Excerpt

Many apologies if I’ve posted this in a previous entry!  But I think this is my first time posting this.  It’s from a chapter I call “Walking the Line.”


Concentrate on balance. I know it’s difficult because The Thing does everything he can to thwart my intentions. He lives in my head and tortures me whenever he damn pleases. Heel to toe, fuck it. Just stay upright. Concentrate on the yellow line. Try to make it to Mill Street. One foot in front of the other. Just walk while the cars swish by, on the right, on the left. Here’s the light.


Fuck damn, here’s security: Are you Julie Greene?


Yeah, whaddyou want?


We think you should come with us. What you’re doing is very dangerous.


It’s none of your business.


You’re on hospital property, ma’am.


Not for long. Step forward, keep walking onto Mill Street.


Your doctor wants us to pick you up and bring you to the psych ER. Come with us. You have no choice. We are hospital personnel, and you are on hospital property you are hospital property you are hospital property you are hospital property you are


The Thing.


Come on. Make things easier for all of us and cooperate now.


The Thing wants me to walk the line.


What thing? We want you to come with us. Just ignore your voices and step this way. That’s right. Just take Brian’s arm there. Keep your eyes open Ma’am.


What’s there to see what’s there to see The Thing wants them closed closed closed


Ma’am, you have to walk upright.


I can’t help it I got an Evil Spirit in my head that’s talking to me right now, okay? Fuck damn fuck damn fuck damn


The van is right over here, Ma’am. Please step into the van.


He told me he told me not to he told me


Please step into the van.


Damn fuck an Evil Spirit is in my brain and nobody cares! Fuck fuck fuck


Take her where? To the ER? Was her doctor going to meet her there? We can’t have people walking in traffic here. Give Rick a buzz. Ask him if we’re supposed to go on break after this. Could use a fresh cup of coffee right now.


Coffee coffee coffee coffee I want some can I have some? There’s Evil in my head called The Thing which is an Evil Spirit or something like that, coffee helps get him away from me


They have coffee at the ER, ma’am–


It’s fucking decaf! Oh my god you’re taking me here, you’re taking me here taking me


Step out of the van.


taking me to this place! The Thing will get worse and all they have is fucking decaf! I know this ER. I know them here. They’re a bunch of assholes and they think I’m lying about The Thing, they don’t believe The Thing exists, they think I’m making him up for godssakes, they think I’m playing games and I’m not! The Thing is real and he lives in my head! Motherfucker! motherfucker motherfucker motherfucker shut up now going up the stairs haven’t i been here a thousand times before a do they give a damn NO! Where’s my doctor? Where’s Dr. B? Where is he?


Motherfuckers behind the desk don’t give a shit about me. They just care about their overtime. At night, they sleep on the job. I’ve seen them. I know.


Where’s Dr. B?


Julie.


It’s Dr. H. I can’t stand that dude. Whaddyou want? He is good looking, though.


Do you want to go to the state hospital?


Oh, fuck you.


You used up all your insurance.


Like I didn’t know. Where’s Dr. B?


The Thing: Kill Dr. B. But The Thing doesn’t say how. They call it “command hallucinations” and The Thing is full of that bullshit. Walk the line in the middle of Mill Street. Walk the line in the middle of Trapelo Road. Set fires. Destroy, destroy, destroy myself. Even people I consider fucking supportive are losing faith in me; they’re backing off, getting cooler, like the weather.


Where’s Dr. B?


Do we have to take her vitals? She’s not here for an admit or eval. Might as well take them anyway. Take her vitals? Geesh, we need a peeds cuff for that skinny arm–Julie, don’t you eat? Julie, I’m talking to you.


The Thing’s talking to me.


I’m talking to you now. When was the last time you ate? We have meals here, you know.


I’m not eating any of that crap. It’s poison.


Her vitals are fine. Do you need the Quiet Room, Julie, or are you going to be okay in the hall?


Aw, man….


Don’t just sit there crying, answer my question!


….


Charlotte, Quiet Room for Julie, or no? Leave her. Okay, Julie, but if you’re going to pace, don’t pace in this area of the hall because you make all of us dizzy.


Step, step, step, step, left, right, left, turn!


Step step step


Julie not here!


I need my medicine! It’s time for my medicine!


You don’t have an order for medicine. You can get it when you leave.


It’s time! Don’t just ignore me! It’s time for my medicine! Where’s Dr. B?


