My own worst enemy

By the time I arrived in L.A. my mind was already chipping away by a gnawing belief that the world around me was folding me into a dimension that only I could be receptive to. The process of losing myself in a maze of imaginary worlds was like taking a journey into the farthest depths of the universe. I was a pioneer venturing into foreign territory; a hero realizing her true potential; the discoverer of worlds unseen; a student being tested by the most powerful masters. Within the boundaries of my imagination, there were no boundaries. Every thought or belief I ever had became true to me. I was no longer – and in fact, never was – just an insignificant observer moving through the currents of time. I played an important role in the universe I created in my mind, and though there are discrepancies in the intricacies of my “supernatural” experience, one thing was clear: I was the sun and orbiting me were my stories.

My “stories” were more than just a recount of events. Every thought was an unveiling of hidden truth and every voice an encounter with a spiritual entity. To put it into perspective: it is known that personal memories are known to have a bigger impact on one’s life than stories read in a book or told by someone else. Especially when something traumatic happens, the memories shape and mold every aspect of that person’s being. The voices I heard from invisible strangers, male and female, and random sounds – from drilling to piercing screeches – were as substantial to me as the air we breathe. Belief puts the believer on a different level of reality. The believer senses the world differently than a rational person. We become sensitive to our surroundings and our conclusions are based on what we want to believe rather than what we should. Every moment of laughter, sorrow and fear shared with my imaginary companions was like moments shared between soldiers in a war zone. Though the memories can be painful and distressing, there is a sense of burning nostalgia. Although the path of mental illness is winding and treacherous, the journey, at times, was enthralling. The ability or disability to forget all rationality and blur the lines between reality and fantasy was, at the time, rife with creative inspiration and spiritual epiphanies. In the aftermath of these events, I felt as if I had traveled the universe without ever leaving my bed. It was almost a blessing in disguise because after everything I endured, there was a certain beauty to such a unique outlook on life. I had found a friend in an enemy and that enemy was me.

The Beginning

I was in middle school when I first came across the term schizophrenia. I don’t remember where I was when I learned of it but I found an interest in psychology early in life because I related to symptoms of depression and ADHD and was fascinated by the plethora of information online about the varieties of peculiar mental disorders that have been documented throughout history. Some of them seemed exotic to me; other worldly, even romantic. After seeing the movie “A Beautiful Mind”, I was captivated by the idea that there were people out there who experienced such warped realities. Later on, critics of the movie dampened my enthusiasm, claiming that the story was exaggerated for cinematic thrill and I quickly fell in line with them. How is it possible to imagine people into physical reality? I thought skeptically. It seemed that doctors and the public were being duped by manipulative attention-seekers.

Yet in 2009, fresh out of a break-up and a secret rape that occurred in a New York City hospital, I began a new life in California that I felt ready for. However, this readiness was not my inner strength leading me to an improved lifestyle, but the manic thoughts of a person about to be thrown into a torrent of psychiatric mayhem.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder on the heels of a sexual assault by a black female staff member at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City. Combined with my bipolar disorder and anorexia, it proved to be a dangerous buildup towards an emotional explosion of volcanic proportions. 

I arrived in Los Angeles, California on a late winter day and it was not a happy occasion, even though I had not seen my parents in 6 years and the sun was giving off that perfect California shine. So many thoughts were racing through my mind but my parents didn’t notice when they picked me up at the airport. They were excited to have their only daughter back home. They didn’t see it yet, but inside my brain there was a storm brewing and unfortunately, my parents would witness it first hand.

“It’s over.”

It was an unusually humid spring day in the year of 2015 when I arrived at a New York City mental hospital for about the twenty-fifth time in my life. It was a bumpy ride in the ambulance and the paramedic looked at me with distant sympathy in his eyes as he asked me basic health questions which was a formality I was all too familiar with.

Once I arrived though, the paramedic and his ambulance did not stay longer than it took to fill out a couple of forms in the bustling emergency room. I noticed how easily the paramedics had slipped away, probably already forgetting my face on their way to their next emergency. I felt hot and sticky and it smelled like the food an older gentleman sitting too close to me was eating out of a styrofoam container; balancing it in one hand and maneuvering the fork into his mouth with the other.

I didn’t wait long until a nurse escorted me through the long, brightly lit hallways into a triage room where a few patients were already waiting to be evaluated. A nurse handed me a blue shirt and pants made out of paper and directed me to change into them. They were one size fits all, and stiffly bulged over my body. There were several small, unoccupied rooms which held vinyl chairs that doubled as recliners. I fell into a fully reclined chair and laid on my stomach, the chair fabric sticking to my cheek as I quietly sobbed myself to sleep. The ativan had kicked in.

