People often talk about getting on the same wavelength when tripping. As if their minds had merged or they were telepathic. I do grant that LSD can create a hyperawareness of signals usually reserved for the subconscious, but this does not lead to telepathy or the merging of souls. But the actual communication of thought is still constrained to the standard mediums, even if it seems otherwise. Emotionally, you bond in a unique way with your fellow trippers, because you’re modulating your reactions much more subtly and accurately than usual, but behind the scenes, all your brains are working away on their own narratives, and creating symbolism compatible with the environment.
When you’re nuts, and deprived of your ability to doubt and reason against evidence, much the same thing can happen. The chemicals running your emotions are now running your logic centers, and you’re more receptive to signals you can no longer recognize.
Part 10, or “The Milieu”
The most important things about the institution were the smoking areas. The medical community has long recognized that you cannot deny crazy people their cigarettes. It’s not especially safe to deny a non-crazy smoker their cigarettes, but addiction aside, something about nicotine allows people suffering from schizophrenia and psychosis to keep it together a little better.
There were two smoking rooms that were available at designated times. There was a smallish one with benches around the side of the walls that I associated with time traveling and being at the center of the earth. There was a larger one with picnic tables I associated with being at the center of the sun and making decisions about how the world would work. There was probably some time traveling there too.1 I remember having conversations about essentially nothing, but I knew from the laughter and banter that we were subtly making decisions about the fate of the world and the future of meaning. Since all our smoke breaks were two to three hours apart, we generally chain smoked two. In the beginning, I smoked two at once. Cigarettes were emblems of power, and the brand of cigarette was very important; when I was a robot, for instance, I had to smoke menthols, because the cold shot to the throat was more machine friendly.2 Camels were traveling cigarettes, and I stared at the little logo on the paper many times, wondering where the camel would take me.
At one point, they brought in a girl who was barely coherent, with her 24 hour guardian. She was wearing one of those “Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me” T-shirts, which should be illegal in mental institutions. She wandered in, smoked half her cigarette, and kept asking what day it was. This worked nicely into my delusions of indeterminate timelines, so I figured she was just like me in the Quest to Achieve the Mission, but at an earlier point, and having a harder time.
I was having a hard time too. I had to get to the next stage of my mission. I packed all my things: the pens that rewrite the future and past, the three marble spheres that gave me power over the sun, the night, and the stars, and even the journal in which the newer testament would be written. I dressed, smoothed my pants, tightened my belt, put on my coat, and went to the nurses station to check out.
“Hello?” said the nurse.
“I’m ready to go.”
“You can’t leave just yet.”
And I went back to my room. Clearly I wasn’t prepared enough. I gathered my chi, made sure my soul was in the right place, unpacked and repacked all my things, because order was important, and went back out.
I’ll spare you the conversation, because it was exactly the same as the last one.
As was the next.
And the next.
And the next.
Sometimes I was just repacking and readjusting my outfit. Sometimes I went back and created an entirely new delusion, usually something to do with California or Doctor Who, or both. Regardless of how I redid my outfit, my packing, or my mind, the nurse’s answer was always the same. I only hope I gave her a story to tell when she got home.
Eventually I gave up and got another night’s sleep. Didn’t do much for my state of mind, but at least my body was resting.
The first group meeting was odd. Truckette said she was feeling fine, but not ready to go anywhere. A kid with glasses who got transferred that day said he was hearing voices. The doctor asked him if he had racing thoughts. He said yes. I still wonder how anyone can self-diagnose racing thoughts, since speed of thought is how we track experiential time. In retrospect, my thoughts were doing mach 10, but I didn’t notice. I just wondered why everybody was talking so slowly. Pocahontas said she felt out of sorts. I said I was just fine. ShittyFriend said she was depressed.
