It has been nearly thirteen years since my admission to a private, for-profit mental institution.
My parents placed me on the adolescent girls ward of Timberlawn Psychiatric Hospital at the tender age of fifteen. I had been suffering from severe depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal tendencies for many years even at that young age. But that was not why they put me there.
I was a nuisance to them, as were many of the other girls on the unit to their own parents. I was in two short-term psych wards before my admission to Timberlawn, to 'hold me over', as they told me. While I was in Brookhaven, my doctor came and spoke to me at rounds, and told me where I was headed. I asked him, "Why are my parents sending me there? Don't you have a treatment program of your own?"
You see, I had discussed this program with the other teenaged patients of this ward, and had been told it was a good program, taking about six months to complete. It had taken me some time to adjust to the thought of being exiled from my home and family for such a long time.
But my doctor was about to blow that idea out of the water. "Because," he informed me, "that's the only place that can keep you for a year to a year and a half."
I thought he was joking. You have no idea how wrong I was.
I was incarcerated there for two years, two months and three days. It was a death sentence, as far as I was concerned. And unlike the other girls, I had done nothing wrong. They had all been involved in various forms of juvinile delinquency, premature sexual activity, drugs, running away... you name it, they'd done it. In fact, none of them was really mentally ill. It wasn't a hospital at all. It was a prison.
I had never done any of these things. I'd never even had sex. The worst of my sins seemed to amount to not doing my homework or helping with the housework, and taking an overdose of Tetracycline at the age of twelve. But that had only been a wild attempt to get my parents to wake up and smell the coffee. I'll go back in time to shortly before that happened.
I was a scapegoat in my school. I was the one and only scapegoat. I was hated and despised
by all, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me why. It started in the first grade when my family moved to Dallas, Texas, and just continued to worsen as time wore on. Old kids left, new kids came in. The old kids remaining indoctrinated the new ones, informing them that I was untouchable, and that to associate with me was to become me. So I was adrift, alone, in a sea of enemies I had not earned.
As if that was not bad enough, my parents were also very abusive toward me as a child. I am perhaps unusual in this respect, but there was no sexual abuse in my past, and very little physical. The abuse in my family was psychological, verbal, emotional, situational... But I can assure you, it was severe. I remember wild rages, streams of profanity, accusations, threats, (idle, thank God), faces red with hysteria, voices shrieking at the top of their capacity until they sounded not so much human as like hawks diving at their prey. My only salvation was that they ignored me most of the time. But when it came to my problems at school, this was a disaster.
I don't know how many times I told them that I was having problems that went far beyond the norm, problems I had tried to solve but found totally out of my control. I was unable to influence the behavior of my peers no matter what I did. I was a social leper. I was viewed with disgust and abhorrence.
This treatment was unbearably painful to me, which was the only reason I bothered confiding about it in Mom and Dad. They prompty ignored me.
They made up every excuse in the book. I asked for a transfer to another local school. They
never even looked into the possibility. I continued on my collision course with insanity.
My father started forcing me to see psychiatrists at the age of nine. But you've got to understand my father. He didn't give a damn about my feelings. He wasn't trying to help me with the depressions or the panic attacks. His only concern was knocking me into line. He was obsessed with education; thought it was the cure-all to the universe, because it had rescued him from his childhood in poverty.
He couldn't stand having a child that never did her homework, and waited until the last minute to do class projects and papers. "That little ----. Goddammit, I'm not gonna put up with that kind of behavior. She'd better well shape up..."
He saw psychiatrists as a sort of police of the mind. It was kind of like sending me to the
principal's office. And I knew it. I tried to refuse, and he got belligerant in true fashion. So I went.
Three years later, they looked into putting me in a private dummy school for kids with learning
disabilities. The resident psychiatrist misdiagnosed me with "mild depression". I didn't know what I had, but I knew damn well it wasn't "mild". My mother asked why that diagnosis; the good doctor said that it was because "severe depression usually involves a suicide attempt."
I thought that was the key. If I tried to kill myself, and failed, my parents would have no choice but to admit that I was severely depressed, and get me some real help. Wrong again. ´
I woke them at one in the morning, after they came home from being out to eat, leaving me to
babysit my younger brother and sister, and mispronounced the name of the antibiotic I had taken fifty-two of. "That's stupid! Why would you do a thing like that?" As if I had conjured the whole thing out of thin air. "Stupid."
