History - Oral Histories
Oral Histories of People at AMHI - Marilyn Foss
Interview with Marilyn Foss
[at AMHI in 1974, 1985, and during 1990s ]
September 14, 2003
Interviewer: Karen Evans
KE: My first question is why did you go to AMHI?
MF: Well, because my nerves were shot, my husband was drinking and things like that…The thing I did not like the minute they take you there, you got handcuffs and chains sometimes and then they throw you in a room with just a blanket and a mattress and you stay in there until you do what they want you to do...
KE: Do you remember the incident? Was there a specific incident that happened that lead you into AMHI? Were you suicidal or did you have a breakdown or what?
MF: I have had several breakdowns, and once I tried to kill myself by drowning myself in Casco Bay. I was so manic that I didn’t care.
KE: So you have to deal with mania and part of it was trying to kill yourself one of the times.
KE: When you think about AMHI what memories come to mind? This can be either good or bad, so share with some of the memories.
MF: Sometimes it was good, you know. When everybody left me alone, anyway, it was good. You would go up in the day room and nobody would bother you. They used to smoke in the day room until the Blue Law came in. Then we went outside smoking. But I think I remember the bad times more than the good times.
KE: Now you told us a little bit already about some of the bad things that you remember, the shackles and all. Now that was when you were being transported, Marilyn?
MF: Yes, from the police department.
KE: While you were inside AMHI do you remember certain things that happened?
MF: I can’t remember all that happened, but I know there are one, two incidents. I mean they gave me so many pills that I was flying high, I was fine, you know, just happy go lucky. The second bad time, I got beat up, up there.
KE: You did?
MF: Yeah I did. This lady named… I was going to get my paper from activity and she come out and I started to go in and she took her fist and started pounding on me, pounding on me. I had to turn around quickly…Finally she got me crying…but that lady is dead today.
KE: Now when were you there? Do you remember the year?
MF: I was there off and on quite a bit.
KE: About how many times were you there? Do you remember?
MF: Way back November ’74, because I was in there. Then I was in there in ’85. I was in there in the ‘90’s. The last time I was there…they gave me a home because I had nowhere to go.
KE: Of those three times that you talked about being in there, were there changes over time? Did it get better as you went along or did it get worse?
MF: You know one way or the other, they had me drugged up so far, I didn’t care whether I got out or not. I didn’t care if I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t care about anything. Just being happy go lucky, but if somebody did start trouble with me, I would just say something back and keep walking. You got to be very careful up there.
KE: Why did you feel that you have to be very careful up there?
MF: Where I was beat up and being thrown into that little room there with a rubber mattress and a gray blanket. They bring you in food all right, garbage. I had so much of that. I took and threw it up against the wall all of it, banana, sandwich, everything—splat. They did not let you come up to go pee. If you had to do anything like that, you had to do it on the floor while you were in there, which I didn’t think was very sanitary.
KE: That sounds like it was pretty horrible for you.
MF: It was; it was. Every time they got me in there it was horrible.
KE: The next question is what was a day in the life at AMHI when you started? In the morning did you have a routine that you followed?
MF: What I did at six o’clock in the morning, they would come in and wake you up to get out of bed. Six o’clock in the morning. So you would get up and…[someone] up there used to come and make coffee for us at that hour in the morning, which was good. It tasted like water but it was all right. Then we had to wait until eight o’clock when we took our meds. After our meds we still couldn’t go out for a smoke. We had to go to the dayroom while they told us what was going on for the whole day.
KE: Did you have breakfast anytime between that?
MF: Oh yes, there was breakfast. There was breakfast we went down to, and I can’t remember if it was before the pills or after the pills. I think it was after the pills, and you could go to the dayroom after that. So they were going swimming and whoever wanted to go swimming could raise their hands or whatever. I went a couple of times. The one that took us she was a miserable witch. She was so ugly I wouldn’t go again and I didn’t. We had like a cooking class. She was the activity department then. If you asked her something you better do it yourself, it is about time you do something for yourself. I was up there two Christmases—one year on Christmas and New Years and I was there again another time at Christmas. Then I was there again with my last husband and it was because my nerves were all mixed up. They gave me too many pills. I ended up getting a divorce from my husband, which I really didn’t want, but I got it.
KE: Now we are back to talking about what a day is like. You got up to the activity part.
MF: There are a lot of activities. Sometimes we sit down…I used to go down to the gym and we would walk around the gym.. There was this one little lady, she would be going in the opposite direction and passing us all of the time…going in there to do her walk and get on her bike and do what you wanted to do. So I did that. I tried to keep myself, you know, busy, but most of the time the only thing that we enjoyed really is getting out for a smokes. At the time it was to go out and have a smoke, you couldn’t believe the lines.
