What is insane? ATTN: Montgomery C Brower, Forensic Psychiatry, McLean Hospital

Regular readers of my blog know that I am all in favor of transparency. So in the name of transparency I shall state that I was once a patient of the above Dr. Brower. He was a young resident at McLean Hospital. I was not yet 40 years old. My father was still alive. I met Dr. Brower, a rather young, energetic Dr. Brower, while I was inpatient on one of the “units.” I’m trying to recall the name of the “unit.” I believe these were shuffled around quite a bit as the hospital downsized over the years. They seemed to have sold some of their buildings, making some into condos. I laugh now. They once had apple orchards, pear trees, even woodsy areas. All that got sold off. So if you read my book you might not make much sense out of the “forbidden path” bit. Truthfully, there once were a bunch of “forbidden paths” on the McLean grounds, and I’m sure there were plenty of patients and former patients and probably disgruntled staff who hung themselves from the trees or otherwise died in the woods there. Didn’t Anne Sexton mention these woods too? As did Sylvia Plath. I suppose I shouldn’t. I’m not dead, either way. I doubt their literary mention of the woods is what did them in.

Okay, this was called NB. North Belknap. Yeah, there was also a South Belknap. Of course, if there’s going to be a North, they might as well build a South. There are North and South America. However, North America has forgotten that South America exists. Hola! (Oops, they didn’t quite hear me. Shall I call out a little louder?)

Yes, and there were two North Belkaps, 1 and 2. These were NB1 and NB2. There was a 3, but this was a floor of offices. I hear they made that floor into a Clozaril clinic for a while. Most hospitals shuffle around all the time. Why is that? Can’t they make up their minds? Why are hospitals always under construction? They can’t sit still. They are always on hills. Elevated moods. They must have ADHD, high anxiety, and by all means, delusions of grandeur. Shoot ‘em up with some Ritalin. They’ve got a brain disease. It’s permanent and they clearly lack insight into their condition.

So there I was, a lowly patient on NB1 I believe. I met Dr. Brower for the first time. He wasn’t my doctor at first but he was the Unit doctor. You guys know what I mean. The one on the Unit that is your doctor while you are inpatient. I didn’t like him. I started to like him after a while, though. I guess he grew on me. But at first, I found him super annoying.

Now you guys gotta realize, when you deal with a shrink, you don’t just deal with that one shrink. There’s a hierarchy. There’s the shrink, his boss, his boss’s boss, the insurance company, the hospital they are working for, the administration, and on and on. Of course, your family, too. Never mind YOU. Do you think you actually have a say in what happens? And of course, your prior shrinks and whatever bullshit they may have put into your records that you cannot control.

It was then 1996. Records were mostly still on paper. I’d say electronic records were coming into the fore and were about to take over, but not yet. It was quite common for the next decade to enter a hospital and find out that you’ve been billed under the incorrect social security number.

Know what happens when you leave the country? You look at your Medicaid card and burst into laughter, because suddenly, it’s meaningless. It feels like a terrific Fuck You. Or it did for me. I still have mine but I have no clue what to do with it.

So there was a rather youthful Dr. Brower. I had no clue what to think. Know what NB was like back then? It smelled like an old library. Like books. We did have books there, in fact. This was back in the day when books were allowed. It wasn’t all gross there the way it is now. Or shall I say in 2011 I was there and it was downright disgusting. Dirt all over the floor…never mind the bathrooms. I cleaned them myself, so I would know.

Joe told me, later on, that Dr. B looked “preppie.” Joe was right. He did. Kinda. I always felt somewhat embarrassed talking to Dr. B because he spoke too loudly. So I’d be talking to him and the whole world would hear his half of the conversation. I would wonder: Does he think I am deaf? Why does he speak with such a loud voice? One day, I heard him speak to an elderly lady and as far as I could tell, she was hard of hearing, so I figured that speaking loudly might be perhaps appropriate, but to speak to everyone with an elevated voice like that, wasn’t that assuming some sort of air of importance? I never quite figured that one out. Finally, I was so annoyed and so embarrassed that I got up the courage to speak up.

