DBHC Journal: Intake

On August 26, 2014  I voluntarily went to Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA to seek treatment for my illness of Bipolar Disorder, which at the time was not being treated clinically.   It soon became clear to me that the treatment I was receiving and would receive would not be appropriate, or perhaps not be all together legal.   I asked for writing paper, and was given  blank printer paper and a soft “bendy” pencil that would write faintly.   Over my 2 and a half day stay at DBHC, I wrote about 42 pages of handwritten prose.   This is the first excerpt from this journal.


 

This is what it is like for a mentally ill person seeking to return to treatment.  The beginning of the intake process was me surrendering my personal property, leaving me with a percentage of the clothes on my back.  I had to remove my wristwatch, my shoes, my belt, and two pins.   I was then subjected to a pat-down that I never gave verbal consent for, where my wallet and cell-phone  were confiscated, then I was left for what seemed a long period in a bare room with no stimulus.

Between the brief visits from nurses, I am left to my own devices — which amounts to the clothing I was allowed to keep and the pieces of furniture, three of which make up a small couch.  I have rearranged the room twice so far.

I am told I will be taken to the ER for a health evaluation before a decision as to whether or not to admit me to is to be made.  I suspect a the decision has been made, and it will be after I am returned here from the ER that I will be told of it.

A nurse came back in with the questions to determine if I am alert and orientated.  Before this I was informed that they are placing me in a 5150 hold.  So I will get help.  The bad news is that it is after 6:00 PM at this point; the 72 hour observation period will end after court has gone home for the weekend.  So discharge will be Monday earliest.

There is no way to communicate this to my loved ones at home, or my best friend who brought me here.  I imagine they are more concerned than I am at this point.

The questions I have so far been asked have been for the purpose of filling out fixed forms, which contribute to a decision-making matrix taking into account essentially minimums of legal liability.  I have been here at least two hours (though I cannot be sure, as I have no access to anything to measure the passage of time) and have had no opportunity to disclose my long-established diagnosis of Bipolar I and the period I have been without treatment.

I have just been informed that I am not allowed to walk to the ambulance that will transport me to the ER, but that I have to “sit on the gurney.”  I bet dollars to donuts I am about to be restrained.

Currently waiting in a room manned by more uniformed law-enforcement types than medical personnel.  I was restrained — but more seatbelts than straps to keep me from being dangerous.  You win HALF a donut.  I got here at a shift-change  — that and Tenet’s [The corporation that owns the facility and contacts with the county to provide care] practice of understaffing,  to the point of illegality means I will be here a while.

More clothes have been taken from me, and a tie-in-the-back gown given in trade.  Of what I dressed in today, all that remains are my socks, boxer-briefs, eyeglasses, and a hair tie.  Who wants to wager that my hair tie will be the next thing  surrendered  on my return to the psychiatric hospital?

I had to give a urine sample. When directed to leave it on a counter by the sink, I say that there is a second sample there, and both are unlabeled. I am assured that they can tell them apart.  When someone else asked, “who’s urine?”  a voice called out that the light one is his, and the dark one is hers (the donor of the dark urine arrived in handcuffs escorted by a sheriff’s deputy).

A quick examination by a doctor, I tell him matter of factly of my long-standing diagnosis, my period without treatment, and that I am in crisis.

I have obtained a new piece of clothing — and ID band. On it are four copies of the same QR code.  When I get my phone back, I will see what Google Goggles has to make of them.

I am medically cleared to return to the mental hospital, but am not allowed to do so in my own clothes.  So, an ambulance has been called.

The donor of the dark urine has begun to yell; it is addressed by one person in scrubs and three in blue security uniforms, with a fourth standing back holding leather restraints.  I mean, I can’t blame them, but the entire experience has been demonstrating that the mentally ill are treated more like criminals than patients.  They drew a curtain, but it sounds like bodies piling on her and replacing her steel handcuffs with the burgundy leather straps.  I can see to my left a bin overflowing with the things and covering the surface of the cart on which the bin rests.

Before they exited  from behind the curtain, I heard not-quite suppressed chuckling, then first security guard walking by me with a smile.  The two uniformed security guards are still laughing about something, but their conversation is too hushed to know what.

My personal effects are here in a locked cabinet that I saw one of the pseudo-cops open.  I think it would probably be futile to ask for access to them.  It is locked by a push button combination lock; the combination starts at the top and works its way down the single row of five buttons.  I think I could probably open it in 3 tries or less.

