Friday, October 30, 2009

day after day after day

i'm dreading this weekend. it has been such a lonely couple weeks and the thought of sitting home alone once again while he's once again out with some bimbo who is probably going to be dressed like a 2-bit hooker just leaves the worst kind of wringing knot in my stomach.

there are too many hours in the day to fill my head with thoughts other than him, i can only clean my bathroom and organize my closets so many times in a 72 hour period. i've completely run out of hope, i'm running out of distractions and now all that is left is to wait for the numbness to just take over so i can finally stop caring. i go to bed every night & wake up every morning hoping it will come. and every night my dreams are filled with either horrible nightmares replaying all my worst memories of the last months or sweet, loving dreams filled with emotions and moments i will never know. and every morning when i wake up and look around my room—i have no idea where i am for the first couple minutes.

it's the best part of my day. that 180 seconds of nothingness. no past, no present, no future. blissful, perfect nothing.

i never want to care about another person again in my life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

the next level: managed agony.

i am going through the motions. i am doing everything i can to move on with my life and get things back into order. and there is much improvement. i am not the same tortured (& torturing) creature i was a month ago.

and yet i am more alone now than i was that night when i was left for dead on my bathroom floor. i have destroyed everything close to me, everything i cared for—whether it was deserved or not does not change the fact that i cared and loved and am now destroyed and alone. it's even more painful now that i have my senses about me and can see clearly how much i have ruined things. how far i have pushed him away. how irreversible i have made his dislike of me.

there is a new sadness that has enveloped me. this one entirely real & not brought about by insecurity and distrust. this is a sadness of knowing that i have lost him forever, forced him to turn his back on me in disgust and hatred. i am never to be forgiven, never to be cared for again. and i will pay for this always.

these are a new kind of tears that i can't stop from running down my cheeks. this is a whole new depth of sorrow and loneliness. i wish for nothing else in this world but to have him come back to me and care about me. to want me again. to care enough to help me be the woman i am supposed to be—not this wrecked, weak loser i have become.

and when my mind trails from what i wish most to what i know to be the truth—that he would feel nothing if i ceased to exist this very moment—it clenches my chest so tightly i can not breathe.

what is wrong with me? why am i such a horrible person that this is the world i have created for myself? why, just for once in my life can't i just have what i want and have it actually want me back? why am i so easily forgotten? why am i so hated by the ones i love most?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

the horrible smack of reality

i had a night of wonderful dreams. they were simple, quiet little flashes of happiness and affection that made me feel so cared for and loved.

and then this morning i woke and looking around my bedroom, realized that they were just dreams and shared no relation to my current waking life.

and in that moment i was filled with the heaviest sadness a human can feel.

Monday, October 19, 2009

the kid is alright



I have taken a week or so off to collect my thoughts sans outside interference. it has been a quiet, lonely week but my solitude enabled me to put things into perspective and figure out what i want my life to encompass... well kind of.

have i figured out how to do any of it? well, no. not yet, of course. but i have set steps in motion to get myself there. most importantly i got something to love and adore that will only love and adore me back—not use me and make me feel inadequate at every step. that 'something' is actually 2 fuzzy little pups named hedley and hershel. they are a jack russell terrier/poodle mix, year and a half old brothers, and more or less perfect. i don't think i have ever had anything that showered me with so much affection or wanted to be with me every second of the day. it's a strange but pleasant feeling. and it's good to have something that can't be left behind. haha. they need me. i must take care of them.

in addition to furry balls of affection, i have corrected my medication and it seems to be working really well. i have started back on all my supplements, started eating healthier and go for a dozen walks during the day with the dogs—which has been so much better for me instead of hiding in my bed all day. i love my neighborhood, it has several really pretty apartment buildings and it's just green and soothing walking down the street.

i have been trying so hard to keep myself busy and not think about the fact that i'm currently unemployed, scarily close to being broke and that william won't speak to me. i am fairly certain he has happily moved back to his comfort zone where i do not exist at all. it breaks my heart but i must accept this. i wish things were different but he has made it completely clear—i am dead to him and he is never looking back. i have no option but to forget him as well and move on—hopefully to a future with someone who actually cares for me—the good, the bad and the ugly. i guess i just wasn't right for him.

over all though my view of things has lightened a bit. i'm terribly lonely and have my moments of sadness—because i wish i wasn't doing all this completely by myself. i'd give anything to have him at my side caring, wanting to be with me and help me get better—but despite this obvious omission from my life, i am more optimistic. i've been painting and sewing, cleaning, playing with the dogs, listening to lots of beethoven and other music that pinches me emotionally. i'm still going through a lot of what i was before, but i'm finding other things to distract myself and bring my head back to a calmer state. activities that don't include knives and poison.

i haven't had an anxiety attack in days. it has been wonderful.

