Why is it that I have been traumatized by police when I’m not a criminal? I’ve been in handcuffs way too many times because of my schizophrenia label. I try to take the good and leave the bad when talking about law enforcement — I know it’s not an easy job — but I have definitely seen more than my share of bad. It started during my first hospitalization. Initially, I was staying voluntarily at the worst hospital in the Portland-metro area. (This hospital was closed eventually due to a man being shot there by police for wielding a lead pipe… not to mention their long list of cutting corners with patients’ care.)
I was moved to Portland Adventist after a week, but just being transported to a different location was a major ordeal. A police officer handcuffed me and stuffed me into the back of a marked car like a criminal. They took me to Portland Adventist where I was isolated in an observation room for what I believe was 4-5 days. After that, I was allowed to be with the other people in the psychiatric ward. I was there by choice but wanted to be released, so my parents got sneaky on me. They used the oldest trick in the book around these parts — the two-party commitment. My parents got their county-court hearing. Unfortunately, they drug me into a makeshift courtroom of tables and chairs in handcuffs, again! In hindsight I wasn’t ready to come out of the hospital. My parents did what they had to do to keep me there: stretch the truth. The court committed me for 30 days. I was also mandated to treatment when I was finally discharged. I would have gone back into the hospital system had I not adhered to the treatment.
My second psychotic break was a nightmare. I had gone off my medications because I didn’t feel I needed them. The voices were enough to drive anyone nuts. I was sitting on my parents’ porch when I saw a bright flash of light to my right. It was orange in color. I decided it would be a good idea to follow it, even though it was the middle of the night. I only saw it once, but continued walking until a voice caused me to stop. It said “You can go left, or you can go right.” I looked left and right and all I saw were two houses. I was very symptomatic and took a second look at the houses and started towards the house on the left.
When I got up to the back door of the house, I heard “now kick it in.” I would easily be able to shrug off voices (if I had any like this) now, but at the time I believed someone was talking to me. I didn’t want to kick it in and knew it was wrong. I sat on one of their deck lawn chairs, and had my hands all over my head in a stressed out mannerism. Finally, the voices got the better of me. I kicked the door but had square plastic segments in it in a tile formation. My foot went right through one of them. I gave it a second kick, and the door flew open. The voice told me to sit down and turn on the TV, so I did. Of course, the man and woman who lived there woke up and called the police. The man searched me for drugs and weapons like he was a police officer. It was professional. I was so out of it that I honestly didn’t know what was going on.
Four cars showed up to the scene. The man walked me out to the police with my hands behind my back, and I complied. I was very ill, and confused. The point of this story is that the police officers thought it would be a good idea to stick me in the back of the car (in handcuffs, of course) for 45 minutes and stand around talking. I could hear their laughter. I was eventually taken to the hospital where they checked for drugs in my system. I hadn’t done any drugs. The police brought me home after the hospital visit, back to my parents. Thankfully, no charges were ever filed. If they had been, the Psychiatric Security Review Board would still be monitoring my progress ten years later. I lasted about 3-4 more days in this state before my parents had to call the police on me. The police gave me an ultimatum. I could ride with them or my parents to the hospital.
I was committed again and the process hadn’t changed much in 6 months (again with the handcuffs). I have stayed on my medications this time and haven’t had to stay in the hospital again, except for a few bad nights here and there. It’s been over ten years since all that has passed, but I’m still leery of police officers. They tend to overreact if they hear the word “schizophrenia.” Mostly it’s ignorance, combined with social stigmas and some with a little bit of experience.
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