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What we have is a system designed to punish the person with mental illness.
This has to be my favorite article yet. At this point, I’m afraid even to pray lest that be construed as evidence of my being psychotic.
I can’t tell you how many times in the year since my first and only involuntary hospitalization (at age 50, with no previous history of mental illness), that I have been successfully living my life, paying for and taking care of my own home and yard without anyone else’s assistance, working at a job where I am respected for my work ethic, and thus very well paid, without meds, and I think to myself that this is the person that the doctors in that hospital felt (despite there being an alternative physical explanation, a cavernoma in my cerebellum, and an alternative psychological explanation, 50 years of a verbally abusive relationship with a parent that had finally reached its crescendo), would be unable to function independently on her own, without being involuntarily committed, without being medicated, despite my having done so for the first 50.
I did try and take on the establishment to some extent. I wrote first to the President of the hospital and when that didn’t help, and as more information about my case became available, his boss, the CEO of the hospital’s parent company. This last resulted in a letter of apology from the hospital’s new president, acknowledging that my treatment was ‘less than ideal’ and a check for $350.
Like you mentioned, I very much wanted to sue, but I don’t have sufficient damages as the trauma of being hospitalized against my will doesn’t count, and I refused to take the medication. They did agree to review and amend my hospital record, so I sent them documentation that the coworker with whom they spoke had lied, a report from my neurologist stating that my symptoms were caused by a bleed due to the cavernoma, to no avail. I received a response that the doctors had validated their original diagnosis of bipolar disorder, although they would add the info as some sort of amendment.
This is why the following sentence in your email struck a particular chord with me. As I thought the very same thing. Perhaps I’ll contact them again, I thought, as every decade passes without incident, and again ask them to amend the hospital record. How many decades would have to pass I wondered?
“How long would I have to be off meds and stay stable (or as stable as a normal person), safe, and out of the hospital before my story would mean something to you and the advocates for chemical interventions, especially the involuntary ones, to treat states of mind that may not be sick or symptomatic, but simply elsewhere? And would my singular story make you reconsider that model? Because if there are gentler, less invasive and severe, more loving and creative ways of handling minds than with drugs, shouldn’t that be the revolution in care?”
I wish I had put it that way myself.
“How can so many people be so inhumane to other humans in America? How can we possibly think we are a ‘city on a hill’ to the rest of the world, when this is regularly going on?”
Your comment sums it up beautifully. In the wake of my own involuntary hospitalization, which was every bit as nonsensical as Lauren’s, I find myself asking this every day. In Lauren’s article she too finds herself burdened with the question, why? Why did they do this? I suspect the answer is far simpler than one might expect, because they can. In attempting to make sense of my own experience and dig myself out of the trauma, I turned to Viktor Frankl’s book recounting his experiences in the concentration camps. His conclusion was that that there exist two classes of ‘men,’ decent and indecent. I think that is evident in our case as well. I can’t help but see a number of parallels between his experiences and our own, at least in terms of the gross injustices perpetrated against one class of humans (the mentally ill or those suspected or even unfairly and inaccurately accused of being so), by another, in this case, medical professionals. There is definitely a powerful article there somewhere.
I had a similar experience this past June of 2020. I hope one day the trauma will dissipate.
They truly are at that: “Crimes against humanity.” Which is ironic, given psychiatry’s role in the deaths of millions of people during WW2. http://breggin.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/psychiatrysrole.pbreggin.1993.pdf I thought I recognized the name Peter Breggin!
I think you nailed it precisely with your statement that it is an epidemic of mass proportions. Exactly as Allen Frances, author of the book Saving Normal predicted.
I was just thinking this morning, in response to my having read this article, of the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Imagine if a coal miner were to bring in his canary to the veterinarian because it was behaving strangely or acting out. The first thing that the veterinarian would want to assess would be its environment, specifically whether or not it was toxic. Kids are the equivalent of canaries in the coal mine, but unfortunately the impact of their toxic environment is all but ignored. Which truly is asinine. Seriously, why would you blame the canary? I suppose because nobody likes a whistleblower and our first instinct is apparently to silence them in any way that we can.
