Making Sense of a Stolen Year: Mental Illness in the Context of an Abusive Therapist

Image Description: A white woman with large glasses smiles at the camera while wearing a Toque (deal with it nonCanadians) for the CUPE local 3903
Image Description: A white woman with large glasses smiles at the camera while wearing a Toque (deal with it nonCanadians) for the CUPE local 3903

It all started with the historic 2018 CUPE 3903 strike in Toronto (longest post secondary strike in Canadian history). I mean no it didn’t you don’t trigger your PTSD during a strike only to have it open up flashbacks to your childhood. However, for the purposes of this blog post, I can’t go through that lifetime of trauma. For that you can wait for my dissertation “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic” (link to twitter thread on how you can support me and my work, it will be repeated at the end of this post).

The strike was hard for a number of reasons. Initially simply participating with the strike was a struggle. I believed in the principles I believed we were fighting for but I learned quickly standard picketing daily was a physical impossibility. Accommodations for union members who couldn’t picket or who couldn’t picket full time were very poorly organized. This remained a stressor throughout. By the end of the strike (months after it began) I had become so confused by work expectations on and off the picket line, I sometimes just didn’t go.

This was not helped by the inevitable strike staple of being threatened with near constant vehicular death. I was body checked by pedestrians on several occasions regardless of whether I was blocking the sidewalk. The disruption to campus was enough to incur the violent wrath of pedestrians.

Then there were the drivers who always thought that they had special reasons to skip the predetermined picketing schedule.

For those unfamiliar with a legal picket. Picketers are allowed to delay but not stop traffic. Courts have been forgiving in how they define delay versus stopping in a strike scenario.

Picketers usually pick a set period to delay traffic before allowing it to proceed before picketers again take to the streets to delay traffic.

A picketers job description is essentially to walk in a circle in the road and try not to die. Whether that’s getting off the street fast enough when the current delay is over or because some driver has decided that they don’t care about the people in the road. We had people zip through on motorcycles (not safe) or simply drive on the sidewalk to bypass our picket line.

Through it all through the incident that sticks in my mind the most was when a member of staff for York’s Counseling Services decided to oversell the importance of her job to skip the line. It worked a couple of times and at least one coworker started copying her.

The problem? There is no reality in a university campus counseling office where students lives are endangered by an entirely predictable delay. She just didn’t want to shift her morning schedule. When the people who make the decisions on which cars get special treatment (emergency vehicles obviously, parents taking their kids to daycare, I think there were a couple other) were informed of her exaggerated status, she got angry and actually began suggesting that if we did not continue to give her special treatment “people might die”. We didn’t give her special treatment. I wrote a strongly worded letter about using clients as pawns and how that reduces faith in counseling services at York (I’d certainly never trust anyone who works there, I never got that lady’s name).

A strike that started in March plodded straight through June and I actually got a bit of a respite, though not the respite I’d hoped for.

Last year I fundraised to go to a disability law summer school in Galway, Ireland. I enjoyed the summer school as much as possible but unfortunately had some serious medical side effects from traveling. I ended up missing more than a day sorting out how to deal with a bad drug reaction in a foreign country. I was on the drug because medical marijuana isn’t legal in Ireland so, I needed a replacement med for my chronic pain.

I ended up leaving the school early on the second day, to wander around Galway, looking for a health food store so I could pay an ungodly sum of money for CBD oil. I spent the next day in bed purging the demon drug from my system.

Ireland is pretty though

Image Description: Bed and Breakfast outside Shannon Ireland where the airport I flew in and out of was.
Image Description: Bed and Breakfast outside Shannon Ireland where the airport I flew in and out of was.

I did return to the summer school when I fely better and enjoyed what little time I did spend at the summer school.

Hey look they even gave me a certificate.

Image Description: Me shaking hands with a smiling woman with light brown hair. I am holding the certificate in my left hand
Image Description: Me shaking hands with a smiling woman with light brown hair. I am holding the certificate in my left hand

As much as I enjoyed my short respite from the strike, it was still going strong and tensions were running high. I experienced some horrific in person ableism from a fellow union member. On top of the stress from the threats and the near constant messaging of unwelcome we got from the university, I no longer felt safe on the picket line. I rarely went after that.

We were ultimately legislated back to work by our incompetent premier Doug Ford. Who couldn’t even be bothered to include a return to work protocol.

The end of the strike was a confusing nightmare. There was pre-strike work that needed to be done quickly because the Fall semester was imminent. We needed to find out how much we would be paid for that work (there was no standard).

It is around this time that I started dissociating. I was still able to mostly function. I was able to complete my TA duties but that only lasted a few weeks. I was falling apart. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get grounded on my own again. So I did something that was a long time coming. I went to my doctor and got diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety. I’m pretty sure the anxiety has always been there. The PTSD has been around since at the latest 15. I’ve spent a long time coping.

