Lynne Salvi attended a number of MindFreedom Lane County meetings in Summer of 2011. She was quite a writer. Lynne died when she drove off a bridge in Portland on 23 September 2011. A little more than a month before, on 13 August 2011, Lynne had submitted this “Open Letter” to her mental health therapist Linda, via MindFreedom, to try to explain the extreme trauma she felt in conventional mental health care. [Now updated with editing changes Lynne had submitted 8/14/11.]
Lynne Salvi’s Open Letter to Her Mental Health Therapist
Source: MindFreedom Lane County
An Open Letter to My Mental Health Therapist
From: Lynne Salvi
Over the years I havetalked to many Mental Health professionals about the trauma I havesuffered through as the list of trauma’s continued to grow. I satin their offices with tear filled eyes and a heart ripped to pieces.I can not count the number of times someone has told me how strong Iam. I can’t count the number of times doctors, therapists andothers have told me what I was doing wrong. I have known what waswrong for a very long time and I would like to talk about some of ittoday.
A SMALL PART OF MY STORY
- My children were takenfrom me because I was labeled “mentally ill” and therefore viewedunfit to be a mother. There was no judge, no courtroom, no evidencepresented against me. I was asked to sign a paper called procedureand was later told my signature was the consent giving my childrenaway. They were 6 and 8 years old. It took six years to regaincustody.
- I have experienceduncontrollable drooling, Tardive Dyskinesia, confusion, inability toremember simple things, intense starvation, excessive menstrualbleeding, hair loss, the need for an adult diaper because healthybladder functions stopped as well as bladder spasms causing theinability to release fluids and the list goes on all due topsychiatric medications forced on me.
- I have undergonestomach surgery after gaining over 100 pounds due to psychiatricmedications only to be forced to continue taking them.
- At the age of 27 myfallopian tubes were tied, cut and then burned without my consent asI clearly made “my” wishes known and was lead to believe surgeonswere abiding by them.
- I have had over 20grand mall seizures forced by an electric current also known aselectroshock treatment (ECT) in two series.
- I have been forced totake the maximum legal dose of Haloperidol (Haldol) a majortranquilizer, on a regular daily basis while conducting life’sregular routine. The same team forced actions against me because Istruggled to perform every day tasks.
- I was forced to showerin front of other patients on the floor. This was my punishment fortelling my outside therapist I was being denied to shower.
- I was locked in solitary confinement to a length of stay so long; I could no longer keep track of the number of days I had been locked in there. There were no windows and my food was slipped through a small opening at the door. I was left with a bucket, some toilet tissue and virtually had no physical contact with anyone. Conversation was the taunting remarks to my pleas when staff walked through the hallway.
- I severed an artery while making a desperate attempt to escape the horrors going on behindlocked doors of a psychiatric facility.
I have lived inthree states moving to Eugene last summer. Doctors here have alsotold me what’s wrong. Once again I do not agree. For exampleconsider the psychiatrist I saw last summer. I received a call frommy case worker telling me the doctor was no longer going to work withme. The doctor wanted to help but he said I was unwilling to helpmyself and therefore the programs services were no longer available.My cousin arrived from out of town that day and I filled her in onthe situation. Valerie believed I must have done something wrong tocause this doctor to discontinue services. I made arrangements tomeet with my case worker one last time and gave no indication I wouldnot be alone. Before we walked in I asked Valerie to please notmention her career as a pharmacist no matter what is said or what shemay hear.
Two days later Valerie came with me to my primary careappointment. Dr B. was letting me know what I did wrong regarding thisother Dr and mentioned my non-compliance with meds as he explainedeverything to her. Valerie became upset and I placed my hand on herleg to let her know it wasn’t worth it. Just before Dr B. left theroom I turned towards Valerie who sat quietly with tears in her eyes.She could not believe what this physiatrist did and then said inorder to cover up his actions. When we left Valerie’s eyes began tosee a world she never knew existed.
I have been subjectedto hurling disparaging remarks against my disability that includewhere people “like me” should be forced to go by a man in myapartment complex. His words were sharp, cruel and uncalled for. Heand I pay money to utilize an area of space we both share together.This man would like to share the space with someone who has similar interests and comparable personalities. The two of us are quite different. I must say, in hiscontempt his words were honest. It is more about who I am vs. who heis than it is about anything else. Normally speaking my mental healthdiagnosis should warrant my guilt and be for an easy eviction.Problem is I have not done anything wrong and management here doesn’toverlook that but I will say by doing this it hasn’t made thingseasy.
