The mental health system is criminal, take it from me

I’ve been in the system long enough and I’ve had it up to here.  Who will listen to someone with the label “mental patient”?  But I’ve been there, I’m intelligent, I’m educated (master’s degree), I’m published, and I know what I’m talking about.  When someone with this label, with a “diagnosis” reports a crime, this person gets discredited, the courts and the police say, “Hmm, this person may be psychotic, making it all up, exaggerating, trying to get attention,” and the case often gets dismissed.  We all know this.  That’s why when someone with a mental health history gets raped or assaulted or abused, the criminal gets off free.  No one listens.  No one believes.  No one cares.  To shut the patient up, if the patient keeps talking, the patient is given drugs, or shock treatments, or he or she is locked up, and often forced to live in poverty, with no voice.  The abuse continues.  The mental patient’s story goes unheard, the mental patient dies a lonely death and gets buried by the state in an anonymous grave.

Does it have to be this way?  Does this have to continue?  Do we have to remain unheard, unseen, unnoticed, invisible?  Dammit, no!

This is gonna be a bit of a winding story, and I hope I don’t fall asleep while writing it and have to can this blog entry.  That happens to me all the time, so I gotta keep writing and not fall asleep mid-sentence or anything.  I live in never-never land, exhausted basically, midway between sleeping and being awake.  That’s cuz I have an eating disorder.  I’m on Medicare and Medicaid, which means “care” for my eating disorder is more or less nonexistent.  But never mind that.  I’ll get to that part.

So sometime last spring I think it was, I went to see a therapist at the Edinburg Center……..This lasted one session, and I’ll tell you why.  Her parting words to me, or near the end of the session, she said to me, “You’ll never get better.  Do you want to come back?”  Now, do you think I was supposed to have faith in this therapist?  She was terrible, anyway.  I made another appointment but decided right away I had no intentions of keeping the appointment, and didn’t.  I know the only reason she took me on as a patient was cuz she heard through the grapevine that I keep my appointments and don’t cancel.  Now these therapists get paid if the patient shows up, and if their patients cancel, they don’t get paid.  So it’s worth their while to get patients on their rosters who show up.  That’s why she wanted me.  Money in her pocket. I did get one useful bit of information out of this one appointment.  One useful fact, that I kept with me.  Not therapy, mind you, this lady knew nothing at all about eating disorders, but she leaked out a miscellaneous fact about something local going on with CBFS that stuck with me.

Now CBFS is the poor excuse for “services” that DMH, the Department of Mental Health, is doing here in Massachusetts.  They have “workers,” whoever these people are, coming to people’s houses and supposedly “helping” them.  These people are supposedly trained.  I think the main requirements to be a CBFS worker are a driver’s license and a reliable car, and I guess a cell phone.  Willingness to go to clients’ homes.  Once these folks have the job, they are working for the state, so they got job security.  Very very very very good job security I’m sure.

Now let me back up a bit.  People who have the label “mental patient” end up referred to CBFS by their therapists or doctors or whatever.  These therapists think CBFS is going to provide some “help” for the patient.  Maybe help getting into suitable housing, for instance. Or help getting a therapist.   Or reminders to take showers or to take their meds.  I have no clue, cuz none of this was done for me, and none of this applies to me.  My therapist, M, back in the winter/spring of 2011, got me CBFS cuz her sinister goal, in the back of her mind, was to uproot me from my home and put me in the state hospital or a group home.  She thought that if I had these CBFS services, all the state hospital paperwork would be all the much easier when the time came for the “transfer.”  In fact, if you have CBFS, transfer from a community hospital to the state hospital is a lot quicker, smoother, and less messy…she right.  I escaped the state hospital later in September of year by the skin of my teeth.  All done behind my back.