I asked about access to my personal effects and, as expected, was denied.   I asked if it was because I am under a 5150 or if it is policy for all patients. I was told that it was I am ‘a 5150.’  I asked then if I could make a phone call, and was told by the security guard that it was up to the nurse, who as if on cue, stood up and walked out of the room.

Currently I am one of three patients in this room, and the only hospital staff is the smiling security guy, hand on mouse, staring intently into a monitor. He took a small break to take out his Maglite, examine it, and re-holster it. I spent a year in my youth as a Police Cadet, and know the many off-manual uses of a Maglite.  In a well-lit hospital with back-up generators, any uses Smiley has for that piece of gear does not require charged batteries (dead ones would be of use as added mass).

I can hear my phone, in my satchel, in the locked cupboard, occasionally alert me to a Facebook IM.  It was also logged into Second Life when it was confiscated, as I was letting people who I mainly have contact with through that virtual world know what was happening.  I can only wonder what they must be thinking as my avatar is standing alone and idle, doing and saying nothing.

It occurs to me that the release they had me sign that would allow my fiancee to  know I was admitted, my general state, and to visit me was presented to me with only her name filled out.  When I said that it was incomplete, the nurse insisted that it did not have to be filled out.  I filled out what I had memorized, and crossed out what I did not.  I signed the bottom and only then notice text that read something like “I have been offered a copy of this release” – it was taken from my hands before I could strike that out. Of course no offer was made.

It is getting later, I am getting hungrier, and still I wait in my argyle socks and tie-in-the-back hospital gown. My plan upon my return to the mental hospital, after I am given what effects I am allowed to have, is to get dressed in my own clothes, call my loved ones, and directly after that, my patient’s rights advocate.

A fourth patient has arrived, and the staff here acted amazed that he was not here under a hold.

I arrived at the mental hospital at 4:40 PM – I remember this because I had to put that on the first form I filled out.  That was three minutes shy of four hours ago according to the the clock on the wall.  A few hours before that, I had contemplated suicide by Googling the the overdose of Ambien (15 mg) and counting out eight 10 mg pills on the bathroom counter.  Before I went through with my plan, I Googled a suicide hotline (with the first resulting link being broken) and tearfully explained my state of mind, which lead to the series of events that lead me here – writing longhand twelve pages of my experiences so far with a bendy pencil  (bendy, I assume to prevent stabbing).   I have still not been offered any clinical help.

Due to the nature of my illness, I have been treated to a series of indignities as a prerequisite to receiving treatment.  I will be confined in a place that, if past experiences play out, will be like a combination of jail and kindergarten.

Upon return, I am deposited in the same featureless room with no stimulation.  The furniture is not as I left it.  I suspect it was searched while I was at the ER.  I was told by a security-type that some of my clothes will be brought to me.  I was not asked if I had any preference as to what the selection will be.

I packed my brown Jedi robe, both because I wear it when I feel too cold, like a hoodie, and it also comforts me emotionally, like a security blanket.  If they do not allow me to have or wear it, I will insist that it is a religious garment.

Over four and a half hours since I have arrived and have not been offered any psychiatric help of any kind.

I had a crying jag in the ambulance on the way here.  In a moment of brilliant insight, the woman in the back with me asked if I were an animal person. I am crying again about my dog, Sadie.  I rescued her recently, and tonight will be our first night apart in 26 days since I brought her home.

Those fucking pseudocops in the hall can see me weeping and I am left in this featureless room, alone, in crisis, with no means of contact with loved ones, not even the company of a stranger or the dignity of my own clothes, other than my nicest pair of socks and some clean boxer briefs.

Not only am I not being helped, much less cared for, I am being denied things that would be beneficial, like my robe, my family, or my dog.

I was wrong about being alone. There is a mosquito here and I sometimes have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites.

I have just come from the toilet.  I asked the the hallway guard if the lack of paper towels was an oversight, or intentional. It is intentional.  I dried my hands with toilet paper.

I have taken off, and folded as neatly as I can manage, the issued hospital gown. I will suffer the chill and immodesty of sitting here in drawers and socks for the sole reason that it is practically the only choice available to exercise what autonomy that currently remains with me.  I am entertaining the the thought of nudity as protest once I get on the ward.

When I was on this campus in 1987 [in 1987 it was the newly opened Modesto Psychiatric Center; by my stay in 2014 it had changed names and owners twice], it was some of the finest care I ever received.  I would say that so far, this is the worst care I have ever received, except that I have received  no care whatsoever.

