Nellie Bly and I

By Anonymous

One hundred and thirty-one years before I spent 31 days locked up against my will, Nellie Bly spent 12 days locked up by choice. Our circumstances were different. Our locations were barely a mile apart. Our experiences had a lot in common.

Before I was locked up, I unwittingly had been acting differently than I ever had before, worrying the people around me with poor decisions and in some cases causing them emotional pain. Before Bly’s, she had wittingly been acting differently than she usually did, deliberately worrying strangers so that they would lock her up.

Bly, at age 23, invented and improvised the role of her lifetime: a woman confused and confusing enough for New York City officials to lock her in an asylum, during a time when the concept of madness was one of many tools men used to exert power over women. Bly was paid to be a journalist; she enabled her best journalism by being an actor. Her goal was to investigate asylum conditions from the inside. She succeeded, and after two days at Bellevue Hospital and 10 days in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, the New York World came to free its undercover investigative correspondent. Two days later, she began publishing what she’d learned.

The impetus for Bly’s investigation was a series of reports of poor treatment by Blackwell’s staff members, including two indicted for killing a “lunatic.” Before getting the assignment, Bly had been trying and failing to land a spot at a New York newspaper while her funds dwindled, according to Brooke Kroeger’s biography of Bly. Being locked up for perceived insanity offered an opportunity to exercise what would become Bly’s most successful brand of reporting: an undercover exposé of a little-known phenomenon that would horrify most people if they knew about it. Bly’s report showed how the state had granted doctors the power to lock up and abuse people who had been convicted of no crime, that doctors lacked the ability to diagnose and treat locked-in people effectively, and how the people that the system branded as lunatics had no rights or credibility by virtue of being branded.

Her investigation sparked outrage and brought more funding to asylums. In 1922, after Bly’s death, her friend and former editor Arthur Brisbane called her “THE BEST REPORTER IN AMERICA” and wrote that her exposure of Blackwell’s “improved the conditions of thousands of unfortunate inmates all over the country.”

I knew none of this until two years ago. In my 15 years working as a journalist, I had never heard of Bly, a pioneer in my field. I’d also never read any of the books that teach childrento emulate her courage and achievements. I’d never thought much about the thousands of psychiatric inmates all over the country, or of how their conditions had changed since Bly published the articles that were later collected in her book “Ten Days in A Mad-House.” And I had never considered that I could end up as one of those inmates myself.

Then, between March 12 and April 17, 2018, at age 38, I encountered the modern-day version of the system Bly exposed. First, I was locked up for 31 days: in two California psychiatric facilities—Eisenhower Urgent Care, Rancho Mirageand Pacific Grove Hospital—for three days; then, five days after my release, in a New York City institution—NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center—for 28 days.

I entered Weill-Cornell with many privileges: moderate wealth; excellent health insurance; a wise and caring primary-care doctor; loving family and friends—including doctors, lawyers, and journalists; my previous career as a journalist, and the public credibility it allowed me to build; my prior experience as a hospital patient, for treatment of an abdominal abscess; not experiencing symptoms that are most likely to heighten fear in others, such as hallucinations; being a white young man; and living in a city with many highly regarded institutions, led by Weill-Cornell.

I also entered Weill-Cornell wanting to understand my behavior and to restore my health. I knew I was acting unlike my usual self: I was overconfident and taking risks in my personal, professional, and financial lives. I wasn’t sleeping or eating enough. I also was coherent, peaceful, and had caused no physical harm to myself or others.

Quickly I concluded I wanted to leave Weill-Cornell and seek better treatment elsewhere. Quickly I learned that my privileges wouldn’t suffice, and that people without similar privileges had even less chance of freedom.

Three times I tried to escape my bonds: once by walking out, and twice by going to court. Each time I failed. In my first eight days of confinement I tried to exercise my right to decline to take psychiatric drugs. Four times doctors forced drugs into my body without my consent, once by using physical force.  My symptoms had dissipated before I went to court on my ninth day; my resistance dissipated after I lost in court. “Unfortunately, the patient is very intelligent, very well spoken, and maintains a very good composure in court,” the judge curiously described my lack of symptoms, according to the transcript, before authorizing unlimited further nonconsensual drugging of me, with up to eight different powerful sedative and psychoactive chemicals. No matter that at no time had I met the standard for locking up a New York resident who hasn’t committed a crime: posing “a substantial threat of harm to self or others.”