So the next March I dumped M.  Saw right through her.  This was very empowering to say the least and I don’t want to get into all the threats she heaped upon me and all about my rocky relationship with her cuz I don’t want to bore you.  That’s for another blog entry.  It took a long time to heal from her.  I think anyone who has had a truly manipulative therapist who plays games with your head, in whom you originally had a lot of faith, and then she turns out to be bullshit….You know how it feels.  I was crushed.  I needed validation.  Someone to tell me, “Julie, you were right and this lady was out of her mind.”  I got this partially when I found out from another patient of hers that she had threatened this patient.  I feel so bad for this patient, so bad that this happened.   So I am not alone.  I am not crazy. I was angry, angry, angry all last spring, angry at M….I lashed out, and no one really understood, either, cuz no one believed me, who’s gonna believe a lowly mental patient?  The practitioner must be right and the sick mental patient must be wrong, right?

I got on waiting lists and couldn’t find another therapist cuz I’m on public assistance, this Medicaid and Medicare, and no money.  I didn’t know you aren’t supposed to say certain keywords that turn therapists off and make them say no and lie and say they can’t take you.  You don’t say you’ve made a suicide attempt ever, ever in your life.  You don’t say you’ve ever been hospitalized.  You don’t say your family has abandoned you.  You don’t say you have no money.  You don’t imply you’re anything they might define as “in crisis.”  You don’t tell them your height and weight (if like me you have an eating disorder) no matter what it is or how you feel about it.  You don’t tell them you’ve been labeled “treatment resistant.”  You don’t tell them you have any sort of medical condition whatsoever, no matter how minor, no sort of medical risk is involved, you’ve never ever considered suing a practitioner, you’ve always had very good relationships with your practitioners, right?  You’re an easy case, you always show up, and you’ve got money behind you.  Lots of it.  A rich uncle, assure them of this.  You’re quiet, clean, cooperative, an easy, neat fix.  Then, they’ll take you on, you’ll get a foot in the door.  Yeah, it shouldn’t be this way, but the world sucks, folks, the system is crooked and full of liars and excuse-makers and most of them have dollar signs in their eyes.

So back to this therapist at the Edinburg Center.  I know I’m skipping around…bear with me.  Like I said, I only had one session with her, but this is what she said about CBFS.  She said Team 2 of CBFS was real screwed, they were neglecting patients right and left, and that there was trouble going on.  Patients weren’t being seen, she said, and I was not the only one.  There were huge gaps in “care.”  Bad neglect.  Patients were going for months and months and nobody knew their whereabouts, what they were up to, or even if they had homes or were taking care of themselves or were seeing their practitioners or if anyone cared about them. So I left the session with this therapist, telling myself at least it wasn’t an entire waste cuz I got this fact, this useful piece of information.  I thought about the CBFS worker I had, hmm, need to give her a fake name I suppose….well, let’s just call her CBFS worker #1.  She was lazy and unreliable.  I had heard about her through the grapevine let’s say, known to be unreliable.  Worker #1 was generally an hour late if she showed up at all.  This drove me nuts as I myself have a history of timeliness.  When she did show up, she often spent the time here at my home yapping on her cell phone with someone, often for ten minutes or more, right in front of me.  It wasn’t like she was trying to schedule another client, this was a friendly call to her brother or whatever, just chatting away.  Once she came and when I answered the door, she stood at my doorway, talking on her cell phone forever, not yet done with her conversation, before finally, finally, finally, she hung up and came in with barely an apology.  When she called me, she never ended the conversation with “goodbye.”  This drove me nuts, too.  She clicked the phone and it would be dead.  It was a trivial etiquette matter, but I never knew that our conversations were over except for the click.  When she showed up late, she’d say she had an emergency, but I knew it was a lie, a lame excuse.  If she was very, very late, she’d call and ask, “Are you okay?” meaning, “Do I really have to come, or can we just not bother this week?”  No matter how starved I was (not that she knew anything about eating disorders, she didn’t) I’d say, “Yeah, I’m fine, forget it,” cuz I didn’t want to have to wait another couple of hours for her and maybe she still wouldn’t show up, not that I really benefited from these visits.  So one day she announced that she was going on a six week vacation, at least six weeks, never mind where she was going, but far far away.  I was glad to be off the hook and not waiting around for a no-show.  She said, “If you need ‘help,’ call the office.”  And off she skipped on her vacation.