Yet another FABULOUSLY well-written from Mad in America. I totally agree with you. Enough is enough. After a certain point, there comes a time when we have to say, together, with one voice, and with total clarity of purpose, those four little letters: STOP!!!
I’d like to share with you something I found on the internet the other day, that I found extremely helpful and encouraging (the author, a former trauma counselor, is cited at the end):
“Your soul is indestructible. You just need to believe that there is some part of you, deep down, that no evil, no foul attempt at dehumanization, no form of cruelty can ever touch.”
“You cannot change the past. You experienced that trauma and nothing – no amount of wishful thinking (no amount of money), no magic wand, no drugs, prescribed or otherwise – nothing is ever going to take that experience away. It is going to remain with you for the rest of your life.”
“Trauma inflicted upon one human by another, ultimately only dehumanizes the perpetrator. How can we deal with the indisputable fact that the perpetrators of trauma; dehumanized and soulless they may now be, are themselves likely never going to face justice?” Perhaps that, in and of itself, is its own form of justice: They have sold their souls for a cheap thrill.”
“Treat each traumatic episode as a rebirth and not just a death. You are not the same person you were five years ago, and that person wasn’t the same person five years before then, and so on.”
“Surround yourself with loved ones and joy. The trauma and injustice you faced and will face, no matter how harsh, don’t stand a chance against true love and joy.”
“Fight for the healing and liberation of others. As you heal and liberate yourself from the trauma and injustice you faced, you will realize that it’s better doing so as part of a collective.”
“Eventually you will stop believing in the myth of your dehumanization and you will stop being controlled by the illusion of your defeat. Your unconquerable soul will prevail.”
Wise words from Sriram Ananth
Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard also.
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.
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.
Awesome comment! I couldn’t agree more with everything thing you just said.
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.
Arguably, IMO, there is such a thing as mental illness i.e, some sort of physical illness, damage, or genetic impairment within the brain that in turn, affects the functioning of the mind.
And ‘we’ as a society, because presumably, we have some say. Here in America at least. If we, as a society, either put to death or allow to be put to death (or involuntarily hospitalize or allow to be involuntarily hospitalized) someone who may in fact be innocent (or free of/not suffering from mental illness) on account of our own fallibility, do we not therefore become guilty ourselves, of causing the same harm to others as those we have accused of doing or possibly doing the same? Are we not in the least bit complicit, even if we do stand by and do nothing ourselves?
I agree. Response #1: Don’t Panic! Calm yourself down, and then carry on. Just as if you suddenly found yourself man overboard because someone (that’d be me) forgot to rise the darn keel again. Only this time you’re surrounded by 2 foot waves. Response #2, then, I suppose, is always remember to don your life jacket, especially whenever (and before) you find yourself headed for rough water. Do you have a health proxy? One that you TRULY trust? Are you carrying a document that will effectively convince the hospital that this person is in fact your health proxy? What about any relevant medical records that might otherwise explain inexplicable behavior? (In my case the radiologist’s report and a website and password granting access to images related to the Cavernoma in my brain.) Given the “reality of the system’s viciousness,” as the commenter above wisely noted, it’s certainly best to be prepared.
