A labelled orphan

To contextualise this series about psychiatry, see: here. Below, an abridged translation of a chapter of one of my books that I wrote in the last century:
 

‘And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless and
the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place’. —Jeremiah [1]

Some readers may be under the impression that I overstated my case with my hypothetical Dora—not Freud’s real Dora, the subject of another chapter—by claiming that psychiatrists are the hammer of the victims. To clear that impression away I will quote the testimony of John Bell: a boy who, like my Dora, was hammered by psychiatrists. Bell’s testimony was published in Speaking Our Minds, an English anthology of survivors of psychiatry:

There is a saying that goes, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’. Yet there is one name that has caused me more pain and unhappiness that goes beyond imagination. And not only the name but all that went with it. The name in question is ‘schizophrenic’.

Three days before Christmas 1968, my father died from cancer. Five weeks later, my mother followed him. In a very short space of time I had gone from being a happy, carefree schoolboy to an orphan. I had only just turned 14 at the time. I went to stay with an uncle until arrangements could be made for me to be fostered or adopted.

Unfortunately, it never got to that stage. On the way home from school one day I was knocked off my pushbike by a car. As a result, I was admitted to hospital with severe concussion. After a week I was discharged. I then started to get attacks of anxiety. This, I have been told, is quite common after having a concussion.

My GP did not think so at the time and so passed me over to a psychiatrist. After a long talk with the psychiatrist, he said that I would be safer in a hospital. When he told me which hospital, I refused point blank. This was the place that my mother had referred to as Cotford Lunatic Asylum, the place they put people who were mad or insane. I knew the place as Tone Vale Mental Hospital.

Anyway, the psychiatrist issued me with some drugs which he said would help me. In fact, they did the opposite. The effects of these drugs were quite horrific and as a result I ended up in another hospital where some tests, including a lumbar puncture, were carried out.

In September 1969 I was taken to the Tone Vale and the only reason I was given was that they wished to discharge me from the hospital and I had no place to go except Tone Vale. The truth of it is that the psychiatrist had told my uncle that he suspected I had schizophrenia and that I would be safer in Tone Vale.

This was the start of events which devastated my life.

At Tone Vale there is a special unit called Merryfield. Because of my age I should have gone to that unit. Instead, I was placed in the main hospital, which, I can tell you, was a very terrifying experience. I knew that there was nothing wrong with me, that I did not need to be in a mental hospital, but I’m afraid I was the only one who saw it that way.

For the next seven months I went through hell. It was no use trying to talk to the nurses as all they did was mock me. My uncle took the trouble to visit me now and sign, but they always knew when he was coming and so the dose of Largactil was upped to a level that I was unable to stand up.

On more than one occasion I was beaten up by nurses. They actually enjoyed doing it. And when they used to tell me that nobody would believe me, they were right. Like the charge nurse once said to me, ‘Who is going to believe anyone in a mental hospital. We just put it down to you being ill. Tell people if you want but they are not going to take any notice’. I tried to tell my uncle what they did to me once, but the charge nurse was right, he didn’t believe a word of it. And as a result, I was given a shot of Paraldehyde.

The worst thing that I suffered in that first seven months is something that I have done my best to hide all these years. I was sexually abused by another patient one night. And when he had finished, he threw me onto the floor and kicked the living hell out of me. And a nurse just stood there and laughed.

My lucky break came when the Chief Medical Superintendent went on holiday. The doctor who stood in for him called me into the office one day. She told me that a mental hospital was no place for a boy of my age and as she could see nothing wrong with me, she discharged me there and then.

What I thought was the end of it all was just a break. A social worker was called in to take me back to my uncle’s house. When I showed up he was horrified. He made it clear he wasn’t prepared to have a schizophrenic in his house. Everybody else shared the same view. Not one single person wanted to know me.

My mind could take no more and so I stole a motorbike and rode it straight into a brick wall. I just wanted to die. There was nothing left to live for. I was alone in a big, cruel world and with the threat of having to return to Tone Vale. How I survived I am told is a miracle. I made a right mess of myself. I really wish I had not survived—it would have saved me from what was to come next.

I was taken back to Tone Vale under Section 25 of the Mental Health Act 1959. Before the end of the twenty-eight days [stipulated by law] were up I was handed a piece of paper stating that I was being detained under Section 26 and the diagnosis was ‘schizophrenia’. I was then taken to the back of the hospital and placed on a locked ward. It was put to me by the charge nurse of this ward that the only way I would leave it was when they transferred me to the geriatric ward below or in a coffin.

There were seventy patients on this ward and it was impossible to talk to any of them. Their minds had been destroyed. I saw some of those poor buggers get ECT neat. No doctor present either. I fell victim to it twice. Hardly a day went by when I didn’t get beaten by a nurse. But that’s it. They weren’t nurses. They were keepers. Some of the things that went on are unbelievable.

One day, I was taken down to see the Chief Medical Superintendent in his office. He told me that my condition was worsening and that they were considering giving me a small operation which he assured me would make me feel a lot better. On the way back to the ward my escort of two nurses delighted in showing me the operating room where he would ‘fix’ my brain.

