Psych Ward(s)

I just got finished reading a very well-written article by a man whose wife suffers from psychosis. I learned a few new things from the article, but also relived some terrible moments that truly hit home. His name is Mark Lukach and crazy enough, he met his wife in my same neighborhood (even though the magazine is located in San Francisco) I currently reside. Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

The article brought me a memory that will stick with me forever in one (of the many) psych ward in southern New Jersey. I was one year out of college and going through a mixed episode. I was placed on anti-depressants once again and hosting a karaoke night with the nurses in the main room of the mental illness section of the ward. Cigarette breaks were very much anticipated and I wrote songs in my room by scribbling in the notepads they gave us at the beginning of our stays. The morning after the party I was called in by a few doctors and assumed they would discuss my release from the ward as I knew I was feeling much better.

“Good morning, Tara.”

“It’s Trinity.”

“Trinity, after observing you for the past ten days, we realize the medication has told us..”

“Great! I’m going home tomorrow? Because Christmas was horrible here–“

“Well, actually, we would like to keep you into the New Year. We believe you may have been misdiagnosed the last few years. Your symptoms are showing us that you may, in fact, have Bipolar. Now, we’re not sure if it’s I or II, but we are most certain it is Bipolar.”

“I don’t understand. But I feel better. The medicine is working.”

“Your behavior is leaning towards mania. You are not stable to leave the institution just yet.”

“But I’m 22 and my insurance under my parents runs out tomorrow. I have to go. I can’t afford to pay over $1,000 a day here out of pocket. I just lost my job because I was depressed. DEPRESSED! I’m not BIPOLAR. Crazy people are bipolar. I’m not crazy. I just get sad sometimes.”

“Ms. Villanueva, we will call you when we’re ready. In the meantime, we have contacted your family to have a joint family meeting to explain the circumstances and how to be a better support system for you. We understand you have been through a lot in the last few weeks.”

“Can I have an extra cigarette break?”

“That’s all, Ms. Villanueva.”

At the time, my life seemed as though it was crashing around me. The minute I walked out of the doors of my doctors’ offices, back into the psych ward, I tried puzzling it altogether. I was distracted by the old woman who was having a conversation for three by herself, the telephones in the main hall ringing without stopping, the nurses giving patients medication and checking under their tongue to make sure it was taken, the creepy teenage boy who kept lurking around my room.. Everything was blurry and I began to have a panic attack. These were quite normal for me.

Similar to an adolescent boy whose voice cracks uncontrollably during puberty, my panic attacks were much worse in the early stages of my diagnosis. I was unable to control my emotions, especially cracks in my feelings. However, what led me to some sort of stability, if even for an hour at a time, was music.

Being monitored by a nursing attendant in the hospital I strummed my guitar or ukelele, whichever was brought by my family, and with that accompanied the sounds to my voice. The lyrics flowed naturally during depressive stages especially as they usually do. Thank goodness for the weird vacations that psych wards lend you. I was able to organize my insanity and madness to some sort of brilliance. Accepting who I am never comes easy and I constantly struggle with it. What I do know is that music makes sense to my unquiet mind. Before Kai came–it saved me.


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