April 16, 2010
I had to let that all out and put it away to rest forever.
I will never forget it, but I have put the pain, the anger, and the confusion into something concrete.
And now I can put it away.
Many bad things happened, but some good things as well. I met people I will never forget. Learned lessons I couldn’t learn any other way. Lost part of myself, but found parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Ultimately, I grew from these experiences.
I’ll take the good, and leave the bad.
I’ll never forget the friends I made.
I still pray for them.
I will always remember what they taught me about love, about life, about myself.
And that’s what I will keep.
“They were not perfect, but they were my friends. Some I’ve seen… Some, never again. But there isn’t a day my heart doesn’t find them.” ~Susanna, Girl Interrupted
The last three posts were journal entries from my first stay at the hospital. A month later, I was committed again. A month after that, again – that time at the county psych ward, the worst place you can imagine next to prison. But all three hospitals were similar. If you watch the movie “Girl, Interrupted,” well, that’s pretty much what it’s like – except no one gets their own room, you’re not allowed in other people’s rooms, there are no secret tunnels, and you don’t get Whoopi Goldberg as your nurse or Angelina Jolie as your partner in crime.
I remember being restrained. Third time, they handcuffed me because I attacked the paramedics. I’m sorry, but what do you expect when you punch me as hard as you can in the sternum to see if you get a reaction? And quit asking me stupid questions like what my name is and how old I am. Seriously. Then there’s the IV trying to clean the drugs out of your system. Or drinking a sicky-sweet black charcoal smoothie. The nurses that patronize you. Confusion, panic, the endless, repetitive questioning. Everything moving in slow motion. Being left in the hallway by myself with practically nothing on, all the other patients gathering around to gawk at me. Being written up because I refuse to eat. Walking around in a daze, feeling exposed and incredibly out of place. Being sent to a place you leave crazier than when you got there. People screaming, pounding at the walls, watching in horror as someone is restrained and put in the isolation room for days at a time. Wondering if you’re going to be the next one to go stark raving mad. Maybe that’s what this place does to you.
Making you sign form after form. Ha. Asking a “mentally ill” person to sign papers. Just doesn’t seem right. The formidable intake form that tells everyone who wants to know why you’re here. Or at least, why they think you deserve to be in this place. Argue with them at all? Challenge them a little? “That’s something to talk to your doctor about.” Never getting answers, asking for something and not getting it for hours later. I just want a cup of water, is that so much to ask? Don’t look at me like I’m nothing. I probably have a higher IQ than you, you stuck up little excuse for a nurse. Dingy walls, tiled floor, long, sterile hallways. Uncomfortable beds. Silly little rules you’re constantly breaking: “Don’t put things on your windowsill! No running in the hallway! Don’t talk so loud!” Everything you do is suspicious. Things that are normal seem strange just because you’re labeled a “mental patient.” You sneeze. Ooh why did she do that? Hmm she’s gone to the bathroom three times already today. Better write that down. Uh oh. You’re not asleep. Take notes. Everything you do is interpreted as “off.” Imagine if I had done something REALLY crazy, like, oh I don’t know, dancing an Irish jig in the cafeteria while singing “This is the Song that Never Ends” in a British accent. Wish I had thought of that. I’m just a paramecium under a microscope anyways. Nobody gives a damn.
The call for meds. A cold ritual. You’re just a number. A name. A wrist band. “I don’t need these.” “Discuss with your doctor. For now, take them.” Giving me salve to put on my scars. I never used it. I hid it under my bed. Along with other contraband, like the chocolate my parents would sneak in. I felt like such a rebel, hiding food and make-up in my room. Getting outside in the sunshine was a rare treat. Feeling like a bird let out of a cage, just for a few minutes. So much light. Hurts my eyes. I want to go back inside with the fluorescent lighting I’m accustomed to. But once I’m back inside, looking longingly at the slit of blue sky on the top of the plexi-glass barred window. You start to believe that something is deeply wrong with you, you’re just like the rest of these crazy loons. Deeply wrong, not just a misfire of neurons. Something is wrong with your character, your being, in my case – your personality. You’re different. You can’t take care of or control yourself so you’re kept her under lock and key. You’re a danger to society. You’re a danger to yourself. You get points for good behavior. Act good, act happy, get out sooner. Say you’re ok even though you’re not just to get out. Tell them what they want to hear. Anything to get out of that place.
