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During my second sojourn in the bin I knew already how to be. I knew to go to all the meetings and participate in the activities.

In the big group meetings we had in the morning and at the end of the day we all sat around a big conference table. The staff sat in the middle on the side away from the window and we all circled them. Some people sat in the same seat every day and at every meeting. In the beginning of every meeting we had to go around the table at the beginning and rate our mood on a scale of one to ten. One being the worst possible and ten of course being total ecstasy. It always puzzled me how many people who were now institutionalized ranked their moods as very very high. There was a slight Asian woman in her fifties who always said she was a ten. A suspiciously high number ranked themselves as 8 or 9. These were people who were locked up. People who just days ago had been pried out of their lives, or had voluntarily decided their lives weren’t working. And here they were saying things were great.

I think they wanted to please the official people. The social workers mainly and nurses. They had folders and clipboards. They showed us slide shows about various topics like dealing with anger, dealing with drugs and dealing with prescribed drugs. Coping techniques and activities of daily life (ADLs). Lots of pens and knick knacks around the place were emblazoned with the the sibiliant brand names, the slippery, satisfactory, soothing names of the drugs were all were taking. You don’t get out of the bin without a sheaf of prescriptions.

I had seven I think. I came out with six but one of the first six caused my legs to spasm painfully so I got a seventh. I don’t believe that I could have survived my life without those drugs. The terribleness is painful to me from the distance of years; I can’t quite imagine what it felt like to live through it. That’s partly why I’m writing. I think it’s why I stopped writing fluidly for fifteen years. Why I stopped dreaming for three years. I don’t know what else it did to me . Some of the damage was side effects of the drugs.

Turquoise and cream. Deep blue shiny sapphire jewels. Powdery round ones. Brown lozenges. Red ones and green. Yellow and gray. Pink and blush. Plum drops and silverfish. Beans, beads, curled like ticks, hard like armadillos, Ones to make you sleep and make you antipsychotic and calm and ones that make your stomach turn and your legs twitch and make you forget your keys and forget your troubles too.

I do not know that I could have survived the days in the empty yellow house or the months after I moved without the pills. I also wouldn’t have been in the fix I was in without the pills. Later when my social worker wno met me periodically in Panera and bought me a sandwich and coffee was trying to get me a job and also to get me permanent disability. I can’t remember my social worker at all except she was earnest and always pulled flyers out of her folders. This was after the hospital and after the daycare that I had to go to after the hospital. I went to the hospital the first time in September and I started having to go to meetings for other disordered people and to meet individually with my social worker in February after I’d left the empty yellow house and moved into an apartment. My social worker in panera told me that one of the most important things to do in order to score the golden fleece of permanent disability was to show them how many medications you were taking. Presumably people taking all those pills that they had been told to take by the doctors with who reminded what to write on prescriptiosn by the clipboards and pens and pencils and paperweights and mugs and magnets and keyrings and squeeze balls and hats and visors and tape dispensers and snow globes and lanyards and breath mints and staplers and bottle openers and pill cases. Presumably these medical professionals would only prescribe drugs if they were necessary and if ti was necessary for an individual to take seven different pills multiple times a day then they truly were in a bad way indeed and ought to get permanent disability. No person taking all of these separate special magical and powerful creations of science could possibly hold a real job or occupy a place in the real world. The social workers also had many of handouts with strategies for getting jobs. They were mostly concentrated on jobs in offices and factories and stores. I told them I had a phD and that up until my incarceration I’d been teaching college and ghostwriting books to support myself. I told them a thing that I had already learned from all the times I’d applied for jobs in last decade wince discovering that my PhD wasn’t worth as much as it cost. I had learned that for the most part, people hate people with PhDs in English and do not want to hire them. They fear that these over-educated nerds will correct their grammar and hold their spelling mistakes against them. They certainly do not want punitive and small-minded corrector types to work in their companies. I had learned even before my bin time, that telling the truth on my resume was often a huge mistake. It seemed at times, even a sentence served in Attica would have been preferable to some human resources people, than eight years reading Victorian Literature.

Imagine then if I had to add on that I was a Victorianist which would be bad enough, but I was also crazy? The social workers didn’t really think much of my job prospects anyway which is why they pushed the permanent disability thing and the gatahering of amber cylinders of proof into a big baggy to wave at the social security office workers.


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