How My Family Framed Me as Mad

Royal Park Hospital

 

On the night of 7th April 1995, Robert Purssey rang up the after-hours psychiatric services claiming that I was “smoking lots of dope”, had “smashed up my flat” and “manhandled” my flat mate. These were false claims, repeating hearsay from my flatmate Adrian Deakin. Deakin and I had an argument about his not paying his share of the rent and his appalling hygiene and I had asked him to leave, but I did not “manhandle” him. I also did not smash up my flat or damage it in the least. I was smoking no more ganga than I had for many years, and considerably less than Robert himself (who also abused alcohol, which he later went into rehab for, before reinventing himself as an “ACT therapist”).

Robert’s role in misinforming the psychiatrists at the Royal Park Hospital, after I was taken there by police on the request of a psychologist by the name of Mark Salter, is evident from the discharge summary from the hospital, written by the registrar Jan Theobald in May 1995, after I escaped from Royal Park the second time and caught a bus up to Queensland with the help of friends.

In Jan Theobald’s discharge summary numerous false and misleading claims are made about me. She wrote that I referred to a complex series of ideas that made no sense to relatives, naming these as “the bioblos” and the “chaotic theory of time”. This was a reference to the palaeontology theory known as the “Four-Dimensional Bioblob” that I read in a book on fossil discoveries in Australia (Riversleigh) that boasts a foreword by no less than Sir David Attenborough. It was not an original theory and I first read about it and tried to explain it to my family in 1993. Robert Purssey, who was my sister’s boyfriend, evidently did not understand the theory, despite its simplicity and elegance. The 4-D Bioblob hypothesis profoundly observes that we are physically part of our parents as a single organism in the fourth dimension (time) and they are part of their parents and so on through the tree of life. It conceives of this “bioblob” as constantly changing and growing as a single interdependent organism travelling through space and time, and illustrates the interconnectivity of living species. When I read about it this concept resonated with me, and I tried explaining it to many people, most of whom understood it. Robert did not, and failing to understand it, pathologised it as evidence of ‘mental illness’

The ‘chaotic theory of time’ refers to none other than Chaos Theory, about which I was reading and which is a well known theory in Western physics. Inspired by the famous fractal pictures, I was exploring the connections between chaotic patterns and development of the aesthetic, with particular reference to the organic shapes and forms of the natural world and perception of beauty, and how these change with time. This was original, but not insane and certainly did no harm to myself and others (which is a necessary condition for involuntary detention in Australia).

Jan Theobald also wrote that I claimed to be able to diagnose people instantly on sight, without the need for a proper history and examination. Again, this came from my family, and not from conversations I had with Theobald (who never spoke to me, though I was locked up under her consultant Tony Owens for 3 weeks and she wrote the discharge summary). This was a very damaging claim and was untrue. All competent doctors are able to make what are called “spot diagnoses”, and I have made many over the years. However, it is important to confirm the diagnosis by the history and examination as well as relevant tests. I have never departed from these principles; the allegation was very damaging and understandably raised the concerns of the medical establishment. What’s more, Theobald’s discharge summary was copied and sent to both the Queensland and Victorian Medical Boards, during efforts to stop me from practising medicine (though there were no complaints from the people who mattered – my patients).

Theobald also wrote that I “stated to relatives” that I’d had a “revelation like Buddha” in which I became aware of the “oneness of all living things” and began “haranguing friends and relatives about this incessantly”. She also wrote that I was brought up a Christian but had a “recent conversion to Buddhism”. Again Theobald got it wrong. I had converted to Buddhism and had many insights by reading and comprehending the truth of certain Buddhist writings, but that is not where I developed concepts of the “oneness of all living things”. This came from my understanding of the 4-dimensional bioblob, which, as I have said, I read in a palaeontology book. From Buddhism I became more aware of the ubiquitous nature of change, which includes personal change and raises doubts about the psychiatric concepts of fixed personality and “premorbid personality”. I didn’t discuss Buddhism with many people, but Robert was one of the people I did. I told him, to his annoyance, that Buddhism provides a better model for psychotherapy than the Western psychiatry he was studying. He evidently regarded our debates as me “haranguing him”. He has a thin skin.

