Warning- unpleasant subject…some disturbing images.
A few constants in my daily life…the first being my awakening in the early morning hours and observing my roommate urinating into a dixie cup, then drinking it.
Down hill from there.
After morning showers and meds, a bit of time till breakfast.
And the hunt would begin. Living in a unit comprised of mostly black, mentally disturbed men, I quickly learned that my skin color and perceived life experience made me a target.
Robert, in particular, a gigantic ex Marine, apparently felt that I had no right to breathe the same air that he did. So I spent much time doing the ridiculous…hiding my large body in places that weren’t quite big enough to hold me. If viewed from above, I was the daily ‘hunted’ in a low resolution video game…a game that usually ended poorly for me.
For three years, 24/7, fear was my companion. Even the few hours of evening sleep gave me no respite….the door to my room, you see, was never locked.
When not scared, I was intensely bored. I never realized that the Jerry Springer Show played on the TV for a billion hours a day. Since I rarely cared about watching TV, I still would drop my bod into a TV room chair…no place else to go. And I received my daily Springer shot.
One day, in stunned amazement, I heard a news bulletin that Osama bin Laden had been killed by American snipers. For the first time, I reached for the channel changer.
This would never do. A horribly deranged asshole challenged me to a fist fight, and when I insisted on watching the news coverage, he yanked the power cord and broke the set.
Had to wait weeks to hear the story that we all prayed would happen…all except the people I lived with.
One more TV story. I was given permission to stay up late one night to watch the Duke University basketball game. My son went to Duke, and I was a big fan. However, the staff went through a shift change, and the incoming aides were not told of my permission.
Most of the patients received no visitors. A few, mostly white men, received quite a few. I received almost none. Except for Biggie, a man I wrote about in a recent post.
Biggie didn’t seem to care that I was far away, or that I might seem strange, or that he might hate mental health lockups. He came anyway.
And because he did, I will spend the rest of my life doing the smallest of things for Biggie and his wife, until God draws the curtains on my life.
At first, I wanted everyone else that should have visited to kiss my ass….but I worked through that feeling as well.
Had every reason to believe I would spend the rest of my life in this twisted, awful world. No one ever said otherwise.
Then something happened that began the beginning of the end.
I witnessed a lunchroom incident where one of the black patients, one of the men who threatened me on a daily basis, was savagely beaten by an aide. It happened ten feet away, and it was a totally unjustified beating.
Felt a stirring in my heart that had been muted for years… that feeling I had as a college student in the sixties when addressing outrageous wrongs.
The fire was back, and so was I.
That began a journey that is still ongoing. This incident, along with another equally as awful, began a process where I bitterly fought the hospital powers with regard to the outrageousness of the beating of the mentally ill…in a locked in place shielded from the sunlight of public oversight.
As hard as I protested, the hospital fought back much harder. Did not matter. I had nothing else to live for. I would take this cause to the bloody fucking wall.
Nothing was resolved in a way that would protect my ‘new friends’.
I was eventually released, and wrote dozens of letters to newspapers, mental health safety net organizations, and state senators. I also asked to meet with the Director of the hospital.
He declined my request.
Now, seven years later, I still fight…I must fight…I can never give up.
Three letters went out today. One to Senator Chuck Schumer, and one to the Dean of the Columbia Journalism School.
After them, haven’t a clue where else to go.
But give me some time.
I will reach out to someone.
If I stop, I fear, the beatings will continue.
And that, AND FUCKING THAT, just will never do.