Zentangled easter eggs!
The first picture is of Danielle a staff member who was the first person to meet me when I was transferred to the state hospital from Central Vermont Medical Center. The black and white drawing is of Erin, who also spent much time with me, as I was on 1:1 and 2:1 the entire time I was there. The last picture is of a potato beetle I found in a national geographic magazine on the unit.
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.
I would put my entire New Britain General Hospital chart online except that i only have access at this time to a small portion of my MAY–JUNE 2014 record as they decided that 1000 pages was too many to send to my psychiatrist the first time around. She requested the entire chart, but lazily they sent the discharge summary and the ED chart. In the meantime we have put in an immediate request for the rest and they said they are sending those ASAP.
Interestingly, the first page of the ED report states that availability of Advance Directive is “unknown.” Nevertheless, the ED triage notes state, with apparent disapproval and resentment, that “pt presents with details instructions [sic] on how to provide her care..” ie the advance directive (which it seems was immediately disregarded as an insult to their knowledge)…
ED Nurses note by “Seneilya… RN Assumed care of patient. Patient arrived via EMS after VNA called for increased anxiety. EMS reports patient refused to speak but wrote down, “Sunglasses block hate. I don’t want to hurt anybody.” On admissions patient refused to speak to this RN. Patient pointed at her head when asked why she was here. Patient nodded “yes” when asked if she was hearing voices but refused to answer other questions. …(next sentence indecipherable)
Report given to Beth RN who assumed care of patient…
At 15:19 Beth RN wrote the following:
“Pt not responding verbally to this nurse, this nurse looked through her art book and placed it back on her stretcher then pt picked it up and slammed it down on the stretcher and pointed her finger at the book. Unable to get pt to communicate. Pt pulled sheets over her head. Pt still in street clothes, will pt [sic] as is until examined by MD.”
What is not said here is that this nurse, “Beth” never asked me whether she might look at my artbook. She simply took it as her right to look at it, and then did so. She refused to allow me any means of communication, however, but demanded that I speak to her. When I was unable to do this, she did not inquire in any fashion as to why I was not speaking nor apparently make any inquiries from anyone else as to why this was so. If she had provided me with means to write I might have been able to tell her what had happened in the previous two weeks at home. Instead, she was so furious at my lack of speech that she belligerently refused to permit any other mode of communication but made assumptions that were extremely detrimental.
I was later given a hospital gown and told to dress myself or I would be forcibly assisted in doing so.
This is what Beth RN records what happened after I was provided with a meal that I could not eat because it was not vegetarian. Note that before this, I had begged gesturally for a means to communicate and all such implements had been outright refused me. This had led to my slamming the artbook on the stretcher in frustration and pulling the sheets over my eyes, effectively silenced.
Now with my meal, I at last had a means to write.
“Pt ate nothing,” Beth RN reports, “[but she] wrote messages with ketchup and French fries, ‘I need a crayon.” This nurse told pt she needs to speak because she can, pt threw everything on her table on the floor, food juice, etc. Pt then picked up fries from the floor and started eating them and gathered more and putting them in the bed with her and kicked the other food away in the OBS area.”
“Pt went to the BR, seen coming from the BR with paper towels then pt observed writing with her finger on a paper towel with something, first thinking it must be ketchup, then maybe jelly, then this nurse go up to check and pt found to be writing with her own feces, some paper was able to be removed, other paper with large piece of BM pt through at this nurse. Pt moved to room 42 [seclusion] then pt got OOB and snuck around corner and tried to attack this nurse from behind, public safety was able to get to pt first, pt to be medicated and restrained. Pt licking feces off fingers, would not let nurse wash her hands…”
Now I want to tell my side of this story because they invented this story out of whole cloth. Yes, parts of it are true, but out of order and not the way Beth related it. This is important because the way she wrote it makes me seem like I spontaneously attacked her out of the blue, which never happened. However, I was also privy to a conversation by the so called Public Safety officers, AKA Guards, who in front of me decided to create this story in order to justify restraining me, because they simply wanted an excuse.
What really happened was that due to my needing to communicate, I wrote my needs with ketchup on the paper box the meal came in, but that was taken away from me, and Beth, rather than telling/asking me to speak came up to me with a NOTE she had written to me (the irony of this is beyond belief except that it is true!) saying, “I will not speak to you or give you anything to write with until you start speaking to me…” Oh GOD! It was incredible. At this point, I was livid and also desperate to write so I had no choice but to use my own feces, which didn’t strike me as awful as it might have…What other choices did I have???? None at all.
So I did as she wrote and I tried to write journal entries about what was happening to me on paper towels with my own fecal material. This of course did not go over too well. However, I never snuck up behind Beth and tried to assault her. What happened was what I wrote in the second rap song. She snuck up on me and simply SNATCHED my artwork book out from under me and raced away with it, holding it up in triumph. I was so furious, without even a thought as to any possible consequences, that I raced behind her intending only to snatch it back. That was all. I never assaulted her, I never so much as touched her. I only grabbed for the book that she had not asked for from me. PERIOD.
That was when they dragged me to “Room 42” and when the guards, holding me down, decided they wanted an excuse to restrain me, and though one of them cautioned that they really had no reason to do so, the other told him not to worry, “we’ll find a reason.” And as I learned shortly thereafter from accusations made by Dr Balkunas, they did so.
But an accusation made isn’t necessarily true, as we all know, and just because Dr Balkunas accused me of LYING or of making up a story doesn’t mean that was true either. He never asked me what did happen. He never tried to find out the real events of that evening, he simply designated me as manipulative and “volitional” essentially a prime-time liar…Which meant that this started a snowball of a disaster in the making. Because by the time he finally saw me on the W-1 Psych Unit the next day, he had already made the decision not to let me communicate by writing and therefore he meant not to let me tell him what was going on from the first. He had decided not to recognize the extreme state of desperation and frustration this induced, but to see only violence and willfulness and to deal with this by punishing me with torture. PERIOD.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Michael E Balkunas, MD , the self- proclaimed god of W-1, claimed to have been there when this happened, when the guards said that I just shot up off the gurney and attacked Beth, the nurse, from behind. But the record does not bear this out. In fact, he never saw me at all until the next day and all the orders were written by other physicians. Dr Balkunas’s name is not even mentioned until the afternoon of May 13 when it says only that he was at my bedside to evaluate me. Even then, from what I recall, I was so sedated after multiple forced meds that I was unable to answer any question. I was unable to speak in any event, so given the face that he refused me the tools to write with, this was as unproductive an evaluation as possible.
I was to be admitted to W-1 on the basis of his snap judgments from that evaluation,: from which he drew the diagnosis that I had a probable “borderline personality disorder.”
