The Great Experiment by Barbara Summers

“Dear Mum,
Looks like the dizziness I was having and rainbow vision is something worse than “Silent Migraines”, I may have to have an operation. I’m scheduled for a biopsy in June so we won’t be coming to visit this year. Meghan will be disappointed for sure. But I’m sure she’ll find lots of fun things to do this summer, and Ian will definitely fly kites with her since he’s back into that hobby again. I’m sure they’ll be fine on their own, since I’m only going to be in hospital for 3 days – they might get hungry though!”

The Biopsy

The nurse runs in when I press my help button and I point and say “That lady threw her diaper on the floor”. (First I hear a crinkling then I hear a flump as the wet diaper hits the floor between our beds. I guess it felt weird to her and she couldn’t stand it, but when I thought of the mess on her sheets I had to notify someone.)

Poor nurses, always running around cleaning up messes. One of them said to me how nice it was to have someone to talk to in this ward, most are out of it, she said. But I only had a biopsy so my thinking is just fine. I don’t really feel like chatting though.

The doctor did it without anesthetic which was bizarre. My head was screwed into a stereotactic metal frame. He said it would be no different from going to the dentist but it would be the top of my head being drilled! He doesn’t know what a phobia I have about dentists or he wouldn’t have used that analogy. The brain feels no pain, once they numb the scalp there’s no pain at all so it wasn’t even as bad as going to the dentist. At least for me.

The steel frame they screwed my head into left a couple of injuries on my forehead where I’ve got two bandaids now. Earlier, I joked to the guys who wheeled me to the MRI machine that “I don’t want to scare any children, I look like Frankenstein”. They chuckled but seemed to be a bit surprised that I was making jokes. I knew it was unlikely that there were going to be any children on the way to the MRI machine, and I also know Frankenstein was NOT the name of the monster but I had to lighten the mood. Everyone was feeling sorry for me.

September

I left the ICU after about a week and went into a regular hospital room. There were two new sets of stitches on my body from the shunt operation, one on the upper right chest and one on my abdomen on the right side. These cause me some confusion later when I think that I’ve had my heart removed, and probably an ovary as well. After all, I reasoned, I have very little emotion so maybe my heart which for some strange reason had been on the right side, was now gone. Sometimes I’m nervous when I watch the nurse taking my pulse, afraid that there won’t be one. My logical ability was not working anymore.

For the first two weeks my right eyelid was half closed, the vision was dark in that eye but soon healed. Seeing how I looked in the mirror, I covered my face with a scarf to hide the disfigurement. My mother who had travelled from Ontario had brought several scarves to cover my shaved and stitched scalp but I chose to wear this particular one like a veil. As soon as I moved to a regular room I got a rental TV, paid for by my Dad, and enjoyed watching the warped images on the TV screen through the wavy blue patterns of the scarf. I thought I saw people I knew on TV and pointed them out, though I was always mistaken. Up and down the channels I’d go, watching a minute of each program. My attention span was very short.

My Catholic upbringing surfaced at this time, mythical concepts of heaven and hell were very real to me – a childlike view of reality returned. About 8 years before, I had gone back to attending church and was aware and grateful that masses were being said for me. I was no longer a Catholic though. My husband is a Quaker and his group were also praying for me. My psychiatrist was a Buddhist and I found out later that he was doing a silent healing meditation for me while he sat with me. All this love being sent, it was a revelation that people cared so much.

I continued to have MRIs and CAT scans to see how things were healing: the ventricle was starting to shrink back to its normal size after having been stretched out of shape by the tumour. One day I threw up in the machine while laying on my back, this was not only a very unpleasant experience but very inconvenient for the hospital. I remember feeling queasy while being wheeled down the hall but I didn’t stress it enough to the nurse I guess. In the machine there’s a light that spins round and round which is the thing that takes your picture, this time it made me feel dizzy. “It was like a volcano”, I whispered hoarsely to my daughter. As she told me later, this was one of the most horrible moments of her life.

