Like I said in a previous post, my memories from the psych ward are like a badly edited movie. I bet my brain had no use for the countless hours of time spent doing nothing. All I’m left with are these scenes that keep replaying in my head. These moments seemed so poignant at the time that I made a conscious effort to remember them. It was like being stoned and coming up with the most life changing philosophical breakthrough. You are convinced that this idea is going to change lives, only to wake up the next day and realize that cats are not in fact the dominant species and have systematically trained us to do their bidding (though they are shady as fuck). So I’m going to tell you about one of those moments I had while I was committed. It may or may not be all that meaningful in the light of day, but it sure had an impact on me.
It was 1:00 group time. This group was called “Processing Group.” Still no clue what that means. Come on, therapists! How hard is it to make a syllabus? Is this shit going to be on the test? There were about 15 of us in a circle of chairs. The therapist starts with, “I want this to be your time to talk through any problems. I want you to have a dialogue with each other about your various concerns.” You can’t bullshit me, lady! I’m a teacher. That is teacher talk for, “It was dollar taco night, I had one too many cervezas, and didn’t prepare any lesson plans.”
So the plan is to let the crazy ask each other about their crazy. Great.
Side Note: I get so annoyed when I am at my psychiatrist and he asks me how I’m doing and what my mood is. If I had heart disease, his only examination would not be asking me, “How is your heart disease doing?” I know I may be the most qualified person to inform the doctor about my mental health, but the whole problem is that I am mentally ill. I am an incredibly unreliable source. I’d be cool if they just took blood and pretended to do blood work to determine what my crazy levels were.
So the 15 of us sat there silently. I wasn’t about to offer anything up and was thinking there better not be any fucking homework. About 5 folks in the group were in no state to contribute. They were still in that horrible bipolar place and the meds hadn’t kicked in yet. We sat in silence. I was hoping that the therapist had a wicked hangover when “Sideburns” stood up.
This man was amazing!! He was six and a half feet of angry. When he stood to his full height, he realized how much he loomed and sat back down. He was dressed head to toe in black. I bet if they were allowed, he would have had sweet accessories that involved chains. Let me tell you about the sideburns. I will never be able to do them justice. I just spent 30 minutes on google trying to find something that looked like them, but nada. Each side burn flared into three separate and pointed little sideburns. There were six vicious looking little knife-shaped sideburns hugging his head. A total work of art that screamed rage. Unfortunately, the look was slightly less intimidating because he had no shoe laces in his big biker boots. People flopping around in lace-less shoes is a great equalizer.
This is what he said when he had sat his awesomeness down, “What the fuck is the point? I have woken up every day for the last 15 years miserable. I have hated every day. I want to be dead. I would be dead if I hadn’t sent that stupid text last night. I fucked up killing myself. There is no point to life.” *drops mic
Wow. Shit just got real. “Sideburns” was in a different wing of the ward than I was. I was in the bipolar wing. My new bipolar friends were a cheerful bunch and were so happy and optimistic that they were able to get the medication they needed. They were feeling better and this dude was not.
I had no intention of saying anything in group, but everything froze around me and I found myself looking “Sideburns” in the eyes and said, “That must fucking suck!” Then everyone looked at me. Shit. I didn’t have anything to follow that. It was just a knee jerk reaction to what he said. I had no words of comfort and I didn’t know how to fix him.
Therapist: “Please continue.”
Me: “Oh, I don’t have anything else to add. His life sucks.”
Did I just say that!?!? I didn’t just say that!! Oh, yes I did. I told a suicidal man that his life sucks and I couldn’t even follow it up with a, “but it will get better.”
Now “Sideburns” is glaring at me and I’m looking at “Sideburns.” I didn’t know how, but I needed to try and fix this somehow.
Me: “But at least you are in a room full of people who actually understand how you feel. We all understand the hurt you are feeling. That is kinda nice, right? Sometimes the worst part of crazy is that most people don’t even begin to know what it feels like. So I can honestly say that your life sucks and you can believe that I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass.”
Sideburns: “Thank you, that actually kind of means something.”
Phew!! He got me. I was just trying to respectfully acknowledged his pain and I’m so very glad that he understood me. Crazy knows crazy. I told myself not to open my mouth again. I’m not going to say another word. I am not qualified to give any advice. Head down, no eye contact, keeping my mouth shut……..
Older lady two chairs down from me: “Young man, Have you found Jesus?”
Disclaimer: I am very polite and civilized in real life. But I had found myself to be in a magical place where you didn’t have to censor anything you said. It was even encouraged. I was like a kid in a candy store.
Me: “Ma’am, I hope this never happens, but what if you find yourself suffering a heart attack, do you call 911 or start praying? If you were born with diabetes, would you seek medical care and follow a regimen to keep your symptoms in check or would you rely on continual Facebook posts requesting your friends to send their prayers? This is medical, not spiritual!”
I would have felt really bad about what I had just said if she hadn’t looked at me and hissed, “You are going to hell.”
Holly shit! My adrenalin was pumping. I was feeling fluid and awake. I avoid confrontation at all costs in real life, but this was making me feel more alive than I had in months.
I looked over and “Sideburns” had A SMILE ON HIS FACE!! WIN!
Me: “Look, dude. Millions of years of evolution have done nothing but work towards making us better at making babies and better at trying not to die. When your mind is telling you to die, it goes against every fiber of our being. It means your mind is ill. It certainly doesn’t mean it has pooled all of its resources and decided the best course of action is to stop living. Life isn’t a contest that you are losing. There isn’t a big bundle of happiness that everyone else was given and you didn’t get yours. The purpose to life is to just live it. It is about the connections you make with other people. It is about finding a moment of joy in something or feeling rewarded for making others feel joy. Your situation sucks because everyone deserves to wake up in the morning in neutral and whether or not you move forward or backwards depends on what the day holds. Best case scenario, we are able to decide how we react to the day and always move forward. How many drugs have you tried?”
Me: “What if the 15th one works? Is it a possibility that 15 is the magic number and they get your meds right and the cloud lifts?”
Me: “All I can say to you is that there is hope in that. I can also say our minds are assholes.” *drops mic