Sunday, November 9, 2008

Aunty Christ is insane

One of the weirdest experiences in my life was going to college, becoming hooked on Ecstasy, and then having myself committed to the university’s mental institution. It’s not difficult to imagine that a mental ward is an odd, crazy-making space for anyone to be in. It makes a good story, anyway.

The basic premise is: I try X with a friend who has dropped out of school and is living off campus. I try it again. I like doing it. I have trouble getting out of bed in the mornings—or even in the afternoon—to go to class. I have not attended class in weeks. I worry about what my parents will do when they find out I haven’t been going to class. I worry that I have made a singularly unalterable mistake by taking drugs. I worry that I have been immoral. I see a therapist a few times. One of my sister’s friends calls to check in on me, and I confide my worries. The friend tells my mother, and suddenly I have no idea what to do. I pack up and leave for New Jersey to visit a friend for the weekend. Maybe forever. Maybe I will go from there to New York, and no one will ever find me. I buy a bus ticket back. I go directly to my therapist’s office, where the following conversation takes place:

Therapist: What are your plans now?

Me: I don’t know.

Therapist: Do you ever think about hurting yourself?

Me: Yeah.

Therapist: Do you ever think about committing suicide?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: Do you have a plan about how you’d do it?

Me: Yes.

Therapist: I am going to recommend that we go over to the hospital’s facilities where we can have someone keep an eye on you. Would you like that?

Me: I guess so.

Had he asked me if I was actually going to kill myself, the answer would have been no. I think. It may have depended on how he asked it. At this point, I was trying to maintain some sort of control over at least the smallest details of my life. Giving my therapist the answers he seemed to want helped me feel as though I was able to do something right, despite all my other missteps.

So I ended up in the mental ward, and I kept a journal, which is slightly embarrassing to read now. I tried to post it on another blog I had, which had more than four readers, and subsequently scared away all the readers I had. I can understand. Blogging is a fully self-indulgent activity, and the thoughts of an 18-year-old in a mental ward are perhaps even more so. Ah, so there we are. I was thinking, though, of writing a post about my concerns about going to law school, and that seems even more boring and self-indulgent. When it comes down to it, it’s almost like, Would you rather burn at the stake or be chopped into a million pieces, toes first? How, dear readers, would you most like me to bore you to tears today?

I am going to post this in delicious bite-size nuggets of boredom and self-indulgence—the better to choke it all down. We start now. We’ll be done in about a week, if you want to check back then.

Monday, May 18, 1992, 10:30 a.m., Ward W-3

Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?
Why the hell am I here?

On the bus from Cleveland to Chicago, I sat with a man named R. He was dirty and smelly and I found him attractive only in the vaguest of terms. Yet, when he offered to give me a backrub, I didn’t stop him. I mean, I was stuck with him for seven hours, so it made sense that I be nice to him, right? It was repulsive, though, the things that he wanted to do to me. I mean, the things themselves weren’t repulsive, but rather that they would be done on a bus with a stranger who kept farting and made stupid jokes and had incredibly small feet.

My mind is a blank. Why am I here? I should be home. I should be in my room right now. I shouldn’t be here. How can they help? What can this do—keeping me away from my friends? How can this help in the least?

These are the signs on the wall (all cut from a newspaper):

Have to have it? Get it here! Nobody compares.
Experience counts!
Do You Blame Us?
Three-Time Winner.

On one wall, they have posted the lyrics to “I Am a Rock.”

I hope I don’t go insane here.

Wednesday, May 21, 1992, approximately 11:20 p.m.

One thing I’ve noticed, which hasn’t been made an issue yet, really, with my doctors, is an extremely short attention span, along with great memory loss. This is most apparent in my vocabulary and speech patterns. I’m using “like” and “um” and “you know” and “I mean” a lot more than I used to. A lot more. I’m not sure what that means.

And if I don’t pay strict attention to what I’m saying, I completely lose my train of thought. A lot of times I’ll be talking to someone and—even though I may not lose my train of thought exactly—I’ll start thinking, “Is what I’m saying making sense? Am I babbling? Did I go off onto a completely different subject just now?” It’s quite infuriating, especially to someone who’d hoped to earn her living by communicating with other people. Is it the drugs? Is it this place? Is it my state of mind?

I think (this is one possibility, anyway), that right now I just have so many thoughts and so many new ideas that my brain is having a hard time processing everything all at once. That’s the least scary option, at any rate. But at least I feel more like myself lately, which means that at least I’m talking.

