vrijdag 16 maart 2012

Mary Huestis Pengilly -- 17 maart 1884

March 17.—Another poor victim has come to our ward today—a black-eyed, delicate-looking girl. She looked so sad, I was drawn to her at once. I sat beside her in Mrs. Mills' absence, and enquired the cause of her trouble; she said her food gave her pain—she is dyspeptic. If the Doctor would question the patients and their friends as to the cause of their insanity, they might, as in other cases of illness, know what remedy to apply. This dear child has been living at Dr. Wm. Bayards' three years—chambermaid—that is enough to assure me she is a good girl. I think she wears her dress too tight. I unloosened her laces and underskirts to make them easy; they are all neat and tidy, as if she had come from a good home.

Another day is here. That poor girl is in great trouble yet. When I went out into the hall this morning, she was kneeling by the door; she laid her cheek on the bare floor, praying for her sins to be forgiven, murmuring something of those who had gone before. I cannot think she has sinned; poor child! she has lost her health in some way; she has transgressed some law of nature. I think it has been tight lacing that caused some of the trouble, for she sat up on the floor when I invited her to stand up for fear some one would open the door and walk over her, and rubbed the calf of her leg, saying it was all numb. Anything too tight causes pain and distress by interrupting the free circulation of the blood. She is so pitiful and sad! How could Mrs. Mills speak so unkindly to her, pushing her with her foot to make her rise up? She treats them like wicked school-boys who have done something to torment her and merit punishment. I cannot but pity Mrs. Mills, for this is an uncomfortable position to fill, and if she has always obeyed her Superintendent, she has done her duty, and deserves a retired allowance. The younger nurses are all learning from her, and will grow hard-hearted, for they think she is one to teach them; they come to her for help in case of emergency, and they go all together, and are able to conquer by main strength what might in most cases be done by a gentle word. "A soft answer turneth away wrath;" I have known this all my life, but I never felt it so forcibly as now.

There is a lady here from Westmoreland; her hair is cut short, and her eyes are black and wild. The first time I spoke to her she struck me, lightly, and I walked away; I knew she was crazy. After I had met her a few times and found she was not dangerous, I ventured to sit down beside her. She was lying on her couch in a room off the dining-room; she lay on her back knitting, talking in a rambling way: "Do you know what kind of a place this is? Aren't you afraid I'll kill you? I wish I was like you." I smoothed her hair with my hand as I would a child. I thought, perhaps, she had done some great wrong. She said she had killed her mother. Often before, I had stood beside her, for I looked at her a number of times before I ventured to sit by her. I had no recollection of seeing her when I first came, till I found her in this room. I suppose she was so violent they shut her in here to keep her from striking or injuring any one. I could not discover the cause of her trouble, but I comforted her all I could, and she has always been friendly with me since, and listened to my words as if I were her mother. She has been here a long time. Last Friday—bathing day—two young, strong nurses were trying to take her from her room to the bath-room (I suppose she was unwilling to be washed, for I have noticed when I saw her in that room on the couch, she was not clean as she should be—her clothes did not have a good air about them). The nurses were using force, and she struggled against it. They used the means they often use; I suppose that is their surest method of conquering the obstinate spirit that will rise up to defend itself in any child or woman. She was made more violent by her hair being pulled; one nurse had her hands, and the other caught her by her hair, which is just long enough to hold by. They made her walk. I was walking near them when I saw one seize her by the hair; she tried to bite her on the arm. I started forward, and laid my hand on her arm, with—"Don't, my poor child, don't do so; be gentle with her, girls, and she will go." She looked at me, and her face softened; that angry spirit melted within her, and they went on to the bath-room. Shortly after that I met her looking fresh and nice; she was in Mrs. Mills' room, in her rocking-chair. Sometimes I look in there to see if that chair is empty, to have a rock in it myself. I think it better for her health to knit in the rocking-chair than to lay down and knit or read either, so I leave her there. Perhaps she has read too much and injured her brain; if so, I would not let her read so much.


De Amerikaanse Mary Huestis Pengilly bracht een aantal jaren (8?) van haar leven door in een inrichting voor geesteszieken. Na haar ontslag uit de inrichting publiceerde ze gedeelten uit haar tijdens haar opname bijgehouden dagboek onder de titel Diary Written in the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (1885), om aandacht te vragen voor de misstanden waar ze mee te maken had gehad.

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