At some point, I had some “talks” with her boss.  Now mind you, this guy was as flaky as they come.  Of course, you guys already have guessed this, poorly managed, etc etc, means this organization is run by someone flaky, right?  He has been over my place a few times.  Acted like he was God’s gift to mental health sometimes, you gotta be wary of those types.  Well, I’ll tell you what he said.  He said he was like some kind of DBT genius and knew how to do this type of therapy real good.  Naw, you ain’t God’s gift to this DBT bullshit therapy, mister.  DBT is stolen from Buddhism, get real.  The workbook is horribly insulting and offensive.  So anyway, I let this fake god bit slide.  He calls me, says he’s gotta come and do some paperwork.  He comes, has no papers.  Now I define paperwork as papers or forms.  Every time he comes here and says he has paperwork, there aren’t any forms, he takes no notes, no papers, nothing to sign.  He yaps away.  If the weather is cold, he comes with his coat on and doesn’t take off his coat.  Now when someone comes over like that, I keep my heat way up and they stay all bundled up, they appear on the defensive.  One time, he had his briefcase sort of up crossed over  like it was protecting him, like a shield.  Body language says a lot to me. So he says, “We don’t really know what to do with you.  You do your ADL’s.  You shower, so we can’t get after you to take a shower.  You keep the place clean.  You have Internet access.  None of our clients are even interested in the Internet.  Oh, by the way, I gave you Worker #1 deliberately because she knows nothing about eating disorders.  I didn’t want anyone to ‘fix’ your eating disorder, see?  I wanted someone no-nonsense.  Worker #1 is no nonsense.”

Yeah, I thought, she also doesn’t show up.

I remembered back to Worker #1’s first day.  We talked about my schedule.  This was the only day she did what I might call some “work.”  She asked to see my calendar.  On the calendar are things like church, a knitting group I used to go to or hope to go to, and so on.  She glanced at it, and then she asked (really, you guys are not going to believe this….)

“So, which days are you going to take a shower?”

So my jaw right then and there dropped to the floor.  Really you had to be there.  I wish I had a camera and I don’t know what that camera should have been focused on, the look of disbelief on my face, or Puzzle laughing her fool doggie head off at the absurdity of the situation.

Worker #1 was probably thinking to herself, “Gee, let’s make sure Julie showers at least two or three times a week.”  Or whatever.

Well, I replied, “Ahem, I take a shower every day.  Showers don’t need to be on my calendar.”

So I could see Worker #1 was breathing a sigh of relief, telling herself her job was easy from then on in.  That is, she didn’t need to do a thing.  Just show up here, well, maybe show up, yap away, and then leave.  That was basically it.  So sometimes she showed up, always late if she did show, did nothing but yap, then left.  Then her vacation. She was supposed to be back one day in January, and of course, she was not.  The next week came, no show.  Then all of a sudden she was mysteriously out on sick leave.  Before her return, I insisted on a new worker.  But meanwhile, I knew there was a lot of neglect going on.  I have heard from many patients that their workers are lazy, don’t show up, come late, do nothing, care more about their ipods than their jobs.

But I was wondering, what is this “service” supposed to do? These people have done nothing.  Me, I mistakenly thought occasionally I’d get a ride to therapy or the doctor’s if I had a freak injury such as a sprained ankle.  Once I had a hurting leg, suspected blood clot, and I asked if I could get a ride to the doctor’s and they flat out refused.  Of course, if Worker #1 was giving me the ride, she was so unreliable that I’d end up late to my appointment anyway.

So meanwhile, I go neglected and without “services” for months because Team 2 flakes out.  I can’t recall when it was, maybe June of last year, 2012, I wrote a scathing e-mail to this flaky boss.  In this e-mail, definitely something I should not have written, but remember, I was hurting wicked from that therapist M, mind you, lashing out at everyone, all alone, very isolated, no one believed me or validated me about her abuse (people do now, though)….So anyway, I wrote him a scathing e-mail and clicked on SEND.  Said I’d go straight to the DMH and report what was going on.  Now remember this: I’m not typical of their patients.  Their patients don’t have Internet access, he’s told me this.  I’m one of the few.  So they don’t have access to stuff at their fingertips like I do.  I really wasn’t thinking…and didn’t hear a word after that about my e-mail.  No response.  No acknowledgement.  But there were indeed consequences.