It occurs to me that the first thing I wrote that was published in print was a letter written while I was here in 1987 to the letter column of the comic book Ultra Klutz, which in turn lead to my first short story being published in the letter column of a different issue.  I wonder what readership this journal will eventually find?

My clothes, the ones I walked in wearing about five hours ago, have been returned.  Well, shirt and slacks.  My tie, belt, shoes, watch, and pins, along with the rest of my property, are still confiscated and unavailable to me.

I decided to wander the halls to ask the first employees I could find to ask if mental health was exempt from the oath of Hippocrates.  The pseudocops who found me me had never  heard of the Hippocratic Oath, one claiming, “I just got here.”  I informed them that the first tenet is, “do no harm” and asked why for the first five hours I have been subjected to things detrimental to my mental health.  I asked to see a clinician, and was sent back to my featureless room with no stimulation.

Just-got-here popped his balding head in the doorway a few moments later to inform me that a nurse will be transferring me to a unit “soon” and I will be helped there.  Among my skills and past professions is computer programmer.  I know that the value of “soon” is never a small amount of time, but a value between three times longer than you expect and “never”.

I just finished editing the previous 20 hand-written pages (good writers are inspired, great writers edit) and I am still here, hungry, alone in this bare room.  “Soon” is not here yet, as its actually only been slightly over twice as long as expected.

I have started a new form of protest.  While trying to request food, phone, and new paper, I was ordered back in the room by another pseudocop.   I decided to stand in the room, but keep the door open.  Pseudocop ordered me to shut the door.  When I asked why, he insisted it was policy.  When I pressed for reasoning behind the policy, he refused (I suspect ignorance).  I then said I was choosing to break the rule. He then huffed off saying then he could not listen to my requests.  So I have again rearranged my furniture using a a section of that three-chair couch thing to prop open the door.


Coming next: On the unit.

Good writers are inspired, great writers edit, and excellent writers have their talented writer friend Amy Mayo help with the editing.

My upcoming day in court

Tomorrow, I have a court date.   I am not in trouble, but I am bringing a petition to have relief from a firearms prohibition.

Why do I have this prohibition? because I sought treatment for an illness.   The events that lead me to seek treatment at Doctor’s Behavioral Health  Center in Modesto, CA resulted in putting me under a 5150 hold — in short  someone determined that I was a danger to myself or others.

 

Under the Welfare and Institutions Code section 8103, after being placed in such a hold, I cannot so much as hold a firearm for five years.  However I do have the right under the same Code to petition to have relief from this prohibition.   While I can understand some cases where such a prohibition may be desired, it rankles when it is applied to me.    While I do not own any firearms, it is not within the realm of possibility that I may want to use one before the year 2020.   I passed the Wyoming Hunter’s Safety Course, being the only person in the class who scored 100% on the written test. I think Elk is one of the most delicious animals, and I cannot purchase elk steak at the S-Mart.  Deer Jerky is also very yummy.

 

When I was being discharged from DBHC, it was a flurry of forms, and a peevish nurse that was upset that I was taking the time to read what was put in front of me before signing — and refusing to sign if there was false statement on the form.   One of these forms was informing me of the prohibition I was now under, and having to surrender immediately any firearms I owned and had two boxes to check to either request a hearing for relief, or to waive my right to a hearing.

 

The box to waive my right to a hearing was helpfully pre-checked for me.

 

I modified the form,  but fearing that my modifications would be unclear — I copied the near-illegible url at the top of the form — it turns out incorrectly, but google is pretty smart and I found the form to petition to print out at home and mail to the Superior Court.   A copy of the original form somehow did not make it into the pile of papers and forms I was given at the end of my discharge.   So I printed out a new form, and wrote the following cover letter:

 

To whom it may concern:

Please find enclosed a request for hearing for relief from firearms prohibition. I was presented a form to sign during my August 28, 2014 discharge from Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center, 1501 Claus Road, Modesto, CA, that was filled out when presented stating I did not wish a hearing. I modified the form to request a hearing.

In my copies of discharge documents, a copy of this form was absent. Therefore, I am sending this form in the belief that the form I was presented during my discharge may be difficult to interpret, or not submitted at all. I apologize if this results in any duplicate paperwork or scheduling for the same case.

Sincerely,

L. Christopher Bird

 

That was sent September 1, 2014, and tomorrow, October 10th, I have my day in court.   But I would be lying if I said that it grates at me, that what is considered an fundamental right in the United States is contingent upon the health care options available to me for the treatment of mental illness.

