Tales from the Psych Ward Part II

I’m currently on day 9 in hospital. I had my first ECT treatment yesterday. As they were getting ready to take me over to the post-anaesthetic care unit to get treatment, the nurse said she was waiting for a security guard to come along with us as an escort. I told her that was absurd, but she insisted, even though PACU was calling to ask why they were late bringing me over. I’ve been asking for ECT since I got into hospital, and I’m so slow moving that I couldn’t run away even if I was so inclined, but nope, gotta have security for those scary psych patients.

For the ECT itself, they used a different anaesthetic (methohexital) than what I’ve always had before (propofol), and I woke up afterwards feeling totally freaked out and couldn’t stop crying. I told the ECT psychiatrist I don’t like methohexital and want propofol instead, but she just told me to talk to my psychiatrist on the ward. I told him, and he said the anaesthesiologist has the final say, meaning I’m probably going to have to fight this stupid fucking fight every time. The chances of an anaesthesiologist taking me seriously seem low; after all, if even the psych ward staff thinking I’m a scary fucking psych patient, what the hell is the anaesthesiologist likely to think? And who listens to or cares what a scary fucking psych patient thinks?

When talked about the security escort business. My day nurse said the doctor had ordered it, but he didn’t seem to own up to that. He said it’s routine practice to have security escort psych patients, and I pointed out that that sure sounds like structural stigma. Sure, security is sometimes necessary, but that should not be the default for people accessing health care, including mental health care.

I had written a long email to the patient relations leader about my experience of getting restrained in follow-up to a complaint that I had made to the psych ER’s clinical nurse leader. I asked for a commitment to training the staff in the psych ER in trauma-informed care, and I also recommended the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Understanding Stigma course for health professionals. The patient relations leader responded and didn’t actually comment on what I told her happened (which was disappointing), but she said she was going to talk to the ER manager about what kind of training is currently offered, and then get back to me.

What had happened was that I had spoken to the ER psychiatrist and told him my previous involuntary admissions had been difficult, and he agreed to admit me voluntarily. When I was taken over to the psych ER area, the nurse was being really cunty and I didn’t like the way I was being treated, so I said I wanted to leave. Even though I was voluntary, they refused to give me my things or let me go (it was a locked area so I couldn’t leave on my own). They called a whole bunch of security, and so there I was surrounded by nurses and security trying to convince them to let me go because I was voluntary. They stalled until they could get the psychiatrist on the phone and get him to agree to commit me. At that point, I just froze in place, overwhelmed by how things were going. They then pushed me onto a stretcher and put me in restraints. I can’t even begin to say how inappropriate and uncalled for that was.

In 5 years working on inpatient psych, I put patients into restraints a grand total of once, and only because he was physically aggressive.

When I first met my psychiatrist here on the inpatient unit, he briefly brought up me being put in restraints in ER. He seems like a fairly reasonable person, but I was pretty disappointed that he didn’t seem to recognize how wrong it was for me to get restrained (although he recognized it was distressing for me). I got the sense that he figured it was called for, and he was saying some shit about trying to keep me out of seclusion here on the unit and that needing to be a 2-way street. What the actual fuck?

And yes, Dr. Murray, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you. That was not cool.

He asked yesterday if he could look at my blog, and I said I’d rather not. Then yesterday evening I read everyone’s supportive comments and changed my mind, because I want him to see how my friends reacted to the clusterfuck of my admission.

Thank you all for being amazing.

You can also read Tales from the Psych Ward part I | part III | part IV | part V | part VI

108 thoughts on “Tales from the Psych Ward Part II”

  1. Johnzelle Anderson

    Fuck you, Dr. Murray!!!! We got your back, Ashley! Even in a crisis, you’re using your experience to advocate and educate! Sending all the best vibes!

