Check out this Boston Globe article on McLean, and my commentary in the comments section!

And here is my commentary:

I was incarcerated at McLean on and off between 1994 and 1997, paid for by Medicare. I was given shock treatments there which did not help, but instead, disabled me for the next year and a half. After the shock made me nonfunctional, McLean misdiagnosed me with a new, supposedly underlying severe condition that I didn’t actually have to explain away what they had done. McLean still uses shock, run like an assembly line. It is cost-efficient for them, quick and easy money.

I witnessed people kept in isolation for weeks, held in four-point restraints at the staff’s whim. When I told them my tooth was broken they told me I couldn’t see a dentist and that the broken tooth was a figment of my imagination. When I finally got it pulled it was dangerously infected.

They didn’t have real therapy there. Not unless you call Bingo games and grade-school level worksheets therapy. The food was inedible, bathrooms a disgrace. Night workers spent the night sleeping and yelled at us if we dared to wake them. I ended up there in 2011 and three weeks later convinced them to release me because I was so much worse off than when I arrived.

Victims have tried to convene, tried to take out lawsuits but McLean has a lot of money and none of us could afford an attorney, let alone find one that will even take on such a case. The state legal people are no help at all.

Just stay away. I think the Globe should publish stories from all sides of the fence, not just McLean’s poster children.

Does therapy really help insomnia? Doubtful….

I read a study stating that CBT helps insomnia. Or so said the headline and introductory bit. This was a recent study done in Britain.

The subjects had suffered insomnia three months or less. Interestingly enough, 15% got better with no treatment at all. So saith the study. But what does “no treatment” mean? I highly doubt the patients, during that time, made no effort to improve sleep on their own. I highly doubt they threw out their own ability to use logic and common sense. Also, since they didn’t have insomnia very long, I can see that for most of these patients, the condition would have improved anyway.

Then, reading further, I discovered that this CBT the patients were receiving was nothing more than common sense advice on sleep. Gee, why are we giving these “therapists” our business at all? Why become therapy-dependent when we can research these things on our own and retain the freedom to try out what works for us?

I will never forget just how unhelpful the “treatment” was that I received at the McLean sleep clinic back in 1999.  Yep, that place is world-renowned. I met weekly with a sleep doctor who insisted that I keep a detailed sleep diary. What this did was to cause me to obsess over sleep. This of course worsened the insomnia.

Not once did they give a shit about the cause. You’d think this would be a primary goal. Nope. They “advised” me to do things that did not come naturally to me such as changing my sleep hours, again, worsening the insomnia.

I had been referred to them by my shrink, Dr. Michael Detke. Thank god I only had this incompetent fool for a year!  He claimed the insomnia was due to depression. This was backwards. I was getting increasingly pissed off that the problem was taking so long to solve. I even missed a term of college because my sleep had gotten so bad I couldn’t function academically.

So he was claiming that depression was the cause, negating what I was saying and not listening to me at all. He repeatedly raised my Effexor.

Did this man not know that one of the most observed side effects of  Effexor is insomnia? He had me on more and more and my sleep got worse and worse. Meanwhile, the sleep clinic doctor told me, “I am not even going to pay attention to your medications, since they are dealt with by your psychiatrist.”

I wondered which idiots I should believe. The sleep doctor kept yapping about “sleep hygiene.”  There was nothing wrong with my sleep hygiene, and his mucking with it of course didn’t work. The insomnia had been caused by Effexor all along.

This sleep doctor wanted to believe only that he was a great hero who had solved my problem. So I went to him telling myself I needed to stop seeing him. I didn’t need to say anything about terminating. I remember I was sitting in his office, nodding off right in front of him while he yapped on and on about how much I had “improved.” I didn’t even argue. He told me I was a success story and that I didn’t need to come back. I left that place not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Why are doctors such experts at not listening?

I went to see Dr. Detke later on. By then, of course, I hated the dude. He told me he was not seeing patients next year due to his schedule. Oh wow, I get to get rid of him! I left his office immensely relieved.

