Cindi Fisher on Hunger Strike: Free My Sidd

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Cindi Fisher on hunger strike at Washington State’s Capitol.
July 8, 2021:

It’s 10 pm now on day 4 of my hunger strike (on liquids only) and I’m noticing I am feeling hungry and sad. I am thinking of food, but then I think about my 44-year-old child, Siddharta.

Sidd goes to bed hungry and there is nothing she can do about it. She has lost so much weight at Washington’s Western State Hospital and is now so terribly thin. So I will use my slight hunger discomfort to be in solidarity with Sidd’s major hunger pains.

Going to bed hungry in a so-called hospital is just WRONG!!!

I hadn’t been able to visit Sidd until two weeks ago because of covid. She is shockingly thin now and continues to tell me she does not get enough to eat. I called in a complaint and a dietitian came to talk with Sidd. By merely looking at Sidd, the dietitian diagnosed Sidd’s weight loss was due to her severe thyroid condition (a serious side effect of the psychiatric drugs.) Because Sidd has experienced so much trauma and harm during her forced stays at Western State Hospital, she doesn’t trust them to treat her thyroid, or any condition.

But the dietitian did order more food to be added to Sidd’s diet. It is interesting to note that Sidd has gained about 6 pounds already since more food was added in these two weeks, even though the thyroid condition has not changed. Sidd has asked me to request even more food and a daily can of Ensure, the liquid nutrition supplement they had added to increase her caloric intake, instead of the occasional can they had ordered.

Siddharta has had a laser focus on getting out of Western State Hospital since being placed on the discharge-ready list in April 2021. Every time I spoke with her, in those months following being put on the discharge list, she so clearly and articulately expressed the deep longing and desire to go home. She would give me assignments to do, hoping to expedite her release, while always querying me on what steps I had taken to hasten her release, making sure I had a next step in mind.

June 25, 2021:

By the close of the business day, Friday June 25, 2021, with 3 unanswered voicemails and still no discharge date, I reached a turning point.

June 28, 2021:

Early in the wee hours Monday morning, on June 28, 2021, I informed hospital administrators and many others, by email, that Siddharta needed a discharge date no later than July 2nd or I would start a Hunger Strike on July 4th.

June 28, 2021:

By noon on Monday, June 28, Western State Hospital Administrators gave a discharge date of Thursday, July 1st! The last step was a risk assessment, which would be made before July 1. However, the administers made this sound like no more than a formality in Siddharta’s case, since Siddharta had been on the discharge-ready list for the previous two months. During that time, the treatment team hadn’t notified her or me of any significant changes that might endanger her discharge. I had noted and shared Siddharta’s growing frustration and some increased reactivity caused by undue continual confinement. I wanted to make sure that the staff was clear that any reactivity displayed now was caused by pent up despair and frustration at a failed discharge process. Such over-institutionalization was exactly what the OLMSTEAD LAW was enacted to prevent!

June 29, 2021:

On Tuesday, June 29, the Director of Social Work, Candace Yi, called to instruct me on the exact place and time to pick Sidd up that Thursday, only TWO DAYS AWAY, at 9:30 am in the administrative waiting area!

Celebrating!!! Siddharta and I finally began making plans on what to do in the first few hours of Sidd’s long awaited freedom. A cigarette! Real food! Maybe Domino’s pizza, maybe Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway sounds pretty good. “Maybe I will just wait until I get out and just think about it.”

June 30, 2021:

On Wednesday, less than 24 hours before Sidd’s walk to freedom, I received a phone call from administrators saying that Dr. Zisken, Sidd’s treatment team doctor, and the Western State Hospital medical director not only blocked Sidd’s discharge, but took her completely off the discharge list, without any reference of harm to self or others, or prior warning.

July 4, 2021:

I began my hunger strike (on liquids) on July 4th.

