Letter from Sue Clark

Shock survivor-activist Sue Clark asked me to submit her letter (May 9/07) below as a blog entry. The Toronto Star rejected it. Thanks for sending it to us, Sue. Don Weitz

Dear Editor:

Electroshock I feel is an atrocity. The profession of psychiatry continues to give electroshock to patients. I had electroshock in 1973 against my will. I suffered permanent memory loss.

When will the medical profession wake up and realize that there are healthier alternatives to electroshock. Dr. Peter R. Breggin, a psychiatrist from the USA [who formerly used electroconvulsive therapy] wrote a book called Electroshock and Its Brain Disabling Effects. Dr. John Friedberg, a neurologist from the USA has stated that electroshock causes brain damage. There have been deaths associated with electroshock. I came close to death when on my 5th electroshock my heart stopped and I had to be revived.

There is a huge worldwide movement to help ban electroshock universally consisting of electroshock survivors, their friends and families, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, advocates, health professionals, etc. Mindfreedom.org is a psychiatric survivor driven organization helping to end psychiatric abuses all over the world including electroshock.

The time has come to end this human right violation for once and all. No one else should have to suffer like I did.

Sue Clark-Wittenberg


2 comments so far

  1. canuckgirl on

    I am Sue Clark. I wrote a poem yesterday, June 4th, 2007 about ECT.

    by Sue Clark-Wittenberg, 2007

    The day I got my first ECT
    I recall the room was white
    the nurses wore white
    the doctor wore white
    and I was white as a sheet with fright

    I lay on my back on the bed
    with wires put on both sides of my head
    a rubber band put on my forehead
    and a rubber mallet stuck in between my teeth

    I was scared to death, terrified
    I wanted to jump up and run
    but I could not
    I saw the ECT machine
    right to my left
    and knew that horrible machine
    was going to be turned on
    any minute
    and it would hurt my brain
    and it did

    I woke up after the ECT
    dizzy, confused and did
    not know who I was
    where I was

    I was put in a wheelchair
    I missed my breakfast
    and had to wait for lunch

    a peer on my ward
    told me many years later
    that when the staff grabbed me
    to take me to the ECT room
    I screamed, kicked and bit the
    staff and hollered
    “Somebody, anybody, please
    help me”
    But nobody did

    ECT hurt my brain
    No one told me the
    truth about what ECT
    would do to me
    because nobody cared

    So that is why I want ECT the atrocity that it is
    to be banned, to end,
    to stop now
    so no one else has to
    go through the torture
    like I did which is called ECT

  2. canuckgirl on

    I wrote another poem today, June 5th, 2007
    I am Sue Clark.

    WHY LABEL ME, SHRINKS? by Sue Clark-Wittenberg (2007)

    I landed up in a psychiatric ward at 17
    in 1972 on a locked ward in Ottawa
    I was depressed
    I was homeless
    I left home because I was being
    abused by both my parents

    Dr. Arboleda-Florez
    the Emergency doctor
    told me “Suzanne, come
    into the hospital for a few
    days, you nerves are bad”
    I said ok not knowing
    what was in store for me
    I was green to the reality
    of being on a psychiatric

    I was put on Ward H
    of the Royal Ottawa Hospital
    put in a semi private room
    with another person

    I was given large doses of
    pills to swallow three times a day
    I had three square meals
    and lots of sweets to eat

    I started to notice that
    my mouth got dry
    with all the medication
    I had difficulty walking
    down the hallways
    and had to grab onto
    to the walls
    I felt very tired
    and always wanted to

    After three months
    of being on the ward
    I gained lots of weight

    A boyfriend told me
    I slept most of the day
    in the hospital
    and was asleep
    when he came to visit

    I wanted to get off the
    ward and screamed this
    to the staff
    I was not a compliant
    and the staff called
    the goon squad to
    come after me
    the code was called quickly
    out over the intercom

    I ran down the hallway
    and I egged on the goon
    squad on
    “come and get me”
    “come and get me”
    and they did

    3 men in white coats
    1 nurse in a white coat
    approached me
    and then grabbed me
    and took me to my room
    the nurse pulled down
    my pants
    and put a big needle in
    into my hip
    to keep me quiet
    to punish me to
    expressing my justified anger

    I slept for about 12 hours
    and I felt groggy and sleepy
    still when I woke up

    So the price you pay on
    a psychiatric ward
    when you express
    you anger
    is a “chemical restraint”
    and sometimes they
    give you more pills.