It would be one thing if experiences such as mine, and those recounted here, and on Mad in America as a whole, on the r/antipsychiatry Subreddit, Power2u.org, Mindfreedom.org, and all across the psychiatric survivors movement, were atypical. However, it is readily and unarguably, IMO, apparent that this is not the case. As Edmund Burke wisely noted, “ The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Sit Back and Do Nothing.” I would say that pretty much accurately describes the entire medical, psychiatric, and psychological professions. Anyone of whom, is in a much better position than any one, or even all of us as a whole, who speak as we do in one voice, and have done, since Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard first started the movement in 1868, followed by Rosenhan’s Experiment over 100 years later, that convincingly demonstrated that glaring inadequacies existed within the regime, especially in regard to cognitive bias. No different from that which plagues our judicial system, such that a white judge decides guilt or innocence, the moment the accused is brought in, based solely on age and on the color of their skin. Those ‘Good Men and Women,’ then, by any reckoning, have become complicit. For as we are all, no doubt, by now aware, “What You Allow, You Teach.”
The idea that the MERE SUSPICION, that someone MIGHT commit harm to themselves or others, or that their observed behavior MIGHT POSSIBLY be due to the effects of mental illness (even in situations where a physical illness is just as, if not more, likely), is considered sufficient grounds for a medical professional to rescind the protections afforded them by the constitution of the United States, is totally and completely, 100%, absurd; in my perhaps not so humble opinion.
Heartbreaking. Seriously what is it going to take for all of this to finally stop?!
Yet another excellent article. “Psychiatric patients’ vulnerability, combined with the coercive nature of involuntary care, could also foster outright exploitation.”
I definitely feel like this was true in my case. There’s nothing quite like having survived the trauma of childhood, albeit with lingering symptoms of Complex PTSD, such as hyperarousal, only to be retraumatized thirty years later, when those symptoms, in combination with those from a micro bleed in my cerebellum, were mistaken for hypomania, despite no previous history of mental illness, and my being, at age 50, well beyond the typical age of onset which is 18.
All of which resulted in an involuntary hospitalization. And upon surviving that, I was then sent a bill for thousands of dollars, $16,000 paid by my insurance, and $4,000 paid by me, during a year in which I was on furlough due to COVID-19. Adding financial and psychological injury, to the insult of having my civil rights suddenly stripped away, without due cause, let alone due process.
All it took was the retaliation of a coworker whom I had earlier reported for repeatedly drinking at work, who just so happened to answer the phone when the doctor called, and availed himself of the opportunity to get back at me. A phone call I was not made aware of myself, until a week after I was finally discharged.
The fact that the authors themselves recognize that making involuntary hospitalization less profitable, would likely decrease its frequency, suggests that outright exploitation is indeed already happening. As if my personal experience, as well as those of so many others, isn’t proof enough.
Given that doctors, including psychiatrists, are indeed fallible, as much as they’d like to convince themselves otherwise, I personally am opposed to their taking such an action, one which is traumatizing on so many levels, resulting in consequences that once done, cannot be undone. Just like the death penalty.
Given the number of innocent black men we have wrongly imprisoned, one wonders how many we have killed. In both instances there is no way to undo the damage once it has been done. So perhaps we might want to take that fact into consideration. What happens if and when doctors or judges do make a mistake. “Oops.” “My bad.” Doesn’t begin to cover it.
Another issue to consider is how many patients, such as myself, lose their jobs as a result of their involuntary hospitalization. In my case, once it was discovered that this particular employee had lied, he was fired, but do I really want to return to work for an employer who would allow such a thing to happen in the first place? An employer who would take the word of such an employee, over that of their Lead Server, and second most senior employee, having worked there for just under four years? Is it even safe for me to do so.
Fortunately, given my excellent reputation in the community otherwise, I was eventually able to obtain another position. Nine months later, however, because I work in the hard hit restaurant industry during a pandemic, in an area where the industry is also very seasonal. I also must contend with the stigma of mental illness, despite not being mentally ill in the first place, because of my willingness to speak out against and write about my very negative and traumatic, not to mention life changing, experience. My relationships with my entire family have been wiped out also, as a direct result of their failure to come to my aid. Fortunately, this has turned out be something of a blessing in disguise. It does however, rule out Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.
(Institutional) Betrayal Blindness
We instinctually move to protect ourselves by blocking it out, rationalizing it away, or in some way keeping it from landing where we have to fully deal with it.