The next evening, they left me alone with the kids again, as if nothing had happened. What I
thought they couldn't possibly do, they did. It would turn out to be a pattern with them. It never even occurred to them that they had driven me to it.
And, as I've said, three years later I found myself locked up against my will. I've spent many a sleepless night wondering why, oh, why did I sign those papers willingly? Why didn't I fight back? And the only answer I can come up with was that I thought it would have been useless. I believed that, since I was a minor, the lack of my signature on those documents would make no difference whatsoever. And I had already been put away for seven weeks. Seven weeks to chip at my stubbornness, and wear away my resolve.
The next two years were so horrible I can't really descibe them. All I can do is make a long story short. The unit was filthy, tiny, and roach-infested. The carpet was dingy, fifteen years old, and smashed down, and you could tell that it used to be purple with green and yellow and orange stripes. The wall was plastered with orange burlap.
It was an environment of terrorism. Punishment was the norm. Relief from it was a rare exception. The doctors spent perhaps a total of five hours a week on the unit, each, on a good week.
You never saw them. You only saw the angry, vicious, vindictive yet totally untrained "mental health workers" who were assigned as jailkeepers of sorts. Upon entering the hospital, the patient is deprived of everything human; here are only a few examples.
The first thing they told me when I entered the unit was that I was not permitted to leave the "Big Lounge". But that was really only half of the room. There was an imaginary line drawn down the middle, dividing a 20' by 30' space into two parts, the "Big" being the portion closer to the nurses' station, and the "Small" being the farthest away. It seemed ludicrous, shocking, unnatural. But I had no choice but to obey. I had a bad feeling about what would happen to me if I didn't.
The next thing they did was to put me on "Suicide Precaution" (SP), and lock everything I owned in my closet. I had to be accompanied by staff everywhere I went. They even made me leave the door open a crack as I went to the bathroom, or took a shower, or changed my clothes. In all honesty, it is the most degrading thing I had ever experienced, especially since it was totally unneccessary and uncalled for. I felt violated, as if I were being raped.
The hospital was merely a continuation of the abuse that I had experienced at the hands of my
parents, and in that way these "mental health workers" were rubbing salt in my wounds. I was in a constant state of pain and terror. If I made the slightest mistake, even if it was totally innocent and well meaning, I was punished. Every moment of our time was regimented. It didn't just stop at being forbidden to cross a line. I was forbidden to look at the television, even though it was in full view, or to ask someone to change the station on the stereo, even if it was bothering me, or to sleep, lie down, close my eyes, read, write, eat, drink anything but water, except at meals, and then you could only eat the disgusting, greasy food that came into the unit on a metal cart. I was given so little time to do my necessary things; showering, shaving, putting on makeup, doing my homework, eating, cleaning up my room; that I had to
hurry like the world was ending to get them done. Then I had to go out and sit on "privilege".
That was part of the abuse. They wouldn't even let you call it a punishment. I had to sit there for hours and hours with no diversion, dying of boredom and anxiety, unable to think of anything but the fact that I was being watched every second, and that any moment now, I would make a trivial mistake, and receive cruel and unusual punishment in return.
The hospital controlled the girls so well because of their free and lavish use of restraints.
Five-point leather restraints. I spent a grand total of two days in restraints, and by the time it was over, I was dying to get out of them, because they tied me down so tightly, I couldn't sleep. This, even though I had never shown one single violent tendency in the entire time I had been there.
Why was I put in restraints, you ask? For getting up off my chair and walking peacably back to
my room and lying on the bed.
I knew in advance of doing that that they would restrain me for it. I had been hoping they would put me in my room where I could be alone, unwatched, unharrassed, in peace and darkness so that I could finally rest. But I didn't know what I was getting myself into.
It was that knowledge, that we could be put in restraints for unlimited periods of time simply for open, deliberate defiance of the rules, that made us follow them so religiously. The rulebook looked more like a telephone book, and the rules were ridiculously strict. But we followed them. The staff pitted us against one another. We turned each other in for going one minute over a ten minute snack break, an offense for which the punishment was twenty-four hours on chair. Chair is precisely that. You sit on it, back to the table. You don't move. Don't talk. Don't look at anyone. Don't divert yourself in any way. Keep one foot on the floor at all times. And you could sit there for hours.