The United Nationshas called for people in mental-health facilities to be treated with respect, humanity, the best available healing, and all other basic rights, free from abuse and discrimination. That goes for everybody, including anyone for whom being locked in could prevent harm to themselves or others, anyone who chooses to be locked in for their own safety, and anyone who is healed while in those facilities. Bly’s treatment conformed to none of the principles adopted more than a century later by the U.N. General Assembly. Neither did mine, 27 years after they were adopted. Neither have dozens of unnamed respondents to threerecentsurveyswith a self-selected set of respondents and one with a representative set. Many inmate have had fewer privileges than me, and many suffered more.

After I got out, I studied the system that had just locked me up, its victims, and its critics. I learned the names of hundreds of other people who had been affected by the system, opposed it, or offered alternatives: people from hundreds of years ago and from today who had their own close encounters with the treatment of people diagnosed as mentally ill, and who chose to tell others what they’d seen. Some won campaigns for improvement; most watched the system resist and persist. They include inmates Clifford Whittingham Beers, who turned his mistreatment into a movement; and Adrian Schoolcraft, locked in a hospital by fellow police officers for blowing the whistle on their abuse of power. They include journalists Charles Dickens, sickened by what he saw at the asylum that would later house Bly; and Rosalind Adams, who documented how people seeking help get locked in so public companies can turn a profit. And they include people who proposed promising alternatives to locking people up, such as Loren Mosher, whose results were so good his project was shut down and his title stripped; and Pablo Sadler, whose New York City program offers an alternative to ER visits like mine.

And I read about Nellie Bly.

I read what Bly wrote, and read what others wrote about her. And I was struck by how alike her and her fellow inmates’ experiences at twofearedpublic New York City institutions in 1887 were to mine at a nearby renownedprivate NYC institution in 2018. I was struck by how little evidently had changed despite her journalistic triumph.

Any two people swept up in the system, like any two people anywhere, are vastly different, including in their health and in their ability to respond. That’s true for me when the other person is an 1880s undercover journalist, and when it’s the person in the bed next to mine in the asylum. What unites us is how we are seen and treated by the system, and our outrage at the treatment and lack of oversight, justice, and reform.

Bly took notes while she was locked up. So did I. To tell my story today, I read what I wrote at the time, including in a hospital notebook, online, and in emails. I also read my medical records and court documents, listened to consensual audio recordings I made at the time, filed a public records request for reports I made at the time to a government patient hotline, and ran this account by loved ones who visited me while I was locked up.

Below is Bly’s story, as told in “Ten Days in A Mad-House,” and mine. Excerpts from her book are italicized.

“I myself cried for water until my mouth was so parched and dry that I could not speak.”—Blackwell’s inmate Bridget McGuinness

My three days of being locked up in California started with an ambulance ride to Eisenhower. On the ride, I got thirsty and asked for water. No one gave me water: not in the ambulance, not once I’d arrived at Eisenhower. No one made eye contact with me when I asked. When the doctor appeared and authorized water, I got some, along with a nonconsensual drugging delivered by the doctor with a forceful jabbing that left me bleeding.

Later I protested my experience at Eisenhower. In response I received a letter stating that “Your medical records were reviewed by the Medical Director of the Emergency Department and the care and treatment provided was appropriate for your presentation.” I wasn’t interviewed or contacted as part of the review.

My three days of captivity ended with my having spent a total of five minutes with a psychiatrist. Pacific Grove discharged me without a prescription or an appointment with a doctor.

In psychiatry, disease has no biological testsand ever-shifting definitions, meaning two doctors often disagree about the same case, at a frequency that would be considered poorin other medical specialties.

Then he wrote my fate in the book before him. I said, “I am not sick and I do not want to stay here. No one has a right to shut me up in this manner.” He took no notice of my remarks, and having completed his writings, as well as his talk with the nurse for the moment, he said that would do…—With a Blackwell’s doctor

In my book of fates, Weill-Cornell doctors justified locking me in by citing my opposition to being locked in and nonconsensually drugged: I was “resisting being changed into patient clothes” and exhibiting “poor judgment and insight” by “refusing [Emergency Department] treatment.”

Today doctors call questioning a psychiatric diagnosis anosognosia, and treat it as a symptom of many diagnosed disorders. That sort of meta name-calling is a good way to win any argumentand preserve an unblemished record of diagnostic accuracy.

