Editor’s Note: The following is the third in a series of personal appeals that Los Angeles-based writer and artist Jane Engleman wrote to her doctors earlier this year about the state of her physical and mental health and her philosophy of healing. The letters will be published over several weeks.
This one was sent to the Keck USC medical center after she visited the ER at a system hospital during a period of feeling depressed, in hopes of honing in on a physical diagnosis for her dizziness and exhaustion. She was involuntarily admitted to the psych ward instead.
You can read the first two letters here.
October 12, 2020
First of all, I would much rather be writing little verses for performance and designing pretty pictures on Illustrator. But I really need to stay alive to be effective as a writer and graphic designer. After all, it is not the artwork or the performance that is the art, but the spark that quickens the souls of the audience to want to go on another day, no matter their caste, their race or their gender preference.
In case you cannot find the time or interest to finish this endless insight:
After 61 years of careful research and experience, it is my conclusion that European Americans are genetically incapable of mental health treatment without education and careful long-term coaching by people of other cultures who have found cures that restore humans to full professionalism with peers and to homeostasis with our environment.
USC Keck can accept this disability. There is wonderful prognosis, if you submit to treatment on a weekly basis for a long-long time.
|It is true that I began to despair of ever finding an answer.
● It is true that trauma is genetic, embedded in the DNA. The Egyptians, the Jews, the Tibetans, the East Indians, the Africans and the Navajos all concur.
✔ The difference is that a European/American’s prognosis is death outside of stocks, shock, Seroquel, incarceration and economic ostracism.
✔ The prognosis of competent healers is power, endurance, and compassion with the patient coaching of mentors who have struggled through the bootcamp of life themselves.
● It is true that I have had a history of prolonged confusion and struggle.
● It is true that I have been exhausted to the point that I would want to lay down anywhere.
● It is true that my Uncle Frank shot himself at the age of 82.
● And it is true that my father passed away on August 26, 2019 of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 92.
● And it is true that I said, “I do not know how I can survive another two weeks if I don’t get medical treatment. This exhaustion is terrible. I can hardly get out of bed. How am I going to get groceries and take care of myself?”
How did that end up as a new billing code and the reason I was incarcerated as a mental patient as “PATIENT STATES THAT SHE WILL KILL HERSELF WITH A GUN IN TWO WEEKS AS HER UNCLE AND HER FATHER SHOT THEMSELVES”?
What was the motive behind the exaggeration?
Questions Concerning My Brand New Billing Code:
- Why is it that a woman can enjoy 24 hours of peace in a non-violent emergency room, in confidence that a hospital is a place for medical treatment, only to be incited to violence the minute she gets a “bed” in a “mental health” hospital?
- Is it not simply bullying to send five men into one’s room to obtain the shoelaces of a 245-pound senior with liver disease because she is in danger of hanging herself from a nine-foot ceiling with nothing but a sprinkler to hang from?
- Is it really Keck USC Hospital Policy that all coping skills be removed (pens, books, paper, notebooks), phone access denied, given a gown like a prison inmate, and violated with suggestive comments as she comes out of a shower? Why did I have to call friends to advocate, asking repeatedly for water, pacing, thinking and meditating to survive a “hospital?”
- And why was I privileged to be on my feet, to be capable of self-care, when my colleagues had all been drugged or restrained into compliance, having never been coached to use their bodies and their minds for self-regulation?
Why do we need to fight and advocate for health and decency in a European/American “mental health” care?
- How do I keep my mouth shut when a “doctor” and a “nurse” type with faces on a screen, five feet away from elders strapped into their wheelchairs for hours? Where are the genetics of lovingkindness?
- How can a senior lost in his pain and confusion suddenly begin to come to life when he is touched on the hand and shoulder, provided a sheet of paper and a pen? How can he suddenly remember his competence, his education as a tutor in Shanghai for many years? Where are the genetics of hope?
- How can a woman rocking in restraints in a wheelchair laugh, her eyes lighted with intelligence and humor because a colleague is laughing with her at a silly story about an animated panda oppressed by his culture, triumphant in the end with the help of his friends over the arrogant peacock empress and her hippo kapos? And where was the mental health in the mocking of Cheryl’s sexuality by the male nurses in the hallway at the expense of one of the female nurses? Where are the genetics of honor?
Why am I whole when I dance and paint, blessed by my community, but deathly ill when faced by a European/American medical mechanic?
