Blog Archives

One main reason for suicide threats, gestures, attempts, and suicide deaths is lack of voice in one’s community. This is where the Mental Health System fails miserably.

I believe most suicide threats, gestures, attempts, and completed suicides happen due to voicelessness. I believe this is the case more and more.

Decades ago, people became suicidal over the loss of a loved one, financial stress, possible foreclosure of one’s home, impending war, physical pain, or unbearable chronic illness. I see that changing.

I have not met one person who successfully committed suicide who had had no prior contact with the System. Perhaps they had gone to therapy, or visited an ER, or been on a psych ward. Not one had no prior contact, although I knew some who attempted without having had seen a shrink first.

It is certainly well-documented now that there is a direct correlation between antidepressants and suicide, and also between antidepressants and violence. Even the FDA has been forced to admit this and has placed warnings on some antidepressants. In fact, if you read the pharmacy inserts that come with almost all psych meds, you’ll see warnings about suicide. You may see similar warnings on other drugs as well.  I saw this warning on a cancer pill once.

However, I think another cause is voicelessness. What happens when a  person dies? They get a gathering in their name, don’t they? It’s called a funeral.

When was the last time you had a gathering in your name? When was the last time someone threw a birthday party for you? Ten years ago? Twenty? Was your last party your graduation party, or was that skipped over? Was the last party your wedding, decades ago?  Now, many people get ignored by family and friends, except for those Facebook greetings, many of which are now generated automatically.

We are all aware that our family and friends are going to wake up and realize we exist if we die. For those of us who are writers, we will see an increase in book sales if we die. Some people who never got a word in now have Facebook pages in their names. Memorial funds get set up. Maybe, a law gets named after the dead.  I want to ask why we don’t appreciate lonely people while they are alive. The voice they gain by dying comes too late, doesn’t it?

Following a suicide attempt, I think the worst thing you can do is to shut a person out of your life. Please, open your hearts to these people. I don’t think coddling is a good idea, but I don’t for one minute that turning your back will do anything but deeply harm the person.

Who is voiceless in your community or club? Is there one person who is repeatedly told, “We don’t want your opinion,” or, perhaps, “We aren’t interested in hearing what you have to say,” or, “That was a stupid question.”

If you have been to a mental hospital, how many times were you called into a team meeting where you were told, “You can speak now, but you only have two minutes.” Or, “I want you to sum up how you feel  in one word.” How many times were you interrupted mid-sentence, walked away from, or cut off before you had barely started speaking?

How many times did you try to bring up a crucial topic, only to be told, “You are triggering others and cannot speak of that.” Or, “You are interfering with other people’s treatment plans.”

After you left the hospital, did anyone even listen to you when you tried to say what it was like there? Did anyone even care? Were you told over and over, “Let’s not talk about war stories,” or, “That’s over with. Can’t we talk about something pleasant?”

How did you feel every time someone said,


Maybe you agreed. You’re no one now. No good, a useless waste. Or maybe you got pissed off. Maybe you knew, then, that the only way to get anyone to listen is to die.

Or maybe you realize that if you scare people enough, they’ll start caring. People get scared because if you die, it’s on them, right? They have to pick up the mess and somehow let the world know, “It’s not our fault.” Do you realize that this is one big reason why families keep suicides secret? It’s not a secret that you are dead, but they sure don’t want to be blamed that you chose what you did.

Another reason families choose to keep suicides private is because they know the hospitals or therapists were at fault. The families fear that if they spoke the truth, exposing wrongdoings, the institutions they blame will retaliate.

All mental patients are deprived of a voice. Sure, it might not seem that way at first. At first, they’ll have family therapy sessions that give you a chance to speak to your family. How often does family therapy really accomplish that? Or is it a chance for families to speak out and ask questions, and the patient to be talked about in her presence. After they are all done arguing endlessly AND there’s still time, the patient gets to get two words in.

Two words.

All present are reminded of how ill the patient is. All are reminded that the  patient is mentally incompetent, what she says doesn’t matter or should be taken with a grain of salt.

If you think you’ve never been called incompetent, maybe you heard the “nice” version of it:

“You aren’t fully aware of your illness.”

“You lack insight.”

“You listen to Ed too much.”

“You’re psychotic.”

“You are oversensitive.”

“You take life too seriously.”

“You have anger problems.”

“You feel things too much.”

“You have forgotten due to shock treatments.”

“You have a perception problem.”

“Depression puts blinders on you.”

“You are only seeking attention.”

“You’re off meds.”

All of these are euphemisms for mental incompetence. What the clinicians are saying is that your word doesn’t matter, and their word matters far more. We are repeatedly told, in effect, to shut up. We are told we are lesser quality humans.

What can a person do? While most people don’t want the spotlight on them, no one wants to be told that they don’t matter. People do want special attention if it is due, such as after a big accomplishment. How would you feel if you prepared for a year to run a Marathon, made very good time, and then, no one even cared?

What if you came in first or second place in that race or contest, and then, when it came time to passing out the medals, you were passed by, as if you were invisible? Friends, if you are capable of imagining that scenario or if it has happened to you, then you know what it’s like to be known as a mental patient. When voicelessness increases, suicide does as well.

No one, except those that are making good bucks off of us, really gives a shit what we say or think. Not anymore. This does indeed make death look rather tempting for many people.

If you are hellbent on stopping suicide, this is what I think you should do. If you know your friend is voiceless, call her up. Invite her to coffee. Spend time with her. The more she is listened to, the better she will feel. Don’t call 911, or drive your friend to an ER and leave her there or send her to therapy. Doing so reinforces to her just how much you DON’T want to be with her. When you shove a person into therapy, you are saying, “The therapist is listening to you, so I don’t have to anymore. I’m off the hook.” Don’t limit your contact to Facebook only in the name of “boundaries.”  Please don’t give your friend the message that the only ones willing to listen are those that are being paid to do so.  Is this what you want to tell someone who is suffering?

