Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Some More Answers ..

Well, if any of you out there ever fantasized about knowing a lunatic, a real honest-to-god lunatic, well, you know one now: me.

All my attempts to negotiate a discharge date with the hospital were flatly rejected, so I am making a court appearance tomorrow morning at a courthouse somewhere in Manhattan (they won’t tell me where it is or what time the hearing starts so my friends cannot attend). Basically, I am fighing for my life; fighting the state’s expressed desire to lock me up for a very long time in a state psychiatric ward — very possibly for the remainder of my life.

Needless to say, I am convinced I will lose my case tomorrow because I was told that the state wins these cases more than 95% of the time, and also, it is just my word against five or six of them; three psychiatrists, one social worker and one or two psychiatric nurses, or so I was told.

So after I lose my case tomorrow, I have to find good homes for my birds that still remain alive (one female Solomon Island Eclectus parrot, and three yellow-bibbed lories), and three siamese fighting fishes. I also must find a good place to donate all my beloved books and music CDs — preferably in Seattle rather than in NYC — and find someone knowledgeable to negotiate something with my slumlord regarding the remaining (unpaid) portion of my lease on my rent-stabilized apartment. Other than those items, and a futon, I own nothing of value, because I sold it all to pay my rent.

Currently, I am on suicide watch at the nuthouse which is apparently standard procedure under the circumstances, so I have a nurse following me around everywhere, even when I want to pee (oh joy). This nurse, who is at least one sandwhich short of a good picnic in my opinion, keeps asking me why I didn’t try to negotiate “something” with my captors, why I didn’t try to work with them.

I told him that I DID try, I spent the entire weekend researching affordable out-patient therapy programs, possible funding methods for affording my meds, and I wrote out a short- and medium-term future plan for my life, but none of this was good enough for them. The psychiatrists threw it all back into my face because nothing I came up with was good enough for them, then when I asked them what the problem is, I learned that they have more concerns than what they expressed to me.

How can I respond to concerns that they don’t even tell me about?? How can I trust these people when they prove themselves to be trecherous and untrustworthy?

Worse, who knows if I will even have internet access in the other facility?


What happened next?.

How the heck did this nuthouse story get started in the first place?



  1. #1 certhia
    November 21, 2006

    Hi Grrl, You sound awfully low, and with good reason. Best wishes tomorrow; it sounds like skyrocketing stress level will be part of it, so remember to breathe & try to center before you respond to anything.
    Bipolar stuff is ghastly tough, and I hope that the regime of meds/therapy you are on works–it’s obviously not working overnight, but I hope that increments are happening and moving you forward–even if it’s not at the pace you crave.
    Please, please, please keep your reader/friends posted.
    We do care. A lot.

  2. #2 Miranda
    November 21, 2006

    This just seems like a hundred kinds of wrong. I am so sorry to hear about this and I hope that maybe you will have a sympathetic judge or something tomorrow.

    (0) <– Hugs

  3. #3 travelgirl
    November 21, 2006

    we’ll be thinking of you… keep up the faith…

  4. #4 Elf Eye
    November 21, 2006

    If you can get somebody to box up & ship your books & cds, I have an attic where I can store them for you as long as you like–no charge! I am very attached to my own books and would be devastated if I had to give them up. They are kind of like my daughter’s stuffed animals. When I suggested to her that we might need to clear out some of them, she forestalled the attempt by looking at me in horror and exclaiming, “But I have had a relationship with every one!” Well, I have had a relationship with every one of my books! I wish I could help you with your birds, too, but our cat is not to be trusted. The first night I brought a parakeet home, the cat managed to get his paw through the cage wires and pull out all its tail feathers. Anyway, if I can help by storing your books and cds, let me know and I will send you my address.

  5. #5 bev
    November 21, 2006

    I hope you will have success tomorrow. It does sound like you should have legal representation, but I’m guessing you will have none for tomorrow — which sounds incredibly unfair to me. Perhaps, you should request that, before anything else transpires or further “decisions” are made concerning your future, you want to speak to a lawyer. I did notice that one or two people who left comments on an earlier post thought they might be able to find a NYC lawyer who might be able to provide some pro bono help. I hope you were able to pursue that possibility.

  6. #6 llewelly
    November 21, 2006

    Keep in mind that treatments and appraisal methods change over time.

    I hope things go well for you.

  7. #7 The Ridger
    November 21, 2006

    Hang in there – plenty of people out here love you, even if we can’t think of anything to do at the moment.

  8. #8 Sara
    November 21, 2006

    Hey girl, stay cool, don’t panic. There are a lot of us who aren’t going to see you rot and die away somewhere. Nomatter what happens tomorrow, it’s not the end. Take care of yourself and I’ll be on the lookout for you. Can you also confirm your paypal address on here, I’m sure a lot of us could donate or help.

