LOCKDOWN: Chapter 3: Persephone (1998) (Draft)
Midmorning I was brought up from the bowels of the hospital, to the third-floor locked non-violent psychiatric ward by two, really large, psych-techs. Not having had much sleep, I was fading in and out of reality.
Directly in front of me was a large communal area, behind the communal area and on either side of it were rooms with beds. To the left of the communal area was a long nurses station- to the right was a bank of phones. The nurses at the nursing station, told me to sit on a bench at the opposite side of the large, open communal area- next to the phone bank.
Patients sat at tables, on couches, reading, watching TV and talking. I was frightened, nervous, a little paranoid, and manic enough that the colors surrounding me coursed with unusual intensity. I felt half in, half out, of my body.
A pretty black woman, about 30, walked up to me. She wore a white terry cloth bath robe with nothing underneath. She leaned towards me, opening the bathrobe so I could almost see her nipples. From what I could see, she had beautiful breasts. Her eyes sparkled with mania. She said seductively, Hi, my name is Joan. What’s yours?
Across the room, from behind the nurses station, one of the black nurses shouted–JOAN! HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT! CLOSE YOUR ROBE! Joan, keeping her eyes on mine, looked momentarily irritated, but closed her robe. In the process, she showed a little bit of her pubic region. It was quite attractive.
I didn’t want any trouble, so I gave her my name, then ignored her. But, I was on fire, sexual energy crackled between us. I considered having sex with her right then and there.
JOAN! LEAVE HIM ALONE, GIRL! shouted the same nurse. Without taking her eyes off mine, Joan said seductively- I’ll see you later! She turned and walked slowly away.
It took awhile to put me in a room. Once there, I half shut the door so I could hear anyone coming, placed my right foot against the door so no one could come in, dropped my pants and masturbated thinking of Joan and what she had shown me.
I cleaned my semen off the floor with tissues. It was cold, the floor was cold, the room was cold, the whole ward was cold. I unpacked my stuff, stood in my doorway- watching to see if it was safe to come out.
I don’t remember much of the next couple of days. I didn’t sleep. The psychiatrist I met early the next morning wanted me to take Benadryl— an antihistamine given to psychiatric patients instead of more powerful drugs to help them sleep.
I refused, saying I knew it wouldn’t help. In reality, I believed I needed something much stronger. I told the psychiatrist benadryl made me bite. I realized, as the words came out of my mouth, I had dealt with a toddler who tended to bite when on benadryl- so I was confusing myself with that toddler.
The psychiatrist seemed surprised by the vehemence of my response. He then asked if I would take Trazodone to help me sleep. It had helped me in the past, but eventually aggravated my insomnia and mania and I had to be taken off it. I told the psychiatrist this. He didn’t seem to believe me. He asked if I would try it anyway.
Something in his tone and facial expression told me that I would be pushing my luck by refusing his second suggestion. I agreed and my heart sank. I foresaw sleeping even less and an increase in my mania the next day.
That night I slept a couple of hours and, highly energized by mania, walked the ward the rest of the night. The next day I was quite manic.
I felt Joan and I had some special, near telepathic connection. I knew I was manic, but, because I had had telepathic connections with women before, this seemed reasonable. For example, a friend that I had strong, un-reciprocated, feelings for, went to live in Europe for a year. When she came back, we met, and in the course of our conversation, I asked her how she was feeling about the abortion she had while overseas.
My friend recoiled in shock–she had only told her European boyfriend about the abortion. But, I had, and still have, a clear memory of her riding a train into a major German city to have it done. She sits by the window, alone, watching the countryside go by. She is feeling scared, sad, and let down by her boyfriend who wouldn’t come. I told my friend all of this and, amazed, she reported this was an accurate description of her actual experience.
A few years later, before I turned twenty, I was involved with an older woman. It was an intensely sexual relationship. I worked as a night watchman at a construction site. Early one evening, I was feeling aroused. I found a secluded spot and began masturbating. Suddenly I felt I was inside her, that we were having sex, and that we had a powerful, mutual, orgasm.
About ten minutes later she called me, furious, and told me to stop whatever it was that I was doing. She had just gotten out of an important presentation to a client. It had been marred by the fact that, in the middle of it, she had an orgasm. It was so intense that it shocked everyone in the room.
These, and other, experiences supported the idea I had a telepathic connection with Joan. I often fantasized slipping away with her into a room while staff weren’t looking and having sex with her. This seemed feasible, with the right planning and a little bit of luck.
When I did see her next, the manic sparkle was gone from her eyes. She came up to me, apparently ashamed and said- I want to apologize for my behavior. I hate myself when I do things like that.
I said–I’m bipolar, I understand. She seemed very re-lieved, said–Oh, so you do understand! and walked away. But I was still manic, still hyper-sexual and my thinking frequently drifted back to talking her into bed.
As the days passed, I didn’t sleep. The doctors, still not believing me, continued to try medications I told them had failed in the past. Joan would come up to me, make a cryptic statement, I would respond cryptically, and she would walk away.
I was certain we had a special telepathic connection- that we were communicating intimate secrets.
Joan was visited by her boyfriend my second weekend on the ward. I watched them from the next table. It was clear, by their body language and facial expressions, they had deep, genuine feelings for each other.
To my surprise, Joan came to my table, and said she wanted to introduce me to her boyfriend. She introduced me as if I was an old friend. Her boyfriend said, I’ve heard a lot about you. Thank you for treating Joan right. He looked pained and genuinely grateful. He reached out his hand and shook mine. The handshake put a crack in my manic sense of reality- I began to question my drive to get Joan into bed.
As the days passed, Joan got angrier and angrier. I repeatedly asked if we could talk; half planning to talk her into bed, half thinking that, with our telepathic link, I could be a good friend and somehow lead her out the labyrinth of anger. She refused each request with increasing irritation. I eventually gave up. I couldn’t figure out why our special telepathic connection wasn’t working.
The staff treated Joan with kid gloves, tolerating her outbursts, not sedating her, not putting her in isolation because each time she went back to her room voluntarily. From the safety of her room she would continue to yell at staff angrily, then gradually calm down.
A psych-tech explained that she was trying, with, the doctor’s consent, to master her illness without medications. There was approval and respect in his face.
But the rage built up, and she finally gave in to medication. She came to talk to me about the unpleasant side effects, but her speech was so slurred, I only understood a fraction of what she told me. As she wobbled away, I felt sad for her. Staff looked sad to see her in that condition too.
It was clear our telepathic communication had ended. It occurred to me that maybe it had never existed or that it had been an artifact of our mutual mania.
The day I left, she wobbled up to me, said something I suspected was a goodbye, and staggered away. I felt sad for her and glad I had managed to keep the doctors from putting me in that condition by refusing to take anti-psychotics.