Be her friend instead. Reach out. Care. Listen. You will save a life.



Have you ever thought you were your therapist’s therapist? This happened to me in 2008. Beware!

I’m not sure how often this happens nowadays. My guess is that private practice therapists do it more, since ones that work for clinics and institutions get more supervision. But working for a large institution means the hierarchy makes for more workplace stress.

This woman had a day job working for a hospital. Her private practice was at home. She’d work hard all day then come home and see three or four patients. I know her hospital position paid well, as she was one of the top dogs there. She didn’t need that private practice. I think it was too much for her.

Our first session was decent. You guys know how it is, when a therapist puts on their best show during that first session. My previous one was leaving and while you could say I “chose” to see this next one, I didn’t really. My previous therapist referred me to the only two she could find, and one said no before she ever met me. So I went with the one I was left with. I wasn’t worried. I had no reason to do so. I was glad to be switching after five years with the other one going nowhere.

As I said, the first session with G was fine. Then, once I was stuck with her, I noticed she was completely self-absorbed. I don’t know how else to put it. During the second session I tried to tell her something I felt emotional about, and immediately she told me a long story about her grandmother. Okay…..I didn’t see the point of what she was saying. There wasn’t one. But I let it slide.

Next thing I knew, G was sharing all sorts of details about her nieces with me. I sat there and listened politely. I asked myself if this was really therapy. I’d say starting the third session, she began to nod off during the appointment. I’d had another therapist who slept through our sessions as well. But there was a difference.  Elsa Ronningstam, at McLean, whom I’d seen from 1995 till maybe the end of 1996, literally fell asleep right before me. Her head tilted to the side. Her eyes were closed and I watched as occasionally her head bobbed awake, then she’d fall back asleep. She simply couldn’t stay awake, despite that coffee she always brought in with her. I didn’t like smelling the coffee when she wasn’t even offering me any. I recall the ring that coffee mug made on the saucer. I told myself I didn’t want coffee with cream in it anyway because it was too fattening. I receive no therapy from that woman. But back then I had little choice, because Ronningstam was one of the few who had openings (wonder why?).

G didn’t nod off the same way. She never fell completely asleep the way Ronningstam did. I’d watch G’s head fall to the side, then, rather quickly, she’d jerk it up again. If I had to count how many times per session this occurred, I’d say at least once per minute for most of the hour, almost always happening while I was speaking. I finally confronted her about it. She apologized and said her day job had been busy. I told her to go get coffee. She did. I’ll give G credit for offering me some, too. Another time I confronted her about falling asleep, she said, rather sleepily, that it was hard to stay interested in what I was saying.

I figured maybe she needed to talk. She sure did! She related confidential information about her other patients to  me, both hospital patients and those she saw in her home practice. I told her I found this offensive, and also it wasn’t ethical, never mind legal. She promised to stop, but kept right at it again in the next session.

I don’t know why, but I don’t particularly feel upset about all that happened. I believe G had a good heart and good intentions. Her mind wasn’t on her job, that’s for sure. Also, she injured her knee during all this, had surgery, and then told me the surgery hadn’t gone well. She could barely walk before the surgery, nor after. She was super overweight, too, and complained about that to me as well. Then, she followed this with more yapping about her nieces. Perhaps her life was a mess, but I was tired of being her therapist.

I was shocked the day she told me a long song and dance about a former patient. She said the patient had died. I watched in disbelief as she began to shed tears. What was I supposed to do then? Hand her Kleenex? The patient had died of cancer. I was sure glad it wasn’t suicide.

It all would have been fine if she were my friend, but no, she was a bona fide social worker and my insurance was paying her to “treat” me. One thing about this ordeal was that when she took me on, she saw me as an “easy” patient, someone with good attendance who wasn’t going to make things messy for her. My attendance began to slide, however, as the months wore on. I don’t blame myself for that. Why wasn’t she paying me?

I recall speaking to therapist friends about how they liked having “easy” patients who wouldn’t turn into management jobs. They didn’t like the management part, they wanted to do hard core therapy. That would be using their training to the fullest extent, they explained. One person told me that being asked to do management was an insult, and she was looking for a new job. That seemed understandable to me. But honestly, I think G took me on because she didn’t want to work. Or so she saw it.

I knew she was capable of being a strong advocate when she felt the urge. However, she never listened to me. Why listen to an “easy” patient who should be “maintained” only?

I figured much the same. I couldn’t stand the sessions anymore, but I told myself, “I will put up with this. No harm in it. It doesn’t matter. I guess I’ll ride this out.”

That may have gone on indefinitely. G never said a word when Dr. Pearson rather arbitrarily put me back on Lithium. This was 2008. I had no clue about the damages already done by Lithium. However, I didn’t react well, and couldn’t tolerate even the lowest dose. I told Dr. P over and over that something wasn’t right, but she insisted I had to take Lithium otherwise I’d be “unstable.” That was her favorite buzzword, using fear tactics, telling me I’d end up manic if I didn’t obey.

G sat by and said nothing the whole time. Did she notice or care? I doubt it, since she was too busy talking about those kiddies of hers. Once, she told me all the details of a court case she’d been involved in. I wonder if I can find it all online.

Apparently Newton-Wellesley has had a LOT of trouble. This isn’t the case, but you can see:

I found another case. I’m not posting it. I knew the guy.

Here’s another:

I remember the staff this woman mentions. I recall Roberta and a few others. Am I surprised this happened to her? Absolutely not. It happens all the time. Only when I was in there, I figured patients who called attorneys were “delusional.” Why? because the staff told us so. Ah, compliance….

