saying, (I quote my journal entry made later that evening): “For shame. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I am not and never was a danger to myself or others.” Their response was “ You refuse to follow directions so we do not know what you will do. This is not punishment, Pamela, this is what your behavior brings on every time.”
Were you aware that they always restrained me, spread-eagled, so tightly I couldn
‘t move a muscle? That they never permitted bathroom breaks or even let my hands free to eat? That I would fall asleep rapidly after three injections –whether calm or not, it was a routine punishment needle in the buttocks: Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl —and they would invent reasons to maintain me in restraints even after asleep for hours? Or when I woke, groggy and hardly dangerous to anyone, they would grill me with questions that I could not answer, and they would use my inability to respond as reason not to release me?
Later in the evening on Jan 6th, for the second time that day, they restrained me, for throwing half a graham cracker at the wall. Then, as usual, they left me like that for six 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 earn my way into them in the first place. They always refused to release me, ALWAYS, until I literally cried, “Uncle” when they told me to.
As to those vaunted
“shows of force “ what did you expect? Presented with a cohort of threatening staff personnel I saw 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? 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 death!
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 me, knowing that one of the admission diagnoses I came in with was PTSD, how you Dr Mucha, could possibly approve in advance, the emergency abrogation of my PAD and a “just in case they are needed” use of restraints and seclusion. Why not counsel the person asking for this advance “right to restrain” to do all in his power NOT to restrain me and to work with the PAD instead?
Here’s what SAMHSA the substance abuse and mental health services administration publication has to say on seclusion and trauma:
“Further, 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 that staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.
I have been traumatized, and not just by hospitals. I was date-raped three times in my twenties and experienced traumatic domestic abuse by a long-term roommate. The cover sheet on the PAD made very clear that due to these trauma issues, I could not tolerate being secluded or restrained without serious consequences: regression and serious worsening of symptoms. Unfortunately, as soon as the staff saw fit to use physical methods of coercion and control on me, read punishment, from the first time a staff member grabbed me, all bets were off as to how I would behave. I certainly ceased improving, and my symptoms went downhill. Did they really think they were being kind and compassionate? Violence begets violence….
I tried to get help even when on the unit, at least I tried when I was free to make calls or leave my seclusion, err, forced-voluntary time-out two-week-long stay in the quiet room last winter. I made I do not know how many, but many, calls to the patient advocate office, but the sole time anyone made contact was when Carmen Diaz came to hand me some paperwork – I believe I was actually in 4 point restraints at the time — papers I could not read about the forced medication hearing. I needed her advocacy, but she never responded to my panicked calls in any way that was helpful to me. I wanted her help, but she never came by to ask me what I needed. She was less than useful, the fact that I had to go through her, and her refusal to respond contributed to my ongoing panic and desperate feelings of aloneness and depression. No wonder Dr Banerjee tried to force me into ECT.
And where did the ECT discussion come from? My PAD states in no uncertain terms that I would refuse ECT under any and every circumstance. My brother would be my conservator if Banerjee had sought to go down that road, and he would never have made any decision to counter my wishes on that subject. If Banerjee really read my PAD, he would have known that, and you too. Because he implicated you, you know. He told me that “Dr Mucha and I have made the decision to force me to have ECT.” Oh, I know, the chart talks about having “discussed the possibility of ECT with me” but that is not how it went down. I recorded the conversation in my journal directly after it happened and Dr Banerjee presented it as a discussion that you and he had, and a decision that you and he had come to, not one that I was privy to. And he presented it as one that I had no choice in.
Nevertheless, let me ask you this: regarding ECT and my so-called depression, were you fully cognizant that Banerjee had stopped my 75mg of the antidepressant Zoloft during the first or second week I was there? “Do you really need that?” he had asked, “You don’t seem depressed to me.” Obedient, and in any event glad to get off any medication at any time, I shook my head, assenting to the change. I remembered having trouble getting down even to 50mg quickly at Natchaug the summer before, I dared not mention this and frankly believed it had been a fluke, the opposite of the placebo effect in a sense…So I went along with Banerjee’s decision to summarily cut the Zoloft and hoped for the best. At least, I thought, if things go haywire, it will not be due to self-fulfilling prophecy, a doctor looking for symptoms he expects to find and conveniently finding them. And at least he will know the reason.
A week later, instead of reinstating the Zoloft, Banerjee blamed my sudden “depression” on my refusal of Lamictal, a drug I had not taken in months. Now he was applying to force me to take ECT, something I was terrified of, and to have calculated brain damage.
