A Mother’s Memoir of Autism, Madness and Hope
Can anyone help me? Get me out of here! I go to the light switch by the door again. I switch the overhead light on and off, my only way to communicate with the outside world. I let it shine for three short seconds, then three long, three short: SOS.
When I’ve doused the light, darkness sinks into my room on the seventh floor, my prison, Ward 22. I cross to the window and look out into the dusky summer night, moving toward dawn. I peer out over parking lots, buildings, houses and homes.
Is nobody there? Nobody listening, hearing, or seeing?
No one anywhere.
I rest my forehead against the cool windowpane and tears run slowly down my cheeks.
Three years earlier, I’m sitting at my office desk, gazing over Johannes Park in Stockholm. It’s early December, and the snowfall is light and flakey. It swirls slowly outside the window. A lone man walks by with his dog. A sudden pain inside my stomach, high up under my ribcage, is uncomfortable and I move to change position. It’s my first contraction, but I only realize that later on. I am at the end of my first pregnancy. In little more than a week, my baby is due and I’m trying to finish up business and clean off my desk.
The office is lively. Telephones are ringing everywhere. People answer them, chatting and laughing. There are ten of us working here now. It’s our company, our baby, in which we invest all our waking hours, from early morning to late at night. The company is thriving, and we’re being written up in the press. When we started out, it was just the two of us, my husband Carl and me. In those days, we worked out of a basement in Vasastan.
That was back when people still faxed each other and the Internet hardly existed. We run a speakers’ bureau and make our living on the spoken word. “Speech is golden” is our motto, in contrast to the adage, “Speech is silver and silence is golden.” We help businesses and organizations find the right speakers for conferences and courses. We seek out speakers who have a burning devotion and desire to share their knowledge and experience, from politicians, CEOs, and experts to celebrities and performers.
I remember how Carl and I met just a couple of years ago: Moved in together, started a business together, got engaged, got married, bought a house and now, soon we’ll have a baby. It’s all happened so fast, and it’s been great. Sometimes I wonder what we did to deserve it all. Life can’t get much better.
The First Signs
It’s midday, just past twelve. People crowd the main entrance to the Åhlén’s City department store. Efficient businessmen and women take decisive strides through the doors, running errands on their lunch breaks. There are people everywhere, but they move smoothly and without bumping into each other to the escalator that takes them up into the upper floors. Others stroll around idly, trying out perfume and looking at makeup in the cosmetics department, here on the first floor. Two teenage girls giggle with joy when a sales clerk helps one of them apply some eye shadow.
Lucas and I are waiting for an elevator. All the moms know that the best changing room in town is on the fourth floor of Åhléns. It is large and well organized, with couches to sit on and nurse your infant, several tables for diaper changes, toilets for moms and dads, a play area for siblings, and a microwave for heating baby food. It’s on the same floor as the children’s clothing department. When you’ve finished caring for your little ones and they’re fed and satisfied, there’s always time to look for some new garment they may need. The people at Åhlén’s know how to get parents to shop.
The elevators take a while. I see that both of them are on the top floor. Next to me is another mother. In her arms, she’s holding a little boy with curly, brown-hair.
“Hola, guapocito, mi cariño,” she addresses him in Spanish.
She kisses, cuddles, and teases him.
She tickles his ribs. He wriggles, trying to avoid it, nearly choking with laughter. Then he sees me. Maybe I’m staring, I don’t know. My gaze meets his. He turns serious, his lips pucker, and I wonder if he’s going to cry. But then he breaks into a giant smile. I smile back at him and his brown eyes sparkle. He hands me his pacifier. It’s blue and white, with a little brown bear printed on the middle.
“How nice,” I say and hand it back to him.
It looks like he nods and quickly stuffs it back in his mouth. His eyes are still sparkling.
I turn to his mother and ask, “How old is he?”
“He’ll be six months next week,” she answers in broken Swedish and strokes his cheek.
“He’s very sweet,” I say, and she smiles.