The next shrink did indeed look into the possible cause. Trust me, he didn’t even have to look far. Right away, I told him what “meds” I had been taking. He looked surprised, as many doctors did, that I knew them for memory, including doses and what classification each “med” was.

After that surprise, which I was accustomed to since I was Queen of Knowing My Meds, he still had that shocked look on his face. His jaw had literally dropped when he heard just how much Effexor Detke had put me on.

i can imagine what went through Brendel’s mind. I imagine he was just as relieved as I was that I was no longer seeing Detke. I know he kept his opinion to himself, but I knew what he was thinking.

Brendel took me off Effexor. That solved the problem! This was after wasting months and months of my life trying to “fix” insomnia by barking up the wrong tree. I really think that to treat insomnia with band aid cures such as pills or “therapy” and refusing to look for the cause is complete backwards idiocy. Especially when the cause was staring them in the face.

Not that I would recommend Brendel to anyone. Years have passed. Sadly, he’s now hooked on a power trip and I would highly recommend staying away. He was good when he was a resident, though, and still had humility in him.

YOU are your own best doctor. Do not allow these people to enslave you with their claims of expertise. You are the only one who lives in your body. Take it back from these fools.

ECT shock doc Michael Henry and other McLean personnel who participated in coverup of ECT damages: Nyah nyah!

Dear Michael Henry “MD”: I hope you enjoy my ECT story: which will be broadcast all over the world later today. You and your McLean cohorts thought I’d never figure it out, that your dirty little secret of harm and subsequent coverup amounting to fraud would never be discovered.

I’m sure I’m not the only one harmed by your electric torture. What happened to me turned out to be temporary. But you weren’t sure, were you? No, in fact, the “effect” of confusion didn’t appear to be at all abating so you had to do something. You flat out lied to my parents telling them that no way was the confusion I experienced a direct result of ECT.

While the effects of ECT, thankfully, were temporary for me, your lies and coverup up the truth had permanent effects. The whole goal of psychiatry, once it has harmed, is to “explain” the damage by adding on more psych diagnoses. This story isn’t unique to me, but to all patients damaged by psychiatric “care.” How many times have I heard someone say, after leaving a psych hospital such as McLean, “I have a new diagnosis now.” Why? To cover up the direct damages done to the patient by the hospital.

What you did, you and your cohorts, was to give me a new diagnosis to explain the confusion I endured for a full year and a half. I wasn’t dissociating. I had never dissociated before and what I was going through did not at all resemble what your literature describes as dissociation. Your new fake diagnosis was supposed to be a lifelong condition, yet all the “symptoms” you were attributing to me had only begun after the ECT. You thought you could get away with this lie, but it was disproved after I left McLean.

Unfortunately, the coverup did more damage than the ECT itself. You hoped I’d forget, didn’t you? Maybe that’s why you continue to shock patients when they have already obviously been damaged. So we will never know.

You hoped my parents wouldn’t be able to get a lawyer nor even realize they might want one. You were glad my father was dying of cancer so my parents didn’t have the energy to challenge your actions. You knew he’d been a NAMI monitor, a person who walked right onto psych wards, spoke with the patients, and made sure wrongs got reported. I’ll bet you were thrilled as his health deteriorated. I am sure you were mighty relieved that my parents were “uninvolved.” And I’m sure you were thrilled that my mother went into her own little world and got rather quiet after my dad’s death.

I know what happened and you cannot stop me from speaking out and telling the truth. My therapist, a second-year resident with very good intentions I’m sure, took my mother aside, meeting with her alone, and had a private conversation that I knew about but the details were kept from me. I know what all that was about. I don’t blame the therapist but I blame those that put her up to it, Dr. John Gunderson and the hospital administrators.

My therapist unwittingly did permanent harm that day she met with mother. She told my mom that I had a dangerous “personality disorder” and it would be best that the family distance themselves from me.

The saddest heartbreak of my life has been that my brothers disengaged and I never knew the reason why. I hadn’t harmed them nor imposed on them nor done anything as far as I could tell. When my therapist told my mother to distance herself due to my phony “personality disorder,” all that flew into one ear and out the other with my mom. However, she dutifully followed instructions and informed my brothers.