It was this threat, and the brutality with which the decision was handed down, that started the downhill course of my IOL stay.
The very next day, all hell broke loose. When I entered the conference room, I pushed some important notes I needed Dr B and Laurie to read across the table in front of them. They refused, claiming that I threw the papers at them. Instead, Dr B proceeded to berate me, and told me how he had consulted with other hospitals and providers and had read my records against my instructions and Advance Directive, thus violating my HIPPAA rights. Moreover, he threatened me with a behavioral treatment plan that would not permit me to do art or writing unless I “behaved.” I hit the roof, telling him I would sue the hospital and complain to JCAHO, then summarily left, slamming the door, an act that stemmed from feelings of utter impotence, because I couldn’t actually say in words anything more effective.
It could have ended there. I could have been left alone, to cool down and calm myself. But no, Dr Banerjee had to write for stat meds again, and even though I was on the phone and trying to find someone to talk to, to calm myself, I had to be physically dragged off the chair I sat on, away from the phone and brought to the floor in a physical struggle (because they had attacked first, ie physically grabbed me, I defended myself, instinctually). They could have waited for me to finish the call. They could have waited to see if I calmed myself. I was NOT hurting anyone or even threatening anyone or myself with harm. ALL that I had done, in terms of physical threats, was to throw a lightweight chair at the wall. And that, it was clear to everyone, was intended not as a threat to anyone. Furthermore, it was done and over with. I had left that area and gone to my room. I had then come back and now sat on the chair by the phone, speaking to my interlocutor on the other end. There was no need to pick a fight or encourage a struggle. A wait-and-see policy could have successfully guided the situation to a better resolution not only for the situation at hand but for the entire hospital stay. As the poem by Dylan Thomas goes: “After the first death, there is other.” Once they decided to use restraints, there was no going back. The first time broke everything, So they used them again, and again and more and more freely and without justification but for convenience and punishment.
Back to Feb 6, after sleeping for six hours, I was taken out of restraints just in time for a visit from Dr Cappiello. Observed by my 1:1 staff member, I could barely whisper and dared not tell my outside psychiatrist the full extent of the abuse that had been happening. Nevertheless, she took one look at Dr Taylor’s behavioral treatment plan posted on my wall, and told me that it would be impossible for anyone, even someone who was well, to follow it to the T. She was so worried about me, and about my ability to complete the requirements, even for a “mere 24 hours,” that she intervened. The next day was the single day that Dr Taylor planned to be out of town, so Dr Cappiello asked Dr Mehendru to evaluate me for discharge, telling her that she feared a power struggle had been set up that I could never win.
When Dr Mehendru came to see me, at first I was angry, as the chart indicates, thinking she was just another Taylor flunky, preparing to use more restraints and seclusion, But when she asked if I would like to go home, I took one look at her, saw sincerity in her eyes, and burst into a smile, ready to say yes to anything. Miraculously “cured,” I left the IOL that very same day, less than 12 hours after being released from 4-point restraints and not 4 hours out of seclusion.
However, I was not well. And within two weeks time, I was back in the hospital, this time to be admitted to Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, via their emergency room. Over the next 3 weeks I experienced an entirely different kind of care. At Yale I did not find a staff ready to fight or try to seclude or restrain me. This staff did not need their day to be hassle-free with drugged and cowed patients. Instead, they were trained to remain tolerant, calm and compassionate in the face of sometimes very trying circumstances. It worked. Even when I screamed and yelled and swore, they countered with compassion, and lo, I calmed, no brutality needed, not even IM medication. They had no need or use for cruelty at YNHPH. I felt they sincerely wanted only to understand and help me heal.
Appreciating the shock and trauma of my IOL stay, each staff member I dealt with did everything in his or her power to prove that hospitals do not have to be brutal or abusive. At the IOL they pretend to use “best practices” but in truth it consists only of coercion and control. Treatment at Yale was in fact the “best practice” possible, and it consisted mostly of being consistent. Consistent in being patient-centered, trauma-informed care, consistent in being not cruel and uncaring, consistent in being humane to each and every patient, consistent in extending a compassionate hand and heart to every patient and reacting in a different and more constructive fashion than did the staff at the IOL (or at Middlesex or Manchester etc).
