How I Lost and Found my Mind

Reunited, the doc and I, and no, it doesn’t feel very good at all.

She asked for my name, date of birth; where I thought I was, and why I thought I was there. She was making sure their method of sedation hadn’t loosened any screws already hanging by a thread.

“Excuse me doc, you start off with that? Not even a, ‘How are you sport? It’s been a while. I hope your head feels better soon. How about a tissue to wipe the shit from your eyes?’ ”

I put an emphasis on “Shit”. She detests vulgarities. At least, that was my theory (patients too can have their own theories about the white-coats doing the majority of probing) I just looked for the tick in her face. Just in case it got to her.

She looked at me with wide eyes, giant emerald gems they were, though they looked worried. Then she glanced down at her sleek, polished desk-phone. As if she were deciding whether or not to call in security.

“Did she have security now?” I thought.

Her earlier jovial manner dropped dead. Very clinical. There’s that word again; clinical. Gives me the shakes.

“I’m sorry Francis, I should have been more…”

Queue lengthy pause. “Clinical” perhaps?

“…accommodating. You weren’t exactly taken in under the best of circumstances this time around. Do you remember anything?”

I, a little upset with the wording, fired back.

Last time, this happened in a cozy duplex where I came in semi-willingly. On this occasion, for all I know, some brute dosed me and dragged me in here like an animal.”

“Now Franc…”

“What the hell happened doc? And why exactly am I waking up in front of you covered in what looks like dirt and… is this dog crap? Is this standard procedure?!

I began breathing heavily. I could have handled that… differently.

She was uneasy, I could tell; apprehensive to continue. Her brow furrowed like a concerned parent after learning a beloved child just committed their first petty crime. I didn’t know what I had done to justify special-delivery to her new office, or someone’s office. But it had to be a doozy.
She started to explain the details… They were pretty grim.

“Okay, Francis, fair enough. We brought you here, please, allow me to explain why.”

“Your mom called 911 when you were unresponsive during a phone-call. She said you were frantic, screaming about your dog’s death. And the line went dead.”

She looked at me in a way she never had before: genuine concern, truly worried with what came next. Possibly disturbed even, though I remain the only clinically disturbed person at present. She continued.

“The paramedics found you in your back yard, digging a hole several feet deep. You put your dog next to it; and you, in the trench digging “with purpose” is how they described you. When the crew attempted to get you out after refusing a verbal request, you became cross. You wouldn’t let anyone near the dog or the hole. They told me you were swinging away with the shovel gripped like a baseball bat in your hands. You exclaimed, you insisted on having a proper burial for your dog. All the while taking swings at anyone whom came within arm’s reach. Realizing they may have had a mentally ill person at hand…”

I’m not sure what was broiling inside of me at the time, but it was getting worse.

“Excuse me, again, but, ‘Mentally-ill’ is the best you can come up with? I know I’m fucked, Sam. I woke up imprisoned.”

“You are not in prison, Francis, we are in a Psychiatric Ward….”

Suspicions confirmed.

“…And you are sitting in my new recliner. Don’t you like it?”

I nodded in agreement. It was actually nice. She cleared her throat and continued.

“Now, as I was saying, the paramedics realized they had a sensitive case on their hands…”

I smiled.

“… As fate would have it, by this time your mother had arrived and immediately suggested that I be contacted. Twenty minutes after I got the call I arrived with my new team. Full disclosure: we had to subdue you in a safe manner, Francis. For both you and my team. That meant my new colleague, Dr. Lark, and I had to order and administer a tranquilizer”

“Dr. Lark, the Chief Psychiatrist here offered me a position working along-side her. She was also responsible for your safe transport to this facility”

Safe, safe, safe. All they were worried about was me not croaking so they had something to poke at and still get paid.

As if she had been standing stage-left all this time, just waiting for her cue, Dr. Lark barged in and leaned against the desk next to Dr. Stuttgart, they smiled at each other genially, almost flirtatiously, then Dr. Lark’s focus darted towards me; studying the limp dud in the recliner. The two seemed a tad chummy for colleagues. But lark looked familiar. As if I’d seen her picture somewhere.

“Good evening Francis, it is a pleasure to finally meet you.”