I recorded audio in the Weill-Cornell emergency room until my phone was taken from me and turned off. I can hear

  • the door shut behind me;
  • my repeated requests for a lawyer go ignored;
  • being told I need to take off all my clothes and get into paper scrubs;
  • refusing to give up my phone;
  • asking to leave and being told I can’t;
  • asking what crime I’ve committed;
  • the sound of being forcibly separated from my phone.

After this, I began to have a smaller regard for the ability of doctors than I ever had before, and a greater one for myself. I felt sure now that no doctor could tell whether people were insane or not, so long as the case was not violent.—At Bellevue

I made several requests of the doctors assigned to me: persuade me of their diagnosis; let me record audio of our sessions; let me see different doctors instead.

Today my requests strike me as reasonable ones I’d make again. To my doctors they were signs of my paranoia and litigiousness, each of which they referred to dozens of times in my medical record as symptoms of disease.

Among the ways doctors referred in my medical records to my behaviors and beliefs as disease markers and evidence I needed to be locked in:

  • “precise attempts to out-logic and out-argue”;
  • “trying to argue against both, skillfully”;
  • “continues to have logical, intellectualized defenses”;
  • being “argumentative”;
  • “Hypervigilance”;
  • considering myself locked up instead of an “inpatient admission”;
  • using wordplay; writing online criticism of the institution and doctors.

My disagreements with the doctor put in charge of my case contributed to the contentious nature of our relationship. Our daily consultations were short, my remarks brief. One day I remember deciding to try a friendlier tone. Later that day, her assistant told me the doctor was now forcing me to take an additional brain-altering drug because the change in my manner that day had worried her.

My discharge from a place where I had no choice in doctors restored my freedom to choose a doctor. And I shopped around. I saw nine different doctors and therapists within two months. Each one had to list a diagnostic codefor my insurance claims. Nine practitioners used eight different diagnostic codes between them. One thing they can all agree on: I’ve had no symptoms of illness. That’s helped spare me further incarceration.

Psychiatric diagnosis ishard.

I always made a point of telling the doctors I was sane and asking to be released, but the more I endeavored to assure them of my sanity the more they doubted it.—At Blackwell’s

“Insight” is what doctors today call inmates’ acceptance of doctors’ diagnosis and cooperation with doctors’ proposed course of action.

My insight was that I didn’t want to be locked up, I didn’t think it was good for my health, and I wanted my rights restored.

I tried to register my objections in any way I thought might help. I started a hunger strike. I shared my concerns with dozens of visitors and staff members. I contacted other journalists and the hospital’s public-relations department. I wrote about my experience online and urged other inmates to do so. I submitted a column to the New York Daily News. It began, “Thousands of New Yorkers are trapped against their will, victims of the most insidious threat to civil rights today. I know because I am one of them.”

To doctors, these were all clear signs that I did not have insight, and that their diagnosis was  confirmed.

They told me not eating wasn’t an act of civil disobedience but a symptom of illness.

They told me my decision to go to court to seek release demonstrated a lack of insight and would keep me locked up longer.

They told me my attempts to publicize how I’d been treated were distracting from my care.

They told me I couldn’t leave until holding a meeting with them and my loved ones, in which I would be forced to give up my right to decide with whom to share my medical information. I would have to demonstrate obedience to the doctors before others to be considered for discharge.

I had a new insight: I would have to give up and obey to leave. So I did. And after I did, doctors agreed: I had insight.

“Do you ever hear voices at night?” he asked. “Yes, there is so much talking I cannot sleep.” “I thought so,” he said to himself. Then turning to me, he asked: “What do these voices say?”—With a Bellevue doctor

Bly meant the voices of staff keeping her up.

Combine confirmation bias with the power imbalance between doctor and inmate, and the theft of credibility caused by being branded mentally ill, and you get Bly’s experience of a doctor hearing something she didn’t say.

You also get these experiences of mine:

I’ve covered over a dozen tennis Grand Slam tournaments as a professional journalist. During those two-week periods I have sometimes been happy, active, and underslept—just like many of my colleagues. I mentioned this to doctors, who recorded my comment in my medical record as if I had corroborated their suspicion that I had a history of mental illness.

