In February 2013, I was going through a rough time. My depression had come back and I called my therapist. When my therapist was not available to speak, I had done what I thought was the appropriate next step because of how hopeless and depressed I was feeling, which was called the police and spoke with them. I called them not only because of the hopelessness and sadness that I was feeling, but because I used to live and volunteer as an auxilirary officer within the town. Somewhere within the lines of communication between the police speaking with the state police where I live and New York Presbyterian Hospital, My words of feeling ” hopeless and depressed” were twisted into I was going to drive my car into a ditch.
Dr. Baran the attending psychiatrist initially wanted to discharge me, but my therapist felt I should stay. I asked Dr. Baran for something to help me sleep and she prescribed an anti-psychotic. I raised concerns about the side effects of the anti-psychotics and that they caused suicidal tendencies, nervousness and agitation, but she would not listen. That same day Dr. Baran ripped me off my anti-anxiety medication that I had been on for two years allowing for no tapering off period. Coupled with the change in medication and the prescribed anti-psychotics that weekend I tried to commit suicide. After the incident Dr. Baran prescribed another anti-psychotic for sleep and reluctantly I complied. After not having any relief and feeling worse the following day I told her I was no longer going to take the medication. Her response was if you don’t take the medication we will propose ECT ( Electro-shock therapy) and if you refuse we will bring you to court. I did not go along with the ECT and so she petitioned the court for the ECT and medication.
Dr. Baran re-diagnosed me Schizoaffective disorder. The staff then began to badger and harass me in hopes to prove the diagnosis accurate. I was tormented by questions to try and prove that I was paranoid. They put me on one to one and forced me to shower with the bathroom door open and the bedroom door open so that patients were able to see me.
While all of this was going on my life was seemingly falling apart at my fingertips. I got a phonecall from my landlord that within two weeks I needed to move out because he was not renewing my lease. My therapist because I asked her to testify on my behalf in court got scared and wrote me a letter that she would no longer be working with me. During this period of time I had to maintain my composure and might I add that Dr. Baran ripped me off all of my anti-depressants. The one medication I actually needed. It was hell on earth and yes in the hospital during those three weeks I was thinking I would rather be dead than face the psychological torture I was facing at the hands of this doctor and all the staff. Yet I kept telling myself everyday it can’t get any worse. Those words are what got me through, in addition to friends who supported me.
During the court hearing Dr. Baran was allowed to be evasive in her answers and out of line with the medical records. I had to listen to her be abusive and call me manipulative and a liar while she was on the stand. After all of this the judge still sided with her and had me forcibly medicated.
Let me explain to you what it feels like to be forced to take a medication you don’t need and the fact that your aware and competent is torture. I got back to the hospital and was told of the judges decision. Initially, I said I was not going to comply with the order and turned to Dr. Baran and asked her if she was really going to take a calm patient and have them restrained to take a medication that they don’t need. She looked at me and walked away. After speaking with a friend and hearing him out, I decided to take the medication. I will never forget the feeling of my mind going fuzzy and not being able to think straight. Over the next week my speech became affected, I was slurring my words and I became almost like a vegtable and cognicent of it too. If that’s not the definition of torture I don’t know what is.
It wasn’t enough for the hospital to commit such egregious and illegal acts inside, but when I got home I was informed by Fordham University where I attend school that I had to withdraw from my classes and go through their re-entry program. One of the many requirements that Fordham made in order for me to return because someone from New York Presbyterian Hospital violated my HIPPA privacy rights and told them I was involuntarily hospitalized and forced to take medication was to give them my entire medical record from the hospital. I did not comply and gave them exactly what their policy states a letter from my attending psychiatrist. Thousands of dollars later I now await a decision from the Office of Civil Rights.
Over the past year and a half I have fiercly advocated for myself and not really gone public with my feelings and experiences of what the corruption of the mental health system did to my life. I wake up screaming from nightmares about New York Presbyterian Hospital and Dr. Baran all the time. I constantly relieve the experiences over and over again and ask myself why? What did I do to Dr. Baran that was so bad that she would want to traumatize me the way she did?, I have gone bankrupt, in debt and almost homeless because of having to pay for private representation for not only an attorney at New York Presbyterian Hospital, but for Fordham University.
I met my boyfriend, my best friend and my confidant in November of last year. He walked into this storm not knowing and accepting me for who I am and the situation I am in. My situation has affected him in ways I don’t even know. When I wake up at night screaming, he not only loses sleep but it hurts him. When I cry endlessly because the justice system has moved so slow and I have advocated so hard and tiredlessly he feels that pain. It also has affected him financially. He has put out thousands of dollars that he doesn’t have. This is what the corruption of the mental health system does and what Representative Tim Murphy doesn’t want you to know.
Today, although I suffer from nightmares, I have times where I cry endlessly, I don’t have a dime to my name and I am not in school yet, I have made a difference. I have spoken with Congressman Maloneys Senior Legislative Aide to protect the mentally ill, written to members of congress, raised awareness through fundraising and my story, spoken to the public. I have met and become friends with amazing new people. My boyfriend is the icing on the cake he has been my rock through it all.
If you take away anything from my story please take away this, if Represntative Tim Murphys Bill were to be implemented tomorrow, I would have been mandated to assisted outpatient treatment. There wouldn’t have been any questions asked. The cuts to the leading advocacy organization for the mentally ill PAIMI would make it so there are virtually no protections. It would be almost impossible to fight against any psychiatrist. It’s impossible now and you go bankrupt if you attempt it and continue. The case with Fordham would most likely be legal, which means my civil rights which are afforded to me by the constitiution meant nothing. We need a new mental health system, but not one in which there are no checks and balances or transperency.