Pine Rest 2017

Day One at Pine Rest. Or, why do white people always drag you out to the woods where no one can hear you scream? Or, Josh Lyman, take me away from all this.

Sunday, February 12, 2017
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services
Grand Rapids, Michigan

  • Days left: 17
  • Spiritual status: Latent Judaism
  • Dietary status: Latent kosher; Latent vegetarianism
  • Marital status: Busted flat in Baton Rouge . . .


First full day at Pine Rest. Ben betrayed me. Karen didn’t, but I’m not sure how. She talked to Dad the day before I was admitted. What did they say?

From Jeannie M. Hahl’s journal
Sunday, February 12, 2017
12:00 p.m.

I got to Pine Rest in Grand Rapids, Michigan on February 12, 2017. Twelve days previous, I was a third-year doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s Department of Sociology, specializing in family; race, ethnicity and immigration; social demography; gender and sexuality; and, ironically, health and health care. I had health care; good health care. I had a marriage; a weird marriage.

First things first, when a new patient is accepted into the Pine Rest community, it is often at night or early morning after a sleepless night. And the patients are often transported by ambulance from a nearby psych ER or hospital. Men and women of all ages arrive strapped to gurneys, many wearing hospital gowns; soon thereafter, staff strip these adults naked and have a look-see. Stacy the RN and Miranda–the butch lesbian, as I called her for the first three days; Mirando or Miranduh, as I called her thereafter–presided over my strip down. Stacey the RN was impressed, “Wow! You don’t have any tattoos at all!” I was seething below the surface; the nap in the ambulance ride between Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids helped to calm my nerves. “Take a good look . . .” Fuck Stacey.

It was 7:30 a.m. when U of M Psych ER transported me to Pine Rest, so it must have been around 10:30 a.m. when I arrived. I saw the psychiatrist, Jack, a weirdo in golf pants. I asked–he didn’t golf. He was fascinated by my self-preservation. A little weed, a little coffee, and plenty of cigarettes got me 1/2 way to a Ph.D. in sociology at a Top 5 program. Jack wasn’t crazy about the recipe and suggested Lithium instead. Until the Lithium kicked in, I needed an anti-psychotic. Seroquel was common. Jack gave me an overview of Pine Rest and the Oak Unit where I’d spend 18 days. There were twelve beds for women on one side of the Nurse’s Station and twelve beds for men on the opposite side. We were special; other patients at Pine Rest were different. All twenty-four men and women in the Oak Unit had exhibited suicidal ideation and all were living with a mood disorder of some kind (Bipolar, Schizophrenia). I might be the most high functioning. No shit.

Tossed back into the Oak Unit, I began to make friends. On the women’s side, there was Sunshine with long, greasy blonde hair. She was schizo and spoke in poetry. I gave her my hairbrush, but she had OCD and rejected it at first. I said, “Alright, fuck it” and threw the brush in the trash. Sunshine said I was weird and asked again for the hairbrush. She had bad skin and a broken body. Something was wrong, I don’t remember if I asked but it’s like me to ask, and she squirmed in her seat as we talked.

Another woman, a black Jew called M’sama, giggled as I made jokes and cussed for attention. But, her eyes were lightless and she spoke slowly, trailing off at times. I asked her what they put her on: Seroquel. Fuck Seroquel. She gave me a Gideon’s Bible in which she’d written her phone number and a note for her daughter; something about saving $1,000,000 for her. Patients weren’t allowed to share contact information, last names, diagnoses, etc. with one another. So, the patients at Pine Rest found other ways to communicate.

I don’t remember lunch, but dinner was served at 4:45 p.m. Schedules were important at Pine Rest. The women were hungry and so were the men. Women ate first while the men watched us, faces and hands pressed against the glass. The Oak Unit had catered meals from some contracted company. I’d recorded my religious preference as “Jewish” on the paperwork at U of M’s Psych ER, so when the lunch lady asked me what I’d like to eat, I said: Kosher Vegetarian, please. I was not obliged.

There was a scuffle in the line ahead of me; the women were on edge, Seroquel or no. Scuffles put the staff on edge and three staff members came in to stare us down as we ate. I observed aloud: “You know that a lot of the people here were abused as kids, and you know what staring someone in the eye does. It creates aggression. What the fuck are you thinking?” I was sitting next to a millennial in black skin, Samantha, and said something to her about race relations in the United States. Joey, a 23-year-old care provider and BA graduate from a local private college, said: “OK, that’s not nice.”

A staff member told me that if I didn’t calm down, they’d have to give me a shot. They didn’t know me very well yet. I probably told whoever it was to go fuck his or herself. We only had 15 minutes to eat our first round of dinner before staff called Seconds, so it must not have taken long for them to order my first Code Green. There were at least 15 staff members assembling in latex gloves. I’d mentioned my latex allergy on the paperwork at the U of M Psych ER. Rude.

Someone, maybe Stacey the RN, asked that I come with them to my room. I said, “No.” They asked me again. I said, “No, you do it right here.” So, they got all of the patients (read: inmates) out of the women’s dining room and the staff surrounded me. I said, “FUCK YOU!” Then, I said, “I’m a rich, white woman. I will sue you if you do a goddamn thing to me.” A few of the staff members were agitated. Their anger came off of them. One young nurse, Lauren the RN, asked me: “Jeannie, why are you doing this?” I said, “Come here, sweet girl. You want to give me a shot. Where do you want to do it? In my arm?” She gave me a shot and I slept like a baby.

Supplemental reading

Erving Goffman’s Total Institution
Erving Goffman’s Asylums
Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought

David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive
Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption
Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Philip Kaufman’s Quills

Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing
Josh Lyman swoon

The Psychedelic Furs’ Pretty in Pink
Stevie Nick’s Gypsy
Stevie Nick’s Landslide
Nina Simone’s I’m Going Back Home
Nina Simone’s Four Women
Nina Simone’s Mississippi Goddamn
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros’ Home 
Ike & Tina’s River Deep, Mountain High


Rookie Mag

Important Thinkers:
Sigmund Freud
Erving Goffman
bell hooks
Marquis de Sade

Relevant Disciplines:
Sociology of Culture

DSM-IV Classifications:
Bipolar Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Suicidal Ideation

Social class
Symbolic Interactionism
Social network
White Feminism

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