First Hospitalization

One wild night, I was about to kill myself with a shotgun. I was interrupted and ran off into the night. The police found me in a park, where they surrounded me at a distance. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, so I surrendered peacefully and was taken into custody.

I was take to the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute (ISPI for short), where I was admitted. ISPI was a short-term facility, four months or less.

It dawned on me that all was not well. Until then I’d been in denial, dismissing the various disasters as unimportant. Now, in the locked ward of a State mental hospital, with a pending criminal charge, I began to understand that I had a serious problem.

I quickly fell into the rhythm: Wake up, meds call, and breakfast. Sit around, then meds call and lunch. Sit around, then meds call and dinner. A few hours later – after sitting around – final meds call and lights out. Food and meds were the high points of the day – which is sad, considering what the food was like.

A few hours each week we’d have activities – exercise in the gym, a session or two of group therapy, occupational therapy, an occasional meeting with the psychiatrist. Life was dull, but not harsh.

Our group was part of an experiment that sought to find a connection between mental illness and certain chemicals. We had to collect all our urine. Every time we wanted to piss, we had to go to a refrigerator, find the bottle with our name on it, and piss into it. It added a surreal touch to being locked up.

Like most of the patients I was heavily medicated. Unfortunately, that didn’t help me. After four months I wasn’t any better than when I’d been admitted. I wasn’t ready for discharge. I was sent to Elgin State Hospital, a long-term facility where you could be confined for years.

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