And you know, though I was still the same person with the same problems, loud and angry at times, even “violent” to property in my frustration, and still psychotic, they never responded with a show of force. Why would they? At Yale it would be absolutely anathema to deliberately frighten a patient. What would be the purpose in that, they would think…. They also never showed up at my door with forced medication or pushed me into a seclusion room or strapped me down in punitive 4-point restraints, or any of the other ill-advised responses that my PAD explains are the worst things to do to anyone who is struggling, scared and paranoid. In point of fact, Yale Psychiatric Hospital’s Washington Square unit does not have a seclusion room. They also have a “restraints-free” policy, so they didn’t use those at all either.
The IOL on the other hand with its “We only use restraints and seclusion if we have to
“ policy, restrained me countless times, and for many more hours than was even legal. When I woke up that last morning I spent there, the room opposite me was occupied by yet another person in restraints! That is because, you know, once you allow a staff to use restraints a little, it only takes a little to use them a lot. And once you sanction the use of restraints and seclusion at all, it is only time before someone abuses them and abuse becomes the norm.
Some final points:
CMS regulations on use of Restraint and Seclusion
Restraint or seclusion may only be imposed to ensure the immediate physical safety of the patient, a staff member, or others and must be discontinued at the earliest possible time.
(ii) Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a patient alone in a room or area from which the patient is physically prevented from leaving. Seclusion may only be used for the management of violent or self- destructive behavior. This means that IOL’s definition of seclusion as being “kept alone in a room to which the door is locked” is wrong. I protested that I had been secluded all along, for a good two weeks before they instituted formal seclusion. I was not violent or self-destructive, and certainly not imminently dangerous to self or others…NEVER was anyone in immediate physical danger.) Yet you allowed them to abuse me and seclude me because I was loud and made people uncomfortable…Instead of dealing with me, you let them torture and punish me. WHY? WHY? Why? I want an answer to this question.
“The highest price of all is the price paid by the people who are restrained: their recovery is stalled by a practice that can disempower them, break their spirit, and reignite a sense of helplessness and hopelessness…” from Recovery Innovations
Worst of all, using restraints doesn’t work to make either the patient calmer and safer or the unit a calmer safer environment to work in for staff. In truth, things only go from bad to worse once you restrain an unruly patient…Violence only begets more violence…Moreover, when I was at Natchaug Hospital, i was told by one of their mental health workers that she had wanted to experience the process of being four-pointed herself so she could identify with patients. She was told no, because as the aide informed me, hospital administrators feared it would be too traumatizing.
Where do we go from here? Well, I will never return to the IOL; inflexible IOL policies have no safeguards in place to properly protect patients. I came prepared, Dr Banerjee said so. And yet it did me no good, because all the preparations and advance directives in the world do me no good when staff is given carte blanche by their own director to ignore them.
So where we go from here is largely up to you. You can simply ignore what I have written, tear these sheets up, justify all staff behaviors and throw away my complaint as meaningless information. After all, Dr Mucha, you are retiring in a few days, so you can leave all this behind without a care in the world. Ms Blair, even you don’t need to believe my words, you can simply trust the superficial, documented words on the chart, and if necessary, the lies of staff as to what happened. What you don’t know won’t hurt you. But lies they are, and lies they always were, even as they told me what they were going to write in order to get away with restraining me as punishment. The problem is that not everyone was so clever as to cover her footprints, so once or twice the truth was written down and not corrected later. I will show you those pages if you wish to see the evidence I have.
The problem for you is not that I am going to sue you for malpractice, No lawyer is going to take my case on a contingency basis. No one in this country or anywhere in the world cares about a mental patient who was tortured in an abusive hospital situation but didn’t die. I would be worth money dead, yes, but not alive…Your staff knew this and that is why they knew they could get away with it…No, the problem for you is strictly moral, one of conscience. But if you can live with it, then I cannot change a thing.
The IOL could change, it could adopt a philosophy of patient-centered, trauma-informed care, as Yale has done, but that would require changes that would involve every aspect the unit. I doubt IOL administration has the ethical or moral fiber or the political will to do it. I think you choose to remain a brutal, backwards and controlling institution because it feels easier and you believe it is cheaper, though both notions are mistaken. Sometimes it just feels easier to think mistaken thoughts than to challenge them and learn to think in new ways, absorb new paradigms. This is unfortunate because in the end the IOL would save money and patients would heal with less trauma, if you implemented changes that actually worked rather than resorting to the old ways of cruelty, coercion and abuse.
That is all I have the time and energy to say, for now.
