Pink slipped.


A pink slip is something you get when you are fired (“down-sized”?) from your job. It is also something you get if you are involuntarily committed. Both are signs of being economically fucked. This is something baffling about the treatment of crazy people. (And again, I use crazy in the same way I use whore. I’m trying to reclaim the label. Is it working? Fuck if I know.) If you are so fucking crazy that you can’t take care of yourself and are pink slipped, your insurance won’t cover your bills. Now, your insurance probably won’t cover your care in the first place. But inpatient psychiatric treatment is expensive as all get out.

I think they call it a pink slip because the form they fill out is pink. It’s a real ego boost to read yours, let me tell you. This is something I try to underscore about the difference between all you sane folk and all us crazy folk out there. Your knowledge of being pink slipped comes from Girl, Interrupted and how sexy Angelina made it.

Both times I was pink slipped, I had to be sedated because the “ruckus” I was causing was upsetting the other patients in the ER. I’m sure it was because I wasn’t going along quietly and they wanted me to be a calm, drooling, complicit psych patient. It’s all about drugs to these people. But I cannot describe without screaming what it feels like to be told by a stranger in a white coat, with whom you have had maybe a total of five minutes face to face time, that you are a danger to yourself and must be treated for your own good.

Then, it’s kind of like being in the zoo, I’d imagine. There is glass. There are robes and slippers because you can’t have things you could hurt yourself with or try to kill yourself with. You are on That side. You have to ask for your cigarettes and your soda. You have to ask to use the bathroom. You sit in a room filled with disgusting old couches and old magazines and television, never cable programming. When you are not there, you are either in your room with whatever other crazy person you are stuck with as a roommate. Or you are in group or individual therapy. You are expected to bare your soul because you are a good little trained seal and you are going to do a back flip for the waiting public.

People will visit you. They will give you horrified eyes and a fake smile. They may try to bring you things, but you can’t have the things until the things are approved by someone else. What do you say to a person who has been pink slipped? It’s almost better to have no visitors than have visitors. They will only make small talk or ask in a haunted whisper, How are you doing? or Why didn’t you say it was this bad? And you will sit there in your stupid gown and robe and slippers and be silently angry as they walk out the door. You will hate them for their patronization and their worried tone and their sanity.

Then you go and you sit on the disgusting couch and you watch the basic television programming and you wait. You wait for dinner. For group. For bedtime. For your medication. You wait around. Time has no meaning, really. You are in a perpetual state of waiting. There’s nothing else to do but wait. You might write in your journal, sure, or talk to the other crazy people. But mostly you just fucking wait around, doped up, waiting to smoke or push around your terrible food or get shuffled into your bed.

Eventually, the doctors will discharge you. This is some kind of glorious event. You grin at the other patients and you will be excited that you are going to be free. They will review your discharge plan because you will have to follow up with someone on your therapy, your drugs, your whatever, so you don’t end up pink slipped again. Not that you can afford it. You get your things back that were confiscated when you came in. This is like your very own This is Your Life the Night We Locked You Up, You Nutcase!

It’s funny. The first time, I went to lunch after I got out. It was like we were all conveniently forgetting the reason I was there in the first place. And then I went back to my life and lied to everyone about where I’d been and why. What would I have said? Yeah, yeah, I was in the loony bin, it was fucked.

And then you wait for the bills and the fall out and the feelings that will inevitably come. Because you will know that you have crossed through a door into a world that so few other people have crossed over into. You’ve come back from the dead. You were in Limbo, waiting for the heaven or hell judgment, only to be yanked back into the flesh. Why don’t they put that in the movies?


4 Responses to “Pink slipped.”

  1. 1 Amber

    When I was in a psych ward, my only thought the whole time I was in there was, I’ve got to get the fuck out of here. It really brought into stark relief how this is NOT helping anyone. I mean, I don’t know; maybe it helps SOME people. But it didn’t help me. All I coudl think about was, THIS is fucking me up, I’ve got to get out.

    • Definitely. That’s all I could think about, too. And neither time did I get out because I was better. I got out because I told the doctors exactly what they wanted to hear. I felt more stigmatized, more othered, more out of touch with reality. Maybe hospitals help some people. I want to believe they do. But I don’t think pink slips help anyone.

  1. 1 Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » Blogging Against Disablism, in a roundabout way
  2. 2 Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » links for 2009-05-02

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