I still haven’t found that historic case G mentioned. The links that follow are other Newton-Wellesley lawsuits.

I found this, but it’s more recent:

I can tell you Riverside wasn’t serving Newton very well. I went there for a bit.

Okay, I still haven’t found it, but those of you in the Boston area might find this interesting:

I guess I won’t find that case that G told me about. Here’s an excerpt regarding Sylvia Plath. Of interest.

All this time I assumed it had gotten out into the open. Meanwhile, I’m privy to the info, courtesy G.

In short, this was a case of misdiagnosis. This patient was labeled a whiner and complainer, told what he had was trivial. She WANTED to be hospitalized. Nope, they told her she couldn’t stay, claiming borderline-type dependency. I don’t even think she made it home. I repeat, she clearly told them what was going on. They called her a complainer. I ask if the dismissive attitude of Newton-Wellesley Hospital staff propelled her to actually commit suicide. G told me, “They made a wrong assumption about her. Once a patient is labeled borderline, the staff stop listening.” The family won the case, but that didn’t bring back their daughter.

Either way, I couldn’t find the case. I highly doubt G made it up. Yeah, she was sleepy, but not a person who exaggerated.

Finally, I quit seeing G. I told her I was fed up. While I was preparing to leave, G said, “Oh, but there are so many more things about myself that I have yet to tell you.” These aren’t the exact words. I’d have to think back and recall…but I’m tired now. Shall I nod off?

This was the therapist who apparently was asleep when I told her I’d been raped. She never took notes, and I doubt there were any after that first session. I phoned G in 2009 or maybe 2010. I informed her she didn’t notice when I was raped. I didn’t accuse. I was calling for another reason. She claimed she had destroyed all records of me. I doubt she had any to begin with.

I suppose all this passed her by. The fact that she ignored that I had been raped caused Dr. Pearson, my psychiatrist, to assume it was “nothing.” I recall my argument with her over the lithium, and the fact that she literally lost it when she heard I’d fired G. After that, every time I mentioned the rape to Dr. P, she appeared entirely indifferent. She gave me a blank look, or even changed the subject.

Like it  had never happened.

So do you see how all this spiraled into a witch hunt after six years of not being listened to, assumptions that I was fabricating all that had occurred? This is the story of something that never should have happened, but did. I was that “easy  patient,” that completely compliant case, that ended up all wrong. I am so glad i broke free.


Suicide hotlines? Most have sold out, including so-called warmlines. Get good quality friends instead

Years ago, I thought those hotlines were great. In fact, many were. Not anymore. Sorry, Charlie, too much pollution, you can’t eat that tuna no more.

Some don’t have caller ID but most do. So al it’s not even true that the lines are confidential. You might as well be calling 911 if you are in MEDICAL danger. If you are having a heart attack, if you’ve fallen and need help, if you are being beaten or attacked, if you are calling and pass out or if you have swallowed poison and are having a seizure then it’s a damn good thing 911 will know where you are.

But if you are calling to just to talk, and want to speak with someone you trust, please make sure that whomever you call can REALLY be  trusted.

I have had trouble in the past losing friends just for saying one word, SUICIDE. Poof! Gone from my life. But guess what? There are plenty of people in this world who actually don’t mind discussing death.

When I was in high school I knew kids who were suicidal. Plenty. I hung out with a rather morbid crowd. Just reading sci-fi got us thinking about life and death. Death is probably the #1 topic for the world’s most wonderful poetry. I can tell you right now that if your friends won’t discuss death with you, then you need friends who will. Not everyone is squeamish and overly sensitive. Not everyone will tell you they have a terrible allergic reaction should you mention anything uncomfortable.

If you are surrounded by people who only discuss positive, rosy things, and insist on “being positive” ad nauseum, what do you do if you got stuff on your mind that ain’t so pretty? Your fake friends tell you to shut up.

Your real friends hug you and cry with you. Your real friends don’t give up on you. Your real friends know that if you are bitchy,  there’s a reason. Bitchiness is ALWAYS  temporary and won’t last long if real friends are by your side.

What is help? A person who is truly helpful will spend time with you. If all that person does, instead of being a pal, is to dump you off at an institution and pass the buck to so-called professionals, what kind of friend is that?

If you are having a heart attack then a good pal will call 911 and do CPR if necessary. But if you FEEL suicidal then you are not in medical danger.  Know why? Feelings can’t hurt you. You have the right to feel anything. You have the right to discuss your feelings of sadness and despair without getting locked up. Just my opinion.

You can think what you want, too. We don’t have thought police just yet and no one should tell you that you are bad because you have uncomfortable thoughts. What’s the big deal?

If a kid is mad at his teacher and thinks “I wish she was dead” then let him think it. Thoughts tend to be fleeting. Ask him why. This will open doors.

I used to end up incarcerated in mental hospitals and treated like a criminal for having fleeting thoughts of suicide.  Actually, had I been allowed to wait it out the thoughts would have ended after 20 minutes or less. No one asked me what was on my mind.  Incarcerate first, ask a few days later when I  talk to the “team.” If they even ask or allow me more than a few words. That was my life …until I learned better.

Yeah,  I learned better.  Those nice helpful “counselors” ain’t helpful. I learned not to run to them. I am a lot stronger these days and I am far more independent. I wish the same for you.

Some clarifications about my memoir, This Hunger Is Secret, and my dedication page to the patients of the Alcott Unit, Walden Behavioral Care

Some people are scared to buy my book, This Hunger Is Secret because they are scared it will be a “painful” book. This is a bunch of baloney. It’s a book like any other. It’s writing. Literature. Pain is a medical issue, or if someone has a personal gripe with me, this person should approach me directly.

