the following was written around March 1993 in Portland, Maine….

A Psychiatric Observation

by Gary L. Fincher

On December 23, 1991, I, a political activist for the Libertarian Party, the U.S. political party which seeks to defend individual liberty in both the personal and economic realm, was brutally arrested in Miami, Florida, by five thuggish cops simply for petitioning signatures at a post office.  I spent 8 days in Dade County Jail where I was brutally beaten and tortured before being bailed out on New Year’s Eve.

Although federal case law precendent was on my side, the case was not allowed to develop into a First Amendment test case, as charges were trumped and manipulated and I was instead charged with felony battery (on the officers), a false charge.  Nevertheless, I was railroaded by the specter of  not getting a fair trial and being dealt a conviction and prison sentence, so I surmised the easiest and most painless way out was the plea bargain nolo contendre and receive one year probation in exchange for withheld adjudication.

This set in motion a series of pitfalls and heartaches that would ultimately lead to my greatest depression ever.  Prior to my appearance in Miami, my best friend and “love of my life” had been Denise Sirois, who stayed back in Lewiston, Maine, where I had left from some 7 months earlier to work on the ballot campaign.  Due to the restrictive nature (geographically) of the probation, I was not allowed to come home for a long time, which inevitably cooled our relationship.  And even though my love and attachment for her did not wane, hers apparently did, was she found another love in the Fall of ’92, a time I should by all rights have been back home, if not for the probation.

In February 992, I transferred my probation to Birmingham, Alabama, where I expected to stay out my probation until the sentence was up in February 1993.  I was required to make momthly appearances before a probation officer in Birmingham, but in October 1992 this mandate was modified and I was allowed to send notification by mail for the duration of the probation, save for the final appearance.  My appointed “guardians” in Birmingham, Dr. & Mrs. Jimmy Blake, agreed to “cover” for me, i.e., let me return to Maine and deal with the situation with Denise, but mail the notifications to the Blakes, who would then forward them on to my probation officer.   The stipulation provided for me to make one final appearance in person in Birmingham in February 1993, upon which time the probation terms would be fulfilled.

As far as the Alabama and Florida probation departments (joint partners in my case) knew, I never left Alabama.  Had it been known, I would have been given an automatic conviction of the felony and imposed a prison sentence and extradition to Florida.

But I left Alabama for Maine in November 1992, hoping to be reunited after a year and a half on the road with my loving Denise.

But it took a tragic turn when I was told that Denise not only didn’t want me back, but that she didn’t want to ever see me again and that she wanted me “out of her life” – forever.  My best friend and only thing I had left in life had forsaken me and it was too much for me to take.  Through the rest of November, interest in reconciliation (even of the friendship) turned to obsession, depression and intense pain, and she emphatically and cruelly rejected me at every turn.  By the beginning of December, I was in shambles – physically, emotionally, and financially.  Unlike when I had left Maine in May 1991, I returned to the dark, gray November cold without money, friends, a car, a job or a place to stay – with no prospects for any of those in the near future (except that I did manage to get hired at an Auburn convenience store, Big Apple, but was unstable and my boss was skeptical of me).  Life for me, effectively, was over.

Then, on Friday, December 4, 1992, my friend Jeff Crafts accompanied me while I checked myself into Lewiston’s St. Mary’s hospital.  It turned out that there were no beds available, so it was arranged that I be delivered by ambulence to Jackson Brook Institute in Portland.

Thus began what would turn out to be a 16-day stay in that unit where I would be involved in intense individual and group therapy, social interaction with other patients and generally “chilling out”, removed from my problems lurking on the outside.  This was somewhat beneficial (with deferred results) especially since I developed some rewarding and lasting (so far) friendships with other patients who were encountering similar circumstances.

I had a scare, however, when the treatment team threatened to ship me to the state mental hospital to undergo what they termed “long term” treatment.  This alarmed me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that I feared that that move would prevent me from making my final probation appearance in Birmingham, Alabama, which would have lifetime repercussions.  In addition, I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about normally-functioning people falling through fluky administrative cracks in state mental hospitals and sometimes remaining for the rest of their lives.  Moreover, I was merely experiencing a transitory mood disorder, not a chronic mental illness, which is what state mental hospitals are ostensibly for.  Therefore that determination was highly inappropriate to say the least, notwithstanding the fact that it was rendered by so-called “experts”.  Depression or not, I was still competent enough to determine what was in my own best interest.