At the worst things got for me, I was spending as much as twelve hours a day on chair. I was
deprived of all activities, even on-unit, which meant that I sat with my face in the corner (like a dunce) while they watched movies and played table games. They told me their reason for doing this to me was because I was "stuck in my treatment". I didn't understand what that meant, and they wouldn't explain it to me. I was supposed to figure it out on my own. They were angry, condemning and critical all the time. They harped on me for "isolating", as they called it. I had tried for months to comply with their demands. I sat around the small round table trying to "shoot the bull" with the juvinile delinquents, but I could never get myself to do it. The very thought of joking around in this horrible dungeon, and fraternizing with people who would subject me to twenty-four hours on chair for leaving a fork out of arms' reach was repugnant to me. Instinct always won.
They put me back on SP. They took away my reading break and my two ten minute snack
breaks. Then they started withholding my mail and the gifts my mother had been sending me. I never saw any of them. They made up some lie about sending them to the dry cleaners, and left it at that. When I asked, no one knew anything about any dry cleaners.
Then they started forcing me to take psychotropic drugs. I was terrified. I had heard of long-term negative effects of said drugs. Loss of motor control, trembling, flashbacks, zombism. I started to have a nervous breakdown. I had never had one before entering the hospital, so I had no idea what was happening to me.
My whole body went rigid. I had terrible difficulty eating, sleeping, moving, walking, talking,
writing. My body was alive with pain. When I sat in a chair, I felt as if I were going to fall out of it. My eyes started rolling back into my head. I couldn't keep them on a page well enough to read it, but I was still expected to go to school as if nothing were wrong. I tried to make it go away. It was like having rigor mortis. But I couldn't will it away.
I don't remember half of the drugs they gave me. He'd put me on one, and when it didn't have
the desired results, he'd switch me to another, and another, and another, and so on, as if I were some sort of guinea pig. I only remember the three that were most important to me. The first was Mellarill (pardon me if I have misspelled it.)
I took it with my nine o'clock meds. The next morning I awoke nauseated and lightheaded.
When I got out of bed, everything went black, and I thought I was going to faint. I complained to the head nurse. She got my doctor. When he came, she ordered me to stand up and took my blood pressure. The muttered something about it being dangerously low. "I can't understand it," said Dr. Grover Lawliss. "I gave her a very small dose."
The next drug was Navane. That was what drove me over the edge.
I had seen other people who had been put on Navane. I have one word for them. Zombies.
I lost it. I was wild with fear. There was no way I could not take the drug. Those who resisted ended up in restraints for six months or with a year and a half added to their "treatment". I had to take it.
I lost sixteen pounds in two weeks. That's the only physically concrete thing that happened that proves that what I was going through was legitimate. And to anyone who may be thinking I was anorexic; I was not. I had always been a compulsive overeater. When my nervous breakdown started, I was 5' 2" and 128lbs. I now weigh fifteen pounds more than that. This was very unlike me.
Things started getting better when he took me off the Navane and put me on Valium.
That was my salvation. I thought, "Whew!" What a stroke of luck. I knew valium. Valium was
harmless. Valium was the koolaid of drugs. Not only that, but it would help me to get some rest at night, and feel less anxious during the day. I knew this was it. I had to make damn sure he kept me on that one.
I knew his style. As long as I was thriving on valium, I knew he wouldn't put me on anything else.
But that didn't change the fact that I went through a very serious medical phenomenon which
went ignored. I was never given a medical exam. I was never given any help, aside from the valium. I wasn't even permitted to go back to my room and rest, which was what prompted the restraints thing. The worse things got for me, the more they punished me, and the more they told me to just knock it off. As if I were just doing it deliberately to manipulate staff.
The same thing all over again.
I was totally brainwashed. I bought into their story. I really believed that they were helping me, and that I deserved all that I got. It wasn't until six months after I had left that I started realizing how badly I had been abused, and feeling angry about it. Then I had nowhere to turn. The kids I ran into who had been there either didn't agree with me or didn't care. They seemed to want to run from the subject. Or they looked back fondly on the experience. I couldn't understand it. Was I crazy?
I'm not really sure, even today. I wish I could find other people who have been through what I
have been through. People who will bond with me to put these places out of business. I want to lobby for the rights of children not to be put in places like that unless they have been convicted of a real, honest to goodness crime. This is medeivalism. This is like the days when you could get someone locked up just because they owed you money or, God forbid, because you didn't like them and had the money and clout to make it stick. Anyone moved by my story can E-mail me at JCL...@airmail.net.
