Ming had a doctor’s appointment that was supposed to be virtual, but last minute he heard from the office that he needed to be there in person. So we went to a medical part of town, across from the children’s hospital. I walked during his appointment, and it was pretty miserable. I saw something disturbing that I wanted to tell you about, the back entrance to a psych hospital.
Parking lots charm me, as you might know. “That’s where they keep the dumpsters,” I’ve said. Perimeters interest me, the landscaping plants, and if trash is around. This parking lot has a bus stop at its border, and it was depressing to see people who seemed to be have-nots, suffering as they waited for public transportation.
Sad to wait, sad to board, sad to depart. “They only come and they come when they want to!” At least it’s not the dead of summer. Public transit wears the late crown also.
I saw a huge blue dumpster, extra long, like a company might rent when there’s demolition and a ton of busted up materials to throw away. So I walked toward the huge dumpster, past a chained off place, and that’s when I saw the back of a building. I instantly felt like I would puke.
I saw the double doors labeled Intake, and a dropbox labeled “soiled linens only.” Yikes. My whole body said no, and I turned around and walked the other way.
I felt the chill inside me and walked around the big parking lot, wondering what hospital that was. I looked up at the building from another side, and it said something about behavioral health.
Yuck–what is behavioral health? Sounds like a euphemism. These people are not behaving in a healthy way, so we will imprison them without trial and force medicate them? I think it’s a rebranding of psych hospitals, with substance abuse included?
I can think of a lot of problematic behaviors in our world: hoarding wealth to contribute to the suffering and death of poor people, polluting Mother Earth to contribute to the suffering and death of poor people, paying less than a living wage to anyone, trying to convince people we’re bad so we’ll buy something, police harming people of color and the poor and homeless, rapid responders destroying homeless encampments and trashing all the possessions of people who have almost nothing… Something tells me behavioral health isn’t to stop those behaviors.
fear in my body
I decided to return to the spot to take a picture, that I should face what terrifies me. It might improve the blog post I was writing in my head. So I walked back to that yuck place and took a picture. I felt the fear in my body as I got as close as I dared, but still not very close. As if a worker would see me and snatch me, 5150 me / 72-hour-hold me.
I was also afraid a cop car would pull up to unload someone, and I’d be witness to the violent violation of a kicking and screaming person being institutionalized against their will. Really I could not handle that.
But I fantasized about a group of people who held vigil at the back entrance to a psych hospital and resisted the harm. We could try to free the crazy person and take them to a safe place where they would be treated with respect and have a chance. Or at least tell them they matter.
Of course, people can act in horrible ways. What percentage of those being psych-imprisoned would be nice people I wanted to hang out with? I don’t want to overly romanticize the crazy people such as myself. Being hurt over and over again can cause some bad coping strategies.
When I’m at my most frothy, I don’t like myself at all. There’s not much to like, at that point. But Ming never gives up on me, and I can shelter at home.
content warning: psych hospital violence
The back entrance to a psych hospital is not a fair place. The door is labeled Intake for cops who are new, I guess. “Where do I drop off this nutjob?” the new cop asks.
The crazy person such as myself is not ushered into a safe place where they’ll be cared for with love or respect. They’re a number, a problem, and totally failed. What insurance do they have? What will they be sedated on? Go to sad group with other over-drugged people who aren’t allowed to tell the truth. Restrained, force injected, isolated, denied clothing and sheets at times? Denied privacy to use the bathroom. Possibly sexually violated. Their body is not theirs. Forced medication is not ok to do to anyone.
If you created a culture that failed that badly to care for its most vulnerable, grieve that and find a way to do better. Don’t inject someone with powerful sedatives and think you did good. Don’t require someone swallow mind-altering drugs to be more likable for you.
Crazy people such as myself are the evidence at how society fails. We’ve exceeded the bounds of what society said people should be, and done that in front of people who can false imprison us for it. Medicating us into zombies doesn’t fix the problem. You can’t destroy the evidence.
The soiled linens only dropbox is fitting! Yes, we reject these people and hide them away, where they lose their freedom and will need to perform certain ways to regain it. Like dirty linens, pee stained, dirty, almost worthless.
Well, thank you for hearing that pain and truth. There but for the grace of God go I and you. Thank you to Ming for helping me have a safe life to retain my freedom in.
A facebook friend taught me the term “identified patient,” and I find it helpful. When a family is dysfunctional, the scapegoat can be called the “identified patient” in therapy. The family is hurting, but one particular person is being singled out as the one who has something wrong with them.
In the past I’ve called myself the designated feeler, in my family of origin. It’s like black sheep or scapegoat. The person who cannot be looked at, I represent the results of their violence. Yes, I am the fattest, and the craziest of who’s left–the craziest one who didn’t overdose or otherwise kill myself like others. I’m vulnerable, hard to look at, undeniable.
For a long time, I tried to be invisible, so no one would have to see me. But now I speak up and seek to be photographed, rather than the previous refusing to be photographed. Here I am–fat, crazy, brilliant, and no longer denying my existence for anyone.
The back entrance to a psych hospital is a terrifying place where society tries to hide its failure to care for its most vulnerable. It’s something you hopefully have no experience with and no feelings about. You could glance at those doors and feel nothing. My terror is for a good reason, and praise God if you don’t feel it.