What’s more, they were planning to transport me to the state mental hospital on an involuntary basis.  As a natural libertarian, my reaction to that suggestion was predictable.  But in the end, I was successful in reversing the original determination.  (Their rationale was that, since my treatment was funded by a state agency, and that funding had been exhausted in my particular case, coupled with the fact that my depression had not subsided by any significant measure, I was a suicide risk and therefore would require additional treatment by the only institition left as an option [as if a State Funding is a remedy for State Funding!])

During my stay, one of the issues under consideration was whether or not I should return to Lewiston and reclaim my job at Big Apple convenience store, and risk succumbing to the temptation inherent in having the “cause of my condition” present in the same city, or make a bold new beginning in a different city (Portland) with new friends, new possibilities, and distance myself from the situation.  It was the subject of a couple of group discusssions, and, ultimately, I made a tentative decision to go with Portland.

After being released from Jackson Brook Instititue, I moved into the YMCA in Portland and figured I’d give it a week or two, then see where i should go from there.  But, again, I was sucked into the storm of emotion as I began to attempt communication with Denise by telephone.  At first, I got hung up on, and then, it got worse.  When the guy Denise had been seeing answered the phone in her apartment late one night, I totally flipped out and I lost it.  We got into it over the phone and it culminated in my shooting off “What the fuck are you doing in her apartment?!”, and he challenged me to “come see if I could kick him out.”

I was so upset I couldn’t see straight and it finally led to my deciding to end it all (again).  So I did something that I now realize was really stupid, and regret totally, but it must be said that I wasn’t exactly in the most rational frame of mind at the time.  I called my 8 year old daughter to tell her goodbye and that “Daddy isn’t going to be living anymore.”  I heard Jenny say “Why?” but then my ex-wife, who apparently had been eavesdropping on another extension, came on the line and blasted me for it and told me to never call again.

Needless to say, this only aggravated an already volatile situation and made me feel even more helpless and alone and abandoned and desperate.  So, for the first time, I actually made a suicide plan.  It had gone beyond mere ideations and I walked to the supermarket to check out their line of sleeping pills.  New Years Day, the store turned out to be closed, thwarting my plans to kill myself.  So I went up to my room and went to sleep, praying I wouldn’t awaken.

Early the next morning, I did in fact awaken and the first thing I did was go down to the payphone and call Denise.  Her words were firm and unambiguous:  “No more.  No more phone calls.  No more visits.  I want you out of my life.”  The stinging pain went right to the bone.  So I staggered back up to my room and lay down and wept.

A few moments later, I got a visit from a couple of Portland police officers.  They had been notified that I was suicidal, and they escorted me to the emergency room at Maine Medical Center in Portland where I was evaluated and then admitted to the psychiatric ward.  I remained there a couple of weeks undergoing more psychiatric treatment.

My last full day there, however, turned into a nightmare.  It all stemmed from a misunderstanding concerning my regular doctor’s instructions, and escalated into a sheer tortuous experience.

It was the last day I could purchase my discounted bus ticket to Alabama, and the doctor had assured me I could get a temporary pass to go to the bus station and back, provided I wasn’t suicidal.  He promised he’d leave instructions to that effect with the staff and doctor on call, so I was confident I could wait until Sunday if I wasn’t feeling well on Friday evening or Saturday.

Ironically, the turning point in my depression came on Sunday morning.  I had established a pattern of sleeping almost all day for the previous couple of weeks, but that morning I got out of bed at 8:00 in better spirits, optimistic toward the day to come while I got my ticket squared away and watch the Dallas Cowboys game on TV.  It had been 10 years since my Cowboys had a shot to go to the Super Bowl and I greeted the rematch with the San Francisco 49ers with eager anticipation.

