Down in the Doldrums

Doldrums was a term coined by sailors travelling through near equatorial latitudes. It is often used interchangeably with the Horse Latitudes, a region where winds rarely blew. Those sailing through the Horse Latitudes were often stuck in the same spot for weeks at a time without seeing any movement in their sails or so much as ripple in the sea around them. The Spanish nicknamed it the Horse Latitudes because they drifted listlessly through the region for so long that they ran low on food and could no longer feed their horses. The dead or dying animals were tossed overboard to conserve supplies and lighten the ship’s load. A weekend at Ramapo Ridge certainly brings those sailors to mind.  There are no group therapy sessions or individual counseling on the weekends. No one asks you how you are feeling or if you want to talk. It’s just sitting in polyester chairs and drifting in a sea of fluorescent light. The only experimental evidence that any time has passed is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the weekend psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nutritionists, nurses, art therapists, counselors all go home to see their loved ones. Just a few nurses with a couple of shots of Haldol sit filling out paperwork. Anyone who actually cares enough to try to help us will get burnt out if they don’t take weekends off. If they don’t take a break from the mental hospital I suspect they may forget what they are trying to save. They run far away to enjoy the embraces of loved ones, feel the playful tickle of grass, hear laughter and see smiles.

Without the veneer of rehabilitation we are reminded of our place in society. You are just there because some people might feel bad if you killed yourself. Society is totally fine with bullying us, exiling us, robbing us of basic human needs, exploiting us and ghettoizing us, but not with us dying before we are old enough. Society is fine with the death penalty and the second amendment, but not with suicide. I’m not saying suicide is the optimal answer in this circumstance. My point is that they don’t give a shit whether it is suicide or euthanasia. There are circumstances in which suicide is appropriate, we can all conceive of an appropriate though experiment I won’t condescend to spoon feeding you one. This place is not empathetic, the broken cannot fix the broken. Its’s sympathetic on it’s most noble day. But if we’re all being honest, places like this are just selfish. Places like this don’t exist to help people, that’s just a side effect. Mental Hospitals exist because society doesn’t want to admit it is so broken and toxic that people would rather die than live in it. They exist because people might feel guilty if we choose the peace of the void over oppression, misery, slavery, torture. Was it our fault? Oh dear, oh my, we aren’t bad people. We tried to help. People don’t want to believe that it is possible to be born into constant torture. We lock away such abominations. We exile them, but don’t let them leave. We revile them, spit on them, abuse them, fear them, but won’t let them leave. We lock them away until we can get around to fixing them. Yes there are ways to fight depression, but it boils down to toiling endlessly for just a few precious moments of contentment. Most times any effort is mockingly fruitless. Even if we can be fixed, there is only so much pain a sentient creature can be forced to grit their teeth through while you tinker with them. I am high enough on the autism spectrum to love, but not high enough to be loved.

I like to explore the facility during the weekend doldrums to keep my mind out of such a pessimistic rut. I reside in A1 wing, for functional voluntary patients. Mostly depressive, some bipolar, and even a few high functioning autistic people like me have rooms in this wing. Beyond that lies the A2 wing for non-voluntary patients who can be violent, senile, psychotic, fall risks, delusional, or just elderly. It’s a mixed bag. I actually really enjoy the company of the A2ers, they are never boring. Past that is another nurses’ station and the entrance to B wing. Now A1 and A2 both have common area lounges where patients can hang out and attend any groups sessions. B wing has no lounge, no common areas, just rows of rooms. B wing is for elderly patients with moderate to severe dementia. It seems they just didn’t see any point in having a lounge or even any chairs to sit on in the halls, just a room with a bed for each patient. The halls reeked of feces and rubbing alcohol. At the end of the hall was a wide window with the most beautiful view in the entire facility but no one to enjoy it. They wouldn’t even let me into C wing. One of the pastors told me it was simply referred to as “the dark side of the moon.” At dinner time, all of A wing walked down to the cafeteria. My roommate and I saw one of the patients from either B or C wing lying on a bed being wheeled by a cheerful nurse down to the geriatric dining hall. He was just lying there head to the side mouth hanging open. The nurse wiped some drool away from his lips. He blinked seven times before he was wheeled out of view.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s