The Final Analysis
Pegi Handley

 

I walked out of Mama's apartment. It was a few days after I Ďd made her sign the adoption papers for my two little sisters, Kathy and Rita Jean. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, somewhere in the country, in a daze. At that moment, I didn't know who I was, where I lived, or my name. Police cars with lights flashing were all around, and red fire trucks were parked nearby. I heard sirens in the distance.

A tidal wave of blackness broke over me. My entire world seemed to be obliterated out of my grasp. Time ran in circles, flowed backward, skipped ahead from now to then. I made an attempt to come into the present as I heard all the men in uniform asking me question-after-question. Memory flowed back slowly and I knew some of the answers, yet there seemed to be a steel wall between my mind and my mouth...a wall of disconnect. I wasnít able to answer.

"Whatís your name?" one asked. "Do you know who you are?"

"Where do you live?" the voice was gruff.

Realization zigzagged through my mind like a bolt of vicious lightening-I had gone crazy...blacked out. I had been teetering on insanity for seventeen years, fighting the two Pegiís which warred each other, death-locked inside of me. The last thing I remembered were my babies...my baby sisters.

I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room in South Gate Hospital. Soon I was transferred to Norwalk State Hospital.

I had driven by the state hospital many times, yet had never seen it. Tonight it seemed like a huge sinister castle and was by far the most intimidating thing Iíd ever encountered as I stood at the gate with the officer. He rang the night bell. After the gate was unlocked, he led me up a row of steps where the intern waited with the door open. At the top, the policeman gave me a rough shove. Stumbling on the edge, I caught myself.

I was examined by a doctor, who asked me question after another.

"How was your childhood?"

"What's childhood?"

"Do you hear voices?"

"No, I hear babies crying. My baby sisters."

"She hears voices, all right," the doctor pronounced more to himself than to me as he scribbled rapidly in a notebook. "Lock her in F5," he spoke into an intercom. But first, I had to fill out heavy paperwork.

I was then medicated, and shown to a cramped room filled with other patients, where I was to be "locked down" the first few days for observation.

The moment I stepped into that ward I was overwhelmed by the sickening menstral smell. It seemed intensified more than ever before. I spent my days running to the bathroom to vomit and wretch. If a nurse came near me who was having her period, Iíd run off puking.

I was fed three cups of pills a day, and spent time in a fog wondering why people were mad at me. I wouldn't talk to anyone, and when I did, they just said, "Don't pay any attention to Pegi. She's crazy."

I'd never taken pills before, but these weren't bad. At least they helped me to not think about everything...my baby sisters.

I really didn't think these doctors and nurses knew what they were talking about. I'd never taken pills before, but I heard them say I had. I'd never even had a drink like I hear they said.

Word spread among the hospital staff that I was a madwoman and crazy. I was terrified of the other patients and the staff, who claimed they had a wild woman on their hands.

While in Dr. Green's office, I wouldn't talk to him, because I refused to even think about my problems. Instead, I counted the books behind him that were on the shelves. When I finished, I'd start over. The next time, I'd count the squares of the tiles in the floor. Then the squares in the windows. Then I'd go back to the books. I never spoke to this particular doctor, and he never spoke to me, just stared.

After the hour of silence, Dr. Green would always say, "It's time to stop for today."

I'd been thrown away. Absolutely thrown away, and I had no idea why.

They said I had no feeling, but how could they say that when I was scared to death of everybody and everything?

My primary feeling as a kid was being afraid of everyone. The reason I would never talk to Dr. Green was because whatever I told the doctors or anyone else was used against me. I soon found. If I shared an experience with anyone, they turned it around and used it against me.

Soon I was locked down in a little room with no doorknob. A psychiatrist came in every day. He'd knock once before entering, introduce himself, and ask a few questions. While he spoke, I looked him over carefully.

"How are you feeling?" he asked. "I'm here to help you, you know."

Nodding, I said, "I'm okay."

"Are you comfortable?" he continued. He didn't sound terribly concerned.

"Yes."

My mind began questioning, why do they always ask me how I feel? How do I know? Besides, I hear them telling other nurses and doctors that I have no feelings. I really don't even know myself. Everyone said I had no feelings. I'm not sure if I even know what feelings are.

"I'm fine," I told the doctor. "I'd like to go."

"Do you have a place to go to, Pegi?"

"Yes. I'm going to my foster parents."

"Why don't you tell me about them?"

"No. I don't want them to know where I am."

Once when he spoke to me, I told him my name was Pegi Crosby and I was an only child. The next time he came, I told him my name was Peggy Bearden and I was the eldest of six children.

He stared at me strangely.

"Thatís really who I am."

