Baker Act Me Photo of Danielle.

Danielle Eaton
(c) Copyright 2000 by Danielle Eaton

This particular story is true. It was a life changing experience for me.

It has always been entertaining to me when I take the time realize just how rapidly my life changes. Usually, it does so without my consent. A month ago, I was hospitalized against my own free will. The doctors saw me as being a threat to myself and to those around me. Looking back on it now, I still don't feel that was a valid description of myself. Sure, I was planning on eating more pills than my body could probably handle, but I was an adult. At eighteen-years-old I figure it should be my choice if I choose to live or not. So I was a little lethargic and apathetic. Was it really that big of a deal?

For the past thirty days now, I've been downing four pills in a twenty-four hour span in a feeble attempt to maintain my mental stability. Maybe it's just me being naive, but I feel like it's working. My only complaint would be my feelings of "being on top of the world." But, back to my original point, things never stay one way for long. It could be my chemical imbalance that allows this to be a true statement, but regardless, this is what I know.

Now, when I think logically about myself, and objectively as well, I don't see myself as someone who should have been admitted into a psychiatric ward. I also don't see how I could have been forced to go there against my own will. Florida has this Baker Acting law. It basically says, "You're crazy. You can't make a rational decision. Therefore, the state of Florida takes away all of your rights for up to seventy-two hours. Have a good day."

When I was sitting in the hospital, not the psychiatric ward quite yet, I was referred to as, "The Baker Act in Hall 4." I was decked out in a hospital gown, legs unshaven, and feeling more disgusting than I ever have before. I also wasn't exactly looking forward to being sent to another hospital in which twenty-four hour supervision would be more than readily available. I wasn't crazy. I was just a scared teenager.

Needless to say, I was shipped out of there and put into a van with two very uncaring men whose only concern was telling me where I had gone wrong. One of the men kept repeating over and over to me how I shouldn't be doing this with my life. There was so much out there for me, and my problems couldn't possibly be so severe that I'd have to be taken away. I bit my lip and nodded my head. I didn't feel like I had the mental stability to deal with what was being said to me. This man knew absolutely nothing about me, and he was doing his best to make the most ignorant and absurd generalizations. I didn't really appreciate this.

The van ride to the hospital was perhaps one of the longest and most irritating trips I've ever partaken in. I was in the immediate back, as far away from the men as I could possibly get. The sound of their walkie-talkies was enough to make me wish that I did kill myself, anything to escape this situation. I closed my eyes and tried hard to imagine what people were thinking, people back at my college. Would they think, "It figures this would happen to her," and if they did, would it really matter? Yes, it would.

After what seemed to be an hour but was probably, in reality, only twenty minutes, we pulled up to a hospital identical to the one I just came from. My stomach was digesting itself at this point. I hadn't eaten in a week, and finally, I realized that I couldn't fight the urge anymore. But, now that I was going to be in this hospital, would I get food?

It was about nine o'clock p.m. The two men held onto my arms and escorted me into the hospital and down numerous twisting hallways. It's a good thing they held so tightly onto me. Barely weighing one hundred pounds, I could probably tear some people up. Anyway, I knew they were having a conversation with me, but I managed to separate myself from it completely. I didn't want to talk to them. What the hell did they know about anything?

Thinking back on this whole predicament, it held a very high level of importance to me. A couple weeks after my discharge, I went away with my roommate for the weekend. My goal of that night was to fill my body with drugs that it had previously rejected. Although I continuously blacked out during that weekend, I was informed that I rambled on and on about two specific topics: Drugs and my stay at the psychiatric ward. That pissed me off.

When I entered the ward, I was shocked to see how secure the place was. There was no way out of there. The two men had to buzz us in and inform the nurse that they were there with the new patient. Directly upon entering my new home, a round woman with overly rosy cheeks asked me to take a seat. I tried my hardest not to look anyone in the eye. There were several "crazy" people roaming around. Some were talking on the phone, yet no one was on the other line, and others were yelling about how they needed some xanax. I would have done just about anything for a xanax. Anything to escape this warped reality.

The most ridiculous man in bright blue skid-proof socks took to me right away. He was in my face asking about my odd choice of hair color: bright pink. I didn't want to answer any of his questions. I smiled at him and told him that pink was my favorite color, and I thought that everyone's hair should be his or her favorite color. I was saved by one of the nurses who gave me a stack of papers to fill out. I could barely focus on the words. Everything was a big blur to me, not only the words but my present situation. The worst thing that could have happened to me was when my belongings were taken away. The nurses on duty had to look through what I brought with me in order to be sure that I was carrying no weapons or anything of the sorts. I didn't have any weapons, of course, but I did have my journals with me. I was, and still am, an obsessive journalist.

The rest of what happened is such a bore. I was taken into a room, stripped, searched, and my cigarettes were confiscated.

"When will I be able to smoke again?"

"This is a non-smoking facility. You will be able to smoke when you are released. We'll give you a nicotine patch to help you deal with the cravings."

"I can't be escorted outside at all?"

