Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thirty-six Hours of Hell

       I sat slumped down on the couch with my head in my hands surrounded by crazy people. Okay, I shouldn’t say crazy, maybe some of them were completely sane. Maybe they just didn’t have anywhere else to go so they checked themselves into this facility. Why would someone rest their head at night on the freezing desolate streets of the city, when they can have a warm bed and three hot meals a day? It seemed like the obvious choice. Not for me though, I had a place to go. I already had a warm bed and food, and a job, and friends and family. This wasn’t the place for someone like me, yet I found myself sitting at the same table as these seemingly hopeless individuals. How did I end up here? I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but how does someone as smart and skilled and talented as me end up in a facility like this? I didn’t deserve to be here.
      When I arrived to the emergency room I had no idea what to expect. Actually I did, I had done this many times before except I was always on the other side. I was the medic admitting people, telling my patients that it was going to be okay and they were going to get all of the help they needed. The nurses and security guards quickly seized all of my personal belongings. They shuffled me into a room with no doors and told me to strip off my clothes and put on the scrub-like clothing they had provided for me; I felt like a prisoner. For the next thirty minutes I was bombarded with questions about my personal life, and treated as if I didn’t speak English. I felt less than human and it was only until after they found out what I did for a living and where I lived and how educated I was that they started treating me like a normal human being. “Why are you in here?” they would ask. I heard “You shouldn’t be in here.” multiple times from multiple people. Everyone seemed to agree with me that this whole debacle was a great big misunderstanding and I was not supposed to be here. Yet the law was the law and even someone like me still had to comply with the rules. I would need to wait my turn to plead my case in order to escape this nightmare.
     For the sake of privacy I’m going to call them Derek and Monica. They were the reason I was here. They would argue otherwise but, they didn’t know any better. It would be easy to blame them. Easy to hate them and want to pursue legal action against them, but Derek and Monica were just doing what they thought was right. “We care about you.” They said. If that were the case I would be sitting face to face with them instead of inside of a Psychiatric Facility in a low income part of a town that was completely foreign to me. Monica, Derek and 8 police officers all acting on misinformation and misinterpretation were the reason I was in here.
The doctor called my name and I lifted my head from my hands and politely said “That’s me!” After twenty minutes of conversation she determined that Indeed it was a mistake for me to be here and I needed to return to my normal life that night. However Monica thought different. What I don’t understand is how someone with no relation to me or legal authority to make decisions on my behalf was able to convince the doctor to transform me from a guest to an inpatient. Shouldn’t I have a say in any of this? Why would the doctor listen to the opinions of someone who has been basically a stranger to me for the past three weeks and not the completely sane and functioning adult in front of her? How does she completely ignore every single member of the staff vouching for me? It completely boggles my mind.
       The decision is made to keep me at the hospital overnight and possibly for the next seventy-two hours. This is ridiculous. I can’t stay here! I have a job and a life and family and very important things to get back to out there in the real world. I don’t have time to be locked up! The admitting nurse reassures me that I will more than likely be discharged tomorrow. “Don’t worry, you’ll be out of here tomorrow morning.” He says. Feeling a little bit relieved I have no choice but to call the cold dark room and thin mattress home for the night. I was woken up 3 times during the night with a loud banging on my door. “Wake up! Time for a blood draw!” the orderlies would shout. “Time to take your blood pressure!” they commanded a second time. For the thirty-six hours I was admitted I was only asleep for three. I need to get out of here!
Between the constant pacing of two of the other patients and the loud shouting and cursing of another I didn’t know how much more I could take. I sat there on the couch in the middle of it all trying to “socialize” so the staff didn’t think I was distant. I watched a man get tackled by ten people and forced to take his medication. I was attacked by a homeless crack-head for walking in front of him and not saying excuse me
I listened to the horrible stories of death and drugs and abuse and all the while I was screaming inside of my head  GET ME OUT OF HERE!  It would be hours before I would be able to speak to the doctor who held the keys to my freedom. “Why are you still here?” nurses would say as they passed by. Eight nurses, two psych-techs and 3 social workers all agreed that I should not be in here. “You seem like a pretty put-together guy, and you probably shouldn’t speak to Monica anymore.” One social worker said. You see, it was a misunderstanding and a horrible false assumption of a few tweets and messages that landed me in here, I told each one of them. I’m not addicted to drugs, I don’t have a dependency on any substance, and I have a completely clean record; a regular upstanding citizen.
      Five minutes was all it took. A five minute conversation with the doctor was all it took for him to discharge me. I could tell by the look on his face as I was explaining my story that he had heard enough. “Go back to your life son, and be careful who you talk to.” He told me. I was overjoyed and so ecstatic that I could have screamed and jumped up and down with joy. I held off though, I didn’t want to get admitted again. As I was leaving every single member of the staff shook my hand, thanked me for my service (military) and apologized that I had to be in here. Someone even exclaimed that he had never before seen anyone make so many friends with the staff in here. “Goodbye! We will miss you but we never want to see you again!” they all shouted as I walked through the double doors and out to freedom. After thirty-six hours of hell I was finally free.
      I’m not mad at Monica or Derek for what they did. In a strange way I am thankful. I am glad that I got to see the other side of the system and experience what some people go through every day. I had an opportunity to witness and live first-hand the problems with our psychiatric and rehabilitation system in this country. I feel liberated and stronger, much like Bruce Wayne as he crawled his way from that prison in the movie. Changes need to be made in this country and hopefully this story and my ordeal have inspired or will inspire such change. Heaven forbid anything like this happen to anyone else. As for Derek and Monica, I still love them and am not angry and hold no grudges against them. They will always be friends of mine no matter what.

Thank you for reading. Let’s go out and change the world. 

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