I was groggy when I arrived at my destination on the fifth floor. The doctors called the unit Snapper 5 and it made me think of the snapper fish which bite at anything it comes in contact with. I wondered if that’s what they were referring to and I felt a bit offended and ashamed to think that when doctors saw me, they didn’t see an individual going through complicated emotions, just one inconspicuous fish like all the others.

There is never peace in the psychiatric units of hospitals. Being that I have been in so many in New York City and Los Angeles, California, I always expected at least one patient to be as overly obnoxious as they are aggressive. I’ve learned that there are never absolutes in life, just a spectrum of bad and worse, and hospitals were no different. Years ago, I witnessed a patient who was completely strapped to a bed, screaming and wailing as if an evil spirit was inside of her. Then in a few hours, she would be sitting at the dining table, mumbling incoherently yet happily to a supervising nurse who smiled and treated this middle-aged woman like an unknowing child. Then there was the roommate who constantly spit on the floor, which was worse to me than the screaming woman and had me begging the staff to change my room.

Fortunately, this was one of those hospital visits that I will easily forget, diluting with the rest of my memories. I don’t want to remember hospitals, because hospitals never bring good memories.

I went to my initial appointment at Snapper 5 sometime during the afternoon. The only clock in the whole unit was in the staff office and I realized that following it too closely made the time go slower. My only goal was to be released from the hospital where they kept patients like criminals, heavily locked behind metal doors as if we were on the same level as Charles Manson; maybe some of us were. The only difference between a psychiatric hospital and a prison was the freedom to roam into the dining and recreational rooms, which actually only gave the illusion of freedom. I still felt desperately trapped, almost claustrophobic behind the thick hospital walls. My only sanctuary a room I shared with a large hispanic woman who snored too loudly and kept me awake at night.

I sat in the quiet office across from a woman who was facing away from me and typing at the computer. She asked me pages of questions about my allergies, family history of health problems, past surgeries, emergency contact – which I gave them my ex-boyfriend’s information since his is the only one I have memorized. Not even my parents have that privilege. Then when they got to the question of whether I have any physical or sexual abuse in the past, I lied and said no. It was none of their business and I didn’t feel like rehashing those memories. It would only reopen a wound that ironically happened in such similar circumstances as this one.

I was hoping to leave in a week, but they kept me longer. They had about 8 books and a TV stuck on a channel I didn’t like. The highlight of my stay was when my roommate smuggled in two cigarettes for me and her. Having not smoked in over a week, it felt good to inhale one and feel that light-headed sensation. After the cigarettes were flushed down the toilet, my roommate very expertly doused herself and me with cheap body spray.

It took two weeks for me to finally be released from the hospital and my newly found freedom felt amazing. To this day, no matter how bad my life gets, I think back to my hospital imprisonments and appreciate the simple ability of going outside in the fresh air and sunlight. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had no place to go. When my ex-boyfriend wasn’t ignoring my calls, every conversation we would have ended with me crying and pleading with him to take me back. He confirmed my worst fears: it’s over. As much as I didn’t agree with ending the relationship, I understood his reasoning. We both knew a while ago that it was going to end, we just didn’t know how or when.

He was old enough to be my father, but it was in spite of or maybe even because of that age difference that we got along so well. We were, as the saying goes, like magnets, opposites attracting to each other. His harsh and aggressive personality that can only come from being born in Israel and growing up in New York City was attractive to me, as I was lacking in what he had plenty of – confidence, experience and knowledge. If he was ever unsure of anything in this world, I wouldn’t know it, because there was never a time when Aaron was vulnerable or not in control of everything in his life, at least, that’s the way I saw him. He was an inch shorter than me, and one could not tell where he was from just by looking at him, but the power in his presence was obvious to everyone. I had basked in the warm glow of his protection and guidance for half of my life, the fact that we were officially over, felt like losing a limb.

Aaron was still so angry from our last fight that he refused to let me come back home. I felt so alone and hurt; shocked that I had not only lost the one that I loved, but also the home I knew for 12 years. So with only one carry on suitcase full of clothes, I took a taxicab to a homeless shelter.

The Oldest Machine

The oldest; the wisest.
The Impossible King.
We are a curse; a virus,
to wheels on His strings.
Building out His knowledge,
with the fine-tuned touch of a machine.
Breakable and lustless,
as natural as perfect beauty.

The Truth is what I live for.
I am stuck in Truth’s grip.
And when His cold hand wraps around my throat,
how can my nerves stop from feeling His reason
hold me mercilessly above the hot glow of catechism
with only my tears falling below my dangling feet.

But in this moment of perfect impossibility,
I am like a bird with its wings spread out toward the sunset—
and I feel free.