"Youíre both Pegi Crosby and Peggy Bearden? He asked.

"Yes, Iím both people. The only child in one family, the Crosbys and the eldest one in the Bearden family," looking him square in the eyes.

"We'll talk more tomorrow." He patted my knee, getting up to leave the room he turned at the door and stared.

"You donít believe me do you?" I asked.

Every day, the doctor visited. Every day, he said the same things.

I remained in the locked ward for twenty-nine of the ninety days I was in the hospital. Just outside my door, they gave shock treatments. This was the only time my door was unlocked. After the patients received shock treatment, they were wheeled into my room where I watched while they came out of their stupor. I saw it all: the mental patients' listless bodies, twisting and convulsing on the cold metal table. It was like a cruel torture treatment.

Every one of the shock patients came to me with questions. Many cried and called me Mommy. Which sent me spinning into my past of being abandoned and the awful foster homes. Just watching the procedure was a frightening experience for me. I kept quiet about it, though, because I'd seen too many patients led down the hall and given a shot because they acted out. I didn't want that to happen to me. Silence was my only friend.

Someone in administration decided all patients should be outfitted in muumuus. The tent-like flowered print flowing dresses turned the halls and dining areas into a macbre scene from South Pacific. It looked like an invasion of mis-placed natives.

Padded cells were full of very disturbed people. One old woman rolled in her waste. Like an animal in the zoo, another threw dung at the door whenever someone looked in. Mildred sat in a corner and masturbated. At times, her whole hand was inside her vagina.

One sat in the same chair day after day, rocking back and forth, hitting the back of the chair hard enough to knock herself out. She was led to her dormitory every night by the nurses, and brought back out in the morning where she sat in the same chair all day.

Gertrude sat with her fingers twisted so hard her knuckles were white, her hands red and swollen from the blood being cut off. The nurses on the ward said she had to restrain herself from choking another human being. None of the other patients ever went close to her. I never knew if she was a murderer or not as it could have been one of the rumors the staff started.

Harriet paced the hallways rapidly, both arms swinging. Her mouth was always open, and she moved her tongue from side-to-side.

Ramona dug through the trash bins for used Kotex to put between her legs. At her feet lay all the bloody sanitary napkins rejects. She'd look for the bloodiest and then wear them until they dropped out. She left used napkins dotting the hallways and all over the ward. It was my worst nightmare as every time I saw those bloody used kotex, Iíd puke. Standing in the corner of the bathroom, the nurses talked among themselves about my constant washing. "Iím washing the soap before I use it," I told them.

Lucille was nearly bald. She sat in a corner and pulled out her hair, one strand at a time.

The minute a doctor came on the ward, Maxine ran to him, pulling off her clothes as she went. She screamed, "You want to play with my titty? Look, Doctor, look! Why don't you fuck me now, Doctor? Come on! No! No! You don't want to do it here, do you? Everyone will know what kind of doctor you are, huh, Doctor?" The remainder of the day, she ran through the halls naked.

The nurses were always calling other wards for a male technician to help restrain a patient.

I was put to work in the laundry mending hospital gowns and muumuus. I stood over the cart on my tiptoes, looking into that bin piled high with garments so rotten there was no way of mending them. I was sick just peering at the mound of clothing. Turning around, I looked right into the eyes of a red-headed, pimply faced man sitting in front of the internís desk, jacking off.

From some deep well of resource within myself, I began to plat an escape. Perhaps the same flicker of strong will which kindled the spirit to search the dumps for food for my siblings, the same internal flame which blazed in rebellion to save my sister now propelled me toward survival. Or was there some heavenly angelic hand guiding me?

In the classified ad section of The Los Angeles Times, I was lucky enough to spot an ad: "Pregnant? Let me help." I memorized the phone number, and continued to plan my escape.

Within a few days, I went over the fence and ran to the first pay phone I could find, maybe twenty blocks away. I didn't know if the staff would look for me, but I wanted to be far enough away so I wouldn't be noticed in my muumuu. Only the patients from the state hospital wore muumuus, and I didn't want people on the street to know that I'd escaped.

I didn't have a dime. I got the operator and asked her to ring the phone number collect. When the person accepted my call, I told her I was seventeen years old, not pregnant, but I needed a safe place to go.

After finding out where I was, she told me to stay there and someone would come for me. In the middle of Los Angeles the woman on the telephone knew that Iíd been in Norwalk. She had a home ready for me to go into.

I was taken to a home with working parents and an older grandma, along with their three children. I was a mother's helper. I worked there and saved my money.

It was there that I met and married my first husband, who was a marine. It was a way out for me.

 

 

Copyright © 2000 Pegi Handley
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"