Hospital Data + Facts

These facts and figures were reported by the Dammasch State Hopital:

Beds - Total (Total number of beds in a facility, including those in non-Participating or non-licensed areas): 375

Residents (physicians) (The number of full-time equivalent residents (physicians) employed by a hospital): 2

Physicians (The number of full-time equivalent physicians employed by a provider): 14

Occupational therapists (The number of full time equivalent occupational therapists employed by a provider): 8

Other personnel (The number of full-time equivalent other salaried personnel employed by a facility): 314

Registered nurses (The number of full-time equivalent registered professional nurses employed by a provider): 55

Medical social workers (Number of full-time equivalent medical social workers employed by a hospital or hospice): 14

Story by: Dammasch State Hospital | Back to top

The Dammasch Project

The Corridors

One of the first things I noticed whilst walking through the corridors at Dammasch State Hospital is the ceiling. The ceilings are a patchwork of tiles interspersed with gaps in which the blobs of glue affixing now-absent tiles are exposed. Emilie Boyles, a former social worker who visited Dammasch while it was still occupied said that the ceiling tiles had begun falling to the floor as long ago as the 1980's.

The Construction Manager, Rick at Costa Pacific Communities explained that there were also speakers inserted into the hallway ceilings. These speakers were located in each wing and were connected by a little network of wires to intercom systems in their respective nurses' stations so that doctors and aides could be summoned from afar. Part of Costa Pacific's reclamation process has included removing all the wires from the speakers and disassembling the intercom systems. One fine evening before leaving for the day, Rick walked the corridors making sure the locks were sound and that nobody was trapped in the building. While investigating on the second floor, the overhead speakers started crackling. He stood there in disbelief. He poked the speaker to make sure he wasn't hearing something and to make sure it wasn't just “critters” moving around between floors. But it was clearly an electronic noise…there were no voices -more, it sounded like someone was turning the knob of an old-fashioned radio: all static and white noise. Rick decided to hike over to the old admissions portion of the facility where the offices of Costa Pacific Communities are now housed, to get the Facilities Manager who had been in charge of dismantling the systems. The Facilities Manager followed him back to the second floor speaker, which was still crackling, and confirmed that he HAD, in fact, cut those wires. Rick is unable to explain how this happened.

While walking the corridors Rick has also heard sounds that he simply could not explain: footsteps but no people to attribute them to, keys jingling and whistling are all noises he has heard in the building. Apparently, the “psychic friend” who was employed by the owner of Costa Pacific Communities to clear the spirit-energy from the complex (prior to their occupation of the building) wasn't effective.

A long corridor connects the basement of residential hall to an auxiliary building with a cafeteria and a storage room. In both of these images I am standing in the middle of that corridor. In the left hand image I am pointing my camera in the direction of the basement doors...i guess that solitary bed never made it to the storage room! In the right hand image I’m pointing my camera in the opposite direction. At the end of the hallway is a set of doors that lead to the Subterranean Tunnel System.

The Subterranean Tunnel Systems

In November of 2005 I met a former psychiatric aide named Lisa who worked at Dammasch for 2 years. She explained to me that Dammasch was built to be instantly serviceable as a nuclear decontamination facility and surgical hospital in the event of a nuclear attack. This may in part explain the subterranean tunnel system that supposedly went to an underground food cache. Originally, the tunnels were about a mile long and went all the way from the hospital basement to the Living Enrichment Center (AKA The Callahan Center) on Grahams Ferry Rd in Wilsonville, OR. As of May, 2006, there were only about 1200 feet of tunnel left that connect to the hospital.Just outside the tunnel system is a set of bullet-holed, chained doors. The top left image was taken outside these doors. The other 2 are from just inside them. The first image below was taken down the corridor, looking back at light peeking through the closed doors. The ceiling looks like it is made of wooden panels but it is actually poured concrete. In the adjacent, collaged image I simply turned around and took a shot of Levi at the back wall. Behind him is a set of handrails. These handrails mark the beginning of the formerly-mile-long tunnel. The image of the right, below is a 2-second hand held shot taken at the top of those handrails.

The Residents' Hall is connected to an Auxiliary Building by a basement-level corridor. This same corridor turns into the tunnel system as you approach and move beyond the auxiliary building. There's a service elevator in this corridor and right around the corner, in the basement of the auxiliary building is a storage area.

