Tag Archive | long read

1960 to 1970 SOCIAL/POLITICAL ISSUES LEADING TO THE COUNTERCULTURE AND REVOLUTION

1968 in a dress from India


 

 

 

 

The 1960s was the decade that started on January 1, 1960, and ended on December 31, 1969. It was the seventh decade of the 20th century. The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe. In the United States, “the Sixties”, as they are known in popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and social revolution near the end of the decade; and pejoratively to describe the era as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of some social taboos especially relating to sexism and racism that occurred during this time. The 1960s have become synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. This does not alone however explain the mass nature of the phenomenon. This time period I am between the age of 11 and 22, an adolescent, teenager and young adult, finding myself feeling like I am not like everyone else, that I am a seeker of knowledge, that I do not want to follow the norms placed on women, to think outside the box, to be free to be me despite my fears and anxieties, to go where I want to go, to do what I want to do while accepting the consequences of my behavior.

 

In the second half of the decade, I was surrounded by young people who began to revolt against the conservative norms of the time, as well as remove themselves from mainstream liberalism, in particular the high level of materialism which was so common during the era. My family has struggled financially and I have felt like a burden on my mother, so I only ask for what I absolutely need and my needs are minimal, the money I received is used on things I valued as important, mostly books, music and nylons. I am a part of a “counterculture” that sparks a social revolution throughout much of the western world. It began in the United States as a reaction against the conservatism and social conformity of the 1950s, and the US government’s extensive military intervention in Vietnam, examining moral and ethical issues that surround me causing suffering and pain. Me and other youth involved in the popular social aspects of the movement are known as hippies. I join groups that create a movement toward liberation in society, including the sexual revolution, questioning authority and government, and demanding more freedoms and rights for women and minorities. The Underground Press, a widespread, eclectic collection of newspapers served as a unifying medium for the counterculture which keeps us informed of what is going on and giving us different perspectives and new way of looking at things- which resonated with me for I am sensitive to the plight of others and wish to lighten their load. The movement is also marked by the first widespread, socially accepted drug use including LSD and marijuana, which I refrained from for fear of losing sight of my goal, but the psychedelic music really gets me to my bones.

 

 The war in Vietnam would eventually lead to a commitment of over half a million American troops, resulting in over 58,500 American deaths, besides being the first war where many more veterans came back disabled in body and mind, and producing a large-scale antiwar movement in the United States. As late as the end of 1965, few Americans protested the American involvement in Vietnam, but as the war dragged on and the body count continued to climb, civil unrest escalated. The book Johnny Got His Gun: which is an anti-war novel based on World War I, was written in 1938 by American novelist and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and published September 1939 by J. B. Lippincott; it won one of the early National Book Awards: the Most Original Book of 1939; it was reprinted with a foreword containing the Vietnam statistics of deaths and injuries compared to other wars and reflects the horror of war; in 1971 it was made into a film that was so controversial it was banned in Boston after showing for 2 weeks. As a nurse I was extremely aware of the suffering that is created by war and had a dream where I was walking through a battle field of dead baby skeletons, feeling the world’s pain and wanting to be of service in the relief of it, visualizing peace as the answer. Our medical advances were saving more soldiers than in any other time in history, leaving many disabled and or traumatized since they were going directly home from the war rather than to a camp to be reconditioned as in previous wars.

 

The antiwar movement by the mid-1960s is a broad-based mass movement centered in universities and churches: one kind of protest is called a “sit-in”. Voter age-limits are being challenged by the phrase: “If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote.” Many of the youth involved in the politics of the movements distanced themselves from the “hippies”.  Students become a powerful and disruptive force and university campuses spark a national debate over the war, especially the well known Kent State Massacre on May 4, 1970. As the movement’s ideals spread beyond college campuses, doubts about the war also begin to appear within the administration itself. A mass movement begins rising in opposition to the Vietnam War, ending in the massive Moratorium protests in 1969 which me and my friends joined in on the Rhode Island State House Lawn, which is a peaceful gathering.

 

There is a movement of resistance to being drafted for the war, there are many guys I know who claim to be “conscientious objector”, some take off for Canada and are called “draft dodger”. Many of my family and friends become “Vietnam Vets” and when they return home they are treated disrespectfully, unlike any returning vet have been treated in previous wars, there were few parades for their bravery and courage, instead they are treated with contempt by the war protestors and not given the recognition they require for healing. They are made to feel alone and isolated and no one to talk to about their hellish experiences. Being a protestor myself, I respect their choices and honor them for their service to our country, they have sacrificed much. It is the political system that has manipulated the war, the few who are in power, keeping the war going for their own goals, not what is best for humanity and that is where my anger is directed.

 

I am an integral part of the rise of Feminism in the United States and around the world gaining momentum in the early 1960s. At the time, a woman’s place was generally seen as being in the home, and they were excluded from many jobs and professions’, being a nurse was one of the acceptable routes to education. Commercials often portrayed a woman as being helpless needing a man to survive. In the US, a Presidential Commission on the Status of Women found discrimination against women in the workplace and every other aspect of life, a revelation which launches two decades of prominent women-centered legal reforms such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 which broke down the last remaining legal barriers to women’s personal freedom and professional success. Feminists took to the streets, marching and protesting, writing books and debating to change social and political views that limited women. In 1963, Betty Friedan’s revolutionary book, The Feminine Mystique, the role of women in society, and in public and private life was questioned. By 1966, the movement was beginning to grow in size and power as women’s group spread across the country and Friedan, along with other feminists, founded the National Organization for Women. In 1968, “Women’s Liberation” became a household term as, for the first time; the new women’s movement eclipsed the black civil rights movement when New York Radical Women, led by Robin Morgan, protested the annual Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The movement in Boston has Gloria Steinem leading women in bra burning. I am fighting the barriers against woman in my own personal life, and a symbol of the push for freedom is only wearing a bra when I am doing my clinicals at the hospital otherwise I go braless. I am in an all female field working side by side with strong, educated and skilled women who run hospitals while saving and healing lives.

 

The Gay rights movement in the United States, in the middle of a social revolution, led the world in LGBT rights in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Inspired by the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, early gay rights pioneers have begun, by the 1960s, to build a movement troll. These groups are rather conservative in their practices, emphasizing that gays were just like straights and deserved full equality but by the very end of the 1960s, the movement’s goals changed and became more radical, demanding a right to be different, and encouraging gay pride. The symbolic birth of the gay rights movement did not come until the decade had almost come to a close. Gays are not allowed by law to congregate. Gay establishments are routinely raided by the police to arrest gay people. On a night in late June 1969, LGBT people resisted, for the first time, a police raid, and rebelled openly in the streets. This uprising called the Stonewall Riots begin a new period of the LGBT rights movement that in the next decade will cause dramatic change both inside the LGBT community and in the mainstream American culture. It was in my first therapy group when I meet some gay women who were professionally and financially successful, strong women who were out spoken and were not afraid to be themselves they are great role models for me when it comes to defining yourself. People have a right to love whom they find themselves drawn to without being told they are ill and need to be reconditioned, love is what humanity is all about.

 

I find the multitude of discriminations taking place at this time represents an inhuman side to a society that in the 1960s was upheld as a world and industry leader. I am very aware of the issues of civil rights and warfare being major points of reflection of virtue and democracy, what once was viewed as traditional and inconsequential is now becoming the significance in the turning point of a culture. A document known as the Port Huron Statement exemplifies these two conditions perfectly in its first hand depiction, “while these and other problems either directly oppressed us or rankled our consciences and became our own subjective concerns, we began to see complicated and disturbing paradoxes in our surrounding America. The declaration “all men are created equal…” it rings hollow before the facts of Negro life in the South and the big cities of the North. The proclaimed peaceful intentions of the United States contradicted its economic and military investments in the Cold War status quo.” These intolerable issues become too visible to ignore therefore its repercussions are feared greatly; the realization that we as individuals take the responsibility for encounter and resolution in our life issues is an emerging idealism of the 1960s. It seems everywhere I hear hypocrisy, I was first aware of it in the Catholic Church, for morals and virtue are only spoken about and does not come through in action and behavior. The old do as I say not as I do.