I was invited to an awards ceremony in Oslo, scheduled shortly after I’d been locked up. I had attended the same event the previous year, when it had been held at the Norwegian consulate in New York. I spent a few minutes submitting a free, no-commitment electronic RSVP, in case I decided to go. A concerned person believed a falsehood, that I had bought an airline ticket to Oslo, and told doctors. I tried explaining the error. My nonexistent ticket to Oslo made it into the document submitted by my doctor to the judge who’d hear my case for discharge—and along the way, Norway had become Finland.

I told my doctors I thought their thinking and mistakes exhibited confirmation bias. They included my comment in their notes as a sign of my active illness.

What, excepting torture, would produce insanity quicker than this treatment?—At Blackwell’s

My cycle went like this: Doctors denied my requests such as for recording, changing doctors, wearing my own clothes, or using computers. That turned me into their untrusting antagonist. Doctors then equated my antagonistic stance with illness, and dug more firmly into their own antagonistic stance.

As I testified at my second court hearing, according to the transcript, “Disagreement is not a mode that seems like one the treatment team is used to undergoing.”

“I will be honest with you,” the judge concluded. “I find your position and your testimony and your demeanor to be very compelling, but I find this doctor’s testimony to be credible.” He allowed the doctors to keep me locked up for up to 14 more days. “For right now I think you are almost there, but not quite yet,” he said.

He sat silent, unable to contradict my assertion. “Why don’t you have it changed?” I asked. “What can I do?” he replied. “I offer suggestions until my brain is tired, but what good does it do? What would you do?” he asked, turning to me, the proclaimed insane girl.—With Dr. Ingram at Blackwell’s

My doctor’s assistant repeatedly professed powerlessness when I asked why he couldn’t change something he claimed to agree needed change: about my treatment, or about the institution that paid him. He then repeatedly asked me how I would change it. These conversations were not recorded in his notes in my medical record.

Compare this with a criminal, who is given every chance to prove his innocence.—At Blackwell’s

People in penal prisons often experience inhumane conditions and abuse.

Psych wards are like prisons, and their inmates sometimes experience similar abuse, for similar reasons. 

Things some penal prisoners have that we didn’t:

  • outdoor time;
  • the possibility of conjugal visits;
  • freedom from having chemicals forced into you;
  • a release date.

One night they came in and tried to make me take a dose of some mixture out of a glass “to make me sleep,” they said. I told them I would do nothing of the sort and they left me, I hoped, for the night. My hopes were vain, for in a few minutes they returned with a doctor, the same that received us on our arrival. He insisted that I take it, but I was determined not to lose my wits even for a few hours. When he saw that I was not to be coaxed he grew rather rough, and said he had wasted too much time with me already. That if I did not take it he would put it into my arm with a needle. It occurred to me that if he put it into my arm I could not get rid of it, but if I swallowed it there was one hope, so I said I would take it. I smelt it and it smelt like laudanum, and it was a horrible dose. No sooner had they left the room and locked me in than I tried to see how far down my throat my finger would go, and the chloral was allowed to try its effect elsewhere.—With Blackwell’s night nurses

Doctors’ language made violence sound like kindness. When staff forced me to choose either nonconsensual drugging by mouth or by needle, it was described in my medical record as “offering” or “giving” “treatment,” or of my “requiring” it. “No drugs” was not an option.

According to the transcript of my first court hearing, my doctor described an incident in which I was told by a doctor surrounded by a half dozen other staffers, including security guards, to swallow drugs or I’d be forcibly injected, like this: I had taken a drug “in the presence of security.”

Superintendent Dent went through the sitting-room, giving an occasional “How do you do?” “How are you to-day?” here and there among the patients. His voice was as cold as the hall, and the patients made no movement to tell him of their sufferings. I asked some of them to tell how they were suffering from the cold and insufficiency of clothing, but they replied that the nurse would beat them if they told.—At Blackwell’s

Each week doctors and other staff members hosted what they called a community meeting. Attended by the chief doctor, his colleagues, and any inmate who showed up, it was billed as a forum to exchange candid views about the state of care.

Seeing my first week’s community meeting as an opportunity to create dozens of witnesses to illegal behavior, I objected to nonconsensual drugging of inmates, citing my own experience. The chief reacted by smilingly soliciting testimonials from other inmates about how my uncooperative behavior on the ward had upset them.

After the meeting, I politely sought to continue the conversation with the chief. He was out in the open, surrounded by colleagues and other inmates. He responded by backing away and telling me he found my demeanor threatening.

