Five days in and all I wanted was a cigarette. From tense visits with my family, to talk about drugs and suicide. The tense moment before a fight breaks out. The steady flow of patients. The fifteen minutes between the constant nightly check-ins: The loud creak of the door. Footsteps. A light in my face, checking for breaths. One, two, and gone. I had fifteen minutes to fall asleep before it happened again. I was exhausted. Six days in without music. Seven days away from my friends. Eight days in and they still wouldn’t tell me if and when I was leaving.
I didn’t leave Horsham for twelve days. I hated it. It was easily one of the most miserable experiences I’ve ever had. Horsham was cramped, understaffed, low budget, and yet, as my parents assured me, it was the best in the area. I finally was released, having learned nothing, having been put on meds that made me miserable, and leaving my family with almost no money. However, I did take away an experience from it that not many people have: Sitting in a room full of people who have all truly hit rock bottom.
The patients were split almost down the middle between people with aggression issues, and people with depressive issues, among other, more specific mental illnesses. Many were like me, having made attempts on their life. The rest were kids who had gotten into serious fights with their friends and family. There were kids with Obsessive Compulsive Disorders that caused their minds to construct memories. Some kids with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder would become catatonic at any loud noise. Others starved themselves. Some heard voices.
Turns out no one really understands this stuff. There’s no off switch. I’ve talked to plenty of people about medication and therapy, and it seems to me that the people who advocate them the most are the people who haven’t experienced either. I have rarely talked to a person who genuinely thought that their antidepressants helped them. I remember being miserable on all medications that I tried. I never felt that therapy was incredibly helpful either.
It seems that these kids were getting swept under the rug. Horsham was grotty, gross, unsafe in certain parts. The food was mediocre at best, and there was very little space. Horsham Clinic is a crisis center, meaning that the average stay is three days to a week. The goal is to get most people stabilized before they can be either sent back into the world, or moved to another facility; swept under an even bigger rug.
There were special needs kids who had been in the facility for months, while the management desperately tried to figure them out. Attempt after attempt was made before finally having them transferred to a long-term facility: The equivalent of a mental asylum. The saddest part? It would be permanent. This is the system. If they can’t fix you, they’ll put you away. These are the people who are deemed “unsafe.” Bouncing from place to place between each failed attempt on their life. Uprooted and tossed around. Why? It’s easier to put them away than to address the issue. Moving kids to “long-term clinics” for eating disorders, more like prisons than hospitals. Doors that lock from the outside. Sedative injections. Straight jackets. It’s still hard for me to believe that these things are still in use.
I wonder, though, is there a way to truly fix it? Is the system the only system we have? I don’t know. Therapy and medication can help to a degree, but sometimes there’s really not much one can do to help. There are many bad reviews of Horsham Clinic on the internet, but I have yet to see anyone offer a solution. It begs the question: Is it better to lock these kids up to stop them from killing themselves? I found rock bottom to be a strangely serene experience. Little by little I became separate from myself, in some sort of existential crisis. Embracing nihilism. I believe I see the world for what it truly is: Nothing. There is nothing to anything. We seek meaning and purpose in a universe completely indifferent to our existence. Is there any purpose in “saving” the people who just want their lives to be over? Do any of us truly understand what would be “best” for them? Why do we get to decide when to pull the plug? What’s the point of this terrible system?