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Twisting all the bad things into good

Jan 5, 2012

The Nitty Gritty, 31: Last Man Standing


 "But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 

 WEDNESDAY. SEPTEMBER 7th, 2010. 5:45ish     

            I'm sitting in the hallway with my head in my hands, knowing that my life will never be the same. I'm trying to organize my thoughts. I'm trying to replay the events of the last few hours. I'm trying to make some sense of the last few days.
            As hard as I'm trying, I still can't block out all the nonsensical bits of conversation that I'm overhearing. I'm waiting to be called in like some failed actor whose overzealous agent sent him on one last casting call for a role he has no desire to play. I don't want to hear the people around me reciting their lines. I only want to hear my own name called so I can find out what this scene is all about. Unless a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is in the works, I just don't see how I fit into this picture. After today's events, I don't see myself fitting in anywhere. I can no longer play the role of "the son", or "the brother", or "the best friend".
            Any part I've ever played is destined for the cutting room floor.
            I could always see myself playing the leading man.
            I could never see myself as anyone's hero now.
            My movie faded out before it faded in.
            I don't want to watch the ending.
            Don't wake me when it's over.
             I keep my head down. I can hear some dirt bag in one of the rooms going back and forth with a girl in the hallway. He has a fixation with talking about his dick. She has a Spanish accent with a voice that makes Rosie Perez sound like Adele.
            "You better stop it. You're deesgusting, you know that?" she tells him. "Do you know how deesgusting you are?"
            I'm not looking.
            I'm not listening.
            I'm not here.
            "Why are you so deesgusting?"
            Why are you still standing in his doorway, you crazy bitch?
            He asks if she wants to see it.
            "Oh my God. Why are so deesgusting?"
            Oh my God. Why won't you shut the fuck up?
            After about 5 "deesturbing" minutes of this banter, a nurse asks what's going on.
            "He is so deesgusting. He keeps talking to me about his penis".
            The kid with the dick swears he didn't do anything.
            The nurse doesn't know who the "beeger" nutcase is, so she just tells the girl to stay away from his room.
             About 20 seconds later, I hear her start reminding the kid how "deesgusting" he is. The back and forth bullshit starts over.
             I hear her yelling.
             I don't look up.
             I don't belong here.
            "Oh my God! You are so deesgusting!" she tells him. " He showed me his penis" she tells the nurse. Again, cock boy starts defending himself. "I didn't do anything. That bitch is crazy". The girl with the voice says,"I'm not crazy. You're the one who ees crazy".
            It doesn't take Dr. Drew to realize that they are both crazy.
            It's pretty clear, at least to me, why they're here.
            What's not as clear, at least to me, is why the fuck am I'm here?
            Thanks, Mom.
            Thanks, Dad.
            Thanks, Jeff.
            Fucking assholes.

            I keep my face buried in my hands to hide my agitation. I'm in no mood to be fucked with. I am a ticking time bomb. The last thing I need is some psycho setting me off and giving these people a reason to keep me here. I just want to be left alone, so I don't look up when I hear the "deesgusting" chick saying my name. She must have overheard someone say my name, so she keeps repeating it. "James. James". Tick tick tick tick. I'm not  up for conversation. I'm not down for making a new friend. "James. James?" Tick tick tick tick. "James. James". I try to ignore her, but with that goddamn fucking voice, it's impossible.
            I don't look up to vent my frustration. I don't even take my hands from my face when I say,"Oh. My. God. Stop."  After it is obvious she is not going to let up, I look up to see this sloppy Puerto Rican girl in her early 20s. I look at her face to see that she has a little bit of a mustache on her lip and a whole lot of crazy in her eyes.
            I want to scare her off, but instead of whipping out my junk, I snap at her."What? What do you want?"
            Oblivious to my irritation, she asks me if I'm hungry. "Am I hungry? Yea, I'm fucking hungry, why are you asking?" She walks away. I assume I scared her off just as I intended. She returns and offers me a crab cake looking sandwich that she holds in her hand. This meal is minus any plate. This sandwich is minus any bun. This Puerto Rican is minus any concern for personal hygiene. Whatever. I don't remember the last time I ate, so I accept. I thank her. I devour.
            "Are you okay?" she asks, trying to start up a conversation.
            "Yes, I'm fine".
            I am not fine. I am not in the mood for crazy talk either, so I bury my face back in my hands so that maybe she will leave me alone.    
            This is so humiliating. As long as I live, I will never tell anyone about this shit. Of all the drug addicts I've known over the last 18 years, this has never happened to any of them, not even the few who have done more than me. When it comes to pain pills, I can't think of anyone I know who has done so much, so consistently, for so long and lived to tell about it. Even my friends who died from pills never did as much as me. If this had been some kind of competition, we would have all lost. In this game, even the last man standing walks with nothing.