I’ll never forget the first time I was wheeled outside to sit in the gentle late September sunshine, onto a patio just outside the cafeteria. The outside world seemed unusually vivid, like a Disney cartoon, complete with bright greenery and trusting birds and rabbits who wanted to be my friends. This particular hospital had a lot of rabbits living on the grounds. There was one black one that came near and sat up on its hind legs to stare at me. It felt like a magical garden, where birds were not afraid but patiently sat allowing me to enjoy looking at them. Perhaps I was Saint Francis of Assisi‚Ķ

Pierre Trudeau dies, three days later his ghost appears in Rm. 606 in Victoria General Hospital. Comes to help desperate woman but really is a bit flirty and says he’s sorry when he bangs against her leg in bed. It’s her psychiatrist. From Kansas. He looks just like Trudeau. Ian assures me he’s a real person a few days later.

Eating jello while sitting up in bed she realized how sick she was. Who eats jello in bed? A child just getting over measles, a woman recovering from brain surgery – she had been the child, now she was the woman. She was so brain damaged that she wasn’t sure what had happened to her. It was the shiny cubes of green jello that alerted her, gave the clue, that everything was wrong. Now she was glad to get whatever they sent on a tray. The surprise was part of the pleasure. Today was macaroni and cheese with mushroom soup plus dessert. Though she rejected the soup as she had hated it since childhood.

There was no real pain, just a slight headache but for the past ten years I’d had terrible migraines so this was nothing special. Most of the time I was content. I was a big baby reclining in my cranked up bed with the sides up, surrounded by cards and flowers, all the books I wanted, three meals a day, plus an evening snack delivered by a kind nurse. No responsibilities. I think part of the tranquility came from the drugs I was given to rest my healing brain. I couldn’t walk at first and stayed in bed most of the time. Nurses came to see her in pairs, taking blood pressure, shining a flashlight in her eyes, asking what year it was. It was 2000, the new millennium. Ian and Meghan visited daily after school and every day she asked him the same question, “Am I in heaven or hell?” He’d give the same answer every day, “You’re in hospital, you had a brain tumour removed but your family is around and you’re safe.”

My husband brought in an mp3 player, it was a new invention and I’d never seen one before. He and my daughter spent the previous evening downloading all my favourite songs onto it, which I’d collected on Napster. Neurosurgery ward nurses were asked to switch it on and place the headphones on me, which they did. Now I was washed in familiar music. There’s a theory that music helps a disconnected brain to heal and I believe it worked. My brain had been cut and divided down the middle, at the corpus callosum. The large benign tumour was hard as wood, making it only possible to chop into smaller pieces using a saw. No wonder my brain was temporarily out of order. Dr. Cameron said it had been growing for 30 years. Now there was an empty space where there used to be a tumour, just as nature intended for the ventricle. The stereo sound seemed to come from the center of my head, near the back. I paid complete attention, the lyrics seeped into my thoughts. “I may have a new brain, but the old songs are still inside”, I thought. I merged with every singer of every song and absorbed the mood like a sponge.

My headphones were like an IV for music. One song, Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, had a plaintive “talking guitar” at the end which communicated just as well as an actual voice, in fact more. (“All I do is kiss you/Through the bars of a rhyme”). Mozart I rejected because it exhausted me to follow those complicated melodies, my mind went up and down the scale like it was an elaborately built set of complicated stairs, as in a painting by Escher. I followed the notes so carefully, I got lost in the maze.

I was lonely at night and would listen to my MP3 headphones for hours. My private retreat. The sounds of the hospital were becoming familiar, the flushing of toilets and beeping of machines, soft talking at the nurses station. (Song playing: Dream Letter by Tim Buckley, “Oh, please listen darling/To my empty prayer/Sleep inside my dreams tonight”). Coleridge’s “pleasure dome” from Xanadu, my head became the source of endless fantasy. I thought I was in an opium den.

Up to now, my own feelings were flat. In fact, they had been that way for months, even before the operation – when I discovered about the brain tumour I had felt detached and was philosophical about it. After getting the results of the biopsy I spent every minute researching the benign subependymoma, a grade 1 tumour. After it was removed, all that was left was a vague fear of enemies and general affection for those who took care of me, plus an odd relationship with words and sayings. Plus a lack of emotions. Ian had to remind me to hug our 12 year old daughter and tell her I loved her, which I obediently did. Although I could talk, my face showed little expression and my voice came out in a robotic dull monotone. One day, one wonderful day, I made fun of myself: I joked that I was now a “slow talker” after listening to a comedy routine by Bob and Ray called “Slow Talkers of America”. The fact that I still had a sense of humour cheered up my family.

