When people look at my poster, their most frequent response is, “Wow! How can I get my own records? I have always wanted to have mine!” I tell them, “Just do it! And be persistent. Even if the contents turn out to be upsetting, I doubt you will ever be sorry.”
This is the story behind how I finally received mine and what I did with them:
I had been wishing to get my hospital records for a very long time. I felt deeply that they belonged to me as they were words written about me during a hellish three-year period in my adolescence. I was certain that they would be filled with outrageous statements, and I desperately wanted to read and respond to them someday.
I was finally released from the last hospital in 1963, and it wasn’t until 1978 that I began my search in earnest. During the intervening years, I had been finishing college, marrying, and raising four young children. Although I managed to keep all of those hospital experiences safely compartmentalized away so I could raise my children with warmth and kindness, believe me, the retrieval of my records was never far from the surface.
In early 1978, shortly after meeting my fantastic fellow comrades (Judi Chamberlin, Dan Fisher and David Oaks), I was inspired to start by politely writing to the directors of each of the four different hospitals where I had been locked up: Baldpate Hospital in MA, The Menninger Clinic in KS, Massachusetts Mental Health Center in MA, and Westborough State Hospital in MA. Weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I wrote again. I waited. Again, I got no response. I even considered flying to Topeka, Kansas, to storm that psychiatric barricade and demand my records in person.
Since I was then a single parent with four young children and dwindling finances, I calmed myself and talked it all over with my trusted and dear therapist, Lee. He had saved my life back in 1963 when, by chance, I first met him the night before I was sent to Westborough. He was a young resident and the only person during those three years who had looked me in the eye and smiled and was genuinely kind. He gave me hope. He told me there was nothing the matter with me that had not been caused by the abuses in the hospitals: combined insulin/ECT without anesthesia, seclusion, restraints, molestation, masses of Thorazine, etc.
After meeting with Lee from time to time over the years, in 1978, after my failed letter-writing campaign, we planned a new record-seeking strategy. He wrote to all four hospital directors. It was difficult for me to give the power over to him, but he seemed to be my last, best hope. In 1975, he had become the Commissioner of Mental Health in MA so he clearly had the power, which I was sadly lacking, and he generously used it to help me. Because of his status and powerful stationery, he heard back from everyone except Baldpate. Some of them were only a few pages of summaries, which was annoying, but when he received them he gave them to me. Finally, during the spring of 1978, since Baldpate had ignored him, Lee made an appointment for us to drive out there. He told them he wanted us to read the records together, and, since he had been the commissioner, I am sure they felt forced to let us come. I had been talking for months about wanting to steal my records so, on the drive out, I showed Lee that I had brought a briefcase and explained that I had every intention of stealing the pages. I wasn’t sure how I would manage it, but I knew I could figure it out once there.
I still remember the day as if it were yesterday. It was a bright blue, sunny day, the trees and flowers were in full bloom, and I was feeling full of hope and confidence. When we arrived at this desolate location in the country an hour outside of Boston, it was a time-travel experience for me. I had not been there since 1961, and the big red “farmhouse” still remained, looming over the grounds. We were ushered into a small office, far from the desolate cinder-block unit where I had been subjected to the combined insulin/ECT. There were two chairs and a little table between us where the thick folder with my records sat – my huge and seemingly glowing hidden treasure! We were at first left alone together to read them, and we decided that I should start reading and then pass each page to Lee. Soon, however, every few minutes an official would nervously interrupt us by opening the door and asking if we wanted more coffee. The records were filled with atrocious, labeling and demeaning words about me, even more disgusting than I had ever anticipated. And, with growing intensity, I wanted to steal every single page from that house of horrors and report the atrocities all over the world.
Finally, after more than two hours of reading, Lee and I had a conversation about how hard they were making it for me to actually commit my theft. He said he wanted to go to the bathroom and told me to feel completely free to do whatever I wished with the papers while he was out of the room. What an advocate he was! But, at that moment I was overcome by his genuine generosity and kindness and fully aware that he might get into serious trouble if I were to steal the entire record. I simply didn’t feel I could put him at risk, so when he returned from the bathroom I explained that I had slipped every other page into my briefcase. I paid special attention to picking the most egregious ones, making sure to leave enough bulk so they would not notice, and they didn’t. We drove back to Boston. I was elated, and Lee was the good sport and true advocate that he had been for so long.
I spent many hours and weeks and months reading the pages over and over, trying to make sense of every notation, every diagnosis. Finally, I bought a box, decorated it with flowered paper, arranged the pages neatly inside, and tied it up with a pale blue satin ribbon. I kept it on the top shelf of my bedroom closet, where it stayed for years – until October 11, 1991!
That was the date that Anita Hill was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in reference to the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. She claimed he had made unwelcome sexually provocative comments to her when they worked together at the Department of Education and the EEOC. I believed her! Anita was treated dismissively and poorly by the senators, and her treatment put me into high action. I went to my closet, took down my hospital records and proceeded to go through every single page with a fine-tooth comb. The next day, I took the pages and copied them all several times. I then cut out the pertinent, disgusting and demeaning comments and assembled them all on a huge poster board, which I had laid out on my bed. I designed it using the typed comments, photos from my childhood, and several small sections from op-ed stories I had written which had been published in newspapers.
It took several days of moving the pieces around until I felt completely satisfied. I then shopped around and found a great radical union press, which was willing to print 1,000 copies, way back before digital. The folks at Red Sun Press in Jamaica Plain, MA, were wonderful! I felt respected, they took my poster seriously, and I was thrilled!
I then began showing, selling and giving it away at conferences. A dear and close fellow comrade bought the first twenty copies in a true gesture of solidarity and generosity. It was finally registered with the U.S. Copyright Office on April 25, 2007. I mailed one to The Museum of Modern Art in New York City as someone had once told me that they keep all art which is given to them. I sent a letter of explanation, asking them to consider having a show of art by people who had been locked up in mental institutions, and they acknowledged receiving it. A framed copy hangs in the history exhibit at SAMHSA. I gave one to my internal medicine doctor who just recently told me that it hangs on the back of her office door. She is now a dean at Harvard Medical School so perhaps it is having a positive influence on future doctors there. Two years ago, I had three large fabric, plastic-laminated copies made for using at marches and demonstrations. One of them now hangs in the office of Digital Eyes Film.
