St. Joe’s: The Head is at the Foot (Part II)


The curtains between us are being kept closed.  I go on with my life, reading, sleeping, working on the computer, and ignore Roomie.  In the first place, with all her continual talking—to staff, on the phone, to herself—I never can tell when she’s talking to me.  In the second place, if I give her an inch then she takes a mile.  In the third place, she has no proper social boundaries and gets into my business.

Each hospital bed has a nurse call button but at the doorway there is only one button reporting for the room.  This means that the nurse knows someone in the room has called but doesn’t know who.  I am unseen behind the curtains.  After while I realize that buzz for a nurse, she comes into the room, sees Roomie, doesn’t see me, asks “Do you need something?” and Roomie always says yes.  Roomie is getting my nursing care.

The doctor has prescribed Xanax, an antianxiety drug, for Roomie, which I think is a hideous way to treat heart and lung disease.  At bedtime they bring her medications.  She is also taking Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Klonopin and a couple other psych meds.

I now understand what is wrong with Roomie:  she has been taking multiple psych meds for many years—probably decades.  She is 72 years old and has learned nothing in this life.

When I stopped taking psych meds in 2001 the most amazing thing happened:  I started to think again.  I was not aware that I had stopped until my brain started again.  I would wake in the morning, lie in bed and watch my brain function.  My thoughts would take shape and go leaping forward—I experienced it as my mind leaping from mountaintop to mountaintop with my thoughts ranging forward into the unseen distance.  Looking at brain function during the decades of drugging, I saw it as having one foot nailed to the floor and going in eternal circles.  I was not capable of linear thought and could not move forward.

Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin calls this “medication spell-binding”; drugs cause you to lose the capacity for critical thought.  In short, you do as you’re told; you do not challenge what you are told.  You lack the capacity to research the drugs you are taking or the validity of what you’re being told.

With the hospital “privacy” curtains closed, I cannot see a 72-year-old woman in the next bed and what I am hearing is a 14-year-old girl.  “Well, Robbie went to the show with Megan, didn’t he?”  “Bill has his phone turned off.  What is his problem?”  “Pat will be here at 2:00 and I am so anxious!”  “I’m going to call Gary and see if he’ll come over.”  “My son Jim can’t stay with me because his wife’s sister-in-law’s mother is dying of cancer and they have to go to her.”  It is all about interpersonal relationships.

Roomie devotes little thought to the fact that part of her heart is only functioning at 20% efficiency.  She accepts and reports the information—giving other people the impression that she’s dealing with it—but Roomie does not ask the doctor for causation information, clarification, treatment options, prognosis or impact on her lifestyle.  Her lifestyle is passive.  She cannot get to her church three blocks from her home and will not ask for a power wheelchair.  Instead, Roomie is compliant and dependent.

She is pleasant and cheerful no matter how she is treated.  When I fail to receive proper treatment, I get angry.  Members of the nursing staff become wary, resentful and displeased with me.  With her, they are tolerant and cheerful—up to a point.

It is the night staff that finally draws the line with her.  On days there are so many people milling around providing so many treatments to so many people that she is just one among many.  At night, the other patients try to sleep and it becomes apparent that Roomie is a behavior problem.  She is anxious; she is needful; she is crossing boundaries and making no apparent attempt to sooth herself to sleep—and she is repeatedly waking me, which is bad for me and the staff.

The night before last, at sleep time and under self-hypnosis, I established a clear barrier protecting me from everything happening on the other side of the curtains, and metaphorically moved myself away from the situation.  I slept well for six hours.  I woke once to get a drink and heard the nurse, firmly and with exasperation, informing Roomie that she would be put in the recliner chair and not be allowed to go back to bed because she could breathe better in the chair.  And the chair would be placed out in the hall.

Roomie self-reported that one of her medications caused her to act crazy all night, and she won’t take it again.  The doctor reviews her psych meds, none of which are new.  The doctor does not evaluate whether Roomies’ emotional distress was a side effect of any of the new heart or lung medications.  Thus it ever was and continues to be:  doctors do not check the PDR or learn how non-psych meds affect behavior.

Last night I went to sleep at 10:00 p.m.  I woke during the night for a drink and sensed that Roomie was not present.  Waking again at 6:00 a.m., I find not only that Roomie has been moved out but also that her side of the room has been striped and cleaned, all without my being aware.  Hey, is that hypnosis thing great, or what?  When I ask where she’s gone, the nurse tells me that she’s been moved to another room, she doesn’t know why.  I consider the possibility that our mutual doctor, not realizing the efficacy of hypnosis, may be trying to heal me by moving her.

Roomie is a psychiatric patient who has been taking psych meds for decades and now has crippling heart and breathing problems, possibly because of the psych meds.  I quit being a psychiatric patient and stopped taking psych meds a decade ago and now am being treated for the damage done by psych meds complicated by the aging process.

Roommates, both damaged by medical psychiatry.

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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