“Shut up, or you’ll get it worse.”—Miss Grupe, a Blackwell’s nurse, to inmate Tillie Mayard

“Other people are not shut up for crazy when they get angry. I suppose the only thing to do is to keep quiet and so avoid the beatings which I see others get.”—Blackwell’s inmate Margaret

Doctors can take away people’s freedoms: to leave, to refuse chemicals, or to do anything else. They expect obedience in return. Obey and you get comparatively good treatment: soda, snacks, your meds where and when you want them. Obey and you don’t get assaulted and nonconsensually drugged with violence. Obey and you get out.

Every half-hour or hour they would walk heavily down the halls, their boot-heels resounding like the march of a private of dragoons, and take a look at every patient.—At Bellevue

Every 15 minutes staff checked on each inmate. Some staff members were quiet; many were not. Every waking minute in the low tide between checks I spent seeking slumber while fearing it wouldn’t come before the inevitable high tide of the next check.

The people paid to heal us walked with a heavy gait, talked loudly, and locked, unlocked, and slammed doors when we were supposed to be sleeping. Then my difficulty sleeping was cited as a symptom of madness, and a justification for nonconsensual administration of tranquilizing drugs.

I could not sleep, so I lay in bed picturing to myself the horrors in case a fire should break out in the asylum. Every door is locked separately and the windows are heavily barred, so that escape is impossible.—At Blackwell’s

Unless there is a change there will someday be a tale of horror never equaled.—At Blackwell’s

The two fire-escape doors in our 11th-floor locked area, staffed many nights by no more than three people awake at any time, were locked as well, despite the well-known history of danger from firesto people who are locked in.

People in the world can never imagine the length of days to those in asylums.—At Blackwell’s

To doctors and nurses, the days must seem nonstop, with every moment spent either with inmates, or documenting moments with inmates.

There were far more inmates than staff members, so for us there was little to fill the 23 hours between our time with doctors besides worrying about whether they’d respond positively to what we planned to ask. Meals, optional group therapy, computers, books, newspapers, and television—its max-volume setting made part of your day even if you didn’t want it to be—were the lights and lowlights.

Exacerbating the elongation of days: not knowing how many were left in your sentence.

Poor patients! How eager they were for a breath of air; how eager for a slight release from their prison.—At Blackwell’s

I looked at the pretty lawns, which I had once thought was such a comfort to the poor creatures confined on the Island, and laughed at my own notions. What enjoyment is it to them? They are not allowed on the grass—it is only to look at.—At Blackwell’s

The UN saysall prisoners must have access to the outdoors. Some psychiatric inmates get to go outside, as Bly did.

We at Weill-Cornell got no outdoor time—unless we went to court.

In four weeks, I got roughly four minutes of fresh air, from the eight brief trips to and from the ambulance for my two court dates:

  • from Weill-Cornell to the ambulance parked outside;
  • from the ambulance to Wards Island’s Manhattan Psychiatric Center, home of the makeshift court;
  • back from court to the ambulance;
  • back from the ambulance to Weill-Cornell.

Once, and then again a week later.

“I want my book and pencil,” I said, quite truthfully. “It helps me remember things.”—At Blackwell’s

Though I wasn’t employed by a newspaper or on assignment, I also reported on my own case, filling a notebook during meetings with doctors and other crucial moments. My notetaking habit was noted in my medical records as another symptom of illness.

I wish I’d taken more notes. I wish I’d been permitted to record audio of sessions so I had more evidence that would be less easily disputed.

What I would go back to tell myself then, and would tell others now: Document everything. And ask for a lawyer.

In giving this story, I expect to be contradicted by many who are exposed. I merely tell in common words, without exaggeration, of my life in a mad-house.

The word of many stood against mine: They said I was not competent to be free, to make my own medical decisions, to use the Internet, to use the phone or bathroom unmonitored.

The word of many also corroborates mine. My medical records largely line up with what I write here, once I unskew the falsehoods and confirmation bias. There’s little reason for the system to fear repercussions; it has withstood so many challenges before.

The insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out.

A place operating under the logic that if you’re there, you need to be there, can keep you for a long time.

