by Clio Reese Sady

I have a diagnosis of Bipolar I with psychosis. When I’m manic and psychotic it’s like living in a dream world where you suddenly aren’t wearing shoes or socks. And pretty soon after the shoes are gone the cops or paramedics appear.

I developed a hatred for ambulances after the first time I was 5150ed. 5150 is California code for involuntary psychiatric hold. Being restrained in the back of an ambulance transformed how I saw the vehicles. Having EMTs threaten to force me to wear a spit hood really put me off emergency workers. My hatred of police had a firm hold since long before experiences being locked up on mental health. But after my first 5150 I’d stare at ambulances out the window and know they were hunting crazy people to lock away.

I can hear all the exceptions and defenses of EMTs cascading in my own mind. But I knew what I knew. There is nothing you can say that will get them to let you go once that switch has been flipped. The mouse trap that starts with losing your shoes and ends at John George Psychiatric Pavilion.

So I’ll hear the wail of a siren and remember being strapped down, remember the nurse who shoved his thumb into my jaw in a pain-compliance hold that electrified me into stillness, and seethe with EMT hate.

In the aftermath of a manic episode, it is easy to backslide on all the conclusions I arrived at during psychosis. The shame washes over my experiences and the overwhelming gravitational pull toward “they were just trying to help” drags me backwards. Maybe the nurses are burnt out, maybe the EMTs have vicarious trauma.

But if I am true to my manic psychotic self, if I keep my eyes open underwater here’s what I see: potentially deadly chemical restraint administered with impunity in concert with police. EMTs physically forcing neurodivergent  people into so-called treatment. The technologies of coercion: gurneys, straps, spit hoods, sedatives.

I want a vision of abolition that refuses forced psychiatric holds. Healing based on treatment on demand. An understanding of the carceral that includes psych wards and hospitals. An end to systems designed to punish and isolate strange behavior. Healing spaces that aren’t designed for social control. A world without police. 

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is www.lagai.org.

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