Sunday, August 15, 2010

Was the Inquisition still alive in some twisted way behind the locked doors of a psych ward?

Now I shall attempt to recall the experience in the psych ward in preparation for writing my memoirs. I will just use letters for the names of some of the people involved. That is one reason I stopped posting my memoirs in my blog. I decided such events tied to the University and the Salt Lake County psych ward needed to be carefully handled. This is not a Kafka like novel, it was real life, so I feel the need to be cautious even though many years have passed and I have waited until a lot of people died before I started my memoirs with any real intent to get them out to the public.
Why do I call up the Inquisition in reference to what torture I underwent in that psych ward? Because Utah was dominated by the Mormon Church, and I think when any church dominates in a state there is danger of all the citizens being affected, even those who are not Mormon, by the suppression of doubt and the pressure to accept doctrine that might have only elements of truth in it. That means many members may have experienced what might be called brain washing in a cult, a cult having questionable doctrine and beliefs that have caused tremendous reaction and been very difficult to stamp out, polygamy being that doctrine.
Polygamy had been outlawed but the mindset of the prophet who started it as a result of a revelation he had from God was still intact. All the rest of his doctrine had been retained with hardly any alteration.
A Mormon Psychiatrist put me under guard after approximately a minute or so interview at the University and I was remanded to the psych ward.
I did not sleep at all despite sleeping pills given me. My agitation blasted right through those. I was virtually wide awake for five days until the following happened.
But first let me describe how my parents acted when they finally arrived in Salt Lake on the third day. They blasted into my room of course demanding an explanation from me as to what had happened and what part I had played in this shockingly disturbing drama. I could see from their faces that explanations would be impossible, they were never going to understand this. I had to keep my energy for my encounters with the psychiatrists who were still apparently determined to keep me until the usual torture of electric shock therapy had been applied.
Only I was getting sicker by the moment. I had already told the new intern who was now in charge of my case that something was wrong with me and that I should not have electric shock therapy. I explained as well as I could that I had been nearly downed with a terrible case of fatigue. I could hardly drag myself out of bed in the morning. This was during the summer I turned 12. I said it was so bad I thought I must have something like leukemia or rheumatic fever. I thought it was connected to a virus I had, but I would never have gotten the virus I explained since I was the only kid in town who came down with it, if I had not been inordinately stressed for years. He said that he could not make that decision, that he would secure an appointment with the head psychiatrist in charge of my case, who was also head of psychiatry in the University Medical school. He said that most patients were given electric shock so I should probably prepare for some treatments before I was released.
I said I wouldn't sign for it. He said oh my signature was not required, my parents could sign for me. I had a sinking feeling. I knew my parents would sign that paper, no question about it, especially since I turned my face to the wall and would not say one word to them.
My mother made a move as though she would just come over there and slap the shit out of me to get me to talk. My dad stopped her. Neither one of them had ever seen me refuse to talk to them before so he had the good sense to realize that maybe it was because I could not. He ushered my mother out of the room.
The Intern secured an appointment for me with Dr. B the 4th day and he pointed to a clock on his desk and said I had 20 minutes. I told him about the virus and said that I did not think I should have electric shock. He asked me what I wanted then. I said I just wanted to be released. I privately thought that this was just a place where you got electric shock treatments, nothing else, so I wouldn't feel safe until I got out of there. One woman had already told me she had had 200 electric shock treatments! 200??? Well, she was back in there so they must not have done the job.
The doctor indicated to me that the 20 minutes were up. He did not give the Intern any word that day. By 11 AM the next day Dr. B. still had not gotten around to sentencing me. I decided I would try to get my glasses from the attendant since I could only see dimly without them, being very near sighted. The attendant said that Dr. B had not released my glasses. I sat back down in the day room and felt this sodden rage taking hold of me. I was just so outraged I decided that I would not be able to take a deeper breath until some good news broke. So far it had all been bad, except the Intern entering my life, but he was powerless to prescribe for me. Only Dr. B could do that.
I soon began to realize that I was freezing up. This was a result of not taking a deeper breath, but I could not take a deeper breath I was too angry. Soon the fact that I had frozen up caught the attention of the attendant. He called for assistance and two of them dragged me to my room and laid me down. In the meantime a kindly voice began a dialogue with me who seemed to be kind of an expert in the dying process. The voice said that I had better keep control of what happened to me rather than give the control back to them, as I might be able to come back from this with less damage.
