8 Days on the Psych Ward

Photo of me a white woman with left side cerebral palsy. I am wearing a blue shirt beige shorts and a fanny pack. I am sitting on stone seating surrounded by grass
Photo of me a white woman with left side cerebral palsy. I am wearing a blue shirt beige shorts and a fanny pack. I am sitting on stone seating surrounded by grass

It has been just over six weeks since I was violently forcibly confined to the psych ward for seventy-two hours, though I wasn’t officially discharged for 8 days so I was technically a voluntary patient for 5 days. A lot of that period is still very foggy and I expect to write a lot more on the lead up to being institutionalized as or if I regain specifics of those memories.

My trip to the psych ward did not appear out of nowhere. I was very stressed and diagnosis of psychosis aside, I was basically just having a sustained days long panic attack. My odd behaviour started days before my hospitalization. My heightened state of stress was triggered by discovering that the therapist I had been seeing for nine months was in fact a fraud who for unknown motivations spent most of our sessions trying to poke around in my considerable history of trauma. It is a testament to my chattiness and my obliviousness to her objectives that I was often able to lead the conversation to happier topics and keep it there by sheer loquaciousness.

Inevitably, this is the sort of abusive situation that reveals itself suddenly and while I was still in a therapy session. I vehemently disagreed with her for the first time and she claimed my disagreement stemmed from the fact that in nine months I had never “let” her explain her process to me.

Her process is, learn to identify negative emotions and then use sensory stimuli to redirect your attention and calm down. It’s simple and can be applied with great effectiveness to autistic people if you are willing to adapt it. I had spent months telling her how I had adapted her theory to improve my overall wellbeing and she thought I was in denial about being depressed. At least that’s what the full SEVEN pages of clinical notes imply anyway.

It is a truly scary thing to suddenly discover that you and your therapist aren’t even reading from the same genre much less are on the same page. What she was doing was dangerous. She was constantly forcing me into dwelling on traumatic situations.

I have of course filed a complaint against her. Her name is Amelia Sloan and she is currently practicing in Hamilton, Ontario by the way.

The first couple days of unpacking her duplicity were uneventful. I was still in denial. The last session had ended badly but surely, she couldn’t honestly believe I didn’t understand her approach. I’d been paying for weekly sessions for months. I made a point to ground my observations directly in sensory experiences. Ultimately, I sent her a clarifying (read: trap) email expressing my confusion. To which she did not respond. This is the point where I discovered because I’d never needed to contact her between sessions before that her only listed contact info was an email. This is a therapist red flag.

Now, convinced of her duplicity I directed all my rage an confusion into that inbox. I finally got an answer telling me I was in crisis and to call 911. That’s when I started the complaint process. I had to contact the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario because Amelia lies to her clients and says that she is still under supervision as the college has hidden her profile in an attempt to discourage people from seeing her. New psychotherapists do however, have to do a certain number of supervised hours before they can be fully registered. Amelia Sloan had already controlled for that by concocting her lie. She is fully licensed. They just haven’t gotten anyone to go through the whole complaint process yet. She likely, has had many victims. She is also a registered nurse trained to specialize in sexual assault cases.

I had started the complaint process but I was still too confused about everything from her motives to why I hadn’t figured it out before (I couldn’t have). There are clues in hindsight but I would never have guessed how she truly saw me until I got her clinical notes weeks later. I went into a manic episode, which triggered a fugue state. I spent several days mostly insensate in bed. When I was aware, I was in a state of paralysis and couldn’t move. I was dissociating constantly.

I had brief periods of lucidity where I never knew quite how much time had passed but I’d try to get on with my life. I always ended up back in bed breathless because my heartrate was severely elevated by the panic. The fugue was basically keeping me in bed so I didn’t collapse.

It’s just unfortunate or fortunate that I wasn’t always as immobile as I thought and I had access to my iPad and wifi. The fugue had lasted so long without intervention that the panic had turned nonsensical, which is when I started posting weird shit online. I had already been basically free writing in a friend’s DMs. When things got weird they got weird in their DMs first (they have understandably blocked me).

