Confused, Accused, and Retraumatized

Lauren C.
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I felt dazed as I looked at my new surroundings, listening to the sound of the door locking behind me.  I had been taken into custody and detained the night before, but was suddenly woken up at 4 a.m. and told to get up because I was being moved to this new facility for continued incarceration.  It all felt so surreal, like a bad dream.  But unlike waking from a bad dream, with all its fuzzy and garbled parts that make you realize it couldn’t possibly be real, this seemed so devastatingly real.  My husband was not there and was never told I was being transferred.  This felt like a secret mission to transport the prisoner in the middle of the night, her swift awakening and isolation ensuring quiet bewilderment—and compliance.

At the new facility, I was led to a room where I was strip-searched and my scalp inspected for lice.  I was then allowed to dress in my approved clothing and led to another room to sign my personal effects into their custody.  A bag for my belongings was placed in front of me and there I saw my name filling in the blank next to  “inmate’s name.”  I had to sign my name above “inmate’s signature,” and now even I had officially agreed as to who I really was.  I saw that I had an “inmate number,” 39248, and the surrealness dissolved into shame.  Strip-search, lice inspection, inmate.  How did I get to this place?  Twenty-four hours before I had woken up next to my 10-month-old daughter, exhausted after a night of frequent nursing.  Her warm, chubby innocence seemed so far away now as I pondered my new status.

A bag for personal belongings designed for “inmates,” similar to one given to the author at a psychiatric hospital. Photo courtesy of Lauren C.

I was given copies of the rules and my rights and shown to my room.  There was no bathroom, but I realized there was one a couple of doors down, with a sign next to it bearing three names, one of them mine.  I would often have to get a staff member to unlock it because there seemed to be some arbitrary rule about when we “inmates” were allowed to use the bathrooms.  I never did figure it out, but it wasn’t kept clean so I would spend as little time in there as possible, deciding I would not be showering for the duration of my stay.  I was told I had to make my bed and keep my room clean, however.

All of the violence and sexual stuff that you hear about going on in these places turned out to be true.  There was no gender separation here and, after I was released, I heard of a woman who was sexually assaulted by a man while in her own room at this same facility.  Luckily, while I was there just a couple of more minor sexual things happened.  For example, I heard a staff member harassing a man about standing too close to the locked door on our wing.  He asked this man, who was silent and calm, if he was thinking about touching a child when he touched the door, and was yelling at him to go back to his room.  Another time a different man masturbated in the hallway, moaning loudly, not far from the closed door of my room.

There were the usual yelling, threats, and fights.  I was awoken in the middle of the night by what sounded like an object being hurled at my door by another inmate.  It sounded like whatever it was would soon break down my door and reach me.  I was awoken too early one morning by an inmate yelling for us all to wake up because we were in a bombed-out shelter and needed to get ready to defend ourselves.  I felt the same way.

One day I realized a small bag of peanut M&Ms was missing from my room.  My husband (who eventually learned my whereabouts) had brought it during visiting hours because it was my favorite candy and he thought it would be comforting.  It was, so I asked a staff member if she knew why it was missing.  She said the candy was “contraband,” so when she had found it during a room search (there were regular room searches) she threw it away.  I had forgotten the contraband rule.

Disbelieved and Desperate

I was unable to fully understand why I was in this facility in the first place or the nature of the accusations against me.  They were saying I had been doing things, thinking things, and feeling things that I was not.  I had done something, just not the things they said I did.  But obviously, it was a very bad thing to do, or I wouldn’t be here.  I knew people were very upset with me about it, especially when I was able to reach my long-time therapist and psychiatrist by phone.  My therapist immediately told me she was terminating me. I begged my psychiatrist to help me get out of there, suggesting I could have my husband lock me up in a storage space under our stairs where he could just open it to bring me food or let me go to the bathroom.  But she recommended to staff that I continue to be locked up in their facility instead.  I felt so alone.

I tried to assure everyone that I would never do it again and that I wasn’t actually as bad as they thought, but no one believed me.  There was no legal requirement that there be any evidence that their statements about me were true.  I would be allowed a hearing, but I knew that judges in mental health courts almost always decided against the inmate in cases like mine.  They could legally hold me as long as they wanted to.

This was the part that traumatized me the most: It was terrifying that my freedom was in the hands of just one professional who was steadfast in his conviction that I was feeling things that I was not.  It’s funny what happens when you are forced to be separated from everything that you hold dear, not knowing when you will get it back.  I had not realized just how much the ordinary, banal, heartbreakingly beautiful drudgery and the wearisome parts of everyday life with my family meant to my emotional stability.  Even though life could feel so hectic, crazy, and unstable at times while homeschooling and raising our four young children, my home and family meant everything to me.

