Friday, August 19, 2011

Losing Translations

I've been going with my friends to movies in the park this summer. It's been cool, and I get to see my friends. Last night, I went straight from work to my best friend A's house. Her step-daughter was there, watching TV like most tweeners. The show was obviously aimed at the lowest common denominator of tweens, capitalizing on buffoonery and men in drag more than actual commedy, but I used to watch Saved by the Bell, so what do I know?

Anyway, on this show, one of the girls was "accidentally" put in a mental hospital. I have to give the show props for actually making the hospital look bleak and depressing, but I really hated the stereotypes of people who were there. One guy kept trying to make it seem like he was from outer space or something, and he thought he was invincible, so he kept asking people to punch him, and there were other people there with losing grips on reality. But it was still a nice, quiet place to be.

In the hospital where I was, the beds were hard and the mattresses were covered in plastic. The sheets were so thin that you stuck to the plastic at night while you slept, and even though you were freezing for lack of warm bed coverings, you would sweat because your skin was against that plastic. I had to choose between spending the night cold and sleeping on an extra blanket, or putting both blankets on me in an attempt at warmth. I chose to sleep on the blanket.

You have no personal space in a mental institution. Doors don't close, except at night, but there's a window on the door. The bathrooms have no locks. the only privacy you're really allowed is when you get a phone call, and then you get to sit in a little booth with windows on all sides.

My roommate asked me to pee into a cup for her. She snuck drugs and snacks every day. I didn't care about the drugs, but I really wanted the snacks.

I gained three pounds while there because all of their food consists of bread, bread, and more bread with a few slices of meat and maybe a vegetable or two. And you have to eat it because if you don't they won't let you out. There was nothing zany or funny about the hospital. The guys with emerging schizophrenia were not funny or zany. They were scared to death. They wanted to know why they were seeing and hearing what they saw and heard. They wanted to know why they couldn't care about being accepted to an ivy-league college or being able to beat everyone at Scrabble. Why couldn't they care? Why couldn't they recognize any of their "friends" after those friends left the room?

Some of the girls had tried to starve themselves to death, and when that didn't take, they tried slitting their wrists. One guy stabbed himself in the neck because his friends were pissing him off, and dared him to do it.

One lady was pregnant. One lady had a husband and put on makeup and did her hair every day so that she would look pretty for him. We all wore long-sleeved shirts and tugged at the wrists to hide our gashes, slashes, cuts, bruises, spots.

Yes, even me.

I'm one of those people. I tell you right now, that is the only place I have ever felt that I belong to, and that is what depresses me the most.

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