How could he possibly diagnose a personality disorder, something that takes time to discern in a person, after seeing me after such an extremely traumatic circumstance, for less than three minutes? In point of fact, what likely happened was that he took an immediate disliking to me, and decided to diagnose me with something that in his mind justified his egregious treatment of me as well as his immediately not allowing me to write instead of speaking. I cannot otherwise explain his behavior . Nor can I understand his apparent surprise at mine when I did not respond to him as he expected. Why did he think I would respond positively when he refused to speak to me unless I was verbal? Why did he think that coercion would bring about a positive reaction? Did he truly think this would be helpful and restorative? I doubt it. I think he just didn’t like me and so he opted as most men do to abuse and punishe me out of rage. Because he was fed up, he lost his temper with me from the get-go…
I recall thinking about the rage in his voice and how out of control he sounded as he sent me to “Seclusion! Seclusion! “ He actually screamed this directive to the guards as they deliberately grabbed my torn rotator cuff which they had been told about in the emergency room (so they would use it to their advantage) propelling me headlong down the hallway. “Restraints! Restraints!” he shouted in a shrill and angry voice.This was retributive and nothing else. He was furious and I was going to learn not to fuck with Michael Edward Balkunas, head of the W-I general psychiatry unit in the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain or he would know the reason why!
But don’t let me put words in Dr. Michael Edward Balkunas’s mouth. Here is what he wrote, in his words. He wrote, surprise, surprise that “while in seclusion I would often scream” . Yet he states with apparent resentment that I had brought items with me “such as a large advanced directive” The nursing notes repeat this as if this is an evil thing, and proceed to disregard every item on it with relish. Not only that but Balkunas from the first accuses me of behaving with “volition” although he does not actually adduce any facts or observations to back up this thinking, except that I brought with me the large advance directive and a published book of the art work I had done.
This artbook, by the way, was was kept from me the entire time I was on the unit on the pretext that it would be very harmful for the other patients if they were to see it.I was led to believe that the mere glimpse of my artwork would hurt them. This was emphasized to me so many times that I felt guilty not only for having brought it with me, but for having drawn the pictures at all. The RNs seemed to enjoy my feeling so bad about it….
Balkunas further claims that he “asked if I would like to speak to him, PLEASE” but what he fails to note is that he refused to permit me any mode of communication other than verbally and that he peremptorily walked out on me when I could not utter a word. He notes that, Yes, I did throw my bed-clothes at him, but does not mention that he would not even look at my gestures in response.. Instead, he stood up in disgust and turned on his heels and strode out.
I admit that having already been so abused in the ED I was hideously upset at being unable to make him stay, unable even to make him HEAR me, that I did the only thing I could do to MAKE ANY NOISE at all, WHICH WAS TO THROW THINGS…
Both my brother and my psychiatrist claim that they told him pointblank not to draw baseless and dangerous conclusions from my traumatized behavior, that he would be making a mistake and would injure me badly if he did so. But he was of course the superman that all in-hospital psychiatrists are, the MR RIGHT that can finally fuck* you and get it right. SO he took one look at me and said, THAT IS OBVIOUSLY A CASE OF BPD if ever I saw one… Of course! And NATURALLY Michael E Balkunas is MR RIGHT, The one who fucks* you and you finally thank him for it, OF COURSE!
So THANK YOU Michael E Balkunas, You FUCKED* me OVER royally and you must have enjoyed it, because you fucked* me up the ass too. And I had to thank you in the end, didn’t I? Thanking you for fucking* me was the only I could earn my way to discharge, You forced* me to bend over and beg you to fuck* me up the ass and then Thank you again for abusing me just like any asshole who abuses women. You murdered* me, and halfway through slicing* my throat you made me beg you to fuck* me, and I did because it was the only hope I had that you might let me off with my life…Finally, with my throat half sliced* and my asshole fucked* wide open, you said, OKAY, now you can leave, you are free, you can go home now. I have had my way with you so go away…
So THANK YOU FOR FUCKING* WITH ME MICHAEL EDWARD BALKUNAS MD, GOD, THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME GO….I owe you my life, because you let me go and you didn’t in fact murder my body, I am still alive, though barely, you only tortured me and you only fucked* me and murdered my soul. You killed my spirit but you did leave my body somewhat intact so I could walk out of there and for that I had to pretend to be grateful and to thank you every day for a week, so I mouthed the words, Thank you Michael Balkunas for fucking* me and letting me leave stll alive….
But I wish you had killed me dead. Instead, you manipulated me into thanking you, for fucking* me over. You didn’t kill me quite. You made me thank you and thank you and thank you…and so now what do I do, you asshole- fucker*, but live with the torture you inflicted and wish you would crawl into your early grave somewhere and explode into a ball of maggotry.
*metaphorically, of course, but in a very real way nonetheless…So I feel it every day and wish I were dead! Note that in every other instance where an * is missing I usually mean my words literally and without any sense of metaphor whatsoever.
NOTE that this is the link to my GOOGLE + review that I posted shortly after my stay at New Britain General Hospital..I think I was rather measured in my appraisal, after all was said and done.
I figured this out while living alone. I would panic when I felt myself choking. It works like a miracle, because it is usually a spasm in the upper throat, near your mouth, and not a closed off pharynx that causes coking sensationss. You just have to understand that you CAN still breathe through your nose and that will end the panic. Once the panicky feelings are over, everything is easier to deal with and you can usually spit out the food or even find a way to swallow it. But at least you realize that you are not imminently going to die, which is a good thing to know.
Hope this advice helps someone. If it does, I would love some feedback. I have offered it to friends, and they have loved it, found it useful too, so I know it works.
Best wishes to all,
ON NOT SPEAKING
When I went temporarily mute at age sixty,
it sparked no visual wonders.
After decades schooled by dictionaries,
vocabulary categorized the world:
“precipice,” “acrid,” “blanch;”
words even defined my senses.
But one can fall into
speechlessness for reasons
though these may not seem reasonable
to people who believe that only talking things out
or about them makes sense.
Speaking or not, I knew
when silence was less insane
than trying to be heard
by those who would rather hurt me
than pay attention.
But if, as they say, silence is so eloquent,
why couldn’t anyone hear
what I so desperately didn’t say?
As my time here comes to an end, I will miss it and my neighbors terribly., I don’t know what I will do without them, and Lydia my wonderful companion. Returning to Connecticut with its horrible hospitals and indifferent treatment just feels like a disaster waiting to happen. I want to move to Vermont but I don’t know how I can make that happen. I have felt amongst friends everywhere here, but isolated completely for years in CT, despite my lovely dear friends there, I wish I could bring them all up to VT with me!
Not sure what to make of this painting, but I enjoyed doing it…What do you think? It is 8 by 12 inches, approximately, in gouache on Ampersand board (essentially gessoed masonite).
I was told by Marc and Steffie, with whom I am staying, that the sea or water represents the unconscious in some schools of thought. Which certainly makes sense to me, given how I titled this very small painting. I painted the blackbird in the stormy sky last, and can see that as a sort of link between the world of life and death, like Van Gogh’s black birds in the fields in his final paintings. But also the notion that the rocking chair can calm the stormy waters, indeed the raging tidal wave of waters outside the room, so that they become only waves but not so disturbing inside, seems to me significant. So, two questions for the pychologically or analytically minded: Why is the room red, one, and why is the chair empty? (I am serious. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I would be curious and eager for your and any interpretation. No need, just interested.)
In any event, in my sleeplessness last niight, I panicked, because I “knew” I couldn’t paint. so I put aside my decent ampersand boards, coated this bit of matboard with black to “ruin” it first, then just went to town, painting the first thing that came to mind. The chair was in the living room, but the rest was purely my imagination. If I knew what I was doing, I confess I would have painted the chair last, ON TOP of the background, but of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I had to paint it and repaint it as ideas came to me…Hence the messiness! Hope you enjoy!