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/25/2000
The patient came to doctor’s group. He was distant, detached, at time intrusive. Appearing disoriented to time and situation. Not reacting when I explained that he took another patient’s belongings. Unchanged loosening of associations and thought blocking. Vague persecutory ideas. Possible perceptual disturbances. Compliant with medications. Labs refused by patient.3
My dad came to visit me during this first week. My dad was as god, in various forms, as a dad generally is to a son’s freudian mentality, except in this case my dad was specifically Odin, since needing glasses is as good as trading an eye. You know. For wisdom.4
I was eating lunch in the TV room when my dad first came, and he had to watch my pour a serving of salt down my throat. I thought I just had a new understanding of the basic nutrients that would make me immortal. I remember my dad making an expression he’d never made, looking away with a slight gasp, wincing in disgust. At the time I thought he just wasn’t ready to see me ascend to a higher plane of being. Now I look back and see his reaction as a rare moment of despair. He saw his son as I was at that moment: in all the ways we judge one another day to day, I was hardly human. That expression, not of disappointment, not of anger, not of chagrin, but of so much shock that my father couldn’t look at me, haunts me to this day.5
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/28/2000
The patient came to doctor’s group. He was more friendly and cooperative. Appearing oriented to place and time as well as to person.6 Thought processes remaining tangential and loose.7 He expressed his concerns about taking away joy from people.8 Vague persecutory and referential thoughts. Maintaining good behavioral control. Compliant with medications. Normal CBC, CMP, and TSH reflex.
I don’t know how I got Trinity to come visit me. I may have texted her, she may have found out through other means. Trinity was a short, pale, wisp of a girl, with short black hair and asocial disposition. As far as acid went, she swallowed ten-strips on the spot then locked herself in her room. She was drank dextromethorphan cough syrups daily; she had bags full of empty bottles in her closet. She had tried to kill herself a few times, didn’t like to be touched, and made a point of distinguishing herself as asocial, not antisocial. It’s not that she avoided other people, she just didn’t need them and didn’t especially care if they lived or died. I’ve met cutters before, but her arms were pure scar tissue from the back of her hands to her shoulders. Because of the severity of her diabetes, she was waiting, miserably, asocially and asexually, to go blind and die. She was one of the people who worked at Acadia occasionally, when she wasn’t a patient herself.
She came in and we talked about nothing. Oh wait, I may have professed eternal love. I was into doing that. I think I assumed this would be a conjugal visit, but ‘twas not to be. Before she ran out, she kisses me once on the lips, just for an instant.
It was another one of those universe collapsing moment. Happily, I didn’t shit myself this time.
I would say the kiss recharged me in some way. It was a brief moment when a delusion almost kind of worked out, or at least seemed to be going in the right direction.
The rest of the time I waited, ate packets of salt when no one was looking, stared at the walls, and paced, gathering imaginary power. Maybe I was getting better.
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/29/2000
He came to Doctor’s Group.10 Significant improvement in his psychotic condition. Less evidence for persecutory and referential ideas.11 Speech is spontaneous, fluent, and focused. Affect is euthymic. The patient is compliant with medications and becoming quite active in the milieu.
That night we played cards for cigarettes. It’s possible I was dropping some of my delusions in favor of company and good times, and for the love of Pocahontas. I distinctly remember doing the math at the end of a round of Spades, and being completely wrong, but convincing everybody else I was right.
I was well-liked by patients and staff. Although I didn’t tell them, everybody was an angel or a deity or some other perfect representation of a concept, and I hung on every word, utterly fascinated by whatever wisdom or secrets they were imparting. I stared deeply into everyone’s eyes, nodded and smiled at everything they said, did whatever anyone told me to do, respected all authority, and generally made each person I interacted with feel like they were the wisest, most wonderful and beautiful person in the world.
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/30/2000
The patient was seen in doctor’s group. He was pleasant and easily engaged. Good eye contact. Appropriate interaction. He was stating that he feels much better. Sleep and appetite normalizing. Thought process is much better organized and focused,12 given though at times long lags and circumstantiality is present.13 Thought processes do not show evidence of overt delusions. He denied perceptual disturbances.
Later that afternoon, I spent a good half hour spitting in the toilet, due to acid reflux. I watched my saliva unravel in the water, and because of its dim resemblance to the theorized bubble structure of the universe, I knew I was creating little universes to go on if I couldn’t save the one I was in.
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/31/2000
He was seen in Doctor’s Group. He is continuing to improve in his cognition and psychosis. Minimal referential thinking. Thought process is quite logical and goal directed. Appearing to minimize the whole experience, and especially the use of street drugs.14 Wondering about discharge and his return to school. Appropriate15 and active in the milieu. Compliant with his medications and denying side effects.
PLAN: Continue with the current psychotropics. May go tonight on a pass with his parents. Also encourage a weekend pass and target discharge for the beginning of next week.