Julie, I want you to go into that room over there, and lie down. Just do as I say. Just go in there now. Can you be safe in there? Do I need to take anything away from you? Any jewelry or anything? Are you wearing a belt? Leave your shoes with me and go into that room over there, and chill out. Don’t come back here until you can act reasonably.


The Thing. The Thing! The Thing lives in my head and tortures me, and they don’t believe me. What is it they say? “I believe you believe The Thing is real” well, doctor, that’s not good enough The Thing is real! The Thing is real! What “Thing”? you ask. So you don’t really believe. You don’t even know because you’re not really listening. Listen to me, listen to me! You’re not listening! You don’t believe me! You don’t take me seriously! You think I’m playing games and I’m not! The Thing is real! Holding onto the pillow, scream scream again, the pillow stuffed onto my face, scream, scream into the pillow, scream, scream scream scream saliva everywhere scream scream


Julie wake up.


Huh?


We just heard from Dr. B. Here are his instructions to you:


Wait a minute


Here are his instructions–


Hold on! Isn’t Dr. B going to come meet with me like he said?


I don’t recall he promised anything.


Where is Dr. B. I want to talk to my own doctor.


Here are his instructions–


He said


No, this is what he said. You are to 1. return to your program. 2. stay safe. 3. meet with him tomorrow at 3. Will you repeat that back to me?


….


All right, I won’t treat you like a child. Why don’t you go wash your face, here are your shoes, and we’ll let you go.


When can I talk to Dr. B?


We have given you his instructions. If you’d listen in the first place–


Listen? Listen? I have an Evil Being in my head and you’re telling me it doesn’t exist, and


It has nothing to do with that.


It has everything to do with The Thing.


Get out of here. Just get out. Wash your face, put your shoes on, and I don’t want to see you back here, understand?


[this continues……..]

Depressing news in a festive time of year

I heard this on the radio about an hour ago.  Here are the details.

State Faulted in Use of Shock

A state report identifies multiple failures by staff members of a group home that allowed two emotionally disturbed teenagers to be given dozens of electrical shocks at the direction of a caller posing as a supervisor.

The report says none of the six staff members in a Stoughton residence run by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center on the night of Aug. 26 acted to stop the harrowing events for three hours, despite ample reasons to doubt the validity of the caller’s instructions to wake the boys in the middle of the night and administer painful shock treatments, at times while their arms and legs were bound.

The caller said he was ordering the punishments because the teenagers had misbehaved earlier in the evening, but none of the home’s staff had witnessed the behavior that the caller cited. As the two boys’ screams could be heard throughout the house, near-mutiny erupted among the other boys, who insisted that the accused teenagers had violated no rules. One boy even suggested the call was a hoax, according to the report by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, which licenses group homes.

The staffers, inexperienced and overworked, were described as concerned and reluctant, yet nobody verified the orders with central office, nor did anybody check treatment plans for the two teenagers to be sure they were permitted to receive that degree of shock therapy.

The Rotenberg Center has long been controversial for punishing students with two-second shocks, delivered through electrodes attached to their skin, and it is now permitted only on residents with court-approved “aversive therapy” plans.

In addition, the report said staff at the Stoughton house did not know who the shift supervisor was that night; the senior staffer did nothing to intervene.

By the time a call was finally placed to the central office and staff members realized their mistake, one teenager had received 77 shocks, well in excess of what his treatment plan allowed, and the other received 29. One boy was taken to the hospital for treatment of two first-degree burns.

One reason the staff may not have been more suspicious of the call was that it was not unusual to receive orders over the phone to administer electric shocks or other discipline. To provide round-the-clock monitoring of its residents, as well as monitor the staff’s compliance with procedures, the Rotenberg Center, based in Canton, uses an extensive set of surveillance cameras in its group homes. A central office employee watches a bank of television screens, and is authorized to initiate discipline by phone.

The six staff members have been suspended, as was the video surveillance worker on duty that night, according to the report.

As a result of the investigation, Rotenberg officials have expanded training for staff, instituted new telephone verification procedures, added oversight at group homes, and eliminated delayed punishment, the use of shocks long after an alleged offense.

The report identifies the caller as a former resident of the center with intimate knowledge of the staff, residents, and physical layout of the Stoughton group home. The caller’s motivation and identity have not been disclosed. Police are looking into filing criminal charges.

The incident has put the Rotenberg Center, which draws its 250 students from across the country, on the defensive again about its unorthodox use of electric-shock treatments. The residents, both children and adults, are autistic, mentally retarded, or have serious emotional problems. Rotenberg officials, who have weathered two attempts by Massachusetts officials to close the center, have defended the school’s shock-treatment plans as effective for some students and vow that the events of last August will not be repeated because of the newly implemented safeguards.

