This is a satirical piece that I am doing from experience.
|So the quirky doctor wants me to develop a stand-up comedy routine based on my experiences. My experiences include sexual abuse as a child, military service and the War, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many stays in the inpatient psych ward, electroconvulsive shock therapy (ECT), medications, therapy, and then the life-in-general issues that we all supposedly deal with on a day-to-day basis whether at school, at work, or at home. I like the challenge of the idea. It should be one hell of a show if I get it done. So I'll try it out here. Beware what you read, it might be true. Of you.
Well, I hear voices. Whispers, really. And they don't tell me to do anything particularly malicious. It is more a private conversation about me that doesn't involve me. Why couldn't they talk about organic chemistry or something? Hell, we could have a rip-roaring study group if they could be convinced to talk about an academic subject here and there! So I try to eavesdrop on them, and everybody's always giving me these funny looks. "You're really spacing, man. Are you on something?" No, you fool, I'm trying to listen to the voices in my head, so shove off! You made me miss the best part! And voices are funny, anyway. Not funny ha-ha, but peculiar in that way that overhearing your best friend and your mother talking shit about you in the hallway outside the bathroom and then being "caught in the act", subsequently denying that they were doing anything but accidentally bumping into each other and saying politely, "Excuse me." Yeah, right. There is no such limited exchange. Not with people, and not with voices. Now the voices are perpetuated by stress - high levels of it. So the solution should be a simple reduce-the-stress schedule written on pretty letterhead on linen resume paper and followed carefully with military check boxes next to each activity and the signature of a superior officer at the bottom to certify that the check boxes representing the activities prescribed were completed in a timely manner. Supposedly, that is progress. If you try to measure the "progress" of voices in your head this way, I guarantee you are going to run into the problems of multiple certifying officers, more check boxes than were ever meant to be on a single piece of paper, and more arguments among the various whisperers than in Carmina Burana. At least they were coordinated in Carmina Burana! Carl Orff had the right idea. Organize the voices into a chorale symphony and be done with it. Me? I listen to Pachelbel's Canon in D, and that seems to help. iPods are so great that way. They should be a frontline treatment method. Voices? No problem, we have a podcast for that. Great. More voices to overcome the voices that have already established themselves firmly in your noggin and have no intention of leaving or changing their routine anytime soon. Do you know what that sounds like? A bar at 0400 in the morning! And they aren't even drunk! Even the bouncer is part of the din of jumbled noise. So it forms a therapy group in your head where they all sit down and talk about their own disjointed thing while you, the person whose mind has been taken over, tries desperately to remember whether or not you need to get milk at the store today. What was that expiration date, again?
Speaking of therapy groups, there is the inpatient psych ward. People with all kinds of mental disorders end up there to get stabilized in life, on meds, or both. So you can imagine what that gets to be like. You have the manic one in the corner of the group room that can't shut up sitting in the lap of the ADHD kid that is suspected of bipolar or borderline personality disorder (either way, he's got mood issues) and they are practically having sex with their clothes on, even though the rest of us have to ask each other if we can even give each other a good-bye hug when one of us gets out. The nurse kind of notices, but doesn't put a stop to it, separate them, or say a word about it. So you have the duo. The duo dominates and the rest of us can't get a word in edgewise past Miss Manic and her attached-at-the-hip Attention Deficit Distractor. And the best part is that Miss Manic was so obviously home-schooled that it isn't even funny. She had the answer for everything. "Oh, well for Depression, you do this," and "Well, from my own personal experience, what works for me for Antisocial Personality Disorder is this," and on and on. None of these questions were directed at her, but rather at the nurse facilitating the group, who was evidently not going to say a word to her for fear that Miss Manic might analyze her next. When Miss Manic got to PTSD after I asked a question, I couldn't take it anymore. And the voices in my head had nothing to do with my response of telling her to shut up, mind her own damned business, and no, she did not know everything there was to know about every problem, so she could just get off her high horse and can it. That was before I walked out. What a productive group...I feel so much better now. She came to me later and confronted me about my anger issues. Confronting someone in the inpatient psych ward is probably one of the stupidest things you can do without a nurse or mental health worker or a full STAT team in place to save your ass when the person you're confronting swings. Maybe the voices in their head told them to do it...maybe not. But does it matter when you are a shivering mass of bloody pulp on the floor that someone has to either step over or clean up?
