Monday, November 10, 2008

Aunty Christ is getting this the hell over with

As the title suggests, here is Part Two before I change my mind. Enjoy. Or don't. Whichever works for you.

Saturday, May 23(?), 1992, 9:24 p.m.

I want to cover two issues today: the other patients here, and my parents’ visit. To discuss the patients, I will simply list them and jot down a few notes of relevance, or complete irrelevance, perhaps. [I’m going to use actual names, rather than initials, for the patients, since the initial thing is going to get too confusing with this many people.]

Helen: Tall, slim, a real lady. She tries to help the other patients whenever she can. She talks frankly, she’s friendly. She likes to do other patients’ hair and has taken under her wing Ivory.

Ivory: 15, has apparently grabbed a few male workers here. Subject to bouts of depression and maniacal good moods—shuffles, head down during the low times, giggles insanely during the up.

Jeanette: An older lady (middle aged), maybe in her late 40s. Has a smooshed-down face and wears wide glasses with black frames. Has the sweetest, strangest voice, which I could listen to for hours. A very nice, grandmotherly lady who seems to like everything.

Joe: Grossly overweight, recipient of a new haircut that might be forgivable on a 10-year-old, has strange facial tics. Apparently is a guinea pig for a new drug, the effects of which are unknown (makes him make strange faces?).

Smokey: Must be 30 or so, even though, as Jeanette observed, he seems like a little boy. His body is deformed, almost, and he seems to have a variety of things wrong with him. His parents come to visit every night—and really, they seem nice enough folk—but all Smokey can talk about is the different hospitals he’s been in, and their exact locations around Chicago.

Vernel: Overweight, with a round afro, which accentuates her round face. Talks to herself (loudly!). Snores just as loudly. Obtrusive at times, but always well-meaninged. Has asked to buy one of my books (Jung, no less) from me. Carries a dictionary with her and, noticing that I keep a journal, decided to work out her own thoughts on paper,

Chris: Taught me how to play backgammon, which she learned herself and played often in college. Is friendly to everyone. She has a slight speech impediment and also seems not to be able to hear very well.

Heiko: A former grad student at U of C, now a shuffling, foot-tapping, silent mess. Never changes clothes.

Eric: A friendly, smiling man with a walker. Appears to have no problems, other than, perhaps, being a little dense.

Audry: The other undergrad here. An English major (third-year transfer student), she mostly keeps to herself. She seems kind of silly compared to everyone else—using her hospital stay and an R and R session to catch up on her studies.

Mr. Matthews: The oldest patient at W-3. I’ve never heard him talk, though I have seen him break into tears. Bearded, bespectacled, most of the time in a wheelchair and hospital robe. He frequently has visitors, who talk to him, but of course he can’t respond.

Judy: An older woman, probably in her 50s or so. Hardly ever talks, and when she does, she sounds like a three-year-old. Acts like a three-year-old too. Prays before and after each meal, and crosses herself too. Usually stays in her room, unless the nurses take her out to eat or watch TV.

Gary: An angry young man. He doesn’t talk much, nor do I see him very often. Most of the conversations he’s had that I’ve been present to hear have been about cigarettes and why he can’t smoke in the ward and why he can’t have his own cigarettes and—well—anything else that has to do with smoking.

George: A mountain of a man, with a wild head of hair and just as crazy beard. Never talks, or, at least, speaks infrequently. Oh yeah—wide, crazy eyes too. Very strange.

Jori: My roommate. Hardly ever speaks to me, but has been leaving the room a little more often, at least. Reads a lot—books of the top-seller-list variety. Has two kids. Former coke user. I’ve been tempted to have a drug chat with her, but I haven’t worked up the nerve. Seems friendly, pleasant face.

Marla: Overweight, high voice, bleached hair held back with a plastic yellow headband, wears fluorescent pink lipstick. Married. Always the same outfit or (upon occasion) a variation on said outfit. Likes to sing, and has a very good voice.

Cynthia: Meek, middle-aged. Not much to add to that.

Marion: An elderly woman who uses a walker to get around. Seems fairly nice, but every once in a while gets into that pushy, self-centered mode that old women are so fond of.

There are 21 of us altogether, so I must have missed a couple. If I think of them and think it’s important, I’ll add them later. But for now I want to write about my parents’ visit.

Everyone here was very concerned about how I would react to seeing my parents. It was no big deal, actually. My father is acting kind of strange I guess. Different. Nice, but different. Nice is different, actually, for my dad.

When I’ve talked to my parents on the phone, all our conversations have been about neutral subjects: The pets, television programs. We actually discussed some real issues today, which was strange and uncomfortable and confusing. We talked about what was in store for me next year and this summer. My options, as they saw them, were either to go to [a community college] next quarter or back here. I hadn’t considered [community college], so that was a new possibility. And they were basically in agreement with me about finding a job this summer and going to a therapist. So I have plans, and I have support for those plans, which is what the doctors wanted. They were more into me taking it easy this summer, though, whereas I’m looking forward to pushing myself.

I did confess my drug use last quarter, which they knew about, of course, so their reaction wasn’t too bad. I brought up the idea of an AA-type support group (XA?) They thought it was a good idea.

I’ve been having—not flashbacks, really, but thinkbacks, maybe. Or wishbacks. Setbacks, definitely. I’m fine now. I’m fairly happy. Right now I’d characterize my mood as content—sitting here listening to Joe and Jeanette talking about their grandmothers, watching Ivory walk back and forth in the hallway across the dayroom. When I get a visitor I’m happy. I was happy to see Mom and Dad. I was happy to see I. I was happy to see A. Little things make me happy. Not HAPPY. Just happy.