“This has never happened before,” said Ernest Corrigan, a spokesman for the center. “It was a perfect storm of things that went wrong that night.”

The state report, based on extensive interviews with center staff and residents, gives a detailed account of what happened on that sweltering August night.

Six staff members worked the overnight shift at the group home at 66 Kevin Clancy Way, a tan house located in a quiet cul-de-sac in Stoughton. Five of the six had already worked a double or triple shift, while the sixth worker showed up at 10 p.m. None had much experience caring for emotionally disturbed boys at the group home. Most had been on the job less than three months.

Still, as bedtime approached, the staff felt the night had gone well. No significant behavioral problems had erupted within the house, which has a capacity for 12 males.

At about 2 a.m., the telephone rang. The staff member who had arrived at 10 answered the kitchen phone, the only one working in the house. The battery of a cordless phone, the only one with caller ID, had run out.

The caller told the staff member to wake up three residents and administer shocks for their behavior earlier in the evening. The staff member “began to comply with every direction given,” the report said, and other staff members also followed the directions.

Even though the staff did not witness any of the alleged offenses, they assumed that the caller had seen the infractions on the television surveillance screens in the Canton main office and that he had the authority to order the punishments.

The staff was “apprehensive” and confused about the caller and discussed what to do, but they went ahead with the punishments because they were told by the caller that they would be “evaluated” if they did not obey, the report said. The caller, who made a series of calls between 2 and 4:45 a.m., had detailed knowledge of the inside of the house and led the staff to believe that he was watching them on surveillance screens at the central office.

Two residents, ages 16 and 19, were initially given shocks while still asleep, and later while in restraints in the recreation room. The teenagers repeatedly asked what they had done wrong and were told they were being given shocks because of “behaviors they had exhibited during the 9:00 p.m. hour,” the report said.

While the residents were being administered shocks, they requested that nurses be called, the report related. One of the two residents receiving the shocks yelled that the shocks to his leg were “killing him.” The other complained that the shocks caused him such pain that “he felt as though he was about to have a stroke.”

That student was given water to drink by the staff, but no medical personnel were called in immediately, which the state report says was inappropriate.

Meanwhile, other residents woke up as chaos erupted in the house. One yelled that the call might be “a prank” and that staff should try to verify the call with authorities, the report said.

Around 5 a.m., the staff appeared ready to mete out the shock-therapy punishment on the third resident, but for a reason that’s unclear, someone called the central office. Only then did they realize they had been tricked.

Rotenberg officials say that, within hours of learning about the episode, they contacted law enforcement authorities. Group home officials are required by law to immediately report any cases of suspected abuse.

Later that day, several anonymous calls came into the telephone hotline of the Disabled Persons Protections Commission, also saying that wrongful shocks had been given to residents.

Ironically, the same video equipment used to monitor misdeeds of the residents was invaluable to investigators to determine the culpability of the Stoughton staff and of the center’s leadership.

My first hospitalization (1983) continued

This piece, I’ve decided, will be called “A Forgotten Line.”  You’ll see why.  Here’s your next installment.  You’ll recognize a portion of this but it’s been revised and I hope improved.


Seven in the morning and I hadn’t slept much. A different bunch of nurses were on duty trying to get some big old guy across the hall out of his bed and onto a commode. I saw my hospital roommate for the first time, coming out of the bathroom. She wore a robe and slippers, and as she passed, I hid my head under my pillow to avoid her. My face had a horrible hospital film on it that I couldn’t wash off; though I tried, in the bathroom, to rid myself of this filth, with the soap provided, it did no good.


A knock on the door. I jumped. “Julie? Julie?” I struggled to answer. “Julie?” Speech seemed forbidden. “Julie, are you okay?” The door opened. A flood of light that blinded me, washed over me and shot at me like dozens of bullets. “Julie? Julie? It’s only me. I’m checking on you.” Check check check check check. “What are you doing? It’s okay. It’s just the nurse. It’s okay.” No it’s not it’s not oh my god it’s not oh my god help me I’m falling– “Just relax, honey–Hey, Margaret, I need some help in here. Julie?”


Another nurse’s breathless voice. “What’s going on?”


“She seems to have collapsed.”


“Panic attack, maybe.”


“Something like that. Get Margaret.”


“Right-o. She’s coming.”