Strange things happen to you socially when you suddenly acquire the label of "mentally ill". For some reason, the first thing everybody else in the free world thinks is that you are a blathering idiot. Stupid. Incompetent. They begin talking baby talk to you, as if they were talking to their 18-month-old child or their schnauser with the special bows tied in its hair by the dog grooming service. They give you that look. The look. The look that says loud and clear, "Please don't hurt me. I know you're crazy, but I somehow think I can get through your primitive exterior to that place of compassion. I know it is buried in there somewhere and you are really a kind and gentle monster." You know what? All you have to do is say hello! I'm here! And I understand your language. I can even speak! Intelligibly! And hurt you? Not unless you threaten my life and attack me. My compassion is limited only by the ignorance of others. I do feel bad for some of them. They don't understand how "normal" I can be. Me. The crazy person. But, of course, that takes some convincing with the media screaming over every little mishap with a mentally ill individual. I do not mean to minimize those events, but come on. Really? You are going to generalize that one incident to include all "crazy" people? And based on what definition? Who really knows what crazy is? I sure don't!
ECT. Electroconvulsive Therapy. Yes, they still do it, and no, it is not like a prefrontal lobotomy. So now that you know they still do it, you should also know that it gives you a hell of a headache and you lose your memory for the event, not to mention a little bit to a lot of long-term memory difficulty, and a good degree of confusion for what is going on. That is just background - good information to know about it since I am going to tell you my experience of it. So, the first time I had ECT, I had been living in the inpatient psych ward at the local hospital for a month in a very suicidal mentality. I never tried anything, but you know, they make it pretty darned hard to commit suicide in facilities like that. They take your shoelaces, your belt, your jewelry, plastic wrappers for anything and everything imaginable, and anything else you could possibly hurt yourself with. You sign safety contracts every shift saying you are able to stay safe and not harm yourself or others. If you can't sign that paper? Well, there is the secure unit. I will get to that in a later paragraph. I want to focus on the ECT at the moment. It is actually very safe, or so they tell me...I can't remember. What I do remember, though, is the particular effect that ECT had on me of rendering me unable to play Uno. Uno is a popular game in the psych ward. Having fellow patients in the psych ward thinking that you are trying to cheat at Uno? Prison riot. I truly could not figure out the switch in the rule when a new number or a new color would come up. I threw down what seemed right to me and it took everybody else's medicated selves three more rounds to figure out that something I had done was not right. Luckily, by that time, I had forgotten what I was doing, and had wandered off to do something else - color a picture, I think it was. So, if you challenge me to Uno, I forfeit. You win. That was one of the most profound effects of the ECT that showed up immediately. Then there was the headache. Narcotic painkillers hardly touch the pain of that! I know that there was pain present, and I know I spent days in bed recovering. I couldn't drive...well, I was convinced I could, but I neither felt up to it, nor was I offered the opportunity. I feel cheated on that point. Anyway, for the general education of the public concerning ECT, the procedure is as follows: First, you can't drink anything after midnight the night before. That is so you do not urinate all over yourself. I think. Next, they have you in the recovery room and they have you lay down on a bed, start an IV, and give you a substance to dry you out - as in, no saliva, no tears, etc. About a half an hour later, the doctors show up. The anesthesiologist, the nurses, and the psychiatrist all stand around you. The psychiatrist pastes the electrodes to your head and mashes on them a little bit to make good contact, one on each temple for bilateral ECT. Then they put a blood pressure cuff on the arm that doesn't have the IV in it and pump it up as the anesthesiologist gives you the anesthesia so that the next drug they give you - the one that paralyzes you lungs and all - cannot reach that one arm. They use that arm to monitor the seizure that they induce through the electrodes while the nurse takes a brief break from artificially respirating you. As all of this wears off, you wake up with yes, the headache and the confusion. The psychiatrist is usually right there to tell you how the procedure went and make sure you are okay to go home, not that you are going to remember any of that, but you do remember bits and pieces. And you realize that damn, your mouth is dry! It is not any more dangerous than the side effects of the medicines you take for the common cold. Slight exaggeration, but it is nothing to fear. Part of the reason that there is no fear involved is that you are so incredibly depressed that you want to die, anyway, so no big deal. So, what if they do screw up? That's what you want, right? Unfortunately, at the time, that was the way I thought of it all. I hoped they would screw up. That is deep, intractable depression talking. Normally, they give a course of 6-12 ECT treatments, depending on the progress you make out of the depths. I must be very serious about one thing here, though. Be very careful when someone is coming out of a deep depression. The depression is actually somewhat protective in that they can't muster the energy to do anything stupid. As they come out of the depression, some of that energy returns, and if their outlook on life has not changed, they are a serious suicide risk, even more serious than before. Seriously. Watch them.
