Psychiatric Hospital Era
Between the time I moved out of my parents' place and the time I moved into a rented room, there was a five-month period of hospitalization. The hospital was called Larundel.
I was going to put a straight description of those events, here, but instead I think I'll show you some letters that I wrote to my psychologist during that time. The letters will tell the story. This particular psychologist was one that worked at a different hospital -- I had been seeing her for at least two years prior to my admission so she knew me very well. I would always write letters to her and she would read out the letters aloud during our therapy sessions and give me advice. I will only show you the letters that were written during my stay in the psychiatric hospital, the first one being April 6th, ten weeks after my admission. If you want to see a straight description of events, view the source code.
Thursday 6th of April 1995
Dear Tonya Miles,
Hello how are you? I'm O.K. Excuse the lack of fancy design in this letter. I'm still at Larundel and things haven't changed much. I went home on weekend leave on Saturday the 25th, that was just to attend the Diamond Creek Town Fair. I spent Saturday night at my parents' house. But that was just a one-off thing, it won't be repeated. Mum said she was feeling it hard to deal with feelings of rejection that she's getting from me. She was feeling very hurt, and I wish she wouldn't feel that way -- but I can't arrange my life around her.
As for the hospital staff who are trying to get me out of here, their powers are weakening. Their plan is to find me appropriate accommodation, where I'd be partially independent, taking on responsibility but with a certain amount of support. It's the sort of plan that would be suited to a person who is partially able to take care of themselves. But with me, it's not the ability that's lacking, it's the willingness. The psychiatric profession doesn't know how to deal with the patient who is able but not willing to take responsibility for himself. It's like, they've never come across someone like me before. That's why I think their plans are ineffectual.
At Larundel I've gone through many different moods -- most of the time I'm just generally contented, but sometimes I get depressed and start thinking about suicide again. Those are the times I feel like I'm not in control -- like just a while ago I had some things stolen from my room, a bit of money, a garment, a deck of cards, a tape, and I felt like really really depressed because I value my possessions more than I value my own life, and there was no way I could bring those things back. I've also felt depressed when I've thought about how I'll never find true happiness because I don't know how to get it and the only things that make me happy are the things that come along by chance. Anyway there have also been times in the past ten weeks that I've been intensely happy, feeling that sense of well-being and belonging -- like when I hear the other patients talking about personal matters, showing emotions -- I love to listen to their conversation. But the happiest times of all are when people reach out to me, try to get to know me, try to get close to me. It happened once back in February when a girl talked to me and became my friend. And then, many weeks later, it happened again, with a different girl. The times I spent with them were possibly the happiest and most exciting times I've ever had. Who would've thought I'd find that sort of friendship for the first time in a psychiatric hospital, twice? They put most of the effort into the conversations, of course, I just answered their questions; but I did write letters to both of them, and I got the second girl's address, so I'll keep writing to her. I've learnt that human contact is the best part of life. That's something I've been experiencing at Larundel more than anywhere else.
However, there have been times lately when I've experienced extreme hate. There's this nurse named Arleen who is very strong-willed and earlier she was trying to get me discharged -- she spoke to me several times with such acid, treating me like I was an enemy, and she insulted what I was doing, and it made me feel like I just wanted to punch her out. I can't stand being criticized, as you recall. Lately she's cooled down a bit and acted a bit more civil, but I still refuse to answer some of her questions, because I don't like her type.
Fortunately none of the patients have taken a dislike to me. When they see me reading and writing in the dining room they think I'm a student and they ask "What are you studying?" and I have to explain that I'm not studying. Some people, authorities mostly, say that I shouldn't be in here because there's nothing wrong with me. But I think they're just saying that because there's no name for my mental disease because I'm the only one who has it.
I found out yesterday that I will be taking part in an extensive rehabilitation programme at ward North 9, in the daytime, starting from Monday. It's not clear what sort of rehabilitation it will be. North 9 is a ward for people who are less sick than the North 6 patients, but it is a more Long Term ward. For the next two weeks I will just go there in the daytime to attend the programme, and after that they will decide whether I'm ready to transfer over to there for the long term. I don't know if their plan will work; I doubt if they'll be able to persuade me to do stuff that I don't feel like doing. Like housework.