Beautifully written and unfortunately so true. Conform or else. That is what my experience taught me. It is incomprehensible to me the vast number and severity of behaviors which do not incur the terrifying consequence of awakening to find oneself hospitalized against one’s will, relative to those which do, helpless to redress the situation, and left with only one alternative, to wait it out. An experience oddly reminiscent of my childhood, and one I never expected to be repeated again in adulthood.
I really enjoyed reading your article. Having lived experience myself, I think these two sentences of yours sum up the situation brilliantly: “In the Middle Ages we were burnt at the stake; in the current age, we suffer in silence in psychiatric institutions, which we can never really leave, even if “officially” discharged, because of the diagnosis.”
“One is always vulnerable after ending up at some point in psychiatry.”
Me too. I also filed a complaint with my insurer in regards to the fact that the doctor called and spoke with four of my coworkers without my consent. Thus totally obliterating my job. The hospital responded saying that they have documentation of my having given consent. Why on earth would I do that? I signed nothing during my stay in the unit. The truth is that the deck is well stacked against us, which only encourages their continued abuse. Once you are caught in their web, there is nothing you can do. Like with quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you are endangered. My story is very similar to yours, published recently (Overheated, then Overtreated), also in Mad in America. The one and only thing that makes it all bearable is reading about others experiences, which serves to contradict psychiatry’s gaslighting. The truth is, as those of us with first hand experience can attest, psychiatric abuse is real, regardless of whether others without lived experience, choose to believe it or not. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps a lot.
We deserve better. So say we all.
Agreed. I like that last sentence especially: “There’s just no reasoning with extremists.” It resonates, as anyone with lived experience would no doubt readily attest. That seems to be the consensus over at the Antipsychiatry subreddit whenever anyone, having found themselves caught in psychiatry’s terrifying web, reaches out for advice. There’s definitely an interesting article there somewhere in terms of what to do when, given their extremism, which would highlight it also.
Yea!!! “Nonexistent cures for nonexistent diseases, enabling psychiatry to endlessly drain health insurance.” What a beautifully accurate description. The fact that many have chosen to become “medication managers,” in lieu of psychotherapists may also explain why so many psychiatrists are reluctant to give trauma its due, because a diagnosis of PTSD is much less likely to lead to the prescription of meds as bipolar disorder. Yet another terrific article. What would we do without MIA as a resource.
It is unbelievable that this is allowed to go on.
Even worse, I just received the results from an MRI my neurologist ordered as RI Hospital failed to send her the medical records she needed. This MRI showed, as I suspected, a developmental venous anomaly, a harmless, symptomless, birth defect that occurs in 1 out of 50 people. So symptomless and harmless that it is rarely detected except at autopsy. A brain AVM, the original diagnosis, being much more serious although considered stable. DVA’s by comparison, don’t hemorrhage/bleed. Certainly no justification for being locked in the Neuro Stroke Unit for 9 of 11 days. Against this backdrop, Lifespan (both hospital’s parent company), posted a loss of 75 million in March alone, and expects to lose possibly hundreds of millions by year’s end, according to news reports. The ridiculousness knows no end. Even more so if one chooses to envision my non conscious body being driven around RI and imaged (on one occasion in Warwick), before being eventually deposited on a bed in RI Hospital. The film, Weekend at Bernie’s comes to mind.
Precisely! Prior to this happening I reveled in thinking I possessed 100 degrees of freedom to be, do, or say, pretty much whatever I want, without fear of reprisal. (So long as I didn’t harm anyone in the process.) This experience made me painfully aware of my own ignorance and naïveté in that regard.
Perhaps after another 50 years without incident, they will revise their opinion of me.