Okay, the secure unit. Caged animals? Sometimes. But really, people suffering terribly in their own perceptions of a world that is not treating them well, whether that world is their internal one or the actual real world that you and I - well, you - live in. Miss Jamaica. I will never forget her or Dementiana. Then there was Jesus CIA Guy, shortened to Mr. CIA. Okay. Miss Jamaica, boy she could sing! She would sing beautifully at the top of her lungs behind that locked door in the secure unit. Until she decided she was pissed off, then she would scream foreign profanities at the top of her lungs, throw feces, attack staff, and barricade herself inside her small room. Thank God the beds are bolted down back there! And she could keep this up for six and seven hours at a time. Twelve STAT team members, six or seven staff, and time itself could not calm her. Only the Haldol shot worked. Then she ended up in restraints. As she came out of the Haldol coma, she would begin singing again... Haldol, by the way, is an antipsychotic and very effective for calming someone the hell down in a hurry. I got the Haldol dart once when I was still in the Service. Kind of a chemical restraint. You know what's going on, but you sure can't do anything about it, nor do you care to. There are times when I could use a Haldol shot... Anyway, back on track. Demetiana. She would sample and outright slurp down your pudding before you were even notified that it was there. And do it again when they reordered your food! I think she had some kind of dementia, but regardless, the old woman excuse didn't work for Dementiana. When you are reduced to the secure unit and the controlled environment necessary to keep you safe from yourself, pudding becomes an important thing. Worth killing over? To some. Mr. CIA. He would preach Jesus - preach and preach and preach. Then, at an acute moment of more severe psychosis, become agitated and aggressive toward you, the undercover CIA that was out to get him because he knows the Truth of Jesus Christ. He proclaimed to the staff and to anyone else who would listen that he had purposely gotten himself admitted to the psych ward because that was the only place that the CIA could not get to him. He even called the police from inside the psych ward to confess to crimes that he did not commit to throw the CIA off, such as selling bum raffle tickets at Legion baseball games. When the police showed up on the ward, all hell broke lose. Mr. CIA? He came out of the secure unit in handcuffs and soon returned without them, back safely under the care of the psych ward staff. The police told him not to call them again, no matter what he did. Mr. CIA was convinced that they had been sent by Jesus Christ himself to protect him from the undercover CIA agents embedded in the police force. These two could be trusted, though. They knew he knew the Truth and he did not disappear, so he was calm for an entire afternoon over that. In all seriousness, and I have to be serious about some of this, I do feel compassion for these people, even though Dementiana ate my pudding, Miss Jamaica ruined my nap, and Mr. CIA was convinced that I was denying the Truth...and was therefore CIA, but couldn't reveal my true identity inside the psych ward because the CIA couldn't get him there. I would have thought, in my state at the time, that he would identify me as Satan himself, but whatever. We all got out alive...I think. Just don't mess with my pudding.