I look at my own son. He has a tight grip on the edge of the carriage. He’s just learned to sit up and still tumbles over easily. He seems entirely unaware of the little boy his own age, right next to him. Lucas sits with his face turned away.
What is he watching? I follow his gaze. Maybe it’s the small white table fan spinning on the counter over there, maybe something else. I don’t know.
Ding—my thoughts are interrupted, the elevator is here and the doors open. People exit and we enter. It’s crowded. Two baby carriages, elderly ladies, young girls, and men. A lady in a green coat stands close to Lucas. She smiles at him and tries to catch his attention, but he ignores her and looks in another direction. She seems disappointed. I watch the little dark boy. He’s smiling at anyone who looks at him, fully enjoying all the attention.
Faces don’t seem to mean anything to Lucas. Strangers don’t interest him at all. He’s more fascinated with physical objects, like spinning fans or a fountain that sprays water, but also with shadows playing on the wall or bright lights. I think back to how, at his four-month checkup, I asked the doctor why Lucas didn’t want to look at me or meet my gaze. She asked me to hold him close, turn him toward me, and say something to him. He took a quick look, and then turned away.
“There, you see?” She said. “He looks at you just fine!”
“But just quickly,” I said.
“Don’t worry. He’s still little. He’ll react more and more the older he gets.”
She had no idea how wrong she was.
Lucas is small, only two years old, when I begin to fathom and admit to myself that he’s different. It’s difficult to say what it is that sets him apart from other children. Initially, it was mostly a feeling, an uneasy omen of the great grief that was to strike us. He is our first-born, and we had no experience of how a child develops and behaves in different stages. Otherwise, we would probably have reacted sooner.
At the age of one, he could name some things and made an effort to say words when he wanted something, even if he sometimes used the same word when he meant different things, but now he seems to have lost what he once knew. He says almost nothing. It seems like he has regressed. If he wants something, he pulls me along and points to whatever it is. He points, but otherwise he uses no gestures to communicate what he wants to say. He neither shakes his head nor nods. He often gets frustrated and angry when I don’t understand. He screams, kicks, and hits.
He often doesn’t react to direct address and doesn’t respond when we call his name. He cannot do what we ask him, unless he can read the situation and understand what’s expected of him. If I ask him to pick up a ball that’s in front of his feet, he can give me the ball, but he can’t go into another room and fetch a ball. We start to wonder if he might have a hearing problem. Or does he? When I say, “Candy,” he immediately comes running.
He has bad eye contact, except for a few occasions when he’s highly motivated, like when he’s playing chase. He can play that game endlessly. He’s totally focused, and he screams with excitement when we chase him around the house. His eyes light up then, and his gaze is intense and follows our gazes.
Many other times he is entirely closed into his own world and is hard to reach. He goes off and only wants to watch cartoons and animated movies. Pingu, a clay animated film about a little penguin and his family, is a favorite that he watches repeatedly. Short, simple, and very clear brief stories, with sound effects but no words. Lucas becomes engrossed with the film and gets hysterical if we turn off the TV. He seldom sits still while watching TV but runs back and forth. He bounces and jumps with both feet, up and down. Sometimes he drives around in his red pedal-car, a small plastic car that he maneuvers expertly. He gets up speed and drives straight over the parquet floor in the living room, then makes a sharp turn just in time to avoid the recliner in one corner, skids around, and drives back. He backs up and deftly handles his little car like no one else.
His motor development is very good. He began walking on his first birthday, and now, at the age of two, he has a good sense of balance. He climbs around and likes to balance along the back of the couch. However, he doesn’t seek out physical contact in the same way other kids do. He doesn’t like to hug and cuddle. If I’m sitting on the couch, he may climb up on my back, hug me from behind, and press his chin really hard against my head. If I’m standing somewhere, he may come over, take my hand, and press his chin into it, hard. He seldom sits still, and in his search for contact we become like two magnets that repel instead of attracting each other, for his advances are hard and often hurt. Sometimes, when he’s very tired, he can sit still for a while in my lap. These are short periods, all too seldom, but I take advantage of every chance I get to hold him.
