Sunday, April 5, 2009



I don't know why I let the police take me into custody so easily. I didn't even think about making a deal to give up. I guess it was the exhaustion and pain I was in at the time, and my feeling of just wanting it to end. Whatever it had been, there I was in a sheriff's van, handcuffed and shackled, and pulling into Camarillo State Hospital. The place is huge and old. It's architecture Spanish, and it stretches out for countless acres in all directions. It's one of those kinds of places that when you see it for the first time you wonder what the hell goes on in there?

I was taken out of the van by orderlies dressed in white shirts and pants and escorted to a check-in facility. In short order, I was being interviewed by a number of staff psychiatrists. They questioned me about being suicidal, and no amount of my denying it would convince them otherwise. They had already made up their minds and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was definitely trying to kill myself, whether I knew it or not. I insisted that I had been suicidal in the past, but that I no longer felt like taking my own life. No good! They refused to accept my version, even though it was accurate.

I'd made the front page of the L.A. Times and was the lead story on all the evening news broadcasts. While sitting on a couch in a waiting area, eating my first meal in days, I was transfixed on the television as they elaborated on my day's activities, along with each past episode. I stared in silence at the massive coverage, finally breaking down in tears, at the shear magnitude of my now televised extreme behavior. I suddenly flashed on where I was and what I'd done to get to the state mental hospital that day. What had happened to me? How could I have fallen so far and ended up here? What had I gained? I was a caricature of my former self, drowning in the demoralizing reality of my own insanity. What had I done to my life? The picture before me was bleak, to say the least.

A couple of orderlies came in to take me to a locked ward somewhere on the extensive grounds of the hospital. I was given no information about where I was being taken or what kind of treatment, if any, I was to receive. The orderlies were closed-mouthed and meticulous as they guided me about in silence, finally reaching the entrance to my building. There are open wards, where you can come and go freely, and there are locked wards, where you are not free to do anything except obey the rules. I was put in one of the locked wards.

Once inside, you felt cut off from the rest of humanity, which in fact was true. On entering this surreal world, I was struck by the grotesque feeling of desperation and terror that clung to every surface in that building. The history of the place and it's past horrors, screamed out from the walls, begging for mercy that never came. It took no intelligence to recognize that this was purely a part of hell on earth. The sheer darkness of the rabid spirit that nested here would have been apparent to a dead man. Bodies wandered aimlessly up and down long dark hallways, until they literally ran out of space. They bounced like caroms off the walls and dead-ends, only to begin again their endless search.

The staff regarded you as less than human, and treated those incarcerated there, as animals. I watched, as men with large leather belts around their waists, with their wrists chained and buckled to those belts, stumbled forward like lost zombies in a perpetual state of motion. Within minutes, the smell of the place had begun to turn my stomach, as the stench of urine, feces and vomit filled the air. I stood in awe of the wretched scene before me, realizing that I, too, was now an inmate in this hell.

I was ordered to the nurse's station and told to give my name and receive my medication. "What medication?" I asked. "Just go there and give them your name," came the response. I did as I was told and hoped that whatever they gave me would make me feel better and sleep. So exhausted was I by then, I offered no resistance of any kind. I was too tired to fight or try and get answers to my numerous questions, I was just too tired. At the window I gave my name and a hand pushed 3 small paper cups at me. Pills in one, a pink liquid in another, and water in the third. I was told to take the pills and drink the pink stuff and then wash it all down with the water, which I did. They then ordered me to open my mouth wide and prove that I had swallowed it all.

An orderly took me to a small room and my waiting bed, which I longed to crawl into. I remember drifting off to the muted sounds of voices in the distance, and occasional ramblings of lost souls, as I fell asleep in the dark. I awoke with a jolt, to the sound of a loud electric buzzer screeching through the dim gray of morning. I felt lost and afraid and was quickly engulfed by a murky sense of dread. Something was different, I thought, something was terribly wrong. I was not able to collect my thoughts as I normally could. They appeared jumbled and erratic inside my mind. "The drugs," I thought, "What had they given me?"

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