An open letter to my Mental Health Therapist 6/22/11
Over the years I have talked to many professionals about the trauma I have suffered through as the list continued to grow. I sat in their office’s with tear filled eyes and a heart ripped to pieces. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me how strong I am. I cant count the number of times doctors, therapists and others have told me what was wrong. I’ve known what was wrong for a very long time and I’d like to talk about some of it today.
***My children were taken from me because I was labeled “mentally ill” and therefore viewed unfit to be a mother. There was no judge, no courtroom, no evidence presented against me. I was asked to sign a paper called procedure and was later told my signature was the consent giving my children away. They were 6 and 8 years old. It took 6 years to regain custody.
***I have experienced uncontrollable drooling, cardedyskinesia, confusion, inability to remember simple things, intense starvation, excessive menstrual bleeding, hair loss, the need for an adult diaper because healthy bladder functions stopped as well as bladder spasms causing the inability to release fluids and the list goes on all due to medications forced on me.
***I have undergone stomach surgery after gaining over 100 pounds due to medications only to be forced to continue taking them.
***At the age of 26 my fallopian tubes were tied, cut and then burned without my consent as I clearly made “my” wishes known and was lead to believe surgeons were abiding by them.
***I have had over 20 grand mall seizers forced by an electric current also known as electroshock treatment, ECT.
***I have been forced to take the maximum legal dose of Haloperidol (Haldol) a powerful tranquilizer, on a regular daily basis while conducting life’s regular routine. The same team
forced actions against me because I struggled to perform every day tasks.
***I was locked in solitary confinement to a length of stay so long, I could no longer keep track of the number of days I had been locked in there.
***I severed an artery making a desperate attempt to escape the horrors going on behind locked doors of a facility.
***I was forced to shower in front of other patients on the floor. This was my punishment for telling my outside therapist I was being denied to shower.
I have lived in three states moving to Eugene last summer. Doctors here have also told me what’s wrong. Once again I do not agree. For example consider the psychiatrist I saw last summer. I received a call from my case worker telling me the doctor was no longer going to work with me. The doctor wanted to help but he said I was unwilling to help myself and therefore the programs services were no longer available. My cousin arrived from out of town that day and I filled her in on the situation. Valerie believed I must had done something wrong to cause this doctor to discontinue services. I made arrangements to meet with my case worker one last time and gave no indication I would not be alone. Before we walked in I asked Valerie to please not mention her career as a pharmacist no matter what is said or what she may hear. Two days later Valerie came with me to my primary care appointment. Dr B was letting me know what I did wrong regarding this other Dr and mentioned my non-compliance with meds as he explained everything to her. Valerie became upset and I placed my hand on her leg to let her know it wasn’t worth it. Just before Dr B left the room I turned towards Valerie who sat quietly with tears in her eyes. She could not believe what this physiatrist did and then said in order to cover up his actions. When we left Valerie’s eyes began to see a world she never knew existed.
I have been subjected to hurling disparaging remarks against my disability that include where people “like me” should be forced to go by a man in my apartment complex. His words were sharp, cruel and uncalled for. This man and I continue to have difficulties as he blames all of his problems on me. I must say, in his contempt his words were honest. It is more about who I am vs. who he is than it is about anything else. Normally speaking my mental health diagnosis should warrant my guilt and be for an easy eviction. Problem is I have not done anything wrong and management here doesn’t overlook that but I will say by doing this it hasn’t made things easy.
I have been working with a program that helps people manage their illness. Recently I was given a copy of a form that was going to be part of my file. I was told it was nothing to be concerned about as it was procedure to give me a copy. When I got home I decided to read it and became upset to find a few statements untrue. By accepting the copy that “wasn’t anything to be concerned about” it meant I agreed with the statements made in it. One of the statements read “I miss many appointments due to my illness.” I made arrangements to meet with the manager and have this deleted along with a few other statements that were untrue. This may be considered petty and wasting peoples time as I felt that was the sense I was getting but I have viewed a few of my records and the most haunting part is the amount of information and statements made that are untrue. Wrong information may not be a big deal today. But tomorrow if someone/anyone wants to use that wrong information against me that’s when it will be a big deal. I have also obtained other medical records and have read some of them too. I found a statement on a summary that horrified me. No one has ever made a statement like this before. In fact the complete contrary has been the norm. Now that I have found out about this I am told I can ask for an amendment to be made on my records. I was also told to request an amendment does not mean anything will be changed and if a doctor does not want to give a reason for any statements made he does not have too nor does he have to show proof that what is stated is true. Linda, you ask “Why am I scared?”
