Welcome to Harlem Valley State Hospital, some might know it as a Psychiatric Centre. When I joined the team, there were nearly 3,000 patients, and even though I am only familiar with a selected group, as each member of staff are given several cases, during the span of years while I worked there, I also lived on the land, at an accommodation provided.
Today is my last day here, and while packing, I found diaries that I wrote in secret, of the most interesting cases I’ve come across. Reading the entries made me realise that I could, and should share of some of things that I’ve witnessed, and took part in.
I will not change the entries; however, some additional details will be provided along the way.
I have been assigned the JH case by Dr. Flint yesterday morning. On first introduction to the patient JH did not appear to be in distress. Her room was bare+, she wore a white, ankle length dress, her hair was neatly combed and fell, nearly up to her waist. Her eyes were clear and upon my arrival to her room, she smiled and sat straight on her bed.
*+Patients are allowed to bring some of their belongings to the Hospital, however, we ask them to leave their things with us, till we establish that they are of minimal risk, be that to harm themselves, or others. Items are provided to the patient, if they are ruled out as possible weapons. Say a picture frame, the frame will be kept till the patient is cured and released, while they will be provided with the picture while in the hospital.*
“-Good morning, Mrs Hilde, I am Dr Cole. How are you feeling today?”
“-As well as it could be expected Dr Cole.” She smiled again. People do that when they want to give the impression of being mentally stable. She almost seemed as if she didn’t belong here.
“-Do you know why you are here Mrs Hilde?” I glanced at her from the file in my hands and she nodded while trying to establish eye-contact. “Good, would you like to share with me your side of the story?” I closed the file and looked at her, that’s what she wanted after all, my full attention.
“-I was brought here by my husband, he thinks that I am insane, sorry, I know I am not supposed to use that word here, my husband thinks that I am not fully comprehensive of what is happening… He is wrong, I am fine and well and would like to be released after the examination, you will find I am of healthy mind.”
“-Mrs Hilde, are you aware of what happened to Benjamin?” her face changed for a split second, and then she continued with the same cherry tone as before.
“-I asked Ben not to play in the garden when its raining, he always gets so muddy, and it takes some time to clean the mess. He never listens to me though; he came back into the house with his clothes coated with mud” -she giggled thinking about it- “it was such a mess! It was dripping everywhere, in the kitchen, living room, stairs.”
“-And you decided to bathe him?”
“-My husband would’ve been so mad if he had seen such a mess in the house. I bathed Ben and Told him to go to sleep without supper that night”.
“- Thank you, Mrs Hilde.” – I said while standing up “I will arrange some more meeting throughout the next week, if that’s okay with you?” -She smiled, and I left her room. I opened the file again in my office to make notes. Her husband’s statement was underlined in the few page file. FOUND A 6 Y/O BENJAMIN HILDE DEAD IN HIS BED, SKIN WAS SCALDED POSSIBLY BY BOILING WATER, THE BODY SMELT OF BLEACH.
After a short discussion with Dr Flint, the course of treatment was established: JH will undergo hydrotherapy. Somewhat fitting, or so we though then. The treatment plan was written up in the patients file.
Second meeting with JH. Aim is to establish whether she is delusional or aware of her actions and inform the patient about the procedure.
Once again, I entered the room 302 and sat down on the desk chair, while the patient sat on her bed. Patient was wearing the same clothing, only this time it was stained, her hair wasn’t combed, and by the smell of things, she hasn’t washed herself since my last visit.
“-Dr Cole, I can’t… I can’t. B-Ben, is he? Why has he not visited me. Oh god, is he okay? I only wanted for him to be clean, for him to be clean, for him to be clean, for him to be clean, for h” -I decided to interrupt “-Mrs Hilde, what happened to Benjamin?”
“-I, I, I saw how dirty he was, so I picked him up, and took him into the bathtub. I started washing him, but he was just so dirty… I took the pot filled with water, I was planning to make soup, you see, and I… oh god, I poured it in to the bath. He screamed, How, how, how he screamed, I couldn’t hear him. His white shirt was still dirty, so I put some bleach into the bath, hopping it would come out.”
“Mrs Hilde, you understand that we cannot release you till we are sure that you are no danger to yourself and others?” -She nodded, still crying, her hands had so many self-inflicted scratch marks, that I’ve decided to restrain the patient. “Mrs Hilde, we have a treatment plan in mind for you”
JH has been undergoing hydrotherapy for 3 days. I checked-up on her every day. The patient screamed and fought back when brought to the room with the bathtub. She was placed in the tub, and restrained, as not to leave. Every 3 hours she would be allowed to use the restroom+.
*+The therapy contained of letting hot water in, leaving it in till it cools down and her lips begin to turn blue, the patient is released for 5 minutes to use the bathroom, and placed into the bath again with hot water. Simple as that. Most of the time, she doesn’t need to use the bathroom, as due to cold water, JH struggles to be fully comprehensive and thus defecates and urinates in the bathtub.*
I have been called-in to see patient JH. On my arrival, I hear laughter.
“- Dr Cole is that you? You are a smart man, a smart, sadistic man. A woman kills her child in a bath, and so you keep her in the bath for days, torturing her.”
“-That is not what we intend to acompl”
“-Bullshit! Tell me how you figured it out.”
“-Mrs Hilde, I am glad to see you’re improving, however, I don’t unders..”
“- Bullshit again doctor! Just tell me already. I’ve been pretending I’m a fish for days now. You think I enjoy being fed by some sad, miserable women every day? I do enjoy watching them clean the bathtub after I shit in it.”
I picked up the stool on the side of the room and placed it in front of her.
“-Your lipstick. When I saw you first, you were going for that, a woman cracked under husband’s pressure act? Your bright red lipstick was very neatly applied, but then again, you presented yourself well. As husband would like you to be, right? Then you spend few days in isolation, you deny baths, you deny food, you don’t leave your room even when allowed to. You want to grab our attention.
Second meeting, you look like you had a breakthrough, you know what happened to your child, you understand how wrong that is, you remember what you’ve done. Frankly, you stank so bad, did you piss yourself on purpose?“ She tightened her lips. Bingo. I am right again “-That’s commitment, you looked like a mess. TOO much like a mess. And then your lipstick, applied perfectly. You shook your hands so much when I was there, but you could apply your lipstick? Egocentric people assume they are better, smarter than everyone, and they always want to look the park. So why did you kill him?*
She put her head backwards, resting on the side of the tub. “-He was cheating on me, my husband. I wanted to kill him, but that’s just too easy. I wanted for him to be in pain. And he didn’t love anything in the world as much as that little brat. Yes yes, he’s my child. But I hated being pregnant. Hated him when he was a baby, but then, George was happy and he loved me for giving him this child. Then he wanted another, I did not. So we fell apart, while he was fucking every woman in town, I was stuck at home with Ben, and I resented him, No man wants a woman with a child, not even her husband. I though I’ll be able to display a psychotic episode, followed by a progressive recovery and be free in few months. But damn, you’re not just a looker are you? Torturing is also a hobby of yours, it seems. Don’t let me die in this bath, Cole. ”
I sat in silence for some time. Then I stood up and left the room. In my office I opened her file and wrote everything down. I instructed the patient to be released and placed in a different hospital’s wing the next day, however, during the night I visited JH.
All she wanted was to be loved. And she was restrained, what could she possibly do to harm me.