I feel like screaming, I am a human being, you effers, treat me like one! But of course, that is what I would say only to one group of people, the hospital personnel who so tortured me, and not everyone does that. Though I get this sense that a lot of people treat me like I am my diagnosis and not a real HB…if you know what I mean. As soon as they know you carry some sort of MI Dx, and I do not blab about that, but they find out, esp if they know the meds I take, then they suddenly do not trust me any longer, trust that I live a life that even remotely resembles theirs. Suddenly they seem to believe that I am not like them in anything that they could possibly begin to believe in. Or worse that they cannot “get into my mind” and therefore they assume that I live in some world that they cannot possibly comprehend either…
Weirdly enough, I live assuming the precise opposite, that our worlds are pretty much the same, that what I think, they pretty much think. I assume that whatever differences there may be, they are very small when it comes right down to it, and that they are miniscule in the larger plan. So it hauls me up short when I realize that they believe they cannot understand me. And are afraid of me and do not want to try to get to know me, because of that fear. And it makes me feel VERY MUCH ALONE.
You who are married or have relationships or have had them in the past, you do not know how lucky you are. I never have. I have never loved anyone, nor felt that I was safe with someone and not going to be abused or taken advantage or or simply that I was with a person I loved and was loved by and was their first priority. Not someone who was my peer. Yes, for 7 years I was, I think, my father’s priority, maybe his first priority, I dunno. I felt cared about and loved. But he was my father and he owed that to me. I ought to have felt that way all my life. All children should feel loved and cared for by their parents…no matter what.
I feel so alone, so alone. I do not know who to turn to or who to talk to. I do not know what to do or how to stop this juggernaut from sliding down into the abyss, taking me with it . It started with the headache all week, which went away yesterday but came back with a vengeance again today! I feel like no one in my family cares about me or even likes me except perhaps my brother, and he may do so on sufferance, I dunno. I do not trust anyone…
How can I? I have been so broken by people who said they cared about me and wanted to help me and then tortured me (hospitals) or abandoned me (my father) that I have no reason to trust or love…I do love my family, mind you. I even like them all. But it doesn’t even matter to them whether I love or like them, my like and love are meaningless to them, worse they are burdensome to them.
I sense that this is often the case, and it is why I have never bestowed my love on anyone: people do not want my love, not my real undying love. They would fear it and hate it. It would be a huge burden on them. So I haven’t burdened anyone in the world with my love ever. Because I would never do anything so evil to anyone, not even my worst enemy…though I do try to practice love thy enemy, as I have said, and I try to make my enemies my best friends. Nevertheless, I would not in fact give my enemy the worst burden of all, the loathsomeness of my heart. Who could stand it, who could tolerate it? I would rather die than think that I had so oppressed any person with something so intolerable.
But oh, how I cry to think that I am so loathsome, and why is it? Who and what am I that I am so disgusting? Why did I turn out this way? I always tried to do good, and to do it secretly so no one would be embarrassed or have to thank me…and now what am I but a disgusting turd who only oppresses the world with her presence. Whose love and heart would only horrify the person to whom she gave it…Not that I would dare do so, but that is because I understand the horror of such a gift-curse.
How did this happen? What happened? It will never change, I know that. It is a fact of my existence, of Existence itself. My father cared about me, but he also know how burdensome I was…He was glad to die and leave me, I think. Or perhaps he could handle my loathsomeness because he didn’t have to deal with me much…Who knows. All I know is that I am alone, alone, alone…and I will never be anything but alone. How can I go on, knowing that? Oh, I will. I will go on. But how do you? Faking it, always, pretending to people that all is fine and dandy, because no one wants to know how awful things are, NO ONE. If they did, it would only be another intolerable burden…
So you fake it and smile and go on…That is all anyone can do, right? Stiff lower lip and square your shoulders and pretend it is okay. Because you have to have people like you, or smile at you…or you will die. And unless you want to die and you do not, you need those fake smiles back at you for food to relieve the loneliness that nothing and no one will ever fill.
Sorry about this post, but i had to write it. I had to get it off my chest or I would have cried all evening. I promise I am working on the Liebster Aware, slowly but surely. I still need to get all the 11 blogs in order, and the questions written, but I plan to do that on the train to NC on Wed. Perhaps I will have it all done by the time i am back on the 17th. My apologies for the self-pity in this post. I try not to sit there, but I cannot always keep my head above water, or my arse off that pot. I’ll try to do better. But if I cannot be honest here, then I won’t continue to write. It isn’t worth it to lie here and have to lie about how I feel everywhere else as well. Okay?
Thank you for listening, if you did. Thank you from the bottom of my impoverished, dried up, lonely old heart.