This was after I had long left NB and was seeing him outpatient. I’d been seeing him for a long while and we’d developed a rapport. I told him flat out to kindly lower his voice. I told him that his voice was so loud that it carried through the walls into the other doctor offices, and thus violated my confidentiality. During this same appointment I had to remind him a number of times. I felt silly. Was I his mother?

So back to 1996. I admit they were sick of me. I’m sure of it. I was a frequent flyer by then. Who knows? I wish my PCP had had more of a say in the goings-on. She was the one who was concerned that my weight was dropping, but no one else gave a shit. Then, she ended up moving her practice and I never saw her again. She also was well aware that the Risperdal was causing me to miss periods because it raises Prolactin. No one else gave a shit about that, either.

Then, I had shitloads of shock treatments. One after the other. Dr. Brower was not in favor of the shock at all. Actually, it was my idea originally because I’d had it the previous year, 1995. However, Dr. Michael Henry, new on the staff at the time, was the shock-happy one who decided I “needed” lots and lots of shock. I believe Dr. Henry recently left McLean, but I’m not certain about this. I am rather certain that he was still working there in 2012. I recall specifically what he looked like. I am certain that anyone who gets “ECT” won’t forget him. You can’t.

Dr. Henry has dark, dark eyebrows. You don’t forget those eyebrows. I think those eyebrows are the last thing you see before you go under. They have an anesthesiologist tell you, “Pick a nice dream!” and then, rather quickly, you are out. When you wake up, you might find out they’ve taken your clothes off. They might tell you that they had to do that because you wet them. Yep, shock does that. When you wake up, you might find yourself puking up nothing, too. From the anesthesia. Or you might not wake up at all. They don’t tell anyone about those folks, the ones that die. How do they get the bodies out of there? (Oh, Julie, stop talking like that, it’s triggering people….) No, really, do they wheel them through the tunnels? Maybe they serve them up for dinner. They might save money that way. We all knew the food was gross.

So, seeing as my posts get posted up on Twitter, and I’ve addressed this to the attention of Dr. Brower, I assume this lovely little post will eventually make its way to him. See, McLean knew they’d done wrong by me. They knew they’d screwed me bad. They knew they’d given me way too many shock “treatments.” So what the heck were they gonna do?

You screw up a perfectly normal, okay lady. She was fine before, now she’s fucked. She’s a basket case. What do you tell her doting parents? How do you explain this to her boyfriend? What about her former therapist, who might inquire at some point? Here you had an intelligent 39-year-old woman who had a job and had been considering college, and you gave her so many shock treatments that now, she can’t think straight.

Her parents suspect. Her boyfriend suspects. One of her old friends has made a call to the hospital demanding an answer. What if there’s a lawsuit? What then? What if her father actually doesn’t die from cancer and decides to sue? What about the brothers, they might actually wake up and care about her even though right now they apparently don’t? After all, they might get some real money out of this….

The doctors had to think quickly. This woman’s insurance was running out. That was it. State hospital. But she needed a new diagnosis. Quick. They needed an explanation. She complained of feeling “confusion.” Of course she did, it was from the shock, but McLean was NOT going to to the ethical thing and apologize.

Imaginary scenario:

Dr. B: Miss Greene (he always called me that), I want to tell you that it’s entirely our fault. We gave you too many shock treatments and that’s the explanation for the intermittent mental confusion that you experience. Honestly, we don’t even know if you will ever get your mind back. We’re quite embarrassed about what happened.

But no, that’s not what he said. Of course not. Patients never get an apology. Nor are they ever given an honest answer.

He told me I was “dissociating.” Yep, dissociating. I look back and laugh. No way did that one fit, but they tried real hard to give me a new phony diagnosis to fit their gross malpractice.

Another thing he tried was to get obsessed about my periods. So many male doctors get obsessed like that. Dr. Brower was no exception. He wanted to chart them. I felt like rolling my eyes at him.

