Tag Archives: collage

New Art: “Using Gustav Klimt’s THE KISS, A Collage”

USing Klimt #2: THe Kiss

 

New work in progress by pamela spiro wagner, a large collage about 2′ by 3′ made of tiny scraps of torn up reproductions of Gustav Klimt’s artwork and reassembled as my version of The Kiss…

Hospital Art 2015 #1

Collage of the voices- the Five People C. 3' by 2'  made with magazines on watercolor paper backing and largely glued with homemade glue of crushed saltines and water ( before i knew that vermonts central hospital would provide me with all the gluestix i needed!)
Collage of the voices- the Five People C. 3′ by 2′ made with torn magazines scraps on watercolor paper backing and largely glued with homemade glue of crushed saltines and water  (this was before i knew that Central vermont hospital would provide me with all the gluestix i needed!)

Trio of Psychiatric Abuse Collages: encounter, restraint and seclusion

Encounter in Seclusion Room - collage of torn paper
Encounter in Seclusion Room – collage of torn paper
Hospital Seclusion Room
Hospital Seclusion Room

 

Nude Schizophrenic IN restraints While Bored nurse Looks On
Nude Schizophrenic IN restraints While Bored nurse Looks On

 

you get the idea….no violence, just a scornful set of nurses and aides and a security guard willing to do anything he was asked…and chaos broke loose with terrible consequences.

New Art: Moth Whimsy – Butterfly Wolf!

Moth Wing Picture -- Made from wings of moths found each morning in Vermont
Moth Wing Picture — Made from wings of moths found each morning in Vermont

 

Transformation into the Vermont Butterwolf!

Butterfly Wolf or BUTTERWOLF!
Butterfly Wolf or BUTTERWOLF! (I was just having a little fun, digitally with a program called art studio but I really did glue a lot of moth wings to a piece of mat board before I fooled with digital pen and paint.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nude Schizophrenic in Restraints While Bored Nurse Looks On

Actually I “deserved” four-point restraints. I was “violent.”

Nude Schizophrenic IN restraints While Bored nurse Looks On
Nude Schizophrenic patient in 4-point restraints 

