me and austin state hospital (part 02)

the differences were overwhelming, and i was dealing with a new, way more intense version of crazy in that place.

and as much as i started that trip thinking that i didn’t belong on that unit, with those fucking nutty kids…by the end of it, i felt more comfortable there than anywhere else on the planet. i felt safe. i felt the pressure was gone. i could be angry. i could express. i could cry and it was okay. i could do finger-paints of the nine inch nails logo all over a piece of paper and adults applauded my creativity.Β  i could look around and see the others, and know that it could be worse. i could have been the one to pull my dick out and jerk-off on command because i didn’t know any better, or i could have been one of the ones who would scream all night every night for weeks at a time (and i was one of them for a little while), or i could have been the one who escaped, who jumped the fence and outran everyone and gone and lived on the streets until everyone forgot who i was. it could have been worse. but could it? the ones who were worse off than i was sometimes had no clue that anything was wrong with them. and maybe they were (are) lucky.

i don’t talk to any of them anymore. i kept in touch with a few, for a few years…but time took care of that. i wonder about them sometimes. certain ones. the boy who would shit into his hands and chase the staff members around the unit because in his under-developed brain this was the best kind of game and the rest of us would duck behind the couches or in our rooms while he ran around nude with his fists full of poop. or the boy who was obsessed with both tupac and biggie and after they died had a meltdown and would attack you if you said a bad word against either of them. he was also the one whose fingers were broken by the staff member over a game of pool. or the boy who escaped and headed for florida to find an older brother he had only met once. he had told me he wanted to travel by train. old train. like the old hobos. they found him a couple of days later, brought him back, and then he escaped again and they never caught up with him. or the boy with two lesbian mothers at a time when very few people knew anybody with lesbian mothers. or the girl who came off the farm, who probably had nothing wrong with her, but was thrown in there because she liked to read and sing. it’s been fifteen years now and i wonder how many of them survived. i wouldn’t want to find out. i think if i knew any of them didn’t make it it would destroy me.

we were kept on a separate unit than the girls were (unlike the other hospitals) but we still saw them during lunch, school, art, therapy, and playground time (yes, playground time was real.)

we all had crushes on the girls. they were cute. they were angst-ridden. some were downright crazy. but we were all crazy in there and that made it somewhat comfortable. we didn’t have the worries we had on the outside where we were so afraid of people (girls, especially) finding out that we had these problems. we didn’t care. it was alright. nobody’s problems were too much. we would watch the girls, talk about what they were doing on their unit–in our minds it was one big awesome beautiful naked lesbian pillow party. the girls picked us, or we picked them and suddenly we were ‘boyfriend and girlfriend,’ and would use those useless quiet hours in our rooms to write notes back and forth to each other. we talked about getting out, about visiting each other, about fucking, about doing drugs, about getting married, and the girls would sign their notes with our last names as if all of this had already happened, and it was awesome. sometimes when we were in school and the teacher had his back turned they would show us their boobs, and that was even more awesome.Β  but it was stupid. it was so teenager. but for us it meant a little more, or at least we thought it did. i can’t describe how goddamn refreshing it was to be able to be completely honest with another human being of the opposite sex about just how fucked up we were and to hear it back and to still have that acceptance. i had gotten so used to people avoiding me because of my problems. my ‘girlfriend’ in there was a high-voiced country girl with an adorable twang who loved marilyn manson and ministry and had those big, black eyeliner highways that screamed out from underneath her eyes and met at a point and she was freckled and pretty and damaged. her father had raped her. her father had held her down while a group of his hillbilly buddies raped her. more than once. and she would copy down song lyrics and poems and send them over to me and i feel sad now when i think of just how naive and desperate we all were as if these cute strangers on the other units were the only people keeping us alive. we didn’t have much time to converse in person, so we got to know each other through letters, questionnaires, etc. when i wasn’t allowed to eat lunch with everybody for a week because they had caught me sticking a spoon down my throat to vomit up my meals the boys on my unit would get notes asking what happened to me and where was i? or if we noticed that the cute blond hair girl who didn’t talk to anybody except for the invisible angels that surrounded her was missing from group therapy, we immediately sent our concern over to their unit. it was so sweet and friendly.