So meanwhile, he’d just transferred me to a new worker, assuring me that she was his best.  Let’s call her Worker #2.  I have nothing against Worker #2, not at first anyway, cuz she was impeccably on time.  Well, at first she was.  Not only that, she was really, really nice, but I don’t want to get into too much about her cuz I see her as kind of a pawn in this story.  A really nice human being and it’s not her fault, I have nothing against her.  I think she got frustrated and quit caring about her job, but that’s purely speculation on my part.  I’m clueless, really.

So back to June/July 2012.  I went on a little trip, I’m about to leave and she phones me telling me that upon my return, she’s gonna show up with her boss if that’s okay with me.  I say to myself, “Uh oh.”  Cuz I know her boss has this degree, this license, that has the power to “section” people, that is, get them locked up, and I know that somehow, that’s the intention.  Why my instincts are so crystal clear on this I can only hazard a guess.

They had no basis to section me, none.  I didn’t think of the e-mail, but of course, I know it now.  He was dead-set on shutting me up.  Uprooting me.  Or proving himself.  Acting a big shot.  It was July 18, 2012.   So she showed up with him. So I get the song and dance.  He didn’t section me, no, he THREATENED to section me.  Said that I had edema, mind you, and if I didn’t go to the ER to get the edema checked out, he would section me.  Worker #2 drove me to the ER and left me there.  Now I had had edema for over a year and no one cared.  I’m sure there were phone calls, and fishy things went on in the ER, like people changing their minds mysteriously, and next thing you know, I was sectioned to a hospitalization where they did not even have treatment for my condition. But I didn’t know this.  I resigned myself to it, went along with it, said to myself, I’ll play the game and see what happens…but it didn’t take long before I realized how fucked it all was.  I’d been there for nine days.  I went into my meeting with the doctor, and discovered to my shock that he had no clue why I was there.  He hadn’t read the notes on me, clearly.  None of the staff were knowledgeable about my condition, they were just plain clueless, except one who went out of her way to do research on her own time about eating disorders.  I cherished my talks with her, but usually her shift would come and go, and she said she didn’t have time to talk to me.  It was useless and frustrating.  Many of the workers seemed bored with me, just not interested, or wanted me to shut up and not talk to the other patients cuz I knew a few things about human rights laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.   I encouraged other patients to speak for themselves, to write, and to never shut up.  I think I was there a couple of weeks total.  I left AMA.  I vowed I would never, ever set foot behind locked doors again.  Famous last words, right?

I didn’t know what was gonna happen next.  I’d been working on my human rights case against Walden about the hall phones, and by December, I’d won the case, but that’s a whole other story for another blog entry.  I got my shit together by the end of August, sorta.  That lasted a very short time, I guess about six weeks.   Around the third week of October, everything fell apart again.  I never did get a good night’s sleep, haven’t really slept for a year and a half now.  I think sometime in September I finally got a therapist, but this lasted three weeks.  She didn’t know anything about eating disorders and it was all kinda useless trying to explain the medical stuff to her.  It took too long.  Meanwhile, I was still on a waiting list at this place in the next town over, so I pushed this waiting list and got a therapist there in November.  Talking to her was very frustrating.  You know what it’s like when you talk to someone and you’re talking about oranges and they’re talking about French fries?  You got it.  Like, I’d get to something important, and that’s when she’d change the subject.  Or she’d harp on something trivial that I didn’t give a hoot about.  You know what it’s like when your conversation style just ain’t right with someone?  It was so, so frustrating.  Then she said maybe we can work on our relationship but I wanted to tell her she needed to change her personality.  I gave up.  The whole time I saw her it seemed like a waste.

