Handcuffed Mom


My girls

Fall, 2008

It seems long ago and far away

That I was handcuffed on a beautiful day

The sun shone as the officers stopped by

And because I was manic, I didn’t cry

“You’re so compliant!” one cop said with surprise

When I said bye to my girls, I had such brave, dry eyes

“5150” was sputtered in front of me

I couldn’t care less about terminology

To this day, I can’t believe it

Why a lactating mother of two would be such a threat

I needed treatment, but I complied; I was willing to leave 

My children for the hospital, near the street where I conceived

I didn’t need handcuffs – I had to laugh a bit 

I wasn’t armed with a gun…what a bunch of bullshit!

I hope no other mother who’s manic and admits it

Doesn’t go through the humiliation of being treated like a convict



I’m the first to admit that I’m not a poet by any means, but these lines came to me today.  

In fall of 2008, I had a bipolar manic episode.  My distraught husband contacted the 911 dispatch for a 5150 evaluation.  A whopping four police officers came to our house to assess me for treatment at our local hospital’s behavioral health unit.

I agreed to be brought to the hospital, yet I was still handcuffed.  It was so strange.  I didn’t resist as I didn’t want to make a scene with my baby and toddler in the house.  

Ideally instead of four officers, a trained mental health team could have come to help me and my husband.  Nowadays I’ve been reading about the emergence of crisis workers educated in mental illness emergencies, complete with home visits, and I’m so glad that progress is being made.  I only wish I could have been a beneficiary of such a program.    

41 thoughts on “Handcuffed Mom

  1. OH MY GOD. Your experience sounds SO VERY traumatic. You were sick and in crisis, not a criminal. We need major changes in how we intervene in mental health emergencies. Unfortunately, some areas have mental health crisis teams, and others do not. The need exceeds the current resources and funding.

  2. Thank you for your empathy, Kitt. It was a big “WTF???” incident! At least they didn’t strip search me, right? But it was not right. I’m just glad that’s part of my past and that my children didn’t actually see the officers cuff me. At least they thought of that! :0

  3. I am sorry you had to experience this! Reading it made me feel so angry by how you were treated. But I’m glad you don’t let it get you down or whatever, some people may hold onto this negatively. Things REALLY need to change.

    • Thank you so much for commenting and for your kindness, Y.I.H.! I am just sooooo glad to be on the other side of that nightmare, and hope it never, ever happens again! I also hope that our county gets a roving mental health crisis team – I’m not sure if we have one yet!

  4. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that. Being taken away from your children is something no mother should ever have to go through. It’s a shame how those with mental illness treated, but you’re right it is changing…all be it slowly. Thank you for writing this. You are a brave soul my friend.

    • Thanks sweet Susan! I read recently in the news of a maternity-geared mental health unit created to treat acute mental illness. How I wish I had that luxury available to me when I had my own maternal mental health postpartum bipolar crisis.

      In the chaos, I wasn’t able to bring my breast pump to the hospital with me…and the dumbsh*ts at the “behavioral health unit” couldn’t find me a breast pump, even though my unit was literally across from the maternity wing. I started engorging painfully on my way to mastitis, which I’ve had before and it hurts like hell. So I had to call my boss’ wife on the unit pay phone to ask her if I could borrow her pump and she thankfully came and saved the day!!!!! Sorry to curse, but I still get mad just thinking about it!

  5. I was hospitalized in a hell hole when my daughter was 10 weeks old. I didn’t have my pump, but thankfully they let my husband bring it to me. They would let me pump in my room with the door open, then I had to take pump and milk out to them. I would hand the nurse the pump and the milk. Do you know how many times I had to stop them from throwing out the milk? One didn’t know what it was, the other didn’t think it was any good after you refrigerated.

    I read about these women in other countries put in mother/baby units where baby is with mother during mamas stay. I can’t even get a psych in a hospital to properly identify it as a manic episode and he flat out told me I didn’t have postpartum depression. I didn’t fit the criteria.

    • Forgive me, Charity, for taking a while to reply. I am so sorry you were also hospitalized with a newborn just like me! And not diagnosed promptly & properly. It’s so obvious that our country needs mental health screening for mothers. I’m not a man hater by any means – I’m married to one and love him – but if men gave birth you can bet things would be vastly different in terms of pregnancy and postpartum mental health care!! I’ll get off my soapbox for now. :0

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for commenting. I know you’re a busy mom and it means a lot to me that you took the time. Take good care of yourself – I wish you & your family my absolute best!!!

  6. Wow Dy. That does seem extreme but I guess they don’t know what they are getting themselves into before they get there. But maybe send one car, with two officers, to assess the situation.
    The handcuffs seem way excessive though. And as Kitt says, you were sick and not a criminal.
    Recently here in Sydney the Police Commissioner announced that all police would be required to undertake mental health training in order to effective deal with people with mental health issues. It seems like a good idea but it depends on what they are taught.
    The whole thing must have been very traumatic and I am so sorry that you had to go through it.
    The poem is great by the way.

    • Thank you Glenn!

      That’s awesome that the police in your area will take mental health training, and yes, I hope the material they are taught is worthwhile.

      Thanks again for stopping by and taking a moment to comment. I appreciate your thoughtful comments more than words can say!

      (((hugs))) from

  7. Wow! This brought back memories. During my first manic episode
    In high school a woman saw I was confused, assumed I was on drugs, and called the police. I weighed 105 pounds and was in no way hostile. I was always ashamed to tell anyone. Thanks for your honesty! So sorry you had to go through that too!

