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Brenda's Story

"17 Months"

Brenda's Post for Simmons University
Brenda apple picking!
A photo Brenda took at the Boston Climate Strike.
Brenda's cat

I was in hospitals for over a year. Between fall of 2019 and spring of 2021, I spent over 17 of those months in hospitals (not including partial programs or IOPs). 6+ different hospitals, 10+ ambulance rides, and so many restraints I stopped keeping track. It had to be over 20 but I lost track at around 15, and that was only about halfway through my inpatient admissions. 
I was restrained for various things. Though all my restraints were done because I was causing intentional harm to myself, many of them of the times could have been de-escalated in a much less invasive way. I've had people sit on my chest and stomach, lay on my legs, and squeeze my arms so hard I bled and got bruises. I've had people pull my clothes off of me, yell at me, give me intramuscular medication (“booty juice”) after only having been held down for 5 minutes, and I've had three rounds at a time of drugs that knocked me out for days. I would float through conversations, groups, and therapy sessions, not remembering a single thing because they over-medicated me. 

I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from my restraints and from being around others who were being restrained. Alarms make me freeze. In school when fire alarms go off, I'm not always able to get out of the building and now I have a special plan that requires me to be carried out if I can't do it myself. This would inevitably make things worse since I'm freezing because I'm having flashbacks to restraints and codes -- when someone touches me, I think they’re trying to restrain me. 

I fight back. I don't want to fight back. I've never wanted to hurt anyone. But I've hurt people in restraints before. One nurse hurt her back and had to miss work for a month because she didn’t have the staff yet to restrain me, but my doctor couldn’t let me continue doing what I was doing any longer because I could've caused serious damage (which it turns out that I did anyway). She was forced into a restraint she shouldn’t have participated in. I've known so many staff who had been injured in restraints. These people are being paid next to nothing for one of the most physically and emotionally draining jobs I can think of. 

The whole system is so messed up and needs immediate reform. There are so many horror stories I've heard from others that haunt me, and I can only imagine how much worse things can get. Things need to change now. I left the hospital safer, but only because I was more miserable there than I thought I could ever be in the real world. I left the hospital with more diagnoses, more negative coping skills, and more negative experiences than any 17-year-old should have. All because of 17 months of hospitalizations. 

None of this should be happening. Treatment should have the positives outweighing the negatives, but that is often not the case. This cause is so incredibly important and I hope my story helps people see how bad things can really be. 

Brenda was a strong advocate, a woman known for her sharp wit and kind heart. She is deeply missed – per her request, her message lives on. 

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