I interpreted this to mean that I would just have to keep my resolve not to take a deeper breath until I was sure I would be released. This seemed to be the goal, only I was obviously dying, and this was going to take quite a long time.
I found out later the Intern was called and I guess took his orders from Dr. B who was called and I believe pronounced my behavior to be a catatonic seizure and I guess they were instructed just to leave me alone and I would eventually come out of it. It is my understanding that he never saw me. So I proceeded to die the rest of the afternoon.
That shows me, I think, to be a person of extremely strong will, but I was extremely mad is all I can say. Or angry if you prefer. After two hours of just sitting by my bedside, a nurse told me later, the Intern left. He seemed to be the only one who was very agitated about the situation. Nurses would come in from time to time and lift up my eyelids and say something to the effect that I had been like that all afternoon. None of them seemed alarmed. I gradually went blind I remember. After about 4 hours of this even I was surprised when involuntary spasms and loud sounds came out of my throat that brought a few nurses running. They said things like, "Are you having a nightmare?" Right while they were saying this, I stopped breathing altogether. They did not notice and left the room.
Obviously I knew I was just about a hairs breadth away from death. I could feel my heart straining, near to bursting and then suddenly it was all over. The strength of my rage just left me. And I also must have figured somewhere inside my fevered mind that now they would not dare shock me or they'd kill me for sure. Only you could never tell. I would not have been surprised if Dr. B still said that I would be getting a round just to make sure my sanity was cleared up.
Only the Intern was there, what was to be done with him? It seemed that he was an outsider, not Utah born, not Mormon, and he seemed to be cracking up, too, over all this, even though he was 30 years old and a veteran of World War II. He seemed overjoyed when he came into my room and saw me still alive. He said that he had reported to Dr. B about my condition and that he also told him that he had fallen in love with me and wondered if he should be taken off the case since he had become emotionally involved. Dr. B must have been startled and told him to just keep on talking to me, as I had refused to talk to everybody else, so he was still the best one for my case. Dr. B was still not sure what he was going to do with me. The Intern acted like he wondered, too, if he was still going to electric shock me.
As for me, after I talked to him I went back to my room and started thinking that I loved him, too, but remembered he was a married man so I promptly tried to drive those thoughts out of my head for fear I might commit a mortal sin.
Almost immediately, all feeling left my body right down to my bones and teeth. I knew I was as close to a corpse as I would ever be and still have some life left in me. I immediately reversed my negative thoughts about the Intern and welcomed back the love I had for him. Good Lord, if it wasn't for him, I would probably be deader than a doornail. I could not help but love him. And what is more I could see that I wasn't going to be able to live without the love we had for each other. It was far more healing to me than electric shock would have been I can tell you that.
I knew for sure he was my savior when he came walking very fast toward me later in the afternoon carrying a piece of paper. He said Dr. B will sign your release papers if you will sign this paper. It was a paper saying I had voluntarily committed myself to the mental hospital. I said, that's a big lie! The poor Intern looked at me like, if you don't sign this, you are done for. So I took the paper and signed it. He was so happy. He came back shortly and said that I would have to stay ten more days to make sure I was okay and then I would be released to go home.
I cheered up considerably once I knew I did not have shock treatment hanging over my head.
I talked to the Intern as often as he could get the time during the next ten days. When my mother and dad came to pick me up, he was there to release me to them. He asked me if I would please come back to Salt Lake in a couple of months before he left for his residency in California, so he could make sure I was all right.
When I came back two months later the Intern as soon as he got alone with me on my appointment, gave me a kiss. And that was it. I knew that was going to be the end of our physical contact, but when I went to leave, since it was around 9 pm at night, he asked me how far away I lived. I said 20 blocks. Impulsively he said, let me walk you home. We walked through the snow, and when we got within three blocks he stopped me and picked me up and carried me the rest of the way to my Grandparents' house where I was staying. He gave me another small kiss on the lips and was gone. I thought he was saying by carrying me he knew I was still very fragile.
He was the sanest man I had ever met. I had read about such men in books, but never met one. My memory of him would carry me a long ways further into my difficult life.


Amrita said...

Really sad to read this. Why are helpless people treated loke that.

Today we are celebrating the 64th year of our Independence said...

This blog brought tears. You were in a terrible emotional state. A loving intern gave you life. I'm very glad he did..or you wouldn't be here now.

Herrad said...

Hi Gerry,
A moving post thanks for sharing.
You are an amazing brave woman.


Blog Archive