Part 3

Just Like A Pill

I think I'll get outta here, where I can run just as fast as I can, to the middle of nowhere

February 8, 2020

It was my second morning in the ward, and I was awakened out of a dead sleep by a staff member to come and join the other patients in the lounge area for breakfast. Still stoned, I stumbled out of bed, threw my baseball hat on, and shuffled out of my room. I was given my tray, and I went and sat down somewhere where I could more or less keep to myself. As I sat there, in my mental stupor, slowly chowing down on the unexciting and previously served for breakfast bowl of oatmeal with a slice of toast and peanut butter, I noticed that the song playing on the radio was “Just Like A Pill” by PINK. How sadly ironic. There I was, basically a pill junkie, in a psych ward listening to the lyrics, “You’re just like a pill, instead of making me better, you keep making me ill, you keep making me ill”. Two thoughts came to mind: 1) Why on earth would they play such a song in a psych ward? and 2) These pills really are making me ill. 

EXPOSING THE SYSTEM

The actual ward itself is dreadful. The colours of the walls, the layout, the decor, the furniture, it’s all horrible. I don’t know how anyone could ever get better in such a terrible environment. People ranging as young as the age of 16 to folks that are in their 70’s and 80’s are herded into this ward and quickly trained like Pavlov's dog to work with cues within the confines of the system. You see them crowding around the glassed-in nurse’s station waiting for their turn to get their phone, or their medication, or their cigarettes. Then they all gather and wait near the door for the attendant to accompany them for a walk outside, like kinder-garden children. In the meantime, you have mental patients sitting in the lounge area watching CNN that is reporting on a man who has committed several gruesome murders. What are they thinking? Why are they tuning into the news? BAD.

Before my iPhone was taken from me, I was able to take these two photos.

At night, one of the patients screams some inaudible phrase over and over again every half hour or so. The beds are like army cots, hard and flat. The bathrooms are dismal and in some cases even vandalized. There are no mirrors in the bathrooms. There is a reflective piece of stainless steel mounted on a pillar in the lounge area where patients can comb their hair, shave, etc. It’s shameful to see how underfunded the mental health care system is in this province. A close friend of mine is a police officer. I recently sat down with him and he told me that he has spent countless hours watching over dangerous patients in psychiatric wards in just about every hospital in the greater Montreal area. He tells me that they are all the same. Dilapidated, underfunded, dreadful places where people are poorly treated. I never imagined I would experience this, but I have. Part of me is glad I did, but another part of me wishes it had never happened. It was one of the most, if not the most difficult experience I’ve ever had to live through. As you’ll see below, the so-called security system they have in place is filled with holes and can easily be circumvented.

SMUGGLER BLUES

As I was packing up my stuff in the ER corridor preparing to make my way up to the psychiatric ward, as an experiment, I decided to see if it was possible to smuggle medication without anyone finding out. There was a little pouch on the front of the hospital gown I was wearing. I threw a hand-full of pills in there, some were prescription opioids, others were just natural products I take for aid with digestion. I walked into the ward and no one patted me down or checked this pouch. I asked them to give me the mouth guard that I wear at night which was in a plastic case, and they did. I took the night guard out, put the pills in the case and put the case in my night table drawer. No one ever knew I had them.

SECURITY BREACH

I mentioned in the previous chapter that I had been given “full privileges”. This meant that I was deemed sane enough to be allowed to actually leave the ward on my own, go outside, and walk around on the hospital grounds, but only at certain times of the day and night. And during these outings, I would be permitted to use my iPhone. Well, this gave me the perfect opportunity to get the products I needed for my personal care from the pharmacy that is located right across the street from the hospital! Thankfully, there was cash left in my carry-all bag that they had returned to me. So off I went across the street to purchase the products I needed. When I came back, no one checked my pockets to see if I was returning with anything. Can you believe that? I could have gone outside, called a friend and asked them to bring me a gun, and just breezed right in, no one the wiser. Unbelievable. I should add that, when I was outside, I contemplated calling an UBER and getting the hell out of there. But I had committed to my wife and the doctor that I would stay one more day to get the proper discharge papers I needed for follow up care, which in the end really didn’t amount to very much.

THE ARTIST

I shared a room with 4 other patients. One of them, as it turns out, was an “artist”. Guess what he was permitted to have in our room? A jar of perfectly sharpened colouring pencils on his desk next to his bed - I’m not kidding. Pencils that could easily be used as weapons. But I couldn’t have my spray for dry mouth or my eye drops! It’s insanity. Oh, and it gets better.

EDWARD SCISSOR HANDS

Oh! And guess what else was in the carry-all bag? What if I told you that it was returned to me empty except for some cash AND a pair of scissors! Yes. I swear to you, I was not permitted to have my Biotène dry mouth spray, but they returned my bag with my scissors in it. Can you believe that? What a clusterfu*k!

I found out after my stay, that my closest friend, whom I’ve known since I was 9 years old, spent 6 months in that ward; I was shocked. I remembered him being admitted there when we were in our early twenties, and I even remember visiting him once or twice, but I had no recollection of him staying that long! Anyhow, turns out he escaped. He managed to get out and literally ran away in his hospital gown and paper slippers all the way home. I also recently learned that someone I know who suffers from similar degenerative autoimmune diseases as I do was also once admitted there and she swears it was the worst experience of her life. Everyone I speak to who has had any sort of contact with this hospital, and specifically, the psych ward, says the same thing: It’s a NIGHTMARE.

A friend of mine, after hearing about my dreadful experience with mental health services, recently wrote to me and had this to say:

"I wish I could help you somehow, but as I said a long time ago, your situation is beyond any layperson’s ability. But I can’t stop thinking about you ending up in a psych ward for depression and dark thoughts. Psych wards stabilize people with mental issues, just enough to send them back home. No one is getting any real help there. And I cringe thinking about someone suffering from depression in one of those places. For someone like you, who needed SUPPORT and HELP for depression, a psych ward is the last place you needed to be - talk about a depressing place to be to overcome depression!! Not just senseless, but damaging!!” - Amy

In my upcoming closing chapter, I hope to address what “good” did come out of this experience.

Below, PINK's song, "Just Like A Pill". Enjoy.

- Patrick Franc

a.k.a.: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bionic Man

Just Like A Pill – PINK

I'm lyin' here on the floor where you left me
I think I took too much
I'm crying here, what have you done?
I thought it would be fun

I can't stay on your life support
There's a shortage in the switch
I can't stay on your morphine
'Cause it's making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she's being a little bitch
I think I'll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me ill

I haven't moved from the spot where you left me
This must be a bad trip
All of the other pills, they were different
Maybe I should get some help

I can't stay on your life support
There's a shortage in the switch
I can't stay on your morphine
'Cause it's making me itch
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she's being a little bitch
I think I'll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me ill

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me ill

I can't stay on your life support
There's a shortage in the switch (just like a pill)
I can't stay on your morphine
'Cause it's making me itch (just like a pill)
I said I tried to call the nurse again
But she's being a little bitch (just like a pill)
I think I'll get outta here, where I can

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me ill

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears
And I swear you're just like a pill
'Stead of makin' me better
You keep makin' me ill
You keep makin' me ill

Run just as fast as I can
To the middle of nowhere
To the middle of my frustrated fears

Comments


  • Be the first to leave a comment!
Add a Comment
Your email address will not be displayed or shared.