To me, this is mystery solved. My brothers have closed their hearts and minds against me. This has been made worse, I’m sure, by the fact that one brother is married to a licensed social worker. All based on a lie you had to tell to cover up ECT damages that YOU did.

The diagnosis harmed me. Most people, after being diagnosed, develop the known “symptoms” of that diagnosis. As I say in my speech, I began to cut, and I was not prone to cutting before. I became desperately suicidal and that hadn’t been the case before, not nearly to that degree. I became extremely dependent and needy, partially because with all that confusion I could barely care for myself, but also due to the “neediness” trait you claimed was a “symptom” of this new phony diagnosis.

It took a while to shake all that off. No, I wasn’t “cured” of this diagnosis. The effects of shock wore off after a year and a half of hell. I was able to resume my life. All that was not congruent to your proclamations that my brand new personality disorder was lifelong. The next therapist I had decided threre was no “personality disorder” and the diagnosis is incorrect.  Oops! Gunderson claimed I “wasn’t even capable of sitting in a room of people.” That’s a direct quote.  I suppose the classroom doesn’t count, eh?

Bet you all at McLean sure were relieved and also, shall I say, shocked that I could actually function again after ECT damage. You didn’t know, did you?  I was one of the lucky ones. What about those that are permanently harmed by ECT? What do you do with those folks? Drug them to keep them quiet? Or do you lock them up for good? Take your pick. I’m sure you have plenty of ways to silence those you harm.

Tomorrow, the truth will come out as hundreds of us stand strong against this barbaric practice. I hope you all at McLean are mighty scared.

PS: Don’t even bother trying to retaliate. Local Watertown, Massachusetts police won’t be able to drag me off to yet another lockup. I’m not there! Nyah nyah I got freedom of speech now! I’m sure it’s the one thing you abusers did NOT want!

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

Almost 7400 words so far….

I am happy with my project so far. I am working on the second essay now. I should be finished with that chapter later today. I think there’s another bit I want to add to the first chapter, but I have plenty of time to do this. Nothing’s set in stone.

I find that paying attention to my project allows me to ignore the baloney crap I get from the USA, via online. The latest insult I am just going to ignore. I’m rather done with people’s demeaning attitudes and rude comments.

I was never good at PR anyway. You could hardly expect me to. After all, being stuck in the mental health system, I wasn’t expected to have any social skills at all. I missed out on a number of decades of real life.

I recall one “group” called “social skills” I had to attend at McLean. Guess what we were taught? To begin a conversation by saying hello, and to end one by saying goodbye. We had to role-play this.  That took up an entire 45 minute “group.” Everyone was so doped up they had no awareness of what an insult this group was. I was so disgusted that I walked out.

Then, guess what? I was told that since I walked out, the material presented in the group must be far too advanced for me, way too much for me to handle. I told them that I had no desire to “cope” with being treated like a child.  I chose to avoid subjecting myself to disrespect. I guess that remark flew right over them. They were too thickheaded. I guess they saw their patients as completely incapable. A few patients, in fact, bolted out of there just like i did and ended up okay. I have no clue about the rest.

It’s rather difficult to shed the “system.” I consider myself lucky. It doesn’t happen overnight, either. To do this, you must reject all the false notions they feed you. This takes a long time.

See you later, Julie and Puzzle


Your “Online Presence” is NOT who you are, it’s a PERSONA

We spend so much time online nowadays that we tend to forget this. It’s a lesson I learned back in 1997.

You have to realize that back then, most people didn’t have computers. We used corded phones and most communication happened face-to-face or over a corded phone. Dating meant just that, and “online dating…” Geez, that sure didn’t mean you turned on your computer. I have no clue how that term would have translated back before 2000.

I had obtained an old, used, Win95 machine, complete with monitor, keyboard, speakers, etc. I got a printer, too, but also, I had my old printer and another one. I remember I traded them back and forth and the paper went flying all over my office space in the back corner of my fifth floor apartment.

Oh, the luxury….