But I want to explain what “deserving” restraints and being “violent” at New Britain General Hospital (Hospital of Central Connecticut) means in 2014. I also want to tell you something else even more important: In Connecticut, the staff at almost every psychiatric unit or hospital will insist that “we only use seclusion and restraints when essential, when a patient is absolutely out of control and extremely violent, and cannot be controlled in any other way.” Trust me, I know, because they have said this to me.   But what you need to know is that they are NOT talking about some 300 pound man hopped up on PCP, waving a machete. For one thing, that person, whom I believe to be largely mythical at least in ordinary psych units, or if real now largely confined to correctional and law enforcement settings, the person they are talking about, the rule, not the exception to the rule of the “extremely violent” person whom they claim must be restrained due to lack of any other method of control, is, to put it grammatically correctly, I. And let me tell you about me. I will turn 62 years of age in November. I am 5 feet  3 inches tall, weigh, maybe 110 pounds on a good day, and have been consistently described as “poorly muscled.” I am also unable to use my left arm for much of anything, due to injuries sustained at the Institute of Living in 2013, including a small tear in my rotator cuff and possibly more than that– a fact the HOCC nurses/security guards knew and used to their advantage when subduing me.   I also want you to know that I am a decades-long vegetarian on the principle of non-violence — to people as well as to animals. I have opposed the death penalty since I was a nine year old child (when I first learned of it) and do not even believe in the principle of prisons, or in treating our convicted “criminals” the way we do now.   Yet in every single hospital I have been in since 2000, and of course for years before then (“before they knew better”) I have been brutally secluded and restrained multiple times as “OOC” — out of control — and “violent.” In addition to either physically holding me down by brute force, two people to each limb and one to my torso (this was at the only 2 hospitals  that did not actually resort to mechanical four-point restraints– compared to the dozen others that did), they would routinely inject me with one to three drugs as chemical restraints.   I am the rule, not the exception to it, of their supposedly “extremely violent mental patient” who is so OOC that Connecticut hospitals refuse to eliminate the use of restraints and seclusion, because they “might need them.” I am the typical example of the person they claim they absolutely must have the right to resort to violence against, for their own safety and mine.   Okay, so am I truly violent? What did I do to deserve their brutality? Or should we say, their “protective measures?” Well, at HOCC, in the Emergency Department, this is what happened, and I kid you not: I came in by ambulance, involuntarily, in the sense that I did not want to go but was brought in by EMTs and given the “either the easy way or the hard way” choice by police. But I did not resist it or fight. I was not restrained in the ambulance. in fact, I was mute and merely handed them my med sheet and my detailed Advanced Directive, on the first 2 pages of which is the important information about my trauma history and the critical need to know points about how to deal with me.   When I arrived I was quickly shunted to the psych crisis section and into a curtained off cubicle. No one took my cell phone from me, or the single book of my artwork that I had managed to bring with me. So I texted everyone I could for as long as I could. For a while I tried to obtain a crayon to communicate with, eventually and in desperation, writing with ketchup on the outer carton of my dinner container, begging for something to write with. Instead of helping me out, the head ER nurse penned me a note saying that I would not get anything to write with, that either I spoke out loud or she would not listen to me. How very odd and evil that she wrote this to me! She didn’t speak to me, she wrote it, as if I were deaf, even while saying that she knew I could speak and would not talk with me unless I did so… The idiocy of that act just sends sparks of rage through my brain even now.   She later spied my art book next to me on the gurney, and suddenly rushed me, snatched it out from under my thigh and raced away with it, holding it triumphantly as if she had won a prize. I was incensed. Why hadn’t she just asked me for it? And how did I know what she was going to do with it? Would she keep it safe and sound? Actually, though, I mostly just reacted instinctively: Someone had stolen the only thing I had of my own in my possession, and she had simply snatched it away from me, without a word or even a polite request. So I did as anyone would do, I think. I  raced up behind her and snatched it back!   Well, that was a mistake. That was bad, that was bad bad bad. I heard people groan and swear. I was grabbed from behind by two security guards and the book was wrenched from me again. Remember, I was mute so I couldn’t say anything, but I tried to resist, tried to gesture that the book was mine and she had no right too take it from me. Instead of explaining that she would protect  it and take care of my things, people started talking about how I had attacked the nurse, had assaulted her…She told them to put me in seclusion. The guards dragged me, resisting in panic, towards this hidden room, and I heard another nurse warn them of my medical history with a torn left rotator cuff. Hearing this, the guard on my left side, grabbed my shoulder and wrenched it higher until I let out  a blood curdling scream, wordless but vocal. “Aha! I thought you could make sounds!” he said in triumph, wrenching me again until I sobbed in agony. Then they dumped me in the seclusion room, with only a hospital johnnie on me, and locked the door behind them.   