Behind the Locked Doors

One day I asked a writer-friend who had read a lot of my writing what he was most interested in reading.  He said, “The things about inpatient psychiatry.”  The doors are locked—nobody knows what goes on behind them.  I’ve been there and I’ve written about it.

            I was depressed and therefore hospitalized on inpatient psychiatry at Community General Hospital, Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse Psychiatric Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hutchings Psychiatric Center, the National Institute of Mental Health, Benjamin Rush Center/Four Winds, and CPEP, i.e., a psychiatric emergency room, a community hospital, a Catholic hospital, a teaching hospital, a private hospital, the state hospital and the federal research institute.

            Between 1970 and 2003 I was hospitalized about fifty times for a total of about three years.  The hospitalizations were always precipitated by extreme suicidal feelings.

I took antidepressants every day for twenty-six  years.  After I stopped taking them, I stopped being hospitalized.

            Seven years removed from my last hospitalization, I am now prepared to publish the stories about what happens on inpatient psychiatry.  It is not an introspective journey through the inside my head.  It is a look at the space between the inside of my head and the outside of the door that locked me away from society.

            Please see my new blog, “Behind the Locked Doors of Inpatient Psychiatry.”  It begins with an overview of my history in the psychiatric system.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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