What is Wrong with this Woman? Recovering from Chronic Fatigue and Depression (Part V)


So I went home and took an overdose of insulin, which ended me up in the Emergency Room with a glucose level of about 120, which was pretty wonderful.  I was interviewed by a psychiatrist who said I didn’t need to be admitted to inpatient psychiatry.  Then the family practice physician said I was being discharged home.  Alone.  With only a couple hours of aide assistance each day.

Well, I wondered what ailed the physician.  I knew that because of this untreated chronic fatigue thing, I was going to get very, very sick.  That’s the way it works with the immune system.  It rises to meet the crisis—in this case the insulin overdose—and then crashes the next day.  I knew I was going to get so very sick that I would not be able to take care of myself.  I thought the doctor knew it, too.  I mean, the doctor is a doctor, right?  I’d only been seeing him about two years and we never had talked about the chronic fatigue thing but it was on my record so he must have known what was going to happen, right?  And he’s sending me home alone!

I was scared to death and didn’t know what to do.  I tried to talk to him.  He said Medicare wouldn’t pay for an inpatient bed—unless I went to psychiatry.  Psychiatry had already cleared me, but where else was I to go?  My glucose had dropped about 450 points in a couple of hours.  My system was shocked and would go into crisis.  And the only thing my doctor was offering was inpatient psychiatry.  I took it.

He asked if I would go voluntarily and I said yes.  He left and came back a few minutes later to tell me that I was being involuntarily committed to inpatient psychiatry.  Why? Because, he said, psychiatry didn’t want to do the paperwork; they wanted him to do it.

All my legal rights were taken away as a paperwork convenience!  My doctor imprisoned me as a courtesy to his colleague.  I needed medical care and the only way I could get it was to be committed to psychiatry.

When I got to inpatient psychiatry, I discovered the situation was a whole lot worse than I imagined:  Dr. Roger Levine was director of inpatient psychiatry.  I had known Levine for forty years and had been under his “care” both in a different hospital and in CPEP (Community Psychiatric Emergency Program), the psychiatric emergency room.  Levine is unspeakably bad—incompetent, abusive, power hungry, irrational, sexually inappropriate and bloody dangerous.  I had testified against him at a public hearing, and he hated me.  Every time I came into his domain, he tried to break me.

The locked inpatient psychiatric unit has within it another double-locked unit where they put the raving psychotics who, for whatever reason, can’t be drugged into submission.  They scream all day and all night.  That’s where I was put.  I was put in a wooden box bed, not a hospital bed.  The call bell for the nursing staff was on the other side of the room and well out of my reach.  In the next three days I had repeated episodes of vomiting, diarrhea and hypoglycemia.  First, I passed out on the bathroom floor.  Then I was too sick to get out of bed and both vomited and had diarrhea in bed.  After the diarrhea, two nurses stripped me and the bed, then threw a hospital gown over me and left me lying on the bare mattress.

They marched their sorry asses out of the room with the comment, “We’re not going to play this game.”  Diarrhea is a game?  To psychiatric nurses, anything a patient does that they don’t like is viewed as “playing a game,” i.e., manipulative behavior.  The son-of-a-bitch Levine came to see me every day and tormented me.  I was not allowed to have anything to eat from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.  Fourteen hours a day, I was denied appropriate snacks because “You have diabetes!”  Everybody else got snacks; I should have been given diabetic snacks, but I wasn’t.  No drinks, no nothing.  Despite this regime, my fasting glucose never went below 316.  The “diet” didn’t work.  I knew from experience that stress was what raised my glucose, not food, but nobody would listen.

Kate came to visit me as a friend; she was not allowed to have contact as a therapist.  I could not take any medications, and Levine was not offering me any group or individual therapy.  I was being held captive on inpatient psychiatry and not receiving any treatment.  When Kate saw how I was being treated, she wept.

My family practice doctor’s partner, Gerry Edwards, was on hospital duty at that time.  He and I had previously met when I was hospitalized for diabetes mellitus and they were trying to treat me with insulin.  The bloody damn hospitalists would not listen to me.  I told them that I reacted badly to medications and they really must start with a very, very low dose.  The asshole physician started me on a regular dose.  Within 36 hours I was screaming in pain and the insulin had to be stopped.  I fired the doctor—which you just really can’t do to a hospitalist—and that resulted in the family physician, who was also the chief of the hospitalists, showing up in my room.  He was both the best and the worst.

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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