In the end, this poster has given me a great deal of satisfaction. I feel it is my personal megaphone from the top of the Empire State Building, shouting out to the world:
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED TO ME and THIS MUST STOP!!!
* * * * *
Dorothy Dundas at the 2014 APA conference
Dorothy Dundas tells the story of creating the poster
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
That’s a beautiful story, Dorothy – and in true fine artist style, take the ugly and try to make it into something beautiful, or good for society. Kudos!
I, too, am grateful I picked up my medical records. Actually, the first group were handed over to me, without my asking, by some decent nurses in my PCP’s office. The decent doctors and nurses in that office realized my PCP was overseeing the poisoning of me, as it turns out, because she was paranoid of a malpractice suit since her husband had been the “attending physician” at the “bad fix” on a broken bone of mine. I also found the medical evidence of the sexual abuse of my child, in my child’s medical records, when these records were handed over. I also realized my neurologist was completely deluded.
Time to change doctors! I picked up my therapist, psychiatrist, and neurologist’s records next. The therapist turned her records over covered with Black Sharpie marks. She covered up her pastor’s and the alleged child molesters’ names, as if I wouldn’t know whose lies filled her medical records? Of course I knew. I had gone into her originally with concerns of child abuse, disgust due to the fact my now ex-pastor had denied my daughter a baptism at the exact moment the second plane hit the second World Trade Center building on 9.11.2001, and adverse effects from a bad drug cocktail my PCP put me on.
I chronologically typed up all my medical records, with my medical research neatly typed in notes alongside. It was shocking to have the written medical proof that mainstream medical doctors are overseeing attempted murders of patients to cover up easily recognized iatrogenesis. And pastors lie to therapists, who then delude stupid neurologists into poisoning patients (because they have delusions claiming patients are “irrelevant to reality” and “w/o work, content, and talent” is beneficial to patients), so the therapist can aid and abet in covering up sexual and pastoral abuse of little children.
My next pastors were kind enough to read my write-up and explain I dealt with the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Apparently, the doctors and pastors have been covering up their mistakes and sins by shipping people off to the psychiatrists in this manner for decades. And what’s particularly sad is I had “bipolar” iatrogenically created in me, in almost the exact same way over a million little children have been iatrogenically turned into “bipolar” patients. The “dirty little secret” has gone viral. And this is particularly sad because the medical evidence is now out showing that long term antipsychotic treatment of “bipolar” patients results in outcomes similar to long run medicated schizophrenia patients.
The entire situation is so grotesque, it still staggers my mind. But, there’s always a silver lining. I, too, am an artist. I have 20 years worth of artwork which shows the cerebral work of an artist, turn to the abstract splashes of a woman tortured via iatrogenic bipolar, who then suffered from drug withdrawal induced manic psychosis, then my work returns to the anal cerebral concepts I started working on in art school.
One of my art professors (my art school was ranked number 1 in the nation when I was there) told me that what makes artwork socially valuable is that it should reflect what’s going on in society in the time period when it is made. And a guy I dated when in art school said it was the story behind work that makes it valuable. Wish me luck in turning a tale of the ugliest societal crimes I’ve ever heard of, and now experienced, into a story that will hopefully help to end today’s iatrogenic psychiatric holocaust also. Thank you for all that you do.
Wow! Thank you! I am so happy for you that you were able to get your records and see the misinformation which they so often hold. Good luck with everything.
Yes, one cannot heal when living in denial. And my story gets even uglier, actually. The next set of medical records I picked up were from a medically unnecessary forced hospitalization. The doctor I was shipped to has now been arrested by the FBI for having many patients medically unnecessarily shipped to him, “snowing” (drugging until only the whites of the eyes show) patients, performing unneeded tracheotomies, resulting in many patient deaths. It’s a tale of how the HIPPA laws are being used by the medical community to mark, harm and kill patients for reasons of doctoral greed.
Sorry for the hell you went through.
I am so sorry for what you went through, but I am glad that he was at last arrested by the FBI! Thank you so much for your responses.
Glad the links helped you, but I’m curious. Did you deal with any of these doctors? Or just a similar situation?
Hi someone else,
No i didn’t have any dealings with these particular doctors.
I was having trouble understanding why evidence of an illness needed to be fabricated in my instance. Of course no illness, no insurance money.
By having my documents i can now approach the insurance people and explain how they are being defrauded to them. Whilst the hospital has no motivation to do anything about these fraudulent claims, I’m sure the insurance people won’t feel quite the same.
It’s complex, though i would suggest to anyone who does get their documents to identify which particular documents unlock the insurance money. It is these documents that will be crucial, and most likely contain fabrication and misrepresentations.
Once again thanks for the info, it’s really put this together for me.
According to my medical records, I was admitted with a “chronic airway obstruction.” I’ve never in my life suffered from any “airway obstruction” problems other than the first 5 minutes in that hospital, but that is exactly what one of Kuchipudi’s unneeded tracheotomy would cure. Their only concern listed in my medical records regarding this problem, was double checking I was actually an organ donor.
When their “chronic airway obstruction” didn’t result in me becoming “brain dead,” thus organ donor material, it magically turned into “bipolar.” Advocate Good Samaritan hospital can’t medically explain how this happens, but they believe the subsequent “snowing” was “appropriate medical care.”
I’ve reported the fraud twice, once before Kuchipudi’s arrest and once after, to Blue Cross Blue Shield because they were defrauded out of $30,000. I don’t know that they care even yet, just an FYI.
Forced hospitalizations seem to be a way of filling empty hospital beds with well insured healthy people. Without the fictitious psychiatric disorders, and their toxic drugs, this would not be possible. Medicine for profit is sick.
