Chapter 1: Timothy Grant
I, Dr. Timothy Grant, look back on this past week with great humility. What started out as a way to push the boundaries of my own professional ambition, gradually turned into an endeavor that should have been pioneered by another, more seasoned mental health professional.As far as the term “seasoned” is used, I use it in the context of experience dealing with upsettingly extreme circumstances and not as years of existence as a human being- of which I have fifty-five.
Time travel permitting, I would confidently go back two weeks in the not-so-distant past and ignore the tempting job posting I had come across. Upon seeing my slightly younger self, I would urge the mirror representation of myself to swallow his pride and swiftly glance over the online job posting, thereby allowing a more equipped psychiatrist to fill the demanding position.I would reason with my naively ambitious self by saying that a single click on the hyperlink containing the position title, would lead us both down a serendipitous, albeit abrupt, path that would quickly disrupt the comforting way in which we came to know ourselves.
Prior to accepting employment at the Paracelsus Institute, I would have described myself as a dedicated doctor in the ever-changing field of psychiatry.Even though I would have been fine illustrating my work ethic as dedicated, I would have been guilty of omitting the primary characteristic of apathy.The sentiment of apathy in which I speak of did not come hand in hand with my doctoral diploma, but instead grew in response to the tediously routine manner I found most effective to treat my patients.With each additional patient I had acquired through my private medical practice, my apathy was aggravated by my insistence of using medication rather than conversation as therapy.
A combination of pharmacological treatments became a sure-fire way to subdue a variety of overwhelmingly debilitating phobias, anxieties, and disorders. Although I constantly observed the irony of never accepting pharmaceuticals as a suitable form of treatment for myself, I had no problem pumping chemicals into my blindly trusting patients.I found reassurance in my hypocritical nature knowing that every one of my patients, without exception, welcomed a chemically altered state of mind, before inquiring as to an effective therapy regimen.Working as an overpaid pharmacist, my “therapy” sessions would typically last six minutes, rather than the industry standard of fifty-five minutes. Four of those six minutes would give my patient sufficient time to list all abnormalities experienced in the prior week, leaving the remaining two minutes to scribble down name brand, therapeutic drugs that have been tested to appropriately treat those specific ailments, then engage in dreaded, although fortunately limited, pleasantries.
Due to the frivolous use of my prescription pad, word had spread like a virus to all those seeking the quick fix of pharmacological treatment. The rapid and constant increase in client base came with the illusion of unmatched psychiatric skill and experience; when in reality, I acted only as a pharmaceutical salesman who benefited stakeholders in various drug corporations much more than the patient.If my particular position in this questionably legal business was placed under the light of illegal drug trafficking, I would be the middle-man in charge of distributing the drug lord’s product to anyone who was willing to ingest a cocktail of unknown chemicals.I did, however, find solace knowing that my patients were using me as much as I had used them.They did not seek out a revered mental health professional to find an effective psychiatric treatment for their exaggeratedly unmanageable life problems, rather for a legal way to dissociate from the commonly harsh reality that plagues the majority of the world’s population- from one degree to another.
Despite the serendipitous nature of my success in the psychiatric field, a string of financially and professionally valuable events led my career to a place where I could undeservedly obtain virtually any position I chose to pursue. Just as a conniving surgeon who cheats his way through medical school, only to face the lethal consequences of his dishonesty when ignorantly standing over a crashing patient, I too would be the victim of karmic consequences upon entering the Paracelsus Institute.
Inept, unprepared, and unwilling are three adjectives that describe the state of mind I had brought with me into the institution. Due to the undeserved prestige of building one of the country’s top private medical practices, even outperforming various surgical enhancement centers, I had filled the position of Head Psychiatrist without properly preparing for the overwhelmingly demanding venture.Looking back on the ways in which I could have avoided over confidently undertaking the wildly unsuitable position, I believe it would have been of benefit to myself to have pursued a spouse in my younger years.It seems as though a functional marriage would have been an excellent way to keep my ego in check, by allowing a partner to shed an unfavourably realistic light on my dangerous levels of overconfidence.Only a spouse, I believe, could have effectively woken the rational being that laid dormant far behind the overinflated, confident façade that operated my character.
