SENT TO THE FARM!
In researching aggression in dogs, I learned that sending an aggressive dog to the idyllic “farm” is not a cure, but a myth. Such a farm does not exist.
So it is with people. In earlier centuries people were frequently sent to country settings for a “rest.” I highly recommend reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a woman sent to “rest” in such a place. Virginia Woolf, my favorite writer, was brought to the country on many occasions with a private nurse to relax and heal. The idea was that the stress of city life pushed many people over the edge–did it? I don’t know. The isolation of living in the country could do it to one, as well. Statistics bear this out.
I found out that the “farm” cure, for me, was a myth, as well, when I stayed for five and a half months at Gould Farm in Monterrey, Massachusetts, in 1984. This slideshow that I am about to show you was put together at a much later time, but it accurately describes the farm as I knew it then; little has changed. Take a peek now, then continue reading my article:
Seems ideal, doesn’t it? So why aren’t there more places like Gould Farm dotting the countryside? Why aren’t more patients enrolled in such programs?
First of all, what they didn’t tell you in the slide show was that it costs over $200 a day, out of pocket, to stay at Gould Farm. That’s right. Do your math. It’s like owning a second home. The price is on par with the most exclusive halfway houses I’ve seen. They offer a sliding scale but don’t be fooled. Gould Farm is for the rich. I mean the rich.
Patients, who are called “guests,” have to work 30 hours a week on top of paying over $200 dollars a day to stay at Gould Farm. This is hard labor, folks. I’m talking about shoveling cow shit, carting pail after pail of maple syrup out of the woods in miserable weather, mopping floors day after day, shoveling snow for six hours until your back breaks, and so on and so forth. This is not meaningful work; these tasks are menial and boring.
The speaker states that Gould farm is a place “where stigma does not exist.” Actually, Gould Farm is a place where illness is ignored. Their PR literature doesn’t state this, but once you start at the farm, you are told that you are not allowed to talk about your illness or your symptoms with other “guests,” or about hospitalizations or suicide attempts. The latter I can understand but to ignore symptoms? To pretend you’re not hurting inside? To pretend you’re normal and stuff it? You later find out that none of the staff want to talk about illness or symptoms, either. I think they are trained this way.
The slideshow does mention “treatment.” What treatment? Yes, “guests” (I hate that word) meet with an outside psychiatrist once a month. The psychiatrist comes to the farm and meets with patients for med checks, and bills the patients separately. This is the treatment. “Guests” learn to stuff their feelings, hide their illnesses, ignore their symptoms, and fake being “normal,” so they can lead “productive lives,” and this is the “healing” that the slideshow talks about.
1984: This is my fifth hour shoveling snow. At lunch I went into my room and took off my boots because my toes were killing me. I noticed the toes on my right foot were frost-bit. It’s useless to tell my supervisor. Randy S had the same problem and he was told to get warmer boots and get back to work.
Who can I talk to? It seems that the guests don’t really talk to each other or relate on a meaningful level, or have any sort of closeness whatsoever; everyone seems to be in a world of his own. I tried to strike up a conversation with Dave P, but he winced in pain when I mentioned “father.” Maybe his had died, but of course it was yet another taboo subject. Ryan H and Joy L talk to themselves all the time. I am so lonely.
I tried talking to the staff. They’re just as bad as the guests. I tried talking to Tim M about the Monsters in my head that tell me to kill myself, and Tim grunted a reply. Grunted, like an animal! Why won’t anyone talk to me?
We are so isolated here at Gould Farm. No one is allowed to have a car. We aren’t within walking distance of town, by far. They take us into the village once a week for supplies, and to Pittsfield, a small city, once a month. We are not allowed to have visitors. We are allowed home visits once a month if we can afford transportation. Once a month.
I call my parents collect all the time because there’s no one else to talk to, but they get mad at me because I’m running up a phone bill. I call them and I cry and cry: “Put me in a hospital!”