Within my institutional life, I have divided this into two different eras….
County jail time—dark, lonely, cold and much hate directed towards myself as many of the other inmates would claim I was “just faking my illness…”, “she’s not crazy, just pretending to be…”, “baby killer…”, and I should “rot in hell forever…” or “get the death sentence…”
Other experiences there were two cold cups of black coffee each day, “cleaning” your cell at 3am (sweeping, mopping, and scrubbing out your toilet), constant yelling of inmates through the vents, the washing of your own personal clothing items (which consisted of only 2 or 3 pairs of underwear and socks), cold showers, absolutely no sunshine or outdoor time for the county jail was located in the basement of the courthouse, no TV or radio, lots of reading (I preferred historical romances) and playing several variations of solitaire with a deck of cards.
Insane asylum time—Much confusion at first (as they tried haldol on me & that did nothing for my voices and delusions), individual therapy, shouting (or barking as I sometimes felt) for various times like coffee, medications, groups, & uniforms, fighting, poetry, isolation, shots (not of alcohol, but the big needle kind), attitudes, creative hobbies, solitude, a big TV blaring constantly, group therapy, ear plugs, & being told “you have to be perfect” in order to get out.
I also kept my crime a secret for the first few years, as fear of getting in a fight or worse, being attacked in my sleep, was quite prevalent.
Yet while there, I was determined to find the truth. First of all, I wanted to know all I could about my mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. I spent about a year or so researching the internet and reading books from the institution’s library. Then, I looked for spiritual meaning as to why this happened to me—my only son, killed, by his own mother’s two hands. Why did God allow that to occur?
Initially I was very angry with God, so I spent time reading other religious doctrines:
- Awakening the Buddha Within
- The I Ching
- Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation and finally, for the first time as an adult
- The Holy Bible
Fortunately, my parents had kept the last three years of my “previous stage” experiences hand-written by me in a large old journal. I had the opportunity to sit at a computer and type them up. I slowly began to see how my mind (even though at the time seemed “normal”) could be classified as slipping into the dark abyss of psychosis.
This is when the idea of writing an autobiography came to surface; I thought perhaps my old journals could help show others how schizophrenia can develop in what appears to be a “normal” mind. I also hoped it might even prevent an event like mine from occurring.
That was over ten years ago….
Now that I have been on conditional release for over four years, I have moved my focus for my book from not just the early stages of schizophrenia, but to the hope and understanding that recovery is within the realm of possibility. Not all is lost and one can gain insight and develop coping strategies for their rough moments, such as writing a blog or working on a hobby.
But, I am veering now to the “recovery stage” so I’ll end this preview of institutional life here.-LaVancia