This Hunger Is Secret is a beautifully written book.  It contains a lot of scenes and dialogue and description and the book is deeply spiritual.

I am aware that my book, This Hunger Is Secret uses the term, Mental Illness in the title. I am a believer in history and This Hunger Is Secret is a piece of my beloved history. I highly cherish my life and my memories. For decades, I used the term mentally ill to describe myself, and just because I now find this terminology offensive or other may be offended, doesn’t erase the fact that this history exists. This book is NOT antipsychiatry. It is a just a book. It’s an account.  That’s all.  It’s memoir, and it’s not “painful,” for chrissake.

I am now, since well after the book came out, OUT of the mental health system. I see no reason to change the manuscript to suit anyone’s whim, including my own.  At one point, I added a dedication page right before the paperback version came out. This was the additional dedication page. Know who I dedicated it to?

The Alcott patients. That’s right. Go look.  The Alcott Unit is at Walden Behavioral Care.  I love you all so much that it’s right in there.

And at the bottom, my instructions,

“Never, ever shut up.”

I want to make something very clear. I was rather determined to get that page in there. I traveled to London in the summer of 2012. Maybe you know this and maybe you don’t. I was there roughly a week. I met with my publisher. I was determined to get the paperback signed and off to the presses before…..

Yeah, I wanna tell you one thing. This was a Friday in July. I was there at the Chipmunka offices in London, at Canary Wharf, with Jason and his two top brass.  They told me, “Well, we don’t really have time, maybe you should return to the USA and we can do the signature via e-mail.”

But I knew better. There wasn’t going to be a “return to the USA,” was there?  I didn’t know what to say at that moment, how to convince them I needed to do this signing NOW. I had to. Otherwise, it would simply not be done.

This was Friday. My plan was to kill myself later, probably within hours, or by noon or so the next day I’d take the pills I had.  I felt like a jerk. Being pushy saying I really wanted to get this signature done in person….And dishonest, too. I usually slap myself for being too honest. Now, hiding the Big Truth….it seemed so fake. I hated myself because my publisher was so kind, really, to do this for me.

I signed those papers. The back cover ended up not having the blurb on it that I had intended, but that’s okay. The fact that it wasn’t the right one reflects my rush to get this done. For sure, had I not been rushed, I would have noticed. It hardly matters. I am me. I was REALLY NERVOUS!


I went back to the hotel. I didn’t kill myself.

How I ended up at Alcott…it was all a joke and the staff provided precisely nothing, no care, no answers to anything. The other patients were great.  I begged those staff for help, though…I was sorely disappointed. I found that the other patients seemed to know more about ED than that staff, but the staff discouraged us from speaking directly about our eating disorders with each other. The whole imprisonment there was so ineffective for me.

Still, the whole time I was there, not one person knew about my planned and failed “suicide” in London. I did try to tell people but the staff made excuses not to talk to me, or walked out of the room saying they had a meeting or their pager went off or they were so, so bored with me…one even nodded off! The groups were places where we were treated like children.  There were just no answers at this “great” eating disorders hospital. The answers had to lie elsewhere…..

So I managed to get out of Alcott. It was my last day. I knew the paperback would soon come out. At least that. I wanted the patients to know how much I cared. So I decided to reveal that my dedication page was for them, for US.

I had no clue what would happen to me after I left Alcott. I didn’t have intent to harm myself, but then again, I had no clue if my eating disorder would wipe me off the map, either. So, I went into my Last Supper, which, in fact, was lunch at Alcott.

They were playing their usual lunchtime game: Trivial Pursuit.

I read to them my dedication page. I stood and read this page in front of everyone. But they didn’t stop their Trivia and listen. I tried to finish…The staff were rushing me out, telling me, “Are you done yet?” They weren’t even listening, far too bored.

I left what might have been my dying words, my instructions to the kids at Alcott,

“Never, ever shut up.”

Two years have passed. My little dog, Puzzle, is here with me.  I have with me in South America a copy of my paperback.  I brought with me the signs I carried to protests and to the NEDA walk where I stood outside as a nonparticipant. On these signs is that same slogan.  I brought little else.

Your “Online Presence” is NOT who you are, it’s a PERSONA

We spend so much time online nowadays that we tend to forget this. It’s a lesson I learned back in 1997.

You have to realize that back then, most people didn’t have computers. We used corded phones and most communication happened face-to-face or over a corded phone. Dating meant just that, and “online dating…” Geez, that sure didn’t mean you turned on your computer. I have no clue how that term would have translated back before 2000.

I had obtained an old, used, Win95 machine, complete with monitor, keyboard, speakers, etc. I got a printer, too, but also, I had my old printer and another one. I remember I traded them back and forth and the paper went flying all over my office space in the back corner of my fifth floor apartment.

Oh, the luxury….

Joe thought I was absolutely nuts. He had no clue why I wanted a computer. Same with my mom, but I insisted. I told my mom that having a computer was gonna change my life. I had to put up with my mom kinda embarrassing me cuz we had to go to a bunch of stores trying to buy the setup. I remember rushing her out of one store, quickly telling her, “I don’t like the looks of this place,” just because I sensed that an awkward situation was headed our way. The salesman seemed…I dunno. Like he was determined to sell me something, determined to make my mom spend lots and lots of money not really caring if he was selling quality equipment or not, and I would end up feeling embarrassed, ripped off, and sorry for my mom. Who knows what I’d end up with, too.

We found a hole-in-the-wall place but the salesguy seemed more honest. Not that this meant I’d end up with “better” equipment or a “better” deal, but…this was an easier and less awkward situation seeing as I had to deal with this via my mom. Unlike the other guy, he wasn’t determined to sell me something just so he could squeeze money out of my mom. At the time, my computer knowledge was so limited!