© Max Ehrmann 1927 ?
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
“Desiderata” defined means things wanted or needed. A partial version of the poem hangs on the wall of the place where I will be staying for a while and while the piece is well-known, and indeed I have seen it before, the painted version here caught my eye and moved me. For some reason, however, I suspected that this particular version was a quotation only in part, so I looked up the entire poem. What I found struck me to tears.
Well, let me explain.
There are important lines that are missing in the poem on the wall here (important to me):
“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
Also this stanza is followed by the critical word, “Therefore…be at peace with God…” whereas on the wall, the “therefore” has been taken out. But what a difference it makes to keep it in.
The important thing to me in reading the poem in its entirety is that I do not feel I have a right to be here, do not feel I am in any sense “a child of the universe.” I feel instead that I have ruined the universe, and that if I had not been born the world would have been better off by far. That is one critical thing.
The other salient point the poet makes, which made me weep, was his belief, stated well before anyone thought about global warming, but presumably he would have said the same thing even so, if he truly had the courage of his convictions that “no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
TO the contrary, it feels to me completely tragic that the world should be ending in our geologic time, that we should be living in the end days, not something that was meant to be or unfolding as it should. ( I say “end times” without any religious intention to those words, only the sense that we have brought about the end of the living world upon ourselves by over-consumption and massively pig-headed over-population.) Of course, the “universe” is much bigger than humanity or even generally speaking the living blue planet called earth, but as a human living on it I have no other way to feel or see but from my puny human perspective. To lose Life on earth, all or most of it at any rate, to global warming feels utterly devastating. Who or what gave humans the right to destroy what might have been the tiniest fraction of a chance at existence, life itself, to throw it all away through the over-consumption of fossil fuel (in the brief span of 2 centuries) and making too many babies, and eating too many cows?
It sickens me that I am so much at fault, that I ought not to have existed at all, that much of this could have been avoided by my never having been born. But it also sickens me that as a species, humans have collectively, since my birth, ignored all the consequences of our “eating the earth” and now we have no earth for our children’s children to inherit…
Vis a vis another line in the poem, I cannot “be gentle” with myself. I do not deserve gentleness! That way disaster lies!
“With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.” Maybe… But the world is fast losing its beauty and sometimes i think it is only beautiful to those wealthy enough to be able to willfully blind themselves to all the ugliness and injustice around them: blinding themselves to the dying oceans and all the starving homeless people…to name just two out of many.
Nevertheless, the poem is still a miracle of inspiration and remains so after nearly a century. Though not really new to me, it newly struck a chord, though I am sure that people in the know would call it an “old chestnut” of a poem, nearly hackneyed and familiar as that other O.C., “Invictus”by William Ernest Henley, though I suggest Desiderata has always been far better written than Henley’s “chest-beater” of a poem (for all that it is a favorite of many thousands..).
CLick to enlarge
1)Intense fear of abandonment, real or imaginary.
I do not fear abandonment. Many friends have passed through my life on their ways to distant ports of call in their lives’s journeys and I have always said, Well that is fine, we will simply continue to be friends on paper. I love letter writing and these days,what with email and skyping it is easier than ever to stay in touch. I still have a friend I met at folk dancing in 1972 who lives in Arizona, and we still talk occasionally and even meet every ten years or so. The thing is, we still consider ourselves friends. When my surrogate mother Lynn Levine died, I admit I cried, it was a very sad day and we had grown closer than ever over the two years of her dying. I was sad that she was gone, but not fearful that she was abandoning me. (Dr Mary B O’Malley, in her insane need to brand me with the BPD diagnosis, before she removed it altogether in a letter to Dr Angela, unbeknownst to me, insisted angrily to me in a session that my tears were symptomatic, right then and there of my “intense fear of abandonment.” Rather than understandable grief than a lovely woman had stood in for my own mother during the years when she, my mother, had largely abandoned me due to my real mental illness of schizophrenia. (About this Dr Mary B O’Malley said nothing, zilch…Why say anything about a real abandonment that i had handled as well as anyone could?)
Having intense relationships with lots of conflict, and seeing the other person as “all-good” or “all bad.”
I have one friend who has dominated me for many years, and she may indeed have borderline personality disorder and suffers from it greatly. She demands that I not have other friends, despite the fact that I have many. And she bad mouths the ones Ido. She wants my narcolepsy drugs because they are stimulants and she believes these drugs are the only things in the world that make her “happy” but in fact NOTHING makes her happy. With all my other friends — my 60 birthday party was filled with 16 good personal friends who came to celebrate, not boyfriends and wives to fill in the space, but just my own friends. And they loved each other, though they had rarely met. I do not have conflict with any of my friends, and they would be appalled to have anyone insist that our relationships were filled with such extremes. They all tell me they love me dearly and that the biggest problem is that I do not love myself.
If the below is true about BPD, count me out. I do not feel empty. I feel too full of ideas of things to do and think about. I feel sad about the environment and the world, which I feel is dying due to humanity;s lack of caring and concern. But I definitely do not feel EMPTY. Hardly. I wake each morning feeling ready to start the day and having much to do and excited to do it.
The behaviors in this next paragraph mean NOTHING to me. I hav never done anything impulsive, except when driven to flinging shit in hospitals, because of their extreme trauma behavior. Engaging in impulsive “pain management” behaviors, such as going on spending sprees, having promiscuous sex, driving recklessly, abusing drugs or alcohol, binge eating, breaking the law, threatening suicide or making attempts, and engaging in self-harm — NONE have ever occurred to me. (When I harm myself it is exclusively in response to voices i hear telling me to do so, or when I hear people telling me to that I mistake for real people instead of understanding they are the voices.
I take Topomax, a seizure control drug, for a SEIZURE disorder and NOT for a mood disorder, despite what Michael Balkunas wrote on my discharge summary. I have never taken a seizure drug for mood stabilization. ONLY for temporal lobe epilepsy.
I have indeed been date raped under very unfortunate situations three times in my 20s when I was extremely innocent and did not understand that I had a right to be rescued by the security guards who asked me, and had any right to say No.
I have also been extremely traumatized and abused by caregivers and major people in my life whom I trusted and gave myself into their care. I should not have,. They were therapists and doctors. but I did not know better and suffered greatly. Now, I suffer under the ministrations of abusive doctors like Michael Balkunas who reads my PAD and decides to abrogate every single part of it because he KNOWS ME BETTER THAN I KNOW MYSELF.
To his dismay, I became loud and combative and fought his “help” every step of the way. So to take revenge, he added the BPD to my diagnosis. But it is a lie. He knows nothing about me, no more than any other abusive in hospital doctor who have read what Mary O Malley Md PhD wrote in her discharge summaries when she was playing the nurses’ game at Norwalk Hospital and decided to let them treat me, who did not, even in her opinion, have BPD, with extreme behavioral protocols and seclusion and restraints. and dismissive ignoring of everything I said. Even today it resounds in my care. I feel it, I know it. Nothing is fair because of what she did, but she got a way with it…and I cannot litigate what she did more than a decade ago, lethal or nearly lethal though it was. But some day I will write her a letter and let her know the consequences of her actions.I do not believe she will care. People like her do not have consciences. Not even the Rev Dr Mary B O’Malley. She got away with it, She even wrote Dr Angela a letter denying it. But I have the records, I know she was lying, or trying to color things in a different way.