I found out genuinely weeks later that the public manifestation of my posting was just a few hours of the entire ordeal. So anyway, on the evening of Aug. 23, I answered my door wearing only a T-shirt and underwear to find both paramedics and police. They didn’t explain why they were there. They opened by telling me that my sister was concerned. My sister and I are estranged. The estrangement predates my fugue episode. She blocked my number. She has me blocked on social media. She doesn’t even have access to the things that other people expressed concern about.

Not seeing my abusive sister as a reliable source and only being semi lucid, I decided to try and deescalate the situation. This was interpreted as an escalation. Eventually, both paramedics and cops had invaded my apartment and were mostly antagonistic. I sat on my bed, trying to get them to leave, I knew I needed rest. I also had no idea what was going on and my last fingerhold on lucidity disappeared. I became verbally nonsensical. I had a video call with my brother where I yelled, he wasn’t my brother (I love my brother). The police caused this escalation and they also took it as an excuse to escalate to physically transferring me to the ambulance. The second a police officer’s hand went around my arm, I just went limp.

Photo of a dark bruise with three smaller bruises. This was caused by being violently grabbed by a police officer those bruises are finger marks
Photo of a dark bruise with three smaller bruises. This was caused by being violently grabbed by a police officer those bruises are finger marks

People forget that there are more than two instinctual responses to danger. Everyone remembers fight or flight but you can also try to friend (also called fawning) or freeze (deer caught in headlights effect or as I did you can flop. It wasn’t exactly playing dead but instinctively I knew my heart couldn’t take a fight and flight wasn’t an option. De-escalation hadn’t worked so survival demanded that I just give up. Things get hazy here. I don’t remember the moment of being shackled to the gurney though I remember trying to refuse to get in the ambulance on the grounds that I didn’t consent to pay for it (I did not pay though they did bill me). I know I shouted a bunch more nonsense. There was a moment of calm in the ambulance where I did beg one of the paramedics to talk to me. She just stared at me silently. I got even more confused.

At the hospital, the paramedics ignored me and my state of being shackled. I panicked. I was dissociating so it got loud but I never threatened. My every delusion was an attempt to get out and that panic escalated. I started out begging for a lawyer I thought I had but I eventually simply believed I was suffering repeated heart attacks. I was ignored throughout.

There’s some missing time and then I’m lucid but still chained to the gurney. I am able to convince them to free my left arm as a disability accommodation. An accommodation that came to little to late as over 6 weeks later, my shoulder is still affected by the shackling.

I eventually figured out from context clues that I had been placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold. I actually laughed in relief at finally understanding what was going on (this was misinterpreted as part of my “psychosis” in my medical notes). It was only at this point that I was taken to the emergency psych ward for observation.

Now, lucid and with some clue as to what was happening, I was simply quiet and compliant. I knew I was going to have to wait out the 72hour hold. I was also still suffering from a dangerously high heart rate. I mostly stayed in my CCTV monitored bed and took trips to the security guarded nurses’ station for cups of water. My heart issue wouldn’t be discovered until day 2 when I was transferred to the regular psych ward. It was enough to trigger an emergency chest x-ray.

On day three my other sister arrived from Saskatchewan. Her presence was fleeting. I guess me being in the psych ward was a good excuse for her to get in a Toronto vacation. When I asked her to bring me clothes. She brought lingerie instead of functional underwear. When I was finally discharged. I had to wait for her to pick me up. I told her to hurry. I told her I would buy celebratory lunch. She arrived after having stopped for lunch. I had been waiting in the psych ward.

Her defense consisted of two lines that I couldn’t get her to elaborate on. I wasn’t allowed to feel hurt for how she had treated my serious illness like a vacation because

  1. She came to Ontario
  2. She feels sorry for me

Like I’m not even sure if her feeling sorry for me counts as pity. I almost think pity would be an improvement. It would show a capacity for empathy or that she has some clue what my life is like.

Aside from the infrequent visits from my sister I was visited by two people who just happened to know that I was in the hospital and being in the hospital sucks. Both brought me clean tshirts and one basically brought me a cheese board (baby bell cheese, fancy crackers and fresh blueberries) because I was having trouble getting food accommodations.

I kind of want a tattoo of a charcuterie board shaped like a tshirt with blueberries, cheese and crackers to commemorate the actual care I received.

