*Could be potentially triggering for some*
I never imagined that after nearly nine years of battling a chronic and debilitating mental health disorder that it could get any worse but boy did I prove myself wrong last weekend. I have since spent the better part of my week desperately trying to get my head back above water but I just can’t seem to shake the events of the past week from my mind; they just keep playing over and over again in my head like a recurring nightmare.
Writing is very therapeutic for me. It helps me to declutter many of the intrusive thoughts in my brain and sort through a lot of my trauma and pain so last night I sat down and began writing. This time though it wasn’t for the public to read or for a page out of my book; this time it was a letter, well actually it was two letters.
The first letter I penned last night was to the York Regional Police, inparticularly to their complaints against Policies and Procedures Department. I wasn’t writing this letter to complain about the officers who came to my home last Sunday evening or who took me to the hospital, infact they were all very respectful and kind towards me and were just following the policies and procedures that they had been trained to do. The problem is, many of these policies and procedures can bring further harm to an already vulnerable individual by isolating them from their loved ones like they did to me, keeping Rich from comforting me or allowing any contact with me at all while they spoke to us both separately or even when they took me away from my home. He was also told not to come to the hospital. People in these situations need an ally and advocate by their side (he came at 7:30 the next morning).
But worse than that, they then took me outside to their police cruiser (there were 3 cars in total), holding on to my arm as though I was going to try and run (like I could’ve outrun four huge police officers with guns strapped to their belts) and before I got into the police cruiser, they placed handcuffs on me. They apologized to me many times before and after.
I was not showing any signs of aggressive behaviour, nor had I. I went willingly.
As I detailed in the blog I wrote a couple of nights ago (https://wheredidmommyssmilego.com/2023/01/19/cuffed/), treating a person in a mental health crisis who is showing no signs of aggressive behaviour or acting belligerent or not obliging there should be ZERO reason to place them in handcuffs or treat them like a criminal. The decision should be left up to the discretion of the attending officers. I’ve been down this road before, however this was a first and just further proves to me that there is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness and has left me never wanting to share my vulnerabilities with a loved one ever again for fear of being treated this way, ever again. Silencing an individual who is experiencing active suicidal ideations could have very deadly consequences.
Again, I don’t blame the police officers one bit for following their policies and procedures. I totally respect them for doing what I believe to be the hardest and most honorable job in the entire universe but I couldn’t stay seated which is why I penned a second letter.
The second letter was addressed to the “Patient Relations” Department at the local hospital I was taken to where I was made to feel so ashamed of my illness starting with an emergency room doctor who came in to see me moments after I arrived, made no eye contact with me, scribbled quickly on my chart, brushed me off like I was an inconvenience, placed me on a “Form” and disappeared within 2 minutes, never to be seen again. He was not interested in speaking with me at all and just told me a nurse will bring me something to calm me down, which I declined.
The nurses on shift that night were beyond rude (my main nurse in particular). She was condescending, dismissive and also made me feel so ashamed for having been there. The only thing she and the other nurses were concerned with throughout my stay was taking my blood pressure and temperature every couple of hours; in between their eye rolls and big sighs when I found myself having to beg them for a blanket or even a glass of ice water.
When someone is lying in an emergency room for a mental health crisis, continuing to check their vitals which had both been completely normal upon my initial intake in triage is absolutely ridiculous. That time could be better spent with a patient who is obviously not physically sick, maybe talking to them, maybe checking on them, maybe asking them how they were doing? They showed not one ounce of compassion, showed no kindness and never even took a moment to ensure I was okay.
I was scared, felt so alone and was still very traumatized by the events that had taken place earlier that evening in my home. I had told the nurse at one point while desperately trying to advocate for myself that I’d been there several times before (voluntarily) and in that moment by her reaction, if I could read her mind, I can assure you she was thinking to herself “uck…she’s just another crazy mental lunatic”.
It is difficult enough been “Formed” and having both your dignity and every right taken away from you including your belongings and cell phone but then to be treated like I was less than “human” has really made my journey this week that much more difficult knowing how many other vulnerable people are out there being treated the same way.
I completely understand how stressful and difficult a job nurses and doctors have in their profession and how underpaid and overworked many of the nurses are today and the unfathomable situations they face everyday, especially in an overwhelmed emergency room but the treatment I received needs to change and maybe it starts with more compassionate training done for those having to deal with patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
I’m not sure if either of my letters will be taken seriously, make any difference or even be read but I needed to do it for myself and for anyone else who has ever found themselves too afraid to ask for help for fear of the stigma surrounding mental illness, the many stereotypes, the discrimination and the prejudices that follow.
I share my journey with the world because of this, as difficult and often shameful as it may be or sound to others but as a mental health advocate I need to continue to bring awareness to the forefront by sharing my own struggles so long as I’m living to remind others that they are not alone. Being a voice for individuals who suffer with a mental illness brings me purpose and continues to help so many individuals find hope and healing. Educating others about the many depths and challenges we face every day and fighting for change is key to building a stigma-free society one day.
I am going to take this weekend to continue focusing on my self-care and try my best to have as stress-free of a weekend as I possibly can, including trying not to obsess over all the unfinished work I left piled up on my desk at work late yesterday afternoon which will still be waiting for me on Monday morning.
Oh and one last thing, today is “National Hugging Day”. A hug can be one of the most powerful things you can offer someone. Offering a hug to someone feeling hopeless today can be a great first step toward change.
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