.... and the dogs are jumping up into my lap letting me know it is time to whiz. so i think we are going to go for a little stroll around the neighborhood.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

unconscious is the best way to wait

for a phone call that's never going to come

i'm tired of sorting through my boxes of crap and i've lost interest in looking for something furry with four legs to take care of that can't be left behind.

i can do what needs to be done for the day in the first hour and a half i'm awake. and then i am left to sit and wait for the rest of the day. i hate being awake. i can't quiet my head. for every good thought i am plagued by 5 i'm not 'allowed' to let enter my mind. it's best to stay asleep. i load my belly full of sleep, i turn off the ringer and i slip into a mini coma because that's the only time i'm not staring at the phone waiting for a call i know i'll never get.

Friday, October 09, 2009

lil'darlin


i've been dreaming about my grandmother a lot lately. she sits on the end of my bed and talks to me while i cry or stare into nothing. sometimes she just talks about music, other times she talks to me about my problems. i don't usually remember exactly what she says to me, but it is usually soothing.

tonight i listened to count basie while i took a bath and thought about things. lil'darlin was one of her favorite songs. when i was a child we would dance to it over & over again in her living room and she would tell me about seeing him play at the chautauqua institution and clubs in new york city when she was younger. my grandmother was the only person i have ever comfortably slow danced with. lil'darlin played at the end of her funeral as they walked her coffin out of the church. my cats would take her place as my dance partner. lucy liked etta james, tallulah preferred chet baker, monty... he was my count basie cat.

no more cats, no more grandmother. no more nothing really.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

on the brighter side of things... tea bomb

i was making some iced tea in my kitchen and the chem lab boiling flask i usually keep it refrigerated in inexplicably exploded after i added the hot tea. technically speaking—i should be able to make the tea in said flask without it breaking—it is for boiling chemicals after all—so i'm not quite sure what happened. i was funneling the boiling tea from saucepan to bottle. it sat there for a second and then a really loud "POP" sent tea and lab glass all over the place.

it surprised me so much i couldn't do anything but laugh. i had tea dripping off my nose & my socks were a rosy, wet, pink. i can't complain i guess—my kitchen floor & walls got a nice wipe down but i'm still thirsty. however, this was the highlight of my day so... well whatever. i liked the popping noise—but i always hate to see a piece of lab glass meet its end.

Friday, October 02, 2009

S U N D A Y: the battle of stalingrad

there came a point on sunday when i completely lost control of my faculties for rational thought. i lost all hope and resigned myself to something i had only fantasized about in the past. maybe it happened by chance, maybe it happened because i needed to get it out of my system in order to really understand once and for all i do not want to die. whatever it was, one second i was riffling through my bathroom looking for bandages in order to engage in the 'nurturing' portion of my one man demolition show (usually the final act before i am able to lay down & sleep) and the next i had my hands on a top billing super star that could end it all.

all my whining about not being able to facilitate dying was for naught— i had actually been sitting on the mother load of death. a mystery emergency kit left in my possession— probably stolen off an ambulance by somebody (not me) a lifetime ago change my trajectory that night. the kit held the usual assortment of bandages & ointments but it also contained something your average family emergency kit does not: a sealed bottle of digitoxin and a handful of unopened syringes. (cleanliness is important even to the end)

for those without a brain full of higgledy piggledy information: digitoxin is a pharmaceutical derivative of foxglove used to treat cardiac arrest patients. it is also history and literature's second favorite poison (i believe hemlock holds the the number one spot). i sat for a moment in utter disbelief at what i was holding in my hand. this diminutive glass bottle held enough poison in it to kill off every character ever penned by william shakespeare and christopher marlowe combined. i had hit the jackpot.

i wrote my goodbyes (including two i should have never sent), i made a list of instructions and then i got down to business. it was like an awkward first date. i was timid and shy, still unsure if i'd be able to make it to the dessert course before making some excuse as to why i had to go home early. "things could work out, if i just give it a chance" never left my head entirely as i pricked & pushed, here and there — making a mental compromise with every stab of the needle — 'maybe i can inject just enough to slow down my racing heart', 'maybe if i just use a little it will keep the blood from coagulating so quickly and i can just let it bleed a little but not have to keep cutting.', 'maybe, maybe, maybe...'