I had the odd delusion that my roommate Crystal and I shared a brain. I had the left half and she had the right – together we were one unit. I read avidly, and enjoyed it – though I do recall turning a book upside down to see if it was more interesting that way – it was Fifth Business by Robertson Davies and I found it took a lot more time to read that way. While reading The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro, I kept looking over at Crystal to see how she was enjoying the book. Of course my mind was not directly transmitting to her brain, and she was not the other half of me, though I believed the opposite. I just assumed that her face wasn’t registering a reaction due to her stoic personality. I had a scientific theory about how and why we were one unit, it had something to do with the nearby ocean affecting the salt levels in our bodies, that we had turned into positive and negative components of a human battery. She gave me a toy stuffed rabbit for my 47th birthday which I still have and regard as an artifact from a strange former life. Actually she was there for a spinal operation and kept saying I was “a hoot”.

There were fresh pink flowers that bloomed for the whole time I lived in that room in Victoria General Hospital. I never watered it yet it was always perfect. Magically it seemed to live on air. After I left the hospital I found out there were volunteers who maintained the plants and that its name was cyclamen. I also found a most peculiar blue and purple flower on a washroom counter that seemed like it might have been dropped from an alien planet, turns out it was an orchid. I kept it on the table beside my bed for days because it was not only magical but weird.

Just as in cartoons and movies they show crazy people thinking they’re Napoleon, I also had delusions of grandeur. I was the Virgin Mary or Gandhi or Queen Victoria, sometimes even Mr. Spock. When I was Queen Victoria, I’d roll my favourite mohair blanket into a ball and it became a faithful dog at my feet – it wasn’t allowed to fall on the floor because that would be disrespectful to the royal dog. As I was wheeled down the hall I would hold out my arms, palms up, and bless those around me. My daughter says that she told me I should put my arms down so they wouldn’t bump into walls but I said that I had to do it. My head was now totally shaved so the hair would grow back evenly, having previously been more of a Friar Tuck style, and I must have looked peculiar. But I was ecstatic and lived in a timeless realm where I radiated joy. If I could make that feeling happen again, I would.

It wasn’t all beautiful in my altered world. Most frightening delusion: that my eyes were made of glass and that they might melt – I held a paper cup alternately under each eye to catch them when they melted. Looking back, I realize this came about after a phone call from my artist brother where we discussed Dali’s melting clock picture, The Persistence of Memory. Funny how I could sound intelligent on the phone, yet act so strangely. Other people had two glass eyes as well, including my physiotherapist. This didn’t really didn’t make any sense – I finally realized while going for a walk and holding onto his arm that since he could see rabbits outside the windows, how could his eyes be made of glass? Wouldn’t that make him blind?

The nightmares would sometimes merge with the daydreams, and haunt me. My throat had been scratched by the breathing tube inserted during the 7 hour operation, so at times I whispered – partly for medical reasons but also because I was afraid enemies were listening to me. What enemies? Hostile men, possibly escaped convicts, were after me. Sometimes they were hiding in my closet, other times they were under my bed. After I got out of hospital I changed my name from my maiden name to my married name, so they couldn’t track me down.
Charles Manson clung to the underside of my bed for a while and rocked it gently until I fell asleep. Strangely, he wanted to comfort me in hospital, how he got there was another mystery that I didn’t question. The Great Experiment continued.

For a while I thought I was part of a First Nations tribe, that my tribal name was Full Moon and that a man called Red Thunder was out to get me. He hid in my closet, ready to pop out. I knew the name Full Moon was appropriate for me because not only was I big and round, but a lunatic. Yes, I was aware of my craziness at times. I was given a fairly new drug called Risperdone by my assigned psychiatrist. He asked Ian, “Has your wife always been this paranoid?” just in case it was a normal thing for me.

I felt sure that everyone was studying me, that nothing was private, that there were hidden cameras here and there watching me. My thoughts were being read. Somehow I was involuntarily sending them down the hall to a machine that printed them for all the nurses to read and laugh over. I could smell the machine’s printing fluid and hear the clackity clack of the printer. TV became scary. I’d nervously skip over one channel that seemed to always have references to myself: I called it the “Me Channel”. On Fawlty Towers John Cleese was frantically opening doors: I knew one of them was connected to a secret door in my wall. I read the newspaper instead of visiting with my family who had brought it to me, and was amazed at finding stories about myself.