 

My treatment at DBHC from the outset was more appropriate to a prisoner than a patient, and this is just a continuation of that.  Understand, I committed no crime , but because I was exhibiting the symptoms of an illness, I was subjected to a pat-down, the confiscation of my property, and   the removal of constitutionally guaranteed rights.

 

The good news, is that I think the law is on my side.  To wit:

 

 (6) The people shall bear the burden of showing by a preponderance
of the evidence that the person would not be likely to use firearms
in a safe and lawful manner.
   (7) If the court finds at the hearing set forth in paragraph (5)
that the people have not met their burden as set forth in paragraph
(6), the court shall order that the person shall not be subject to
the five-year prohibition in this section on the ownership, control,
receipt, possession, or purchase of firearms, and that person shall
comply with the procedure described in Chapter 2 (commencing with
Section 33850) of Division 11 of Title 4 of Part 6 of the Penal Code
for the return of any firearms. A copy of the order shall be
submitted to the Department of Justice. Upon receipt of the order,
the Department of Justice shall delete any reference to the
prohibition against firearms from the person's state mental health
firearms prohibition system information.
   (8) Where the district attorney declines or fails to go forward in
the hearing, the court shall order that the person shall not be
subject to the five-year prohibition required by this subdivision on
the ownership, control, receipt, possession, or purchase of firearms.
A copy of the order shall be submitted to the Department of Justice.
Upon receipt of the order, the Department of Justice shall, within
15 days, delete any reference to the prohibition against firearms
from the person's state mental health firearms prohibition system
information, and that person shall comply with the procedure
described in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 33850) of Division 11
of Title 4 of Part 6 of the Penal Code for the return of any
firearms.

TL;DR: The State has to make the case for the prohibition, and if the D.A. does not show up, I win by default.

Even so, I am nervous as all get out.

 

The importance of feeling sad

I think that the attitude of sadness being a thing to be avoided is misguided.

Gandalf’s last words on middle earth included, “Not all tears are an evil”. Gandalf understood the important, and transformative power of sorrow.

Sorrow does not have to be avoided at all costs.  The push in the society I live in to see any kind of sadness as unwanted (in ourselves or in others), has lead to a lack of emotional maturity and awareness.   To see being sad as a kind of failing that needs to be corrected, is a terrible attitude to have, in my humble opinion.

Emotional turmoil can be awful to feel sometimes, but when I cry, I feel alive.  I feel human.

I think that emotions are physiological communication to our bodies and minds.  In the Tolkien Mythology, Gandalf was the student of a powerful Vala by the name of Nienna, who’s power is described as that,”she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom.”

We should no sooner stop a person from exercising to gain strength of muscle, because it is difficult, that it may have pain.  Likewise, sorrow can be an emotional effort, which when we process it can leave us stronger, and wiser.

 


 

 

This ties into the stigma of the mentally ill, because those of us that have mood disorders, do feel sad,  and do so quite often.  What’s worse, is that outside observers can see no reason for us to feel so.   When one thinks that feeling sad is some kind of failing,  well feeling sad “for no good reason”  makes it absolutely unacceptable.

What we have here is in my opinion a societal ill, that affects the mentally ill more than most.

There is a lot of attention for those with cyclic mood disorders, such as my diagnosis of Bipolar I, on the highest highs, and lowest lows.  While those are the most dangerous moods, and when I am at those points in my cycle, I definitely need help and support (at times clinical)  the peak of mania, and the valley of depression, are just two stops on the cycle of my mood.   They don’t even make up the majority of my moods, they are however what gets the most attention.

The microprocessor was invented the year I was born.  My entire lifetime has seen us transition from the analog to the digital, and I see a lot of binary type thinking around me.  Even newscasters wanting to sum up a story as “is this good or bad?”   Thing is the world is not digital (as far as we know) and our brains certainly aren’t.  Things just are not always easily defined by two little boxes and “yes and no” questions.

I think we need to come back to embrace the noisy analog signal.  Am I happy or sad?  is it good or bad?  Well, its a mixture of both, and where one ends and the other begins ain’t exactly clear, and that’s fine by me.

 

 

Discipline is not Medicine

One of the things that I saw while under a 5150 Hold at Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto CA was how patients exhibiting symptoms of their illness were disciplined.

Mental Illness is a hell of a thing, folks.  The symptoms change our perceptions, and our thought processes, and … our behavior.

In  what was supposedly a clinical setting (in my experience an apt description of a mental hospital or ward is “a combination of kindergarten and jail”), patients were exhibiting symptoms of their illness, and it was treated as a disciplinary problem to be corrected, instead of a medical condition to be treated.