It’s no wonder that it took events as dramatic as a strike to crack me so bad I couldn’t find the glue to ground myself and move forward. Both my doctor and I agreed that I needed therapy.

I just chose the worst possible therapist. She seemed to be perfect. She advertised with queer friendly service providers. She described herself as,

Whether we work relationally and/or somatically, my practice is grounded in the frameworks of intersectional feminism, anti-oppression, social justice, queer theory & harm/risk reduction. I am sex & kink-positive, sex-work positive, class-conscious & anti-racist.

Amelia Sloan

She also directed her ad at the most vulnerable people

Services Provided: Counselling/therapy

Client Groups: Men, Women, Trans people, Children, Youth, Adults, Seniors,

LGBT parents, Family members of LGBT people, Two-Spirit, Intersex, People Living with Disabilities, Racialized Communities, Gender Independent Children

Amelia Sloan

This quote from her website seems particularly ironic,

I work with individuals using Relational Somatic Psychotherapy, Trauma Therapy & Sex Therapy. My approach creates an empathic, non-judgmental & safe space where you are the expert of your experiences & where we can explore deeply the feelings, memories, thoughts & experiences you have. We will start wherever you are at & moving at your pace using my gentle but direct approach.

Amelia Sloan

As someone looking for trauma informed therapy that would consider my particular location of intersectional oppression seemed perfect. In our first session I laid out my goals and what I felt my current issues were. I made it very clear that I was autistic and would not be masking during sessions as masking has been connected to suicidality. She agreed.

She gave me a brief overview of her approach and we began what I thought was the joint work of therapy. I would discover about nine months later that my therapist and I had never been on the same page. Not only that in the misguided (I really don’t know what her motive was) to heal me, she was in fact doing psychological damage.

I recently received a copy of her clinical notes. Nine months of therapy was summed up in 8 pages single spaced. Nothing that resembles me can be seen in those pages. She got annoyed that I would let her “regulate me” whatever that means.

Those clinical notes paint the picture of someone who had no life whatsoever during the time I was in therapy. While this wasn’t true, in hindsight I can see the way she actively isolated me from my support networks.

Regaining control over one’s ability to regulate one’s emotions is not an overnight affair. I’d been trying to take positive steps even before I set foot in a therapist’s office. Stepping back is why I stopped blogging last year. It is also why I pulled back from a lot of the Twitter activism I was involved in.

My therapist however sought to compound that isolation. She encouraged my justified anger at my sister and expedited an inevitable estrangement but would that sister have called the cops on me when I couldn’t handle processing the abuse I experienced at the hands of a trusted therapist and started making delusional phone calls to my brother, getting weird and inappropriate in certain people’s DM’s and posting weird shit on my timeline.

I was barely conscious at the time, I almost never left my bed. I was the definition of not a threat to myself or others but my sister convinced the police that I was potentially violently unpredictable. This woman initiated the estrangement by the way. She blocked my number and blocked me on social media. I couldn’t threaten her if I wanted to. Not to mention she lives somewhere that requires a car to get to and I can’t drive.

The psych ward wasn’t helpful in sorting anything out. It felt like the attending psychiatrist on the rare occasions I interacted with him was just looking for the volatile and potentially violent person that I have never been. I have asked my doctor to get my notes from the psych ward stay. They should be interesting.

Perhaps, the worst thing my therapist did to me was keep me uncomfortable stasis. I was never ready to return to blogging and shouldn’t I really spend less time on social media? The whole time directing our discussions as much around horrific trauma as she could manage. I genuinely expect my chattiness saved me from a lot worse damage. It’s also probably why I missed the signs of abuse.

According to her notes, I never advanced much past being able to recognize when I’m in a manic state. She maintained this misconception by frustratedly pointing at a terrible visual aid (think basic science over head slides with psych 101 terms and some graphs)and telling me I was in hyper arousal (her word for being manic). I would inevitably have an autistic meltdown because I was trying to tell her what I was doing to regulate my emotions during this time and she kept interrupting me with vocabulary.

Once I got upset though she would swiftly smooth the situation over. I suspect she managed get me to trust her by making the early days of therapy very much about getting me at least vaguely emotionally balanced. Which meant getting me medicated.

After about a week of horrific side effects my anti-anxiety meds worked extremely well. I was also actively doing the work of healing my body to the closest I can get it to whatever its original factory settings will allow for.

In hindsight the fact that I remarked on more than one occasion “it’s weird, I seem to be in the best physical shape of my life but the worst mental health”

It was only very late in our professional relationship that she began overtly telling me to let go of things that I as a disabled person cannot let go of. I remember one incident where she was telling me to let go of some ongoing discrimination I was experiencing.

I was genuinely in tears just repeating “I can’t escape my body, I can’t escape my life or how it is impacted just by living in this world”

Apparently, my therapist thought I was having an epiphany about just laying down and taking it I guess, because I was telling her quite clearly that her method was not survivable.

