Thirty days. That's how long I was put in a mental institute.
I lived in Budapest, Hungary and worked as a librarian, as a side job, I was a writer for a small local magazine. I didn't have any family that I knew of except for my sister who just recently passed away. We both grew up at an adoption center because our mother died when we were young because of mental problems. I guess it runs in the family because my sister passed away due to the same problem. I decided for this weeks article to write about mental illnesses, to further my research, I decided to visit the Gresza Mental Institute, about fifty miles away from Budapest.
I made my way through the reception area where a lady in her early thirties led me to a room with other mental patients. They didn't seem like the crazy people that movies portrayed them to be. I kindly gave the receptionist my coat and off she went to hang it in the coat closet. She told me an employee would be with me shortly to help with my research. I noticed employees come and go, I waited for what almost felt like four hours till I came up to a nurse and asked where the employee that was supposed to help me with my research was. I told him I would just come back another day and as I was about to leave the room, three nurses ran after me and held me down from both sides.
"LET ME GO!" I yelled as I was fighting to free myself.
That's when they injected me with sedatives.
I woke up in a dark room, I turned on the light. I was scared and confused.
Where was I? What am I doing here? I ran up and tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. I tried to knock, but no one could hear me.
"HELP! HELP! HELP!" I thought that I must be in a nightmare, this seems to impossible. I tried to pinch myself but nothing happened. That's when the nurse entered the room.
"Agi, are you okay?"
Agi? Who is Agi? I thought.
"My names not Agi, my name is Adrienn. I am a librarian from Budapest. A receptionist took my coat yesterday but she never came back. Please help me! I'm not supposed to be here!"
"Agi calm down, I think you forgot to take your medication again."
"I'm not Agi!" I yelled as my hand slapped her face.
That's when they sedated me again.
In my early days at the institute, I was put on maximum lockdown. I didn't think there was any purpose to try and tell these people who I was because no matter what I do, they always thought I was crazy. I began to think to myself that maybe I was crazy, I was going to end up like my mother and my sister. They finally noticed that I have quieted down and put me back on normal watch, I was able to go to the dining room and be with the other patients.
A girl came up to me and asked, "Are you new here?"
I responded, "Yes. If I tell you something will you think I'm crazy?"
"Well it depends on what your story is" she said.
I began telling my story and by time I finished her jaw dropped.
She said, "Don't worry, I believe you. I'm not crazy either. My mother put me here because my grades in school started dropping and I started going against what my parents wanted me to do. But to be honest, I just wanted freedom, you know? I wanted to make my own decisions and for that, I was put in this institute."
She was my friend until she left a note saying, "Goodbye, I'm free now."
I once again sat alone. I learned that the more you act normal, the more the nurses will leave you alone. As long as you do what they say, there was no trouble. Night after night, I thought if I would ever leave this place, it was awful lonely in here and I thought multiple times about taking my own life, but I could never get myself to do it. One day I was sitting in the dining room, just reading a book, when a nurse comes up to me and says, "Agi, your mother is in the other room waiting for you."
My mother alive? Impossible. Now I'm really going crazy.
"My mother died when I was little" I replied.
He ignored what I said and took me to the other room. I didn't try to fight and I'm glad I didn't.
"That's not Agi.", the lady around her 60's said. She then took a picture out of her purse and gave it to the nurse.
"That's agi." she said while pointing to the picture.
I briefly saw the picture and at an instant I recognized it. It was the receptionist.
"That girl… Agi. She was the receptionist that took my coat and never came back. She led me to the room with the other patients, she tricked me and took my identity!." I yelled.
I later found myself in a room with police officers. For countless hours I sat there and waited. Suddenly, the director of the institute, Dr. Gertrude Langer entered with the chief of Police.
She then said, "Ms. Adrienn I offer my most sincere apologies. It seems as if we mistaken you for Agi, she was found by the police in their database as she has committed a crime near Debrecen. The library you worked at only reported that you were missing a few days ago. I once again offer my sincerest of apologies."
I was in tears. I didn't say anything else except for, "I want to go home."
After my experience, I suffered from depression and had to do countless amounts of counseling. For the first few weeks, I had nightmares every night. I still get them every now and then. After my sessions of therapy, I was able to go back to work but I was never the same person again. I was hurt. I did end up writing the article about mental problems. During my time there, it was as if I was one of them, I was able to have the ultimate experience.
The introduction to my writing was:
For thirty two days, I was able to put myself in the position of a mental patient. It was a crazy world to live in and it was awful lonely. You knew in your head that you weren't crazy, but anything you said would be labeled as crazy, just because you were in a mental institute. There was no escape. No sane person bothers listening to you, if you tried to argue, you would be sedated. That was the institutes answer to everything, sedation. I was treated like an animal. I was caged If I didn't listen. I eventually learned that the best way to live peacefully in an environment like a mental institute was to do what they say, to be quiet. Imagine yourself trying to tell people what you thinking, but no one will listen. I almost felt like I was really going crazy. The loneliness, the darkness, it kills you. It strikes your very soul.
In the article, I exposed the evil that existed in mental institutes. All these patients needed was people to listen to them. For the past six months, I have been trying to fight the Hungarian government for better living conditions in mental institutes.