Hi all this an excerpt (below) from my new book Man, Interrupted.
The taxi pulled in front of the sign that read Within Reach Hospital. It suddenly began to rain. Was that an omen? It dawned on me why you always see a cab pulling up in front of a hospital in those movies about people with emotional problems. The director wanted to symbolize that this was just the beginning of the journey, not the end.
When did my problems really begin? I have thought about that question for years and years. I guess my first anxiety attack came when I was five. Of course back then they didn't call it that. At that time my Father and Mother had just gotten a divorce in Kansas and the court awarded custody of me, my brother and sister, to my Mother.That would have been great, but unfortunately my mother said she wasn't getting enough child support for all of us and kept only my sister. I still remember vividly them dragging me out of her car as I clung to the seat. I stared at my sister as they drove away toward Minnesota, my mom's home state.
A couple years later, living with my dad and step mom number two, I ended up being taken to the emergency room for some imaginary pain in my back. In retrospect that was the beginning of the end that led me here. Why couldn't it have been me instead of my sister? The vision of them driving away haunts me even to this day. Why did it affect me and not my brother? My mind was always working. I couldn't stop it. Its weird that I'd even made it this far. Just three days ago I was sitting on my butt wondering if I had the nerve to come to Berkeley and the famous Within Reach Psychiatric Hospital. In the movies they called the hospital something else. I guess for legal reasons. But just look at all the books and good ole Within Reach was the hospital. The cab pulled up to the house in front Within Reach where I would be staying.
Somehow it looked better in the brochure they sent me. Hell, I had to wait almost a year to get in. I guess after suffering for twenty-five years, what's another year, right? The cabbie got out and pulled my suitcase out of the trunk. He looked like a cabbie. The look of a guy who never slept and whos diet consisted of endless cups of coffee and unfiltered cigarettes. Whose idea of a healthy diet was an occasional fish sandwich at McDonalds. I got out and was debating what kind of tip I should give him, since I'd already given him the fare in advance at the airport. As I turned to look at him, he darted into his cab and drove off. I knew what he was thinking. He was afraid I was a wacko and feared I might do something to him. No wonder he hadn't said a word all the way here. I would be thinking about this way into the night. What can I say? This is the life of a guy with OCD. I grabbed my luggage and opened the front door. "Are you James the new patient?" A tall skinny guy said this to me as he blocked my pathway. I nodded yes. "James you are not allowed to use this door, it's only for staff." He told me to go back around to the front of the house.
Of course that was not the greeting I was expecting but at least it took my mind off the cabbie. I stumbled around to the front looking for the entrance when I was pleasantly surprised by this cute blond who popped out of nowhere. "You must be James O'Bailey. We've been expecting you. Take your luggage and follow me to your room." I grabbed my luggage and walked in, but somehow the blond disappeared. I looked around until I spotted blondie talking to the dude who gave me that great welcoming party. I started to yell out to her but she ran off into another room. I figured this was a good time to go use the bathroom since I'd been holding it in during the cab ride. I walked up to a crew cut guy and asked him where the head was. "Number one or number two?" He asked. "I got to take a crap." "We don't talk that way around here, James. It's number one or number two." I knew this guy was going to be a problem. "Well sir, when I go do to number two, I usually have a little number one going on, too. So what would that be?" He hesitated a moment. I knew exactly what he was thinking: I can't let this patient get to me. I'm the educated professional here. He handed me a key and a small role of toilet paper with just a few sheets and started to shut the door, you know, one of those types of doors that are cut in half so you can open and shut the top to dispense medicine without the patient actually getting inside the office.
I stuck my hand in to prevent him from closing it. "Hey, buddy, I'll need a little more than that!" He gave me a funny look. "That's how we cure your OCD." "I don't have a problem with that!" He told me that later when he had a chance to check the files if that wasn't a problem of mine that I would be allowed to take a roll in with me. I started mouthing off and before I could finish, the cubicle was shut. Now I was getting upset! The cute blond walked up. "I heard you say you have to use the bathroom." "I did but now after all this, I lost that feeling." "Then you won't be needing this." She grabbed the key and the toilet paper roll from my hands. "Why did you do that?" I said. "We can't have you hoarding toilet paper." "Listen a mosquito couldn't wipe his butt with that!" I guess I wasn't surprised when she didn't respond. I couldn't say I blamed her. A moment later she spoke. "You ready to go to your room?" "Sure." I followed the little blond up the staircase as she told me her name was Mary and that the guy with the crew cut was Harry. "I think that guy has an attitude," I said to her. She didn't respond. She showed me my room. "Oh, James, the maid must have forgotten to clean and sanitize the mattress." I looked on a little shell-shocked. The mattress was one of those prison types: hard as rock, with a big slit in it. Plus, you don't mention the word "sanitize" around a person with OCD! Our brains all kick in with, "Why does it need sanitizing?"