I learned that if I didn’t talk, if I didn’t socialize with these scary people, if I didn’t eat, I would be here forever. I was scared to death. Scared even to sleep. Not knowing what was going to happen to me. Denied things I thought were basics. Like clothes. Hairbrush. No shoelaces. No razors. No hoodie strings. Nothing you could possibly kill yourself with. Also nothing that would make life bearable in that place, like an Ipod. No electronics. In the county hospital I wore clothes people had donated. They felt dirty and uncomfortable. You wear a band on your wrist – different colors meant different privileges. Red band? Oh, you get to eat in the cafeteria! Gee, look at me all grown up. Thankfully our showers weren’t supervised. Your blood pressure and temperature being taken every five hours. They wake you up in the morning to do it. Sometimes they stick a needle in you and draw blood before you even realize what they’re doing. I didn’t sleep much. They would turn on the lights in the day room at 3am so I could write. Well, if it was one of the nice nurses on duty. Otherwise, forget it. Go back to bed, you naughty little girl.
Always feeling spied on. In “Girl, Interrupted,” everyone cheeked their meds. Wish I had the guts to do that. The drugs they gave me made me worse once I got out. You would think they were trying to make me crazier just so I’d come back and they could collect more of my insurance money. Try to engage the nurses in a little small talk, they look at you suspiciously wondering what you’re trying to pull over on them. Awkward stares and whispers when visitors come. Those perpetual patients who will never get better and are brutally jealous of those going home.
Dealing with staff. They insult you, assume you’re something you’re not, blatantly ignore you. You’re treated like a nuisance, a nobody. You scream and no one listens. Heaven forbid you ask for something, ever. Or express yourself, ever. Just shut up and be quiet and let us do whatever the hell we’re doing behind this desk with the high counter and “don’t lean over” sign. Or the ones that pretend to be all caring and compassionate, but really they’re just dying to get inside this crazy person’s head: “Oh dear, why would a beautiful girl like you cut herself?” “Oh gee! That’s why I did it! Cuz I had no idea I was beautiful! I thought I was ugly! Wow, thanks! I’ll never cut again!” Shut up you stupid know-it-alls. Oh, and then there’s the ones that think absolutely nothing is wrong with you and you’re just a little brat begging for attention from mommy and daddy.
Valerie: You know, I can take a lot of crazy shit from a lot of crazy people, but you? You are not crazy.
Susanna: Then what’s wrong with me? What the fuck’s going on inside my head? Tell me Dr. Val, what is your diag-nonsense?
Valerie: You are a lazy, self-indulgent little girl who is driving herself crazy.
Talking to doctors? Pointless.
Doctor: Oh, I see.
Susanna: No, you don’t.
Doctor: Are you stoned? How do you feel right now?
Susanna: I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m feeling.
Doctor: Were you trying to commit suicide?
Susanna: I was trying to make the shit stop. Why am I here? Everyone here is fucking crazy!
You try to explain the whys and wherefores, the strange mixture of thoughts and feelings in words the doctor will understand. You feel like you have to translate your ideas into words THEY will understand, at THEIR level. Or you just tell them what you know they want to hear, just to get out. Or, you just give up and don’t say anything, and they send you out to be heavily medicated.
Lisa: Yeah, well that’s what ther-rape-me’s all about. That’s why fuckin Freud’s picture’s on every shrink’s wall. He created a fuckin’ industry. You lie down, you confess your sins, and you’re saved! Ka-ching! The more you confess, the more they think about setting you free.
Susanna: But what if you don’t have a secret?
Lisa: Then you’re a lifer, like me.
