Monday 2nd May 2022: Section on Sectioning – Autistic and Hospitalised 2/2

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re doing great. I’ve been very busy this week – good things are happening that I’m not yet ready to reveal, but trust that I will when I get the go-ahead.

In the meantime, please have a look at Liam O’Dell’s excellent and ongoing work on conversion therapy and how it is still fundamental to the way autistic people are viewed (don’t worry, I will be updating you on the conversion therapy problem in the UK in the near future):

Spectrum 10K: Website for controversial study mentions ABA and ‘autistically handicapped’ charities – Liam O’Dell (liamodell.com)

I had a great week. My friend Harry (go see their show at Brighton Fringe in a few weeks: Harry Wright: Smalltown Boy | Brighton Fringe ) and I went to see Maria Bamford in Hackney on Saturday. She has been my favourite comedian since 2010. Yes, I’m a Bammer with a backstory (don’t try to understand, just go with it). She was outstanding. I am so pleased that I made it over, even if I had to go to London and I didn’t get to bed till 2 am. I’m so pleased I don’t live there anymore, not going to lie.

Also, why aren’t people more upset about Zoom suddenly implementing 40 minute limits across the board? Oh, probably because they implemented it today, on the international day of labour rights, the best day for capitalist nonsense.

So, again, like last week:

STRONG CONTENT WARNINGS for discussions of self-harm, suicidal thinking and actions, meltdowns, medical trauma, PTSD, self-hate, slurs and a lot of cocking, twatting, dicking, anally-prolapsed fucking swearing. There’s also some physical violence in there, not just self-inflicted. If that’s not your cup of decaffeinated resin with a splash of oat, then there’s other blogs aplenty on this site. Go ahead, give yourself a hug. It’s all going to be fine in the end.

Oh, yeah, spoiler alert: I’m fine, happy and healthy now. I mean, look at me now.

Description: An image of a clearly sane white autistic cisgender male, wearing glasses, noise cancelling headphones and a blue hoodie. He also has a pluche cow on his head. He looks at the camera in a way that says: “…”

Good. Fun’s over.

Back to the Ward

I didn’t last long in psych ward. I was there for about two weeks in total. It’s evident to me now that the staff didn’t know what they were doing at all. That’s not their fault, the problem is systemic. If they are trained in a behaviourist system, behaviour modification is all they’re going to be able to do. They have internalised a morality system of bad vs. good behaviour, rather than one that celebrates divergence. But, for now, that’s neither here nor there.

One huge problem I faced with psychiatric care was, as I said last week, that it seeks to return a person to a stable version of the person they were before their current crisis. They don’t have the power to ‘cure’ you or make you a ‘new’ person. I would have said: I want to be human. I didn’t believe I measured up to what a human was supposed to be. I was lesser-than. I needed to do an awful amount of work to be at the same level as a relatively shit human. When I made a mistake or there was a misunderstanding, I felt evil. Not evil as in: a bit naughty, like when I eat a full box of Ryvita. Evil as in: serial killer fascist Donald Trump evil. Not good. Evil. Quite bad indeed.

Why? Responding to Blindboy Boatclub’s adage that each person is born with intrinsic worth, I never felt like I had that. Maybe I did and I lost it, through whichever means. When you’ve somehow got to 24 and believe that you – despite not doing anything wrong – are evil and vicious enough to not be valued the same as anyone else, there’s nothing much to do within the currently established psychiatric paradigm.

What was needed was having people like me, who I understood intuitively, to be able to share my pain with. To validate me, to help me understand what I could do. To allow me space. To allow me to feel pain and not punish myself for feeling it. To work through trauma and live with the hurt like wounds that will never heal, but may close. To know that my life had value beyond what I could do for other people. For my talent to be recognised, rather than either ignored or appropriated.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where that’s possible now, let alone 10 years ago.