You gotta realize that I had no idea what “online” meant. I had never before seen e-mail. I didn’t know what e-mail was. I had never seen the screen of “online.” I had hardly ever before seen a color computer screen! I had had lots of computer experience(for a girl) but this was in old programs and the computers were monochrome. A full-color screen? Wow! And even sound to go with it and it is used with this new thing, a mouse. How can that be, and how would I ever, ever learn to use that darned mouse? Aren’t they flimsy, too flimsy to really work? Naw, that technology would never, ever catch on. Those mice will go out of style in a few years, won’t they? They’re so cheap-looking!

So I was there with my mom. My mom is even shorter than me. She used to embarrass me ALL the time…Well, what’ya expect? I’m her daughter. When I was a teen, I was always embarrassed anyway cuz that’s the nature of being a teenage daughter. We look alike and do you know how it feels to have so many people say, “You look just like your mother!” all your life? When I was overweight, they’d say how much better shape she was in….Wow, I remember when complete strangers said that and I felt like smacking them! I lost tons and tons of weight and ended up with anorexia. That happened a bunch of times in my life. I went out with my mother and got this line, “You two must be sisters!” Oh geez. Or, “The mother looks younger.” Lovely comments from complete strangers and they don’t even know how hurtful it is. I hated going to restaurants…The waitresses invariably came up with the worst insults. Or they’d say my mom was a “cute little old lady,” which I felt was terribly patronizing to her.

I wouldn’t have gone to the computer stores with her…except she insisted….and I needed that “check.” After that whole embarrassment, I tried to avoid the “mom in stores” deal cuz it was too, too embarrassing and it made me look, well…dependent. I wasn’t, except for the darned money. In fact, she’d often come up with some remark about, “Did you take your meds today?” right in public, not even realizing people could hear. I was determined to get this embarrassment to stop because I wanted privacy, discretion, and independence. I was 39 years old and I sure didn’t want to be Miss Tag Along. Not to anyone.

Life has changed. I’m not a dependent mental patient anymore. I’m much, much happier, too. Oh, I suppose there is Miss Tag Along. Puzzle.

Anyway, finally, I got that computer home. And it was mine. I turned it on. Back in those days you could sign up for AOL within minutes cuz everyone was being sent trial disks in the mail….either CD’s or little floppies. I had a bunch.

“You’ve got mail!” I did. This was December, 1997. My life was about to change. I was about to have new friends. A lot, lot, lot of new friends. I was about to learn some valuable lessons, too.

#1. I had wanted to kill myself, but I don’t have to now. I don’t want to anymore.

#2. I am capable of being a friend and having relationships. The doctors were wrong all along.

#3. I am a good person. I am capable of communicating with others. The doctors were so, so wrong.

#4. There are billions of people on the planet, not just people in my town. I can communicate with them using my computer.

#5. Writing is a useful skill and I have exceptional talent in it. The doctors were wrong when they said I had no talent and no ability.

#6. I needed to be careful, too. I should never assume that “online” is the same as “in person,” nor should anyone assume this about me. You can get hurt with online relationships and people aren’t who they say they are most of the time.

Over the years, I’ve had to remind myself many times of all the above. Of course, computers and now, social media has caught on. I started my website in 2002 and then my blog in 2005.

I’ve learned that a person has an “online presence” and NO ONE SHOULD JUDGE a person by their “online presence.” This is a huge mistake. I’ve lost many friends who compare what I say in my blog to what I say over the phone, and they defriend, because they cannot fathom the inconsistency.

Have you ever heard of “stage presence”? Or persona? That’s right. Persona is that mask. We all wear it when we get online. Your handle.

Is there anything wrong with having a persona? No. You HAVE to have a mask. It’s not lying, nor dishonesty…Writers HAVE to have a mask when they write, or genre they use, or voice…per se. You aren’t naked up there on stage.

One day, still in 1997, a person online told me that online people are NOT my friends and that I shouldn’t trust online friends. That they weren’t real.

Was this true? I wondered about this. No, this wasn’t meant literally, and I didn’t take it as such. However, another thing had happened….And it was, indeed, real. Something that changed me.

I was still suicidal when it happened. I had gone through a rather rough time I’d say. I’d gotten away from McLean thank god, but I was rather shaken over it all.

To summarize, McLean Hospital had done a number on me. I’d been there as inpatient and also at a place there that’s been torn down now, called Hall Mercer, one of their “budget” Medicare programs. It was one of the worst places I’ve ever been, or had been so far, and I have been to worse places since. They had no clue what they were doing there, and they had no clue what to do with me! “Listening” was the last thing anyone knew how to do there, trust me!

I remember…wow, it was bad…So-called “care” is getting worse and worse for low income people. McLean does well for patients who have money but patients who don’t get the dungeon. Anyway, the shock doc got shock happy there. I was screwed up from the shock, couldn’t think straight for a long time. They made it ten times worse for me over there and it was a blessing to get the hell out. They didn’t acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, I was a person inside. Someone worthwhile.

As far as “diagnosis….” Get this: I was trying to tell them something was wrong, so they sent me to John Gunderson. Don’t ever go to that creep. No matter what’s wrong, anyone who shows up in his presence will get nailed with Borderline. Anyone. I’ve learned this over the years from other people who have gone to him. He has far, far too much power.

For the next year, I got stuck in bogus treatment. McLean refused to listen. They insisted that any “symptoms” I reported were faked, including my eating disorder. I know it’s possible to lie about eating habits, or to stuff a pillow under your clothes like most mall Santas, but how can a person fake that they are drastically underweight? There was no photoshop back in those days! They insisted I was “faking psychosis,” which constituted BPD. But no, I was trying to tell them I couldn’t put my thoughts together and I had no clue why, and would they please help me. My requests that they quit misinterpreting came across as “neediness,” so again, the misdiagnosis of BPD was reiterated, over and over. No wonder I became suicidal…of course, more fuel for “their” fire…I was slated for the state hospital but they couldn’t get the paperwork through fast enough so I was booted out. Guess they didn’t want me dead, either. It was a blessing.