Thank god I am out of HOCC, and I hope that the blog post about Michael Balkunas has had some success at reaching them on the unit, I hope he and Jessica have had a chance to read it. Dismiss it though they certainly will, I want them to read it! Fuck them, I have something to say and they need to know what that is.
HOLY SHITE AND URINE TEAM
Her cool wordless RN face expresses nothing
as she scoops the ice cream turd and quickly disinfects.
But I think for her, thinking, knowing this:
“Asshole, shithead, you think
your shit don’t stink…” While I have no working sense of smell,
I know I’m an unofficial pain in the ass here
because no one can be officially PIA
on a psychiatric ward, not even I, the wild shit smearer
who knows no disgust first hand
for not smelling it.
What I know well and sadly is
the consequences of disgusting others,
the distancing, the shunning,
how killing the ultimate loneliness is, double-locked away
in a soundproof seclusion cell.
Shackled naked into leather 4-point restraints, I shriek my soul away,
from the bottom of my lungs for 20 minutes straight.
The illegally silenced intercom remains dumb.
Even the 1:1 monitor positioned behind the door.
peering lazily through the judas-eye of a small plexi-port-hole,
doesn’t really pay attention. Why bother, the shit smearer
gets what she deserves.
Oh, I know I disgust them, what with my out of control turd throwing
and my illegible scribbling with my feces on the wall
but they refuse me so much as a marker and board,
and they won’t sit down to listen when I speak.
Mute for 16 days, I will be heard now, one way or another.
But this is no way to think, and i think without thinking, just do with do do, mindlessly, enraged by trauma.
I foul myself because no one cares,
because their disgust is threaded, even so heat-felted with hatred
they have long forgotten I’m just another patient
with problems bigger than the shit I fling.
Instead, cucumber skinned nurses sneer their disgust,
Bad dog! Bad, bad dog!
But I know dog is just God spelled backwards.
And God created the living world
from dust and mud and excrement.
I am no god, I am Live backwards to Evil:
I create chaos from utter chaos within.
There are always turds to form and fling.
And in the end all they can do is kill me.
Fuck me! Do me a favor you turds, kill me!
But first, you have to silence the hate on your faces,
clean the smeared walls,
and pretend I am nothing to you.
When you came in to take me down,
restrain me for any excuse, even for just wanting a blanket.
you had to breath in my shit, that fear,
and knew what it could do to you.
You’d heard the stories, deadly E-coli, C diff.
Something in me might kill you,
I don’t know what scared you more, my wildyelling
or my excrement.
That was always the struggle. Shit stinks. I stank.
You hated me for my smell. You feared me for what I did.
I know your fear. It was: what would happen if you
lost control of yourself.
Would you, control freaks,
too dance naked in dung?
FROM: THE NEW HAVEN REGISTER May 31, 2014
As Connecticut works to improve its mental health system, new federal data shows that hospitals in the state restrain psychiatric patients at more than double the average national rate, with elderly patients facing restraint at a rate seven times the national average.
In addition, the state lags behind in providing adequate post-discharge continuing care plans for psychiatric patients, especially teens and the elderly. Connecticut’s 28 inpatient psychiatric units and hospitals developed continuing-care plans for fewer than 70 percent of patients they discharged from October 2012 to March 2013 — indicating that thousands of patients may have left facilities without adequate treatment and medication plans.
A C-HIT analysis of the federal data, released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the first time, shows that Connecticut ranks in the top fourth of states (11th highest) in the use of physical restraints in inpatient psychiatric facilities — and is the third highest state in restraining patients 65 and older.
Two psychiatric units — at Bridgeport Hospital and Masonicare Health Center in Wallingford — have the 10th and 12th highest rates of restraint use, respectively, among the 1,753 psychiatric facilities nationwide that are included in the federal reports, which cover October 2012 through March 2013.
State and federal guidelines — tightened over the past 15 years, partly in reaction to deaths in Connecticut facilities — say that restraints should be used only in cases of imminent physical danger to a patient or others. They call for less restrictive interventions when patients are acting out aggressively.
But the data show that Bridgeport Hospital, Masonicare and three other Connecticut hospitals — Waterbury, Hartford, Danbury — restrain patients at more than triple the national rate.
James McGaughey, director of the state Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, said he was disturbed by both the high rate of restraint use and the low rate of post-discharge plans.
“The numbers are pretty compelling,” he said. “Some of our hospitals have done a significant amount of work on this, but clearly there’s more to be done.”
He suggested that the Department of Public Health, which oversees hospitals and is charged with reviewing annual reports of restraint and seclusion, should “get a little less timid in looking at this.” Hospitals rarely have been cited or penalized in recent years for improperly using restraints, a review of inspection reports shows.
McGaughey noted that the state-run Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown has pursued a reduction in restraints and seclusion that has cut its restraint rate significantly in the last five years. The new data show CVH’s rate at .52 hours per 1,000 patient hours — below the statewide rate of 1 hour per 1,000. The national average is .39.
“It’s ironic that our one remaining large state hospital has done such a good job of reducing restraint and seclusion, but you have some very different results at private institutions,” McGaughey said of CVH, which was cited for excessive restraint use in 2007 by the U.S. Justice Department. “What it shows is that it’s possible to address this issue, but you need leadership to effect this kind of culture change.”
Mental health advocates say seclusion and restraint should be avoided because they are traumatic and dangerous to patients and staff.
Alternatives include individualized aggression-management plans, the use of “comfort rooms” or time-out spaces, and one-on-one interventions. Among the innovations at CVH are 22 “comfort rooms,” designed to calm agitated patients, and a reduction in the time interval that a physician’s order of restraint or seclusion can remain in effect, according to a state report.
Yale-New Haven Hospital has a restraint rate of .36 hours per 1,000 patient hours — just below the national average of .39 hours. But its rate of developing care plans for discharged patients is relatively low — 50.36 percent, compared to a national average of 73.5 percent of cases.
Officials at Connecticut hospitals with high rates of restraint say they are working to reduce those incidents, and they stressed that even minimal mobility restrictions, such as soft wrist restraints or brief therapeutic holds, are counted in the federal numbers.
Robert Bernstein, executive director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a national advocacy group that successfully sued Connecticut in 2006 to stop housing psychiatric patients in three nursing homes, said he worried that progress made in the early 2000s to reduce restraints might be slipping in some hospitals because of staff shortages and “pushback” from clinicians.
“Some of the procedures put in place may have been weakened, because it’s a lot of work” to use alternative interventions, he said.
Although patients subjected to improper restraint can file complaints, few speak out, Bernstein and others said. Among the exceptions in Connecticut is Pamela Spiro Wagner, a Wethersfield writer and artist with schizophrenia who has cycled in and out hospitals.
In an April “open letter” to the director of a Connecticut psychiatric hospital, Wagner readily conceded that she is a difficult patient — “easily roused to irritability and hostility” — but insisted that her behavior has not warranted her repeatedly being placed in restraints and seclusion, for hours at a time.
