Part 4 in multipartite post, The ‘Madwoman’ v. the Madness of the State.
My first meeting with the first Designated Examiner (DE) assigned to me by the State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare occurred after two nights of sleep deprivation.
Staff at Intermountain Hospital first assigned me to a dirty cell room in the ineptly named Intensive Care Unit, furnished and maintained about the quality you might expect from a cheap motel rather than a professional medical facility, replete with stacks of used Styrofoam cups, unwashed socks, and a previous patient’s paperwork – a level of room preparation not uncommon to the institution, as I would soon learn. I shared that room with two other patients, one of whom suffered severe sleep apnea – her snoring reverberated up and down the hallway of the entire unit – compounded by room checks from hospital staff, some of whom, according to what seemed to be personal preference more than institutional policy, performed their task of checking to make sure that their patients were still alive – physically, at any rate – by yanking open metal room doors that oftentimes ricocheted against perpendicular or even parallel walls before shining flashlights across the faces of their captive audience, suicidal or not. Every 15 minutes. All. Night. Long.
This abusive behavior continued night after night, no matter how much I and other patients begged for reprieve.
Unprovoked by any of my words or actions, during the first couple of days that my civil liberties were arbitrarily revoked by the State of Idaho, another patient called me a “dirty cunt” and threatened me with physical harm. Other patients later warned me that she might try to get me to buy her husband. Reporting the threat to staff, recommending psychotherapeutic care for a patient who was, to me, visibly suffering from early childhood sexual abuse compounded with an abusive marital relationship, the nurse on duty languidly responded that she would “keep an eye on her,” while making no effort to glance toward the facility’s security monitors or shift so the aggressive patient was within her view.
My analysis of the source of that patient’s trauma suffering was later confirmed by an in-hospital visit from the husband, when he raged foul language directed first at hospital staff and then his wife, his tirade audible up and down the length of the ward, as well as through longer conversations with the patient during some of her more lucid moments.
Dismal lack of psychotherapeutic care-giving aside, that staff member’s sole conflict resolution skill was to direct me to avoid contact with her other patient, something of a challenge in a locked facility limited to patient rooms, coffee break room, and television-viewing room connected by one long hallway, with fresh air and sunshine usually restricted to one hour per day, and sometimes less, accessible only after passing through a locked door and a smoking cage, thus only when accompanied by staff.
On 21 May 2014 DE Lawrence Stanciu ordered me out of my morning shower to attend his unscheduled examination. Hair dripping wet, hastily donning hospital-issued paper scrubs, I complied. Despite these less than optimal psychiatric examination conditions, Mr. Stanciu nevertheless described my mood then as cooperative, though to him I also seemed anxious. I described my own feelings then as calm, working on patience for the bureaucratic process, although I also expressed concerns about the hospital’s inability to provide either mental or physical health care while the state was processing its violation of my civil liberties. I inquired whether he had researched Ms. Dalrymple’s email files following her January house visit; he had not.
Dr. Abbasi also attended the same exam, two mental health professionals grilling their patient in a dreary, windowless room the size of a small closet, outfitted with a false wood veneer desk bolted to one wall, a few cheap, molded plastic chairs, and fluorescent garage lighting. Her diagnosis repeated the “diagnosis” of my electrical engineering brother-in-law with no expertise in human psychology, because “a few of those things” from my biography “were not real,” according to Dr. Abbasi, though she confessed she still had made no effort to confirm the reality of my experiences where they differ from her own or Ms. Dalrymple’s personal experiences.
“The police said there is no 17-year-old homicide,” Dr. Abbasi reported to me.
“The police made no effort to investigate that crime,” I replied, where the officers and detectives at Meridian Police Department had seemed disappointed that I did not wander on foot through their suburban neighborhood with my desktop computer tucked under my arm, or confused as to why I would prioritize the current domestic conflict impeding my current survival over a 17-year-old crime that wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Police personnel jeered at my simple explanation of the three stages of trauma recovery, with the third stage seeking reconnection to ordinary life, where survivors very often pursue careers in fields where they can help other victims, such as education, law, or public policy. Instead, Meridian Police Department compared Dr. Herman’s Harvard-educated expertise to AA’s 12-step program, and chuckled that I must not be very far along then, ho ho ho.
Detective Jim Miller asked, sneering, if my brother-in-law’s abusive behavior was how I was “feeling.”
For criminologists, both detectives seemed woefully undereducated in the field of human psychology, uncomfortable with my brief explanation for Ms. Dalrymple’s inappropriate responses to her client, even after they returned to the room from disrupting our interview with a hallway telephone conversation with her and dutifully repeated exactly what I told them, from my educated expertise in psychoanalytic theory, they could expect her to say, given her amateur “diagnosis” of me as “psychotic,” that my biographical and professional job networking experiences were “delusions,” and by reporting crimes for their further investigation, I was “acting out” on my “delusions.”
