Gucci’s spring shoes are out. You know what that means: they’re insane (not in a good way) and we can’t afford them anyway.
Let’s go to the shoes!
Gucci’s spring shoes are out. You know what that means: they’re insane (not in a good way) and we can’t afford them anyway.
Let’s go to the shoes!
Later in this post there will be some NSFW language and music. I’m pretty sure the songs are not safe for anywhere, but I love them, because Ben Folds is bitchin’ and this story is whack.
By my third day on the unit I’d seen people come and go and now we had a few new nutjobs. Suwanee (her real name because COME ON), Youngblood, Sister Carrie, Tracy, Ed Hardy, Wilhelm, and Topher. It was an interesting mix to say the least.
Suwanee only ever wore a hospital gown, I assumed she didn’t have any real clothes. She only appeared every once in awhile. Once she showed up to the informal Morning Group and said “do it look like I been fighting a chicken?” I said no, but her hair looked as crazy as I was positive she was. When she was asked to read her form, she said “I don’t want nobody knowing my business.” And that was all that was heard from Suwanee.
Precious college student, Youngblood, was in the hospital for depression (everyone says it’s depression, even if it’s more than that – I suspected it was more) after his first real breakup with a longterm girlfriend. He was adorable in that sweet puppydog way. He was happy when he arrived to our unit from another unit – his happiness never faded. He did magic tricks for us and read a book about the Holocaust when he wasn’t interacting with anyone. He mostly stayed to himself. One day Youngblood went to Recreation (it was optional, I never went) and it was Tracy’s first day. Tracy seemed to be a 30something woman who wasn’t all there. She took Youngblood’s book and started copying it word-for-word in her journal. I told her it was Youngblood’s and he would be back soon, she said she was just copying it. I looked into the imaginary video camera – breaking the 4th wall that had to be my movie: Kerry, Interrupted. There were several times like that on the unit – where things were so bizarre it couldn’t be scripted. She gave the book back when Youngblood came back from recreation and later picked it up again. Later he couldn’t find it and we found it in Tracy’s room. The next day she was copying a chapter of a math construction textbook into her journal, apparently because Youngblood was released and took his book with him.
Topher called Tracy “the hills have eyes” and that was about right. I said above that she wasn’t all there, but truth be told, her elevator not only didn’t go to the top floor, it never opened. Tracy said on her first day that she was admitted because of domestic violence. OK – no one is admitted to a mental hospital because THEY were abused. The girl was not right. Besides copying Youngblood’s book, she told Topher, Jem, and me that she’d been writing since she was in grade school. She said she had stories in the book she was reading – that I saw on one of the coffee table my first couple of days there. What a coincidence!
In group and in the gameroom or at courtyard break, she constantly interrupted when others were talking. Our poor therapist said “let’s get back on track” every time Tracy spoke. It got to the point where I didn’t want to share anything in group because I knew that she would have to interrupt. She seemed not to be able to help it. After Ed Hardy had told his heartwrenching story about his wife, I mentioned that my husband was in a similar situation in a closed head injury accident when he was 18 and Tracy had to jump in and ask what hospital he was in and if I knew the street it was on. Our therapist stopped her and she said “that’s ok, I can look it up later.” Dear Lawd.
Later we were in the gameroom – Topher, Jem, and I on our sofa – Sister Carrie in her chair, Tracy in the chair next to her. I was writing. I was always writing in my journal because I had to document this strange trip I was on. She asked me what I was writing and I said it was just my journal, but for some reason I said I was a writer. What the hell was I thinking? Tracy asked me how to copyright something. Remember how she said she had stories in the book that happened to be in the gameroom? I told her she would have to contact the copyright office. She asked if it was in D.C. and I said “probably.” She asked me what the steps were and I said “steps to what?” The freaking Yellow Brick Road? She said, “the steps to getting something copyrighted.” I told her she’d have to look into that herself because I wasn’t Google.
Later on, she got a phone call. There were two phones for patients to use on the unit, on opposite sides of the gameroom. My roommate, Purple Rain was on one phone, so the nurses rang the other for Tracy. She refused the phone call because she wanted to use the phone Purple Rain was on, then she walked off – into a column. It was comedy gold.
