6 Days in West Seattle Psychiatric Hospital      
June 10, 2000 , 6 p.m.

Dr. Nemuth --

Once again, this is more to me than to you.  I just took meds.  I'm at West Seattle Psychiatric Unit. The V.A. wouldn't take me. I couldn't convince them I wouldn't harm myself further.  I thought if I burned myself, it would help the cancer.  I have a stubby little pencil and a linoleum bathroom floor to write on. My bed has a wooden frame, low to the ground.  I don't have a chest of drawers.  I want a cigarette.  I slept all day, after staying up all night at the V.A. The male nurse at the V.A. wouldn't listen to me or he listened too well.  He could hear me hearing voices.  He didn't trust them, me.  I think I'll lie down a while again.

June 11, 2,000

9:55 a.m.   I am not crazy enough to do anything but sleep.

11:50 a.m.   I have been collecting these stubby pencils every chance I get.  The lead wears down fast.  They are too small to go into a sharpener.  I have the middle bed in a 3 woman room.  Mary, on my left, is depressed.  She is the only voluntary patient in the hospital.  She has dark, short hair and is very overweight, about 33 years old.  She lives at home, alone with her cat -- like me.  Janet, on my right, is homicidal & suicidal.  She is about the same age as Mary.  Her dark hair is medium length.  She says she's been here four weeks and they might want to keep her 3 months.  My gues s is' they would send her to Western State.  She laughs a lot, She is also overweight, but well proportioned.  She wears glasses and is gay.  Deborah and Mary have chest of drawers.  I have none.

1:30 p.m.   Just hour to the next smoke break.  I think I'm supposed to go to court on Wednesday.  I'm getting a litle more used to being without cigarettes.  I showered and washed my hair.  They didn't take my blood or urine.

1:45 p.m.   Janet is on the phone.  It's on a bedside table in the hall.  Deborah tells her friend she has an L to pace.  It's actually a "T", a lot better than sitting in a jail cell.  "I'm not doing the thorazine shuffle," she says.  The stub on this pencil has run out.  I told the nurse I don't have insurance.  They won't want to keep me long.

3:25 p.m.   A lot of noise.  Big Sarah attacked Fay.  Fay is a smart-ass blonde with a cutting tongue.  She gets on everyone's nerves.  I was having a conversation with Terry is the dining room.  I knew Terry at the Humboldt.  I tried to help Terry get an abortion.  She ended up having the baby. Fay interrupted Terry and me by saying how rude of the nurses to come in with meds while she's visiting with her father. I told her Terry and I were talking.  Fay suddenly turned to me and asked if it was her fault Sarah bit  her.  I told her she did get on people's nerves.  She needed to mellow out a little.  I looked her straight in the eyes.  She didn't get angry.

5:05 p.m.   I talked to the short Chinese woman doctor, Dr. Nelson.  I told her I wanted out in 72 hours.  She said it was up to the court.  She said last time they let me out after 72 hours.  I reminded her it was two weeks.  She said, I may have to stay longer than 72 hours, but maybe not the whole two weeks.  She didn't tell me about a 7 day review.  I remembered from last time and mentioned it.  She said that was a good idea.

June 12, 2,000     

9:25 a.m.    I was denied Level II.

11:20 a.m.   I went down for a smoke.  My blood was just drawn.  Wonder what they'll find out this time?  This place depresses me, reminds me of boot-camp.  Talked briefly with Dr. Cohen today.  He's a lost cause.

12:20 p.m.   Talked to Dr. Day, the court psychologist.  She says I may get out after 72 hours -- Wednesday.  I put on underarm deodorant.  I was beginning to smell my own sweat. Marcia Vergin--is getting tired of working with me already.  Dr. Day did say I might arrange to go to the V.A. after Wednesday.  I better tell Leslie not to bring up any quarters.

1:40 p.m.   We are lined up, sitting in chairs, or on the floor, about seven of us, near the nursing station... one person talks on the phone.  He says, "You gonna die?" "Maybe next month?" Dennis says to Ivan, "Your job is to find me a wife." "There are catalogues for that," replies Ivan.

2:30 p.m.   Just went out for Smoke Break.  Losing track of myself.  Few places for privacy.  Always talk.  The smell of body sweat.  Someone on the phone.  I'm in the Lawyer/Client cubicle.  It's relatively quiet.  A diet-Pepsi would be nice.

