T.His story contained in this work takes place in the midst of a summer of turmoil. Later I heard that it was “uncomfortable”. The weeks leading up to the events of that July night were my worst, but nothing compared to the utter despair and chaos that followed.
Restraint: (noun) An action or condition for bringing someone or something under control.
I first received restraint training in 2004 when I started working in the service industry. Such interventions may be necessary to prevent self-harm or serious harm to others. I am very grateful because I rarely use my body in training. It was never taken lightly. I distinctly remember being very upset after such an event. When the situation was so dangerous that I had to reach out to someone for safety reasons. I also remember spending the next few hours and days reaching out to that person, trying to reassure them, care for them, repair the relationship, and re-establish their emotional safety. It never occurred to me that I would be restrained.
It seems that once you enter a mental hospital, all bets are off and the norms of your previous life cease to exist. It feels very strange to ‘change ground’ so to speak, and to suddenly be subjected to different kinds of constraints that were previously theoretical or some kind of abstract concept. Reading about environmental regulations sounds mostly harmless. Recognizing oneself trapped on a ‘voluntary’ basis is an entirely different experience. At times I was almost relieved, at other times I thought I would bulldoze through the wall and get out.
Chemical restraint sounds a little more threatening, but one might think of it as a nice, medicated, dazed state that allows for safe landing, softness, rest and recovery. However, the assumptions are not always correct and the selection is not always guaranteed. Voluntarily swallowing a sleep-promoting pill is very different from being forced to inject a compliance-promoting substance.
And finally, restraints in which movement is physically impeded are used as a last resort when the situation becomes so dangerous that other intervention becomes impossible. Getting things back under control probably sounds reasonable, but being held down by someone who seems to be losing control of themselves is an entirely different reality.
Six years ago, in the summer of 2017, I found myself having all three at the same time. Whatever the peak level of hysteria was before this “intervention”, it was just a taste of the agony and outright mayhem that followed in the night’s aftermath. Recalling the exact events of that night objectively and non-emotionally is difficult for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was the most traumatic and rekindling time of my life, the time I needed the most care and compassion.
I drove myself to the hospital. I was frustrated, suicidal, angry, distraught, traumatized, and frankly, upset. I wrote earlier that I tried to go off the meds earlier that year, and was doing relatively well until I suddenly stopped taking Seroquel. This rapid withdrawal coincided with a work situation that reminded me of my own early trauma that later triggered me to develop long-term cPTSD. I was in some kind of spiritual or healing crisis and at that stage I probably hadn’t slept for weeks. I was confused and somewhat paranoid. I succumbed to the fact that I was out of control, incredibly distressed, upset, needed help, and needed help immediately.
I remember sitting in my car in the driveway of my house before going to the hospital. I went there voluntarily. The clock was pointing to 11:11, which seemed to me to be “proof” that it mattered and that I was doing something right. The hospital is about 40 minutes by car. I think we arrived before midnight.
I called in advance before going in and talked to a woman I knew. She used to act like a senior nurse during the dark hours at the hospital. She has been in and out of the hospital for the past few weeks, as have others on my behalf. She gave me permission to come to the hospital immediately and promised that she would be hospitalized and treated without delay. I had been an inpatient to her since 2009, so I knew her well. Also, many people there knew me well. My ‘file’ had grown considerably after 20+ hospitalizations, and my personality was such that despite my best efforts, I never exactly ‘melted in’. .
I think hours passed between the time I got the call and the time I arrived at the locked gates of the hospital. At the time, my confused mind struggled a lot with organization and order, and it was very difficult to prepare for hospitalization. My car was stuffed and squashed with the most random items imaginable, as if I had to be prepared for every situation. It reflected my inner state. I pressed the gate buzzer. I remember the gate opening. I don’t remember seeing anyone. I parked my car in front of the hospital and waited for a while. I expected someone to show up. Anyone. The need for human connection of all kinds was the strongest I can ever remember. nobody came. I tried to tie something around my neck and attach it to the car door, but to no avail. It’s broken. I hit my head on the ground. Still no one came. I lay there for a while in a semi-broken state.
I heard screaming. It took me a minute before I realized the scream was directed at me. He says, “Stand up.” I complied and started dragging my stuff out of the car. no one helped. I was told to go to the hospital. I obeyed. When I entered the store, I remember looking at the backs of the two people walking in front of me. I don’t remember much else. I was led to a special locked room, the “Special Control Room”, and was put into the room by myself. It was quiet. I was told I needed to rest. I don’t know what I brought with me, but I didn’t have any pajamas or underwear. My clothes are dirty. I was given a nightgown to keep me through the night. I just changed into it and nothing else. I don’t remember if I took a shower first.