 

When we look at Crime in the 1960s we see a large increase in crime and urban unrest of all types. Between 1960 and 1969 there is a reported increase in incidences of violent crime per 100,000 people in the United States which has nearly doubled. Large riots have broken out in many cities, such as Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Washington, D.C. and Oakland. The Manson Murders which took place on August 8–10, 1969 is the most famous of crimes at the time. People are feeling disenfranchised and without hope becoming angry and acting it out on the world they think is against them, fighting for their survival.

 

For the first time in history, a human being sets his foot on the Moon, in the Moon landing of July 1969. Now Humanity see the Earth from a different perspective, we are all on this beautiful blue planet, we are a part of a bigger whole, we each carry a piece of the puzzle, to learn to work together for the highest good for all life on this globe turning and moving in space.

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1969 to 1970 SENIOR YEAR/GRADUATION AT RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL SCHOOL OF NURSING

 

 

GERRY HOUSE

 

We live in Garry House now, which is the most recently constructed and modern building on campus. There are 3 rooms to a suite and each suite has one bathroom. When you enter the main doors the mailboxes for all the nursing students are hidden behind a partition, we have the same mailbox throughout our training. The front desk is where the housemother is stationed. She is the all seeing eyes of the school: in charge of the intercom which also has a camera so she can see the comings and goings of the students between the hospital and the tunnels leading to the dorms; she has a sign in book for all the student who go out in the evenings and on weekends; she is the one that visitors have first contact with before connecting with the student they are here to visit. The lounge is along the back wall, which has all windows, letting in lots of light and hidden from those entering the building; there are comfy couches and oversize chairs to hang around in, besides a few tables and chairs for games or homework, there is a baby grand piano where Mimi often plays Jimmie Hendrick’s Purple Rain; it is the hub of activities where all the students can hang out together. Curfew for seniors is midnight during the week, and one am on weekends, with the ability to sign out for the whole weekend.

 

 

On my 21st birthday Mimi and I walk to the Eastside where I purchase my first cheap bottle of wine. We go to Prospect Park and between the two of us drink it all. We then head over to the Coffee House on Benefit Street where there is a piano and folk music being played by local artists with guitars doing lots of Bob Dylan songs. I do not remember much of what happened that night and in the morning could not remember how we got home. It was the beginning of my relationship with alcohol, at this point I will not let it interfere with my education for I need to reach my goal of graduating and become a nurse. It is at this time when I am diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome through a Sigmoidoscopy, and the doctor tells me they do not know much about the illness and suggests that I learn from my body what it does and does not like to eat. He prescribed Phenobarbital to calm down my nervous system which I refuse to take due to it being a barbiturate and possible addictive for I am aware of an addictive quality I possess.

This year I have met a boy called D at the coffee house that I date. He is thin, medium height, dark hair, brown eyes, wearing a Nero jacket and a scarf around his neck like Mick Jagger. He hangs around with two nice guys and one of his friends, who my friend has a crush on, called A, has an apartment in the Italian part of Providence, where we all spend time together on the weekends. I have seen D with another girl at the park and I am distraught over the situation, I can’t let it go, I am addicted to this relationship even though it’s not healthy for me. One night I am at A’s apartment waiting for D. It is late and we are sharing on a very deep level, A tells me that D is seeing another girl and I am the nicer of the two, my worst fears are confirmed and he comforts me. I am still a virgin at 21 so I figure it is one of the reasons he is going with her, similar to what happened with Joe. We are cuddling in the dark and when D comes around knocking loudly and frantically on all the doors and windows, we huddle quietly and do not answer the door. The next day we tell D that we were sleeping and did not hear him, going on as if nothing has happened.

 

 

 

POTTERS BUILDING ON THE RIGHT

 

We do our pediatric 3 month rotation at The Potters Building, which is on Rhode Island Hospital grounds, built in 1941 and started treating its first patients with medical problems in 1945. It is a long rectangular four story red brick building with many rows of windows on all its sides. Working with ill children is a challenge; it is difficult for me, because of my overwhelming feelings of helplessness, when watching little ones suffering, or having to do tests that cause them any pain.

Our Pediatric nurses training and caring for newborns to adolescents, promotes and developed qualities of: compassion, patience, ability to incorporate principles of child development and nursing care into daily practice; critical-thinking, organizational, and communication skills; working effectively on a team with other professionals; being an assertive advocates for patients, patients’ families, and caregivers; focusing on disease prevention, wellness, and educating about a child’s healthcare needs. I am relieved when it’s over, knowing I will not be a pediatric nurse after I graduate, it is to heart retching for me.

 

 

 

As seniors our clinical practice time on the floors is four days a week with one day a week of nursing classes. The rest of our clinical rotations are spent learning leadership skills by being charge nurses on evening & night shifts. The students outnumbered the hired staff. We are paying about $1000/yr for training, meals, room & board. So you can see how the hospital is able to keep down its cost while being the best hospital in R.I.

As a charge nurse in training we are in charge of running and managing a particular department within the hospital. We not only carry out our normal nursing duties of carrying a patient load throughout the shift, we manage the other staff on the floor: supervise the nursing staff, delegating nursing assignments, direct other nurses and staff on patient care, provide guidance and advice, document and evaluate the performance of the staff under our supervision, prepare work schedules, oversee admissions and discharges, monitor and order medicines and supplies, administer medications, arrange for specialist care when needed, assess patient needs, develop care plans, and hold educational and/or training programs.

 

 

After completing our training, I feel compete in going to work as a charge nurse. I have learned to balance administrative tasks and clinical care; I have developed good leadership, communication and interpersonal skills, with an ability to motivate and lead nursing staff, which requires an able to work effectively with different personalities; I have obtained the knowledge and experience to answer staff and patient questions on a wide range of topics; I have learned how to prepare reports on patient progress and staff performance through strong written communication skills; I am attentive to detail, with good organizational and analytical skills; I have the ability to quickly and accurately assess patients’ conditions with a caring and sympathetic manner; and an emotional stability that helps me efficiently handle emergencies and remain calm in stressful situations. It amazes me what I have learned through doing, with the support of my peers, and the supervision from my instructors. I have matured in the last 3 years and have grown beyond my wildest dreams developing confidence and courage in the face of the unknown.

 

 

At graduation, we participate in a great ceremony and ritual, that has been going on here for about the last 90 years, in this same auditorium where our families are sitting in the dark. We enter carrying a burning candle in a ceramic Aladdin type lamp, a symbol of light, as we slowly walk down the aisle to the stage with silence all around us. We ascend the stairs to the stage, where we receive a black velvet ribbon placed on our white cupcake caps, the school pin is fastened on our white uniform at the neck, and we are handed our diploma, symbolizing our accomplishments of the last 3 years. We stand together as a cohesive group reciting in unison the Florence Nightingale Pledge with great emotion and feeling. Now all we have to do is take the Registered Nurse Licensing Exam and then we will be able to work as RNs.

 

After the ceremony, to celebrate the beginning of our new life, we go to a fancy restaurant which has set up a large rectangular table we can all sit together at including Mimi, Norma, me and our large families. The 3 of us plan to go to California to live. Earlier in the day my mother informed me that she cannot afford a ticket to California for me as she had promised and instead she gives me luggage. My mother did not allow me to work during nurses training so I do not have the finance to follow through on the plan. My mother suggested I move to Boston instead stating it isn’t as far away. When Mimi’s father hears that I am not going, he tells her she can’t go, the next day he has a psychotic break and is hospitalized at a psychiatric facility. At the dinner her brother’s tongue swells causing him difficulty breathing, a severe allergic reaction to strawberries, so we call 911 and he goes to the ER. Norma has her ticket to California while her mother is diagnosed with depression and is hospitalized at Butler Psychiatric Hospital. It is amazing how and what stressors can affect a family, not realizing it could cause such devastation, at the same time welcoming us to nursing.

 

1969 SENIOR YEAR TRAINING AT PROVIDENCE LYING-IN HOSPITAL

 

 

PROVIDENCE LYING-IN HOSPITAL

 

 

 

MY ROOM AT LYING-IN WITH MY SENIOR CAP

 

 

At the beginning of our senior year in Nursing, in the summer of 69, we start with our 3 month rotation at Providence Lying in Hospital for obstetrical and gynecological nurses training.