there is nothing that went through my head that night which i can repeat now without the mortification of knowing i would be first in line for any number of darwin awards. hysterical stupidity was almost my undoing. but something was on my side that night. something that kept pulling that needle out before it could empty its belly into my body completely. a little nudge, a little tug — from some unknown force that said 'not yet, just wait' (this is NOT to imply i was hearing voices because i was not and this will be a question i became increasingly sick of answering in the week to come).

and so i was unsuccessful in my attempt to shuffle off this mortal coil. instead i shuffled off about 4 gallons of vomit and passed out on my bathroom floor for the night. it seems i ingested just enough to keep me from being able to do anymore damage to myself during the night, but not quite enough to fully stop my heart. follow through just isn't my strong suit.

what i found staring back at me in the dressing room mirror the next morning was terrifying. i looked as though i had walked away from a car explosion. my only thought was 'i have to stop this. i can't go another day without a doctor.'

...and so i set in motion a plan that would unfold into the worst week of my life.

M O N D A Y: D-day

on monday morning i knew something needed to be done about my mental state. i looked back on the night before, what i had done, what i had said, what i had put my mind and hands to doing... and it scared me. i had gotten lucky. despite being utterly relieved that i did in fact wake up—i didn't trust myself to wait even another day without getting help. the time had come to find someone help pull me out. obviously i wasn't capable of doing it on my own.

the thing is i am in an unfortunate place in my life right now. i'm not working, money is beyond tight and for the first time in decades—i don't have insurance. in other words: i am just like the larger part of this country's population. a faction i don't usually identify, much less sympathize with. i was about to learn A LOT.

on the recommendation of a friend i went to USC. a county run hospital that will see anyone regardless of their financial situation. i was desperate so i tried to overlook the fact that i was in for a long day of mingling with the masses and at best the bare minimum of healthcare. it was better than nothing. or so i thought.

i passed through the throngs into a waiting room for the psychiatric ward. it was quieter, there were only a few people waiting and the workers were quite nice. i settled into my seat & thought 'well, so far this isn't so bad.' before long i was called into an office where an aide took my vitals & began the initial interview. as i was rather self-aware of my problems & eager to get the proper care i needed i divulged everything. when visiting the head shrinker it—is no time to be coy.

i should have sensed something was up when she examined my arms and chest & stared at me in disbelief as i told her about the digitoxin. (on a side note — i would have to explain how i came upon possessing the digitoxin about 100 times during the next 72 hours. what struck me was that i noticed in my file notes it finally digressed into "she took the digoxin from a friend." not only had they turned me into a thief, but every medical professional i encountered had NO CLUE what digitoxin was—so naturally they assumed i was just mispronouncing it & kept correcting me & calling it digoxin—which is similar, but not the same thing. everywhere in my notes — i overdosed on digoxin, not digitoxin. it was infuriating. i wanted so badly to just say 'oh for christ's sake GOOGLE IT you fucking morons!)

she got up from the desk & i heard her out in the hallway whispering the details to a doctor because she wanted them to see me right away. silly me... i thought 'yahoo, being suicidal at least gets you to the head of the line!'
i really am disgustingly stupid and ignorant sometimes.

the doctor took me into another barren office and we started to talk. i explained what had been going on in my life this past summer, my history of mild depression, my history of treating said mild depression when it reared its ugly head and my current state of affairs that had made it impossible for me to keep it in check as i had in the past. i told her i needed a therapist - be it psychologist or psychiatrist and i most definitely needed to have my medication re-examined because the 20mg of (self prescribed & slyly obtained) prozac wasn't quite cutting it this time around. and then came the chorus that would be ringing in my ears every 2 hours for the rest of the week:

"do feel like hurting yourself?"
"not right now."
"do you feel like hurting anyone else?"
"no never."
"do you hear voices in your head?"
"no."
"do you have suicidal thoughts?"
"yes, but i don't actually want to die. i just think about it."

and before i had even finished pronouncing the word 'yes' the paperwork was being filed.

she said she was very worried about me and wanted to admit me to the hospital for at most 3 days so they could keep an eye on me and regulate my medicine.

"how do you feel about this?"
"well, i guess if you think it's necessary. i don't actually want to die, but i know i need help.. i can't pay for this though.."