One morning, the Construction Manager walked by the closed service elevator into the storage area where he set about cleaning a mess of shattered glass left behind by vandals. After awhile he heard a loud slamming sort of noise and felt surprised because he was the only person in the building. He turned the corner and saw that the heavy doors to service elevator had been forced open. He began to rationalize why it had happened; the doors had counterweights in them, after all. But in the end he concluded that there was no good explanation for why this happened...unless, of course, you believe in ghosts...which he claims not to!


The Tank Room
The Tank Room is located in the basement, down the hall form the morgue, and captured my imagination more than any other room in the building. The tank room is a poured concrete and cinderblock room encircled with metal braces. The metal braces held oxygen tanks and the words, 'FULL” and “EMPTY” are stenciled onto the walls. In the corner, I built a pedestal out of an errant trashcan, a palette and a wooden panel and climbed atop with my camera and tripod.

On my first visit to the Tank Room, I noticed this moth on the wall. I found it so strange and magical that she would be living there alone in the dark. I shot her image and immediately after I depressed the shutter release she stretched her wings, casting a long and glorious shadow on the wall. I wanted her to stretch again for another shot, so I touched her backside...and nothing happened. So I touched her front, but she flew away.

While processing the images from my first visit to the Tank Room, I realized again how struck I was by the space. In particular, the braces' function as a metaphor for the physical restraint of human beings seemed especially important to me, and the coincidence of the moth - a figure of transformation, the oddness of finding it in the dark and its flight to freedom all seemed meaningful. On my second visit to the Tank Room I brought Greta, one of my favorite models. I'd wanted to re-create and add a person to the image of the moth. To this end, I'd intended but had forgotten to purchase a butterfly from a shop on Hawthorne. Coincidentally, on a superfluous trip to the truck, I found an expired butterfly on a window ledge in the corridor to the Green Doors.

Living Quarters + Bays
Since dammasch was closed in 1995, it has been host to vandals, to partying teenagers, to former residents confused about where to go, and to photographers and film makers such as myself. At one time, a group of several vandals broke in to the building to steal things. When the police arrived the group scattered. Some got away, but 3 decided to hide in the building and chose a double lock-down area (a room with a locked door inside a room with a locked door.) on the ground floor, in the ward for the criminally insane. The locks on those doors are set on a spring and when the door slammed behind them, the lock tripped and the kids were locked inside the room. It took the police hours to find them, and hours to break into the room. The occupants were so frightened that one of them had wet himself. After this incident the people at Costa Pacific agreed to allow navy seals, SERT and police teams to conduct emergency escape and entry procedures at Dammasch. The resultant holes in walls, missing windows and splintered doors caused by explosives as well as bullet shells and target practice sheets are found on every floor.

Costa Pacific Communities is recycling as many of the materials excavated from Dammasch as they can. in January of 2006 people came to remove and recycle the metal grates from the radiators in former residents' rooms. in two rooms hundred of little notes (diary pages of sorts?) were discovered. they'd been folded into little fans and inserted between the slats of the metal radiator grates.

Other Rooms
The resident’s hall is connected to an auxiliary building via a ground floor tunnel. The cafeteria was in this auxiliary building area as were a swimming pool and a physical education areas that are now gone. The cafeteria was huge enough to feed all the staff and residents. Different sources provide different info about who ate where, one claiming that only staff dined in the auxiliary building, the other that residents did also. There are many kitchens scattered throughout the residential building.

Those who were diagnosed as criminally insane did not take meals with the other residents, but stayed in their own ward. The first two images below were shot in their kitchen. Perhaps in reference to the 1943 Olivia deHavilland movie about an insane asylum, the staff in this ward named it, The Snake Pit

Scattered throughout the building are impressive arrays of functional stuff. The ductwork shown below is in a roof-level room. The electrical boxes are in a room in the basement around the corner from the morgue.

Medical Spaces

The Morgue
The construction manager, Rick, told me that a year or two ago a couple of employees came to look at sector D’s mechanical penthouse, which is on the roof of the three-storey portion of the complex and is full of ductwork. In the plans for the Villebois Community, which is being built on the old Dammasch site, the three-storey building is left standing and they wanted to discuss removing the mechanical penthouse to put up a gazebo and a gas fireplace, amongst other amenities.