 

Providence Lying-In Hospital is a historic hospital building, located on 6 1/4 acres off Smith Street, in the Elmhurst section of Providence, situated at the end of a short access road, at 50 Maude Street, which leads directly into the grounds. The 1926 Collegiate Gothic style hospital is a four and a half story, red brick structure trimmed with Indiana limestone and capped by a slate, gable roof. Its most distinctive features are the six story central tower and a series of projecting bays combined with an overall fenestration pattern that provides a pleasing rhythm along the length of the building; allowing for a comfortable interior division of work space and patients’ accommodations while the numerous windows provide ample light and air circulation.

 

A course of limestone above the first floor level on all elevations is the single horizontal element of the original design and serves as a visual base for the bays and towers that extend upward. The central tower is turreted at each corner with a round cap drawn to a point. The point is extended upward by a wind vane whose decoration is a long, graceful stork in flight with a baby in a blanket suspended from its beak. The portion of the tower above the roof-line includes limestone reliefs of a winged cherub, an angel, and a mother and child. The tower has five bays at each floor. “Providence Lying-In Hospital is inscribed above the second story windows. The main entrance has limestone quoins on both sides and a flat Gothic arch. The door itself is a modern one of aluminum and glass. The window pattern of the main elevation is symmetrical above the second floor, bi-fold type that folds outward as the edges are drawn to the center. Each sash has ten panes. The Father’s waiting room has Gothic detailing and the main waiting area with wood paneling and a marble fireplace with a flat, Gothic arch.

 

The 1933 nurses’ residence is of similar materials, massive and style as the original hospital building with exception of the windows, which are six over six double hung sashes. The trim detail including the window and door quoins and course at the first story are cast stone rather than limestone. Dormers and pediment bays punctuate the slate roof-line in the manner of the original hospital building. There was an addition added in 1941, an auditorium and facilities for residents that faithfully continue the composition of the original construction.

 

The two buildings are joined by a two story hyphen, creating a broad “U” form surrounding a circular drive between the buildings. At the rear of the hospital is a two story, smooth faced concrete addition built in 1956. This infill structure joins two short wings extending from the old hospital building. The area surrounding the hospital is a landscape of mature deciduous trees, foundational plantings, and to the west is the large asphalt parking area bordered farther to the west by an undeveloped wooded parcel of land, with open spaces at the western perimeter of the property.

 

Incorporated in 1884 it is the first to provide on-going obstetrical services in RI and the first to offer specialized nurses’ training and on several occasions was recognized by leading national authorities on maternity care, who lauded it for its contribution to the development of the modern concept of a hospital devoted to healing and teaching- an attitude beyond the earlier notion of hospitals as institutions for the indigent. It pioneered the concept of caring for the emotional as well as the medical needs of its patients. Prior to its opening there was no place in the city where a woman, not living in her own home, could have in any measure proper care at confinement. Patients paid a stipulated price for the privileges afforded them by a well regulated hospital which was an attempt at removing the stigma around entering a hospital. The intent was to provide services for all classes of women, not only the poor, and it was supported by contributions.

 

In 1888 a training school for nurses was established offering generalized and specialized obstetrical training as well as post-graduate work and the first in RI to do so. In 1892 it established a department for the care of infants with specialized medical needs. The hospital is a manifestation of the social consciousness which was an outgrowth of the great industrial and economic expansion of the nineteenth century. It significant in the development of the modern concept of the hospital as an institution devoted to healing and caring for the sick and as a center for research and teaching.

 

Previously hospitals were built as “Rigs ward” which was copied extensively throughout the world and was a nightingale ward redesigned for more privacy. The ward plan named after Florence Nightingale provided efficient care of the patients by reducing the number of beds in a ward and locating the nurses’ station centrally within the ward. This structure was designed as a pavilion combining private rooms and a ward, greatly augmenting the proportion of private rooms. No ward was designed to hold more than six beds, this was indicative of the twentieth century trend towards greater privacy. Environment was seen as important including: the contour of the land, the surrounding country, the accessibility for friends to easily get to and from the city by roads and trolley, expressing cheerfulness, inspiring confidence, courage and dignity.

The above information is from The National Registry of Historic Places.

 

No matter where we are training our curiosity gets the better of us and we investigate our surrounds. We find a built in cabinet and open the large wooden doors and find ourselves looking at many shelves full of 5 gallon glass jars filled with fetuses and dead babies, many grotesque forms all in a row from the ceiling to the floor. We stand frozen in our places, not knowing what to make of the scene in front of us. We quickly close the doors and hurriedly leave the area, fearful of being caught, exposing a shocking secret, about the sorrowful side of birthing a child.

I experience the birth of many beautiful babies as they are welcomed to earth. I feel great sadness with the birth of babies with health issues. I am shocked and dismayed when a baby is born without any cranial bones thus seeing the formation of the brain while the doctor tells the parents the baby was born dead while he throws a drape over the delicate misshapen form, suffocating the new life without any compassion, and writes in the chart that the baby was a “monster”. Most of the babies in the state are born here.

 

We have our assigned patients who we follow through their pregnancy, labor, delivery and nursery. When they go into labor we are called in no matter what time of day or night it is. There are all varieties of birth from quick and easy to long and hard and many differences in between. The mothers can be screaming out in pain with each contraction, some even swearing at their husbands who are not there with them, while others breathe easily through the process. Our job is to hold their hands as they squeeze them tightly with the pain, instructing them on the proper breathing techniques, counting the minutes between contractions, and encouraging them to push when the time arrives, it’s an intense time.

 

It is an amazing experience, to watch the baby’s head crown, and be able to catch the small one in our hands. The umbilical cord is cut, the baby is held upside down by the feet and slapped on their tiny bottoms to get them to breathe, while they scream out in shock from being yanked out of the comfortable womb they have spent the last 9 months in. While the doctor is dealing with the placenta a pediatrician has taken the baby over to the side where a sterile field is set up on a table and the baby is suctioned with a bulb syringe to get amniotic fluid out of the mouth and receives a quick physical.

 

The baby is cleaned up, showed to the mother that it has all its limbs, and then quickly carried out to the viewing room. The baby is brought to the looking glass window for a close up look by the father and other family members present, in the long rectangular room you can see a few rows of clear see through bassinets on wheels, each containing a newborn, all swaddled in soft white cotton, some are quietly sleeping while others are crying to be held and cared for.

 

The mother is cleaned up then taken to her private room to rest briefly before we begin instructing on baby care. We bring the baby to the mother and teach breast or bottle feeding, caring for the umbilicus, bathing, encouraging bonding and caring for her baby on a regular scheduled time throughout the day/night. The room is large enough for the father and other family members to visit and spend time with the new mother and child.

 

We spend time in the nurseries where we care for the little ones with love and protection. There are a few of us together caring and playing with the babies when they are not with their mothers, picking them up when they are fussy or crying, it is so much fun and enjoyable interacting with these newborns. When in ICU it is a more intense situation and we are anxious and concerned over the health issues these tiny ones are experiencing, at times feelings of helplessness overwhelm me. I see the need for touch but they are in incubators and have minimal physical interaction because of the physical barriers so we talk to them and rock the machine. We rejoice when the infant is out of danger and is transferred to the nursery.

 

The issues coming to the forefront is the nurses caught stealing pain medications from the delivery room; there are no laws about controlled substances so record keeping is all based on what has been ordered and received. It creates a major scandal throughout the community. It is no surprise to me for since I have been in nursing school the students have been going to the pharmacy for menstrual cramps and have been given Percocet like they are candy, which seems to be over kill to me. Pain medications are all over the place and easily accessible, I am lucky that I am not tempted by them for it seems easy to become addicted. I am fearful of addiction to medications and any substance that is being sold out on the streets; I remain focused on my nursing studies and not wanting anything that will lead me off my path to my goal. I have received an excellent education in obstetrics and gynecological nursing and feel confident that I could do this work after graduation without too much fear or anxiety.

1969 PSYCHIATRIC NURSES TRAINING AT HOWARD STATE HOSPITAL IN CRANSTON, RHODE ISLAND

HOWARD STATE HOSPITAL IN CRANSTON, RHODE ISLAND

Our 3rd 3 month rotation is at Howard State Hospital.

On a hill that rolls gradually up from the Pawtuxet River across Pontiac Avenue stands the Howard Reservation, a campus like setting that includes Victorian stone structures, numerous early twentieth century Colonial Revival brick buildings, and assorted new facilities. Its story is part of the social history of all of Rhode Island, not just Cranston. The development of Howard was Rhode Island’s first attempt to provide social services statewide through publicly supported and publicly administered institutions. As such, the Howard reservation signaled both a significant change in the role of the state and a major alteration in the treatment of the poor, the mentally ill, and the criminal.

