Thursday, April 29, 2010

overmedicated and incarcerated

"The door had locked behind her before she had gotten her bearings enough to know that she couldn't just walk out, and she was stuck here at the mercy of a total stranger's judgment about her own internal life.

I found this bitterly amusing, and so indicative of the state of psychiatry today. They admit a person to the hospital based solely on what she tells them about how she's feeling. They diagnose her on that basis, too. Yet once she's in the hospital her word is no longer good enough. She has been magically diagnosed, and that diagnosis supersedes her testimony. Suddenly the doctor knows better, even though he knows only what you have told him."

-Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent

Lately I feel so disillusioned with the mental health system. I don't mean this from a place of denial, that people are telling me I need help or have a diagnosis, and I don't believe them. nor do I think therapists and psychiatrists are trying to wield their power over me and force me to do things I don't want to, or get help when i don't want it. the problem is, it's not the help I need, it's not effective. I feel like this is a natural progression for many people who have been in this system for a long time. I have gone from feeling like maybe being locked up on a psych ward is the best/safest place for me, to realizing that that is actually a place where things get worse.

it's a bigger issue than insurance, and how rushed hospital stays are. I remember getting sectioned, and placed on the "Intensive Treatment Unit" of a psych hospital, the worst of the worst,where apparently I was supposed to be getting help my therapist and psych couldn't give me. What it really amounted to were days and days of sitting in dirty, run-down rooms, with staff who were not trained in the mental health field and barely spoke english. Getting ignored and treated as less than a person. Although it was supposed to be "intensive treatment," it was really just a holding pen for lost causes. "Groups" were a couple optional arts and crafts activities. then 2pm-7pm were visiting hours, i.e. more sitting and doing nothing.

I was followed around by a boy who was constantly trying to touch me inappropriately, while also thinking he was Jesus. There was a violent man who attacked two patients and a nurse, but was never removed from the ward because there was no worse ward to put him in. i didn't shower the almost 10 days I was there because there was no bathroom door, and jesus boy would constantly sneak into the women's room.

To me, psych wards are not a place to get better. They are a place to scare you and depress you enough that getting back to the life that made you miserable seems desirable, enough to keep you on your best behavior for a little while so that you at least can cling to your freedom. Each time I have come out more depressed and hopeless, feeling like nothing more than a diagnostic label, a person who is broken and who can't be trusted.

Have any of you ever had a "healing", valuable psych ward experience? One not caught up in power trips and punishment and restrictions and endless time?

Each time my therapist tries to send me back, I fight it. I have never threatened to kill myself. But whenever things get to the point where she doesn't know what to do with me, where she has no answers or suggestions or no way of helping me, she ships me off. And I feel like that's for her peace of mind, to get me out of her hair and feel like she's doing something.

People act as though psychiatry has come such a long way. I just see more medications with different names and still no science to them, ECT that they're kind enough to sedate you for, and rooms with barred windows, labels based on 10-minute assessments from people with medical degrees but no emotional intelligence, and no rights or voice. That's worse to me than being stuck alone in my messed up mind.

So the question is, what do you do when years of medications and standard "treatment" are not enough?


  1. Oh my goodness, that sound so horrible, I don't understand how some people can think of being locked up as helpful. Far from it.

  2. When I read what you say here, I am so thankful that I am in australia. I have just been discharged from a week long stay in a psych ward after becoming suicidal. In Australia if you don't have insurance you go to a state hospital, but these state hospitals are actually really nice. I am so so lucky. Not only is it free but the nurses and the doctors ask you what you want to do. Today I had the choice to go on leave for the weekend and come back next tuesday for discharge or be discharged. I had my own room (that was just luck) and a really good nurse each shift to talk to. They gave me advice and they also just listened when I cried and I managed to sort quite a few things out in hospital, including figuring out why I was so depressed. Luckily my ED stuff is on the back burner for now and it hasn't been bothering me. I am not saying all this to make you feel bad, but to say that there are some places in the world and I guess it does depend where you live, that do help and then offer you treatment after if you need it. I wish I could say something to you that would make you feel better, but it doesn't sound like you have had even remotely the best treatment at all. I'm sorry for that. I am thinking of you!