"This is a non-smoking facility. Have a seat please. Pat will be in here to talk to you in a moment."

I sat there and tried not to panic. No smoking? How was I supposed to get rested up and be able to think clearly without a cigarette? It was a possibility that I could be without one for seventy-two hours.

While waiting to meet with the social worker, or whatever she was, the man in the blue socks entered the room and approached me.

"You tried to hurt yourself, didn't you?"

I didn't know what to say. I just smiled and nodded. That was my only defense mechanism.

"You do drugs. Heroin?"

I shook my head.

"Cocaine?"

I didn't want to answer his questions. I wanted him to go away.

"I'm sorry. My medication is starting to kick in. I don't really know what I'm talking about."

Pat was there sooner than I thought. Her only job was to jot down the basics of me. I spat out whatever had gone on in my life that I felt to be traumatic. I didn't like her at all, especially when she assumed I was gay because a female symbol hung around my neck.

"No, I'm not gay. I'm a feminist."

"Hmmm, right."

What an idiot. I wished she would stop talking. I blocked her out, too. Luckily, I've been equipped with an ability to nod my head at just the right times to make it appear as though I am being attentive.

For the fifteen or so hours that I was there, in the hospital, the most frequently asked question of me was, "So, why are you here?"

"I've been Baker Acted."

"Yes, but why?"

"Because I can't eat? Because I wanted to hurt myself? Because the doctor at the hospital made a really bad judgement on his part?"

What the hell did they really expect me to say?

"I'M NUTS!"

Right. So, she sucked some information out of me, and I was to meet with a psychiatrist in the morning. What would I do in the mean time? I soon found out.

I was assigned to a room, and to my surprise, I had a roommate. I was actually looking forward to having my own room where I could sort some things out. I felt like I got screwed once I realized I would have no privacy at all. Someone began screaming about painkillers again, and I hurried into my room. My journal was laid on my bed. Wasn't that just sweet of them to allow me to have that? I sat on the foam bed and gazed at the other side of the room. My roommate appeared to have already moved in. She had clothes hanging in her closet, a robe draped over her bed, a few toiletries in the bathroom, and "Thinking of You" cards on her bedside table. I had a journal.

I wasn't ready to sleep, yet. I decided to explore. My first stop was one of the television rooms. This lovely facility, I had been told, was equipped with two t.v. rooms. Ooh ah. This one was comfier and more private than the other was. I could make this judgement, because I had passed the other one upon my admittance. In this television room, I met Glenda, my roommate. She was stretched out on a mint green recliner reading a pamphlet entitled "Depression." She looked up at me and smiled. It was nice to see a genuine smile purposely directed towards me.

"Well, hello there. I'm Glenda. I presume that you're my new roommate?"

She was in her mid-forties and absolutely gorgeous. I immediately fell in love with her.

"Yeah, I think so. Six B?"

"That's right. Well, it's great to meet you."

I sat to the right of her and stared up at the t.v. It was nailed to the ceiling. Was it up there so the crazy people couldn't slam their heads into the glass? A special about David Cassidy was on. Glenda watched for a couple of minutes then returned to her literature.

My name was called. It was loud, too. It echoed through the halls and all the way into the television room.

"Oh God. What could they possibly want from me now?"

Glenda smiled and continued to read.

I walked out to the nurses' desk and was given a tray of food. Thank you, God. I was famished. I brought it into the designated eating room, otherwise known as the other television room. An old woman was passed out at one of the tables with a packet of crackers dangling from her frail hand. Once again, I asked myself the question, "What am I doing here?"

My meal consisted of cold chicken, dry rice, and fluorescent yellow corn. This did little to appease my hunger pains. I gave up. I might as well go to bed hungry, scared, and alone. I had little else to do.

Glenda was already in her bed, which looked so much more comfortable than mine. I buried myself beneath the thin, crisp white sheet of my own bed. I listened to Glenda rub her feet together, attempting to rock herself to sleep. Turning my body away from her and towards the barred window, I felt my eyes become red hot. Tears unwillingly flowed, down my cheek and onto the foam pillow. Trying my best to cry quietly, so as not to wake my roommate, I felt as though the world was directly on top of me. At 18, never did I even dream that I would walk through one of these places, let alone reside in one. I had no idea what to expect for the morning. Would I be held here for the full seventy-two hours, or could I make myself appear mentally stable enough to be discharged? At the same time, I feared leaving the psych ward. Going back to school and facing all of my friends was not something that I felt ready to do. What would everyone think of me? Would they walk around on eggshells as to not upset me?

"Be careful what you say to her. She might kill herself!"

I was barely asleep for three hours when I heard my name blared over a loud speaker. I ignored it. My roommate's name was soon called. We both blocked it out. Soon, the nurses were shouting our names repeatedly, obviously trying their hardest to wake us up.

"You've got to be kidding me."

I stumbled out of my bed, eyes barely able to focus, and walked down to the nurses' desk. My blood pressure was taken, and I was given a nicotine patch. What a treat.