Joe thought I was absolutely nuts. He had no clue why I wanted a computer. Same with my mom, but I insisted. I told my mom that having a computer was gonna change my life. I had to put up with my mom kinda embarrassing me cuz we had to go to a bunch of stores trying to buy the setup. I remember rushing her out of one store, quickly telling her, “I don’t like the looks of this place,” just because I sensed that an awkward situation was headed our way. The salesman seemed…I dunno. Like he was determined to sell me something, determined to make my mom spend lots and lots of money not really caring if he was selling quality equipment or not, and I would end up feeling embarrassed, ripped off, and sorry for my mom. Who knows what I’d end up with, too.

We found a hole-in-the-wall place but the salesguy seemed more honest. Not that this meant I’d end up with “better” equipment or a “better” deal, but…this was an easier and less awkward situation seeing as I had to deal with this via my mom. Unlike the other guy, he wasn’t determined to sell me something just so he could squeeze money out of my mom. At the time, my computer knowledge was so limited!

You gotta realize that I had no idea what “online” meant. I had never before seen e-mail. I didn’t know what e-mail was. I had never seen the screen of “online.” I had hardly ever before seen a color computer screen! I had had lots of computer experience(for a girl) but this was in old programs and the computers were monochrome. A full-color screen? Wow! And even sound to go with it and it is used with this new thing, a mouse. How can that be, and how would I ever, ever learn to use that darned mouse? Aren’t they flimsy, too flimsy to really work? Naw, that technology would never, ever catch on. Those mice will go out of style in a few years, won’t they? They’re so cheap-looking!

So I was there with my mom. My mom is even shorter than me. She used to embarrass me ALL the time…Well, what’ya expect? I’m her daughter. When I was a teen, I was always embarrassed anyway cuz that’s the nature of being a teenage daughter. We look alike and do you know how it feels to have so many people say, “You look just like your mother!” all your life? When I was overweight, they’d say how much better shape she was in….Wow, I remember when complete strangers said that and I felt like smacking them! I lost tons and tons of weight and ended up with anorexia. That happened a bunch of times in my life. I went out with my mother and got this line, “You two must be sisters!” Oh geez. Or, “The mother looks younger.” Lovely comments from complete strangers and they don’t even know how hurtful it is. I hated going to restaurants…The waitresses invariably came up with the worst insults. Or they’d say my mom was a “cute little old lady,” which I felt was terribly patronizing to her.

I wouldn’t have gone to the computer stores with her…except she insisted….and I needed that “check.” After that whole embarrassment, I tried to avoid the “mom in stores” deal cuz it was too, too embarrassing and it made me look, well…dependent. I wasn’t, except for the darned money. In fact, she’d often come up with some remark about, “Did you take your meds today?” right in public, not even realizing people could hear. I was determined to get this embarrassment to stop because I wanted privacy, discretion, and independence. I was 39 years old and I sure didn’t want to be Miss Tag Along. Not to anyone.

Life has changed. I’m not a dependent mental patient anymore. I’m much, much happier, too. Oh, I suppose there is Miss Tag Along. Puzzle.

Anyway, finally, I got that computer home. And it was mine. I turned it on. Back in those days you could sign up for AOL within minutes cuz everyone was being sent trial disks in the mail….either CD’s or little floppies. I had a bunch.

“You’ve got mail!” I did. This was December, 1997. My life was about to change. I was about to have new friends. A lot, lot, lot of new friends. I was about to learn some valuable lessons, too.

#1. I had wanted to kill myself, but I don’t have to now. I don’t want to anymore.

#2. I am capable of being a friend and having relationships. The doctors were wrong all along.

#3. I am a good person. I am capable of communicating with others. The doctors were so, so wrong.

#4. There are billions of people on the planet, not just people in my town. I can communicate with them using my computer.

#5. Writing is a useful skill and I have exceptional talent in it. The doctors were wrong when they said I had no talent and no ability.

#6. I needed to be careful, too. I should never assume that “online” is the same as “in person,” nor should anyone assume this about me. You can get hurt with online relationships and people aren’t who they say they are most of the time.

