When I woke up that first morning at Gateway, after only a few hours of restless sleep, I could feel immediately this was a bad idea. The fear began to immediately kick in….What if I get stuck in here long-term? What if they only see in me what they want to see & not whats really going on with me? What if they dope me up so much I end up not even caring or fighting anymore?
As I lay on the cement twin bed they provided me with, roomed with three other women, I was alarmed by the sound of the food cart being dragged down the fluorescent lighted hall. That’s when really began to feel real to me & I started to take it all in a bit more. Seeing the other patients in their varying states of consciousness saddened & frightened me equally. They saddened me because just knowing that people are struggling so badly mentally, at all ages, only to find themselves in a locked mental ward, which is actually more like a minimum security prison than a mental hospital. This is where it got frightening…no freedom, locked doors, WAY too much down time & only a total of an hour outside a day. It’s no wonder there people get stuck in the system & have such a difficult time outside those locked doors. Needless to say, I did a lot of pacing, and not sleeping most of my time away like the rest of the patients.
To me they just seemed so defeated. As if they just gave up on fighting for sanity. It was as if they enjoyed being locked inside, unlike myself. It’s a personal nightmare of mine. I observed them in complete silence most of that first day. You never know when you may do or say the wrong thing & set one of these women off. I wasn’t in the mood for a confrontation. They knew I didn’t belong there, but wanted to believe that I did, or that they actually had a shot of what I still have the ability to achieve. Every time they asked me if I was leaving early, their next sentence would be….”that’s what they say to all of us”. Little did they know that I truly was in there over a mistake, a misunderstood statement. I think there was a lot of surprise floating around that place about how calm I stayed through it all. I’m not an idiot! If I start getting all demanding, angry or pushy, they could surely justify keeping me locked down for longer & I wasn’t having any of it.
There is something that I want to make very clear. I do not regret that I had this time to reflect on my life & see what it is exactly that I’m doing wrong. I watched everything, everyone…..I just had to. I have to make sure that I get my emotional & mental issues under control, so I don’t end up back in this place for a real reason.
After breakfast, which consisted of a 4oz container of milk, single serving bowl/cup of Cheerio’s & maybe some eggs & a bagel, I was shuffled off to my evaluation meetings with my case worker, therapist & eventually psychiatrist. It all happened very quickly, which I appreciated. Unfortunately, while they did all agree that I am not a danger to myself & don’t belong in that facility, they had to keep me one more night & release me the next morning.
There was no group therapy, no one-on-one therapy, nothing but med pass, sleep, meals & a little outside time. No wonder they’re so depressed, these women. There was one in particular, who’s names I will not use. She was from England & had come to the states to look for her grown children, with whom she’d lost touch. In the end, before she was picked up by the cops, she was at the home of a certain celebrity, throwing rocks over the walls at the staff, insisting they let her in, because (in her mind) she was in a relationship with this man. It truly is sad, because she was a sweet little British woman.
Like I said, my interaction with the patients was limited. My friends inside were the staff. These were the people I could relate to & we spoke most of the time I was locked up before being sent home via taxi, leaving me to later in the evening take the bus to Culver City to retrieve my car & drive back home.
I am still have bad withdrawal symptoms & that’s okay, I know I can get through it, at home, not in a locked mental ward.
I wish the staff & patients at Gateway much health & success. I won’t forget you, even though we only spent a short time together.
Tomorrows entry: After Care through Los Angeles County