“Julie, here’s my hand.” Oh my god I’m dying– “Take my hand.” I couldn’t take her hand a thousand times–a thousand times I couldn’t take it– “Hold onto my hand. Let’s get her on the bed. C’mon, Julie. Stand up. You can do it. Out of the bathroom. C’mon, stand up.”


“What’s going on?” Another nurse.


Shit shit shit shit help me shit shit–


“C’mon, Julie, stand up. Stop screaming! Julie! Julie! Laura, where’s Margaret?” It was running out of me now, running like an oil spill, running onto the floor, a gushing flood of non-verbal “help me” emoting from my mouth cavity.


“Julie, we can’t help you if you scream like that.”


‘We’ll help you walk. Here’s your bed. Open your eyes. C’mon. Laura, help me lift her onto the bed. Margaret–Julie, stop screaming–We can’t just let her go on like this–Look at her now. She’s genuinely scared–Margaret, what do you think? Call Scully?”


“Scully was supposed to have his ass up here last night.”


“He says he won’t talk to her until she talks to us.”


“He’s a piece of work.”


“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Go back to sleep.”


I hadn’t realized I’d been asleep. My roommate, looking refreshed and much different than she had earlier, peered at me as I lay on the bed. Rugged-looking, late thirties. “I’m Vivian. I’m here for depression. Is that what you’re here for, too? You can’t even talk. You look so scared. Listen, if you need anything–shampoo, conditioner, whatever–” She sat down on her bed and pushed the dividing curtain open– “Whatever–just, you know, ask. Christ, they treat you like shit in here and then expect you to talk. Who’s your doctor? Oh, never mind. Mine’s Scully. Sent me up North the first time, you know, State–I managed, though, but my kids–you didn’t eat breakfast, did you? They have fruit in the other room. I’ll grab you a piece. Just nod your head. No? Okay. Just thought I’d ask. They allow us real coffee here, and we can smoke in the dining room area. Hullo?”


“It is Heide, the charge nurse.” The nurse stepped into the room. “How are you two getting along?” I quickly sat up.


“Fine,” Vivian retorted.


“Just checking.” Heide held several notebooks in her arms. Unlike the other nurses, she wasn’t wearing a uniform, just a lab coat over her clothes. “Julie, I expect you to get dressed and look presentable. This isn’t a pajama party.”


It suddenly occurred to me that today was my 25th birthday. I giggled.


“Cat got your tongue, Ms Greene? What’s so funny?” Her stare was like the hot flashlight beam the nurses had flashed at me at intervals during the shivery night. She turned and left.


“I don’t like her,” whispered Vivian. “I don’t trust her.”


Heide came back into the room when I was alone, saying, “I expect you to take a shower. You have your menses.” She tap-tapped back into the hall, and barked, “Where are my charts? Vickie, where are the charts?”


Damn stain. Must have started last night. Shit, forgot.


Heide appeared in the doorway again, followed by her henchwomen, Vickie and another one. The three of them drew closer. “Shower, or tub bath, which will it be, Julie?”


Shower. Tub bath. Tub bath. Shower. No. I shook my head. They towered over me. My breath quickened.


“Which will it be?”


I backed away.


“Well, then, it has been decided. Run the tub, Vickie.” The two nurses scampered off.


“Now, Julie, we’re going to have a little talk. And I get to do all the talking. Have you heard the expression, ‘The silent waters are the deepest’?” I shook my head. “Well, you’d better start thinking about it.” Heide stared at me. Creases under her green-hazel eyes had filled with turquoise eye shadow; in fact she was heavily made-up around the eyes. Perhaps she’d been freckled as a child and those freckles had faded. I guessed her age at 45.


Heide sat on the bed. She was so close to me that I could smell her breath. “Have you had a shower or bath in the past week?” she asked. I hadn’t. “In the past two, three weeks?” Again, I shook my head. “Why? Why? Neglecting personal hygiene–why?”


The bath was ready, but I did not intend to use it.


“Go on.”


I didn’t budge.


“Go on. We’ll be waiting right outside.”


I refused.


“Ms. Greene, proceed to the bath! Now!” After a minute, Heide said, “Okay, Pat and Vickie, I’m not wasting my time waiting for this patient. Let’s get her into the tub.”


