Monday, December 30, 2013

My Outpatient Stay at a Mental Hospital

frances farmer arrest

For 3 weeks, I was an outpatient at the rehab and mental health facility Las Encinas.  In some ways, I’d always assumed I would end up here.  I remember me and my mom going to visit a family friend there once when I was a kid, and my mom half-joking about wishing her Medi-Cal benefits were accepted there.  She wasn't interested in sobriety at that time and wasn't in the middle of one of her existential breakdowns, so I believe she really wanted to be there like being on vacation; the grounds were beautiful and you got 3 square meals a day and were surrounded by interesting fuck ups.  We visited her friend.  He was detoxing from crack and seemed fragile but also fortified by the crisp eucalyptus-smelling air there and relieved to be taken care of by professionals.  

I had heart surgery when I was in my early twenties, and dumped by a live-in boyfriend shortly afterwards.  I was single and very ready to mingle so I instantly jumped back into a routine of bar-hopping and partying, breaking in my new heart, self-defeatingly hoping to break it for good. I hardly slept on work nights, and usually slept all day on the weekends.  I lived in a basement apartment with a beautiful view but the landlord who lived upstairs was mentally and physically ill; he spied on me, passing judgments and regularly overstepping his bounds tremendously, like deciding my mail would go in the same mailbox as his, and having his boyfriend sneak into my bedroom one morning when it was assumed I would be asleep, to steal a press photo from a Munchkin scene of the Wizard of Oz – the last living Munchkin was signing autographs at an antiques fair that day and I’d ignored all the landlord's voicemails about it the day before, so, obviously, breaking and entering was the next logical step.  I was not going crazy, but I was so depressed it hurt. It hurts so  bad.  I left my office one morning and hid in my car, finally going into hysterics over the phone with my therapist until she arranged for Las Encinas to take me in.

I went to Las Encinas every morning at 7 AM, for 3 weeks, insurance-paid, thank god.  I’d stopped caring to feed myself, so all the breakfast food there was a comfort.  After everyone arrived, there were group therapy sessions everyone broke into.  Like one of my recurring dreams where I’m back in high school and I can’t figure out what classes to go to next, I seemed to be the only person who’d never gotten a schedule of what therapy sessions I was to go to, so I went where the wind took me.

A girl named Angela from this outpatient group had recently committed suicide, and several group members cried about it throughout the day.  She’d been a young woman. 

I was the highest functioning person in the group, and honestly, I feel like I wasn’t given enough attention because of this.  It’s true, I wasn’t actively contemplating suicide like some of my mentally wounded colleagues, but on the other hand, I’ve been somewhat considering and contemplating suicide since I was 12, so while it wasn’t a situation of immediacy, it is a thought I'd have liked some professional to have unearthed and coaxed me out of.

I loved the meals at the cafeteria.  Sometimes someone would freak out though and it would set everyone else off, a domino effect of the shakes and screaming and paranoid fears.

There was a woman who was convinced that people she used to work for in Las

Vegas had followed her to L.A. and were following her constantly.  Objectively this seems unrealistic, but to hear it from her, it sounded feasible.

Tom Sizemore was there, a big famous asshole whose bragging voice drowned out all others.

Everyone there was diagnose with Bipolar II, a California trend at the time, I believe.  When I moved to Philly later and told psychiatrists, “I have Bipolar II and am treated with a drug called Lamictal,” nobody knew what the fuck I was talking about.  I think Las Encinas is sort of a dishonest place and perhaps got some kickback from Lamictal, seemingly the only drug used to treat Bipolar II.

The saddest thing about this experience was the fear that I could never go back to normalcy again.  I thought I’d have to make people  treat me with kid gloves and that I’d never have sex or feel sexy or have fun.  I’d have to speak in funereal tones about my moods.  Luckily, that never happened.

