I recently returned from a vacation of sorts.

I was hospitalized in Paradise Valley for depression and trying to hurt myself. I was told that I was so lucky to be going to this particular psychiatric hospital because it was exceptional in every way.

Danny Haralson

Danny Haralson

I must say that the food was good, and the nursing and technical help as well, but I was thinking that exceptional meant a TV for every bed and a phone in every room, but not so. Each room had two beds, no chairs, a side desk and nothing else.

The bathroom had assist rails that were half-circle so as to not be able to hang a towel or yourself from them. There were no garbage buckets, but there were grocery paper carryout bags.

The common phone for making and receiving phone calls hung just outside my door so that I could hear every conversation made, and the phone cord was 20 inches long so as to not be an instrument for hanging. I did suggest that a good move by the facility would be to change the phone to a neutral wall alongside the nursing station so some degree of privacy could be counted on, but the employee just nodded in agreement because I am sure they had heard that many times before.

We were all expected to attend common meetings in a much-too-small room for 13 patients, and the meetings would run into each other without break at times. If they did allow a break, a rush to our rooms would present a locked door meant to keep us in the meetings.

I arrived nauseated after breakfast the following day and had to ask to be allowed into, my room. After using the facility, I would try to lie on the bed but someone would come to the door and tell me that a meeting was in progress and I needed to attend.

The meetings would not have been too bad, except they were repetitive, with nurses asking the same questions over and over again, such as, “What are your goals today?” and “What do you expect to accomplish today?” appearing way too many times with similar questions to follow. After two days, I really felt like saying, “To strangle the instructor,” but that would have added days to my stay.

Each day, I wished they would tell me that I would be going home the following day, but it never came. When told the actual day that I was to be released, six days after arriving, I told a little lie and told the “shrink” and progress nurse that I had a doctor’s appointment in Tucson on the day I was to be released and had to leave earlier. The progress nurse, “Kratchet,” said, “Well, there is no way that can happen,” and she wanted to call my wife and doctor in Tucson to have the appointment changed.

I had to think fast and told her I had memory loss and could not think of the name of the doctor but that my wife could tell her. I knew my wife was in Tucson on her own physician appointment so I had to act fast. As soon as the nurse left, I immediately went to the phone and in hushed words to my wife said, “My appointment is in Tucson tomorrow, right?” and she replied, “No, Danny, it is Friday.” In a deeper voice I repeated, “My appointment is in Tucson tomorrow! Right?” This time she caught on, and I told her a nurse would be calling her to confirm that and to be letter perfect in her answer, which she was.

This turned out to be my only personal victory in the place as every other minute was regimented completely. I was called “Jack Nicholson” because of the role he played in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” This was because of my outgoing personality and friendly but ditzy response to all situations and people during my stay. I think that was a compliment. I didn’t leave after a frontal lobotomy, although some might think I did.

My bed was the usual uncomfortable item that cost three times the price of a nice single bed and breaks everyone’s back. The pillow was a brick in a pillowcase. No, I mean it was really a brick in a pillowcase.

I have bad legs and cannot stand alone without a cane, which they took from me during first evaluation, along with my cap and belt. I can understand the cane and belt but why the cap? I guess somewhere, in the past, someone had slit their throat with one. In any case, one should never take anything with them including a cell phone, which might distract you from the fun you are having if you were allowed to keep it.

After waiting in the reception room, which was locked once I entered, there was over a three-hour wait, and this was when I was nauseated. They finally moved me into a patient section that was the south ward. It was for those with dementia and Alzheimer patients.

I sat in a corner and just took it all in. One man took all his clothes off, took a prone position on the floor and kept screaming, “The bombs are coming and save yourself from the glass.”

After the nursing assistants helped him back into his paper clothing, he continued to lie on the floor, where a little old lady took one sandal off and tried to stand on his back, at which point he began to scream, “Get her off me” over and over.

They called a “brown code” at one point with the same little old lady, where they thought she had had an accident in her pants but, on further inspection, realized it was her breath, and the code was called off. They swabbed her mouth for over two minutes.

With that, they finally moved me next door to my ward — the north ward.

Next time: Flying out of the cuckoo’s nest

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