Would I even be the same person when I got out?  Those classic fight-or-flight symptoms were zooming around inside me and I was coming completely undone.  I was generally known for being quiet, easygoing, and calm, but here I found myself yelling at another inmate to sit down and shut the fuck up!  At first, I thought she wanted to fight, as she narrowed her eyes at me, but I didn’t even care; I was ready for it.  Instead, she sat down, apologizing.  I yelled at a staff member and taunted him, telling him that I could get him fired.  I felt invincible: I was running this place.

On the other hand, I constantly and desperately tried to escape. I ran at a locked door, straight into it as hard as I could, only to bounce right off and ashamedly turn back to face the staff members watching me.  I attempted to bribe one of them to sneak me out.  I begged, pleaded, argued, and cried to be released.  I told one of them I felt a panic attack coming on as I talked to him, but he angrily told me to just calm down.  I saw and felt the walls closing in on me.  Although I needed to believe I was invincible, I was crumbling.

Not long after I had arrived at this facility, it became apparent that they were never going to believe the truth about me.  They had made up their minds, and I couldn’t handle the thought of how long they might keep me locked up and what might happen to me during that time.  I thought about how for hundreds of years, hunger strikes have been used by those held against their will in situations probably not at all unlike mine.  It seemed my only hope, as I knew my mental health would continue to deteriorate the longer I stayed there.

So I told them I would not eat or take medication until they let me go, thinking it would look very bad for them to continue to imprison someone until they became very ill from starvation.  I so desperately needed it to work.  But one afternoon a staff member came to my room and told me that I’d better watch out because if I didn’t start eating, they’d stick a feeding tube in me.  A terrifying prospect indeed, but I didn’t think they could legally do that, so I stuck with it for the time being.  If this were going to work, I could not concede to their threats.  Thankfully, my hunger strike seemed to have succeeded, because they reluctantly released me on the fourth day “against medical advice.”  I emerged from the psychiatric hospital into freedom, a new and lesser person.

Re-enacting Trauma

The reason I had been involuntarily admitted to this psychiatric hospital was that I had taken a nonfatal overdose of my prescription medication, an attempt at self-harm, not suicide, because I had been experiencing traumatic memories from (not surprisingly) a previous psychiatric hospitalization exactly one year before.

But I was being accused of a suicide attempt and severe depression, and they created a treatment plan based solely on this assessment even though I kept telling them I was neither depressed nor suicidal.  There was never any mention of addressing the trauma and extreme anxiety I was experiencing, even though I told them about it every chance I got.  I did not know until much later that my therapist had lied, telling doctors that I had showed up the day of the overdose and told her I was suicidal with a specific plan to go where I couldn’t be found so that I could kill myself. I had not even talked to her that day before I did it.

I also found out later she thought I was on the hunger/medication strike as a way to protest the injustices of the mental health system.  While the system is unjust, she did not understand that I was being so traumatized that I was out of my mind with desperation, doing whatever was necessary to get out of the hospital by any means necessary.  I was in no condition to care about standing up for a cause.  But she thought I was not taking my recovery from the alleged severe depression seriously, so she terminated me.  She also told my psychiatrist, who had been out of the country for three weeks, that she thought they should transfer my care elsewhere.  I later asked my (ex-)therapist why she accepted other clients who had been hospitalized back into her practice.  She told me they cared more.

She knew this wasn’t the case. At appointments with her before the overdose, I had revealed what I was planning to do because I knew self-harm was not a healthy choice.  As I told her, I wanted to reenact the trauma of the previous hospitalization by telling a health care provider I wanted to hurt myself and then leaving and going somewhere the police couldn’t find me.  Then I would take the overdose (I had looked up the dosage beforehand to try to ensure it wouldn’t cause me serious harm, although I’d made no plans for what to do if it did.)  I had not spoken of any ongoing depression or suicidal thoughts, only anxiety and anger relating to the traumatic memories.  In fact, I had told her I had been excited about an upcoming move, that I had joined a soccer team and was loving it, that I was eating a healthy diet, making plans with friends, and was involved in church activities.  Unfortunately, I don’t think she had understood me as an individual, someone who could have problems that didn’t easily fit within the confines of a mental disorder diagnosis.  She didn’t understand that I had only been reacting to the trauma of the previous lockup and was neither depressed nor suicidal when I harmed myself.