Now I understand that recognizing the difference can be difficult.  However if a Mental Health Professional cannot make this distinction, then that need to get A LOT BETTER REALLY FAST. Rikki-Tik!

An unsuccessful approach to ableism

While internet interactions may seem the most benign, they can also be the most public.  When  an online community has a policy against discrimination, yet gives ableism a pass, I think that policy is either flawed, or the moderation is.   Especially when the person stating that they are the object of discrimination is the one that is disciplined for “persistence”.   That is, the continued defense against fallacious, discriminatory assertions of instead of accepting the futility of changing a bigot’s mind.

The group in question is called Jedi church (the original)  the thread in question has already been altered, though by the participants or the moderators I do not know.

In my introduction in this blog  I relate the story of two decades past about an individual who said that they wish they were bipolar so that they “would not have to work.”  An interaction in this group was eerily similar.   A man by the name of Dave Jenson said the following:

As long as people can have an excuse for their behavior, as long as people can make a living by simply being mentally ill, as long as a living can be made helping the mentally ill. And as I had noticed that when mental illness drop in numbers, new illnesses are invented and old illnesses take longer than before to gain a handle on. As long as this persists their will always be mental illness, real or imagined.

 

Thinking that I might be perhaps misreading the situation, I asked that if the three points I was inferring from this statement was true, the three points being:

 

  • People wrongly use mental illness as an excuse for what Dave Jenson considers bad behavior.
  • People use claims of mental illness in order to receive income.
  • The Mental Health Profession is takes advantage of the first two points to justify a wage for those that work in the profession.

Instead of clarifying or correcting, Dave Jenson used further fallacious arguments and untrue statements of fact to support these initial claims, about how much money that Disability insurance is paid fraudulently so that fakers can “earn a living” and I used congressional testimony that his claimed number was over 51% or DI payments, which in turn makes it seem to me that Dave Jenson was inferring that if someone receives DI one is more likely than not to be a fraud.

Other assertions in this thread alone were:

From Talon Trevor MacDonald:

Emotion is natural, and necessary for most. Some get lost in Emotion, and cannot contain or control it. This is generally due to Mental Illness, but also in a few cases, It is on purpose.

This infers to me an assertion that lack of emotional control is generally only represented by 4.1 percent of the population in the United States (the percentage of Adults in the USA with Serious Mental Illness according to NIMH)

and Bae Ryder, a moderator had this gem:

There are only two reasons why a professional will use the DSM: 1- insurance purposes and 2: for personal information. The DSM is defective in more ways than one. I would not use that creditable source because no professional would. Just a suggestion.

You know, instead of using a diagnostic manual to CORRECTLY DIAGNOSE AN ILLNESS.

What makes it rich was from a post immediately following the above again from Bae Ryder:

With a topic like Mental Health, unless you are a professional sitting inside your office, don’t try to give someone advice on Facebook about it. It is dangerous and unethical not to mention, it can kill. Do everyone a favor and just don’t go there. The government is not a good source of information and neither is someone that does not have at least a masters in mental health or websites that have agendas.

This seems to imply that a person LIVING with mental illness is unqualified to speak on the matter due to a lack of formal schooling.  Which is rich coming from a person that just said that the DSM which is written by such is not fit to be used by the same professionals  to diagnose.

 


 

The silencing of those that advocate against the stigmatization of the mentally ill,  including those that self-advocate like myself, is itself a further stigmatization.   In the above groups  it was explained to me by two moderators (one of which I consider a friend) (again after I made no move to or expressed an interest in rejoining) in extended conversations about my banning, that the owner of the group “Paladin Carl” values harmony, and it was me voicing my objection to discrimination in a manner he finds unbecoming more onerous than the discrimination itself.  My friend Alethea Jolene Thompson, also a moderator  there, explained to me that it was my tenacity of trying to “win” that was unwelcome.

Rather than explain in detail my objections to these views, I recommend the following reading http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

 

Those named in this post are more than welcome to make their case in the comments, I give you my word, that I will not censor or silence, as I have been in the named facebook post.

For further reading on my thoughts of applied Jedi Philosophy see:  http://jedipath.org or my associated facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JediPath

 

 

The DBHC Journal: Excerpt.

While committed at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA as a survival mechanism I kept a handwritten journal which during my 2 and half day stay there ended up being 42 handwritten pages.  I shared the excerpt below on my Facebook wall shortly after I got home, my plan was to transcribe it in its entirety.   I put that project on hold when I decided to use a public-facing blog (and here you are, reading it!)   Once I finish with the “archival material”  my plan is to start posting sections from this journal.