When Ed arrived on the unit he slept for awhile, like most of the patients did, but when he came into the gameroom his pants were sagging like a wet diaper. Belts were not allowed on the unit because we might hang ourselves, so he had zip ties holding his pants up, except he didn’t have enough zip ties because he held onto them every time he walked around. They were approximately 10 sizes too big for him. He wore and Ed Hardy shirt and Ed Hardy pants. The pants were emblazoned with rhinestones on the ass with roses and something on the sides. The words “Ed Hardy” were embroidered across the ass and underneath were rhinestoned flaming eyeballs. It was disturbing. He wore teal underwear. I didn’t need to know that. You did not need to know that. I saw him wear the same clothes for four days. At 8pm on his second day, Ed finally had a bag of clothes delivered. You would think he would shower and put on fresh clothes, right? Nope. He started a slowish-pacing around the gameroom. It was weird. I saw him wear the same clothes for four days. You didn’t want to know that either.
On my last day in group with our therapist, Ed finally spoke. He said that the reason he was there was because he couldn’t handle things anymore, that his depression was eating him alive. The depression was caused due to his young wife being in a nursing home. No one said anything, not even Tracy. He began to cry and someone passed him the box of tissues. He broke down. He opened up. I teared up. His wife was visiting someone in a hospital and there was a freak elevator accident. The cable(s) snapped and she was slammed against the top and bottom of the elevator and suffered multiple broken bones as well as a closed head injury with brain damage. Ed stopped short of saying she was a vegetable. She would most likely never recover and would remain in the nursing home for the rest of her days. His story was truly tragic. It’s what would be a Lifetime Movie if she fully recovered in the end and found out they had a baby while she was in the coma and she and Ed Hardy lived happily ever after. But none of us on the unit were in a Lifetime Movie. Ed was in his late twenties and had a lifetime of decisions ahead of him. He was someone I truly felt for and hope he finds an answer and someday finds happiness.
Good Lawd, where do I start? Sister Carrie’s first night there, she kept her roommate up turning the light on and off and speaking in different voices. It was so loud that my roommate thought the gameroom tv was on. And that was our introduction to Sister Carrie.
Then she would whistle. Some of us called her “The Giggler,” but to me she will always be Sister Carrie. The next day we were in Group and we heard very loud giggling. It was Sister Carrie – alone in her room. For the rest of the time Rita was there, she was The Giggler – like a Batman villain – The Giggler.
No one knew why Sister Carrie was there, she wouldn’t read her form and never said anything in Group, if she came. She sat in the same chair in the gameroom the whole time I was there and watched the Gospel channels. I thought I’d try to talk to her because I’m a glutton for punishment. I asked her if she’d heard of the pastor T.D. Jakes and if he still had a show on tv. She said “I dunno. This no show – this the Gospel channel. It’s the only thing I watch.” Yes, I wrote that down as soon as she said it. While watching the Gospel channels (there were many of them, maybe two in English), Sister Carrie would repeat whatever the tv preacher said to repeat. Yes, she did. “Say ‘I proclaim the Son of God!'” and Sister Carrie and the tv congregation said (loudly) “I proclaim the Son of God!” Other times she would talk to herself endlessly at a volume none of us could make out. We felt like we had to ask if we could change the channel because she was so much older than us.
For all but one day, Sister Carrie wore nightgowns and as she would fall asleep watching the Gospel channels, she’d slip into sleep and her knees would spread and we could all see her granny panties. Did I mention she always sat across from me? She did. She carried her Bible around at all times (Topher said “she carries it around like a dog”). My favorite thing about Sister Carrie is that one day she had her Bible open in her lap and Wilhelm asked her what book she was reading – it was obviously the Bible and she had been reading it for a few days – she said “this book right here? This the Bible!” OK, I was expecting her to say that, but then Wilhelm asked “yeah, but which book?” Without skipping a beat, Sister Carrie yelled: “THE HOLY BIBLE!” I had to go to my room and laugh into my pillow.
I could not stand this guy. He was three years younger than me. Gangly. Bad skin. Bad hair cut. Wore much-too-big superhero or Texans tshirts with jorts. He had poor social skills. Every time he read his form, he said he was there for issues with rage and anger, medication readjustment, and to gain coping skills – every time and in the same order. I learned that this was not Wilhelm’s 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time in the psych hospital rodeo. He brought up other hospitals he had been in and that he had repeatedly done the outpatient at the hospital we were in. He constantly talked about music and movies of “our” era. I would think “no, I am not in ‘your era’ and I am nothing like you.” He had visitors every day, his sister and brother-in-law. He lived in a garage apartment at their house and apparently his parents died and left him a great deal of money in a trust that his sister dealt out. He was clearly not in his right mind. He retained a great deal of knowledge about history and things, but came across as a human Wikipedia pop-up ad that you couldn’t get rid of no matter how many times you clicked the X.