That plus the waiting room was a terrible insult, but I don’t want to get into that too much.  Germy, dingy, makeshift, with a tinny radio playing…this gave the message that the clients were Welfare cases not worth anything.  You felt disrespect in the air.  A poor excuse for ADA accessibility.  I climbed up to the third floor on rickety, steep, winding stairs to get to this therapist’s office, and that’s inexcusable.  I can run a few miles.  What about elderly folk, people with injuries, people who don’t see well, people with diabetes or medical conditions or even baby carriages?  Or just a lotta groceries or books to lug?  On principle alone, that bugged the shit outa me every time I went up and down those stairs, and sometimes, I couldn’t see the stairs too well.  Sometimes, I hadn’t eaten, and I felt dizzy on those stairs.  But never mind that.

So by word of mouth, I found a new person, a guy therapist, highly recommended as “fantastic.”  Really, who paid this psychologist to tell strangers over the phone that this guy is “fantastic,” anyway?  He is “alternative,” she says.  Really amazing.  On what basis?  No, I didn’t question, didn’t ask, just grabbed at it.  Assumed this was reality.  Believed what she said.  Well, I believed it because I had made hundreds of calls and felt I had no other choice.  Everyone else had turned me down.  He had openings, he made me an affordable offer, and it was too good to be true.

Beware, beware, beware, folks.  I had no way of knowing.  Anyone can call themselves a therapist, and yes, indeed, apparently he has a license.  It goes no further.  He’s bogus, and what he did was not therapy.  If what he does is not therapy, then he’s not a real therapist, right?  Well, I’m talking in circles I suppose, or so you may be thinking.  But let me explain.  Or let me make a list of his non-therapy.  I’ll list what I can, what I dare to.  No, I won’t tell you his name.

First of all, his office was nice, very quiet, but it’s not his.  His name isn’t on the door.  Other folks use the office.   He goes there and uses the office to see an occasional patient, so when he gets there, he puts his name tag on the door to show that it’s his office for now.  So a couple of times, I got there before the sign was up, and witnessed him putting this temporary sign on the door.  This made me question: I mean, how many patients does he have, really?  On Saturday, it seemed that I was his only patient.  Fly-by-night therapist?  Anyway, this alone doesn’t mean all that much, it’s just a bit of a detail I observed, laughing to myself.

So the first time we met, there is no paperwork.  No HIPAA papers, no confidentiality agreement, no nearest living relative notation, no paperwork signing off the names and numbers of my other practitioners (my primary care physician or psychiatrist, etc), no paperwork about my address, phone number, SSN, date of birth, no sort of working agreement or anything about cancellation policy or payment agreement.  He just starts right in on the conversation.  He has no papers, no chart on me, no notes whatsoever.  Many people are offended by note-taking, so fine, I can dig it.  He is a little crass and a little arrogant, but this I let slide.

I let slide that he kept calling me “Honey.”  Now, honestly, I think I should have known this was a red flag, and walked out of the door immediately.  But no, I told myself maybe this guy had some wisdom and I needed to listen to him.

Well, what wisdom did he have?  I think folks get wiser as they age.  So he was older than M, had some years on her, had a bit of wisdom in him, I’ll give him credit for that.  He said M was manipulative and she was one of many therapists that should not be in the business.  Well, I say that he himself should be added to that list of incompetents.

Oh yeah, it gets a lot worse.  He seemed to think he could cure my eating disorder in a couple of sessions and get me off disability.  When this was clearly not happening, I could see him getting desperate.  So it was like he threw his hands up in the air and blew his boundaries to bits.

Why did he tell me how much he weighed as a kid at various ages?  Was that really necessary?  Was it therapeutic? Healing?  Proving some point?  Meaningful?  Naw, I really don’t know anything about pediatrics and what kids should weigh and it means nothing to me.  I never had kids.   I don’t give a shit.  I didn’t want to hear that he was born addicted to nicotine and I didn’t want to hear what the pill looked like that his parents put him on when he was little.  This is a problem, folks.

Do I really want to know who his ex was?  He was about to tell me her name, but I stopped him.  He told me a bunch of dirt on her.   He told me how  he dumped her.  This is therapy?  How is this “fantastic healing”?

Guess what else?  He told me if I wanted, he’d pay my entrance to the AWP conference in Boston next weekend, and I could go with him.   Lovely.   Totally inappropriate.  He was going to the AWP conference for four days and this was why I was not having an appointment for two weeks, see.  And he says he’s gonna write a poem about me, so there goes my confidentiality, out the window.

