One of my goals as a blogger writing about mental health and wellness is to use "the language of respect" at all times. I am not perfect and sometimes I err, which I did, unwittingly and unknowingly, in my last post.
I inappropriately referred to Darby Penney, an ex-patient and long-time activist in the movement to protect the human rights of people with psychiatric conditions, as "a well-known anti-psychiatry activist who vehemently opposes ECT."
I thought I was accurately describing her. It never occurred to me that I wasn't. But I was wrong. She was quick to inform me that I had "misrepresented her beliefs" and "defamed" her. She stated that she does not believe she is "well-known" and that she is neither "anti-psychiatry" nor "vehemently anti-ECT."
THE LANGUAGE OF RESPECT
She stated that she is "pro-choice, especially pro-informed choice" and she stressed, "I believe people should be free to make their own decisions about any treatment as long as they have full and accurate information about its risks and benefits."
I would like to apologize to Darby and to anyone else I may have offended by misinterpreting Darby's point of view. I was insensitive. I became emotional and, unfortunately, defensive. ECT is a highly emotional and political issue. As a result of our private exchange, Darby educated me as to why the terms "anti-psychiatry" and "anti-ECT" were offensive to her. Henceforth, I will be extremely careful when using them.
Darby, I hope you will accept my sincere apology. I'm sorry that I misrepresented you and upset you. Thank you for taking the time to explain why my statements were so hurtful and for educating me on the nuances of "the language of respect."
In one of the comments to this last post, the term "coercive psychiatry" was used. Angela's ECT is by no means "forced" or involuntary. She chose to have electroconvulsive therapy independently. She asked me "what do you know about ECT" one evening, out of the blue. We had never discussed it. She discussed it with her psychiatrist. She did her own research.
She is having outpatient ECT and she's had six sessions over the last three weeks, although she said last night that she "wants it to be done." She has another five weeks of treatment, and possibly more. Perhaps 12 weeks in all.
"I'm feeling tired, but not depressed. Just a little down," she said last night at about 8:30 p.m. She has to get up at 6 a.m. on the days of her 7 a.m. ECT treatments. "And my hand looks like a pin cushion."
She sad that during her treatment yesterday morning, she had "a nice psychiatrist and a female anesthesiologist who was very good." She admitted that she had a "tiny bit of confusion," right after the treatment when she got home. "I couldn't remember where I keep the popcorn or where my little Crystal Lite juice packs were, but I took a minute or two and it came back to me."
This morning – we just spoke – she said she's feeling better than she was last night. "I'm about a seven," she said. My call interrupted the "work-out" she does every day, using a computer program. She saw her psychiatrist today and said, "Everything is good." This weekend, she'll be glued to the TV and The Olympics, but we'll be connecting each day.
"WE DON'T HAVE INVOLUNTARY ECT IN ONTARIO"
I asked my psychiatrist Dr. Bob about Involuntary ECT yesterday. Here in Canada, health policy is provincially legislated (as it is by individual states in the U.S.) and in Ontario, we don't have involuntary ECT, he said.
Everyone must sign a consent form, except in cases where a person may not be capable of making that decision. I remember, when I had my first course of ECT treatments in 1965, I was hospitalized because I was psychotic. At that time, my diagnosis was schizophrenia. During that seven-month hospitalization, I became catatonic and ECT was recommended because nothing seemed to be helping me. My parents signed the consent forms.
In 1975, shortly after I left my first husband, again I was hospitalized for psychosis. My diagnosis was still schizophrenia. I wasn't depressed. I was clearly manic with psychotic features, though my diagnosis wasn't changed to manic depression – the term "bipolar disorder" wasn't in use yet – until later that year, when I was prescribed Lithium. This time, my estranged husband and my parents gave consent for the ECT course of treatments that was recommended by my team of psychiatrists. I remember that distinctly.
In cases such as mine, when someone isn't capable to make an informed decision or give informed consent, in Ontario, there is a hierarchy of people or "substitute decision makers" who are asked to make this decision on behalf of the patient, my psychiatrist explained. First, a spouse or partner, then a parent or child who must be age 16 or over, then a sibling, and then any other relative. If none of these people is available, then the Public Guardian is consulted.
This decision is based on one of two criteria. If the patient made it known that s/he wishes not to have ECT, for example, that wish must be respected by law. If there is no prior known wish, then a decision must be made on the "Best Interests Principle" which is defined in The Health Care Consent Act.
In Ontario, this is true for any medical procedure. Yesterday, I had to sign a consent form to have my dog Lucy's teeth cleaned. She had to be anesthetized. Last year, I had to sign a consent form to have periodontal surgery, though I did not have any anesthesia.
I had planned to tackle controversy swirling around the Newsweek cover story on antidepressants this morning, but as you can see, things sometimes derail my best-laid plans. I'll try to get to it next week.
HAVE A WARM AND RELAXING "FAMILY DAY"!
On Monday, Angela's regularly scheduled ECT treatment is cancelled because in Ontario, it's Family Day – a three-year-old and much-needed, mid-Winter holiday. It's also my stepdaughter's birthday, so we'll be celebrating that, too. If anyone has helped to support me and safeguard my sanity over the last 11 years, it's been my new immediate family. My darling husband, Marty, and his youngest and most spirited daughter, Maya, who will be turning 23 on Monday and grows sweeter and more adorable with each year. His older daughter, Rebecca, doesn't live with us, yet, she, too, is extraordinarily kind and considerate of me, always caring and compassionate. We're hoping she will celebrate with us.
I hope you have a family to celebrate on Monday, family in the broadest sense. Whether it's your father or mother (mine is extraordinary) or siblings (also pretty special to me) or your extended family, and your "chosen family" of friends.
Here's to a great weekend and a lovely, warm and relaxing Family Day!