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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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"I will leave it all, and gladly, if you will pay some attention to my messages," said I.


"Had I not been out of town," said he, "I would have come to see you sooner." And this honest excuse I believed and accepted.


I made known to the steward the assistant physician's behavior in balking my desire to telephone my conservator. He agreed to place the matter before the superintendent, who had that morning returned. As proof of gratitude, I promised to suspend hostilities until I had had a talk with the superintendent. I made it quite plain, however, that should he fail to keep his word, I would further facilitate the ventilation of the violent ward -- not a polite thing to say, but my faith in mankind was not yet wholly restored.




A FEW hours later, without having witnessed anything of particular significance, except as it befell myself, I was transferred to my old ward. The superintendent, who had ordered this rehabilitation, soon appeared, and he and I had a satisfactory talk. He gave me to understand that he himself would look after my case, as he realized that his assistant lacked the requisite tact and judgment to cope with one of my temperament -- and with that, my desire to telephone my conservator vanished.


Now no physician would like to have his wings clipped by an insane patient, even indirectly, and without doubt the man's pride was piqued as his incompetence was thus made patent. Thereafter when he passed through the ward he and I had frequent tilts. Not only did I lose no opportunity to belittle him in the presence of attendants and patients, but I even created such opportunities; so that before long he studiously avoided me whenever possible. But it seldom was possible. My chief amusement consisted in what were really one-sided interviews with him. Occasionally he was so unwise as to stand his ground for several minutes, and his arguments on such occasions served only to keep my temper at a vituperative heat. If there were any epithets which I failed to apply to him during the succeeding weeks of my association with him they must have been coined since. I am no candidate for the reputation which attaches to mean tongues; but I wish to give some slight excuse for the hateful way in which this man treated me when I finally fell into his power. The fact is that the uncanny admixture of sanity displayed by me, despite my insane condition, was something this doctor could not comprehend. Remarks of mine, therefore, which should have been discounted or ignored, rankled in his breast as the insults of a sane and free man would have done. No doubt a rare degree of tact was what was required for the proper and continued control of a patient of my temperatment -sic-. Yet I am sure a judicious granting of requests, or a helpful refusal, would have contributed to an earlier recovery and insured a less stormy period of convalesence -sic-. For a mind as active as mine to be contented for long was out of the question; yet I know that the blunt and indiscriminate refusal of most of my requests prolonged my period of mental excitement; whereas, fair treatment would have restored me to health, freedom, and society several months earlier. The loss of time is of small moment, but the risk of irreparable injury which I was forced to assume is not to be lightly regarded. That some curable cases of insanity have been made chronic by just such treatment as I was fortunate enough to survive is an indisputable fact, -- direct proof whereof can never be offered by these hapless ones, for they are now in their graves -- living graves, some of them.


When my period of depression gave way to one of elation, an ultimate, if temporary recovery at least was assured. What followed was a period of convalescence, and the doctors knew that the return of my brain to its normal condition would be only a question of time, -- though they could not predict whether normality would long continue, for cycles of depression and elation tend to recur in a brain that has once been so affected. Surely I was entitled to the sanest of treatment from the very moment the state of comparative sanity manifested itself. Instead, I was soon subjected to treatment so brutal that I might not have survived it had I not been blessed with a strong constitution and a virile hope.


After my return to my old ward I remained there for a period of three weeks. At that time I was a very self-centered individual. My large and varied assortment of delusions of grandeur made everything seem possible. There were few problems I hesitated to attack. With sufficient provocation I even attacked attendants -- problems in themselves; but such fights as I subsequently engaged in were fights, either for my own rights or the rights of others. Though for a while I got along fairly well with the attendants and as well as could be expected with the assistant physician, it soon became evident that these men felt that to know me more was to love me less. Owing to their lack of capacity for the work required of them, I was able to cause them endless annoyance. Many times a day I would instruct the attendants what to do and what not to do, and tell them what I should do if my requests, suggestions, or orders were not immediately complied with. For over one year the attendants had seen me in a passive, almost speechless condition, and they were, therefore, unable to understand my unwonted aggressions. The threat that I would chastise them for any disobedience of my orders they looked upon as a huge joke. So it was, until one day I incontinently cracked that joke against the head of one of them.

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