And the reason this post is titled “The Bitch Went Nutz,” Sabrina
I never nicknamed her in the hospital. I don’t know why. She had so many issues that it was impossible to nickname her. Nothing stuck out. I’ve decided to refer to her as Sabrina on the blog as in Sabrina the teenage witch. It wasn’t her fault. We never really found out the specific cause of her being on the unit, but she couldn’t read or write, so to me, that didn’t mean she was “high functioning” as we were repeatedly told we were. She was clearly autistic and a paranoid schizophrenic. She drew beautifully, but wrote letters the wrong way if she tried to title her drawings. She would make sexual statements out of nowhere and it shocked me. At times she was this little girl desperate for someone to tell her she wasn’t fat, then she was this 20 year old talking about sexual conquests. It was disturbing. There were hints that there was someone behind those dead eyes. She wouldn’t watch the tv in the gameroom because she said tvs had monsters in them. One night she hallucinated rather badly. It was a night on the weekend when we had another nursing staff who hadn’t had the benefit of knowing her. She said there were monsters in her room and had drawn a picture of what she had seen – a black dog’s body with a red evil-looking human face. It was downright scary. The next day in group, she told our therapist about it and was given a STRESSBALL to deal with her hallucinations. Now, like I’ve said, I’m not a psychiatrist and I only took two psych classes in college, but can you tell me how a stressball can reduce hallucinations? Anyone? Bueller?
The day that Mean Doc Pomus had ECT, Sabrina said her “feeling word” for the day was “paranoid.” I didn’t like the sound of that. Keep that in mind for what I’m writing now. The day went by normally. I knew I was being released the following day. I was feeling detached, but better. At some point in the day, Sabrina approached the sofa of Jem, Topher, and Kerry. Remember, she didn’t have Rita to mother over her anymore and Mean Doc Pomus had taken her under his wing – so he was influencing her. She asked us our opinions on ECT. We (as a group) told her that it seemed drastic and that she was still very young and that after that there was no reverse. We also told her that it was something she needed to discuss with her parents (who visited her everyday) and her therapist and psychiatrist. I mentioned that we were also psychiatric patients who were in the same hospital and we probably weren’t the best source of advice on this subject (even though I did take those 3 psych courses). Almost immediately, Mean Doc Pomus motioned for Sabrina to come over to the table where he was sitting. She sat with him and they talked about us for half an hour, which is not an exaggeration, we could hear them. The room wasn’t THAT large.
At the same time as Sabrina left us, a nurse brought over a letter from Jem’s sister. He had had no contact with his family since being admitted. Jem tried to commit suicide and was addicted to opioids. His family had been there for him several times, but apparently this was the last straw. His sister’s wedding was that upcoming weekend and he desperately wanted to attend the wedding. He let us read the letter. She said that she was supportive and threw in plenty of Bible verses, which is quite well-meaning, but when you’re dealing with mental illness and drug addiction, it’s not very welcome. His sister wanted him to go to a Christian all-male rehab somewhere in Texas and sent a business card of the pastor who ran the rehab. We analyzed the letter. Every word. I was good at that. I’d been over-analyzing everything my whole life. We sat on our sofa discussing that she meant well, that he wanted to go to the wedding, that his parents weren’t being supported, that his therapist wasn’t “getting him,” that he couldn’t count on his old druggie friends, obviously. He was basically out of options. I understood that because of what my parents had been through with my sister. I told Jem that at least his sister was reaching out and that it showed hope.
After that, it was courtyard break and almost everyone went out except for Sister Carrie, Topher, and me. The group and the nurse with them had been down longer than the usual 15 minutes. Then there was a flurry of activity of nurses and staff and a nurse brought Sabrina up alone. She was hysterical. Crying, rocking – clearly disturbed, saying she burned herself. Sister Carrie slept through the whole thing. Topher and I huddled up on the sofa because it was truly frightening. We didn’t know if we should go to our rooms or stay there or if everything would be ok and she just had some sort of accident. Except this was clearly not some accident by the way the staff was acting. They sat Sabrina down with a nurse, then a male nurse came from another unit and they opened the door to “the quiet room” and put Sabrina in there with the door open. She stared at us with the dead eyes she had. The phrase “if looks could kill” did not apply here. It wasn’t just a hostile look or a violent look – it was a look of someone who had no soul and would take mine. I had never been so uncomfortable in my life. Again, none of the staff was in the room. I assumed they were trying to figure out what to do with her. A police officer walked through the unit through a locked door on the hallway my room was on. After 15 minutes or so, a nurse brought the rest of the group up. Sabrina was still in the quiet room, door open. Jem came and sat with us. He whispered that he was talking with people across the courtyard from another unit and Sabrina approached him yelling that she lost her best friend, referring to Jem (who she had only just met days before), then put her cigarette out on her thigh and ran into the side of the brick building with the intention to hurt herself. That’s when nurses and techs interveined and brought her upstairs. It became apparent that Sabrina would be brought to another unit and two staff had her by the arms and brought her to the elevator. Before getting into the elevator, she turned to stare directly at Jem, Topher, and me and yelled like I’ve never heard a person yell “fuck all y’all. You can all go to hell!” Then she was whisked away on the elevator to unit 1.