KE: So why did you have to stand in line to go out and smoke?
MF: There was a box near the door that had all of the cigarettes in it and they locked them up.
KE: So you had to wait until you got your cigarettes out of the box?
KE: How did you light the cigarettes? Did you have matches or did they have a thing on the wall that they used to light?
MF: They had that thing on the wall…I don’t know. But I know I used either somebody’s lighter or matches.
KE: Next question is, were there people at AMHI that affected you in a positive way? Now this can be either staff or another patient.
MF: I would have to say staff and his name is Bob LaChance. He would get his guitar in there and we would be singing like crazy together. I loved it. He used to have his own band and my favorite song was always “Blue Eyes Crying in the Lane”. He said, “Lady I already played it.” I said, “Well play it again. You know how I am when it comes to music.”
KE: Were there people there that affected you in a negative way?
MF: There were a lot of them. I mean they just sit on the side of the walls and chairs and just swear at you.
KE: Who is “they”? Help me understand who they are.
MF: I don’t know who they are.
KE: You mean patients or staff?
MF: Patients. They sit there and stare, and stare and glare at you. They made me nervous. I was threatened up there. One guy said he was going to kill me.
KE: It must have been scary for you.
MF: It was. I didn’t dare to go to a certain a corridor during the day or if he was there…I would just walk the other way.
KE: Now you talk in regards to you. What affected you in a positive way about your friend who played the guitar?
MF: Yeah he was one of the staff.
KE: Who helped you the most, or is he the one that helped you the most?
MF: I think it was Bob.
BREAK IN TAPE
KE: Marilyn, we had a little bit of a problem with the tape recorder and we are back. The next question is what was the relationship among the people up there?
MF: It is varied. The person that I liked the most was Bob LaChance.
KE: How did the staff interact with each other?
MF: That varied, too. I mean, you know, they were good to each other. There were moments when there was, you know, how would you put it, they would be arguing or something.
KE: What treatment did you receive while you were up at AMHI?
MF: Too much treatment, too many pills, that is all I can tell you on that one.
KE: What helped and what didn’t help that they did up there?
MF: Well they didn’t help my body for instance. I got…from AMHI…So that isn’t good.
KE: What helped, can you think of what did help that they did?
MF: All I can just say is just taking the pills, yup.
KE: In regards to staying at AMHI, what was your relationship with your family?
MF: I didn’t have much contact with my family while I was up there. While I was up there my husband didn’t come and visit me until I told him I wanted a divorce on the phone and that was that.
KE: How about your friends, did any of your friends get to come up and visit you?
MF: Not friends, my mother-in-law, my husband, you know the last time I was up there.
KE: Did you say something about a woman named Florence?
MF: Florence Hat, I remember her last name. Now she was a good friend. She came up brought me some clothes, which I never even got up there. I never got to look in the bag.
KE: I would like to talk a little bit now about when you left AMHI and came back home, what was home and what happened when you left AMHI?
MF: Well, I had to have a conference in front of the doctors and staff and things. I didn’t even know that they had decided that I was going to go to Clark Street. When I came out the door and my social worker, Sue Dowell started crying, I knew I stood there looking at her and saying, am I really going? It was so nice to get out of there to go down to Clark, although I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what those people were going to be like. It is like that when you come out of AMHI. You don’t know and you are scared. I am scared to look ahead.
KE: Are there any other things that you would like to share about AMHI that you didn’t say earlier?
MF: I would have to say that AMHI is not the greatest place to go to if you are sick.
KE: What I would like to discuss next is where you are today, so I want to ask first how are you doing today?
MF: I am doing fine. I have my little Tardive Dyskinesia and little events of muscles tightening and things.
KE: Is it painful?
MF: Very, very much, right in my neck, the side of my neck, down my arms…I heard a lot about it. But thanks to AMHI I can say, Thank you, AMHI, for what you did to me.”…There is no cure for it.
KE: In what way are you now connected to your family, now that you are in a different place?
MF: …Corinne has come three times to see me. Corinne is my youngest daughter. Marilyn has been here once. Leon has been here a couple of times and that is about it.
KE: Your friends, have many of your friends come to visit you?
MF: What friends?
KE: What friends?
MF: I don’t have any.
KE: Well, I am your friend.
MF: Okay Karen you be my friend...