Clearly,I should listen to myself more. The reason I wasn’t making as much mental progress was because I was being held back.One of the reasons I never saw the control and the danger was because I was accidentally thwarting her by controlling the sessions through chattiness. Everything I aspired to do, the therapist got in the way. She was subtle about it. She’s not even consistent in her 8 pages of notes whether I should be pursuing any goals, long-term or short-term. I have no doubt she was looking for more trauma triggers. That she successfully found so few and the triggering moments of therapy were rare is probably why I failed to notice what few red flags there were until I had escaped her.

I suspect our professional relationship came to such a sudden and dramatic end because I wouldn’t let go of school. This meant that I couldn’t let go of the baggage I had around school because she hadn’t helped me process it. An end was inevitable. School necessitates more social interaction. She would never have been able to maintain the degree of control that she had over me if I was actively a student.

Our last session she was clearly desperate. Much of her advice (when she was egging me on into unhealthy levels of anger about abusive family members who may never be held accountable) involved telling me “to let it go”

This is great advice in moderation. You always have to know when to choose your battles. The problem is that when you experience oppression sometimes you don’t get to choose whether you fight or not. You just get to decide how much fight something is worth.

Which is why I filed a complaint against my abusive therapist. It’s going to be a long hard fight but it’s a fight that regardless of outcome is worth the battle.

Historically, I have survived by jumping from opportunity to opportunity but in my current situation, there was no way but forward. My therapist tried to cut me off socially and put me in a cage that I did not know how to get out of until I fired her.

Now I know my road forward is to get back to my PhD and working on an autoethnography (academic memoir) about how we still treat mad and disabled women tentatively titled “We still Hide Mad Women in the attic” (there will be a shameless plug for help with funding this and just surviving my PhD in general at the end).

This last year I was stuck and I was isolated and I survived this year not because I finally asked for help (that didn’t turn out so great) I survived because people reached out. People reached out just because they were concerned. The incomparable Alice Wong, who actually reached out to check on me the day I got my PTSD diagnosis. The people on social media who respected that I was pulling back from activism but who never let me lose those ties of friendship. Inside jokes save lives. And to the people who reached out because they too were going through their own brand of shit and decided to offer to help carry my load while I lightened theirs.

I was never truly completely isolated but that therapist took a lot of my choices away. She had financially bled me dry. Of course I had to come back to school, I can’t eat or pay rent without that student loan.

It really is only in hindsight that I am seeing the level to which she controlled my life both financially and socially.

The way forward is to focus on my complaint against her but also get back to learning about myself in healthier ways. I’ll probably need therapy again but for right now, I’m energized by working on my dissertation proposal and the journey from being a PhD student to a PhD Candidate so that I can get to the real work of my dissertation and telling my story.

Image Description: A smiling white woman wearing all black stand between the decapitated head of a snow man and it's body. The snow man is stylized like those in the Calvin and Hobbes comics, face seeming to evoke pain
Image Description: A smiling white woman wearing all black stand between the decapitated head of a snow man and it’s body. The snow man is stylized like those in the Calvin and Hobbes comics, face seeming to evoke pain

So now for the very in depth appeal for support for mu PhD. Please read through 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 wishlist 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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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

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Redefining Independence on the Psych Ward

Image description: A blond white woman wearing a blue, shirt,beige shorts and a fanny pack, walks out of some tall grass arms outstretched
Image description: A blond white woman wearing a blue, shirt,beige shorts and a fanny pack, walks out of some tall grass arms outstretched

I recently spent eight days in the Humber River Hospital psych ward. It was a strange experience, made stranger by the fact that my presence on the ward made it an atypical experience not just for but for those who work there as well.

There are two things that made my stay on the psych ward difficult. First no one told me anything. There’s a welcome package, they apparently give new patients when they arrive on the ward. I received this package the night before I was discharged. So I spent the entire time on the ward not knowing what was expected of me. This was conveniently or inconveniently (depending on your perspective) overcome by the fact that the psych ward was almost entirely inaccessible to me in my current medical state.

I had initially spent my first night and almost the entire next day on the emergency psych ward. They watch you 24/7. There are CCTV cameras pointed at your bed. Yet, I was treated better there than I was on the general ward. The nurses, every single one treated me like a person. They were empathetic to the way I had been violently brought to hospital.

They were as accommodating as they could be. They gave me time to come out of the brain fog that followed my dissociative episode. One nurse went above and beyond to make sure I would get a breakfast and lunch that I would ear.

When I asked to take a shower, they immediately emptied the room that was clearly used for storage so that I could feel a little less gross.

The doctor who visited psych emerge was also kind and empathetic. There is literally nothing to do in the emergency psych department. So she brought me books to read.

So my transfer to the general ward was a bit of a culture shock. I was wheeled up by a porter but then lead on foot to be shown the common room and lunchroom. The importance of knowing these locations is important on the psych ward, I almost never set foot in either.