Even though I had no words to speak my rage and panic, I screamed and screamed. They came through the door with needles, held me down and injected me. Then, when in a rage reaction, I disrobed, they decided to four-point restrain me. I heard a guard say, “we really have no reason to restrain her, you know.” But the other said, “It doesn’t matter, we will find a reason.” So they did . Terrified, I did not resist, because they held me down by the left shoulder causing me so much pain I was afraid they would hurt me permanently. I also hoped upon hope that if I didn’t resist, they would let me out quickly.   Believe me, I had been through this routine enough to know what to try to do to minimize the consequences and the damage…   Fast forward to my being sent to the psych unit, about which I no longer had any choice, being labelled violent now and OOC as well as mute and schizophrenic (I hate that word but they used it).   When the doctor who admitted me, Dr. Michael Balkunas, came to see me the next day, I was still mute. He asked me how I was and I gestured my need for a writing implement to answer his questions. He coldly told me that he would not speak with me if I would not talk out loud. Then he got up and walked out the door, with nothing more to say. I was by then so upset and outraged that I got up off the bed, which was the only furniture in the room, and slammed the door after him. I meant only to make a noise to express my frustration, but unfortunately it caught him in the shoulder. This was not intentional, not that I recall, though I confess I was so enraged by his dismissal of me, especially after the violence inflicted on me not once but twice the night before in the ER on his orders, that it is possible I wanted the door to make contact with him. What I know is that I most certainly did not intend to injure him. I only wanted him to know, before he walked away from me, that I was angry and “speaking” to him the only way I could.   Dr. Balkunas’s reaction was itself swift and violent in the extreme, and extremely personal.  Enraged, his face beet-red, he bellowed at the nurses to order guards to force me into “Seclusion! Seclusion! Restraints! Restraints!” Before I could do anything or even assent to walk there, I was bodily dragged down the hall by my injured shoulder, to one of the most horrifying seclusion suites I have ever seen. A set of two cells, each lockable from the outside, completely barren and cold except for a concrete bed set into the concrete wall, with a plastic mattress on it. Nothing else. No commode, no bed pan, nothing but two obvious cameras in the ceiling, but no obvious way for me to communicate with anyone. They locked me in, locked the second door a room away, so I was thoroughly alone and soundproofed from the rest of the unit, and walked away.   I panicked immediately, and urinated on the floor in my panic. I took off my clothes. I screamed — wanting someone to talk to me, I wanted warm dry clothing to wear, but there was no response. I screamed and screamed. Nothing. Not a word. I did not even understand at that time that there was an intercom they could hear me through. I thought I was completely alone and abandoned, but for the eye of the camera. So I did what I had to. I KNEW what would happen, I knew this because it was SOP. But I was freezing in there, with the A/C on full bore and at 110 pounds and a history of frost bite I cannot tolerate being cold. I also had NO inkling as to how long they would keep me there, one hour or sixteen. All I knew was that I could not tolerate the isolation, one, and I would not survive the freezing temperature, two.   So I took the urine-wet johnnie I had taken off and I rolled it into a rope and tied it around my neck. I pulled on it as if to strangle myself. It was useless of course, because I couldn’t keep pulling it without letting go and then I would breathe. And I didn’t want to die, I just wanted it to LOOK as if I were strangling myself so someone would come in and I could explain that I was COLD!   Well, finally the intercom crackled to life and someone said, “Pamela, take that away from your neck now.” I gestured something that clearly indicated, “I’m freezing cold!” The voice spoke again, “If you don’t remove that from your neck, we will restrain you.” I answered silently but in clear gestures, “I need something warm to wear!”   Well, this was a battle I was destined to lose, of course. And eventually but not so quickly as to indicate that they were seriously concerned about my safety, guards and nurses entered the room, along with a gurney, and they did as they had threatened,  injuring me in the process. They grabbed me and hoisted me onto the gurney and locked me into leather restraint cuffs, in a painful and illegal spread-eagle position, despite my groans of pain and protest, then they refused even to cover me with a blanket. Someone threw a small towel over my lower torso and that was all. They they positioned an aide at the door and trooped out.  I screamed my lungs out, and gestured my desperate need for water and warmth, but the aide simply ignored me, saying she wasn’t permitted to talk to me, and couldn’t get me what I needed.   That was how violent I was. And that is how the most violent patients are treated and why they MUST be restrained, for their own safety and the safety of others…Right? NOT!   ALL the other times I was secluded it was because i was disturbing the peace of the unit. I was loud and complaining, or simply “agitated” because i walked the halls too much. That was it. That is the rule not the exception, and if you read my posts about my incarceration at the Hartford Hospital Institute of Living in the winter of 2013 you will get a similar picture. I am not the 300 pound crazed man on PCP wielding a weapon, no, I am a small, elderly woman who is non-compliant with the unit milieu and wants only to be warm…that is about it. But each and every hospital claimed that I had to be restrained, that they had NO alternative, that I was so violent that they had no choice, even though it often took only one or two people to do so, because I didn’t  resist or  say a word, just lay there while they pinioned me to the bed.   Now you tell me that restraints and seclusion are necessary ‘modalities of treatment” that cannot be done away with because they might be needed in an emergency. Emergency schmergency. I am that emergency and they were and are NEVER needed, EVER.