Wow, I am so glad to hear that guy got arrested! Can you find an article about him in the newspaper? It is so rare that one of these criminals gets punished.
Your ordeal seems surreal, but unfortunately it is all too believable. You must be an incredibly tough person to still be pushing forward to hold these people accountable! Thanks for sharing your story, and way to hang in there and not give up!
Here’s an article (the doc I was medically unnecessarily shipped to was V R Kuchipudi):
And here’s the arrest warrant:
I’m glad he was arrested, but wish the other doctors involved were arrested also (I dealt with Kuchipudi when he was at Advocate Good Samaritan hospital, not Sacred Heart, but he was doing the same thing there.)
It was surreal, but I guess that’s the MO of psychiatry – treat people in a completely insane and illegal manner, then claim it’s the patient who is insane.
Thanks for posting these links someone else. The arrest warrant is particularly interesting.
I can’t explain how you have put together a large piece of a jigsaw puzzle for me by doing so.
I have some questions that need to be answered as a result of reading this.
“Possible genetic and epigenetic links between human inner speech, schizophrenia and altruism.”
I can’t access full text but the abstract speaks for itself. Basically they propose that the “mental illness” of schizophrenia is nothing less but a manifestation of bigger capabilities for creativity and altruism, which can sometimes go array and overwhelm the individual and affect his/her conformity with societal norms.
That is what they are trying to drug out of people…
Thank you for sending that along for all of us to read. And, again, thank you for your response.
Thanks for the link, B. And yes, two of my “sins” are being altruistic and creative. I hadn’t realized that these had become “sins” in our society, however, because when I was a child they were considered assets to humanity. Plus, lots of people have expressed gratitude to me for all the volunteer work I’ve done. Oh well, somehow I must have missed the announcement that these attributes are now societal “sins.”
And according to my medical records, it does seems psychiatrists want to murder those who are kind, generous, talented, intelligent, creative, thoughtful, and giving. But I did take my name off the organ donor list after reading Kuchipudi’s medical records, so I’m not as altruistic any longer – “I won’t die for you.” I will confess, however, I wasn’t expecting to have doctors try to murder me for being altruistic. But I hadn’t considered the potential medical profit motive, prior to signing up to be an organ donor either.
Gosh, is it the world that’s gone astray, or was it me? I’m thinking it’s odd being sane, in an insane, money only worshiping world. Trying to kill kind organs donors for profit? … pretty pathetic V R Kuchipudi and Advocate Good Samaritan hospital.
It’s a sad world… There are people there waiting for organs and yet it can be scary to enlist as a donor, because you never know if you don’t come across an monster like that…
Medicine for profit… profit is the root of all evil.
Great article. Sorry for what you went through. Thanks for sharing. I will soon be pursuing my own records as well.
Thank you, Eric. Good luck with getting your own.
Terrific courage, Dorothy. I can’t see myself coming close. But your story gives a contact high.
Thank you so much for reading and responding. Good luck.
Bravo, Dorothy! I am forever inspired by your unwavering spirit.
Thank you, dear Leah!!! You inspire me too!
Thank you for sharing your story Dorothy and for using your records and art to make a positive difference. I am also very sorry for what you were put through and for what you have had to endure. Perhaps one day this abuse and torture of human beings will be recognized for what it is and made to end.
Trigger warning, psychiatric abuse and sexual abuse
I was able to get my medical records from a 2010 hospitalization. I assume it is a very partial record. There was no mention of an incident where my blood pressure dropped and I stopped breathing due to a prescribed overdose, and a person I assume was a doctor slipped his hands into my bra and painfully crushed and twisted my breasts and nipples as a method of reviving me. Although I have nightmarish memories of this event (I wish I did not) the only reason I know for sure that it happened was because my parents have both discussed it with me and given me a copy of a letter of complaint that they wrote. The complaint was mostly against my discharge, (true to form, “Mom and Dad,”) but it did detail this incident. As far as the official record is concerned, this didn’t happen and I specifically had no side effects from medication. I was also able to get an itemized hospital bill, which provided me with much more practical information about what was actually done to me and what medications I was given and injected with. It clearly indicated an outrageously inconsistent and dangerous medication regimen, collectively mishandled by four attending psychiatrists, only one of whom was to my knowledge my doctor. I believe I was only given a copy because the records employee did not make the connection that they were psychiatric records. It was a large private medical hospital with a psychiatric ward and I did not fill out the request form properly to indicate they were psychiatric records.
I have never been able to get copies of my psychiatric records from when I was underage. I have tried a few times over almost two decades. One psychiatrist sent me a summary that was a poor lie. It mentioned my diagnosis and one drug he had prescribed me, one drug out of many cocktails over many years. I have contacted a few likely attorneys very specifically about getting my childhood psychiatric medical records. They have all wasted a lot of time asking me personal questions, and completely failed to pursue anything that had to do with getting my medical records. I have also left voice mails for two local advocacy agencies who have never returned my calls, which isn’t surprising as they never answer the phone. I have come to accept that I will never have my childhood medical records. They have likely been destroyed or lost in dead storage. The facilities I was in no longer exist. They have moved and changed or been rebuilt. This is mostly difficult as I believe I was sexually assaulted several times at one facility in particular, but can’t know for sure as I was too drugged. I feel like seeing my records would at least provide something resembling closure about this. Either incidents were recorded or not and I can simply never know for sure. It is also upsetting because I want to know how abusively I was drugged and how much medical damage is likely. I do have multiple physical problems with no clear medical diagnoses and they are getting worse as I get older.
The state of West Virginia has effectively stripped psychiatric patients and their representatives of rights to medical records. New legislation is effective next month making it clear that psychiatric patients and their representatives have a right to nothing more than a summary. There is no description of what a summary must include or contain, and it is not be supplied until the treatment program is terminated. In the event that someone did experience even blatant abuse or malpractice, it is extremely unlikely they could prove it or do anything about it. The endless and ridiculous labeling, hyper diagnosing, lying, and omitting will doubtlessly continue indefinitely to the great detriment of actual care.