He has a different movement pattern. He walks on his toes. He flaps his hands, holds up his fingers in the air, and looks at them. He’s fascinated by shadows and points of light. On a sunny day, he can stand for a long time, staring at the white kitchen wall, following the shadows of the branches blowing in the wind outside the window.
Otherwise, he has difficulty concentrating. Like a butterfly, he flutters around. Stops somewhere for a short while and then flits off to the next spot.
He doesn’t like to play with toys but is more interested in examining things. He loves to spin things. If he finds a toy car, he doesn’t drive it over the floor, he spins the wheels around and around. Rings, coins – he loves to spin anything that’s round. He can also begin to spin himself around. At any time, without apparent reason. We try to stop him then. Otherwise, he’ll continue until he’s completely dizzy and falls over.
He twines strings. We have wooden blinds in the kitchen and living room. He runs from one window to the next and twines the strings on the blinds until they’re one big mess, almost impossible to untangle. In the evening, when it’s bedtime, he lies and twists my hair into tiny knots that I’m forced to cut off. It’s hard to get him to stop.
He also likes to arrange things in rows. His movies, wooden train cars—he makes a long row on the living room floor. And he likes to throw things. He likes to stand at the top of the stairs and drop things. Ball, toy, whatever, he watches it when it bounces down the stairs. Several times, he tips the TV from its table. He even throws things from the balcony down into the yard. He loves water. He can stand for long periods in the kitchen on a stool at the sink and pour water back and forth between mugs and pots. Otherwise, he has a hard time concentrating for longer stretches of time. He tires quickly and runs away randomly, but it’s different with water. We encourage his desire to experiment with food coloring, and he watches with excitement how the red drops dissolve in the water, or we may pour detergent that he can stir up into a pile of suds that glitter in all the colors of the rainbow.
He could stay in the bathtub forever. He likes to fill it with bubble bath and blow at the bubbles until they fly up in the air. He likes to pull out the plug and watch the water go around and around in a little whirlpool until it finally runs out. When the last of the water goes down with a slurping noise, he covers his ears.
At the age of two, he has discovered the toilet and it interests him. He knows how to flush, and he likes to put things in it and then flush. The flushing sound makes him cover his ears. I have to hide my earrings so they won’t get flushed down. He often takes the toilet paper, puts it on the floor, and pulls on one end to see it roll away across the floor.
He has never slept much. He stopped napping at midday early on, before he was two. He still wakes up screaming several times nightly and has difficulty going back to sleep. He gets up at dawn, often around 4:30 a.m., and now the TV has become a lifesaver. A familiar movie will sometimes get him to calm down and even sit still on the sofa, while I lie and snooze next to him. I have to take night duty, since Calle has to work.
When we go to bed in the evening, we try to interest him in books, but he doesn’t want to look at them and throws them aside. When we go to bed, I like to hold him, caress and hug him, but then he pushes me away. He wants to lie by himself, not next to me, close to my body. When we lie there quietly, trying to go to sleep, he sometimes laughs aloud for no apparent reason. He just bubbles with laughter, as if he’s captivated by the sound of his own voice.
He’s not interested in other children. If we’re in the park, he doesn’t notice them. Instead, he stands in the sandbox and splashes sand, or throws stones in puddles, totally unaware of others around him. He can treat his little sister, Sara, like an object or a piece of furniture. If she’s lying on the floor, he can come over and sit on her. He often covers her with a blanket. If she’s lying in his way, he’ll pick her up, sometimes by the throat, move her out of the way and drop her onto the floor.
He neither cries nor shows in any way that he has hurt himself when he falls. He doesn’t come to us to seek out comfort or solace.