That article is frighteningly chilling. I was just thinking how in terms of my penchant for wandering around looking at things, preferably ruins or architecture, while traveling, unaccompanied as a woman periodically over the past 35 or so years, that one has much more to fear from psychiatrists than one does one’s fellow man. In as many countries as I have traveled, where was I (and you yourself) ‘taken,’ to quote Liam Neeson, and by whom? The answer is just as chilling as the article. I take 400mg of magnesium (glycinate chelate), as a migraine preventative. It works incredibly well. Their assertion was that my doing so was also preventing (not causing) symptoms of bipolar disorder as well. Although, as I mentioned in the article, that only accounts for two of the past 50 years. One lawyer with whom I did speak warned me that what you said is true, that the hospital would control the narrative and that my hospitalization would color the way I would be treated and dealt with from now on, unfortunately, to my own peril. And that perhaps most unfortunately, there is very little I can now do to rectify that. As my parents would no doubt add, I should have thought about all of that before I decided to travel to an adjoining state during a pandemic. Hindsight is 20/20 however, and while I had heard the horror stories in regards to psychiatry, it never occurred to me that they might be true.
Bipolar disorder does seem to be the diagnosis du jour as of late.
Sadly, no. Why it never occurred to anyone that I might simply have gotten lost in an area I was perhaps not quite as familiar as I thought, is beyond me. Something similar happened once 30 years ago, when I spent my junior year abroad in Italy. We only had class Monday through Thursday, so come Friday morning, I would throw a couple pairs of underwear etc… in a backpack, head to the train station and randomly choose a train/direction. Only once did I ever find myself in any trouble, having missed the last train home in a rural area into which I had contentedly wandered. Fortunately, I was close friends with an Italian family I had met while singing in a local chorus, and they happily came and got me.
Six years ago, when I was in Angor Wat (the temple complex in Cambodia), also as a solo traveler, I decided that given what it took to get there (20 or so relatively grueling hours by air), I would likely never return, so I was determined to see all 42 temples. Alone with a tour guide, in one instance on the back of a motorcycle, in another two hours in a tuk tuk (which is a combination car/motorcycle) to Kbal Spean, an archaeological site in a river on the slopes of a hill.
Apparently, in Rhode Island, this sort of behavior by a single unmarried, unaccompanied, now not so young woman, is considered seriously self-harmful and indicative of mental illness. More so apparently, even than heroin or opioid addiction or worse, none of which engender a 10 day hold in RI.
Also, just the other day, one of my best friends and I were hiking in an area nearby with which we thought we were somewhat familiar, and we were so engrossed in conversation, that when we reached a natural lull in the conversation, we looked at one another and realized we were (if only temporarily), completely lost. I joked that I had decided it perhaps best to travel with a companion, at least in Rhode Island, but said that given our present predicament, it would not be her. Fortunately, we each had fully charged phones and were able to sort it all out quite easily. Something I did not have during the incident in Rhode Island. As there was no where to charge it.
Unfortunately the doctors had already decided, based on the aforementioned behavior, which they deemed “bizarre,” that I was mentally ill, and there was nothing I could do or say to dissuade them. In fact, quite the opposite, unfortunately.
Sad, but true.
For me too, “the experience plays like a Muzak loop in a grocery store or a GIF in my memory.”
I have great difficulty understanding the rationale behind further traumatizing the traumatized and considering this to be an effective treatment modality.
But I think what makes it even worse, is the expectation that one must then turn around and pay their abuser, and is powerless to do anything but, as society, in this case (with the exception of MIA, etc…), stands in support of the abuser.
Great article! You’re right. No one looks at the trauma. And Complex PTSD is all too often overlooked. My hypothesis is, that is because, today’s psychiatrists, at least those with whom I interacted, have only one tool left in their toolbox, meds. Their version of talk therapy, psychoanalysis, having long ago been replaced with cognitive behavioral and other forms of therapy, now the province of therapists, counselors, and psychologists. As Abraham Maslow once cautioned, if the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, it’s no surprise that everything starts to look like a nail.