            I finally hear my name. This time it's not from another inmate, or patient, or whatever it is I am.    
            "James?" The administrator looks out her office at me. "James. You can come in".
            As soon as I sit down, a nurse takes my vitals. She reads the results and the administrator writes them down. The nurse tells me everything is normal except my blood pressure is high. No shit.
            After the nurse leaves, I ask the administrator, "What is this? Why am I here?"
            "You're here because people who love you are worried about you".
            "Whatever" I say in disgust.
            "Do you know what The Baker Act is?" she wants to know.
            "I had a roommate who tried to kill himself by slitting his wrist and I think he got Baker Acted. That's all I know".
            She explains that it is a Florida statute that allows involuntary commitment and examination of a  mentally ill person or someone who is in danger of harming themselves or others. I can't believe they've done this to me. I'm going to be institutionalized, labeled insane, drugged up, and put in a fucking straitjacket. Nobody will ever believe my side of the story. I may never leave this place.
             She's trying to get an idea of how out of touch with reality I am.
             "Do you know where you are right now?" she asks.
             "Earth, Florida, Delray. What exactly are you asking me?"
             "Do you know what this place is?"
             "I don't know. The cop said I was coming to get some therapy, but judging from the people here, it's some kind of mental joint".
             "It's the South County Mental Health Center" she tells me.
             Oh. That tells me nothing.

            She tells me that all the doctors are already gone for the day, so I won't be officially committed until morning, once they have given me a full assessment. She doesn't really have any answers, but she does have a few more questions. She asks me all the standards; name, address, date of birth. She writes my answers down on her clipboard. I'm basically helping her fill in the blanks on her paperwork.
            "Do you know what year it is?" she wants to know.  
            What year is it? Wow, she's more out of it that I am.
            "It's 2010" I inform her."I can just fill that out if you want".
            "Do you know today's date, James?" 
            Does this lady not have a calendar? I try to help her out. "It's August twenty...something".
            "It's actually September 7th" she says.
            Ok. If you're so smart, why are you asking me? I guess I'm not so smart since I forget I got a DUI on August 25th.
            "Do you know who the President is?"
            Of course, he's the reason I'm collecting unemployment, besides the fact I got fired from 2 jobs in 2 months for nodding off at my desk from opiates and benzos.
            "Fuckin' Obama" I tell her with a disdain that I honestly couldn't give an explanation for. I just know it has to do with the economy and something I heard on FOX News. I'm not really into politics.
            She offers up no indication of whether or not she shares my unfounded disapproval of the current Commander In Chief. She just moves on to her next attempt at a trick question.
            "Do you know who the Vice President is?"
             Ok. At what point did we segue from my paperwork to a crossword puzzle? What the hell is she filling out on that clipboard? Just google that shit because I don't know this one.
             I admit that I've been stumped."I don't know, I'm not really into politics. I can picture him, I just can't remember his name".
             She reminds me that the VP is Joe Biden.
             "That's right" I nod in agreement. I don't tell her that I was actually picturing Tom Ridge. It's interesting that Tom Ridge's image came to mind since I have absolutely no idea who that is. Shit, maybe it's not even Tom Ridge that I'm picturing. Who cares? Fuck politics.

