Sunday, April 15, 2018

A stay at Timberlawn in the 1970's

This story was originally written on the message board called the Fornits Home for Wayward Webfora. All rights and credits goes to the unnamed author

I was on the adolescent girls unit at Timberlawn for 2 years in the late 70's. Been thinking some lately about how I gloss over my past when people talk about attending high school reunions and such--I never talk about it. Anyway, googling Timberlawn survivor led me here.

I was put into Timberlawn for having severe social anxiety disorder which led me to a "school phobia". I was an innocent and naive honor student when I went in, but after 2 years in that place I came out a jaded wild thing who couldn't wait to quit school and try drugs, sex and rock-n-roll (which I did). Even as teens we patients knew full well that for most of us, we would never be pronounced "cured" until our parent's insurance money ran out. I was never put in full restraints (although I saw it happen to many others), but several times I was on "split risk" which meant I had to travel around the campus in a wheelchair with a waist restraint (I ran away 4 times until I was finally discharged AMA), and I also often experienced "chair", "chair in the hall", "chair in the room", and "talking restriction" from specific fellow patients or from everyone. Back in the 70's they didn't use the friendlier term "room therapy" or "chair therapy" it was clearly called a "restriction".

Oh the memories. I spent my late teens and 20's very bitter, my 30's trying to move on, and now in my mid-40's I've finally reached a sort of uneasy peace with this part of my life. I have to go now but have another story about what happened 10 years ago when I tried to go up there and look over my medical records (I wanted to read my "nurses notes"--a journal type thing we were forced to keep). If anyone's interested I'll share that later. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Sometime around the year 2000 I decided I wanted to view my records from Timberlawn in an effort to find closure, put it behind me (this was 20+ years after discharge). On the Adolescent Unit, we were forced to keep a journal of sorts. They were held in a manila folder that was kept in the Nurses Station. The form we had to write on was lined and had a title at the top called "Nurses Notes". We were allowed to draw on/decorate the manila folder--one kind of pathetic thing I remember was that most every folder had little "john + mary =love4ever" stuff like teenagers write on things. After all we were teens locked up for years at the height of hormonal rage so there were always little romances going on with the boys on the other side of the unit...also some gay romances as well, of course. Since physical contact was extremely limited...it was very frustrating. Anyway...I digress. So each evening we had to get our Nurses Notes folder from the nurses station and write something about our day. We could write anything we wanted (such as "Timberlawn Sucks!"), but the nurses, aides, Docs all looked them over so we eventually learned not to write anything that could be used against us. If we did NOT write in our Nurses Notes we got punished with some time on chair (maybe an hour or so).

20 plus years later the grownup me wanted to read these to connect with the teen me of then--know what I mean?

I made several calls to Timberlawn and was told this was possible, but I needed to hurry as they would soon be destroying the records from my era. I had to make an appointment for a certain day, bring my ID. My car was old and high-mileage, so I spent $75.00 to rent a car and hightailed it to Dallas (I live elsewhere in Texas now). I was so excited and creeped out at the same time! I got there, went into the Whitehouse (shudder), showed my ID, and was taken to some big officey/warehousey kind of room. I was seated at a table, the office worker came toward me with a pile of records, set it in front of me, and IT WASN'T MINE! The first name started with the same letter, the last name was the same, but these were records for an older woman who was there at a different time than I was. I pointed this out & demanded MY records. There were phone calls made, hushed conversations held across the room with sidelong glances at me. Eventually I was told that MY records had been destroyed THE DAY BEFORE! I felt so screwed over and wounded by Timberlawn...again! After I got home I called up there and demanded I at least be re-imbursed for the car rental. After several calls were never returned I wrote a lengthy letter to the Doctor in Charge/Medical director whatever. I eventually recieved a check for $75.00 along with a terse note from this Doc that said "while I do not feel Timberlawn can be held responsible for your lack of adequate transportation"...blah blah. What a jerk!

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