 My sister was with me when I discovered that the rules of the psych ward hadn’t been explained to me and that they were going to use this as an excuse to not let me off the ward for a walk. My sister was scribbling our names off the sign out sheet and trying to get me to go back to my room while I made some comments about informed consent (I was considered a voluntary patient at this point) and glared at the nurse until she called the doctor. We went for a walk. My sister complained that me demanding my rights in a passive nonviolent way was awkward and uncomfortable for her (I will never understand my family).

Photo of me a white woman standing in tall grass that reaches to my face.
Photo of me a white woman standing in tall grass that reaches to my face.

This was my second last day on the ward. I didn’t know it yet. The attending psychiatrist came by, I think he was trying to discharge me then but I was attached to a 24hr heart monitor. I told him to his face that I thought he was useless.

The psych ward is designed to show medical professionals that a patient can function independently (socialize, get meals, etc). My heart rate remained elevated the entire time I was there. I almost never left my room. I never socialized. I refused to fetch my own meals. I feel like my discharge which came suspiciously quickly after my heart monitor came off and I got an echocardiogram was simply the attending psychiatrist getting rid of me because he didn’t know what to do with me.

I had to wait for my sister to get lunch and come sign me out. My discharge was odd. Despite a diagnosis of psychosis, my only discharge instructions were to follow up with my GP (which I didn’t need to be told). The whole situation felt very “I don’t know what to do with her so just get rid of her”. I never once met a normal milestone of “success” on the psych ward. I just panicked quietly until my heart calmed down slightly.

I ditched my jackass of a sister in the hospital lobby to her actual shock (seriously I don’t understand my family) and took a cab home. I have spent the weeks since focusing on my various official complaints which along with the therapist now also include complaints against the police and paramedics.

I needed to be in the hospital but it didn’t need to happen like that. I am actually pretty sure; I would have gotten better more meaningful care if it hadn’t happened like that.

How to Support My Work

So now for the very in-depth appeal for support for mu PhD. Please read through this, there are so many ways to help, including just sharing this blog post on social media.

Kindle ebooks read on my iPad are the easiest way for me to read and take notes unfortunately Amazon does not allow people to buy ebooks for others through their wishlist system. I have an Amazon Wish list anyway as some of the books can only be purchased in print or from third party sellers because they are out of print. If you could buy me one of the books that can only be had in print, I would greatly appreciate it. If you want to help fund the ebooks I’ll need you can buy me a gift card and send it to the following email address

The email is kimberleyjanephd@gmail.com

I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.

My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can

support me on patreon

Become a Patron!

buy me a ko-fi

send me money via paypal

send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites)

I also have a generic disability wish list of things that would just improve my quality of life

Thank you for your ongoing support. and just an FYI I’m changing my name socially to Kimberley Jane Erin. You can call me Kim or Jane but I prefer Jane. I am however, not the least uncomfortable with Kim so don’t worry about messing up.

It’s time I really leaned into my identity as a scholar. I hope you’ll support me

Advertisements

Rereading my Childhood for my Dissertation: Mine for Keeps

Image description: Book cover for Mine For Keeps by Jean Little. A girl sits among foliage wearing a white hat and a pink coat. She is cradling a little white dog and and underarm crutch can be partially seen next to her. (Source)

This post contains spoilers.

As part of my requirements for my PhD I’m doing a book audit of books from my childhood that were meaningful in some way. Some of those books were books assigned in classes in schools (yes, I will be rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time since high school, I will also be reading Go Set A Watchmen). It is hard even in hindsight to determine exactly what some of these books meant to me but they are the ones whose titles I could never forget or that I reread over and over or found again at key moments in my life.

The book audit assignment is not going to allow me the space to really consider these books in detail. I will not be writing essays but rather explaining why the book is significant in the context of my dissertation (for more info click here). I have thus far only read one book, so I don’t know if I will dissect each of them here on the blog. I don’t yet know what emotions are going to come up or if I feel comfortable speaking at length about a particular book without further research.

