The following is a story written by my fiancee, who has Tourrette's syndrome, regarding a personal experience at a Mental Institution. In my eyes, this is the real reason why healthcare is so expensive. Many primary care givers are resentful to have to give their care. No matter how much their parent institution pays them. The treatment of patients, and the arrogance of staff is common among the healthcare sector. Just ask your first year intern.
A Loss of Here
My shoes and laces and leather choker are removed, as well as my scissors and tape,
tampons, pens, pencil, and safety pins. Why do I keep these things in my bag, they ask, and I reply that I like to be prepared. They end up taking the entire bag with everything in it, but let me keep my books and notebook.
numbness—rest with calm.
The guard leaves me, my mother leaves me, and I am here now, now it is a reality that slams into my awareness as I get up out of the wheelchair. I am shown my white room, my white bed with white bed sheets and blanket, and given little blue socks with rubber-coated stripes underneath like “Totes” socks. I must wear these always, we are never allowed to be barefoot or wear our shoes.
Unpack nooks. Small provided shampoo and lotion, toothbrush and paste in the bathroom laid out for me on a little white towel. Everyone has their on rooms, no roommates. This is the best place in the city, and I am now in its psych-ward. A fairly small floor, I wonder if there are other floors that are part of the ward.
The door is closed and I feel the energy of instability behind it, within this room's past
patients, within me. The energy grows, will not stop its intensity. The ritualistic manner in which we will be living, in which we are cared for. The relationship between patient and doctor, nurse, therapist.
I feel this unquiet right in the back of my head, at the base where the spine meets the skull. They are separating. My head is floating away off from my spine and the energy is loud. Each drop of water from the faucet, each mumble outside my door cracks my drums with its
resonance. Everything is loud, deafening, a rush of a water-ringing in my ears.
This dark room again, as every night here, my second “white place,” though much of it is really brown. Next to my sleeping roommate, I wonder and try hard to make sense of how she does it. How does she turn her head off like that? How does one just say, “ Ok, I’m going to sleep now,” and with the same ease, just turn off? Like that?
I don’t understand how to turn my thoughts off, how to stop my mind from churning repeated obsessions and morphing millions of demons of night into more disquieting visions, hundreds of miles a second. This process of “going to sleep,” I don’t understand.
Things are here again.
Flying in an arc, hundreds, maybe thousands of creatures of shadow begin hurling themselves from one side of the room to the other; together they form a sort of black and grey rainbow. Though completely silent, I hear the flutter of their wing-shadows with my eyes. The immense stimulus of the flying in hoards, the swiftness and agility with which they travel, and the fear of these shadows that I know no one can see, is enough for me to feel the anxiety I feel now.
“Nurse,” I think but do not say. I realize in mid-thought that she will only send me to the padded room, or tell me they are not there. But she must be able to help me somehow. Maybe I can go out there and read or watch TV.
“What.” She is not in a good mood and her eyes slap mine with their annoyance. It’s probably about five or so now, and we all are supposed to wake in less than two hours.
“Um, I mean, there are things again. Flying things.” I sound really crazy. “No, I mean, well yeah but I mean, well they—”
“Come here, Maya.” Her face softens. Does she understand? Can she help at least this night? I step gingerly into the bright over the desk and let the fluorescent squeeze my eyes to a squint, checking back to see if the flying creatures have followed me out.
“Take this. We got new directions from Dr. Raj for when this happens.” As she peaks she opens a small bottle and pours out a tiny peach pill.
“What is it? Will it make them stop?”
“It’s Ativan. It’ll calm you down.” Ativan? They’re giving me Ativan for these things that are taking over my room by the hundreds?
“Are you sure that will work? Can I just stay out here until seven? I’ll just sit on the couch or something.”
“I’m sorry I can’t let you do that. Here take this and try to sleep.”
With a gulp the tiny pill begins working its way into my system, and I can only wait for its mild effects. This med never really made me very calm, not as calm as I would need to be to sleep. Still I try to think maybe this time it will work; this is a new time for a magic chemical to make me turn off.
Lying in bed, I stare at the creatures. Check out the door, the nurses still stand behind the desk, as if these things are not here. Glance my roommate and she sleeps with such a peace I cannot fathom now. They are still here. They had at first died down when I entered the room, but now are at full blast again flinging themselves across the walls and ceiling. This is I-don’t-know. This is what-is-going-on. But I watch, with a muffled terror.
A certain calm comes over me in waves, not of body or mind, but of distance. Something a person who is having an out-of-body-experience might describe. I am watching me watching these figments, these things that are not real yet I can almost touch, but do not dare try.
I am so far. It, this world I know, is so very far away. “Everybody, everything. Everybody, everything.” I chant and complain. Trailing off, my voice sounds like a six-year-old’s. I don’t know what I am saying, only that it makes me feel better as I rock my body holding my knees close to my chest.
“Maya what’s going on? Are you feeling sleepy at all?”
I am so detached; everything is miles away, a syrupy-thick glass bubble separating me from reality.
“Thing…….every THING.” My voice grows with unease.
Something is tearing in me; somehow I am splitting into her and me. Me watching her see the flying and I have her voice it is not mine. “THING Everybody THING.”
“She’s not herself…Yes, I think so, yes.” Someone on a phone. Lights brighten in a flash of thick glass.
“Maya, calm down, this will help you,”
“I don’t know, things, things don’t know.”
Am I aware? Only by part. Are they lifting me out of bed? But it’s everything. That is what I know right now. That everything is worlds away. Everything.