They were walking back to the office when they found blood on the 2nd floor. They decided to follow the drops. The first drops they found were dried, but became wetter and more numerous the closer they got to the source. At one place they found blood spattered holes in the wall, possibly created with a pipe. They followed the drops down to the morgue, where they found huge, wet puddles of blood, as though the person had just stood in one place and bled out. There were also footprints and bloody hand prints all over the wall indicating the person had gone round and round and round the morgue.

Startled and worried, Rick and his guests ran back to the office to call the police. Several officers arrived and every one spent hours searching the building. They searched every room, every nook and cranny but couldn’t find the injured person. They did find his entry point, however: a window with broken glass in the frame. The glass had blood on it and it was clear that he’d been badly cut by the glass as he entered the building. They never found him; they ran an analysis on the blood but no ID came up. They assumed that he was a lost ex-patient and figured he must have exited from the same window he entered, although they found no evidence outside the window that he’d actually left.

Some time elapsed before the film-makers came to shoot their movie at Dammasch. When they did, the film crew washed the bloody hand-prints off the morgue’s tiled wall.

Surgery is on the second floor and consists of an outer area with knee operated sinks and storage shelving, 2 main rooms (one with a wall mounted light box for viewing X-rays) and a small office-looking area between the rooms. In the room with the light box, the windows are completely blown out of one window frame; in that same room palettes litter the floor.

X-Ray + Electroshock
I was told that the people were placed into this room in straps and a cart with an electrical generator was rolled up next to them. The electricity was applied to the temples.

Story by: Smith Eliot | Back to top

A Real Dammasch Tale; Narrated by Dionysus

... The Arrest ...
It had been about a half hour since the accident when I got back to their house. I drove up and got out of the truck and went to the door. They let me in and weren't nearly so anxious. I said I didn't mean to leave in such a hurry, but I had something I needed to do. They said they understood, and said they had already called the police, who were on their way. And would I please wait. About five or ten minutes later the policeman drove up, and I believe I walked out to meet him. All I remember was how impersonal he was, of how I was treated like a slab of meat. I offered no resistance but it was readily apparent who was in control. There were no theatrics, but it was clearly a show of force, as he forced my arms behind my back, tied the plastic tie around my wrists and muscled me into the car. The fact that I went along voluntarily had nothing to do with it. I didn't bother to say anything after we got in the car, there was no point. I assumed we were going to the police station, but we drove to Josephine Memorial Hospital instead, where I would be held the next few days for observation. I was put in a room by myself, with four walls and a door and, not having been to the hospital for so long, I assumed it was standard fare. I don't remember them locking the door.

While there, I spent all my time in bed, and continued to stage my marriage, my conquests, and maintain my camaraderie with Roy. While I remember how courteous and helpful the hospital staff was. They didn't treat me like I had done something wrong, but like any other "special guest." I even thought they were on to me about my identity, and considered it due treatment for the "conquering hero." It was actually quite relaxing but, it was just the lull before the storm. At one point my insurance agent called, and told me not to worry about the accident, for everything was taken care of. There was also a lady from the mental health services who came to interview me and explain what my options were. It was fairly pleasant until she spoke about taking medication, and said I could avoid what was otherwise very unpleasant—going to the mental hospital. We went around with this for a half hour? but I was reluctant to give in, for it went against what I believed, and what had been so thoroughly drummed in my mind by Roy: that taking drugs masked over the symptoms and offered only temporary relief, and usually made you more dependent on them. Nor was I ready to give up my "wonderful illusions."

... The Hearing ...
A day or two later the hearing was held. The mental health people were there, my neighbors were there, and possibly a policeman was there. It was rather brief and didn't last more than forty-five minutes, and we began to talk about my behavior. I remember how nervous my neighbor's wife was, and how deeply infatuated I was, yet I didn't say anything, for I was hoping it was understood. It was fairly routine, but the bottom line was clear, take the medication—i.e., lithium—or go to the hospital. Someone had also talked to my boss at work, who told them about my fantasy about my neighbor's wife. (I didn't find out about this until later.) There wasn't much else to it, except for the one highlight, when my neighbor spoke about the night he came over and introduced himself. I was laying on the hide-a-bed at the time, and had to get up and get dressed. When I answered the door I gave myself a good stretch and sort of growled (like people often do). And I exclaimed, "I had to do that!" (I don't think he knew I was in bed.) When he gave his own impression of this—a very good one—I couldn't help but bust up laughing!