I feel comfortable in the psychiatric hospital atmosphere, because all the patients are abnormal and I never have to worry that I'm acting more abnormal than them. I have a niggling feeling that I'm not fully aware of the unwritten rules of ethics. I've said in the past that I don't believe I have Asperger's Syndrome, but maybe I do have it, just a little bit, just enough to make me uncomfortable in the real world.
Well, that's all,
Tuesday 23rd of May
Dear Tonya Miles,
Hello. Well! It has been a long time. Looks like there was a big mix-up what with April 25th being a public holiday. Not to mention the geting-in-touch difficulties. But anyway here we are. You will recall that last time I wrote that I would be taking part in an extensive rehabilitation programme at ward North 9. Well, it's been six weeks since I started that, and I haven't been transferred over to that ward; I'm still a day patient there. Rumour has it that North 9 will be closing down in a couple of weeks, so they aren't accepting any new patients, they're just trying to find places out in the community for the patients they have. No-one is certain what will happen to me after North 9 closes. For the moment I'm just assuming I'll remain at North 6. About the programme -- there are group activities (social skills discussions, budgetting skills discussions, yoga, music appreciation), and there are outings to places like shopping centres, the zoo, Healesville Sanctuary, the bowling alley, the indoor cricket centre, and such. I don't do all the activities, just the ones that seem enjoyable. Last Tuesday I went rollerskating and that was quite fun. And I tend to participate in the bowling when I can. But I try my best to avoid outings that involve walking around aimlessly and looking at things. And even though I've refused to do any housework, there has been no conflict or argument on that point. It's almost as if they haven't noticed my laziness.
Nowadays no doctors ever speak to me. As for the nurses, they never sit down and have talks with me anymore, except the ones who don't know me, and that hardly ever happens. I guess the staff have given up trying to change my attitude. They've got no more questions to ask me. And meanwhile I've been going downhill; I've almost totally lost hope. I'm almost completely convinced that no matter what happens, I'll always hate my life. If you ask me what I want my life to be like in the future, I wouldn't be able to answer. Because there is no ideal situation. So I stay at Larundel, because at least at Larundel I'm getting more out of life than I put into it. But eventually I'll leave here. Why? I don't know exactly why; perhaps because I want a bit more privacy, perhaps because I want to please my parents and pen-pals, perhaps because I want to have the chance to create music and films. But mostly because I'm so unhappy, I need to see an end in sight, a change in the future. I'm sure that when I get into the real world I'll have to keep changing my lifestyle every two or three years otherwise I'll slide down into suicide. So you can see how getting married and having children wouldn't work.
I find it hard to write to anyone nowadays without going into depressing details about personal problems. 'Cause I have to explain to everybody why I'm in a psychiatric hospital. My pen-friend Kristen was very upset when she found out that I'd decided to come here; she wrote a letter to my parents because she thought somehow she could prevent me from staying in hospital that way -- but later she felt guilty about it because she was afraid she had betrayed me -- I wrote a letter to her saying I'm not angry at her, but I don't know if she received it. Her most recent letter was totally ordinary, she just talked about her own life and avoided the subject of psychiatric hospital altogether. So I don't know if she still thinks I'm angry at her or not. It's a confusing situation.
I have a lot a freedom at this hospital, I can go for exploratory walks and no one minds if I leave the hospital grounds to do some shopping or whatever. Somehow when I was fantasising about psychiatric hospital late last year I didn't imagine myself having this much freedom. So my plans have gone astray a bit, but I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not complaining.
Anyway I hope everything's going well with you.
Thursday 1st of June
Dear Tonya Miles,
Hi. It's hard to know what to write. Whenever I start to mull things over I usually end up reaching a conclusion, always a negative one -- so after last Tuesday's appointment I was trying to avoid thinking. I felt rather lost in a haze of grey confusion. It was because of what you said about seeing things in black and white. You said if I can't see my future as being absolutely white, then I think of it as black, and instead I ought to see life in shades of grey. But I can't help thinking that if I see life in shades of grey (nothing definite) then I will be living in confusion and I'll be doing things without questioning whether they're worthwhile or not. As you spoke to me I felt like you were dragging me away from morbidity and death -- but now I can't remember why I felt that way. Your talking confused me and made me feel deflated and depressed, and I shed a few tears throughout the evening. All the people at Larundel that I've argued with, I've always felt like I'm winning the arguments and proving them wrong. But whenever I have sessions with you, I always feel like I'm losing, because I can't think of much to respond to you with. Your logic always seems so air-tight, and yet confusing. So it's hard to know what to write, because I know you'll be able to say something to nullify my arguments.
