Camp Loopy Revisited Part Two: Manic Mandy

So last time, I spoke to you guys about my first few days back at Camp Loopy which is not that fun cause they don’t even give you t-shirts.  I think unit t-shirts would be awesome, you know, like in Harry Potter.  I could have been in Schizoloren if the magic hat I talk to daily said okay.  I’m getting off topic already.

You've been chosen for the Snarkindor!

I must be nuts – does that hat have a face?

Anyhoo, last I left you they’d just decided to transfer me from the geriatric unit to a new unit (bye bye Huffledafts) because clearly my anxiety was getting better too fast.  One thing I’ll give them – the head nurse fought for me to stay.  They like to hoard the “good patients”.  I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I got to the new unit.

I know a lot about mania.  My brother has bipolar depression, which can cause a person to swing from lows to wayyy too highs.  Not that he can’t be annoying (he is a brother), but he does take his meds so he’s usually okay.  I hadn’t actually witnessed a person in full blown mania who did NOT need meds thanks so much.  Then I met Mandy (names changed to protect the looney).  Or rather I heard her before I even got there.

Oh. My.  God.

Yes, it was worse than listening to this guy 24/7.

Yes, it was worse than listening to this guy 24/7.

Mandy talked.  And talked.  And talked.  I don’t think she ever shut up except for the rare times her entire body gave out and she slept for a few precious minutes while we tiptoed around her and said “She’s kinda cute when she’s sleeping.”  But otherwise, she was talking – loudly.  Yell-speak I call it.  Every single word was shouted.  Try to imagine this for a few minutes.  Now imagine it for 2 days.  Yeah.  They don’t usually send you somewhere with the apparent intention to drive you even MORE insane.

She was also very active, like a child who had just downed 5,000 pixie sticks and a few dozen Monster drinks.  She danced, she sang, she ran around the room, she swung her head around like a head banger.  And if that wasn’t enough, Mandy was religious, so we also got mixed-up Bible thrown at us every few seconds.  “Amen,” she said.  “No Ah-men.  No, A-men.  AMEN!!!”

demotivator_jeremy_irons_amen_by_barbwirerose-d6lqias

Mandy was a pretty young woman.  She reminded me of this ice skater who was so beautiful, graceful, and mercifully silent.  But not Mandy.  She was as active as a speed skater on speed, if said speed skater yelled Bible verses.  Come to think of it, some of those street corner preachers could have picked up some tips from her.

I’m pretty sure I lost more hearing from her in those two days than I did from the infancy of my each of my two children.  Occasionally a nurse would yell “Mandy!  Shhh!” and she’d sit down, hold up two fingers in a peace sign, and yell “Sorry, sorry!  Peace out!”

One might think I could have escaped from her by going to my room and closing the door.  But nope, because I roomed with the Grinch.  The Grinch was mad.  Always.  About absolutely nothing.  And boy did she let you know.  She slept with a glass of water in her hand, and both nights woke up cursing and howling, shocked that there was water in her bed!  This usually happened around 1 AM.  No sleep for YOU, Alice!

She needed a LOT of these pills.

She needed a LOT of these pills.

At least I didn’t room with Mandy.  God have mercy on that poor woman’s soul.  Her roomie seemed incredibly laid back.  Maybe they dosed her with a lot of meds.  I hope so.  Mandy’s completely unidentical cousin was also in the same unit.  She looked apologetic a lot.  We felt sorry for her.  I can only imagine the family reunions.

Now why didn’t they make Mandy take her meds?  Cause they can’t.  They can’t force you to take anything, nor can they restrain you unless you are an imminent threat to your life or someone else’s.  No, for the real stuff you gotta go to a state facility.  Our hospital is a holding pen for these people – for up to six months.  Yup.  Six months with psychotic people who can barely be controlled.  She’d already been there a few weeks when I got there.  How those nurses, techs, and counselors stayed in their jobs I will never, ever know.  I think I’d be shoving pills down Mandy’s throat.  After tying her to some railroad tracks.

We could tie Taylor on there with her.

We could tie Taylor on there with her.

But I digress.  Group meetings were completely useless since she could not stay down for more than a few seconds and was constantly interrupting then saying sorry and interrupting again.  Also the Grinch was always griping about all us annoying Whos and how she was HANDICAPPED and couldn’t walk (though she’d walked into the room) and that the staff were total jerks.  She couldn’t figure out why no one leaped up to help her.