I was at home one day…or night. I met a young teen and I was messaging with her. She said she wanted to kill herself. She told me why. I told her I had wanted to do the same thing myself…but then I didn’t do it. I told her when I was a teen, particularly sixteen years old, I wanted to kill myself…but held off. We messaged for quite a while. I didn’t tell her to “Go to a hospital.” The thought didn’t cross my mind. Why a fucking hospital? How would that solve anything? Being a FRIEND would do a lot of good for this kid, so I did just that.

After that, I felt good. The doctors had told me how useless I was, how stupid I was, how incapable I was, how I’d never make it in life. They’d told me I wasn’t capable of human relationships or of communicating. But who was it that wasn’t listening at all? People like Gunderson, sure. He was diagnosis happy and had caused a LOT of trouble for me, had he not? I could have died at McLean.

I heard from the girl every now and then after that. She seemed like she’d gotten over the hump. I felt like I myself had gotten over a rather large hurdle. I didn’t have to believe what was said about me all the time. I could believe in my own truth.

I’ve learned that there’s such thing as dishonesty and fake friends, too. You do indeed have to be careful online. You have to be careful in person, too. People do fake that they like you. There are folks that will lead you on, and that’s part of life. There are all sorts of people on this planet, and they all have motives. Be picky and choosy.

A person changes and you cannot assume that the way they were a year ago is the way they are today. Or that if they are in a good mood or a bad mood one day, they are that way every day. Same with online presence. You cannot assume that their online presence is anything like what it’s like when you speak to them in person.

I really hate when people throw diagnoses at me based on my online persona, which is all they ever see of me. That’s the same as diagnosing an actor based on the character he portrays. Get real.

I am that girl: a discussion of mental hospitals and suicide

Contrary to what stigma dictated as my fate as “mental patient,” I was only truly suicidal three times in my life that got anywhere, or, rather that got me into very bad pickles, though I spoke of it on occasion.

“Offing” yourself. You only have one chance to do that. It’s not like marriage, which, depending on your surrounding culture, you may be able to reverse and repeat. Or you could say life isn’t renewable like the game of Monopoly. Was the drag of life all about passing Go and doing the same thing all over again?

Or is it? I heard early on about the “revolving door” of mental hospitals. Why were so many of us repeat offenders in those places? I can tell you. For so many, all we wanted was love.

Yes, love. Love and understanding. I had no awareness that back a couple of decades ago, this was my true aim. Funny, looking back and remembering my 20’s and 30s, I see a lot of young people doing just what I did.

I’d tell my doctor I felt suicidal. He’d put me in “just as a precaution” or whatever. I’d get in there and say I felt better and wanted to leave. Eventually, they let me out. So someone caught onto this and started thinking that Julie “liked” the hospital and “felt bad” when she wasn’t there. This sure wasn’t the greatest, most mature image I’d made for myself. Hardly. Once, my mother drove me to said hospital, saying, “Have fun!” The sad thing was, she wasn’t being sarcastic.

I realized I’d been terribly misunderstood. After hearing the questions they were asking me, it was like they thought I had this “angst,” that I couldn’t stand living with myself anymore. I felt ashamed. I felt like they were treating me as if I were far more childish than I really was. That I was playing games.

None of it was true. For decades, I had what might be thought of as a rare eating disorder. I’d put myself in the hospital whenever I couldn’t manage it. They trivialized what I was going through, not even realizing how serious my eating problems were. Since they assumed, back then, that eating trouble was trivial, and there was no “eating disorders treatment” out there, I had no other options. This, to me, was simply my way of survival in my fake world.

Because I was an alien in this world, I had to make up stuff. I can compare it to being in a new country where you don’t know the language. You get to a cash register and the cashier asks you something which sounds like complete word salad. You say “si” or “no” depending on what your wild guess tells you the question might be.

I’d state that I had certain symptoms, such as mania or psychosis, but truly, I didn’t suffer from any bipolar or thought problems, even though I’d go along with the game. I’d say these issues were “out of control” or “in control” when in fact, in secret, I was speaking of my eating. How could I say it otherwise? Whenever I tried to, the staff would poke fun of me.

I’d come back and come back. Always the same staff, some smiling, some mean fuckers. Some had worked there for years and years. It was nostalgic and all my friends were there.

I suppose there would be times you could tell the staff were on guard. Like watching us extremely closely. After all, if anything “happened” to any of us, they figured it was on them. You got to be able to read their jumpiness, and that grave, serious look, and you knew something had happened. We’d ask ourselves if it was “bad.” Often, just a few shrugs. Some nurse would come and railroad us all to bed.

There were times the staff couldn’t contain themselves. I know it’s hard working in those places. They got pressure from their boss and pressure from each and every patient, never mind the nagging visitors that try to get you to break confidentiality and bend rules, “just this one time, please?”

I suppose it felt good for staff to get home at night. Or in the morning. To turn it all off. I heard that those greener staff that had trouble turning it off tended to not last long at such a job.

I’ve seen staff cry. Sheer frustration. Usually it had to do with inconsisitency. One boss says one thing, one says another, policy says another, and your own conscience says, “Wait, this ain’t right.” I think some staff wanted to tear their hair out. Or just quit.