“Once you allow staff to use restraints a little, it only takes a little to use them a lot.”
Nationally, the states with the highest restraint use are Minnesota, Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee and New Hampshire. For patients 65 and older, only Nevada and New Hampshire have rates higher than Connecticut, which restrains elderly patients at an average of 7.69 hours per 1,000 hours. Thirty-five states have rates of less than 1 per 1,000 hours; the national average is 1.01 hours per 1,000 hours.
The U.S. facility with the highest restraint rate is Park Ridge Health in North Carolina, which reports 722 hours of restraint use per 1,000 patient hours overall. Among facilities that report serving children ages 2 to 12, Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida has the highest restraint use, at 200 hours.
The federal data shows Connecticut psychiatric facilities fare well in some categories, including lower-than-average rates of restraint for children and teenagers. Five hospitals reported no use of restraints for any age group: Sharon, MidState Medical Center, Bristol, John Dempsey and Natchaug hospitals.
And Connecticut’s rate of keeping patients in seclusion is lower than the national average, with half of the state’s psychiatric facilities reporting that they did not use seclusion at all. Nationally, South Dakota, Montana and Washington report the highest use of seclusion, defined as involuntary confinement where a patient is prevented from leaving.
But the state’s over-65 restraint rate is fueled by excessive rates at Masonicare (35.99 hours), Bridgeport Hospital (37.92) and Hartford’s Institute of Living (9.19).
Officials at those hospitals say they have taken steps in the year since the data-reporting period ended to reduce restraint use.
This is the first time that quality measures from psychiatric facilities have been made available by CMS. The federal agency does not penalize facilities for high rates of restraint or inadequate discharge plans. Instead, an agency spokeswoman said, the public reporting is intended to encourage quality improvements and help consumers to make informed decisions.
At Bridgeport Hospital, Dr. Ryan O’Connell, vice president for performance and risk management, said the hospital’s geriatric psychiatric unit serves many patients with dementia and behavioral problems that cannot be managed in other facilities. About 18 months ago, he said, the hospital put in place an “action plan” to reduce restraints, including using “comfort” rooms. Also, in January, a new policy was implemented requiring that the nurse manager be called before any patient is restrained.
“We realized we were going in the wrong direction with restraints” and have since seen a “dramatic drop” in their usage, O’Connell said.
Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living (IOL), which has a geriatric unit for complex dementia patients, has made similar changes over the past few years, nursing director Ellen Blair said. She said restraints are now rarely used, and only for patient safety. The IOL requires that a physician’s restraint order be reviewed every two hours, rather than every four, which is the standard of care.
“We look at our data every single day” to ensure that restraint and seclusion are being used only as “a last resort,” Blair said.
Masonicare’s acute psychiatric unit serves geriatric patients who frequently are referred because of difficult behaviors and aggression, said spokeswoman Margaret Steeves. When restraints are needed, the hospital uses “the least restrictive restraint, which is typically a seat belt,” she said. Masonicare has an interdisciplinary team reviewing restraint use.
Statewide, the Connecticut Hospital Association has been working with the state Department of Public Health to minimize the use of restraints, said Dr. Mary Cooper, the group’s vice president and chief quality officer. She said the new federal data “indicate that there is more work to be done in this area” and will help to identify best practices.
Nationally, the federal government tightened rules on the use of restraints and seclusion between 2001 and 2007, including time limits on physician orders and strict documentation requirements. The changes were prompted by a series in The Hartford Courant, “Deadly Restraint,” which documented restraint-related deaths in psychiatric facilities nationwide.
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice cited the state-run CVH for excessive overuse of unnecessary restraint and seclusion. Since then, policy and training initiatives have significantly reduced restraint episodes — from 26,290 hours in 2000, to 529 hours in 2012 — a state report shows.
State DPH spokesman Bill Gerrish said the agency collects restraint and seclusion reports from hospitals and works to “ensure that care is appropriate.”
McGaughey and Bernstein said they were especially troubled by the failure of many hospitals to develop continuing care plans for discharged patients, and to transmit those plans to the next level of care.
Statewide, Connecticut facilities developed adequate discharge plans 69.4 percent of the time — lower than the national average of 73.5 percent. For teens, hospitals transmitted care plans only 55 percent of the time — lower than the national average of 74 percent — and for seniors, just 42.7 percent of the time, below the national average of 56 percent.
Discharged patients are supposed to receive care plans containing their diagnoses, reasons for hospitalization, medications and treatment recommendations.
The federal data shows that 10 Connecticut hospitals, including Waterbury Hospital, Masonicare and Yale-New Haven Hospital, properly transmitted care plans to the next provider in less than half of cases.
A few hospitals — St. Mary’s, Bristol, Norwalk, Natchaug Hospital and Southwest Connecticut Mental Health — transmitted care plans more than 90 percent of the time.
McGaughey said that without continuing care plans directing further treatment, many discharged patients may languish in nursing homes, shelters or land back in the hospital.
“The lack of continuity of care, to me, is a huge issue,” he said. “It’s a pretty brutal business — insurance companies want you to medicate and discharge as fast as possible. The question is, what happens after they’re out?”
Bernstein said the lack of attention to continuing care plans was “jaw-dropping.”
“Those numbers should be at 100 percent,” Bernstein said. “It’s shameful.”
Hospitals with low rates of discharge care plans blamed much of that lag on their failure to document that the paperwork was done.
At Masonicare, for example, Steeves said the 31.3 percent rate of developing care plans was due to problems with the “tracking of the discharge document . . . not that it wasn’t actually sent.”
This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).
This is the comment that I posted online at the paper a few days after the article was published, (as it happened, while I was a patient being tortured at the former New Britain General Hospital, the present day, Hospital Of Central Connecticut).
Pamela Spiro Wagner: “As someone who has been subjected to more use of seclusion and four-point restraints over the past “decade of change” than in the two decades previous it boggles my mind that anyone would even dare to state that things are improving in CT mental health care institutions. During my nearly month-long captivity in the winter of 2013, the Institute of Living in Hartford regularly restrained me to a bed for as long as 19 hours at a time, without ever releasing me for so much as a bathroom break — I had to defecate in my clothing. I was not even released to eat. When I was not in four point restraints “for not following directions, I was in seclusion, which they called the “Quiet Room” and not seclusion, but by CMS definitions, it was seclusion as I was separated from the rest of the patient population by force, and was not permitted to leave the room I was isolated in.
The one time I did actually saunter away, walk down the hall to look out the window, and return to my non-seclusion Quiet Room, I was punished with immediate use of four point restraints, into which I was placed without a struggle, hoping that would make it easier to win my freedom. Alas, for me, there was no way to earn freedom from restraints I never “deserved.” The entire point was discipline, and that would last as long as the staff wanted me to be in shackles to learn my lesson. There was literally nothing I could do, –stay calm, sleep, quietly ask for release — nothing, until they were finally satisfied that I was submissive enough to obey their orders, some 6-19 hours later. But I had to cry Uncle, and submit to a set of degrading humiliating “debriefing questions” that assured them that I took responsibility for my own being restrained and that my behavior would henceforth conform to their norms.
