I’m not sure if I have a predisposition to insanity.
Or if it was my desperation for an alternative to the hetero-normative capitalist patriarchy that sought an alternative in my physical body
Or the weed I smoked with my girlfriend at the time.
Or the eastern spirituality course I enrolled in, with the beneficiaries of a colonial system in my country, (rich white people). I was a vegetarian at the time. I meditated religiously. I did my daily ritual. Plus group meditation. I volunteered at an NGO. I hadn’t smoked weed in a month.
The course opened with, “Through your mind in the bin, only once it was empty can it be filled. The Guru is your trashcan.”
My first week in hospital was spent in the emergency room. There weren’t enough beds. There were a limited amount of chairs for patients like me to sleep in. We took turns. It didn’t smell nice.
It was late. I hadn’t slept, this is normal during psychosis.A Muslim woman shared her KFC with me one night. I didn’t eat meat at the time, but savoured her kindness. I ate that battery chicken like it was communion. I think that’s how people in the past ate meat. Like it was holy.
Eventually I was put in a ward. They cramped extra beds into the small room and a security guard watched over us. I scared her with accusations of maltreatment and overcrowding and threatened to report her to the authorities.
All of us were put into the Emergency room.
The friendship I make in the cuckoo nest always seem the most sincere. We look after each other in our most vulnerable state. But I forget their names.
One girl there longed to leave the psychiatric ward of the hospital and be taken to the mental institution. She had been before. You get breaks to smoke. Which is great. She lost her child and hears voices telling her to kill herself. She wants help.
Another girl, both desperate and mad, combed her hair with the toilet brush because it was unruly. She explained that Lil Bow Wow was her boyfriend. We had a very practical conversation of how she could get hold of him on the internet.
Med Students in the emergency ward were belittling. Doctors brushed us off. They needed us to be taken to the psych ward just as much as we did.
There, the psychiatrists were cold. I don’t blame them. My stint into the ether, is their bread and butter. I stared at them as their wrote, measuring me against their textbooks. I wondered if we served their intellectual need to understand their own minds or to ease the emotional turmoil that we projected. I didn’t know if they were angels, hardened at the front line or self-pitying demons searching for a sign of redemption.
It was a mixed ward. Which was scary at night. Again in the ward, I had a chair for a bed. The toilets didn’t have doors. But we could have visitors.
I got treats. Colouring-in books and sweets. I shared it. I gave my shoes away to someone that didn’t have… I would do this every time I was institutionalized. A common act of crazy.
My mother with her own set of emotional ills, was distant. I wanted her affection. I refused to ever leave my prison unless I got it. Eventually I did. Which I think forced me into her heart in a way that hurt her, and didn’t allow me to stay there for long.
One of the guys was on a hunger strike. He wanted to go to mental institution. No one had been sent since I got there. Another time, when I was admitted into psych ward at another hospital, Groote Schuur we were shipped off every 3 days. I don’t know if this is because things had been improved in a year since I was first institutionalized or if it was because of the difference in hospitals. Groote Schuur was a much easier hell to be in.
Eventually they admitted him. I, now with my mother cracked and enough meds in me to realize how shit things were around me; told the nurse-mother- who was a nun, that I had tried out drugs and would never do it again and that I was so sorry. I was lying for the first time since being there.
She looked at me with kindness and discharged me.
A few months later, I was in Long Street, a trendy street in the middle of the Cape Colony. I was well dressed, smoking a cigarette on the road with a cool friend of mine and when homeless guy selling weed, called me by name. It was him.The hunger strike dude. He was happy to see me. And I was embarrassed. And awkward. And surprised. And happy to see him too.