Here is what, we student nurses experienced in 1969. Still in our junior year we leave our campus and move to what we call Howard State Hospital for our Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing experience, where we lived on the premises for 3 months. The first night is creepy and scary. The patients that have ground privileges come around the building making weird sounds to frighten us. One of the students prize herself as a psychic, who can read us, through something that belonged to us, like jewelry, creating more anxiety around the unknown.

Sounds echo in the dorms, down the halls, and my laugh carried far. Before I know it I am called back to RIHSN to the Nursing School Director and told “You needed to keep it down”. I approached the topic of the Howard’s DON’s abuse of the patients and am told “You are not to get involved, not to report it or make a commotion about it, or you will be kicked out of nursing school”.

We investigate our surroundings, going into the basement; we come across cement tubs where they use to put the patients in ice baths and keep them in with canvas tops over the bathtubs. There are huge chains attached to large circular metal rings all up and down the walls, the energy of the place is one of water torture and inhumane practices, very dark and dungy.

The DON of Howard is our instructor and she is mean spirited. In our first class, she has one of the girls; sit in a chair in front of the class, then proceeded to unbutton her uniform almost to her waist before she stops, while the student sits quietly crying. The instructor yells at her for not stopping her. We all sat shocked and in disbelief at the treatment of our peer. Mimi and I would hitch-hike to the city and once we were picked up by the Police, who told us that our instructor had been arrested for stealing, that she was a kleptomaniac, warned us to watch out for her, and then they took us where we were going. Sometimes we go out in Norma’s old Studebaker car.

It is anxiety producing entering the locked ward we are assigned to. There is three levels of care here: 1) the patients with mild symptoms who are on open wards and can come and go to work, 2) our patients with severe mental illness, who are on locked units and are never let out and 3) the criminally insane who are violent and where students aren’t allowed. We walked down a long pathway with a wooden railing separating it from the sleeping quarters on the right that had rows of single beds in a long large dorm room.  On the left side is a large open area which is the bathroom. At the end we come to 2 doors the left door leads to the nurses’ station and the main door leads to the Day room, it is a cold and uninviting space. The large day room is equipped with chairs along the 4 walls, tables and chairs in the center, and a couple of rocking chairs. The nurses’ station is enclosed, with windows looking into the dayroom and a small hole that medications are passed through to the patient, there is staff around making sure the meds are swallowed; using fingers to probe in mouths looking for pills, with those who have a history of cheeking them.

In the morning they are herded into the bathrooms made out of white tile with many drain holes for the water to pass into the sewers, white porcelain toilets and sinks and no place to hide or have any privacy. The staff is constantly yelling out what task to do, the patients act like robots: putting their pointing finger out while we place a strip of toothpaste on it and then they brushed their teeth with their finger. Without any clothes on they are forced to huddle together while taking cold showers with bars of soap, then they are allowed to dress, it is all so very humiliating my heart breaks for these poor souls.

Most of the patients have been here for many years, some have had lobotomies because of unmanageable behavior, they all appear chronically ill. They are not let outdoor and all meals are served in the dayroom with only a spoon for a utensil for no object is allowed that can be used as a weapon.

When it come to hair cut day there is a chair placed in the center of the room, while everyone else sits against the four walls watching, as everyone gets a bowl cut, if they did not go along with it they were sat on by the big charge nurse, straight out of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

The patients learned to love us for we are kind, considerate and interested in learning their story. Our last day on the unit, the staff are all lined up in the day room and the small mute woman patient goes up to the head nurse grabbed her by both nipples and twisted her down to the ground. Silently, I was cheering for the patient who had the courage to do such a thing, knowing full well that the consequences will be severe.

Psychiatric Nursing as a specialty is over 100 years old and has its roots in the Mental Health Reform Movement of the 19th Century which reorganized mental health asylums into hospital settings. Throughout the progress of this specialty, one skill that has created the foundation of psychiatric nursing is the one-to-one therapeutic relationship. It has been influenced by emergent psychotherapies and counseling skills has become an essential component in nursing education.

Hildegard Peplau developed the theoretical base for mental health nursing when she and others created the National League for Nursing in 1952 and suggested that all schools of nursing have a basic theory and practice course in psychiatric nursing. She firmly believed that the psychiatric nurse’s greatest tool was use of the self in the therapeutic relationship.

Psychiatric and mental health nursing concepts are present to us in all practice settings because the development of a one-to-one relationship is important in the creation of the patient’s trust in the caregiver. Assessment skills and communication are essential and taught in all areas of our nursing training in order to gather the information needed to make an accurate nursing diagnosis and subsequently treat the patient holistically.

We received experience and education in psychiatric nursing to provide care to an increasingly complex and seriously ill patient population through our ability to form one-to-one therapeutic relationships with the patients despite the environment we found ourselves in. Throughout history, psychiatric nurses lead the nursing profession in treating the after effects of war, disasters and the rising number of mentally ill individuals in society.

The therapeutic relationship is an abstract concept that can be defined as a planned and goal-directed communication process between a nurse and a patient for the purpose of providing care. We may counsel their patients but have not gone to counseling training. However, individual one-to-one work utilizing counseling skills is intrinsic to mental health nursing. Throughout our training we are developing observational skills, learning supportive approaches and sharing our education with patients. We are learning a non-judgmental attitude, we perceived inability to help our psychiatric patients, we feared  mental illness and when studying our Abnormal Psychology book we identified with many symptoms, we had poor role models at the State Hospital and had a lack of support in clinical settings which were all deterrents to our development.

The history of Psychiatric practice in the first part of the 20th Century did not place much stake in particular diagnostic categories. The first official manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I, 1952) reflected the views of dynamic psychiatrists. Specific diagnostic entities had a limited role in the DSM-I and its successor, the DSM-II in 1968. These manuals conceived of symptoms as reflections of broad underlying dynamic conditions or as reactions to difficult life problems. Dynamic explanations posited that symptoms were symbolic manifestations that only became meaningful through exploring the personal history of each individual. It made little effort to provide elaborate classification schemes, because overt symptoms did not reveal disease entities but disguised underlying conflicts that could not be expressed directly. For example Schizophrenia is thought to be caused by the mother.

Karl Menninger, a leading dynamic psychiatrist, viewed all mental disorders “as reducible to one basic psychosocial process: the failure of the suffering individual to adapt to his or her environment…Adaptive failure can range from minor (neurotic) to major (psychotic) severity”. Rather than treating the systems of mental disorder, he urged psychiatrist to explain how the individual’s failure to adapt came about and it’s meaning to the patient thus almost everyone has some degree of mental illness at some point in their life. The focus of dynamic psychiatry broadened from the treatment of neuroses to more generalized maladaptive patterns of behavior, character and personal problems. Mental health patients came to be people who were dissatisfied with their relationships, careers, and their lives in general. Psychiatry had been transformed from a discipline that was concerned with insanity to one concerned with normality. This focus made the profession vulnerable to criticism that it was too subjective, medically unscientific, and overly ambitious in terms of its ability to explain and cure mental illness.

The following is taken from “1970 RI Historical Preservation Report for Cranston, Rhode Island”.

In summary for the first 150 years of American history, poverty, crime, and insanity were regarded as natural components of human society; the local approach to providing social services reflected the seventeenth and eighteenth century view of the town as the basic social organization. With the coming of the American Revolution and the nineteenth century, a new philosophy evolved. It held that deviance and poverty were not inevitable but simply the result of a poor environment. The solution was believed to be isolation of the poor, the mentally ill, and the criminal in an environment that eliminated the tensions and chaos engendering deviant behavior.

Poor farms and asylums sprang up around the country. In Providence, the Dexter Asylum opened in 1828 to care for the sick and feeble, and in the 1847, Butler Hospital was opened-one of the most progressive institutions for the treatment of the mentally ill in the nation. In 1839, Cranston’s Town Council voted to purchase the Rebecca Jencks estate in what is today Wayland Park at the foot of the present Meschanticut Valley Parkway, and use it as a poor farm.

