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Dr M told me a few days later that he’d put me on CO to prevent me from acting rashly, angrily hurting myself because he had kept me there. “Was I right to do so?” he asked. I looked near his face. Actually, no, I told him. No. Not for that reason.
I do not hurt myself out of anger or for revenge or to get back at other people. That would be silly. Why hurt myself when it’s other people who are in the wrong? That’s what I should have said, but he didn’t ask and I didn’t think to elaborate. I only hurt myself to atone for evil I have committed or because of command hallucinations, or both really. I have figured out that all this arises as a delusion with hallucinations – a realization I have to keep reminding myself of so I don’t fall back into the delusion – from the fundamental fact that I despise myself. The voices are my brain, me, telling myself I’m a lazy fat sh--. That I should die, that I should maim and disfigure myself, that I deserve to put cigarettes out on my own face (which I did, several times) and so forth. It is not invisible other people controlling me, it’s fundamentally ME telling myself to do those things. Why would I want me to hurt myself so grotesquely unless I hated myself? But I digress.
Sunday night, I was still on CO. The evening sitter left at 11pm and was replaced by Speare, a regular daytime PT who sometimes picked up extra money by working this well-paid overtime. I’d always had trouble with Speare, largely because his name scared me. But recently I’d thawed, because he alone among the staff deigned to call me by my alias, the undercover name I was going by in the hospital so certain people would not find out I was there.
“Hi, Speare,” I said, warmly.
He barely glanced up, only grunted peremptorily, “Hnh.” The message, I knew, was: Don’t bother me. I’m sitting here but I don’t care to talk. I just want to read my magazines and get through this long boring night somehow.”
David, another PT I really liked came by just then and glanced at the magazine Speare had pulled from his briefcase. “Girls?” he said, sotto voce. “Oh. Hustler. You read Hustler, Speare? Gotta have something to stay awake with during the night shift, right?” He gave a chuckle and continued down the hall, doing checks.
Hustler?! Speare is reading Hustler while he sits and watches a female patient all night? That’s not right. What is he going to do? Deliberately give himself sexual fantasies while I sleep, that’s what!
Wrong, wrong, wrong! For once the voices were right on the greenbacks. Clearly they were scared too.
I planned to remain awake, as I usually did, but this time completely on alert, watching Speare’s every move, until midnight. That was when JS the night nurse, gave me the medication I took for sleep. When she came in with it, I was going to tell. What choice did I have?
At 10:00 or so, something else happened that if anything confirmed my fears. A young woman, whose depression was related to pregnancy hormones and who was leaving in the morning after only a couple of days, came up to Speare as he read. Quickly he closed the magazine and dropped it by his side, picked up another.
The young woman spoke in a low voice, but glanced at me from time to time, and said, “We’re really uncomfortable with your reading Hustler magazine while you’re sitting there watching her. Will you please put it away?”
Speare darkened but nodded and mumbled something I couldn’t hear. The young woman seemed satisfied, because she walked away, her mission accomplished. When she did, Speare continued to read the other material, and I was relieved to see that he didn’t touch the Hustler once up through midnight.
JS bustled in with the small dose cup that held medicine diluted with apple juice. “It’s pretty full, sorry. Be careful you don’t spill.”
I drank it in one swallow. Still no taste, though I knew it was supposed to be foul. The antibiotics still hadn’t restored my sense of taste, which Lyme had stolen...JS was still standing there. I asked if I could talk to her immediately rather than at 1:00a.m. as it was really urgent and I would be asleep by 1:00 tonight.
“Sure, Sweetie, let me pull up a chair.”
Frantically, I gestured her closer. “I need to talk to you alone, without Speare hearing me...”
“Oh, okay, that’s easy enough. Hey, Speare – “ she called. “Pam and I are going to chitchat for ten minutes or so, if you want to get a cup of coffee or something, feel free.”
Speare got to his feet eagerly. He left carrying his magazines and briefcase, but what he was actively reading remained, open on the table.
I told JS what had happened and what I heard and saw.
“Speare? Hustler? That’s incredible. Completely unethical of course, but are you sure?”
“I heard it and saw it with my own two eyes. Plus, so did that pregnant girl. She goes to bed late. Ask her. Ask D what he said to Speare. Though he’ll probably lie to save Speare’s job, I dunno. Go see what he’s reading now.”
She looked and came back to sit down. "Only 'The Daily News'. But that proves nothing, I suppose. Well, I’ll check it out.”
“Just don’t ask Speare until you do, and don’t, please don’t, let Speare know I told you. He’ll probably guess anyway, and then he’ll – Never mind.” What I was going to say was that I was afraid he would get my address from my chart, know where I live and come up to find and kill me. I was going to live in fear of it anyway.
I got through the night, half awake and half asleep because I went to sleep trying to watch Speare, and as I watched, everything he did confirmed my suspicions. Everything I heard did too. When morning came, I had all the evidence I needed to convict him, what I needed now was another witness. And she was going home today-- Oh no!
I flew to the dayroom to see if she was eating breakfast and to my great relief found her immediately, sitting alone at a table opposite the door. I never spoke to any of the patients, and had never spoken to her, but fear gave me the courage to do so now. I walked directly up to her table and looked at her, not just near her, and said, “Would you mind if I asked you a question? It’s not personal or anything.”
“No, not at all.”
“It just has to do with last night, with Speare, I mean, do you remember what you went to-- I-- the thing is I saw and heard something-- no, can you just tell me what you said to Speare last night when you went up to him around 10pm? It’s really important...”
“Oh that? We just told him that there was a big mess in the kitchen and since we were the last ones out of the dayroom we didn’t want to be blamed for making it, because we had nothing to do with it. That was all. He didn’t seem to care. So we left.”
“That’s all it was about? A mess in the kitchen, nothing more?”
“Nothing. Why? What did you think it was about?”
I didn’t answer her, just spoke to myself and the air. “Oh god, I can’t believe I was so wrong, and about everything. I “knew” I was right. I believed everything was real...and none of it was. None of it was real.” The delusion and its accompanying hallucinations dissolved with that one test of reality, coupled with the simple trust that she'd told the truth. That's all it took, asking a question and trusting the answer.
That's when my recovery finally began. The sitter and I headed back to my room.