However, I regrettably never found the time to seek, woo, and commit a willing partner in a legally binding relationship. It had merely never been a priority of mine; instead, I effortlessly pursued a path free of emotional obstacles to a destination of unbridled medical status.Wishing I had reached my professional destination and blissfully resided there without any regard for further travel, I once again find myself trying to tear the fabric of time to avoid attaining disturbing realizations concerning my pseudo perception of reality.Just as futile as attempting to control the future, fantasizing about manipulating the past only results in regret and helplessness.
Moving forward, trying to leave the permanence of the past at a safe distance, it is crucial to disclose that my decision to enter into the Paracelsus Institution was an act driven purely by arrogance. Similar to a karaoke enthusiast with dreams of singing alongside musical legends or a third string athlete with hopes of competing in the Olympics, I was definitely out of my league.What was worse was that I hadn’t the slightest clue of how my shameful inexperience would demolish the foundation of my identity.Nevertheless, I pursued the prestigious position of Head Psychiatrist by agreeing to a one year contract, which stipulated that I must live in the institution without absence.This stipulation was offset by the generous compensation offered by the founder of the institution, a sum that outweighed five years of running a successful private practice.Basically, I had legally accepted vast wealth to live amongst my patients twenty-four hours per day- forced to eat, sleep, and defecate in the psychiatric ward without a single day’s leave for three hundred and sixty-five days.In retrospect, the compensation could never remedy the irreversible damage caused by a week’s stay at Paracelsus, let alone an entire year.
The only fortunate circumstance during the entire experience within the walls of the Paracelsus Institution, was that the year-long contract would be halted only after the first seven days of being the head of the ward. I count myself thankful that my superior found it necessary to break my contract without the pursuit of any legal implications, as my presence in the institution for any longer may have resulted in any number of equally unsettling revelations.If I had known that I would only be subjected to the abundantly psychotic minds of the institution, I may have found an effective coping mechanism to disconnect from the bizarre mentality.Contrarily, I filled the position with the determined intention of successfully completing fifty-two weeks of active employment- a task that quickly begun to feel like an eternal damnation.
It is said that sufferers from depression cannot escape their hopeless state of mind due to an inability to grasp the concept of a happy future; I believe the same could be said concerning those suffering from psychosis- the only difference being that with psychosis, it is near impossible to grasp the concept of a realistic future. With that gloomy theory in mind, it was almost exciting to be told that I would be residing over five deeply damaged, psychotic minds. I had made the inexplicably unparalleled jump from treating acute social anxiety to examining the demented characters of the criminally insane.I had willingly taken on the task of probing into the recesses of nauseatingly twisted conscious minds- a task that could be in itself considered certifiably insane.
On the day I started at the Paracelsus Institution, I had wrapped up my social affairs with ease. My private practice had been put on auto-pilot by irresponsibly prescribing each patient with enough medication to last the year of my absence.Obviously, I was not naïve enough to believe that each of my patients would take their medication as prescribed; I knew perfectly well that a lethal combination of indulgence and quick-fix mentality would inevitably result in the occasional overdose.I left my mentally unstable patients to their own devices with little difficulty, blindly hoping for a surprisingly favourable outcome in a doomed situation; like leaving an alcoholic alone with a bottle of whiskey, hoping to return to find a full bottle and a sober man.Although I do not feel the need to reiterate my lack of ethics concerning my involvement in the medical professional, I disclose these failed moral judgements to paint a condemning picture of my inability to properly treat truly troubled minds.
With my previous patients on a destructively ineffective medication regimen and no personal relationships to tend to, I was free to explore the unfamiliar world of debilitating psychosis. Although I would in fact be the head of psychiatry at Paracelsus, my freedom to delve into the disturbing field of psychosis was relatively monitored by the founder of the program, Dr. Simon Jeffries.Government officials had recruited Dr. Jeffries, a man not much older than myself, who had built a genuinely stellar career as a forensic psychiatrist from years of ground-breaking criminal research.Dr. Jeffries had founded the institution as the result of a government crusade against the most lethal personalities who had claimed countless lives but were protected from conventional incarceration due to the controversial insanity defense.