My pen-friend John used to say that he understood what I'm going through, because he used to feel like I do. I knew he was wrong, and I explained to him the full extent of my negative thinking, just to clarify whether or not he used to feel like I do. A few days ago he wrote back saying that he doesn't understand, and that I've changed, and that I never used to be so morbid and negative. And he told me to get a life and wake up. I don't think I've changed -- I've always had a morbid negative side, but John's always seen me through rose-coloured glasses and I've never really shown him how negative I am deep down. I hope I can explain it to him in such a way that he realises I'm still the same guy he liked writing to in the past. As for my pen-friend Kristen, I got a letter from her and she said from now on she'll mind her own business and let me make my own decisions without interfering. I suppose that's the best thing, although I can't help thinking I'll miss her emotional outbursts.
What puzzles me is why everyone asks why I don't want to go home to my parents. I mean, people at my age hardly ever want to live with their parents, they want to move out. When a normal young man decides to move out of home, no-one questions why he does it. It's either move out or live with his parents for the rest of his life. So people shouldn't assume that my parents are treating me wrong or giving me hassles.
Anyway, I'm still in the same hopeless state of mind -- I don't think I have a depression as such, just a desire for death and negativity. I often find myself wishing terrible things would happen to drive me into a deeper state of self-destructiveness and maybe tip me over the edge of suicide. I think I get a sense of happiness from being intensely emotional, when I'm alone -- and it seems like I'd find it easier to go downhill towards death than uphill towards perfect happiness. So unlike the other mental patients, I don't have much motivation to become "normal".
I found out today that the authorities are launching another attempt to shift me out of Larundel. I think they'll be looking at boarding houses where I can move, and they're hoping that I'll make a decision about where to live. But all I can see is a new challenge, a fresh opportunity to prove them all wrong. It makes me smile whenever I hear the words "staying in hospital is no longer an option." It's this sort of challenge which makes staying in hospital worthwhile.
Well, that's all,
Thursday 15th of June
Dear Tonya Miles,
Hello, I hope you're well. I'm O.K.; I'm still hanging out at Larundel, though it doesn't look like I'll be here much longer. They've put me on a sickness pension, which pays more than the job-search allowance that I used to get, and that means I can afford to check into a place of accommodation where I don't have to do any cooking or housework of any kind -- it seems to me like it's a rather short-sighted solution, since I can't stay on a sickness pension for long without being sick, but it would seem like they've succeeded, after all this time, in their efforts to get me discharged. I'll be leaving tomorrow.
I'll tell you what happened two Saturdays ago. The nurses told me to change the sheets on my bed. I didn't do it because it's work, and my purpose for being in hospital is not to work. One of the nurses, a big guy, insisted on me making my bed, so he took me to my room and removed the old sheets from my bed. When he gave me an edge of sheet to hold, I didn't accept it. He saw that it was useless, so he pulled me outside, I don't know if he was going to lock me up or not but I realised I had left my bag beside the bed so I said I had to go back for it but he wouldn't let me so I struggled to break free from his grasp and eventually I succeeded. Other nurses came in as I gripped the bag with both hands. They prised the bag away from me and I closed my eyes and fell totally limp. With unnecessary force and roughness they carried me to the seclusion room, dumped me hard on the floor, removed my clothes and locked me in there. After about half an hour they let me out, gave me back my clothes and bag and made me come downstairs. For the rest of the day my bedroom was locked; and for a couple of days after that. Throughout Saturday I was thinking about suicide; I was thinking: just two or three more days and then I'll go out and kill myself. What I loathed most was the hatred of the nurses as they locked me up, the way they insulted me and treated me rough. And the denial of access to the belongings in my bedroom -- I figured life wasn't worth living without that. But by the end of the day I'd turned away from the idea of suicide, thinking all I have to do is get used to the new routine of being locked out of my room and sleeping on a bed without sheets, and I'll stop being depressed. From then on I stopped wishing for mental illness and self-destructiveness, because I didn't want to go through any more violent ordeals. At the same time, for some strange reason, I lost my desire for death. And I developed a deep seated revulsion towards the hospital life, although that's gone away mostly, now that things are back to normal.
