How Thin the Veil: a Newspaperman’s Story of His Own Mental Crack-Up and Recovery(S2700)

by Jack Kerkhoff | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by SAMMY-SAMSEL of St. Louis, Missouri USA on 4/15/2006
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Journal Entry 1 by SAMMY-SAMSEL from St. Louis, Missouri USA on Saturday, April 15, 2006
Pre-numbered label used for registration.

discarded by library
hardback
311pp
published, 1952

Chapter 1
So this is my homecoming. This is my return to the town where I spent the happiest days of my youth.

Much is changed; much is not. Through the swirling flakes of snow I can glimpse the same bay, a dead slate color this late in November. The drifts are piled high on Front Street, and the automobiles slip and slide. There are different store fronts, different names on the signs swaying in the wind. All of Front Street, so noisy and exciting when I was young, seems hushed by the snow. Even a big trailer-truck, plowing its way still farther north, is as muffled as a baby’s toy.

I look, without thinking, for the patient farm horses and the sleighs, and then I remember: That was many years ago. That was when they played “Over There” at the high school dances. And we ate hamburgers and banana splits after the dances, and lived to see another day. That was when we went to Liberty Loan rallies and damned the Kaiser without knowing why.

The little car that had brought me back lurched into a wide, white driveway lined by five-foot drifts. How many times I had scampered up that driveway with my gang, fearful yet curious. How many times we had wandered outside the bleak, tower-topped buildings that had iron bars at the windows, and shouted at the men and women behind the bars and giggled over the obscenities they tossed back at us.

So this is my return to Traverse City, Michigan. Not to the sprawling white house on Washington Street which all of us loved, but to Traverse City State Hospital, in other days bluntly called an insane asylum.

The young doctor in Receiving Hospital pretended for a few minutes that it was a social call. We talked of this person and that, of his wife who had grown up with my sisters. We talked of the snowstorm and of my trip from Grand Rapids, 150 miles to the south.

“And now,” he said, “what’s the trouble?”

No point in beating around the bush. I told him in a rush of words. How, a year ago, I cut my wrists with a razor blade. How, a month ago, I swallowed an overdose of sleeping pills.

“That almost did it,” I said. “But they pumped out my stomach. The urge keeps coming back; it came back last night. I’m going to be successful next time or I’m going to be straightened out here.”

He was not alarmed. “You’ll come in as a voluntary patient?”

“Yes.”

“As a voluntary, you may leave at any time. We cannot hold you.”

“I’ll stay,” I promised, “until I am told I may go.”

He took me down the hall and left me with a psychologist, another young man, who said cheerfully, “Go ahead and smoke; this won’t hurt.”

The psychologist took ten pasteboard cards from a desk drawer. “This is the Rorshack test,” he said, “a projective technique.”

“Oh!”

“You simply look at these cards and tell me what you see on each. That’s all there is to it.”

On each card was what resembled an ink blob. I looked at Number One and saw nothing but the blob and different colors. Then slowly figures began to emerge – skeletons, a king wearing a crown, prehistoric monsters, bats, fish swimming among coral.

“I *must* be crazy to see such things,” I said as I laid down card Number Ten. He smiled and told me to draw a figure of a man or woman.

“I can’t draw a straight line,” I protested, but he continued to smile, and I drew the figure of a man that any first-grader could have bettered.

“Now draw a house.” But what I drew resembled a steamboat more than a house.

The psychologist left, telling me to wait. I waited an hour or more and then was taken back to the doctor’s office.

“Well,” he said, “the Rorshach indicates that perhaps you will be better off staying here for a few days.”

“What does it show? Or shouldn’t I ask that?”

He laughed. “I won’t try to explain it in detail. Don’t know if I could. But what you saw on the cards is symbolic. What you saw indicates to the psychologist that you are impetuous, which comes as a surprise to me.”

“I’m impetuous all right, but why are you surprised?”

“You always struck me as a deliberate sort of person, looking before you leaped.”

“I do all my leaping wearing a blindfold!”

“The test also shows that at the moment you are depressed.”

As a paying patient I would be charged $2.40 a day, the doctor said.

“That covers everything? That’s remarkable!”

“It covers everything. It is the figure set by the state.”

“And it will take only a few days?”

“Well, that will be up to your ward doctor. I think you’ll like him. He has been here eleven years and he knows his business. You’ll be on D-3, I imagine. That’s a nice floor here in Receiving.”

Journal Entry 2 by SAMMY-SAMSEL at -- Mail or by hand-rings, RABCK, meetings, swap etc, Missouri USA on Monday, November 23, 2009

Released 14 yrs ago (11/23/2009 UTC) at -- Mail or by hand-rings, RABCK, meetings, swap etc, Missouri USA

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