Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What would you do if you had to go into a psychiatric hospital?

The way things are right now in our system, the prisons are filled with mentally ill people. You may hear about them but not very much. There are a lot of reasons for this and although I have never been in prison, I have been confined four times by my own choice in a psychiatric hospital. This last time was because I was hallucinating; this had never happened to me before.  The hallucinations were very vivid and my psychiatrist told me that he thought they could have come from medication problems. He dropped the dosage levels of a number of my "brain pills." I was so thankful to God that I did not get depressed and I still have felt no ill effects from this change.
This  hospitalization was only for two days as they monitored my med change.

Those four psychiatric hospital stays have spanned thirty years and some things never seem to change. The extremely limited visiting hours is one of those things. I still think the visiting hours are ridiculous. Again, I know the reasons and I think they could work on making the visits and the rules a little more individualized rather than have blanket rules for every case Strangely enough,
for some reason, this time, they put me on the substance abuse wing.  I met some interesting people but the last time I drank alcohol was when I was sixteen.  I have never used illegal drugs. It was an interesting experience and I found that while I was in there, the Lord was with me.

Hospitalizations are not the way to spend your holidays. I was in and out of these facilities from Thanksgiving Day until December 14 last year. After I left the psych hospital, I returned for the second time to the local "regular" hospital because my blood pressure was still so low.  This was happening because I was on too many blood pressure pills.  My heartbeat slowed way down, I was slurring my speech, and could barely talk, walk or sit up. They finally dropped another pill that was the culprit.  It was probably also why I was hallucinating.  They put me on the cardiac unit and the change in the rules was almost shocking to me although I knew it would be different. I had the hospital room phone, my own cell phone, a television and all the visiting hours my friends and family wanted. I had some very kind nurses and other hospital staff at both type of hospitals but the other differences need some reform. If you have the ability, let's work together to try to enact some changes in the system of psychiatric hospitals.

And I say this very seriously, Thank God we are not living in Bedlam.

Bethlehem (Bedlam) "Madhouse" 

Operated from1329-1948 
 Eventually known as Bedlam,  Nuns took in the sick, i.e. lepers, frail old women, etc. In 
1375, it was seized by the Crown. In 1403, royal edict turned it into mad house.  The Hospital became famous and notorious for the brutal ill-treatment meted out to the mentally ill.  In 1675 Bedlam moved to new buildings where the playwright Nathaniel Lee was incarcerated there for five years, reporting that: "They called me mad, and I called them mad, and them, they outvoted me."

The inmates were first called "patients" in 1700, and "curable" and "incurable" wards were opened in 1725-34. Visits by friends and relatives were allowed. Indeed, for poor inmates it was expected that those connected to them would periodically bring food and other essentials for their survival. (Jonathan Andrews) . In 1817 it was reported that “the basement is appropriated for those patients who are not cleanly in their persons, and who on that account have no beds, but lie on straw with blankets and a rug; but I am sorry to say it is too often made a place of punishment to gratify the unbounded cruelties of the keepers.” (The Interior of Bethlehem Hospital, by Urban Met calf, 1817.)

Image result for james norris bedlam
Image result for picture of James Norris, bedlam hospital
James Norris (17??-1814), once an American seaman, now chained to his bed. Norris had been admitted in 1800 and so terrorized the small staff that in June 1804 he was permanently confined in an iron harness.Ten years later when Wakefield visited, Norris was still in the same spot!
Norris’s isolation and constraints were described at the time:
A stout iron ring was riveted round his neck, from which a short chain passed through a ring made to slide upwards and downwards on an upright massive iron bar, more than six feet high, inserted into the wall. Round his body a strong iron bar about 12 inches wide was riveted; on each side of the bar was a ring; which was fashioned to and enclosed each of his arms, pinioned them close to his sides.
Norris was removed from his shackles but died within a few months. Bedlam was closed.

Visitors/ gawkers/pitiless spectators

As late as 1815, Bethlem Hospital showed its lunatics every Sunday for one penny. People would pack lunches and bring the family to gawk at the patients who were naked or near naked. The people found it amusing to watch them shriek, howl, sing, and tear at their hair and bodies. The annual revenue from those visits amounted to almost 400 pounds which means that an astonishing 96,000 visitors came to see the mad each year. (Michel Foucault) Bedlam Hospital housed the very disturbed and troubled; Donald Lupton in the 1630s described ‘cryings, screechings, roarings, brawlings, shaking of chains, swearings, frettings, chaffings.'

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