I was surprised to see Natchaug Hospital being given good ratings of any sort. One of their chief psychiatrists on the Adult Unit, a longtime presence their Emeritus psychiatrist you might say, was so insouciant about this job as to be nearly incompetent, but probably hard to fire even for negligence. HIs name I will not mention. He routinely did drive-by visits with his patients– a wave in the hallway might not be a completely standard morning meeting, but it happened often enough that peatients knew that would be all of this doctor they would see for the day. He routinely discharged patients with GAF scores at or around 60, the highest “global assessment of functioning” that one can have and still be rated “disabled” — not because he knew this level of functioning to be the case, but because it made him and his psychiatric ministrations at Natchaug look good. After all, if person comes in with a GAF in the 20s, and barely able to function, and you discharge him or her a week or two and some drive-by counseling sessions later with a GAF of 60, you must be doing a terrific job, esp for a 75 year old doctor not too keen on using anything like trauma-informed or patient-centered care. I had never left a hospital before Natchaug with a GAF higher than 40, but suddenly I rated a 60….by a doctor with whom I never spoke.
Natchaug Hospital, when the nursing director was Sharon B Hinton, APRN, was a decent place, because she made certain that abuses like restraints and seclusion rarely to almost never happened under her watch. I know, because I was there about three times during her administration. I also knew her when she was Hartford Hospital’s psychiatric Head Nurse at CB-3, where she and her never failing humanity and respect for the dignity of every patient made all the difference in the world. I might have come from an abusive hospital in the early 90s, like University of Connecticut’s Dempsey Hospital, which in those days four-pointed people to an iron bedstead, by shackling them spreadeagled to the four corners of the bed, a stress position that is not just tantamount to but is in fact torture. But I would be rescued by someone finding me a bed at Hartford Hospital, where Sharon would discover me arriving there in tears and tell me, unfailingly,”Its not you, Pam, you did nothing wrong, It is the hospital that treats you badly…We don’t have any problem with you, because we treat you well and you respond to it. When they treat you with cruelty, you respond badly…That’s very normal.”
But as to Natchaug…Bravo if they have done away with restraints completely. They had not done so when I was there last in 2012. Nor with seclusion, which was imposed in mostly a disciplinary and arbitrary fashion. Largely it was used to force medication on loud obstreperous patients or for angry fed-up senior nurses to take out their peeves on patients they didn’t particularly like (e.g. me). I still remember one APRN demanding that I be dragged to locked seclusion, and left there alone (despite all Sharon’s previous assurances that such would NEVER happen, that someone would ALWAYS remain in that room with me if I ever ended up there.. Alas, Sharon had left by then, so rogue nurses like D could have their way…) and when I peed on the floor in panic, and took off my clothes they rushed in to take them away from me, and inject me with punishment drugs, then made me stay for an hour alone on the pee-soaked mats, freezing cold, pretending to sleep and calm myself just to convince them I could leave and not bother anyone. I managed to do so, or at least the APRN D. got over her fit of pique and finally released me, but I was not really calm, and when they finally draped two johnnies over my naked body so I could decently traverse the distance to my room, I left, disrobing as I went…Who gave a damn about my flabby flat behind? I certainly did not. And it served them right if everyone got an eyeful…served them right..
Natchaug’s biggest problem was and probably still is a lack of staff cohesiveness and bad morale between the staff nurses and the well-educated techs/mental health workers who were all very dedicated college grads but were treated like grunts…The MHW’s did most of the important patient contact, but were not trusted to write patient notes, or the notes they wrote were never read, or accorded any import. This was not just despicable but very unfortunate in more than one instance during my stay, as the notes they took personally might have saved me from some terrible misunderstandings and outrageous misdiagnoses that harmed me terribly..
Most places use techs who are trained by shadowing for a day or two, which means, badly trained, if at all…
You have to take all such in-hospital diagnoses with such a heavy grain of salt, you know, even when they are labeled with the words, “THIS IS A LEGAL DOCUMENT.” Because they get so much of fact-checkable, factual material garbled that you cannot believe a word it says. And as for diagnosis, well it is all of it opinion, one, and two, it depends largely upon whether you are a likable patient or a disliked one, what they finally say about you on any given day. No one should have that sort of power over another human being, frankly. And the idea that they can brand one for life with certain psychiatric diagnoses just sickens me.
Be that as it may, my recent last experience was beyond the beyond, at Hospital of Central Connecticut, The old New Britain General…and I expect to go back to talk to someone there about it. I always do And I have much to say to them, after the pain and rawness have worn off a little. They considered it SOP to strip me naked and leave me alone in a freezing seclusion cell without any access to human contact, unless they chose to speak to me over a loudspeaker hidden in the ceiling. If not, I was utterly abandoned, no contact or even view of another human being for as long as they wanted to keep me secluded. They also restrained me, having male security guards four-point me stark naked to the bed, before they had the decency to cover me with a light sheet, even though I begged for a blanket for warmth. (A nurse manager came in and shivered, saying “Brrr its cold in here!” but did they relent and let me have a blanket…No, clearly I was not human, didn’t need warmth.)
This is just the tip of the SR iceberg in CT in the current years, Remember this is happening right now, not ten years ago, or before the so-called reforms. Nothing is getting better. Things are worse than ever, And when you are a patient in these hospitals, you have no help, no recourse, anything and everything can be done to you and you have no way to refuse or say “no”. No one will help you, or offer assistance. They can just grab you and seclude you or restrain you without your having the power to stop them or any recourse to make them pause and reconsider. You are powerless to stop anything…And so they get away with it every time. And once it is done, who will fight for you? What lawyer will take your case if the guards hurt your shoulder rotator cuff, or bruise you up, or degrade or humiliate you? No one….so you are deprived of your human and civil rights, completely, but the hospital knows that no one cares enough to fight for you, so they get away with it each and every time, and they know this when they do it. They have nothing to worry about,….You are just another mental patient, a nobody, a nothing.
That’s what you are if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized in CT hospitals in 2014. A nobody that the hospitals can abuse with impunity and will. Just wait and see if any of this changes…I doubt it highly. They have no motivation to change. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong now.”
When I lose you,
will you remember the leaves
of my brown name?
Not like an oak, which clings
snow after snow
but like the poplar
spilling her yellow dress
to the insistent fingertips of fall
The mother of grief
is a kind forgetting
and I tell you now
that I will forget everything
I will forget even you, beloved
like a leaf stilled in limestone
who would have thought
we could weigh so little?