The orinal statement from Usenet.
January 2018 it was announced that Timberlawn will close down after pressure from the state caused by concern of the safety of the patients - Source: DMN Investigates: Troubled Timberlawn psychiatric hospital is closing before the state can shut it down (The Dallas News)
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
I have spent eleven years of my life institutionalized. From age of twelve to twenty-three I spent only six months in my own bed.
I had a rough childhood. I was adopted at a young age. In addition to this, in the home of my adoptive family, while between the ages of six to eight years old my sister molested me. I started using drugs at a young age to cope and became addicted. At ten years old my sister set me up with males to perform sexual acts on in exchange for money or drugs. My life was headed in a poor direction. I began hanging around gang members and running away. Eventually, the State became involved, and threatened to remove me from my adoptive family if I didn’t receive help.
The first program I went to was an outdoor program called E-NINI-HASSEE. I was so unhappy I began cutting myself. It got to the point to where I did so constantly, so I was sent to the Hospital. My parents were not told about the situation until I was admitted. Because of the lack of communication, my parents withdrew me from their program and took me home, where I remained for six months. That was the only six months I spent in my own bed until the age of twenty-three.
During those six months I continued my previous behavior and continued to get worse. I began spray painting bridges and dating older men. I did so because I felt as though my family didn’t have enough time for me. At the age of fourteen I began dating a twenty-eight year old gang member. He ended up dying violently by being shot and died in my arms. Him dying was a trigger for me, as he had been a source of emotional support for me. I began cutting myself more often. My parents noticed this and put me in the hospital.
From there my father transported me to a different program in Utah called Cross Creek for three months. In those three months, I spent a majority of my time in isolation. I was restrained painfully countless times for outbursts, and sometimes for less severe infractions. Isolation is where I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas.
While there, without prior knowledge on my part, two people came to me at two o’clock in the morning to escort me as a transfer to their sister facility High Impact in Mexico. Their program there was shocking. Everything was fenced in. They had dog cages to keep the residents in whom misbehaved.
The program was based around walking laps on a dirt track, and a wide array of rules and regulations. It was meant to institute a rapid amount of change. The critera to leave their program was simple; or so I thought. We were required to listen to 60 Alcohol Anonymous tapes and correctly answer questions on the corresponding ‘worksheets.’ Then, we had to complete two-thousand laps around the dirt track. Laps were tracked like points. If you misbehaved, you would be punished by having additional laps to do. The children were treated differently based on whether or not they were sent to their program from home, or another facility. The children who had transferred from other facilities were punished more severely.
Transfer children needed just one rule infraction to have an additional eighty laps. The other children could acquire up to five rule infractions before they were imposed additional laps. The reasoning in this was that transfer children were considered more obstinate.
The majority of my time in their Mexico facility was spent in the cages, laying on my stomach with my arms spread as though I were on a cross. I was not allowed to move from that position. I was kept in that manner for hours, and sometimes the whole day. Had I moved, I would of been subjected to physical restraint. The staff would jam their knees into my back, neck or arms, and would grind my chin into the dirt.
The staff there treated the children there brutally. We were forced into exhausting amounts of exercise. One night I asked for my sleeping bag because it was taken away from me on a very cold night. The over night shift called the manager of the facility. He grabbed me, threw me down, put my head in the toilet, flushed, then pushed me in the shower. He said I had to sleep in wet clothes without a sleeping bag.
On my sixteenth birthday he raped me for the first time. When he was done he said ‘Happy Sweet Sixteen’ and had a staff member escort me off. I was then shoved into a shower with my clothes on. I was raped a total of five times by him. Every morning I woke up there I wondered if I would still be alive long enough to go to sleep that night. I feared it would never end. I was in that program four months. The average stay legnth was two months. However, I was forced to do their high impact program twice.
After my stay I was met at the airport by my father and we flew to another program in Oregon called Crater Lake School, run through a different organization. I was nervous about the change. I was unfamilar with the rules, and because of the previous harsh punishment I experienced in the other programs, I was afraid of making a mistake. I didn’t want to be treated brutally. Once I got acclimated to the facility, I learned it treated its children in a way that was more humane. I didn’t fear being abused and tortured there, and because of that I began to rebel. I became defiant, ran away several times, and began cutting myself again.