Outpatient program. Three times a week for 6 hours. Torture. What I called the “crazy bus” picks you up and takes you home. Hell. Thrown in a room with a group of people you have nothing in common with and are mostly schizophrenic. I’m not crazy. I don’t belong here. I have nothing to say to you people. I can’t take this seriously. Oh, the things I heard from the so-called “therapists”… “No guy wants a girl who cuts herself. Tsk tsk tsk young lady.” Or “If you didn’t have such a damn high IQ, you wouldn’t be here.” At the beginning of every group meeting, we would have to write out a “report” of how we were feeling and talk about anything that triggered us the day before, and how we handled it. One time (and the only time) I wrote something, it was so sensitive and personal, I asked the therapist leading the group to please not read it aloud. The bitch did anyways. I was always being accused of “acting out.” I wrote “Edde was here” on the whiteboard, I was “acting out.” I decided to be out-going and make jokes with the person next to me and I was “acting out” and “giving off relational cues.” What the hell??! Fine. You’ve labeled me as a deviant. I’ll act like one. Our assignment: write about “How have you changed in the last week?” I wrote “Mostly in my room by myself. But sometimes I forget to close the blinds and then the creepy old man across the street comes around with his binoculars.” I got a “talking to” for that.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2009
I’m so glad I stayed another day. I just found out I’m going home at 10AM!!!!!!!!!!! If I hadn’t stayed, I wouldn’t have had some of the amazing conversations I’ve had or made the friends that I did. It really was a blessing disguise. I have learned from every single person I’ve come in contact with here:
“Dallas” Cole AKA N-Dogg: 81-year-old man. Mormon. Very sweet. Sang “I Am a Child of God” in group once. Recited a poem that went: “How green is the grass, How green is the grass, Alas, Alas, And how blue is the sky!” Did I mention SWEET?!
Dr. Roman: Dude didn’t recognize me today! When he came to tell me that I could go home, he yelled down the hall “Edde?!” but was standing right in front of me. I was like, “Ummm, I’m right here!” He did a double take, “You’re not Edde.” “Yes, I am!” “Then there are two Eddes here.” “No! Just me! I”m just not wearing black, my hair is back, I’m wearing some make-up and a hat!” “Take your hat off and let me see your wrist band.” “I’m ME, I SWEAR!” He was making me doubt myself, or rather, doubt who the crazy one was! I swear he’s in the mafia. Or a serial killer. Something.
Shelly AKA My Angel: 20 years old, angelic and innocent girl with a nerve problem so she can’t sit down for long and walks with her hands posed in front of her like a China doll. She is beautiful and her spirit shines through her broken body. She loves to sing and her favorite song that she knows ALL the lyrics to is “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. I woke up one morning to her singing in the hallway. It was so cute. She calls me Barbie Doll and is always asking how old I am and what my disorder is. Once in a while she will come up with a sarcastic comment so seemingly out-of-character it is adorable. Her mom visits her every day and she says she wants to live with her parents forever.
Sergei: Russian dude. My buddy. He has social anxiety and kind of looks to the side of you and not directly in the eye unless you make him smile or laugh. He likes to sit in the rocking chair and rock back and forth. At first he would always sit outside of the group by himself, but I started sitting by him and talking to him and he eventually started participating, even commenting once in a while. He is way cool and so sweet. His whole family lives in Moscow and he goes to [nearby college]. They don’t know he’s here and he doesn’t get any visitors. He is one of my favorite people ever! I like to tease him a bit, like when he leaves the room I will say “Where ya goin Sergei? You’re breakin my heart!”
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2009
Trying to write a little bigger today. This skinny slip of a pen makes my hand cramp up. Woke up at 5AM with a migraine, and all they could give me was Tylenol. I might as well take a sugar pill. I was soooo hungry and breakfast tasted soooo good. (I think my Selexa is kicking in because I’m feeling way too happy right now – a teensy bit manic?) Last night my parents brought me a shirt that says “Music is my world.” I miss music (and I miss playing in the band with Hal and dressing up like a rocker chick.)
No matter where I go or what place I find myself in, God has a way of trying to reach out to me. I’m sitting here in community meeting and the 81 year old man, Dallas Cole, broke out in “I Am a Child of God.” The whole room went silent. I’ve lost a lot of my ability to feel, but I felt something in my heart when he sang. He is so sweet and innocent.