 

This was during intake, after my clothes had been returned to me after my medical clearance at the ER — I was feeling desperate for help at this point, and quite angry I has not getting any — this is several hours into my experience there:


I decided to wander the halls to ask the first employees I could find to ask if mental health was exempt from the Oath of Hippocrates. The pseudocops who found me never heard of the Hippocratic Oath, one claiming, “I just got here.”

I informed them that the first tenet is, “Do no harm.” and asked why for the first five hours I have been subjected to things DETRIMENTAL to my mental health. I asked to see a clinician, and was sent back to my featureless room with no stimulus.

Just-Got-Here popped his balding head in the doorway a few moments later to inform me that a nurse will be transferring me to a unit “soon” and I will be helped there.

Among my skills, and past professions is computer programmer. I know the value “soon” is never a small amount of time, but rather, a value starting from 3 times longer than you expect, and as long as “never”.

 


 

As commentary on the above, the first “help” I got on the unit came 22 hours after I first arrived, with my first one on one meeting with my clinician.

Suicidal Does Not Mean Sad

A post from Facebook giving some context of what my mindset was during the August, 2014 Crisis

 

L. Christopher Bird
August 29

I want to address a topic that seems to keep coming up, when talking with my friends about the event of the past few days.

I was not suicidal because I was “sad” or even “depressed” it was an expression of an illness I suffer from, that had gone untreated for far too long (some of the responsibility for the lack of treatment falls squarely on my shoulders, SOME).

If anything, I was SUFFERING, and I sought and end to that suffering. One of the avenues that I could figure out while in the state I was in, was suicide, the other was gaining treatment.

Even though I was not quite rational, I WAS “working the problem” as is my practice. I did seriously and sincerely contemplate suicide, so much as researching a method, and taking steps to carry it out. Before doing so, I sought other alternatives — which including finding and calling a suicide/crisis hotline.

I knew even there, that gaining treatment was ONE path to mitigate my suffering, and suicide a way to end it — however it would also end many things I enjoy — but could not enjoy while my suffering persisted. One of the reasons I was placed in a 5150 hold, because when asked my intentions, I clearly stated that they were predicated on if I was able to receive treatment or not. If I could not receive help, then it was my sincere intention to come back home and continue with what I had researched.

I do not know if it had to come to such an extreme crisis for me to be able to receive care in a timely manner, but by my perception (which I admit may have been flawed) it seemed to be to me.

I am on the mend…

“I am ill, I am here for treatment.” “Great, hands on the wall, feet on the yellow line.”

imagesterryfrisk
This was the first account I wrote in detail of my experience at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA.  From August 28th.   I will let it speak for itself. 

L. Christopher Bird
August 28

A more detailed update, taken from my handwritten journal will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, now that I am home for the night, and can type on a full-size keyboard instead of on my phone.In brief, the intake process was damaging to me, it has introduced trauma that will take time to recover from, on top of the issues presented by my illness. In short, the first part of seeking treatment for my illness, was an injury.

The first staff I interfaced with after the receptionist was a security guard. The first procedure I was subjected to, was a feet on the yellow line, hands on the wall pat-down, described by the guards as “for our safety”. At this pat down, my wallet and cell-phone were confiscated.

I was then, a mere hours after contemplating, researching, and taken initial steps towards suicide, deposited in a featureless room, with no stimulus. I spent hours in this room, unattended. A couple hours before being sent to the ER and many more hours, after being medically cleared, and driven back in an ambulance, with the my requests to do so in my own clothes. At the ER I was put in a gown to be examined, and my clothes were kept from me for and after my return despite assurances they would be given back to me.

Kept in a featureless room for hours, with uniformed security guards in the hall, nearly all my autonomy taken from me, I exercised what I could. I took off, and folded neatly, the hospital gown I was issued, and sat in that featureless room in my underwear and socks — the only clothing I walked in with that I still possessed. Once I had done so, my shirt and pants were produced and brought to me.

While in that room, on more than one occasion I was weeping openly, with body racking sobs at my situation. At one point, I saw a security guard peer in the window in the door, snarl, and look away, disgusted, while I continued to weep, cold, alone, and unattended for hours.

There is much more, 45 pages of handwritten notes detailing them, but it will have to wait. Of my experiences, this was the most traumatic, but not the last of the continued humiliations, degradations, and dehumanizing practices I was exposed to, because I was an ill person seeking treatment.

