Saturday, June 04, 2005

Psychiatric Induced Madness

In The Cuckoo's Nest
This is a shocking, powerful piece of writing, whether you've never been inside a psychiatric hospital or you have. The writer spent several years in and out of such hospitals. Here is her raw and honest account of her experience. It begins on Friday 1 September 1995

The reason I haven't written for so long is because I've spent the last month in hospital, upstairs in the crazy ward. The first week I tried to do a legger, there was only one nurse on, most of the nurses were on their break and someone had forgotten to lock the door to the ward. What I was wearing didn't really look like pyjamas, it was just a long T-shirt and a pair of leggings and because I had been admitted on such short notice I didn't have any slippers so they allowed me to keep my shoes. When the nurse wasn't looking I grabbed my wallet and ran out of the ward. When I got downstairs I hid in one of the toilets (the ones that nobody uses) for ages in the hope that everyone would think I was gone and give up looking for me. Eventually I ran and I was nearly at the door when my doctor and 2 male nurses from the ward walked around the corner, they had been looking for me and obviously hadn't given up. I nearly died. I tried running the other way but because I was so drugged I didn't get very far. The 2 male nurses ran after me, grabbed me, got my arms and pinned them to my back, up around my shoulder blades. It was really sore but I did kick one of them where it hurts which was so satisfying! I was dragged up to the maximum security part of the locked ward kicking and screaming and then drugged even more. They left me there for 5 days. I got 2 sessions of abreaction which is where they put you under a sort of anaesthetic thing, it's like being drunk and then I was asked all these questions about my past and stuff like that. Last Monday I tried to hang myself in the shower but I got caught so I was put back in the maximum security unit again and left there until I was discharged yesterday, I had no choice, I had to go because my VHI has run out again because I've been in that bloody place for 6 months this year. So basically I'm screwed again. They reduced my medication when I left so now I'm on Seroxat (antidepressant), Xanax (tranquilliser), Sparine (sedative thing, I think) and Rohypnol (sleeping tablets) but I'm still kind of like a zombie.

Tuesday 6 February 1996
I'm back in the lunatic asylum again. My life is so crap.

Wednesday 7 February 1996
Well, naturally I'm still here in the mad house. I saw the doctor this morning and they're going to start me on Lithium. Great, I'm a manic-depressive, another thing to add to my list of shit.

Thursday 20 March 1996
I'm still in the mad house. I'm still getting ECT, I've had six sessions so far. I'm having another one tomorrow and I think it might be the last one but I don't believe anything the doctors are saying. OK, the truth about my first ECT (1) . I was brought downstairs with the two other "ECT victims". Nearly everyone who sees you walking downstairs at 8.30 in the morning in your pyjamas knows where you're going. When I was in the last time we used to see them going down and people used to slag them and make jokes about them behind their backs. Now I am one of them. To make things worse, when you are brought back up to the ward afterwards, you are brought up in a wheelchair with 'ECT' painted in big black letters on the back of it.

The first time I went down I started to panic; I was so scared. I kept saying to the nurse "I don't need this, I'm OK, bring me back to the ward. Please" but she just grabbed my arm and told me to stop being ridiculous, that ECT was the only way I'd get better and out of the hospital. When we were waiting in the waiting room I was getting more and more nervous and when they finally brought me into the room where they perform the ECT, I freaked. It was a horrible room with all this weird-looking equipment. The doctor that was there and, I think, it was two nurses, had to hold me down (if they needed all of them to hold me down then I can't be as thin and undernourished as they keep being told I am - they're all liars). I kept pleading with them to stop but they wouldn't listen, and then I felt the needle going into my arm and I knew that was the anaesthetic. I opened my eyes as wide as I could and willed myself to stay awake but it was no use.

I felt like an animal, it was one of the worst experiences I've ever been through. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the 'recovery room' and I felt really sick and I had a splitting headache. It's not helping me, I don't feel any better, I still wish I was dead. I'm just dying to get out of this place so I can just end all this torture.