Afterward, Purple Rain told me that Sabrina had sat behind the sofa listening to us talk about Jem’s letter and our analysis of it. We assumed she thought we were talking about her, with each time we said “what is she thinking” or “she’s just trying to be helpful” or Jem saying “there’s no way I’m doing what she’s saying.” Apparently her imagination put her over the edge. Remember: her word of the day was paranoid. Why none of the staff paid attention to that, I have no idea, but the whole situation could have been avoided if that would have been addressed early that morning. I felt bad for Sabrina, but at the same time, she didn’t need to be on our unit from day one. She wasn’t high functioning. It was sad and tragic. I can only imagine her whole life will be like that. In and out of hospitals and bouncing back and forth between parents and step parents.
But, the bitch did in fact go nuts. Maybe you had to be there.
Mean Doc Pomus rolled to his room spewing expletives and had words with Jem. I was so stirred up I don’t remember what was said, besides MDP saying “it’s them three!” with expletives thrown in. It was a scary night that I was ready to put to bed.
Here are two completely different versions of the Ben Folds songs. I’m not saying you need to listen to both, but you do.
For the next couple of posts, I’ll be writing about some of the patients, which are both sad and funny.
As I said previously, I made up nicknames for the other patients. One of them was Doc Pomus. Obviously not the real Doc Pomus. I’m referencing singer from the 1940s and 50s who sang in blues clubs who happened to be caucasian, Jewish, and a victim of polio who was bound to a set of crutches and later a wheelchair. He was later on an amazing lyricist who wrote many, many songs that you know, including “Lonely Avenue” by Ray Charles; and “Viva Las Vegas,” “Suspicion,” “Surrender,” and “Little Sister” for Elvis. Probably the most heart wrenching story behind a wonderful song is this one of “Save the Last Dance For Me”:
In the song, the narrator tells his lover she is free to mingle and socialize throughout the evening, but to make sure to save him the dance at the end of the night. During an interview on Elvis Costello‘s show Spectacle, Lou Reed, who worked with Pomus, said the song was written on the day of Pomus’ wedding while the wheelchair-bound groom watched his bride dancing with their guests. Pomus had polio and at times used crutches to get around. His wife, Willi Burke, however, was a Broadway actress and dancer. The song gives his perspective of telling his wife to have fun dancing, but reminds her who will be taking her home and “in whose arms you’re gonna be.” (Wikipedia)
Nick Hornby and Ben Folds wrote the song “Doc Pomus” and that’s really what I’m referring to in this post. The lyrics referenced an excerpt from Doc Pomus’s uncompleted memoir, February 21, 1984: “I was never one of those happy cripples who stumbled around smiling and shiny-eyed, trying to get the world to cluck its tongue and shake its head sadly in my direction. They’d never look at me and say, ‘What a wonderful, courageous fellow.’” It was released on September 28, 2010. In the song, Ben Folds sings, “And he never could be one of those happy cripples/
The kind that smile and tell you life’s OK /He was mad as hell, frightened and bitter /He found a way to make his feelings pay.” Doc Pomus made the best out of a literally crippling situation. He made beautiful music that has lasted and will last for generations.
On my unit in the hospital there was a wheelchair bound man I nicknamed Mean Doc Pomus (MDP). In all my 41 years, I have never met such an ugly and bitter man. He was what I imagined to be the opposite of the real Doc Pomus; even though Pomus had every right to be mad at the world. The first time I saw him, which was my first morning on the unit, he was being wheeled by his roommate to the “green bands line up” line and wore black jeans, a POW/MIA tshirt, scraggly dirty blond/gray hair past collar, and a permanent frown. He constantly muttered under his breath. He did it when anyone spoke. He only made it to half the Group sessions, and the ones he made it to, he left early or muttered angrily. I was scared of him. Three days into my stay, he started to reveal bits about himself in Group and they weren’t just bits – they were major life events that would bring the strongest person to commit themselves to a psych ward.