For background, in 2018, I attended a perinatal support group held in a hospital and opened up about suicidal thoughts I was having. The leader told me she couldn’t let me go home and walked me down to the ER before the group ended and said I had to go inpatient right then and there, even when I told her I didn’t want to. So, my plan was to go back to the same support group, leave early again, tell someone at the hospital I was going to hurt myself, and then immediately leave instead of being locked up again. Restaging this episode felt like a way to express my anger and be in control this time. Taking the overdose felt like a way to show them the damage they had done to me and get them to understand that instead of protecting me from harm by admitting me that time, they had actually made me want to harm myself more because it was such a traumatizing experience.

It probably doesn’t make much sense, but in my traumatized mind I thought this reenactment might help me overcome the traumatic feelings of helplessness from the previous psychiatric incarceration for perinatal depression.  It would be the ultimate expression of control and power over what I could do with my own body, including the ability and free choice to harm myself if I wanted to.  I felt compelled to carry this plan out, in spite of the therapy I was doing.  But I did not want to die; I had too much to live for.  I feel ridiculous now, thinking that I wouldn’t be locked up for overdosing, but at the time I guess I thought people would understand that this was my own way of resolving the issue.  Unfortunately, I felt sick from the overdose, went to the hospital to get checked out, and discovered that overdosing is always considered a suicide attempt, no matter how many times you tell them it was not.

Changes, Pro and Con

That last hospitalization was over a year ago.  It changed me in ways that can be hard to articulate, but there are some more salient things that I think are both good and bad.  In a sense, I feel freer, as I am less worried about bad things happening to me now.  I feel that if I could survive that involuntary hospitalization, then I can survive anything.  I can walk down a dark alley and not feel afraid as I almost beckon to the shadows to just try me, just see what they can do that would actually hurt me, because nothing does very much anymore.  I can fly down an incline on my mountain bike, less inhibited by the fact that even a slight flick of my handlebars in the wrong direction will send me tumbling down an embankment.  I can be more daring, bold, and carefree.  It’s a rush and there’s power in that; I feel invincible.

On the other hand, the feelings of helplessness continue outside of the hospital walls.  I’ve sent complaints about those involved in my incarceration, but they have been dismissed.  I filed a complaint against my therapist, too, but then withdrew it when it became too painful for me to continue the process.  I just wanted to feel like what happened to me mattered.  They took my voice away from the time I was taken into custody, through the incarceration, and now through the complaint process.  And I’ve taken my own voice away when things have become too painful.  I picture them all finding it acceptable that I was traumatized. No big deal, just move on to the next one.  I feel left behind.

But I can’t ever let them take away my control again.  If a week of nourishing myself with healthy, comforting food leads to even the slightest weight gain, I am losing control, just like I was when I was locked up in the psychiatric hospital.  Frequently, I’ll eat so little that I can’t sleep at night and I’m irritable, weak, and useless.  Sometimes I eat too much, deciding that a finger down my throat will best relieve all the anger, shame, and pain within.  Along with the food, my memories, so violently thrust up and back out of me, are flushed away, only to return the next day to be stuffed or starved away again.  These are old habits, and they die hard. I thought they had died until they came rearing their ugly heads again, this time promising to fill the void when I failed to speak the unspeakable.

Also, in a desperate attempt to block out the painful memories, I started experimenting with (legal) drugs. I had never had a substance abuse problem or done any drugs before this last hospitalization. I even became dependent on one of the drugs and went through withdrawals when I tried to stop using it. I am still having trouble staying off of it, but at least at first, it felt like another way to be in control because I could take something to just instantly block out everything that had happened.

And yet, I have reason to hope.  My psychiatrist did not terminate me as my therapist did.  She actually took the time to listen to me and now agrees that I was not severely depressed and suicidal and should never have been hospitalized.  She has apologized to me, been sad with me, and been angry for me for all the harm that was done.  In the first six months after the hospitalization, I called her several times feeling so desperately hopeless from being traumatized that I actually was suicidal.  But this time, when any other doctor would likely have had me locked up, she did not.  I am sure she was worried, scared, and probably many other things.  I was too.  But she stayed with me, and I with her.  And we did it.  She showed compassion towards me, exemplifying what mental health care should look like.  Because for it to be considered mental health care, compassion needs to be where it starts and where it stays.

