I was hospitalized in the winter of 1997. And from what I can tell about that
time—reading journals, watching video-taped therapy sessions, looking at art—I was unequivocally crazy, insane in every conceivable sense of the word. Not that I wasn’t exactly that during other hospital stays. However, during February and March of ’97, my insanity was off the charts.
I’m still trying to understand what happened—still trying to assemble some sense of where I went wrong, what set me off. And to be honest, I’m not sure I understand any more now than I did before. I was so insane, none of what I wrote helps me recreate what happened.
I do, however, notice at least two themes I’ve alluded to before—namely my fear of homelessness and my sense that the hospital was home.
I guess this takes me back to the mental health housing series I began a month or so ago but never finished. The first post in that sequence explores my belief that the hospital was where I belonged, where I felt safe, especially during an inpatient stay during the spring of 1990. However, that feeling returned during the times I’ve been most ill in subsequent years, as well. And the winter of 1997 was no exception.
For example, at 8:30 pm on February 2, 1997, three days after being admitted, I wrote:
I want to stay in the hospital for a very long time. I want this to be my
home . . . . I’d just prefer to stay here.
I went on to explain that I knew this desire was crazy in and of itself—that it was not normal, nowhere near normal, to want to be locked up in a psychiatric facility.
However, this refrain repeats itself often during the course of my illness—regularly and without fail. I remember thinking this from time to time, but I hadn’t realized how often I expressed that desire overtly in the journals I kept.
It’s clear the illness terrified me. I knew I was sick. I desperately wanted help and apparently knew on some level that the hospital could keep me safe—not so much from suicide (as I was not often actively suicidal at that time) but from a profound inability to function and take care of myself.
I’m not sure what precipitated this collapse, though just before this admission, I was obsessed with a fear of homelessness again—seemingly because my social security disability benefits were being reviewed, I feared losing them, and knew I was not able to function well enough to work. It’s hard to imagine how that fear impacted me, whether that’s what triggered this dizzying psychosis.
However, just two weeks before being admitted and around the time I began to unravel, I made this list—a seeming attempt to survive should I lose my little apartment in east Dallas:
As I review the video-taped therapy sessions, I realize that my therapist repeatedly encouraged me to share my financial struggle with my family—something I refused to do, insisting that the very real possibility that my only remaining parent would respond with indifference to my dilemma, was too
terrifying a risk to take—that my psyche would not be able to tolerate that
degree of rejection, especially since, when I one time needed help purchasing
medication, I had, in fact, met with unwillingness.
So, I don’t know now if that was an accurate perception on my part. I’d like to think I was wrong.
However, during this same hospitalization I also did a decent amount of what I think is called mirror writing–writing words backwards and forming letters in reverse.
In one instance, I was cognizant enough to make a list of things to tell my friend Georgia–to create a list of items I wanted her to bring me, but crazy enough to compose the whole thing in reversed writing:
In other instances I would begin sentences in the bottom, right-hand corner of the page–writing from right to left, bottom to top, as I did in the ramble about “woods” and “wolves” below:
The three lines at the bottom read:
I will tell that lady the story of my life in the big woods and under the trees where the magic flows.
I truly have no idea why I suddenly began writing in reverse, if perhaps it was paranoia that motivated me–fear that someone might read what I wrote. I’m baffled by this and have not found any explanations in the literature as to why I might have suddenly done this. I do know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote all of his personal journals in reverse and that left-handed people are more able to do this than are the right-handed. I don’t understand brain chemistry well enough to offer a reasonable explanation, and don’t know if something neurological might have been happening. However, the most obvious explanation remains paranoia, I assume.
I might also surmise that there was something about this particular psychosis that made me obsess about mirrors and write in reverse as part of that obsession, for some of the mirror writing I did was in fact about mirrors–quoting the line from Snow White, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all:”
I clearly lack the clinical expertise to explain any of this, though it seems my thinking had the bizarre features associated with a fairly severe psychosis.
The fact remains—I lost my mind. I lost it in a big way
I expect more evidence of this will follow in subsequent posts, as I think I got worse that winter before I got better—so stay tuned for more detailed descriptions of Kathy’s wacky ways in the winter of ’97— ways weirder than this semi-sane version of me might like to admit.