Thus having opted not to take the medication, I was faced with the inevitable, and was to leave for the hospital the next day. I was originally scheduled to go to the state hospital in Salem, but because it was too full, I was taken to Dammasch instead, in Wilsonville, Oregon. And as I sometimes say, "Dennis The Menace went to see Mr. Wilson and pay him a visit!" (Of course it wasn't too funny back then.) There was at least one more person to go with me. A younger person, around 20? who apparently had problems with drugs or, he was moderately retarded. But because of his behavior, I suspected it was drugs. Either way, he wasn't too far from being a vegetable. We were driven to the hospital in a station wagon. I sat in the middle seat by myself and he sat in the back seat. We were about halfway there when I fell asleep, only to re-awake with him leaning over me and, just like with the dog at home, the spirit came streaming out of my forehead—directly into his face! And as I said, I was trying to maintain this "energy field" while in the hospital. It was an ominous sign, and it set the stage for many strange things to come. At the very least I'd have to rebuild the structure inside myself, and then, try to keep my heaven from dissipating—and not let people molest my wife! He was like a big emotional sponge, sitting next to you and drawing off your energy. Having already been sensitized to such things, I sensed something beforehand, but wasn't expecting this. He definitely got a charge out of the experience, and was soon treating me like his best buddy (or a meal). So I dealt with him coolly and tried to pretend like nothing happened, and tried not to give off any more energy. I was hoping he wouldn't understand what happened and would soon forget about it, at which point it would dissipate. Yet it didn't work out this way, and I had to do my utmost to avoid him. He seemed to be unconsciously drawn towards me, and I couldn't stand being near him. While I heard other people making similar complaints as well.

... House of Judgment ...
Also, after the hearing, I began to portray the mental hospital as a large brick building, or complex, and call it the "House of Judgment." For I would soon be up against the spirits of the underworld, and was preparing for the ultimate campaign, to conquer hell. What I concluded had now become my main purpose, as well as maintain relations with my "spiritual wife" (promote spiritual marriage). And, when Dionysus first emerges, he emerges from the underworld. So it isn't any wonder that when we first drove up, there it was, a large brick complex! While it was the first time I had ever been to a mental institution. Also, while I ultimately didn't fare well, it speaks of what was to occur some time later, when I eventually came to terms with these things, and indeed conquered hell.

The first couple of hours involved getting processed and filling out the necessary paperwork, as I prepared for the next six weeks. While I remember feeling weakened and drained from the experience in the car. I don't recall any orientation meeting, and we were soon shown to our section of one of the buildings. Once inside there was a very large room, about 50' by 75', with benches and chairs and a TV suspended from the ceiling at the end. This was the general assembly area where people spent most of their days. On the far side were the two hallways leading into the showers and sleeping quarters, which joined to form a "U" at the end. Shortly afterwards I was shown to my bed, where I went to lay down (before dinner) and recoup my losses, and prepare the strategy for what lay ahead, and draw up the battle lines. One of the first things I did was declare war on the Soviet Union—to the tune of Stars And Stripes Forever! I understood how heavily they were involved in psychic experiments and, with such an arsenal at my disposal, I gave them the ultimate wake-up call. It was quite a dramatic display—and colorful—as I pounded on the door! To let them know they weren't alone, and there was another power in this world. So why is it that when I finished writing this, only a few minutes later, the TV spoke of the soon to be aired Nova program, The Secrets Of The Psychics, and specifically mentioned the Russian Psychics! (It was the first time I heard about it.) And indeed, over the next few years, I declared war on the Soviet Union numerous times.

... Taking the Medication ...
As for taking the medication, I did so voluntarily, for they had already locked me up against my will and effectively taken it away. Therefore why should I resist? It was my way of saying I don't agree. Besides, I would have been forced to take it—intravenously—which would have been most unpleasant! So like everyone else, I stood in line for meds twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. (Some had to take theirs at lunch as well.) As it was I thought my power was strong enough to counter the effects, and, together with my technique, it took nearly a week before the images began to fade. While initially I was high as a kite! One thing worth mentioning is the courtesy of the staff, at least those who were on duty in our dorm. For with all the hype and rhetoric I'd gleaned from Roy Masters, this was the last thing I expected. But, they conducted themselves in a professional manner and struck me as being genuinely concerned. They were level headed and friendly, and made their presence known, but stood off in the distance unless a crises arose. At which point they'd try to reason with the clients, and act as a buffer between them and the problem. They were never abusive and rarely used force, unless it was absolutely necessary, and as a rule, showed a general respect for everyone.

