Sunday, 22 February 2015

the great divide - them and us - the clinical gaze or gauze

This morning I'm working on the Foreword of my first book of blog posts from 2012 which I'm planning to self-publish on Amazon Kindle.  I'm telling my family's story, setting the scene, from childhood to the present day, in as few words as possible (not easy).  To make sense of my journey and engagement with psychiatry. 

As often happens when writing I find another truth coming out in the doing of it.  And so it was in the consideration of how I felt in 1970 when visiting my mother in the locked ward of Murray Royal psychiatric hospital then meeting with psychiatrists.  I was dispassionate and remember thinking at the time that I'd never be a mental patient.  It wouldn't happen to me.  Them and us.  The great divide.

Until it did happen to me after a painful induced childbirth, my second son, and experiencing an altered mind state, becoming a mental patient, forcibly injected with chlorpromazine in 1978,.  Then I knew what it felt like and understood my mother because I had become just like her.  One of them.  And like my mother I was resistant.

'You've abandoned me, love don't live here anymore' released 11 November 1978 was playing on the radio in Hartwoodhill psychiatric hospital, Lanarkshire, when I was an inpatient.  It was my song.  Separated from my baby son, 4 months old, and my oldest son who was 2, I was heartbroken:

I managed to escape and avoid ECT (shock treatment) in 1978 because I knew what it was and how my mother had resisted it.  Also because my husband had supported me in my decision, taking me out of the hospital in my pyjamas when the staff tried to force me to sign the ECT form.  He was always anti-psychiatry, it's probably the main reason I married him.  Twice.

I was fortunate not to have been a mental patient in the same hospital as my mother.  In a different health board area where they didn't know I was my mother's daughter.  The labels didn't stick.  I had another puerperal psychosis, after another painful induced childbirth in November 1984, while still in the maternity hospital.  

And again was a psychiatric inpatient at Hartwoodhill, forcibly injected, my third son only a week old.  Separated from my 3 sons, I was made to take the pills and go into a zombie state, my agency taken away.  Unable to breastfeed due to the chemicals.  I didn't want my boys to see me as a mental patient.  I got discharged after about 3 weeks.  (No ECT pressure due to the influence of the film "One flew over the cuckoo's nest")

After both psychiatric inpatient stays I tapered the drugs and got off them within the year, getting back on with my life.  It was far more difficult after the menopausal psychosis in 2002 because the "family history of" was in the notes, and because of polypharmacy, drug cocktails, tying me in as a "service user". 

Recently I have withdrawn from the DClinPsy training "user carer" or EBE (experts by experience) groups.  The main reason was because of the tokenistic involvement.  I just couldn't hack it any more.  We were kept at arms length and there was a great divide, them and us.  I could not cross over.  They wouldn't let me.

It was cultural and systemic.  The division was also apparent in the behaviour of the EBE/users/carers taking part.  We were often at sixes and sevens, with our own agendas.  I contend because the facilitators had their own agendas.  Over 3 years of agendas and hierarchical shenanigans.  What a right waste of time when we could have been collectively working together as human beings and equals.

I found that the higher up the ladder the less human the engagement.   The clinical gaze or gauze. 

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