Then there was the claim by Theobald that I attempted to give my practice away gratis to my locum. This is again not true. I did say that I wanted to sell the practice to concentrate on my music, research and writing. This never eventuated. I lost the practice, which was closed down by the State Trustees on the instigation of Robert and my sister Shireen, who had organized for me to lose my financial and legal rights by application to the Guardianship and Administration Board while I was locked up at Royal Park. I had never heard of the Guardianship and Administration Board and was so drugged hat I could barely stay awake and had difficulty talking. From my sketchy recollections of the event, I just begged to be allowed to go home and consented to whatever was asked of me. I didn’t know they’d use the system to deprive me of my daughter, my medical practice and recording company, my legal and financial rights and my family home. Robert knew the system, I didn’t.

Years later, in 2002, the registrars at the Alfred Hospital repeated in their discharge summaries all the false and misleading claims made in the Royal Park discharge summary including the ‘bioblos’ and ‘chaotic theory of time’ but never thought to discuss them with me. They also claimed that I tried to give “practice grants” to my locums (having misread gratis as grants) and that I claimed to be able to diagnose people on sight without the need for a proper history and examination. Mud sticks.

Theobald continues, with the “history of present illness” to write:

“He failed to pay his employees in the weeks leading up to his admission and had omitted to pay his rent, taxation and superannuation commitments. He was spending uncharacteristically large amounts of money on books. Thought his flat mate was spying on him and that people were tapping into his telephone, Referred to Inner South CMHC and CATT by family. Refused community Rx [treatment]”

In truth I had only two employees, my receptionist Pam and locum, Dr Ganesh. I did not neglect to pay them and neither did I fail to pay my rent, superannuation or tax. This was made up by Robert Purssey to support his claim that I had ‘mania’. I spent $600 on books for my cross-disciplinary research, which I could well afford. Regarding my flat-mate Adrian Deakin: he had been convinced by Robert to run a second phone line into his bedroom and listen in on my phone conversations, so as to report on my behaviour to him. Later, Robert convinced other friends to collect answer phone messages from me and copied them and sent them to psychiatrists, as well as a radio interview I gave in 1995 after I’d been discharged. In this interview I stridently criticised the psychiatric system, and Robert thought it would convince the psychiatrists that I had “chronic mania”. He continued his campaign for several years, until he and my sister separated.

IMG_0178

 

The intake referral taken by ‘Damian’ names ‘Robert Percy’ (Purssey) as the person making the referral and my “Brother”, and also the “treating GP/psychiatrist”. Rajan Thomas is named as the “case manager”. My surname is misspelt ‘Senewiratna” (as it was by Tobie Sacks). It claims that I was “not sleeping”, which was untrue and an attempt to frame me as having “mania”, of which reduced need for sleep is a classical symptom.

Being a psychiatric registrar, Robert knew the classical signs of mania and crafted his reports of my behaviour to fit this. He “framed” me as mad, in other words.

My experience at the old Royal Park Hospital traumatised me for several years. I still have nightmares about it. The worst aspects were the boredom and the effects of the haloperidol and clonazepam that I was drugged with. This was for a diagnosis of “hypomania” which is described in the DSM IV as a mental state that is not characterised by psychosis (unlike mania) and can, in some individuals, result In improvement of efficiency and achievements. Hypomania is defined as an “elevated, irritable or expansive mood” that is not the effect of drugs and lasts for more than 5 days. It is accompanied by other symptoms characteristic of both hypomania and mania (hypomania means less than mania) including increase in goal-directed activities, increased sociability and talkativeness, increased use of puns and humour, ‘flight of ideas’, grandiosity and reduced need for sleep. The DSM also states that hypomania, unlike mania, is not characterised by problems in social and occupational functioning and does not require hospitalisation. Despite its positive features, suggestive of improved mental health, hypomania is regarded as a precursor of mania, and in Australia is treated in the same way as full-blown mania with incarceration and dopamine-blocking antipsychotic drugs. This is what was done to me when I got too happy, independent and positive for the system and my family who worked for the system, with whom the system sided against me. The system remains on their side.1995 RPH discharge summary 01

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