Hospital Seclusion Room…plus

Hospital Seclusion Room
Hospital Seclusion Room

 

When I was at New Britain General Hospital in the spring of 2014, the security guards stripped me naked and left me in the freezing and barren seclusion room…This is a depiction of a younger woman largely because no one gives a damn about what happens to a 61 year old woman anywhere..but the seclusion room is pretty danged accurate.

 

Old Movie Star in conte crayon and charcoal
Old Movie Star in conte crayon and charcoal

The Voices in my head: Collage art made At Yale Psychiatric hospital 2013

 

But in truth I screamed all three weeks and never stopped. I am still hoarse!
But in truth I screamed all three weeks and never stopped. I am still hoarse!

I just was released from the Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and i regret to say that it was far from the kind and gentle “soft place to land” in a crisis that i remembered. Partly this was my fault, for wanting to not take the meds that i already knew would be forced on me, quite despite Dr Milstein’s assurance to my outside psychiatrist that he would never force meds or Zyprexa on me as “it doesnt work.”

No, I did not know that meds would be FORCED on me…Not until Robert Ostroff MD took over my care and made it clear he did not give a damn how I felt. He decided to punish me with massive doses of Haldol when I refused Zyprexa, and I know he is of an age to understand what he was doing. One, he is a Yale Physician, so he knew of the hearings in Congress back in the 70s where the Russian dissidents were complaining of TORTURE by Haldol injection, and where Congress actually decreed that the drug was in fact an instrument of torture when use on Russian citizens…He KNEW what he was doing to me, PUNISHING me. He just had the power to do it and could. So he did. He NEVER saw me to talk to me, NOT once. No, he just oversaw torture, and while Robert Milstein, MD (basically a good guy, if deluded into believing that psych meds are good for people) was supposedly on vacation, he too was available and did nothing to stop this. For that I do not forgive him…Or, I forgive him, but will never trust him to treat me again. No, I will never go back there.

In fact, I’m here to say that no hospital psychiatrist can be trusted when they promise not to force you to take drugs…that is what they are paid to do and are largely paid to believe in. It did me little good to try NOT to sound like i was ranting and raving esp when attempting to persuade either doctor or social worker in hospital to read Robert Whitaker’s ANATOMY OF AN EPIDEMIC or even borrow my copy of his MAD IN AMERICA, both books i find life and mind changing in a major way, even a year after i started reading them for the first time.

I dunno what to do though, in terms of meds. I function fine in between times in hospital, mostly. And so are the Abilify and Geodon helping or simply not Not preventing a relapse when it comes? There is reason to think that Geodon may be damaging my heart, slowly but surely. My EKG said something Dr Milstein refused to explain about a “probable infarct” but was that me, my heart or some general info on the EKG sheet? I wasnt allowed to look at it long enough and NO ONE answered my questions about it. Probably fearing i would stop taking the offending medication, which was true and i did anyway so they ought to have talked to me honestly.

But honesty is not a general policy in brutal psychiatric units where they restrain you, holding you down and bruise you to give you injections of Stat meds that are really ordered only because someone with the power to order them got angry and resentful…

I cannot sugarcoat my own demeanor during this stay. I was not a pleasant patient to anyone most of the time. And at the worst times i was likely considered horrendous. I screamed daily at the top of my lungs, i resisted their treatments physically and violently, i defecated on the floor of my room and even put handsful of shit across the walls, and apparently i even threw a cup of coffee at someone…though i do not remember doing this and the report may have been distorted by second hand information about me, coming back to me. But i was a horrible patient and one aide even called me, every chance he got, a dog, a pig, a swine….in covert secret ways, audible and openly but when no one else was around to hear him except the other aide who would back up his story that it never happened.

On the other hand, there were a few kind and compassionate understanding people who did not throw my smearing shit in my face or even take my calling them horrible names (bestowed on my vocabulary by a former friend who called me them) personally.