More to come, true believers, but I need some rest.

Facebook Posts leading to the August 2014 crisis

I am copying some Facebook posts which will put the posts following some context.   In the previous post, I wrote about my medicine respite, and like any untreated illness, the situation was untenable.   These posts were leading up to me being hospitalized under a 5150 stay at Doctor’s Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, CA.

 


 

L. Christopher Bird
August 26 near Modesto, CA

I need someone to come get me and take me somewhere — anywhere. I do not want to be here, and I have no means to leave.Things are becoming untenable in my current situation.


L. Christopher Bird
August 26 near Modesto, CA

I am seriously considering ending my relationship, but also among what I am considering is just ending …. everything.

L. Christopher Bird
August 26

The last two posts were a classic, but sincere cry for help. Though I was triggered into contemplating suicide, I still have not allowed myself to indulge in my emotions, but have been working the problem, and putting in place a possible solution.After googling fatal doses for medication I have on hand, and ascertaining I probably had enough, I contemplated a bit and decided to see what other options there were I could seek help, and what the process was.

Julian Girouard Jr. is on his way to get me and take me to where I was directed to go. I suspect that soon I will be out of contact until Friday at the earliest (remember that it is better to seek help for suicidal intentions before Wednesday rolls around. ).

I feel angry towards some people that I love, but it is all tangled up as to what is justified, and what is delusion and pathology. I literally have to get my head straight to even contemplate repairing my relationships.


Julian Girouard Jr. posted to  L. Christopher Bird
August 27
A brief update:Last night (Tuesday, August 27, 2014, for you conventional-time keeping folks), I drove Christopher, per his request, to check himself in for a psychological evaluation. I went to visit him tonight, and long story short (although still longer than visiting hours), in spite of the many outrageous things he is enduring to get it, he is receiving treatment. I would not do justice to his story by trying to recount it here myself, and expect that you will hear it in his own words soon.

Right now, he is essentially cut off from the world except for visiting hours and limited access to a Neanderthal-style telephone. He has no access to the internet, his personal phone or to any contact information for his friends and loved ones. If you would like me to pass along your phone number to him, please send me a private message. Please bear in mind that I cannot guarantee that I will be able to get it to him, or that he will be able to call you once he has it. I cannot see any therapeutic value in the isolation and loneliness that has been suddenly thrust upon my dearest friend.

-Julian

— with L. Christopher Bird.


L. Christopher Bird
August 28

I have been discharged, and have a treatment plan in place. The path to get here was horrific. Although that sounds like hyperbole, it is not. Details to come later from about 45 pages of handwritten journaling of my experience.

As a preview, the booking process for my overnight stay in jail in Casper, Wyoming for a failure to appear over the matter of a traffic ticket (the failure to appear was in part due to a depressive episode) was MUCH more pleasant and less traumatizing and less dehumanizing than the intake process at Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, California.

Up Next:  Accounts of my hospitalization

Medicine Respites, personal illness, and societal ills.

This was originally a Facebook note from August 11, 2014

 

My recent note touched upon how I have not had any pharmacological treatment of my Mental Illness for quite some time.   This has come up here and there, and quite some time ago, I promised a post about my “medicine respite”.  This is it.

Originally, I went off my meds for a variety of reasons, many of which were to be honest based upon being impoverished.  Yes, I had MediCare part D, which made my medicine available for a small co-pay, but that was not nearly the only factor or cost in obtaining my medicine.

To get a prescription, I had to see a Psychiatrist.  These visits cost out of pocket $50 a piece.   Because I had no car, I had to take a bus.  To take the bus, I had to have a pass.

Also riding the Bus took an investment of a minimum of two hours of time, and usually up to three or three and a half hours.  The time was spent getting to the stops, waiting, the actual ride, and the same process on the way back.  More than once, I got stranded because when I got out of my appointment, the routes I needed either initially or during a transfer had stopped for the day before I was able to  avail myself of it.

Then there was the matter of actually picking up the medicine at the pharmacy.  While at times, I was able to get a ride, mostly I had to ride a bicycle for about 30-40 minutes through a high-crime neighborhood to get to the pharmacy, and then the same amount of time (actually a bit longer, as I would be more tired coming back) to get back to the squalid little room I was living in at the time.

So the process of getting a prescription took 7 hours minimum over two days at about a cost of about $65 or so.