"I will just take that bed over there, Sherry." I pointed to an already made up bed on the other side of the room. "My name is Mary and, no, that bed is for Raymond, your roommate." "Who slept on it before miss and why does it need sanitizing?" I said. "You're asking for reassurance James and we don't allow that here. Be it from staff or fellow patients." "Thanks Mary because now I'm having a full blown anxiety attack!"
"Don't worry James, I'll go ask Harry what to do." "Was the last patient a drug addict, is that why there are slits in the mattress?" "Reassurance again, James." I tried not to ask her again but the anxiety running through me was too much to ignore. "Come on, you're the one who started it with that, "it needs sanitizing remark." Mary just stared at me. "Yes I need fricking reassurance!" Mary just shook her head no and ran down the stairs. It dawned on me that the only way I was going to get reassurance around this place was to check the bed myself. It also dawned on me why I was causing such a commotion since I only arrived a few minutes earlier? After all I had been on the waiting list for over a year and I make an entrance like that? I quickly dismissed it to "self-sabotage," but more about that later. My mind was on the mattress.
I slowly made my way to the bed making sure I wasn't getting too close. I tried to imagine some positive reason why there would be slits in the mattress. Maybe the guy was hiding soap in the mattress because he had such a fear of germs. Maybe he farted so hard he blew holes in it. Maybe he made the slits to hide his porno magazines. Of course he was depressed, but he was totally against drugs, right? I knew I was in the middle of an obsession and my compulsion, getting reassurance, was not going to happen from Mary. I also knew I had to do something before it went to a full blown anxiety attack!
I looked to the other side of the room and tried to focus on my roommates well made bed. They told me in the email I would be living with twenty other "freaks" like myself. My "words" not theirs. That scared the hell out of me. I couldn't even be in the same room with one person for longer than ten minutes without having an anxiety attack. Just then Mary reentered the room. "Harry says you can change rooms. You get to have two room mates now. Isn't that great?" Just then a flamboyant looking guy yelled out from the next room. "Hi, I'm Adam. You can be our roommate!" Oh Lord. Now, I had nothing against gays, but I didn't want to room with one either. "Listen, can't we just change mattresses, Miss?" She hesitated for a moment then said, "Let me go ask Harry." I sat around on the floor for what seemed like a half hour waiting for the girl. It finally dawned on me that she wasn't coming back. During her absence I wondered why I was such a homophobe. I quickly thought about a thought I had locked away in my mind many moons ago... Maybe I was gay? Finally I got up and walked downstairs. As I was about to hit the last step a big fat guy popped out of nowhere and stuck out his hand. "I'm Tim. Glad to meet you." I didn't want to shake his hand, but it was too late. His big paw engulfed my hand. How was I going to wash my hands?
Harry had the only key to the rest room. I looked up at the fat guy. He was sweating like a pig and his face was covered with zits. Oh man, my hands and fingers had to be crawling with germs now! What if he'd just taken a number two and wiped his big butt with that little sheet of paper? Oh God, I had to get in the bathroom and fast. I ran over to the cubicle and knocked on the door! Harry answered. "Uh, Harry can I change the mattress and I, uh, got to get the key to the restroom?" "Another patient has the key so you'll have to wait and I already changed the mattress!" The door was quickly closed. How in the hell did he change__ P.S. If you can get my book on sale at www.amazom.com for about 5 quid and at www.amazon.co.uk and for about 5 quid (9 euro in Ireland) and free shipping to any where in Europe at www.play.com or go to bookshops like Waterstones, Eason's Borders, Whsmiths, or any bookstore. In South Africa go to www.exclusivebooks.com or www.kalahari.net or any bookshop. In New Zealand go to paperplusbooks.co.nz or any book shop like Borderd. in Australia go to dymocks.com.au or any book shop like Borders etc I in Canada go to Chapters book shops or www.amazon.ca Best James.