Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nightmares from the Past

I am a voracious reader and since I finally bought myself a Kindle I rarely watch television.  I just finished reading what I consider one of the best trilogy of mysteries I have certainly ever read. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl That Played With Fire, and The Girl That Kicked The Hornet's Nest which were so engrossing I bought and finished all three novels in a period of 5 days. The author Stieg Larsson died shortly after he delivered the manuscripts to the publisher which is almost criminal because he was such a brilliant author. The trilogy is a massive international best seller and tens of millions of copies have been sold.

The two main characters are Mikael Blomkvist a journalist and Lizbeth Salander a rather standoffish waif of a girl who had had to fend for herself since she was 10-12. She is without question the single most unusual victim and heroine in modern literature. The reason I bring this up is simple.  In the novel you learn Lizbeth was mistreated in a Psychiatric Ward where they essentially used aversion therapy on her because as she said, "nobody would listen to me so why should I talk to them". She refused to talk to the authorities and in particular one Psychiatrist because he was basically a sadist.

Stieg Larsson mixes a lot of truth in with the fiction which is what intrigued me. Sweden is a screwed up country, with a screwed up legal system, a severely screwed up concept of personal competence, a screwed justice system, and far more violence than they would ever want the actual real world to know about. Sweden has one of the highest reports of rape of women in Europe. For a country with under 10 million people and spread out over a large area they have 168 sex crimes per 100,000 inhabitants.

One of the techniques used with patients in Psychiatric Hospitals was sensory deprivation. It was a favorite trick in the State Mental health Facilities of Sweden as late as the early 1990s and was certainly a favorite of the sadists that tried to "convert me" when I was 17 in Massachusetts. I was once told by a very noted person that, "Sweetie if you think Physicians have a god complex you have obviously not met a Psychiatrist". Truer words have never been spoken.

In my time the favorite sensory deprivation techniques were lack of sleep and the horror of absolute silence. In the hospital I was in they would look me in a room with no windows and padded walls and use temperature and noise so you could not possibly sleep for any length of time. The German asshole I mentioned in my earlier post on Aversion Therapy was fond of this but it was not his favorite. I do not sleep well as it is so I did not sleep period during those times. The absolute irony of the entire scene with him was he was confused about me himself. His assistant would constantly remind him that "she is a he" because he constantly used female pronouns when he tried to "cajole" me into telling him I was either not a girl or not gay which i found amusing actually.

I can be exceedingly stubborn, Welsh heritage is the root cause, and just decided fuck you I am just not going to talk to this asshole and I did not. Just for the record screaming dose not count because a lot of what was done hurts quite a bit. My German "Psychiatrist" was only at my facility one or two days a week but I got the impression he took special interest in me. I wonder why?

After a while they isolated me so they could force the psychotropic drugs of the day into me either with the food or simply by force. I lost a lot of weight and dropped from around 120-125 into the 110 range which was shocking to my brother Ray when he finally was allowed to see me.

The not talking didn't last as long as the heroine of the books. They had what they called the "White Room" in my facility. It was a padded cell like room which, in my case, initially had nothing in it but the stains on the padded floor and walls.  There were no windows and when the door was closed it was a soundproofed room and when the lights were turned off it was so dark there was no vision. Without gravity up or down and left and right had no meaning even though I could move around.

I was 17 and I had no clue how terrifying absolute darkness and silence could be. The darkness was bad enough but it was the silence that was the worst.  There were no bathroom facilities and no way to communicate that I knew of with the outside world. It became obvious after what felt like years in their, actually 30 hours the first time, what the stains on the floor were.  The stains on the wall are not something I want to think about.  I went in at 8 AM on a Tuesday and was released at 2 Pm on a Wednesday to "discuss" my situation with my German Psychiatrist who, if I spoke, I called simply "Nazi Bastard".

They altered treatment when they took me into another White Room where they had a bed in one corner, only it was not padded but just painted white. They would strap you to the bed which was something I was accustomed to from several electric-shock treatments or attempts at it. I resisted violently. The first time they did this the lasting memory was the orderly who helped to strap me down mouthing the words, "I am so sorry", as he was finishing up. Several times they had done something similar and then set up an IV with some drugs to force you into this drug induced haze where some wacko would tell me I did not want to be a girl.  Like he had a clue.

My Nazi Bastard came in and tested the straps and approved. He left and they turned the lights out and closed the door and you could not move.  I could move my head side to side and that was it. Essentially they tortured me to stop me from telling them I was a girl. I was not the only one they did this too. It was a sadistic game of humiliation played out over 24 hours followed by a "cleansing" with a cold water hose since everyone soiled themselves and this of course gave them a chance to "see the freak".