They seemed unfamiliar with the Justice Department’s recent review of regional urban Seattle Police Department, unfamiliar with the Benoit/Bustamante homicide/suicide of a former psychology student by her former professor at my alma mater, and openly hostile to the Department of Education’s concurrent reviews of the University of Idaho and Seattle Public Schools. On their report, they merely replicated Ms. Dalrymple’s dismissal of the deeply entwined, cross-disciplinary relationships of trauma, art, design, psychology, education, and law as “loose associations.”
“It sounds like you’re pretty good at systems thinking,” Detective Joe Miller (no relation to Jim, despite looking like nearly identical balding, white, male twins dressed in white polyester button down white shirts with wide, pale blue ties) jeered, as if the ability to think critically or find solutions to systemic problems are skills to be feared.
Or that threaten his ego.
“Say that again, about that – ranch? – in Arizona,” Dr. Abbasi commanded eagerly, wearing the giddy expression of a small child who delights in pulling the legs off spiders or a lepidopterist pinning a beautiful new butterfly to her collection. I complied, where the abusive behavior of my shirttail cousins related via my paternal great-grandmother Lillie Belle Iverson née Bundy had recently rocketed into the national media spotlight, coincidentally providing veracity of my claim of the social consequences of multigenerational familial abuse, their tax evasion and squatting on federal lands attracting the attention of the Bureau of Land Management, and Cliven’s racial abuses too racist even for the racist pundits on Fox News, with Nevada Senator Harry Reid describing him as a domestic terrorist.
Of course, if Senator Reid was a psychologically healthier, socially more responsible leader, he would recognize that Cliven Bundy’s racist remarks are the result of fear compounded with morally bankrupt flaws in Nevada’s system of education, rather than isolate and blame one racist for systemic failures in leadership of education politics and law. Does Mr. Reid delude himself into thinking that Cliven’s children or grandchildren are better educated and less racist than their patriarch? As I can personally attest from my immediate family interactions, that possibility is slim, with one of my Nevada public school-educated sisters not long ago raging on the side of the brutally fearful immigration debate, demanding a green card to prove the “legality” of our long-deceased, Mexican-born grandmother who crossed that border in an era when it was more permeable and before those identification papers were issued by the United States government, and a Ritalin-impaired nephew in Florida blaming his racist beliefs on his state’s agricultural migrant labor force. What legacy do today’s political leaders hope to leave for their children?
Social justice activists might note that, while Cliven’s remarks communicate his ignorance of African American and thus North American Western Hemispheric world history, he nevertheless intended to empathize with the plight of impoverished citizens oppressed by the abuses of our government leaders. Slavery in the antebellum South was qualitatively different than contemporary abuses, arguably, but are those abuses structurally dissimilar from our current school-to-prison pipeline limiting the opportunities – by wide majority – of children of color?
This painting from my portfolio, included in the personal collection of Dr. Debbie Storrs, a member of my graduate committee and former Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, University of Idaho, who has since left the state, accepting a position as Dean of Arts and Sciences, University of North Dakota, first exhibited in LaGrande, Oregon, where Lillie Belle once struggled to survive for a time with her children, who include my paternal grandmother, Letha May Iverson Brubaker Dawdy plus four or five other names I do not remember tacked onto a woman who tattooed a butterfly onto her thigh and married five men seven times in another, earlier era when impoverished women were left with few options for escaping their abusive families, subsisting in a tent in her parents’ backyard, and, two and three generations later, I was awarded Honored Artist of Eastern Oregon by an organization that receives funding from our National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Later also juried into a show on the Oregon coast at a museum that receives funding from both the NEA and Oregon Cultural Trust, currently on temporary loan to the Department of History, University of Idaho, the painting visually communicates, as a curator from Boise Art Museum poignantly described, “the memories we’d rather forget.” I do not share BAM’s qualms about remembering history, last year denied access to submit work to their triennial exhibition because I can no longer afford their $35 application fee, where performing the work of anamnesis might be restricted to undereducated middle-class citizens, but essential to solving contemporary problems only exacerbated by our cultural amnesia:
Not until after making that painting did I learn the quilt scrap that I rescued from my mother’s dustbin and collaged to the painting’s surface was actually sewn by my paternal great-grandmother, where much of the rest of the imagery depicts stories from my maternal lineage, such is the brokenness of communication, or not-speaking occasionally disrupted with fits of repressed rage over long-running, unresolved conflicts, on both sides of my family. The cocktail ring represented in the upper right-hand corner of the picture is engraved with the initials EVB, intended as a prenuptial gift from my maternal grandfather to my great-aunt Electa Caldwell née Johnson, who later birthed C. Max Caldwell, who arose to power within the ranks of the Mormon church. Both the ring and my family’s passive aggressive communication have outlasted now six years of my post-Great Recession joblessness resulting in two years of homelessness, despite (or because of?) post-graduate education from the State of Idaho.
My inheritance, you might say.