  2. I am so sorry for the way you were treated. That is disgraceful. I hope they help resolve this for you.

  3. Dr. Murray needs to take a 101 course on things to not say to patients! I cannot believe the way they treat people who are in distress. Parts of your story completely resonate with some of the things that happened to me–mainly me agreeing to go and then them putting me on involuntary. One of the worst things I remember was begging to get my clothes back which took forever. They didn’t want to read my blog but they all had a good read of my journal. God, I hope your stay gets shortened soon. Thinking of you….xx

  4. Wow it sounds like the healthcare professionals in your area are horrid! I don’t blame you for changing your mind on voluntary and ending up involuntary. I admire that you have stood up for yourself though, I don’t think I could have managed that myself.
    Your doctor sees things through his lense of “I know best because I’m a doctor”, not taking a moment for empathy and seeing that ‘hey, she really didn’t need restraint and she doesn’t need security’… it’s ego for him. That’s a doctor thing, that is likely because you have a medical background and he wants to throw his weight around. Honestly that’s how the situation comes across, but I could be wrong (rarely am).
    I’m just so upset for you, I hope things start going better! Praying your treatment helps and they start treating you with respect you deserve.

  5. I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Hopefully you’ll feel better soon (although this treatment doesn’t help obviously) and will be able to leave.

  6. Unfortunately, this type of thing is all too familiar. I’m so sorry you had to go through yet more trauma, and drama on that god awful unit! Sending a big hug and you have my/our support! xoxo

  7. I’m running out of things to say that wouldn’t be redundant at this point over the whole fuckery of the system. I’m glad you feel supported by your friends here, and it’s absurd you aren’t getting anywhere close to that same support at the place where they should be the most supportive.
    If these people wanted to work with prisoners, they picked the wrong profession/location.
    This is the exact reason that so many more people don’t ask for the help they need. They’re afraid, and justifiably so. And it ends up being so much worse for everyone in the long run. Seeking mental health care shouldn’t be a traumatizing or dehumanizing experience. I’m sorry for all of it, to you and everyone else who has that experience.
    At the very least….you’ve now got a whole lot of new writing content… 😢
    Hang in there 💙💙

  8. Whenever in the everlasting f- did patient dignity become something that needed to be negotiated for in a two-way street, DOCTOR Murray?

    Your advocacy is incredible, sending hugs and support xxx

  9. Ashley, I am shaking my head reading this.
    I can understand that although you were voluntary patient, they changed the situation to you staying. For this part, had my mum not changed her mind to stay, whether it would have happened to her because how ill she was, I don’t know. But like you, its was a locked ward because there are others who are not voluntary.

    As for everything that happened to you, ridiculous and again, so sorry this is happening. Its so wrong.

    As ill as my mum was on a mental health ward, there has never been a situation of a security staff having to be present.

  10. Not sure you’re able to reply to comments from where you are, but I am definitely on your side. It’s bringing up some of my own negative experiences with same. Rooting for you. Hang in there

  11. Dr. Murray – don’t be a dick. You really should be able to tell who is and is not a threat.
    It is hard enough dealing with the stigma of the outside world- you are trained to deal with it.
    No one made you become a psych doctor.

      1. Always. I have to laugh… it is how I survived this long.
        My pain doctor was a dick… so I began calling him my Pain Dick instead of Doc during my sessions with my psychiatrist and psychologist… they are both men.
        I have a poem on my blog – Dear Pretender that is to him.
        His degree is as an osteopath, but he thought that he knew what meds were better than my psychiatrist of 15 years.
        Until my psychiatrist called him and I fired him.

          1. I know right. Mommy and Daddy said it was this or the military… So here I am.
            I was physically assaulted in the Critical Care Unit by a nurse.
            That was awesome.

  12. Ashley
    I am so sorry. I’m in the US but I know what it feels like to be treated like shit for having mental health issues.
    I had to leave my job after 18 years because my employer, the local government, found out that I was inpatient for the 2nd time in 4 months and started what I can only call a mental health assault on me.
    But because of their treatment, financially I have permanent ssi.
    I am praying for you. STAY STRONG &KEEP using your VOICE!!!
    The world needs your unique and beautiful light ✨️ ✨️ ✨️

      1. It was very traumatic. Thankfully it was over 15 years ago so I have distance from the experience and can speak freely about it without breaking down.
        At the time though, I suffered deeply. My husband and my children suffered too.
        I could not leave my house alone and it intensified my anxiety and PTSD.
        But I am still standing!!!
        Stay Strong.