My last day there, a boy who resembled Icabod Crane in height and prominent adam’s apple decided to go for it and ask for my telephone number.  He was nice in a way but also a drag.  I hung out with him maybe 4 times, and only as a friend, as I always reiterated.  His house was beautiful, in South Pasadena, owned by his Greek great grandpa who was on vacation.  This boy took me to fancy restaurants, bought me gelato before the one movie we went to see (sadly ironically a story about the guy who improbably gets the girl of his dreams, even though she’s great and he kind of sucks to be around).  We watched a dvd or two at his home and he made gourmet grilled cheeses using a special sandwich press, like a panini maker that left an imprint of Hello Kitty on the bread.  In some ways, he would have been a good boyfriend for someone, and in fact, I’d learned that before trying to date me, he’d had a little fling with a judge’s daughter from our group, who received several sessions of electric shock therapy which left her open-mouthed, drooling and sedate for the rest of the day.  I finally extricated myself from this sad boy’s clutches when I showed up with a hickey from a man who today is my husband.

Later on, Las Encinas was never named in the whole "Celebrity Rehab Reality TV is exploitive" controversy, but Dr Drew Pinsky’s little reality shows took place in a high-end Pasadena rehab place that looked just like Las Encinas, and he was also listed on their page as a staff member, so it was pretty safe to assume that these celebrity rehab shows were filmed here.  People he’s treated have often died afterwards, after the season was over and they probably felt abandoned by their watchers.

This makes one wonder about the ethics of a place like Las Encinas.  My feeling is that you can’t trust any place that doles out the same diagnosis and pills to everyone who walks through the door and that, in general, nobody cares enough about a sad person who has lost the will to live.  I saw many examples, while there, of people not listened to enough or paid enough attention to.  Psychiatry is a pseudoscience.  The doctors often start out by giving someone too high a dosage, then go “oops” when the person flips out, and figure out by trial and error what the patient can tolerate.  My own psychiatrist, just a few weeks ago, was reading from the wrong chart when he was speaking to me and it took a loooong time and me correcting him before he realized his error.  Sometimes I think that the people who are charged with helping people are the same people who could not give less of a fuck about a wounded soul.  When I consider my off-experiences at this hospital and with mental healthcare professionals, I often think of my favorite Kimye Dawson song, which sums it all up perfectly, the lack of empathy from people who are supposed to help:

Hold My Hand (Kimye Dawson)

once i knew a little girl who refused to eat
she just banged her head against the floor and didn't sleep for a week
both of her parents were mentally delayed and they
lived in constant fear that their daughter would be taken away
so instead of getting help they just pretended
that everything was okay
so i called the social worker and said "something is wrong"
she said "you know how she turns into a brat
when she doesn't get what she wants
i'll call ya later when i'm done playing with my dogs"

sometimes the world is dark and cold
and no matter what i'm told
i'm scared and i'm alone and i'm five years old
will you hold my hand?

once i knew a little guy runny nose and bruises on his thighs
and i said "hey, what happened here?"
he looked at me and said "well my dad he hates me"
so i called the social worker confidentially and she called his mom
and said "guess who thinks your husband is beating up your son?"
next thing i knew that family packed up and they were gone

back pressed flat against the wall
and they hit me with a ball
pretend it didn't hurt at all
will you hold my hand?

maybe i'll call oprah there must be something she can do
i'll say "i'm fat and i'm black and i'm sick of seeing little kids feel blue"
and me and oprah we will fix c.p.s.
and make sure the people working with kids have bigger hearts than the rest
and if you wanna have a baby you'll hafta pass a test

it sucks when for a little kid living means lying
and the only place you feel safe is pretending your flying
and you'd rather be caught dead than be caught crying
will you hold my hand?

abuse and neglect are highly contagious so
i called that social worker up and i said "hey lady you're outrageous"
she said "smarty-pants, you want a gold star?" i said
"no i wanna bash your head in with a crowbar, but
the cycle of violence has to end somewhere"

come and take a swim with me
we'll wait underwater patiently
for the output of endorphins as we're swallowed by the sea
will you hold my hand?
will you hold my hand?
will you hold my hand?

Las Encinas

No comments:

Post a Comment