On the psych ward it became apparent that my resting heart rate was dangerously high. This resulted in my being very dizzy. As a safety precaution I rarely left my room. The one time I did try to independently go to the lunchroom and get my breakfast I became horribly dizzy only to discover that most of my meal was dairy based and I’m lactose intolerant.

I suddenly had try and negotiate food accommodations along with physical accommodations that challenge the very way the psych ward runs.

By not getting my own meals or returning my own trays, I was not demonstrating “independence”. At some point the nurses just start doing sitting/standing blood pressure tests which indicate that my heart rate remains dangerously high. They couldn’t ask me to leave my room. This time when I wanted a shower I asked for a bath chair because I was no longer certain I could stand long enough for a shower without passing out. It took a long time to get that bath chair. I had to ask twice.

Despite my stay in the psych ward being objectively atypical, I was still being judged by the standards of “independence” used by the staff to determine emotional progress. Even though they objectively knew I could not participate in these daily tasks, I was still held to the same standards as anyone else on the ward.

I was in the psych ward for 8 days. Only the first 48 hours were mandatory. I beat my form 1 (the document that says you can be held against your will because you may pose a risk to yourselves or others) easily. Admittedly the attending psychiatrist never mentioned discharging me right away. By that point I had already had a chest X-ray had 5 vials of blood drawn. I was concerned about my heart, so as long as they focused on that I was fine to stay.

My weakness, largely made my stay uneventful. I had the odd spat with a nurse who thought she could run a power move on me but for the most part, I relaxed, napped and read.

My occasional forays out of my room only happened when my sister was visiting and I felt like I had a chaperone. She would return my food tray for me etc. One day I felt up for a walk, so went with my sister to sign myself out. This is where I learned that despite being a voluntary patient, I had no privileges. To add insult to injury, no one at any point had explained that I was under a privilege system at all.

My sister doesn’t like conflict so, she’s already scratching our names off the sign out sheet. I however, stared at that nurse and demanded to know how I could be subjected to a privilege system I had never been made aware of, particularly as a voluntary patient. Then I glared at her until she made a phone call.

The photo at the top of this post was taken during that brief break for freedom.

I was discharged without much fanfare not long after receiving an echo cardiogram there was no medical followup about my heart issues (which have calmed down somewhat since leaving the hospital) or for the dissociative episode I experienced. All I got was a paper with a lack of detail and the diagnosis of psychosis. I suspect the truth is more complicated than that. I’ve been describing it as a dissociative Fugue. I came to myself quickly enough in the hospital after people stop reacting to me with anger or violence.

This is how I was able to so compliant up to the point of inaccess. Yet my way of surviving independently did not match how the people running the psych ward viewed it.

It’s a good thing they didn’t make performing independence a criteria for my discharge. Or I might still be there. I’ll have to wait to receive my records to find out why I was really discharged and if the hospital learned anything useful about me at all.

Until my life starts to get back to some semblance of normalcy, I hope you will support me in my goal of completing my dissertation in any way that you are able. Whether it be through emotional support or by financially investing in my academic success.

My dissertation is tentatively titled “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic”

It will be an autoethnographic (meaning I will be using myself as a research subject) study of how mad/disabled women have been and still are silenced and isolated both directly through things like abuse and involuntary committal to the cultural idea that mad women in attics are just a literary device for gothic novels.

In the immediate, I need to complete my comprehensive exams which necessitates a lot of reading. Some of the books are out of print and hard to find. I have created am amazon wishlist (it’s not exhaustive and will likely be added to). If you could support my work by purchasing one of the books on that list that cannot be had in kindle format, I would really appreciate it.

Kindle books read on an iPad are really the most accessible format for me but Amazon does not allow for the purchase of ebooks through wishlists. So I have set up an email solely for people who want to financially support my work. I would greatly appreciate gifts of amazon gift cards (I’ll even tell you which books you bought me)

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

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.

A Long Overdue Update

Image description: A blond white woman with cerebral palsy stands in a patch of tall grass in a garden outside the Humber River Hospital. She is smiling from her brief reprieve from the Psych ward.
Image description: A blond white woman with cerebral palsy stands in a patch of tall grass in a garden outside the Humber River Hospital. She is smiling from her brief reprieve from the Psych ward.

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a while and I’ll admit up front I might not be getting actively back into blogging for a while, though it is on my to do list (which is too long).

I’m just writing this to get you updated on why I disappeared and letting you know that going forward I need to focus on some issues in my life and really getting into the work of my PhD.

Last year, as a member of CUPE Local 3903 I participated in the longest post-secondary strike in Canadian history, something previously considered impossible for an English language university to accomplish. Quebec just has a better culture for getting angry when their educations are threatened.

The strike was long gruelling and full of emotional labour. The emotional labour of constant threats of vehicular death. The constant rhetoric from the university that cast me as an outsider despite my still being a student.