They pounced upon her and slapped her face and knocked her head in a lively fashion. This made the poor creature cry the more, and so they choked her. Yes, actually choked her. Then they dragged her out to the closet, and I heard her terrified cries hush into smothered ones. After several hours’ absence she returned to the sitting-room, and I plainly saw the marks of their fingers on her throat for the entire day.—Blackwell’s nurses with inmate Urena Little-Page

…she caught the woman by her gray hair and dragged her shrieking and pleading from the room. She was also taken to the closet, and her cries grew lower and lower, and then ceased. The nurses returned to the room and Miss Grady remarked that she had “settled the old fool for awhile.” I told some of the physicians of the occurrence, but they did not pay any attention to it.—Blackwell’s nurses with an inmate known as both Mrs. Grady and Mrs. O’Keefe

I didn’t experience or see anything this abusive. Iwaslucky.

I did experience being dragged, handled roughly, pinned to the ground under the weight of three people, deprived of air, drugged nonconsensually with an injection in my butt, and kept in isolation past the typical duration by a man who yelled in response to my request for an explanation or release.

On the day of my assault, I

  • bore witness to a roommate who was about to be nonconsensually drugged for what my doctor later called “physical escalation” and what I saw as expressing frustration at his being locked up by throwing books at the floor, near no other person and putting no one in danger;
  • told the staff member who claimed I needed to leave during the nonconsensually drugging to protect my roommate’s privacy that I thought I was being asked to leave to protect the staff’s privacy and jobs;
  • told my roommate he had rights and that we should stick together;
  • objected to our forced separation into separate rooms;
  • called my lawyer;
  • after I had been assaulted, told the man who had been most violent that he ought to release me from seclusion because he was only digging himself a deeper hole;
  • stayed calm and nonviolent throughout.

The next day, at my first court hearing seeking release, my doctors cited the assault as evidence that I had become even sicker than before and was in even more dire need of further hospitalization; why else would I have needed such rough handling? According to the transcript, my doctor described me as having been “charging away from staff.” Consider the phrase “charge away,” and what kinds of actions people can take that might provoke someone to charge away from them.

Among the dozens of phone numbers I called to report the assault was the New York State Justice Centerhotline, which I’d been told existed to protect inmates. My suspicion is that report—one of 14 of mine recorded by the Justice Center and turned over to me later in response to my public-records request—got back to doctors, who told me they were investigating. The team of investigators spent a total of a few minutes getting my account. The only result of the investigation I saw was that my chief assaulter and captor was temporarily transferred to another ward, until staffing issues brought him back into my proximity. Weill-Cornell claimed to have conducted another investigation after I complained following my discharge. The institution cleared itself without interviewing me: “Please note the review shows the standard of care was met, a Weill-Cornell representative wrote to me. About my assault, she wrote, “The review explained this was an appropriate and necessary measure at the time.”

I reported Weill-Cornell to my insurer, which responded, “As a result of your inquiry, we will be conducting an investigation within our established peer review process, which, by law, must remain confidential.” I wasn’t contacted further and never learned the result of the investigation.

Here’s the end of the Justice Center operator’s notes about of my call just after the incident, with names removed by me:

“He then went to the phone to call his lawyer [name] at about 5:30PM and while on the phone, about 10 staff members surrounded him. Nurse, [name] Unknown, Staff [name] and [name]

Unknown and Dr. [name] were present. They all forced him to get off the phone and hung up the phone on him. He was told he needed to go somewhere to take medications. He told them that if they had to give him medications, they had to do it there, but was told no. He then went limp on the ground and he was forcibly picked up and brought to the seclusion room. He was set down on his stomach in the seclusion room and he was still not resisting. Staff [name]

and two other unknown security officers were on top of him. One staff was on chest, while the other two were on his legs and arms. It was difficult for him to breath with the staff on his chest. He was told he needed to take the drugs and he said he would take them orally. He was told no and his pants were pulled down and he was injected in the buttocks. The staff continued to hold him down and a few minutes later they all got up and left and locked the door. Staff [name] was stationed outside the door and told him he would let him out in 5 minutes if he was calm. He ended up being in the room for 40 minutes, with [name] outside the door. He was let out and was given his notebook back, a little torn up.”

Hundreds of days before I’d heard of Nellie Bly, and just after I’d been surrounded, dragged by six people, restrained by three, made short of breath by one person’s weight, nonconsensually injected with sedatives, and locked in isolation, I thought to myself, When people learn what just happened to me, it won’t happen to anyone ever again.

That was the craziest thought I’ve ever had.

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