"oh no, if we admit you here this is a free hospital. you pay for nothing. we'll most likely put you in a bed in the ER while they check you out for the digoxin, and then we will transfer you to a psychiatric bed."
"well, i'm a little nervous about that. no offense but this place is scary. i'm not going to get raped and murdered simply because i can't afford to go to a real hospital am i?"

"no, it's definitely going to be a shock, i won't lie, but you will be perfectly safe and watched at all times. you will never be alone—to the point where it will be annoying—and dangerous patients will never be allowed near you."
"well, i guess it's ok then."

we talked a bit more and i asked about whether i would be able to go home & drop my car off, maybe get a few things, have a friend bring me back so my car didn't get towed. in a very nice, very soothing voice she told me it would all be fine. my car was safe in the parking garage (& she would double check just to make sure) and everything i needed would be provided for me by the hospital.

doubt and dread started to seep into my body. i didn't want to ask her directly, but i finally became aware of the fact that i had absolutely no choice in the matter. she was more or less asking me how i felt to be polite and see what my reaction would be— and whether i would require restraints and a police escort.

we finished our discussion, i thanked her politely, shook her hand and was taken to the ER adult waiting room. where i would wait for them to run the tests to determine if i was suffering from serious digoxin poisoning. luckily for me — i wasn't and didn't die during the 12 hours it took them to take my blood, my urine and run the tests.
the upside to all of this is that 'psyches' cannot be left alone. we are given a reasonably comfy recliner to sit in and an aide stays with us the entire time. the recliner was the upside, the aide — not so much. mine felt the need to question me in broken english why i was there. when i tried to answer her honestly but as generically as possible... her answer/suggest to my life's problems "you just need to relax."

i bit my tongue with every muscle in my body & silenced my strong desire to say 'oh really, is that your medical opinion? because legally, you aren't even qualified to record my vital signs in the computer. so pleeeease, spare me your thoughts on what i need to do to straighten out my life.'

... but she was just trying to be nice, so after a few hours i gave in and tried to engage in conversation with her. i allowed her to play nurse every now and then. and i demonstrated to her and the other aides that i was the perfect psyche. the likes of which they had never encountered before. i wasn't belligerent, i made little jokes, i shared my cake that came at dinner with the now homeless blind man who only spoke cantonese whose family had abandoned him at the hospital 2 days ago after his eye appointment. i figured 'who knows how long all of us are going to be hanging out here together, we may as well get along and i may as well show them i'm not a psychopath, just a well-mannered woman in distress who doesn't have insurance. besides, the rest of the ER was extremely scary 60% of them were in chains & had policemen with them and the other 40% were raving lunatics off the street who reeked of piss, shit & god only knows what else. i would continue running into these people as the week progressed.

when my barrage of tests were completed i had only to wait for the psyche-wards ER to calm down enough for 'transfer.' estimated time: 10 minutes. actual time: 3 hours. at 3:20 a.m. i finally bid my aide adieu and made my way back to the psyche ward— accompanied, of course.

by this time i was exhausted and all i cared about was a bed. we got to the ward & the guards and nurses looked at me & my courier like 'you're kidding right? what are we supposed to do with her?' as they looked from me to the man in chains & orange surrounded by 3 cops sitting on a bench being processed. the only solution was to move him to one end & put me on the other while i waited to have my vitals checked... again. of course, within seconds (probably to show off) the man in orange went totally ballistic. he jumped up from the bench and all i really remember seeing was the chick cop putting her hand in a 'ready to grab' position over her gun as the other two tackled him and he fell back onto the bench just missing me by an inch. i gave him my absolute shittiest look as the nurse took my heart rate and blood pressure & then i was sent into the bathroom with 2 robes and a pair of pajama bottoms to change into.

they took all my personal possessions – including my contacts rendering me completely blind. but not so blind that i didn't see a sea of orange as we made our way to the 24 bed mixed ward.. and my loss of sight in no way inhibited my ability to hear the clink, clink, clink of restraint chains coming from every direction. it was at that point that honest to god terror took hold of my body and it took every ounce of me to remain polite and docile instead of breaking down entirely and crying uncontrollably. an orderly put me in a private room and asked me if i would be ok there for a few minutes while they found a place with me. i said i was ok as long as nobody else was going to come in there & rape or murder me while he was gone. the orderly pointed to the ceiling and a camera and told me i wouldn't be alone for even a second & that i would be perfectly safe while they rearranged the prison patients to one side of the ward to make a 'safe haven' in front of the nurses station for me and a few other non-threatening female patients.