Over the years, I’ve had to remind myself many times of all the above. Of course, computers and now, social media has caught on. I started my website in 2002 and then my blog in 2005.

I’ve learned that a person has an “online presence” and NO ONE SHOULD JUDGE a person by their “online presence.” This is a huge mistake. I’ve lost many friends who compare what I say in my blog to what I say over the phone, and they defriend, because they cannot fathom the inconsistency.

Have you ever heard of “stage presence”? Or persona? That’s right. Persona is that mask. We all wear it when we get online. Your handle.

Is there anything wrong with having a persona? No. You HAVE to have a mask. It’s not lying, nor dishonesty…Writers HAVE to have a mask when they write, or genre they use, or voice…per se. You aren’t naked up there on stage.

One day, still in 1997, a person online told me that online people are NOT my friends and that I shouldn’t trust online friends. That they weren’t real.

Was this true? I wondered about this. No, this wasn’t meant literally, and I didn’t take it as such. However, another thing had happened….And it was, indeed, real. Something that changed me.

I was still suicidal when it happened. I had gone through a rather rough time I’d say. I’d gotten away from McLean thank god, but I was rather shaken over it all.

To summarize, McLean Hospital had done a number on me. I’d been there as inpatient and also at a place there that’s been torn down now, called Hall Mercer, one of their “budget” Medicare programs. It was one of the worst places I’ve ever been, or had been so far, and I have been to worse places since. They had no clue what they were doing there, and they had no clue what to do with me! “Listening” was the last thing anyone knew how to do there, trust me!

I remember…wow, it was bad…So-called “care” is getting worse and worse for low income people. McLean does well for patients who have money but patients who don’t get the dungeon. Anyway, the shock doc got shock happy there. I was screwed up from the shock, couldn’t think straight for a long time. They made it ten times worse for me over there and it was a blessing to get the hell out. They didn’t acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, I was a person inside. Someone worthwhile.

As far as “diagnosis….” Get this: I was trying to tell them something was wrong, so they sent me to John Gunderson. Don’t ever go to that creep. No matter what’s wrong, anyone who shows up in his presence will get nailed with Borderline. Anyone. I’ve learned this over the years from other people who have gone to him. He has far, far too much power.

For the next year, I got stuck in bogus treatment. McLean refused to listen. They insisted that any “symptoms” I reported were faked, including my eating disorder. I know it’s possible to lie about eating habits, or to stuff a pillow under your clothes like most mall Santas, but how can a person fake that they are drastically underweight? There was no photoshop back in those days! They insisted I was “faking psychosis,” which constituted BPD. But no, I was trying to tell them I couldn’t put my thoughts together and I had no clue why, and would they please help me. My requests that they quit misinterpreting came across as “neediness,” so again, the misdiagnosis of BPD was reiterated, over and over. No wonder I became suicidal…of course, more fuel for “their” fire…I was slated for the state hospital but they couldn’t get the paperwork through fast enough so I was booted out. Guess they didn’t want me dead, either. It was a blessing.

I was at home one day…or night. I met a young teen and I was messaging with her. She said she wanted to kill herself. She told me why. I told her I had wanted to do the same thing myself…but then I didn’t do it. I told her when I was a teen, particularly sixteen years old, I wanted to kill myself…but held off. We messaged for quite a while. I didn’t tell her to “Go to a hospital.” The thought didn’t cross my mind. Why a fucking hospital? How would that solve anything? Being a FRIEND would do a lot of good for this kid, so I did just that.

After that, I felt good. The doctors had told me how useless I was, how stupid I was, how incapable I was, how I’d never make it in life. They’d told me I wasn’t capable of human relationships or of communicating. But who was it that wasn’t listening at all? People like Gunderson, sure. He was diagnosis happy and had caused a LOT of trouble for me, had he not? I could have died at McLean.

I heard from the girl every now and then after that. She seemed like she’d gotten over the hump. I felt like I myself had gotten over a rather large hurdle. I didn’t have to believe what was said about me all the time. I could believe in my own truth.