This morning one of the staff was trying to get Shelly to walk without holding her hands stiffly in front of her. So Dallas Cole walked back and forth down the halls with her, encouraging her to swing her arms as she walked. He was so into trying to help her, he was so attentive, it was the most adorable thing ever!
Best quotes of today:
“You’re my angel” ~Shelly, to me.
“You look like a Barbie doll” ~ Shelly and Michelle, to which Joweli piped up “Ya you do. I know cuz I used to work at Toys R Us!”
“You could totally be on America’s Next Top Model. Size 6? You’re perfect!” ~Michelle
“You look like an Abercrombie model” ~Shelly
… This people are OBVIOUSLY off their rockers!!!!
“I missed you. I didn’t even know what I was missing before you came. Then I realized. I was missing an Edde.” ~Heather
“I love you Edde. You’re my little sister.” ~Heather
“Hats make you more confident” ~Michelle
“Your dad is a stunning man. He looks like Brad Pitt.” ~Heather
“How would you like her for your stepmom?” ~Joweli, pointing at Heather. HAHAHA!
Best one of all… “You would be PERFECT for my son!” ~Tina, my roommate.
[Thursday evening] What a roller coaster of a day! Woke up with a migraine… Um I think I already wrote about this. I swear I’m ADD. But everything changed at lunch time. I ate two pieces of delicious apple pie and two cups of coffee. I sat with Sergei, Tina, and Heather. I made everyone laugh when my ranch packet burst open and all the ranch landed “kerplop” in my coffee! Then we had some great conversation and Heather and I sang showtunes outside. We harmonized and sounded really good! At lunch she looked at my chest and said, “Those CAN’T be real!” HA! “But don’t worry, I’m a FLAMING heterosexual!” HAHA! After lunch I played the dot game with Joweli, who turns out is an awesome dude! Bonnie [my social worker] came in at about 1:30 and told me my parents were here demanding I go with them. That’s originally what I wanted, but for some reason my attitude had changed and I realized that I was actually enjoying myself and the people here! Whoa. Plus Dr. Roman said that if I left AMA (Against Medical Advice) he wouldn’t give me a prescription and there may be complications with insurance. So I decided to stay here and I’m very happy with my decision. I’m in Process Group right now talking about time management – something I really need to work on when I leave here.
WARNING: This series of blogs is going to be very blunt. A bit gutsy. A little angry. Extremely cathartic. Possibly offensive to some, as I don’t plan to censor any language. I apologize ahead of time.
“I’ve wasted a year of my life. And maybe everyone out there is a liar. And maybe the whole world is stupid and ignorant. But I’d rather be in it. I’d rather be fucking in it than down here with you.” ~Girl, Interrupted
My “Patient’s Journal” lies open next to me. The handwriting is tiny, almost impossible to read, as I didn’t want anyone possibly peeking at it behind my back to be given any kind of advantage. It is from my first “incarceration” in a psych ward, from which I was submitted involuntarily and released after five days on account of good behavior. I am typing this it just how it reads, with minor changes made only for clarity or anonymity. Here goes.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2009
I’m sitting here on my bed at the mental hospital. Wondering “Why am I here? How did I get to this place?” My roommate just opened her big, blue eyes and said “My name is Christy.” I said, “My name is Edde. Nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you.” Her eyes close. I’ve been her roommate nearly 24 hours. I arrived here at approximately 2PM Monday, November 16, 2009. I am here because I drank a whole bottle of Nyquil and cut my arms and neck. I don’t know who I am anymore. I change one day to the next. “Severe depression.” “Borderline Personality Disorder.” What? Not me. Surely not me. There are two people inside me. The one that got me here and the one that is amazing. The two don’t get along very well. Who do I think I am? So many people so much sicker, having suffered so much more. Where do I get off being depressed and suicidal?
Time has seemed to stop, even turn back. I keep feeling it is 2003 and I am 16 years old. This is where I was at 16, then 19, then 21, and now. Over and over. I don’t even know the real reasons, and when I think I’ve found the answer and life is good, I crash again. And now, I don’t feel anything but confused. Tired. Apathetic. Angry with myself for being so stupid. I used to watch over girls like me, and now I’m one of them. [I worked for six months at a residential treatment center for teenage girls with severe emotional issues.] I used to study people like me, and I’ve become one. Or maybe I’ve been this all along. Two people. One happy, one sad. One energetic, one tired. One caring, one apathetic. One cynical, one hopeful.