REACTING TO THE NUMBER 30 IS PROHIBITED AS HIDDEN CAMERAS ARE WATCHING TO SEE IF YOUR BIRTHDAY ON SEPTEMBER 30th HAS BEEN NOTICED… KEEP CALM AND COOL. NO EXPRESSION

Eventually they put me in a room right across from the nurse’s station, located there I think because after I began walking, I was a particularly troublesome patient who wandered in and out of other people’s rooms and needed to be watched. Towards the end of my stay, sometime in October I wrote a note of apology which I later found in the things I brought home. It was written on the blank back of a dinner menu sheet, ripped. “To all, I realize that I’ve been a rude and interfering “guest” here but I feel insecure about my role. If I have a “role” as such. At first I thought I was in a play but I still” (the rest is torn off). On the other side it says DIET: GE GENERAL, NO RED MEAT”. I had crossed out the “NO RED MEAT” adding an apologetic note beside it “If that’s offensive to anyone”.

I send written reports to the kitchen staff on the back of my daily menus because they say Your Comments are Welcome. I was sure they found them interesting.

Singapore Rosehip was my name

Good/Evil. I read everything.

Dr. Walton says a familiar voice. Might have been Dr. Watkins.

Time is elastic – full moon is true filming me WOW.

Genetic modification usually improves people.

So George died and all these people came to the funeral! I guessed.

Paul is mad + Mrs. Columbo

Liz, Lolly and I are the three queens.

Landrover = Wandering Jew…

Me alive apparently – not sure.

Jonah = potential danger

Dr. Ivor is being paged. That’s Shawn’s voice.

I might have HIV so I better not go home.

(And so I went on, sending back my menu with my random thoughts on the tray.)

Although “me was alive” I was worried that I had contracted HIV in hospital. I insisted on being tested once I was released from hospital. Some of my fantasies were sexual and I wasn’t so sure that they were all imaginary. That was hard to explain to my family doctor, but he said they’d do the test if I was really worried about it.

In the middle of one night I fell down near the sink after going to the bathroom. I looked up at the towel rack high above my head and attempted to reach for it but I would have been too weak to pull myself up anyway. So I lay there for hours. In the morning my husband wanted to speak to me on the phone – a nurse searched for me when she found my bed empty. I don’t remember the rescue but I do remember being cold on the tiled floor.

1 to 4 was quiet time. Sometimes I’d feel guilty about walking down the hall during these hours, not wanting to disturb the patients and then realize that I was one myself, that the rule was there to protect me, not condemn me. And then there were painful times that I felt guilty of unnamed crimes – I remember standing humbly in front of the door marked “Soiled Linen” feeling that I belonged there, this was my penance. (Song playing: Coat of Shame by Mae Moore, “I’m wearing a coat of shame/I’m the one to blame”). The hospital gown was my coat of shame. At these times, my delusions of grandeur reversed and became the illusion that I was a notorious criminal. I was Oscar Wilde, jeered at while handcuffed for hours on a railway platform, waiting for the train that would take him to prison.

Strangers often reminded me of someone else, while I sometimes didn’t recognize familiar people. Several hospital workers looked very familiar, cleaners and nurses in particular, so I happily thought that my cousins and aunts and uncles surrounded me in the hospital. I’d ask someone’s name and think they were tricking me when they gave the wrong one. The voice over the intercom sounded like one of my sisters-in-law, so I was sure she was downstairs in the office. Doctors were being paged all day long and it was her voice. When my brother called I’d casually ask him where his wife was, checking to see if it was possible that she’d moved 3000 miles across the country to work in this hospital. At the other extreme, when my husband’s business partner paid me a visit, bringing a picture book of English gardens, I thought he was a nice volunteer from church. When I mentioned this to him later, he said he had no idea that I didn’t recognize him at the time. I suppose I was friendly enough, and grateful to be visited so appeared to know what was going on. But in this case, I didn’t.

I got a few gifts from friends and relatives, one of which was the book Chocolate. It seemed like it was going to be a very thorough study of my favorite food but turned out to be a fictional work. Our friend Bill carved me a little wooden box with an inset lid and the words ‚ÄúWe love you Barb‚ÄĚ were also carved into it. Bill and his wife had been our friends for 20 years. I was touched ‚Äď later I made it into a little boat by folding my worn out hospital bracelet around it, and as it was Noah’s Ark I left it on the nurse’s counter as an offering. There was something odd about that counter, I noticed that there was a wet spot that never dried on it, and I positioned the boat on that wet spot. It seemed to signify the eternal cycle of life and that was my message. I began to worry that someone might steal my boat so later I retrieved it and put it back in my closet.

