Once a Patient, Forever a Patient

                           by Jaye D. Bartha
                       Retractor, Class of '92

Like an insidious disease, the residue from repressed memory therapy follows me. After leaving treatment eight years ago,
I was trapped in its wreckage, ailing and penniless. During
litigation, it ambushed me with flashbacks of horrors I had
endured while remembering perverted sexual abuse that never
happened. After successful litigation, repressed memory
therapy's nefarious nature followed me 1700 miles across
country to my new home. This is its most recent sting.
    Sandy, a colleague, became overly concerned about my
emotional well-being after I shared feelings of depression.
Sandy's mother committed suicide and I had unwittingly stirred
up old fears.
    Early one morning, my computer keyboard broke and the phone
line was receiving a fax. Across town, Sandy was home transmitting
her daily onslaught of cheery email. I did not respond. She called
me by phone. It was busy. Sandy panicked, called another colleague
Joanne, and the two of them decided, since I was not answering
email or the phone, I needed urgent help.
    Joanne left the local library where she was studying and quickly
drove to my neighborhood. Along the way, she flagged down a police
officer and convinced him to assist her in checking on me. Joanne
told the officer I wasn't answering the phone or email and that I
had a history of psychiatric problems.
    When I returned home from the store with my new keyboard and
groceries, my dog frantically ran in circles instead of smothering
me with kisses. Something was wrong. A rush of fear ran through me.
Peeking from under a pile of newspapers on the kitchen counter was
a police officer's business card and a scribbled note:
    Jaye -- I was really concerned because we couldn't get hold of
you so the police came with me to do a welfare check. Please call
me or call Sandy. -- Joanne
    I panicked. I shook as if the temperature had dropped fifty
degrees. I hugged the dog. Then I got mad. Real mad.
    I dialed the number on the police officer's business card and
learned they called a locksmith to break in. Then my colleague and
the officer searched my home. "Your friends just wanted to make
sure you were okay," he said as if I should be grateful.
    "Excuse me officer. Those people are not friends, they're
colleagues. They know little about me," I answered angrily.
    I didn't take the intrusion lightly. I was reminded of being
locked on a mental ward with no control over my life. I had
flashbacks of amytal interviews, of grueling days in the hospital,
of phony memories of rape and mayhem. Obviously, I had no right
to be in my home without invasion. Rules of probable cause, a
valid search requiring the existence of facts, did not apply
to me.
    I have been working diligently to recover from recovered
memories. I'm healthy and enjoying my life. The term,
"serene-retractor" is no longer an oxymoron.
    So what happened?
    I shared my story, that's all. My colleagues were writers
who had critiqued many manuscripts about false memory syndrome.
I failed to hide my past. The "welfare check" was a clamoring
wake-up call. Would these two people, aided by the police,
have broken into my home if they didn't know my psychiatric history?
If I had been home would they have burst into my bedroom or the
shower to make sure I was OK? If my dog attacked, would the
officer have shot my faithful companion? It was clear, people
will probably make decisions regarding my mental health, without
my input, for the rest of my life.
    It leaves me wondering when my home will be broken into
by another concerned colleague, neighbor, or family member.
If I had children, would social services have taken them?
If I were laying on the couch, would I have been escorted
to a mental hospital? Are retractors and accused parents open
targets for unsubstantiated welfare checks? Why are the police
permitted to break into someone's home just because it's requested?
I won't allow this incident to pull me backward. I know the future
holds another welfare check, unless I keep quiet about my experiences
with repressed memory therapy. But keeping quiet isn't an option
for me. Silence breeds misinformation. Talking fosters understanding.
I'd rather deal with the consequences.
    For now, repressed memory therapy will just have to follow me. I
hope it enjoys my life as much as I do. I will not run or hide. Next
time I'll remain calm and try to smile when they come check on me.

Retrieved 5/30/11. False Memory Syndrome Foundation Newsletter 2000
vol. 9 no.4. Reprint by permission

Creative Commons License
I Wonder What Would Have Happened If … by Jeanette Barhta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.

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12 Comments

  1. Hi there…. I blog about the Little Rascals Day Care case and other episodes from the SRA moral panic….. Thought you might be interested in this account
    http://littlerascalsdaycarecase.org/Archive/14Q1/140220Gutheil.htm
    of Richard Kluft’s litigious response to an article in Psychiatric Times….
    Best,
    Lew Powell
    http://littlerascalsdaycarecase.org/

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  2. Sheri J. Storm

     /  04/14/2013

    Jeanette, I didn’t read this until today. As sick as it sounds, knowing someone else truly understands the mental anguish and assorted ‘baggage’ that accompanies one “recovering from recovered memories,” assures me that I am not alone and energizes my efforts to educate others about iatrogenic DID / false memories too. I continue to admire and appreciate you.

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    • Jeannette Bartha

       /  04/15/2013

      Hi Sheri, Glad you found this useful. Recovering from recovered memories is an odd place to be!

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  3. V

     /  05/31/2011

    Hi Jeanette,

    Wow, that sucks! It is not fun that someone whose mother committed suicide jumped the gun and called the cops, but maybe that is understandable given the information and emotions involved. But if someone does a welfare check just because they don’t like you that is abusing the system! That person has some issues .