Without further ado, the first installment in a potential series

Mine For Keeps (1962) by Jean Little

Summary

Sarah Jane (Sally) Copeland has cerebral palsy and has spent most of her school years in an institution for “handicapped” (it was the sixties y’all) children. A new rehabilitation centre is opening up close to her family and Sally is moving home permanently for the first time since she was a small child. She will be attending the same school as her siblings. Sally is scared but excited.

This was my third read through of this book. Both previous reads were done before I turned 18. All I can say at 32 upon rereading it is to say. Wow, I was really starved for representation if I treasured the memory of this book.

It is important to point out that Jean Little is both Canadian (yay CanLit) and is partially blind (vintage CripLit). She has written several children’s books on the topic of disability.

Mine for Keeps, offers an odd combination of realistic portrayal of disability and those smarmy morality tales that were popular in children’s fiction at the time. At times you have the impression that you have left suburban 60s Canada and fallen into a Dick and Jane school reader.

It is almost as though the author didn’t know how to balance realism with the morality that is inevitably expected in children’s books with disabled characters. Sally doesn’t just have to deal with going to a mainstream school that has ill considered her needs and balancing family life as a long-term resident and not just the summer and Christmas guest. Sally has to save the self esteem of an unpopular Dutch immigrant boy named Piet to make his sister happy.

Rereading this book as an adult, I cringe more that I identify with the book. Sometimes I cringe because I do identify with the book but not the book’s message.

To her credit Jean little does try to subvert the supercrip narrative that the book sets up. Piet is depressed because not long after arriving in Canada he contracted rheumatic fever and was sick for months. Though now out of bed Piet’s activities are still restricted by his health. His English isn’t as good as his sister Elsje’s and he is unpopular with the boys his age because his inability to participate makes him appear standoffish.

Before he was ill Piet trained animals and even has a very well trained dachshund named Willem. Despite being somewhat recovered Piet refuses to take back responsibility for Willem from his sister believing himself to crippled (though he said it in Dutch).

Elsje decides that if Sally can train her own puppy Susie, it will prove to Piet that he is still capable. Ultimately, Sally just ends up putting Piet on the spot in public forcing him to either display his dog training skill or be embarrassed.

The book is really longer than it needs to be and this seems to be to try to give Sally some semblance of agency in the story but in the end she is really just a pawn in her friend’s ill conceived bid to save her brother from being a moody teenage boy.

The book tries to justify this by giving Sally an odd anonymous obsession with Piet (they don’t even meet until well past halfway through the book) because her brother makes an offhand comment about no one liking Piet but that his sister was in Sally’s class.

Piet is otherwise an absent figure. He appears in two scenes in the entire book. Everything else is Sally being told private family business the teller should definitely be keeping to themselves or eavesdropping on other children complaining about Piet. From this alone Sally creates an ever-changing fantasy Piet that she is platonically obsessed with, for no conceivable reason.

While it is not written with that intent it very much reads like Sally is pursuing training Susie at least to the degree and zeal that she does in the book in order to keep a friend (who can be moody) happy.

There are no real stakes. Sally is able to convince Piet to go back to looking after Willem by pressuring him in front of an audience. The actual time spent training Susie up until this point is just a couple of weeks. Though of course as is the way with such books the children all intend to carry on training their pets. Sally with her friends and Piet with two new friends conveniently with dogs that just happen to be present for Piet’s moment of personal growth. This is a very important literary tool called “for plot convenience”.

Sally uses peer pressure rather than her disabled body to “save Piet”. It really feels like this book is missing basic things like character development and more information on Sally Copeland’s social reality. Perhaps it is just as an adult, that I see not just the gaping plot holes with ill-fitting morality messages stretched on top. The task of “saving Piet” much less meeting Piet is a MacGuffin. Oddly, in this book, a one-dimensional petulant Dutch immigrant who serves as the catalyst that inspires or forces (depending on how you interpret Elsje’s peer pressure) that inspires the disabled person not to mope around being depressed about their life.

The xenophobia over the immigrants in the story is painfully apparent, primarily because the book is trying to horn in the additional message that xenophobia is bad but none of the Dutch characters are likeable. Piet is taciturn and only gets over himself when publicly forced to. Elsje initially isolates Sally by monopolizing the attention of the one girl who seems to like her. When Elsje finally warms up to Sally, Sally quickly becomes the vehicle through which Elsje will “save” her brother. That dynamic between the two never really changes, yet is never questioned.