T U E S D A Y: battle of the bulge

physically & mentally depleted, i fell asleep within minutes. i didn't care who i was bunking with or that the nurses were ridiculously loud and annoying. i just wanted to sleep. they woke me at some point and took many more vials of blood. they woke me again and took my blood pressure. it was really low so she made me uncross my legs, sit up & she took it again. it was 73 over 42 this time and a little alarm went off. she said "i'm going to have to have the doctor keep an eye on this." i immediately slipped back into my slumber and never saw or heard from her or a doctor about it again.
at breakfast they took more blood & put a tray of 'very bad with no coffee' on my lap. i picked at it and asked a nurse if i could have my contacts. she didn't know, she would check. i never saw or heard from her again.
a few hours later the doctor from the day before came to my bed and asked if i remembered her. of course i did i explained, i just couldn't see her because nobody would give me my contacts — so she would have to excuse my squinty, blank stare as i looked in her general direction. she said she would look into it. (she didn't)

we discussed how i was feeling. i told her i was scared and that the days events had put my problems into perspective. my troubles were nothing compared to those in every bed around me. she asked if i thought i needed to remain under the 3 day hold. i said no i didn't, what i wanted was to get my prescription and begin therapy as soon as possible. we discussed alternative medicine options (which sounded good) and then her boss came over & joined in the conversation. he was older, a bit too 'been there, done that, i'm a man & therefore i make the decisions.' for my liking & i sensed my younger, nicer doctor felt the same. in fact i know she did as she didn't do a very good job of hiding it when she went over the alternative cocktails we had been discussing and he abruptly cut her off and said "no just double her dose of prozac" and walked away. once he cleared i allowed myself one moment of snidery and said "al-righty then, 40mgs of prozac it is, i guess." she sort of smirked and walked away.

after our conversation i was under the impression the 3 day hold had been lifted and that i would be heading home soon. i sunk back into my gurney and let out a breathe of absolute joy and thanks. 20 minutes later an ambulance gurney appeared, my name was called and my possessions and files were handed over to one of the paramedics. terrified of what i was going to hear i asked "where am i going?" and the female attendant rattled off some psyche facility in a city i didn't recognize. i asked if i could put in my contacts. "no" was the reply as i was wheeled out of the ward, down the hall & loaded into an ambulance going god knows where.

i stared out the back window searching desperately for any landmark recognizable to my blurry vision. there were none and my heart sank as we got onto the highway. i counted the minutes: 12. i remembered and subtracted the beginning and ending milage recorded into the travel log: 4.9 miles. i had no idea where they were taking me and nobody i knew had any idea where i was — other than 'at a doctors appt. the day before.'

we pulled into a parking lot and backed into a drive. i couldn't see anything but i could see enough to know i wasn't being dropped off at 'promises.' this was confirmed when they wheeled me inside & i got my first blast of piss & disinfect and heard my first crazed cackle. they dropped me off at the nurses station, handed over my belongings and hit the road. again i asked if i could put in my contacts. i was told "probably, but not until my things were checked in & that would probably take another 20 minutes." i was lead to a dark room with 4 beds. my night-stand was removed from my mattress and set beside the bed. i was told dinner would be in an hour and female showers would be in 20 minutes. i was starved and dying to shower — but without contacts in i was afraid to leave my room. i laid down in my bed, got under the covers and let myself cry quietly to myself for a few minutes while it sunk in where i was. and there was no chance of forgetting that because for the next 6 hours an assortment of ranting and raving nutters and aides made their way through my room doing the rounds. those first few minutes were the only time i allowed myself to cry the entire week. i didn't dare.

a few hours after arriving i met with some guy who looked over my file & asked me how i was feeling, was i thinking of hurting myself, did i feel i should be there blah blah blah. we chit chatted a little, i explained to him the now epic tale of the 'digoxin' (i gave up correcting them ages ago) and then blindly made my way back to my room. at 10:30 that night one of the counselors (for lack of a better term or actual title) checked in my belongings. he was completely ocd & could not decide how he wanted to divvy up my valuables to be put into envelopes. then i had to lay out all my clothing & purse contents in piles of 'like items' to make recording them easier. 90 minutes later he was done making the appropriate check marks on a pre-made list denoting how many pairs of pants i had (1) and how many socks (2), etc. the temptation to ripe the pen from his reticent 'is a bra a top or would it be considered underwear?' hand was overwhelming. but again, i bit my tongue and stared into the grain of the formica table. i would be staring at a lot of fake wood grain. he dismissed me & i went back to my room — but this time with my contacts, which i had to remove & turn into the nurses station where they would hold onto them when i slept. apparently they can be used as a deadly weapon?? i was told to leave nothing i wanted to keep out in the open or else it would be stolen within minutes. the clothing and personal items i was allowed to keep were locked in my locker. including my sneakers... sans shoelaces. i wasn't in kansas anymore.