Schizophrenia – An Enemy That Cannot Be Seen

The shadows of my thoughts formed into monsters that I most feared,
as if living bodies were mere vessels of tortured spirits.
I believed there were worlds that I could not see but only feel with my mind,
and that the physical world was but one layer within a multitude of layers
buried under holy scriptures undiscovered by mankind.
Every story being told of the future was bleak and spoke of inevitable doom,
in voices that felt like familiar friends who traveled through time and hid behind secret worlds.
The line between my sleeping and woken moments were blurred
and it became difficult to tell the difference between the two states.
For when I was awake, I laid in bed, paralyzed by the pull of other dimensions,
like I was dreaming while being physically awake.
I felt that dying worlds were trying to communicate with me,
warning me that the outcome of all nature ends in self-destruction.
And I was saddened, because I could not hear a hopeful voice,
only the repetitive echoes of embittered worlds
and the victorious cries of an enemy that cannot be seen.

Rape

Rape. Those 4 letters hold the weight of countless of tears that have been shed all over the world from the violation of not just the physical realm, but an emotional and spiritual one. To me, this word has been like a dull knife, stabbing my brain with not a blade, but bombarding thoughts of shame and contemplations of suicide. Missy from Elmhurst Hospital is a person whose path should never have crossed mine or any disabled person, and yet, there she was, a nurse practitioner who was scheduled to watch over me during the midnight hours.

I belonged in the hospital, I don’t deny that. I had reacted angrily in a bout of psychosis at my psychologist’s office and I was whisked to the hospital in an ambulance directly from there. I was showing signs of the beginning stages of schizophrenia, believing I was being watched by the government and aliens and even flirting with a fellow patient who I believed was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, among other odd beliefs. His name was Matthew, and we had a short fling during my stay there until the night I was sexually assaulted by a female african-american nurse who went by the name of Missy.

Matthew and I had planned on meeting in his room late that night when the doctors wouldn’t see us so that we could fool around together. There was a shift change or Missy was busy, because I was able to slip into Matthew’s room without anyone noticing. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings as much as I was focusing on the intruding thoughts I was having about Matthew who I believed was god at the time. However, before things could go too far, Missy caught us in his bed and quickly escorted me back into my room.

Instead of dealing with me the way a hospital staff member was trained to, she directed me to take off my shirt and go into the bathroom. At this point, I should have thought to myself, “wait, this is wrong. Why should I have to take off my shirt?” But being that I was in such a daze from the oncoming schizophrenia, I did what she said and she took me into the bathroom, put her body against mine and started touching me. All I could think was “What is going on right now? Is this really happening?” This lasted for only about 15 seconds but I recall it vividly. It took me a few days, but I reported her to a couple of the daytime nurses who suggested I write a letter to the administrator. I remember they wouldn’t allow me to use a pen or pencil because of the fear that I may use it to harm someone, so I used a blue marker to write up a report, fully accounting what happened to me that night.

Nobody responded to my claims. There was a time when a female administrator was walking through the halls of the ward and I actually pointed Missy out and said, “that’s who did it to me.” She nodded as if confirming she knew what I was talking about, but there was no more discussion after that and nobody ever confirmed to me that they received my complaint. During this time, I was still behaving erratically, and when I admitted to my boyfriend what had transpired between Matthew and I, we decided to take a break and I ended up leaving for California to stay with family. I never told him about what Missy did.

While in California, my schizophrenia only got worse and for a while, I blocked out what had happened to me because I got completely swept away into the chaos of my own world of hearing voices telling me bizarre stories and making me believe that I was telepathically communicating with all sorts of imaginary people, creatures and spirits. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I started to come to and really begin to put the pieces together that I was schizophrenic and that these voices weren’t real that I began to try and build a legal case against Missy and the hospital. However, the special victims unit refused to help me because they told me it was too late to retrieve the security tapes from that time and that because of my history of mental illness, my testimony could not be trusted. I was heartbroken and felt like the justice system failed me.

I was persistent enough to get Elmhurst Hospital to hold a staff seminar on sexual assault which I only found out about by visiting their website, but to this day, I don’t know if Missy continued to work there or if she had done this to anyone else. Who knows how many victims there could have been, there’s really no way of telling, especially if the patient was as lacking in judgment and cognition as I was. The only reason she got away with what she did was because I was completely in the grip of my schizophrenia and now that my symptoms have improved, I am only left with a bitterness that will take a lifetime to get rid of.

apology to all

Jenny Hyun has been admitted to a hospital today.   She is a paranoid schizophrenic and has been battling mental illness, a debilitating disease for many years.
Friends and family of Jenny want to extend their sincere apology for any harmful statements made verbally or via the web that Jenny has made while she was in the height of a psyshosis episode.   We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time for her.