PSYCH WARD LOCKDOWN: RAW DIARY
an autobiographical note
PSYCH WARD LOCKDOWN: RAW DIARY
June - July 2010
2nd floor, Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown, NY
In the act of trying to remember a dream, you set fire to one corner of it.
A female pop singer was shooting lasers at me in an empty mall. All the men walk around with droopy pants, no belts allowed.
I hang on every person who walks through my field of vision out the window—no matter how small. I observe their stout arms, the bag draped over her shoulder, wonder how their marriage is.
I feel really catatonic.
They get into their cars—or is that a groundskeeper sweeping up butts?
The bag of clothes K. sent me carried no messages that she cared for me, and that she probably wouldn't be visiting me at the hospital, today at least. She put together a bag for me and that detail feels the most lonely, she asked me to move out of the house and then packed me a bag. It is so scary and unpredictable here. People are edgy, I wonder if letting them out to smoke would make a difference. Or not. My window looks out on a sidewalk, and an old brick house which is I assume an older part of the hospital, it's decked with ivy, I wonder if the ivy stops growing out the windows of its own accord or if they cut the ivy somehow. That reminds me of my daughter G. with scissors cutting the “ivy” that grows beside the front door I'm not as of now welcome at. Is Lamictal weird? Will I feel weird at first on the stuff? It's going to be so odd when I get out, the air is going to be so fresh and the sidewalk is going to seem like a flattened monument of freedom.
Quietly ask the nurses for earplugs. I can't imagine living life without you. I never asked the other person how they're doing. No reciprocity.
It gets scarier and scarier. A guy named Peter who looked like something God scribbled in His early days and put in a drawer as a mistake, was talking to me and my mother when she visited. “Joy to the world, the hookers are dead... wouldn't that be funny? Joy to the world, the criminals are dead, Freddy Kruger is dead, AAAH!” He talked about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “the scene where he plays the bagpipe and everyones like AAH, then he plays the cymbal, T-square? Then theres the part where he drinks spit, and piss and shit,” all this in the same room with my mother. “I don't remember that part,” my mother said, all demure. He also talked about how I looked like Ferris Bueller, and like a friend of his. “I used to steal from him, I mean cigarettes and stuff, but he didn't mind. I would steal from him and pay him back and he never minded. Until he shot me in the face. With a .22. Blew my brains out.”
Static modulation of overheard words out in the hall.
I get real quiet.
The phone column, (if it ever gets answered)
[THERES A MAP HERE WITH ARROWS AND PICTURES OF ROOMS AND HALLWAYS WITH THE WORD “PHONE” NEXT TO MY ROOM]
For some reason when Kelly the psychiatric nurse practitioner speaks about my depressions, I believe her, it's tougher to use my own brand of denial: “I'm not really depressed.” She convinces me to go on Lamictal.
Everyone on the ward seems really tapped into everyone else's business. And ready to quarrel and squabble. And bitch.
It's like detention for unkempt, deformed people. And you can never leave. Disruptive, bitchy, antisocial people.
I'm very contemplative right now, and I hate it! I'm eavesdropping all over the place.
Women run the psych ward. Mutant lionesses, the most warped is the leader. Most assertive.
This pen is obviously different from the other one. It had some sort of red gel on the pen tip, I had to scrape it off.
I am so sad about my current state of affairs. Hearing about K., hearing testimony from my brother, not a thing I hear every day. About things like how angry Dad is with my father-in-law for putting stress on me. There's a bad fight brewing between those two men. I'm realizing again how self-centered I am, have been. I will probably try to write a letter to Meg S. from high school soon, tonight perhaps.
personal space a ethereal/nebulous/ephemeral thing
There’s a light on in the ivy building across the way, out the window. Last night when I woke up in the night, two windows were on. So someone there is up all night. “Up all night.” A TV show from the 80s-90s. A voluptous host, kind of an embarrassment. Was it a Joe Bob Briggs type of thing? Late night garbagey movies?
A Precipice Near East Asia
Tying Each Rotten Row Over Righter.
Gasping in his sleep in the night, my roommate DAN. Snore-sculptures.
I took a harrowing shower.
Every detail seems kind of infused with drabness. I don't know if I'm going to survive outside if this drabness keeps up. The sun did come out while I was eating breakfast.
Darlene just came into my room. I asked her to leave. She had the most terrified look on her face... she somehow looked like she could have been either 29 years old or 59, both were plausible. Was it drugs, meth? You use the word psychotic but you don't know from psychotic until you have a psychotic woman first tell you that you look like her 87-year old father, then the next day as you're talking to your visiting brother, she comes up to you and starts stamping her feet and moaning, “Dad, they wont let me go...” and then later she tries to sit on your lap. I had to call out to the nurses to take her away. Her ass cheeks were cold and gelatinous, I could feel it communicated to my dick through both our layers of clothes. She's probably harmless physically—but psychically she's volatile and dangerous. I'm just very afraid, afraid of being in here, and afraid of what happens after I get out. I suppose I need to decide how nervous about the future I'm going to be. Decide not to worry about K. and I. But that's very hard. Because that's all I'm worried about. And don't manipulate her, give her a break. Its funny how the genders are somewhat reversed—in the 50s the wife was hysterical and needed to be committed by the capable husband who's bringing home the bacon. I'm only bringing home the bacon bits. And that may be over with.
“There was something dreadfully wrong with him.” —Kathy McCarty of Glass Eye said about Daniel Johnston, bipolar disorder
There something wrong with this pen. It's just a little sloppy (I know, its probably my handwriting. K. wants me to go back to Four Winds, the “nicer hospital” in Saratoga Springs. I wish the sun would come out.)
Coach. Both times I've been put in a mental hospital (or put myself there, more accurately) there's been another patient named “Coach.”
I'm so sorry I made you live on a razor's edge for so long.
I'm going to want to walk around the building when I get out.
My brother said when Darlene said I was her Dad and sat on my lap, I should have told her “Go to your room! You're grounded!”
The sun came out. Switched back to a different pen. The first pen. I feel like I only really care what K. thinks right now.
Listening to the marital bickering on the phone, the onesided conversations you can just barely decipher. “Have you taken a shower yet? You take a shower and call me back. I love you.” This after she called him back to berate him in her broken gibberish-English.
What a fucking mess I've made.
When they came up with the vow “In sickness and health” were they thinking of mental illness: Were they fully contemplating “sickness”?
People who give themselves nicknames. Not knowing that the only nicknames that truly stick are given from someone else.
“The Thinker” is what they called him (me). All he did was sit in his room and stare out the window.
“Fucking around, is that like fucking a square or triangle?”
This will have to be my pen since my other two pens were stolen. By Barb. Another week of this shit, potentially. “You really have to commit yourself.” Get it?
Ignorance, studied non-observance on the psych ward.
Just got my glasses stolen by Barb I'm assuming. That's where Joyce the nurse found them. Totally lacking in civility and refinement. A comedy of manners here on the 2nd floor at Bassett. Charenton, Marat/Sade, asylum plays put on by patients.
You can't adjust the angle of the blinds, so there's certain things outside you can't see.
And you can tell by the nurses' reactions that this Darlene chaos is all quite typical, nothin to be outraged about.
[PICTURE OF A WINDOW WITH 2 SLIDING PANES, ONE OF WHICH IS OPEN AND THERE IS A MAN LEANING OUT OF IT WITH ONE HAND DANGLING PAST THE SILL]
I can't draw for shit anymore!
Looks like Chetan Singh, the Sikh boy from my elementary school with the headdress. A Sikh boy drawn by a sick boy.
“I couldn't write a song if I tried
doo doo' doo
I couldn't write a song if I tried
doo doo doo
Something inside has gone up and died
And I couldn't write a song if I tried.”
I've been working for Bassett Hospital at the hotel for 5 1/2 years, now it's time Bassett worked for me.
I feel like a different person than just a few days ago. Let alone when I wrote notes in notebooks 5-8, that feels like a planet away.
Can you tell I'm nervous? I'm embellishing on letters...adding ligatures to t’s and a’s to make them more legible. T & A. Making the words into women?
Girl walks by singing the “doo doo-doo doo doo-doo” part from “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
So bored. I read the Jason Compson section of Sound and the Fury by Wm. Faulkner. It was very funny and perhaps the humor for me came from how racist he was and anti-semitic too. Cruel and bitter—somehow the sick makes me laugh. The transgression of it, the un-PCness of it.
“I haven't got much pride, I can't afford it with a kitchen full of n*****s to feed and robbing the state asylum of its star freshman.” (286)
“If that was a crime, all chain-gangs wouldn't be black.” (288)
Some of the nurses here have that same air of weary, low-class workplace wisdom as some waitresses at the Otesaga Resort. Only females can do it.
“Its Germany against a bunch of bums!”
4-1 -Coach watching European football
Ricky Gervais talked about some fat employee at his old workplace at a radio station, how after Germany beat Britain at football, went out to get revenge and couldn't find any Germans so he tipped over a sausage van.
Implicitly making it out that my wife didn't help me, which isn't true.
♦A K Q J 10
♥A K Q J 10
♠A K Q J 10
♣A K Q J 10
Jack of trump most powerful
Jack of other suit of same color
Ace of trump
King of trump
Queen of trump
Hierarchy of tricks but what game?
Poor visibility had transformed the lawnmower outside the window into a stroller. Mom and kid.
I didn't really move to leave our home until I saw the sympathy on her face. We were in our bedroom. K. put her hand on my face and was crying. The last time she’d ever touch me.
Which one was Peppermint Patty and which one was Marcie? Remind me. Girl cliques on the psych ward, impromptu pecking order of the madwoman-to-madwoman matrix.
I think I am too sensitive, psychically, and these behaviors upset me because I am so polite. Too see so many rules of good behavior broken. The sun is gone, the sun-shapes, the parallelograms/rhombi of light are a memory.
The rhombi of light are a memory
the rhomboid light is a memory.
Construction happening one floor up, just to add another layer of tension. Are they carving rooms out of rock? They may have their blinders on to your humanity.
HARD HAT AREA
HERAT HAD RA
RATHER HAD A
AHA, DRAT HER!
[A PICTURE OF A SPIRAL WITH SOME PART SHADED?]
They make you take meetings with visitors in the common areas so you'll be less likely to talk about other patients. When they're not there.
I can't draw anymore.
Can I do this time?
Coach singing “Kiss Him Goodbye” to the karaoke machine. In 2008 at Four Winds.
This panic is normal for mental hospitals. The “When can I leave?” business. It's like detention with a bunch of retarded Okies.
Ladies showing off their unflabby ankles. Psych ward like flying coach.
Cling to some thought, something to anticipate. Writing on your computer at your parents' house. Somehow seeing G. and K. fills me with trepidation.
Psychiatrist meeting like job interview. The job you're applying for is “normal person living life outside the ward.”
The psychiatrist is an Indian man with freaky magnetized reading glasses that come apart above the nose. He gets a kick out of sending crazy people on a disorienting mind trip when he out of nowhere puts them on by joining the two lenses in front of his face. I can feel him staring at me to get a reaction.
He has total power over your freedom. He asks if a medical student can sit in, she’s a young Indian woman who laughs at all his jokes and would do anything for him. Something about this is cruel to the patient, this happiness and flirtation barely disguised between the medical staff. I have fantasies about writing a play about the Indian shrink and his student. They’re fucking after hours, she calls him daddy. Patients come before him and beg to be released like they’re in front of a parole board. He tells two patients they have to stay forever but the third patient, who is me, bests him in intelligence and cows the Indian, is let go, gets the wife back, the kid back, the job back, is happy.
The people out the window—at a certain distance they're just humans not men or women.
I'm very sad right now because I effectively quit my job at the Otesaga Resort today. In a rather cowardly fashion, leaving a message on MB's answering machine. Never again will I see the Templeton Lounge, the Ballroom, the Fenimore Room, the Abner Doubleday, the Kingfisher Tower Room, the Staffeteria, the Kitchen, the East Lawn, the OAK Room! Maybe I could go back and just stroll through and visit—in fifteen years. Shall I spend a few hours contemplating the gossip and angry laughter about me which is going around the place?
“I'm leaving for the Lake of Fire. Don't know if I'll be seen again. Getting boned by a thousand queers.” —Peter the Scribbled Error Guy before he’s let go to terrorize the world while I’m still locked up here.
Is it worth it to wonder what people are saying about me? I'll never be in the same room with it or witness it—in a way it's like wanting to hear what people are saying after you're dead...
MONSTER DEJA VU.
I'm not intending to hold our marriage hostage with the threat of suicide. Or to blackmail her with it. I hope that's not what I'm doing.
Does Lamictal affect memory?
Fortress of solitude, castle of worry, my mood is fluttering like a Blue Morpho’s wings. Bad simile, wings are fast, this is a slower fluctuation. It’s hard to recognize a moodswing. “Sure the DSM IV gives a good definition, but have you, Doctor Gupta, ever experienced mood swings?” It's hard sometimes to even pinpoint a mood. It seems so elementary, just report how you're feeling. But what if your scope itself, your frame of reference is itself depressed? “You may as well ask me to quantify a color.” The nurse Kelly said my mood had stabilized, but it had stabilized at “depressed.”
I found the old pen! It was somehow wrapped up in yesterdays clothes I'm looking forward to various things outside here, after here. Working on my writing, going to Bovina Center. Seeing a movie (or not). Seeing G. and K....
