[Note: the blog author wishes to remain anonymous, but details have been provided to Mad in the UK).
I have empathy for all emotionally distressed people and great respect for them, and the psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, psychotherapists and family members who show compassion towards sufferers.
Nine years ago, I was sectioned twice during a six-month period. I was incarcerated within a second hospital only due to moving house to escape the ill-treatment from the first hospital. My boyfriend and I moved within three weeks but the sheer aggression implicit in my treatment, and general lack of care for ‘the individual’ I experienced in the first hospital meant that I was extremely stressed and still suffering from the massive amounts of drugs which had been forced on me. These places did not resemble any ‘hospitals’ where recuperation could happen. On my very first day as a patient in the first hospital I woke up so drugged, I barely knew who or where I was. The nurse had to guide me to sit down on a chair on my first morning. I was fearful & did not like this foreign place, especially in my drugged state. After sitting for a few minutes I stood up and walked, at a snail’s pace, to an opened door where I thought, in my drugged state, I would find my way home. Around 15 minutes later I had managed to walk around 20 paces to the outside. At this point, three nurses jumped on top of me and pushed me to the ground. I was frightened in this incapacitated state & the nurses proceeded to sit on me and push my face to the slabs. I tried to take their hands off my arms, neck and legs but it was futile. A psychiatrist was called and around 20 staff were buzzing around until they took me to a secure ward, where the real hell started. The irony here is that if a nurse had asked me to go back inside I would have done so, but there are no allowances or even any real logic or common sense applied in these places.
My first cognitive experience in the secure ward was when I woke up in a darkened corridor, in the middle of the night, so drugged I could hardly stand up. I could hear a fellow patient screaming. With great difficulty, I got up and walked to the room with the screams where I saw two nurses abusing this young man. I blacked out at this point. I reported this incident to police three weeks later, when my lawyer got me out of this place. The police told me that a lawyer would be advantageous if I was to take this matter further.
In the second hospital, I lost approximately two stones in weight within a 3 month period – I was drugged, bullied, sleep deprived and starved. I am aware that some people when reading ‘survivors’ accounts of this torture, may feel disbelief or detachment, but I would assure people that these horror stories are real accounts. We need society to be on the side of the victim. We have to be aware that distressed people, the vast majority, have committed no crimes.
I had been diagnosed 14 years prior to being admitted to an institution, and during those 14 years I worked in an extremely demanding professional job, I gained a postgraduate degree, was in a good relationship with my long-term boyfriend and was writing a book. Eight years after leaving the institution, I have never regained my confidence or indeed my intellectual faculties to the full. During my undergraduate studies, prior to my diagnosis, some 26 years ago, my work was referred to as ‘genius’ by two of my professors.
Unfortunately, most of these hospitals are interchangeable and do not promote recuperation. One male psychiatrist who was junior to the, fairly frightening, consultant psychiatrist brought a human approach to his thoughts on psychiatry. When I was passed off as ‘crazy’ by some staff members, he chose to believe that there was a possibility I had been given an ECT procedure (when it was never prescribed). He ordered an MRI scan and some weeks later one of the kind nurses approached me and told me that the scan had revealed ‘massive amounts of ECT’. This particular nurse didn’t say much more but I could tell she was very surprised. Prior to this revelation, the consultant had instructed my boyfriend (now husband) that he was never to contact me again as his influence ‘was making me ill’. My rather mild-mannered boyfriend complied for three months until I could contact him and explain the truth of matters.
In my life, I have never ‘heard voices’. I have never ‘hallucinated’. Before my incarceration, I was never depressed. Twenty-two years ago I got the label of schizophrenia and eight years ago, during my incarceration, I was given the label of ‘schizoaffective’. I have read the blurb and the DSM definition, of these illnesses and neither define me or ‘my condition’. During this six-month period within two ‘hospitals’, I was prevented from listening to music and even prevented from talking.
Eight years on, I am living a full life but have been traumatised by my time in these places. I’ve been campaigning and am glad to have found other like-minded people who are campaigning and writing books promoting different views on the definitions of freedom and recuperation.
During my childhood, there were no polite or normal conversations in our family. There was never any calm, only stress. I was extremely stressed, and until recently, I thought this extreme stress was normal. There was extremely poor psychological care in our family, but no onlooker ever noticed this, as my mother was able to appear differently in company. At one point, I actually told my mother, when I was aged around three, that her voice (tone) frightened me. Her tone always engendered her manipulation. I am utterly convinced that my distress was caused during my childhood because I can trace certain features of, even my rare exaggerated distress, to insufficient care, which invested stress in me before I could talk.
I now live a full & calm life with my husband, who is, frankly, the best human I’ve ever encountered.
I’ve recently discovered the ‘Straight Talking Introduction’ series of books, which are a breath of fresh air, in terms of how sensitively they tackle these subjects. I would go further and say that I hope that everyone with even mild interest in the mental health system can read these books for some refreshing truths – the underlying truth which has been twisted for too long.
These movements which are attempting to change the current animalistic biological approach are long overdue. The current system throws up many stark basic human-rights infringements. It would almost appear that the distressed person is no longer considered a human being, in terms of the lack of laws protecting them. We may not have come so far from our ‘subnormal’ label, coined in most newspapers and academic books a mere 50 years ago.