I shouldn’t be here at all. These people are crazy. I just have self-loathing. Christy is so thin, when I first saw her in bed all I could see was a head and sheets. She sleeps all day and all night. There are strange bottles and rags above her bed. She seems about 45, but her demeanor is that of a shy child.
I myself am behaving strangely in this place. When I first arrived I wouldn’t talk to anyone, and avoided eye contact. I knew from the moment the medics rolled me into the lobby that this was not the place for me. I sat in the hallway in a rolling chair in nothing but a hospital gown which barely covered my back. I sat there for 15 minutes alone while they scrambled to figure out what to do with me. Try to ask me more than basic questions and I say “I don’t know.” I just don’t want to talk. I’m still dizzy and groggy from the Nyquil. I want to see my family. I don’t understand why I did this. I didn’t even feel at my lowest. I didn’t feel ANYTHING but “Ok. This is the plan.” It was the same lack of feeling I had when I drove to San Francisco last summer [The main event precipitating my hypomanic episode followed by the suicidal crash that brought me here].
Christy is a skeleton. I’m so tired. My head hurts. The kind South African man came in to give me my meds. I used to give people meds. Selexa for depression and Ativan for anxiety. I wonder if it will make me feel any different. Prozac made me feel like a zombie.
What kind of person OD’s and cuts herself? Is this a huge joke I’m playing on myself? Did I think that because I cut myself once, I should do it again and again? That downing Nyquil was safe? Why wasn’t I sleeping? Or eating? All that coffee? What is real and what’s not? Am I really depressed or am I playing some kind of part? What the hell is wrong with me?
That man just looked in my room. Saied. He scares me. Last night he came into the day room where I was reading and started talking to me, low and fast in some Middle Eastern language. It was awful how he looked at me. I got up and moved away, slipping out the door before he cornered me. The old lady with the dark glasses and walker with tennis balls yelled, “Leave the poor girl alone. Look, you made her run away.” “She wants it, she wants it,” he said. I hovered by the front desk and watched him skulk back to his room. He made obscene comments to me this morning. Derek sits by me to make me feel better.
Derek is my favorite person here. He doesn’t belong here either. He’s not crazy. He is a little taller than me. Slight. Blue eyes, small features. Light brown shaggy hair and a goatee. I met him last night. “Are you Edde?” “Yes.” “I’m Derek. You didn’t eat dinner either?” “No.” I hadn’t eaten all day and when they made me come to the day room to eat, I threw away the lunch box and went back to bed. “I OD’d, that’s why I’m here. Is that why you’re here?” he asked, pointing to my arms. I nodded, “Partly.” Later, after visiting hours, when they wouldn’t give me the clothes my parents brought me, he gave me a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, and a sweater. He is very kind. Sad that such a nice person would have to be here, and would almost kill himself with drugs. But I understand how that goes.
BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER?????
No wonder I had such a hard time working at S___. Deep down I always felt like the blind leading the blind, the student teaching the student, the 4 year old taking care of the 3 year old.
Saied just became violent. I heard a lot of banging and screams and everyone was sent to their rooms. What am I doing here??? (And why am I writing so small?) They gave me a red band. I’ve graduated. Whoopee freakin doo. Can I go home yet? “Doesn’t take much to set him off.” I could’ve told you that, retards.
Mike (South African man) says to me, “Don’t let nobody take your joy. Take your weakness, make it your strength. Use it. Have your cry. And use it. Be a phenomenal woman like Maya Angelou. Don’t let nobody steal your joy.”