"Can I go back to bed now?"

No one answered my question, so I did so anyway. However, when I got back into my bed, I was unable to relax enough to fall back into sleep. I was too worried about what I was supposed to say to the psychiatrist. It was necessary that I get the hell out of here as soon as possible.

There was a knock at the door. One of the nurses entered.

"Glenda, you need to get up now. You will be seeing Dr. Bishop in fifteen minutes. Get yourself cleaned up a bit."

Glenda pulled the sheet over her head and ignored the nurse. The nurse could clearly care less and left the room.

I began thinking of how crazy it would be if I had to stay here much longer. Glenda interrupted my thoughts.

"If that doctor is going to wake me up this early to talk to me, he's just going to have to deal with me being in my pajamas."

I liked her attitude.

She forced herself out of bed, went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, then headed out the door.

"Hey," I called after her. "Good luck."

I knew she heard me, but I wasn't acknowledged. What to do with myself now? I made my way to the bathroom and almost gagged at my reflection in the mirror. I looked awful. My hair, although it was short, was a mess. Dark blue and gray bags sat beneath my glazed over eyes. My skin was ashen, accentuating the unwanted color that invaded the space under my eyes. A toothbrush wrapped in plastic was near the sink. I assumed it was for me, and I borrowed Glenda's toothpaste. I knew I would feel a little bit better if my teeth were clean. It wasn't very comforting to wake up in the morning and not relax myself with a cigarette. Hopefully, I would be having one at some point in this day.

A knock at my door, a nurse entered, breakfast was announced. I was still starving, not having eaten much of the meal I was given last night. Once again, I was disappointed at the appearance of the food. Scrambled eggs that were nearly green in color, a biscuit that was harder than the tray it lay upon, and small potato pieces that smelled of burning rubber were the makeup of my meal. Great. Once again, I ate as little of the meal as possible. Some wandering man was roaming around to each table asking for the other patients' coffee. If they had no intentions to drink it, the man would become ecstatic once he realized he would have that much more caffeine to pollute his body with. I gave him mine, purely because it made my insides giggle at the mere sight of him getting irrationally excited.

Things weren't going so well, and I hadn't even been there for twenty-four hours. I decided to escape to the comfortable television room and write in my journal. My thoughts weren't very willing to cooperate with me and things came out frazzled and making little to no sense. I gave up on that and returned to my room. Maybe I would be able to fall asleep.

Another knock on the door. There really was no privacy here. It was another nurse.

"Dr. Mason will be here to see you within the hour. Be ready."

Good. Now I would have plenty of time to think of how I could reassure the psychiatrist that it was all a big mix-up. I didn't really belong here, and I had to make certain that he felt the same way.

The door opened, and Glenda sauntered into the room. A smile bigger than the Cheshire Cat's decorated her already pleasant face.

"Finally! A good doctor who listened to my problems. They believe me to be manic depressive. No other doctor has caught that before. Everything makes sense now. Oh, I feel so wonderful."

Glenda was already so special to me, and I didn't even know why. For the whole hour before my doctor came to get me, we sat and talked. I talked to her like I talk to my closest friends. I didn't censor anything. We were real with each other. In this hour, I began to realize things about myself and about the situation I was in. Forget all that whining, crying, suicide crap. I needed to live. Glenda needed to live, too. She had already failed at her fourth suicide attempt. She tried to overdose, just as I had planned on doing.

The sun shone through the bars on our window and smiles lit up our faces. We were simply basking in the beauty of each other's company. We had both suffered, but we were both smart enough to make a change.

This is where my story comes to an end. I had my visit with the doctor and was immediately discharged. My acting skills had the doctor completely infatuated with me. He set me up with some medicine and told me to take good care of myself. He referred me to another psychiatrist.

I went to the nurses and asked for them to return my belongings to me. They did, and actually seemed happy for me. No more of getting my blood pressure taken and having rubber meals three times a day. Well, not like I had really endured that much yet, but I could just imagine what staying there much longer could be like.

I said my good-bye's to Glenda. We exchanged numbers and e-mail addresses. She gave me a rumcake that she had brought with her from the Cayman Islands. She actually went through a lot to get that rumcake. She had to have the nurses go into her bags and get it out for her.

I was finally free to leave. The moment I stepped out into the world, a cigarette was between my fingers. I had my freedom once again, and this time, I wouldn't take advantage of it.

Back to my original point being made, things tend to change. I was a basket case, on the verge of ending my life. Then, I was locked up with others who were far worse off than I. Now, I'm back in the world. I have medicine that regulates my emotions and keeps me clearheaded. I'm becoming a little more optimistic, and all I had to do was go through hell and back. We all have to make our sacrifices, and I hope that I'm done making mine.

I am nineteen-years-old and I'm taking a year off from college to earn some money so that I can return. Entering writing contests is one of the many ways that I am attempting to do so. I'm majoring in English/Journalism. I live with my mother and stepfather, both of whom are very supportive of my decision to write.

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Another story by Danielle: Daddy Killed Me

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