Day One: River of Derision

Welcome to part two of my blog challenge from several weeks ago.

If you haven’t read Delusions of Insignificance (click here), I’d advise you do so before continuing, otherwise you won’t know what the hell is going on.

Have you seen those old Kung Fu movies where the two masters face off by imagining how the fight would go? There was a great scene like that in “Hero” with Jet Li.  In their minds, they were furiously battling it out, but to everyone else it looked like they were standing still. Or in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows with Robert Downy Jr. where he and Moriarty anticipated how each would react and played the fight out in their minds, and again, to onlookers it appeared they were standing still, staring at each other.

That was how I spent the first of my four nights in the mental ward. Only instead of an external foe, it was myself I struggled with, like the secret final boss in most old-school video games. My tranquil body lay in a surprisingly comfortable bed as my self-esteem warred with my self-hatred. The epic struggle laid waste to my insides worse than a dozen Jack-in-the-Box tacos after a three-day whiskey bender.

No, seriously. That kind of mental stress plays hell on the digestive system. And my medication wasn’t helping any. I was a few weeks into taking a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) and apparently Zoloft believes depression resides in the guts, because it did it’s best to evacuate EVERYTHING for the first several days. “What, you have crippling social anxiety and depression? Here, take this pill that will make you shit yourself, tremor uncontrollably, and all your food will taste like pennies.” I was beginning to think my doctor was laughing at me. “You think you’re sad now, wait until you see what this pill can do to you, then you’ll realize your life wasn’t so bad after all.” It was the pharmaceutical equivalent of “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”

Anyway, there I was, doped out of my mind from my heroic dose of Valium (the first responders couldn’t believe I was walking and talking) in my tiny barren room, oscillating between wishing the damn pills had done their job and happy they didn’t, when my brain FINALLY received the distress call my bladder had been urgently sending.

Now, if you’ve read my novel you might have noticed that I have a thing for doors. They fascinate me. Myths, legends, and old wives tails (just realized how sexist that is. What, old husbands don’t make shit up too?) are rife with the magical properties of doorways. None of which I believe of course (atheist, remember), but there are some studies that suggest that walking through a doorway has a “reset” like effect on the brain…..sorry, getting sidetracked again. Why was I talking about doors?

Oh yeah, my three doors. That’s right, I had three doors all to myself. The first, and only normal, door led from the ward’s main hall to a fifteen-foot hallway. Half way down and on the right was the bathroom door, which was…. interesting. It was made of a ridged foam encased in white vinyl and held closed with a two-inch-wide magnetic flap that stuck to the door jam. And it only filled about half the doorway. I could stick my chin on the top of the door and look in. A sink with no mirror was on the right, toilet was on the left. At the end of the hall, leading into my room, was the final door, which was…. intimidating. Big. Solid. Impenetrable. It had large metal bolts top and bottom to lock in whoever was unfortunate enough to find themselves on the other side. Me, if I didn’t behave. This is what you got when they check the second box, the one marked “Danger to others.” Again, I found myself pissed that they considered me a danger to others. Didn’t they know I’m a pacifist? Every time I think about how they assumed I would hurt another person it made me so mad I could rip out someone’s throat like Patrick Swazye in Road House…. oh…um…. To all future psychiatrists, that was a joke. I would never rip someone’s throat out like Patrick Swazye. For one thing, I don’t have a mullet, so….

I didn’t do much with my first night, other than take a stumbling stroll around the ward. There were somewhere between nine and twelve men and women, their exact number and their faces blurred from the drugs and passage of time. All the other rooms were much larger than mine and had three beds. The good news was I was the only one with a room to myself. The bad, everyone else had a shower. I was told I could use the one in the room with the other men, so it wasn’t that bad. Across the main hall from the nurse’s station was the common room. It was only open another half hour so I didn’t bother going in.

I think I called my wife, but I don’t remember.

Lights out at Ten. I lay in the semi-dark, and again my self-esteem warred with my self-hatred. It’s an interesting thing to be as self-aware as I am and still be completely unable to do anything about it. I was nothing more than an observer to my tumultuous thoughts. Swept away by a river of derision, I, the part that was me, drowned in delusional thinking. How could someone as fatally flawed as I, be loved? The caring actions of others became sinister and self-serving. Past caresses no more than calculated manipulation. Affirmations turned to mocking accusations. I, the small part that was left of me, struggled to hold on as I slipped into sleep, only to have my fears manifest in my dreams.

It was not a good night.

But the morning was better, as it almost always is, if you stick around to see it. And I did. And I will continue to do so.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Stay tuned for day two in the Ward.