3:45 p.m.   Talked to Sally, the discharge planner.

3:50 p.m.   Just talked to you.  You recommended I stay here 10 days to settle down.  You said the V.A. wouldn't take me back till after that.  I can't concentrate to write here. "A petition for what?" "Do you have the lawyer's number?" Nancy asks over the phone, talking to her father.  "Well, it's easy for you to drink your lattes and drive your nice, fancy car up here and talk to my lawyer, but I'm the one suffering here."

7:30 p.m.   Ate dinner of stew with lots of potatoes over rainbow noodles with salad, diet-Italian Dressing that tingled the mouth.  "I broke my hand!" I think it's Marlene talking.  No, maybe a new admit.  I think if I stay here more than 72 hours (Sat. and Sunday don't count) I'll go absolutely batty.  I want a soda.

10:15 p.m.   After snacks.

10:40 p.m.   I just had a good talk with Joanne, my contact person.  She said to remember every time I take my meds: "I am keeping the FBI away.  I am keeping the voices away.  I am keeping from hurting myself or others and I am keeping from returning to West Seattle Psychiatric Hospital."

June 13, 2,000  

Noon    Jennifer was admitted, a huge gray-haired, woman, sort of handsome and quite the yeller.  I received Level II and can now go out for a few extra smokes, Showered and washed my hair.  The doc asked if I'm still planning to leave tomorrow.  I said "Yes!"  She said I would have to go to court.

1:05 p.m.   I received a copy of the court petition against me.  It says that I am in danger of harming myself and am gravelly disabled.  We have a new woman on the ward who has never been on a psych ward.  She is half-black, half white, skinny and very pretty.  She is shy.

6:05 p.m.   Tomorrow I'm to go to court.  I still haven't talked to my lawyer.  Tonight we ate chicken for dinner, string beans and rice.  Fay, who it turns out is pregnant, left for Harborview.  Natalie has come to take her place.  "Thieves! Look what they did tearing my watch off!" She says, charging out of her room, holding a watch, dangling by a broken band.  She had just gotten out of seclusion.

9:45 p.m.   I finally talked to my lawyer.  She seems to think I'll have a chance to get out with a 90 day L.R. (less restrictive order) tomorrow.  Tomorrow, like I said, is court. I just cleaned the dining room after evening snacks.  I stacked all but the one chair I'm sitting on.  Wiped down the tables.  Now, I drink the last of the de-caf and wait for the nurse to change my burn dressing.  I do a much better job of taking care of it at home alone.

10:35 p.m.     Change of shift.  I hope I get a lenient judge.  Staff is about to throw someone named Diane in the shower.  She defecated on herself.  I am getting sleepy.

June 15, 2,000    

6:30 a.m.  Derek, the staff driver, introduced himself to tell me we're going to court today.  He said to bring a book if I have one.  I'll bring Philip Levine's Selected Poems.  Three male patients stare out the barred window.

9:20 a.m.    At court.  Waiting in a small waiting room with another patient who lies on two chairs, listens to a walkman.  Hoping Dr. Nemuth doesn't show up for court.  If he does, I'll probably have to stay longer . . . My lawyer waved at me.  She looks pregnant.  I want a cigarette.  Wonder if I'll have to go before the judge.  The lawyer just said, "I believe it's going to be a voluntary dismissal of your case." I'll believe it when I see it.  Just went out for a smoke, a little dizzy.

11 p.m.    I was sprung!  I'm home.  I listen to Oldies, smoke all the cigarettes I want, my cat on my lap.
[The names of patients in Crysta's Diary have been changed, ed.]
copyright 2001Crysta Casey

This page was last updated on: June 6, 2011
Crysta Casey  
Crysta Casey, a former Marine Core journalist, now lives in Seattle, Washington. She has a BA in Liberal Arts from SUNY at Stony Brook. She was born in Pasadena, California and has lived in Ohio and Texas. 

She once worked for the City of Irvine, and was the first woman to work in Streets and Parks Maintenance there.  Since moving to Seattle in 1980 she has concerned herself with the making of poetry.

Crysta has been published in numerous literary journals, including Convolvulus, On the Bus and Fine Madness  and is the author of a book of poems, Heart Clinic (Seattle: Bellowing Ark Press, 1993), which is dedicated to her doctor.

Crysta's Publisher:
Bellowing Ark
PO Box 45637
Seattle, WA.

read Crysta's poem
Paint By Numbers