For those of us that still have a sense of humor, there is a silver lining in some psych ward stints.
Comedic Gold, actually.
Not all psych ward stays are terrible, I have to admit. Aside from the needles strong enough to bring down elephants, solitary confinement and leather straps, forced med changes that lead to involuntary ticks, kicks and drooling, food that tastes like soggy cardboard and boiled cabbage, and the zombie-like dance of the thorazine shuffle … humor can reign. It has to, or we’d really all go insane. Afterall, laughter is the best medicine.
I had my fair share of stints in psychiatric hospitals this year, but one in particular packed such a punch that a movie could be based on that 3-week stay alone. Can I interest anyone in a sequel to “One Who Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest?”
It helps to have a kick-ass roomate who is just as stirctly left-brained as you are right. That fact alone transformed two furiously unstable bipolar chicks into a powerhouse of creativity, proficiency and hilarity, resulting in wickedly well-timed shenanigans that we’d liked to believe played a role in the head psychiatrist’s resignation. After all, that was the goal all along; to not only challenge the system but to annihilate it, one quack at a time … and have fun doing it. She even had NBC on the phone one morning, spouting off headlines for her latest article, highlighting nothing other than the not-so- official Health Stamp of Quakery. I kid you not.
After our morning coffee and caged cigarette break, we’d pace back and forth down what we called the ‘Victorias Secret Runway’ in our latest Einstein-inspired hospital fashion gowns (complete with sunglasses and ID bracelets), discussing the projects we’d tackle that day.
Aside from taking challenging the system at large, we actually did work intensely on finding solutions to the problem. With her business prowess and my creative edge and background, we teamed up in secret to create a flow chart and design for affordable all-inclusive sanctuaries and mental health retreats in the Caribbean and United States that focused on the whole of recovery: Mind, Body and Spirit.
I don’t know how we found the time to be serious in between daily firings, tattoo artistry and escape attempts ..let alone the daily therapy. On top of the main agenda, she was hired full-time to fire staff and I was hired full-time to create personal tattoos and drawings for fellow patients. We were both hired full-time to come up with Houdini-like escapes that no one got around to practicing. Blood, sweat and tears went into our shenanigans.
At some point, we stopped the nonsense and began working on our own personal projects. As I sat at my desk crafting beautiful hand-made books of poetry and short stories for my “Was-band,” she sat on her bed and started to draft actual articles for newspapers detailing medical malpractice.
Somehow during this break, we managed to swap hilarious stories from our manic pasts that had everyone rolling in the hallways; including stories about slinging bibles at priests while poor, lil’ old ladies collapsed in prayer and fear, and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes made of dried grass found in fields in Wyoming that were rolled up in homework due the next day, as wild, angry Buffalo grazed only feet away. We even planned our future weddings and Bachelorette parties with so much detail that we agreed to things like waving around psych ward socks instead of the majestic penis (don’t get me started on the socks and Footloose reenactments). Afterall, both of our future husbands were nuts, too, but I won’t even get into that.
Never underestimate the power of maniacally lubricated minds. They are wickedly creative machines.
One night, we settled down into our beds to just shoot the shit and laugh off the work that day. She did a hilarious impression of a former coworker from the Bronx that called her midday at work only to scream through the phone, “My crotch is on F-EYE-AHH!!!” I laughed and snorted so hard while she kept talkin’ in a hilariously heavy New York accent, that patients and staff came in flocks to see what we were up to this time. I don’t know if popularity is a good thing or bad thing in a psych ward, but we were a hit.
It had been about 3 weeks at that point and our patience for release was running thin. We already planned our Turkey Day charades, complete with Indian feathers and Pilgrim hats, dining room decor and poetry readings round the makeshift campfire. Hell, we even got to Christmas by that point!
We wanted to get on with our plans in real life, but had little cash to pull off such stunts. Despite our work history, we were both without a job. I sat on the bed that night with a dollar bill in my hand. As we sat in silence, I began to read the small print on the front of the dollar bill.
On the dollar bill, in all CAPS, the following words are printed: THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.
Read that again, slowly and let that sink in for a second.
THIS note is LEGAL tender for ALL debts public and private.
ALL debts – $1.
I read it out loud over and over again as the sheer magnitude of my delusional discovery sunk in.
“We’re rich!!!!” I exclaimed as I explained to my roommate that someone forgot to proofread the dollar bill. Big mistake, because in my mind, now I could legally pay off not only all my debt, but everyone’s debt … with a ONE DOLLAR BILL. Our problems were solved and holy fuck! This was how we’d save the world! Jackpot.
Move over Zuckerberg, I’ll take your billions donated to charity and raise you $1!
I went ape shit and decided to scheme my way out of the psych ward by writing a 3-page essay to the head psychiatrist. In the essay, I highlighted the flaws in the system, our plans to establish quality therapeutic care, and the proof that we weren’t crazy. I may or may not have mentioned to say hello to the next President of the United States (me), as my roommate simultaneously read excerpts from, “Dude, Where’s My Country” aloud … but that’s beside the point. On the front, I taped the bribe – the dollar bill with a quick note explaining how this paid for all his debts on one condition … that he’d release me.
Just that night, I was playing scrabble with a terribly handsome staff member, on whom I had just a sliver of a crush. I can honestly say, I think the feeling was mutual. But who knows, tisk, tisk. I said something funny and off the wall as usual and he warned me not to say things like that in front of the Dr. because that’s the kind of thing that’ll keep me in here. I completely ignored his warning.
I was up til midnight writing furiously as my roomie cheered me on. I slapped it down on the nurses desk and demanded, “Deliver this to the Doctor!”
Swear to God, not five minutes later did gentleman in suits come barreling down the hall to read that letter. It was like a scene from the MIB. I just rubbed my lil’ evil hands togehter and snickered.
Next day, the doc pulls me into his office with a witness, with my patient binder open to the letter that was already fastened in. He was Egyptian and hot and his witness was one of the gentleman who read the letter the night before, so I was a bit flustered and I knew it was do or die time. I knew I risked a lot writing that and I knew I had to defend it. I was 302’d afterall, and they could have kept me for the long haul. I stood my ground and delivered my roommates research in a sealed envelope. Not even I knew what was in it, but I’m sure it had to do with malpractice lawsuits.
He let me go that very day.
It’s all about the money, afterall. After a while, you learn to speak their language.
I walked out the locked doors, swingin’ my hips with a song in my head: KORMAC – QUACKERY
As for my roomie, she had to stay behind even though she packed her bags and walked out the doors with me. We had a plan to fly to Cancun for a week of TLC and recovery.
I lit up my ciggie and waited for my helicopter. A van came instead. Didn’t matter because the driver asked me where I wanted to go. I said, “Take me to the airport, cuz I got a plane to catch.”
I didn’t have a cent to my name. I was a day late and a dollar short. Worth every penny.