I am tense with anxiety, but do not fight the men carrying me into the light. Do not fight them holding me down, nor the pinch and sting of the small needle jabbed into my hip. Because it is everything and they are flying and though I do not see them now, I can feel them. They are there.
Within minutes I am limp, “Everything is thing. I want to be there not here.”
“Yes we’ll keep an eye on her, yes, thank you.” Someone’s voice in the background. My own mumbling but it is hers not mine. A surge of drowsy wooze. Are they there? My eyes are closing. It is what. What is going on but what but turning turning off, slowing down. It is everything, but it is dark and calm. My body now so heavy and weighed with I don’t care.
Holding my head on with my hands, I cover my ears as well but the rush is still loud so I hum with my mouth half open trying to breath, to calm myself.
E, E-flat, E, E-flat, E-flat, E-flat. Are those the notes? Whatever they are, I am humming two notes, back and forth, trying to rid my ears of the rush and split. Not working. Slam.
My hand hits my head with a solid crush. SLAM. Make it stop. Make the energy reside and the noise stop. This is not working. In a panic I rush into the closet so no on will hear me. I must
use the wall, something harder, something that will break the spell of the roar and the energy. I know who it is. I know who is making this racket in my head. They are here. I will see one
Isn’t this supposed to hurt? I just want them to go away.
One appears soon. It stares at me. It makes my ears ache with loud and my head tingle with the threat of leaving my spine.
Someone bursts through he door of the room. It is a curious guard. I am in the middle of another slam to the wall and he hears it after he speaks.
I am silent but continue hitting my head with my palm, a quieter but less effective mode of getting these noises these People out of here. The door slowly opens and he has discovered me crouched on the floor, hitting my head, holding my ears, humming. This is not good.
A rush of arms and strength, I am resisting “What are you doing! What! Stop it I’ll stop I’m sorry I’m sorry!”
“Calm down, Maya, Don’t worry you’ll be fine.” Calm tranquil voices do not seem to notice they are pressing my every limb and head down in to the bed, strapping buckles over my body, and I am ticking more now. They seem to have forgotten I have Tourette’s: “She’s resisting more, hold her down,” you cannot hold someone with Tourette’s down. It makes me burst the releases of energy even more explosively.
“Stop it please! Stop!” I am crying in a rage and fit of helplessness I don’t realize they are helping me, but I think why couldn’t they just give me a helmet or just try to ask me to stop? Still resisting, I am now strapped completely to the bed, trying to move and release the energy that had rapidly built within minutes.
A nurse sits quietly to watch me after everyone leaves.
“Get me out of these! Please take these off I’ll stop I won’t do it I promise please.” She looks at me with anger and says nothing, as if I am inconveniencing her, which I probably am. Throwing my body up in fits of attempts to break loose, I exhaust myself quickly. Still now, catching my breath, I ready myself to attempt once more but realize this is futile. I am imprisoned indefinitely.
Other than mild tics, I am suddenly calm and trying to stay still. It has been four hours. Occasionally I had attempted to make conversation with the nurse but she has such a stern expression and does not speak. Soon I begin to rile up. I have been strapped tightly to a bed
by my forehead, wrists, stomach, thighs and ankles, for four hours. This is extremely irritating.
“Can I come out of these now? It’s been forever. Look,” I gesture to the clock with my eyes and what I can move of my head. Whatever they made me take, it has made me a little sleepy and the People and their noise had left long ago.
“Sorry, can’t do anything until the doctor comes back.”
“So what, they just strap me down and forget about me until it comes to their convenience to let me out? It’s been four hours.” I am surged with anger, my irritability not stifled but only built by now, in addition to my regular tendency for being easily angered.
“What a rude young lady you are,” she says, looking insulted and more cross
“Rude? You’re the one who’s been watching me strapped down like this, not
even noticing I calmed down hours ago.”
“Well look at you, you’re not calm now. What a pain.”
“Now I’m a pain? What kind of help is this? Strapping me down? Please just let me out I won’t do that anymore please.”
“Tch,” she says, shaking her head slowly.
“Jesus! I’m fine! LET mE OUT LET ME OUT NOW PLEASE!” I screech at the top of my lungs letting out shrill cracks of my voice, tears are streaming down my temples my and I am fully out of control again. Thrashing out I plea again and again and become more irritated with each non-answer she gives me with her eyes and disgusted expression. Finally without thinking but with the utmost rage I spit at the floor right next to the bed and scream again “Please! LET ME OUT of thiS please.” Again I trail off into a sobbing fit, and look away from her and up to the ceiling as she gets up. With naïve hope I look over quickly to see where she is going, trying to stifle my sobs though they fling into the open air.
“Did you see that?” I hear her from the hall. “She spit at me! That little devil!”
“I spit at the floor, here, not the door where your chair is!” I yelled back into the hallway. A commotion of whispers and resistant hesitation, and a new nurse replaces her in the chair. I say nothing and eventually stop my sobbing. Two hours later, exhausted and lifeless, I am released from the bed, red sores leaving their mark where the straps had been.
“Thank you,” I say to the doctor without looking her in the eye.
“We’ll talk when you’re ready, I’ve got to go take care of something now. I’ll check back on you later.” The first nurse began explaining how explosive and rude I was being to the doctor in the hall, but I just curl up and massage my sores, falling asleep and missing lunch and now dinner.
Six-thirty. Wake-time. Checking vitals. Eating breakfast. No one cares. I suppose everyone has their story here; I am embarrassed enormously and hope no one in the ward heard me, but I think they all did not have a choice. With a fear of staff and regret of actions,
I eat, eagerly devouring cereal and yogurt, worrying what to expect would another “attack” occur.