During this time I became estranged from my mother. This was an ultimately healthy decision but because of how long she had kept me isolated and emotionally dependent on her despite her abuse, it was hard. It is still hard but only in that not talking to mum tends to strain all the other family relationships.

The aftermath of the strike did not really calm things down, though I wasn’t threatened with bodily harm quite so much but I had difficulty getting myself regrounded in the academic environment.

I began dissociating and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to pull myself out of this funk alone. So I went to the doctor and got diagnosed with anxiety, and PTSD (both conditions I am sure were not new just newly officially diagnosed).

I immediately began going to therapy but in my vulnerable emotional state, I chose my therapist very badly. She did help get me onto anti-anxiety meds and helped get me feeling slightly more grounded. Then she spent months isolating me from the few friends I see in person and isolating me more from my online presence, So isolating me from perhaps my strongest support network.

I had during the strike independently pulled back from blogging and some of my more inflammatory online activism. With a few exceptions. I stayed involved in the straw debate, though to a lesser degree than before and I admit I went unintentionally viral with #DoctorsAreDickheads

The stress of the attention was more than I could handle and I pulled away from Twitter even more. It took months for me to realize that my therapist was actually keeping me from moving forward with my life. The realization was uncomfortable and I spent some time trying to unpack it on Twitter

I had a lot of trouble processing that betrayal. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely what happened next because I began dissociating, this was quickly joined by a fugue state.

This means I didn’t even know who I was, what I was doing, or who I was communicating with. In my few lucid moments many online friends reached out in concern but because fugues cause amnesia, I assumed that I must have been hacked.

You see for the entire period of time I basically never left my bed. I knew I was unwell, I just didn’t realize that I was posting delirious and often hurtful things online. I’ve seen some of it and chosen to delete much of it.

I doubt I’ll ever get a full picture of what I was thinking or everything I said. I apparently called my brother about 20 times, I only remember two or three of the calls and I’m already mortified.

I understand completely, why people were concerned for my welfare. What I am still trying to come to grips with is that my sister decided to channel her concern over online posts that to my knowledge never threatened violence (there was a ton of sexual harassment and I could not be more sorry). The harm I caused during that fugue was emotional. Yet my sister decided that it was better to call the police than come check on me.

I was placed under what is known as a Form 2 which means the police are going to assume you are violent and you have no option for deescalation.

I made the mistake of trying to deescalate. I was lucid enough to know what cops and paramedics at my door meant but I was still unaware of my delirium induced online posts.

The fact that I was still unwell and prone to delusions, I remained I think surprisingly calm (by which I mean I only fought the police with rhetoric, I got loud) but I was still in a fugue state, I’m pretty sure at one point I thought I was my sister, at another I was convinced I was going to marry the star of the show I’d been watching in my more lucid moments.

I probably had at least 4 separate narratives going but I wasn’t violent.

Yet, I was still grabbed and shackled in the ambulance.

Dark bruise on pale skin from being grabbed while being involuntarily committed

That bruise is gone now but as it faded it revealed the thumb print of whoever it was who grabbed me to shackle me to the gurney.

I was shackled to that gurney for I don’t know how long. I lay there shackled long after I was removed from the ambulance. I was horribly uncomfortable and begged to be let out.

I did eventually convince security to let my left arm free because the shackle was forcing my shoulder into a painful and unnatural position because of my cerebral palsy.

This was my first clue that the psych ward is not prepared for physically disabled people.

I live tweeted much of my stay in the psych ward so you can check out my Twitter for more details on that.

I actually came out of the fugue pretty quickly upon getting to the hospital but I was on a 48 involuntary hold (known as a Form 1). I stayed for 8 days because my resting heart rate and blood pressure were disturbingly high.

I got very little in the way of psychiatric care. The attending physician seemed to be looking for the sort of person who is irrationally violent.

I was extremely compliant on the psych ward.

Well I was extremely compliant until something was inaccessible and then they had to deal with the full force of having me stay on as a voluntary patient just to figure out if something was wrong with my heart. I got cardiology tests on the psych ward that I don’t think the attending psychiatrist knew about in advance.

He seemed surprised that I was on a 24 hour holter heart monitor and was waiting for an echocardiogram. I think he was trying to discharge me.

I was ultimately discharged shortly after I received the echocardiogram. I have yet to hear back if any of those tests had any interesting results.

So I still don’t know if the dissociative fugue was caused by the mother of all panic attacks or if it was exacerbated by illness. Just like the exact details of everything I thought and did during the fugue, I will probably never know. I however, suspect that this latter ignorance is more likely to be blamed on how I was hospitalized and how my symptoms were initially interpreted. I didn’t get a blood test until I’d been there nearly 48 hours and was lucid all of the time.

Skipping ahead a bit (again see Twitter for more Psych ward details), I am now back home recuperating from my ordeals.