I feel so sorry for my parents. I remember when my mom said, “It was the shock that ruined her, wasn’t it?” She really did word it that way. Seriously. Yeah, maybe it was tactless. But I value my mom’s honesty and the fact that she dared to come out with it when those doctors were so dishonest and cagey. For all their bogus terminology, I really wonder how they manage to stay in practice.

I’ve looked Dr. Brower up. He’s testified in court in some famous cases. One was a school stabbing. He stated that a kid was “not insane” when he stabbed a student.

I ask you right now, Dr. Brower: What is insane? He stated that the student wasn’t delusional. Okay, so delusional is insane. But is delusional the only excusable insane there is in a court of law?

How about this insane? What if I go out for coffee at my usual place. I turn away from my coffee momentarily to speak to a passerby. While this is happening, someone drops a drug into my coffee. I don’t know much about drugs really. Let’s say it doesn’t affect the taste of the coffee and it dissolves right away. So I finish my coffee and a bit later, have no clue what’s going on, get into my car, and deliberately run someone over. Am I insane? I’m not delusional. But that’s insane, isn’t it?

How about this insane? I am given a drug by my doctor. Let’s say it’s to treat a rash. Oh, a steroid let’s say. I tell my doctor, “This drug is making me feel terrible. I feel like I am gonna murder someone.” But my doctor says, “Don’t worry, just finish the bottle. What you feel is only a feeling. Accept it.” So I get in my car and deliberately run someone over. Is that insane? I’m not delusional. I willingly took the drug. I obeyed my god-doctor. I was competent. I was treating my rash. So was I insane?

How about this insane? You heard about Rehteah Parsons? Yep, the kid who was bullied. She was badly bullied, driven to suicide. We know about just how bad that bullying was. This has gone to court and it’s been in the media and in petitions. Do you know how many kids that happens to that we DON’T hear about?

Think about how they treated her. You drive someone crazy like that. You torture someone to the point of suicide. Is that insane?

Looking back on my own years in the MH system, looking back on ANYONE’s years and years and years locked up, tied up, forced to take drugs, forced to appointment after appointment, told how incapable we are, how stupid we are, how limited we are, how we are doomed for life, lied to, treated with deception, not told of consequences of this bogus treatment we are given, not told of what was REALLY done to us over the years and years, no explanation given for the deaths of our friends, and the ruined lives of our comrades, the families we’ve lost or never had or never had the chance to bear…..Is this not torture? Is this not bullying? Can you not blame us for one minute for feeling a little bit pissed off?

No, it’s all medicalized, pathologized, compartmentalized into insurance numbers so you can safely bill us and call us by yet one more diagnosis.

Good grief. If I could paid for every diagnosis I have ever had, I’d make damn fortune. If I could earn a dollar for every pill they coerced me into taking, I’d have enough money so I wouldn’t have to worry about the next meal for quite a while. Puzzle and I could eat like gourmets. I wonder how much money I could make if I got paid for all the minutes I spent waiting in shrink waiting rooms. I should be compensated for my time! They didn’t call me Frequent Flyer for nothing. You accumulate brownie points, right?

I think I need honesty points. Honesty points for every single freaking time I didn’t lie to a shrink. Every single time I walked into a shrink’s office and said in earnest, “Can you help me? I’m having a problem with _____.” and actually thought the jerk was going to help instead of out for himself. Out to puff himself up. Cuz Dr. Brower, I saw your photo. You sure looked nice in that shoot. You sure they didn’t touch up that photo a bit? Sure they do. It’s the age of Photoshop, ain’t it? I know how to use it, too.

No, I doubt Dr. Michael Henry did up his eyebrows. They were real, all right. He didn’t grow them that way to deliberately spook someone before they went under. It’s just that I have a good memory. I doubt you shrinks are too pleased that I remember this crap, either. I hear you don’t care for whistleblowers too much.

Either way, I remember you well. I liked you a lot. It’s just that I want you to think good and hard on what I asked. What the hell is “insane”? After all, folks like you have a lot of clout in the courts. That’s all I ask, Dr. B.

Julie Greene, your former patient, 1996-1998

Feedback and comments welcome!