Thursday, February 26, 2009

(part 147) CAMARILLO STATE HOSPITAL: Locked Ward

This is exactly where I was...Locked ward Camarillo State Hospital

I don't know why I let the police take me into custody. I didn't even think about making a deal before I gave up. I guess it was the exhaustion and pain I was in at the time, and the feeling of just wanting it to end.

Whatever it was, here I am in the sheriff's van, handcuffed and shackled to the seat, as we pull into Camarillo State Hospital. The place is old and massive. It's architecture Spanish, and it stretches out for countless acres in all directions. It's one of those places that you see for the first time and wonder what the hell goes on in here?

The handcuffs and shackles are removed by a sheriff's deputy. I am then taken out of the van by orderlies and escorted to a check-in facility. In a short time, I am being interviewed by a number of staff psychiatrists.

They question me about being suicidal, and no amount of my denying it will convince them otherwise. They have already made up their minds, and tell me in no uncertain terms, that I am definitely trying to kill myself, whether I know it or not.

I insist I am not suicidal. I say I have been suicidal in the past, but no longer feel like taking my own life. No good! They refuse to accept my version, even though it is accurate.

I am moved to another room after the psychiatric interview where I find a newspaper on a table. I am on the front page of the L.A. Times again. On TV I am the lead story of the evening news.

I sit on a couch in a waiting area, eating my first meal in days, and am transfixed on the television screen as it endlessly rattles on about my day's activities. They show each past episode of me, on the tower and Continental Hotel, and the covers of two of my albums, while one of my records plays in the background.

I stare in silence at the massive coverage, finally breaking down in tears, at the shear magnitude of my now televised insanity. I suddenly flash on where I am and what I've done to get to the state mental hospital this day.

What has happened to me? How could I have fallen so far and ended up here? What have I gained? I am now a caricature of my former self, drowning in the demoralizing reality of my own craziness. What have I done to my life? The picture before me is pathetic and bleak, to say the least.

A couple of orderlies come in to take me to a ward somewhere on the extensive grounds of the hospital. I am given no information about where I am being taken or what kind of treatment, if any, I will receive.

The orderlies are closed-mouthed and meticulous, as they guide me about in silence. Soon enough we approach 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 am put in one of the locked wards. Even though I am a threat to no one, including myself, they put me in here.

Once inside, I am cut off from the rest of humanity. On entering this surreal world, I am struck by the grotesque feeling of desperation and terror that clings to every surface in this building.

The history of the place, and it's past horrors, scream out from the walls, begging for mercy that never comes. It takes no intelligence to recognize that this is purely a part of hell on earth.

The sheer darkness and rabid spirit that nests here would be apparent to a dead man. Bodies wander aimlessly up and down the long dark corridors, until they literally run out of space. They bounce like caroms off the walls and dead-ends, only to return again to their endless wandering.

The staff regards most of these as less than human, and treats them like animals. I watch, as men with large leather belts around their waists and their wrists, chained and buckled to those belts, stumble forward like lost zombies in a perpetual state of slow motion.

Within minutes, the smell begins to turn my stomach, as the stench of urine, feces, and vomit hang in the air. I stand in awe of the wretched scene before me, realizing that I, too, am an inmate in hell.

I am ordered to the nurse's station, and told to give my name and receive my medication. "What medication?" I ask. "Just go there and give them your name," comes the response.

I do as I am told, and hope whatever they give me will make me feel better and put me to sleep. So exhausted am I by now, that I offer no resistance of any kind. I am too tired to fight or try and get answers to my many questions, I am just too tired.

At the window, I give my name, and a hand pushes three small paper cups at me. Pills in one, a pink liquid in another, and water in the third. I am told to take the pills and drink the pink stuff, and then wash it all down with the water, which I do. I am ordered to open my mouth wide to prove I have swallowed it all.

An orderly then takes me to a small room and to my waiting bed, which I long to crawl into. I remember drifting off to the muted sounds of voices, the clanking of keys and doors in the distance, and occasional rambling of lost souls.

I awake with a jolt, to the sound of a loud electric buzzer screeching through the dim gray of morning. I feel lost and afraid, and am quickly engulfed by a murky sense of dread.

"Something is different," I think to myself, "something is terribly wrong." I am not able to collect my thoughts as I normally do. They are jumbled and erratic inside my head. "The drugs," I think, "What did they give me?"