In the immediate I need to do two things complete my complaint against the therapist who tried and failed to derail my life (this is going to be very stressfull)

In order that my life not get further derailed, I need to get more actively focused on my PhD studies again. To that end my therapist from hell followed by my stint in the Psych Ward gave me a great idea for a dissertation topic and that is what I will be focusing my energy on.

Hopefully, if my life calms down (like after I’m done with the complaint against my former therapist) I will blog a little more regularly again.

Until then I hope you will support me in my goal of completing my dissertation in any way that you are able. Whether it be through emotional support or by financially investing in my academic success.

My dissertation is tentatively titled “We Still Hide Madwomen in the Attic”

It will be an autoethnographic (meaning I will be using myself as a research subject) study of how mad/disabled women have been and still are silenced and isolated both directly through things like abuse and involuntary committal to the cultural idea that mad women in attics are just a literary device for gothic novels.

In the immediate, I need to complete my comprehensive exams which necessitates a lot of reading. Some of the books are out of print and hard to find. I have created am amazon wishlist (it’s not exhaustive and will likely be added to). If you could support my work by purchasing one of the books on that list that cannot be had in kindle format, I would really appreciate it.

Kindle books read on an iPad are really the most accessible format for me but Amazon does not allow for the purchase of ebooks through wishlists. So I have set up an email solely for people who want to financially support my work. I would greatly appreciate gifts of amazon gift cards (I’ll even tell you which books you bought me)

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

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.

Please Help Me Go to the International Disability Law Summer School

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Image Description: A plane is flying in a cloudy blue sky. The landing gear is lowered as though the plane is landing

There are unfortunately very few opportunities for Disability Studies students to study abroad. In some ways, this is fortunate because I cannot begin to afford to travel and yet it is still unfortunate.

Disability Studies exists to study and question how disabled people fit into the world. Assuming that is, that you’re ok with being limited to one university campus or even as in the case of my university one classroom. That’s right all disability studies classes—except for the classes of one professor who refuses to use the room as a matter of principle—are taught in a single room that has been deemed “accessible” (this is easily debatable).

It is difficult to engage with disability studies even in the broader confines of one of the biggest universities in Canada much less meet with like-minded people around the world.

This is one of the reasons that social media is so important because it is one of the few ways that disability scholars and activists have to network and keep tabs on what people are doing around the world.

That is why opportunities like the International Disability Law Summer School are so important. It is a genuine opportunity to learn things that may not be available in individual Disability Studies programs. It is also a rare opportunity to network with people in the field in person.

I would very much like to attend this year’s school but I can’t afford it. I have come to the conservative estimate that the trip will cost $5500 and I have set up a GoFundMe to try and raise the money for me to go.

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I hope that you will be able to help me out. If everyone who visits my blog this month donated a dollar, I would have to raise my goal amount to account for the GoFundMe per donation fees. So hopefully fewer people will be more generous. Please donate if you can.

If I don’t make my goal, funds will be redirected to pay for my current studies here in Canada as will any funds I may receive that exceed the amount I need to attend the summer school.

Thank you in advance for your support.

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According to Bruce Pardy, I Shouldn’t be a PhD Student

In the years that I have spent in graduate school, I have not once been subjected to a timed test. All of the work in my program of study is based on either written work or oral presentations. While this isn’t the universal experience of graduate school, it isn’t wholly unique either. Yet, according to a recent piece in the National Post, I probably shouldn’t be a PhD student.

Bruce Pardy, a professor of law at Queen’s University wrote a piece in the National Post which was based on an academic article he had written in the Education and Law Journal (which thanks to my student status I have access to and was able to read). In both, Pardy makes the argument that students with mental and learning disabilities should not be given additional time to write exams.

His argument relies heavily on athletic metaphors and a semantic deconstruction of the word discrimination. In his National Post piece he begins,

Last week at the World Track and Field Championships, Usain Bolt ran his final race. Andre De Grasse, the Canadian sprint star, missed his last chance to beat Bolt because of a hamstring tear. If, instead of pulling out of the race, De Grasse had claimed accommodation for his injury and demanded a 20-metre head start, no one would have taken the request seriously.

He continues later with his definition of discrimination,

To “discriminate” means to distinguish or tell apart. While the law prohibits certain specific instances of discrimination, telling people apart is not illegal but an essential tool for functioning in the world. People discriminate constantly. They choose to be friends with some people and not others. Employers hire better qualified candidates rather than those less qualified. Distinguishing between people even on prohibited grounds is proper if done for a bona fide purpose.

While it is true that discriminate can simply mean to tell apart. His semantic parsing of the word is used to set the reader up for the idea that people with learning disabilities are simply either genuinely inferior students or students who don’t really have an inherent disadvantage at all. It also serves to create a barrier against rebuttals which would call out his opinions for potentially being the potentially illegal, prejudicial kind of discrimination.