Thank you. That is so interesting that you found no reference to the molestation but your parents talked the incident over with you. I, too, had a near death experience in a medical hospital in 1973, and when I got those records there was no mention of that either. I even confronted the surgeon after it happened, and he denied it. My chest was even bruised from their pushing on my chest to revive me. Good luck.
This is truly disgusting. What can be a possible justification of denying a patient access to his/her medical records? Other than basically admitting “we are human rights abusers and criminals and we don’t know the public to know”.
Yes. It is morally wrong that we did not have access to our own records without going through such a lot of hard work finally to get what we could of them.
Take care, and thanks again for responding.
Thank you for your story!
I also got my records and while they were challenging to read, with support, time and understanding they led me to see that they were a much better reflection of the people who wrote them than they were of me.
If others go down the road and get their records, I too would recommend that a “trusted other” be there while you read them.
Must consider what I can do with mine!
Thank you, Kim. I am happy you were able to get your records and discover that they said more about the authors than about you. I agree that for many people it is helpful to read them for the first time with a trusted friend. For others, however, sometimes reading them in quiet solitude can be healing. Good luck.
Hi everyone. Thank you so much for your responses. I just rewatched the video I did a few years ago where I say I went out to read my records in 1980. It was actually 1978. Leah Harris made that video in which I describe making my poster. I did it on the spur of the moment without being able to remember that it was exactly in 1978. Thanks, Leah, for helping me tell that story! And thank you to PJ for filming the interview at the APA!
It was our pleasure Dorothy. And thank you again for the poster, it is haunting and beautiful.
Thank you, PJ. I am on my way to Red Sun Press right now to have more posters made. The last one from the 1991 printing was sold a couple of weeks ago.
Thank you for sharing your story. Is there a way to get a copy of your poster?
Thank you, Sandra. I am on my way to the Red Sun Press right now to have more printed. If you email me at [email protected], I will give you the details.
Your writing style elegantly exudes peacefully profound (I’m not trying to prove myself) energy. In your gentle beautiful way you’ve offered your story in order to contribute to social progress.
You have for many years impacted our community with your story and activism. Your narrative, particularly through a historical lens, is a form of social commentary that I hope is read far and wide.
Your gentle loving nature – given what you’ve endured – speaks volumes about your character. This piece reinforces my respect for your character and increases my gratitude for all that you continue to do for our community and for the fact that I am lucky enough to know you in person.
Thank you so much for your sweet and generous response, Greg. I feel very lucky to know you, too, and to be able to be part of the future revolution of change which will surely make this world a kinder place for all.
Dorothy- you inspire me and I appreciate the lengths you have gone to in search of the truth about your records which hide most of the true abuses you suffered. And I appreciate the MIA bloggers who have added their own horrors they endured and the attempts to obtain answers what happened to each of them during their psych hosp.
I now have my son’s medical records, which it took me almost 9 months to comb through- mainly as I hit an emotional wall reviewing them, all 177 pgs during my son’s 13 days of locked hell (2011) when he was coerced to the locked unit, and remained against his will ( but the records chart “voluntary” admission). No, my son had returned to using a recreational drug, cannabis, and for his brain it altered his reality, as this same substance did 18 months earlier, both times testing (+) on his toxiciology report which was ignored and instead the ubiquitous ” bipolar” label was assigned. Instead of the pre-arranged drug rehab program I set up for my son, the day before he, oh, so, reluctantly agreed to accept ( as my son was beaten upon adm at the first psych hosp in 2009 upon entering and my son actually acknowledged this horrific experience which was recorded on his Admission Eval in his medical records). Despite the thousands we paid this hosp for my son to receive drug rehab ( along with his PPO ins) he was deceptively moved to the locked unit. The lies, flagrant mistruths, excessive drugging with my son actually begging repeatedly to stop the toxic drugging,and he tried multiple ways to escape, the records read ” voluntary” stay in a locked unit in CA( completely violated my son’s right to have a court hearing but how cagey these facilities will go around a person’s civil rights). The numerous documented charting of my son begging to be moved back to where he started, in the unlocked unit, my son was put into a drugged, stuporous state and again I must thank the staff for some accurate documentation. Just we, his parents, had no way to know why our son was so far worse, day after day, and we continued to be told he was going to move to the drug rehab, the ONLY reason he entered.
My professional background helped me soldier thru reviewing my son’s records, and I have the facts which I hope to expose soon. The lawyers for this psych hosp/rehab refused to release my son’s records until his statue of limitations passed, last summer, but I believe I can go around the statue because we were defrauded. BUT nothing will being my beautiful 25 y/o son back. For a young man, who was full of life, always an upbeat, healthy young guy, but who wasn’t given the drug educ that even ” recreational substances can and do alter MH- just brainwashed, massively drugged, labeled ” MI”, warehoused and then classically ” dumped” once his insurance refused further authorization. No attempt from the ” experts” to uncover why a young man had used substances, nor ask ” what happened to you” during the inhumane time he was basically a hostage. How psychiatry gets away with this boggles my mind. It’s really just the 21st century version of the humiliating, abusive psychiatric practices you endured decades ago.
When I put away my son’s records, and just reflected on the true HELL in the 27 months he got tangled up with psychiatry, in all I now know, but did not at the time I ask myself how can ” this system” continue and be allowed to get away with the eradication of the human psyche?
How could an always thriving, very social, highly functional, married 23 y/o young man end up taking his life 27 months later because the facts about substance use were denied him- ” the system” preferred, and was rewarded monetarily by making my son ” mentally ill for life” ? Despite my son’s MH recovered after, each of the two breaks from reality he suffered, shifting thru his medical records, reading word by word I will never be able to wrap my head around such a despicable, egregious system of ” care”. Where was the HOPE any young functioning member of society should have received? And I assume this Ivy League educ p-doc did not expect someone to sort thru the medical records and categorically find the outright lies, conflicting truths between the p-doc, the staff, and two other M.D.s who had to see my son while locked up?
