Fall 2000 Rage

* NOTE * This is a work in progress. Most of the information is not linked yet. 11-13-2000

Before I say anything else, I would like to make it clear that I am profoundly remorseful for my actions on October 16th. My rage was totally inappropriate. I apologize for any upset my actions may have caused others.

The shame and chagrin I always feel after one of these incidents is so complete that I forget others may not realize the depth of my despair. This, and every such, incident leaves me feeling worthless and unfit. Unfortunately, there is no place for me to turn at this time.

Introduction

About me. My name is Richard Ratledge. I have been suffering with a mental problem most often diagnosed as Manic Depression (or in the current vernacular BiPolar Illness) since 1974. I have been a patient at Butte County Mental Health since early 1979. I have had 3 major episodes of mania, in 1974, 1978 and 1987. These manic attacks have caused major harm and disruption to my life. Each of them has taken several years to recover to a level of (somewhat) normal functioning. Another problem that I believe is related to my mental illness is my occassional outbursts of rage. When someone crosses me it makes me instantly angry and I go into a fit where I destroy property (fortunately I never hurt people). I will punch a wall or throw something, often through a window. This mostly occurs when someone tells me I cannot do something that I know I can do; or when someone is baldfacedly lying to me. The fits of rage may occur when I am not experiencing any symptoms of mania. They do seem to happen more readily when I am experiencing a generally high level of stress. I do not know why these fits occur and I am deeply and profoundly sorry after they are over, which is usually only a couple of minutes. Then I have to fix the damage; to the property, to those around me and to myself.

I have worked extensively with the counselors and psychiatrists at Butte County Behavioral Health to try to overcomes these fits of rage. The medications they have prescribed have been somewhat helpful but do not adequately address the impulsive nature of the outbursts. Practically every counseling session I have had in the past 21 years at the department has dealt with this problem. Still, I sometimes lash out and throw something or punch a wall. The only good part about all of this is that I never lash out at people, property damage may be extensive but nobody has ever been physically injured.

The Incident

On Monday October 16, 2000 my step-daughter, Mattelyn 'Susie' Powell, asked me to go with her to her counseling appointment at Butte County Behavioral Health's Chico Outpatient Clinic. She asked me to go because she felt she was being intimidated by her counselor, Pam Stallings. I agreed to go because I could not believe any counselor could be as insensitive and manipulative as Susie was saying Pam was being. Susie has written a brief account of what happened when we got to the clinic. (There is also an MS-Word version of this.)

I believe that Pam Stallings deliberatly triggered my rage when she refused to allow Susie to have someone come into the counseling session. Pam's lie about Susie making an agreement to not have someone else present was contrary to what Susie expressly desired. It was when Pam asserted that there was an agreement between Susie's mother's counselor (Erik Aronson) and Susie and Pam about this that I exploded. I knew Pam was lying; I knew the Patients' Rights Advocate had told Susie she was entitled to have up to two people present if she wanted; and I know there was no agreement between Erik, Susie and Pam. My rage came out in full force. I smashed holes in the wall with my fists and broke the glass in a couple of pictures.

Susie is easily manipulated and it is obvious to me that Pam is preying on Susie's vulnerability. I believe Pam does not want others in the session with Susie because they would expose Pam's agressive predatory behavior. I do not believe Pam Stallings should be working with people who experience mental illnesses. Pam appears to deliberately manipulate and trigger the worst aspects of individuals' illnesses. I believe Pam is harming the people she is supposed to be treating and helping.

I have written some thoughts about how the Mental Health System responded to this incident. The Department sent a police officer to my house. I am a longtime member and past Chair of the Butte Co. Behavioral Health Board. During that time I have been a strong advocate for keeping the police out of Mental Health Treatment except when there is an immediate and substantial threat to public safety. The fact that Mental Health contacted the police about this incident amazes me. The fact they sent a police officer to interogate me makes me think they are trying to get me into further trouble. I do not react well to authority (as is the case with many Mental Health Clients). Sending a Cop to my house is putting me at risk of further outbursts and possible incarceration. I am sure that whoever got the police involved knew this and intended to "teach me a lesson" or somehow "punish" me for damaging "their" facility.

I have two operating principles where the police are concerned.

