From Within: A Few Words from a Recent Resident
Of all that I have learned this year, patience has
perhaps been the most helpful.
My first stay in a locked psychiatric ward
took place during the last week of December, 1992. I was spending Christmas
vacation with my family at my grandparent's house in Sarnia, Ontario, when I was
handcuffed by a police officer and driven to a local hospital and put in a
solitary room, due to acute psychosis and violent outbursts (I had put my fist
through a window and broke a lamp at my grandparents' house). I was heavily
medicated and kept in the solitary room for three days, only being allowed out
to use the bathroom and take a bath. They were three of the most frightening
days of my life. In my paranoia, I though that I was going to be held there
forever. After three days, I spent two more days in the ward, sharing a bedroom
with another patient, then I signed some papers and released myself.
remained in Canada for another week; my father flew in to visit me and we stayed
at a motel together. Then I returned to California and after being home for two
days, I attempted suicide. I stayed in my apartment until the next day. I didn't
call for help. My mother found me. I was admitted to a hospital for stitches and
then spent a week in a hospital bed. Afterwards, I was admitted to the locked
ward of the same hospital and put on medication for three weeks. Upon leaving, I
was given a shot that would stay in my system for two weeks and entered the
program at Anne Sippi Clinic. My mother has a conservatorship, so I really
didn't have too many choices.
Those are the facts. We hear them all the
time. What we don't hear when we hear the facts is all that goes on underneath
them, under the surfaces of medical charts and diagnosis. And to tell the truth,
as one who has lived with psychological and emotional problems for most of his
young life, I find that sometimes words don't come easily when describing my
mind. I remember that as early as age eight, I was experiencing compulsive
obsessiveness, everything from washing my hands too much and playing games with
the cracks in the sidewalk to having to have my room immaculately clean and
keeping my belongings in a certain order. This corresponded with my parents'
divorce and my family's move to California, but as I grew older, the problems
went far beyond the loss of a father and the dramatic move to a new
As a teenager, I spent most of my time alone in my bedroom. At
school, I kept to myself and usually only had two or three friends at a time. I
had long bouts with depression and occasionally took to drinking and/or smoking
pot and taking mescaline or mushrooms. Sometimes I went to the opposite extreme
and became frightened of drugs, knowing that my state of mind was already frail.
As the years progressed, I spent far too much time by myself, being far too
serious about life. I maintained various spiritual beliefs, but never joined any
religion and haven't to this day. I found that at the root of my fears, I had a
great longing for transcendence, to leave worldly problems behind, or if to
remain on this earth than to do so in a state of pure being, empty of all
desires and unhappiness and especially of all fears.
This never happened
and I'm no longer waiting for it either. After my suicide attempt, I found that
these beliefs largely vanished. One of the confusions I encountered and one that
put me in a very ungrounded state for two years prior to my hospitalization, was
my growing inability to discern between my waking state and my dreaming state.
This may sound odd to someone who has never experienced it, but one of the ways
it occurs is when an emotionally and psychologically weak