- And why trust the mechanics in uniform, after all my experience–why go to the “doctor” in the first place? If I intended to kill myself, I am 61. I know how. I would never have gone to a European/American medical facility for help. I had been told, “They are doing their best. Some of them are really trying, and if you do not get a transplant you might not survive. Go through the process. You have to trust somebody.”
- And why was I locked in a room for a week at Verdugo Hills GeroPsyche in the first place? Was it to heal? Was it research? Or was it to fill a bed? The County is concerned about negative growth on their vitality charts and would pay anybody anything to prevent another spot on the record, even if the patient dies in the attempt.
Why must an institution (or an individual) slant my words in order to have me accepted for this kind of treatment?
I have been exhausted in trying to find a scientific cure for the intense fog and confusion I have suffered since 2018. The attitudes of doctors after each incremental test seemed to be, “Well, it isn’t this, so it must be insanity. Don’t worry. We can drug you down and you won’t feel a thing.” Have we not enough of unfeeling? My anxiety increased after every emergency room and doctor’s appointment: “What was going on? Do I have cancer? Am I dying of heart congestion? What if they never take this thing seriously? Will my spleen explode (as seen on YouTube)?” “Don’t trust Google. Ask your doctor. Google is not trustworthy. Your doctor has the best information and research.”
Why was that treatment assumed by an “expert” statistician, after 15 minutes of “analysis,” to be a permanent genetic personality disorder for which the only cure is costly drugs, a bed in lockdown, and the salaries of people taking detailed computer notes of behavior for a week?
- Why was there was no reasoned opinion to the contrary by a lab, an MRI, my own testimony or the dissertation of anyone who knows me? Since they had not done the research for the physical evidence, and had not talked to me, they assumed my incompetence in understanding of my own body.
- After 15 minutes with a “patient advocate,” why is the Keck USC representative given 30 minutes in court, and I am given 10 minutes rebuttal? Why are not the hospital court transcripts in my medical records, since the doctor’s comments were there, having invented a new billing code after 15 minutes with “Patient,” with the encouragement that, “No, I will not discuss the medicine, and no you don’t have to take it, but there will be consequences to pay”? Is her education and experience really more learned, more empirical, than mine? She may know her pills. There was no attempt to know “Patient.”
- And why was I suddenly discharged, as I had asked, even though the doctor maintained that I continued to be secretly suicidal? Did you not want me to go to court the following Tuesday, where I could arrange for an advocate and my statements could be transcribed into public record? Was it not then so important to save my life?
- What are psychiatrists and administrators getting out of this? If you call this caring, with a propaganda story that there is no recovery from eugenics, I suppose you pay them to hide and isolate us as individuals in hospitals, convalescent homes, board and cares, and prisons… But then who is paying their salaries?
I hope I am done with violence in my life. I have seen too much. Killing, by myself or anyone else, is not an option. There are those who would recommend a bounty on every psychiatrist, social worker, and teacher as well as on every cop. But we have seen the gross results of revolutions, in Russia, China, France, and America. Revolution only metastasizes to a culture of bullying and exceptionalism. If we do not find mercy for ourselves in the abundant dimensions beyond what we see in front of our faces, we are lost.
If we do not recognize that Black and Indigenous lives matter to us deeply because these lives show us how we can dance, laugh, collaborate, negotiate and survive even after every attempt to dismiss, disrespect, and kill us with gas, gaslighting, starvation, or incarceration, thrown upon us like a sewer of self-satisfaction. They show us that we can emerge from our whited sepulchers alive again in our own stench, no longer rotting, but loved deeply.
And I cannot resent my Hepatis C or the failure of my liver. If it were not for illness, why would we want to be vulnerable? Why would we not want to be God every minute before the intensity of loving discipline? Why would we need to come to a deep appreciation of our bodies, the excitability of cells in the heart, the lungs, and the hypothalamus? If we do not, as Thich Nhat Han suggests, sink like a pebble into the bottom of the world, lay like a wounded animal hidden in the bushes, we will never soften. If we do not beg for abundant mercy, mercy will never flow from us. This is hell, in our souls and on our planet.
But I really would love to live a while, to experience more of that abundance of amazing grace, the gradients of squash blossom petals, the dance with white people and colored people and spotted people and furry people, the soft and loud drums of the jazz of the human voice.
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.