He argues that extra time inherently gives students with learning disabilities an advantage based on what he perceives to be the primary intentions of timed testing, “how well they can think, learn, analyze, remember, communicate, plan, prepare, organize, focus and perform under pressure” (quote from the National Post piece). He assumes that additional time for students with learning disabilities fundamentally undermines these things. In his lengthier academic piece, he claims that arguments supporting the idea that additional time level the playing field for students with learning disabilities are false. His argument is entirely premised on the idea that the skills ostensibly being graded are skills that students with learning disabilities simply fundamentally lack and can be faked by the addition of more time. In both the National Post and journal article he references Alicia Raimundo, a mental health advocate who explains that additional time for students with learning disabilities could potentially mean the difference between a C grade and an A grade.

He disingenuously claims in the National Post “Given enough time, many students could put together a paper that would earn a 90”. The thing is that he presumably knows better or at least has been presented with information that contradicts this assumption. His entire argument is based on the idea that given enough time everyone would do better (thought to be clear students with added time accommodations are still subject to time limits). Yet, in his academic piece he actually references a paper that actively contradicts this assumption. He cites Suzanne E. Rowe’s 2009 article in Legal Writing which makes the complete opposite argument. Not only does Rowe support students with learning disabilities being given additional time on exams, she proves why it’s effective and why it doesn’t disadvantage nondisabled students.

Pardy claimed that many students could achieve a grade of ninety given sufficient time, however, Rowe cites a number of studies which showed that this is not the case. That while students with learning disabilities tended to score better after having been given additional time, students without disabilities had no or only minimal benefit from being given more time.

Despite citing Rowe’s article, himself, Pardy does not engage with any of those findings or acknowledge that they exist. Instead preferring to base his argument against additional time on the insinuation that students with learning disabilities simply do not have the skills to succeed. His evidence? That they perform less well on timed exams when held to the same time constraints as their nondisabled peers. He does not accept the idea that students with learning disabilities are going into such exams with an inherent disadvantage and that the process is already tilted against them and that the addition of time for these students levels the playing field. He is however, unable to explain how students who apparently possess weaker analytical skills, weaker skills in preparation for testing, weaker skills in time management, and weaker focus etc. somehow magically gain those skills when given extra time to write the exam.

Rowe is very clear in stating that those students already have those skills and that during studies on the benefits of additional time, those students who were weaker in preparation and analytical skills still tended to do poorly regardless of being given additional time. Ultimately, at the end of the exam, students are still exhibiting those skills regardless of whether they have been given additional time or not.

In the footnotes of his academic piece Pardy notes that on occasion he receives exams from students who have been given extended time about which he observes “[s]ometimes the answers in those exams are significantly longer than any of the others.”

I have invigilated and graded my share of timed exams for both standard timing and those with accommodations. Even in the confines of the standard exam, there will be students who write significantly more than their peers. This does not necessarily translate into better work or a higher grade. In terms of exams that included accommodations including addition of time, they were not all stellar and I have failed students who wrote extended exams because the content of their exam did not merit a passing grade. Pardy does not expand on whether the longer exam was in fact a better exam. The insinuation seems to be that because the student was able to write more content that they somehow did not require the accommodation or that this somehow proves an unfair advantage when it is in fact just an anecdote which lacks context.

He is in effect dog whistling the idea that students with learning disabilities may not deserve their accommodations and may not have learning disabilities at all. He laments the fact that in some Ontario universities (mine included), students with mental disabilities are not required to disclose their diagnosis. They simply require a letter from their doctor outlining the fact that they have medical needs and that those needs require specific accommodations which the doctor then outlines.

He implies that students may be lying about their conditions when he says “Typically, only a medical note is required to get accommodation, even though many clinicians rely on self-reported symptoms to measure impairment.” In his journal article, he is frustrated by the limited power that he and universities have to interrogate the validity of accommodation requests. As though, the university’s nonmedical staff might know more about the reality of a particular diagnosis then does an actual doctor.

His prejudice against people with learning and mental disabilities is clear in his continued support for the accommodations of students with physical and sensory disabilities. Some of whom he seems blissfully unaware might also benefit from additional time as a result of their disabilities.

In the National Post he argues, “Other kinds of disabilities can be accommodated because they are not what the exam is testing. Blind students, for example, may need to access exam questions with a text reader.” Those same students may also require the use of a computer and dictation software to answer those questions. They might also require text-to-speech software to listen to what they have written in order to ascertain that there are no errors in dictation. This is a time-consuming process. Dictation software is notoriously finicky (I would know I am writing this piece using dictation software right now). Failure to properly proofread and edit text written with dictation software might result in submitting something that has sections which are entirely incomprehensible (or in the case of this article, that Bruce Pardy be routinely refered to as Bruce party). Does the validity of the accommodation end as soon as it might require added time? Or is it a legitimate accommodation?