I THOUGHT THIS WAS INCREDIBLY WELL WRITTEN AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION. SEE CREDITS AT THE BOTTOM. Posted on January 12, 2014 by annecwoodlen THINGS YOUR DOCTOR SHOULD TELL YOU ABOUT ANTIDEPRESSANTS September 12, 2012 By Paul W. Andrews, Lyndsey Gott & J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. Antidepressant medication is the most commonly prescribed treatment for people with depression. They are also commonly prescribed for other conditions, including bipolar depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic pain syndromes, substance abuse and anxiety and eating disorders. According to a 2011 report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one out of every ten people (11%) over the age of 12 in the US is on antidepressant medications. Between 2005 and 2008, antidepressants were the third most common type of prescription drug taken by people of all ages, and they were the most frequently used medication by people between the ages of 18 and 44. In other words, millions of people are prescribed antidepressants and are affected by them each year. The conventional wisdom is that antidepressant medications are effective and safe. However, the scientific literature shows that the conventional wisdom is flawed. While all prescription medications have side effects, antidepressant medications appear to do more harm than good as treatments for depression. We reviewed this evidence in a recent article published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (freely available here). The widespread use of antidepressants is a serious public health problem, and it raises a number of ethical and legal issues for prescribers (physicians, nurse practitioners). Here, we summarize some of the most important points that prescribers should ethically tell their patients before they prescribe antidepressant medications. We also discuss the ways that prescribers could be held legally liable for prescribing antidepressants. Finally, we implore practitioners to update the informed consent procedure for antidepressant medication to reflect current research and exercise greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants.
Most antidepressants are designed to alter mechanisms regulating serotonin, an evolutionarily ancient biochemical found throughout the brain and the rest of the body. In the brain, serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter—a chemical that controls the firing of neurons (brain cells that regulate how we think, feel, and behave). However, serotonin evolved to regulate many other important processes, including neuronal growth and death, digestion, muscle movement, development, blood clotting, and reproductive function. Antidepressants are most commonly taken orally in pill form. After they enter the bloodstream, they travel throughout the body. Most antidepressants, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are intended to bind to a molecule in the brain called the serotonin transporter that regulates levels of serotonin. When they bind to the transporter, they prevent neurons from reabsorbing serotonin, which causes a buildup of serotonin outside of neurons. In other words, antidepressants alter the balance of serotonin in the brain, increasing the concentration outside of neurons. With long-term antidepressant use, the brain pushes back against these drugs and eventually restores the balance of serotonin outside of the neuron with a number of compensatory changes. It is important to realize that the serotonin transporter is not only found in the brain—it is also found at all the major sites in the body where serotonin is produced and transported, including the gut and blood cells called platelets. Since antidepressants travel throughout the body and bind to the serotonin transporter wherever it is found, they can interfere with the important, diverse processes regulated by serotonin throughout the body. While physicians and their patients are typically only interested in the effects of antidepressants on mood, the harmful effects on other processes in the body (digestion, sexual function, abnormal bleeding, etc.) are perfectly expectable when you consider how these drugs work.
Many people who have suffered from depression report a substantial symptom-reducing benefit while taking antidepressants. The problem is that symptoms are also substantially reduced when people are given a placebo—a sugar pill that lacks the chemical properties of antidepressant medications. In fact, most of the improvement that takes place during antidepressant treatment (approximately 80%) also takes place with a placebo. Of course, antidepressants are slightly more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms, but this difference is relatively small, which is what we mean when we say that antidepressants have a “modest” ability to reduce depressive symptoms. The pushback of the brain increases over months of antidepressant treatment, and depressive symptoms commonly return (frequently resulting in full blown relapse). Often this compels practitioners to increase the dose or switch the patient to a more powerful drug. Prescribers fail to appreciate that the return of symptoms often occurs because the brain is pushing back against the effect of antidepressants. 3. The risk of relapse is increased after antidepressant medication has been discontinued Another effect of the brain pushing back against antidepressants is that the pushback can cause a relapse when you stop taking the drug. This pushback effect is analogous to the action of a spring. Imagine a spring with one end attached to a wall. An antidepressant suppresses the symptoms of depression in a way that is similar to compressing the spring with your hand. When you stop taking the drug (like taking your hand off the spring from its compressed position), there is a surge in the symptoms of depression (like the overshoot of the spring before it returns to its resting position). The three month risk of relapse for people who took a placebo is about 21%. But the three month risk of relapse after you stop taking an SSRI is 43%—twice the risk. For stronger antidepressants, the three month risk is even higher.
Antidepressants can kill neurons (see our article for a review). Many medical practitioners will be surprised by this fact because it is widely believed in the medical community that antidepressants promote the growth of new neurons. However, this belief is based on flawed evidence—a point that we address in detail in our article. One way antidepressants could kill neurons is by causing structural damage of the sort often found in Parkinson’s disease. This neurological damage might explain why some people taking antidepressant medication can develop Parkinsonian symptoms and tardive dyskinesia, which is characterized by involuntary and repetitive body movements. Many prescribers mistakenly think these syndromes only occur in patients taking antipsychotic medications.
Recent research indicates that antidepressants may increase the risk of cancer outside of the brain, such as breast cancer. However, the neuron-killing properties of antidepressants may make them potentially useful as treatments for brain cancers, and current research is testing this possibility.
Since neurons are required for proper brain functioning, the neuron-killing effects of antidepressants can be expected to have negative effects on cognition. In rodents, experiments have found that prolonged antidepressant use impairs the ability to learn a variety of tasks. Similar problems may exist in humans. Numerous studies have found that antidepressants impair driving performance, and they may increase the risk of car accidents. Recent research on older women also indicates that prolonged antidepressant use is associated with a 70% increase in the risk of mild cognitive impairment and an increase in the risk of probable dementia. 7.Antidepressants are associated with impaired gastrointestinal functioning The action of antidepressants results in elevated levels of serotonin in the intestinal lining, which is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Indeed, antidepressants have been found to cause the same symptoms as irritable bowel syndrome—pain, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, bloating and headache. In a recent study, 14-23% of people taking antidepressants suffered these side effects. 8. Antidepressants cause sexual dysfunction and have adverse effects on sperm quality. Depression commonly causes problems in sexual functioning. However, many antidepressants make the problem worse, impairing sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm. The most widely studied and commonly prescribed antidepressants—Celexa, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft—have been found to increase the risk of sexual dysfunction by six times or more. Evidence from case studies suggests that antidepressants may also interfere with attachment and romantic love. Some antidepressants have been found to negatively impact sperm structure, volume, and mobility. 9. Antidepressant use is associated with developmental problems Antidepressant medication is frequently prescribed to pregnant and lactating mothers. Since SSRIs can pass through the placental barrier and maternal milk, they can affect fetal and neonatal development. Generally, if SSRIs are taken during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. Exposure during the first trimester can increase the risk of congenital defects and developing an autism spectrum disorder, such as Asperger’s Syndrome. Third trimester SSRI exposure is associated with an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (10% mortality rate) and medication withdrawal symptoms such as crying, irritability, and convulsions. Prenatal exposure to SSRIs is also associated with an increased risk of respiratory distress, which is the leading cause of death of premature infants. 11\\10. Antidepressant use is associated with an increased risk of abnormal bleeding and stroke Serotonin is crucial to platelet function and promotes blood clotting, which is important when one has a bleeding injury. Patients taking SSRIs and other antidepressants are more likely to have abnormal bleeding problems (for a review see our article). They are more likely to have a hemorrhagic stroke (caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain) and be hospitalized for an upper gastrointestinal bleed. The bleeding risks are likely to increase when SSRIs are taken with other medications that reduce clotting, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Coumadin . 