So when I think about X, or how I felt when I was on X, it’s like I’m already getting nostalgic for it. Wasn’t that great when I went for walks with J. around the quads at night, or when I played solitaire by candlelight, or when we went to Medusa’s or when we were listening to [embarrassing techno-emo crap]? Oh god, it’s making me sick right now, thinking about that. And what’s bad is that I know that as happy as I think I was, I was a billion times happier. My sober brain can’t even process it. Maybe it is a kind of flashback, because right now I can almost summon up the feeling. It’s great and scary at the same time, feeling how I used to feel. Diluted, of course, but the same basic feeling nevertheless.

This has been a long entry for tonight, but I’m still not tired, and there’s more I want to say.

Something else that needs my attention, although not my immediate attention, is A. I’ll only be here a few more days, and he’ll be leaving campus soon too. So there’s not a chance for anything between us right now. But maybe sometime before I leave for home I’ll tell him how I feel about him. I do like him. He should know that, I guess. Maybe that would give him some much-needed confidence. I think he likes me too, although I’m probably wrong, or at least not as right as I think I am. But I’ll tell him that I like him—jokingly—maybe ask him when we’re going to start our family. And we’ll write over the summer. And he’ll refer to me as that dysfunctional girl who used to like him, even though I’ll always have a little crush on him, but we’ll remain close friends even though I’ll go to school across the country and date other guys, and he’ll date other girls and we’ll remember the “Net” [The “Net”? That's adorable.] fondly and nostalgically. Ahh. I’m looking forward to it already.

Audry is sitting at the table next to me, writing furiously. I’m sure that she, too, views this as An Experience. I dislike her immensely, maybe because I see parts of her in myself. Those are the parts I want to rip out and feed to wild animals.

I’d prefer a million Helens and Chrises talking about nothing than one Audry, pouring out her wretched little heart onto paper with furious strokes of her gold-embossed pen.

But what a hypocrite I am. Here I am, doing exactly the same thing.


Shannon said...

Dear Aunty: In my still-sickly and highly medicated state, I’m so enjoying catching up on your blog posts. I could’ve sworn that I recognized that dominant NE gene, the one that carries true wit mingled w/ just the right amount of obscene. It makes me long for my darling home state.

True story:

When I was 21 and having just graduated beneath my parents’ expectations in the middle of my class from a notable college (the affliction incurred from failing all of my self-chosen philosophy courses) , I had a brief but memorable summer with a young and very unstable writer for a DC think-tank-something-institute and the WSJ.

At first stumbling, it took all of about 7 hours in the bar for me to realize that this man had some personality glitches but I quietly queried internally, who doesn’t? And anyway, it’s always been my special gift to attract the most intelligent, non-communicative, peculiar, socially inept sort of man. God shines down on us all in different ways...

The relationship flashed quickly, sparked by his madness and intensity. And one morning I awoke to find him confused and rambling quotations from the Canterbury Tales – I know, can you imagine how awful for me? But, with my typical and measured response, I reasoned ‘this will pass’ and hurried out for my morning walk with the dogs.

It didn’t pass.

Later that afternoon, I took him into the ER and then dutifully called his family to let them know that I’d just dropped their son off in the psych ward, and that it didn’t seem “that bad”…and, no need to worry, he’d be in good care…I’d remembered to bring his favorite iced-tea brand and that they let him pour it into a safe, plastic container, etc,...

Later that night, after a few cheap beers and some consideration on the day’s events, I decided to take some Tylenol PM or the like to insure a good night’s sleep.

At that exact moment, the phone rang.

I wasn’t exactly in a good mood . When I heard his voice on the other end, I slurred that he must be making progress if he had phone privileges already (??)… the intake forms remembered faintly in my brain. I said that I was spent and that I just taken a little something for sleep, but that I’d be by in the am to check on him. I hung up quickly.

Through the course of the evening in quiet reflection, it had occurred to me quite plainly that maybe I was in over my head with this one. Truthfully, I’d been plotting my move back to NE. Everyone has their limitations.

Then - I heard sirens in the distance and then urgently, a thudding at the door.

Then, very kind men exaplaining to me that there had been a call about my safety. I needed help they told me.

The experience became even more surreal when I was taken to the same place he was!
“Yes – hello again, Margaret and Sue. Shouldn’t your shifts have ended by now?”
Since then, I’ve always felt that mental health practitioners are overworked.

Despite my arguments and urging, I had to stay the night as they had found a mostly empty pill bottle (from college use) and my speech seemed impaired when they’d arrived (really?). I experienced the flashlight-in-face every hour overnight et all.

In the am and upon my explanation, the psychiatrist told me I was a “hysteric” and that I could check myself out. As I walked out, I could hear him (my crazy) insisting that I should stay, that I was a danger to myself, that I needed to be there.

The next day I packed everything I owned into my SUV and with the dogs in-tow, we fled from DC for a return to NE. I’ve never returned and mostly, I close my eyes, when driving through on I-95 to Carolina.

Just didn’t want you to think you could hog all the best psych-ward stories for yourself, you know. And, really - shouldn't 911 calls from psych wards be monitored a little better?

Shannon said...

I understand especially your comment about ripping parts of yourself out to feed to the wild animals.

I've just never heard it articulated exactly in that way.

Aunty Christ said...

Oh my lord. I laughed so much reading this. Clearly you are in top form when highly medicated.