Increasingly, I understand that Lucas is not like other children. He has always been different, a little more difficult and more demanding than other kids, but now the differences are beginning to be so big that they’re noticeable. Somewhere in the back of my mind, the word autism is spinning. I don’t know anyone who is autistic and have no experience with autism, but I know that it’s a communicative disorder. I get onto the Internet and find the home page for the Autism Society, looking for information. I read there:
Persons with autism have great difficulties processing and understanding information so they can create wholeness and context in their experiences. They also lack the ability to understand and empathize with others’ thoughts, feelings, and needs. The symptoms are usually divided into three main groups:
1. Serious impairment in the ability to create mutual contact
2. Serious impairment in the ability to communicate, and
3. Serious impairment of imagination, play, behaviors and interests.
Persons with autism and autism spectrum disorders often have a different, extremely uneven intelligence profile and specific learning impairments. Studies indicate that one of the basic impairments, when it comes to learning, results in persons with autism and autism spectrum disorders not being able to empathize with others, not being able to imagine other people’s thinking and feeling, in other words, that other people’s behavior and actions are steered by inner mental processes.
A lot seems to fit Lucas, but Calle and I don’t want to believe that it’s that serious, as terrible as autism. Of course, it’s hard to establish contact with him, but he doesn’t have a “serious” limitation in mutual contact. He shows interest in us and likes us. He learns things; if you show him how to perform correctly, he quickly learns new things.
We speak with Lucas’ grandmother, Gunilla, about our suspicions. She lives nearby, sees Lucas several times a week, and they’re really close. She babysits him and his little sister, Sara, often. She loves her grandchildren and is truly devoted to them. She immediately rejects our line of thinking. Lucas isn’t autistic. He’s so lively and happy. So full of life and joy. He loves to run around and be chased by all of us. He does have a hard time speaking, but he isn’t very old yet. The arrival of his little sister is a big change, and it’s common for children to regress a little, but they catch up again after a while. Gunilla has a lot of experience working with children, and we want so desperately to believe what she says. She suggests that we find a speech therapist if we’re worried about his language development, and we agree to do that. The Swedish health care system gives everyone who lives or works in Sweden access to heavily subsidized health care. The system is tax-funded. The care is of the highest standard, but sometimes the wait to see a certain specialist can be long.
In our case, for each of the speech therapists we contact the waiting period is long, sometimes several years. In addition, it’s mid-May, and many will soon be on vacation. But at last we find a therapist who has time for us in October. Maybe it’s a good thing that we have to wait. Lucas may mature and catch up. We’re going to take the summer off to have time for each other. The summer passes and the fall arrives. Anxiety is constantly present, pressing away.
Things are not getting better.
The Boundary between Dream and Reality Disappears
I feel no hunger or fatigue. In the evenings, when the kids have gone to sleep, I sit up until three a.m. reading. Then I go to bed and wake up at five, ready to go. I often dream something about what I read the previous evening and awaken with new angles. I immediately arise, sit down, and write down my thoughts. My brain is never at rest. Thoughts have the speed of light. Wherever I am, I need to write down what I’m thinking because the thoughts are fleeting and I’m afraid they’ll disappear. Even while I’m driving, I keep a notepad next to me, so I can jot down ideas. When I stop at a red light, I can write long sentences and I have the notepad on the steering wheel to set down the main points. Days pass and my thoughts are drowning my brain, and soon it can no longer take in outside stimuli.
One day, I’m on my way home from town. I’m driving alone in my car and approach the Danviktull drawbridge. Suddenly, I hear bells ringing. I look around and see that the drawbridge is opening and just barely make it, braking and stopping the car before a road barrier cuts my car in two. I’ve driven past the first red light and nearly passed the second. My car is alone, in front, closest to the bridge. The other drivers have stopped at the first red light. I see the bridge open before my eyes and understand that I can no longer drive.