I believe it was in a dream about conflict and enemies that I thought of the anti-present. A gift to give to those who have offended you. One was a teddy bear nailed to a plaque, for hanging dismally on the wall. Another was an ugly construction of driftwood nailed together into the shape of a spiderweb. Another was a cooked rabbit presented in a casserole dish, cut into pieces and then put back together into the shape of a baby. The unlucky recipient would open up the anti-present with horror and get the point.

Often I was lost in waking fantasies which blended into my dreams. I was generally happy, at times ecstatic. (Song playing: Heaven by the Talking Heads, “Heaven is a place/Where nothing ever happens”). I wrote down pages and pages of these visions when I got home from the hospital. In some fantasies I was going to give birth to a new messiah, maybe a female one this time for the new millennium. In another I thought I was the victim of an anti-Catholic conspiracy where small bombs had been implanted in my body during surgery and that this was the real story behind the death of JFK. I suppose people coming and going would interrupt the storyline, maybe changing it a bit, but I’d just flow back into it.

Often I would be confused about who I’d seen in reality and who I’d only dreamed about. I didn’t want scary strangers tracking me down, so I wrote the name Jackie on a piece of cardboard, went outside the room and stuck it on a nail, covering up my name plate. Why Jackie? I thought that was the name of the head nurse. I figured this would really put them off my scent.

Thoughts of war as I looked around at all the hurt people I passed in the hall with their bandages and wounds. What was causing all these injuries and why were all these damaged people around? Sometimes I heard helicopters outside and they were the enemy shooting at us with machine guns. There was a fierce war going on outside spattering blood on the building. One day as it was raining hard, I studied the water coming down in sheets on the window and puzzled about how blood could be clear. (Song playing: Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen, “That night that you planned to go clear/Did you ever go clear?”) The idea of it simply being rain eluded me.

Did I mention these thoughts to people or did I just keep my mouth shut to be on the safe side? Not sure who I could trust, I kept quiet. Sometimes I wasn’t entirely sure anyone was trustworthy. I was cautious about sharing my private worries after a few botched attempts at communicating. For example, I met with odd responses from nurses when I asked if my room was being sprayed with morphine from the ceiling nozzles – I thought this might explain why I always felt sleepy. My solid evidence was the fact that my blankets had turned a dull green colour after being blue the week before. Morphine would be green I supposed. All attempts at figuring out the puzzle were fairly useless, but apparently my main job was to be a detective and searching for clues kept my mind busy. It was all a mystery. I now lived in an opium den.

Nights were full of unfamiliar noises and dark shadows, having the black and white nightmarish atmosphere of those film noir movies of the 40’s and 50’s. (Song playing: Music at Work by the Tragically Hip, “Everything is bleak./It’s the middle of the night./You’re all alone and/the dummies might be right”). Often there would be a night nurse with a flashlight shining a beam of light into my room, I imagined there was a dog with them but I doubt this is possible. The sound of a wheeled cart squeaking down the hall would suggest an image of a dead body being dragged off in the night. The next day I’d look on the hospital counter for evidence that a patient had died – if I saw a binder with a patient’s name and room number on it, I’d wander over to see if they were still in bed or had “disappeared”.

Nurses and doctors told me I was eventually going to be sent to the Gorge Hospital, a rehabilitation place. The name sounded ominous – I wasn’t quite sure if it was a trick to get rid of me permanently. I wrote my will the night before I was to go, making my husband Ian promise to give my great-grandmother’s diamond ring to my young daughter Meghan and to cut off all her hair to make sure she was “safe”. I still have that note. We had just bought our first house in November 1999, so at least we had a stable home situation. We did it mainly for Meghan’s sake. I would love it if my tumour had never happened, but it did.

Sometimes at night, I’d open the curtains and study the moon and stars. During the day, across the way I could see an artistic looking row of huge colourful pipes on an outside wall – blue, red and yellow which I assume hid uglier utility pipes inside. They attracted and mystified me. On my wall, there were scratches at about waist level, no doubt made by beds being pushed back and forth. I had a theory about these – it was a scientific instrument connected with sunrise, the speed that the pinky-orange light moved across the scratches was a way to measure time, like a sun dial. So little to do, so much time to stare. (Song playing: Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads, “Letting the days go by/Water flowing underground/ Into the blue again/Into the silent water”). Hand gestures were suddenly important: I held my hands in the praying position, like the rabbit toy I’d been given as I was sure this would protect me from all bad things.

