Chapter OneI'M SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD and lying like a pathetic, helpless lump in the backseat of our family car, being transported to a place that treats crazy people.
This is an exceptional event, even for me. I know that my brain causes unusual problems that no one has been able to treat, but being insane isn't one of them.
How and why I've gotten to this point is complicated, but the main reason I'm here is more immediate. I've finally found the one thing that brings me peace - alcohol.
Now this self-medication has become a life- threatening danger that I cannot fix by myself. The doctors at the place I'm going to promise they can help me. I've heard that one before.
After about an hour, we arrive at a large brick building with a sign that reads DRESSLER PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL. In a split second the reality of what's happening becomes very real and very scary.
"Why does it say that?" I call from the backseat, my heart suddenly pounding.
"Don't worry about the sign," my mother says to calm my rising panic. "They treat all different kinds of problems here, Cory."
Dad looks as worried as I am but says softly, "Let's not deal with this now, okay?"
Not deal with going to a hospital for psychos? Sure, no problem. What can my father be thinking?
Inside the main entrance, I enter a very crowded, somewhat noisy waiting room. Being on view always makes me uneasy, so as soon as I start to walk, my feet need to perform a triple hop, three quick steps only inches apart, which throws me off balance.
I have to do this in order to satisfy a tension that is building up in my legs and can't be released any other way. Sometimes this trips me up so much that I go flying to the ground.
I do the triple hop a few more times before reaching out for the safety of one of the empty waiting- room chairs.
Welcome to my fun house, folks.
Chapter TwoMANY OF THE PEOPLE in the waiting area are still staring at me as my right hand shoots up in the air with the middle finger extended. Oh boy, here we go, I think. Giving people the bird is another one of my involuntary movements, or tics, that pop up exactly when they shouldn't. Try telling people that one's not deliberate.
Another middle-finger salute. Hi, everybody!
For a moment I think about the new medicines I'm taking, which are, as usual, not doing their job. Wellbutrin for depression, Tenex to keep me calm, Topamax as an "experiment" to see if a seizure medicine will help. So far I've been on fifty or sixty different medicines, none of which have worked - and a few of them can become deadly when washed down with Jack Daniel's.
Psychiatric hospital. A place for insane people, I'm thinking.
I know I'm not insane, even though the things I do make me look that way. But I do have a fear that I can think myself insane, and being in this place could push me over the edge. Going insane is probably my worst fear. If it happens, I won't know what, or where, reality is. To me, that's the ultimate isolation - to be separated from my own mind.
Eventually a receptionist calls my name and then starts asking me strange, bewildering questions. One of my eyes begins to twitch rapidly, and my tongue jumps out of my mouth like a snake's.
Occasionally I make a loud grunting sound like I've been punched hard in the stomach. Often my tics come one at a time, but today they're arriving in clusters of three or four, probably due to the stress.
I once told my parents that they couldn't live through a single day with what I go through every day of my life, and that was when I was a lot better than I am now.
It takes another hour or so for my parents to be interviewed by a doctor. When they come out, I can see that my mother has been crying. My father looks exhausted and edgy.
When it's my turn with the doctor, I can't stop myself from shooting him the bird, too. The guy is good about it. He totally ignores it. He's young and gentle and pretty much puts me at ease.
"I drink more than I should at night," I tell him, skipping the part about almost burning down my parents' house when I passed out on the couch with a lit cigarette. "I guess I like to get a little tipsy."
This is the understatement of the year. Tipsy is my code word for totally wasted.
The doctor gives me a complete physical, and when it's over he says I'm as healthy as anyone he's seen, which strikes me as very funny.
"So I guess I can go now?" I joke, punctuated by an involuntary tongue thrust.
Later, back in the waiting area, a male attendant approaches us and asks for any medicines we might have brought.
"What do you mean?" my father asks.
"He needs these," my mother cautions, taking out a large plastic bag crammed with pill bottles.
"The doctors will take care of that," the attendant answers.
Mom reluctantly turns over the stash.
A while later, a female nurse approaches and leads the three of us deep into the rear of the building.
Everything is a lot different here. It's darker and there aren't any people around. It's a spooky place.
I fight off a really bad feeling that I'm going somewhere I won't be able to handle.
Eventually we stop in front of a massive door with a sign that says JUVENILE PSYCHIATRIC WARD D.
Mental kids, I think.
"That's not me," I snap, pointing to the sign. "Mom, you know I'm not crazy."
The nurse says, "We get all kinds of people here," as though arriving at an insane asylum is an ordinary event in anybody's life.
"You're here for your drinking," Mom adds, "which they treat."
"It doesn't say that on the signs."
The nurse takes a large metal key out of her jacket pocket, and I freeze at the sight of it. I've never been in a hospital where the doors have to be locked. I come to a sudden realization: You don't lock doors to keep people out. You lock doors to keep them in.