For me, being committed was just another extension of the horror show my life had always been. It was a Saturday morning in 1977 when I blurted out to my family I was gay. By the following Monday morning at 11:30 I was literally dropped off at the Child & Adolescent Unit of the LSPH. No one in my family ever spoke to me again.
It took several years before I was able to put the truth of what had happened to me into any kind of rational realistic perspective, and even now, at 47, I’m not sure the pain surrounding the events leading up to and my time in LSPH will ever stop hurting. The pain might get a bit lighter as the years go by, but I don’t think it will ever go away totally. It’s always been just under the skin. Without even realizing it, the day I walked into that place my life split right in half. The years ahead and to some extent even today I still split my time on this planet into two categories as “before” and “after” LSPH. Whenever remembering something from my past it seems like whatever it might be, it either happened before I was dumped at LSPH, or after I was dumped at LSPH. The memories of what I saw and what I experienced there, the quiet rooms with nothing but a bare floor-no blanket or pillow-just four bare walls, and a steel door with a small wire mesh enclosed window, have never stopped hurting.
The biggest problem for me, beyond the expected such as the medications, the restraining etc. was how the staff exerted their “power.” If they felt you had broken the rules or said something inappropriate they had the power to lock you up in one of the “quiet rooms” until they felt you were “ready” to come out, and they would leave you in there for one hour or an entire night, depending on their critical analysis. Their decisions were so trivial, they might explain the reason they locked you up as one thing, when the truth is it could have been over something as trivial as a patient telling a staff member to fuck off. Who really believes it’s rational to lock a kid up over something verbal? No one was in danger, they would just use those rooms to settle a score, to show who was boss, to make a point. More often than not they were used for something way beyond the word “treatment.”
Oh yeah, I told a staff member to fuck off in 1977 and found myself sleeping in a cell with no bed or pillows or anything... And because of their cutting edge treatment, to this very day, I have never once told another person to fuck off. I was cured! Miraculous! They were so ahead of their time! (Yes, I’m being sarcastic!)
Everybody who worked so hard to make sure I never got out expected me to die there. Not only did they throw me in the gutter and spit on me, they walked away assuming I would never find my way out.
Well, I did. After a few months I began looking for a way out, I became familiar with the underground tunnels and the daily routines and that knowledge made it possible for me to escape.
I ran away to New York and I never looked back, just kept on running. I promised myself no one would ever catch me again and they never did. I was fourteen, alone on the streets of New York. I knew nobody, I had no money, no friends, I was homeless tired and hungry, but I survived. The most surprising part of my story is the fact that I survived with no skills and with everything against me and I never fell into a life of crime. I mean I did to some extent, I had to survive, but I never stole from people or sold drugs or hurt anyone or anything like that. I imagine that for many people in a situation like that a life of petty crime almost makes sense, but I just couldn’t do it. For all my strength and my determination to make it, when it came to out and out crime I was one hundred percent chickenshit!
I am grateful to you for the time and the dedication you’ve put into creating your site. Seeing the pictures and reading the words was/is painful, but until I did a Google search yesterday I had never even considered looking it up. I don’t know why, perhaps I wasn’t ready, who knows. But it was a part of my life and and to just dismiss it outright would be foolish and emotionally self-destructive, don’t you think so?
The reason I feel I can’t live my life without addressing what happened to me there is because it really was traumatic and to look at it in any other light almost seems delusional because even though some may walk away from an experience like that and think it didn’t affect them, the reality is that even if one has been successful with the way they handled the truth, the first emotion is trauma, no? Personally I have always felt I was only hurting myself if I didn’t somehow someday drag these old memories and feelings about LSPH out and make it right, even if it doesn’t make the pain easier in the end, the process itself can heal, if we let it.
I haven’t spoken or written about my time there with anyone for years. Seeing those pictures brought back a flood of memories, so thank you for helping me in a way you probably didn’t even imagine when you came up with the idea of creating a web site dedicated to a part of so many people’s lives, who went through the same experience.