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Shakey's Survival Guide to the Mental Hospital
Lucky Dice

The mental hospital can be pretty boring. Sure, there are groups and you meet with your doctor, and periodically a therapist, but overall, it’s a total snore fest. You have to figure out how to keep yourself busy. Especially if you’re in the hospital for a manic episode. There’s no way you’re going to be able to sit through groups easily.

A manic person in a group therapy session is a huge distraction. I’ve been the distracting one, and pounded tables like drums, jumped out of my seat to pace around, laughed at nothing in particular, talked until told to shut up or leave (I’d flip the person off and leave), and even pulled a fire alarm once (accidentally).

There will usually be a couple interesting people with schizophrenia. One man I was hospitalized with was very psychotic off his meds, he had paranoid schizophrenia. A sweet man, it was hard not to laugh at him when he said things (I was manic). He would be in a panic, and come to me (good choice) for help. One afternoon he gripped my upper arm and asked me what to do about the sharks swimming on his ceiling. It was so sad and funny at the time. I walked him down to the nurses’ station and handed him over to the professionals.

One thing the hospital did for me was get me out of depressive episodes via the class clown phenomenon. Somehow I wasn’t able to be in a social setting with people – even the mental hospital – without a transition right into being the jokester. Annoying to staff, but fun for me and most of the patients. I like to have fun, what the hell is wrong with that?

My mom brought my basketball and a set of dice (we lived in Las Vegas) when she visited me at the hospital one night. The basketball was my safety blanket/object. I dribbled it plenty, but I also clutched it when I sat on my bed. Trying to think about basketball instead of death.

I took the dice out onto the smoking patio and asked who wanted to shoot craps. I was able to get a small group of guys interested, but no one had any money but me. I had a couple bucks. So we decided to play for fun. We rolled and rolled, sevens, elevens, snake eyes, crapping out, it was fun. We were laughing and having a good time.

Of course, we were in a corner of the smoking patio with our backs to the security camera, clearly throwing dice, so it didn’t take long for a nurse to come out and investigate. I admitted to being the owner of the dice and walked to the side to speak with her.

“I’m going to have to take them,” she told me.

“Why?” I asked. “I’m not sure how they’re causing any harm.”

We were looking at each other, and I could see she wasn’t trying to be a bitch about it. She’d have taken them already if she wasn’t trying to work with me.

“We can’t hurt ourselves with them, right?” I asked. “They aren’t dangerous.”

She smiled and said, “True. Here’s the deal, don’t keep your backs to the camera and don’t you dare play for money.”

I grinned and gave her a hug. “Thanks!” And the games went on. No money, in plain sight of the nurses. Good times.

Maybe at some future job interview I’ll be asked about my strengths and weaknesses. And I’ll let the interviewer know that I am great at improvising ways to have fun in stressful and depressing situations behind locked doors.