She wore a knit green sweater on this day. Fair-skin, thin-rimmed specs sitting low on the tip of a slender nose. Tiny diamond ear-rings –though ethereal luminescent grains of sand they were –straight, brown hair leveling off at the mahogany desk she sat behind. One of those hand-made beauties with intricate handy-work carved into the trim. The desk was new. That much I had known.

She was trying to ask me something but I was still having trouble hearing her over the ringing in my ears so…

I knew where I was though. It was a typical shrink’s office, clearly not the doctor’s old duplex in Pasadena; house-wife in one partition, shrink in the other.

The setup was similar; calming, creamy, off-white coat of paint on the walls, warm low-lit room, a flower pot on a shelf; with the first tendril of a Violet-to-be, a plush la-z-boy recliner in which my comfortable bum sat, and the sensation my brain was being incubated gently by the warmth of the room to more easily extract breakthroughs.

That’s what the doc gets paid for anyway:  Making the patient feel comfortable while they chip away at mankind bit by bit. Still something seemed off when I sat there. This new place was more… clinical.

Then reality hit me, I was in a Ward. Shadows laced the frosted glass door in a quick step as orderlies, patients and the illustrious masters of dysfunction, the doctors, waltzed by, going through their daily routine; saving minds one poor sack at a time. My thoughts went bonkers.

“God only knows what I’m in for. Electroshock therapy?  Behavioral conditioning? A lobotomy! Do they still do those?…”  on and on and on.

Irrational questions were flooding my mind. All my life I feared Psychiatric Wards; with their mental probing, sedation, trick questions and a questionable promise to uphold your deepest, darkest secrets as “Confidential” The latter part encompasses Shrink’s in general. My past time with Dr. Stuttgart had helped ease the fear a bit. But you pay them exorbitant amounts of money to feed you pills and talk about life. I could have done that in a back-alley of Compton. But she was nice; or knew how to act it very well.

“At least”

I tried to convince myself.

“There’s a familiar face in view.”


I woke up feeling terrible, filthy, a little crusty around the mouth; fear crept into my skull as I laid nearly paralyzed on a recliner. An aroma hung thick in the air; of earth, sweat, dog crap, and a hint of Lilac. The former three were from me. Answers will come.

I had been out cold, indeed. Someone called my name as I was blinking the Sandman’s payload from my eyes.

“Francis? Come back to Earth, Francis.”

It was my therapist, Dr. Stuttgart; thank God. I didn’t know what to expect. A psych-ward, holding cell at the city jail, Heaven?

My mom hired Dr. Stuttgart shortly after my Grandma passed away. “just a precaution sweetie”. It was after hearing of my well-sauced performance at Sandy’s gig.

At the end of the party, already deflated and wet in the eyes from imagining my grandparents’ last day together; I thought about the last time I saw her smile. The last time I hugged her. The last time I could have paid a visit but instead I fucked around with my friends after school…

It broke me, I had a spell then, similar to what happened after Dino. But this had been more on the side of an alcoholic black-out, the party incident. No one thought much of it other than some drunken bastard who couldn’t hold his liquor.

Sandy didn’t know what to do. She tried though, I respect her for that. And I sure as hell wasn’t ready to label myself “mentally unstable”. Only my parents took notice of my supposed new attitude and asked questions. That’s when I had to start seeing the doc.

Nothing prepared me for Dino’s day. Nothing could have. What would?

How can anything simulate the feeling of a living, breathing entity, whom you care for on a level nearing your own blood, ceasing to exist before your own fucking eyes?

I saw him breath slower, as if he were simply going for a big snooze. Droopy eyes looked over at me, like he always did before he went to sleep–just to make sure I was still there I guess–and I could have sworn he winked one of his big browns at me. Then he took one long, deep breath, let it out in a puff. I laughed. He blew his big hound-dog ears up with a last breath; Signing off with a knee-slapper, classic Dino. I didn’t know.

Then he wasn’t doing anything. His belly wasn’t expanding anymore, he wouldn’t respond when I called his name. I screamed it. I patted his plush head like I would when he was under the weather, thinking maybe he fell ill and didn’t want to bother with my antics.

“Should I get some water?” I thought to myself.

In his later years, I would bring little bowls of water when he had one of his bad spells and didn’t want to move around much. The vet would always say it was just an infection and simply needed some antibiotics and some old-fashion rest for the pooch. Never failed though.