With one of nurse on each side and Heide barking orders there was little I could do, though I struggled at first. Their arms locked into mine, they dragged me from the bed, white sheets trailing behind us, while I dug my bare heels into the floor, though doing so did little to stop the progression toward the bath. I screamed. Of course I screamed. I screamed for all the children in the world that had ever been forced into the bath; I screamed for all the patients that had ever been forced to do anything against their will; I screamed for my fellow Jew, whose kipah fell off his head as he was escaping the Nazis, yet he turned to pick it up–he was shot dead–I screamed for myself, for my future, which would unlock and reveal time after time the act of force, the act of entrapment, the act of belittlement, the act of shaming–in the name of saving my life–I screamed, as Pat and Vickie, under orders from Heide, ripped my bedclothes off of me, stripped me completely, pushed me into the tub, and with white hospital washcloths, washed me, while my menstrual blood flowed into the bath and mixed with the splashing bathwater and tears and mucus and spittle, bodily fluids all splashing together, swirling in this great sea of force, they washed me, and I wept.



Heide stomped into my room later on with a paper bag, saying, “Your roommate brought some clothes. We won’t let her visit unless you talk to us.” Heide dropped the bag onto my bed, put her hands on her hips, and said, “What. You don’t want her visiting, do you. I can tell. Something’s going on with her. She looked like she was going to barge in here and usurp you. I don’t miss much, you know. Well,” she said, “you’d better get dressed. Clean clothes.” She started to stomp off, then turned back. “Second shift is coming on. Try to talk to them.”


For some reason, I didn’t hate her anymore.


I emptied the bag of clothes onto my bed. Irene had chosen well. There was an envelope at the bottom of the bag, which I opened, to find a letter enclosed:

Dear Julie,


You’re not a very good friend because you didn’t share with me how badly you were feeling. I’m so lonely here in the apartment that if you don’t come home soon I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.


Irene


Damn her! Damn Irene and damn this whole situation! Damn Scully and Heide and my parents and the whole world and God, too! Yes, this was all God’s fault. God had damned me, God had shamed me; I had brought shame upon myself in God’s sight; I was a sinner! Oh dear God I was a very bad sinner, the worst kind, the kind that would not be forgiven until all kinds of tortures were put upon me, tortures I would have to endure, torture by fire, torture by sword, by water, by bitter herb, by wind, by the hand of God, and by God’s word! I knew I had to pray.


I got down on my knees on the floor by the bed. The floor was cold and my knees bare but that was better, I knew, for prayer. It was good to suffer! I needed to suffer more, even more than I already had. I clenched my hands together and began the Lord’s Prayer.


Our Father, who art in Heaven–I wiped a tear from my eye–Our Father, who art–what good is He in Heaven when I need Him in this hospital room, right here, right now? Need to pray harder. Our Father, who art in Heaven and in this hospital, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done–God, I need You right here right now in this hospital, kneeling here right on this floor–On earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, which means a sin, as we forgive those that trespass against us. Give us now–Give us our–oh shit I can’t recall. Hallowed be Thy Name Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done! Done! Done!


I began to weep, kneeling by the bed, dressed in only a johnny surrounded by sheets and hospital bed-blankets and a couple of hospital pillows. I hugged one of the pillows close to myself while I cried, wiping my nose and eyes with the sheets. I needed to talk to a nurse.


I dragged myself to my feet, pulling one of the blankets around me for warmth, and slipped on the blue hospital slipper socks the nurses had left for me. Though my body may have been clean, I felt filthy, contaminated. I stopped at the doorway and peeked into the hall. An elderly man sat strapped into a chair in the hallway, drooling. An open area lay beyond the hallway; a TV flashed in what looked like a day room adjacent to the nurses’ station. To the right was a table and chairs. I slowly made my way toward the nurses’ station.


Only one nurse sat at the desk; otherwise the room was empty. The TV was turned down. I saw on the nurse’s ID badge that her name was Lynn. She caught my eye and held contact. “Julie, how can I help?”


I took a deep breath, and said, “I forgot something.”


“What did you forget?”


I tried to say, “The words to the Lord’s Prayer,” but the words wouldn’t come. Instead, I turned and shuffled back to my room.


Later in the evening, I lay in bed and listened to the chatter among the nurses: “She talks now.” “Scully’s coming tonight.” “She hasn’t eaten all day.” Periodically a nurse would check on me and ask if everything was okay. Lynn came with medicine, which I took without protest. Later, Lynn came into my room and said, “You have a phone call. Over here.” She pointed to a pay phone in the hall, its receiver off the hook. “It’s for you. Pick it up. I think it’s your father.”