Second Attempt at Sticking to the Topic: Back to the Ward 2

Anyway. The other people on my ward were also clinically depressed. Many had been under treatment for years, if not decades. A few had tried every form of medication under the sun. One was even receiving electroshock therapy – they were actually doing quite well under it. During the weekends, the ward was essentially a holding pen for life. To my frustration, we weren’t actually doing therapy. Unlike my experience at Orshof, back in 1999, 2000 and 2001, there were no interventions as such. No painful confrontations based on behaviourist psychology from the mid-20th century. There was just, being. Which was weird.

I hated it. There was some art therapy and exercise. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do with the art therapy. What was its purpose? Again, I have lost a lot of my memory, but I do recall I had a meltdown during art therapy at one point and that I beat the PE teacher at badminton, despite my protestations that he let me win. I have a mean dropshot, can’t lie about that.

Still, I saw a problem (myself) that needed fixing. By force, if necessary. I became an unbearable try-hard. I desperately wanted to be better. I might even have asked staff how I should be more like them, to laughs and “all you need to do is be yourself.” I’d meet that with: “That’s clearly the problem – I need to be less like myself. Being me is what got me here.” Again, the staff at hospitals like this don’t undo someone’s being, they seek to get you back to an even keel. I was never on one in the first place. Checking in with my emails from then, I must have been an inpatient for about 3 weeks.

Even Further Back

In 1999, my father didn’t succeed in trying to end his own life. But he did manage to get sectioned. My brother and I didn’t know what had happened until he’d been in hospital for a few days. I remember walking through the clouds of cigarette smoke, obliterating a patient at table tennis. I remember feeling like I needed to prepare – I’d soon be in a place like this. A few months later, he was in an inpatient unit in Eindhoven, called De Grote Beek. It was a place that terrified me. There were crazy people there (need I remind you, I was 11 years old, in an institutionally ableist society. I wasn’t “woke” on mental health at that age). I was really scared of being there. I cannot remember visiting more than once. I remember the fear of being found out and held at the unit against my will. My father was as drugged as I became twelve years later. Within the year, he would complete suicide.

With previous experience like that it’s not a surprise my stay at hospital didn’t go well. I told you that I was annoying. I annoyed one of the other patients so much – for being a fag who didn’t know when to shut up, but did know how to ruin everyone else’s recovery (granted, he was right) – he punched me in the face. Meltdown, obviously. My mind was going at 100 miles per hour. During a quiet moment, one previous day (again, apologies for the lack of chronology, it was the drugs) he mentioned he had tried to hang himself in the rafters of his girlfriend’s house on his last day out. This memory linked up with the obvious conclusion that he would be discharged from the hospital for his actions: I was now responsible for his suicide. I banged my head between the kitchen cupboard and the door. It must have looked hilarious. It absolutely wasn’t. The blood wasn’t too bad. I was allowed to leave, as I wasn’t feeling safe.

After this, I must have lived somewhere, I just can’t recall exactly where. My memories are mostly gone, until I move to the Retiefstraat in Amsterdam in June 2012. I lived there for a few months, until the Edinburgh Festival that year. I wouldn’t be an inpatient at a hospital again, up till today.

Sectioned

I have only been sectioned once – I was in hospital overnight, back in 2017. I have spoken about it before. I was fired from a job at a school I now know was behaviourist in its methods. I worked there as a Teaching Assistant. It was not a great experience, looking back. The way I was fired, I will not go into here – know that it was not my fault and my DBS is clear. But the staff agreed that I wasn’t well enough to work there any longer. I, as a consequence, wanted to die. It’d been a long summer and I was overworked, burnt out and hopeless. I’d been put back on benzodiazepines by the day hospital. Then this happened. It was, as I say, not a good time.

I was on the Cowley Road in Oxford. All that there was left in me was rage at myself for being fired. If I couldn’t live independently, I didn’t deserve to exist. I decided in the moment that death was too easy, too cowardly an outcome. I needed something that would hurt more, not less. I started banging my head against the wooden door of a café. I luckily did no damage to the café door at all. The police was called.

I saw everybody’s eyes as I was restrained, letting them see me. Their stares hurt more than the pavement I was trying to bang my head into. I felt I’d come full circle. After all this time, after all this running – I’d finally succumbed to my father’s fate. I was just as bad as he was – probably worse.

I was sectioned under 136 – that is, a temporary sectioning under the mental health act, anticipating further examination. I was brought in to the Warneford hospital, in the back of the police car. I felt the stares from people around me, which were somehow even more humiliating than those from the passers-by earlier.

I found myself in a room, without my daybook, without pen and paper, without my phone, without medication. I didn’t sleep – obviously not, I didn’t have my medication. I tried to read, while the lights were always on and the night watchperson switched every hour. Some were great and left me alone. Others tried to tell me that I was fine – clearly, I was reading, I couldn’t be that unwell. This put me in a meltdown again. Looking back, of course, they were not to blame at all. They were well-meaning people who were undertrained and underpaid for the difficult work they were doing.

In the end, I was allowed the medication. I fell asleep, waking up mid-morning. I remember playing Rayman Legends on the PS4 that was there. I was behaving very stereotypically autistic. Nothing of my mask remained. I was too tired, too vulnerable. There was a very nice mental health nurse there. She was great. She just let me recuperate. By about 10:30, I saw a psychiatrist.

He saw my medication and asked me why on earth I’d been taking a combination of escitalopram and quietiapine? No reason – I just had been prescribed it back in 2012. This, he said, could explain the exacerbated meltdowns: never prescribe those two together. It’s apparently basic knowledge. It wasn’t to me. Nor should it have had to be. No-one, for over five years, had bothered to check. I was told to reduce escitalopram as soon as possible and start on sertraline. I have been on sertraline, very happily, since 2017.

By 11:30, I was out. I had been sectioned for about twelve hours, max. I went home to recuperate. That was on a Friday. That Wednesday, I had a job interview for EF Oxford. I passed it. I would work there for three years.

Conclusion..?

Psychiatric hospitals are not made for autistics. They are fundamentally unsafe spaces for us. Then again, so is the rest of the world. I’ve been dealt a rough hand, sure, but I’m definitely one of the lucky ones. I have learned so much about how damaging the psychiatric status quo is for autistics in the real world. I’m just happy I’m alive and my sectioning somehow led to me now being quite healthy indeed. I have learned that validating my own experience is vital. I am not wrong about how I perceive the world. Far from it. I am not worth less than other human beings, despite what PTSD tells me. Invalidation is torture. No-one should undergo it, especially when one is already suffering from that very same invalidation.

We need a rethink of mental health care, by autistics, for autistics. I will hopefully be part of the first generation to make this rethink happen. We need a structural reorganisation of mental health services, away from the profit-motive, away from decentralisation, away from cuts. We need to see autism as the way neurodiversity intersects with societal oppression on the basis of other minoritised identities. When I was attacked in hospital, in 2012, that was because I was queer and because I was autistic. The reason I was there was the same: I felt I needed to suffer. The causes of that need go far further back than I have time or energy to discuss here. I’m still unpacking it, too.

I hope this has been useful. It has been… fun? Maybe? I don’t know if that’s the appropriate word (it definitely isn’t). Let’s go with useful. I wouldn’t be the same person I am now without these experiences. Wounds never heal, they may close up sometimes. I am in the privileged position of preventing further harm to my community, both individually and systemically. Hopefully the next generation won’t have as shitty a time as I did – or have to be lucky, like I undeniably was.

Life’s pretty good, though. Gotta love anniversaries. Autistic humour next week.

BYEEEEE!!!!!!

Love, as ever,

Jorik

Categories ABA/Gender and Sexuality/Healthcare/Institutional Barriers/Medication/Money/On Burnout/On Depression/On Neurotypicals/On Resilience/Reduction

Post Author: jorikmol

Professionally Autistic

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