  9. #9 Jeff Knapp
    November 21, 2006

    Grrl, you are not a “lunatic.” If anything, your posts ring true of a rational and sane person. What you are is suffering from a crippling mental illness, one that is cruel in the extreme and very, very tough to live with.

    I truly feel for you having once been down that very, terribly lonely road to suicide once myself. All I can say is, fight. Fight with everything you’ve got. Even when you feel like you have nothing left to fight with, keep on fighting anyway. I too, due to my particular mental “defect” have had to give up a field I love. Out of necessity, I am now pursuing a whole different career path, one that is low stress and suits my particular situation pretty well. But, I think I will have fun with it. I have even figured out a way to integrate my own interests into this new career.

    The small glimpses into your mind I have received by reading your posts convinces me you are truly one of a kind and far to precious to loose to a mental illness. Please stay with us. Live! I have chosen to live despite the pain, you can do so too.

    Here’s to ya!


  10. #10 Kate
    November 21, 2006

    I recently had a friend go through the mental health system and his experience was very similar to yours. The institution is designed to make you feel crazy and stupid, and designed to make those in power withhold information, assume the worst, and be defensive about their own diagnoses.

    If you can find an ally outside the mental health system to help you through it, that will be best. If you don’t have that where you are, and you’d like to talk, I’d be happy to listen. (And yes, I’m serious. I’m a longtime fan of your blog and think you have a wonderful mind and are fully human, no matter what else you’re hearing. Just email me.)

  11. #11 Baratos
    November 21, 2006

    I am a rather young man with autism. Reading this post only made me feel even stronger that some people in this country treat those with mental illness like they’re one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Good luck.

  12. #12 David Harmon
    November 21, 2006

    You should definitely bring in this and your previous blog posts on the subject. Not only to demonstrate that you’re lucid and planning ahead, but also to make all those points about how the doctors are not in fact acting in your best interests, regardless of their claims. You might also want to mention that your institutionalization is at public cost, which will only increase if they leave you homeless. Explain specifically how the shrinks have not been cooperating with your attempts to “satisfy their concerns”.

    If it comes to the worst, I can at least help pack stuff, but like Elf Eye, I have a cat.

    PS: I hate the need to consider “dirty tricks” on this level, but it sounds like they’re not playing too straight with you already, so:

    I assume you’ve been keeping track of your medication regimen, so you know what pills you’re supposed to be taking. Do *not* let them sedate you into incoherence right before your hearing! If they try, physically swallow the pills you’re supposed to take, then refuse any “extras”, so they can’t make it an “all or nothing” issue. If they do force sedation or otherwise try to screw you up, tell the judge exactly what they pulled, the first chance you get to speak your piece.

  13. #13 Hank Roberts
    November 21, 2006

    I hope you’ve read Kay Jamison already; if this has all come on very fast, perhaps you have not. If you don’t know this book, say how to get it to you.

    “As a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and Johns Hopkins, Kay Jamison treated manic depression in her patients, studied its causes and effects, and wrote award-winning papers and textbooks on the topic. But until this memoir, she never spoke publicly about her own experience of the disease….Neither preachy nor aggrieved, this book is tough-minded but gently written.”
    — Kay Redfield Jamison lives in Washington, DC.

    One thought only — the people trying to evaluate you will be trying to decide not whether your confidence that you can manage is realistic _now_ but whether you are set up for how the downside will hit you.

    The upside —as Dr. Jamison documents — can be wonderful at its best. They’ll be trying to look at you and decide how you’ll fare over the whole range, not the one day snapshot. A _lot_ of people manage with this, some of my lifelong friends included. It’s not an illness anyone gives up on in a hurry, now.

    I hope very much that there’s someone smart and competent with you there, or you’ll get someone who can be there for you — over the ups and downs, to work out how to live the life it gives you.

  14. #14 David Harmon
    November 21, 2006

    Some more specific advice:

    Don’t let yourself get too discouraged — remember, the staff at the hospital has their own agenda, and they want you to think they have total control of your fate. But the entire point of this hearing, is that it gives you the chance to make your case to a judge, who is not working for the hospital, nor answerable to the doctors!

    Be polite to him (or her, if it be so), and focus on convincing him that you’re better off outside the hospital than inside. Don’t get sidetracked into trashing the doctors excessively, just briefly recount any specific “offenses” on their part (much as you did in this post), and your objections to their intentions to keep you in the hospital long-term.

    Oh yeah, and when I say “bring the blog posts”, you should try to get the relevant pages saved on your laptop, as there may not be internet access in the courtroom itself. If you can’t manage to bring a laptop, you can ask the judge if an Internet-connected computer can be provided for you to show him your blog. If that doesn’t pan out, you may need to fall back to simply explaining that you have been maintaining a public blog, which you’ve continued to update, and so on. Think beforehand about how to phrase what you want to say.