For many decades the ‘mental patient’ has been ruled and corralled which has inflicted deep fear and inferiority in us, distancing us further from society. We are petrified of the entire mental health system, and society, in turn, fears us. Removing someone’s basic liberty, when they have committed no crime, is cruelty and enslavement. Where we were put to work in workhouses 100 years ago, we have now become useful in different ways, namely for pharmaceutical profit, the most powerful corporate entity in the world. We are now a by-product.
No one could dispute that people who have suffered distress are particularly sensitive. I would argue that just as we are more sensitive to negative influences, we are also more acutely aware of positive things which happen to us and around us.
I’ve been an avid music listener and collector for around 35 years; all music is good music. One of my favourite authors, Oliver Sacks, has written extensively on the therapeutic qualities of music with regard to the human brain. In nearly all of his books, there are real-life demonstrations of how music can partly remedy brain malfunction. Dr Sacks also believes that people ‘are a product of their environment’.
“Science is a grand thing when you can get it…But what do these men really mean, 9 times out of 10, when they use it nowadays? They mean getting ‘outside’ a man and studying him as if he were a gigantic insect; in what they would call a dry impartial light; in what I would call a dead and dehumanized light. They mean getting a long way off him, as if he were a distant prehistoric monster; staring at the shape of his ‘criminal skull’ as if it were an eerie growth. When the scientist talks of a type, he never means himself, but always his neighbour. I don’t deny the dry light may sometimes do good; though in one sense it’s the very reverse of science. So far from being knowledge, it’s actually suppression of what we know. It’s treating a friend as a stranger and pretending that something familiar is really remote and mysterious…”
Oliver Sacks quoting GK Chesterton’s Father Brown
Companionship is an essential part of good health for every human being. We as humans require freedom as a basic human necessity. Freedom: to think, to feel and to decide and choose for ourselves. It’s possible that the lack of these essential human freedoms has caused many of our early-life problems.
The world is a very busy and stressful place, and most of us simply want to achieve our goals. Many feel they don’t have time and are not predisposed to empathy. As distressed people, it’s easy to lose friends when we become under confident or weaker socially than our peers. Richard Dawkins would suggest that the law of nature is survival of the fittest. Whereas the Dalai Lama stipulates that, as humans, we are all naturally predisposed to empathy from birth. He suggests some of us lose this capacity as we grow older. He suggests that we should pursue ‘spiritual development’:
“When I use the word ‘spiritual’ I mean basic human good qualities. These are: human affection, a sense of involvement, discipline & human intelligence properly guided by good motivation. We all have these qualities from birth, they do not come to us later in life.”
Richard E Wener’s recent book, The Environmental Psychology of Prisons and Jails, mentions many instances and case studies where incarceration has been proved to actually cause psychosis and mental instability in people. Is it possible that incarceration, all varieties of incarceration, is harmful?
We could almost assume that some of the professionals who strongly disagree with change may have vested interests in the current system. Surely this is a logical assumption.
Mental institutions, I feel, are harmful by nature as there is no human dimension to them. The only understanding, on a human level, comes from fellow patients & some good nurses. One of the newly built hospitals has been segregating patients further with the implementation of solitary rooms only, which is very isolating. This same hospital seems to have internet blocks so they can block mobile phone signals and digital radio signals when necessary. This means that patients have no communication whatsoever with the outside world at certain times of the day, except the local FM radio station. (I have since confirmed that this is possible with an IT specialist) While phoning a friend who was a patient in this hospital I only managed to communicate with him during certain times. When I took him a DAB radio, he could only tune into one FM station. The nurse I asked told me that this was a technical blip, but this ‘blip’ has been concurrent over a period of 2 years when this person was a patient. This measure is isolating and confusing to people who are unwell and vulnerable. The personality-altering and fear-giving drugs people are forced to consume only take them further from reality again.
Kindness and respect are the greatest freedom-giving gifts we, as distressed people, can gain. These are not to be readily found though, which is a great pity. How do we appear credible or confident when we have deep fears and anxieties plaguing our psyches? Why are we misrepresented when we say anything at all? I read around five of the doctors’ and nurses’ reports written about me and can say categorically that 70% of what was written was completely fabricated. I was not a popular patient, but at no time did I cause any fuss or controversy (except when I made reports to the police and the Care Quality Commission).
I try to replace negative thoughts, when I’ve had a bad day, with positive thoughts. This entails thinking about the good things in my life. If this is too difficult I then form a plan; I try to plan something which will empower me or lift my spirits. This could be something as simple as buying myself some nice food products or jotting down thoughts in a notepad. Everyone feels better when something good impacts on them.
The weak or the strange are seldom afforded any consideration, in that these sorts are more likely to be tolerated or indeed not tolerated.
“What happens when people regard each other only as useful objects.”
There are some recent books and magazine publications which remind me that for every person who is making us feel worse, there are others who are fighting for a better system and a better society, with emotionally distressed people included.
“I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.”
Jeanette Winterson – Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal.