the other side of sanity
For most people, a trip to the psych ward would be a wake up call, but I wasn’t answering any calls at that time. It started the fourth day on a run of crystal meth when the thought entered my head that “they” were out to harm my then boyfriend and myself. I left my apartment barefoot and ran across the street while watching “them” keeping me under surveillance. I went into the video store and asked if I could use their phone, explaining that I had locked myself out of my apartment without my shoes and needed to call my roommate who had been in the shower.
I called my boyfriend and tried to warn him that they were out to hurt me and, since he knew them, only he could intercede. He promised he’d be right there. Nervously I waited as more people entered the store. I knew most of them were after me and made sure that no one could get close to me without the people at the store bearing witness. He didn’t come. I asked again to use the phone and he answered assuring me he’d be right there. Again he didn’t come. By then I was too nervous to remain in the store. I could tell ”they” were just waiting for the opportune moment to snatch me and take me away to torture me. I ran barefoot across the parking lot to the grocery where I told an employee that as strange as it might sound, people were after me and that I needed to use the phone. Somehow this person indulged me. I called my boyfriend again, he promised to come again, and of course didn’t.
Finally the police showed up. I assume the manager had called asking them to come deal with this barefoot nut case. I asked the officer if he could see the evil people who were pursuing me, pointing out a few of the more sinister looking ones. He said of course he could see them. They were people who lived in the neighborhood and he knew most of them. I left the store with the officer and we went to his car. After the pat down, he inserted me into the back seat of the squad car and drove me across the street to my apartment where he sat and watched until I was safely inside.
My boyfriend was sitting there watching MTV eating Cheetos and said that he saw I had managed to get away from the evil people. I asked him why he didn’t at least bring my shoes. To my mind, he didn’t have a good enough answer and another all-too-frequent argument ensued, one of many that we seemed to have while using together. He became paranoid that my irrational behavior, not that his was any better, would bring the police back to our door. He split.
In my agitated state I started noticing that people were watching my apartment. I was positive that “they” had somehow captured him and taken his keys and were again coming after me. After a previous paranoid session, I had installed locks on the bedroom and bathroom doors so I grabbed the phone, a diet Pepsi, my cigarettes, and barricaded myself in the bathroom. I turned off the lights and blocked the cracks around the door with towels. In the ensuing hours I alternated between sitting on the toilet and sitting in the bottom of the tub, often changing position so that they would not have an easy target to shoot at.
In the morning my boyfriend called. I told him that I was sure that “they” were out there, that I could hear “them” walking around. Of course, he just fed my delusion by asking if I was still safe which made me believe he knew all about the campaign. Fearfully, I tried to call my friends but could not seem to get a call to go through. Prior to this incident, my boyfriend had told me how one of his previous boyfriends was able to manipulate phones and I was positive that that this person, who didn’t like me, had tapped into my phone lines and was blocking every call. This was confirmed because a few times, my attempts to call a friend ended with my boyfriend magically being on the line before the phone would even ring.
My obsessive fear was that “they” were going to take me some place, tie me up, and sexually torture me in some strange sadistic S&M ritual that was somehow related to Satan worship. It was a fear that frightened me so intensely that I could not bring myself to leave the imagined security of that locked bathroom. I had spoken to my boyfriend a few times. He told me of this guy that desired to be kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of a car, and taken to some remote location where he would be brutally raped. This helped immensely by convincing me that this was to be my fate.
Although not certain of the time, I think it was around ten o’clock in the morning when I finally broke down and knew I could not take any more. I simply could not let them torture me. Death would be my salvation from the painful and degrading experience that awaited me. I had a prescription of Tylenol with codeine with about 10 pills remaining. I hastily swallowed them in an attempt to avoid what I knew was coming when “they” were through toying with me. I felt a modicum of calmness knowing death was near and that “they” would not be able to harm me.
Miraculously I finally got a call through to a friend of mine. She offered to come to the apartment and check on me, but certain that they would capture and torture her too, I refused. She wanted to call another friend, my best friend, and have him come over, again I refused. I had heard on the TV a red sports car had been found off the road that morning with the driver missing and I knew “they” had already got to him, or if not, for him the same fate would come to pass.
