Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tolson 4 TEARS on Christmas in a Psych Ward

The following is a paragraph in Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story. I was 24 and had admitted myself to a psychiatric unit because I could no longer bear to live with the suicidal thoughts/activities. I had taken it upon myself to finish off the experience of destruction that rape had started by annihilating my self. Something somewhere somehow was trying to help me save my self from myself, and I thought the psych ward in the general hospital would provide safety, security, and sanity. (My naivety astonishes me in retrospect.)

***"I closed my door to the forced cheer of the volunteer Christmas carolers as they made their duty-bound rounds. Christmas in the psychiatric unit was far from festive. While I sat rocking on the bed, a Neil Diamond song played on the tape recorder. “I am . . . I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all not even the chair.” My interpretation of the lyrics evolved into: I am a chair! I am an object! A memory formed as corporeal as that contained under the influence of truth serum: Could that really have been my big brother using me as an inanimate sex object? I am a chair! I am an object! I shoved the ambiguous memory down just as quickly as it had floated up. As I sat on the bed in the psych ward, I picked up a plastic potted poinsettia and hurled it into the closed door of the room.

Two night nurses who I hardly recognized rushed in: “Calm down, calm down! We’re on the skeleton crew. If you do not calm down, we will have to restrain you. You don’t want that, do you?”

One nurse consulted with the other, “What’s the doctor’s orders for when she’s out of control?”

“Haldol,” she replied.

Haldol? He ordered Haldol? An anti-psychotic? No way! Dr. Weingart had diagnosed anxiety/depression. I was not schizophrenic or manic-depressive. He told me he would not resort to psychotropic drugs.

After the nurse injected my buttock, she yanked up the bed rails; they made a clanging sound that put me in my place. Actually, it was a relief to go under the relaxing effect of the medication. As I lay on my back, it appeared as though leafy, thorny live plants with long stems were hanging from the ceiling and reaching down to wrap around my neck. Even when I closed my eyes, the vision of strangling stems remained. That was unreal! The drug used as an anti-psychotic was causing psychotic hallucinations. Suddenly, my neck went into a spasm and my head flopped to my left shoulder. I could not get my neck straight. What if it stayed this way? I would be a freak eating out of the side of my head. My face slumped and saliva slipped out from the corners of my mouth. I tried to call for a nurse but I could only groan. After what felt like hours, a nurse injected my upper arm with something to counteract the Haldol. The visions and spasm subsided. The reaction to the medication scared me more than any outburst of anger. Still, I knew no methods to control the rage that seethed under my skin." *** (copyright Lynn C. Tolson) 

However, it would take another 20 years before I could admit to my SELF that my brother had sexually assaulted me, threatened me with my life, and tried to eliminate my spirit with deadly silence. To hear my voice, nourish my spirit, and claim my identity, I wrote the truth in Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story.

Long after that hospital stay, I feel another level of outrage at the way I was mistreated by psychiatry. The level of control exhibited by the psychiatric and pharmaceutical industries is tantamount to abuse. I, a patient trying to obtain wholeness after incest, did not even have the right to privacy. The door to my room was closed, the nurses could see in via the door-window, yet I was unable to lock the door, giving them implied permission to barge in on me.

Not only could these nurses invade my personal space, they were also strangers! These women had the power to inject my body with psychotropic drugs. These drugs made me an invalid, literally in valid; I had no value as a human being, but as a subject to be restrained.  As such, I was objectified, which was the very reason I was hurting to begin with. I had thrown a harmless potted plastic poinsettia at a closed door. Who was I hurting?

I was having a reasonable outburst of pent-up rage, much like an immature temper-tantrum, yet I was chemically restrained because any expression of emotion is not appropriate in a psych ward! Rather than teach me the tools necessary to manage my feelings, I was drugged so that I was numbed to feelings. A patient is supposed to make nice in the day room, mindlessly watching comedies without laughter and dramas with no tears.

In retrospect, I see the pattern of power and control that is used by perpetrators of personal violence AND the abuse of power and use of control by the psychiatric circles. My brother held me hostage in his room; the Haldol held me hostage in the psych ward. My brother invaded my body with his ... alien acts; the psych aides injected my body with foreign substances: Both served to immobilize me physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I was held (restrained)! onto a bed in the psych ward, just as my brother (and my father before him) had forced me onto a bed! My brother told me, "You will remember... nothing." The psychiatric treatment made certain I'd remember nothing: As a memory of rape was forming, and I was reacting to it's ugliness, I was bombarded with a mind-altering anti-psychotic that further submerged the very memory I needed to deal with to heal from. No chance of that in a psych ward! What if? What if I had been asked, with kindness, respect, and compassion "What are you thinking/feeling/remembering? How can I help?" What if it hadn't taken another 20 years to reveal the memory I'd been bound and gagged to forget? What if? Perhaps I would not have taken 300 pills in a suicide attempt 3 weeks after this experience in the psych ward.

Watercolor by Lynn C. Tolson
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