I remember feeling a fleeting sense of relief. Finally I am safe. Finally, there was connection, softness and compassion. Finally, you don’t have to fight alone. Or so I thought. Panic began to overwhelm me and soon became completely entrenched. i tried to solve it myself. I really tried. I was exhausted. Tired and extremely nervous. I have no recollection of the doctor at that time. I don’t remember the medicine. I remember the nightgown, the bed, the four lonely walls, the silence, and the closed door. My brain started screaming. It got bigger and bigger. My body started shaking. I felt trapped and terrified. And when my brain reached its peak, I felt that the entire clean wall would burn and explode.
In that terrified state, I burst through the door to the nurse’s station. I was told to keep quiet. I cried, I was distraught, I was terrified, and my body convulsed uncontrollably. I asked to go outside. they said no. The ward has a small courtyard. In the weeks leading up to this time, the only thing that helped when I was in that condition was being outdoors barefoot on the ground, or sitting or lying directly on the ground. It was as if there was an electrical charge running through my brain and body and the only way to start neutralizing it was to ground it.
I asked again. they said no. After hearing “no” three times, I stopped asking and started demanding. My phrasing was not “ladylike” at all. Neither did my tone. Nor was the response that was returned to me. I got angry. they were furious. I got more hungry. I reached out and brushed a bunch of files off the desk and onto the floor. Papers went everywhere. They opened the door to the garden.
I remember being relieved to hear the cool night air, the smell of grass, and a few distant city sounds. Two nurses also accompanied me. She remembers being kind to her by a nurse in blue. She tried to help like one flame of mercy. She would like to say that she has completely calmed down. I didn’t, but its strength began to wane. It’s like a pot of boiling water slows down to boiling when you turn off the flame underneath it. She tried to light a cigarette with a borrowed lighter, but I remember struggling with her body still shaking quite a bit. It took many tries. I don’t know how long I was there. It could have been 3 minutes, it could have been 15 minutes. I found the time interesting. But I do know that outdoors I broke rules and expectations that I wasn’t made aware of.
I saw two more people walking toward me from inside. It was the woman and man on the phone earlier. They ordered me to come inside. I asked for a little more time to finish my cigarette. They ordered me to go inside again, but when I did not comply immediately, they lifted me off my feet and carried me inside. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it boiled. I have never been so terrified. I kicked, screamed, and bent over in defense of my own life, as if my entire nervous system had been electrocuted. A hand appeared out of nowhere and dragged me to the ground.
Time and space, all senses of right and wrong melted into nothingness, and I heard a primordial scream that seemed to go on forever. It took me a while to realize it was from me. I was lying face down on the cold hospital floor with my hands all over the place and it hurting. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but they said I was making too much noise that I couldn’t breathe. The seizure intensified. I shouted obscenities, which intensified. I kept trying to kick and run away, but to no avail. I felt my nightgown with nothing underneath being pulled up to my waist. Hands were everywhere. On my legs, on my back, between my legs, and quietly yelling to me to stay still. My submissiveness came before the needle hit. The shock and embarrassment of such an offense has kept me silent. I lay there face down, almost naked, exposed to humiliation and shame. I sobbed. I was really broken now and everything I got was due.
The next few days are a blur. I checked out of my body. I had to. and i waited for an hour. Because of my “good deeds” I was able to be moved to a more semi-enclosed ward next door. Instead of going through two or three locked heavy doors, there was only one. I was on so many medications that it was difficult for me to walk. I remember trying to roll a cigarette and always dropping everything. I ended up carrying all my tobacco paraphernalia in a small cardboard kidney dish, at least to keep everything in one place. I remember a friend visiting me at the time and saying that I looked like a baby deer that had learned how to walk. My speech was slurred and I could hardly move. After spending several days in a half-locked ward and ‘playing games’, I got permission to go to the hospital’s bingo competition in the main part of the building. I entered the hospital, walked out the door, got into the car, and drove home, leaving all my belongings behind.
What followed was not a happy ending of escape and recognition, but rather an amplification of all the traumatic symptoms I had experienced, and the resurfacing of all previously suppressed traumatic memories. It was something. I was hyper-excitable, hyper-vigilant, paranoid, and had all types of so-called “delusions.” Like a mistreated wild animal, I hissed at anyone who tried to get close to me, regardless of my intentions. I became wilder and more reckless in my pursuit of my death, but I desperately wanted to “save all my children” from abuse and harm before I met my own death. My intentions were noble but my methods were wrong and I wreak havoc wherever I go in the body of a woman, a 5-year-old walking traumatized under attack to upend the status quo was. And there were many turns. And many stories yet to be told.
but for now — Restraint. “First, do no harm.” I tried to complain. “Policies,” they said.
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