Two broad men in uniform approach me. They look tense. A collection of tools hangs from their waists. I notice the shape of a gun strapped to each of their sides.
“Your name is not John. You think you’re a lawyer, but you’re not. You never have been. You’re going to need to come with us. Get in the car…now.” I run instead of following these strange people, armed with weapons.
Who are these people? They’re coming for me…I knew they would. They’ve been trying to get me for a while now. I dart through the doorway past the men in uniform. I’ve never been so afraid in my life.
Where do they want to take me? I run down the street looking for help. I’ve never moved so fast. I look over my shoulder and see the men gaining on me.
I can’t keep this up. I am tackled to the ground. I struggle to get up, but my hands are restrained: soon I am in handcuffs. They say they need to take me to the hospital.
What will they do to me there? I’m perfectly okay! This must be a mistake. “LET ME GO!”
There are many more people at the hospital. They all stare at me as I struggle for freedom. The look on their faces makes me think I’m crazy. They strap me to a bed; five security guards hold me down. I can’t move. People start touching me, poking me, stabbing me. Someone has a needle and steals my blood.
“Stop killing me! You’re taking all my blood!” My voice rings out, “Ahhhhh! Ouch, you’re killing me!”
This is John’s experience.
I can’t help but stare. The cries coming from this man in the triage bay echo through the department. Everyone seems to be caught in a daze: security, nurses, doctors, students, patients and visitors. Not five seconds ago, this place was a typical emergency room, bustling with energy and chaos. Now, everyone has stopped. It has been reduced to a gawking room.
The next words to reach my ears come from a nurse nearby who turns to her colleague and says, flippantly, “There’s a psych case.”
Her colleague responds, “Oh great…”
The doctor barges out of the triage area and smugly brags, “He took eight of midaz!”
At that moment, in the midst of everyone staring at this struggling man in the triage area, I feel my heart light on fire. It is as if the chaos of the emergency room that had existed not five minutes ago has found a new home inside me. My mind starts racing, and a million thoughts beg to be vocalized; yet nothing comes out of my mouth. I feel all the things I want to say stuck in my throat. I look around to see if anyone else hears them. No one even notices that I am looking around the room. There I stand in the corner, writing my note, alone.
A clear thought comes to mind: I’m just a clerk. Who am I to stand in front of this entire group of people and tell them that there will not be any popcorn, that this isn’t a show? I am lost. Why is this my first thought? Have I really lost my integrity so quickly in clinical medicine?
Sure, John is acutely psychotic and extremely agitated, but I want to help everyone in the room realize that this is the worst day of this man’s life. Not many people can say they’ve had their life flipped completely upside down.
John is put into a room with cement brick walls painted the dullest shade of grey you can buy. An obvious camera and one-way mirror let John know he is being watched. There is a single bed, with four-point restraints hanging off the mattress, in case he feels like running. The floor is barren, dirty and scuffed. The only things missing are bars across the door, but the health care system is strapped for money. This is the best we can offer our patients.
John, who was dragged to the hospital by police, is left here to wait for “help.” Not only did help show up four hours later, but it also expected him to take medication for his “problem.”
“Trust us,” they say, as I watch from the sidelines. I’m a fresh face, lost in a sea of experience.
I’m left wondering why anyone would dare admit they have a mental illness.