Instead of investigating my reports of human trafficking and elder abuse or offering assistance with family counseling or conflict mediation, also declining to research my physical and mental health history, Mr. Stanciu put me through a quick battery of word-memorization and date awareness games. What year is it? What day is it? What time of day is it? All questions I readily answered, giving my best guess as to the time of day that he hauled me from my shower into a closet without a clock in a facility that had confiscated my mobile phone at admissions.
Then he wrapped up our interview by threatening to accelerate the state’s abuses against me: “They will probably put you on psychotropic medication.”
The date of our consultation is significant, as the mental health court record should show, because Mr. Stanciu confused on the witness stand the date of our meeting, later his Department of Mental Health Region IV office confused the date I was to be shipped, wearing ankle cuffs and handcuffs chained from my waist, sharing a back seat with a chain-smoker diagnosed with schizophrenia, across the wide southern portion of Idaho to the state mental hospital at Blackfoot, a tiny rural community previously home to my maternal great-grandparents, whose marriage was so dysfunctional they lived in separate houses in an era before divorce became common, and one of my great uncles ran away from home to, coincidentally, Seattle, whereabouts unknown until decades later when the next generation tracked down their “missing” family, issuing on 30 May 2014 a letter of notification for transport on 03 June 2014, and on 02 June 2014 that transport was inexplicably changed to 05 June 2014.
In hallway conversation on the morning of 02 June 2014, Mr. Stanciu remained still further confused as to whether my transport date would be 04 or 05 June 2014, confused the name of my second state-mandated DE, a Dr. Sonnenberg with another Dr. Somke (sp?), and when I inquired for clarification on both details, he snarled hostilely, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
One teeny, tiny example of the mental health professionals in the State of Idaho setting higher mental expectations for their patients than they hold for themselves.
“Who is the President of the United States?” – an absurdly low standard for gauging mental wellness, when even the severely abused patient who threatened to beat me for being, in her judgment, a “dirty cunt,” readily recognized Barack Obama as our current Commander-in-Chief.
Diagnosed with who-knows-what by the state’s abusive mental health system, when she came to me later to apologize for her bad behavior that patient demonstrated behavior more emotionally mature, or psychologically healthier, than:
- anyone in my immediate and extended families,
- any of my dysfunctional former faculty in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Idaho,
- not all, but most of Seattle’s most active parent-teacher education activists battling Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education; Gates Foundation; et al, in the great social experiment that declares war on America’s children, and thus the future of democracy:
- a sitting member of Seattle School Board and her two campaign managers, though I cannot speak to the mental health of the brother of the more senior of those campaign managers, having yet to meet a former Washington state legislator, who coauthored that state’s utterly meaningless school “anti-bullying” legislation:
- a second sitting member of Seattle School Board,
- a former member of Seattle School Board,
- the former passive aggressive mayor of Seattle and his passive aggressive wife,
- Seattle Police Department’s former chief of police, since promoted by the Obama administration to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and from there to Commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol:
- the deeply traumatized and passive aggressive Volunteer Supervisor, Victim Support Services at Seattle Police Department, and
- administrators in your own institution’s Graduate School of Business, who should know that it is illegal to demand font files without purchasing those fonts, and refrain from contracting with intermediary vendors who require font files of their online digital sweatshop labor while promoting themselves as experts in global supply chain and advocates of “social change” because of course there is nothing new about slavery, other than the technology has become more sophisticated:
- not all, but most of the mental health professionals I observed behaving badly in two Idaho state (or state-contracted) facilities, and
- I could go on and on here, but I’ll restrict bullet points from my cv relevant to the problem at hand, risking relating yet again experiences from my six years of post-graduate school job networking experiences that mental health professionals in the State of Idaho, with no attempt to fact-check those experiences, dismissed as “grandiose delusions.”
“I’M SORRY I CALLED YOU OBAMA’S WIFE,” likely the worst insult in that patient’s repertoire, triggered no raging response from me, because emotionally mature, ego-invested individuals do not blame their feelings or their behaviors on other human beings.
Plus, as First Ladies in my lifetime go, Michelle’s hot. Not to mention smart enough to put herself through law school. Why would I feel insulted?
Point being, the “madwoman” intended her comment as name-calling, recognized her bad behavior toward another patient, apologized for it, and seemed to make concerted effort toward changing it, despite the unhealthy environment within Intermountain Hospital, further exacerbated by enduring miserable side effects from her prescribed cocktail of medications that included alternating between debilitating abdominal cramps with severe constipation and severe diarrhea with involuntary movement of her bowels.
Intermountain Hospital inventoried my net worth at admission: one dollar and some change in my wallet, yet I can deeply empathize with the richest man in the world and his concerns for the shit of the world’s poor.
Second point being, is Bill Gates capable of offering me that same empathy?
From my perspective, I have already accomplished the lifelong goal of billionaire philanthropist Charles Feeney, four decades faster. (Dusts off hands.) Now, how may I help others?