Detour From Normal by Ken Dickson
Summary: Despite access to the greatest healthcare in the world, U.S citizens are not immune to medical horror stories. Such was the experience of Ken Dickson, a beloved husband and father and respected engineer, with no history of mental illness. What should have been an ordinary surgical procedure changed that, propelling him into a high security psychiatric ward where psychiatrists branded him a danger to himself and others.
This gut wrenching story is leaving readers shocked at the author’s treatment, and appalled by how quickly a medical situation fell through the cracks, sending the patient spiralling uncontrollably into medically induced madness.
This book is not, however, only about Ken. It is the story of two people deeply in love, but torn apart by fate, an eye-opening introduction to the stigma of mental illness, and a personal run-in with the poor broken souls trapped in psychiatric care. It is a rich and varied exploration of our humanity written from the unique perspective of someone suffering from mental illness.
Detour from Normal is a book that you cannot afford to ignore, with a message that you will not want to dismiss: tomorrow, next year, or five years from now, this could happen to you. – summary from amazon.com
I read this as an eBook and although the story was riveting and shocking and amazing in both good and bad ways, there were a lot of errors that made it look like they skipped editing. However I don’t know if that’s just the eBook or if the physical book is like that too. Despite all this, I still recommend reading this if you have any interest in mental health and the way the American system works (or doesn’t.)
I also want to state upfront that this is one of those books that I couldn’t put down. With 4 kids I couldn’t finish it in one sitting but if I had been able, I would have. I was riveted right from the beginning as Ken explains how he ends up in hospital for bowel trouble and ends up needing to undergo surgery.
It turns out he will spend most of the next few years in a hospital facility of some kind, for various reasons. That his case fell through the cracks is appalling. He and his family should never have been treated the way they were. Even thinking that there are mental health facilities out there and regular hospitals out there that treat the mentally ill this way is appalling. Even if that is the minority, it should not be happening anywhere.
“I didn’t know it then, but at Pinecrest, I was no longer an emergency room patient; I was simply one more mentally ill person to whom no one paid much attention. PInecrest was a psychiatric care facility. There, they witnessed people like me acting out like clockwork. I was a television rerun that everyone had seen a hundred times.”
Unlike many books, fiction and nonfiction alike, this story doesn’t have an altogether happy ending. Sure everyone survives but it’s not like everyone involved with Ken and his wife apologized for their lack of dealing with him properly. Nor did they take responsibility.
“What i discovered is that any of the doctors or general practitioners involved with my illness could have saved me from months of suffering simply by addressing my only concern: sleep. No one dealt with it. Instead, they passed me from one professional to another without help. As I moved from one place to the next, my medical records fell behind and the knowledge of what happened to me was effectively lost. As quickly as the knowledge faded, the prejudice of my caregivers grew.”
I’m glad Ken shared his story but I can’t believe he had to go through this. Anyone in a position to change the way mental health is addressed, at least in the US should read this book. I do think the author needs to have it re-edited though and re-published.
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