Monday, April 20, 2009

AGE OF IGNORANCE

I am sure some of the commenters on the previous post knew that I was writing tongue in cheek, others I am not so sure!

On the serious side, yes, I do think this was also do with getting rid of the past. I said to John it's like clearing out the old me. It also wasn't that easy, or might have been more difficult, if I had thought too much. I just put them all in sacks and took them to the recycling place and did not think about them or look at them again. Some of these shoes, or most of them, were bought on trips abroad. However, they are of a type I no longer wear and I have my memories and photographs anyway.

And the shoes go to charity, they are not destroyed. Some will be because they were worn, but most will not as they were in good condition. None of my present boots and shoes are likely to get worn thru as I do very little walking now.

I need to clear out more stuff.

I did my normal swim yesterday, but today I shall not go. I plan to go tomorrow. I really have learned to pace myself. I plan to go Thursday too and I might go Wednesday, depending on how I feel.

We had a really good weekend, busy but gentle. We walked into town yesterday, or rather John did and I rode Daniel. There had been the St George's day Fayre from 6am to 7pm (at least that is how long the roads were closed to traffic.) We got there at 4pm and it had more or less shut down, with most of the stalls packed up. We also found that Lidl's now shuts at 4pm and not 5pm which was annoying.

I have been dreaming a lot recently about my experiences of mental hospitals and locked wards and psychiatry. I think I shall be writing about this very soon. Whilst we were away we watched Changeling on the hotel tv. I would not have gone to see this film nor would I have hired it, but there it was on the hotel tv for free. I watched it knowing I would find it disturbing. If you have seen it then the scenes about the mental hospital were my experience. Hers was in the 20's, mine was in the 70's and nothing had changed. I was 19 and the horrors I saw and experienced will not be forgotten.

The ignorance of the staff including the shrinks, the cruelty of the staff and shrinks. (Not all, but most.) The abuse of patients. The power play. It was hell and one I found myself trapped in. I had at first been admitted from a medical ward but I left as soon as I could and later volunteered to go back because I could not cope another day with my family. I needed to get away from them to a place of safety and nurture. How wrong could I have been? Once I was there I was trapped. My family ignored me and wouldn't have me home. I had no where else to go. I ended up on a long stay ward where I was set to become a 'lifer' had it not been for a really nice shrink who got me out of there. She said to me she would have my family locked up if she could, not me. I was advised to stay well away. But I was incapable of looking after myself and was offered no help at all so when I was released, I went to my parents. I spent my time with them wondering how I was going to escape them. Even going back 'inside' was an option as it was less painful than being with them.I still didn't see them as the problem, just me. I wanted to escape them because I couldn't bare the pain of the shame of not being what they wanted. At that time, I still believed I was the one at fault and they were good people. Dark days. I eventually was placed in an Anorexic Unit. Would you know I can't recall the name of the place? Oh yes I can, the Atkinson Morely. This was 78, the middle of. Well, it was supposed to a world renowned treatment centre and the expert was Professor Crisp (a stupid name for an eating disorder doctor I thought at the time). This man and his team knew f**k all about the problems of the patients, treated us like bad people, not ill and abused people. More abuse. I was eventually thrown out because I binged!!! One thing that sticks in my mind was a group session with all the patients and how staff were really cruel to this woman who kept complaining of pain. You could see she was in pain, pale and drawn and tense and the way she moved. They yelled at her, told she was imagining it, the pain wasn't real. Today, I think she probably had Fibromyalgia. She was treated cruelly by staff and patients alike and she ought not to have been in a psych hospital but being treated for her physical pain. I haven't ever forgotten her. The anguish she must have felt.

Nor have I forgotten seeing 4 members of staff forcing feeding drugs to an elderly frail woman. Nor the woman who went away and came back subdued and zombie like after having electric shock treatment. Nor those who took their lives rather than live there.

Most of the people I came across in the psychiatric had one thing in common, the need to feel powerful. They were bullies too. Some were sicker than others. Some were in fact kind and tried their best in a terrible system.

The biggest failing is that they do not see patients as real human beings with thoughts and feelings that are important. In fact the thoughts, the way of thinking, is THE most important thing. Instead, they see us as biological systems that have malfunctioned and are not at all interested in how we feel or think.

Instead of loving care we get electric shocks or drugs pumped into use. I tell you some of the drugs, Largactil and Haloperidol (chlorpromazine, Haldol) are appalling in their effects and could be used to torture people. In fact I think they have been.

To describe the effects is very difficult. Both of these drugs are neuroleptics and they cause long term damage to a person. In the short term they made me feel as if my skin were crawling, as if they was something in my guts squirming. Anxiety levels were very high, blackouts were common, behaviour was dreadful and confused. Hallucinations. Demons attacking me. Rocking back and forth, treading from foot to foot, dribbling. I got arrested on these drugs because my behaviour was off the wall with violent outbursts. My violence resulted in a terrible thing happening which I have to live with to this day and though I know I was out of my mind at the time, it does not lessen the pain I feel when this memory comes to the surface as it does regularly. (No I did not harm a human being.) These drugs were supposed to help! How stupid , stupid, stupid!!! They were meant to shut me up though I didn't see it at the time. Far easier to shut me up with drugs, put me in a long stay ward, than it was to deal with the pain and grief I was carrying.

The only thing that saved me from all this was John. I would be dead or locked up if it were not for him. Through his unwavering love and respect, he gave me the hope I needed and the space I needed to heal. It has taken a very long time yet I have arrived here today to a life in which I am happy and stable.