Finally I admitted to her that I had managed to foil “their” plans by taking those pills and very soon I would be beyond “their“ reach. She said she would call me right back. Before she hung up, I thanked her for being my friend and for taking this risk for me, positive I’d never have the opportunity to speak with her or anyone ever again.
Surprisingly, my phone rang just a few minutes later. She had contacted the poison control center and was instructed that the pills I had taken could possibly seriously damage my liver, insisting that I seek medical attention immediately. She asked my permission to call 911. It had been many hours since I had used and now I had the codeine in my system. I was totally burnt out. I figured what the Hell, I was going to die soon anyway.
Emerging from my hideout, I cautiously searched my apartment. No one was present, but I could tell “they” had been there. Since “they” were monitoring my calls, “they” must had been scared off by the knowledge that the police were soon to arrive. The telephone once again rang and my friend informed me an ambulance would soon be there and asked me to remain calm. I decided to be cool now so I grabbed my house keys and the empty codeine bottle and locking up the apartments promptly went outdoors to sit on the stairs to await the arrival of the emergency crew.
With a fire truck, two police cars, an ambulance, and what must have been at least a minimum of a dozen personnel, the help arrived. One policeman quickly questioned me, the paramedics questioned me, and even a fireman spoke to me. The paramedics took my vital signs, loaded me on a gurney and put me into the back of their ambulance. I could see the looks they were giving each other and suddenly I knew they, just pretending to be paramedics, were part of the conspiracy. I resigned myself to the fact that “they” were going to win. I was to be tortured before having the chance to remove myself from “their” grasp.
We arrived at the emergency room, but appeared to actually enter a different part of the hospital that seemed deserted, the equipment old and shabby, and the few staff on duty not looking as though they would be able to tie their own shoes, never mind provide treatment to anyone. During the 4 hours in the emergency room, the two inept nurses that attended to me treated me with meanness and contempt. One of them made several feeble attempts at putting an IV into the back of my hand and didn’t seem to know how to do it. She attempted it 3 times and failed so I grabbed the needle from her and inserted it into my own vein. She also seemed perplexed by the breathing tubes for providing me with an oxygen supply, so I demonstrated how it was to be placed in my nostrils. A “technician” came to take blood samples. His first comment to me was, “This is going to be very painful. It’s going to hurt you a lot. Try not to move“. This confirmed my suspicion of being delivered into the hands of the enemy and that the torture was just being initiated.
Mostly I was left to myself behind the curtains in the emergency room, except when nurse Diesel or the sadistic vampire phlebotomist would enter to perform their mini-tortures upon my drained body. I could hear them laughing about how they had extracted me from the police and that now they would be able to do anything they wanted to me. I even heard my boyfriend, though I was unable to see him, out in the emergency room laughing with them, telling them that I was delusional and that we weren’t really boyfriends, that he was in fact straight and was married. He even had his little son with him and they were cooing over the child. Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here. Another nurse arrived telling me that they were taking me to psych for an exam. They wheeled me down these deserted halls where they deposited me on this leather-padded bed that had restraints attached to it. Now I was in for it. I knew my time had come. I began crying and praying to God to let the pills finally work, to please let me die quickly so that I wouldn’t be tied up and tortured, but it seemed as though God wasn’t answering calls either and abandoned me to my fate.
My attention was drawn to a commotion in the hallway where I witnessed this wild-eyed young guy with long greasy hair and muscles bulging from his arm restraints, screaming that he was going to really hurt someone. I saw the nurse indicate to the attendants to place him in the room with me. I waited for it to come. I cried. I waited. I pleaded with God to spare me. The minutes ticked by and they didn’t bring him into the room. I was confused by this turn of events, but relieved.