Fundamentally, Pardy premises his argument on the idea that allowing additional time for students with learning disabilities is unfair to students not given additional time. While I have already addressed why this is a weak argument and that students are not actively disadvantaged by having their disabled peers be given additional time, in his journal article Pardy persists, “[s]tudents have a direct and personal interest in the conditions and criteria imposed upon the other members of their class. They have a stake in the fairness of the competition.”

This argument boils down to the idea that students with learning disabilities should not be given additional time because their classmates would think it was unfair. Basically, privileging the prejudicial opinions of classmates over the rights of disabled students.

This is likely why Pardy focused on the false argument that everyone or at least many people might benefit from being given this accommodation. It makes the output seem unfairly weighted in favour of disabled students.

Not only is there no evidence that this is true in the case of granting additional time, it is not true of some other other accommodations where nondisabled students might feel disadvantaged. As an undergraduate I benefited from not only additional time during exams but also having a notetaker. The former accommodation was relatively easily hidden from my classmates as I wrote exams separately. Having a notetaker was not so invisible and I was occasionally confronted by resentful classmates who suggested that I should not be in university or claimed the same argument as Pardy that “everyone would benefit from that”. Again, this is untrue. It has been suggested that students who take their own notes, particularly if they are hand written tend to retain information better. Having a notetaker simply allowed me to have access to notes that I would otherwise not be able to take myself. I was actually still at a disadvantage because I could not access the added benefits of taking my own notes. The injustice was entirely in the perception of different treatment not actually in the outcome of my academic achievement.

Pardy repeatedly claims that allowing students with learning disabilities to have additional time on exams is somehow comparable to allowing an athlete to run a shorter race than their competitors. This is however a false equivalency, it is entirely dependent on the assumption that students with learning disabilities were already on a level playing field with their nondisabled peers and that the accommodation gave them an advantage when in reality the accommodation seeks to erase an inherent disadvantage. Either, that or it assumes that the disabled students should not be taking the exam at all. This seems the more likely of the two as he utilizes the story of De Grasse, an athlete who sat out of a race because of an injury. The implication is clear, if you are unable to perform within the constraints set by the professor, then don’t show up. Pardy would likely dispute this as being his intention but it is a logical conclusion based on his sports analogies. It has to be assumed that students with learning disabilities are either the athlete who was right to sit out or be an athlete with an unfair head start. There is no room in Pardy’s argument for the reality of academic disadvantage that can be controlled for through the reasonable accommodation of extra time.

So, convinced is he, that students with learning disabilities have no inherent disadvantage that in his academic piece he takes the comparison to even more absurd lengths,

If a professor granted extra time on the exam to Caucasian students, the others would obviously have a complaint under the Code. If she gave extra time to five students who did renovations on her house, the rest of the class could well seek administrative law remedies.

He equates racism and potential bribery with an academic accommodation for disability. The only reasonable explanation as to why he feels this a fair analogy is if he discounts the reality and validity of learning disabilities.

He also seeks to limit how people can disagree with him. Through his parsing of the word discriminate. He seeks to suggest that people who would call his opinions discriminatory (in the sense of social disadvantage) are over reacting. He seeks to rob people of the language to express how problematic his opinions are by setting up a scenario where that word no longer means what it is culturally understood to mean and what it usually means specifically in circumstances like this one. He wants people to believe that it isn’t an inappropriate kind of discrimination to openly imply that students with learning disabilities are either measurably inferior or simply fakers seeking an unfair advantage. An advantage that research shows doesn’t even exist. In the unlikely event that a student hoodwinked a doctor into an inaccurate diagnosis and gained extra time. The research clearly suggests that they would not benefit. They would simply be stigmatizing themself.

And if Pardy has done nothing else, it is show what sort of prejudice exists against people with learning disabilities in academia. He also shows just how comfortable some people are in utilizing that prejudice to justify discrimination.

Under Pardy’s argument, I should not have reached the level of graduate student. Much of my undergraduate academic success is as a result of academic accommodation. Interestingly enough, I only sought academic accommodations which did include additional time on exams after the urging of one of my professors who saw how much I was struggling and realized that I could and deserved to do better.

Professors like Bruce Pardy rely on the public acceptance of misinformation. And he is misinforming them. He has read Suzanne Rowe’s work which contradicts the very foundations of his arguments and yet he not only fails entirely to substantially contradict it but ignores the existence of this conflicting information altogether. It is based in prejudice and is only sustained through the widespread acceptance of that prejudice. His argument is based on the acceptance of statements that he has not proven and are maintained through an attempt to sow the seeds of doubt around the validity of learning disabilities and the real needs of people who have them. Not through evidence but through implication.

According to Bruce Pardy, I have potentially illegitimately taken one of a limited number graduate spots from a more deserving (read: nondisabled) student. That I might lack the critical thinking skills to truly deserve to be a PhD student. But then again, I didn’t write and publish an article in a journal defending prejudicial treatment against students with learning disabilities that included a reference to an article that completely contradicted my argument and then pretend that I had not been exposed to those ideas.

 

 

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