At one point, the Grinch and Mandy got into a shouting match and I shamefully admit I was waiting for them to duke it out so maybe we could call the police to take them away.  Also it would have been entertaining.  We had little entertainment since they never let us go outside or get exercise in spite of telling us in Group that this relieved depression.  No fresh air for you!

I reached my breaking point about 1 AM the morning of my release day.  I was up waiting for them to change Grinch’s sheets and dose her with enough stuff to make her go back to sleep.  Mandy was shouting, as usual, and I turned and yelled “MANDY!  BE QUIET!  I NEED TO SLEEEEEEP!”  She blinked at me, shocked.  “Oh, I didn’t know I was being loud!”

Just kill me now.

Just kill me now.

One of the nurses must have seen the deranged look in my eye so she sat down with me.  She asked me the usual questions.

Nurse: Do you feel suicidal?

Me: No.

Nurse: Do you feel homicidal?

I looked right at Mandy.

Nurse: Moving on . . .

She finished her checklist and helpfully talked me down from my tree.  Mandy was headed for state lockup – they’d luckily found her a spot.  Maybe because the staff threatened to quit in mass?  I would have.  I still don’t know why they couldn’t have found her a nice padded room of her own somewhere far, far away from the rest of us.  But then, her presence did tell me that there is no real escape from life.  The crazies are everywhere.

So Mandy left at 4 AM the same day as my departure.  Hello, Silence, my old friend.  So that gave me about five or six hours of actually enjoying myself a little before being unceremoniously booted out of the ward.  But I did make friends.  They say in wartime, soldiers become very close.  It’s the same in the crazy ward.  I met one woman in particular that I still text.  We and a few others laughed a lot while we were there as we talked about all the patients and their quirks.  One of them pointed out:

“Hey – I just realized we’re the mean girls of the mental unit.”

Cause then we couldn't judge how much less nuts you are than we are.

Cause then we couldn’t judge how much less nuts we are than you are.

Why not?  You take your perks where you can.  This crazy story has a happy ending.  I got a pill – a teeny, tiny little pill that has been an absolute miracle.  I also experienced a little bit of the old Jewish tale “It could always be worse.”  I have true compassion for those with mental illness, even Mandy (when she’s far away from me) and frustration at the lack of decent care for them.  I hope one day we can build more and better facilities around the country, because it’s not just a few of us out here.  There are more than you know, living day to day, undercover.

It’s time for us all to be able to come out into the light.

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12 responses

  1. You’re funny… and you manage to be nice as well! Thank you for sharing.

  2. So glad your ‘crazy’ story had a happy ending! Welcome home, Alice. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Judah. Tomorrow’s Wednesday. Don’t forget to wear pink.

  3. So true, you do bond with those people.

    1. You can’t help it in such closed quarters! Ironically I bonded more with the few normal people because there were so many more crazies than I did during my last stay with the fairly average depressed types.

  4. I don’t remember a whole lot about being in the hospital, but it’s been more than 4 years since my last psych visit. I remember wearing my pjs the entire time, I remember when the hospital switched the wards to completely non-smoking and how much that sucked, and I remember the staff always being very kind.

    And just for the record, even at my very worst, I was never as bad as Mandy.

    1. I don’t think anyone could be as bad as Mandy. I realize she was sick but just HOLY CRAP.

      I wore sweats. I’m going to miss those when I go back to work tomorrow. I’m glad it’s been more than four years since your last psych visit.

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with your end statements. Here in the UK, mental health facilities are hugely under-funded, and under-supported. It can take far too long to get a referral for therapy, and for some, the only way to get help is to threaten or attempt suicide. The NHS has its advantages, but the big disadvantage to it being government funded is that it not only is reliant on the government for its funding but it has all these stupid targets that it has to meet to get that funding and there’s just not enough in the way of staff or suitable buildings. In fact, there’s way too many management types, instead of nurses and doctors and so on to actually get on with the job of making people better again.

    1. Same thing here with patients on Medicaid I believe. One patient told me he had to say he was suicidal even when he wasn’t just to get treated. I have insurance through work, so I don’t get any help at all – beyond what the insurance pays which after a large deductible then 70 percent amounts to a LOT. Ugh.

  6. Welcome back Alice! Glad you got a magic pill – that helps. I got a kick out of your Jewish reference. I was listening to a comedy show the other day and a Jewish comedian was doing his schtick. He asked the audience of they knew why there were so many Jewish holidays to celebrate. Then he told them that everytime, in history, that someone tried to wipe out the Jews and didn’t get them all, the Jews had a celebration. That should be what you do Alice- everytime you visit the hospital and escape with some sanity, you should have a celebration.

    Best of luck. Great post.

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