Even so, my experience there was not a pleasant one. Being away from home and not having any control was a start. It was at the onset of winter and was cold and gloomy. I was locked up with 30-40 strange people I didn't know. And while many were scheduled to do things on the outside during the day, there wasn't much to do on the inside, except pace the empty hallways or lay down (which I did a lot of) or, try and watch TV, which was pointless for I didn't have my glasses! This also made everything else a blur, and enhanced my feelings of no control. And, although somebody (eventually) made the trip to get them, they brought back the pair I'd recently broken (just before the accident?), with the missing lens and ear piece. I specifically requested the other pair and told them where to look, but they said they couldn't find them. So it wasn't a big improvement.

... Being Warehoused ...
All in all it was like being warehoused, with its sense of futility and increasing despair. There weren't nearly enough resources to address my needs—or anybody else's—nor did I desire this. The focus seemed to center around administering drugs, thus making it a detainment center, where people were held and observed, to await processing to the outside world, or elsewhere. Also, with so much idle time on my hands, about the only thing to look forward to was eating. Which I did! While the food was very starchy and I gained 15 pounds! Hence as I show in what follows, I was much worse off for having gone there. Yet I believe it was probably necessary, in order to dislodge some of my (Roy's) heretical views. "...behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried..." So I spent much of my time in bed, perhaps more so initially, when I began to stage the war in earnest and it was necessary to keep up my energy levels. One of my earlier battles involved combating Jim Jones (his spirit), a modern day psychopath and Devil's henchman. It was a familiar theme of Roy Masters. And, although I didn't get much feedback, I figured it was the surest way to evoke the Devil. While I remember wielding my sword, the sword of conquest, Excaliber. Being from Merlin it seemed fitting that I make the connection and, as I found out later, it was fashioned from the spear that pierced Christ's side when He was crucified, according to legend. So it seems fitting that I portray it in ultimate terms. I spoke of the sword earlier when it was turned against me, with the shark.

While something similar happened in the hospital, for I hadn't yet mastered its force and had to suffer the effects. It was very intense, to feel it slice across my stomach. One thing about all this mind's imagery, is that it's primarily what it entailed, images, or manifestations of my will. That is until the one experience involving my father. And, although I occasionally got some feedback, which I truly desired, nothing compared with this. (There were the spirits that were with me when the policeman came to the door, yet they weren't images so much as they were a part of my thoughts and feelings—intrinsically.) Prior to this, before the accident, I had staged my grand scheme: of world conquest and the setting up of a new order. In so doing I had become the master coordinator, and began to develop numerous alliances, with people past and present. While I'm reminded of the strategies of Zeus, the master strategist himself, whose rule couldn't have been maintained without so many alliances. And, due to my experiences, I honestly thought people were "tapping in," with their eyes glued to their TV sets like me!

... Alliance with Father ...
One alliance that seemed more significant involved my father, and his reconciliation with my mother, the first time I really addressed his person in years. It was a catalytic idea, that brought his personality into focus. And no doubt contributed to what happened in the hospital, as I lay in bed portraying a new scenario: a giant spiritual recovery system (or giant spiritual vacuum cleaner), with its chain of alliances and related uses, for those desiring to go to heaven. I was trying to get the spirits to take the initiative, to set it up and maintain it. But it wasn't working, until one spirit stepped forward and took control. It was my father and, quite independently from me he said, "Can't you see what he's trying to do?" and took the whole line and advanced everything significantly further. It was really the first time this happened (and the last), and I was pleasantly surprised, for I wasn't expecting it. I'll speak more about this shortly. As for the other patients, there were too many unusual coincidences that were hard to ignore. One was speaking of how he just talked to President Reagan, a familiar theme of mine, for he was a favorite hero and I felt I was in contact with him (which didn't make any sense). He also began shouting about a dragon biting his head off. Remember the dragon earlier? While I was surprised with the number of "religious types" there, prophesying their own peculiar brand of hate or fixation, and they went on and on. All of which caused me to doubt why I was there, afterall, who was I?