Recently I wasworking with a program that helps people manage their illness. I wasgiven a copy of a form that was going to be part of my file. I wastold it was nothing to be concerned about as it was procedure to giveme a copy. When I got home I decided to read it and became upset tofind a few statements untrue. By accepting the copy that “wasn’tanything to be concerned about” it meant I agreed with thestatements made in it. One of the statements read “I miss manyappointments due to my illness.” I made arrangements to meet withthe manager and have this deleted along with a few other statementsthat were untrue.
This may be considered petty and wasting peoplestime and that was the sense I was getting but I have viewed only afew of my records and the most haunting part is the amount ofinformation and statements made that are untrue. Wrong informationmay not be a big deal today but tomorrow if someone/anyone wants touse that wrong information against me that is when it will be a bigdeal. I have also obtained other medical records and have read someof them too. I found a statement on a summary that horrified me. Itbroke my heart to see just how far some people will go, showing moreabout who they are than the clients they write about. Now that I havefound out about this I am told I can ask for an amendment to be madeon my records. I was also told to request an amendment does not meananything will be changed and if a doctor does not want to give areason for any statements made, he does not have too nor does he haveto show proof that what he/she stated is true. Linda, you ask “Whyam I scared?”
When I was inpatientat the local hospital one of the nurses strongly suggested I send formy records to “verify” the trauma I talked about as theywitnessed me struggle with fear. Questions were raised about theauthenticity of what I described and the likelihood I experienced it. Monthslater I found myself admitted again. A decision was made by the samenurse regarding me and my care. Changes were made and enforceddespite knowing the fear I would struggle with by this decision basedupon trauma I spoke about. I turned to look around and saw the faceof satisfaction and pleasure. As I sat quietly I could hear thelengthy conversation about me. The tone of one man’s voice caughtmy attention as I clearly heard the words “we already know she’sa very good actor.” With the gleam of satisfaction together withwords that ripped my character apart by those who knew the nurse farbetter than they knew me re-enforced my fears.
The next morning Iwas seen by the doctor assigned to me. He was surprised to hear whathappened the evening before. He told me he would have said “no”if he knew what was going to take place and apologized. I replied“You were not supposed to know.” I tried to stay but I foundmyself too scared and signed myself out. When I saw my outside doctorI explained what happened while I was inpatient. She pulled hospitalrecords to see if the reasons I was given for their actions werevalid as I told her I was used for a game. After reading sheapologized to me. I told her people witnessed my struggle with fearand someone decided I was a very good actor. The abuse written canbe verified by record but you won’t read it recorded this way.
Twenty four years ofexperience in our “Mental Health System” taught me the harshreality that locked doors hung in place to provide safety are thevery doors that shield the secrets locked behind them. I believe ifsomeone can intentionally hurt another for the purpose of watchingthem suffer they can give birth to an evil that has the potential tomultiply, take seed and infest everyone around them. It’s an evil Icall power that feeds on having complete control over another humanbeing. I have seen it more times than I want to remember and havewitnessed it’s destruction as well as being the one in its path.
Rosa Parks took aseat in the front of a bus to bring awareness to the injusticetowards so many. She chose a personal situation to point the fingerat a much larger picture. She witnessed and experienced the pain onefeels when their biological make up meant the difference betweenfreedom and confinement, calm and chaos, acceptance and ridicule.Lack of interest to gain knowledge, disregard for human life andmisplaced concern were the tools used to create laws givingpermission to force cruel and inhuman treatment against those whowere viewed as different. Laws gave the right to force actions upon aperson based solely on their differences. With these rights peoplehad the ability to force upon another what they themselves wouldcrumble too if the situation was turned around. People were slappedwith a label giving others the ability to act towards them in anymanner they chose. Cruel and hateful words flew in their direction asthey were reminded how much others did not want them around. Theywere viewed as trouble and the natural born rights that many took forgranted were stripped away. Many who’s situation provided theability to hide personal facts about themselves or loved ones didbecause of societ’s social stigma and with it rejection. Injusticewas common law and “innocent until proven guilty” did not apply.Dreams faded, hope disappeared and many times the will to continuetook physical life away. Heads turned, some where grateful it wasn’ttheir problem and mankind suffered because people didn’t care. Whenhumanity is lowered to physical violence, mental torment andemotional breakdown life is lowered to a game.
- I began working at theage of 11 and by 12; I was working almost every day.
- I’ve owned a carsince I was 16 years old. I have never been involved in an accidentnot even a fender bender and have always maintained an excellentdriving record.
- I purchased my firsthome before completing the 11thgrade waiting 5 months to legally put my name on it at 18 years oldand purchased my first brand new car at the age of 19.