A year out, I don’t have suicidal thoughts anymore, but I do want to hide away, my problems and me, together against psychiatry, therapy, false diagnoses, incarceration, fear, and shame.  It’s all become too much of my identity and many times I don’t want anything to do with the mental health system anymore.  But I still see my psychiatrist, we mostly do therapy, and many times it really does help. I also reach out to friends in ways I never have before, telling them my story, and they are shocked, disgusted, amazed, and supportive.  My family is supportive, my church is there for me.  Keep it coming, I need it all.  And they need me, too: They have their own battles, and we fight together.  Alone, there really is no way I am invincible.  But together, with others who really do care, I just might be.

 

 

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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.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, Lauren,
    my wife and I are fellow homeschoolers, though our son is 30 now. I have a lot of happy memories of those days, but I know my wife shouldered most of the burden of the schooling: I supported both of them the best I could so that it was a family effort.

    I’m sorry for your experiences and the trauma they have caused. I couldn’t quite tell if you are still struggling with eating issues amongst other things or not. I’m glad it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good support network, too. I’m glad it sounds like you have a good therapist now, but never underestimate the power your husband has to support and carry you through the hard times. Once I learned how to help my wife, it made all the difference in her healing.
    Take care,
    Sam

      • I think homeschooling is great. I have no children in my care, but, if I did I would homeschool them, especially now after this virus craziness with the schools. However, instead, I am grown up woman homeschooling myself. I am learning that homeschooling oneself is a great way of the pain that the psych industry, etc. heaped upon me. Homeschooling myself also helps to fill in some of the gaps in my brain since it was harmed by the drugs and therapies, etc. Additionally, homeschooling myself allows me the chance to build up my self-worth and self-esteem that the psychiatrists, etc. tried to tear down. But, of course, I completely tailor it to me and my interests and use the materials that meet my unique needs, i.e. I usually deal with materials meant for teens, upward to college students and adults, etc. If it works for me, I do it. Thank you.

        • Hi rebel, you are an autodidact and I think that can really be the best way to learn. You’ll retain the information better when you move at your own pace and within your own interests. I love to learn as well! Thank you for your comment and take care.

          • Lauren C. I am not familiar with the word, “autodidact.” If that means, I am basically a “self-taught” learner then I think that fits. It would also how I did not fit in so well in almost anything past fifth or sixth grade, made it through college, but not really, and could not bring myself to apply to grad school. But, then, in those first few grades, my dear mother spent, maybe, more time than usual in those dreaded parent/teacher conferences, while the teacher tried to explain to my mother that I was so “smart” and all my teachers and my parents kept telling me that I wasn’t living up to my potential. In short, I, well, hated school. Thank you.

  2. It is indeed terrifying to discover that one’s freedom is in the hands of just one professional. I just received my hospital records for an involuntary hospitalization that occurred June 29th of this year. I can’t say that I am all that surprised by the extent to which the hospital psychiatrist misconstrued so much that I said. I was admitted when a CT scan revealed a micro bleed in my cerebellum. They asked me if I knew how it might have happened, and I jokingly responded that perhaps I got hit by an asteroid, as clearly I had neither fallen or stuck my head. In response to the sheer number of medical tests I was being subjected to, I joked that I could try out for the NASA space program without undergoing any further testing. Both of these attempts at humor were taken literally and cited as evidence of my being mentally ill. I told them I had a Master’s Degree in Psychology and that I was working on my Ph.D. According to their report, I claimed that I had a Ph.D., something which I would NEVER do. I also gave them one of my business card, which prominently displayed the letters, M.A.. Still further evidence of my grandiosity. I also told them that in addition to ovarian cysts, I had noticed almond shaped lumps on my labia majora (I had imaging scheduled already for these and they turned out to be benign cysts or lipomas). According to the hospital records, when asked about the ovarian cysts I said they were in my labia majora. They saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear. As you noted in your essay, they had already made up their minds, and misperceived reality to confirm their own expectations.

    But the absolute worst (not to mention most hurtful) reveal was the conversation they had with a coworker of mine, upon which they based their decision to involuntarily hospitalize me. He told the doctor that I had worked at the Inn for four years and that he had been employed there the entire time. This is blatantly false. He had worked there for only the last year. He also said that he, our Sous Chef and I, from March until June, met regularly to take walks and watch movies together. According to what the hospital records say, he told the doctor that we three would meet up once or twice a week for these activities. This is also false. Never once did we ever watch a movie together. Also, he has an issue with one of his legs that makes long walks, especially those in sand, very difficult if not impossible. As a result, during that period from March until June, we maybe went on two or three short walks together at most, always accompanied by two or three other people. It wasn’t even until December 2019, that I began to interact with him at all outside of work, because one of our guests flew six of us to New York City for the weekend, and as Lead Server, I thought I’d assist him by maintaining the camaraderie that occurred as result. He also told the doctor that I didn’t have a lot of friends outside of work. Which is also false. I simply had never had any cause to introduce them to him, because he and I weren’t really that close. He also reported seasonal changes in my mood. In the summer when the Inn is very busy with tourists, I am quiet and focused on our guests, whereas in the winter, the Inn is less busy and I am very happy and talking about my pet projects. How this is a sign of psychopathology and not professionalism, I don’t know. He also told the doctor that I was not called back to work. This is also false, but he did not know that either.

