Devil was my angel

7 07 2013

Twenty five years ago today I was vacationing in lovely Chez Bedlam, watching Wimbledon, enjoying the respite from the Madison heat.

Well, okay, it might be a stretch to call a just-barely-voluntary (as in: do it or else) stint in a locked psychiatric ward a “vacation”, but I did watch Wimbledon and the ward climate, like everything else, was controlled.

I’d first ended up in B6/5, as the unit was known, in June, and not voluntarily. I still have my “patient’s subject’s right” sheet for those detained against their wishes:

UW detained

I was first interviewed by the some/all of the staff (what fun!) the day after the cops deposited me in the ER. I don’t remember much about the interview—and, really, even in calling up the event I’m almost certainly altering it—but I do recall someone asking me (after I must have mentioned I’d been accepted to grad school in political science) if I thought I’d be or wanted to be president.

I’d snorted and said “No”. My therapist was the only one who laughed.

Everyone else was dead serious. I wonder if they were trying to figure out whether my distorted thoughts had extended all the way into delusion.

I did get the hearing, was represented by a competent attorney, and ended up staying, mmm, a week, maybe?

A coupla’ weeks later I was back, not in cuffs this time, but under the impression that had I not returned voluntarily the cops would know where to find me.

My rights as a voluntary admit were a bit more expansive:

UW voluntary

Friends did visit, bringing food and quite possibly a beer, and over the course of my two stays I made friends with J. who, unlike me, was not at all conflicted about wanting to get better. She wanted to be healthy more than anything, but it seemed like every time she managed to get a grip on the ledge, something would come smashing down on her fingers.

We stayed in touch for a few years afterward, but eventually fell away from one another. I have no idea if she’s still alive.

Anyway, no great scandal on the ward. ECT was suggested, but the suggestion was dropped at my vehement opposition. I was given an experimental drug, fluoxetine (brand: Prozac), but it made my legs shake and not much else, so that ended. I spent a few nights in the open containment rooms, got a few day passes, had a few good conversations with some of the nurses, and then I left.

And about a month or so after I left I was in Minneapolis, starting grad school.

Strange time, that.