I sleep even less. The boundary between dream and reality begins to disappear. One night I dream that my deceased father speaks to me and I wake up, believing he’s still alive. A couple of months ago, it was ten years since he died in the car crash. I lie in bed and my thoughts are spinning. Maybe he DIDN’T die in the crash? Maybe it was all fake? Maybe he wanted to start a new life somewhere else and change his identity? If he had committed a crime, the statute of limitations would have expired by now, this year. How can I find him, if he’s alive? Where is he? How can I reach him? I figure, if he is alive, he must have access to the Internet. Maybe I can find him that way, try and find his email address and contact him. I get out of bed and go up to our office in the attic and sit down in front of my computer. I write down a list of possible email addresses he might have and start sending emails into cyberspace, but to my disappointment they all bounce back with the answer “user unknown.” He died near a place called Jenny. Was it a sign? Are there other places with that name? I search Google Maps. In Surinam, a country in between Guyana and French Guyana in northeastern South America, I find a spot on the coast called Jenny. He loved South America. Of course, that’s where he is.
A window has opened that was previously closed. My senses are sharpened, and I take in everything in my surroundings. People turn to me in a different manner than before. At the open preschool, everyone gathers around me; I’m the focal point, and I lead the discussion. Perhaps it has something to do with my viewpoint? I see everything and everyone and cannot leave well enough alone. Energy emanates from me in an almost supernatural way. Is it something that affects others unconsciously, or is it just my own experience? The feeling is so strong and the energy surrounds all living things.
One day, I visit my friend, Camilla, who lives in the neighborhood. We’re going for coffee, and Sara has a playdate with her daughter. I take the car and park in the driveway, lift Sara from her car seat, and put her on the ground. I take her small hand in mine and we walk up to the house. Suddenly, Rex, their giant, black German shepherd, comes bounding up. He’s a little wild and usually runs around like crazy in the yard, but he’s a good dog and all he wants to do is play. I bend down, meet him, and look into his large, dark brown eyes. Immediately, he sits and becomes completely calm. Our gazes meet for a moment that seems like an eternity. We have a connection that flows between us like an invisible force. When I get up, he follows us closely and rubs against my legs. We ascend the stairs to the front door. I ring the bell and Rex sits down, close by me.
Camilla opens. “Hi, nice to see you,” she says. “Come on in. Wow, Rex is so calm! What have you done to him?” She laughs.
“Nothing,” I answer and smile secretively. “We just said our hellos.”
Strange things begin to occur, and it scares me. A ceiling light in the hall by the living room begins to act strangely. When I’m in the vicinity, it increases and decreases in luminosity, without my using the dimmer. At night, different toys begin going without my pressing any buttons to activate them. The telephone rings, but no one is there when I answer.
All I hear are clicking sounds. No dial tone or voice.
When the children watch Cartoon Network or any other TV channel during the daytime, we have bad reception and can’t watch. Suddenly, transmission is interrupted, and all we see is a snowstorm. It feels as if the air is charged with static electricity, and it’s as if some supernatural force has taken over and is steering, or at least trying to, our lives. If I put on a DVD, everything is normal again.
One night, when Sara wakes up, I lay down beside her and she falls back to sleep. I remain with her, thinking of different rules and stances we should adopt in our family. I feel that candy on Saturdays only is a stupid rule, mainly constructed to make it easy for parents, instead of being for the benefit of kids. If kids are allowed to have candy only on Saturdays, a practice that is very common in Sweden, it’s easier for parents to handle their kids’ nagging by referring to the fact that they’ll get it on Saturday. I don’t eat candy only on Saturdays, so why should they have to? I hug my little girl sleeping peacefully beside me. She moves a little and talks in her sleep. I listen and hear her say, “Candy”. Candy, I think. I was just lying there, thinking about Saturday candy. Can she read my thoughts in her unconscious? We are close, spend day and night together. Maybe small children, still developing a language, have a kind of sixth sense? Do they have telepathic abilities? Telepathy is a direct connection or contact between two sentient beings. It is the ability to read another person’s thoughts or to transfer one’s thoughts to another without the use of speech, signs, or other physical signals. I’ve read that there are researchers who believe that, several million years ago, before we developed a language, people communicated with thoughts. Maybe telepathy is something we all have when we’re born, but the ability diminishes as we learn to speak?