It made me think this was just another episode I had to watch. All I had to do was call mom, she’d get the meds from the vet and I simply had to wait, and try to comfort him, right?

I’d been wrong before.

When it finally hit me, when I let myself understand what had just taken place: Panic mode.

I ran around the house, not knowing what to do, calling random numbers hoping someone of importance picked up the phone.

911, no help, pet hospital (no car), parent’s place of business…

After several attempts of the operator trying to understand my garbled request, I got my mom on the line. Me: frantic, crying, shoving words in between heaving breaths.

“Dino, I think, I think he’s dead! Mom, please! Please, you gotta help him! Do something! Send someone! The fucking cavalry, a doctor, a med student! Someone! He looked like he was just going to sleep. But he never woke up! He never woke up, mom! Don’t you understand?! He wouldn’t move… ”

I remember her sounding almost unaffected; as if she had been expecting it all along.

“Sweetie, please, calm down, you won’t get anywhere with that foul mouth. Now, he was twelve years old! He lived a full life for a Basset and at least he went on his own time. Just be happy you were with him in the end. I’ll be home soon, dear, then your father and I will take care of things, I promise. Just please, try to stay calm…  Honey? Are you there? Sweetie, please say something… Franky!“

I heard her, loud and clear, but my mind was in turmoil. Something was happening. There were too many emotions to poke at and as I was attempting to find some morsel of the English language to communicate to her what I felt, I blacked out. That was all I remembered up until several hours later…

It all started the day my dog died… his name was Dionysus, my mom named him. She’s a big philosophy geek, he gets mentioned in text a lot.

I didn’t mind the name so much when I found out who the guy was in Greek mythology. I thought it suited Dino well; he was a born party animal! I mean, he made a lot of noise, ate far more  than his fill, and went after just about every schnauzer, terrier, poodle... Let’s just say he got more action with those dogs than I did with my upright, smooth skinned counterparts. And he only got to explore the world on walks in the neighborhood or in his sneakier fence tunneling operations.

Shit, I was supposed to talk about something…

Oh right!

Depression. And I mean DEPRESSION.  Capital-D. Who could have guessed that would do it? Dino’s passing. Better question, who would’ve said I was anything BUT depressed before the fact?

I’ve faced deaths in the family, love interests turned mortal enemies, friends betraying friends, hell two of our family’s faithful companions had been put to sleep before we even adopted Dionysus.

I’ve cried in remorse, fucking terribly, balls to the wall baller-session after my Grandma passed away (my dad’s mom).  Drunk, and putting a cherry on top at an open-bar for my friend Sandy’s graduation (No one was carding, I indulged); literally pouring down the shame.

I was thinking about the day before my grandma left for Europe; again. Once again, her and my grandpa made the annual visit. She had made that trip so many times, I thought nothing of it. It was just another few thousand frequent-flyer miles and a carry-on full of California staples to share with our eager relatives across the deep blue. I never saw her alive again.

I started crying after toasting my last swig to her. I thought a lot of how my Grandfather might have felt, watching his wife fade away, helpless, but being there for her. I know he was strong, or tried to be. You can’t blame anyone in that position for freaking out , but I like to hope he said some loving reassurances to keep calm. Never giving up hope, trying to get to the hospital in time. I tried to imagine the last smile she may have given him before letting go, just to say “it’s okay. They have Bingo in heaven. I love you”. I hope. I also never drank heavily again. Thanks Grandma.

I’ve been down in the dumps, yes. No denying that. And you wouldn’t believe me even if I swore otherwise. You might say I was depressed since the day of my grandmother’s passing.

Not really in a dangerous way though (my therapist claims otherwise these days). It was this dull aching that never subsided. It didn’t freeze me in time so that I couldn’t see the future anymore. But I guess I wasn’t “okay enough” with the idea of a no-grandma-filled future. I had trouble accepting it. But a switch flipped; like any prideful alcoholic, I claimed myself to be a functioning bag of self-loathing. I picked myself up by withered handle, found a little thing called Mary Jane, and shit, life, went on; down some pesky river in Egypt.

Writer’s note: I hope to post an update to this story once a week. With a full time job and school to commit to, it will be difficult I am sure of that, but I will endure to the end. May you all enjoy and have a wonderful New Year! 🙂