I’ve learned that there’s such thing as dishonesty and fake friends, too. You do indeed have to be careful online. You have to be careful in person, too. People do fake that they like you. There are folks that will lead you on, and that’s part of life. There are all sorts of people on this planet, and they all have motives. Be picky and choosy.

A person changes and you cannot assume that the way they were a year ago is the way they are today. Or that if they are in a good mood or a bad mood one day, they are that way every day. Same with online presence. You cannot assume that their online presence is anything like what it’s like when you speak to them in person.

I really hate when people throw diagnoses at me based on my online persona, which is all they ever see of me. That’s the same as diagnosing an actor based on the character he portrays. Get real.

Night staff on a psych ward, I am called “delusional” for saying this, but it’s true

North Belknap 1.  McLean Hospital, 2011, I was there, January 2 for three weeks. I’m pretty sure it was floor 1, but it might have been 2.

So anyway…night staff.  Common joke. This is the story. Every night, I guess around 10:30 or 11 the night staff would come in. One lady night staff brought pillows and blankets. Now here’s what she did. She had to sit in the hall and watch patients. So this is how she did it. She’d line up two of the most cozy chairs so that she could make them into a makeshift bed. Then, she placed the pillows on one side of what was now a bed. Right as soon as the patients were all safely into bed, she herself would lie down and sleep.

She’d be asleep for the entire shift. If I awoke in the night, I’d slip past her to get to the bathroom, careful not to wake her.  Usually, she didn’t stir.  She looked rather comfortable. Sometimes, a bedtime book would be face-down by her bed. Ah, the life. All she needed was a teddy bear.

Okay, so this was well-known among patients, cuz I wasn’t the only one who occasionally had to get up in the night to pee, or got up in the night for any reason and might have seen this woman sleeping there all night.

This was an inpatient unit, not a residence, where patient were assumed to be “acutely ill,” on new medications or possibly having bad reactions to drugs or confused or disoriented and maybe needed watching or maybe “dangerous” and that’s why, they claimed, they had us locked in there. So by all means this lady had been hired to stay awake all night and do some work, right?  She was earning a paycheck. I sure would like to get paid to sleep. Actually, to sleep sounds like big luxury to me, and the paycheck on top of it? Bet she even got a vacation, too.

So after I got out I mentioned to my psychiatrist that the night staff slept on the job at McLean. Guess what? My psychiatrist said, “Julie, that’s a paranoid statement.” Can you believe that? I think my doctor wasn’t listening to me. Assuming the patient is wrong…no matter what.  Why did she not listen to me?  Of course I wasn’t paranoid. This was true. This lady did sleep on the job every night and I am not delusional about this.

What if the patient isn’t delusional and doctors continue to assume the patient is psychotic, and continue to treat the patient in a demeaning manner the way I’ve been treated for years? Can you see how this erodes the relationship and completely demolishes a person’s soul?

I hate what mental health care did to me. Yes, I do blame them a whole lot.  I want justice, or at least an apology.

more about my 2011 stay at McLean

The social worker was lazy. For the first week, she put me off entirely. The next week, she continued to put me off, so finally I kept on asking her if at least she’d made some effort to contact my outside providers, which apparently was what they were supposed to be doing.  My abusive therapist was frustrated that she hadn’t received a call from this social worker. The social worker said she’d left a voicemail and finally said to me, “Is voicemail acceptable?”  By then, two weeks had passed. I asked the social worker if she was ever going to have an actual conversation with any of my outside providers and she told me that this was asking too much of her. I concluded that maybe she didn’t want to do any work.  I wondered why she never took her jacket off and never stayed in the room with me more than 15 seconds. Did she do any work at all?

The hands on staff spent most of their time playing with these gadgets they had.  It was their job to sit in the hall and “watch” patients.  However, they were rather interested in their gadgets, so they played with these nonstop and barely paid attention to the patients at all. I think these were ipods, but I’m not sure. Often, they’d even have their earphones in, that is, those tiny buds that go right into ears. I must say, there were a couple of staff, very few though, a tiny minority, that were rather nice.  Rather compassionate and caring. Know what happens to them? Burnout. Or so I hear. Because they take up the slack for those that don’t work.