Thank you for your bravery, and for finding a way to make a statement against this evil MH paradigm of care. I hope I can bring some justice as well to my son and keep asking society to stop these abuses. Why I believe the only way to bring about change is to expose these practices and challenge the logic why ” humane” treatment, care and support isn’t reality, if one cares to listen.
larmac, I am so so sorry for the painful and horrifying experiences you and your son went through in the horrific mental health system. Yes, it is impossible for so many to believe that these abuses go on, but it is vitally important that we tell our stories as that is the only way change will occur. You are absolutely doing the right thing by exposing the horrors of what he experienced – and you too, as his mother. I am so sorry it ended up with his taking his life. That happened to many of my friends. Take care of yourself in this very sad time for you. And thank you for sharing your devastating experiences.
That was an awesome idea to make a collage out of that. A lot of people don’t know (I didn’t know until recently) that ECT is still legal. It’s disgusting.
I managed to obtain my medical records too (I had to pay for every page) only to learn that they lied in them and conveniently omitted things like drugs given to me and doses so that I can’t sue them.
Medical records should be available to the patient on demand at any time and without any price.
B, you are so right. Our medical records should belong to us and they should be totally free! Isn’t it outrageous the lies they tell?! Thank you for reading and responding to my story.
I did get my psychiatric records from the pdoc I saw for years (took hiring a lawyer). It was eye opening on many levels, the incorrect entries, reading what was taken out of context, what the pdoc “thought he heard”, he rarely took notes telling me he did ALL of his daily charting by tape recorder as he drove home and the obvious chart changes after he told me he was sorry he had wrongly prescribed and diagnosed me. It was so blatant how he changed records after this.
I haven’t finished reading my records (I doubt all of it was sent). It was hard to bring myself to read what I did and I keep the records in a box unopened for years. I tried to get my hospital records but hit a major road block from the administration. I did request from the drugstore I used during these years for all of my medication records and the pharmacy gave me them with his hand written signature on the pages.
If you do get your psych records be prepared to be upset and have someone with you as you read them. It’s damming and upsetting. Remember what was written was by someone who only looked for the very worse, who doesn’t know you and everything you say is suspect. If you were poly drugged and so messed up from the prescribed drugs like I was than than goodness knows what anyone in this shape would say. Would you believe what someone drunk said?? Blitzed out on drugs?? Most likely no, but psychiatry does and truly thinks in this condition you’re YOU. That’s how crazy it is.
To this day I can not fathom how the psychiatrist keep adding on various drugs that debilitated and altered my behavior yet not once seemed aware of it?? It was interesting how people I barely knew later said it was obvious to them I was drugged, this was not me. So a person off the streets was more savvy about me being drugged than the prescribing psychiatrist? Yes.
Wanted to add that others said I was drugged out of my mind but I didn’t know this. Years of being told I was never going to get better plus years of massive drugging takes its toll.
As I wrote earlier, the psych records don’t reflect you, only what some stranger perceived.
aria, I am so sorry you were subjected to that horrible overdrugging, but I am happy that you were able to get your records. It is wrong that you had to hire a lawyer to get them as, in my opinion, they should rightfully belong to us. Thank you so much for responding.
I’m happy to say I’ve enjoyed years of being psych drug free and have my clarity of mind once again. The incredible thing is I was told by other psychiatrists — psychologists I wasn’t mentally ill and for all purposes had never been mentally ill. How can such a discrepancy happen and the years lost while poly drugged? It continues to happen leaving us with damming wrong labels and diagnoses.
Thank you for writing your story and I hope more of us will publicly tell our stories. My old pdoc used to cheerfully say one third of Americans were mentally ill like it was a good thing.
I am so happy to hear you have been doing well for a long time.
Wow…your story is strong! Around this same time in the 70’s I was sent off to a State run boys camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Most campers (nice right) were in there because they misbehaved but I remember clearly that there were many with emotional (cutting etc.) and drug (illegal kind) related issues. Absolutely no legal drugs or ECT were given, just timber work and compassion. The point I’d like to make is that even back then there were innovative programs to help young teens find themselves. This boys camp is no longer there and I’m not sure where the records might be…it would be interesting to read the back story of what the staff thought.
I’m sure today most would have been drugged into submission. I can only imagine.
warmac, how lucky you were to have been sent to a camp where you received compassion. Yes, we need more programs like that which are based on kindness. Thank you for sharing your story.
This is interesting, and shows more of the arrogance of those who have power over us. The attitude that they know what is best, and “for your own good” that is so ingrained in the psychiatric cult.
I also was hospitalized in the 1960’s and whenever I tried to get records was told I couldn’t because it be upsetting to read them. Of course it was, most of it was lies and exaggeration or misinterpretation to make me look crazy and fit their diagnosis.
The tragedy of my experience, in looking back on it, was that I incorporated the label into my identity, and all that goes with it, such as drugs and ECT. Shortly after I got out someone asked me what I did for a living, and I said, “mental patient”. My sister was standing there and she corrected me, “you mean ex-mental patient”. Little things like that helped.
I finally got my records in the late 1980’s at a cost of about $200 for copies. They actually tried to discourage me based on the expense!
It was sad to read about an innocent and terrified young woman being treated by complete strangers who didn’t even try to find out what was wrong. The treatments were more terrifying than the so called “illness”. Mostly it was sad to see that they tested my IQ and did other psychological tests that revealed the fear, anxiety, and phobias and then decided on drugs and ECT anyway. They told my parents I would never be well.
I proved them wrong in many ways, and went on to enjoy a professional career, but there was a lot of damage that healed over superficially, covering the underlying wounds that still exist.
My life was sacrificed at the feet of these dehumanizing, egotistical, delusional psychiatrists…for what?
Oh, pencilect, I am so sorry to read about your story. It sounds so similar to mine. I feel very lucky that I survived. They also tested my IQ about a month after finishing the series of insulin/ECT. I remember he asked me to tell him the population of the USA, and I had no idea what the answer was so I guessed 1,000. He asked me if I would like to guess again. I answered 2,000. My brain had been fried, and it took a long time for it to heal, although I don’t think I have ever been truly the same after the ECT. Not to mention all of the other atrocities you and I both experienced locked up back in the 60s. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Good luck!