The proud parents. What did they think of me now? Would they ever realize that I spent years of unhappiness living under the same roof with them? How many times would I have to stumble before they woke up and discovered I had fallen? They were never there to catch me. They were years off the mark.


“Dad?”


“Julie, don’t worry, darling.” It was my mother. “Everything’s been arranged. We’re coming for you tomorrow.”


“Not so fast,” I said.


“What?”


My father was on the other phone. “Now, Julie, we’ve talked to the doctor, and he thinks it best that you come home with us.”


“Please don’t come,” I said.


“Irene said we could stay at your apartment,” said my mother. “She was very nice about it, but we didn’t want to impose, so we’ve made arrangements at the Ramada.”


“Cancel them,” I said.


“Now Julie–“


Adrenaline. “Dad? Mom? I’m an adult. My home is no longer the place where you live. My home is here in Vermont. Because I am an adult, you no longer have any say in my care. Irene told the people at the hospital that I didn’t want them contacting you, and they did anyway. They violated my confidentiality. They broke the law. Do you understand?” I began to cry. “You weren’t supposed to know about this. I didn’t want you worrying. It’s not your concern.”


They both began talking at once. “But you’re our daughter–we care about you–we want to know what’s going on–it is our business–the doctor said–“


I interrupted them. “Please don’t come; that’s my final word.”


“What will you do? Where will you go? How will you survive out there?


“I’m an adult, Mom, I don’t need you people anymore.”


“Julie–“


“Alan, let her talk.”


“I can’t have her speaking to us like that!”


“Alan–“


“This is preposterous. Julie, you can’t stay there. Come home.”


My mother said, “What about the hospital bill? What about–Julie, you don’t have insurance!”


“Irene told me about–” I was expecting an interruption, but I got none, “about this law, anyway, they have signs in the emergency room, you know, that say a hospital has to treat people regardless of their ability to pay. The Hill-Burton Act, she said.”


A moment of silence, then, “So what do you have planned?”


“Planned? Planned? Mom, this wasn’t planned,” I said. “This wasn’t fucking planned. I don’t know what the fuck I’ll do. I don’t know what the fuck is going to happen to me. I’m fucking scared and I’m fucking losing it, and my whole life is fucked up–“


A tap on the shoulder. It was Lynn. “Julie, if you can’t stay in control, you have to get off the phone.”


“Okay–Mom, Dad, I have to go. Bye.” I hung up.


“Do you want more Kleenex? Here, have the whole box.” Lynn sat in the chair by my bed while I wiped my eyes and nose, only to burst into tears again and again. Neither of us said much; I just cried. When I used up that box of Kleenex, she brought another; the boxes were small; they didn’t last long. After a while my tears dried up and she said, “Maybe you should come out of your room, and be with the other patients.”


“When is Dr. Scully going to come?”


“What time did he come last night?”


“He never came.”


“He wrote a note in your chart.”


“I never saw him.”


“You’ll see him, later, when he comes. Come out and watch TV with us.”


I sat in the day room and watched the news then headed back to my room and slept, and didn’t wake up until the middle of the night shift.


The room was dark except for a slant of light coming in from the door. I heard the nurse’s footsteps tap-tapping away from the room; she must have only now come to check on my roommate and me. I slipped out of bed and into the bathroom, peed, and washed my hands; my watch said 2:58 A.M. I headed back toward my bed but then heard murmurs and laughter from the nurses’ station; I peeked back and saw several nurses and a man in a suit and tie standing among them. They didn’t see me; I squinted and tried to focus my gaze. There he was. He stood about five foot ten, had scant, reddish hair, and was beardless, with large, square glasses and thin lips. Scully.


He turned and saw me; our eyes met, but then he turned away. Asshole. I know it’s him. I know. For months this man avoided me: he postponed and finally canceled appointments, referred me to social workers, or sent me home without an explanation; I had never met him, never seen him, never spoken with him, and now he was standing before me, about 20 feet away.


Scully pivoted and walked toward me with deliberate steps.


“You!” was all I could bring myself to say. This man had humiliated me; this man had masterminded the whole scene and had caused havoc with my parents, yet I could only muster one word.


He turned to me as he walked, gave me a witchy grin, then walked off the unit.

*******************************



My advisor had issue with the word “witchy.”  She had a lot to say about it.  This continues….

