Sunday, March 1, 2009
(part 149) ONE FLEW OUT OF THE CUCKOO'S NEST
I couldn't get any real help in Camarillo, and that was my problem. The damage done to by my own actions just kept being compounded by comas, broken bones, drug addiction, and alcoholism. It was this unending collective scarring of my mind, body, and emotions that had taken their toll and landed me here.
Each piece of the problem worked in unison against me to create a truly lost and combative human being. In the state hospital, the need to make me pay for my sins, as it were, against society, outweighed any of my rights to receive real help in dealing with the basis for my past behavior.
Now in a mental hospital setting, I perceived, and rightly so, that the staff was not interested in helping me. They were determined, in fact, to commit me, and thereby be done with me, as well as my antics on the streets of Los Angeles and Hollywood.
This may sound irrational or highly unlikely to some readers, but unless you have been in this situation yourself, you really wouldn't understand.
I had pissed off the authorities for the last time, in their opinion, and they were bound and determined to get rid of me. So as good and fair as we like to believe we are, we at times are too eager to be free of some of society's problems.
The answer was not to help me, but to remove the problem by denying it had a rational cause. They hid from it, and locked me up in hell, with plans to keep me there and off their streets.
These kinds of judgement calls, by those in charge, sometimes cross the line into dehumanization, and are defended by clever rhetoric, twisted moral logic, and self justification.
I brought the trouble down on myself for sure, but it was what caused me to to this in the first place that they had no interest in resolving or understanding.
As my thinking continued to fail me in Camarillo, I ruthlessly held to the one clear thought left in my mind: the medication I was forced to take, had to be limited in some way.
I made myself practice at the water fountain, trying to take liquid into my mouth and not swallow it, while making it appear as though I had when examined.
The next time the meds call came around I put this technique to the test, and although I still swallowed a lot of the pink poison, much of it was concealed around my gums, until I could get away and spit it out.
I'd go to the nurse's station, take the medicine and then quickly move to the water fountain, once they'd checked me.
My theory, even in the state I was in, was that if I could cut down the amount of medicine being introduced into my system, I would slow the progressive march into total darkness, and a guaranteed longer term of forced commitment in the state mental hospital.
Legally at this point, they could only hold me for 72 hours, unless I exhibited some form of dangerous or otherwise bizarre behavior, which I had not, other than the interview where I had stopped talking to the psychiatrist and stenographer.
This is why the doctors had insisted I was suicidal at check-in, and why this God-awful medication was forced on me. They were attempting to make me appear a lot sicker than I was, and in turn could then legally hold me for a longer period of time.
Although I was unaware of it at the time, Carol Paulus, had been trying to contact me at the hospital. She'd been unsuccessful, because she was told she wasn't a family member, so the staff wouldn't let her talk to me.
Finally my mother was contacted by Carol and they got together, and the hospital was forced to give into my mother's demand that some form of communication with me be accomplished immediately, because she was a family member.
That was when I was allowed to talk to them on the phone, and they knew immediately that I was different in a way they'd never heard before. I was nearly incoherent, but still clung to that one clear and concise thought, managing to blurt out, "Bad medication, get me out now!"
Even in the worst of times I had never sounded that way to either of them in the past, so they knew something wasn't right. It was an immediate red flag to both Carol and my mother, and signaled to them that something bad had occurred to cause my now deteriorated condition.
Within hours, both my mother and Carol arrived at the hospital demanding answers from the administration. My mother insisted on seeing me, but was thwarted at first by the staff, who attempted to argue that a visit at this time would possibly make the situation worse.
Upon hearing this, my mother rejected their argument vehemently, and continued to insist that they allow her to see me personally. Faced with this turn of events, the staff at Camarillo, began backing down when my mother asserted herself into the situation in this manner.
She had a very clear line of thought that she adhered to no matter what; it was called principle. If she thought that you had taken an unprincipled and illegal position, she would fight you to the death over it, and in this case that is what she believed was happening.
It was now a face to face, eyeball to eyeball showdown, in which my mother demanded that I be released into her custody. She did not believe the hospital had my best interests in mind, and told them so in no uncertain terms... "What have you done to him?" she demanded.
The various doctors and higher ups got together and had an emergency conference, to assess their position in the now volatile matter before them. Whatever the hospital's position had been in the beginning, the situation was now rapidly changing.
They were stuck on the legal aspects of what my mother was threatening them with, which was to get an attorney, and have me legally removed from their care.
In the final analysis they agreed amongst themselves, that her position, if tested, would be victorious. For the administrators, holding on to me now would be pointless.
With that in mind, Camarillo State Hospital was forced to release me into the custody of my mother, which they did.
You may be thinking I was not in Camarillo long enough for it to be as bad as I am saying here, but my response would be this. If I had not been removed immediately from that God awful place when I was, I would have succumbed to the medication's hold on me, and would have given the hospital all the evidence they needed to hold me for an extended period of time.
Camarillo State Hospital has since been closed, because it became known that what had gone on in there was so far removed from anything acceptable that it could only be partially rectified by doing away with the place once and for all.
* * *
Memories of Camarillo State Hospital: Gail Green
Green, 53, was committed there by her parents in 1966, back when adolescents lived among adults with criminal records, and she stayed institutionalized until 1968. She was 5150-ed (deemed a danger to herself and others) by the state in 1977, and spent the next year at Camarillo State Hospital in a catatonic stupor. "I didn't know where I was when I came out of it," she said. She had one friend, an older woman named Mary who used to drag her into the shade when the mixture of Thorazine and 90-degree heat got too heavy. Then Mary died one day. "My family never came to see me," Green said plainly. "It was as if they forgot about me. I became numb. I thought I'd die here."
click to enlarge
Camarillo State Hospital grounds