Mean Doc Pomus said in Group, while we were talking about loss and after I talked about the loss I’ve had in my life, as well a few other patients, he rolled his eyes. He rolled his eyes particularly hard and muttered swear words whenever I spoke. I’m not sure why. He seemed to hate me more than most of the others. Maybe because I was the only caucasian 40s housewife who couldn’t possibly have any problems because I seemed to have everything. I don’t know. Then out of nowhere, he decided to speak up. No one dared to correct him when he interrupted. He spoke with such anger and there was pure violence and vitrol in his voice and eyes. His eyes were particularly disturbing. When he spoke, I was caught between wanting to listen and wanting to stick my fingers in my ears and hum. It seemed like everyone else in the room felt the same. You didn’t want to stare while he was talking, but it would be rude not to look up from the floor occasionally. He opened up by telling us we didn’t know loss. I don’t remember how many times he had been married, but it was several. He had been divorced and I believe one wife died. He had 11 children, but six had died over the years. MDP said how much he wanted to trade places with his dead children. He only mentioned how three of them died. I know one of them drowned. He had also lost most of his military brothers, several in combat. Another day in Group, we the topic was negative thoughts of feelings and how we don’t have to let people make us feel a certain way. MDP opened up about the guilt he had over losing his fellow Navy Seals. He opened up, but it was clear that he didn’t want any feedback from the group or our therapist. And when he finished speaking no one wanted to say a word – the therapist as well. Our therapist was very likeable, a little hippie-ish, long blond hair, little makeup, sensible shoes. She was also a little afraid of MDP – we all were. He never answered the “what brought you here” question we all answered in morning Group, but he did say he had PTSD at one point and that he could never forgive himself for the death of the daughter that drowned or his Navy Seal buddies. Another day he said he lost count after his 27th kill in Vietnam. We all sat in a circle in silence. If I had been the therapist, I would have said “well, that should about wrap it up for today!” and ran out of the room. Our therapist just nodded and said things like “losing people we are responsible for is hard.”
A couple of days before I was released we went to breakfast and MDP wasn’t there. Someone said he had gone to electroshock therapy, now called Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I didn’t know what to think. Awhile after we came back from breakfast, he was rolled back to his room to rest. The rest of us had Group. Sabrina started talking about how she wanted to ask her doctor about ECT because nothing else had seemed to work. Jem, Topher, and I cringed but didn’t say anything. Our therapist said she would write that she requested it in her chart, but that she couldn’t order it. Remember this – it will be important in another post. When we came out of Group, MDP was sitting at one of the tables and Sabrina and someone else went to sit with him. Jem, Topher, and I sat on our usual couch. Topher had come into our little group a few days earlier, but was sleeping in the Quiet Room. I think he was there for three days. He had been awake for a week or so and had started hallucinating and talking to friends who weren’t actually there. The hospital let him sleep it off. After he woke up, he was a pretty nice kid of 20. While we were sitting on the sofa – no doubt reading food magazines for the umpteenth time – we overheard MDP saying that he didn’t know where he was or who he was. Clearly, the ECT hadn’t worn off or he needed more rest or something (I don’t know, I’m not a doctor). He looked way out of it and for the first time, he was the one who looked scared. I’ll never forget that look. He was having his breakfast tray, but didn’t seem to know what was going on. I felt badly for him. I felt for the fact that he had to have ECT to forget or to deal with his emotional pain or grief or PTSD or depression. I felt for the fact that he would most likely never get better. I felt badly that no one came to visit him. I felt badly that he viewed the world through angry eyes, except after having ECT and viewing the world through frightened eyes.
Lovely Rita Meter Maid
Rita missed all of this. She never went to Group in the small room, only the informal morning and evening Group with the techs where we repeated daily why we were there and what our emotional word for the day was and all. After Group we would have to fill Rita in on what had been said. She only gave odd looks when we talked about MDP. It seemed Rita was only there to look after Sabrina, but by the time Sabrina announced that she wanted ECT, Rita had been released. No one was left to protect her. Except MDP. He took her in like a child. I didn’t quite understand what Sabrina was about – more on that later.
While Rita was still in the hospital, she would sing and she had a great voice. She would call out “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” and I would answer “ain’t no clouds when she’s away.” We’d sing Biz Markie. There was nothing to do on the unit. My second day there, I got a new roommate I first nicknamed “Sad Eggplant” because she only wore purple. She was clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed. She had tattooed on eyeliner, but not the nice way they’re doing it now – this was tattooed on the way it was first done years and years ago – Tammy Faye Baker style. Her hair was black and thin and she left her hairbrush on our bathroom counter, which I thought was disgusting because there was hair in it. A friend came and dropped off more purple clothes. It was a lot of purple and that’s a color I hate. After she repeatedly talked about her “crying spells,” I decided to call her “Purple Rain (in a bad way, not in the cool Prince way).” When Rita told us that she had been a singer with a Mariachi band and did very well with it when she was younger, we asked her to sing in the Mariachi style and she performed for us. We enjoyed it. Purple Rain asked her to sing Mariachi in English. Rita stared at her in half-shock, then said “maybe Kerry could try doing that.” I laughed hysterically and said I could try “La Bamba.”