When I was inpatient at the local hospital one of the nurses strongly suggested I send for my records to “verify” the trauma I talked about as they witnessed me struggle with fear. Questions were raised about the authenticity of what I described and the likelihood
I experienced it. Months later I found myself admitted again. A decision was made by the same nurse regarding me and my care. Changes were made and enforced despite knowing the fear I would struggle with by this decision based upon trauma I spoke about. I turned to look around and saw the face of satisfaction and pleasure. As I sat quietly I could hear the lengthy conversation about me. The tone of one man’s voice caught my attention as I clearly heard the words “we already know she’s a very good actor.” The gleam of satisfaction together with words that ripped my character apart by those who knew the nurse far better than they knew me reassured my fears.
The next morning I was seen by the doctor assigned to me. He was surprised to hear what happened the evening before. He told me he would have said “no” if he knew what was going to take place and apologized. I replied “You were not suppose to know.” I tried to stay but I found myself too scared and signed myself out. When I saw my outside doctor I explained what happened while I was inpatient. She pulled hospital records to see if the reasons I was given for their actions were valid as I told her I was used for a game. After reading she apologized to me. I told her people witnessed my struggle with fear and someone decided I was a very good actor. All of this abuse In this letter can be verified by record but you won’t read it recorded this way.
Twenty four years of experience in our “Mental Health System” taught me the harsh reality that locked doors hung in place to provide safety can be the very doors that shield the secrets locked behind them. I believe if someone can intentionally hurt another for the purpose of watching them suffer they can give birth to an evil that has the potential to multiply, take seed and infest everyone around them. It’s an evil I call power that feeds on having complete control over another human being. I have seen it more times than I want to remember. I’ve witnessed it’s destruction as well as being the one in it’s path.
Rosa Parks took a seat in the front of a bus to bring awareness to the injustice towards so many. She choose a personal situation to point the finger at a much larger picture. She witnessed and experienced the pain one feels when their biological make up meant the difference between freedom and confinement, calm and chaos, acceptance and ridicule. Lack of interest to gain knowledge, disregard for human life and misplaced concern were the tools used to create laws giving permission to force cruel and inhuman treatment against those who were viewed as different. Laws gave the right to force actions upon a person based solely on their differences. With these rights people had the ability to force upon another what they themselves would crumble too if the situation was turned around. People were slapped with a label giving others the ability to act towards them in any manner they chose. Cruel and hateful words flew in their direction as they were reminded how much others did not want them around. They were viewed as trouble and the natural born rights that many took for granted were stripped away. Many who’s situation provided the ability to hide personal facts about themselves or loved ones did because of societies social stigma and with it rejection. Injustice was common law and “innocent until proven guilty” did not apply. Dreams faded, hope disappeared and many times the will to continue took physical life away. Heads turned, some where grateful it wasn’t their problem and mankind suffered because people didn’t care. “Everyone” deserves the right to be treated with the same respect. When humanity is lowered to physical violence, mental torment and emotional breakdown life is lowered to a game.
*** I began working by the age of 11 and by 12, I was working almost every day.
*** I purchased my first home before completing the 11th grade waiting 5 months to legally put my name on it at 18 and purchased my first brand new car at the age of 19.
*** I’ve owned a car since I was 16 years old. I have never been involved in an accident not even a fender bender and have always maintained a excellent driving record.
*** I completed high school in 3 years graduating in the top 10 of my class.
*** I have never been arrested nor have I ever been charged for any crime.
*** No one has ever called police due to my misconduct or disturbance.
*** I am responsible for putting a law on the books in New York allowing young adults to enter college before obtaining a high school diploma with the assistance of financial aid. I used my sons circumstances to open the door for many. At the age of 16 he was the first one to benefit from this law and his sister soon followed at the age of 17.