Although by 1850 fifteen of Rhode Island’s thirty-one towns had established town asylums or poor farms, their operation did not reflect the kind of progressive thinking that was embodied at Dexter and Butler. The situation of the poor and the insane poor was not only scandalous, as revealed in Thomas Hazard’s 1851 “Report on the poor and Insane in Rhode Island”, which graphically delineated the miserable living conditions of most of the state’s poor, it also reflected a continuation of the local approach to social problems. Following Hazard’s report, the legislature abolished the chains and dark rooms that had characterized the treatment of the insane in many towns.

In 1866 a state Board of Charities and Corrections was established similar to that in Massachusetts, to “devise a better system of caring for the unfortunate unlawful classes of the state”. The act provided for the establishment of a state workhouse, a house of corrections, a state asylum for the incurable insane, and a state almshouse. The board moved to consolidate facilities by establishing a “state Farm” that would simultaneously raise standards for the indigent and relieve the localities of their responsibilities. Two adjacent Cranston farms were acquired the old Stukeley Westcott farm and the William A. Howard farm further west.

Plans for a state farm reflected the adoption by the state of Rhode Island of some of the current thinking affecting social services. The selection of a pastoral site far from the city is indicative of the prevailing philosophy that many of the nineteenth-century replaced assignment of the destitute to local families. Almshouses would care for the “worthy” or hard-core poor, the permanently disabled, and others who clearly could not care for themselves. The able-bodied or “unworthy” poor who sought public aid would be institutionalized in workhouses where their behavior could be controlled and where, away from the temptations of society, they would develop new habits of industry to prepare themselves for more productive lives and less dependency.

The creation of a state asylum for the insane signaled a significant change in public policy towards the mentally ill. Unlike the earlier optimistic era in the 1840s when Butler Hospital opened, the newer prevailing philosophy assumed that many of the insane were incurable, and therefore there was little justification for providing expensive hospitals for them. Thus in planning the State Asylum, therapy was the last of the goals listed. The Asylum would offer “every facility for economical, comfortable, and perhaps even to a degree, curative care…”

In 1885, to relieve the cities and towns from the burden of supporting their insane poor, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that the State Asylum for the Insane should serve as a receiving hospital for all types of mental disorder, acute as well as chronic, thereby merging the two. By giving over the Asylum to the “undesirable” elements, the poor, the incurable, and the foreign-born, the upper and middle classes thus restricted their own ability to use it. Therapy was second to custody.

The Board’s explanation for the rise in mental illness, agreed with the views of Dr. Edward Mann, Medical Supervisor of New York City’s Ward’s Island, who was quoted in the annual report for 1877:

“Next to hereditary pre-disposition, which is the first and predisposing cause of insanity, comes the great mental activity and strain upon the nervous system that appertains to the present age and state of civilization. This feverish haste and unrest, which characterize us as a people, and the want of proper recreation and sleep, tend to a rapid decay of the nervous system and to insanity as a necessary consequence.”

In 1888 funds for a new almshouse for the insane was obtained. The older wooden structure was replaced with the installation of a large central administration building with office and residential facilities for the staff and public eating and worship spaces for the inmates who were segregated in men and women wings flanking the central structure and a cottage for the children. It opened in 1890 the three and half story stone building stands as a series of long buildings running north-south and interrupted regularly by octagonal stair towers. Its handsome stone work and the red-brick trim and its site behind copper beach trees on a bluff overlooking Pontiac Avenue make the center Building one of the most visually striking structures in Rhode Island.

The major improvement of the decade before the turn of the century was the appointment of Howard’s first full-time superintendent, which signaled the introduction of professional training, therapy oriented administrators at the State Farm. The new orientation manifested itself in the building plan for the Hospital for the Insane created in 1900, based on the contemporary practice of constructing hospitals for the insane on the cottage or ward plan, “thereby establishing small communities in separate buildings that are more easily taken care of and administered,” the plan was the first at Howard to establish a campus like quadrangle arrangement of buildings in place of one large self-contained structure. A new key part of the new plan was a communal dining room constructed in 1903 with the room measuring 195 feet by 104 feet, which could seat 1,400 people.

In 1912, the reception Hospital (A Building) was opened, intended to permit appropriate diagnosis and classification of patients as they entered the institution. In 1916 psychiatric social workers were assigned to the state hospital. The training School for Nurses was opened in conjunction with the reception building. B Ward was completed in 1916 and C ward in 1918 completing the plan for “simple and dignified” buildings and “plain red brick walls with pitched roofs, without any attempt at ornamentation”. Standing just west of Howard Avenue and opposite the old House of Correction, the quadrangle signaled the beginning of a new mode of construction at Howard-red brick buildings in a simple Colonial Revival style grouped around a quadrangle and containing dormitories, single rooms, and porches as well as treatment facilities.

In 1918 a new building was constructed for the criminally insane and additional dormitories. The old twelve foot high solid fence which shut off patients from the outside world was replaced by a lower lattice one with view of the surrounding countryside. This change alone symbolized the change in attitude which was articulated in 1929 Annual Report:

“The commission tried to save dollars, but it would rather save a man or a woman. It wants to see plants in Cranston, Providence, and Exeter a credit to Rhode Island, standing like so many Temples of Reform, Education, and Philanthropy. But it is even more desirable that its work should be represented in reconstructed Living Temples in the morals, minds and bodies of those who have been ministered to by these public administrators. For it is better to minister than administer.”

These efforts at reform in treatment of the insane were paralleled by a new attitude towards the infirmed with attention focused on the medical, not the social, disabilities of the inmates. Rehab work program was started in 1928. Patients could live with families and work in the community. Most of the patients worked the 225 acres of state farmland, harvesting far in excess of the needs of the reservation. As late as 1941, 750,000 quarts of milk, 400,000 eggs and 14,000 tons of beef were being produced on the farm.

There is a long History of overcrowded and in 1933 the State Hospital, with accommodations for 1,550, housed 2,235 and was labeled the most overcrowded mental hospital in the northeast. In the years 1935-1938 twenty-five buildings were erected for the State Hospital for Mental Disease. The appearance of Howard was dramatically altered by this construction which went up so fast the Providence Journal declared a “new skyline rises at Howard.”

Built in a uniform, red brick, Georgian Revival style, the structures comprising the State Hospital and State Infirmary are grouped in campus fashion on either side of Howard Avenue. Taken in total, the building incorporated a uniformity of style, scale, material, and sitting that is striking. Historically they represent the coming together of national policy and local initiative. Architecturally, they present one of the most lucid statements of the Georgian Revival in Rhode Island. Despite the improvements by 1947 conditions once again deteriorated due to overcrowding. In 1959 an expert from Boston declared the conditions were shameful and yet “relatively good” compared with mental hospitals in the country, due to the inability to raise capital funds to match federal programs. In 1954 there was an active public-relations effort, including pamphlets detailing the overcrowding, articles in the Journal, and radio spots resulted in passage of a bond issue. In 1962 the General Hospital and the State Hospital for Mental Diseases merged to become the Rhode Island Medical Center. The former became the Center General Hospital and the latter the Institute of Mental Health. In so doing, Rhode Island was the first state to create therapy units for its mentally ill. In 1967, the Medical Center was divided. The Center General Hospital was designated to serve as an infirmary for the prison and the Institute of Mental Health.

1968-1969 JUNIOR YEAR AT RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL SCHOOL OF NURSING

First a brief history, of Rhode Island Hospital, which was built through the generosity of the community, begins in 1857 with a bequest by Moses Brown Ives, to establish a fund for a hospital in Rhode Island. On October 1, 1868, the founders of Rhode Island Hospital gathered on the hospital grounds to dedicate the new hospital, founded to serve the citizens of the state and to provide care to the region’s most seriously ill and injured with the latest medical technology available.

 

In 1882 Sarah Gray, the first chief of nurses, is appointed and opens a nursing school.

In 1895 The Department of Orthopedic Surgery for the prevention and cure of deformities in children and adults opens.

In 1915 Rhode Island Hospital becomes the first hospital in the region and the third in the United States to offer an EKG machine.

In 1922 A Tumor Clinic is established by Herman Pitts, MD, and George Waterman, MD.

In 1931 The Joseph Samuels Dental Center opens at Rhode Island Hospital to provide comprehensive dental care services to Rhode Island’s underprivileged children and individuals with special needs.

In 1934 Dr. Minot, Dr. George and Dr. William Murphy of Rhode Island Hospital, win the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology for their work on pernicious anemia.

In 1941 The Potter Building opens to care for children.