- I completed highschool in 3 years graduating in the top 10 of my class.
- I went up against aprominent real estate company disputing my mortgage payoff figure. Itinvolved pmt’s made, interest accumulated and an amortizationschedule used. I represented myself andwon. I was 25 years old.
- I am responsible forputting a law on the books in New York allowing young adults to entercollege before obtaining a high school diploma with the assistance offinancial aid. I used my son’s circumstances to open the door formany and at the age of 16 he was the first one to benefit from thislaw. His sister soon followed at the age of 17.
- I confronted a largeand successful news paper company about their payroll techniques as Iuncovered monies hidden from paper carriers by coded form.
- No one has ever calledpolice due to my misconduct or disturbance and I have never been arrestednor charged for any crime.
Despite the horrors of mylife combined with achievements I have raised two beautiful childrenand have been equally blessed with a son-in-law 6 years ago. They arecompassionate, trustworthy and they have never been in any kind oftrouble. They work hard and stay on track as they strive to fulfilltheir hopes and dreams. But life hasn’t been easy for them eitherespecially my children. They know the pain one feels when a loved oneis trapped in the mental health system. They are forced to sit backwith hands tied as they watch their loved one suffer without theability to help them. They too suffer the horrors as they livethrough the consequences of society’s laws and the turning ofsociety’s head.
Linda, there was onecar accident. It was on a back road traveled by very few. I was 23years old and by that time I had lived through more trauma than somedo in a lifetime. I was young, scared and made a desperate attempt torun from an abusive marriage. In that accident I lost the child I wascaring not realizing I was pregnant. That’s when I was labeled andthrown behind the “locked doors” of our Mental Health System. Butthis is not just about me and my story. It is about the many otherswho can personally identify with my reality.
THE BIGGEST TRAGEDY
This could have beenprevented. People can be helped to accept, manage and welcome theirdifferences. I believe people should be able to react and respondnormally to trauma or a difficult situation as studies are showingmany times mental health related illnesses are with those who havesuffered abuse of some kind. Many times actions are the minds way ofcrying out from the pain trapped within. Compassion should be theprescriptions written. People should have the ability to choosealternative treatments instead of being forced to take medicationsand be victimized again by legalized inhumane abuse and even torture.I believe when one tries to block, cover up or stop ones mind fromits own individual and unique natural function you deny what a personlived through and/or a person’s individuality.
It should not matterhow unique one is, it is a part of what makes them who they are.There is more money and time spent separating people who share thesame space than there is to help them live peacefully together. Thereare other countries with less recourses than the United States whocan show far better statistics and progress for those consideredmentally ill or different. People have voices and theirindividualities do not cause a major problem because someone didn’tset a standard and stepped out of the box instead.
When I was a patientat the local hospital last summer the head psychiatrist was asked tostep in and give his professional opinion on my case. He told me hebelieves I suffer with Complex PTSD. It is the term used for VietnamWar Vets and other war veterans as a way to categorize trauma. Hesaid I have fought a war like any war veteran and how sad it was thatI never left this country to do it. He could not imagine the hell Ihave been through. Before we parted he mentioned his concernregarding me getting the help I need. He let me know the chances ofme finding this help are slim as we both agreed my war has not ended.
I saw a retiredpsychiatrist who was helping the program I was connected with thispast May. She explained how my body is extremely sensitive tomedications and this is why my side effects have been so extreme.What she said made so much sense. I have immediate family members whocan not take medications due to body sensitivity and severe sideeffects. These family members are not in mental health so theirmedication difficulty was never compared or considered.
Linda, my differenceshave become more different over the years. I do not believe one cango through things like this and not have it affect them. Thedifficulties of life have taken its toll as this past year proved tobe a very difficult one. I know the pillow isn’t hurting me rightnow but to live life one has to sit next to the pillow. What if youknow by experience the pillow has tried to suffocate you to the pointof certain death only to survive by a miracle? I have sat next tothat pillow constantly for 47 years. When is it ok to be scared ofthe pillow?
When is it ok to say, “I’msorry…please no more…you’re killing me.”
[Note: The above essay by Lynne dated 8/3/11 was submitted by Lynne via email to MFI on 8/13/2011. The day after Lynne died, we published the original pretty much as is. On 8/14/11 Lynne had emailed in a half dozen editing changes, and had intended to do those herself, but ran into frustrating computer problems. Her editing requests have now been incorporated posthumously 9/27/11. MFI also did some minor grammatical and stylistic changes 9/28/11. For more info contact MFI at firstname.lastname@example.org]