I wanted to add certain comments that were particularly to the point. Here is one or two from Lady Quixote:Dear Pam,
I liked this post, although I hate that you are in such pain, I like the honesty, I applaud the bravery, very very much. And oh yes I do understand, I relate with all my being, to virtually every word you wrote in this post, and in these your comments, too. Both comments.
As I’ve told you, I am writing a memoir about my similar history. I’ve changed the working title on my book a few times: From Here To Insanity, Healing From Broken, Growing Up Crazy, and some others. The working title I have now is my favorite. I’m now calling my book GOING CRAZY, a memoir of horror, hope, and healing.
The pain, the loneliness, the “shame” and isolation of having a been labeled Mentally Ill…. the label is a curse that hurts as much, if not more, than the disorder itself.
Here are the words I have on the cover of my memoir-in-progress, words that echo this post to the marrow of my bones. I have this on the front cover:
Mental illness seems to run in my family. (So does Protestantism and the tendency to vote Republican.) What causes mental illness: nature, nurture, or a combination of things? After a series of traumatic events, I had a “breakdown” at age 14 and was put in an insane asylum for 2 years. For the past 4 decades I have tried to forget my allegedly schizophrenic episode. But when I learned—in the midst of a family crises—that my first great-grandchild was on the way, I embarked on a Madness Marathon in search of answers.
And this is on my back cover:
Was I Cured of Schizophrenia? Do I Have “Complex” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
MY MIND WAS BROKEN—DOES THE “LABEL” MATTER?
The extreme childhood trauma that caused my mind to shatter was painful. Being diagnosed with schizophrenia at age fourteen and placed in a state insane asylum for almost two years was even more painful.
But my most damaging experience by far has been the shame and isolation I’ve lived with for over forty years, caused by the demoralizing stigma of having been labeled “mentally ill.”
For most of my life I’ve tried to hide my history. Now I’m telling my story to help transform the hurtful prejudice borne of ignorance, into the healing mindset of understanding and compassion. Having recently become a great-grandmother, I feel compelled to write my memoir as a legacy of truth and enlightenment for my adult children and grandchildren, who have suffered so unfairly as a result of my emotional wounds. I am also sharing my story for anyone with a background similar to mine, to let you know you’re not alone.
I’m sending you love and hugs and compassion in my heart and mind right now. I hear you. Loud and clear. I have stopped communicating with a sister who refused to honor my request to please stop passing messages on the me from our mother, particularly the “tell Lynda I love her” messages. NO, my mother does not love me. Her actions have proven it over and over and over again. I told my youngest sister: “I’m not asking you to agree with me or believe me, I’m not asking you to take sides. We can agree to disagree about whether or not our mother loves me, that’s OK with me. All I ask is that you please stop telling me that she does.” My sister said nothing, no response of any kind to my request. Then a few weeks later she posted right on my Facebook wall, on Christmas Eve of 2012: “Merry Christmas Big Sis, and Mom says to tell you how much she loves you.” I deleted that message off my wall, and my sister then deleted her account… so I deleted my account, for over a year, only coming back to FB a couple of months ago to keep up with my grandchildren.
I think we know when we are not loved, when we are not wanted, considered an embarrassment and a burden. I have grown nieces who do not know me, but they would post rude things on Facebook about me because I was locked up in an institution and diagnosed with schizophrenia 46 years ago. I was released from that place 44 years ago. I have had numerous doctors and therapists over the years tell me that I was misdiagnosed, I had PTSD or something else. But in my family of origin’s eyes, all but a couple of my relatives still treat me like the embarrassing crazy lady…. it HURTS. Yes it does. It EFFING HURTS. Worse than the pain and horror of “going crazy” in the first place. You SEE it in their eyes, you HEAR it in their words, their tone of voice, you DISCERN it in their body language, that “jumpiness” that 99% of the people get when you tell them, or they otherwise find out, about your MI Dx. It’s like a mask comes down over their face…. and you feel that ARCTIC CHILL, the deep-freeze of being frozen out.
Also, Pam, in a marriage the loneliness and the judgments, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes, the heavy sighs, the thoughtless comments, such as my now EX husband made to the intake nurse at Johns Hopkins University Hospital Psychiatric unit, where I had gone voluntarily hoping for HELP with my then-intractable depression. In describing the harrowing traffic in the streets of Baltimore as he had driven me to the hospital that day, my now EX quipped: “The traffic was so bad, I thought *I* was going to go crazy, HAHAHA.”