One of their counselors became concerned, and asked if I would willingly go to the hospital. I agreed. While in the hospital, my behavior was considered hyper. Because of this, I was tied down to a bed with restraints. Once, I was restrained for sixteen hours, without being able to go to the bathroom. After leaving there, I went back to the referring facility. I became so upset about my trauma, that I began cutting myself again within twenty-four hours.
Because I began cutting myself again, I was sent back to the hospital for two weeks. From there, I was transferred to a different program in Texas called Meridel Achievement Center. I half-heartedly faked my way up the ranks until I was on their highest level. However, I eventually was put back down to their lowest level. It triggered me into cutting myself again. Their staff responded by putting me into isolation and tying me down to the bed in effort of keeping me from harming myself.
My father removed me from that program and we flew together to Tennessee, to bring me to a different facility called Peninsula Village. The beginning of my stay there was similar to a hospital setting. That was considered their programs first stage. However, my behavior led them to strap me down to a rolling bed. They put a mesh body suit on me and injected me with thorozine. I was so out of it I was drooling on myself. In this state, they rolled me out into the main room with the other children. It was humiliating.
Eventually I settled down a bit. After successfully making it past the first stage I went into what was considered an outdoor stage. I slept in a cabin. However, the staff was poorly trained. There were several incidents were I was restrained. Once, I was restrained on chicken wire. I was cut badly by the incident and did not receive medical attention. In another incident I hit my head and suffered a concussion. I didn’t receive medical care for that as well. I was simply taken aside to be watched by staff to make sure I didn’t pass out. For my last two months there I was put into isolation. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, or join groups. I was merely supposed to sit on my bed and mind my own business. While I was there, I overheard the doctor speak with my father over the phone. The doctor said to my father ‘if he didn’t want his daughter back they could figure something out.’ After that conversation I was quickly pulled from that program.
When I left I was transferred to another facility in Utah called Pine Ridge Academy. It was a decent facility. But I was still rebellious. I went back and forth to different parts of their program. I went from house to house and was in and out of the hospital for cutting myself, and being physically aggressive with staff during restraint. I remained there until I was eighteen.
After turning eighteen, I was no longer allowed to stay in the group of programs I had been residing in, because they were for children. My parents sent me to a program in Florida that took adults. I enjoyed my stay there. We were treated well. However, I continued to cut myself during my stay and bulimia became a big issue. These issues were more than their program were able to manage, so I was sent to a different program in New York called SLS Health.
I stayed in the program in New York for four and a quarter years. I was heavily medicated there. During my stay I had my phone calls restricted, as well as my ability to send and receive mail. We also were not allowed to leave. The Office of Mental Health did an inspection of the facility and discovered several of our rights were being violated. They were fined and eventually shut down.
Because of the medication I was on while I was there, I had to go to a detox facility after I left. After the detox facility I was sent to a different program. They did extensive group therapy sessions everyday, and based their program around Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment.
After graduating their program I went to a halfway house called Healing Properties. It was a good program that treated the residents well. Despite this, my cutting and eating disorders continued to be a problem, and I became hospitalized. Despite their program being fair, I found a way to mess up, and I did. I was discharged from their program for failing to take my prescribed medications.
Because I was discharged from their program, I was placed in a different halfway house called Harmony House. I did well there for a decent amount of time. Well enough to gain more privileges and a later curfew. However, other residents were also unstable. It became a threatening situation for me due to one particular resident, so my parents placed me in a different halfway house called The Swinton House. I did well there and my family had me return home with them. By the time I returned home I was twenty-three years old. I stayed with them briefly, before being put into a group home by my family. Two months later that particular group home was shut down for financial reasons.
I began looking for a place of my own to rent after that. I went through section 8 to subsidize my housing based off my income. I shared an apartment with a roommate for a year and a half. I eventually moved out because the living situation became too stressful, as my roommate was emotionally unstable. I wound up putting myself in the hospital because the stress triggered traumatic event memories from my stay at the program in Mexico, where I was abused physically and sexually.
I now live in a home with a beautiful garden that I share with a friend of mine. It makes things a little easier being in a calmer setting. Right now, I am still managing issues I have from post-traumatic stress disorder. I have nightmares and flashbacks on a daily basis. It is a struggle. Despite this, I am trying to work through my past and am attempting to discover meaning in life.
My Eleven Years in Residential Treatment Centers, the original statement on the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora