I am trying a second time to write this story without freaking out. It was 1984 and I had just given birth to my daughter. I stopped sleeping for several weeks and ended up in the locked ward at the San Mateo County Hospital. The nurse told my mother that I was catatonic when they brought me in. They started giving me lots of psychotropic drugs--Thorazine, Navane, Lithium and lots of others. The effects of the drugs was that I shuffled around the unit with my back bent over. I had slipped into a blackness. I was in and out of consciousness. Once, when I came out of the darkness, I was so happy I tried to hug a man in the hallway. He got scared and jumped back with a smile on his face. Another patient, Laura, who I had silently passed a thousand times in the hallway--one day I stopped and asked her name. She told me her name and I told her mine. She smiled at me. The people around me seemed grotesque and frightening. I saw a naked dead woman up on the corner of the ceiling and her body was polluting all the water in the hospital. Everyone smoked cigarettes although we had to smoke in a "sunroom." One poor black man had only stumps for fingers and held his cigarette between the stumps. It was July and very hot. One night I sat on my bed and watched my roommate eating her hand. It was a hallucination. All of a sudden, I found myself standing outside the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. It was morning and still dark. The air was cold. Right in front of me was standing a woman who was weeping. She was bereft. I could feel her pain! I kept thinking, "Why am I here? I'm not even a Christian!" At one point, I passed out on the floor. Someone grabbed the smelling salts and held them up to my nose. I came to and everything looked warped and distorted. I kept walking a circuit about the ward. I would walk into the womens restroom and look in the mirror. I was convinced that I had died and I was a walking dead person. When my family visited, I told my mother, "They're trying to eat my flesh and drink my blood." When I laid down on the sofa in the common area, a black man came up and took my hand and began to lead me somewhere. A nurse stopped him and said, "That's not allowed here." At one point, my brain was in drug-induced torment and I felt like my mind was locked inside a prison of insanity and I couldn't get out. I kept repeating, "I died and went to hell." Another time, I was sitting in a chair wearing a straight-jacket? and I kept yelling, "I'M CRAZY! I'M CRAZY!" I wasn't aware that I was yelling. Suddenly the woman sitting next to me leaned over and yelled, "OKAY YOU'RE CRAZY, NOW SHUT UP!" That snapped me back to some reality. My sister-in-law had brought me some special "juice" to drink to help me sleep. She had boiled a pineapple and brought me the juice. I got scared because I thought it was urine and I wouldn't drink it. I became so constipated from all the drugs, I could not have a bowel movement. The nurse gave me cranberry juice to drink. I thought she was trying to make me drink blood. It was terrifying. Because I couldn't urinate, they took me to a different unit and catheterized me. I was terrified. There were 2 phone booths on the ward and when you sat in one they were very small and it felt weird to be in there. The bathroom stalls did not have doors on them. The whole time I was bleeding (after childbirth) and I didn't have pads. I just bled on my underware. Once I refused to take the drugs and they held me down and gave me an injection. I remember sitting in a wheel chair and the aide was wheeling me in reverse. I perceived that my wheelchair landed in a deep pit on top of other people in wheelchairs. I gave my roommate a real gold necklace so she wouldn't kill me. There was a girl named Bonnie and she always scratched her crotch. There was a girl named Laura and she was very quiet. There was a black aide named "Queenie." I thought she was a real queen. One night, fire broke out on our unit! I remember they brought us out on stretchers and in wheelchairs. I was sitting on a gurney in the hallway and watching people run out of the ward. There was smoke billowing out and this one black man wearing a hospital gown came running out with a terrified look on his face. Even when you're insane, somehow you know to run away from fire! Another time I wandered into someone's room and it looked metallic and austere. There was an insane woman inside the room and her face lit up and she yelled, "****!" I turned around and walked out. One day I was called into an office to meet with Dr. Christostomo. (I thought he was Christ.) He had a very serious look on his face when he told me that he had been meeting with me every day for the past week and I had informed him that, if released, I would commit suicide! I was shocked. I remember saying, "First of all, I don't even remember ever meeting you. This is the first time I recall ever talking to you and I don't want to kill myself." One day we were sitting on a sofa in the day room and a nun was sitting next to me. I asked her to pray for me and she did. Another time, a minister came to pray with me. He was from the Methodist Church. One time, they lined us up for chow. The staff served us. I didn't want the meat because I thought it was human flesh. I chose to eat a red apple and a banana because I knew it was safe to eat. I remember a staff member drawing a bath for me. I was naked and I climbed into this old stand alone tub. It felt amazing to take a bath. My family came to visit me and my mother brought baby gifts and thank you cards for me to sign. I could barely hold the pen and I couldn't write so my mother had to write the cards for me. My father sat across from me and hung his head in shame. He looked very sad. My mother was afraid the hospital might try give me shock treatment and told them she didn't want them to do it. One of staff began yelling at her. It was surreal. At some point, my husband told me to stop taking the pills they were giving me. He told me to hide the pills under my tongue and spit them out later. I did that. The nurse began checking under my tongue and I successfully hid the pills from her. The hospital would not release me. My husband contacted an advocate and we all had a meeting with the advocate. He was a Jewish man. Somehow I came to my senses enough where I made a good enough impression on this man and he recommended my immediate release. I gathered my personal effects together in several bags and we took the prescriptions the staff gave us for my medications. We walked down to the pharmacy and had the prescriptions filled-there were so many bottles of psychotropic drugs!! We ended throwing all of them away. Once we got back home, I continued not sleeping for a very long time.
SorrowofHeart SorrowofHeart
56-60, F
Aug 15, 2014