Another advantage was my roommate, Tammy. She was awesome. Older, (16 to my 12—way cool) and she smoked. And she let me smoke. We smoked together. I’d always wanted to smoke. I used to sneak into my cousins’ basement and smoke the longer butts out of the ashtrays, but now I got whole ones. Sometimes we shared, but Tammy would say I was getting the filter wet, which always embarrassed me because I was inexperienced and didn’t know how not to. But other than pointing out my smoking shortcomings, I loved her. We would stay up at night making fun of our psychiatrists, sharing our stories, and lamenting how much we hated the phrase, “Life isn’t fair.” It seemed to both of us that that phrase is only uttered right before someone is about to completely obliterate your needs and fuck you over. (I still feel that way, by the way.)
I also appreciated the camaraderie of the other “inmates.” All of the teenagers (I was the youngest—I’ve always been ahead of my time.) were there because of a suicide attempt. For the first time I had people around me who understood. They didn’t think I was selfish or crazy; they had all been to the place I’d been. Life was just too painful to keep on with it.
Following in my analgesic vein, Tammy had overdosed on Excedrin. She lay down in her boyfriend’s bed, at his parent’s house for a “nap.” It was only when he could barely wake her that she was rushed to the hospital. Stomach pumping—gross. I’m so glad all I did was throw up for three days. The charcoal and tube down the throat sounded unbearable.
Then there was the guy I had a huge crush on. I don’t remember his name. He’d been in a car accident. He and some friends had driven off the road and into a lake. He made it, they didn’t. He tried to correct the oversight with a razorblade. I never had the guts for that. His poor wrists. I remember the thick white gauze and the pain that I projected onto him. Seriously, that had to hurt, right?
There was a rec room. Tammy and I would put on music and dance. Sometimes crazy, writhing on the floor. We were both pretty untamed creatures. I often wonder what happened to her. Google is silent on the subject.
I realize I’m forgetting the most important advantage of being institutionalized at age twelve. No parents. No sister to hate me. Other than at my occasional shrink appointment, and one random-bitch-fellow-inmate, no one told me I was crazy. My mom came to visit, but when she got me a day pass, all we did was fight, so she took me back early. My cousin, Brad came. Really, he had to, because he was the one who took me to see Grease in the first place, and wasn’t that how I’d gotten into this mess? Well, not really, and he didn’t know about my Grease epiphany anyway, but still he came. And brought pizza. God, I love that man. My nut job cohorts were pretty pleased with him too.
I know I’m gilding the lily a bit. I mean, my time at Windsor was anything but a barrel of laughs. There was Mike, who was a complete dick the day before his shock treatments. (Yes, seriously. He got them every three days, and was only bearable to be around right after.) And there was an abusive doctor that I may or may not tell you about. Not to mention that being in an insane asylum does little for one’s self esteem. But at that time of my life, it was a viable option. Living with my mother wasn’t. I didn’t know enough to know that living with my father wasn’t, either.
So, even though I think it was a betrayal to put me there—a “life isn’t fair” annihilation of my needs as a human, and a way to make all of the mess in the family about me, I’m glad I went. I felt saner in the nuthouse. And how else would I have learned about Welsh Rabbit?