“My Lovely Day at Psychiatric Emergency Services,” by Daniel Winn

Apr 5th, 2023 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Much in the way my hair never looks better than on the day Im getting it cut, I was my best self on the way to a mental institution. My friend told me she thought I should go and I didnt have anything else to do and wanted to kill myself so I decided to give it a whirl. I drove myself there with another friend who promised to take my car back to my house, but instead left it, along with my house keys, on the other side of town without telling me, and my phone died while I was locked up so I had to crowbar open a window to get in to charge my phone to figure out what the hell he had done and why. But that was later.

I called my friend whose bad idea this was from the parking lot. I explained my reservations. I told her how Im really better suited for prison. In prison I could play basketball, develop good reading habits, and plan escape attempts. In some cases you even get to choose your own meal. But mental hospitals are a lot of jigsaw puzzles and crafts. I dont like puzzles or crafts, and Im bad at disguising my distaste. If another inpatient asked me to help him with his puzzle I wouldnt be able to say nolike a person who just didnt want to right then; it would clearly be a nobecause I looked down upon the undertaking. Which I do.

And I was certainly not going to take any pride or pleasure in crocheting or pasting together a collage from Peoples magazines.

Yeah, thats pretty much all inpatient is,she said, speaking from experience.

Obviously Im going to fly over the cuckoos nest given the chance,I told her.


So we went in. I was asked why I was there.

Depression,I said, then, worried about my qualifications, added Suicide.

They needed to take my possessions before I could advance further, but I needed to both send a text and be able to respond to it in a timely fashion, which I explained to the doctor who would be my escort. She said that was fine as I wasnt going straight to the P.E.S. (psychiatric emergency services), but to a holding room (I doubt thats what she called it) for a debrief.

So I responded to my ex-girlfriends text because, yes, all these histrionics are about the tritest possible reason. Love. I had a pretty good sense that 1. she wouldnt reply for at least 18 hours, and 2. that she would not say what I wanted her to say. But in case she pleasantly surprised me I needed to be able to respond quickly, and in that scenario wouldnt have need for the psych ward anyway.

It would be a bad look to take three days to respond if she immediately texted, You know what, okay. Lets give it another chance. I love you so much. Youre my favorite person. I dont know what I was thinking. You have such beautiful eyes.I thought it wouldnt help the dynamic of our relationship if she knew she had sent me to a mental hospital.

They gave me scrubs to change into and traction socks, and we did the debrief: the doctor who took me inside and some other guy. I wont rehash my story here though. Im sick of it and it has a bad ending.

We returned to the room where I received my scrubs and someone said, All right, here we go.

But I still needed to check my phone, I explained.

We dont do that. Once we take your things, thats it,she said. I guess it was policy.

But she told me I could check it before I went in,I protested, indicating the doctor who told me I could check it before I went in.

I guess I must have misunderstood,she said, but I interjected, lied?

No. Not lied. Im sorry. Im new here.

How long have you been working here exactly?I asked.

Clearly not very long,she said, which implies six months, minimum. I mean, give me a break.

Okay,I said. Well if you dont let me check my phone Ill just check myself out, check it, and then readmit myself and well have to do this all over again.

The four people responsible for me huddled and whispered to one another. The doctor whose fault this was broke off and approached me.

Okay, were going to let you check your phone in this instance because I accidentally told you you could,she said.

I had already flown over the cuckoos nest with flying colors, and I wasnt even in the P.E.S. yet. It was all for nothing because she hadnt texted me back, but at least now I knew that.

They had given me some pills to sedate me or cheer me up or something, and the doctor suggested I needed something else for my anxiety.

If you think so,I said, but Im not anxious. I was just doing what I thought was best for me.

Very carefully she said, I appreciate you advocating for yourself.

And with that, I entered the P.E.S. Oh, and its pronounced pez,by the way. They took way too much pleasure in saying it. They would force it into sentences. Everything was in the P.E.S. thisand the thing about the P.E.S. that.

I glanced around the large room. People were asking the staff for various things: books, snacks, access to the bathroom. There was a round, marble-topped desk by the entrance and a couple cheap white tables around the room, but mostly the P.E.S. was strewn-about recliners as far as the eye could see. Thats what I would be sleeping on because the few bedrooms on hand were booked. I found an empty recliner not too near anyone else and tried to watch the TV. But whatever was on, some bad sci-fi movie, was worse than not watching.

Lacking anything better to do, I turned toward my thoughts. These did not cheer me up either. I came here to feel better but instead I was stripped of all the things that helped me cope: my friends, my online chess, basketball, and perhaps most importantly, my bed. My gangly body was at least four inches too tall for the recliner, and even more incongruous with the thin blanket over top of me.

It was then that I gave up on the P.E.S. I decided I would bail in the morning. First, I just had to try to somehow sleep. I took off my scrub top and put it over my face to protect me from the vicious fluorescent lights, put a pillow I stole from the recliner next to me between my knees, and tried to get my mind to wander anywhere else.

I woke up sore and unrested and told the front desk that I wanted out.

First I had to get a diagnosis from the head doctor (whatever theyre called, psychologist?) though. After hours of intentionally torturing me for spite, he came by at 11:30. He and a couple cohorts sat me down not in a private room but at one of the tables just in the middle of the P.E.S., so all the other lunatics could listen to the most intimate details of my life while finishing their Cheerios.

With the weight of many, many years of study the head doctor told me that I in fact had an adjustment disorder,and he gave me a piece of paper saying so.

Adjustment disorder means that I had an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in [my] life.Brilliant.

There was one good thing that came from all of this: I got to keep my scrubs and socks. Ive always been a sucker for souvenirs.

I changed into my normal human clothes and went to the Dennys I knew was nearby. I had been craving a hearty meal since encountering the P.E.S. breakfast earlier in the day. I ordered way too much, ate about half, and headed home.

Because my phone was dead, I unstrategically took buses vaguely headed in the direction I was trying to go. I took one bus until it stopped going south. Walked another mile or two. Took another bus. Walked another mile or two, and just like that, after over two hours, I was home. Or, outside of my home.

But there was no car in my driveway. Which was really depressing.


Daniel Winn is a writer and person of other hobbies from Portland, Oregon. His work has been featured in Millennial Pulp, Oddball, Defenestration, the Ciele Film Festival, and very few other places.

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