My darling, sweet, smart, kind daughter has been imprisoned (her word) in the psychiatric system for three months now. She has lost weight (and she didn’t weigh much to begin with), energy, her sense of identity, and virtually all hope. We see little chance of her getting out, because the system—with its constant accumulation of small (and sometimes large) cruelties—appears specifically designed to make an autistic adult crazy.
Leaving aside the constant loud noises, the lack of privacy, the fluorescent lights burning into her brain, and the dreadful food, there are an endless number of other problems that increase her anxiety and depression.
For example, she hasnt seen the light of day for three solid months, and that alone was driving her insane, since being outside has always helped relieve her stress. Well, yesterday her cold and uncaring psychiatrist finally announced that she would be allowed outside on their little patio. Sadly, however, she is still on one-to-one supervision, and must be accompanied by a tech everywhere. And the techs simply dont feel like going out, so—despite being promised the “privilege” of a tiny bit of fresh air—she remains stuck inside.
She is anxious all the time, and one of the few ways she has of relieving that anxiety is pacing the halls but the staff dont feel like walking with her. They would rather sit and talk to their boyfriends or girlfriends, or play games on their phones so they tell her to sit down and dont move, until she becomes so overwhelmed that she scratches her skin (again).
Another patient has been extorting possessions from her for weeks—threatening to hurt my daughter if she doesnt hand over her toiletries, art supplies, and the extra food we have brought in to keep her weight from dropping so fast. The staff are perfectly well aware that she is being threatened (after all, someone has to be within ten feet of her at all times), but they just look the other way. The social worker on the unit tells her that she has to be more assertive, but its hard to be assertive if you have no hope.
Today was the biggest blow, though. My daughter has had a private room for all these months for reasons that are not clear to us. Today, with no warning at all (so helpful for someone on the spectrum—*sarcasm*), she was moved to a room with another woman who has already made life miserable for two other patients. (For one thing, she likes to sleep in the daytime and stay up all night with the lights on.)
But the move was not the worst of it. The staff decided that it had to happen IMMEDIATELY, so they wouldn’t allow my daughter to carefully take down all the decorations she has taped to her walls over the months to make herself feel better. Instead, within a matter of minutes, the staff had ripped down all the photos of her dog, the pictures of flowers she has colored in, the cards from her friends, and the collage we made her of “people who love me.” Within five minutes the collage was shredded, the pictures and cards were torn, and one of her last layers of security was gone.
I’m done being circumspect about this. I’m going to start naming the names of the institutions and individuals who are torturing my child and me. The place where all this is happening is Andrew McFarland State “Mental Health” Center in Springfield, Illinois. (The quotation marks are because whatever else is going on in this place, it’s certainly not mental health). Supposedly this is the best of the state hospitals in Illinois, but not if you are autistic. And the psychiatrist in charge, who is quite skilled at prescribing medications (credit where it’s due), but who is otherwise rigid, cold, and unfeeling, is one Dr. Eberhardt, whom I very much hope burns in hell for all eternity.