    Unfortunately, people look askance at the “crazy mental patients” rather than the extremely wacky, greedy, and irresponsible DID therapists. So we have to walk on eggshells.

    The DID therapists get prestige and money, the patients and the families lose credibility and get labeled as crazy and genetically deficient. Fun stuff!

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    • Well, V, you are not genetically deficient – what an awful thing to be told.

      These are scary situations to be thrown into. Even if someone has good intentions, which they did, my question is this: Where the hell were you? The person that initiated that mess sat at home the entire time. Wow. That’s concern if I’ve ever seen it.

      It’s way too easy to make reports without needing to show proof. Again, it makes a mess that I, and others, have to sweep up.

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      • V

         /  05/31/2011

        Concern is a funny thing, isn’t it? They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think that is true.

        It is too bad that Sandy acted that way. I can see how you would need boundaries.

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        • Boundaries? You could put it that way. lol I decided I don’t want, or need, people like that in my life. I’d always be worrying about when they would do it again.

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  4. I am sorry your friends concern made you feel the way it did. But from their side, they must of been concerned about you. I have a friend with mpd and she too has accuring memouries and flash backs. Since leaving her abusers I have asked her to phone me each day on arrival for work to make sure another alter has not driven back. She is thankfull that I am looking out for her. She knows if I can’t get hold of her by land line or cell and she’s not at home. I would look for her untill I found her. Because her safety is important to me.

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    • Your friend is fortunate to have someone with such concern.

      As I said, the calls on me weren’t about me. In the case I wrote about, I hadn’t seen, nor heard from, those women for a week. So how accurate was their concern? I had said, or done, nothing out of the ordinary – that is what I am referring to. Once a patient, always a patient. There is no getting around it.

      It reminds me of when I was exercising and getting physically healthy toward the end of DID treatment. I needed less and less medication and desired to see the therapist less and less. I began to have questions about the therapy and the doctor.

      I was working out at a gym every day and realized that no one there reported that I was acting strangely, that my personality changed, or my voice, or anything else about me. No one worried about what I might do, or if they should be concerned about me in any way. I was once a nationally ranked fencer and had returned to my sport – there were swords all around – lol.

      But when I returned to the hospital – all of a sudden I was a patient again and full of personalities.

      If I need help, I’ll get it. I don’t need other people to make those decisions for me. If someone is concerned, they need to talk to me first. It’s a respectful way to treat someone who is an adult.

      Unfortunately, there are no repercussions for people who create situations like these allegedly out of caring for someone else. Former patients are left, once again, to wipe up the mess.

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  5. V

     /  05/31/2011

    Hi Jeanette,

    I am sorry about the pain this caused. It does sound like your coworkers were trying to help, even if they did the wrong thing.

    I was told by a counsellor that DID was real, and the fact that my mother had it meant that I have a “genetic predisposition” to serious mental illness. They put me on antidepressants, which were horrible. I am off them now, THANK GOD, and on no other drugs.

    I got my file from those counsellors. It’s all over the file, “genetic predisposition, genetic predisposition, genetic predisposition.”

    I think those counsellors were trying to help. They had never seen a case of DID and did not know of the controversy. So, they were believers by default, because it’s in their manual. And they were also believers in the “chemical imbalance” theory of everything.

    I had some emotional issues, which I think anyone whose mother was actively psychotic and speaking in baby voices etc. might have.

    I went through a lot with the DID. But I have no mental illness, no genetic defect, nothing. There is no test for a brain chemical imbalance, but I am as sure as a person can be that I have no such thing.

    Back in the 1990s, ALL mental illness was because of repressed memory of child abuse. Today, ALL mental illness is because of chemical imbalances and genetics.

    Anyway, I think that when the mental health industry touches your life, or the lives of your family, you do get a label, whether it’s psychiatric problems or a “genetic predisposition.”

    I am smart and I have no actual mental illness so I can walk away from counsellors, pills, etc. I am very very very very very lucky.

    I think the “ONE answer for every problem” type of thinking is a plague on psychiatry. There is no ONE cause of everything, especially when you are talking about the complexities of human emotion and behavior.

    This is what got my mother into DID therapy — ALL unhappiness was caused by child abuse. There was no other possible explanation because the therapists KNEW the ONE answer.

    Sorry about your coworkers. Who knows who they get their info about mental health from. I hope that maybe someday better information is available.

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    • Hey V, The other welfare check that was made subsequent to this one was because of other people’s feelings, not about anything that was going on with me. One person was angry at me and called. I spent most of the next day finding out if a report was filed – thankfully, there was none. Otherwise I was prepared to report her making a false call.

      I am glad you show no signs of illness. I agree, you are lucky – especially given that you were raised by an unstable mother who was into the DID crap – but, to her credit, she eventually found it nonsense and left. But not after too much damage was done.

      Before the DID craze, the women’s movement started a campaign to fight child abuse, to raise awareness, and to give survivors a public voice. Although the initial movement had good intentions, it warped into a witch hunt. Everywhere we turned, there was alleged child abuse. Unfortunate for those like me who got involved in DID treatment only fueled the fires. The witch hunt has subsided, but women continue to be abused by the mental health system.

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