    I screamed more and more
    and demanded more to
    be let off the Whitney 4 ward
    but no one listened to my
    no one truly cared
    I was just another number
    on the chart

    I was Dr. so and so’s patient
    she takes these meds at
    these times of day
    she has this particular
    psychiatric diagnosis
    how long will she stay
    this time
    it is up to the doc

    I decided to play the game
    as most psychiatric patients
    tell the doc you are fine
    no longer depressed
    a white lie
    but one that will get
    you your freedom
    off the locked ward

    I began my psychiatric
    career as a patient
    going in and out of
    psychiatric wards
    for 18 years
    from 1972 to 1990

    I got 13 different psychiatric
    It was like the shrinks
    had a diagnoses mill
    running and there was
    a new diagnoses of the day
    and I got slapped with one
    on my forehead so to speak

    I had so many pills with
    so many colors
    I just stashed them
    away in my cupboards

    I got depressed when
    my second marriage
    was failing and I was
    being abused
    So I took 140 pills
    and popped them
    into my mouth
    It was September 28, 1984

    A taxi took me to
    the Ottawa General Hospital
    and he took me there quickly
    so it seemed to me
    He asked me why I
    was going to the hospital
    and I calmly said “I only
    took 140 pills”

    I landed up in Ottawa General
    and the pills were starting
    to take effect now
    My head was buzzing
    My vision was getting blurry
    I was getting confused

    A nurse came up to me
    and said why are you here
    I looked up at the TV and
    started to stare at the
    cartoons on the screen
    and didn’t acknowledge the nurse
    was there

    I told the nurse after
    a few minutes
    I only took 140 pills
    She said “14 pills”
    No I said, “I took 140 pills”
    The nurse looked down
    and all I remember
    was the white nurse’s
    dress and her legs
    and I don’t remember her face

    I woke up in an elevator
    I was flat on my back
    on a bed
    and I asked the orderly
    “where are you taking me”
    The orderly answered
    “You were intensive
    care for two days, don’t
    you remember and we
    are taking you to the
    psychiatric ward”
    “Why” I asked
    He replied
    “You tried to kill yourself
    with lots of pills”

    I started to remember
    Taking the pills
    and swallowing them
    a death wish for sure
    I recall part of the taxi
    ride, some of the
    emergency ward
    and some of the
    intensive care

    I remember the nurse
    handing me a drink
    of black juice and I
    asked her “are these
    cigarette ashes”
    “no” she said
    “this juice is to
    clean out your system”
    It tasted awful and
    I became unconscious

    My second husband told me
    he visited me
    and I remember the
    nurse yelling
    “turn over, we have
    to change your sheets”
    I remember something on
    my nose and I tried to pull
    it off as I could not see
    and the nurse yelled
    “keep that on, that is
    part of your ventillator”

    When I first went into
    intensive care
    I was listed as criticial
    but then I improved

    The hospital staff
    saved my life and
    I am very grateful
    I really didn’t want to die
    I was crying out for help
    and did not know where to turn

    I finally got the help I needed
    and started to get a therapist
    to deal my being a battered wife

    I finally divorced husband no 2
    and felt better in my life
    for doing so
    free of abuse
    free to be me
    free to make my own choices
    and start to care about myself
    and not answer to anyone but me

    I was liberated
    I was becoming the
    person I always wanted to be
    I was getting to know myself
    and I liked who I was

    I started to question
    psychiatry and all of its
    quackery like the pills,
    the many psychiatric diagnoses,
    the torture of electroshock

    I stopped the psychiatric pills
    cold turkey
    and threw them down the pills
    I stopped seeing my shrink
    I got the DTs and that
    was not a good thing
    I climbed the walls for
    one month

    Since 1990 I have been
    free of psychiatry’
    and it feels good

    Free of oppression
    Free of being labelled
    Free of toxic pills
    Free of shrinks saying “you’re mentally ill”
    Free of all the rhetoric
    and the psycho babble
    and free from my private hell
    the hell of being locked up
    on a ward
    with no where to go
    and if you scream
    nobody cares

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