NOW I am lucky, NOW I am married to a man with severe chronic PTSD from Vietnam combat, a man who has spent time as a patient on a psych ward, so he UNDERSTANDS and does not hold himself above me or apart from me.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again and again until I die: The CURE for all types of mental illness labels must begin with CARE: Compassion, Acceptance, Respect, and Encouragement. Everything that is the opposite of the shunning, the subtle cold shoulder, the jumpiness that we can SEE and FEEL and HEAR because, yes, dammit, we may have a screw loose here or there, but we are not stupid, deaf, or blind.
Oh no, I just went back and reread my comment, and it’s full of typos. So sorry, I was writing in my emotional part of my brain, not in the editing part. Also I put that the message that made me go off FB for over a year was posted Christmas Eve of 2012. Obviously that’s wrong, it was 2011.
Brenda, I wanted to tell you that I appreciate the things you wrote, too, particularly the part about our need to be kind and loving to ourselves. So true. It’s also very true, what you said about hospitals being an unnatural setting, and that we cannot read minds, and there may be times when we are mistaken in thinking that certain people do not really like or love us. I do believe that is also true. However, that jumpy feeling you so honestly said you feel when you discover that someone has an MI Dx,,,, thank you for being so honest, and yes, that is an all-too-typical response, and it is THAT RESPONSE, that involuntary attitude of the general public toward people with certain mental illness diagnosis, that jumpy reaction is very easy to discern. And it may be involuntary and unintentional and even understandable, thanks in large part to how the media portrays people with serious MI labels, BUT.IT.HURTS, when YOU are the one being looked at and talked to like you are a freak, the boogie man, a strange and unpredictable creature from another dimension.
I am lucky to finally have my “certifiable” husband, whom I did not meet and marry until we were both in our 50s, and our sweet fur-baby Cattle Dog, who doesn’t know a thing about Mental Illnesses and couldn’t care less, so long as we feed and water and walk her and give her lots of back rubs. I worry about you, Pam, feeling so alone. Loneliness is a soul killer. I know, for I have spent the vast majority of my life feelings just as alone as you describe in this post, yes, even when I was married. In my experience, there is nothing more lonely than being married to someone who talks down to you and treats you like the worst of the personnel in the psych hospitals treated you. I don’t know why a man who looks down on the mentally ill would even want to marry me in the first place, when I had not ever hidden that part of my history from a potential husband. I can only surmise, based on how I was treated, that a man like that is looking for a woman he can control and verbally and even sometimes physically abuse, cheat on her and do whatever the heck he wants when he wants, and feel all justified about it and superior to her because, after all, his wife is “crazy.” I would rather live all alone under a bridge and eat out of garbage cans, to ever be in a marriage like that again!
Note to Lynda from pam: i looked and looked but just could not find any typos to correct for you…sorry. The date part i let you correct in your note, but the spelling typos just do not exist so far as i know or even that spellcheck can see. I know that there could be homonyms that were misspelled, but i did not detect any of those either. So there! 8) thanks for your brilliant addendum!
in the midst of a heat wave, with a broken air conditioner, which is why I haven’t finished the Liebster Award or anything else. All in due time, all in due time. Sorry but that is how it goes. The best I can do is post an unfinished painting of mine, which has nothing to do with anything but might partly express a migraine: a black widow spider gripping a brain (though there is no expression of pain on this face). Note that of course the Black Widow has a Biohazard sign on her back or belly instead of the usual hourglass. I was going somewhere with that, but the black paint took so long to dry that I got distracted and finally wiped it off and now it is sitting a shadow of its former self on my easel wondering what I am going to do with it now!
In this godforsaken heat I have made myself a cup of coffee thinking maybe that would help my head, but now I cannot get myself to drink it. So I sit, without airconditioning, in the heat, with this terrible headache, feeling like crap and I really shouldn’t write any more lest I write things I will regret later. So, I will only bid you a pained TTFN (Ta ta for now).
I have created these small creatures, every one of them individually handmade, for use by therapists in counseling. They range from about 4 inches to about 6 or 7 inches high. I started with Beatnik Bob, just for fun, but when I actually found myself comforting the little green girl-like figure with the black eye, which I call for shorthand, Traumatized Tiffany, it was a revelation. It is hard not to want to play with them, in fact. That is what friends tell me when they see them. Weird, because we are all way way too old for dolls and playing with toys, and yet these figurines seem to elicit something in us that made me think therapists could use them in their work.
If any therapists or psychiatrists out there are interested in obtaining some of these creatures, please contact me to discuss fees and shipping. I can make them to specification sort of, but after that, each piece is unique and cannot be replicated. Let me know if you prefer characters or the hairless, non-specific Whatsit figures.