KE: In regards to discrimination, do you feel you have every experienced any form of discrimination?
MF: What do you mean? The people to make fun of me or something?
KE: Yes, prejudice.
MF: Not prejudice, but I have had people [ask], “How come you are shaking? How come you are moving like that? What is the matter with you?” It makes me feel stupid; I really feel stupid sometimes. I tell them this is Tardive Dyskinesia and I will leave it at that.
KE: The in word right now is recovery and I want to ask you what does recovery mean to you?
MF: Recovery is when you get out of it all of the way. You don’t have the side effects; you don’t have anything. You are doing better than you ever did before. It is like I can do.
KE: Do you feel that you are in recovery?
MF: I am still going through recovery, but I will never have a recovery because of the TD. I take 14 pills in the morning, I take five at night and if I need pain pills, I take two of them a day. I try not to take too many pain pills.
KE: Has spirituality played any role in your recovery?
KE: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
MF: …I went to the State Street Congregational and then I got baptized there as a born again Christian. So I pray to God everyday, you know. Everyday of my life I pray now for me to be better than what I am. You know, He may not answer right away, but He does help.
KE: What has been your greatest challenge or obstacle?
MF: My greatest challenge is going out again on my own, getting my own apartment, to be free and feel free. Not to feel like you are a prisoner and you can’t go out nowhere, you know what I mean.
KE: So that kind of your goal, but what is your challenge?
MF: It is difficult for me to tell people off. Doesn’t that just sound like me?
KE: I think before when we had problems with the cassette, that you had said something being legally blind and the Tardive Dyskinesia.
MF: Between the legally blind and the Tardive Dyskinesia, I had a wonderful time sometimes.
I don’t let it bother me. I mean it is my goal to go out and walk more by myself. The thing is I can’t do that anymore. I can’t see good enough to do that.
KE: How have your hopes and goals changed since you spent time at AMHI?
MF: I find them a little harder. I mean I would like to go to the stove and cook like I used to cook. That is one of my goals. I am going to learn how to go back and cook on the stove.
KE: I know you gave me a recipe for chicken wings that I love, and you put it in vinegar and soy sauce was it?
MF: And garlic and…
KE: That was really great, you are a great cook, or you were in the past.
MF: I just got done making here with the cook, my Italian spaghetti with hot sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, and the whole nine yards. It was great; everybody here loved it. They kept sneaking into the refrigerator getting into the sauce. I tried to make my pork chop dish one time. They have this thing for a cook, I call her, her name is Liz, you know I take my pork chops and I boil them on the stove in the vinegar and the ketchup. She put it in the oven, she ruined the whole thing on me. So I hadn’t cooked for a long time. The new cook does more with me than she did. Her name is—I think it is Holly. She is a nice person.
KE: You know that we are building a new psychiatric center to replace AMHI and I was wondering since you were a past patient of AMHI, do you have any advice that you would like to give for the new River View Psychiatric Center?
MF: Yes, and I said it before. I would like to see them get rid of restraints. I would like to see them get rid of shock treatments. I mean they can help people. They don’t have to ruin them for life.
KE: You also said something about seclusion rooms too before.
MF: Yes, yes. The seclusion rooms, I don’t think they will ever get rid of them. I think they are going to have new ones, because when they bring the patients in, they brought me in one time with chains on my ankles, handcuffs on my hands, threw me into the seclusion. They don’t walk you in they drag you in. You are in that seclusion room about two, three days. If you have to urinate, you urinate on the floor. That is another thing I would like to see up there. They have to come out of there and have to go to the bathroom. They should have the right to do so. Instead of being like a dog and doing it on the floor.
KE: You have given the advice. What hopes do you have for River View Psychiatric Center?
MF: I hope they learn ways to cope with the patients. Instead of seeing somebody getting upset, they should tend to them right away, rather than see that person go and beat up on another person, the way I was beat up.
KE: Any other hopes and goals that you can think of?
MF: I hope I never have to go there again.
KE: Okay, you said something though that it was home for you for a little while.
MF: It was more like home for me because I was up there for six months. Like I said, I was up there, I got so used to it and everything. Then when it did come time for me to go, it was very hard for me to leave there.
KE: Was it?
MF: Yes, because I didn’t know what to expect or what I was going into or, it was very hard. I knew most of the people up there, even though there was one that wanted to kill, but I am glad that I am alive.
KE: Anything else you would like to say?
MF: I would just like to say good luck to the people that built this new…psychiatric center up there. I hope they don’t have the same problems.
KE: Thank you so much for this interview, Marilyn.