The firemen couldn't identify me, even after squinting really hard and guessing wildly, so they shipped me off to the psychiatric ward, where I was not identified, diagnosed, or treated. That's one thing the movies got right: Mental health wards are just crazy people storage lockers. Even worse, hospital disclosure laws can make finding missing persons all but impossible: Unless an adult gives their consent ahead of time, hospitals can't disclose information about an admitted patient to their family. You could be searching for someone for days, completely unaware of the fact that they're sitting in a psych ward or a hospital bed just miles away.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Could you let my family know I'm here?"
"Wow; you are crazy."
It was a co-ed ward, and when I entered the bathroom at night, a male patient came in after me and bent me over a toilet seat. I screamed, and orderlies quickly responded and separated the two of us ... with an unlocked door. The patients are crazy, guys -- not too stupid to work doorknobs. They ended up moving me to a different facility, where I got some meds but began hallucinating. I started to think that I would never make it out alive. Luckily after four days on antipsychotics, my memory returned to me in an instant. I was doing some dumb arts and crafts project when I suddenly said, "Where the fuck am I? Why don't I have shoes? Holy shit, I remember how doorknobs work!"
Image Source White/Image Source/Getty Images "And why do I have half the Snow Patrol catalog stuck in my head!?"
A wave of sweet lucidity hit me. I contacted the nearest nurse, told them who I was, and got sent home.
When You Get Home, People Might Not Want You Back
Michael Goldman/The Image Bank/Getty Images
The detective in charge of my case quickly closed the missing persons file, presumably after being reminded that he had it open in the first place, but my friends and family were unsympathetic. Having lost my phone, I announced my return to the rest of the world through a Facebook update, and this didn't sit particularly well with anyone. Instead of being relieved, everybody who was worried about me -- my friends, my ex, my mother -- were now just pissed that I didn't contact every one of them personally. It's understandable. Tension and worry need someplace to go, and sometimes they manifest as anger. Some thought I'd pulled the whole stunt for attention. Some thought I'd shacked up with a secret lover I'd met online -- the only reason they could imagine that a woman would disappear for a week. My family came around and forgave me eventually, but I lost most of my friends and my job. You try "Snow Patrol told me to take two weeks off" as an excuse. It doesn't fly very well.
As a final insult, I was even barred from karaoke for being unstable.
Paul Inkles/iStock/Getty Images Which may well set some kind of record for double standards.
But I learned a valuable lesson: I now know who my real friends are. Isn't that a sweet note to end on?
Here's another, less sitcom-caliber lesson for you: If your mind ever breaks, those real friends may be the only people who try to find you, and there might be jack they can do about it. You won't find that tidbit closing an episode of Full House. To learn that, you need a (geographically and mentally) multistate drive resulting in the implosion of your life.
Ryan Menezes is an interviewer and layout editor here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe About Schizophrenia and 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless.
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