The puzzle factory

  • I was thirty one and mentally ill with my first baby still in her infancy.  I was estranged from my parents because they wanted it that way and I was trying to figure out why my mother would ask me to move out while I was big pregnant.  She indicated that she thought I might be dangerous, um, "HELLO!  If you think I'm dangerous to grown folks then why would you trust me with my newborn?!"  I couldn't get someone steady to babysit while I worked and I thought "they" were discouraging my babysitters to thwart my efforts of succeeding as a working mother.  So I found myself writing down every government number that even resembled help for someone in my predicament.

    The only one that answered the phone (I hadn't written down the particular agencies) was the suicide hotline.  I started recounting with them about "they", about me wielding a gun two and a half years before against a perceived murder upstairs and also against myself because someone online had told me to kill myself to save my family (I presumed it was me they were talking to).  I rambled on in my state of confusion about why my life had gone to hell when suddenly the door flew open and there stood Johnny Law with me on the business end of a gun.  The call ended as soon as the suicide hotline knew the police were there.

    They called the mother of the kid I was babysitting for free, she was not returning the favor, and they called DHS to take my child without asking if there was anyone else they could call.  They had me getting dressed so I could go in for evaluation, hand-cuffs were involved.

    Cuz asked me about a bubbling brook and I answered the question wrong so they took me to a bigger town to a facility designed for people like me to hold me over till court the next day.  Some lady talked to me about regular things and I met a man who would later be with me in the puzzle factory the next night, for you see, the interview in the courtroom didn't go well.  My boyfriend I was living with had already brought me a card to call him while I was gone (he of little faith).  Did he bring clothing?  No  Did he bring make-up?  No  Did he bring a hair dryer?  No  Did he bring money?  What money?  Neither of us had shit.

    So in the puzzle factory they give you classes to go to, you have to light your cigarette on a fixed lighter like a car lighter that's attached to the wall outside.  A little bit of coffee doesn't go a long way so you need money to buy more if you want it, they fatten you up with three square meals a day and you talk to your therapist with other patients listening on because the only time I saw an office was when there were seven or nine of them and I wasn't as dressed up as they were and when a social worker asked my opinion on where my daughter should be seeing as how a couple in my family had offered to take her.  I was terrified that if I let them, they would end up taking her from me since I had an aunt I had been living with who had continuously threatened to call DHS on me for something as small as not putting socks on her feet when I hadn't been wearing socks myself.  They told me at the hospital to dress her similar to how I dressed myself so that she wouldn't get too hot or too cold.  I calculated that if I let that couple have her now, that would embolden my aunt later to follow through on her threats.  I think she meant them as warnings and there was no malice behind it, only concern for the child, but most people certainly would think a child should be with a sane, stable couple rather than to have the child live with a mentally ill mother and even I can't argue with that.  I told him to leave her where she was as I said a silent prayer that she was with someone nice, which she was.  She was with Kathy Segall.  I learned that when I had to go to court repeatedly to try to get custody of her back, which didn't happen until my out-patient head doc finally diagnosed and treated me properly after the puzzle factory had failed to do so.

    I asked one of the counselors in there to give me that Rorschach test, thinking I could pass it and get out early (my week of observation had transformed into a month's observation and treatment due to a court across the street from the puzzle factory where they loaded us up and took us for that very purpose).  He told me that the results said that I viewed the world as a dangerous place, something else I couldn't dispute.  My original diagnosis that I heard for the first time in court was tweaker.  I was not a tweaker, meth was not my thing and though I'd done meth before, it had been few and far between, when I'd told them that I guess they assumed I'd been lying.  

    There were all types in the puzzle factory and they seemed to separate us according to how volatile you might be, I assume this by having looked in the windows of some other areas, people we didn't mix with.  The color of your arm band alerted the staff what to expect from you and also determined what kind of privileges you had.  I liked it when they finally let me go to the courtyard to sit in the sun.  I hadn't taken any meds that first week because I was a nursing mother and I didn't want to harm the child, they forced me to take medicine after court and I complied.  I knew my milk was going to dry up before I got Alley back and I was resigned to the fact that they were in charge and I'd lost my rights.  I felt pretty lonely.

    I freaked out one of the counselors because I was very animated and emotional when I talked to her.  I could see the alarm in her eyes and I'd try to tone it down for her sake.  I felt like I could try to talk to her because I could tell she had compassion but the truth is, I was also pretty sure that my release would not be her power to make that kind of decision.  I felt that this was just another test to see if I would talk about what happened in Utah.  I saw what happened to me when I tried to talk about it on the phone.  Lesson learned.

    The day came when they told me I could go home, to call someone to come get me.  My reply?  "I didn't come here in my car, it's not sitting in the parking lot.  I was brought here in the back of a police car.  I'm not calling anyone to come get me.  Either you will take me home or I will hitch hike. I was promised a ride home."  They gassed up the van and took me home.

    When I got there I found Alley's things were behind the couch to get them out of the way, my guns had been confiscated by my cousin, my car's engine had been destroyed as it had been hot-wired while I was gone and driven with no regard to the fact that it was old and fragile.  I remember thinking how blessed I was that I had not been living on my own, else my things would have been thrown away and another renter would have been in the place.  John had held down the fort but it didn't look like he was optimistic about the outcome.

    Sherry, my cousin's gf who lived there as well had apprehended my credit card along with the address book with the pin in it and ran up a balance that I never would have ran up.  She threw away the statements until she finally moved out.  My credit was messed up for years.

    My general impression was that once you are diagnosed as mentally ill, you lose a lot of your rights.  All one has to say is that you are mentally ill and then they are deemed to be more believable than anything you have to say.  You can be locked up on the say so of your relatives or friends if they can prove you are a danger to yourself or anyone else.  All that takes when your mental is the wrong thing to come out of your mouth.  I'm lucky John is my husband because my first husband would have held it over my head constantly, my second husband watched it happen and appeared to barely even notice it.  Alley's dad knew something was terribly wrong and he ran for the hills without leaving a forwarding number.

    I was in one class where we did a craft as therapy.  I painted a frog.  I chose the frog because he was useful, later I could put things in because it was a container.  Pens, pencils, jewelry (necklaces, rings.....).  I suppose I could have put flowers in it if I wanted.  It ended up being a catch-all.  I was also allowed to choose three changes of clothes since my thoughtful boyfriend had brought me nothing for the trip but a phone card and his advice to take the seven days.  I still have the frog and the cola shirt that kept me so warm...........and that, my friends, is the puzzle factory.  Time stops in there but in the outside world, bills have to be paid, employers expect you to show up for work and babies cry.

    I hope I never have to go back there again unless I need a vacation from life.



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