The day after the bed-linen incident, my sister Melanie visited. She had been very distant and detached from me for many years, but that Sunday we had a long talk and we discussed my future options, among other things. She made out like I can get into a good career in the outside world and she can help me to brighten my future. I enjoyed her visit very much, if only for the kindness she showed me. The following Thursday evening she took me out to MacDonalds with her friend Jenny, and they both worked out with me some money-making applications for my artistic and computing skills. It's like they're going to manage my career. They talked about how rad it could be if I make heaps of money and buy lots of computer and sound equipment. I didn't pay much heed to that sort of talk, because I knew my sister is renowned for using her tricks of the tongue to paint things whiter than they really are, being in the marketting business. But all the plans they made were a source of hope. It made me feel a bit less depressed about the future, and hopefully when I come out of this laziness phase they'll be able to help me make some money. I'm not going to do any work just yet -- it seems like I've come so far with this laziness experiment, testing the system to see what they do with me, and I haven't really reached a definite conclusion yet, because the authorities' plans keep changing. For one thing I won't be able to stay on the sickness pension for a long time without being in hospital, and also, the supported accommodation only serves two meals a day so I don't know if that's enough to keep me healthy, and also in the new place I'll be spending almost all my time isolated in my room, and that doesn't seem like the kind of thing they'd approve of. I was kinda hoping this laziness experiment would reach its climax by me being discharged onto the street and starving myself until they let me back in. Because if being locked-up and handled roughly could shock me into a halfway-normal state of mind, then experiencing the hardship of homelessness could cure my mental illness completely. But I don't think it's going to happen.
Anyway, that's the end of my letter. Best wishes,
Thursday 29th of June
Dear Tonya Miles,
Hello, how's it going I hope you're well. Me, I don't know what's happening with my life, it's all a haze of uncertainty, but maybe by the end of the letter I'll be able to tell you what's going on.
Two Sundays ago, my sister Melanie took me to the house of one of her friends named Brenden who has a room in his house full of electronic sound equipment, like synthesizers, a computer, a sampler, a CD player, and such. He makes his own electronic music in his spare time. Melanie introduced me to him because she knows I have an interest in this field and I would really like to have my own electronic sound equipment so I could do what Brenden does. On that evening he explained the equipment to me and I found out what it's capable of, the endless possibilities. We worked together on a simple piece of music, I did most of the playing and he did the arranging and sampling. He was much impressed by my musical expertise and he was pleased to find a person with whom he could share his interest. I thought it was a good night, and I was happy during it, but there were a few things that troubled me. For one thing, I'm not as good at writing music as I thought I was -- it's very difficult to think up music that doesn't sound copied from somewhere else. My main talent lies in using other people's ideas and building on them, improving them, and maybe that's not good enough. Also, I'm in a bit of a puzzled state about what equipment to buy in the future -- Brenden says I can save a lot of money by getting things secondhand, but I'm terrified of making a wrong purchasing decision and wasting money. There are too many options. Anyway, I'm looking forward to recording my own music -- there are a few things which give me hope for happiness in the future, and all of them involve money-spending. I suppose the thought that I'll one day have an abundance of money if I try hard is the only thing that motivates me.
I didn't get discharged on Friday like I told you I would, because there was no vacancy at the place I was going. So I stayed at Larundel for a while, then on Thursday the 22nd the social worker told me there was a vacancy at another place, Summerlea Motel, which was a place I'd already ruled out because it was too expensive. I told them I wouldn't eat if they sent me there, so they sent me there, and I didn't eat, but it was only for two days so there was no harm done. The one thing I regret is that I paid $125 for the week's rent there. I should have refused to pay -- but anyway I got $36 refund when I checked out early. Meanwhile Melanie had been making enquiries and she'd found a vacancy at a place called Hollywood Hotel which I had already inspected and it was not too expensive. I wish Melanie had not found a vacancy so quickly, because I was hoping to stay at hospital a bit longer, but I agreed to pay the money at Hollywood because otherwise I might've ended up at Ivy Grange, the place which is the same price but inferior in other ways. I didn't move in till TODAY, Thursday, and Dad helped me move my stuff this morning. Hollywood Hotel is certainly very shabby and run-down, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. I'm not displeased with the way things are going -- after all, I'm still living easy without doing any work, and now I've got my own room and I won't get locked out of it. My only problem is I won't be making any progress on my savings, but that was not one of my objectives when I started out. I could say more, but I've run out of time and space. Sorry this letter was such a rushed job. Best wishes,