I guess the times that I was truly suicidal, that’s how it felt. Like I was so, so frustrated I was gonna tear my whole self to bits. I felt cornered, like I had no choices anymore…except to off myself. Implode. Once was 1984, once in 1997, and the third in 2012. In both 1984 and 2012, the drug Imipramine was involved. There was also an abusive therapist both times. In 1997, I was suffering the long-term consequences of shock treatments, and I was told I was “faking” how I felt. I felt persecuted by these “staff.” They seemed flippant and uncaring.

I remember feeling it, like a calling, a distant bass drum. Always reminding me. I had it planned for a long time.

I will tell you more about the three times, but I know what you might think. Folks assume, “Once suicidal, always suicidal.” Um, really? So you were once a Girl Scout, once you were on the cheerleading squad, once you tried golf but weren’t good at it so gave up. I wouldn’t call you a golfer, Girl Scout, or cheerleader unless you cheered for me.

All I wanted was love, and so many of us did, and deep inside us, we’d believe the promises that there really was love in those places. What they provided sure looked tempting, did it not? Though, to me, it seemed like sacrifice of sorts. You give up your real life, gain a fake one. They made the fake one bearable. Sort of. You put up with this lesser life, lower standard, everything cheap, your life now on a lower level than where you could be, or ever wanted. The longer you stay, the further away you are from that girl you used to be. Who was she? Where would she be now if all these bad things had not occurred?

I’d leave those hospitals with a deep sense of disappointment. I think this is why when kids get discharged, they fall into terrible depressions. The doctors assumed it was “they need the hospital,” or “more care, more services,” but truly, what we often felt was disappointment that there just isn’t love in that big sterile house on the hill. You gotta find it someplace real.

I’d end up back in. I could never get anyone to listen. There was so much unlistening happening that after decades of being totally misheard, they wouldn’t even let me finish a sentence anymore.

I showed up one day at an ER and was told, “You know the routine.” I felt like smacking the dude that said that. So I was now a “regular,” was I? Is this all I am worth?

At some point, I knew it was fake. They didn’t really love me. Hardly. I couldn’t stay, I couldn’t go. Trapped. I needed them too much. I couldn’t get away it, nowhere to hide anymore.

One day, I got the message:

Run. Run. Run. Run and live. No, not the still small voice of God. That was the voice of that girl inside that had gone missing for so many years.

I cheer you on. Run away. Be you. Bust loose, gal.

I remembered people that literally walked out. Walked into the elevator posing as a young resident. Or ran away from an ER. I have no clue what the staff nor other patients thought of the escapees. If you got caught, you were watched very closely afterward to make sure you didn’t try to leave again.

When I was young, I recall a teen who escaped, a boy. I remember his diagnosis, or what they said his crime was. He didn’t want to live with his mom and dad. Runaway, naughty kid. A kid I’d grown to love. For the brief time I knew him, I thought of him as the was the rebel kid I never had a chance to be.

One day, he said to me, “Don’t cry, or they will be mean.” He whispered this to me. Then he was gone. Escaped, they said. When he was caught, he got sent to the state hospital. Straight there.

Some kids, their spirits were crushed by the hospitals. I wondered how on earth those patients could go on after what was done to them by the multitude of programs and drugs and groups. They were belittled, made ashamed, beaten down, tortured, insulted, shoved around like cattle. These were ones that ended in suicide. They couldn’t deal with what had been done to them.

She really did it, huh? The hushed whispers at night. Yeah, died a few days ago.

You didn’t know what to think. A kid had escaped the torture of those places, the haughty doctors, the endless grind of medications. But…she’s gone, too. Or is she free? You ask why. It can haunt an entire community.

I myself did run away, or, rather, decided I didn’t want that fake world anymore. But I’m not dead. I read about people who had said “No more” to mental health care. Was it possible to walk away from it all? Could this really be done? One person wrote that now that she had left, she had a wonderful life, surrounded by friends and family, and she saw in color whereas before, she saw only in black and white. She said her mental problems were solved by leaving the fake world of “care.”

I told myself that surely, this would be terrific. I was jealous and wanted it for myself, too. I wanted friends and family and an instant writing job at an antipsychiatry magazine just waiting to make me famous.

It didn’t happen that way for me, nor for most I know who walk or run away. I waited for those promises to come true. I waited for that color vision and smiling friends surrounding me with so much admiration and love. I waited for that greater, more real love than I could ever find at any hospital. No, it didn’t come true.

I got defriended as soon as folks found out. Called “paranoid” and “dangerous.” The accusations didn’t stop. The roar rose to a frenzy, just how dangerous I was. Now that I’d refused care, I was considered “off meds,” armed, and about to kill someone, or myself. But none of that was true.

Over 30 years have passed since I walked into the halls of Mental Health Care. What’s left? Me. Yep, me. A girl and her dog. And her secret eating disorder. She’s bold and brave as ever.

I stand here today that girl. That very same girl. And I’m very proud of myself.

Yes, it’s been a slow process trying to rebuild who I am, or should be. Often at a standstill. What’s the girl supposed to do with herself? She’s talented and smart, but exhausted from the wreckage that happened over the years.

A few years ago, I decided to purchase a houseplant. I took care of that plant, or tried to. I forgot to water it for a few days. I woke up one morning and found it dead.

I felt ashamed, so deeply ashamed that when I took the houseplant out to the trash bin, I did so in secret, in the night, so that no one would know the terrible thing I had done to it.

I crawled back into bed.

So many nights and for so many years, I thought of how much I longed to escape the tyranny of forced care, to escape the threats of “sectioning,” and the neverending police and ambulance sirens that had become the sound of my life.

I really did get away. I live in South America now. Tonight, I’ll hold onto my dog. I am that girl, at last. I am right here. I will crawl into a different bed. Tonight, and every night, the sounds of the rocky and crooked streets of South America come to pure silence. I cherish that blessed standstill.