Two or three weeks ago I did something really stupid, I am cringing now when I think about how pathetic and stupid I was. One night I felt really down and depressed so I searched through my stuff looking for something sharp so I could slit my wrists but I had nothing. I found a plastic bag and it had a warning on it to keep it away from children to prevent suffocation, so being the stupid cow that I am, I put it over my head in the hope of suffocating myself. Of course one of the nurses caught me and I was dragged kicking and screaming upstairs to the locked ward for serious lunatics. I think I was there for a week but I'm not sure and I don't remember much of it, thankfully, because they seriously upped my medication so I wasn't really in the land of the living (I'm still not). I don't know whether it's the medication or if it's because I'm crazy, but most of the time I feel like I'm just floating around the corridors, like a ghost or a spirit or something. I don't feel like me anymore.
Wednesday 24 April 1996 (2)

Well, what a shit week. At the moment I'm lying in bed in hospital (3) but apparently I'm going home tomorrow (well, after I see my psychiatrist, who honestly doesn't give a shit). On Saturday I felt completely shit and took 100 Librium with a can of Budweiser with bleach and a bottle of 'Stain Devil' in it, hence my week in hospital. Dad found me unconscious on my bed; mum called the doctor who then called an ambulance. When I came around they took an oxygen mask off my face and pulled a tube out of my throat. Then I was made drink a bottle of charcoal which was completely disgusting. I've just spent the last hour crying my eyes out. I hate it here. At the moment I'm still feeling suicidal, lonely, depressed, hopeless, afraid, guilty, lost, I feel like I'm down a black hole and there is no way of getting out, I feel as if I'm trapped in some kind of 'world' where the only feeling is misery, there's no light, everything's in darkness, deep inside I'm falling apart. I'm trapped. There's no way out...

Saturday 5 September 1998
I sort of flipped again today because of all the shit in my head. I cut my wrist this morning. None of the nurses noticed. When I flipped the duty doctor was called up and he wrote me up for an extra 50mg of Melaril. I was told I was 'disphoric' by one of the doctors today. Of course they wouldn't tell me what that means.

Sunday 6 September 1998
I'm pretty zonked from the medication. They noticed my wrist and all the nurse said to me was that I was being ridiculous and stupid, and then he told me to hide it and go down to breakfast. Dear God, sometime maybe you will free me from this horrible, cruel world.

Friday 11 September 1998
Everything I write here will probably not make sense because I'm drugged out of it. (4)

Sunday 13 September 1998
I'm still bombed on tablets. I'm too confused to write anymore.

Tuesday 15 September 1998
I'm zonked but I'll try and write anyway. This morning I was lying on my bed... Oh God, I'll have to write again later because I'm not able to make sense.

LATER... This morning I was lying in bed and mum came to visit me. I went to sit up and talk to her but she said "don't get up, lie back down and talk to me", so I did. I was talking to her for a little while but then I noticed that she wasn't answering me anymore so I sat up and she was gone. I ran down the ward looking for her but I couldn't find her so I asked one of the nurses where was she. The nurse looked at me strangely and said that my mum hadn't been in to see me at all today. She was right, because mum rang me and I asked her had she been in and she said no. I must be going mad if I'm seeing and talking to people who aren't actually there. My head is obviously screwed up completely.

Monday 21 September 1998
Oh God, they just weighed me and they have decided that if I lose anymore weight I'll be on bed rest — which means not only are you confined to bed but you are not allowed visitors, telephone calls, showers and loads of other things.
Tuesday 22 September 1998
They weighed me this morning and I was up a pound but I had purposely drank loads of water and put batteries, money and a bottle of nail varnish in my dressing gown pockets, so I'm not on bed rest, thank God. One of the nurses was giving out to me today about my eating and she said that the other day she was trying to wake me up for lunch but I was too weak to get up. I don't remember that. Everybody is getting annoyed with me because I keep repeating myself but its because of the medication.

Friday 25 September 1998
I'm on bloody bed rest just because I lost three pounds since Tuesday. I had drunk loads of water before getting weighed but my weight was still down. I don't understand why they would put someone as fat as me on bed rest. They only want me to get fatter.

Tuesday 29 September 1998
Dinner is over now but the battle has only started. One of the nurses brought my dinner to me, threw it at me and said "Eat that, all of that". Then she said it was a waste of time me being here, because I'm on bed rest I should be eating more! I don't think so! She said I might as well be at home. I was weighed and I've lost two pounds since I was on bed rest. Ha! I'm winning the battle (just about). I think the nurses have given up on me and food.

Notes: 1 Before this, in a 'paranoid' state, I believed that the nurses were reading my diary and so I always wrote what I thought they would want to read.
2 Two or 3 weeks after being discharged from the psychiatric hospital.
3 General hospital, not psychiatric
4 Due to the medication, I was unable to concentrate long enough to write a full sentence and when I could, it usually didn't make any sense.

Write your personal opinion on this type of treatment and the effect it has on the human being. Send it to the editor, and let's get some talking going — author

The author has deliberately omitted all names and places, but this is an authentic account of her experience, or a small part of it. If you have an opinion, or have had a similar experience, or you have anything to add, please e-mail or post to 2 Eden Park, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Dublin, Ireland: February 2005


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