A picture of the interior herb garden of the Dom church, Utrecht, from our recent holiday.

Monday 25th April 2022: Section on Sectioning – Autistic and Hospitalised 1/2

Hi everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve been busy, getting on with Teeming again after a long while. Also busy teaching, admin for future speaking and writing opportunities as well as, y’know, enjoying the weather. On Friday, I had to have blood taken, so the weekend was a bit of a write-off, but I managed to do some all-important resting. Vital stuff, which – as you know – I despise having to. But still.

Today, once again, we will divert from our expected programme for a complicated anniversary.

Ten years ago today I had a horrendous meltdown and I ended up in hospital. But let’s not jump the gun here (no pun intended) and distract ourselves with some excellent work from other creative minds in the disability space (really – that pun was a complete accident!).

(It wasn’t).

STRONG CONTENT WARNINGS for discussions of alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicidal thinking and actions, meltdowns, medical trauma, PTSD, self-hate, slurs and a lot of fucking swearing. If you’re not into that, there are other blogs which don’t have that. As much.

First: stuff to watch!

All of these videos have to do with why capitalism and disability do not work together and how one creates the other. If you like, let me know; I might write a blog on that myself some day (no need to ask – I’ve already put it on the list, guys).

Here’s a video I watched this week by the lovely Scottish video essayist John Duncan about disability and class. It will make you either feel at ease knowing that you’re not mad – or utterly bereft in your despair about the human race. I, and most of the people reading this, fall into the first camp.

Check out JohnTheDuncan on Patreon, too: JohntheDuncan is creating Political blogs and video essays | Patreon

This is the excellent Chris Bonnello branching out into animation. Highly amusing and educational, MS Paint never felt so appropriate.

There is MS Paint everywhere. Find Chris at https://www.autisticnotweird.com and his Patreon.

Harry Thompson is currently doing brilliant work in his series on invalidation trauma – a particular kind of ableist abuse very common to autistic people.

Learn more about Harry’s work (and his excellent merch) at HARRY J. THOMPSON (harryjackthompson.com)

This is Leslie Exp and her id (or something) Jeremy Strawman arguing about disability and how it is defined by capitalist thinking around time.

Read Leslie’s work and support her via Kofi and on her website: Leslie’s Blog | There’s no shame in being less exploitable. (wordpress.com)

Lastly, the lovely Jessica Kellgren-Fozard knocking it out of the ballpark while looking like your cool aunt who lives in the city 1925-1932. I love her.

Jessica is a hero and has a significant profile already, but don’t hesitate to contribute to her amazing work:
Welcome! – Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (jessicaoutofthecloset.co.uk)

So now for the less fun stuff!

Yup! I went into hospital on 25th April 2012. I think it was a Thursday (checks. No. It was a Wednesday.) (That’s important. Apparently.).

I don’t know about you, but I really care about time. And when I mean time, I mean years, dates and anniversaries. Chronology is important to me. I never struggled to remember dates in history, because my brain enjoys building a narrative over a period of years. I always want to know when a person was born and when they died. Partly out of a fear of death and partly because I want to be better than them by living longer. Because life’s a marathon, not a sprint. And I’m winning.

Yes, I’m still here. There was a time where that was not as obvious. After returning from my Erasmus year in the UK in September 2011, I was broke, exhausted and technically homeless. I had been at the Edinburgh Festival and my request to stay in the UK to finish the rest of my degree from Sussex Uni was denied. I had to come home.

It didn’t go well.

In July of 2011, my grandfather passed away. I missed his funeral due to being in a different country. I couldn’t go back, even though my family was happy to cough up the money for the return trip. I just somehow knew that I’d never make it back if I returned now. I didn’t take it well regardless. Neither did they.

When I got back from Edinburgh, I moved in with my parents. I started the third year of my English degree at the University of Amsterdam. I was also drinking a lot. It wasn’t a good time. Somewhere on the internet is the blog I kept between 2010 and 2013. I didn’t write any entries after August 2011 until after I’d been in hospital, in May 2012. I couldn’t stand looking at it. Looking at it now, I see why (I waffle. Badly. Worse than now.*).

My parents were adamant that I move out soon – understandably so, I hadn’t lived at their for years by this point and they wanted their own space. After several weeks of desperate searching, I found the first available affordable room in a house share in Uitgeest, Noord-Holland. I remember cycling home from the shops the day after I moved. The weather was gorgeous, with the sun blazing on my back. I was weeping uncontrollably.

The house share was, in every way, traumatic. The housemates were fighting amongst themselves constantly. I was often asked to come down on one or either side. Instead I hid in my room. The thin walls didn’t keep out the drone of bad EDM coming from downstairs. The bathroom, for what it was, hadn’t been updated since the house was built and didn’t have heating. The kitchen was the most serious. Two of the people there used a deep-fat fryer every night. It was never cleaned. It was also right above my room. There was no extractor fan above the fryer. Every night, my room turned yellow.

Didn’t make much difference, since the furnace close to the town spewed out the effluvium of the animal carcasses it burned every day. My room was always just right for the smell to hit me. I think I became a vegetarian then, though it didn’t do me much good.