I was expecting more screaming in the night, more nightmares. Maybe the earplugs are keeping all that out. The way I'm looking at women out my window is terrible. I see them and my imagination runs wild—and not just re:sex. A lot of the women are hospital related so they're dressed up quite professionally and I just think about their lives and how much schooling they must have had to have these jobs. I wonder if they ever make literate jokes drawn from any liberal arts courses they must have taken in the undergraduate years. And what were they like as undergraduates? Probably not all that much different from other undergraduates. Anyway, a full deep-focus biographical daydream hovers behind each of these women.
The only way these crazy inmate women feel normal is to call their husbands at home and berate them over the phone in their disjointed Okie patois.
Yes, sun, come out.
Everything I do now, I see through the prism of being in a “mental hospital.” My hands are shaking. My knee's bouncing. I whisper to myself. All these things were somewhat normal on the outside, but now they fit the “profile” of an inmate of a mental hospital.
My whole world may still be collapsing.
I see little shards of people's lives, droplets really. I just saw a doctor muttering to himself too, so there.
Does it look like I'm ready for job interviews?
My roommate DAN is leaving today. I'm fearful about who they're going to put me with next. Social isolation. “You really have to commit yourself.”
When you get home, look up in the Faulkner bio, what his opinions of Dostoyevsky were. I seem to remember him saying Dostoyevsky should have been a playwright.
This place is so sad and scary. Especially with a room right next to the payphone. I sit here and hear everything. The harrowing phone calls in and out of this place? I had to answer the phone like somebody’s little brother who had to go into the ward to find the woman who was being called. “Just say I’m not here,” the woman in the common room said and I yelled that I was not going to lie for her.
Try not to let it get to you.
“Perish the thought”
“Banish the thought”
I have this weird suspicion that I've somehow played with fire with this whole suicidal depression thing. Like I'm getting burned right now. This is my fault. My desire to “be suicidal” caused this.
NEWS. I get my own room, at least for tonight and the next day. BIRNIE BUS SERVICE bore DAN away. DAN was a little bit like a version of co-worker STEVE JONES who gamed the unemployment system every year. Poor man eking it out, but with a system. DAN had COPD and in the darkness at night he would slam his head hard on the concrete wall and cry. He was replaced by the scariest muttering man I’ve ever seen. This new guy was brought in over night out of an Escape From New York apocalypse wasteland like that guy Romero who first meets with the cops and tells them to leave in thirty seconds or “he dies.” Romero was put into my room while I slept. So I woke up and was aware of him sleeping in his bed. My room was normally a safe zone but I avoided it for the rest of my time, to avoid him. He seemed violent like a prison inmate and the male nurse told me “once he gets stabilized he’ll be fine.”
Family dinners at my parents seem to be unthinkable. Right now. Every one joking their way around me. It will be so hard for them to reestablish normalcy. Maybe I'm an Okie too? An Okie with a vocabulary? My fictional alter ego Archie Chamberlain, who I wrote a novel about, where he stands between rural and whatever's not rural. Hails from dairy farmers but couldn't farm to save his life, too far removed from it. In time. The grandchild of farmers. But still believing in his own farmer cred.
psych-ward prima donnas
[PICTURE OF A CALENDAR, WITH FRIDAY THE 25TH THROUGH TUESDAY THE 29TH CHECKED OFF]
Stop obsessing about the letter. You sent it, its gone. It can't be taken back.
[5 pages ripped out]
Funny how I can't forgive certain people even though they're mentally ill. What does that say about how I look at myself?
The Passive Assertive Aggressive poster. Three types of ward patients. Who the fuck wrote this, Joan Baez? You can tell by the font who wrote it.
-touching each other 5 times a day
-have a weekly date
-have a long discussion with one another four times a week.
Tell her you'll always care for her no matter what she decides. Take things slowly and on small steps.
“I just wanted to be able to listen.” Whats on your mind?
“I am sorry for the anguish I caused you. I was in a fog, I was unaware of the full extent of my behavior’s impact on you. I wish I could have done the last two months differently.”
“I'll always care for you no matter what you decide.”
one gelatinous tear moving through a forest of beard-whiskers.
TAKE ME WITH YOU
When did Ivy become aesthetically acceptable? Not saying that it isn't but when and where did they first allow it to grow on their buildings?
“I love you too”
I saw a woman out the window, I thought it was you. She had a little girl with her who was too much in motion to see. They were hopping like frogs in the Bassett Hospital parking lot, like “jump where I jumped.”