Wednesday, August 31st, 1:30 p.m.

I found myself growing more and more used to the routine, and even finding my personality with no part of it probably harder to squelch for long than my natural competitiveness. All of which meant that eventually, I was going to need the daily time of recreational therapy to shift away from coloring and crafts, into the realm of the stock of board games that resided in the room.

This day seemed like as good as any for taking that plunge, and my timing could not have worked out better when our hospital staff member actually suggested that we try a game of Scattergories together. I am a fan of the game, but was a bit perplexed by a certain aspect of it. As I would later learn, these “therapy” hours were being billed out to my patient account at a clip of $125 per day. Call me crazy (which my location at the time might well have suggested I was…am), but it would seem like for that price we would have someone guiding us through the playing of the game who actually was familiar with the rules of the game.

That was when the “true” me sprung forth. I just can’t…or choose not to…or don’t know how to…or however the fuck you want to interpret it…I just don’t let it go when someone thinks they know how to play a game, but when compared to the instructions or formal rules of the game make it clear that they do not. This would prove to be no exception. So I did what any reasonable person who has ditched his job and family, jumped on a train, fled the state, been placed in protective custody and had his shoelaces removed less he off himself would do…I took over. And for better or for worse, she let me. She tried to guide us, but I think she grew weary of my correcting her (not the first one to experience that phenomenon in an encounter with me). Eventually she, or at least the other clients (because crazy people prefer to listen to another crazy person rather than the sane ones…I know, crazy…huh?) looked to me for game guidance. And I? Hell yeah. More than happy to provide it.

This all fit into what I would come to consider the abnormal normal. The abnormal normal was when I was doing something completely normal, such as playing a game of Scattergories with a group of adults, in a completely abnormal environment, such as a psych ward with the group of adults being people I really don’t know from Adam.

Other examples would come to include brushing my teeth (normal) with a prison toothbrush at a sink that required constant pumping to continue the water flow (abnormal). Placing an order for my dinner (normal) an entire day before with fairly decent certainty that it might not arrive as what I ordered (abnormal). Checking my email (normal) while someone paces behind me swearing loudly at another individual who does not visibly exist (abnormal). Or putting on my socks (normal) and them having those little no-slip rubber stripes on them and the face of a small teddy bear (abnormal…at least, for my wardrobe).

I can’t remember who won the two games we played that day, which means it is highly likely that neither of the winners was me. That’s just how I roll. But I do remember who knew the “right” way to play the game, and for that afternoon at least…that felt normal.

Thursday, August 25th, 6 p.m.

I had been duped. At 3:45 p.m., still in the psychiatric emergency room, I believed I had mustered enough energy to put on a mask and pull it off. The psychiatric resident had sat across from me and indicated that I would not be put in the psych ward. I would receive a regular hospital room. I would be placed close to a nurse’s station so they could keep an eye on me, but in my mind I had once again avoided revealing the greatest indicators that I had totally lost my fucking mind.

It is right in the hospital notes. I did not merit “CVO” (constant visual observation). Then the damn attending psychiatrist had to go and meet with the resident to review my case. Had to go and show him the realities of my case. Had to review the intense suicidal ideation I had been experiencing. The thought out plan I had to kill myself and possibly harm others along the way. The lifelong history of depression and manic behavior. The phone conversation with my wife indicating her level of concern over the rapid flip of my mental and emotional switch…yet again.

So here I sat. Sitting at a small round table across from a diminutive woman talking to me very softly and gently as she took out a packet of forms and a pen. I had entered yet another state of shock when they placed me in a wheelchair downstairs and informed me that I would be taken to the 13th floor and placed in the care of the psychiatric unit where I would get the care and help I needed. This was NOT what we had discussed!

The shock had deepened into a very dark depression as I was escorted to this table in this “living area” across from a large nurse’s station. Into disbelief as individuals in hospital gowns walked by checking out the newest member of their community. Some of them offering gentle smiles. Others talking out loud to demons located somewhere in the deepest recesses of their minds.

This was not yet rock bottom, but I could see it from the point of my current downward float. I was provided a “Patient and Visitor Information” brochure to look over as the small administrator ordered her items to begin checking me into the Norman and Ida Stone Institute of Psychiatry.

Meal schedules. Medication schedules. Telephone schedules. Television schedules! It had been at least 35 years…if ever…since I had been told when I could or could not watch television. I know, strange thing to stick out in my mind and pop up at that moment. It gave procedures for laundry which I remember finding significantly startling. How could I possibly be here long enough to need to do laundry! Details regarding group and individual sessions. I don’t know these people. I can’t share with them my thoughts. My places of brokenness. My pains!

She could see me looking over the brochure and it seems was attempting to verbalize key points related to the sections my eyes seemed to be passing over, but she sounded like the teacher from a Charlie Brown episode as my mind raced out of control with dark frightening images of straight jackets, syringes and injections of unknown fluids to attempt and control my thoughts and behaviors, and fears that I had finally been locked up…and would never be fit to get out.