Helping Friends & Firing Psychiatrists: Answers to Questions

Helping friends in psychiatric inpatient

        This is a truly great question and my answer is one word:  abide.  My pastor demonstrated this word to me.  It means “to endure without yielding; to bear patiently.”  Even if there’s nothing you can do for your friend, be there.  Don’t walk away.

        Send your friend cards letting her know you are thinking of her.  Telephone her, even if it’s really difficult to get your call through.  Listen to her.  GO VISIT.  Don’t be afraid to walk through the locked doors.  Take food (pizza is good) or flowers (but not in a glass vase—they’ll confiscate that).  The more visitors a psychiatric inpatient has, the better the patient will be treated.  If the staff knows that somebody is watching, then they treat the patient better.  If the patient has no visitors, then gradually the staff begins to ride roughshod over their human rights.

        You don’t have to “do” therapy or any other thing.  Your friend has got therapists, doctors, nurses, social workers and case managers up the wazoo.  What your friend needs is you.  What did you do or share outside the hospital?  Continue to share the same things, to the best of your ability.  Whatever you do, do not ever, ever, ever agree with the staff.  Your friend is surrounded by them 24/7, and forced to accept their control over her life.  She needs you to stand with her.  That might be as an advocate, but is more likely to be just as a friend.  She’s got nobody to whom she can vent about the staff problems; as her friend, you be the somebody.

        Don’t be afraid of the locked doors.  You have a right to visit.  My friend came to visit me after church, bringing her two young children with her.  The aide who unlocked the door told her the kids couldn’t come in because it was unsafe.  That was a total lie, born of an arrogant young man having been given the power of the key:  he could lock or unlock the door.  Unfortunately for him, he didn’t know who he was messing with.  My visitor was a physician assistant and sister-in-law of the hospital’s director.

        It is physically safe to take children to visit on inpatient psychiatry, however, it can be disconcerting because they may witness some bizarre behavior that is hard to explain.  For this reason, inpatient psychiatric units will arrange for children to visit in a small room off the dayroom, or in the patient’s bedroom.  Privacy is given to protect the very young.

        My friend’s daughter was in second grade and had just lost a front tooth.  In solidarity with her, I whipped out my dentures, showing her that I didn’t have any front teeth either.  She was absolutely dumbstruck; apparently she didn’t know anything about false teeth.  At the end of our visit, I told her that we should keep my dentures a secret between her and me.  She replied, “My mommy says it’s not nice to keep secrets.”  Thanks a bunch, mommy.

        Don’t be afraid of the staff and don’t let them bully.  Go, sit and abide with your friend.  Ask her what she wants.  She may have lost her mind, but not her right to choose.  If in doubt of your welcome, ask her if she would like you to leave.  Give her the chance to say yes.  She is in a physically and emotionally strange place.  Have the strength and courage to go there with her; don’t let her go alone.

 When to fire your psychiatrist 

At the end of your first visit.  But seriously, folks . . . there is no good formula for when to fire a psychiatrist because psychiatrists are tricky bastards.  First of all, they’re very smart, which means they can create lots of justifications for their non-therapeutic acts.  Second of all, there is no fixed pattern of weirdness.  You get your hair cut, walk into your shrink’s office, and he says, “I like my women with long hair.”  Run like hell away from this guy.

In another example, in the third session I asked a psychiatrist a question and she snapped, “You know what I’m talking about.”  That’s an answer you give to the husband you’re mad at, not the patient you’re treating.  Ninety-eight percent of all psychiatrists are squirrely.  I knew one who stabbed his wife and claimed it was self-defense.  Okay, I can buy that—but then why did he hide the knife in the attic?

The best advice I can give you is:  TRUST YOURSELF.  You know you best.  You have lived with you longest.  How much time has your psychiatrist spent with you?  Does he know enough about you to treat you wisely?  He may try to guilt you out, saying that you’re running from your problems, or that you’re refusing to face the truth.  Don’t believe it.  You’re being manipulated.

Here’s the God’s honest truth:  healing doesn’t have to hurt.  If you’re feeling better, then keep working with him.  If you’re not, dump him.  I know that he’s got an enormous amount of power and prestige—he’s a doctor, for Pete’s sake—but that doesn’t mean he’s right.  He lives in an enclave of wealthy people, vacations on South Seas islands, and doesn’t empty his own trash.  He has no idea what your reality is.  How many life-points do you and he have in common?

If you’re asking yourself when to fire your psychiatrist, then it’s past time to do it.

A therapist who works in a hospital calls healing “The F-O Day,”—that’s the day when you develop enough confidence in yourself to tell your doctor to fuck off.  Try it; you’ll like it.

How long can a person be legally maintained in a locked psychiatric intensive care area?

Forever, as far as I know.  There are specific and copious rules and regulations about how a person can be treated while locked in “intensive care”—also known as solitary confinement.  First among these is that you cannot be left alone; there has to be a staff person within earshot.  At St.Joe’s, they do not use nurses or therapy aides for this constant accompaniment; they use security guards, which should tell you just how therapeutic they consider the experience to be.  It’s prison without all the fuss of a trial.  It is all perfectly legal under NYS Mental Hygiene Law.

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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3 Responses to Helping Friends & Firing Psychiatrists: Answers to Questions

  1. Danny says:

    Fire your psychiatrist when they make it abundantly clear that they do not care about you, when they let their own agenda dictate everything and then claim they are correct because they are the doc. Psychiatrists are no more mentally healthy than their patients and some, less so. They care about the almighty dollar even though they are often champagne socialists. They are not your friend. They draw you in, telling you you are in a safe place. No, you are not safe in their office. If a fire was raging they would run and leave you to find your own way out. Very often they go into psych to resolve their own problems but they never do. Psychs have higher divorce rate than general population. They hide their dirty laundry such as the mentally ill relatives they have abandoned. They hide their prescription drug abuse. Their main goal is to to make a living, pay as little tax as possible and keep you sick so they have a job. They prescribe drugs to which you become addicted and then call you an addict. They have no qualms about firing you. So fire them when you get that feeling in your gut or just stay away in the first place. Am I bitter? For sure. My experience with psychs is they are all phoney fakers of empathy and very neurotic if not worse.

    • annecwoodlen says:


      You are entirely correct. I had a psychiatric resident who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and did not appear to be doing well in therapy. Another one got angry at his wife and tore the telephone out of the wall. A third engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with his female patients. On two occasions, he discharged patients from the hospital and they went directly to the mall and jumped to their deaths. A fourth psychiatrist knifed his wife, was arrested for attempted murder, and pled out to an assault charge. Another psychiatrist was so self-absorbed that he usually spoke to me while standing with his back to me and looking inward. One psychiatrist had a child diagnosed with moderate autism; she institutionalized him before he was five years old, despite having the resources to care for him at home. Yet another psychiatrist was being sued by so many people that his agency had to post a sign telling people not to name the agency in their suits.

      Psychiatrists usually are not morally and emotionally healthy people. My experience is consistent with yours. Society upholds them as role models, consequently, when we discover the reality of these crippled people who deceive us, it gives rise to extreme bitterness. Psychiatrists’ personal lives are more corrupted than politicians. Politicians at least appear to be having some fun.

  2. I agree, it’s a prison without the need of a trial. In Pennsylvania, a person can be court committed without the judge being required to talk to the patient!

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