Whether it makes sense or not is secondary, I suppose.

May 21(?), 1992, 1:02 p.m.

Boredom sets in. I feel extremely restless. I can envision myself walking on a gravel road somewhere in the country, with fields stretching into the distance to the right and to the left of me, and ahead of me the clear sky of dusk. I want to walk. If nothing else, I’d like to do that.

I’m listening to Bryan Ferry on the radio, and it’s soothing. Comforting. Familiar.

I’m not sure why I’m in here anymore. I guess it’s okay, in that I don’t have to do anything or think about anything or see anyone. But it’s also annoying for the same reason. I like to push myself in everything I do, I guess, and maybe right now it would be pushing myself to go out into the real world. But maybe not. I think it would be to my benefit. I hate remaining stagnant. I’m bored, bored, bored. Maybe if they did continuous psychological testing I would feel better about being here—like they were actually doing something. No, that would annoy me too. It seems like everything’s annoying right now. Nothing seems to make me happy. Which, I guess, is a fairly dangerous situation for me to be in. Because I’m starting to lose hope.

Another way to look at it: My life is not a “quality” life. Anything less than a quality life is not worth living. That doesn’t mean that I’m feeling suicidal, but it does make me feel restless. So it’s a cycle: restlessness creates restlessness.

I. [an acquaintance] gave me a lot of hope when he came in a few days ago. I really like I. I’d like to become his pupil—learn everything that he knows, every thought he’s ever had.

I. has his own philosophy, which goes like this: Life is bad. We are all born under “evil stars.” And when something goes wrong, it’s not your fault, and it’s not anyone else’s fault. That’s just life. And something else will go right, if you wait long enough. (I know this sounds tired, but I forget a lot of what he said—I just remember the basic points.) Plus, you have to believe in something. And instead of putting all your faith in God, it’s better to believe in yourself.

My dad kind of said the same thing: Life is a moving sidewalk, and the sidewalk will take you past different people and through different situations, but it will always keep moving, and it will always bring new people and new situations.

Those are kind of nice ideologies, but I’m not sure if I agree with them, or rather, with the way they make you think. Life is … Life. It’s not a sidewalk, and it’s not a book or a movie or something that happens around you or something that you simply experience with other people and places reacting to your stimulus. It all works together—you, other people, places, situations. I’m not exactly sure what my philosophy of life is. I’ll have to think about that. Maybe I’ll major in philosophy, even!

What a terrible place to end this. But the next entry is very very long. Anyone else want to kick the 18-year-old Aunty Christ in the face for being such an awful person? I feel like I must have been joking with that last line, and perhaps with that entire entry. But what if I wasn't?

Also: Will I look back at what I'm writing now some years hence and determine that the person I am now is an awful person and the Aunty Christ of the future is really where it's at?

Good questions all. Or maybe really bad, depressing questions. Time will tell. Next up: My fellow inmates.


rich bachelor said...

Oh, I'm sure you're not the first talented young firecracker whacked out on goofballs that seriously considered philosophy as a career. I think that's how what few working philosophes I know all got there.

And again, I really think your problem here was simply that you got too bound up with the Wrong Drug. What? You too proud to spend all your time up in the College there on LSD like the rest of us good Americans?

Aunty Christ said...

Ha ha ha. George.

And yes, the fact that it was Ecstasy and not LSD was nothing more than dumb luck. I imagine the outcome would have been the same though. I was not, and continue to not be, together enough to function well while engaging in a debaucherous lifestyle, so there's that.

Aunty Christ said...

Also, I should point out that it's not that I thought about majoring in philosophy for two seconds that's so embarrassing. It's the facile philosophies that interested me enough, anyway, to write them down. Things change? C'est la vie? One hand washes the other? Slow down man, you're blowing my mind.

David Rochester said...

What really worries me is that I'm having trouble discerning any difference between your experiences as a mental hospital inmate and my experiences in the so-called real world. Now I'm wondering whether I've been in a psych ward for 36 years and never known it.

Aunty Christ said...

David, I think I could make a compelling argument, actually, for psych-ward life being preferable to non-psych-ward life. People feel compelled to visit you and speak nicely to you. The only choice you have to make every day is what you'll eat the next day. Most of your day is spent reading, writing, listening to the radio, or talking to your fellow patients, most of whom are very interesting, if you like that kind of thing, which I do. As an inveterate people-watcher, I found the experience fascinating. And yes, it's not that much different from the outside world--except that most things that might disturb you are strictly managed. Or, the staff tries, anyway.