I had learned early in life that, when faced with uncomfortably, difficult options, it is best to disappear, either in actuality or in mind. A dichotomous childhood riddled with the tenderness and fun of a mother’s boundless love paired with physically obtuse discipline at the hands of my, now repentant, father, had shepherded me down the road of avoidance. Simply refuse to decide, refuse to act, it’s easier. Unfortunately, I had also learned, that sheer refusal to act is an act in and of itself, and it’s only easier because it is a downhill path which, the zombie blindly marching to gravity’s unfaltering dictates, always ends at the bottom.
As I walked into the office of the Justice of the Peace, I sang this lesson over and over to myself. Besides, I knew that my mother needed me now just as I had needed her as a young, diaper-clad child. This was the right thing to do. I had filled in the forms requiring my sister to be picked up by the police and held in a psychiatric unit for at least 72 hours. I had done it before and, although the familiarity lent some sense of normalcy, the pit of my stomach was rumbling to the contrary.
I sat down in front of a cold looking man who clicked on his tape recorder. He adjusted the glasses on the long, red, pointy protuberance on his face, whose only aesthetically viable purpose was to act as the medium between his lungs and the oxygen upon which they depended, and then he barely glanced up at me. Already I was overtaken by a deep, purple urge to shake him into reality. Before I could act on this impulse, he ensured that we were aware that this entire encounter would be taped, the monotone never giving way to the slightest inflection. “Really?” I wanted to shout, “I didn’t know that the machine you punched with such a flourish was actually going to tape us, I thought you were just entering the next number in your count-down until your day was over?.. I thought you were just using an adding machine to calculate the number of idiots who walk through your office door!” But I didn’t, I managed to focus on his lopsided, half red, half grey moustache that framed the cracked, drawn lips with which he uttered the following;
“So, what do you want from me?”
Insanity floods this world for little wonder. We come up against people every single day whose persona ostensibly form the weft and weave of sanity and rationality, but rather than embrace us with their silken fabric, they steward us in to a Kafkaesque nightmare. Emotionless and arctic in their approach to a humanity crying from hurt, from need, they are unaffected and placid in its onslaught, almost irritated by things more human than they. So unaffected did my interrogator appear, I was fleetingly tempted to storm out of his office as if that might awaken him to the emotions pulsing within the neat forms he held in his hands that I had so painstakingly filled out. Instead;
“My sister is very ill. As you can see from the forms I filled in, she has been psychotic for some time. The police arrested her last week for …”
He actually had the audacity to interrupt me. OMG! Grey matter had long ago given up residence within his cranium. It had clearly been replaced by red tape.
“Psychosis in and of itself is not necessarily cause for a Form 2.”
Was this man (and I use the term loosely since it is a derivative of the word human) really going to listen to me, to consider the outward and inward impact of my sister’s condition? Or did he just have some quota to fill? 10 nutbars issued forms today, 20 turn-downs, 30 bails accepted, 15 bench warrants…
“I am very familiar with the Form 2 requirements. I’ve done this before. My sister is a danger to herself and others, but mostly to herself. The police caught her running up the middle of the highway last week, naked and flapping her arms. She said she was on her way to visit Alice in Wonderland. She said Peter Pan was leading her because he was a personal friend of Jesus Christ and that Neverland was where the sinless people went who Christ bestowed with a special permit. She was naked and dancing up the middle of a road with a 100Km/Hr speed limit. She doesn’t look after herself anymore. She never showers, brushes her teeth, changes her clothes. She won’t take her meds. In the last 15 years doctors have diagnosed her as manic-depressive, schizo-effective, schizophreniform, alcoholic and everything in between. She needs to be in hospital.”
“Do you understand all the ramifications of this order that you are asking me to sign?” was the monotone, staccato response.
Is his ivory tower so prophylactic that he barely perceives the ants scurrying below? Would he need a magnifying glass to catch a glimpse? If he had a magnifying glass would he use it to burn us out of existence given half a chance?… A shake of the head, a reorganizing of thoughts, and I realized that he is not the source of my anxiety. I may try to blame him for something from which he is totally detached in every way possible, but it will never stick.
“Yes, I do. “
A few more questions, further explanation of the Mental Health Act and I left his office clutching the Form 2 not certain that I had done the right thing. My lack of confidence would only be underlined by events that would take place later that night. The arrival of the Emergency Task Force, bullet-proof shields out, weapons drawn and then, finally, my sister dragged away in handcuffs would leave me forever questioning the haleness of my choice. In an effort to force treatment on a vulnerable person suffering from paranoid delusions, I went a football field or two in the wrong direction, the denouement of which was to utterly confirm her paranoia. Mental health patients are not of the same genus as gangsters, pedophiles and murderers yet we deal with them in exactly the same way. Is it any wonder insanity is profligate in the world.