Next, after you walk into CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program) everything you have is taken away from you. Your cell phone, telephone/address book, sweatshirt and Weekly Reader—all taken away from you and locked up.
You are now, unequivocally, in prison. This is not health care; this is lockdown. You have been stripped of all your rights, as surely as an Iraqi terrorist at Guantanamo Bay. Oh, heck, a whole lot more surely than a terrorist at Gitmo. And no, you don’t have the right to call a lawyer. If you weren’t an emotional basket case before, you certainly are now—and now you have to wait for the psychiatrist. You can’t leave without seeing him, her or it, remember?
Psychiatrists at CPEP commonly work sixteen hour shifts, for the simple reason that nobody in their right mind wants to work there. For years, it has been understood that the complete loser who runs this horror house—Dr. Roger Levine—keeps his job solely because nobody else wants it. Any idiot can get the job and keep it. What kind of man wants to rule over hell?
There is only one psychiatrist on duty at a time. The patients come in at the rate of about one every twenty minutes. It is a total impossibility for one doctor to see a new patient, make a comprehensive assessment, design a treatment plan, and do the follow-up paper work in twenty minutes. It cannot be done, nevertheless, it must be. It is a rational absurdity.
Some lucky few get seen, screened and sent home with prescriptions for a ton of drugs that are guaranteed to make them numb, passive—quite possibly sound asleep—and non-combative for at least twelve hours, by which time the psychiatrist will have gone home and it will be somebody else’s problem. The rest of the patients are admitted to the back.
People throw around the word “hell” so casually. “It was hell.” “I felt like I was in hell.” “It was a hellish experience.” There is, classically, only one Hell, therefore I have made it a practice to describe really, really bad situations as “unpleasant,” “awful,” “dreadful,” “alarming,” “shocking,” or “vile.” I figure you need to reserve your worst adjective for the worst situation imaginable—no, no, for the situation that is beyond imagination.
CPEP is hell.
A pastor once described Heaven as “infinite options” and Hell as “no options.” I say again, CPEP is hell. By the time you arrive there, you have been denuded of all self-respect. Clearly, you have been strip searched and locked up because you are a terrible person. It is not about a doctor’s psychiatric diagnosis: it is about society’s moral judgment.
The staff stays as far away from you as they can, which means they refuse to come out of the nursing station. They are safe behind walls and no matter what is happening to you they will not come out.
You are left alone with the other patients, who comprise the spectrum of human aberrations. Drunk and disorderly, sexual perversion, suicidal depression, behavioral problem, hallucinating schizophrenic, adolescent acting out, convicted killer, terrified ten-year-old, and—oh yes—Old Lady who’s been raped—they’re all in there together. And guess what?
There are no locks on the bathroom doors. Seriously. CPEP was designed without locks on the bathroom doors because, hey, somebody could lock themselves in and do something terrible to themselves. Or the Old Lady who’s been raped could be trying to pee and any one of the other patient for any one of a hundred reasons—disorientation, disregard, disgust—could walk in on her. Hey, are we having fun yet?
Welcome to CPEP.