On January 17th 2013, I ruined a carpet. It happened when an excessive amount of blood gushed out of the multiple stab wounds I created in my neck. And then I blacked out. I woke up in an operating room, and in a panic, ripped gauze off of my wounds and stood up on the operating table before being wrestled down by doctors, nurses, and security. The next time I woke up I was in the ICU, finally detached from a respirator, with 50 or 60 staples in my neck (who keeps count, really?). And for the next four months I remained by law, in the custody of one psychiatric hospital and then another.
Here are three questions I was asked about my experience and all I have to say about them.
Is It Anything Like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?
No. There is no Chief to save you.
You will spend five minutes a week staring at the seven-day menu, hoping that the days melt away so you can have a snickerdoodle or brownie for dessert.
If they believe you to be dangerous to yourself or others you will be “coded.” You will have a staff member assigned to you at all times.
You will hear employees tell patients things like “take your meds and you’ll get out.”
You will be allowed to go to the hospital’s gift shop and spend your money on candy.
You may be slammed to the ground without warning or explanation and receive three needles in your thigh.
You’ll probably spend your time in the TV room watching things like Pawn Stars while waiting for the sun to see things your way and finally retreat so your day will be over.
Your only hip hop may be that one time you hear 50 Cent’s “We Up” on the radio.
You will not be allowed to carry nail clippers on your person. And forget about tooth floss
Did You Make Any Friends?
No. Looking around you wonder why you’re there. You measure your crazy against your fellow patient’s and you say “how can I compete with that.”
You may meet a woman in her 50’s with chin hair and a baggy black button-up shirt. She’ll talk about the 60s, call a Puerto Rican staff member a “spic” and offer her criticisms of their meals.
You might meet a gentleman named Corey from Syracuse, NY. “I’m actually famous in Canada. It’s easier to get famous in Canada than it is here.”
You may have a bearded Mormon as a roommate. He’ll ask for privacy so he can pray and will somehow sneak a cell phone into the building one day after a court date. I must add that he’ll also spit into the pots that contain fake plants. And warning: he may try slamming the bathroom door on you.
There will probably be a manic 20-year-old white guy that will claim he’s a member of the Piru Blood gang, but also add that he “can never be a Damu” because he is in fact Caucasian.
Don’t be crazy. Don’t get admitted to a psychiatric hospital. If you do, enjoy your stay in a place that has more in common with jail than many might think or might want you to believe.