I went to a paralegal and we filled out the forms , made a few calls then I picked up my records when the hospital finally gave in and sent them to the para legal office . Cost me $200.
Copy_cat, I am happy you finally received your records, but it is an outrage that you, or anyone, should have to pay any $ for that to happen. Thank you for responding and telling how you got yours.
It’s a dumb criminal that won’t try and hide the evidence of their crime. So we can’t hold it against them for doing so.
If there’s nothing to hide, then there’s nothing to fear about handing over the documents right?
Thank you for your article Dorothy, it is extremely good advice to at least have the evidence. I can think of a couple of historical examples where the loss of documents has covered crimes against humanity. It has only been the remaining documents that have proven that these crimes have occurred.
What i have noticed is that it is through misrepresentation of facts that these criminals are getting away with it. Expose them for what they are, liars in suits.
boans, thank you for your comment. Yes, it is important to have the evidence.
I really want mine due to a rumor that seems to substantiate my belief that one institution had me drugged beyond any reasonable or beneficial level, but for just the records from that place, it’ll be around four to five hundred dollars. They can’t quote you specifically because they haven’t printed them out yet…. yes, the Secretary told me that. No, I didn’t bother taking her that word documents have page numbers. I find it seriously troubling that they can charge such a ridiculous fee, btw. Aren’t I just passing for something that is already technically mine?
That is really horrible that they could get away with charging that much money, nevermind any money at all! My firm belief is that our records are about us and they should rightfully belong to us! I am so so sorry that you are in this difficult situation. I wonder if you try going to a free legal clinic that they might be able to request them for you for free. Just thinking out loud. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing your situation.
Acidpop, you might want to consider going and personally examining your file first, and identify the documents that you require.
This should reduce the cost significantly.
I Love, love, LOVE that you made a poster like this! I have been sitting with two pairs of glasses – its difficult to make out here on the computer screen – reading both what is written about you and what you yourself have later written. What a powerful way to show the story of psychiatry, for as I have always said what is written about us in ‘our’ notes says more about those who write them than they ever do of us.
Jim Gottstein calls the DSM the book of insults, I think we can appropriately call these notes Journal of Insults, courtesy of psychiatry.
Olga, thank you so so much for your inspiring comment! I really appreciate all that you said.
Olga, and, yes, the horrible notes are certainly the Journal of Insults!
I would like a copy of your poster to use for protests. Do you have a scanned copy that will print out legibly? Thanks.
Cheryl, I do not have any more very large vinyl-coated ones. I am having more 15″ x 21″ printed right now, and I could mail you one next week. The cost would be $15 ( $10 for the poster and $5 for tube and postage). The other thing you could do is go to PsychRights website, and they ask for a $25 donation if you download it from them. I am sorry to have to charge for this, but the cost of printing again is very high. Here is my email: [email protected].
I got all my psychiatric records and they made me furious. Anybody would be able to see that the less psychiatric intervention I suffered, the better my life was. I did come across some gems, though. One in particular still makes me laugh: “This unmarried lady not wearing makeup ….” Do I detect a whiff of male chauvinism there?
On a sadder note, there was also lots of stuff like this: “uncooperative . . . security called . . . writing incoherent essays . . . looks physically unwell . . . [electroshock] next week . . . fearful and tremulous . . . self-inflicted knife wound, sutured . . . gait shuffling and stiff . . .”
Furious is what they made me too. Journal of insults is the perfect name. They even complained that I wanted to speak English only when talking to my laughable legal council (which was my right, which they violated!!!). Oh, makes me angry even now… They also wrote that I was a danger to other because I dared scream at the nice lady there that I don’t want her to touch me. Aggressive indeed – I’d say it’s a nice projection on their part but what do I know.
Yes, Francesca, there was, and still is, a lot of male chauvinism evident everywhere! And there is so much sadness in our records. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
I’ve just remembered that I was described to have an inappropriate laughter that was somehow suggesting that I was psychotic. The fact of the matter is that I was super angry at the guy who was talking to me and at times I’d laugh at what he said out of frustration on how much projection and confirmation bias it contained. Psychiatrists have never heard about things like sarcasm or irony, at least when it’s the patient who dares to display it.
Just to add to this Divine Comedy of psychiatric notes, i explained quite clearly to one doctor that I knew my rights. This was described as being “grandiose”. I also explained that I would be considering legal action regarding his assault on me (physical examination where i had denied consent explicitly). This was seen as being “litigious”. And because of the way i described all this i was being “verbose”.
I refer these frauds to the 8th circle of Dances inferno, where the contapasso for this sin is to be smothered in their own faeces for the lies that emerge from their mouths.
Lacking any scientific basis, they rely on this type of fraud to achieve their desired outcomes.
The 8th circle of Dances inferno sounds like the perfect place for them.
When I refused to take a physical exam I was physically assaulted, put in 4-points and needle-raped. According to the documents however, not willing to do exactly what you’re told is “aggressive” and a “danger to others”. In fact just before they assaulted me the good lady there spelled out the true reason: “we don’t have time to deal with you”.
They’re f***ing criminals.
Talking of irony or sarcasm. Before my last meeting with my psychiatrist, I had ordered and read through the records they had written during the two or three years in the out-patient or whatever it was. The last meeting actually became only because I had ordered those records a week before, and also because I supposedly had a private meeting with the doctor.
Anyway, I read in my records that when I went to their place, “patient sleeps roughly 7,5 hours in night and gets up refreshed up”. After three months of treatment with Seroquel and Abilify, the records say I sleep sometimes maybe 14-16 hours in day, sometimes I sleep through a whole weekend. I also was constantly tired through the day, zombie, certainly not capable of full-time work, etc. Also some strange red “inflammation” areas on my skin, and “heart shocks” when falling to sleep. When I told about these issues to them, they wrote in their records that patient had, wait for this… paranoid thinking concerning his medication. And guess what, that word paranoid somehow got into my final records, after two or three years by entirely different doctor, who never had seen anything like that in me. It’s like those words can follow you like some parasites.