Later the same day, I’m thinking. Lucas hasn’t developed a spoken language. How are his telepathic abilities? What if he can read my thoughts? I worry about the terrible thoughts I’ve had and how it’s affected him. I know that when we began to suspect autism, Calle and I wondered if Lucas would ever be able to live a normal life, with such a terrible handicap. It would be so limiting, so lonely. He would live in isolation, closed into his own world and be very dependent upon others. It went so far that we thought, independently of each other, that it would’ve been better for Lucas if he died, better than needing to live such a horrible life. Death would be liberating, in comparison with life. We wished the life out of him, our little child. When I think this, I hear how Lucas walks around and sniffles straight out into the air, one of his tics, like he usually does. He snorts, snorts, and sniffles.
I can’t see him, but I call out to him, “Lucas, stop snorting!”
However, he doesn’t stop and I go to find him. The little chubby three-year-old comes out of the bathroom, straight toward me. I see to my horror and despair that his nose is bleeding. Red blood is running from his nostrils down over his lips.
I start to cry, fall on my knees, and hug him. “Forgive me, Lucas, I’m sorry. We don’t want any harm to come to you. We love you so much. We only want what’s best for you. We want you to get well, to be able to talk with us. To be with us. Beloved child. You and Sara, you two mean the most to us. More than anything. You know that. You are everything to us.”
After a while, I let go of him and get a Kleenex from my pocket. I carefully wipe his nose. My face is close to his and for once, our gazes meet. He looks at me with large, serious blue eyes, exactly as if he wants to say, “I know, Mom, I know.”
I’m cold, in spite of all the warm sweaters I put on. At night, I can’t sleep. When I close my eyes, I see pictures. Even in the day, when I close my eyes, I see symbols. It’s as if my brain cannot relax. Impressions wash over me and leave me without peace. Everything must be interpreted, and I begin to read messages everywhere, in billboards, in ads from Pampers, in a TV show. A higher truth is touching my life and me.
One day, a black-and-white movie is on TV. It’s A Giant Swede: Harry Victor. The main character is a kind of spy, and it suddenly occurs to me that my father was of course a spy. He worked for SÄPO (Swedish Secret Police) or something similar. That’s why he’s gone underground and disappeared. What a brilliant, logical explanation! That’s it.
Up in the attic, there are two rooms, the office, which is the white room, and our cinema, with black walls and flooring. In the evening, I usually sit in the white room and Calle in the black. One evening, Calle is watching a movie and I go in to say something to him about the dream I had of my father, that I believe he is still alive. The air feels heavy and electric.
When I sit on the couch and tell him, my eyeglasses fall off. One of the arms has come off because the screw that keeps my glasses together has fallen out. I pick them up and put them on again. They sit a little crooked, since one arm is missing. I continue to talk and almost immediately, one of my diamond earrings falls off. Without any explicable reason.
It feels ominous. What’s happening? Is it my dad trying to communicate with me? Is he sending me a sign?
My husband is now beginning to worry that all is not right with me. The next day, he calls my sister, Eva, and asks her to come and sleep over. I try to tell her about our father and that I believe he’s still alive, but she won’t take in any of what I’m saying and tries to prove the opposite. We get nowhere, and in the evening she makes sure we go to bed. I fall asleep, then wake up after a cou- ple of hours, go upstairs, and sit in front of the computer again to search the world over for my missing father.
The next day, Calle wants to take me to lunch. He has arranged for his mother to come and babysit. We go to the Hotel Långholmen Restaurant. Long ago, the hotel was a prison, built in the early nineteenth century. Before Calle and I moved in together, we spent a night in one of their rooms, as they call the cells. Maybe he wanted everything to be as usual again and that was why he brought me there, but I feel anything but usual.
It’s late April, and the spring sun is shining from a blue sky. The outdoor section is closed, but I succeed in charming the waiter into letting us eat lunch outdoors. I’m not particularly hungry and order a salad and a glass of white wine. Calle has a shrimp sandwich. We lean against the building, and the sun is warming us nicely. I’m glad we’re alone, because I’m restless and have difficulty sitting still. I go and fetch more bread and dressing. Later, I go to the restroom in order to keep moving.