            After a few more minutes of Trivial Pursuit, she wants to ask me about drugs. Now we're talking my language. This should be a hell of a lot easier than current events.
            Ask away, grand inquisitor. I got your answers right here.
            "When was the last time you took any drugs?"
            Goddamnit. "I don't know". I lose again. "I don't remember. Maybe last week?" I surrender.
            She asks what I took. I tell her it would have been pain killers and/or xanax. I also inform her that, for the last 6 months, I have been trying and failing miserably at kicking a 6 year addiction to both. I tell her that severe depression and insomnia have been riding shotgun the whole time. She says the xanax withdrawal is the reason I'm shaking so bad. I don't even realize that I'm shaking until I put my hand out. I try to hold it still, but it looks like I'm waving bon voyage to someone departing on a Carnival Cruise Ship.
             She says she will  get me something to help with the tremors as soon as she asks a few more questions. These are the kind of questions that make you wonder what went wrong in your life to find yourself in such an interview. 
            "Have you ever heard voices before?" she asks.
            What a ridiculous question. "No, never" I tell her without laughing.
            "Have you ever seen things that were not there before?"
            "No. Well, only on acid. I would see some visuals sometimes when I was tripping. That was back in high school though".
            "Have you ever been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness?"
            "Mental illness? No". With the look of a lunatic, I let her in on a little secret. "Look. Here's the deal.  I'm NOT crazy. I've just done a lot of drugs".
            "Any history of depression?"
            I have to think about this one. "I guess I've been depressed ever since my ex-girlfriend moved out".
            "How long ago was that?" she asks.
            "Almost 2 years. I guess I never got over it, but the last few months have been unbearable".
            "Any depression before your girlfriend left?" she asks.
            "Yeah, sure. I guess I've always been kind of depressed. I mean, I've always been either way up or way down, no in between. My best friend, well, he's not my best friend anymore, but he used to call me "Extreme". I guess I've always been that way".
            "Have you ever talked to a professional about this?"
            "Once. I went to see a psychiatrist when one of my best friends died. I was already depressed about my girlfriend leaving, and then when that happened, I just couldn't even function. He told me I was clinically depressed".
            "Did he prescribe you anything?"
            "I took, what's it called? Remeron. I took that for a month but it didn't help".
            "Have you ever contemplated suicide?"
            "Is that a suggestion? I'm kidding. No. There were times I wished I had never been born, or that I wished I would go to sleep and not wake up in the morning, but I don't think I would ever kill myself though". Sounds pretty definite.
            "How about your parents? Any substance abuse or mental health issues?"
            "No. My dad doesn't even drink. His father was an alcoholic. My mother has an occasional glass of wine, but that's it. She hates drugs".
            "Any physical or sexual abuse in your past?"
            "No, never anything like that".
            Being able to answer "no" to those last 2 questions gives me the momentary realization that I have no excuse for what I have become.

            She asks when I ate last. I tell her that besides the sort of sandwich served up by the Puerto Rican with the not so golden voice, I can't remember the last time I ate anything. She says she will get me something proper to eat.
            A nurse brings me the medication and some water. The meds are supposed to stop me from shaking and will also calm my nerves and help me sleep. She gives me 2 pills in a small paper cup. As much as I know about pills, I have never heard of either Trazodone or Risperdal.
            Trazodone increases the amount of serotonin in the brain to help maintain mental balance. It is mostly used for treating depression, insomnia, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
            Risperdal is an antipsychotic. It is used for treating schizophrenia and psychotic agitation. It is also used to treat mania and mixed episodes caused by bipolar disorder.

            Besides the meds, she also gave me a sandwich...on a bun, and some potato salad...on a plate, which I devoured. Now, I'm lying down in the room across the hall, just like she told me to.

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