Please welcome my amazing friend and talented best selling novelist, Allie Burke! Allie is quite open with the fact that she is schizophrenic (she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2011) works two full-time jobs, and has a thriving literary career (she just finished her eighth book). Allie is signed with Booktrope. More here:
Allie is an American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.
Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.
I Could Be AWOL Right Now
I think a lot about that one time I outsmarted the mental health industry and used the intellect I didn’t even know I had to break free from one white walled prison we call a hospital.
The very act of it epitomizes the ideal that we must be crazy enough to tell the whole world to fuck off if we’re ever going to survive.
Excuse me. She smiled sweetly, knocking on the station window.
A large man with a shaved head emerged, dressed in white. Yes?
I would like my purse, please.
My purse. You confiscated it when I arrived here. I would like it before I leave.
You can’t leave.
Excuse me? Emily asked incredulously, her eyes bulging out of her head. I’m sorry, am I…a prisoner? Have I committed some sort of crime and am being held against my will now?
The nurse stammered. I…I…
If I walk out that door right now, past that red line, Emily pointed to the two-inch-thick red line painted on the floor six feet from the door, are you going to chase me?
No, but if you don’t sign out, with pre-approval from Dr. Talen, then you will be considered AWOL.
Do I look like fucking Rambo to you?
The nurse didn’t answer.
I haven’t seen the doctor yet. Let me speak to him, please.
He’s not here yet.
Emily’s stare at the nurse was intense, but in reality, she wasn’t staring at him but the stupidity his body reeked of.
Call him. Now.
I didn’t ask him for my purse, even though I wanted to. I had never been as appalled as I had been in the moment six hours earlier when they had confiscated my cell phone. Though I was thinking all of this, and it would actually make for a really good story, I never referenced Rambo. My mental age was so much younger than it is now; I was so scared. I would have welcomed a thousand years of psychosis in that moment and took it like a boss if it meant I could walk out that door unscathed by the disgusting reality that is our mental health system today.
What I had done, though, was spend six hours in a mental institution without any means to communicate anything to the outside world and without actually seeing a doctor.
The presence of my now ex-husband in that tiny visiting room with another nurse watching our every move, his tears, the fear bleeding from his pores, struck something in me. He wasn’t working and I was the only one paying bills. Clearly I hadn’t thought this through the moment suicide crossed my mind and convinced me that I wasn’t getting any better. My life would be in shambles if I didn’t get my ass out of there and get it to work on Monday morning. If I had a second chance at that afternoon, I would not have checked myself into a fucking mental institution. I would not have told them that I was hallucinating and afraid of harming myself and that I was off my medication.
So I told them that. That was after they nearly had me sedated and straitjacketed for stepping too far into their nursebox. But I did tell them the truth. I told them that this place was going to do nothing for me but ruin my life, and I needed out. They told me that I should stay because they could help me. That they would recommend it. It was such a passive-aggressive fucking way to control my life. You are mentally ill and therefore we cannot trust you to function properly in society, but here, have a cookie.
There really was a red line on the floor. That wasn’t something I made up for the book. I’ve never liked the color red, and maybe this is why. The ideal that a color can instill the fear of imprisonment is pretty psychotic in itself, but I am psychotic. Technically. According to the State of California.
So I asked them. Are you going to arrest me if I just walk out?
I still don’t know what they meant by AWOL. Like is that a real thing? What does it mean if you are AWOL and not in the military? Do they take away your driver’s license? Refuse to hire you at a job? Call the credit reporting agency? I can’t even with this shit.
Either I am really smart or the doctor was in a good mood that day. He just got a blow job by his assistant, I don’t know. They let me go. Like, legally. Without the AWOL part. It was really fucking weird, but every day I thank whatever higher power we are thanking for this kind of stuff now. Regardless of the number of times I did go back, I really do believe that that experience of questioning authority as the prisoner and not the jailer set the tone for the healing process that I would force on myself in the years after. It was my fuck off to the people bigger than me. And I’ve been telling people bigger than me to fuck off ever since.
“The only difference between the sane and the insane is the sane have the power to lock up the insane.”
–Hunter S. Thompson