one last stop at the nurses office. i was told i would meet with my 'social worker' and doctor the next day. they asked if there was anyone i wanted them to let know of my current residence so they could call me. i gave them my sisters number & waited by the pay phone. they told i would meet with my 'social worker' and doctor the next day. within minutes the phone rang & kri was on the other end. all we could really do was giggle as i described my 'one flew over the cuckoo's nest living situation' and what a crock of shit my 'psychiatric facility' was.

i went to bed and could think of nothing other than jack nicholson as the quintessential nutter and how quickly my own life was descending into a much cheesier lifetime version about a decent woman who was never seen or heard from again because she got lost in the system. as cries and fights broke out in seemingly every corner and the constant chatter and intrusions into my room by anyone and everyone kept me peering out from under my single, scratchy, cover i tried to fall asleep during my first night in the government sanctioned nuthouse. i didn't sleep at all.

by 5:30 someone was stealing my blood again while someone else was jabbing me with a TB test. i thought to myself 'if i come out of here with more critters than i came in with, i'm gonna be pisssssed.' and then my heart skipped a beat & i thought 'what if i don't get out?'

W E D N E S D A Y: the dirty dozen


armed with eyesight at last i was ready to conquer the previously terrifying worlds of the shower room, the dining room and the recreation yard. as i was waiting in line for the shower i was told my social worker was ready to see me but they would tell her i was just about to shower & i would be there after. "my social worker" wow, that was a phrase i never expected to use. as i gave myself a silkwood shower with the most abrasive drying handsoap in a semi-private stall i tried using it in different phrases to amuse myself. "i would love to go to dinner and the ballet, but i have to meet with my social worker first." "hey, there's a great sale at fred segal's, want to head over there after i talk to my social worker?" "my social worker doesn't think you're the right man for me. i'll be eating this pie entirely by myself if you don't mind (& i know you won't)" this phrase actually provided (& still does) a great deal of entertainment for me. i use it whenever i can just to hear the absurdity roll off my tongue. i have a social worker. me! one day you're a darling of new york, the next you wake up a ward of california with your own social worker. the world is a strange, strange place. luckily mine was nice. her name was pearla and she listened to my retelling of the last 48 hours intently. the first thing she said when i was done was "because of the economy and so many people losing their jobs and insurance we are experiencing a number of higher functioning clients. we aren't really equipped for you but we are making changes." i was relieved that she was not only aware of my status as a higher functioning being, but that she acknowledged it. she empathized with the fact that despite having serious problems, unfortunately i had become a misplaced product of the system and that really, i didn't belong there. especially since i had gone to the doctor of my own volition because i recognized i needed help and was willingly seeking it. she told me she would pass on our conversation to the doctor, who with any luck i would meet with shortly and who could very possibly discharge me that day. the only downside would be that he would not be able to prescribe me medicine if i didn't stay so essentially i would be going through all of this for nothing—in a sense, she was quick to remind me that i did in fact need help. but we both knew i wasn't going to get it there.

bolstered by the hope of getting out. i joined one of my roommates in the dining room for breakfast. let me be more specific. i ate breakfast with the roommate who hadn't just thrown a fit in the hallway while talking on the phone about how the secret service was watching her neighbor for mail fraud & that she was going to have to move because nobody deserved to live under those conditions. oh if only i had a tape recorder.

after breakfast i spied a coke machine out in to the rec yard and wandered out. apparently there was going to be a 'group' and i was told to sign-in & sit down. i took my coke and parked my butt on a wall where no one else was sitting but still close enough to the action to not seem 'reclusive.' seconds after sitting down the craziest lady of the bunch plunked herself down next to me. i smiled while trying not to bare my teeth in case she might take that as a sign of aggression. my mind wandered off to the ridiculous banter that was comprising our 'group'. it wasn't therapeutic in any sense, it was a group reciting of the days schedule. showers at 7, 1st breakfast for rooms 23-32 at 8, cigarettes at 9. i couldn't believe what i was hearing. a sensation that something was hovering near me broke my daze and i looked down at the coke i was holding in my hands. glenda, the crazy lady next to me, was caressing my almost full soda bottle with her scaly hand. i frowned inwardly at my lost coke and before i could even think 'well, won't be drinking that.' glenda slipped it from my hand, chugged it like there was no tomorrow & then poured what was left on her legs (and many open sores) and feet in what i realized was an attempt to squeeze her swollen feet into a pair of flip flop like sandals that were easily a size too small. as i watched my coke spill all over the side walk i though 'well, i have to give her points for ingenuity, she may be crazy as a bed bug but she has the sense to lube up her feet to try & squeeze them into her shoes.' as i was thinking this the group got to the part of their recital about not sharing food because of germs & because some people have diet restrictions. i watched as glenda guzzled the last of the coke & thought to myself 'she's drinking that like a person who isn't allowed to drink sugar. she better not fucking keel over because of this.'