My first hospitalization (1983)

Hi Everyone!  I’d like to share with you a piece I’m writing on my first hospitalization.  It’s rather long and I’m not quite finished, so I’ll post in installments.  Progress is very slow, unfortunately.  I get a page done every other day or so.  I’ve revised this piece–and you’ve seen portions of it in various forms–so many times I’ve lost track.  What I’ve done in this version is to take out the “commentary” and left the experience, the “present” intact.  So what you’re getting is what happened.  I’ve sort of changed names and timing.  For instance, my birthday is the eighth of January, and I was admitted the fifth, so in fact it wasn’t my birthday the day I said it was, but you get the point.  There’s a little story about that birthday that I probably won’t include in this piece, though it would be interesting to do so.  I’ll tell you that in a future entry.  For now, here’s your first installment.  The piece has no title yet.




Trapped. Double-crossed. I sat scrunched up on a hard bed, feeling the watchful eyes of my roommate upon me. She sat in a chair in the corner of the room. Footsteps moved outside the thin curtain that separated my cubicle from the rest of the emergency department, and from the world. Simple questions–impossible: what is your name? where do you live? what insurance do you have? Mental trouble, they said, something amiss; they had hush-hushed me into the corner cubicle, here with Irene pretending to be perplexed, and the stethescoped nurse. I just took what hit me, and everything that hit me was hitting hard. The curly-haired nurse talked at me gleefully and suddenly I was in another cubicle. Irene talked at me as well, they both chattered but I couldn’t hear, couldn’t understand the words; they bubbled and broke before I could grasp them.


An alcohol tainted breeze brushed across my face as the nurse exited the cubical, ruffling the curtain. Irene, whispered, “Julie, you have to talk. Tell them about the bingeing. Tell them about the anxiety and the insomnia and everything. And the Martians. Everything. Tell them.” She tiptoed around the room, peeking in cabinets. “Any good drugs, do you think? Syringes? Shit, there’s gotta be something. Do they let people smoke here? They have a nice unit upstairs, Julie. You’ll like it. Don’t worry–me and my boyfriend will take excellent care of your car while you’re in.” Irene stole a glance at the clock. “What the–they sure take their sweet time.”


The curtain ruffled. “Don’t worry, just me, girls,” said the nurse, as she suddenly appeared back in the room. What’s so funny, Julie–what’s the matter, anyway?” she asked. She blurred in and out of focus. “Why won’t you talk?”


“Yeah, Julie. Talk.”


“Maybe Julie will talk to me alone,” said the nurse.


“Julie needs me to interpret,” said Irene. She pronounced “interpret” as though she had just learned the word from watching Oprah. But when the doctor arrived, the nurse hurried Irene away.


I didn’t even want to look at him. He had snake’s eyes.


“Julie, we’ve called your mommy and daddy and they’re coming to get you. Do you understand? You have no insurance. You have no job. You can’t stay here.”


Hate.


You bastard you called my parents you violated my confidentiality I have no insurance I have no money but I know my rights you fucking liar. My breath came in short bursts. If I could talk I knew I’d be screaming obscenities. I pulled away from the doctor.


“Not so fast. Do you know where you are? Do you know you’re in a hospital?”


Hate.


I nodded.


“Do you know who I am?”


Hate. Cocksucker.


“I’m Dr Beck. I’m the attending physician at the Emergency Room tonight. Turn around. Let me listen to your back.” I still hadn’t removed my clothes. I hadn’t been asked to. The doctor–I immediately forgot his name–lifted my sweater gently. I gasped at the cold feel of the stethoscope. I wasn’t wearing a bra, but that didn’t matter.


“I’m going to listen to your heart now.” The doctor placed his stethoscope between my breasts briefly, more a token gesture than diagnostic. I was there for psych, not my heart. Mutual understanding.


“Let me feel your neck.” I was afraid of his touch, but his hands were gentle, though moist and cold. “Now your reflexes.”


The nurse peeked in, interrupting us. “Doctor, the Greenes want to talk to Scully again. Should I call him? It’s late–“


“They’ll have to wait.”


“Yes, doctor.” She disappeared.


He took my wrist. “Wait just a minute. What’s here?” I let my arms go limp. It was useless to put up a fight, and so far, I hadn’t done so at all. I was a puppet without strings. He tugged at my sleeve. “Hey, what’s this?” He pulled the sleeve down further. My cuts. Shit. As he brought the sleeve down, more were revealed. Now my other arm. I had cut myself perhaps thirty times on both arms from elbow to wrist with a razor blade. Several razor blades–when one had become dull, I’d switched to another. Some of the cuts were fairly deep. Many were shaped like arrows that pointed toward my hands. Blood oozed from the newer cuts while the older cuts, partially healed, were purplish-blue and ugly.