Add to that, a total lack of money. I spent my time in constant high anxiety – looking for work, getting rejected from jobs due to having meltdowns in interview situations. I binge ate, practically every night. I watched a lot of porn. When I wasn’t trying to fix the hole in my wallet, I tried desperately to study. But, when my focus was inevitably evaporated, would drink myself to sleep. I was having more and more meltdowns. My friends from the year before tried to help, but found themselves getting frustrated, as I kept on repeating the need to ‘just get on with it,’ and ‘take it on the chin.’ I didn’t accept any help.

Medication

The turning point came when I had a huge blank during a routine exam. My brain just stopped functioning. My memory of it isn’t super clear, but I also don’t want to look at emails from that time, for reasons that should be pretty obvious. I think I ran out, crying to myself.

I failed spectacularly. That worried my teachers. I wasn’t the kind of person to fail exams, I said. They agreed. When I spoke to the wellbeing lead at the English faculty, she was shocked to hear how I’d been doing. I needed to move out from where I was staying. Obviously. I’d gained weight. The drinking was also starting to show, badly. I needed help. I could access a mental health support programme for depression that would start in the new year and it would be for 12 calendar months.

That was a problem. I desperately wanted to move back to England. I hated the Netherlands and hated having to speak Dutch to people (I thought that was just due to the Dutch 20-year flirtation with electoral fascism – now, after seeing (and being friends with) Dutch anti-fascists, I know it is due to trauma). I was shaky and hated having to say no: clearly I was not in a good state and even I knew I needed to do something.

I reread the book Pil by the Dutch comedian and musician Mike Boddé, which I’d bought the year before on a Christmas trip back to Holland. I decided to talk to the therapist I saw as a teenager. You know, the one I bullied into reneging my autism diagnosis on September 11th 2001. That one. By this time I was still convinced autism was evil and I needed help, for the depression. I also underlined that it was unipolar, clinical depression; NOT bipolar disorder, because my father had had that. Borderline didn’t even come up, good, since my father had that too. He couldn’t do much, he said. He didn’t know where to start. Looking back, knowing more about the industry, I’m not surprised he didn’t.

In the end I spoke to a psychologist at the AMC Amsterdam in early 2012, who diagnosed me with chronic depression and anxiety disorder. I had a huge meltdown when we talked to the psychiatrist who had to sign off on my diagnosis. I hadn’t seen a psychiatrist since my father was under treatment. I was prescribed Escitalopram (Lexapro), at a low dose to start with. I would start on 29th February 2012. With my friend Merel, over a glass of white wine.

Hatred

I have to stop here for a moment and address the elephant in the room: my own self-hatred. I remember walking into the AMC for the first time. It was January 2012, it was freezing cold. I’d been sleeping on my grandmother’s floor for the past few weeks, since I couldn’t handle being in the room in Uitgeest. The anxiety about seeking help was huge. The atrium of the AMC psychiatry section was this huge open area, all glass and wooden interiors. I felt like I was going to be punished. It felt like it.

This entire process felt like I was being sacrificed. I felt torn open. And I was also standing alongside myself, watching, pointing and smirking. The jokes and questions from children after my father’s suicide rang truer than ever. This was what I was always meant to be. I’d tried to run away from it for so long, but I had failed. My own diseased self was going to get what it deserved.

I started the medication. The first reactions of my body to the drugs was pretty minor, I stopped drinking a few days after that too, due to my hangovers becoming supercharged. Haven’t drunk alcohol since (see my post from a few weeks back). I also got into UCL, not to study Issues in Modern Culture, but Comparative Literature. Good. I remember my friends telling me drunkenly that they thought I’d have killed myself if I hadn’t. I remember taking that on the chin, but inside me there was a battle between being massively insulted and realising with horror that they were right.

I quit working for the GVB – the Amsterdam equivalent of Transport for London. I needed a lot more sleep and, frankly, I was sick. My time-keeping skills were even poorer now and I missed lessons entirely. But most frustratingly of all, I wasn’t normal.

Yup, I wanted this pill to “fix” me. My father never wanted to take his medication: I did. I was still feeling high levels of anxiety, every day. I still had binges. I still had frightening thoughts. I was desperately fighting off the hatred I felt towards myself. I thought by making this enormous step, accepting that I was not normal and needed fixing, that I was going to be fixed.

In a sense, I wanted Lexapro to be my conversion therapist. Well. Not today Satan (TM).

Meltdowns and Shutdowns

Instead, I slowed down. I really slowed down. My thinking was slower. I could only sit on my granddad’s easy chair, eat crisps and watch the BBC from my grandmother’s front room. I tried reading, but barely anything stuck. My academic work suffered even more. It became clear to others that I wasn’t really functioning – even before it did for me.

At one point, I was trying to read and finding that I couldn’t, I realised that I stopped being able to move. I stayed in that state for a while, getting more and more angry with myself, but unable to do anything about it. Instead, I decided to do the only thing that was still in my power to do. I stopped breathing. This kicked me out of the shutdown, into a meltdown. I raced downstairs and cycled 35 kilometres.