when group ended i went up to one of the aides & told her what had happened & that i only wanted to let her know in case glenda was diabetic and she probably shouldn't be pouring coke on her sores anyway...' the aide, thrilled that she had an example that could be made for the benefit of the others immediately ran to the front of the group & announced that stealing snacks from others would NOT be tolerated.

great, 20 minutes in the rec yard and i'm not only glenda's bitch but now i'm a narc too. excellent. i feebly explained to the few dazed & confused who were still sitting on the benches looking at me that i had simply not wanted her to get sick if she wasn't supposed to drink sugar. they looked at me like i was speaking ancient greek. i sat down on the bench and tried to figure out what to do for the rest of the day.

i looked up to see 3 people standing in front of me. a woman and 2 guys. she sat down and said, don't worry, i'm one of you. i felt so bad for you when i saw glenda grab your coke & start showering with it. i wanted to snag you & bring you over by us. how did you end up in here? i gave her an abridged version and reveled in my first contact with someone who didn't scare the bejesus out of me. before long we were laughing at the insanity of supposedly being insane and marveled at the people around us. we made the rounds & got to know all of them. it was fascinating and i have to say aside from the constant fear that i would do or say something that would make my stay permanent i rather enjoyed myself. i even went into the activity room & colored a picture of ants that was photocopied from a coloring book for 4 year olds. i just loved that at the top of the page it read 'color the ants' (so demanding!) & so i thought to myself 'well, ok, if you insist. it will make a nice memento for my fridge... or maybe mom.' i held it up to my new friend & said 'i think this piece of paper is telling me to color it." we broke into a fit of giggles in front of the aide who was over seeing the art projects & i started digging through the colored markers.

when i was finally called to my doctor i literally ran into his office. he took a cursory glance through my binder of notes & files and talked to me for all of 5 minutes. i was asked the same barrage of questions about whether i was hearing voices, did i want to hurt myself, was i feeling suicidal. he told me he was going to put me on 20 mg of prozac since that was what i had taken in the past. i mentioned that the doctor at usc had suggested double the dose and he shook his head like i was a complete idiot and said "no, no, no! i can't just start you on 40 mg right off the bat. you will start with 20. i'll order it from the pharmacy today and it should be here tomorrow" my heart sank — no early discharge and obviously this man who was making these huge decisions about my life hadn't bothered to even look at my file because he had no clue that i had been on 20 mg of prozac for 3 months and it wasn't doing enough —which is why i was there in the first place. i silenced myself from pointing this error out to him. "keep your mouth shut and get out of his office. ride it out until tomorrow, take your fucking pills & get the FUCK OUT OF THIS PLACE. do not give him any reason to hold onto you for a few more days 'just to observe how you are doing on your meds.'"

i spent the rest of the day with my new collection of comrades making crazy jokes about each other, keeping each other in check if we started doing anything that elicited 'too much note taking' by any of the aides and basically tried to entertain ourselves any way possible. i shot some baskets but declined playing a game of 2 on 2 as it was too difficult to run in sneakers without laces. out of sheer boredom we found ourselves playing ping pong. yes, ping pong. i suck at ping pong & i have to say... i'm not ashamed of that. tennis is my paddle sport of choice if i must engage. we sat through an anger management group that was so unbelievably ridiculous, ill-informed and ignorant that it actually pissed me off. but again, i bit my tongue & stared at the floor. it was agonizing and i have nothing left of my tongue anymore. we mingled with the rest of the patients and got to know them a little. most were just unfortunate people who had no one to care for them and no money to get proper help. most were younger, a few older. i like almost all of them. there were only a few that scared me & that was plenty. especially since i was sharing a room with one. the other was a man in his late 20's. mean as hell looking, covered in prison tattoos. he was the only one of us who had a personal aide at his side 24/7. they sat in his doorway as he slept (which i might add was 2 doors down from mine which i did not like at all), they stuck by his side in the yard while he smoked. and even though the aide was always with him he was still terrifying. he watched me everywhere i went (an observation made by debbie not myself) and at one point when his aide wasn't paying attention he sat down next to me and asked my name. "heather" i said. "really? nice, i've got you on my neck"
i looked at him obviously confused & he turned around & showed me a tattoo of my name. at this point the aide noticed him & pulled him up away from me. as he was dragged away he called back to me "that was my baby's mama, i hate the bitch & wish she would die." and then winked at me. i'm not entirely sure but i think he was flirting with me, not trying to terrify me. he really needs to work on his social skills.