In 1945 Modern research begins when the Rhode Island Medical Society approves the creation of an institute of pathology within the hospital to make laboratory services more available.

In 1948 The Trustees approve “dedicated to the care of the sick, education and research” to Rhode Island Hospital’s statement of purpose.

 

Collectively, the community supported many special campaigns, including drives to fund the $8.75 million, which is one of the first 10-story patient care buildings in the country, the hospital opened in 1955. This is the building that I was trained in.

 

In the 1800s the first uniform at Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing was a long black dress, heavy black stockings with garter-belts, white starched pinafores, and they carried a kerosene lamp that they had to dray around where ever they went. The style changed to what our big sisters’ wore: white starched uniform with the pinafores and their caps were white starched winged things, which most schools had adopted since the beginning of training.

 

Our class is the first to have a more modern uniform that is easier to care for: made of polyester; the pattern is small pink pinstripes, which you really can’t see; there are buttonholes down the front center on both sides where 2 sided plastic white buttons go in, holding it all together. Our caps look like a paper cupcake holder upside down on our heads, that I have to hold onto my hair with 2 long pointy white hat pins that are out to get me, never really keeping it in its proper place.

 

This year we have received a thin burgundy velvet ribbon that is place on the cape to show our accomplishment of completing our first year of nursing, we are so proud of it. We wear heavy white pantyhose with freshly polished white nurses’ shoes, no deviation is allowed. Our nails have to be short, clean and without polish, our hair has to be off our collars and out of our faces.

 

Now we are big sisters to the new class that enters the school, feeling jazzed that we get to pull pranks on the newbies, and in line with tradition we do the water balloons over the doors, the saran wrap across the toilet bowl and petroleum jelly on the toilet seats. We develop a supportive bond with our little sisters and share with them what we have learned from our big sisters. We really do not get to see our little or big sisters much because we all have such busy schedules but connect when the opportunity presents itself.

 

Our class numbers is down to 75 students remaining which means 25% flunked out with a small number quitting by the end of the first year. We are in our 2nd year of nursing school and our clinical experience working with patients has increased to 4 days a week with the 5th day for our nursing classes.  It is freaky that after a slow paced year of one day of clinical a week we are now working 4 days a week and my group is thrown into the lion’s den where student nurses are eaten alive and its full steam ahead.

 

Our 1st 3 month rotation is surgery in the OR at Rhode Island Hospital. We are assigned a locker, given 2 sets of the basic green scrubs that were the only color at the time, which includes hat, booties for over our shoes, top and pants. We change into our scrubs, put on the covers for the shoes, and tie back our hair before putting on the caps. Then we enter the scrub area and are instructed how to scrub down our hands and forearms after which we keep bent at the elbows, before gowning up and putting on our gloves, now we are “sterile” enough to enter the OR.

 

Our first day starts with us above a large OR room in the Gallery watching an open heart surgery, the surgeon tried to have us believe that he is the famous Dr. Christiaan Barnard who performed the First Heart Transplant, he has us all go down into the OR room and look into the open chest of the patient, to the amazing visual of the heart beating loudly in our ears as we peek in. It was a rare thing to behold and all I could wonder about was how much outside contaminants’ the patient was being exposed to while 20+ students peered into the man’s chest, and the subsequent discomfort he will experience from the amount of time he was being held open by those large retractors pulling on his ribcage.

 

The doctors are always teasing the student nurses or trying to freak us out. The hardest thing for me is when a woman had a mastectomy and large breast is handed to me in a sterile steel bowl with the large nipple in the center like a target which jiggles like Jell-o as I carry it to the pathologist. I feel that in Surgery there is no person, there are sterile drapes placed all over the body, except where the surgery takes place, that somehow it is seen as a heart, a breast, or just some body part, in order for a human being to be able to do such a thing to another person. I wonder if some type of dissociation may take place, but I am not a surgeon, so I do not know what they experience, they are excellent at what they do, their hands are sacred, and help many people live a better life. Each surgeon has their own way of relieving the tension and stress while in the OR room some of them joke, some listen to music while others focus on the student nurses.

 

The most embarrassing moment is, when I am assigned to prepare an OR room with all sterile equipment, fully gowned and gloved, I covered all the surfaces with sterile drapes, when I get to the instrument tray and push the sleeve over the table top, both of my gloves rip, I am humiliated for I have contaminated the whole room and have to start all over. I have poor body awareness boundaries, some type of hand eye coordination problem, besides having been mostly into brain/mind focus while not been into my physical/body development. So I perceive myself as a klutz.

 

I dread the training of being the surgeon’s assistant, responsible for giving him the right instrument that he calls out for, while putting his hand out to receive it, we have learned the proper way to smack it in his waiting paw. I memorize all the instruments that are used for each surgery I assist with and do OK. We learn all the jobs that are involved with surgery such as: circulating nurse, setting up the sterile field of the whole room, autoclave the instruments to be used, assisting the Anesthesiologist and the surgeon. We have the privilege of observing brain surgery which is a long tedious process and awe inspiring to see what the gray matter looks like through the square window that has been drilled out of the back of the patient’s head.

 

We complete our OR training having matured in more ways than we could of imagined, nursing is proving to be a form of culture shock by being exposed to things the average person has no awareness of, which brings us together as a group, connecting us on a deep level, knowing we are not alone and being able to process by sharing what is going on around us.

 

Our next 3 month rotation is ICU. It has been a whole year and now we are allowed to be the medication nurse for the ward, after a great deal of pharmacology classes and experience on the floors. I find myself being the death nurse for whenever I walk into a room when someone is near death, they start flat lining and seeing I am the first person to arrive I start CPR and within a few minutes there is a group of people around the bed working to save a life. I am teased by the staff that will send me into a room to initiate the process, this is very anxiety producing, and I do lots of wondering about what is going on that I am not seeing and why are they encouraging it. I do all the right things and am relieved when this rotation is over while looking forward to our Psychiatric/Mental Health rotation next.

1964 to 1967 PAWTUCKET WEST HIGH SCHOOL

 

I look forward to the mornings and being away from the house all day. School is a haven where I can go and take refuge, using my mind and finding ways to get me out of the position I am in, to dream and set goals about a new life for myself. I dress up in my new stylish wardrobe ma bought: cute blouses, navy blue wool sweater, grey wool sweater, below the knee red/grey plaid pencil skirt, and navy blue kilt wool skirt with matching knee socks. My hair covers my ears and is parted down the middle; it’s a new cut for me and is easy to care for. No one can guess what is going on at home by the way I look; everything is perfectly in place, a way of binding my anxiety and hiding my secret hell. At school when I am told to knell down the hem touches the floor, and then I roll it up above my knees after passing the test, all the girls do it. I do not wear makeup and dress collegian style. The boys get in trouble if they don’t have socks on, even with their sandals.

 

 

I walk a few blocks up a slight hill to Pawtucket West High School, built in 1938, a 3 story concrete building with large windows made out of small window panes. There are students hanging out; on the streets, the concrete walls lining the school block along East Avenue, under the trees and up the many stairs that lead to the front doors. Opening the front doors there are the long halls lined with tall skinny lockers on both sides, the high ceilings intensify the sound of footsteps and voices echoing loudly, the linoleum floors are highly polished and smell of wax. My locker is in the middle of a few of the boys I went to junior high with so I feel somewhat protected. My friends and I have parted ways due to different goals. Their focus is on boyfriend concerns and marriage plans, going the “secretarial or homemaker” route, taking the lower division classes, the path to their dreams… a temporary job, until a husband can provide for a family. I am in the college preparatory classes which have the A and B division and taking the pre-requisites required to get into nursing school.

 

 

In my sophomore year I find myself in the A division, I do not know anyone, with the majority of the students being Jewish, who are the most educationally motivated kids I have ever known. I feel a strong sense of competition when grades are handed out, so I turn my paper over so no one can read it, there is a discussion of who got what, and embarrassment descends down on me when the teacher announces mine is the top grade, I get anxious and feel everyone looking at me while I focus on the teacher. My shyness has returned in this new environment, I am self-conscious, not wanting to stand out and be noticed. I do well in science, biology and math and very poorly in English. I develop a relationship with Abbey who becomes my lab partner. She shares a lot: knowing all about the music scene and what is going on in the state; seeing Bob Dylan on the streets of Newport sitting and playing his guitar with a hat on the ground for money; about Marijuana being grown along the banks of the river, not wanting to appear dumb I refrain from asking her what it is; and talking about her religious beliefs and answering any questions I put to her.

