Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Are You Curling Your Hair Right Now?: Memories from an Asylum

Somehow, I got into a conversation with my mama the other night reminiscing about the time I spent in the psychiatric hospital several years ago.

Hang in there with me, this post isn’t meant to be a downer.  A lot of funny, odd shit went down in the bin.  I find the inexplicable humorous.

For example, I can’t wrap my mind around the girl who, every morning, would stand in front of a mirror that was posted in a short hallway off of the main room and use a curling iron to style her hair. I mean, we’re in a loony bin here.  The gig’s up on dignity. But, I guess, each holds on to some measure of pride in their own small way. I cannot ascertain whether or not she owned the curling iron or if this was an item provided by the hospital for community use, but I am relieved to know that the fact that she was performing this task in the main room as opposed to the relative privacy of the bathroom indicates that the curling iron (which can definitely be used as a weapon, it doesn’t even take a criminal mind to know that) was not in her possession at all times. 

Speaking of bathrooms, and of weapons, some poor soul shat on my toilet on the day I was supposed to leave the bin.  Not in, on.  Me being me, I very much took this as an act of aggression meant to communicate a strong indictment upon my own behavior, thoughts, and very soul, which must be taken seriously, and so I immediately scanned my actions and words of the previous 72 hours to determine how my wrongs had provoked the seat-shitter to come into my suite and shit on “my” (shared) toilet seat. It was, clearly, my fault, and I chastised myself for not being more friendly toward her (the seat-shitter) while I was there. Yes, I took responsibility for her seat-shitting instead of processing the incident in a more healthy self-esteem way, which would’ve looked something like this:

Whoah!  I sure am glad I didn’t mess with this crazy bitch while I was here, no telling what all she would have done! That bitch is crazy! Man, I sure am glad I have my comparatively healthy mental health about me.  Man, I sure am glad I’m leaving here today!  I clearly belong in the upper echelon of critical thought and creative gurus, it’s too bad I had this little detour into a mistaken identity as someone who needs to be incarcerated in a mental hospital.  Never again! Now, on to do amazing things!

But instead I blamed myself for getting my seat shat upon, and had several moments of panic wherein I wondered if the hospital staff might think I had shat on my own toilet seat, and would try to keep me incarcerated for longer because of it.  I tried to succor myself with the highly unlikely odds that they would perform a doodie DNA test and I would be exonerated. 

Speaking of not wanting to be further incarcerated in the hospital, one ol’ girl climbed over the wall and escaped while I was there.  The hospital had a bricked-in “outside” area where, ostensibly, patients could go to get some fresh air, but it was also the area where patients went, frequently, to smoke, so the freshness of the air is to be questioned.  You can see how this air wasn’t fresh enough, so there’s really no blaming this one woman who silently walked toward the furthest wall and with absolutely no pomp, circumstance (well, maybe circumstance) or announcement, promptly began climbing the wall, which took her a few seconds, then dropped down over the other side and began calmly, but resolutely walking off.  We, the patients of the psychiatric hospital, all watched her.  I wondered what the others were going to do.  I did not wonder what I was going to do because I, generally, am not a woman of action, and especially in the hospital I was comfortable with that.  They kind of have you drugged.  But in any case, eventually the others rushed from the “fresh” air area back into the building, the main room, and progressed to the nurses’ armored blockade, what might be called a secured station in more polite terms, and reported the girl.  I felt that to be a sort of betrayal, really.  I don’t think, if I had been the only one to see her, I would’ve told.  I remember thinking some sedated version of, “Go in peace, crazy woman.” I don’t know what happened to her, if they caught her or what; the last time I saw her she was walking off in a very mental hospital-ish robe thing.  Much more mental hospital-ish than my mauve pajamas, even.

Speaking of proper attire for the occasion, did you know that the cafeteria in the mental hospital is so fancy that there is a dress code?  Yep.  In five star restaurants, gentlemen are required to wear jackets and, likewise, in the mental hospital, persons of both genders are required to wear shoes.  I did not know this.  First, I have to tell you that one of the first things they do in there is relieve you of your civilian clothes.  This is so all members, now patients, can bond together as their former identities become distant thoughts with which they no longer agree, as they come to know their new leader, whose spiritual title is Psychiatrist, and trust his group of elders and deacons, who are called Nurses and Social Workers.  They issue you new clothes, which are in calming shades, and include a top, pants, and thick socks with rubber bits on the bottom.  Safety, and safe behavior, is the hospital’s ultimate concern, aside from the occasional seat-shitting, escape, and ritual scarification performed amongst patients who have cigarettes upon other patients who may or may not have cigarettes, but who are definitely liars, which is not tolerated amongst patients At All, but occurs more frequently than anything else there, including board (bored) games.  When I was issued my uniform pajamas, I came to accept them along with everything else, including my medication, my status as a “level 2” security threat (that’s one of the lowest; I’m considered gentler than others even when out of my mind), and the fact that certain persons would curl their hair every morning even though I didn’t see the point.  Anyway, I wore what they gave me.  One day, I was given a new security clearance, even lower (better) than “2.”  This meant that I could travel to the cafeteria to have my meals rather than take them in the isolation of my room, which was meant to be a reward but which I saw as a punishment, of course.  Who passes up breakfast in bed for breakfast in a cafeteria?  Who, I ask you!  In any case, I lined up to walk the short distance down the hall to the cafeteria.  I did not know that this would involve a drill sergeant inspection, but it did, and I was found lacking when it was noted that I was wearing my socks with rubber bits on the bottom instead of shoes.  I was informed that I couldn’t travel to the cafeteria thus, and, judging from the elder/deacon/drill sergeant/nurse’s attitude, I was a total idiot or possibly an anarchist for attempting to do so.  For my part, I was as equally aghast as she, because I had, for the majority of the previous 36 hours, been milling about, attending all manner of activities, in the pajamas I had been issued, including the socks, and had not yet been met with anything less than approval.  Very confusing.  I made it to the cafeteria after I put my shoes on.  It wasn’t anything to write home about.  People looked at me and I didn’t like it.  Also, the cafeteria was co-ed. I was (not really) used to being mixed with crazier-than-me’s and abusers of unapproved substances, but not with boys.  Nobody tried anything, that I could see.  Just the looking, which is uncomfortable enough.  Taking my meals in isolation was definitely much preferred. 

Man, them was some crazy ass 72 hours.  I still don’t like eating my meals surrounded by others – not restaurants, or bars, or parties. 


I also still like a nice, clean toilet seat.

And I’ve never been much on pajamas. 

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