After lunch, we get in the car and Calle drives. He doesn’t drive homeward. He takes another road, over the Västerbro Bridge and on to Kungsholmen. We turn into a parking lot, close to a large building. In spite of my mental state, I still have one foot in reality and I understand where we are headed. Calle parks. I open the car door, get out, and run away. Away from the parking lot, toward the green belt close by. I hide behind the trees. Calle runs after me. I feel hunted, like a wild animal, about to be captured. Calle can’t catch me and calls my sister Eva, who comes. Together, they wheedle and reason with me and finally I follow them in, into the psychiatric emergency ward at St. Göran’s hospital.
On entering, we pass a kiosk. I see the headlines, and it’s as if everyone has something important to tell me. I sneak off from Calle and Eva and approach the woman in the kiosk, asking for one copy of each of the newspapers they sell. She starts putting together a bundle and they arrive and stop her just before I try to pay.
We see a doctor. Calle and Eva tell him about my background. He asks if I’ve had similar problems previously.
Eva says that I had hyperthyroidism many years ago. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excess thyroid hormones. This makes the body’s functions speed up and leads to symptoms such as shaking, weight loss, and anxiety. It increases your metabolism, and your body goes into overdrive. I had heart palpitations, heightened pulse, sweats, shakes, and was irritated, restless and easily upset. I also lost a lot of weight. Eva thinks that my symptoms now remind her of those. After the doctor has observed and spoken with me, he concludes that this is not an overactive thyroid. He believes I’m suffering from a psychosis. Calle and Eva want to take me home with some sleeping pills, but the doctor thinks otherwise. Against my own and my family’s will, I’m committed in accordance with Swedish law to compulsory psychiatric treatment. I receive Stesolid and Nitrazepam. I fall asleep and stay that way for fourteen hours.
Next day, I’m moved to the hospital a stone’s throw from where we live. I’m admitted to Ward 22, which is on the top floor, maybe so it won’t be easy to escape. The door is locked and can be opened only by the caretakers. The ward consists of a long corridor, with rooms on both sides. The women are separated from the men, but there are both in this ward. There are dormitories for multiple persons, but also private rooms. A few rooms are group therapy rooms and treatment rooms. The cafeteria functions as a dayroom too, and there’s a couch
and TV. There’s lots of daylight in that room, and, from the tables by the windows, you have a view of the area for miles. I can almost see our home. At the end of the corridor, there’s a smaller dayroom. You can listen to the radio there, and there’s a TV that doesn’t work. Halfway down the corridor, there’s a smoking room, shared by patients and personnel alike.
I’m placed in a dormitory with three other women. Next to each bed, there’s a small screen, so patients can have some privacy.
From the medical records:
At our meeting, the patient is very closed off. Quite correct behavior, formally. Describes the occurrences of the last few days and their son’s illness initially in our conversation quite correctly and adequately, eventually beginning to slide into many associations about the possibility of treatment where she herself has found a way to teach the children to communicate. Quite emotionally unstable during most of our talk. Laughs inaptly and is close to tears alternately. Doesn’t want to stay at the hospital, feels no need of care. Needs to go home and needs the support of her family.
My thoughts are spinning and I try to put them down on paper. I talk to everyone and try to explain what I mean. At night, when everyone has gone to bed, I talk to myself. The first night, I sleep for three or four hours, in spite of the sleeping pills. I receive stronger medication and then start having trouble speaking. It feels uncomfortable. I feel strange, like I’m amid strangers. I feel insecure. I want to go to my sister’s place and rest up there, to be with someone who knows me and likes me. I don’t want to stay in this place.
Calle comes to visit me every day. We have conversations with the doctor. I tell them that I want to leave here, that I don’t want medicine. The doctor says I must stay until I’m better. He thinks I need the medication, and reluctantly I agree to it, in spite of the fact that it makes me feel very uneasy.