The Undrugging of Annie (Part V)


            I was repeatedly admitted to inpatient psychiatry for treatment of suicidal depression.  Several times in the decade that had elapsed since Dr. Rich had poisoned me, I had approached her while I was an inpatient.  Each time she told me that she was not responsible for my illness.  She said that she had done all the tests she should have done.  What she had not done was believe me when I said something was wrong.

Many times my hospitalizations would coincide with those of a slender young woman with bright blue eyes who was suffering from hallucinations consequent to childhood sexual abuse.  She was Dr. Rich’s patient.  I watched as the woman grew gaunt and seriously ill.  I listened as her husband talked about the extensive and expensive tests that were being performed to try to diagnosis her problems.  She had liver tests, invasive gastrointestinal testing, MRIs, and things I’d never heard of.

            I knew.  By now Dr. Rich had something of a reputation—among doctors and patients—as being abusively incompetent.  Her colleagues knew she was incompetent.  Regulations require physicians to report incompetence.  None of them did.  I knew Dr. Rich was poisoning her blue-eyed patient but there was nothing I could do.  The patient and her husband were true believers.  They trusted Dr. Rich.  They had never heard of the PDR or OPMC, and didn’t want to learn.  The doctor would know what to do, they thought.  No point in listening to another patient.  The young couple was oblivious to the idea that drugs have side effects, and that doctors diagnosis side effects as new diseases without ever checking the listing in the PDR.

            Dr. Ghaly ran out of antidepressants for my treatment.  He held out the hope of new antidepressants that would soon come on the market, and changed my treatment to nutrients.  SAMe caused depression, hypomania, diarrhea, leg cramps, nausea and low blood glucose.  Omega 3 caused a weight gain of fifteen pounds in twenty-seven days.  I treated myself with St. John’s Wort, not knowing it is an MAO inhibitor and I still had SSRIs in my system.  This time it was me who made me acutely ill.

My mother became critically ill with infections following a knee replacement.  She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and tread perilously close to death.  It triggered the recollection of my time in the ICU, after which I had learned that some of my sisters had tried to get my life support turned off.  I got angry at the appropriate sisters—both ordained Methodist ministers.  They told me I was evil and never to speak to them again.

            My weakness/fatigue/lethargy/lack of energy were pathological.  Frequently, I lay immobile in bed without spontaneous movement of my extremities.  Dr. Paul Cohen went to a conference and returned to tell me that he’d thought about me the whole time an immunologist spoke.  What was my major complaint?  Fatigue.  What is the leading symptom of an immune system under attack?  Fatigue.  Paul kept talking about the immune system and I kept listening.

Paul said that I had been at my best when receiving treatment from the alternative medicine doctor, so I went back to him.  He said that most of the immune system is located in the gut.  He prescribed twelve different nutrients for my assorted ills, particularly the yeast infection in my gut.  I went to a gastroenterologist to double-check.

The gastroenterologist intended to prescribe a strong pharmaceutical but listened carefully to my story, then changed it to two homeopathic medicines.  I added a dozen of the fourteen new pills to my daily routine and, thirty-six hours later, I passed out in the bathroom.  I was ambulanced to the ER, where I lived for three days.  I was evaluated and found to be so weak that I was to be discharged to a skilled nursing facility.  My active life was over.

            On the third day in the ER, a particularly nasty doctor decided that instead of going to a nursing home, I should be discharged back to my own home without any aides.  There were no skilled nursing beds available because—according to him—I had voted for Reagan.  I pitched a fit.  Dr. Ghaly got me transferred to inpatient psychiatry, it being only slightly more desirable than a funeral home.

Eating made me sick.  The attempt to digest bulk food would send me into spasms.  Now, instead of eliminating things from my diet, I started over.  I wiped the table clean and put back on it baked chicken and fish, boiled potatoes and rice, and boiled vegetables.  Nothing more.  My liquids were limited to orange juice, decaffeinated tea, Lactaid, and water.  Condiments were salt, pepper and one patty of butter per meal.  My solid food was all pureed.  Nothing else entered my system, and I began to feel better.  My gut stopped hurting during the night, the diarrhea diminished a little, and my emotional swings weren’t quite so severe.  Dr. Ghaly called another gastroenterologist who said there was no reason for my diet, but—(what the hell, it won’t hurt her—she’s crazy and on a psych unit and I’m not going to get into it).

            I began to laugh a little.  The hospital dietary department, only able to follow orders, not to think, sent me the same snacks that other patients got—pizza, ham and cheese sandwiches—but they sent mine pureed!  At my dinner table, “What is it?” became the game of the day.  I ate slowly, carefully and healthily.  People would ask me how I could stand it.  “It makes me feel better,” I answered.  “I would sooner eat ground glass than go back to my old diet,” I said.  “It’s not about the taste buds; it’s about the whole body,” I learned.  (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 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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