Response to Dr. Pamela Wible’s articles on doctor suicide

I am on Dr. Wible’s mailing list, so I receive mailings from her periodically. She started Ideal Medical Clinics. Nice idea.

She’s good-looking enough to be allowed to give a TED Talk, apparently, so folks have taken notice, and rich enough to have plenty of friends. Of course, she’s a doctor. She says she’s different. I wrote to her and asked her where I could find one of her clinics. This was back when I lived in the USA. I contacted her…she said I wouldn’t be judged by my “label” at such a clinic…but honestly, I wonder. I was so scared of any doctor, especially back then. I found out that all the Ideal Medical Clinics within a few hours’ drive are closed to new patients…never mind I couldn’t even get there anyway.

I am still on Dr. Wible’s mailing list. She’s been talking about doctor suicide. Like this was the Biggest Problem on the Planet and this was cause to raise hell. Um…I suppose everyone’s got their pet cause.

To which I reply…

Dr. Wible claims doctors are under stress. So is anyone who lives in poverty. So is anyone who is going through a divorce. So is anyone who is oppressed, such as within an oppressive marriage or being bullied. So are most adolescents, because they are growing very fast.

Dr. Wible points out that the answer is two-fold:

  1. Ask. Ask your doctor if he/she is under stress, or even being abused by his/her employment situation.
  2. Love your doctor more.

Okay, do we do this for anyone else? Or are doctors privy to this “love” and above psychiatric labeling? Why are doctors above labeling? Or, why don’t we treat everyone as well as Dr. Wible proposes we treat our rich, privleged doctors?

Instead, I see the following done to most of the rest of us non-privileged:

  1. A person is suspected of being suicidal.
  2. No one even asks because it is assumed the person will lie. (What if it’s not true?)
  3. The person is forcibly detained or police action is taken.
  4. The person is forced into “treatment” they may not want or need.
  5. The person is labeled…that is, a diagnosis. For life.

You get stuck in “treatment” and all anyone has to do is suspect you are suicidal. If you are one of the rich, nice-looking, privileged, well-loved few, you get excused, you get a few days off, you get loved loved loved, and certainly don’t end up labeled a criminal like I did.

Moral: Don’t send the cops. Instead, ask. That shows you care.

Caring about a person is the best cure if you think a person is suicidal. Not sending them to “treatment.” That’s not love.

Please read this link, MINNESOTA RESIDENTS…Another case of supposed “lacks insight”…This happened to me, too! Wrong, folks! If this doesn’t stop, people are going to die!

Here’s the link:

I, too, had the experience of medical personnel wrongly believing I “lacked insight.” This is a danger.  When medical personnel assume this, they stop listening, and all RESPECT goes immediately out the window. In fact, confidentiality laws get broken, no law will help the patient who is considered incompetent to begin with.

I think a doctor who is so incompetent as to declare a patient “lacking insight” is a total moron.

For instance, for a new doctor to take the previous doctor’s word as truth, in  declaring a patient “lacking insight” and not investigating for himself is sheer stupidity. Thus, a patient is forever doomed to never getting his voice heard, even upon switching doctors.

I think doctors who never listen…well, I suppose they do take their eyes off their computer screens and the cotton out of their ears on the days the drug reps show up with the bribes, maybe a few golf clubs, plane tix, happy days on the ranch.

My comment, as published in the New York Times

I have never before commented on any of their articles and I was so certain that my comment would be turned down that I immediately copied and pasted what I had written onto a document, so that I could paste it up here for you guys.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my comment was approved!

Hello, world.

Societal hatred of a person who attempted suicide

This is a question I have been attempting to answer and I think I now have the answer to the question:

Why does society hate a person after they make a failed suicide attempt?

I cannot say whether what happened last summer was a suicide attempt or not, I mean, it was what it was no matter what words you use to classify it.  One thing I know is true.  I stopped eating because to me it seemed like nobody gave a shit about me.

Was this “illness”?  Was this some incorrect perception?  Was I totally off base and did everyone actually love me and want me around? Absolutely not.  I sure wasn’t Miss Popularity.

I was dead right that very few gave a shit.  I was talking about it all along, too.  I was so happy whenever my phone rang, this being so rare, that I would nearly cry with joy.  This isolation had been going on for over a year.  I would call people to ask them out for coffee and they would avoid my calls and then lie and give some fake reason why they hadn’t called me back.

I was still trying desperately to get “mental health care,” coming up with “no” for an answer every time. The few I was able to get were duds that I couldn’t stay with or they had no interest in helping.

Of course, with my brothers having avoided me for a couple of decades now, this meant zilch for “family.”

I was broke and that sucked too.

It doesn’t exactly make you feel great about life.

Many turn to drugs. They get high all the time and that’s their escape.  Or they run away in some other fashion.  They are people who are disillusioned, fed up, totally stuck. All because they get discriminated against.

Of course, there are those that do indeed kill themselves.  Or they try and don’t succeed.  The irony is that society then proceeds to further discriminate, driving the message home, “No, we don’t give a shit about you, it’s true!”

Society should not be doing this. We should love the person, not treat them like they are “dangerous.”

Maybe society can’t face the fact that they really should have behaved more lovingly, and instead of showing the person proper respect, they continue to discriminate, placing blame where blame should not be placed.  Perhaps they cannot face themselves.  Maybe the suicide attempt says, “Hey, our SOCIETY needs to WAKE UP.”  I don’t think suicide is a cry for help or a statement about mental illness. Maybe that’s it.  Guilt.

Or at least, in my case, my self-starvation wasn’t saying, “Look at me!” it was, “Look at yourselves.”  Maybe no one really wanted to, and they are still unwilling.

%d bloggers like this: