Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Having Your HUSBAND Committed - A Stark Raving Mad Abnormal Psychology of Betrayal and a Comment on When You Should Committ Him (And Committ Him, You Should!)

(If you had been in Mark’s position) How would you have felt to have been forced into treatment?

Ah, hypothetical empathy. I don't know how I would have felt to have been forced into treatment because I think that if I were severely depressed to the point that I were stabbing myself with a pen, I would not be resistant and would appreciate having someone or something save me. If I were stabbing my arm with a pen, you can bet the act (!) would be histrionic in nature and not suicidal. I'm not much of a fighter, except in writing. Nor am I a self-killer. I don't like pain and suffering. I don't like death. (You might wonder, though, in light of my poetry and my Dances with Ghosts.) I don't think I am of a depressive composition. I'm more of a moderately anxious and stressed composition, so I don't know what it's like to be down so low that I want to and try to kill myself.

There was only one time I truly felt like dying, and that occurred during my first and only semester at Hampshire College when I was under stress and feeling too lonely for words. All that I remember was that I was standing in my pajamas at the end of my bed pressed against the midnight blue comforter with the yellow and purple moons and stars that collected hair like nothing else, feeling like a failure with no potential and no hope for happiness. The purple lights were on and I didn't feel like going out and I didn't feel like doing anything (not that I ever did feel like going out and doing anything) - I felt like vanishing and that's all.

I felt like I would rather be dead than alive. I did not want to be living, at that moment. I thought of all the bad things that were happening or had happened: someone important to me forgot my birthday; my ex-womanfriend was suicidal after I broke off the relationship with her and spoke with me every night on the phone, crying over how she was THIS CLOSE to getting a knife and getting "it" over with; my on line lovers were rising up from the dead trying to insert themselves into my heart of love (even the infamous Jeanne of Olean instant messaged me on my birthday to tell me she finally figured out who, of the hundreds of women she's been with, was her soul mate - can you guess who it was?) but I finally realized that not one of them was or would ever be the one for me; my Hampshire College Feminist Fictions professor, Lyn Hanley, gave me the necessary bad news: "You have good ideas, but you don't know how to write" - or was it "The ideas are good but the writing is awful;" I did not know what in God's (!) name I was doing in the Ethics of Reproduction class I was taking with the intimidating and sharp Falguni Sheth and was ready to throw in the towel and say, "I Can't" to Kant; my reclusive ways (yes, my favorite hall-mate called me "Recluse" whenever he was high in the night - and he was high in the night every night) were catching up with me and showing me my dark side; I felt stuck with a million questions and no answers, I felt clueless as to who I was or wanted to be; I was sick of struggling to survive, sick of trying to stay afloat when all I wanted to do was sink and grieve the days away.

Does that sound like depression to you? Okay, it does to me, too. I was temporarily depressed and those were some of the factors that caused and/or contributed to it. The suicidal moment was real and dramatic and very sad. It involved a lot of tears. It involved thoughts like: "Why is life like this? Why can't it be different? Why can't it just be easy? It's too hard. It's too hard. I hate it. Why are people so horrible? Why can't I stop loving the person I love? I don't understand anything. I will never have the answers. I thought I knew. I was wrong. It's not fair. People suck. I'm people. I suck. What the fuck is the point of any of this? I want to die. Why? Whyyyyy."

I actually think suicidal thoughts are sometimes rational, helpful and even (kill me now ! for saying this) romantic. Sometimes life really is a piece of shit. If you watched your whole family die (I have no idea why this is my quintessential reference to torture) then I would not blame you for wanting to be dead. In fact, maybe being dead would be a better option than having to live with that kind of pain. Maybe it wouldn't be a better option. It depends on the individual and how she feels and whether or not help is helping her enough. I don't think life is ALWAYS worth living. There are some, extreme, instances in which death is preferable. I don't know whether or not my thoughts were rational or irrational at that moment at Dakon Hall E2, The Gay Hall, but life did suck at that moment. That moment did not capture the whole of my existence though - the happy moments, the "life is so good" moments. The balance was tipped on the side of life sucks and the life is good side was up in the air. My first semester at college was hard because there were so few of the "life is good" moments. I was young and had not developed the skills or knowledge of myself to be able to make "the best" out of dark and difficult times. I wanted to die, but I wasn't suicidal because I just wanted to be killed (quickly and painlessly) and to not have to kill myself. It was the closest thing to suicidality that I have ever experienced.

I will try to relate Mark's forced commitment and treatment to the time in my life when I was most at the edge of sanity and most likely to have been committed (to somewhere or something). When my mother was emotionally abusing me because of my lesbian identity in high school, there were times when she talked (no, screamed or hissed) about wanting to have me committed to a mental hospital and to wanting to have me moved out of my school to a far away nether region (boarding school to break witches of their craft and evil life), and wanting to have me go away to a camp for recovering homosexuals.

I remember thinking, while I was lying on the floor below her screaming into the berber carpet, about what I might do if I ever ended up in a psychiatric ward or in a homo-recovery camp. I remember thinking I would fight and rebel "until the death." That I would fight the system and BE INSANE to spite the system (or to spite my mother...). Giving up was not an option. If fighting the system wouldn't have worked, I would have tried playing the system at its own game and performing the role of SANITY. I knew this, then: I knew I would do whatever the hell I had to do to SURVIVE so that I could tell my story and find my freedom.

I don't know that I would have done any of that, though, once I was around rational people who wanted to help (I was assuming wherever my mother was going to send me would be rampant with irrationality, and based on what I know about the world now - it probably would have been). In the case of the recovery camp, it's safe to assume I would not have been in a rational or helpful environment. I would have been in a psycho ward instead of a psych ward (sorry, the sounds made me do it!) I think if I were placed in a psych ward, I would have been deemed perfectly well and sane - and that my mother would have been the one identified as being in need of psychological assistance (and maybe she recognized that on some distant level, because I never ended up in a psychiatric hospital). Even then, on the floor in the chaos, I was thinking about my mother: worrying about what "they" might do with her or say about her once they knew what was really going on at home. I was worrying about my mother's reputation. I did not want her to be humiliated for what she was doing to me, I just wanted her to stop doing it to me.

My rational and healthy-minded self would never want to be given ECT therapy. I would not consent to that now, and I doubt I would want that in a serious situation in which I was irrational. But...if I was trying to kill myself and unresponsive, then I imagine it would be necessary. And that's the point of the ethical questions involved in committing someone - determining what qualifies as "necessary." That's so difficult to think about. The rationality of the provider is key and the ethical standards of the field of Clinical Psychology is key to the rationality of the provider (at least in part). If I could trust in the rationality of the psychologist, then I could accept that it had to be done. But if I thought someone who was not trustworthy or rational had power over me, then that would be a different story and I would be stark raving mad.

I guess the point is this. I cannot imagine what it is like to be involuntarily forced into treatment as an irrational person; I can only imagine being involuntarily forced into treatment as a rational person (because that is what I am, a rational person - I know, laugh all you want). I knew that my mother's threats of taking me to a psychiatric hospital were ridiculous because I knew that she was the irrational one and I was the rational one (although I recognized that her irrationality was driving me into a state of irrationality). If you are forced into treatment because you are in some way psychologically incapacitated, you are not going to like it (WHILE you are incapacitated). When you come to a place of normal psychological functioning, you will likely see things through a rational lens and have an understanding for the actions taken. However, if the actions were hastily made and irrational in and of themselves (and you are able to figure this out when YOU are rational), then get thee to a lesbian lawyer and divorce yourself from the electroconvulsive wife you married or the electroconvulsive therapist you married.

How must his wife have felt when she signed the forms giving permission for the ECT treatments?

I can only imagine that Tanya felt terribly anxious and ambivalent when she signed the permission forms for the ECT treatments. She was going against her Husband on High's wishes and, God Forbid, placing her judgement above his own. She was assuming a position of power over him in a very dramatic way. Within marriages, couples are always negotiating and renegotiating power dymanics. Who knows what kind of power dynamics were established between Mark and Tanya (or, Man-and-Wife. Or, Man-and-WiFi) before this happened. She may have been at a total loss and utterly uncomfortable making decisions for her husband (if that was not an already established pattern in their relationship).

In crisis, we all have to make decisions. Often those decisions bring us completely out of our comfort zones. It's par for the terrible course. I can also imagine that she felt guilty for going against him (even though it wasn't against HIM she was going against, it was the catatonic depression). If my mother had been reprimanded publicly for her psychological unwellness during my Coming Out then I, like Tanya, would have been an emotional mess of conflict. Rationally, I would know what was best. Emotionally, I would have been a mess (confident on the outside, perhaps, but shaking on the inside). Emotionally, Tanya may have felt terribly guilty and perceived her action emotionally as a form of betrayal. Sometimes we must betray the ones we love, whether they be our mothers, our husbands or our selves in order to make rational decisions in times of crisis.

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