I realize that doesn’t exactly illustrate the “blahs” but it represents the sum total of all the artwork I have done since I got out of the hospital in mid march…and I did it in one night, on a whim, as a gift to the wonderful social worker who just left a position in our building for the directorship of the community center in town. (I miss her terribly but she needed to move on…)
Anyhow, the point of my post title is mostly to explain why I have not written all month: I have not felt much like doing anything at all. I haven’t done any other art or writing, and all I managed to accomplish was to clean up my apartment, which only serves to paralyze me the more.
I will write more eventually, but for now I just wanted to assure you all that I am okay, just not feeling up to much and so not writing. When I am back up to snuff I will write more. (I might even film a tour through my apartment in desperation, just for something to post here, that is how bad things are…i am scraping the bottom of the barrel!) In the meantime, please don’t give up on me. I’ll be back…SOON.
This picture is Tim’s sister in law, Dawn, whom I drew at Christmas, in 2012. It took me about an hour. The elephant below is remarkable only in that it is my first painting, in oils, that I have ever done. And for that matter, almost literally the first time I have painted anything, except for a few portraits. I usually draw, in pencil or oil pastel. I have painted some acrylic portraits, in the past, but none recently, as I told myself I’d better learn to draw a few years back “before I go any further with painting.” I never ever did anything with oils at all. So if I achieved any success with the elephant it was completely by chance. I find oils very difficult. I do not know how to work with them, nor how to manipulate a brush or the colors, or how to do anything at all with paint. So this is an interesting journey, and transition, if transition it be. I do not know what will happen. Whether I will switch to oils completely, or simply use them desultorily…We will see. I am now working on another elephant painting, just for practice. Both of them started with the use of oil pigment sticks, which enable a sort-of drawing technique, very bluntly, and ended forcing me to paint, using either my fingers or real brushes. So it seems I am being led willy nilly to the brush and paint pot!
This last picture started as a doodle that I did of another patient at the Institute this winter, but I liked it so much (and the patient hated it!) that I finished it by changing her to make her unrecognizable. I would have given it to her otherwise, but she didn’t want it, so I said nothing more. But I gave it to my friend Bill, who loved it. In the mean time, I figured I would finish it as I wanted to and did. I love it myself, and would gladly have kept it, had no one else expressed interest in it. But once I knew Bill loved it, well, I knew I wanted him to have it. And it meant I took extra care finishing it when I did. I never really knew much about this patient’s story, nor about anyone else there. Nor did they learn much about me. I do not believe they ever knew what the staff was doing to me that last ten days, when they kept putting me into four point restraints. That was the point: I was in seclusion so no one had any idea I even existed by that time. No wonder I ended by screaming non stop and blood curdlingly that last night when they restrained me the second time for no reason. Everyone who had known of me had left by then. All the patients were new, and no one even knew I was there. I was aware of it, and I knew that if I didn’t scream, they would simply four point me for another 8-10 hours and get away with it…Well, enough of that. This patient did not mind my drawing her, for the few hours that I was allowed to be in the general population. In fact, I think she was flattered that I wanted to. Unfortunately, she was not pleased by the results of my efforts when she saw the drawing…and made her feelings clear when she saw the drawing.
One of my loyal blog readers, Donna, wrote a long comment the other day, and I asked if I could post it on the blog proper, as I felt it was important for her story to be heard. She said Yes, and so I am reprinting it here.
“I have many personal arguments against taking antipsychotics. First of all, I endured schizophrenia since I was about 10 yrs old without anyone knowing anything about it. Without being diagnosed, that is. Yes, I had been thought of as weird and even retarded by my peers, mostly because of social anxiety and being an extreme introvert that were a result of or in addition to the schizophrenia. But my sanity hung on the fact that I was creative and could physically exercise to the point of exhaustion. I think that exercise (running) was the most potent antipsychotic I have ever experienced, probably due to the release of endorphins and the subjugation of ongoing anxiety for a few hours. The hallucinations never really bothered me because I couldn’t remember being without them. Nevertheless, once doctors knew of the hallucinations, that became their excuse for medicating the hell out of me. And subsequently robbing me of my creativity and the ability to exercise. You can see where this is going.
For one thing there was exercise equipment in the hospitals I began to frequent (after starting on antipsychotics, of course.) but I could not use it without a doctor’s prescription, which was never forthcoming. I guess they didn’t put much stock in exercise. It can’t be patented and marketed and sold as a pharmaceutical. Once I began taking Zyprexa, the option was moot anyway, because I gained so much weight there was no possible way to run anymore.
