I am reading Girl, Interrupted at the suggestion of a friend who like me had seen the movie first. I have also read The Bell Jar and Prozac Nation with the same interest. While I am sure that the true story accounts of women who have been put away in loony bins or put on drugs lack the whole story, from what they describe, being locked up doesn't seem all that bad. I think anyone with even a mildly clear mind who is locked away under the assumption that it's for their own good become aware over time that by comparison to living in the real world, being crazy isn't all that bad. The same might be said by prisoners.

It is not that I agree, and in fact I am upset that such a world view could become popular opinion, but I won't pretend that the scenarios presented in these accounts haven't been, to a degree, appealing to me. Of course, that's with the assumption that I have a lot in my own life to escape from.

In a sense, an asylum can be a sort of asylum in the positive sense, depending on what it is you need to have removed from your life in order to attain a state of suspension in which it is assumed you are to get better. I look at my interest to attend L'Abri for a few weeks this fall in much the same way. To be able to, and then to willfully choose to remove myself from the normal world (even for just 2 weeks) seems like the sort of choice we need to make more often. Vacations don't always attain this, since it's usually other people, not the world, that becomes the focus, so it's not always a rest. I don't know about you, but I cannot seem to legitimize taking time off work unless I am doing something else, meaning that I have plans which are often just as harried and hectic, if not more so, than my regular life. But for L'Abri I am making the choice to do nothing, or a little more than nothing. Since the term there is 3 months and even though I will only be there for a few weeks studying pretty much what I decide, I won't be expected to do much outside of typical chores allotted to all students and individual study.

When I explain to people about L'Abri, their only desire for me is that I could go for a longer period. While I would love to go a whole term, it is not financially feasible. And like those who may not choose to be put away, I don't want to spend so much time away from the real world that I have a hard time readjusting to it when it is time to return.

Our world is shrinking, our space falling in on us at times. Our time is burned up, and not just linear time, not just the time of years and birthdays. Everyday time. Time to ourselves, time to decompress, time to not have to be anywhere or do anything. Anyone who tells me that I am a member of a slacker generation can go fuck themselves. And what's funny is that it's been going on longer than we realize. Girl, Interrupted was written from the 60's and 70's, The Bell Jar even further back. Are these women the norm? No. But I'm getting the impression that we can relate to them almost too much, that they are not as eccentric and crazed as they once seemed.

So instead of waiting to get a therapist, instead of waiting for one stupid thing I do to warrant an overzealous outreach in an effort to heal me of my often burdensome thoughts, I'm going to L'Abri. I'm buying the air fare and paying for my room and board while I'm there. I'm giving up a week's pay. Just so that I can sit in a quiet library with a wood burning stove and read, just so I can sit around a table with other people and share meals with them, so I can share a room with 6 other women for two weeks. So the world can slow down for once.

The author of "Girl, Interrupted" wasn't crazy. Neither is Elizabeth Wurtzel, the author of "Prozac Nation".

The difference between crazy and having "issues" is an importent thing to remember. Both of these authors realized they could be sane. They could live, and survive. It may not have been the life they wanted, but they were safe. The dangers they came across were calculated and executed by their own hand. They knew what the consequences in reality were, and acted on that. That isn't crazy to me. It is quite sane, almost too sane in a way.
I once worked in a place that wasn't quite a mental asylum but certainly was used as the 'storage bin' for lots of crazy people (a Salvation Army residential centre). Basically, they'd send people to us who weren't dangerous to anybody but couldn't quite hack it on the streets.

Our patient management techniques were pretty basic. Dope them up until they were content to be bored. Thorazine. Stenozanol. King sized doses of Ativan. Anything to put people into a nice drooling haze, where all they do is sit around and watch TV. N0 talking. NO bitching. NO thinking. NO therapy. Just 3 hospital meals a day, drooling, and plenty of television. Make sure they swallow their pills! Wouldn't want anyone thinking now, would we?

I remember one guy in particular. He had a pretty serious case of Tourette's Syndrome (where you curse, swear, and abuse yourself pathologically). When he first arrived he was pretty abusive, even with his meds. The staff complained. They increased his dosages. He calmed down a little, and hunched over and drooled, but he would still occasionally call the attendants "sons of fucking whores" and the like. So, more meds, different meds, a whole fucking little cup full of different-coloured pills twice a day. Make sure he swallows! After that he wouldn't even budge when you dropped off his food tray. He'd just stare off into nothingness and drool on himself. For all intents and purposes, he was dead, kept physically alive to fund the institution.

Think this is abnormal? Think again. At least we didn't strap people into their beds or give them electroshock therapy. These guys had been released from the serious institutions. And in the serious institutions they routinely threaten troublesome patients with these sorts of things. Won't take your meds? Fine. We'll schedule you for EST on Monday. People get real co-operative when you threaten them with electrical torture.

The ward they send you to for a couple of weeks when you have a breakdown is not the same as the one filled with the lifers. This is no tropical island we're talking about. You should take a look at 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and take that as a guide to the reality of mental institutions instead of these silly ass novels and movies. I'd rather be in a cage then exiled to a living death with the latest in pharmaceutical technology.

just a minor clarification: Tourette Syndrome is not defined by the symptoms of "cursing swearing and abusing yourself pathologically." The swearing variety is known as coprolalia and is actually very rare, but thats the characteristic that the media latches on to. What TS is is "a neurological disorder characterized by TICS - involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly at irregular intervals." This could be twitches, jerks, spasms, sniffs, grunts, squeaks or screams. The person doesnt intend to make this disruption, but it is INVOLUNTARY and he or she CANT HELP IT. Its like an itch and you HAVE to scratch it.
I guess this is turning into an entry that should be under Tourette Syndrome, not When i read about crazy women..., but i felt it necessary to mention it here because a lot of times people with tourette syndrome are sent to institutions like the aformentioned because of just this misunderstanding.
To add a little credit to my entry i should say that i have Tourette Syndrome.

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