In particular, Dr. Jeffries had gained exceptional praise from the community when he single-handedly tracked down a notorious serial killer- and former patient- twenty years ago. The blood thirsty murderer had been inflicted by a debilitating form of psychosis that propelled him into a state of utter delusion.While in this state of delusion, the rampant serial killer was said to have claimed the lives of thirty-eight middle aged, Caucasian males; the psychotic killer believed that he had to rid the world of the dominant class in order to save the inferior demographics.When the demented individual realized that he belonged to the same dominant class of aging, white men, he attempted to take him own life before Dr. Jeffries sought him out with little time to spare.Instead of turning the psychotic murderer over to the vengeful authorities, Dr. Jeffries took it upon himself to quarantine his patient and give him appropriate treatment.
Thankfully, the results that yielded from Dr. Jeffries’ controversial treatment plan had been so revolutionary, the police waived the popular consensus to imprison the doctor for aiding and abetting a ruthless serial killer. Over the span of a month, the once remorseless, psychopathic killer had been rid of his psychosis and resumed his former, sane self.What made this feat exceedingly impressive, in exact opposition of my treatment technique, was that Dr. Jeffries chose not to use any medication whatsoever; rather, he implemented an intense form of psychotherapy and hypnosis that allowed the patient to dissociate from his psychotic personality.The way in which Dr. Jeffries chose to confront mental illness took much more effort than I had ever taken to tackle even relatively minor disorders, which is why I was simultaneously surprised and honored when the infamous doctor asked for my help to run his institution.It was beyond me to correct the statement of a man whose reputation exceeded my own; therefore, I obliged the legendary doctor’s offer and hoped that a single ounce of my training or education would help my desire to rise to the challenge.
Exactly a week ago today- last Saturday- Dr. Jeffries met me in front of the Paracelsus Institution gate to welcome me into his government funded insane asylum. Feeling star struck, as a pre-teen girl would begin hyperventilating at the sight of a current heart-throb, my first sight of the infamous doctor, standing underneath what could have been a single-story abandoned warehouse, was quite overwhelming.He stood leaning against the six foot high chain link fence, grazing the top of his black, wavy hair against the hanging, rusted barb wire.Perhaps I had been projecting feelings of insecurity on the patiently waiting doctor, but as my car pulled up next to him, he seemed to be overcome with anxiety.Quickly dismissing the doctor’s unsettled demeanor as an uneasiness for what awaited us both inside, I gently exited my luxury sedan to avoid adding to the man’s questionable anxiety and introduced myself to the doctor, who untangled his flowing hair from the sharp wire and held out his hand towards me.
Shaking the hand of a psychiatric icon was humbling; in that very second, I had questioned my entire career up to that point and had a difficult time reassuring myself that I was worthy of Dr. Jeffries’ inclusive nature. Although I found it to be highly unnecessary, he thanked me for assisting his new project and added that he was appreciative to have a man of such reputable stature to take his physical place at the head of Paracelsus.The immediate inflation of my ego eased my nerves, consequently prompting my undeserved pride to shine through the formerly humbled façade.I then shamefully told the world renowned doctor that he was welcome and that I believed that Paracelsus would be an exciting endeavor.Dr. Jeffries smiled and nodded his head as my expression of arrogance brought the conversation to a screeching halt.Feeling the unsettling nerves about to re-surface, I suggested that we take a look around the building as to become familiarized with the facilities.Overtly content to end the pleasantries, Dr. Jeffries took the lead into the establishment, explaining the purpose of the institution and began to divulge information concerning the troubled characters that lurked through the sterile halls.
As I followed Dr. Jeffries into Paracelsus, I was shocked to see how few security measures had been put in place to secure an institution occupied by the country’s most dangerously psychotic individuals. Apart from a burly African American man, who was standing at the front entrance, causally greeting Dr. Jeffries as if he had known him for quite some time, there seemed to be no additional guards on the premises.I must have exuded a sense of concern for the lack of security in the institution, because the statuesque guard introduced himself as Terrence Jung, then continued to assure me in an under educated manner of speech by saying, “Don’t worry, it’s safe. Just leave it to Terry, doctor.”Feeling no reassurance from the dim witted security guard’s brief introduction, I asked Dr. Jeffries how many staff members would be present at any given time.
Anticipating my question concerning the presence of staff, Dr. Jeffries abruptly interrupted my inquiry by saying that the government only requires one mental health professional for every five patients, making their arrangement adherent to the law more than necessary. As Dr. Jeffries assured me that I would be fully equipped to handle my case load, I looked down the short, shadowy hallway to see six chrome painted, metal doors with a window pane nearing the top of the frame, measuring no more than a square foot - three equidistant doors, on each side of the narrow hallway.Recounting the number of doors, first in my head, then on my fingers, switching starting points from right to left, then left to right as to avoid a miscount, I came to the unnerving conclusion that there were six rooms, which would outweigh the five to one, patient-doctor ratio.
