The following text is a journal entry I made August 3, 2010.
I just went to my first "group". It was just Jake* (the staff guy), a very large, tall, paranoid guy named John*, and me. John clearly didn't even know what he was doing here and kept asking about his freedom. Jake asked about his day and if he was feeling paranoid today. John looked at me and not-so-discreetly lied. "A one," he said. (They do everything on a one-to-ten scale here.) It couldn't have been more obvious if he'd winked at me. Is "less schizophrenic" a point to base flirting on these days? To each his own, I suppose.
Ashley* told me earlier, "They think I'm crazy. They think I'm a pervert. I'm not a pervert, I just didn't know how to talk to those little kids. You look like someone my boyfriend is seeing - Crystal. I don't think you're her, but... you sure look like her." Later she told me I looked like her dad's niece's daughter, who has "high morals" (as she rolled her eyes). She also mentioned that she thinks her boyfriend is seeing one of her dad's nieces daughters - who have "high morals" (eye roll) - and it makes her feel "really paranoid" thinking about it.. She looks at me like "if you're seeing my boyfriend I'll cut you," and I'm sure she'd do it, too, if she truly believed I was her.
Jake just came and asked if I want to go to "snack time". Apparently snack time is chips. I resisted going because (even though I'm starving) I really don't want to be in the day room with all those people, vacant-eyed and hopeless. It looks to me like there's only a total of ten people here, and they are all (as far as I can tell) disabled in some way. They all give me that uneasy feeling - the one where I'm terrified of 'lights out' time in half an hour. Ashley apparently thinks I might be dating her boyfriend, and the men here stare at me like they'd like to eat me if they found me alone. The staff told me no men are allowed in the woman's wing, but they forgot to mention the downright terrifying not-all-there vacuum guy and the straight-out-of-an-80's-flick bathroom cleaner guy. I am not going to lie to you, it will probably be the longest night of my life.
I guess I understand why Ashley just stared at me when she first saw me - she says she was in a car accident a long time ago that messed her up and then she's been in the state hospital for three years, so they transferred her here and she's been here over a month now. She told me "I hate it when they come and then they leave sooner than me." That must be why she doesn't feel any reason to talk to anyone - people like me just turn around and leave again, and she's stuck here. I feel really bad for her. It would be so horrible to spend your entire adult life locked away in a sterile facility designed just to house crazy people. The feeling of hopelessness must be so much stronger for her. Even now, though, knowing that, I can't find it in me to make conversation with her. She doesn't make much sense and asks me really pointed questions. She says they bugged her house and some of the things she said there landed her here. Or was it court? I'm really not sure. Either way, she says she's been framed by Crystal and her boyfriend. She keeps asking if that guy who dropped me off is really my husband.
It will be nearly impossible to work through my own issues here if it's always this distracting. Ashley fills my mind with questions about my naivete about the world - how completely unaware I am. Now I'm intrigued (and so sad) about the women who are rotting in facilities around the country - why they're there and what will become of their lives.
Maybe that's all the therapy I need. Just to see how good I have it. I have become such a rotten person, and I'm incredibly self-centered and ungrateful. When I go home (maybe even tomorrow?) I am going to continue to go to outpatient therapy and take my meds, but also to take way more time and relaxation to myself. I am desperate to get out of here after just one day, but at the exact same time I kind of want to stay just for the time I get to think, write, and breathe. I'm also going to paint and write my book. I am ready to be a happy, satisfied person. Someone who is free to live a life of her own choice because she didn't give up and slip into her own head. I WILL NOT SLIP INTO THE DARKNESS. I will see a doctor and then go home and hug my kids and husband a little tighter.
There's an old, white-haired woman who walked by me earlier in silver ballet flats and white men's socks. Written across the side of each of her silver shoes in big, black, permanent marker was her name.
Steve was definitely right. I don't belong here.
(to be continued)
*Name changed for privacy purposes