Reclining in bed I studied my hands, holding them up above my head to get a good view of the ring fingers which still wobbled back and forth. Sometimes I’d do Spock’s “live long and prosper” symbol with both hands – after all, I was unemotional like him. I can imagine how bizarre this looked to people passing by in the hallway. (Song playing: Season of the Witch by Donovan, “When I look out my window/ Many sights to see./ And when I look in my window/ So many different people to be”)

I studied one of my nurses. His head was shaved, to disguise the receding hairline and his voice was rough, as if his vocal chords had been damaged. He had a goatee. As he reached across me to take my blood pressure I noticed there were scars across the veins on his wrists. Clearly this man had committed suicide and then risen from the dead. He became Jesus Christ the Suicide Nurse to me and I admired him. I would peek out the window of my door after it had been shut at bedtime, hoping he was on the night shift. And then the sleeping pills would take effect and it was bedtime again. More dreaming…

I got another roommate, a nice young woman who reminded me of my childhood friend Helen, so that’s what I called her. She had a stuffed Pink Panther toy hanging upside-down from her bed, I assumed it was there to keep an eye on the dangerous space under the bed and protect her. To protect us. I kept covering her bare legs, she soon was transferred down the hall and from then on I had the room to myself. A friend gave me a copy of an English newspaper, The Guardian: I carried it with me everywhere and even brought it home, because I read the title as “the guard Ian” and was sure it was not only a newspaper but a lucky charm for protecting my husband Ian.

My bedside table was not only the surface I ate on, but also wrote on. It tended to squeak when it was moved because one of the screws was coming loose underneath. I’d roll it back and forth to hear it squeak. I remember thinking it was sort of like me. I too “had a screw loose”. This was half-funny and half-sad to me.

A brain-injured woman sits rubbing her shaved head for hours: my hair was beginning to grow into longer stubble – I’d imagine it was a crop of wheat, complete with farmers wandering through, discovering giant puffball mushrooms as they roamed. At the back was the bump of the shunt under my scalp, which I continually mistook for a bullet. I kept feeling it, worrying that it might explode at any time. There were silkworms spinning silk inside my head, not an abnormal fantasy for people with healing brains, or so I later read. I had plans to weave this silk into beautiful cloth someday. I knew this was too revolting to tell people so I didn’t.

The hospital was now my universe. The large window beside me, a square of blue sky, was the door to heaven. (Song: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan, “That long black cloud is comin’ down/I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door”). In the elevator, after pressing the button for the lowest floor I expected to see the fires of hell when the door slid open. Instead, what I saw after being wheeled out of the elevator and down the long hall to the cafeteria, was a world of green trees outside. Another Green World. But there were red leaves among the green because autumn was coming – they were at least a parallel colour to hellfire. So my mind worked. Certain colours took on exaggerated symbolic meaning, some were traditional like red = evil/hell and green = hope/life.

Others were specific to the hospital – for instance I learned that the emergency call of “code yellow” meant that a patient was escaping. Being dressed in yellow pajamas could meant you were a patient who had tried to escape. I was one of them, after I made a cunning getaway just before Hallowe’en, the day after the nurse tied me to my bed after I kept wandering into the next room. I called 911. They didn’t help me when they saw where I was located. I took the bus home, dressed in blue jeans and an ivory sweater my parents gave me for my birthday, but had to return to the hospital the same day. Because I’d figured out the symbolism of the colour yellow, I refused to wear those pyjamas. The pants were also too tight. Purple clothing meant that you were a novice, at least in my mind. I came up with this theory because many of the younger nurses wore uniforms that were deep purple, it must have been the newest colour being offered. So I’d wear my purple corduroy shirt, to show that I too was a novice. (Song playing: One Hand in my Pocket by Alanis Morissette: “And what it all comes down to/ Is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet”) Later, after I was released from hospital I deliberately wore a windbreaker that was a patchwork of the above colours, silently declaring that I had a bit of everything in me – good, evil, craziness and all.”

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion‚ÄĒbroadly speaking‚ÄĒof psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

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