Lost between my own thoughts of concern, assuming that I would be unfairly outnumbered by severely deranged patients, I cut off Dr. Jeffries as he pointed out the kitchen area. I nervously questioned the doctor’s math in an accusatory fashion and demanded to know why there were six patients, when he had made it clear that five was the maximum- struggling to keep the trembling fear of even having five patients masked by a defensive expression.The doctor chuckled at my accusation and reminded me that I, too, have a room and that the ratio of patients to doctor would be well under the legal standard.Having felt embarrassed by Dr. Jeffries’ frank correction, I refrained from commenting on the doctor’s phrasing of being “well under” the legal ratio, since it seemed to be at the maximum.I disregarded the doctor’s trivial overestimation of the ratio in question and moved on, following Dr. Jeffries down the hallway as we inched closer to the two rows of bedroom doors.
As Dr. Jeffries gestured into the first room on the right, I turned my head into the vacant room; the room was hardly large enough to be considered an actual bedroom, more suiting the size of a walk-in closet. Satisfied by seeing the empty holding cell, I felt encouraged by having one less patient to deal with- this would lower the ratio in his favor, thereby decreasing the risk of being overpowered by insanely powerful criminals.My feeling of relief was insensitively torn away as the doctor indicated that the cramped room, measuring no more than seven feet long by four feet wide, would be my humble accommodations for the next year.Sparing little time to glance over the limited floor space, there was a standard issue prison bed against the right side of the two walls, while a metal shelf no larger than a cafeteria tray hung suspended over an aluminum toilet; I came to realize that the dual purpose toilet had the intention of acting as a desk chair when sat on in the reverse direction than typically used.
Trying not to criticize Dr. Jeffries’ penitentiary influenced interior design, although unamused by the unacceptable conditions, I remarked that he must have been joking and that I hadn’t been confined to such a small space since leaving my mother’s womb. The doctor became defensive of my snobbish commentary and replied that I should learn to make sacrifices, seeing as how I was being compensated higher than deserved and that I should not feel so entitled as to request better living accommodations than the patients I had been hired to treat.Realizing that I had wasted little time making a swift jump onto the pages of Dr. Jeffries’ bad books, I accepted my superior’s heated lecture and apologized for appearing as high maintenance.Visibly composing himself, Dr. Jeffries took control of his outrage and assured me that it was an issue not worth dwelling upon and invited me to walk by his side to the view the rest of the facilities.
Walking back towards the exit, Dr. Jeffries turned around to face me before reaching the doors, indicating his intention to leave.Expecting the doctor’s soon departure, I tried to stall the man by attempting to retrieve any questions that would provide peace of mind in an emergency situation.Before I could utter my first “What if?” question, Dr. Jeffries interrupted my sentence by holding out his hand, then wishing me the best of luck.The doctor left no room for any comments on my part by adding that he would come by on a weekly basis to touch base and review my case notes.I was left to my own devices, feeling as though I had been abandoned on a strange planet inhabited by the most sick and twisted creatures- there was a point where a fleeting thought tainted my confidence, making me ready to resign before even meeting a single patient.
In motion to follow Dr. Jeffries off the premises, I tried to override my terrified body and mind by resisting my innate urge to flee to safety. I felt compelled to accept the fate I had blindly chosen for myself, even though it was so much more than I had bargained for.Needing reassurance that fleeing would be a poor reflection of character and dedication, I tried to shout out to a distancing Dr. Jeffries, who efficiently stopped me in my tracks by suggesting, “You will be fine, just approach one room at a time.”Those instructions were inexplicably comforting- enough to trick my unsettled mind into braving the haunting institution walls.
I lost sight of Dr. Jeffries as he drove off; I didn’t know where he was going but a part of me just wanted to join him. I felt as I did when I was a child, being dropped off at summer camp, surrounded by people with whom I just could not relate.The only difference between the hazy memory of childhood fear and the fresh, adult memory of anxiety, was that my parents ironically picked me up just as I began to enjoy myself; the next time Dr. Jeffries returned, I would be in an irreparable state of existential shock.