*** I went up against a prominent real estate company disputing my mortgage payoff figure. It involved pmt’s made, interest accumulated and an amortization schedule used.
I represented myself and won. I was 25 years old.
*** I confronted a large and successful news paper company about their payroll techniques as I uncovered monies hidden from paper carriers by coded form.
Despite the horrors of my life combined with achievements I have raised two beautiful children and have been equally blessed with a son-in-law 6 years ago. They are compassionate, trustworthy and they have never been in any kind of trouble. They work hard and stay on track as they strive to fulfill their hopes and dreams. But life hasn’t been easy for them either especially my children. They know the pain one feels when a loved one is trapped in the mental health system. They too suffer the horrors as they live through the consequences of society’s laws and the turning of society’s head. They are forced to sit back with hands tied as they watch their loved ones suffer without the ability to help them.
Linda there was one car accident. It was on a back road traveled by very few. I was 23 years old and by that time I had lived through more trauma than some do in a lifetime. I was young, scared and made a desperate attempt to run from an abusive marriage. In that accident I lost the child I was caring not realizing I was pregnant. That’s when I was labeled and thrown behind the “locked doors” of our Mental Health System. But this is not just about me and my story. It’s about the many others who can personally identify with my reality.
The biggest tragedy… this could have been prevented. People can be helped to accept, manage and welcome their differences. I believe people should be able to react and respond normally to trauma or a difficult situation as studies are showing many times mental health related illnesses are with those who have suffered abuse of some kind. Many times actions are the minds way of crying out from the pain trapped within. Compassion should be the prescriptions written. People should have the ability to chose alternative treatments instead of being forced to take medications and in many cases be victimized again by legalized inhumane abuse and even torture. I believe when one tries to block, cover up or stop ones mind from it’s own individual and unique natural function you deny what a person lived through and/or a persons individuality. It should not matter how unique they may be, it is a part of what makes them who they are. There is more money and time spent separating people who share the same space than there is to help them live peacefully together. There are other countries with less recourses than the United States who can show better statistics and progress for those considered mentally ill or different. People have voices and their individually does not cause a major problem because someone didn’t set a standard and stepped out of the box instead.
Last September the head psychiatrist in the local hospital was asked to step in and give his professional advice on my case. When I sat with him he told me he believes I suffer from severe PTSD known as Complex PTSD. It is the term used for Vietnam War Vets and other war veterans as a way to categorize trauma. He asked me about some of my medications one of them being “Trazodone.” I told him I hated taking it and what happens to me when I do. The doctor said I have the same response as war veterans and this is why they know it should not be prescribed. He could not imagine the hell I’ve been through. He has not been assigned to me since then.
In mid May I saw a different doctor as my last one discontinued working with me. I explained to her the severe side effects I experience when taking anti-psychotic medications and every doctor has labeled me non-compliant regarding meds. I explained how the side effects begin almost immediately and progress to extreme. Instead of “increased apatite” I feel extreme starvation. After some time spent on her computer she told me why I struggle so much with medications. She said my body is extremely sensitive to this class of medication. My side effects begin at the tiniest doses only to become severe before I reach a therapeutic goal doctors are going for. What she said made so much sense. I have immediate family members who can not take medications due to body sensitivity and severe side effects. These family members are not in mental health so their medication difficulty was never compared or considered. After 24 years I have received two answers.
Linda, My differences have become more different over the years. I do not believe one can go through things like this and not have it effect them. The difficulties of life have taken it’s toll as this past year proved to be a very difficult one. I know the pillow isn’t hurting me right now. But to live life one has to sit next to the pillow. What if you know by experience the pillow has tried to suffocate you to the point of certain death only to survive by a miracle. I have sat next to that pillow constantly for 47 years. When is it ok to be scared of the pillow?
When is it ok to say “I’m sorry…please no more…your killing me.”
The Author died a few months after writing this]
[Editor's Note: The Author died a few months after writing this]