Because of my Psychiatrist’s penchant for micro-managing my life, and my occasional non-compliance with my medication, she would have me come see her as often as once a week — writing me a one week prescription at a time (no refills).   So with an income of around $730 a month  about $260 was devoted to getting medicine.  Rent for my squalid little room was $400 a month.   And the time spent obtaining medicine, added up to over a week out of the entire month pretty much devoted to just obtaining my medicine.

It should be clear why this situation was untenable.  But this is only ONE of the points in the matrix that lead to the decision.

While there are others (such as what medicine was covered by my insurance, the efficacy of such, and the bureaucracy of obtaining it), the one worth mentioning is the actual intended effect of psychiatric medicine (side-effects aside).

There is no other way to put it, Mental Illness is a hell of a thing.  While the politically correct thing is to not identify a person AS their illness, the fact of the matter is, with (at least MY) mental illness, the symptoms are expressed as, well WHO I AM.  So any pharmacological treatment,  in essences, changes my mind.  It modifies my very personhood and identity.

While during the worst of my mood swings, this IS, believe it or not, actually the preferred path to take.  But it is a hell of a choice, and it is a hell of a COST.

I know many of you reading this care and love me.  But something to understand, Christopher ON psychiatric medication is for all intents and purposes a DIFFERENT PERSON than I am right now, off of them.  While this medicine, in part, is to help prevent suicide (and other dangerous behaviors) being on it, IS a kind of suicide.  The worst part of this, is that Meds-Christopher is AWARE of the change, and knows that the change is imposed on him.   I gotta tell you, when I am on meds, I do feel like, an emotionally stable (if the medicine is having the desired effect) COPY of the “real” (unstable) Christopher.  Many (but not all) times I feel like an inferior or “less than” copy.

So, let’s talk about imposition on the mentally ill.  Medication imposes a different mind upon my brain, that is one level.  Another level is that society imposes the medication on the mentally ill.

The usual reaction when someone (both friends and strangers) discovers I am mentally ill and not taking medication is “you NEED to be on your meds!”   It seems to be an acceptable reaction from when someone has a psychotic break in public,  to when someone even may just be casually annoying  to state that “wow they must be off their meds”.    I have even seen friends share posts from a Facebook post called “Mom is off her meds again” or similar.  To me, I find this societal attitude very, very hurtful.  The reason such attitudes hurt, is that such expressions imply that treatment in general, and psychiatric medicine in particular, is not to treat or address the suffering of the mentally ill, but as a mechanism of control so that the mentally ill do not inconvenience others.  In short, that if one is mentally ill, then their health decisions are not theirs to make autonomously, but something to be imposed upon them.

It should not matter in my opinion,  what other people think one should do about an illness, mental or otherwise. It is, like all medical decisions, that of the individual and their physician(s).

Being mentally ill, should not mean that one’s health decisions are up for public review, approval, or disapproval.  Unfortunately in the society in which I live, it in fact IS.  Not just by entitled individuals, but by the power of LAW. Let’s put it this way, the worst day to feel suicidal is a Wednesday.  In California a statute enshrined in the title of a Van Halen album, 5150,  REQUIRES that if an individual is “a danger to themselves or others” that they be hospitalized for a “72 hour observation”.   This happened to me on occasion, but one that stands out was in the mid 1990s.  Why?  It happened on a Wednesday, and that evening I was committed to a County Mental Health hospital. When one is committed under a 5150,  you actually have to sit before a Judge to be released.  In this case, I did not have to go to a courthouse,  the court came to me.  Court was held in a small room at the hospital.  “Court” here, not being a euphemism, but an actual legal hearing with a Judge in the room hearing it.  But here is the thing, I should have gotten my hearing after 72 hours — which put that mark, late Saturday evening.   They do not have Court on the weekends.

 

If you are suicidal on a Wednesday, you have AT MINIMUM a 5 day stay at a mental hospital ahead of you.  If your doctors or the Judge are not convinced you are well enough, your stay can be much longer.  But the point is, the choice is not that of the individual, at all.Now, I am not saying that involuntary treatment is never necessary.  While at times, it is the correct thing to do, it should be motivated by compassion for the individual, not by the fear from others.  I would like it to be understood, that it can really suck for the individual involuntary treatment is being imposed upon,  and if it IS indeed necessary, a RATIONAL reaction should not be expected (like at all) due to the nature of the illness, the reason for commitment.  When the inevitable irrational response is received, the individual (who figuratively and literally is not in control of the situation) should not be responded to with criticism, shame, or punishment.  Compassion tempered by empathy and understanding, in my opinion should be the guiding principle for these interactions.

L. Christopher Bird

The Craic House

Modesto, CA

August 11, 2014