  1. Do not talk to the cops.
  2. Cops lie. They sometimes lie to intimidate you into saying what they want to hear.

When the Chico Police Officer called me the day after the incident at outpatient, I hung up the phone. Less than two minutes later the Officer hammered on my door. My wife and I ignored the banging and the officer went away. I was so freaked out by all of this that I immediately called the Crisis line at Mental Health seeking help for my distress. The guy on the other end, Bob M?, did not address my problem at all but repsonded that I should expect to have to deal with the consequences of my action. I had thought the Crisis worker was supposed to deal with my crisis regardless of the reason for me being in distress. I had often been told the Crisis line was unresponsive and sometimes made the situation worse; this time I found it to be every bit as terrible as I had been told.

Fearing that the police would approach me and that my rage would get me into deeeper trouble, I went into hiding. I spent four days sleeping in the car and trying to work this situation out with the help of my wife, who was still at home. I am the primary caregiver for my wife and all of this stress and upset was making her medical condition even worse. She tried to coordinate with the Mental Health Department, the Police and others but she really was not up to it. She had Doctor's appointments and even had surgery while I was away. Needless to say, all of this caused me much suffering as well as causing my wife's condition to deteriorate.

Documents

I have collected some of the correspondence regarding this incident.

The first piece I sent was the Thoughts piece linked above. In it I express my dismay about how any Mental Health Professional could send a Police Officer to my home. I also state that I now know the Mental Health System is not there to help me. In fact I now see the System is my Enemy.

Ginger Iversen sent me email rather than responding to my Wife's phone message. I thought at the time (and still do) that she was only trying to get me to come in so they could lock me up. I replied that she should call my wife and I ask if she knows why the cops want to talk to me. Ginger writes back stating the obvious and again trying to get me to come in.

I write a letter to Steve Mayberg

Ginger asks Tim Quinn to contact me. He tries to bully me into calling him voice. I reply that I need to know nobody is going to lock me up. I get anxious waiting for Tim to let me know if they are going to lock me up and write a follow-up message. I also explain why voice and face to face meetings are dangerous for me.

Tim finally responds. He sets 3 conditions I must meet before the department will "assist you with your mental health needs".

I was taken aback by this letter and did not reply right away. On the first point, I am surprised that there is a need on the Department's part for me to express contrition. I feel so much remorse that I assume others know how upset I am that this rage has come out again. On the second point, I have worked very hard to control these outbursts and the Mental Health Department has worked with me extensively to help control the rage. It is ludicrous to me that when my wife and I told Tim Quinn in therapy that my outbursts were a huge problem in our marriage, he didn't seem to think it was such a big deal. Now that he is confronted with the reality of my violence he has decided that I am unfit for treatment at his facility. I pray that I could control these outbursts, howerver; for me to promise that they will never happen again would be a lie. As for the third point, I have always tried to repair or pay for the damage I have caused. Obviously the Department would not let me repair the damage this time, so I didn't offer. I do not know how I can pay for the repairs since I subsist on SSI. I suppose they can get a judgement against me and take it out of the check I get from Welfare for taking care of my ailing wife.

I was so depressed by this letter from Tim that I did not know what to do. It is obvious that Butte County Department of Behavioral Health is not going to treat me anymore. I worry about what will happen to me without treatment for both my rage and my manic-depression. The fear is so great that it is tearing me apart and leading me into a major mental health emergency. I believe that this is the intent of all of the persecutiong they are handing out to me.

Jack Joiner did send me an email saying that Butte County would pay for me to receive treatment in another county. But the letter is simply text and could easily have been forged. Without being on Department letterhead and signed, I don't believe it has any official standing.

On October 23rd Ginger responds to the cc: I sent her of my message to Tim. She is letting me know they have fixed their email. I write my final letter asking them not to contact me further. At this point I have considered Tim's ultimatum letter for long enough to become totally depressed and despondent. I have decided that the only way to protect myself is to completely remove myself from the Mental Health arena.

I work to develop an interest in other areas but after some time I realize that I am so tied up in the Mental Health business that I cannot remove myself from it. I write a note clarifying my situation

Susan has written about this at length. She is very concerned about being able to meet her needs should I not be here to support her.