Forced medication: resistance is futile

19 Mar
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler, with corps de ballet dancers William Lin-Yee and Andrew Bartee in Jiri Kylian’s Sechs Tänze (Six Dances). Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler, with corps de ballet dancers William Lin-Yee and Andrew Bartee in Jiri Kylian’s Sechs Tänze (Six Dances). Photo © Angela Sterling.

Someone found my blog today by searching “how to get out of the restraint that psychiatric wards use”. That lead to these tweets on my experience of forced medication on a psychiatric ward (set out below, slightly edited).

I discovered that nothing I did or said made any difference to the use of restraint on me: they were going to carry on and do it, no matter what. It made no difference to them what I said or did. All I could do was try to make a difference to me.

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Someone found my blog today by searching “how to get out of the restraint that psychiatric wards use”. Yeah, no chance there: it’s six to one. I discovered that nothing I did or said made any difference to the use of restraint on me: they were going to carry on and do it, no matter what.

In my experience of restraint, once there’s a tick on the chart saying “forced medication”, it’s going to be done to you, no matter what. Once there’s a tick in the box saying “forced medication”, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, you’re getting it.

It made no difference that I’d never been asked whether I’d like pills or an injection. The forced med squad just turned up and did it to me. It made no difference that I’d never been asked which drug I’d prefer to take. They just climbed on top, pinned me down and stuck it in me. It made no difference that I’d never had a discussion about symptoms or potential diagnoses or treatments. They just carried out orders.

It made no difference that I was sitting on my bed, reading quietly, minding my own business. They’d turn up mob-handed & do their business. It made no difference that I’d stepped out of a meeting with the IMHA to get a letter from my bedroom she’d asked to see. They came in as I sat on the floor, document wallet in hand, surrounded by papers. They did it to me there, then walked off chatting, leaving me to wander back to the IMHA, disheveled and dazed.

It made no difference when I pleaded with them to explain what they were doing, what was in the syringe (or syringes – it varied), what effect it would have on me. None. It made no difference when I talked calmly to them, speaking to each by name, asking them to explain why they were injecting me. None. It made no difference when I repeatedly called out a friend’s name, calling to mind someone who cared for me, who heard my words. None.

It made no difference whether it was night or day. They could turn up any time, stick it in me, roll off, leave me lying in dirty sheets. It made no difference when (realising nurses wouldn’t speak to me) I wrote notes and handed them to the nurses. The notes asked the nurses to explain what drugs they were injecting, what the effects were, what they were for and what the plan was going forwards. No response. They just handed each note back to me later, unopened.

It even made no difference when I was first in the drugs queue so I could take the pills instead: they still came for me again. I had a double dose that day.

The staff weren’t monsters. Far from it. They’d chat away to each other, coordinating between themselves who was going to take which limb; who was doing what when; and then when to let go as one.

They’d chat away to each other as if the person beneath them was not a person who spoke their language but a wild and senseless beast. They’d leave behind a bed pushed out from the wall, sheets trampled under their boots, empty swab wrappers on the floor, lumps and bruises on my arms and legs. They’d leave behind a person who didn’t know what had just been done to them, or why, or when it would happen again, or how to make it stop.

I learned that, when they come for you, there is no escape. You are locked in and cornered. It is going to happen. It makes no difference what you say or do.

I learned that, when they come for you, there is no escape. You are locked in and cornered. It is going to happen. It makes no difference what you say or do. You can’t reason with people who won’t listen to you. You can’t persuade people who don’t hear you. You can’t resist them when it’s six to one, even if (unlike me) you knew how. You can’t reason with people who are just carrying out orders. You can’t persuade people who don’t think you’re worth asking.

It’s like being in a science fiction novel. Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over. Comply, cooperate and engage. Resistance just prolongs the process. The quickest way to get out is to comply, cooperate & engage.

I found that there was nothing I could say or do to stop them using restraint on me. But things I said and did helped me cling on to me. Little things I did and said as they did their business on me helped me to cling to my sense of being a person, a human being not an animal.

It made no difference to them what I said or did. All I could do was try to make a difference to me.

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11 Responses to “Forced medication: resistance is futile”

  1. mentalpoliticalparent 19 March 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Hello

    what you’ve been through is horrendous.

    I really hope you can get appropriate trauma therapy to help you find some resolution and I really hope the NHS enable and pay for this for you. It’s the least they can do.

    Take care

    Xxx

  2. Nootropic Mind (@NootropicMind) 19 March 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    I’ve seen that happen in movies, but I didn’t think it was as bad in real life, wow. Im sorry you had to experience what you did.

    • Anon 17 April 2014 at 12:39 am #

      This is the silent scandal of the mental health services. I had similar experiences and suffered PTSD for around 7 years. I did receive therapy for it – except that therapy seemed to require me not talking about it and instead being encouraged to empathise with the nurses because, you see, it is awkward for the therapist when you are criticising their colleagues and revealing the kind of world that most people think only exists in horror movies. Eventually what helped me was repeated (and privately paid for) mindfulness courses (MBSR, MBCT) which helped me switch off from the constant reliving of the experience and constant wave after wave of adrenaline coursing through me. And, of course, time healed…but I think the mindfulness helped.

  3. thebeetlebox 18 April 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    I’m so sorry about what you’ve had to go through, it sounds absolutely horrific.

    I work on a psychiatric ward, and whilst I think there are loads of important conversations to be had about whether or not it is *ever* right to medicate someone against their will, it’s clear that the way it was done to you was abuse not treatment.

    Forced medication should only be used as an absolute last resort after extensive discussion with the patient in question to see if any other solution can be worked out. It should be done as respectfully and sensitively as possible and the patient should be given the right after-care.

    I don’t know if you’ve made a complaint or not, (and I realise how unfair it is that you end up being the one who has to do so) but what happened to you was shocking, appalling and definitely not how these things should work. I’m thoroughly ashamed that there are other mental healthcare professionals out there who clearly care so little about the people they are meant to be caring for,

  4. desdemoaner 10 July 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Forced injections are terrible and are actually a physical assault. It upset me dreadfully to read what you’ve been through. I’m still upset and traumatised 39 years after my experience in a psychiatric hospital. I was never forcibly injected simply because I knew it was hopeless to resist. I was doing nothing but sitting on my bed on one occasion. They do with great glee sometimes – I’m sure some of them get a kick out of it. I won’t call them ‘nurses’ because they’re not. They used to shout out and threaten needles right across the ward: needles flying everywhere, for raising your voice, for quietly crying, after an argument with visitors, for simply disagreeing with them…

    Bastards. I wish them all in hell.

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