John's love for me is something I find very hard to see. It takes other people to tell me, unbidden, how clear it is to them that he loves me and that he wants to make me happy and care for me. Whereas I more often than not feel a burden upon him. As a result, I can be rather unpleasant to him at times because I feel guilty, thinking that he must get fed up having to do things for me. But it appears not, if what others see is right. He does say to me that he doesn't mind at all and he wouldn't do things if he didn't want to. Like going away which is a pain because of my needs. Always my needs have to be in the forefront and I hate that. He says it doesn't bother him at all and I know he has never behaved as if it does. The only time I see him get riled is when other people treat me badly either directly or thru ignorance and lack of facilities.

I am not the person I was. I am mentally sound and know and like myself so he doesn't need to take care of me in the respect. He doesn't have to make sure, when I am manic, that I stay out of trouble, I don't get manic any more. I am trustworthy, together, and at a certain peace with myself and life.

Yet now, I am a physical wreck and here John is, still having to take care of me and that really pisses me off. I would so love for him to be free to not have to consider my needs all the time.

Letting my mind wander back to those dark, dark days leaves me astonished with who I am today, that I survived. I feel very fortunate indeed. Words can't really do justice to that darkness nor to today's light. My feelings about both do not find expression in words easily.

However, today, frequently, I get that little buzz in my tummy that tells me I am home and safe and life is good. I almost can't believe it and on my not so good days I tremble with fear at the thought of the darkness enveloping me again.

7 comments:

AR said...

[I am not the person I was. I am mentally sound and know and like myself so he doesn't need to take care of me in the respect. He doesn't have to make sure, when I am manic, that I stay out of trouble, I don't get manic any more. I am trustworthy, together, and at a certain peace with myself and life.]

You have achieved much Colin, I salute your stength.

[Yet now, I am a physical wreck and here John is, still having to take care of me and that really pisses me off. I would so love for him to be free to not have to consider my needs all the time.]

Colin, John is FREE, to love and care for you. Had he felt trapped at any time I'm sure he would be long gone by now.
I have said before and will say again and again, You are truly blessed in having John in your life.
You love and appreciate him in many ways I'm sure. And he knows this. Enjoy him, there are many who do not have what you and he have.

Take care.

AnnR

Anonymous said...

You are very lucky to have someone who loves and respects you, can't say more than that x

Iris said...

Your experiences in the mental hospital were very chilling. There are still places like that nearly everywhere, including here in the U.S. Generally, they're well hidden and it's harder to operate this way, because of HIPAA laws and their strong enforcement. They're out there, though.

I'm certain John remains because John wants to remain. When you care, it doesn't matter if there's more support needed. He loves you.

nana said...

Hi Colin,

it took me two readings to get through this post, the first one had to be stopped because I was so moved by what you wrote.

I know about what you experienced because I know another person who was treated as a non human in such a "place of help and nourishment"
It makes me angry and the people working in such places do live out their opposition of the wronggoings of the health system on the patients today as I am sure they did back then.

I am sure that most "mental problems" are problems of the so called "healthy community" we live in, and the t-shirts with the saying "I would not have to take my medication if you took yours" come to mind.

Someone gets "high maintenance", so send him to such an institution, and be rid of him/her. Just not deal with it and the own problems, cover up everything nicely and not deal with the own dysfunctionalities.

I am glad that at least one of your doctors saw it right, even though she could not do anything for "curing" it.
She at least sounds like she was strengthening your back.
Being admitted and them "let go" without any help is what I have experienced, too, but I had my own person like John is for you.
There is unconditional love out there, it just is as rare as diamonds :-)

/rant mode off

I am glad you have him and he has you, and I sure think he means everything he tells You just so. He knows about your background and just makes the whole difference, so maybe you can believe it one day, that you are not a burden to him, but the addition to him, so you can be a whole couple each with his own peculiarities ;-)

joannamauselina said...

This is all very difficult to read. Several people in my family have had similar institutional experiences. Power over the most vulnerable seems to be the motivation of some mental health workers - but fortunately, some (the minority in my experience) are still compassionate folks.

Denise said...

Dear One,
John loves you and wants to take care of you I can see that, some people have to do this and not just for you but for themselves it also makes them feel whole and complete as a person. Granted you want to take care of yourself but are unable to do everything as you once had, I suggest just relaxing and enjoying the love you share with one another.
As for medical staff and people in general, most are ignorant and just plain cruel to others because of their own failings, one thing I've taught my four children was to never ever make fun or be cruel to anyone or anything and I like to think that they never have and if they did they would suffer my wrath wich none liked to see. I know I wasn't to hard on them because the love me dearly and tell me so all the time.
If I could reach out and give you hugs & squished from accross the pond I would gladly not only for you but for me to. Look up dear into the sunshine and take a deep breath and ponder on your good times with John, and your lovely babies. Write any time would love to hear from you.

Denise

Nan said...

I had to sit with this before writing a response. The other comments cover most of it.

You are absolutely right about some workers in the mental health field, manipulative bullies. I suppose it is a universal danger when someone is in a position of power or authority. The unworthy manage to get themselves in.

And as far as you and John go, the commitment is two sided. Sure, he is helping you in ways that seem to be a lot to you. But I strongly suspect that he is receiving from you, too; just different things. Savor it. You are both lucky to have each other.