The Padded Bed: The Epileptic in Western Medicine

or: inhabited Lives, personal testimonies from the mirrored self

Linked with Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti – USA.

Published on Bestcyrano.org, by Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti, December 5th, 2007.

I am in a bed with bars on either side that are protected with sea-foam green padding (the green that hospitals seem so very fond of. If it ever had a calming effect, it no longer does because one associates it with some emergency; an obvious conclusion. You’d think they would have changed the color by now, but no. It remains hospital green

… Pain works like this: if you are in pain, the drugs, the opiates, will only control the pain and will not make you high because they are too busy working on the pain. If you are not in pain, the drugs may make you high or loopy but since I have never taken the drugs without pain, I base this information solely on my reading and experience of others. Whether or not the good doctor would be “out cold” is irrelevant and more, it was a judgement passed on me and my use of such medication. What he did not know is that I had, of my own free will, stopped taking all of the medication for about six or more months when I could have easily gotten a script. I had no “Trainspotting” moments. I did not shiver, throw-up, etc – I did not go through any withdrawal, regardless of whether I “should” have or not, I simply did not. I cannot say more than this. The facts are the facts …

… No doctor, other than the one doctor who has known me for many years, asked me what I do for a living. Nor did they ask, after finding out that I am a writer, which books I have published, or where I teach, which publising houses or magazines I have worked for. Thank god for my attending physician who has known me for years and in a more proper context.

The psychiatrist who walked in with her perfectly coiffed her, her carefully lined eyes and powdered-nose, nicely knotted scarf and a skirt that was appropriate but still allowed for other (male) doctors to admire her womanliness – she no doubt took one look at me (no make-up, no clothes, all wires and tears) and made her judgments. I too could make judgements based soley on what she was wearing; that she was inappropriately using her sex in a hospital setting with male doctors, to what end I cannot say, but this much seemed apparently clear. Is this too not a sign of some insecurity?

But what if she saw me on any other day – if we passed on the street. What if she were in the audience when I lectured at the very school she attended? Would her assessment be the same? And more, why or who is she to assess me? She is just another doctor in a hospital with a degree. Should I assess her writing skills? Ah, I know, you say, “But she is not there to be assessed….” Yes, but I was not in the hospital for psychiatric testing – so why is she present? I covered this ground earlier so I will not repeat, but you get the point.

One hates to be like this – to keep a running tally of one’s accomplilshments yet it is almost forced in some effort to not only be an advocate for yourself, but to make sure that you do not lose your identity. It’s really not so different from the armed forces in which you are stripped bare of your identity then built back up with another self instead. I entered that hospital a successful writer if I had bought into the way I was treated, especially by the psychiatrist, I would have believed fully that I am a weak person, falling apart, depressive, manic, and maybe even falling apart. Thank god I have a strong sense of self and an inner-core of being.

In all, while I found most of the treatment helpful and am no longer having such bad seizures, it turned in the final account to be one of the newer “anti-convulsant” medications that was causing the seizures in the first place. We all know that doctors are encouraged to prescribe the newer drugs for myriad reasons and in the final account, the patient becomes a guinea pig. It was not the Ritalin, the opiates as all had suspected, but one of “their” drugs.

I have no more to say about this subject, only that I remain, as a poet and a writer and yes, an epileptic, more inline with the Inuit, non-western view, that I am a kind of shaman – that through my writing and more, my poetry, I am able to express things for which others cannot find the words. That is the true measure of who I am, that is what is real. Why this doesn’t count in western culture remains a mystery to me – and no doubt, it would also be a mystery to Van Gogh, Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, Lord Byron, Hippocrates (ah, the father of all modern medicine), Socrates, and countless other epileptics… but what do I know. So I end by saying, “Hi, my name is Sadi and I am epileptic.”

Thanks for listening, Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti, November, 2007. (full long text).

(Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti is a Senior Editor at Cyrano’s Journal Online. Her highly personal blog, tant mieux, is dedicated to explorations of art, culture, photography, biography, and poetry, in her own unique way, of course. Her similarly revealing (and absorbing) diary on her confrontation with melanoma was published in 2004).

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