Enter Christine AKA “Crazy Cassandra.” She is tough, streetsmart, fast-talking. “Blah blah blah” syndrome she calls it. She is thin and worn, but pretty. She’s a year younger but decades older than me. I find her rough yet gentle demeanor attractive. I can tell she has a good heart. I want to be near her and here her talk. She has that charm about her, and stories to tell. She offers me a job as an “escort”/stripper. “You don’t do the dirty. It’s just like a date.” “I’ll think about it,” I say. Right. Later when they told me I was moving from Unit B to Unit C she said “You want my number, you give me your number, or is this just goodbye?” with a smile. I hesitated and grinned, “Just goodbye.” Later I wrote on a piece of paper with my name and number and “Let me know how things work out for you” and went back in the day room to give it to her, but she was gone. I handed it to Michelle, quiet and sweet, and asked if she could give it to her. I’m sure she did. But I didn’t get to say goodbye to Derek, the boy who gave me clothes to wear. Or the old lady with the glasses who told me to eat and yelled at Saied. I miss them.
Here, there is Theresa, who OD’d on coke and has “anger problems.” She wears an orange jacket. She is pretty and nice in her own way. Her group called me over to chat with them, but then tried to get me to talk about why I cut myself and proceeded to discuss some creepy guy who left yesterday who would try to get girls in his room. Great. Thanks.
There is a thin lady with long, blonde hair who must have been very beautiful once. She is talkative and has the air of “I’m queen of this place!” She takes charge of groups and handing out food when staff are less than enthusiastic. She dances for herself in front of her reflection in the day room window, and sings show tunes in a loud, warbling voice. She’s like an old, crazy actress or ballerina from like the 1930s. What’s the word? She’s… Anachronistic? I need to work on my vocabulary. My bank of words is not doing this place justice.
No peace or privacy anywhere. I can’t sleep for the constant commotion. I think I’m having night terrors. My jaw hurts from clenching. It’s cold and my bed and pillow are hard as rocks. I thought I saw someone crawl in my room, up to my bed, making snarling noises. I tried to move but was paralyzed. Finally I sit up and whatever it was, was gone – if it was even there in the first place.
Everyone keeps telling me I didn’t cope right. I don’t know why I cut myself. Or drank the Nyquil. Surely there were better options, and I knew it. I didn’t have to go to San Francisco thereby driving a knife in my boyfriend’s heart. I didn’t have to run away from home and do things I knew were wrong. I didn’t have to drink. Or smoke pot. Or get violent. Or run off in the middle of the night in the ghetto. But I did. Why? I don’t know.
Crazy lady wouldn’t stop talking to me last night. She followed me into the day room. 4AM and she is pacing the halls looking for the next victim of her incessant ranting and babbling. “You can’t trust anyone. They’ll steal from you. They’ll rape you. Don’t trust me unless you can see a halo. Can you see my halo? Then don’t trust me.” I got tired of it and went back to bed.
Theresa doesn’t like me for some reason. Either that or she likes Joweli better. Whenever I sit by her she moves, and didn’t want to sit at my table during lunch. I can’t figure her out. She has self-proclaimed anger issues. Perhaps she’s angry at me.
Steve is here because of something that happened with his 15 year old daughter. He has a lot of regret and says this is a wake up call. He would definitely rather be home than here – it’s more depressing here. I heartily agree!
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2009
Best quotes of the day:
“People don’t realize that Farah Fawcett died the same day as Michael Jackson and people don’t remember that C.S. Lewis died the same day JFK got shot. But his books live on. Pig poop. It’s the wave of the future. Swine flu? BAHAHAHAH!!” ~Heather the Feather (blonde dancer lady).
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” ~Shelly, the angelic Asian girl who paces the halls singing.
Had an incident with an unruly staff member or two today. First asshole, Larry, comes in my room with the nerve to ask me why I’m so quiet and why I cut myself. “Your boyfriend break up with you or something?” Don’t mock me you douchebag. Then there was Archie. I asked for my belongings and he blew up at me, then chastised me for crying. “You’ll be here longer if you cry!” Which of course just made me angry and cry even more. Then I got pulled into the office with the doctor who tells me that he’s going to keep me here 2-3 more days. So I went to my room and bawled, totally breaking the rules by doing so. Oh my. Imagine a depressed person crying! Unthinkable. Let’s not be human, ok? My whole problem is the robot syndrome – put on a happy face no matter how I’m feeling inside. Smile for everybody. Pretend. Didn’t think I had to do that here, but apparently, it’s expected.