 

I connect with the Jewish kids in my class asking questions about god and reincarnation, discussing thoughts, feelings and beliefs openly and honestly. These friendships only happen at school; the Jewish mothers allowed their children to communicate with the Catholics, but there is no invitation into their world, contact is forbidden outside in the community. This riff is a form of religious discrimination, “stay with your own kind” and “do not dating someone from another religion”. This affects the female Jewish students who use it as a way to rebel against the norm by finding themselves intrigued by the Catholic boys they are suppose to stay away from. I find my-self with others who valued education and have career plans, individuals from other cultural and religious backgrounds, people who give me a glimpse of a new world that I can create for myself, stimulating my consciousness to a new level of being, and rising above prejudices that I do not understand.

 

As a teenager I am disenchanted with the rhetoric of the Catholic Church and the poor morale fiber of those who are “closer to God” “do as I say not as I do” and the overwhelming guilt that comes with being a Catholic with a constant focus on sin and punishment. Since we moved to Pleasant Street I have returned to going to St. Mary’s Church on Sundays, but that is the extent of my involvement. I continue to pray, especially at night when I go to bed, begging for assistance, wondering if my prays are being heard or that I am bad and being punished. My spiritual path is broadening, I have become curious and hungry to explore what others’ think, practice and believe, I know there is more to religion than just memorized stories, I sense something bigger and better. This is spirit intervening in my life. This experience is a major struggle for me, in addition to the anxiety of a new environment, but the gifts I receive are well worth it, an expanding consciousness through reflection, contemplation and questioning rhetoric. I am using my mind and intelligence to helps develop a better self-esteem, stoking the flames of awareness, and igniting my thirst for knowledge. Using my mind is become my way of life, a coping mechanism, living in my head, not in my body.

 

Kennedy’s legacy of making Physical Exercise mandatory is a real challenge. My only ways of moving are dancing and walking. I struggle with the ropes, rings and the horses in the well maintained gym created out of old forest trees that are made all shiny and new. The changing area has small cubicles with a curtain for privacy I make sure no light comes in; fearful someone will see me changing. There is a rule about no jewelry, so I leave my mother’s black pearl engagement ring my dad gave her, it’s stolen, breaking my heart, these kinds of things did not happen in Catholic School. Hating how I look in the gym clothes, feeling incompetent as an athlete, being laughed at on a regular basis because I am uncoordinated with poor body strength and weighing 78 pounds, this is the worse part of my day.

 

At the end of the school year I go back to the school Counselor; who had told me earlier that my grades had put me in the upper division and that I couldn’t change till 11th grade. I express how anxious and isolated I am in the upper division and request being placed in lower division for the next 2 years of high school, it is done despite being encouraged to stick with it, I am doing well.

 

In 1965 as a Junior I am with some of my old friends while make new ones which aren’t as competitive. I am a math whiz and the boys label me as “the math girl”, and it’s believed that it is something “girls are not good at”. The teacher is constantly trying to talk me into being a math teacher; I am so introverted I can’t visualize myself talking in front of a large group, even if they are children. When I take physics there are only 3 girls in the class including me. When we have an exam the teacher walks out. The jocks are all sitting around me trying to cheat, asking me for the answers. I hunch over my paper to do my work so no one can copy me. I take every math, science, Latin, and physics class as pre-requisites for nursing school; my goal and dream since 4 years old, and I’m following a plan which is all mapped out in a scrapbook I started in the 6th grade.

 

In the school auditorium it is announced that a female student was murdered down along the river where everyone goes to neck, this is a shock to everyone and my fear and anxiety about dating being dangerous is confirmed, males either abandon or cause harm. The boy who lives down the street is accused of the murder, there is no evidence against him, they let him out, looking all beat up by the police, it comes out that our cops are crocked and have set him up. My sister dated his brother so we know he was being discriminated against due to the family living in poverty, and considered “from the wrong side of the tracts”. Even the police can’t be trusted so there is no reason to go to them with my problems.

 

I hang out mostly with Barbara and Eileen in and out of school. We walk all over Pawtucket, going by the boys where ever they hang out, especially the basketball court. We trek up to 10 miles to other high schools to watch basketball games and attend dances. With umbrellas, raincoats and goulashes we rush through a downpour to our first football game, sitting on the covered bleachers and having no idea what it’s all about. Our last football experience is in a snow storm, freezing our behinds off, it wasn’t fun even though I wear a stylish fashionable pea coat; boys are not worth that much torment. I am ambivalent about relationships with the opposite sex; I feel attraction and fearful at the same time mistrusting most people.

 

 

Every Saturday night we walk to Saint Ray’s, an all boys school, otherwise known as Saint Raphael Academy on Walcott Street. The gym has beautifully polished wooden flooring covered with sawdust so it doesn’t get marked up. One humiliating moment is when I am speed walking to the door and before I know it I’m flat on my butt, facing a bunch of kids sitting on chairs up against the wall, worried they might have seen my underwear. As a group we would walk along the edge of the dance floor to check out the guys, never standing in any position for too long. Being shy introverted, and not wanting to be noticed I blend into the background like a true wallflower, always on the edge of the excitement. I am not popular, and my anxiety interferes with communication with boys, so I am not asked to dance a lot. The girls dance together on the fast songs for the boys are just not interested, on the slow dances if the kids get to close, the priest taps the boy on the shoulder and announces to the couple “make room for the holy spirit.” We always know when the night is over because they play “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” by Paul Anka, followed by “Good Night My Love” by Jesse Belvin, such intense love songs. This is where I meet guys from other schools who ask me out on dates. My younger sisters always come up with nicknames to tease me, like “ears”, “lips” even “nose” based on whatever feature stands out. My mother has a rule that the boy has to come and knock on the door when he picks me because she will not let me go out if he beeps for me. I do not maintain a relationship with a boy because I get uptight and freeze around any type of sexual contact, even kissing.

 

 

In 1966, my senior year, I turn 18 and start dating a boy from the same school which I have not done before; he is younger and a junior. One day my friend Barbara pulls me aside informing me that “I do not like being the one to tell you this, but I think you would rather hear it from me. Joey is cheating on you with the local slut, Pat”. Somehow it was his choice of her that was more upsetting than the act itself, I know her from Junior high and we never really got along. I give him his ring back and refuse to be committed to him and continue to date him going to our proms together and taking him with me on all my graduation activities. He is an Italian Mama’s boy who taught me to play tennis, miniature golf and go cart track driving on our dates which included other couples in our group. We were together that year and I let my guard down a little, we get caught in heavy petty by his brother which resulted in him no longer inviting me to his house for Sunday meals. I am a virgin, telling myself that I am saving myself for my husband, marriage is not part of my plans at this time in my life, for my fear of intimacy is overwhelming and my body is always uptight and rigid, a protective armoring, against pain and abandonment.

 

1967 I graduate with the skills and education that has gotten me into Rhode Island Hospital School of Nursing, bathing in feelings of accomplishment at having successfully danced through my teenage years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I will be leaving home, for it is required that I live at the hospital during my training. My dreams, goals, hard work, and perseverance are finally paying off. A new life is just around the corner.

 

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MY FIRST DECADE OF LIFE

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness month so I am sharing this story about my traumatic experiences that happened in the first 10 years of my life. Also it’s father’s day and I am floods with good and bad memories and how they have contributed to my healing and transformation journey that my soul chose for this lifetime. The good helps deal with the bad. Being a seeker pushes me forward.

 

My parents lived in Columbus, Ohio at the time of my birth. It was in the last 6 months of mother’s life when we shared ourselves deeply, for the first time in 40 years, the first time in our relationship and our last time together. I am very grateful I had the courage to be completely open about myself, even telling her my deepest and darkest secrets. The stories my mother tells about my early life contributes to my understanding of who I am.

 

She shared how during the birthing process “when my labor would get painful they would medicate me and the contractions would stop. Eventually after 3 episodes of this pattern, I asked for natural childbirth and not to be medicated”. When I was in my 30s I tried group Re-birthing and experienced being frozen and unable to move, this happened 3 times, it was extremely uncomfortable and I saw how true to my birth it really was. Wow, what a confirmation. Freezing is one of my coping responses, which I have worked hard to overcome, and deal with. In intensely stressful situations I have learned to use mindfulness, awareness and breathing in order to rise above my neurological responses and create new healthy pathways in my brain.