Then there was the person I drove to the hospital with, who went around wielding "his sword." Which I couldn't help but think was my sword, imparted to him by the incident in the car. How strange? While at times he lay on the floor—almost unconsciously—and made like a fish swimming up stream. It was like some big hand came down and guided him to do it. Who was he to be stealing my techniques? and messing around with my wife! While there was another patient who did the exact same thing! Who also carried on about UFO's, and gave these long disturbing accounts about sightings from the air. (He may have been in the Air Force.) At one point I went around playing tag with the patients (unbeknownst to them), touching them on their backs and shoulders and letting the spirit impart through them. I was trying to coordinate my efforts and it seems this is what I was given to work with. They had become the medium.

... Attempted Escape ...
I had been there about a week when I decided I had enough. The medication was taking effect and I was starting to come down. Fearful of losing all my power, something drastic was in order. It was right after dinner one night, after one of two the groups got back, when I made my move. Just as the last person walked through the door—which was always locked—I bolted through and ran down the hallway; which came to a tee as I turned right, and headed towards the door leading outside. Assuming the door was locked, I pounded my fist through the window and opened it from the outside, and headed for the lawn between the buildings. I just stood there, waiting for President Reagan to arrive in his helicopter! He was supposed to be there! (This is when I began to doubt why I was there.) I stood there for a couple of minutes looking around, and wondered if I should try and make it to the freeway (i.e., without my glasses), until one of the staff members came up and asked if I was alright, and walked me back into the compound.

They put me in the isolation booth next to the staff's booth, and told me I had to sit there an hour or two, and show that I could behave. Which was easy enough, as I worked with the images in my mind, until they put in the same person I drove to the hospital with. (He had already spent a lot of time there.) I had actually done a good job of avoiding him until now, he was having too much fun with everyone else, but now there was no avoiding it. He had only been there a few minutes and it was already unbearable, as he started to draw from me. I told him to stay the hell away, which only encouraged him, as he drew nearer. At which point I got up and raised me knee, as if gesturing to kick him, while threatening to punch him in the face. (I was trying to get him to back off, not start a fight.)

... Strapped in Bed ...
This is in when the staff members came rushing in, and somehow we wound up in the hallway with four or five of them surrounding me. They were obviously trying to constrain me, and in only an instant a whole fight scene was outlined in front of me. Which was reflective of how my nerves were strung and, together with being in good shape, it would have been a formidable task. I could have done some real damage. Yet I opted not to fight, and although they didn't understand, I was still impressed by their earlier decency and didn't want to hurt them. So I went along passively and was locked up and strapped down to bed that night, clearly, one of the worst nights of my life.

Except for the ability to shift my torso slightly, and raise my hands and feet some, I couldn't project anything through making gestures, and had to rely almost exclusively on my will power and ability to coordinate the images in my mind. While the room was essentially dark, except for the low wattage light fixture on the ceiling which lumed overhead. And together with the whirring of the ventilator (heater), it was too easy to imagine the spirits rushing in. While occasionally the door would rattle when a staff member peered in, which I mistook for a gang of thugs (outsiders) threatening to burst in and attack, before sodomizing—i.e., the feminine aspect I had so fervently cultivated—and murdering me. While occasionally I could hear one of the ladies screech from the other dorm, which seemed to coincide with something awful in my mind. This is where I thought it was coming from. How strange? So the battle raged and the onslaught continued. I had just enough strength to prolong the battle, but not enough to maintain an advantage, and by morning I would be overcome. While any alliance I had with my father was lost, as he too succumbed and became one of the bad guys. Yet there was one voluntary thing left I could do, and it really brought on the grief. Urinate on them. This was my way of passing judgment and it was my last triumph. It was all downhill from here, as I began to get caught up in all their snares, and the vultures began their descent. Later some of the staff came in to change the sheets and told me to call them the next time. Of course I didn't know they were available?

... A Broken Spirit ...
The next morning they let me out and I was pretty much a broken spirit, and had given up the fight. This is when they then put me on prolixin, together with the lithium, which seriously affected my motor control. And so exemplifies my loss of free will and the heightened sense of futility and despair that followed. This was all prior to Christmas, for I remember being laid up in the general assembly area, in bed asleep, only to awaken to the most bewildering sound—of Christmas carolers! And I began to think, What is this marvelous sound? Where could I possibly be? before realizing what it was. And as much as I had been put off by such ceremony, thinking it trite and shallow, they were actually quite good, and it struck a deep chord within me. While the one thing I alluded to about my father rang home on my 30th birthday, when I received a call from Dorothy. She was calling for my mother (she had just found out I was in the hospital after calling the lady who managed the property), to wish me a happy birthday and tell me that my father died! And though she didn't give a specific time, it seems strange that it should occur about the time he stepped forward in my imagination! Maybe it was him?

