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


(Continuation)  Most of the patients on inpatient psychiatry behaved toward me like normal, civilized human beings.  A fellow named Mark became something of my protector.  Several young girls acted toward me as grandchildren.  Because I am (a) a nice person, (b) in a wheelchair, and (c) appreciative of all consideration, most of the other patients tried to care for me.

“Can I get you some ice cream from the kitchen?” 

“Don’t try to pick that paper up from the floor—I’ll get it for you.” 

“Here, let me carry that cup for you.” 

“Do you need anything?” 

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

            Because I am a psychiatric patient, most of the staff treated me meanly.  My psychologist told me that when he worked as an aide in a psychiatric hospital, he was taught, “You’ve got to get tough with them” and little has changed.  Psychiatric illness—psychoneuroimmunoendocrinological illness—is treated as bad behavior:  beat them hard enough and they’ll stop hallucinating.

            I would guess that you could go just about anywhere in society, put one person in a wheelchair and have her ask, “Could you bring me a tray?” and the answer from every person would be, “Oh, sure.”

            But not in psychiatric “care”—not in psychiatric imprisonment.

            It is just and right and necessary for us to call them cunts and pricks.  The rule of law says that if the first party to a contract violates the terms of the contract, then the first party cannot hold the second party to the contract.  Inpatient psychiatric staff, on a daily—if not hourly—basis, violate the social contract that exists between human beings.  Therefore, the party of the second part is not bound to extend polite behavior to the party of the first part.

            In fact, it is incumbent upon all psychiatric captives to curse their captors—to confront the staff with the fact that they are not behaving agreeably, they are not kind, they are not caring—to break their illusion that they are good people doing a nice thing.  They are not.  They are prison guards with a “get tough” policy.  It would be a good thing for all “psychiatric patients” to act so badly that staff members can’t sleep at night and quit their jobs.

            Thirty years ago, I was an aide on a locked psychiatric unit.  I had the keys.  I believed that I was wise, healthy and good, and it was my job to reeducate, retrain and remodel the sick-o’s who passed through my care.  In fact, like so many other inpatient psychiatric workers, I was ignorant, narrow-minded and judgmental.  I shouldn’t have been given the keys to a dog kennel, let alone a human locked unit.

            I believed that people who called for things like the bombing of psychiatric hospitals were unruly, unrealistic, unreasonable members of society who should be imprisoned and taught by people like me.  Psychiatric “survivors” who said they were being drugged to keep them from talking were crazy.  They simply didn’t understand what was good for them.  Obviously, they were in pain; their pain was caused by their illness, not by my mistreatment of them.  I was, after all, doing exactly what the doctors told me to do.

            As a psychiatric inpatient, now I could get away with calling staff members cunts and pricks because on my chart there was a big label that said, “ALLERGIC TO ALL MEDICATIONS.”  Had that notice not been there, the staff would have medicated me into silence.  Because, obviously, I was in pain and my pain was caused by my illness, not by their mistreatment of me, wasn’t it?

            Violent radicals like me are made, not born.  When I was a high school graduate, society gave me the keys to imprison people.  Now I am old, and a graduate of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization.  Experience has taught me how incredibly, unbearably, wrong the psychiatric system is.  It should be destroyed by whatever means possible.

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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 Community General Hospital, CPEP, Hutchings Psychiatric Center, Inpatient psychiatry, mental illness, Mental Patients Liberation Alliance, NYS Office of Mental Health, psychiatric patient, psychiatrist, St. Joseph's Hospital, Suicide, Support line, Upstate Medical Center and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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