I took a shower and ate breakfast and was beginning to feel normal.  But when I went down to get my pass, I was told I was denied.  I said that it wasn’t possible to be denied, per my doctor’s instructions.  But I was emphatically told that there was no pass for me that day.

I explained the situation, demonstrating that missing my ticket meant missing my probation appearance which would result in an automatic felony warrant being issued against me in Florida, which was not optimal in my or anybody else’s estimation.

It soon became apparent that they couldn’t care less about my perilous Florida/Alabama situation, and, to my amazement, I was told I was “suicidal”.  I corrected them, explaining that, on the contrary, I was far from suicidal, and that I had been given passes in the past when I was on the verge of tears.  (My doctor always took me at my word if I was suicidal, and I was always candid.)  But no, say they, I was suicidal and wouldn’t be given a pass.  And it was the final word.

This naturally alarmed me as well as pissed me off.  So I marched off down the hall in a huff so that I could make some phone calls to sort it all out and see where to go from there and what my options were, if any.  I was beginning to feel that fate’s design was that I serve prison time in that tropical appendage they call Florida.

Soon, though, I was surrounded by staff and security personnel as I talked on the phone.  They wanted me to spend the rest of the day in the “quiet room”, which is the equivalent of a jail cell, furnished only with a bed and a plastic-coated mattress (that adheres neatly to my bare back.)

I informed them as tactfully as I could that I wasn’t interested in spending my day staring at four cement walls.  Bu they kept insisting and I kept saying no.

I told them to get off my back, that I wanted to watch football.  But no, I would not be permitted to do that.  (God forbid if I should have some enjoyment during my depression!!)

The security guards started to reach for me but I resisted.  Then, they become more forceful and I kept defiantly resisting.  Finally, they all jumped upon me, brutally taking me to the ground, with me resisting all the way.  At that point, I was cursing them and demanding they leave me alone.

[This is Miami deja vu]

In the final analysis, I was simply no match for three hefty security guards, and they brutally took me down the hall and into the quiet room, with me futilely trying to get free.  Not only did they lock me into the room – with me desperately trying to tell them it was too traumatic for me to face, in light of the Miami torture about a year prior – but they strapped me into restraints to leave me there in agony all day.

But I burst free from the restraints and was free to roam the locked-solid room until they returned to put more restraints on me.  This time, though, they were placed on me so tightly that I was bound there not able to move any of my limbs.  Furthermore, the guards were needlessly inflicting pain upon me and my cries for mercy fell upon deaf ears.  For instance, two of the guards were grinding their knees into my arms and feet, bounding up and down on them and then checking my face as if to see my reaction.  When asked why they were torturing me, I was told it was only for my own good and to keep me “safe.”  I almost felt as if I were a character in a George Orwell novel and I was hearing newspeak.  It was incredible.  I couldn’t believe human beings could actually treat another human being that way.  In order to make me “safe”, it was necessary to inflict torturous pain upon me.

For almost 24 hours I was physically and mentally abused in this manner.  When my doctor arrived the next morning, he was even shocked and appalled and apologized to me.  But they rushed the discharge process so fast that I was out of the hospital in less than an hour after the doctor arrived.  (Talk about having a guilty conscience!)  And they didn’t even bother to evaluate if I was suicidal.  (Like I was supposed to be less suicidal after the ordeal?)

I was left hanging, with no treatment and no medication.  And with wicked bruises all over my arms and ankles.

I went to the police to file criminal assault and battery charges, but, typical of police response, they dismissed my charges out of hand and I wasn’t taken seriously.  “It didn’t happen”, I was told, and even if it did, psychiatric personnel are justified in any brutish action they deem appropriate and are therefore immune from any criminal prosecution.  It’s merely a civil matter.  Unbelievable.

Then, I went to the emergency room at Portland’s Mercy Hospital where I was taken seriously, and the doctor even called the police, with similar results.  My wounds were photographed and documented.

For a while, I considered bringing civil suit to the hospital personnel and hospital, but my experience in victimization has taught me that justice never is achieved and it’s futile to pursue it.

Thus in January 1993 I dropped the issue entirely, but I’ll never forget what I went through from December 1991 and February 1993, the worst period of my entire life.

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