After having her hopes cruelly dashed to pieces by her treatment team, Siddharta not only goes to bed hungry, but now, in confusion and a very deep despair. I believe it was a retaliatory decision in response to my demand for a specific discharge date that was so very long overdue. I think they must have stepped on the toes of the doctors who play gods with people’s lives.

The less-than-23-hour revoking of Sidd’s long and desperately awaited discharge by the medical director and the psychiatrist has also had an additional harsh and crushing domino effect on Sidd’s mental health. Not only has Sidd developed confusion about not being discharged, but the laser focus clarity Sidd so articulately expressed about getting discharged and going home has been lost.

On Tuesday mornings, you can find me at Washington State’s Capitol, demanding and standing for Siddharta’s freedom without restrictions. Tuesday afternoon you will find me (and often allies) in front of Western State Hospital, demanding and standing for Siddharta’s freedom, until it is time for our once-a-week visit. Our once-a-week visit is the closest Sidd gets to the smell and feel of freedom on the outside, while pacing in a fenced enclosure where security guards make sure visitors do not take pictures or bring food.

Free Siddharta! Close Western State Hospital. Divert the money into the community and those most impacted to create a community where all hearts are welcomed and can heal and grow strong!

To support Sidd and create a community where all hearts are welcomed and can heal and go strong, please call Western State Hospital at 253-582-8900 and leave the message with the answering operator … “Tell Dr. Waiblinger to Free Siddharta Immediately with NO Restrictions!” And for more on our MOMs struggle, see here.

(Note: For those of you who have followed Siddharta’s story for many years, she has slowly been letting me know for several years that her gender identity is female.)

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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.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I wish you strength and courage in your fight for your son.

    I compare your fight for Sidd to those parents who fight for their children to be actually *given* a diagnosis because there’s more money, support in the mental health/foster care system for a diagnosis to those who fight to the death for the validity of their own diagnoses and medications, regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

    Either way, as you’re no doubt more aware than most, there are consequences – the negative consequences usually fall to those with the diagnoses and medications, especially if they’re long-term; positive consequences such as repeat clients/customers, increase in professional status, usually go to those who are doing the diagnosing.

    Good luck and may you be reunited with Sidd, this monstrous system brought to its knees and a far better, more compassionate one to take its place. With love from Australia.

  2. Cindi, you are correct, they are simply defying you.
    They are sickos, in a really perverted way.
    It is really the only way they can feel powerful, because
    they were hurt as kids and now prey on vulnerable folks.
    I don’t think they are aware of it, or else it would bother them.

    I’m really glad you have a relationship with your child. And that you
    are so aware of what is really going on.

    I’m just glad that each shrink only gets to force his want for power for 50 years.

    ALL of the shrinks are guilty, because none of them is standing up for your child.

    It is like the cops that stand by while the vulnerable gets a beating.

    Real men and real women stand up to cruelty and BS.

  3. Cindi you know that the cadre of anti-psychiatry survivors stands behind you completely; you’ll be hearing from me, and from us. Unlike symbolic hunger strikes conducted by white academics enamored of Gandhi, this is truly a matter of life and death.

    I’m also wondering what social or political influences Siddharta may have been exposed to recently, as there seems to be some sort of abrupt personality/identity issue at play. Regardless, if Sidd is not being violent or repeatedly disrupting the lives of others there is no cause for incarceration, under any name.

    Everyone reading this should do everything Cindi asks and more.

    • There doesn’t seem to be much point in engaging here any more. The site has gone stale and I haven’t got the stomach for the recent turn toward struggle porn that’s not accompanied by a strong activist response and organized call to action.

      I am heartbroken for both Cindy and Sidd, of course.

  4. I just got this message from Cindi, please pass it along:

    It’s day 16 without any solid food. Please go to my website and make a call Monday July 16! And then please share! I am losing weight but I am healthy and strong! I plan to be around and kicking to help my son recover from the abuse and Trauma of hospitalization! My website is RegroundingLove.com

    Thanks for connecting!
    Cindi

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