Finally, the first kind looking person I’d seen since this ordeal had begun entered the room to tell me that she was going to escort me to the psych ward to which I would be confined for 72 hours. How could such a kindly looking person be part of this cruel conspiracy? They had skewered me again. This was not going to be just physical torture but they would tease me, letting me get a taste of hope, then send me crashing again keeping me on a roller coaster of emotions. I prayed once more to God, this time to keep my friends and family safe and to forgive my boyfriend for his part in this horrible ordeal. My boyfriend was so far gone on his own drug addiction that he didn’t really understand what he was helping these people do to me.
Someone buzzed us though a locked set of double doors and quickly locked the doors behind us. “They” had me totally in their domain now. I was doomed. There was no hope. I felt the fragments of my feeble spirit crumbling. I was ushered into a room and made to change into hospital garments. My possessions were locked away in a cabinet and the attendant told me that I would have no access to them during my incarceration. Alone as I lay upon the flimsy mattress where I could hear a women crying hysterically in the background, a young man's voice screaming obscenities, and other tormented souls in the distance moaning as though they were the lost Children of the Night now doomed to this Hell. I knew only a few more minutes remained before my life would be taken. I wondered if I had already descended into Hell. Again I asked God to forgive me for failing my boyfriend, hurting my family, and most of all disappointing him. I prepared for the end.
With a start caused by the entrance of an attendant into my room, I opened my eyes and even more startled to find that it was the next morning. Things felt different. First, I was still alive, a miracle in itself. I could not remember actually being tortured the previous night and seemed to have no injuries on my body, except those from the emergency room nurse and technician. I was still a bit frightened, but the intensity of the fear didn’t seem so unbearable. The nurse came into the room and told me that breakfast would be served in a few minutes, that I was expected to get up and come into the dining room and eat with the others.
I did just that.
I spent two full days in the psych ward, a place where I hope never again to be a guest. It wasn’t too awfully bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I did learn many things during my brief stay there. After all, I was one of the only two patients out of the 27 in that ward that was considered functional. The rest of the patients were so far gone in their illnesses that they rarely had lucid moments, but that’s another story in itself. This was not, during my drug using days, my first bout with paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations, maybe not even the worse. The official diagnosis was of a drug-induced psychotic break.
My boyfriend, in his own delusional world, didn’t believe that I had actually been in the hospital, even when I showed him my plastic ID bracelet or the paperwork I had been issued. He believed I was fabricating the whole experience as an excuse for making him leave me alone for a couple of days. He still had doubts when the bills began arriving. Eventually he accepted it, but I think he always somewhat doubted it during the remaining time we were officially together.
The majority of my non-tweaker friends were disappointed in me and most have never truly forgiven me. I’ve lost nearly everyone of them since that time, not that they didn’t have even more to deal with in terms of my continuing drug use. My tweaker buddies commiserated with me. We would laugh and trade war stories over what, for me, was truly a nightmare. Just one of many. You would think that the trip to the psych ward would have been my wake up call, but it wasn’t.
This story is being written shortly after celebrating my 45th day of non-drug use and it has been just slightly over a year since this actual incident occurred. It is still extremely fresh in my mind. After all, these are my memories of that time, even if most of them were delusional. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my paranoia was just that. As with most of my delusions, there was always some thread of truth, however badly interpreted, lurking in the background. Just enough truth to keep the idea that those incidents were actually happening even if no one would believe them. I can now accept the fact that for the most part, my own mind was creating these incidents. I’ve had to let go of the desire of understanding what was real and what was created from the dark corners of my imagination, knowing that I’ll probably never have those answers.
Today, as I actively practice my recovery, I feel intense pain observing others still caught up in their own psychotic paranoia. I do know and truly understand how frightening it is and especially how alone one feels when no one else can even begin to hear and believe you. I was fortunate to survive with my sanity. I was fortunate to find people who were able to help me and to care about me enough to help me begin to once again care about myself. As I sit here typing at my computer, tears stream down my cheeks, I can’t seem to stop them. But it’s okay because I now have hope for myself and have the hope that others still suffering with the demons of their own terrible nightmares, can be rescued from the darkness. I wish you well.
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