My Hospital Stays
“I think you’re doing this on purpose.”
The psychologist leaned towards me across the table as he half-whispered the words. I sat in the common area of the hospital ward, feeling all the hurt and anger those words evoked. It would be months, however, before I would identify his behavior as abusive and acknowledge those feelings.
I had been admitted to a mental health facility for the last time. This stay would be my longest and the most helpful to me. By this time, I had stayed in four other mental health facilities, beginning with my forced admission to the local clinic near my college. During these stays, I experienced a variety of living conditions and treatment.
Two of my more positive experiences were at hospitals in Illinois. I was treated more humanely at these facilities, although they still made many of the errors in treatment to which I was so frequently subjected.
One of the classic mistakes which hospitals made in treating me was prescribing too large of a dose of medication. As I discussed in an earlier post, I believe this mistake arose from a desire to rapidly intervene and to improve my condition. However, the doctors consistently failed to first ascertain how large of a dose would be effective in my individual case. I happen to be extremely chemically sensitive and unusually responsive to remarkably low doses of medication.
I also suffered abuse from staff at one of the hospitals where I stayed. I was completely incapable of caring for myself, even in matters of basic hygiene. The staff at this facility were forced to help me shower, etc. Instead of doing so respectfully, more than one staff member mocked or rebuked me for my inability to take care of myself.
Multiple staff members at this facility also expressed the belief that I was choosing to behave in a sick fashion. I am still uncertain whether they were encouraged in this belief by my parents or whether my case, for whatever reason, invited such a conclusion. Whatever the reason, the psychologist was not the only staff member who accused me of such malingering behavior.
My privacy and dignity were frequently disrespected during this particular stay. In general, I found staying in mental health facilities to be a dehumanizing experience. While I was completely incapable of behaving in a healthy manner, I had not lost any of my human thought and feeling. I felt all of the humiliation and hurt of the treatment I received at the hands of hospital staff, even though I seemed to be completely mentally incompetent.
How do you think that we as a society could work to affirm the humanity of those suffering from mental illness? Please feel free to share any knowledge or experiences you may have concerning today’s mental health system. Join in the conversation.