Charley’s Tale Part 14

Being an overindulged darling daughter had done nothing to prepare Ellen for dealing with life. Her life had always revolved around what she wanted and felt she deserved.  Her postpartum psychosis left her with no understanding of the irrational thoughts plaguing her. Having no control over her life disarmed her further.  Her outbursts and combativeness jeopardized her further.

One Tuesday morning after a particularly difficult night, Ellen was restrained and strapped to a stretcher.   Attendants rolled her into a treatment room where zombie-like women filed in and took seats on straight chairs before a screened area.  Some of the women were crying.  One twisted a handkerchief and others bit their nails.  Eventually, two were called behind the curtain.  The first broke into tears but the other just shuffled her way on.  Twenty minutes or so later, one was rolled out and Ellen was brought behind the screen.  The crying woman was assisted to a stretcher where she submitted to restraints, despite her pleas “Not today. Not today.  I’ll be good!”  An attendant continued without reassurance, fitting electrodes to her head and putting a shoe heel in her mouth.  In seconds, the woman convulsed, relaxed and convulsed again.  Ellen could smell feces and urine.  When the treatment was over, the woman was lifted by the attendants to a wheelchair, where she slumped as she was rolled out in her soiled clothes.

As quickly as possible, Ellen’s stretcher was rolled into position.  The attendants chatted amiably with each other about the upcoming weekend, not even speaking to Ellen about what was going on.  One checked her restraints while the other fitted electrodes to her head.  Ellen thrashed and screamed as they got her ready for her turn.  Unable to work loose, Ellen tried to bite one of the women and was slapped for her efforts.

“Bitch!  You tried to bite me!  I’ll teach you!  She slapped Ellen twice more and spoke to the other attendant.  “I am so sick of putting up with the rich bitches they keep draggin’ in here for us to tend to.  Ain’t none of ’em ever done nothin’ for nobody but themselves.  I’m gettin’ on in the laundry soon’s I can.  Least I won’t have to mess with trash like this.”

“I know,” the other woman answered.  “I’m gettin’ so I’d just soon knock ’em in the head as look at ’em.  I bet this one ain’t never done a day’s work in her life.  This ought to settle her right down.”  With that, she flipped a switch and Ellen convulsed.  After a moment’s wait, she turned the charge again, resulting in another convulsion and relaxation of her bowel and bladder sphincters.  Blood poured from Ellen’s mouth from where she’d bitten her tongue.  “Oh Lord, I forgot to put the block in her mouth and she bit her tongue.  We better keep an eye on her till it stops bleeding.  We don’t want to get put on report.”  With that, she put a rolled bandage in Ellen’s mouth and rolled her stretcher to the side.  “I sure hope this don’t get us in trouble.”  Ellen’s lay in her own soil as her head lolled to one side and the dressing soaked up blood.







43 thoughts on “Charley’s Tale Part 14

  1. Dastardly and so ignorant. I’m sure her husband had no clue. Most didn’t, but at their wits end and with prodding from others I’m sure, they did what they thought was best. My dad said he remember one of mothers family members being chained to a post in the barn. That was as late as the 50’s. Mental illness and retardation was mishandled frequently.


  2. When I started mental health nursing shock therapy was still in regular use, albeit with anaesthetic. i recall one poor man who split his tongue in half. I dragged the dr back to look. He shrugged and prewscribed mouth washes. The treatmetn continued the next day. One place also used insulin therapy 😦 I am so glad those days are over. Poor, poor Ellen.


  3. Oh! I just discovered your blog and read the top post, and I’m like, “I better start from Part 1!” Looking forward to read more of your posts 🙂


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