May 04, 2004


I want to write about a controversial subject and take perhaps a controversial position: specifically regarding the use of physical as opposed to chemical restraints. I refer also to old-fashioned wetpacks, of which I have only heard and read, not experienced, though I have been restrained many times. In brief, I believe that physical restraints are not such a bad thing and are at the very least preferable to the forced drugging of agitated patients called chemical restraint or in the past and perhaps more honestly, a chemical straitjacket. The problem with physically restraining a person is that too often it is done crudely, rudely and for far too lengthy a period of time. My sister once ran a unit where, by contrast, patients were encouraged to ask for restraints when they felt they needed them (which implies some degree of self-awareness), there being neither shame nor coercion involved. Best of all, because this was a voluntary procedure and requested, it rarely lasted for long. I can appreciate this. When I have been so angry or agitated in the hospital that I was afraid I might hurt someone, or if not another person then at least myself, I might have wished that voluntary restraints were an option, rather than the usual recourse of being drugged up. There�s something far less invasive and brain numbing about the simple act of fighting, for a short while, against a known enemy so to speak, and by that I mean the straps or whatever is used as a mechanism of restraint, as opposed to the unbearable cloud of oblivion and inertia that descends after a shot of Thorazine and/or Haldol.

I emphatically do not mean what usually happens: that the goon squad is called in to forcibly grab and pin a patient to a bed until the leather cuffs can be locked on to keep someone from expressing him or herself, that person being kept thus for many hours, mostly because it�s easier on the nursing staff. But I would prefer a physical mode of detaining someone in order to keep them safe, to drugs that leave one drooling or staggering or so sedated they can no longer think. I believe it�s both less destructive and less humiliating, and more dignified and honest to deal with an agitated patient in such a fashion. I have more opinions on this subject but my computer is giving me grief tonight, and my mind is not very nimble after 15 sessions of ECT, from which I am still recovering. So I will leave this for the time being, though I know much more remains to be said.

Here endeth my 17th blog entry.

Posted by pamwagg at May 4, 2004 04:06 AM | TrackBack


dear pam,

i've been reading your blog for a few months now and think your writing is incredible. I'm glad you're feeling better and was wondering how progress is going on the book you and your sister are writing together. I'm a documentary filmmaker and after listening to the both of you on NPR a few weeks back, I wanted to contact you and see if you'd be interested in video documenting the writing process.

Feel free to contact me if you are! Looking forward to reading more!


Posted by: priya at May 11, 2004 08:31 PM

Hi Pam, I came across your blog while bloghopping. I'm so glad I did. You speak so openly and honestly about your illness and it's effects on your life. I wish I felt comfortable enough to do the same.

I have had cold wet packs and it felt very intrusive and abusive. I think I'd probably prefer Thorazine (it used to be Mellaril for me).

BTW, I've added you to my list at

Posted by: ::a:: at May 8, 2004 08:00 PM

In this blog, Pammy, I believe you have captured that which distresses me the most about your illness.It is not only the loss of free will, which I've mentioned before, but the loss of your DIGNITY,the very essence of who you are,which seems nonexistent to those who make the decisions about how you are to be kept"in line". I regularly have to forceably block the images of the treatment you've received from my mind because they are unbearable to me. I can only imagine what goes through your mind.
Close your eyes. Think of nothing tonight.
Lovingly, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at May 4, 2004 04:52 AM

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