On Purple Rain’s first day, she told Rita that she “spoke good for being Mexican.” Rita said she hoped so because she was born in Houston. That same day, Rita’s son and daughter-in-law came to visit and I asked him if he was Jesus because he had a tattoo of Jesus on his arm. Rita burst out laughing. I half expected Purple Rain to ask the question for real. Making fun of her became a favorite pastime. Purple Rain would interrupt any conversation anyone was having – it didn’t matter who it was or if they were welcoming or not. We ignored her. It got on Rita’s nerves and she often said she was going to punch her. No one was punched. Rita was pretty great. Witty, sarcastic, and able to laugh at the situation we were all in. For instance, when another patient would ask us advice, we’d said “dude, we’re patients in a mental hospital, maybe you should ask a doctor.” My big think was saying “I only had three psych classes in college.” Rita’s son brought her flowers and (of course) the nurse took the vase away and gave them to her in a styrofoam cup with water. I took a small paper bag, put the cup and flowers inside, rolled down the top of the bag and tied the short ribbon (that for some reason wasn’t taken away). I like to think Martha Stewart would have been proud of my prison/hospital decorating. Rita gave me the flowers when she was released and almost immediately a nurse told me they weren’t allowed on the unit and asked who gave them to me. That shows you how different the rules were from staff to staff. I hated it when Rita left.
MDP was still there once Rita left. Right before Rita left was when things got worse with the patients and staff. Then all hell broke loose. One night before Rita was released, we had a new older weekend tech with very pronounced African accent. She stressed that she was “by the book” and wasn’t tolerating and funny business (which made me laugh because here we were on the Funny Farm). When she began speaking, she turned off the tv, during football game that half the group had been watching – that sealed her fate right there. It had not been done at informal evening Group and told us she was going to go over the rules of the unit (which I couldn’t figure out was suicide watch or high functioning depression). She opened up Pandora’s Box when she started talking about rules. She said we were adults and needed to start taking responsibility of ourselves. A few minutes later she said we needed to keep the game room and our rooms clean at all times, including not leaving cups out; a few minutes later, she were there for treatment and shouldn’t be picking up after other people who leave out cups.
Sabrina took a golf pencil and started nibbling on it, then chewing, then had broken it in her mouth. She was clearly disturbed. The tech told her to spit out the pencil. Again, she said she was by the book. I assumed she meant the coloring book I saw each day on one of the tables. She kept talking and Rita would ask questions. She asked which book the tech was going by because there seemed to be several books. I couldn’t help but laugh. Informal evening Group turned into a 2 and a half hour lecture/question period. Pandora’s box was opened and the tech was not ready for it. Sabrina kept taking golf pencils and chewing them. I don’t mean how students chew on the end of a pencil nervously in a class – I mean the whole golf pencil in her mouth as if she were going to swallow it. At some point I got up and brought the container of golf pencils to the nurses’ station. How the tech sat there with Sabrina in front of her eating pencils was beyond me. She lectured that no one should hook up in or out of the hospital because inside the hospital was not real life. No joke. The whole night was beyond bizarre. I was clearly the most normal person on the unit. I looked forward to 9 o’clock lights out and my medication.
I was awoken by a nurse yelling “breakfast! Green bands line up!’ which is something I would grow accustomed to hearing. That morning I learned that a green wristband meant patients could go outside for “courtyard break,” down to the cafeteria for meals, and to recreation. I had a yellow band – that meant I had to stay on the unit. I left my room and went into the big “gameroom,” where I first saw the rest of the crazies on the unit. People looked rough. I was given a hospital breakfast tray and sat at one of the tables. An older woman joined me, who had on a yellow and a red band. Note to self: find out what red bands mean.
A woman was brought in by Igor. When I was being admitted the night before, I saw her being wheeled in on a stretcher from an ambulance. And now she was on my unit. Nice. She walked around in socks with a knit shirt or tank top tied up as a makeshift bra under a jumper, but the shirt underneath was obviously visible. After a couple of days I asked her what was up with the shirt. She told me it was a trick she learned in prison. Ok then. She complained to anyone who would listen that she wanted to go to the VA for electric shock treatments and not the awful hospital we were in. I didn’t think it was so bad. She was constantly changing clothes – of the three outfits and prison bra she had. I loaned her a shirt to wear, thinking she needed another top. She thanked me and never wore it and brought it with her when she was released to the VA.
