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Trapped in Involuntary Commitment May 11, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment.
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Trapped!

As I stood outside, I glanced around the small courtyard, taking in my surroundings. A fifteen foot high chain link fence topped with two layers of razor barbed wire surrounded the south and east sides of the compound. The building itself served as a fence on the south side. A six foot high wrought iron fence with a small (locked) gate served as a sentry for the west side of the courtyard. The whole effect made an impermeable barrier from the outside world, discouraging anyone from trying to run away from the mental hospital.

Hours before, I had just learned that I had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.  As I came to realize the enormity of that fact, a sense of claustrophobia engulfed me.  I realized that I had been imprisoned, and there wasn’t a reason why.  I had been pulled out of society and stuck in a jail in some god-forsaken place, unable to even learn what city I was in.

They didn’t and wouldn’t call it jail, but that is in effect what involuntary commitment really is.  If you can’t leave when you want to, then you’re in jail.  If they won’t tell you when (or if) you’re ever going to be released, then you’re in jail.

Some people would argue that being locked up on a psych ward is no different than being on a job that you hate. I argue that in the case of the job, although you might feel trapped, you are in fact free to quit if you want to.  You can walk out of your “jail” any time you feel like it. The consequences might be such that you can’t afford to leave, but in fact you are free to walk away at any time and no one can or will stop you.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t being paid to be there.  In fact, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was being charged between $2,500 and $3,500 a day to be there.

I have never been one to stay in situations where I felt trapped for very long.  If someone tried to hold me down, I would kick and scream and bite until they finally decided that I wasn’t worth the effort.

In the case of hospitalization, no amount of trying would free me from my captors.

The daily grind of captivity lasted almost three weeks, and the worst part was that no one could tell me when (or if) I would be released.  It was up to my psychiatrist, and he wasn’t willing to let me out until I could comply with a set of criteria that I was not allowed to know about. For obvious reasons, they guarded that criteria from me because they knew that if I found out what that criteria was, I would do my best to trick them into thinking that I had complied in order to get out of “jail”. The object of their game was to get me to fulfill that criteria without a hint from them of what that criteria was.  I tried and tried to figure out what that criteria was, but in the end I wasn’t successful.  Eventually, as I would later learn, I was released ($60,000 later) when my insurance benefits came to an end.

There is no sweeter feeling than being released from a prison.   After 48 years of taking freedom for granted, that three weeks made me realize just how easy it is to get your freedom snatched from you, as you stand helplessly by. I never want to experience that jailed feeling again.

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Comments»

1. ManicMuses - May 12, 2011

I was also a ‘guest’ at the same facility you’re writing about. That courtyard really is something, isn’t it? You hit the nail on the head…the first glimpse of the razor wire did it for me, too. It’s such a powerful symbol of lost freedom. Although I was there voluntarily, once I saw it, I felt a sense of claustrophobia (perfect word) over just being me. I felt as if I were always going to be trapped inside a crazy person’s mind and I’d just better get used to it. Until their med kicked in. The worst part about my experience there was that the Drs were too idiotic to see that what I was experiencing wasn’t a recovery. They sent me on my way while I was literally in a fit of hypomania. I’m sorry you had a horrible experience. Hopefully your time there did yield something positive in the end.

2. The Bipolar Diva - May 28, 2011

I was only in one for less than 24 hours before I was able to convince them to let me out. I can’t imagine three weeks. Your description had me captivated. Even though I was there for such a short time, I never want to go back.


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