Service vs. Power

It is Easter and I hurt.  The Neurontin must be increased but even so I doubt that it will do any good.  Bipolar II depression is supposed to be treated with a mood stabilizer and a mood elevator, i.e., an antidepressant.  There are no more antidepressants I can use.  Also, we have eliminated four of the five stabilizers, therefore, Neurontin is all we’ve got with which to work.  And I’ve been feeling lousy most of the last two weeks.  Maybe we’re just not increasing the Neurontin fast enough.  Or maybe we’re trying to use a stabilizer as an elevator.

            Some good things happened today—one or two moments here and there—but I don’t feel like talking about them because . . . I don’t know, maybe because it’ll make me cry.

            I woke up at 5:30 a.m.  Bad pain in my shoulder.  Took Tylenol.  Took orange juice in the event of low blood sugar.  Went back to bed and cried.  Took Ativan.  Slept, finally.  Was awakened for church.  Felt terrible.  Didn’t know whether to get up or not.  Got up.  Shouldn’t have.

            Went to church.  Drank Ensure.  Cried.  Got took home.  By Steve.  Ate leftover Chinese.  Slept for nearly three hours.  Came back to hospital and cried.  Watched movie.  Talked to Mom.  Cried.  Guess I’m pretty depressed.

            Tomorrow’s my 103rd day in captivity.  [I had been on inpatient psychiatry at St. Joseph’s Hospital for 103 days because they couldn’t find any place to discharge me.  I had both physical and mental illness, and no care facility would accept both.]  Appointment with Paul.  Big deal.  Dr. Ghaly was supposed to do acupuncture for my shoulder last Friday.  He forgot.  Saturday he said he’d do it but didn’t show up.

Tomorrow?  I will no longer have Nicole from Physical Therapy as part of my health care team.  And if I were not in a hospital—on a psychotic unit?—would she dare speak to me the way she does anyway?  And if I was not in a hospital then I would be getting better medical care.  Hospitals are for acute care.  I have been here 103 days and need routine follow-up care for chronic illnesses.  I am not getting that care.

            For example, I was suffering from diabetes mellitus II, controlled by diet.  I routinely took my blood sugar, it routinely averaged out to about 100, and I routinely saw my doctor at the Joslin Clinic.  Then I was admitted to Intensive Care, my blood sugar went up to an unspecified level, and I was put on insulin injections.  After being admitted to the psychiatric unit, finger-sticks were done on a regular basis, my blood sugar levels dropped, and I was taken off insulin and put on Glucophage.

After more time passed—and because I, and I alone, was paying attention to my glucose levels—the internist was called again and I was taken off medication and left to control my diabetes with diet again.  Then we started me on the Neurontin—ah, screw all this.  I’m just getting myself worked up.  The bottom line simply is that the internist considers himself too busy to follow me, the nurses—ah, crap.  Just understand this:  No routine medical care takes place on an inpatient basis.

            My vision has gotten very, very, scary bad—and nobody listens and nobody does a damn thing about it.  Fuck everybody.

Addendum  What I would not learn until years later is that inpatient psychiatry is not under the jurisdiction of the NYS Dept. of Health.  All those medical things over which the Dept. of Health has jurisdiction do not apply to inpatient psychiatry.

Inpatient psychiatry is under the jurisdiction of the NYS Office of Mental Health.

Psychiatric units imbedded in hospitals such as St. Joseph’s, Upstate Medical Center and Community General are, in fact, not hospitals in the traditional medical sense. State psychiatric “hospitals,” such as Hutchings Psychiatric Center, are not hospitals at all.  If you need medical evaluation at Hutchings, you are trucked down the street to Upstate Medical Center’s emergency room.

I am “dual diagnosis,” i.e., I have both bipolar depression and multiple physical illnesses, most resulting from improper drug treatment of depression.  On inpatient psychiatry I cannot get a food tray brought to my bed, or my wheelchair pushed, or help with a shower, because those are considered to be medical issues.

Mental health counselors—the college graduates who provide direct patient care on inpatient psychiatry—are not trained to give showers.  They are the first line of reporting for patients—many of whom are elderly and disabled—about medical problems and they have no medical training.

After I got off a month on life support, I was returned to inpatient psychiatry.  I was forbidden to get out of bed because I was too weak to stand or walk.  One morning the staff didn’t bring me my breakfast tray or any liquids.  I have a rare kidney disease called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus; it was caused by unmonitored lithium.  It has broken down my kidneys so that I urinate constantly, even when I’m not drinking.  Several times a year I would dehydrate and end up in the Emergency Room.

So there I was on inpatient psychiatry at St. Joseph’s Hospital, too sick to get out of bed and not getting any liquids.  I recognized the symptoms and realized that I was slowly dehydrating into a coma.  I ran the bell.  Jennifer the aide came.  Knowing nothing at all about my illness, she judged me and found me immoral:  she decided I was faking.  She refused to bring me “any liquids until you ask nicely.”  When I wanted the bell to call a nurse, Jennifer took it out of my reach.  Slowly lapsing into unconsciousness, I was at the mercy of a judgmental girl with no medical training.

Years later I applied for a job at Onondaga Case Management but got shot down.  Jennifer was on the committee making the hiring decision.

Psychiatric treatment is not dispensed on the basis of service to sick people.  It is based on power over weak people.


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, Hutchings Psychiatric Center, Inpatient psychiatry, mental illness, NYS Office of Mental Health, psychiatric patient, St. Joseph's Hospital, Upstate Medical Center and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s