    • Hey there, you awesome author! Thanks for reading….& thanks for your comment! That’s so lame that woman called the police on you. I’m sorry *YOU* had to go through that and I’m even sorrier that you felt ashamed of it. :((((

      I’m so glad that these traumatic events are firmly set in our pasts, never to return. Ideally these officers could have been helping our communities in better ways, while mental health crisis teams could have helped us. I hope that in the future there’s a sea change with the system and that every county has funds to pay for acute mental health care. Okay, I’ll step down from my soapbox now! 😉

    • So good to see you back on the ‘net, Jip-C.
      You are a sweetie. Reading your words made me happy!

      Sending (((big hugs))) to you!


    • Thank you N. Eleanore honey – I love you. Thank you for your understanding and compassion as always….move here please! xoxooxxoxo Dy

  8. Oh man, it was so unjust and cruel. I can not even imagine what you must have felt like but your poem,painted quite a traumatic picture. Oh I wish no mom has to be treated like that. What a courageous woman you are Dyane. So proud of you !

    • Thanks so much, beautiful Z! The mania got me through it, ironically. If I was depressed, it would have been another story. Thank you for always being there for me. If you read this reply today, I have your husband in my prayers as well as you and your son for being his “support team” – and I know all will go well!!!!!!!

      Much love to you! xoxooxoxoxoox Dy

      • Thanks for the prayers dyane. My Husband is doing really well. Things went great. I love reading your blog. Love and care

      • that’s SUCH good news that all went well, BIRTHDAY MAMA!!!!! happy birthday to you! If I was feeling spunkier I’d sing it and post it on a Facebook page you’d see. I’ll go think about it!

        xoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxo you!

  9. That’s an awesome poem! You shared a story that was thought provoking and meaningful!
    Ironically my first manic hospitalization was also in 2008… No handcuffs though. I wouldn’t have handled it with as much grace as you 🙂

    • Hello jennchristie and thank you for reading & writing such a kind comment! What a year, that 2008, eh? I am so glad you didn’t have handcuffs when you were hospitalized for mania, thank God. No mama should have them as part of her fashion ensemble! :0

      take care, and thanks again!
      Dyane 🙂
      p.s. what a beautiful flower on your gravatar!

  10. Sweet Dyane, I cannot even imagine. So glad you are speaking out along with others and helping to make things better. The sheer idiocy – really. Love you.

    • Dear Susan, when I read your comment I felt like I had a warm, loving hug encircle me! It really lifted me spirits!!!! You always understand…thank you so much. Sending you hugs and love. xoxo Dy

    • Thank you so much, Raivon – you are so sweet & it means a lot to me that you took a moment to comment. I’ve been wanting to tell you that I *love* your name and how you spell it! take care, dear mama!!!!

    • Thank you my friend – your empathy means so much to me!!!! I want to bring you smiles as well as tears, the way you have done so for me!!! I was the “hydrant” that day, “fur real”, wasn’t I?

      hope you are doing well!!! ‘m waiting for your next post with bated breath. (what a phrase…) hugs to you, dear James! Dy

  11. At least they didn’t shoot you.
    It happens a lot to bipolar folk – especially black ones.
    They like to call it ‘suicide by cop’, but mostly it’s just another ‘murder by cop’.

    • You’re right – I need to be thankful for that! I’ve heard that phrase before as well – it’s so sick, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by my blog, by the way! I really appreciate it and I will definitely check out your blog after I drink more coffee. Slooooowww morning! :)))) in the meantime, take care – Dyane

      • I’m such a DORK carbrogal – by the Gravatar & name I didn’t realize it was YOU: NEURODROOLING!!! Obviously you know I have already just begun to check out your blog and am following it – it’s my exciting new find in the blogosphere. I’m not awake – uggggghh. More caffeine..

  12. I had no idea you were taken in handcuffs. Wow. What a shaming, somatic memory that must have made. I hope that isn’t the standard of “care” these days. 😦

    • Hey B! I don’t know if that’s why our SC County police still do…I don’t plan on finding out personally! 😉 (Sorry to make light of it, but sometimes humor is all I’ve got to keep me going!) “Somatic memory” – that’s such a great way to put it and also quite accurate. At least the officer wasn’t rough with me, but there’s no pleasant way to experience being handcuffed when it comes to a 5150.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting – your thoughts mean a great deal to me! xo, Dy

  13. Thank you for sharing your voice and experiences with a brain disorder. I’m reaching out with the hopes you might be interested in joining me in a grassroots social media awareness campaign this May called #TheReal5150.

    It’s goal is to help break the stigma surrounding this label and create an awareness and better way for mental health help in a time of crisis. More info can be found here: https://quirkybirdwords.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/the-real-5150-a-social-media-awareness-campaign/ and I can be contacted at writefirstdaily@gmail.com.

    I’d greatly appreciate if you are interested to share with friends and loved ones who might be able to help with this campaign and let others know #weareworthy .



    • Hi Eve!

      I commend you for this amazing-sounding campaign. f.y.i., for some reason I had to approve your comment and that rarely happens on my blog – I wasn’t sure why.

      I was awarded a publication deal several weeks ago and I’m on a very strict deadline. I’m not taking on any further commitments until Winter, 2016. I wish you the absolute best with #TheReal5150, and if I come across anyone who might be interested in becoming involved with #TheReal5150, I’ll send her your way.

      take care,


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