Made, Not Born: An End to Inpatient Psychiatric Hospitalization (Part I)


            On Christmas night, I took an overdose—nothing planned, not a suicide attempt, just a blind irrational act of pain.  I hung up from a phone call and swallowed all the pills on my bedside tray table.  Had there been more pills available, I would have taken them; had there been fewer, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed to get more.  I swallowed whatever was in reach without concern or thought of consequences.  That is what we are taught:  if you are in pain, take a pill.  If you are in more pain, take two pills.  If the pain is unbearable, then take everything in reach.

Some hours later, nature called and I returned to some inadequate level of consciousness.  Trying to get to the bathroom, I fell out of bed, resulting in severe abrasions to both knees, my right elbow and left forehead, as well as severe bruises to my breasts and back.

            The downstairs neighbor heard me fall, called 911, and I was transported to some Emergency Room, where I was given activated charcoal and left to sleep off the overdose. Sometime the next day, I was committed to the Community Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) and transported there, in handcuffs, by the police.  Still barely conscious from the overdose, I was pushed to a cot in CPEP and left to sleep some more. 

I have very little memory of these events, except that I was—as usual—being treated awfully in CPEP.  I retaliated in kind, and learned a lesson.

            I kept cursing the CPEP staff.  Mostly, I called the women “goddamn fucking cunts” and the men “mother fucking pricks.”  In retrospect, I suspect that I was still carrying enough of a drug overload that it knocked out that portion of the brain that restricts inappropriate utterances—a sort of Tourette syndrome via medication. 

The inhuman abuse of the previous month came roaring out every time the CPEP staff pissed me off, which was probably very frequently.  I have some vague recollection of staff members telling me sharply that they were documenting everything I said.  Big deal.  Of what substance was that threat?  It simply was all they had to hit back with:  “I’m telling on you!”  Yeah, right.

            I wonder, now—as I was too fogged out to wonder then—what my tormentors thought about having me back?  How much trouble did my report of two year’s ago cause them?  I don’t remember any of the people who were working in CPEP this year.  What I do remember is some woman saying angrily, “I’m not going to put up with this,” picking up the phone and calling 3-6 (inpatient psychiatric unit) to get me transferred right away.

            Two years ago, when I was in CPEP, I was careful, quiet, polite, reasonable and rational in my articulation of opposition to the staff.  I had to stay there four days.  This year, I screamed bloody murder, and was transferred out in about seven hours.  There is a lesson there.  I guess calling a woman a cunt helps move the system along.

            One of the things I had begun to realize a few weeks ago was that I did nothing wrong.  Everyone—everyone—told me that my behavior in psychiatric imprisonment was improper.  (At one point, my doctor refused to see me because of my behavior.)  But what I understand now is that my captors broke all the rules of civilized behavior.  The day I asked for my breakfast tray because I was too ill to get out of bed, but was told to get it myself, marked the beginning of the abuse.  (To be continued)

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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
This entry was posted in CPEP, Inpatient psychiatry, mental illness, NYS Office of Mental Health, psychiatric patient, psychiatrist, St. Joseph's Hospital, Suicide and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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