The patients lined up against the wall seemed to be from all walks of life, all races, varying levels of crazy. The woman next to me introduced herself, but now I can’t remember what it was. I do remember thinking it was young-sounding for her 65 years. The green bands went down to breakfast. My food was cold and I pushed it around on the tray. The older woman had a cane and when she finished her food she went to sit in what was clearly “her” chair. I brought my tray up to the nurse and was told soon my psychiatrist would be in to talk to me. I was given a bottle of shampoo/conditioner/bodywash and a towel and washcloth and went back to my room to wash my face. This was the first time I noticed the bathroom doors in our rooms were cut down with at least a foot of space from the top and the bottom, like some dressing room doors in department stores.
After breakfast, the green bands had “courtyard break,” which was really “smoke break.” Most of the patients smoked and came back smelling like smoke. It was nauseating. I noticed there was a woman who didn’t go down even though she had a green band and thought that was odd. We were told it was time for Morning Group, in which we sat in the gameroom and filled out a sheet that read”
Treatment Planning and Goals Group
I am here for:
Emotional feeling word:
Physical feeling word:
What would you like to accomplish today?
How can our staff assist you?
One positive quality about yourself:
Questions for staff:
Sweet American baby Jesus, would I have to fill this out everyday that I’m here? It would turn out that I would have to fill out the morning and evening versions everyday. The first morning was when I found out who everyone was and why – according to them – they were there.
I met my roommate. She was very young, maybe 19. She said she would be going home at noon and wasn’t completing the form, but was feeling fine. She told me the nurses watched everything patients did and that you wouldn’t be released until you were going to group meetings, being vocal in meetings, and eating at meal times. Interesting. Patients were called on to read their forms. This is when I gave everyone nicknames because it was something to do.
Wilhelm said he was there for anger and medication adjustment. He had crazy eyes, wore shirts that were entirely too big, and he was very tall. Probably 6’4″.
Lovely Rita Meter maid was of hispanic decent and said she had depression and her question for staff was why there were different rules depending on who was working on our unit that day or night. I would learn that she asked that question at each of these Group sessions and attempted to get the tech on staff to argue with her. I noticed over the next couple of days that she was clearly the mom of the group.
Sabrina (the teenage witch) was maybe 20. She could not write or read. At least she said she couldn’t. Rita volunteered to write Sabrina’s answers and read them. Her answers were all run of the mill poor self-esteem issues, but I could see there was something underneath all that.
Doc Pomus filled out his sheet and turned it in, but refused to read it. He was in a wheelchair, unshaven, squirrely hair to his shoulders, random POW/MIA tshirt on. He constantly muttered things under his breath. Constantly. At times I could make out swear words.
Faerelly (her real name because – come on – I couldn’t make one up better than that) was a pretty girl, probably mid thirties. The second she said her name I thought she had to be an Arrested Development character like “Maeby (maybe) Funke.” Like, she “Fairly mentally ill.” I know I’m a horrible person, but there was little entertainment on the unit and it amused me. She was a sweet girl and went home on my second day there. I guess she was fairly ok.
Jem was an attractive openly gay 22 year-old. Sweet, tall, and kind. He was addicted to opioids and attempted suicide. It was not his first rodeo in treatment. At each Treatment Planning group he would say that he had a big heart for his positive quality about himself. I didn’t ask why he wasn’t on the drug addiction unit.
The tech collected all the forms and pencils. We were allowed golf pencils during those group meetings. I will never again write with a golf pencil. After three days, I hid a golf pencil in the seam of a composition notebook Scott brought me to journal in. We were told to journal, but were not given any writing instruments, so I guess they expected us to use the crayons on one of the tables. After that morning Group, it was snack time (just like preschool) and once again, everyone lined up (just like preschool). Patients went in, got a snack and juice or milk or coffee and went back to where they were sitting. I sat on a sofa by Jem and my roommate. After that, we were called for Group with the staff therapist. There were two of these sessions per day. In the morning we’d mainly talk about our feelings, but there was a buzzword the therapist would use to start the session that we were supposed to use to describe what we were dealing with. I was still getting a feel for the hospital and just introduced myself as Kerry – attempted suicide. I made a joke about usually looking much better than I did in the hospital, but I wasn’t allowed makeup or my usual hair products. People smiled. I made jokes because that’s how I had always dealt with stuff. During that Group, my psychiatrist came and pulled me out to meet with him. He asked what had happened. I told him how stupid it was and that I couldn’t handle day to day life anymore. He nodded and asked me a few more questions, changed my medications around a bit, then said he’d make sure I got a green band and that he’d see me the next day.
