About the Author: Anne C Woodlen (Part VI)


[Ooops, sorry!  I got things out of order and didn’t post the last section of my history.  What’s the point if you don’t know how it turns out in the end?  Tomorrow we’ll go back to the story of being inpatient at Hutchings.  Anne]

The bad news was that I was back on inpatient psychiatry and—because of the link between immunology and psychology—I was doing poorly.  And I was tormented by what I saw and experienced on inpatient psychiatry.  Among other things, the unit staff had virtually cut off all phone contact between patients and the outside world, which is a violation of mental health regulations.  The mental health lawyer assigned to the unit knew about it but had done nothing to change it.

I was so badly manhandled by the staff that I had bruises on my arms.  My primary care physician came, saw, shrugged and left.  If I had gone to a police station with those bruises and accused my husband then he would have been arrested, but inpatient psychiatry is not troubled by public law.  Under mental health law, people’s civil rights are violated on a daily basis on inpatient psychiatry.  The reason is simple:  they are not people; they are patients.

During my inpatient stay, my father died.  I felt him close to me during the weeks after his death.  I think I finally checked out of the hospital AMA—Against Medical Advice.  At home, my nervous system was still shredded from the attack on my immune system.  I demanded that Dr. Ghaly prescribe an antidepressant and a tranquilizer.  He did so.  Within a week, I overdosed on the drugs and was shipped off to the emergency room and thence back to CPEP, where I discovered the secret of how to get transferred out quickly:  be abusive.  It works.

The transfer was back to the Catholic hospital and Dr. Ghaly.  I was only there for a week while arrangements were being made for a home aide for “personal care,” i.e., showering and dressing, then Dr. Ghaly discharged me to home.

That was my last time served on inpatient psychiatry.

Between 1971 and 2003, I estimate that I endured psychiatric hospitalization more than fifty times.  I have spent about three years of my life on inpatient psychiatry.  My last discharge was on January 2, 2004.  Dr. Ghaly and I have agreed that I never can be hospitalized again.  If you cannot be drugged into insensitivity then you cannot tolerate inpatient psychiatry.

I met an elderly female patient in Dr. Ghaly’s office.  She had been raped, and the police took her to CPEP.  She said, “If I ever again get the desire to go to CPEP, I’m going to go get drunk instead.”  It is a far, far better thing to do.

So here’s the summary:  I was hospitalized in a community hospital, a teaching hospital, a private hospital, a state hospital, a Catholic hospital, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

I worked in a teaching hospital, the NYS Office of Mental Health, a mental health association, an advocacy agency, a peer center, and a support line.

I took—to the best of my recollection—Amytriptyline, Anafranil, Ativan, Buspar, Effexor, Elavil, Depakote, Desipramine, Klonopin, Lamictal, Lithium, Neurontin, Nortriptyline, Pamelor, Prozac, Remeron, Risperdal, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, Tofranil, Trazadone, Vivactil, Wellbutrin and Zoloft, and had shock treatment.  I saw my therapist twice a week forever.

Without all those things, I am now more or less fine.  I live alone in a small apartment outside the city.  I travel by power wheelchair and am able to take care of most of my affairs in the village.  Whereas I used to have home health aides three hours a day, I now have an aide only six hours a week.  My relationship with my mother continues to be very close but I am estranged from my siblings.  For many years I had an on-again off-again lover, followed by a couple of dating relationships.  I am now employed six hours a week, with hopes of increasing that.

I have learned that depression is triggered by the perception of powerlessness.  Therefore, I have learned to treat my depression by acting with power to change situations that oppress me.  Among other things, I have successfully gotten—

  • The local bus company investigated by the Federal Transit Administration for failing to provide paratransit service that meets the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • Medicaid transportation investigated by the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, also for failing to provide service that meets legal standards;
  • The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to answer for forcing me to live in a segregated apartment building where able-bodied people are not allowed to live with us.

And, in another act of moving powerfully to disarm the system that has so deeply injured me and others, I am writing this blog.

Do you think I know what I’m talking about?  Do you think anyone knows more than I do about the subject of inpatient psychiatry?

It occurs to me that there is one other qualification that I should establish:  I’m smart.  I have an I.Q. of 139.  Physicians average out at about 120, so I’m probably smarter than your psychiatrist and I certainly know a lot of things he doesn’t.  He probably has never admitted to feeling suicidal, been locked down on inpatient, taken psych drugs, or been handcuffed in the back of a police car because he attempted suicide.  If your psychiatrist has ever had shock treatment, argued for the destruction of the American psychiatric system, or gotten four decades of experience, please send me his contact information.  I for sure want to meet him. 

If all he did was graduate from medical school and do a residency, then send him the link to this blog.

Anne C. Woodlen

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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