a lot of our correspondence depended on those cool staff members. they were the ones who would enforce the rules but not with the goddamn iron fist that so many of those other bastards had. there were two or three wonderful staff people in particular that i remember, and sometimes i would be lying in my bed in the evening and one of them would poke their head in my room and toss a note onto my bed while they smiled. and i would open the note and read it and my ‘girlfriend’ would tell me how beautiful i was and how she couldn’t wait until we were both out and how great it would be to go on a regular date, etc. and i would hide them in my socks because staff loved to do surprise checks of our rooms. and if it was found that we were having a ‘relationship’ with one of the girls, it was noted and we were given a lecture about rules and how we needed to spend our time concentrating on getting ourselves better and who the fuck was delivering these notes? and we would nod and agree and lie in order to keep our messengers in the clear.

i think about those people. the sick ones, the nice ones, the assholes, the little 80’s stoner acne spotted blue jean jacket nazi who was my room mate until he was transferred to another facility. the stupid nazi who had me convinced he was going to cut my throat while i slept, so one night (the first and only time) i tried to escape. it was fucking stupid. there were at least 6 locked doors between me and freedom, but i took off running. i could hear the staff screaming at me to stop, and i screamed back at them that there was no fucking way i was going to do that. i made it down to the game room, and from there i bolted into the dining room. there was a giant window that looked out into a courtyard. i jumped against it, hoping it would break, but it didn’t. and before i had the chance to try again i was being tackled by two staff members who threw me to the tile floor and left my entire side bruised purple. i remember the staff member who hugged me afterward and told me i was going to be alright while i screamed about nazis and demons and how i wanted to fly through the walls and how the walls were not rubber or metal but some top-secret material that would let no tears escape–let alone a chubby teenager with love notes tucked into his socks.

the girl and i were eventually released months apart, and met up some time later. she came to visit on her way to visit her father, and i went with her and learned how to fake a smile and shake the hand of a man who had helped his friends gang-fuck his own daughter. and i spoke to her a few years ago, and she is living her life, married, with kids, and we checked on each other just enough to see how life appeared to be for the both of us, and then just faded away from each other again without a goodbye.

~ by alltheavenueslookugly on 2011/10/21.

8 Responses to “me and austin state hospital (part 02)”

  1. So weird…I know these people were in Austin but some of the stories are similar to the Bellaire kids. That one girl that was pretty normal but had dared to do something wrong like I dunno watch a move and that was against the religion of her parents who were in some church where they spoke in tongues. And my roommate who had a baby after being gang-raped at 14, there was a girl that had child porn taken of her too and that Daniel (I think??) kid who escaped for like a night. There was also a druggie kid from Pasadena and a girl named Angela who was in love with a guy on the outside and she was 18 but they kept her with us cause she was still in school I think…wow I remember more than I thought I did

    • yeah, being in different hospitals i saw a lot of similar stories.
      i especially remember angela, as i was kind of in total love with her. πŸ™‚

      oh, and i have many of the old notes we used to pass around in there. in fact, i believe i still have one of two from you!

  2. Great writing. Engrossing. BTW, I met my husband on the psych unit in 1970 (we were both patients). We are still together.

    • hey, thank you. πŸ™‚
      wow, that is pretty incredible! i don’t know very many people at all who have even been together that long, and even less that met under what were probably pretty stressful circumstances. congrats to you guys.

  3. My favorite blog entry to date. By far! Beautiful xo

  4. Different country, similar time. This brings my time inside back to me strongly and I miss those fellow patients something terrible.

    Thank you

    • it’s amazing the bonds you can form with people in those places. even people i didn’t get a long with or never got close to – i still find myself thinking about them often and hoping they were able to crawl out of whatever hole they happened to be in.
      thanks much for reading. πŸ™‚

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