During our last meeting I was quite angry and annoyed by all the things that had happened to me. I assertively told my doctor, referring to their claims and reports they had written: “You probably again think I’m paranoid, but … what what you’ve written and the diagnoses you’ve done may affect my chance of getting work, and so forwards” Guess what she said next to that? She asked in kind of a panicked voice: “You’re not thinking we’re thinking bad things of you?” Bah. A nice way to dodge that criticism and sarcasm. “It’s mad man’s talk.” But anyway. I don’t think she was doing it very consciously, and I could see her become quite nervous herself. They can use diagnoses, psychiatric terms and ideas, etc, as kind of tools in controlling, convincing, etc.
Awesome story – so typical… “You’re not thinking we’re thinking bad things of you?” – better not answer a question like that, you never know what they can add to your record if you dare to say yes;)
When it comes to psychiatrists I’d recommend the strategy from Stieg Larsson’s book – don’t talk to them at all. One should be given Miranda warnings…
I’m fortunate enough not to have been in a hospital, but I did get my records from the time span of two or three years I was in the public treatment here in Finland. I’ve successfully tapered off neuroleptics and SSRIs mostly by my own means and with the help of people in internet. At the time I guess I also wanted to try SSRI and neuroleptics and I don’t feel grudge that I was given those drugs. I tried those drugs and fortunately I got off them before they caused further damage. I am a bit wiser about what works and doesn’t for me. I’m done with that.
However, I’m still dealing every day with those things they said to me, the things they wrote in their records and the diagnoses they gave me. If you read the records, they paint me as perhaps one of the most insane people you’d ever meet. I also got during that time all the worst diagnoses they had on offer: bipolar, paranoia, severe depression with psychosis and schizophrenia. I got “cured” of this “schizophrenia” by stopping drugs, stopping seeing shrinks, going back to work, etc. Sometimes what they’ve written seems like straight out of some modern version Rosenhan experiment. They had made up their mind I was psychotic or had “schizophrenia”, after of which they seemingly tried to interpret and bend every possible thing so as to conform to this belief, and since this business of psychiatry is so “fuzzy”, “imprecise” or “loose”, there’s lots of freedom in bending things. Is there some term in psychology for this kind of thinking? Perhaps at least “confirmation bias” is similar to what I’m after.
Now that those first psychologist and psychiatrist have writtenb their “delusional” records about me in the eight months or so they were “testing” me with Rorscach, etc, it seems the records will quite possibly influence the reasoning of doctors, psychiatrists and other professionals Iater on my life until the day I die. I’m just trying to figure out best approaches in neutralising those lies in my records.
I’m fascinated by what you describe is written in your documents about you and the picture that it paints.
There is a known corrupt practice that is used by police here in Australia called “verballing”. It is used in documents to “cast greater suspicion on a suspect”, and regularly contributes to wrongful convictions.
I was surprised to note that this corrupt practice is being used to subvert the protections afforded by our mental health act. The use of the practice means that anyone in the community can be locked up at any time. What you describe sounds very similar to this practice.
It is an insidious practice that can do significant damage to the victim, and i note you are concerned about possible future ramifications. The only thing i can suggest is to document the misrepresentations and ensure that a copy goes into your records.
I can provide further information about the practice of verballing if you require it.
Boans, that practice sounds terrible, and you give good advice.
I seriously wonder what would happen if someone repeated this experiment today:
Something tells me results would be exactly the same… Plus if you go to a shrink saying “doc, I think I have … (depression, bipolar, mania, schizophrenia, personality disorder etc.)” and then act normal how many times the psychiatrists will diagnose you with what you “think” you have anyway?
Here’s a link to Rosenhan’s paper “Being Sane in Insane Places”.
I am so happy for you that you were able to taper off your drugs, and I completely understand how difficult it is to remember all of the dreadful things they said about you. They said I was schizophrenic too, and many other diagnoses. They had no idea how to be simply kind and compassionate (as Michael Cornwall describes in his MIA blog). I always try to concentrate on all of the things in my life that might be going well for me at any given time. Thank you so much for sharing your story and responding to mine.
Thanks for your comment, Dorothy. What I experienced was perhaps not quite as severe as your case, since I was over 30 years of age already when it happened, but anyway. It sucked. Thanks for your post.
When I see the photos of you as a young girl, surrounded by those god-awful clinical cold words describing you- and the staff’s blase’ phrases proving their harmful abuse of you- it makes me shake my head in grief and anger.
Thank you again my friend for helping me know we must never stop fighting against such wrong doing.
Thank you so much, Michael.
Inspired by your writing this I requested my records for my two and a half month stay in the state hospital where I now work. The records were delivered to me this past Monday. I sat down and read about the first 20 pages and then took the entire thing, at least a ream of paper, to Admissions where I work and put every last page in the shredder box.
What I realized after 20 pages is that, no matter what you tell the so-called “experts” they will take what you tell them, twist it around, and shove it into the mold that fits how they want you to be seen. They have an objective in mind before you ever open your mouth and say your first words. They believe that they are the arbiters and interpreters of your life and your experiences, no matter what the truth really is. They believe that they have the right to do this.
For instance, I am what most Americans call Native American. We prefer to call ourselves First Nations Peoples but most people are not familiar with this. I am proud of my ethnic heritage and background and make no bones about it. Every time I was enterviewed, by the psychiatrist, the social worker, the psychologist, etc. I was sure that this was entered into what they wrote about me. When I read my records, each and every time this statement about my being Native American appeared it was followed by the phrase, “but he doesn’t look like a Native American.” As if each and every one of us have dark complexions, coal black hair in braids, and roman noses! They need to go to some of the reservations and look at the people on the rolls of particular tribes! What they were doing was casting doubt about what I claimed about my own heritage! Where do they get off and by what right do they presume to do something like this? HOW DARE THEM!
