Sunday, February 4, 2007

Memoirs of a Mental Hospital

Originally written on February 14, 2006 after one of my many visits to the psychiatric ward of a hospital...

I sat in the dining hall at a window on the ninth floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I watched as plane after plane took off at the distant airport on the horizon. Flurries of snow were blowing and snarling in great swirls and eddies. Outside the room were two patients arguing over who could use the phone; one finally stomping off to go get a nurse to resolve the situation. The incessant drone of the television invaded my mind and was an ever present background noise. I got so tired of that damned television that week I was in the hospital.

My roommate I called Pops. He was an elderly black man in his seventies. Stark white week old stubble covered his chin, neck, and upper lip. In his younger years, he had gotten shot in his right arm and it had become withered and useless. It hung to his side like a mummy’s shriveled appendage devoid of life. He talked in code that I have yet to decipher. Our conversations were spent with him saying something and me asking him several times to repeat himself to no avail. I finally would just grin and nod in agreement. He would smile back and laugh a hearty and throaty chuckle.

Another fellow patient was a young 24 year old girl I will call Lacey. She was a classic manic depressive in the manic phase. She couldn’t sit still and was constantly talking to me, others, and herself. Her hands and feet were in unremitting motion. She also had a habit of showing her breasts to any who would ask or to whom she was attracted too. I got the displeasure of seeing them several times and just grew accustomed to it. I saw more naked breasts in those few days in the hospital than I could see in a porno.

There is a strict routine on a psychiatric ward. Up at 5:30 a.m. so nurses can take your vital signs. Breakfast at 7 a.m. sharp (usually the best tasting meal of the day.) Meds at 9:30 a.m. See the psychiatrist sometime between then and lunch to adjust meds. Lunch was at 12 p.m. which followed noon time medications. Art therapy followed lunch then vocational rehabilitation. Dinner arrived at 5 p.m. The patients would all huddle around the cart waiting for their trays. After dinner meds then free time until bedtime which meant most of the patients would gather around that noxious television and argue over what to watch. I would sit in the quiet dining area reading my books and thinking deep thoughts while I re-gathered my mind.

Medicare would only pay for five days of treatment so I drove the three hours back home and settled back into my usual life. The hospital now seems like such a distant memory, yet this morning, I was sitting in the dining hall eating breakfast as Pops mumbled and Lacey fidgeted. I was surrounded by people and commotion and now, once again, I am alone in this quiet apartment; alone with my thoughts and this bastard of a mental companion that is schizophrenia.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

My brother has been in and out of mental hospitals throughout his life - he has little good to say about his experiences and in fact, has felt protective of his fellow patients from what he perceives to be ineffectual and oftentimes, abusive treatment within these facilities. I do not know a good way to protect my brother from himself and others.....

aussie wannabe said...

I have always been interested in mental illnesses. I thought about studying psychiatry, but chose education instead. I'm sorry to hear that you suffer this disease and I'm sorry I didn't become a psychiatrist so I could give you some some kind of professional support. However, you have my undivided attention from now on. I'm all ears, if it helps at all.
Take care of yourself.

2 The World U R 1 Person, 2 1 Person U R The World said...

Good to see progress continues at your new house. I don't know how you've handled this process being so long. I am not a patient person at all, and I mean NONE at all. I couldn't have handled it. But it's good to see you're near the end.

I hope you're not feeling so lonely by the time you read this. I know all too well how it feels. It just plain sucks.

Take Care, I'll be thinking of you!

L

Cat said...

I enjoyed reading this and found sparks of memories that hold true in my mind as well.

Amazing how it affects someone to be in a mental hospital. Good and bad. I wrote a whole series on patients I met and interacted with during my stays.

PipeTobacco said...

I am attempting to post here. I was forced to switch to the damn "beta" blogger. I am not sure if it will work.

PipeTobacco

Grad007 said...

Hi Andrew,

If you don't mind answering, I have a question for you. I assume you check yourself into the psychiatric ward because you find it useful when you're feeling worse. What is it about being in the hospital that you find helpful?

Big Ass Belle said...

I sat in the dining hall at a window on the ninth floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I watched as plane after plane took off at the distant airport on the horizon. Flurries of snow were blowing and snarling in great swirls and eddies.

something about that strikes me as the the most perfect expression of loneliness that comes with mental illness and addiction. i spent 7 days in a psych ward long, long ago and it was a horror and no help.

Andrew said...

Grad,
It is a safe and routine place for me to get stable again. Often, when I grow ill, I will get off kilter, will not eat regularly, and will quit taking my medications. The hospital’s very regimented schedule gets my life back in order such as eating three meals a day and taking my medications. It is also a time when I am forced to socialize and interact with other people. I tend to isolate to the extreme when I fall ill.

Grad007 said...

Thanks for your answer, Andrew! :-)