    Just like you, I was confused, accused, and retraumatized. Fortunately, if my childhood taught me one thing, it was that all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance. A quote by Virgil, I believe, and I survived the hospital’s attempts to psychologically retraumatize me successfully, by implementing the very same strategy. Which is actually kind of ironic. And just like you said, “there was no legal requirement that there be any evidence that their statements about me were true.” It truly is an absolutely terrifying aspect of reality. Clearly, we as a nation, fall far short of our spoken ideals, especially when it comes to human rights.

    • The biggest assholes one meets are those who believe in a “mental health” industry. There is nothing healthy going on, except perhaps a few awesome great people that share the truth with you. The truth sets you free but why would any industry want it’s subjects to be free? The public is not free as long as they believe in reform of shitty systems.

    • I remember one of my therapists had told me that my sense of humor was one of my strengths. It seems to be one of your strengths, also. But, it also seems and this is not uncommon, except yours ended in an horrific hospitalization of one of your strengths being used against you. In your case, it was extreme, but this happens so much in our society by all kinds of authority figures, in particular, it is a wonder that we as a society accomplish anything. However, lately, that accomplishment might be in doubt. Please don’t ever give any of your strengths or rather your natural talents and gifts, etc. away. And, that did seem to happen to you this time. I have, and with not just my sense of humor, way too many times. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your story.
    It’s important for you to realize that mostly along your “mental health” travails, you will meet a bunch of very fucked up people. So you have to resist the urge to share information with the clueless. Next time you get that urge, realize that they might have worse problems or mostly, have no clue what is up or down.
    I would throw away any thoughts about reporting those who harmed you. IT’s a complete waste of your precious time. They are all in it together, a bunch of views and opinions about things they cannot grasp or deal with and which they made a profession out of. But they cannot share that with you.

    • Thank you sam, I absolutely agree with you. I now tell people to very carefully consider how therapy and the mental health system can harm instead of help. Most people think that going to therapy will help and at worst maybe not help. But it’s just not true at all, therapy can do far more harm than anyone would expect.

      I mentioned in my article that in 2018 the support group leader took me to the ER after they decided I was a danger to myself. My therapist had been there at the time and I later asked her why she hadn’t tried to stop her since she knew how much I didn’t want to be hospitalized. I had planned ahead of time to try to express my anger to her and was hopeful we could have a productive conversation about it. But she instead seemed angry with me and said incredulously “stop her”??

      And then informed me that she and my psychiatrist had discussed calling the police and having them come to her office at my appointment time and they would have handcuffed me and taken me away. She acted like they had done me a big favor by taking me to the ER during the group instead of calling the police on me. I was so surprised by her reaction and that they were going to call the police on me. It really shut down any hope of communicating my anger directly to her about this. I have realized more recently that I think it was in that moment that I realized I could no longer effectively express my anger about my hospitalization in words. And I believe this led to the start of my plans to reenact that trauma and express myself through actions instead of words.

      I have thought about how nice it must be to be the one in the position of power and be able to just walk away from it all. They can just fuck someone’s life up and then blame it on the patient not doing the right thing instead of blaming themselves and then just walk away and move on to someone new and hope the next one turns out better. I mean you win some, you lose some right?

      And I definitely have given up hope of any recourse for this. Mental health professionals are granted so much indemnity and power and patients are left feeling even more hopeless when they try to go up against a system that sees human rights abuses through the lens of their “for your own good” mentality. They have been too indoctrinated with this mentality to see these barbaric practices for what they are. They should all be forced to read the 2017 UN Mental Health and Human Rights report. I’ll end by leaving part of it here:

      “Persons with psychosocial disabilities continue to be subjected to forced institutionalization , as allowed by civil codes and mental health laws in many countries. Deprived of their liberty, they are commonly subjected to forced treatment, and living conditions and arrangements may also put their physical and mental integrity at risk. Children or adults detained in institutions are at increased risk of violence and abuse, including sexual exploitation and trafficking.”