The day was beautiful. Spring had come with purples and reds and brutal greens. Inside me it wasn’t. I was only now realising that I was capable of killing myself. Even by this time, I didn’t really think that I could kill myself, since that was something my father did and I was not him. I was now him. I didn’t have a choice at all. I was just doomed to this. I called my parents. They could not help. My stepfather said I should go back to England, as I was happy there (he was right, though looking back, I was also pretty dysfunctional there. I would have crumbled there too).

Either that next day or a few days later, I had a seminar with one of my favourite lecturers. My brain was messy and I accidentally said something dickish about someone else in the seminar group. They heard it, obviously, and held me to account.

Their words cut me. They said: “Are you autistic or something?” baffled that I said something hurtful, in such a public way. My mouth said no, while the rest of me was busy trying not to jump out of the nearest window. I detached from the situation as best I could, since I needed to travel.

I then had a meeting with my psychiatrist. I shakily asked why I wasn’t normal yet. She said, genuinely, that I was doing my best and she could see that. I was doing everything right. I couldn’t force my way out of depression.

I left. I was consumed with hatred for myself. I remember going up and down the escalators at Bijlmer Arena station. Because of course I did. I only stopped to retrieve the bag someone had dropped. I got to o’Reilly’s, our pub, near the Dam, behind the Royal Palace. I couldn’t drink, didn’t want to. My mood was horrendous. I was evident to everyone that I was miserable.

One of my friends and I had a massive fight. Her and I now know that she was also struggling with PTSD and that me visibly not coping was a privilege she couldn’t afford.

We had a stand-up row, outside, in the pouring rain (I’m not lying. You can ask her, she’ll back me up). There were tears. I left, weeping. I needed to get home. Then, when I got into one of the university buildings to recalibrate, I realised I didn’t know how to move anymore. It felt like I’d lost the capacity to get on a train, get onto a bike and, just, exist. I called the hospital, they asked me to come in. I somehow managed to get onto a tram, then onto a metro.

The First Day

I spoke with the acting psychiatrist. I said I was diseased and needed to be put in hospital. I saw that as punishment for what I’d done that day, that week, this lifetime. I needed to be made normal, by force, or die. She said they couldn’t do that for me. I melted down even more. I was openly self-harming now. I wasn’t restrained. I was just told that I would be taken under observation. I would have the possibility of leaving if I wanted to. It was not a sectioning.

I was given a lot of benzos for sleeping. I barely remember the first day. But I woke up and the first thing that hit me through the cloud of benzos was, yet again, shame. I was led into the common room, after being asked repeatedly to be left in my “cell.” I was now in a room with insane people. I hadn’t been in one since my father had been, before he died. I felt the punishment and, not to put too fine a point on it, the disgust with the other people there. I was asked to have breakfast with the other patients. I was too horrified to, but I forced something down my throat eventually, which was applauded. Again, all I could feel was hot shame.

I barely remember the meetings with psychiatrists I must have had those first few days. I was diagnosed with chronic depression, anxiety and panic disorders and personality disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). I guess they knew about the borderline thing. My anxiety was very meta; I was anxious about the very idea of mental illness. I was anxious about anxiety, depressed about depression. I simply despised myself, the fact I liked men, my failed career, my disgusting fat body and my failure to ‘rise above it’ and ‘pull myself up by my bootstraps.’

I was given 4 mg of clonazepam, 20 mg of Lexapro, 600 mg of Seroquel on top of various benzos to be taken liberally on top of the three daily medications. I would be on those three drugs for respectively 3, 5 and 9 years. Would they fix me?

Medication..?

Obviously not. No pill was going to fix me. What I wanted to be fixed was not to do with depression or anxiety. They weren’t the core issues I was dealing with. It was everything else.

I will finish the story next week. Can you see why I chose to frontload the blog with videos from other people first? Something nice, before the horror. Next week, more of this. The week after that, I’ll be writing about Autistic Humour. Something light for a change (LOL. No chance).

Have a look at my blog plans for the next few months, while we’re at it:

25/04/2022Sectioning and Hospitalisation 1/2
02/05/2022Sectioning and Hospitalisation 2/2
09/05/2022Autistic Humour
16/05/2022Autism and Learning Disabilities
23/05/2022Being Refused Care and Therapy because you’re autistic: It’s not just you!
30/05/2022Autistic and in mourning
06/06/2022Pride season: The First Pride Was a Riot – Anti-capitalism and the Rainbow Pound
13/06/2022Pride season: Conversion Therapy – How is it going? (not great)
20/06/2022Pride season: Being Autistic in Queer Spaces (gay bars, discos, kink, cruising)
27/06/2022Pride season: Ace/Aro, Poly, Intersex and being Autistic – More Than LGBTQ!
04/07/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
11/07/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
25/07/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
01/08/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
08/08/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
15/08/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????
22/08/2022SHORTER BLOG: ?????

Lots of love, from a now very sane, together – if fluey –

Jorik

* Yeah, I know. Funny, that. This post is in two halves now!

Categories Healthcare/Institutional Barriers/Medication/On Depression/Uncategorized

Post Author: jorikmol

Professionally Autistic

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jorik.mol@gmail.com