The med nurse called me for medication and I was glad to get a little Xanax because GOOD LORD, I was anxious and my brain wouldn’t stop. I went back to the sofa and everyone came out of the the Group room. Rita never went to Group. I learned that she was claustrophobic and that her oldest daughter had recently died. She cried when she talked about it. She and Sabrina came up to me and started telling me the rules of the unit (not Mean Girls style, just their version of matter-of-fact).
Unit 1 was for the most dangerous to others or self, 2 was adolescents, 3 was low functioning depression (or whatever), 4 was high functioning depression (or whatever – a few people said it was the suicide watch floor and that was why the bathroom doors were cut down and why they checked our rooms every 15 minutes at night). Unit 5 was drug rehab. Which brought me back to Jem – why was he on Unit 4. And Sabrina couldn’t read – why was she on Unit 4? Things didn’t exactly make sense.
Rita told me the rules. There were no pens allowed or anything that could potentially be used to harm ourselves or anyone else. No jewelry, despite the fact that Rita was allowed to keep her wedding band and I wasn’t or that Jem was allowed to keep his stud earrings and I wasn’t. I learned that the rules varied depending on who was in admitting when patients arrived. I forgot to mention in my previous post that I was strip searched and had blood taken when I arrived on the unit at 1am. Because that’s when I like doing my strip searching. Other rules were no tv until 4pm (except on weekends because -duh- football. Nothing with strings was allowed, as I said before. No haircare or bodywash stuff with alcohol (so no perfume either). No cell phones – so just in case, take it from me – carry your close friends and family’s phone numbers written on actual paper in your wallet. Books and notebooks were allowed, but none with spirals (because I guess you could take the spiral out, straighten it and strangle someone or yourself?). Sabrina was allowed a very nice set of markers her mother brought for her, but we weren’t allowed pens. The rules didn’t make sense. No flowers. No music or music players. No type of electronics. There was virtually nothing to do on the unit unless you played cards – I do not and I don’t care to learn. I was repeatedly told another patient would teach me, but no thanks. That also meant I’d have to talk to other people. Jem and Rita and I read and reread Good Housekeeping and HGTV magazines. Jem and I would take out the perfume samples and use them. There were a few puzzles with missing pieces (a nice comparison to some of the patients I met) and a coloring book. Not the very in adult coloring books with beautiful, intricate pages – I’m talking kiddie coloring book with puppies and kitties. By the second day I asked Scott to bring me a composition notebook, some cash for the vending machine downstairs, two books, and a nightgown without straps. No bras. It wasn’t pretty in most cases.
Green bands line up for lunch. Despite my doctor saying I would get a green band, I did not. I stayed in the gameroom and talked to Rita and pushed food around on my tray. I never saw her eat real food. She would eat snacks and get people to bring her back things from the vending machine when they went downstairs. I asked Jem to bring me M&M’s because I love them and I couldn’t eat most of the things on the cafeteria trays anyway – pastas, rice dishes. Everything was always cold. I didn’t get a green band the next day either because the nurses confused me with a new patient. I’ll go into that new patient next week.
My roommate went home. She was giddy with excitement. She didn’t really say goodbye to anyone, but waved from the door.
Sabrina approached me and asked if anyone was sitting with me and sat down. She pulled up her capri pants and showed me where she had cut herself and scars from where she had put out lit cigarettes on her legs. She was looking at me, but she had dead eyes – like the eyes of a porcelain doll on a shelf of a creepy old woman. She was stocky and had a muffin top. I couldn’t figure her out. It would take me a couple of days.
The unit was a constant revolving door. We would lose one person and gain another, usually overnight. It was Prufrock. “In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo.” But of course it wasn’t Michelangelo.
That first afternoon, in Group, the dam broke and I talked about why I was there. I cried. Someone handed me tissues. After that we had afternoon snack. I had coffee. I had measured out my life with coffee spoons. I turned my focus to the television. There were maybe 4 English speaking channels that weren’t shopping or religious channels. There were approximately 30 channels that were various languages of various religions. And so it was back to the magazines for me.
At “lights out” I went back to my room alone, the way I wanted it and made a list of rules for myself after seeing how the other patients handled themselves and each other:
That night I went to sleep at 9 with half a Xanax and an extra pillow I took from my former roommate’s bed. I slept in my clothes once again. I would wake up to a new roommate.