The characters are really just set pieces so that Sally can navigate learning “lessons” about independence and self-advocacy. Sally’s first lesson is that the person who was primarily responsible for her care at school is an asshole and so is Sally’s mother. I admit I remembered this part. I can’t remember if it struck me as odd upon my first reading but my alarm bells were ringing by the second reading.

On Sally’s first morning home from the institutional school, Sally’s mother left her alone to dress despite Sally always having needed help dressing before. She understandably panics at being expected to independently perform a task that she has always needed and always been given assistance with before.

Turns out all the clothes are made so Sally can dress independently and the school guardian recommended them! Prior to that moment Sally had been expected to dress herself in clothes without adaptations and there was always someone to assist her with the things she couldn’t do. She had no reason to expect accessible clothes. Her mother is also a jerk about Sally not noticing the clothes were accessible. Her mother tells her a story from when Sally was FOUR and scared of the beach until her dad ignored her fear and just plunked her unable to escape the situation ass in the surf. In this blatant false equivalence Sally is immediately enamored of the water but her mother reminds her that the family taunted a FOUR-YEAR-OLD with the nonsensical nickname Scarey Sarey (Yes, Scarey Sarey not Scardy Sarey). The message is supposed to be “how do you even know if you like something until you try it”. That, however, ignores the context where Sally has no reasonable expectation of accessible clothing. She’s never experienced it before and we learn that the person most responsible for her care has been withholding this kind of access in the institution. The book doesn’t really get into the complicated politics of normalization that are hinted at here. Sally is wrong and must learn a lesson, not her mother.

The book is full of these false independence messages. Apparently, in the world of Mine for Keeps nondisabled siblings are just tripping over themselves to do a disabled siblings chores (anecdotally, this seems suspect) instead of trying to adapt the chore to make it accessible.

This is the one place where a book full of otherwise toxic disability messages shines. Sally is constantly being consciously accommodated. She isn’t left out or left to figure it out on her own. People consider their impact on Sally. People apologize when they didn’t consider how their actions would impact Sally. This is restricted to areas of physical access though as much of the story seems to care less about how people treat Sally as a person (see: Elsje’s peer pressure). Socially, Sally is only friends with people who approach her. There is very much a vibe of “if they are smiling, they are safe”. Considering the direction Elsje’s character takes this is unfortunate.

The implication at the end of the book is that Sally has found community but, she only seemed to get it via that age-old literary device of “plot convenience”.

Despite trying to challenge the standard disability narrative, Jean Little reinforces it. I only noticed how she subverts the narrative with Piet on my third reading and that only because the book abruptly ends there. So, I guess Sally only existed to save Piet after all.

How to Support My Work

So now for the very in-depth appeal for support for mu PhD. Please read through this, there are so many ways to help, including just sharing this blog post on social media.

Kindle ebooks read on my iPad are the easiest way for me to read and take notes unfortunately Amazon does not allow people to buy ebooks for others through their wishlist system. I have an Amazon Wish list anyway as some of the books can only be purchased in print or from third party sellers because they are out of print. If you could buy me one of the books that can only be had in print, I would greatly appreciate it. If you want to help fund the ebooks I’ll need you can buy me a gift card and send it to the following email address

The email is kimberleyjanephd@gmail.com

I will not be answering queries about my research through this email. It is solely a way for people who want to support my work to be able to do so. (this is a safety boundary). If you want to talk to me, find me on Twitter.

My research and supporting myself will get past the reading phase and there will be field work in my future. If you would like to help me fund my PhD in the long term you can

support me on patreon

Become a Patron!

buy me a ko-fi

send me money via paypal

send an e money transfer to the email above (if you have scruples about third party sites)

I also have a generic disability wish list of things that would just improve my quality of life

Thank you for your ongoing support. and just an FYI I’m changing my name socially to Kimberley Jane Erin. You can call me Kim or Jane but I prefer Jane. I am however, not the least uncomfortable with Kim so don’t worry about messing up.

It’s time I really leaned into my identity as a scholar. I hope you’ll support me