      “Forced institutionalization violates the right to personal liberty and security, understood as freedom from confinement of the body and freedom from injury to one’s bodily or mental integrity, respectively. It amounts to violation of the right to live free from torture and ill-treatment, and from exploitation, violence, and abuse, and of the right to personal integrity. States parties should repeal legislation and policies that allow or perpetuate involuntary commitment, including its imposition as a threat, and should provide effective remedies and redress for victims.”

      • The last report I got was that suicide is no longer a crime. After all, it was difficult to prosecute dead people.

        So then, why would someone be incarcerated for attempt or even for uttering the idea of it? And since uttering it is most often about one’s scary circumstance, or experiences of circumstance and is really a fear or feeling cornered as to not having other choices, why would cornering a person more result in that person feeling less boxed in?

        Then basically people are told that they have to shut up and or do it because if you utter any hint at all, any hint of despair, we will lock you up and strip you if you do not co-operate.

        Great treatment for hopelessness. It’s of course illegal to lock you up for talking about an act that is not illegal, but the policy makers would rather terrify you more, than actually come up with safe houses where you can say what you want, and support and help to get you out of a pit will be the norm.
        Too much work in that.

        • Well, attempted suicide is still a crime in some states though. As recently as 2019 a Maryland man was charged with attempted suicide and pleaded guilty. I think I might prefer that over involuntary commitment. You would at least be entitled to due process with a trial by jury. Then the burden of proof would be on the prosecutor instead of the patient as in involuntary commitment. Not that the patient really has any chance to provide proof anyway. Also, even if you had to serve time in prison you would at least know when it would end. That was one of the scariest parts about being locked up in the psych hospital for me. I knew those assholes could just say anything they wanted to extend the commitment indefinitely. And in my state you can’t expunge an involuntary commitment record. But you do have a chance at expunging a criminal record. Seems like the better deal to me.

          But you are right, I don’t know what could feel more hopeless after someone reveals a little too much about how they’re really feeling. I think the idea is to continue to pass the patient off to the next person so they feel like they are actually doing something. And if you lock them up like a wild animal being caged for the first time, you hope they can be trained and tamed before allowing them to roam free and interact with the human beings who have learned to just shut the fuck up and carry on. But otherwise they’ll be too traumatized from being locked up they often won’t go back to mental health treatment anyway and instead they’ll just blow their brains out rather than risk being locked up again. It’s a win either way for the mental health professional who had the patient locked up because then there’s no worries about lawsuits, feeling incompetent, or having blood on their hands.

    • Oh hell no, lol. Far from “throwing away any thoughts about reporting those who harmed me,” I intend to do the exact opposite.

      Yesterday I sent a letter to the CEO and President of Lifespan (the parent company that owns Newport, Rhode Island, Butler, and a few other hospitals), advising him of the facts in my situation. Specifically, that virtually nothing my coworker said was true, apart from his description of my professionalism and dedication to meeting, if not outright exceeding, the needs and expectations of my guests.

      I also alerted him to the fact that a simple Google search revealed that this particular coworker may indeed have a criminal record, for battery and contempt of court, and pointed out that my parents, who have known me for 49 years to his one, themselves said, according to the hospital record, that they never noticed any evidence of bipolar disorder, mania, disorganized thinking, etc…

      I also alerted him to the fact that I planned on suing my coworker for defamation, then the doctor for medical malpractice and negligence, because rather than acting with good faith, she acted on blind faith, in relying solely on my coworker’s (what turned out to be completely false testimony), and then finally Lifespan, as a whole, because according to RI law, in order to legally involuntarily hospitalize someone they have to be at serious risk of imminent harm due to mental illness. The hospital records reported no such risk, nor was there ever any evidence of such, and given that apart from my coworker’s statement, there was no other evidence of bipolar disorder, then it wasn’t involuntary hospitalization, it was clearly false imprisonment.

      Today, my plan is to write a letter to the editor, describing the situation, and ending with the quote Lauren C. provided here in this comment section about the United Nations’ view on involuntary hospitalization, and then I am going to distribute it like war leaflets, lol. Mailing one to every editor of every newspaper I can possibly think of, starting with the Cape Cod Times, and ending with its Los Angeles counterpart.

        • Thanks Steve! It’s funny you say that, I just posted something on Facebook to that effect yesterday. A picture of one of my favorite Star Trek Voyager/The Next Generation characters, known as Q, played by actor John Delancie, telling his son, Q Jr., played by the actor’s actual son, one of my favorite lines in the series. Don’t provoke the Borg!!!! That’s pretty much how I feel at the moment. I submitted the letter to MIA and there’s been some interest but we are still working out the details. (A version of the letter I sent as a letter to the editor to the Providence Journal, not the one I sent to the CEO and President of Lifespan.) The letters are virtually similar except I was extra careful to remove any identifying or info in the letter to the editor. If I cannot get redress in the courtroom, I can at least try to do so in the Court of Public Opinion. Especially as two of RI’s largest hospital conglomerates are seeking to merge. Which given what I endured as a patient at one such hospital, is a terrifying thought indeed.

        • Good work Kristen, I like your fighting spirit. And the court of public opinion can definitely be the way to go. I think this often leads to much bigger changes then attempting any judicial redress on an individual level from mental health professionals who have already been able to easily abrogate any civil rights they pretend we have. Nellie Bly was certainly able to do this. I look forward to seeing the results of your hard work!

  4. Hi,
    It sounds horrible what you went thru in the hospital. I also had allot of bad experiences in the hospital. The big manager/boss of the hospital sexually abused me he was showing a student how to give some one a “depot” and he pressed his groin area against me whilst he gave me the injection and said “my name” is pretty good “, but I” she’s a good girl”. Another time I was sitting in the lounge when a male inmate came up to me naked and jiggling himself all over the place.

    • Hi Kristen, thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear you had a similar experience of collateral information being incorrect and not being believed. It is scary that they took your jokes as a sign of mental illness. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you. And I do mean truly used against you. Not to help you, not to protect you, not to try to understand. Just to do what they have learned to do according to the system. I want to see doctors have the courage to step outside the box for a change and actually care about the human being in front of them, the one whose life you are about to change in ways that may take years to recover from and cause many people to not ever seek mental health treatment again. And then we end up here at MIA, which is where we should be to tell our stories over and over again as long as it takes until we are finally heard. I hope that through endurance, as you said, you are able to conquer your traumatic memories and continue to heal. Take care!

  5. “ I did not know until much later that my therapist had lied, telling doctors that I had showed up the day of the overdose and told her I was suicidal with a specific plan to go where I couldn’t be found so that I could kill myself. I had not even talked to her that day before I did it.”

    Chillingly like what happened to me. I spoke to some asshole for thirty seconds before she announced that I told her I planned to kill myself that morning.

  6. I wouldn’t know how to trust friends or a psychiatrist who can take away my power after what you’ve been through Lauren. Telling and retelling my story to people I thought were friends only made them treat me more like ‘a mental patient’. To be honest, I don’t trust many people here that are ‘fighting the good fight’ because the way one is read or sensitized in their own experiences tend to project their own experiences onto who’s speaking. I know you want to be heard and believed and trusted and ‘fought with’, and yet…who really has your back if not you in healing from the trauma of this systemic oppression that continues. And if you aren’t clear in how to heal and who to go to for healing then who do you trust? I’m not speaking for you of course. I’m projecting. I’m curious all the same in how what I’ve replied lands for you.

    • I think I understand what you’re saying. It is difficult to know who to trust and how to trust. And it can feel so traumatic all over again when you tell someone your story and they are dismissive, defensive, blaming, invalidating, or shaming. Is that what you’re saying?

      My ex therapist was all of those things in the aftermath when I tried to talk to her about what happened. She even said she had other clients who just couldn’t say enough good things about their hospital experiences. But I just couldn’t understand why I had been locked up in a psychiatric hospital for having a traumatic stress reaction due to being locked up in a psychiatric hospital and then her terminating me while I was in there. I thought it was some kind of fucking experimental exposure therapy/remove all support therapy. I still do sometimes. It all hurts so much.

      And as I had said in my article, she initially terminated me because she thought I didn’t care about getting better but then later changed it to her practice was growing, she had other clients to see, a family she needed to spend time with, and that her solo practice couldn’t handle me. She said I needed DBT with phone coaching, groups, and individual therapy. This was after I had completed a three week partial hospitalization. And all of this because of sharing my feelings about hospitalization during a three week period and taking the overdose. I did go to see a DBT therapist a couple of times and she kept trying to steer me away from it and towards EMDR instead. I told the therapist I wasn’t coming back and she said she didn’t think I needed DBT at all.

