Rebecca M.

Psych Ward

Life on Ward 1 of the state mental hospital isn’t actually as interesting as you might think. I suppose for someone who doesn’t live there it might seem odd, but after a couple of months it becomes routine. Every morning, we’re all woken up at 8:00, given food and medication, and then herded into the dayroom. From there, those of us lucky enough not to be homicidally mental get to go outside onto the fenced in patio and stare up at the barbed wire.

I am one of those lucky people. One of those who get a daily taste of semi-freedom that, over time, just makes living here more and more unbearable. I can’t imagine what the ‘social time bombs’ do all day, but whatever it is, it doesn’t sound pleasant. ‘Social time bombs’ are the people who go completely nuts and kill someone every time they get out. After three bodies or so the state puts them in here for long term care and treatment. It was one of them that came up with the logo that one of the more sane of the patients actually carved into a wall, Here on Ward 1, where the psychos come to stay.

As I was saying, life is actually pretty routine. Aside from the ‘time bombs’ periodic temper tantrums anyway. Most days they wait until the afternoon to have those. By then their anti-psychosis medications have worn off. There are those days, however, when we wake up to the sound of a chair flying down the hallway.

At the same time the time bombs are throwing pillows, pills, and toothbrushes, the people at the other end of the hall start their fits too. The other end of the hall is called Ward X. Ward X is as close to hell on Earth as you’ll find anywhere. That’s where they keep the ‘5 times’ people. 5 times refers to the number of times a day they’re medicated. It’s 5 times because these people would probably disintegrate if not for the meds holding them together.

The most sane case on Ward X is the multiple personality who’s got Elizabeth 1, Hitler, Alice in Wonderland, a cat, and a schizophrenic. The schizoid is made up of a 6 year old and a serial killer. All this and the kid’s only 12 years old. Nobody really knows which one she is, but she mostly switches between Hitler and Alice, so we call her Alice. The name on her chart is Carla. She was named by unsuspecting parents who thought they were getting just one daughter.

Like I said, she’s the most sane case. The worst, I think, is the guy who thinks he’s a big blob of Jell-O. Ok, so he’s not homicidal, but he is pretty hopeless on his own, so they keep him here. They have to give him his meds through I.V. because he won’t move his mouth. He probably thinks he doesn’t have one.

The rest of us are a bit more normal. We’ve got your typical mix of people, paranoid schizophrenics, bi-polars, aliens, mute-without-a-reasons, Napoleon, and everything else. Not everyone’s here forever. The attempted suicides and some bi-polars get to go after just a couple of months. Lucky.

Anyway, as I was saying, the afternoons are interesting because Ward X and the 5 timers go at it. They shut the rest of us in the dayroom and crank up the T.V. One lucky attendant gets to stay and watch us. The rest of them have to chase after pills and bed frames. By  2 o’clock or so they’ve calmed down and they let us out again. Not that we do much. Some people wander around. One old war veteran wages war on the ping-pong table. He loses every day. The old artist lady throws paint on the wall until it drips, and everyone else stares at the T.V. The odd thing is that, no matter what time it is, the same craft show is always on.

The best time of day, by far, is night. After they turn off the lights and Ward X calms down (Alice doesn’t like the dark) is the best time because that’s when I go to work. Around 11 o’clock I go to bed, close my eyes, and when the sleeping pills kick in, I go to work.

I always start out at my desk. There’s a computer, a phone, and lots of paperwork. I have to finish them by the end of the night. The sign on the outside of my cubicle says that I’m a customer service manager. A few years ago the sign said Information Management. Customer service is boring, so I hope it changes again soon.   

By the time I show up, there are already a lot of people there. Some of them are working and others are standing at the copy machine “working.” I’d love to join them, but I have so much to do that if I even think about getting up, the little voice that some people call a conscience starts yelling for me to keep working, so I do. The little voice is apparently a very strict task master, but a good one. There are about six employee-of-the- month certificates on the wall with my name on them. Because I don’t seem to be getting paid to work here, those pieces of paper are what I work for and working is all I seem to do. I’m pretty sure that everyone else gets a break, but I work from 11-ish to 5-ish.  No breaks, no un-necessary trips to the copy machine. In other words, really, really boring.

I know I said it’s the best time of day and it is. It may be boring but it’s better than staring at the T.V. waiting for the aliens to come and take the rest of my brain for the government to experiment on. When that happens, I think I might just go insane.



Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.