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

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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.

How you can support my work

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.