I had an English class once, where the teacher was charming and meant well, but when we were covering Othello, she brought a lot of material about the objectification of women into class. Othello is as complex a work of the Bard as any other, and it was distressing to have our entire class’s focus narrowed to the fact that he killed his wife because “his wife was an object to him.” Little mention of class, race, jealousy, the illogical nature of the male mind in the face of sex, or any of the other dramatic and psychological themes wrapped up in Othello.
Once I noticed what she was doing, I stopped reading the play. I just waited for her to tell us to turn to page X, whereupon I flipped to that page, bookmarked it, and went back to doing my math homework. When the time came to write the paper, I flipped to all the pages I bookmarked, pulled a quote at random, then typed up some filler between the quotes pertaining to the objectification of women.
She read my paper aloud in front of the class, citing it as the finest work she’d read on Othello in her years teaching this class.
I tell this story because I was doing essentially the same thing with my doctors in the institution.
INPATIENT PROGRESS NOTE. DOS: 08/31/2000
He was seen in Doctor’s Group and on a one-to-one basis. Quite friendly and engaging. Making attempts to integrate his unusual perceptual disturbances. No evidence for overt delusional thinking. Denying suicidal or homicidal thoughts or plans. Cognitively intact.16
PLAN: Continue with the current psychotropic medications. Weekend pass discussed with team and approved. Engage in milieu and group therapy.
I’m sure the overnight pass was interesting, but I only remember one, small moment.
My parents’ house is on a small pseudo-island called Hancock Point. It’s a small subsistence fishing town with a pox of summer rich people, and my family falls right between these demographics. I mapped the bulk of my episodic memory to summers spent in this town, before we officially moved there and I had to map my memory according to schools and drug incidents. One particular summer stands out as involving my first True Love, described best here, in item 10. We were walking around the shore road, and I was intent on getting to the house where I’d first fallen in love, knowing that my childhood infatuation would be there, even though it was off season and she hadn’t actually summered in that house in years.
When we came upon the house, my dad leaned over and said, “I mean, you couldn’t possibly expect Mia to be here, right?”
How my dad knew the exact, insane delusion I was having at the time, I don’t know. My dad is far from crazy, but for some reason he seemed to pick up on the alternate realities I was creating every few minutes and calling me out on them. I said “No, of course not,” but he was absolutely right.
What with all the new stimuli and my family being unsympathetic to my delusions, the carefully nurtured alternate reality I’d built in the nuthouse began to give way, and I had to consider the implications of my dad pointing out I was crazy every couple of hours. These were helpful jolts to my dreamworld; since I had to accept it, they were like blurry half-awakenings when I could see that nothing I thought actually made any sense. It wasn’t enough to snap me out of it, but it was enough to make me consider whatever I was imagining at the moment might not be real.
Although I was sleeping regularly by this point, I wasn’t dreaming, as far as I know. I mean, why bother, right? Whatever dreams supposedly achieve in sleep was getting taken care of during my waking hours.
However, sleep was clearly doing something, because after they kept me awake the next night in preparation for an EEG, I managed to commit my first felony.
Grand Theft Auto: Orono Dreams.
1 I was very big on time traveling.
2 This was the first and last time I smoked menthols on a regular basis.
3 What would you do if you thought there was a shadow society trying to interfere with your efforts to save the world and a stranger came to you with a needle and asked for blood?
4 A bottle of whiskey to anyone who heard Tim Robbins’ voice say those last two sentences.
5 I like to think this has made me a better person, but since I’m The Asshole at my local bar, I think it just made me a better Welch.
6 I was quite well oriented. Place: the summit of the worlds. Time: 2,400,021,987 A.D. Person: I was a computer, and my doctor was Loki.
7 He just didn’t get my jokes.
9 And this is the cleverest nickname of them all if only you knew his real name.
10 I don’t know why this flips back and forth between “He came to Doctor’s Group” and “The patient was seen in doctor’s group.” May have been different people making the reports.
11 I felt less persecuted because I think I was the Metatron at this point. Archangels don’t get persecuted. They do the persecuting.
12 I was an android.
13 A poorly programmed android.
14 Although still quite insane, I was trying to tell them I had never done the drugs I didn’t do but told them I did. This is apparently minimizing the experience.
16 True, true, true, false, true, false.