Well, there are a few more key things I cannot put into this blog entry.  Are you surprised?  I say one helluva lot in my blog, but I’m gonna leave out a couple of things and keep them to myself.  I told my minister.  Or maybe I didn’t.

So let me skip ahead.  I phoned him this morning.  I thought I was calling his “office phone,” but hey, I don’t think there’s an office phone.  I called what I think is a landline.  Or it might be, but anyway, it was 7am and I assumed I’d get a recording and I’d leave a message on this “office phone.”  Not the case.  He picked up.  Like he’s just getting up and putting on his shoes, or whatever.  All disorganized, a little panicked.  So the patient is calling out of the blue.  He has no clue what to say to me, doesn’t know what it’s about, fumbling for words.  Hey, I have the upper hand.  I’m onto you, you humbug.  Gimme those ruby slippers.  I’m headed home.

So he was not expecting this.  I think he thought, when he picked up and found it was me, that I was calling up all upset about something, maybe wanted to talk, maybe this was a “crisis call.”  Oh, I’m sure he’d have no clue how to properly handle such a thing.   I have never called him before except the original call to schedule our first appointment.

So I told him I was calling to cancel our scheduled appointment in two weeks.

Get this: He said, “So we’re done?”

I replied, “Yep, we’re done.”

He said, “Okay, I love you, bye.”  He slammed down the phone.  Yep, slammed.

Now, wasn’t that a bit weird?  He didn’t ask for an explanation or anything, didn’t ask why I was stopping, just slammed down the phone.  The conversation lasted a minute.

Beware, folks, there are bogus therapists everywhere.

(addendum: I remembered another bit about this therapist and wrote it in this blog entry, click here: http://juliemadblogger.wordpress.com/2013/03/06/a-little-addendum-about-that-therapist-i-saw-recently-now-do-you-believe-me/)

So, what purpose does all this serve?  I got something to write about now.  I had my adventures.  I’m out $90.  I ain’t paying no more.  And a few more things.  That plus my faith in humanity is shot to bits right now.  How can I trust?  Meanwhile, I’ve fired CBFS, too.  This therapist encouraged me to do this.  I’m about to fall asleep and I can’t tell the whole story now, but Worker #2 ended up not showing up half the time.  She overslept, called in sick, didn’t show up, stopped caring basically.  She took long-term sick leave, then showed up for a week, canceled the next week, then suddenly went on vacation.  Now suddenly she didn’t show up, and all the sudden she’s on long-term sick leave again and her boss called and in a very cold tone of voice told me this.  Now the original boss, the one that sectioned me, that is, the one I sent the scathing e-mail to is gone now.  Did he get fired?  Oh, who knows.  I phoned the new boss and told her forget it, no more “services.”  I’m done.

So a few days later she called me and said, “Can I come over and discuss this with you?”

I wasn’t home at the time.  I told her so.  I said, “What’s there to discuss?”

She said, “We can discuss what we can be doing for you.”

But hey, it ain’t been done in two years, lady.  It’s not like their people are gonna start doing it now. They would’ve done it already.  Services?  Naw.  These people do nothing.  State money gone to waste.  Working people’s taxes.  If they were really going to help people, they would come in with housing lists, up-to-date lists of therapists and nutritionists, but no, I get these lists myself, I do all the research myself, I shower myself, I take the T, I don’t need these people.  And I sure as hell don’t need to be sectioned again.  So I never called her.

Somehow, me and Puzzle, we survive.  We get by.  We stick together, me and my dog.  I can trust her when I can trust no one else.  I guess that’s the bottom line.  Survival, it’s different for me than it is for other folks.  Kinda hard to explain when you have an eating disorder.  Your priorities are different.  It’s like, you know, life and death stuff.  The smaller things fall away nowadays.  For whatever reason, not getting fat is one of those life-and-death priorities, and it means risking one helluva lot.  Fat means fat means fat, and if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.  You wake up and go to bed saying nyah nyah catch me if you can, and if you get caught by death, you get caught, fair and square.

Feedback and comments welcome!