After a while it is hard not to hallucinate. They never did anything to scar you physically but they tried emotionally.  I survived it because I made a choice to close my eyes and just think about the boy whose death in Southeast Asia had resulted in me ending up here. I would relive every moment of the 4 year relationship we had.  From the first kiss in June of 1959 to the goodbye in the parking lot of the dorm in Columbus Ohio in February, 1963 which be our last kiss before his death. I replayed everything in my mind over and over. The skiing lessons in Quebec when I fell down on purpose so he would rush to my side as I feigned injury. How he always treated me as his girlfriend and the abuse he took back home when it became a realization that we had a relationship. He never wavered in his support. I relived every minute I could remember.  It made me realize again how kind and gentle he had been with me those four years, also how incredibly fortunate even those four short years were. I learned love was possible even for a "freak" like me.

I was the one that would have pushed things but he insisted we wait until surgery on my 18th birthday. I wanted him so badly and I knew he wanted me.  I lost him in May of 1963 but he saved me again in the summer of 1963. They stuck me in both those rooms a combined 8-10 times in the middle of my nightmare 8 weeks and the "Nazi Bastard" was really upset it had absolutely zero effect on me.

After I started reading the books I had a nightmare about the "White Room" which was weird because I cannot remember the last nightmare I had. I woke up and scared my cats off the bed I moved so fast. Most of this crap is in the "Way Back When Vault" because that is where it belongs. I do not like to remember it or talk about a lot.  Writing that post on Aversion Therapy took me a week.

This was easy to write. After waking up I walked into my home office quite shook up. One of the pictures on the wall in my office was given to me by Kevin's mother Mary several months ago and it hangs above the Acer Portable I use for the Internet. It is a picture of Kevin with his Green Beret team taken in Southeast Asia.  It is the last known picture of him and the team. They all died less than a month later. I knew his two close friends that stood to his immediate left and right.  He brought them to Quebec the last time we met there in the summer. They became friends and I was just Kevin's girlfriend.

I went back to bed and beat the nightmare goblins by thinking of Kevin from that first kiss to our last meeting but mostly about that wonderful summer I spent with a boyfriend and his two best friends. Some memories should not be kept in the "Way Back When Vault" and others should. I really and truly do owe my life and my sanity to a young man buried 48 years ago.

There are just some debts you can never repay.


Anonymous said...

Amazingly I N T E N S E.

Reading this, I cannot believe how lucky I was in avoiding ALL of that "awfulness". There is no doubt that I endured my fair share, but it is not something that I care to share so publically.

What DOES ring so true however, is the importance of certain individuals that past through one's life. In passing through their journey, they happen to touch upon ours, and it is that encounter, however brief or prolonged that can have such a profound and lasting effect.

Being thankful for those people and those encounters is what drives some of us to be that person to someone else. Just by encountering them and sharing a brief humanity, we might save their life.

Such an awesome responsibility we bear, just being alive.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to your boyfriend of long ago and to the power of the love you had for each other!

That's not all, of course. You're also telling us of the nightmare of being caught inside a psychiatric institution when you know there's nothing wrong with you, and being treated sadistically in the guise of therapy. Most of us can only imagine how that would be, and indeed just the thought of it gives us nightmares. That you came through it is a tribute not only to the love you held onto but to your own inner strength.

(I loved the Millenium Trilogy and especially Lisbeth. What an intriguing character! The Swedish films aren't quite the books, but they're all good.)

Anonymous said...

There is a fourth, as yet unpublished, Larsson book. The woman he lived with when he died is claiming part authorship. He didn't have a will. If her claim is accepted, she may receive some money. I wish her well.

Luckily my parents though psychiatry a fraud.

- an old aunty

JAY said...

Interesting... Now your sexual fantasies are devolving into bondage and S & M.

That is usually a sign that you feel a lack of control over your own destiny.

You should seek professional help.

Anonymous said...

The same way you require "professional Help" over your delusions of passing for female and picking up straight men? Your particular brand of madness Jay is all too common on the internet. You also do great damage with your feeble minded attempts at putting people down. You always sound like a failed drag queen with the bitter taste of failure in his mouth, or is is that something else you taste?


Elizabeth said...

@jamiegotagun aka JAY,

It actually took around 8 years to fully survive those events but I did. Obviously you have never gotten over your issues.

Anna T. said...

I don't know how to reach you so I'm going to try this comment form and hope that you see it somehow...

Are you okay? I'm just worried. It's been a while and I'm just scared that something may have happened to you.

Just take care of yourself.