June 09, 1996, About 7:38 P.M.
I remember feeling alarmed when I walked into the residential crisis care facility where I was about to start my night shift on June 9, 1996.
A young female arrived as a substitute for my male shift partner. The client who had attacked the copy machine just two days earlier was still in the house. I made the huge mistake of wondering how the night would go: calm or …
If you think something will hurt you it will. The power of the mind is everything. Putting emotions to your thoughts boosts their power and the speed at which you manifest whatever you focus on.
I unknowingly laid the groundwork for what was to come.
As I reviewed the status of the six current residents, the sun slowly slipped below the horizon. Being early June, the sky was not yet dark at 7:38 P.M. Later I will tell you why the daylight matters.
I bolted out of the office to find a mammoth of a person – the woman whose presence concerned me — throwing objects around the room. I ordered her into the office and told her to sit down in the chair just as I had done with her two days earlier.
Two days earlier she did what I said.
I assumed she would do it this time too. To say I was surprised at what happened next would be a gross understatement.
I turned to talk with her, just as I had done two days earlier, in time to see her gargantuan hand about to smash into my left temple and jawbone.
She caught me off guard – not just because of the attack but also by the fact that her 419-pound body totally pinned me against the office furniture. I could not fall to the floor and crawl away. I could not scramble across the desktop. I barely had space to breathe.
I could not move any part of my body. I could not budge – at all.
Caught in a psychotic episode, she had no idea who I was or where we were. She continued to pummel my head – each time throwing a punch that jolted my entire body causing a nasty whiplash – a whiplash so severe my range of motion remained restricted for years.
Her size alone packed power in her punch. Her mental state – schizophrenic as well as developmentally challenged – magnified her strength. The psychotic episode boosted her already mighty wallop into an unfathomable force.
What Kept Me Alive
My thoughts split in two directions:
- If I lose consciousness she will kill me and possibly ransack this entire facility, hurt the seven other people in this house and maybe then rip through the door and rampage toward the neighbor’s house! 2. How can I escape?
Finally I noticed — when she pulled her arm back to power up her swing her whole body went back too on an angle that allowed just enough space for me to flit by.
I dashed out of the office into the open area with her in hot pursuit – clomp, clomp, clomping after me. Thankfully she couldn’t move very fast.
Her face, still contorted with anger, her eyes still ablaze with fury, she came after me flailing her arms at my head – again. But this time I could move. This time I could raise my arms and protect myself – which is precisely what I did.
Why I Stayed In Her Path
Remember the seven people in the house? I drew her toward me to keep her away from them.
A male resident witnessed the attack and told her to stop hitting me. My heart jumped into my throat as she turned toward him. I feared she would attack him. Surprisingly – she fell calm. The episode either ended or she had expended all of her energy. She stopped swinging.
The puzzled look in her eyes, that moments before revealed an altered mental state, faded now. It appeared the worst was over. I told the other residents to go their rooms. No way could this nearly quarter ton person make it up the steps. Heck, she couldn’t even fit in the stairwell.
I told my partner to keep a close eye on her while I ran into the office and called the police.
Good Gracious. It took forty minutes for the police to arrive. Thankfully, during that time she did not go into another episode – well, not full-blown anyway. As my partner kept her confined to the kitchen, that mentally ill person grabbed my partner’s arm and bit it.
My partner wore layered clothing that night. The bite, thankfully, did not break her skin.
I knew we were out in the country, but it made no sense that it took forty minutes for the police to arrive. I cannot tell you I was relaxed while we waited – and waited – and waited “for the cavalry to arrive” – she said with just a tad of sarcasm.
I could not understand how the dispatcher failed to call this a dire emergency. She asked if the person was still on a rampage and when I replied, “Not this moment,” she apparently chose to call it a non-emergency and notified officers to come out.
Finally, the squad car pulled into the driveway. Two strapping, tall, muscular officers walked into the office. Inside my being I felt the let down following a huge internal sigh of relief!!!
These physically fit policemen took one look at the attacker and called for backup, and backup, and backup and for the Paddy wagon. They knew she would not fit in the back of the police car.
I had stood up to this 419-pound woman – developmentally challenged and schizophrenic in a psychotic episode – and I not only survived but also took control. Make no mistake; I know the Universe, coming to my aid, played a hand in the seeming calm.
Amazingly, when I took out her file folder to write the report for the commitment I found a completely filled out report written two days earlier during the day shift when she attacked the full-size copy machine, which stood outside the locked staff office door. Good thing no other residents had approached the office staff – who remained safe on the other side of that locked door.
[NOTE: Mental health workers get hurt and killed by the hundreds every year. I know because we treated some of them.]
This very woman had stabbed somebody in the face with a fork just two weeks before coming to our facility. I hope you’re getting the idea that dangerous people walk amongst us.
While I wrote up the commitment papers, police officers continued to arrive until finally eleven strong officers stood in my office. They kept out of sight so as not to scare her. For her, being committed was a regular thing.
Does that fact tell you something about the state of the mental health system? There is more you need to know about the mental health system because I am pretty sure what I experienced was not by any means, an isolated incident.
When I went to the hospital for the commitment hearing I asked the security officer to protect me. He said, “Only the judge gets protection.”
You might guess I was more than a bit nervous as I sat across the table from the attacker – easily within her reach. And with the security guard by the judge’s side (not near me) I honestly did not feel safe.
But here is the point that really got me, really made me angry – the hospital psychologist made it clear to that woman that she had a choice: sign the papers agreeing to be hospitalized in the locked ward for a few days OR not sign the papers and be shipped off to the state mental health facility.
It was the job of the psychologist to make sure that woman understood her choices. Period. Nothing in the system protects the population at large from dangerous mentally ill people with the potential to inflict bodily harm.
But you already knew that, right? Look at the high rate of physical assault and homicide, at property damage – and the unthinkable.
Wait! It gets even better. The judge was the very same judge who, two weeks earlier, resided over the hearing after that woman stabbed someone in the face with a fork.
Yet there seemed to be no consequence for her to prevent any further attacks. Do you see a danger here? To you?
In that moment I learned that I wanted no part in such a system. Looking back, I see the Universe had been trying hard to tell me that fact for a while. Only back then, I didn’t heed the whispers or even the gentle nudges. So the Universe shouted at me and took me out – because it was in my highest and best interest not just to leave that facility but also to leave the practice of talk therapy.
Seriously, your life and the lives of your family depend on you knowing how to protect yourself in this fast paced world of instant change and electronic information sharing.