In the end, what I decided as I shoved those records into the shredder box, was that the only thing that really counts is what I think and feel about myself and my experiences. And I have not one shred of respect left for the very psychiatrist who ran my case and with whom I work with each and every day on the units. I almost cannot abide his presence.
Stephen, of course you are proud of your heritage! I think the shredder was a great choice for the demeaning words you found in your records. Yes, as you say, we are the ones who know who we are. I am so sorry that you are having to work on the same unit as the psychiatrist whom you cannot stand, for very good reasons. That must be very, very difficult.
What really astounded me is how the so-called “experts” turn everthing you say and do into some kind of pathology. It’s absolutely amazing. If you’re an introvert and go to the corner of the dining room to sit to have some peace and quiet time to yourself, they write in your records that you’re “isolating.” They create their own pathological scenarios for everything you say and everything that you do. It’s truly disgusting.
We have a saying in my country: “if you want to beat a dog, you’ll find a stick”. It’s all confirmation bias. They want to diagnose you with something so they take everything as a symptom.
Yes, Stephen, it truly is so very disgusting!
Thank you again for responding to my post.
On a much less serious but related note, a specialist I consulted for a medical condition last year sent me a medical records summary of the initial visit. I was absolutely stunned that she put my diagnosis under a psychiatric category even though there was no evidence whatsoever to justify what she did. She also attributed routine problems I was having to emotional reasons.
Needless to say, I sent a letter of rebuttal although I didn’t follow up to make sure the record was corrected. But this blog entry reminds me that I need to do this.
My point is is a regular doctor can falsely put in this type of BS in a medical record, I can’t begin to imagine what mental health professionasl do. It is horrifying reading about people’s experiences.
By the way, because I have a problem falling asleep prematurely after dinner, I am tempted to ask for my outpatient psych records because that would no doubt keep me awake. Then again, I don’t want to destroy property in my apartment due to the anger from reading the records.
I am so sorry for the horrific pain and suffering that people experienced in the psych hospitals. Words fail me big time.
AA, I am so glad to see that you have not lost your sense of humor. Yes, things are often written in our medical records about our emotional well-being, whether it is actually true or not. I am sure reading your records would keep you awake after dinner. Thank you for responding to my story.
There’s a point I’d like to make about this issue of misrepresentations in psychiatric medical records that i believe is really important.
Many of the documents are of no real importance, and contain what are opinions that reflect that the person making them is incompetent. It is the documents that have an effect on what happens to a person where this changes.
For example, in order to detain someone here in Australia, a Form 1 must be completed. The law states that the referrer must “specify the facts”, not provide an opinion. Making these types of misrepresentations on such a form is a crime, and can be persued in court.
Facts and opinions differ. When does a fact become a misrepresentation? When the words used materially affect the substance of the exact words, and are likely to mislead. One method of doing this is to use figurative language rather than literal. On my form the referred writes “not sleeping”, and yet in his notes he writes that he woke me up. Not an observation, and not a fact, but did make me look manic.
The people writing these comments like to work with opinions because they can not be examined and questioned. A problem arises for them where the law requires facts, and they don’t really have any.
Misrepresenting facts and giving opinions on clinical notes is incompetence, doing so on documents that have consequences for individuals is a crime. Please keep this in mind when examining your documents.
Boans, thank you again for this information. It will be helpful to many who finally get access to their records and might wish to confront the authors who are misrepresenting the facts within them. Things sound pretty bad in Australia.
Get Dorothy’s poster here for a $25 donation to PsychRights http://psychrights.org/Stories/DDundas/BehindLockedDoors.htm
Wow! You gotta love that bit in the poster about “…the fact that she’s receiving large doses of Thorazine might be significant.”
Ha ha…yes, if you can get beyond the horrors of what was written, there really is a lot of humor in this. So horrible that it is funny. And I love that you pointed it out!
Thank you so much for responding.
Hello Dorothy. i’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, however they won’t leave me alone in the room with my file. it is really unfortunate as they have added unsigned undated entries to try and cover up what they did to me. Unfortunate this is used against me by a court of law by family who would prefer i don’t talk about my troubles. I have previously complained against this entries, they refuse to remove them, even though they admit they should not be there. I only have one choice. I’m disappointing that I did not do it earlier. i will do abit different than you, i will replace everything i take with information of the real state of psychiatry, evidence of the lies,corruption, bribery, murder, torture and abuse. As well as anonymous testimony from survivors like us if they want to try charge me for that theft, this will be evidence they have to provide to the courts.
I have demanded that my medical files are amended by my version of events as the official documents contain obvious lies. I have yet to write it down and it is a bit triggering for me to even think about it but at least their bs will not be unopposed in the file. Not that it will change anything legally but it’s already something.
Grahame, I am so sorry that has happened to you! Extremely frustrating! I urge you not to give up, and I am sure you will create something powerful from whatever you are able to retrieve. Yes, it is often so so difficult to get psychiatric records – and especially ones which are truthful from your point of view.
Good luck and thank you for commenting here.
I know I’m late in the game but I just read this post for the first time and I have to say “BRAVO” for, first and foremost, your persistence in getting the records and, secondly, for moving on with such eloquence. That poster of yours is certainly a work of art (the art of living). And I love this guy Lee.
Keep on keeping on!
I read this with so much admiration for what you did. Thanks for continuing to be such an amazing and essential voice in our Movement.
Julie and Puzzle
Such a beautiful way to shed light on such a sad experience. Your poster is amazing and deeply touching. I spent time as an adolescent psych unit and spent over $2000 to get my records and they were far from complete. I was told years later that the program director stole my therapy records when he left his position. He told me that himself. He did much more than that and doesn’t deny it but he is still employed at the same hospital and has a Licences to practice clinical social work. I don’t for the life of me understand why. I have a webpage at mercytrust.jimdo.com . I don’t have money to have it professionally done so some idea’s on how to improve it would be great. Please read the letter I wrote in 2005 and sent out to around 50 mental health professionals locally. You are such an inspiration and reminder to never give up. Thank you.