Depressives versus Alcoholics (Pt.1)
Who here has ever been ‘so bored you could just die?’ Raise your hand.
Who here has ever spent time in a hospital Psych/o Ward? Raise your hand.
Who here has ever experienced the second question because they attempted the first? Raise your hand.
Well I have. You see, almost 20 years ago while stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, I attempted to take that faithful ol’ chestnut to task.
You see, I was in the United States Army for roughly 4 minutes – no, wait, that was in a guy who was in the Army. Hmm…
I spent a year in the military. Today, I lovingly refer to that year as my own personal nightmare. Much as I would like to say all of it was utter hell, I have to admit the first twelve weeks consisting of Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) were rather pleasant, if not, almost enjoyable. I was kept so busy and my time was so structured I had no opportunity to reach a state of boredom.
It wasn’t until I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas where I began to understand the drudgery of life in the military. Everything we did involved hurry up and wait. A stock phrase in the military but perhaps unclear to civilians. But I want to dive right into this story:
“Sarge … Sarge … I really need to talk to someone.” I plead as I follow behind Staff Sergeant Ottman.
“Buck up and deal with your own problems, Congdon.” He responds curtly as he blows out a puff of smoke. He and I are not friends, have very different personalities, and can barely acknowledge the other’s presence.
“Then tell me where I can find a priest that I can talk to.” No longer pleading, I use a different approach and order him to give me the information I need. Regardless of our personal relationship, he is to make sure that we in his charge can rely on him to listen to our problems. Regardless, me, a private, telling a Staff Sergeant what to do. I am surprised I don’t get in serious trouble.
“If you need to talk to someone that badly,” Sergeant Ottman sighs, “you can talk to me.” He turns and looks at me with disgust.
“I’m depressed.” Unsure how to start this delicate matter while standing on the sidewalk with a man I loathe.
“No. No you are not.” Ottman responds flatly.
“Wow! Well something is wrong. And as I know myself better than you, I will take my own word for it.” I respond, shocked and utterly annoyed at Ottman’s attempt to shut me down.
“Well, be normal then. Stop being miserable. Quit whining. Stop trying to draw attention to yourself, Congdon.” Ottman starts walking toward the mess hall while giving me his suggestions regarding my issues. ”Why do you think you are depressed?” He emphasizes ‘depressed’ as if to mock me for my personal mental state.
“Fine. You want to know why?” I retort smugly. “Because last night I tried to kill myself. And I am not sure…”
“WHAT Congdon?” Ottman bellows.
“See, I told you I need to talk to someone.”
“Wait right here, Congdon.” Sarge runs off to the motor pull next door. A few minutes later, he pulls up in a jeep. “Get in. Now!” He orders me. While I am climbing in, he begins driving off. The rest of the guys in my unit stand out front of the Mess Hall and watch as I am driven off into the sunset with Ottman.
The ride is ten minutes of uncomfortable silence. As I sit in the passenger’s seat, Ottman intently follows the road as he furiously inhales a cigarette. All I can think about is my hatred for this subhuman troglodyte. The animosity between the two of us is palpable. Both of us are too stubborn to break the quiet, so neither of us do. Thus I am stunned to find him stopping the jeep in the base hospital’s parking lot. I don’t need a hospital, I want someone to talk to. Is anyone in the military actually able to understand simple words? Isn’t listening part of Basic training?
Before climbing out of the jeep, I ask Sarge for a cigarette. I left my pack in the barracks as I wasn’t expecting to be taken on a sudden excursion so far from the barracks.
“Can I bum a smoke?”
“If you can’t afford your own, you should quit smoking.” He tersely responds as he obnoxiously lights himself a cigarette.
“Seriously?” I ask, both shocked and appalled – lighting up a smoke as you refuse a simple request. God! I hate this man.
“Yup.” He states as he blows out a big puff of smoke.
“Wow, okay then.” All I can think is, this man is a complete dick.
Once he finishes, he quickly walks into the hospital with me in tow. Eventually I find myself in the Psychiatric Unit. He signs me in, turns around and walks out. I look around. The nurses at the nurses’ station seem prepared to meet me. I don’t recall sarge calling anyone.
“Huh? What am I doing here?” I ask the nurse as she escorts me to a room ten feet from the nurses’ station.
“Why do you think you are here? Please remove your boots” She responds as she closes the door behind us. The room is cold, sterile, and pale blue.
“Because I am depressed and trying to talk to someone?” I state flatly, as I remove my boots.
“Here.” (Let’s just call her Nurse Ratchet.)
Nurse Ratchet hands me a pair of pale blue booties. “No, you are here because your actions have brought you here.” She states while picking up my boots.
“Why are you taking my boots? Hey? When do I get my boots back?” I am standing in the middle of the cold, sterile, and pale blue room looking completely ridiculous in my BDU’s and little blue booties.
“When we feel you are no longer a threat to yourself. Please make yourself comfortable.” Nurse Ratchet motions to the bed. Her response is without a trace of irony or a single hint of warmth or compassion as she closes the door behind her.
Looking about the stark room. Two beds are made. One shows signs of life around it. The other feels as inviting as a lone dirty clown in the woods. I shiver. I don’t see a chair to sit in, so I sit on the edge of the unclaimed bed. It’s sheets are a strange, thin, paper-like fabric. With little difficulty I tore through the corner of the sheet using my thumb. Trés Elegant!
Ah Michael, what have you gotten yourself into this time? I mutter to myself as I peer out the barred window and watch the barren and brown Texan landscape sprawl out into November. I shiver again. At this point I realize I am cold. From the ceiling vents, gelid air pours forth and lays heavy upon the empty room. These bed-sheets are supposed to keep a person warm while that cold air pumps into the room?
The door opens again. Nurse Ratchet reappears with a small paper cup and a couple pills. “I’m sorry, when I said, ‘make yourself comfortable’, I meant for you to remove your BDU’s and put those on.” She pointed to a pale blue cotton shirt and pants hanging in an open and virtually empty closet.
“Oh.” I state, shocked.
“Here. Take these.” Nurse Ratchet hands me the pills and paper cup filled with water, and again, no irony. Not a single glimpse of acknowledgement toward the tragic cliché of this scene. “If you need anything I will be at the nurse’s station. Please remain in here until the doctor has seen you. I will be back in a few minutes to gather your belongings.” She turns and leaves.
Anger, or perhaps annoyance, creeps over me as I realize it is Friday and I won’t be going dancing tonight.