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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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Page 45:


Coming from an insane man this was rather straight talk. The doctor was noticeably disconcerted. Had he not feared to lose caste with the attendants who stood by I think he would have given me another chance. But he had too much pride and too little manhood to recede from a false position once taken. I no longer resisted, even verbally, for I no longer wanted the doctor to desist. Though I did not anticipate the operation with pleasure, I was eager to take the man's measure. He and the attendants knew that I usually kept a trick or two even up the sleeve of a strait-jacket, so they took added precautions. I was flat on my back, with simply a mattress between me and the floor. One attendant held me. Another stood by with the medicine and with a funnel through which, as soon as Mr. Hyde should insert the tube, the dose was to be poured. The third attendant stood near as a reserve force. Though the insertion of the tube, when skilfully done, need not cause suffering, the operation as conducted by Mr. Hyde was painful.


Try as he would he was unable to insert the tube properly, though in no way did I attempt to balk him. His embarrassment seemed to rob his hand of whatever cunning it may have possessed. After what seemed ten minutes of bungling, though it was probably not quite five, he gave up the attempt, but not until my nose had begun to bleed. He was plainly chagrined when he and his bravos retired. Intuitively I felt that they would soon return. That they did, armed with a new implement of war. This time the doctor inserted between my teeth a large wooden peg -- to keep open a mouth which he usually wished closed. He then forced down my throat a rubber tube. Then the attendant adjusted the funnel, and the medicine, or rather liquid -- for its medicinal properties were without effect upon me -- was poured in.


This medicine was supposed to be soporific in effect. If I was so greatly in need of sleep, was an hour of intense mental excitement and physical torture likely to induce it? The spite of this man who thus tried to discipline me was evident. Though I am confident that few doctors in charge of the insane act as unprofessionally and unfairly as he did, there are, I believe, men of his type to be found in every State in the Union. And they will continue to prey upon the insane until Non-Restraint becomes the watchword of all.




As the scant reports sent to my conservator during these three weeks indicated that I was not improving as he had hoped, he made a special trip to the institution to investigate in person. On his arrival he was met by none other than Doctor Jekyll, who told him that I was in a highly excited condition, which, he intimated, would be aggravated by a personal interview. Now for a man to see his brother in my plight would be a distressing ordeal, and, though my conservator came within two hundred feet of my prison cell, it naturally took but a suggestion to dissuade him from coming nearer. Doctor Jekyll did tell him. that it had been found necessary to place me in "restraint" and "seclusion" (the professional euphemisms for "strait-jacket," "padded cell," etc.), but no hint was given that I had been roughly handled. Doctor Jekyll's politic dissuasion was no doubt inspired by the knowledge that if ever I got within speaking distance of my conservator nothing could prevent my giving him a circumstantial account of my sufferings -- which account would have been corroborated by the blackened eye I happened to have at the time. Indeed, in dealing with my conservator, the assistant physician showed a degree of tact which, had it been directed toward myself, would have sufficed to keep me tolerably comfortable.


My conservator, though temporarily stayed, was not convinced. He felt that I was not improving where I was, and he wisely decided that the best course would be to have me transferred to a public institution -- the State Hospital. A few days later the judge who had originally committed me ordered my transfer. Nothing was said to me about the proposed change until the moment of departure, and then I could scarcely believe my ears. In fact I did not believe my informers; for three weeks of abuse, together with my continued inability to get in touch with my conservator, had so shaken my reason that there was a partial recurrence of old delusions. I imagined myself on the way to the State Prison, a few miles distant; and not until the train had passed the prison station did I believe that I was really on my way to the State Hospital for the Insane. (7)

(7) The managements of institutions where the insane are received and treated should, without further delay, adopt the sensible system of nomenclature now in use in several States in the Union. For instance, in New York, the "State Hospitals for the Insane" are designated as follows: Hudson River State Hospital, Willard State Hospital, Manhattan State Hospital, etc. The word "insane" does not appear in the name or on the stationery of an institution, where it is so likely to offend sensitive inmates and their relatives. The phrase "State Hospital," with appropriate words preceding, -- preferably a word or words suggesting its location, -- is all the designation needed. A general adoption of this suggestion will render obsolete the already archaic but still used names: "Lunatic Asylum," "Insane Asylum," "Insane Hospital" and "Hospital for the Insane." In this book the latter name is repeatedly used, -- not from choice, however, but because it is the one in general use at present. The main point is that people should learn to avoid the unnecessary use of words weighted with misconceptions of the past.

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