It was also about the time I inquired about leaving the hospital, when the woman who helped discharged the patients from Josephine County was there. She only came up once or twice a week and said it would have to wait until her next visit (the following week). She didn't have the time. She seemed personable enough and I felt I could hang in there a few more days and still keep my hopes up, just barely. When we finally did talk, she responded coolly, and said she didn't think I was ready but, that I was showing signs of improvement. And she proceeded to tell me about my imagined affair with my neighbor's wife! This is when I found out what my boss said, for I hadn't divulged it to anyone else. So my hopes were dashed, with the prospect of completely losing my identity looming ahead.

... A Cold Winter's Day ...
I don't recall much about what happened next, except that I managed to sink lower still, and come late January, when they finally decided it was time to leave, there was little left. It was a cold winter's day when everyone was ushered into the van. It was a five hour drive and they made three or four stops along the way. Being one of the last stops, they let me off at the house of the man where I had the accident. He owned a mobile home on some property in the country and was nice enough to hold onto my truck. It was the last thing I expected, for I figured it would have been impounded.

After walking up to the door I knocked and he let me in. I asked what happened to the van and he said it belonged to his lady friend, who he was no longer seeing. I said I was surprised to see he held onto my truck and he said it wasn't a problem. He had no visible animosity towards me. There wasn't much else said as I thanked him and walked outside. I don't recall if I wore my glasses, which really didn't matter, for I only had the broken pair with one eyepiece, which wouldn't stay on my face. The drive home was uneventful though, although I couldn't help but notice the thick layer of frost on the ground and, that it was very cold. When I got home the first thing I did was look for my other glasses, and sure enough I found them where I said they were, in the top drawer of the dresser. The temperature was in the teens or twenties and remained that way for the next two or three weeks? It was something I wasn't accustomed to, considering my state of duress, and especially without any heat! I had no propane tank, nor money, and it was necessary to dig a 30' trench (by hand) for laying the propane line. The outlook looked grim. It was during my first visit to the mental health center that I inquired about assistance. They said they'd look into it for me and soon referred me to the appropriate agency. Lo and behold when I went to apply, there was my next door neighbor from the mobile home park, working there part time! We said hi and chatted a bit and the other lady proceeded to help me. Aside from this, there was no visible animosity between us, though she seemed a little weary.

... The Outpatient Program ...
The mental health agency also suggested I get involved with their outpatient program, and I said I'd consider it, though it was probably the last thing I wanted to do. But, as time dragged on, it began to look more appealing. It was extremely difficult dealing with the isolation, with all this time by myself and nothing to do. Anything was preferable to sitting around and rotting away. So I began digging the 250' trench for the phone line, to give me something to do during the day, and to help alleviate the isolation once it was installed. Yet it was a horrific job. It had to be at least 3' deep the full length, the temperature was typically below freezing, there were lots of rocks in the soil, I had no stamina after getting back from the hospital, all of which affected a very morbid outlook. As it was I could only manage it for two or three hours a day—if at all—and it took several weeks to complete. It was during this period that I contemplated suicide, many times. It was in mid February I believe, that I opted to enter the program, hoping to escape my predicament. Yet it was far from ideal. The program was only scheduled twice a week, a few hours a day, and I was still faced with the prospect of what to do with myself the rest of the week. Nor could I agree with the typical attitude of the staff, with all the condescending hype, threats, badgering and belittlement. And although it's probably the prevailing attitude on how to treat the "mentally ill," it had been a long time since I was treated so childishly. It wasn't the same level of professionalism I saw in the hospital. As it was, many of the staff were former clients, and the crippling effects of their problems was apparent, though these weren't the ones I seemed to have a problem with. (They were more like drones.)

Of course most of the clients were already accustomed to this, twisted and tortured that they were, having caved into the demands of the system and becoming wards of the state. Which was equally disturbing and difficult to deal with (i.e., the clients). While the overriding attitude was to get you to conform. I guess they were afraid something would go wrong and they'd lose the control they didn't have. And being accustomed to my own freedom, I couldn't agree with it intellectually, and I felt trapped and backed against the wall. So I went along reluctantly and kept my reserve. Even so it was some relief, and was preferable to staying at home, though I continued to think about suicide and struggle with the damnation of my soul.

Story by: Dionysus | Back to top