One of the patients saw what was happening. Just about all the staff not doing anything at all, not caring at all. So she decided that since one of her previous jobs had been working with troubled kids, she’d do some work herself! She started helping out the patients and listening. Giving what’s known as “advice.” Well, her advice wasn’t bad advice. It came from experience and knowledge, of course. However, she was told to immediately stop what she was doing. Of course. Why?

It made the staff look bad, for one thing. It made it very, very obvious that she was only doing it because of the gross lacking, the gross need for someone, anyone to listen to these patients that desperately needed someone to listen to them. It was a moral dilemma for this patient. To act or not act.  I could see this and I had no clue what to say.

So anyway, the food was…not food. Common joke. The worst. Inedible. You couldn’t stomach it. The staff would talk about how bad it was even and they wondered how the patients could eat it. Some food got sent straight back to the kitchen.

We did get “staples,” that is, food that we could just grab for ourselves that they’d put out for us. This got grabbed up fast. One weekend, a patient got a visitor to take home a whole bunch of staples and supplies, among these, a whole bunch of food.

Guess what? I seriously suspect who it was, to this day. I mean, the actual patient.  However, I ain’t talking. People steal for a reason. We lived through it. We were pissed, however, the staff managed to restock the place. I think McLean lost a bunch of pillows, sheets, god knows how many tampons, towels, all kinds of soap, personal supplies, and maybe drugs.  If the patient and various visitors could have taken a mattress off a bed, they would have done so.

Upon my arrival I was told that this sort of thing tended to happen now and then and to watch my own stuff carefully.  I did.

After I left, I was in worse shape than before I had come.  I think it was the drugs they gave me that did it, but since I’d asked for them, no way was I going to admit to this. It was a dilemma.

I got off the drugs that caused what was happening to me and then was far better off.  However, this all took months before I realized my own error. By then, I was far thinner, and no one even listened. They were more interested in shutting me up.


I was a “guinea pig” for a mock psychiatry board exam in 1997

I really should put this one in my next book.

The year: 1997. All us mental patients were offered $10 so that we could be “interviewed” by budding young shrinks about to take their board exams. This was their practice run.  Guess what they were practicing doing?

Diagnosing. That’s right, folks, they were practicing doing GUESSWORK.

For about 20 minutes, the student shrink would sit there and converse with each of us individually, a one-to-one interview, and then decide what our “diagnosis” was, while other hotshot shrinks watched the whole proceedings via camera. The nervous student shrink, or resident I should say, would hope he or she did well and GUESSED correctly.

In other words, “What’s my line?” Remember that TV game show?  Some dude would come on and others would ask questions.  It all about guessing the person’s job, or occupation.

“Depression.”  “Bipolar.” “Schiz.” What’s my line?  Oh, I can laugh now.

I wanted that $10. It was going to be cash, too.  This was going to be a laugh and a half. They didn’t know a writer was in their midst.

All I know was that this was 1997. I’d had shock treatments in 1996, far too many, and spent the next year recovering from them. There didn’t seem to be permanent brain injury, however, what happened was that I was repeatedly told I was “mentally sick” and there wasn’t any acknowledgement of the temporary damage caused by the “treatments.” I’m relieved that I’m okay from all that now. The trauma of the repeated insults  and neglect by mental health professionals during those two years was probably even more damaging and long-lasting than the shock treatments.

So they had some multiple “diagnoses” pinned on me.  These diagnoses mysteriously disappeared after I walked away from McLean a few months later, interestingly enough.

So the resident interviewed me.  Was there a scientific test? X-rays?  A blood test? Even ink blots?  Nope. He “talked” to me. Asked questions. This wasn’t even a neuro test, cuz he wasn’t a neurologist.

I ran into the guy maybe a month later.  He was a pleasant and polite guy. He told me he hadn’t done well on the mock test, but that I was certainly a likeable person, and he enjoyed my sense of humor.

So there.  I certainly felt sorry for him.  And I do now. I believe he passed the boards just fine.