“So how long have you been doing this? How old are these cuts? A week ago? A month ago?”


Decisions were made for me, very quickly.


Dressed in merely a johnny, I felt a chill in the air as I was wheeled toward the desk in what appeared to be the main area of the “unit.” The lights were darkened and only a small light shone at the desk. I gripped the arms of the wheelchair tightly. A phone rang and the nurse at the desk popped awake–apparently she’d been dozing with a newspaper crossword puzzle, pen in hand–she murmured, “Thank you, thank you,” and then turned to me and said, “You’re in room 401, bed A.” She walked past me into a small office. Lights turned on. I shielded my eyes. She came back out with a cup of coffee. She huffed and puffed as she stepped back toward me, as if it took some effort to walk around. The person who had wheeled me up, meanwhile, had disappeared. When the nurse came close, I noticed her dark hairy moustache and slight sour smell.


Another young nurse came through the same swinging doors that I had come through, saying, “Rita, do you want to go down now?”


“No,” Rita said, “I’ve got an admit.”


“Where? I didn’t see a patient come in. This late?”


“This young lady over here, cat’s got ’er tongue and she looks filthy. I told you,” she turned to me, “room 401, bed A. I’ll be in in a minute.”


I stood.


“Here’s your clothes and your bag. Wait a minute.” Rita began to giggle. “Sandy, have you ever seen anything like it?”


“Huh?” Sandy asked.


“They only gave her one johnny. Julie, get someone to bring in some nightclothes for you. You’re exposed in the back. And tomorrow, wear a bra. She came in wearing no bra, nothing, Sandy. Her.”


“Oh Jesus.”


“Not that room; that’s Jonathan’s room. Room 401. Don’t you listen?”


“Denise can cover at 2:15, if you want to go down then.”


“Could light up one right now–well, no, 2:15 is fine, I’ll get this girl settled–Bed A!–Do you have that Word Find book?”


“Lost it. Sorry.”


Rita decided to fill out the intake form herself, because I was silent and terrified. She held the form on a clipboard as she checked off each item: “‘Patient did not bring any valuables…’ Julie, you didn’t bring any valuables, right? Just nod your head. There you go. Okay, not allergic to any drugs, right? Not allergic to latex. What about food, allergic to food? Naw. What time do you wake up? I’ll put seven in the morning. You’re all set. Go to sleep.”


If the bed had come with a headboard, I would have banged my head against it; in its absence, there was the wall, but instead, I buried my head under the pillow and tried to pray. I tried to say the Lord’s Prayer but I couldn’t remember the words. God would know I was a sinner because I was a Jew and Jews were not supposed to utter the Lord’s Prayer; we were not even supposed to know the Lord’s Prayer existed. I got stuck on “forgive us our trespasses.” The pillowcase wasn’t soft, like a pillowcase you’d find at home; it was scratchy and well bleached. Christ, I couldn’t even pray right. I wiped my snots on the pillowcase and brought my head up; the cold air overwhelmed me to tears even though I was too terrified to cry; it seemed that my tears were too large for my eyes; they dropped onto my johnny and I felt that I was spitting out my teeth, spitting out all the ugliness and horror I’d seen that day, the evil eyes of Irene, my roommate, watching over me as I sat in the Emergency room; the doctor’s hateful booming voice: We’ve called your mommy and daddy…I spat it all out, and heard my hospital roommate roll in her sleep; a breeze gently blew in the room, shifting the curtain between us a bit and she rolled again; I lay down and tried to be silent; the curtain moved again and a beam of light seized the darkness–ahh! I clenched my teeth and felt my eyes widen, my whole body on the defensive. It was Rita with a flashlight.


“Just checking on you,” said Rita. “You should be asleep by now.”

Important Link

Speaking only for myself:

Things are bad with our country right now.  I don’t know how bad but I see Bush as the next Hitler if we don’t stop him soon.  I’ve discussed this many times with my friends and my brothers, and enjoy my speculation that Bush and Cheney will both leave office in shame.  I take comfort that he’s leaving office in ’09, but according to Naomi Wolf, ’09 isn’t soon enough.  She explains that there are ten “steps” toward a “martial state” in America or any country.  It happened in Hitler’s Germany and it is already starting to happen here.

View Naomi Wolf’s talk here:

http://www.americanfreedomcampaign.org and click on “videos.”  Let’s get the McAssholes–all of them–out of office and into federal prison where they belong–in shame–BEFORE democracy fails!