[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]
The psych interns read our charts every day. They don’t even laugh when they read them, although sometimes I catch them moving their lips. It’s Dr. Wolfe who rules here, who decides our fate every day. He has four major options for us: pill lineup, confined to dayroom, confined to bedroom, or Greenwall Gardens. That last is what we call the isolation room, the one with a little window in the door and green cloth hangings on its four dark walls.
Sometimes I’m sent to Greenwall Gardens because I’ve been bad. I can scream there, but the wallcloth eats up my words. Sometimes I pretend I’m in a freight elevator, and that the same patients live on each floor all oblivious of each other, thinking what the others think. “I’ll go downstairs,” each thinks, and so each one goes to the floor below but of course they never meet their doubles, who have gone to the floor below that. Where do the folks from the basement go? Back on top, I suppose.
For example, last week I had a meltdown, and found myself in Greenwall Gardens. Of course I’d been frisked and my pen-knife confiscated (“How the hell did you get that!”). A few hours later I had calmed down enough that one of the keepers brought me dinner. I asked him for a pencil and he said no, too dangerous; but he did scrounge a crayon for me. I was sure that Doctor knew about the crayon, had approved giving it to me. Yes, he wanted to know what I’d write, and sad experience had taught the staff that inmates deprived of crayons might begin writing on the walls with their own excrement.
I pulled the padding loose from the wall and scribbled wildly behind it, then pressed the fabric of oblivion back over what I had so fervently written.
Yes, I know the keepers wash the wall sometimes; they scrub off what I write. But they copy it down first; they told me so. “It has therapeutic significance,” one said to me. Didn’t say if the keepers like it, if they believe it, if they think it has any Merit or Significance beyond the Therapeutic, anything beyond the trivial insights into my head they so cherish: no lit crits they.
The next day I was let out of isolation; filthy, teary. And pen-knifeless. But in my room I had an ordinary table knife I’d taken from the dining room, and every evening I was slowly sharpening it on the metal bedstead.
[to be continued …]
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Thank you – tk