    And that’s about all I can think of at this hour, so… Best of luck!

  15. #15 Alon Levy
    November 22, 2006

    To add to what David said, if someone brings up the fact that you have no social support system in New York, you can say you have regular commenters in the City.

  16. #16 Carl Manaster
    November 22, 2006

    Best wishes, Grrl; we’d all help if we knew how. I wish we could all be there for your hearing, and I hope it goes well.

  17. #17 beepbeepitsme
    November 22, 2006

    I wish you the best mate.

  18. #18 Tabor
    November 22, 2006

    As everyone says you have to keep hanging in there. Nothing is final — EVER. There is always hope…under your bed, just outside the window with the sun…in a blog comment. Grasp that hope to give you strength. Be very calm and look people in the eye and accept each day as a new step forward. I will be thinking of you this morning.

  19. #19 gladio
    November 22, 2006

    This is a nightmare, one not even Kafka might have devised. But you should remember that one always wakes up after one of them, and it will be a new day. This is not the end. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t give up. Don’t surrender.

  20. #20 biosparite
    November 22, 2006

    Just remember to have the pro bono lawyer call me in Houston when you are through with the court proceeding.

  21. #21 The Scarlet Pervygirl
    November 22, 2006

    The only thing I am able to think about this is, how can someone who has a moving black-capped chickadee icon–a bird that I see around here every week–be going through something so terrible? How can things like this happen to someone so wonderful?

    I wish you luck. Keep writing, even if other people won’t give you a place to do it. You’ll be in my thoughts.

    And your poem is amazing.

  22. #22 Kevin
    November 22, 2006

    My thoughts are with you. I too have had some dark times in my life, none quite so bad as your current struggles, but nearly so. My only suggestion is to bring in examples of your blog as well as an explanation of the respected community of blogs in which it is hosted. The point being, this blog is a VERY POSITIVE influence upon you. And your readers are as well. It may not be as much as you need, but its more than nothing at all. If nothing else, maybe it will give support that you should have internet access if you are indeed admitted.

    Do not give up hope, as hard as that is. Even the smallest shred can eventually save you. Seize any opportunity you can.

  23. #23 Rob Knop
    November 22, 2006

    Are you allowed any kind of advocate in this proceeding?

    I sure hope you get Internet access. In this day and age, to completely cut off communication with a world in which you’ve developed friends smacks of the kind of “bad old” psyciatric treatment that was little more than prison.

    It’s sad that they won’t tell you what their “additional concerns” are. I don’t know the full ethics of the medical profession very well, but it seems to me the patient ought to have some sort of right to be informed about diagnoses that have been made about her.

    The real truth is that a lot more of us struggle with mental health problems that individuals or society want to admit. Just as with physical health problems, for most people it’s lower level than what you’ve dealt with. My wife has Rheumatoid Arthritist and just had her neck fused; she has trouble turning, bending, lifting, etc. In contrast, I have a wee bit of a bad back. But… I do have the bad back. And I do struggle with depression, and it does affect my daily life.

    This happens to more people than admit it because of the stigma. For many, it’s entirely controllable via drugs; others have told you stories about bipolar people who’ve managed to get their brain chemistry under control, and I know at least one myself. (My depression at the moment isn’t responding well to the drugs I’m on, but I’m functioning.)

    You’re not a lunatic. You just have greater challenges than most people do in one health arena.

    Good luck, and (if this sort of thing doesn’t offend you) Godspeed.

  24. #24 GrrlScientist
    November 22, 2006

    you make me cry with the power and the beauty and the thoughtfulness of your words and with your concern. but i am so exhausted right now that i think i will crawl into bed early — i had a hard time sleeping last night due to nightmares — so now that the first edition of the hearing is over, i am going to sleep.

    for those of you interested in helping via paypal, yes, the address does work and any moneys that you donate will be used to purchase medications which will be more than $600 per month so far — they just increased one medication dosage, so the dollar signs are already flashing before my eyes.

    not to make things too complicated for all of you who might be only peripherally interested, but as soon as i can get my hands in my 2005 1040 tax form (i filed my taxes electronically and cannot access my computer where those data are stored), i will send that to Eli Lily and become eligible for their patient assistance program for one of my necessary meds. since i am unemployed, i would receive that particular drug for free, which would reduce my med costs to $200 per month — much less, although still a substantial sum for me.

    i wish i knew someone at Eli Lily who could help with this process — who could give me one month of this particular med for free while i dig up the necessary information for them. so if any of you know someone at Eli Lily who might be able to help, please have them contact me, or my doctors. i’d be just so very grateful.

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