It’s odd, watching your mind go. My psychologist told me years ago that if you randomly selected a thousand people then I’d be the smartest person in the room (or auditorium, if you will), but high glucose dummies you down. Without insulin, my glucose runs around 350 (supposed to be below 120) so I’m getting used to not having me around.
After I took the insulin overdose, my blood sugar dropped to 127, then 109, and during that time Steve visited me and we had this wonderful conversation. I was so present; it was amazing. Now, back up to 350, I drift a lot.
It’s really hard to know what to say. I miss Dr. Edwards a lot. While I was in the hospital, he spent about an hour with me every day. I am awed by such a deep gift. Rev. Craig Schaub taught me that “abide” means to keep walking with someone even when there is nothing you can do to help. Dr. Edwards “abided” well with me. I would not have survived my time in the craziness of Unit 3-6 had it not been for his visits.
The craziness was not the patients; it was the staff. The quickest way to raise a crazy child is to be inconsistent and 3-6 was totally inconsistent. On morning shift, I explained to R.N. Wendy about my need to see Steve, who is my power of attorney. She said no problem, you can see him. When he arrived on the evening shift, he was not allowed to see me. Staff kept telling me I could have my electric wheelchair and asking when someone would bring it. When Steve called to make sure he could bring it, two different staff members told him I couldn’t have it until I was discharged.
Roger Levine, M.D., told me that it was absolute policy that no one on 3-6 could have an electric hospital bed and he wouldn’t make an exception for me. Then I saw another patient on 3-6 in an electric bed. There is no consistent policy, neither is there any treatment plan that is tailored to fit the patient. Basically, the staff do anything they want to and the patient has no recourse. The regulations said that I had the right to attend a treatment plan meeting. There never was a treatment plan meeting. How could there be? I didn’t need psychiatric treatment. The psychiatrist said so!
Nevertheless, there was a treatment plan. I’d been on 3-6 about ten days before I was given a copy of my treatment plan. It had been drawn up by a committee: Olga Lewis, R.N.; Mellisa Tamborino, R.N.; Kathy Leo; Dr. Levine; Kyle Sibley, LCSW; Judith Domres, RNC-CM; Amy Flynn, CM. I don’t even know who Kathy and Judith are, and let me tell you about Kyle, the social worker.
She came to my bedside to interview me the first morning while I was in the midst of the hypoglycemic crisis, four bowel movements and vomiting. I tried to answer her questions but within a couple minutes she was harrying me about why I couldn’t tell her in what I’d earned my A.A.—associate’s degree—twenty-five years ago.
In the first place, who gives a shit? I’m now facing a long, slow death from diabetes and she wants information about a two-bit degree from a long time ago? What—she plans I should go out and get a job?
In the second place, it’s complicated. I attended University College, Onondaga Community College and Syracuse University, then I found out that somewhere in some back room in Albany they have this academic accounting program. You send them some money and all your transcripts. They crunch the numbers and give you whatever degree you’ve got enough credits for.
My diploma is from the State University of New York but it doesn’t name a campus or a subject. It was a two-year degree; it was basic English, history, whatever. What mattered was that I had an undiagnosed learning disability and I kept at it for twenty-five years to earn the degree! Could we please give the lady in the psych bed a pat on the back for being tenacious? No, no, what I had was Kyle giving me a hard time because I couldn’t satisfy her need to know. So I said, “I’m too sick to do this right now. Could we do it later?” And Kyle said no.
Here’s what I remember about Kyle from my hospitalizations ten or fifteen years ago. There was a patient who was receiving shock treatment. It was lifting her out of her depression but she was still injuring herself at night. She couldn’t understand why she was doing what she was doing. She was a nice lady who earnestly wanted to work out her problems, but couldn’t. I listened to her. She was willing to talk to anyone who wanted to help, so she talked to me a lot and I listened. And what did Kyle do? Well, Kyle was her therapist and Kyle canceled her therapy session because the patient was continuing to hurt herself. Kyle made the moral—and punitive—judgment that the patient “wasn’t trying” so Kyle quit on her. I kept listening.
One day the patient reported having been repeatedly sexually abused as a child and all the pieces slid into place: she had multiple personality disorder. (One personality was recovering from depression; another personality was doing the night-time self-injury. The patient presenting in the day-time had no knowledge of the existence of the other personality—or personalities.) It’s rare but I’d seen it before. In women, the precipitating factor usually is repeated childhood sexual molestation; in men, it’s having been raised on a military base. (And is that totally weird, or what? I have no idea why.) Dr. Ghaly was my psychiatrist and was doing the ECT for the other patient so I went to him with my diagnosis. He took off his glasses, looked long and thoughtfully at the information inside his head, then said softly, “You are very smart, you know?” Last I heard, he was working to get the patient transferred to a specialty hospital out of state.
And when Kyle failed to make instant progress on a difficult case, she stopped listening and blamed the patient.
I am not real kindly disposed to Kyle, but I was polite when I asked her to come back later and she refused.