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This is my very first blog and it is dedicated to an other first in my life - the series of protests I am doing outside Friends Psychiatric Hospital (near Adams Ave. and Roosevelt Blvd.) I am protesting the physical and psychological abuse that I was subjected to more than four years ago by Friends Hospital staff (including nurses and doctors). The abuse was not the behavior of one or two rogue staff members, but it was a systematic and methodological abuse carried out in collusion and with deliberate intent. The abuse started out psychological (such as the staff yelling unnecessarily and being kept in the waiting room for close to 20 hours) and progressed to the very physical; culminating in having tubes down my throat, up my nose, and in my urinary tract. As a result, I ended up in Frankford Hospital E.R. and had to be hospitalized for four days while I recovered. I will not go any further into the details of the abuse presently, as it is very lengthy to go into and painfully difficult to write about, but I am currently working on documenting the incident as well as I can and I will ultimately provide a hyperlink for my readers to fully read about the incident. This blog is directed more to the purpose of documenting my protest.
I will say foremost that my protest does not include any scenarios of public disturbance. At no point do I plan on trespassing onto F.H. (Friends Hospital) property or engaging
in conflict oriented behavior, and will ask all supporters to follow
the same standard of conduct. So what then will my protest consist of?
It is more of a 100 day observance; both a remembrance of the abuse
that once took place and a reminder of the abuse that many others are
still experiencing - it is an opportunity for me to begin speaking out
(after four years of silence) to the world at large. For a hundred
consecutive days (an hour or more per day), I plan on carrying out my
protest. Like I mentioned, I will not be on F.H. property or physically interfere with their operations in any way. There is a time and context
for civil disobedience, but this is not it. I make that point
especially clear precisely because I am a most ardent believer in civil disobedience, when carried out intelligently and responsibly. Society could not have
made the progress it did if it were not for those who challenged the
inertia of countless brutal customs through the deliberate and
reflective practice of civil disobedience. However, my protest will
consist simply of standing with my sign that reads 'I Was Abused At
Friends Hospital'. I will be on the North bound median on the Roosevelt
Blvd. in front of the F.H. premises. I have no intention (for now) to
organize a public protest. If any one wants to stop by for a few
minutes and show their support, that's fine. There is a time for
everything of course and hopefully there will come a time when the
public conscience is roused to action and demands change.
Thanks for reading.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
The change we wish to see in the world is not something external to us. Change happens through us. It is in us. Within each of us is the desire to bring about that change and within us also the ability to do so. When we allow ourselves to become the medium for the change, we become the change. Our minds and bodies become a channel for that change. Like the modest springs that quietly flow till they become streams and rivers, we too become the beginning of something greater than us. When truth and the desire for justice flows from our hearts, no action, however little, is ever insignificant. Something as trivial as holding up a sign suddenly has meaning and significance that transcends the 'then and there' of the moment. When we see a societal evil that appears to be ignored by the masses, rather than lament the fact, we must start to do something about it. The change should begin with us.
Two rather chilly days. The flow of traffic on both sides of me
generates a lot of wind and I felt very cold even though I was wearing
a jacket. Of course there is more to feeling cold than merely the wind
Protesting, despite the public aspect of it, can be a very solitary affair. When one feels alone, the surrounding masses only heighten the sense of loneliness. There is the occasional interaction with people where someone honks or gives a thumbs up and those moments are what sustain me - the moments that uphold me. Certain days are richer than others in this respect. There are also times when it is very silent. Cars pass quietly and people make their way past this strange aberration in their routine commute. I yearn desperately for some interaction - for some confirmation that what I'm doing will make a difference. Doubt and loneliness are never far away.
Even on these days, there are moments that reaffirm my hopes. In the distance, I see a face looking towards me, their eyes fixed on my sign. With no words said, there is somehow a sense of understanding and empathy. The depth and power of the human gaze... there is nothing like it. I hold my sign up a little higher.
There is no turning back for me. The mind may have its doubts and moments of insecurity but my heart is already made up. One of the many frequent glances at my watch confirms that it has been an hour already. Somewhat relieved, I make my way back home. The walk home feels strange and awkward. Did I accomplish something - or was it just a waste of time? Doubts and fears flood my mind, but my heart already knows. Tomorrow is an other day.
Sometimes it is difficult to mark the divide between speaking out as a survivor and merely reaffirming my victim hood. It is a delicate line, and sometimes my balance is less than perfect. However, to not approach that divide, to merely stay away so that I can avoid the complications of the past, would mean continuing on as a victim forever. There is an incredible power in finding one's voice and purpose, in rediscovering one's identity. By admitting that I was abused, there is an empowerment that far surpasses the powerlessness of my victimization and the pain inflicted by my psychiatric oppressors.
I was a victim. I am a survivor.
Four years ...
A 100 days ...
of speaking out
Please check out the following article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Phila., Delaware County restrict Friends Hospital
This is not enough. Merely ceasing from sending future 302 (involuntary commitment) patients to the facility is not sufficient. The city needs to do more and the citizens need to mount the pressure on the hospital and public officials to act. I know it's going to be an uphill battle but I am going to push for a thorough investigation into all allegations of abuse by former patients. There should be a rigorous and transparent inquiry into the entire operations of the facility and all allegations of abuse by former patients such as myself should be fully investigated. Criminal proceedings should take place where they are warranted. Anyone with information about psychiatric abuse should bring forth all relevant information so we can see some amount of justice. If you are aware of any specific instances of abuse or professional misconduct at Friends Hospital, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you were a former patient, know someone who was abused, or have worked at Friends Hospital and witnessed coworkers participate in the abusive conduct, you need to speak out. Your voice really does count and can make the difference. Abuse is NOT 'treatment' and the deliberate infliction of mental and physical pain is not 'healing the mind'. Please speak out for the rights of those who do not otherwise have a voice.
Hatred only destroys; with Love one can conquer...
After 4 years of anger and bitterness, I find myself 'blessed' to have gone through that most horrible experience. It's a strange choice for a word, but I know of no other word that can summarize the responsibility and privilege I feel in considering myself an advocate for fellow psychiatric survivors.
What ever I do in this world, however much or little, I hope I do with love. I don't want to 'fight' against anyone, neither individuals nor entities. I want to believe again in the goodness of humanity; that people, institutions, and even systems can be transformed through love, truth and justice. This is not a fight against anyone as much as it is a fight for psychiatric victims.