          1. You can do this too. I barely found your page, and I can feel that there is something special about you.
            You have an energy that I can feel through your writing…
            If it is not out of line, I wondered if you believe in God. I have found a lot of healing in finding verses that hit my heart, in my writing and in my screams of anger and frustration. His shoulders are definitely strong enough.
            It is also cool if you don’t, or if you are undecided, and also cool if you don’t want to answer.
            Stay Strong and keep using your voice, out loud or on paper ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

            1. Thanks, lovely.

              I’m a soft atheist (as in I don’t believe but am not trying to argue that a God doesn’t exist). I’m also very independent, and the idea of taking things on myself (albeit with the support of others) is appealing to me.

            2. I understand. I am not a big fan of the concept of church. My view of church is that everyone seems to interpret the Bible differently, sometimes to serve them financially, or because they like the feeling of superiority that they get from having a following.
              But God’s word is just that, his word.
              Because I have serious trust issues with others, I have learned verses and stories on my own by what speaks to my heart and what touches my soul. I have a feeling that I can’t describe when a verse speaks directly to my soul.
              I will share with you this, the very first verse I memorized 20 yrs ago and if you ever want more inspiring verses I am happy to share.
              Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and hope.”
              Stay Strong

  13. For ECT to be effective, and on which your life may depend, you need an anesthetic that doesn’t make your condition worse or complicate it. What can be done on that front?

    Intake can be such a shit-show.

    The security detail is hilarious. We remember when you tried to walk into the grocery store and were verbally assaulted for moving so slowly. Look out for that turtle! She’s getting away…very…slowly…

    We were given exercise privileges at the trauma ward’s gym, but a same-gendered tech had to accompany us for safety. Um, we are non-binary and anyone can fuck anyone—or fuck them up. We were the ones who felt unsafe.

    We hope the doctor can see that challenge to the status quo in favor of human rights can be beneficial, can offer the doctor and the ward progress and integrity. Your needs for these and for respect and to be seen/heard are unmet at one of the only places they are essential for life and their lacking can lead to death.

    Do they care only that you don’t die there? If they treat you like an animal and then you get out and end your life because of them, do they care only if lawyers hold them accountable?

    At this point, we think anyone from patient advocate to doctor to anesthesiologist needs to prove they give a shit. PROVE IT!! To Ashley, whom we love 💕

  14. What strikes me about this is the “I know better than you” attitude that professionals take with patients. Self-advocacy is seen as “disobedient” and “trouble-making”. Perhaps patients actually KNOW themselves and what they need? What a novel concept. I am angry on your behalf, Ashley, and I really hope Dr. Murray wakes up, and then shakes the rest of them up to reality.

  15. Sister! I am afraid they are going to remove your access to the internet if you keep reporting. Perhaps do so without bringing the blog up. I think it is a great idea to keep a log and here is a great place because they have taken your phone privileges but in an effort to protect themselves, they are likely to take away your access. I hope that doesn’t happen. I know you will do your best to keep us updated but don’t do it at the expense of your limited privileges.

    What ever happened to being a part of your own treatment team? These professionals seem a bit barbaric.

  16. I don’t even know what to say about how you were treated. Don’t even know WHAT to say. But know that I’ve been thinking of you very often and sending thoughts for wellness and healing <3

  17. Interesting how self-advocacy and any negative display of emotion is translated into threatening behavior. Praying for their enlightenment and for your healing. Stay strong. Thank you for speaking the truth about what so many of us are dealing with.

  18. It sounds so horrible. It’s sad to say that not all medical professionals are empathetic and kind towards their patients. You deserve someone better to help you and treat you. Sending prayers 🙏 ❤️

  19. I’m so freaking angry on your behalf, Ashley. These clinical staff deserve to be treated like how you were, and see if they like it. Fucking hell.

