When I was 25 years old I got a job as a Psychiatric Assistant at a large County operated facility in Los Angeles. There were only ten of us chosen out of thousands that applied. I went though training and was at the top of my small class. I picked the 3rd shift or graveyard because it paid a bit more. The instructors were disappointed I did not pick days but I figured it would be quiet and I could read all night. WRONG.
First, I must tell you that I was the strongest one out of 5 women. They were all over 40 and two of them were over 60. Most of the time the patients had to go into restraints, so I got kicked a lot. Sometimes they spit on me. When there was a full moon the place went from one or two patients in beds to full blown danger; putting psychotic, hallucinating people on mats on the floor. There were 2 locked doors and I had to use a key to get out. When it was overloaded with patients, sometimes the doors were blocked. After nine months I started getting odd hives all over my arms right before my shift started. Hmmm, maybe something is wrong here.
Second, the nurses and other attendants were mostly more insane then the patients. For example, we had to go through and document everything the patient brought in with them upon arrival. Arrival meant the police generally brought them in for admission. A lot of them came in semi-clothed wondering around on the freeways and such. I worked with a small woman I liked except she did stupid things, such as leaving restraint belts on the floor. A staff member had recently been choked with one so I kept my eyes out for these. She did this often to my consternation. One day she was going through someone’s possessions and came upon a smallish brown bottle of liquid. “I wonder what this is?” I forcefully told her, “don’t open it, you don’t know what it is, just write ‘small bottle of liquid’ on the sheet.” She immediately opened it up and took a big, long snort of the fluid. Sometime later she started seeing floating objects and did not feel too well. They admitted her. The liquid was PCP. A powerful tranquilizer that was an elicit drug. Idiot. At least she wouldn’t be leaving heavy leather restraint belts on the floor anymore.
Finally, the hives on my arm started to bother me. I went in one night and a nurse on another shift had been severely injured by a patient. She pressed the panic button and found out it was not hooked up. None of them were for that matter. That’s when I quit. The hives went away but I’ll never forget the patients. Some were just nice people that needed medication but most were extremely insane and needed to be hospitalized for a good, long time. The stories I could tell…