Although I had schizophrenia, as I said, for many years before diagnosis and treatment, I was always able to read voraciously, retain what I had read, and use that as grist for the mill of creativity. Once I started taking mood stabilizers (which, btw, never stabilized my mood) like Lithium, Depakote, and Tegretol, I began to REALLY suffer mentally. Yes, I could tolerate hallucinations, but what I found intolerable was the side effect of being unable to be intellectually stimulated. I was laid low. I could no longer read and understand the combination of words. I couldn’t sit through a movie because I could no longer process the sensory input — what I saw and heard became separate entities rather than combining seamlessly into a meaningful whole. It was a frightening, assaultive experience. Even music ceased to be soothing. All I wanted to do, and practically all I DID do was to lie in bed just trying to think one clear thought. It couldn’t be done.
After the antidepressant and mood stabilizer failure, ECT was tried. Again, that only made things worse. Then came antipsychotics. The first one I took, Trilafon, was a nightmare. Kind of like what you said, Pam — I then had an inability to tell dreams from reality. The scary kind of hallucinations started, like seeing a gargoyle when I looked in the mirror. And the parade of multiple antipsychotics drifted ineffectually past the window of my consciousness. Finally, when I was given Zyprexa, I “awakened.” Would I have needed awakening if I had never started taking these medications in the first place? I had my doubts. But on Zyprexa, I could read again. I could tolerate movies. I could write creatively. But the weight gain that started with Lithium began to really pile on with Zyrpexa. My weight doubled within a few months. I had always been extremely weight and diet-conscious. With Zyprexa came mind-numbing sedation and a tremendous 24×7 appetite. So I was eating and sleeping, but I was also reading and writing.
Talk about the horns of a dilemma — I could take the medication and regain my ability to think and create but be a slave to the fork, spoon and pillow, or I could stop taking medication and keep my appetite and weight within normal limits and be insane. What I’m wondering now is whether any of this would have been a problem if I had never taken the medications to begin with. I became much more insane after being medicated and stopping the medication. To my way of thinking, medication had stopped the positive symptoms but had made me especially prone to relapse every time I tried to ease back on it. And the hallucinations had never been much of a problem — not nearly the problem of weight gain and intellectual poverty. Zyprexa did at least give me back a portion of my mind. Medication giveth and medication taketh away; blessed be thy name pharmaceuticals.
SInce then, I have tried just about ever atypical on the market, with the exception of Invega, hoping to find the “right” medicaiton. They were all promising at first, but each with an array of intolerable side effects. Anxiety. Hypoglygcemia. Hypothyroidism. Akathisia. Pruritis. Mania. Severe insomnia. And for a long time, I could return (somewhat relieved) to Zyprexa and what had become my standard of recovery — stabilization and the ability to think and sleep again.
Now, however, I refuse to take the previous 40mg of Zyprexa. My psychiatrist seems to believe the higher the dose, the more effective the medication. I have weaned myself down to 2.5mg which is enough to keep me out of the hospital but apparently not enough to keep my appetite so revved up. It does not allow me to lose all this weight, no, but at least I am no longer gaining. I am writing again. And reading. The problem is, this dose of Zyprexa does not solve the problems of anxiety and insomnia, which are pure torture. So I take the minimum dose for several days, then double that for a couple of nights in order to sleep, then back again. I used to just stop taking the Zyprexa completely because the weight gain frustrated me so much. The stigma of mental illness is bad enough without the stigma of obesity. Schizophrenia is bad enough without metabolic syndrome or diabetes.
The real kicker, to me, is that yes I was having problems before I ever started on the psychiatric medication rollercoaster. I had some psychosis, depression, hypomania. I heard voices once in a while. I had a roster of impossible people renting space in my head. But I lived a close-to-normal existence from all outward appearances. I could hold down a stressful job. I managed to keep a marriage together. I was winning regional poetry contests in my spare time. I had my own home. But it was not until I began taking all of these medications that it all went to hell. And now, from what I’ve read and what I have experienced, my body can no longer tolerate being without the medications. Life is worse off of them now than on them. I have to take Zyprexa or go back to the hospital. I have to take it or I may end up living on the streets. I have to take it or risk killing myself. My doctor says oh, but the medication has SAVED you from these horrors. But am I where I am today — on SSDI, unable to work, a slave to my fat-bound body — because of antipsychotics and antidepressants? Or am I able to be independent, sane, and creative again because of them. Or both? Somehow, something doesn’t seem right.
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