I need to enlist just such people for private duty help for the next relapse, if it should happen…but how? Ads on hospital cafeteria walls? How to vet the sign-uppers, so i do not get attendants that will abuse me in my own home? How to trust, and when, what they or references tell me? So many references are positive and therefore lies that they are tantamount to useless unless secretly negative!

Decisions decisions….must be made well before anyone is needed to help me at home….one to one, constant observation-plus!

Well, i am still recuperating, and worried about deep hip pain though seemingly improving is scary, reminding me of the avascular necrosis bout i had about five years ago. Was it meds induced? possibly because it healed magically in a month post radiographic dx, with a stay in psych hospital and change in those meds. But if i dont withdraw abruptly from, say, topamax or geodon, but slowly, will the hip pain continue, or evolve into worse than just, say, pain, but real bone destruction ans disability? Can i take any risks at all at age 60 with drugs that have no proven track record research wise, and seem to help me but may only being doing harm?

Doing Art to Save My Sanity

THey Love You So Much, You Hate Yourself… © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
This one you have to look a little closely at to see what precisely is going on…It isn’t obvious at first glance…

 

Unnatural Still Life or Natura Morte, as the Italians call it. Not your typical fruit bowl, I leave it up for interpretation, but will let you know that the two aqua items are from left to right a packet of Bugler cigarette papers and a bugle cigarette roller. © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

 

 

A left handed doodle © Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

BioHands 1 ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

BioHands 2 ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved

 

Three Catboats in cove, in mist. ©Pamela Spiro Wagner All rights reserved
This one was inspired from a photo but is not a copy, done in colored pencils and oil pastels.

As I have been having a hard time dealing with things,  I do art and do art and do art…It is as good a way to cope as any other I suppose. Anyhow, I hope to get back to writing here soon. In the meantime, I am investigating more about temporal lobe epilepsy and schizophrenia/bipolar illness. It seems to me very significant, and at the same time strange that so many people who bear the diagnosis of schizophrenia and/or bipolar are also supposedly burdened with yet another condition that is so tricky to pinpoint, so I may also be posting more about that in the future as well.

 

The more I read the less I am convinced that schizophrenia, as an entity, exists, one, and two, that if there is any such thing as “schizophrenia” no one has yet figured out what it is. Which is the same thing as saying it is an imaginary/artificial illness. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that mental suffering and psychosis do not exist, only that no one has proven, not to my satisfaction, that there is any such illness constellation that can go by the name of schizophrenia and be recognized as such by a preponderance of physicians world-wide… That offers a lot of leeway by the way. I don’t ask for a lab test or even a set of hard signs. Only a reasonable way for psychiatrists around the world to agree on symptoms that  constitutes a recognizable disease that is the same thing no matter where you go, just as measles is measles and the flu is the flu…

 

But there won’t be any agreement, as we know. Because schizophrenia is a cultural construct. It is imaginary and largely meaningless. Except within the society that uses it as a concept in order to disapprove of and stigmatize certain ways of being, speaking or thinking. In that sense schizophrenia is more than just a construct or concept it is a social tool. It is a weapon used to keep people in line. In western society, if one doesn’t keep to the obligatory path,  some semi-acceptable social role, the result is the withdrawal of social approvals and the substitution of punishment — think drugs, hospitals, seclusion, restraints — in their place. And yet, in other cultures, the very same “out of bounds” thinking or behavior, rather than being labelled schizophrenic or “crazy” is regarded as the mystic’s path and spiritual, highly regarded rather than  anathematized.

 

This is nothing new. It has been observed before. So why do we keep going back to beating the same old same old drum: “We need better drugs to treat mental illness.” “We need better diagnostic methods to pinpoint mental illness. ” “We need better interventions to help the “mentally ill” who cannot  or will not help themselves.”…YOWCH! Yada yada yada. Maybe we continue to bark up the same wrong, wrong, wrong tree. Maybe there is NO SUCH THING AS MENTAL ILLNESS, perhaps all along there has always only been physical illness. Perhaps much suffering, emotional and mental though it may be, is not illness, just part of the human condition, and while we want to ameliorate it, we call it illness at our peril.

 

More to come.