It’s fair to say that the [municipal kennel] treats stray dogs better than I was treated by the nurses on Hood Ward. After two years I was released from Tone Vale. It would take far too long to say how, but I can tell you that it was by the skin of my teeth.

The fact that I had been labelled a schizophrenic has destroyed my life ever since. Everything that I have ever wanted to do has been ruined by that one word and the fact that I was detained in a mental hospital as a youngster. Employment, for example—people are reluctant to work with you when they find out; they feel threatened.

What happened to me years ago did a lot of damage—damage that can never be repaired or reversed. They took everything away from me. My youth. My rights as a human being. My dignity and self-respect. But the one thing that I did manage to hang onto was my mind, which is why for the past eighteen years I have fought so hard to prove that I was wronged. I fought so hard that I could take no more and became very ill—so ill, that in June 1990 I was once more admitted to Tone Vale, the place I swore I would never end up again. Back to the scene of the crime, as one nurse put it.

But it was worth going back. Why? Because the answers that I had been searching for, for so long, I got in the one place on this earth I never dreamed of—the place responsible in the first place. I was amazed at how much the place had changed over the past eighteen years. The building is still the same, but the methods of nursing have changed, and for the better I am glad to say.

The ward that I was on years ago is closed and boarded up now. What did surprise me is that they went to the trouble of getting it opened for a short while so that I could go up with the hope of laying some ghosts to rest. If nothing else, it certainly stirred up my emotions. It filled me with anger to think that so many lives were ruined on that ward.

My other major surprise was that during a meeting with my psychiatrist, Dr Hunt, he told me that he could find no evidence that I was schizophrenic, that the diagnosis of schizophrenia was made in error and that he would give me a letter to this effect. All the staff was amazed, as they told me there is no way that Dr Hunt would do this, but he did. I have been told by numerous people in the medical profession that this is a first. It means so much to me, because I no longer have to prove that I never suffered from schizophrenia. But it still doesn’t justify what happened and how it has ruined my life ever since. Nobody can give me back what I have lost.

While I was in Tone Vale last year, it was suggested that I write a book which I am in the process of doing. I need to write this book—not just for myself but for all those others who couldn’t tell their story, how they were destroyed, how they never got a chance. Getting it published is my only problem. I don’t know how to go about it. I intend to carry on fighting as well—fighting for better conditions for those diagnosed ‘mentally ill’. It’s like my key worker, Staff Nurse Chris Parker, said to me: ‘Psychiatry has come a long way since you left Tone Vale in 1972, but it still has a long way to go’.

To finish on a happier note—I shared a joke with Chris when I was in Tone Vale last. He said that having a key worker must seem strange to me. It’s a pretty new thing at Tone Vale. I replied, ‘No. They had them here in ’69. They unlocked the doors to let you in and they locked them to keep you in’. [2]

This case is only one among thousands of re-victimised persons by that criminal organization that is called psychiatry. It is evident that if his parents had not died this boy would never have been committed. His emotional problems were caused by the tragedy of the death of his parents, not by a ‘chemical imbalance’ that required medical imprisonment. To diagnose and commit Bell was a re-victimisation of a victim—just what I tried to illustrate with Dora—, something that not even Dr. Hunt could indemnify.

The case of John Bell shows once more that psychiatrists unconditionally side parents or tutors. The fact that an egoist uncle wanted to free himself from the tutelage of his fourteen- year-old nephew was enough for a psychiatrist to label Bell as the previous step to imprison him in a place where other victims were systematically re-victimised until driven mad.

In spite of the fact that psychiatric conditions have changed in England, I cannot agree with Chris Parker in that psychiatry ‘still has a long way to go’. Tom Szasz would simply say that involuntary psychiatry has to be abolished. Similarly, the Inquisition did not need any sort of reform, only abolition. Everything these inquisitors did to Bell was possible because of the articles 25 and 26 of the Mental Health Law of 1959, the foundation of psychiatric power in England at that time (today the British have a similar law, that of 1983). As stated in a previous chapter, those of us who believe in human rights must fight to derogate the 1983 law and the equivalent laws in the other nations.

Regarding the plans of the Chief Medical Superintendent to lobotomise this helpless orphan, I would like to confess something. Once I realised the existence of something that almost everybody is unaware of, the modern Inquisition, I had doubts to quote psychiatrists Theodore Lidz and Silvano Arieti in this book. Even though Lidz and Arieti disagreed with their colleagues about lobotomy, as far as I know they failed to condemn this mutilation of healthy brains and the criminals who practice it. [3]

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[1] Jeremiah, 22:3 (Old Testament).

[2] John Bell, ‘Label removed, but scar remains’ in Jim Reed and Jill Reynolds (eds.), Speaking our minds: an anthology of personal experiences of mental distress and its consequences (The Open University, 1996), pp. 105-108.

[3] See, for example, the interview to Lidz in Laing and antipsychiatry (op. cit.). Arieti’s failure to condemn lobotomy appears in his classic work Interpretation of schizophrenia (op. cit.), pp. 670ff.

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Published in: on November 23, 2018 at 1:33 pm  Comments (2)  

2 Comments

  1. A shocking rendition, your recounting of it is a testimony of your survival.

    • I have never been committed.


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