  20. I hate to read this… you shouldn’t go to get help and come out traumatised. It’s not right.
    Keep fighting Ashley and stay strong please. Don’t let them get to you. Easier said than done…

    I am thinking of you, and just want you to be home with the guineas…

    Love you ❤

  21. This is so fucked up! If psych doctors and nurses are so narrow-minded and inflexible that they treat a psych patient pretty much like a criminal by default, how do we expect normal people to get over the stigma? What if you were allergic to the methohexital and got some physical adverse reaction rather than one involving only emotional distress? I bet they would be more serious about it… or maybe not, maybe they’d assume it’s a result of hysteria rather than actual side effects from the anaesthetic. I wish all psych professionals could be admitted as patients for a few weeks and treated like this as part of their training, maybe that would change something and make them realise that going through so much overwhelming stuff certainly can’t be healing. I feel so extremely lucky that I haven’t been hospitalised for mental health stuff, I suppose my brain would explode and I admire you that yours still hasn’t. I hope that at least ECT will make you feel better. Hugs.

  22. Dear Dr. Murray,

    I wonder how many people who desperately need treatment die because of situations like the one Ashley encountered? Can you imagine the outcry if you treated BIPOC people this way? Even worse, of course, is the quisling way in which medical professionals deny responsibility for their own behaviours. You did this, and then pretend you didn’t.

    I was thinking about this this morning, in point of fact. You’d never take a car to a mechanic who was untrained: most nurses and doctors lack the training to be able to treat mental illness. You don’t have untrained people prescribing chemo regimens, after all. And six combined credits in introductory psychology and biopsychology isn’t much of a resume.

    Do remember to give thanks to the endemic bigotry that makes your gross behaviour possible.


    Michelle who is afflicted with mental illness but still human.

  23. Thank you for the update. Again, sorry that so many people are so horrible. I left a message for your Dr. Murray: I don’t think I like them too much. Sending you good vibes, and hopes that your anesthesiologist learns to listen 💝

  24. If that Dr still wants to read your blog say hell yes. What you are experiencing is lawful. Put I am not surprised with how broken the concept of mental health is. Keep up the fight.

  25. Sadly some things don’t change. I recall things like this as in bad treatment for voluntary admission in Chertsey hospital in 1990 a time l don’t often talk about. But they were bastards then.

  26. Just read this after reading part III. Terrible treatment. Good for you writing to complain. I hope the training you suggested is taken up. You are such a strong woman! Praying you come out of all this and are soon well enough to go home.

  27. I’m just catching up, but what the hell? If that psychiatrist IS a professional, he’s coming off as a psych that doesn’t have solid ideas on how to treat his patients. Patients rely on those guys because as you mentioned “they don’t listen to psych patients”, especially ones they’ve labelled as ‘difficult’. Therefore the psychiatrist MUST do a competent job or hand the patient off to another doctor, one who can HEAR what the patient is saying.

    It presses a lot of buttons for me to read this, because you’re describing what would happen if I were forced into committal. Given my mental health diagnosis, it’s the common reaction that everyone with BPD (to my knowledge) would have. Hang in there kid, it’s GOT to get better!! Think about you and sending thoughts of support.

  28. They’re putting you through such an ordeal even though you were super responsible and sought help! That’s not the kind of patient who needs restraints….it’s ridiculous! DO NO HARM is their first mandate; I can’t believe it! If anyone you’re trying to convince is reading this, we’ve got Ashley’s back. The system needs to change because these absurd events are far too frequent and nothing is changing. Stop passing the buck, develop some common sense and change the way you perceive and treat psychiatrist patients. We’re not scary and we deserve the same respect given to every other sort of patient showing up in a clinical setting. Get your act together! Mental illness does NOT equal invalid opinions, feedback, requests, complaints, etc. We are NOT our mental illness so start treating us as the human beings we are. If you wonder why so many of us are reluctant to seek help, this is why! Stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution. For all the professionals doing their part to change things for the better, thank you, we appreciate it!

    Back to Ashley, good luck, I’m so sorry you’re fighting the additional battle of dealing with such a stupid and antiquated system. You have enough on your plate. I really hope things improve! Sending lots of love ❤️

  29. I’m certain the mental health staff there is not as knowledgeable about mental illness as you are. I’m glad you are equipped to understand and school them on deeper understanding and compassion for patients. ffs

  30. I’m glad you complained and recommended trainings for them. You are helping. I’m glad the world has people like you doing things like that. It makes me feel safer. Thank you.

  31. That is NOT ok!!! I also told the hospital that I will never go back after the way I was treated. I will be miserable in the comfort of my own home. I’m so sorry you had to go thru this. Going to next post…

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