11. Antidepressants are associated with an increased risk of death in older people. Depression itself is associated with an increased risk of death in older people—primarily due to cardiovascular problems. However, antidepressants make the problem worse. Five recent studies have shown that antidepressant use is associated with an increased risk of death in older people (50 years and older), over and above the risk associated with depression. Four of the studies were published in reputable medical journals—The British Journal of Psychiatry, Archives of Internal Medicine, Plos One, and the British Medical Journal—by different research groups. The fifth study was presented this year at the American Thoracic Society conference in San Francisco. In these studies, the estimated risk of death was substantial. For instance, in the Women’s Health Initiative study, antidepressant drugs were estimated to cause about five deaths out of a 1000 people over a year’s time. This is the same study that previously identified the dangers of hormonal replacement therapy for postmenopausal women. In the study published in the British Medical Journal, antidepressants were estimated to cause 10 to 44 deaths out of a 1000 people over a year, depending on the type of antidepressant. In comparison, the painkiller Vioxx was taken off the market in the face of evidence that it caused 7 cardiac events out of 1000 people over a year. Since cardiac events are not necessarily fatal, the number of deaths estimated to be caused by antidepressants is arguably of much greater concern. An important caveat is that these studies were not placebo-controlled experiments in which depressed participants were randomly assigned to placebo or antidepressant treatment. For this reason, one potential problem is that perhaps the people who were taking antidepressants were more likely to die because they had more severe depression. However, the paper published in the British Medical Journal was able to rule out that possibility because they controlled for the pre-medication level of depressive symptoms. In other words, even among people who had similar levels of depression without medication, the subsequent use of antidepressant medications was associated with a higher risk of death. These studies were limited to older men and women. But many people start taking antidepressants in adolescence or young adulthood. Moreover, since the risk of a relapse is often increased when one attempts to go off an antidepressant (see point 3 above), people may remain on medication for years or decades. Unfortunately, we have no idea how the cumulative impact of taking antidepressants for such a long time affects the expected lifespan. In principle, long-term antidepressant use could shave off years of life. It is commonly argued that antidepressants are needed to prevent depressed patients from committing suicide. Yet there is a well-known controversy over whether antidepressants promote suicidal behavior. Consequently, it is not possible to reach any firm conclusions about how antidepressants affect the risk of suicidal behavior. However, most deaths attributed to antidepressants are not suicides. In other words, antidepressants appear to increase the risk of death regardless of their effects on suicidal behavior. We suggest that antidepressants increase the risk of death by degrading the overall functioning of the body. This is suggested by the fact that antidepressants have adverse effects on every major process in the body regulated by serotonin. 12. Antidepressants have many negative effects on older people Most of the research on the adverse health effects of antidepressants has been conducted on older patients. Consequently, our conclusions are strongest for this age group. In addition to cognitive decline, stroke and death, antidepressant use in older people is associated with an increased risk of falling and bone fracture. Older people taking SSRIs are also at an increased risk of developing hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood plasma). This condition is characterized by nausea, headache, lethargy, muscle cramps and disorientation. In severe cases, hyponatremia can cause seizures, coma, respiratory arrest and death. The fact that most research has been conducted on older people does not mean that antidepressants do not have harmful effects on the young. As previously discussed, antidepressants can have harmful effects on development. Moreover, many people start taking these drugs when they are young and remain on them for years or decades. In principle, the negative effects of these drugs could be substantial over such long periods of time. Altogether, the evidence leads us to conclude that antidepressants generally do more harm than good as treatments for depression. On the benefit side, the drugs have a limited ability to reduce symptoms. On the cost side, there is a significant and unappreciated list of negative health effects because these drugs affect all the processes regulated by serotonin throughout the body. While the negative effects are unintended by the physician and the patient, they are perfectly expectable once you understand how these drugs work. Taken together, the evidence suggests that these drugs degrade the overall functioning of the body. It is difficult to argue that a drug that increases the risk of death is generally helping people. There may be conditions other than depression where antidepressants are generally beneficial (e.g., as treatments for brain tumors and facilitating recovery after a stroke), but further research in these areas is needed (see our article). Ethical and Legal Issues Physicians and other medical practitioners have an ethical obligation to avoid causing greater harm to their patients. The Latin phrase primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”) that all medical students are taught means that it may be better to do nothing than to risk causing a greater harm to a patient. Although all prescription medications have adverse side effects that can cause harm, practitioners have an ethical obligation to not prescribe medications that do more harm than good. The evidence we have reviewed suggests practitioners should exercise much greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants and to reconsider their use as a first line of treatment for depression. Additionally, we suggest that physicians and other medical practitioners should consider their potential legal liability. Legal liability for prescribing antidepressants Medical practitioners can be sued for prescribing antidepressant medications if doing so violates their state’s standard of care laws. In most states, the standard of care is what a “reasonably prudent” practitioner in the same or similar field would do. The standard of practice is not defined by what the majority of physicians do because it is possible for an entire field to be negligent. Since studies on the health risks associated with antidepressant use (e.g., stroke, death) have been published in well-respected medical journals, medical practitioners could possibly be vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits. For instance, it seems likely that a reasonably prudent physician should be aware of the medical literature and avoid prescribing medications that could increase the risk of stroke and death. Prescribers can also be held liable for not discussing information about medical risks so that patients can give informed consent for medical treatments and procedures. Prescribers have a duty to discuss the benefits and risks of any recommended treatment. Consequently, medical practitioners should discuss with their patients that antidepressant medication is only modestly more effective than placebo and could increase the risk of neurological damage, attentional impairments, gastrointestinal problems, sexual difficulties, abnormal bleeding, cognitive impairment, dementia, stroke, death, and the risk of relapse after discontinuation. Antidepressants must cause harm to create liability A medical malpractice lawsuit can only succeed if the antidepressant caused harm to the patient. It is important to realize that the antidepressant does not need to be the only cause of the harm—it only needs to contribute to or exacerbate the harm. As we have argued, antidepressants play a causal role in many adverse health outcomes because they disrupt serotonin, which regulates so many important processes throughout the body. This may make it particularly difficult for a medical practitioner to defend against a medical malpractice suit from a patient who experiences any of a number of adverse health effects while taking an antidepressant. For instance, if a patient has a stroke while taking an antidepressant, the evidence that antidepressants increase the risk of stroke suggests that the antidepressant may have contributed to the patient’s stroke, even if it was not the only cause. Conclusion The evidence now indicates that antidepressants are less effective and more toxic than commonly believed. From ethical, health, and legal perspectives, it seems prudent for individual practitioners and professional medical organizations to revise informed consent guidelines and reconsider the status of antidepressants in standards of care for many diagnoses and as the front line treatment for depression. With older people, for instance, the current data suggest informed consent must include a discussion of the increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke and even early death. We suspect that if prescribers realized they were placing themselves at legal risk for failing to discuss the adverse health effects of antidepressants with their patients, not only would they be more likely to discuss such information, they would be less likely to recommend these drugs in the first place. Paul W. Andrews is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University in Canada. He has a PhD in Biology from the University of New Mexico and a law degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His work on the evolution of depression with J. Anderson Thomson, Jr. has been featured in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and Scientific American Mind. Taken with respect and gratitude. directly from ANNECWOODLEN’s Blog BEHIND THE LOCKED DOORS OF INPATIENTS PSYCHIATRY. http://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/you-and-your-antidepressant-2/
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