I will tell you a little more about my adventures in the “hotel” I spent the weekend in, to assuage your morbid curiosity. Hell, I’d be curious, too. What’s it like? It’s a little like a cross between kindergarten and junior high. The day swirls around snack times and personalities.
Snack time happens three times a day, plus there’s the morning coffee. The morning coffee is straight ill, and decaffeinated, but we all get excited for it anyways. (It reminded me of the saccharine and clove-flavored gin in 1984. Wasn’t that what it was? Anyways. Oh, or the coffee in The Enormous Room) It comes in the morning and one morning it was cold. We rebelled and actually got another big plastic bin of it. Morning coffee comes at 6:45 am. I know this because I couldn’t sleep in the hospital so I was up every morning for the nasty coffee in the Day Room. Snacks come before lunch, before dinner, and before bed, also in the Day Room. Food in your room is considered contraband.
Every mental hospital has a Day Room. It’s what you call the room where all the activities happen, and the TV is, and the camera is to make sure we aren’t causing mischief. Speaking of mischief, I’m not exactly sure what was happening in the Dirty Old Man’s room (although to be fair, it could have been Pacing Man Unable to Communicate Effectively In English) on Saturday afternoon, but whatever it was, it was inappropriate. I heard the nurse in there saying loudly, “You can’t do that here! You can do that when you get out of the hospital, but not here! Stop doing that! You can’t do that! Stop it right now!” It took a solid minute to get the behavior to stop. For shame. Shame!
Who else was inside? Most of the people were just depressed. Suicides or people who feared they would hurt themselves. That’s the unit I was on: the highest functioning, depressed unit. But there were a few others. There was Hotel Motel (called McGilla Gorilla by someone, and Trunchbull by someone else), the one who didn’t know she was in the hospital at first. She caused a lot of distress for the other patients. People would leave the room when she came in. Why? She was extremely paranoid. She thought the women were all flirting with the men, and that everyone thought she was “trying to rape” one of the men, who all the women “treated like a god.” She would try to impress everyone with all her outfits, which were different hospital gowns. She would change three or four times a day. One day, I’m told, she changed her clothes in the hall. She insulted people, caused conflict, and dominated every group with long, rambling tirades about men and women and how her mother was a housewife and stayed at home and was treated like garbage and that she wasn’t going to do that and that society tells us that women are the grass under men’s feet, etc.
There was also Lunchables. Lunchables was probably 5’4″ and weighed 275 lbs. She would emerge from her room ten times daily and ask for snacks. If the staff didn’t give them to her she would whine and whine and whine and they would eventually give in. Now, I’ve been on medication that has done this to me, made me extremely hungry and exhausted. But nurses shouldn’t be handing out cookies to people who are hurting themselves with food, especially when they monitor very closely the food intake of other patients. In my experience at this hospital, the pains in the ass got better treatment than the people who were peaceable, just so long as you didn’t get kicked off the floor. Lunchables is the one who gave me the cold I have now, because she sneezed all over everything and never covered her mouth. Disgusting.
Pacing Man Unable to Communicate Effectively In English some days asked for a translator, but most of the time he spent either pacing the hall or making many, many phone calls. Seriously, he was on the phone at least two hours every day. Maybe he was calling his broker, I don’t know. The phone is a precious commodity inside. I had people trying to reach me constantly, only to be told that there was no Seer inside (I had cleared them to tell everyone who asked for me that I was there), that I was in a meal or in group, that the phone was busy, or that they were having a patient emergency. The last one made my friends think that I was strapped down with a needle of Thorazine in my neck, but usually it was someone screaming at someone else to mind their own business.
The Unit Schizoid was an interesting one. She was the one who gave me her phone number, unsolicited. She always had things to add to the conversation.
Nurse: So, Patient Who Has Been Here the Longest, what’s your goal for today?
PWHBHTL: I guess I want to have a good day.
Unit Schizoid: How can you have a good day when all the saints in the world have been murdered?
You can’t argue with that kind of logic. I dare you to try.
She was good-hearted, though. One afternoon we had a dance party, and she asked the nurse to go get a couple of Pepsis (that looks wrong, but apostrophes don’t make a plural) with her own money. She poured them into cups for everyone to share. Someone started singing, “Shots.” It was a good afternoon.
The evening got weird. That was when Dirty Old Man tried to get at me again.
“Seer,” says Dirty Old Man, “you probably don’t want to hear this from me.”
I take him at his word.
“You’re right. I probably don’t.” I go back to reading my book.
He hesitates for only a couple of seconds. He wasn’t expecting that, but he’s not going to let that stop him.
“But your dancing. The way you move, it’s just–”
I can see he’s starting to go in a direction I don’t want to go. These are thoughts and feelings he can have by himself, but I have no interest in having them with him.
“You know what, Dirty Old Man? You need to stop talking right now. Just stop.” My tone of voice is flat and even. But the conversation is closed. He gets sullen and quiet. This is what lit the fuse for the explosion on me later. Just this. He felt rejected and angry and went bananas.
There was also the Nice Little Slightly Catatonic Lady Without Her Dentures. She just went with the flow. Mouth agape, eyes staring at nothing, never having an opinion except that things were good or okay. Her goal was always to eat snacks. She did, however, tap her foot to the songs of the 1960s when we played them, and we did get her to dance a little.
Then there were the people I would see in the cafeteria. There was the lady with one red sequined shoe and one blue slipper, the schizophrenic young guy who would approach tables and give out theories (Did you know there’s a part of your brain that can read computer code? Neither did I), and the little butch woman who would always be first in line at the cafeteria. I thought she was harmless, just hungry and entitled, until I heard her talking when she wasn’t first.
“Bitch, you fat bitch, I hate you, you fat bitch, bitch, hurry up, bitch.”
Don’t fuck with the hungry little woman.
And not one day, but two days I heard tables singing “Happy Birthday” to patients. That told me it could always be worse. I mean, it’s sweet to sing to people, but how sad would you be if it were your birthday and you were spending it “indoors”?
Indoors: I got outdoors exactly twice while I was on the inside. Probably for a total of twenty minutes. I got no sunshine. That was sad. It was also sad how excited I got to be outside at all, on the patio with the twenty-five foot tall fence.
I am now exhausted. I have a cold and am on a fucked up schedule of getting to bed at nine pm and waking up at two in the morning. I slept well last night, but I still am tired early. I may wrap up my hospital rant tomorrow. I may not. It’s starting to get boring to me.