      As far as my psychiatrist, she has earned my trust back to an extent but it has taken time and it’s different now too. I spend time now thinking about what I will say, how I will say it, and what the consequences will be. It hasn’t been a smooth path and there were several times where I told her I just wasn’t coming back at all and I didn’t for a couple of months one time. And believe it or not, as patients we have our own power too and can have our own plans in place for how to avoid capture. We don’t have to be caught by surprise again.

      I have rambled on with my own stories here and maybe I just proved your point by projecting my own experiences. It is hard for me to stop when I find someone who will listen :). But, the short version is that I would never trust another mental health professional other than my psychiatrist. And I don’t recommend that others do either, it’s just too risky. I do worry about telling friends too but all have been very supportive and positive so far. I am sorry that yours haven’t, and I do want to say that I think that can be a common reaction unfortunately when people are ignorant. Remember we are victims though, and this kind of trauma is just one of many in which victims are blamed and invalidated in the aftermath. You’re certainly not alone in that aspect. I would love to hear your story sometime if you’d like to share it.

  7. Yes, you ‘hear me’. And I understand nearly all of the dynamics you’re expressing in the lack of trust you’ve experienced and rightly so.
    I would be willing to share my story with you privately, but these days I’m feeling really unsteady, as no doubt many are still. I believe you would be a good listener and would sensitively identify as well.

    I appreciate your response here. This hasn’t been familiar to me by many who respond to my responses.
    I do hope you continue to find trusted support in your friends and psychiatrist. (Projecting my fear again here) This hasn’t been my experience, even after I had had life lines and they failed me and I decided to trust a ‘god of my understanding’ and talk only to it for a year or thereabout, then that contact was lost (I know there are many paradigms of thought on this) where I am still in disconnected survival limbo.

    I have let go of counselors and friendships because of noticing the distrust I felt with them and finally had the courage to not depend on them, feeling I had to edit my process. I am now unedited with myself and take risks with the last couple people I text with and Skype, and yet, I am so dependent on them that I fear I will push them away too, because ultimately, I know they cannot save me from my cycles of trauma, as I go through another counselor relationship now, once again. Thus far he is willing to listen once a week and I feel respected in my self awareness and whatever comes up in our new dynamic of intimate relationship (payed for of course, so not too intimate).

    Thanks for being here Lauren, and thanks for your vulnerable open response. I understand free expressing to who will listen. Sincerely I do. Individual to individual is the best I can try to find settling for or some semblance of solace.

  8. This was just horrifying to read. I can’t imagine experiencing it. WHY did your therapist terminate with you? I don’t understand that in the least. At a time when you needed them most. That should be illegal. I do know some therapists don’t take on patients with SI but the ones that do need to understand it, know we need to talk about it, and not jump to hospitalize.

    I saw my last therapist for 4 years. I only lost her because of insurance reasons. She knew how awful it is to be hospitalized against your will. I trusted she would never do that.

    I’m seeing a new therapist next week. I’m deciding on whether to lie about my SI or just tell her it’s the first session and I don’t feel comfortable with the subject. But I wonder if the latter would trigger her to do something. It’s frustrating. And demeaning.

    I hope you are recovering and I’m sorry that happened to you.

  9. So she had been therapist for six years at that point. I know that she had a client who died by suicide within the previous couple of years and she told my psychiatrist she couldn’t go through that again. Just to make it clear, I had expressed very clearly to my psychiatrist what my plan was beforehand and that I did not want to die and she told my therapist this. My therapist wrote this in her own records that I have a copy of. She also recorded that she told the police officer she did not think I wanted to die when I took the overdose.

    On the other hand, she somehow seemed to think I was on the verge of suicide and would surely kill myself if I wasn’t locked up. The only way I can make sense of it is that her judgement was so clouded by her own experience from the trauma of her other client killing herself that she couldn’t see my situation for what it was. I still don’t understand how she could just forget all about my trauma and not even realize the terror I was experiencing. Or how she could actually want me to be locked up where I would be put in the very situation that would ensure I experienced the most trauma possible, and then terminate me while in that situation. And as if that weren’t enough, she did so many other things afterwards to cover up her actions and said things to try to hurt me even more. That part is really hard for me to grasp, I mean why try to hurt me even more when I was already down like that?

    I’m sorry you lost your therapist after four years, that’s a long time too. And I understand feeling conflicted and cautious about what to tell your new therapist. It is hard enough to open up to a therapist about other things but when you have to worry about being locked up too then it’s difficult to understand how it can actually be helpful.

    Thanks so much for your supportive comment and I hope that you find your new therapist trustworthy and helpful!

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