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Clown Cheeks and How Make-up Can Be Your Ticket Out of the Psych Ward

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Like I said, I’ve been to the psych ward.

The scariest part about the psych ward was that the doors didn’t lock. You’re trapped in with dozens of crazies, and there’s no place to hide. At night, I found myself having trouble falling asleep because I knew my door was wide open. Anyone could have wandered in and woke me up, or worse....

I was particularly afraid of this one guy who was supposedly a drug dealer. It had been rumored that he’d made a bad deal and had been tortured for it with a hot coat hanger. He’d been tortured all right. He scared me. He liked to stare at me.

But most of the people in there were just pathetic. There was one girl who wouldn’t stop giggling. A guy who was always crying.

I can’t believe I made it out.

But what’s even more shocking is the way I got out. My psychiatrist believed that if a woman was wearing make-up she was psychologically fit.

One day, I was minding my own business, avoiding the smokers who stood together around the picnic table. I had just had a rousing walk around the fenced-in compound, and a fellow inmate told me, “Be sure to put on your make-up. It’s the only way Dr. Sanders will let you out of here.”

“No,” I said.

“Yes. He feels that if a woman has the wherewithal to apply her make-up, she must be sane.”

“But I can think of many sane women who don’t wear make-up.” I made a mental list of these women: my economics professor from Oberlin, the woman who took my money at my favorite gas station, my next door neighbor, the librarian at the Stow Public Library...

“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “That’s his litmus test.”

Dr. Sanders seemed much crazier than I.

By the way, I didn’t like Dr. Sanders. He didn’t want to hear what happened to me in New York. I was ready to tell him in detail about how I went crazy, but he wanted to focus on the lithium and how it would help me. He was looking forward, and I wanted to look backward. But apparently, if I just wore makeup, he’d leave me alone.

I applied a fresh coat. I wanted out.

I had been admitted because New York City drove me crazy.

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