I was not thrilled about returning to my home (see end of my previous posting entitled, “The story begins”), as the place felt like a morgue to me. The friend who had taken me in for a day and night was to be unavailable for the next couple of days. So, I reached out to second friend via phone. This turned out to be the worst possible thing I could have done.
I forget what I said during that brief conversation, but late that night, my second friend called me back and suggested that I come into San Francisco and stay with her and her partner for the night. Her partner had some ideas regarding what needed to be done, she said. So, happy about another opportunity to spend the night elsewhere than in my gloomy home, I pulled myself off the floor, gathered a couple of items of clothing, and headed for San Francisco. Upon arrival at their home, I spent about an hour telling my friend of what my brain had been up to the past few weeks. My friend tried to listen while nodding off due to the lateness of the hour.
In the morning, my friend called a psychiatrist she knew, telling him that, on the basis of what I had told her the previous night, I seemed to be having a “professional crisis,” her apparent conclusion from the subset she heard of what I said the previous night. The psychiatrist recommended that I get a psychiatric evaluation, something I had never heard of before. Not knowing what else to do, I went with my friend to a psychiatric facility in San Francisco.
“Are you suicidal?”, the receptionist asked. “Well, I’m not sure that I want to be here,” I responded, referring to being at the psychiatric facility. Yet, in we went. When the door locked behind us, I began feeling less than comfortable about what was happening. Several hours later, following an interview during which words flew out of my mouth uncontrollably – words about what had been happening to me, about my inability to function normally, and about my feeling that I was dying and couldn’t go on living like this, the psychiatrist concluded that I was a danger to myself and that I needed to be hospitalized. I was then admitted – “committed,” against my will -- to the last place I needed to be in and the last place I ever expected to be in – a psychiatric ward. I was told that the door which had locked behind me earlier would not be unlocked for me for a minimum of 72 hours – make that 120 hours, since the 48-hour weekend which fell within the next 72 hours would not count as part of the 72 minimum. I was severely shaken, having had no idea this was a possible result of a psych evaluation. I frantically tried to reach my friend who had left me alone at the facility to go shopping. There was nothing I could do.
Ultimately, I was kept in the psychiatric ward for an even longer period of time (8 days), because they learned I had written a long note saying “goodbye” – a note I had written because I felt like I was dying and couldn’t go on living the bizarre way I was; the note was interpreted as revealing that I was suicidal.
During my stay there, I had additional seizures, all at night; none were observed by others. I learned I had lost 20 pounds over the previous 2 weeks; fortunately, the food there had to be among the best offered in any hospital in existence, so I ate well, but I gained little weight. I hesitated a long time before finally taking an anti-depressant they prescribed for me; the long list of possible side effects was pretty scary. I attended group therapy sessions, which were very well done, though they were not what I needed. I played Scrabble with a psychiatric nurse (who, interestingly, cheated by playing with a dictionary!) and found that my brain was such that I could not think of any words longer than those that were simple and single syllable. I shot baskets with a basketball, and amazingly found I could do that as well as I could when I was young. I worried about money, as I was low on funds, and my medical insurance wasn’t the best. I worried about what people would think once they learned of my hospitalization. And I remained perplexed as to what had been and was really happening to my brain.
Importantly, I learned that my friend and her partner were big fans of psychiatry and anti-depressants; they argued that psychiatrists always know what is best.
Also importantly, I learned that the CT scan they did of my brain to look for physical causes of my malady revealed the presence of no abnormality. Five months later, during investigative work of my own, I learned that this claim was false (I’ll address this in an upcoming blog posting).
After being in a place for 8 days that I never would have imagined I’d be in – and shouldn’t have been in anyway, I was released into the care of both of the friends I had turned to for help. And to be released, I agreed to partake in an out-patient, group psychiatric program.
I didn’t want to be in the out-patient program, and I balked at registering for it, though initially because my brain couldn't interpret the simple application forms I was asked to complete. After skipping the scheduled meeting of a second attempt to register, I stood on a cliff in the Marin Headlands and gave serious consideration to jumping. I so feared being tossed back into a psychiatric ward for balking at registering for the out-patient program, but I overcame the feeling that I should jump, and I did not experienced the feeling again upon multiple returns to that cliff.
Ultimately, I registered for the program, but attended only 5 sessions. Clearly, the sessions were not what I needed; listening to, for example, an alcoholic patient ponder whether he should stop his girlfriend from moving in with him after she had sex with his brother, was certainly interesting, but I was in a fog and in need of something else, though I had no idea what else.
During this time, I was still not able to sleep at night (though the anti-depressant made me groggy), and I was occasionally experiencing severe pain in the back of my neck. I also experienced a scary, severe dystonic reaction to the anti-depressant -- a reaction of being unable to move a muscle or breath, and a feeling of lying inside a coffin. I went to the ER, and doctor who tended to me told me to stop taking that anti-depressant (and to tend to a couple of growths on the top of my head and on my face which he deemed likely to be cancerous, a result of my spending so much time in the sun during April). The psychiatrist who heads the out-patient program apologized for my being given an anti-depressant I would react negatively to, but he concluded that I didn’t seem to need an anti-depressant anyway -- confirmation that the entire psychiatric experience had been a huge waste of time and of money I didn't have.
Yet, this was when my friends changed their tone in their interactions with me – resorting to scolding me for not attending more out-patient sessions, for not taking the anti-depressant according to schedule -- a false claim, for working too much on interactions magazine (I had resumed working on the magazine, though the quality of my work was greatly reduced), for not snapping out of my weird state of mind, for thinking that my early symptoms (i.e., seizures, arrhythmia, etc.) revealed something serious was wrong, for being "negative" when it came to the destruction of my home and the loss of many of my belongings, and for not being thankful for what they were doing for me! I found myself being insulted in many ways, with insults extended to my typical state of mind even before this story started. Having an unhappy ex-girlfriend reenter my life increased the number of those kinds of insults dramatically. Never could I imagine that my getting sick would prompt people I had thought were my friends to repeatedly attack me verbally.
In short, I was still living a nightmare, but things were about to get even worse.