determined to get some sleep i asked for a "prn" which apparently is crazy code for sleeping pills. they handed me two pills in a tiny cup & a dixie cup of juice (just like in the movies). i swallowed them & went to bed early. as i dozed off i heard debbie come into the hall and say that melissa had just puked everywhere & it needed to be cleaned up. i fell into a slumber to the sounds of a mop slopping up puke, the smell of disinfectant burning my nostrils and my super crazy roommate talking to herself excitedly in her bed, hoping out every few minutes to run down to the nurses station & yell 'i want all the files from A-deck transfered to the government right now! DO IT!" and then she would run back into our room & mutter for a few more minutes. oddly enough i actually slept. that is until about 5 when my super crazy roommate snuck out of our room and set off the alarm at the end of the hall. i woke up to the oh-so-annoying chime of the alarm & a ton of commotion in the hall as they tried to figure out what was going on, if anyone had gotten out (or broke any glass) and finally to subdue that crazy bitch. i just rolled over in bed & went back to sleep. after only 2 days in the nut house i was already a seasoned pro.

T H U R S D A Y: last call for the burma railway

the sleeping pills had knocked me out. i woke up just barely in time to make it to breakfast—which once again was completely inedible. afterwards we got in line for our meds, then we got in line for our shower then they got in line for their cigarette & i got in line so i could get out into the yard & get some m&m's out of the vending machine for breakfast. it was most likely that 3 of the 4 of us were most likely going to leave that day. the 4th was this hilarious guy who was completely schizophrenic and would occasionally drift out of your conversation & into one with someone sitting right next to you who wasn't really there. it was always the same very agitated argument with a lot of finger shaking at the invisible person and then the inexplicable addition of the word 'witchcraft' at the end of his other wise entirely chinese dialogue. it was positively surreal & at first a bit disconcerting. naturally we weren't around him for 20 minutes before we started tacking the finger wagging & 'witchcraft' to the end of our own sentences just for added affect while telling each other stories. it takes so little to entertain yourself in a ghetto psyche hospital.

we exchanged phone numbers & email addys in the morning. deb was the first to leave, then eric. i had my meeting with the doctor around noon. he sent me on my way. an hour or so later, my papers were finished, my locker was emptied, my possessions were given back to me. albert, one of the aides, escorted me out of the compound, gave me my valuables & contraband back at the main office & pointed me in the direction of the bus stop. i sat down on the bench & re-laced my shoes — at last. and then prepared myself to ride the bus back to USC where hopefully i still had a car.
psyche wards & public transportation all in one week. it was a banner week for me.

i got home and spent the night in complete amazement that i made it out of there alive. i relished every second i spent brushing my teeth — when i wanted to, and eating what i wanted to, when i wanted to. i took an insanely hot shower & bath and went to the grocery store. i looked around at my lovely apartment and wanted to kiss the walls i had missed it so much.

as happy as i was to be home i still was unable to shake that fear of being watched every second. i found myself jumping at every noise and looking around me expecting some lunatic to come charging at me from the corner or some psychopath to whisper into my ear that he wanted to wear a part of me around his neck. i was traumatized. i still am. you have no idea how terrifying it is to be locked up surrounded by people who are completely insane and have no idea if they are going to let you out. the fear of being forgotten and lost in the shuffle is agonizing and not easily shaken.

i was also faced with the realization of what a mess i had made concerning certain people. certain things i said & did while in my downward spiral sunday night will most likely never be forgiven. it kills me to know this but i must accept it. tonight i wrote my apology and severed all ties. he hasn't spoken a word to me since sunday. for all he knows i am dead and he simply doesn't care anymore.

i can't blame him at all. he is completely entitled to that feeling. i'm sure we will never speak to each other again.