 

Mother told me “I was breast-feeding you and you were always crying. I felt you were starving so I told the doctor who disagreed and told me just to continue. I did not believe the doctor so I put you on formula and the crying decreased”. I have had digestive problems from the get go. I love milk and during childhood after meals I would be bent over in pain, which I believed was just a normal thing, later learning I am lactose intolerant. Back then you never heard about this. In my 20s, while in nursing school, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I was instructed that they did not know much about it so I would need to learn what foods my body did not tolerate. This was very helpful suggestion-rather than taking an addictive substance named Phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate used for seizures, which they wanted to prescribe. I have always used holistic approaches to self-care.

 

“You would sit quietly in your crib for hours on end. By 9 months of age you were potty trained, you didn’t like being dirty, and when you got a spot on a dress you would cry and insisted on changing. You threw away the bottle and would insist on drinking out of a cup.” Recently I realized that I was trashing that formula and the high fructose corn syrup that was added to my water, listening to my body. IBS has been my companion into my 60s when healing occurred after consulting with a Naturopath, who treatment the Candida in my intestines and with a whole foods diet. I am a sugar freak which has caused many distressing symptoms, and getting off all those addictive foods has taken away my stomach pain. YEA! Being introverted and enjoying meditation/quiet moments is my major self-care technique my life raft. When in my 20s I took to the wilderness and learned to love the feel and smell of the earth, being alone with Mother Nature, basking in her nurturing qualities was healing by connecting with the universal life force.

 

When I was a year old my mother lost my baby brother who was born a “blue baby” my mother had RH negative blood factor, my father and the baby had RH positive, which resulted in my mother’s body experiencing the baby as a foreign body and he died the day of his birth. These babies were blue because of their circulatory problem of having poor blood flow, and not getting enough oxygen. This was due to poor fetal development because the mother’s immune system attacks the fetus, as if it is something foreign the body needs to get rid of. My parents really wanted that baby boy and they were emotional distraught over the loss of their dream. I feel as though I was always aware of emotions in others and myself, ever since childhood, which proves to be one of the driving force leading me down my path to healing.

 

1951 was a difficult year for my parents. My mother had a miscarriage when RH negative reared its ugly head again. This created a hospital bill, “We were in over their heads”. This resulted in my father having to work 2 jobs so Dad and I had less time together. “You would cry when he would leave and we had decided to tell you ‘He is doing it to get you a bike’. This conversation happened over a Weegie Board experiment that wrote out “It is not your fault”. I was in my early 20s, learning to be a psychiatric nurse who loved group therapy. This information she shared lead to understanding where my feelings of guilt were coming from, the underlying cause of my poor balance and aversion to riding a bike, for I have many great memories of my daddy teaching me to ride. Creating my prosperity consciousness has been difficult due to the influence of these early experiences; money has been a major issue in my life that I work on like an onion: peeling back layers after layers of fears and limitations.

 

While in the terrible 2s, I tested the limits placed on me. I remember disobeying my father. He told me “Stay on the top of the stairs, do not to go down the stairs to the sidewalk”, while he was working on his car. Well I have a rebellious nature so I slowly and quietly went down each step on my butt till I got to the street amazed by my success. All of a sudden he was scolding me, carrying me back up the stairs, telling me “stay put”- that was not the last time I ever disobeyed him. I so wanted to be with him, enjoying our times together, happy just being near him, feeling secure and loved. I learn to create that sense of safety and security within thru living in my car while visiting some of the wildest places in the US.

 

My life was transformed in 1950 when my sister Barbara was born, I was 22 months old.  Barbara has always been a leader with great courage to try new things, something I have always admired. She taught me to get out of my crib, following her on many adventures that I would never have done on my own. I have great memories and wonderful pictures of us in our matching dresses that our Meme made for us. We loved to dance, do the can-can and play together, especially in the park with our mom & dad. We are sisters & friends. It was a wonderful time and I remember it well. To this day I honor my Meme and my ancestors for giving me those seamstress genes. I am ever so grateful for my first sister Barbara, I am forever learning a lot about relationship, communication and acceptance. Thank you little sister.

 

 

My second Trauma was at the age of 4, back in 1952, being a care-giver became a strong force, when my father got polio. I can remember that day when night fell, I was awake and praying when a woman appeared to me, I knew it was a vision; it was comforting and scary all at once. I did not know how to handle it; I did not tell anyone about it, I just told her to go away because I was scared. A few weeks later I woke up believing that I was paralyzed and saw my first psychiatrist. I felt responsible for my father’s illness because he was working a lot to get me a bike. I thought that he got polio because people got polio when they overwork. Later I would learn that he did not get the vaccine, while Barbara, Mom and I got it. Thus the responsibility for his illness really lied with him & karma. Deal with my angry at him and the healing of my abandonment wound was a difficult process due to the fact that I idealized him.

 

My father was in the hospital in an iron lung for a year and we rarely got to see him. I have a memory of that Christmas, when we visited him in the hospital, and how big the iron lung towered over us, how different he looked for he was just a head jutting out of a massive contraption. We now knew he was still with us. All we saw was his reflection in the mirror above his head. He was looking up and into the mirror, which looked down at us. I remember the joy I felt seeing that he had a picture of Barbara & I, which was taped to the cold metal cylinder, and I knew he loved us still. That old torn photo is now in digital form on my computer, we look very happy and without a care in the world. There is a lot to be said about being surrounded by love when there is a trauma; it’s easier to heal when you are surrounded by unconditional love. This I learned from a Chinese Psychiatrist who shared about his PTSD experiences. He was a young teen, escaping the Vietnam War with his family, fleeing on a crowded ship, people getting sick and dying, creating horrendous living conditions: that was countered by their tight family ties and support of each other.

 

When I was 5 years old my father was back home with us. Our life was very different because he was a quadriplegic in a wheel chair, he live in the living room, unable to get upstairs to the bedrooms. Barbara, Mom & I cared for him. We had home care because father was getting therapy on the parallel bars which were a permanent fixture in the living room. I loved being with my father and wanted to help so the care-giver in me blossomed. Back then in 1953 my mother had to go to work to support us. This was the beginning of my dream of becoming a nurse, which has proved to be my life saver.

 

1954 was a joyful loving year, I was 6 yrs old and my sister Tina was born, my mother and father shared a great love and mother always called her “My love child”. The next 3 yrs were wonderful and filled with love; dad and I would care for Tina together, on the tray he had attached on the arms of his wheel chair. What a special time it was learning to care for a new soul from a man, such an unusual experience during those times. Babies bring new life and energy to a difficult situation making life worth living for all involved. I was awed by my father’s ability to accomplish his goals with a positive attitude, using him as my role model for developing coping mechanisms that were helpful and life affirming.

 

At the age of 7 yrs I experienced my third trauma that had lasting ramifications for me in the years to come. Barbara & I were playing; she was riding a bike while I was running along beside her. We were going down a grassy small hill when I fell hitting my chin on the curb of the sidewalk, taking a bite out of the cement. This was very traumatic Jaw Injury, breaking my 2 front teeth and having the dentist say they can be fixed when I am 18 years old, creating self-esteem issues for many years. When I was in my 40s a dentist took a circular x-ray and pointed out that I had chipped a piece of bone in my chin and dislocated my jaw sometime in my childhood. Talk about symbolism and my difficulty with communications and expressing myself with others. Later when I started to do energy work, I drew a stick figure of myself with a dark line across my neck, showing how I felt; my energy was cut off between my body and mind pushing me to seek healing and understanding. Living in my head, no longer grounded in my body and leading me to body/mind approaches for healing.

 

At the age of 9 my father died which was my fourth trauma and was the most difficult to deal with. The LADY IN BLUE appeared to me again, the night of father death, my rational mind took over and she disappeared; due to fear, not having any spiritual guidance in these matters, and creating a symbol for healing. I know now she was the Virgin Mary. At that time I prayed to her and especially loved the story of the children of Fatima, and when I received my confirmation I took the name of Bernadette for it was my mother’s mother’s name. The seeker within me starts pushing me down my spiritual path. That’s a story for another time. Having shared my traumas with you helps me feel a part of the bigger picture for I know you have experienced your own and together we can light the way to healing.