I am now on a list. I am not allowed to buy any firearms for five years. I understand completely where the State of California is coming from, but I still didn’t sign the form that said I agreed to this, and that I did or did not want a hearing upon my release. Because I don’t like being told no, and because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next five years. Please note I have never even held a gun in my life. But all the sudden all these scenarios in which I will need a gun to protect myself come to mind. Madness. I should take Krav Maga first. But now I’m listed. I am in the system.
There is also a new walk of shame I was not aware of. It is being wheeled out of your psychiatrist’s office on a gurney you are strapped into (I could move my arms, but it didn’t look like it) by two paramedics while you are trying to blink back the tears. That was embarrassing. They insisted that no one knew what was wrong with me, but it felt like I had PSYCH PATIENT stamped across my forehead.
I live in a bubble of people with social skills. I forget, for example, how many people in the world think talking about say, differences in behavior according to racial background in a place like the cafeteria line is appropriate. Or talking to strangers about the mark of the beast and how it’s embedded in UPC codes is a great conversation starter. That’s the difference often between crazy people and the sane. Sane people keep it to themselves. Crazies let it all hang out.
I also saw someone eat an amazing variety of foods with his hands. Not just burritos, but enchiladas, salads, cake, mixed vegetables–you name it. And not in any particular order. All at once. Oh, while trying to talk to you. (Yes, this was the Dirty Old Man.) He said one night that I was quite precocious, and did I find myself to be an enigma? I said no.
The hospital has a vague odor of spit. It seems to be strongest in the linens and blankets. I don’t know what they wash them in, but that’s what they smell like. You can’t get the smell off you, either. It’s in the towels. The shower won’t stay on for more than two minutes. It’s like those faucets, where you push the damn thing and the fixture slowly rises, giving you only a grenade’s amount of time to wash your hands. In the hospital, the showers are the same. This is to keep you from wasting water and from doing any monkey business in the shower, like jerking off or offing yourself. You have to repeatedly commit to the process of showering every couple of minutes.
Special toiletries are contraband. That’s their word, not mine. If someone brings them for you, you may be able to use them, but they’ll have to go back in the lockers after you’re done. They don’t want anyone drinking shampoo. Instead, they hand out deodorant, baby shampoo, lotion, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste and tampons. First hospital out of five I’ve ever seen that gives out tampons. All the others assumed you could kill yourself with one. Choking hazard, I suppose. Yes, some people are that determined. I’ve known someone who tried to hang himself with a washcloth on a doorknob in a hospital.
There were three of us in our room. There were three scooped-out reservoirs for soap around the sink, with letters: A, B, and C. Similarly, there were three soap dishes in the shower marked the same. I was C. I threw out the soap someone had left behind and put a fresh cake in there. C. One eleven C. That’s what the med nurses wanted to know. Not my name. My room and bed number. They still kept fucking up. I had to watch my dosage and my pills carefully, because they wouldn’t. They kept trying to give me twice as much of one medicine than I take, and one nurse kept trying to give me Paxil, which I have never been on.
Quite a few people in the hospital have the most toxic gas you have ever smelled. I blame it on the medication. I blame most things on the medication. Toxic gas? It’s the meds. Sleeping too much? Meds. Eating too much? Meds. Can’t sleep through the night? Meds. Anxious, fidgety, drifty, can’t concentrate, shat yourself in your sleep (my poor roommate, who had to take a shower in the middle of the first night I was there)? It’s probably all the medication they have you on. Most of the people there were doped up like cats on ketamine. I rarely saw them, and when I did it was odd hours. I’d see one guy at five in the morning in the Day Room and he’d have been in there for hours. Then I’d see him in the evening for an hour, and no other times. I think he came to one meal with me once. I can’t blame the hospital for all of the over-medicating of patients, though. Patients were pleading for Ativan like baby birds for worms. They were so disappointed to learn they couldn’t get it more often than every two hours.
One thing I do blame the hospital for was keeping patients longer than they needed to be kept. It seems like they were keeping people for their insurance money. When you’re running an insurance scam, you affect people. Burning down a business for an insurance claim is fucked up. But when you’re burning down my life? Jesus. Have you no soul? Besides, they were filling beds within hours of people leaving. In was just talking to people I discovered a lot of them had been in this short-term facility for weeks–it didn’t make sense.
There were some good people who worked there. Some of the nurses, social workers, and patients’ rights advocates were great. A quarter of the people were absent, either physically or mentally. A whole lotta quitting had happened recently, and they were having a hard time finding people to run groups. And a quarter of the people were taking out their hatred of their jobs on us. Dude, we didn’t make you work with the mentally ill. Don’t blame us for that shit.
I’m just so grateful to be on the outside. I’m sick as hell, and so glad to be out. The whole unit must be sick as hell right now. Coughing, sneezing, snotty (snotty bitches, the lot of ’em), headachey, and sore. I can nurse myself now. I can determine how long the water is on. I have my own soap, and shampoo, and conditioner. I can walk out my door whenever I damn well please. Taking out the garbage is a privilege I did not have.
You don’t realize what freedom consists of, every little morsel of it, until it’s gone.