Friday, September 09, 2005

the mental health system and being a caged animal

I was listening to something I tape recorded the other day. When I recorded it, I thought for sure I'd be dead within 24 hours, and this was to be the last message I left behind, for my family or whoever heard it. I realized listening to this, that I had some important things to say that are still in me now, which I'm not sure I've said here yet. So I'd like to write more here about some thoughts on being suicidal, on the mental health system, and human dignity.

What I've experienced in life is that when one is labeled with a mental illness, one is thereafter treated, firstly, like a mentally ill person. This becomes extremely detrimental when you are, say, sick, physically, and you go to a doctor's office or hospital, or you talk about the fact that you're sick physically with someone who ought to care. To be considered "psychocomatic" it to be told, not only do you have no chance of getting help with illness that is physically affecting you, but also, you're considered to be making it all up, and you have no credentials to discuss what is going on with your own body because your brain is disturbed.

Well, screw that. That entire phenomenon has led me to want to die more often than you might imagine, and the point is, I'm not the only person who feels like this. I'd like to let people know that you can indeed have a psychiatric illness and be very physically ill at the same time. Accordingly, a physical illness can also lead a person into deep depression, especially if it becomes debilitating and affects the person's entire life.

Writing this is difficult because I am so upset, so angry and so disgusted with the mental health system and with society at large for not recognizing this basic logic. I've come really close to death, and I want people who read this to understand that there are quite a few human beings out there who may be a bit confused, may even be psychotic, but may also know damn well what they're talking about when they say they are phsycially ill. And it wouldn't really hurt to simply believe them.

On the same token, I am quite upset about the way human beings who are legitimately sick with a psychiatric disease are "treated". You know where I live right now, I really have a life more akin to being a prisoner who commited some crimes to people other than my own self than a life that might be expected from someone in a "treatment" program. And what bothers me, more than anything, is that this is what I knew would happen if I did not go ahead and pull the trigger and blow my brains out like I almost did on May 20th of this year. I knew it, and I tape recorded my own self stating it, and I got caught before I could shoot myself after a few more events that day. I predicted before it happened something very like what has happened: long-term confinement, the vanishing of many civil rights I supposedly have as an American citizen, the labeling, the condescening, and down right rude and nasty attitudes, the people in charge treating me like an imbecile and infant, and the crappy overall conditions of where I am at.

The loss of freedoms, from the most basic freedoms like the right to go to the toilet without a staff person watching you do it, to the simple ones like the locks on all the doors, which you don't have key two but someone who knows nothing about your illness does have the keys being confined in "group homes", to losing your job, to losing your car, to losing your simply not right, is unfair, and does nothing to promote any healing or recovery from a mental illness. It does damage, and is not helpful.

Right now, I look perfectly normal. I'm typing on a library computer, and I am dressed and have on a little make up, and can conduct coversations on a multitude of subjects, and can type a decent 70 words per minute, and am a well-rounded, intelligent woman with opinions, hopes, dreams, other words I'm human. I resent being treated as something less than human, as someone who is defective, as someone who cannot be trusted with the basic handling of her own life, and as someone who is stupid, and as a child. I really resent it, I'm really tired of it, and what bothers me is that this is the way mental health systems are designed all over the U.S. This is the way I see people treated all the time. And this is somethnig that I have wanted, very much, to avoid being part of, even if the avoidance involved dying instead of seeking "help".

Since I didn't die, I'm here, treated this way, and I will be honest and say that every single day of these months I have thought of death and some part of me would much rather go out that way than continue living like this. I wanted to make that clear on a tape recorder, when I was sitting on the bathroom floor of my little studio apartment, with a bible, some candles, and a loaded .357 magnum back in May, on a very unfortunate day of my life; I also want to make that clear now, because these basic feelings have not changed inside me, because the girl who sat there with the gun may have been delusional about a number of other things but she was damn right about this.


  1. I’m not sure what to comment about with this expressive post that has some very deep undercurrents moving through each paragraph. The tape recording, the desire to be heard and believed, feelings, death, the struggles with treatment, confinement, loss of freedoms and liberties, resentments. Yes, you are intelligent, capable and thought provoking person who recognizes her own worth irrespective of external forces that weigh heavy open the thoughts and upon life experiences. I wish things were better for you now, I really do.

    Thinking about death is a very real topic to be discussing. Pain can be a quiet, silent little beast, with fangs, hungry, gloating and shredding teeth. Pain can also be in a burning mind that strikes like lightning to fire repeatedly till screams tire. What can I say? Your pain is real. What can I say? I want you to heal.

    Let not your pain be devouring, eating your meat, your freedom. Let not it merciless push you, make you run in sorrow, towards killing fields, ghost like arrows. Let there be no victory cheer today horrid war, as thoughts of escape reek havoc at the door. What can I say? The eyes read, my mind cannot comprehend the intensity of your struggle. No one would sell their eyes for a million dollars, how much more worth is the you behind the eyes. God cares about you.

  2. I can understand and sympathize with your frustration concerning the confinement and loss of freedoms. Since this will end some time in the future, what I would ask is how you think your treatment should be conducted so as to allow you to progress and take charge of your life again? Along those lines, what steps are you personally taking to help yourself so that at a future time you can rejoin the world and be content? These are the same questions I would be asking myself if I were in this situation.

    I worked awhile in a large mental institution as a psychiatric technician before becoming a teacher. I know that there are those workers who are callous and who depersonify the inmates. In spite of this I also saw some real improvement in the lives of some of the people I worked with. The ones who got back to some type of normal lives were the ones who dealt with their problems in therapy and worked through their issues honestly and sincerely. They did not let the environment limit their progress. Medication and therapy sessions help but the rest has to come from within oneself. May you find that strength and peace.

  3. I wish I could say somthing to help, but I feel like I'm falling apart piece by piece.. maybe one day we will both be able to be happy.


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