Enter the Cuckoo’s Nest

Night in the Psych ED

Me, four years ago tonight, at the cusp of what would turn out to be a horrible turn of events: “I’m having serious problems with my SSRI medication and I need to talk to a doctor. Increasing suicidal ideations, wish to die, sleeping a lot, drowsy, trouble waking, memory lapse, spacing out, headaches, concentration lapse, couldn’t see something in front of me.”
Though I had complained twice about the increasingly intense suicidal ideations (SI) that began a few weeks after I started taking the Lexapro, the hospital system’s “embedded” psychiatrist had been unresponsive. So, I called my PCP, who had prescribed it. Unlike the psychologist, the young resident actually listened and recognized the danger those pills posed. My PCP firmly advised me to stop Lexapro immediately, never take it again, and go to a hospital ED for a psych evaluation ASAP.
I went to Wilmington Hospital ED where they took my clothes and personal belongings without notice. This included my phone, so I could not make even one call. That was highly distressing! Nobody explained what would happen, what to expect, and who would help me. Nobody did actually help me. Instead, they left me overnight in a cold room with nothing but a chair with a tray.
According to ED records, apparently my so-called “psych evaluation” was conducted by an MD. He asked about the SI, which did not involve any suicidal intent. Nonetheless, the doctor told me I had “a plan.” He said I should go to Rockford Center for Behavioral Health. Inpatient care would be helpful, a gateway to services, like art therapy and a psychiatrist on the outside. I said I was afraid. He asked what I thought it would be like. “Cuckoo’s Nest!” I said. He assured me it was not. (But it was!)
Sometime that night or early morning I was re-traumatized when Psych ED staff subdued and sedated another patient. They had escalated the situation instead of helping her regain composure. As they pinned her down she was screaming “Get off me! Get off me!” just like I did when pinned down by abusers. Of course, witnessing her trauma gave me a horrible flashback! I was crying and shaking in terror. Afterward, the subduers stood around just outside the door to my room, which extended my distress reaction. I felt trapped! Nobody bothered to check on me. It’s like I wasn’t even there. Later, I told a staffer how badly I was triggered and he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. Staff response to my distress was absent.
This illustrates the pervasive lack of appropriate care/intervention and a systemic push toward unnecessary incarceration at Rockford, a facility owned by a company known to violate patient rights as it makes great profit by cutting staff and patient services.
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