John Shore Christian Blog and Commentary

I Was Locked Up and Tortured in an Insane Asylum

Do you know that when I was a teenager I was locked against my will in a state-run mental institution that was so hellish that (for instance) on weekend nights the drug addicts left to run the place sold the patients to local deviants and violent perverts who would come in and do things to the patients so horrible I won't tell you?

I got tortured in that place, too; on several occasions I was, for instance, pumped full of Haldol, and then strapped face down by my hands and feet onto a metal bed frame in a cold room for 24-hours at a time. If you'd like to get a feel for what that's like, lie on a bed or the floor, face down, and spread your hands and feet up and out as far as they'll go. Then imagine you cannot so much as wiggle your hands or feet.

Then imagine you're alone in small room into which air-conditioning is being pumped non-stop.

Then imagine psychos with clubs who find you entertaining periodically unlocking and entering that room.

Strapped down like that, my main concern was not literally choking to death on the great volumes of my own drool caused the Haldol. While doing that I also listened to the storms of screams and wails of the violated patients—most of it coming from the showers, where they have all those handy pipes and fixtures, running water, and easily cleaned tiles. Throughout one such night I also listened to a guy in the room next to mine, who was also strapped down, as he chewed all the way through his grungy, plastic-coated mattress.

On Sell the Patients night I got strapped down, so that I wouldn't interfere with the night crew making their extra money.

Ever tried to fight after someone jabs into your thigh a hypodermic filled with Haldol or Thorazine? Don't. You'll lose.

When this happened I was nineteen. I was in the asylum for six weeks—which was as long as they could hold anyone against their will. The place was so bad the state shut it down about two months after they kicked me out. If you know anything about state-run institutions, you know how bad that means it was.

While in that stunning hell-hole, I telephoned my dad in Los Angeles, and desperately begged him to come get me out. If he had just walked in the door of the place, they'd have instantly released me: they only kept people who no one came to claim. So I begged him to do that extremely simple thing: just walk in the door, demand my release, and wait while they came to get me. Then he could fly right back to L.A., and I'd be free again. Wouldn't take him a day.

But he refused to do it. He was only a two-hour airplane flight away—and, as the senior VP in a huge corporation, he was certainly free to come help me. But he wouldn't. He wouldn't even talk to them on the phone about releasing me—which probably, as I told him, would have worked. Those people didn't want a "patient" there whom anyone real would claim or care about: they lived on the homeless and truly crazy. They were happy to let go the patients someone came for; they'd just go snag them some homeless person nobody cared about.

I had a good job. I had an apartment. I wasn't crazy. The cops had picked me up in a park I was hanging out in one night after I got off a graveyard shift at work. When the hospital had an empty bed, they called the cops to pick someone up to fill that bed, because they weren't about to go without the $800 per day Medical paid them for every occupied bed. They'd get an empty bed; they'd call the cops; the cops would pick up anyone and pull ‘em in; and the hospital would keep the ones no one came to claim, for at least six weeks.

Anyway, the administrative mechanics of how the place worked is too … well, actually, that's about it.

But my dad, who knew perfectly well that I wasn't crazy—who knew I'd just gotten trapped in this thing—thought I should just wait it out. Basically, he just couldn't be bothered.

As I wrote about in Death, Be Not Stupid, I'm just now getting ready to fly across the country, to help my dad try to at least in some way acknowledge that he simply cannot live alone any more.

Leaving me in that decrepit, evil asylum isn't the worst thing my dad ever did to me. But it's … not a bad contender.

But I'll go to my father, and care for him, and clean him up, and continue to try to get him to move to California to be near my wife and I. And through it all, I will treat him with unflagging love and respect.

I will do that—with joy, and pleasure, and … zero stress—because I'm a Christian.