Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 27 of 64

I spent the next day in a drugged stupor. I’ve become quite accustomed to functioning in a stupor over the years, but this was different. No caffeine, for starters. They fed me and I had a meeting with a nice doctor who ran it down for me. I was here for observation pending a competency hearing in a week. I had seven days to prove that I wasn’t a danger to myself or others, and if I could, the judge would let me go.

“It’s like I’m a drug addict, huh?” I said to the doctor, who was used to non sequiturs.

“Sure, sure it is.” He shifted in the hard chair opposite my bed, getting ready to go.

“No, really, I’m not just running my mouth. It’s like this: I don’t think I have a problem here. I think that my way of conducting my life is perfectly harmless. Like a speedfreak who thinks that she’s just having a great time, being ultraproductive and coming out ahead of the game. But her friends, they’re convinced she’s destroying herself—they see the danger she’s putting herself in, they see her health deteriorating. So they put her into rehab, kicking and screaming, where she stays until she figures it out.

“So, it’s like I’m addicted to being nuts. I have a nonrational view of the world around me. An inaccurate view. You are meant to be the objective observer, to make such notes as are necessary to determine if I’m seeing things properly, or through a haze of nutziness. For as long as I go on taking my drug—shooting up my craziness—you keep me here. Once I stop, once I accept the objective truth of reality, you let me go. What then? Do I become a recovering nutcase? Do I have to stand ever-vigilant against the siren song of craziness?”

The doctor ran his hands through his long hair and bounced his knee up and down. “You could put it that way, I guess.”

“So tell me, what’s the next step? What is my optimum strategy for providing compelling evidence of my repudiation of my worldview?”

“Well, that’s where the analogy breaks down. This isn’t about anything demonstrable. There’s no one thing we look for in making our diagnosis. It’s a collection of things, a protocol for evaluating you. It doesn’t happen overnight, either. You were committed on the basis of evidence that you had made threats to your coworkers due to a belief that they were seeking to harm you.”

“Interesting. Can we try a little thought experiment, Doctor? Say that your coworkers really were seeking to harm you—this is not without historical precedent, right? They’re seeking to sabotage you because you’ve discovered some terrible treachery on their part, and they want to hush you up. So they provoke a reaction from you and use it as the basis for an involuntary committal. How would you, as a medical professional, distinguish that scenario from one in which the patient is genuinely paranoid and delusional?”

The doctor looked away. “It’s in the protocol—we find it there.”

“I see,” I said, moving in for the kill. “I see. Where would I get more information on the protocol? I’d like to research it before my hearing.”

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, “we don’t provide access to medical texts to our patients.”

“Why not? How can I defend myself against a charge if I’m not made aware of the means by which my defense is judged? That hardly seems fair.”

The doctor stood and smoothed his coat, turned his badge’s lanyard so that his picture faced outwards. “Art, you’re not here to defend yourself. You’re here so that we can take a look at you and understand what’s going on. If you have been set up, we’ll discover it—”

“What’s the ratio of real paranoids to people who’ve been set up, in your experience?”

“I don’t keep stats on that sort of thing—”

“How many paranoids have been released because they were vindicated?”

“I’d have to go through my case histories—”

“Is it more than ten?”

“No, I wouldn’t think so—”

“More than five?”

“Art, I don’t think—”

“Have any paranoids ever been vindicated? Is this observation period anything more than a formality en route to committal? Come on, Doctor, just let me know where I stand.”

“Art, we’re on your side here. If you want to make this easy on yourself, then you should understand that. The nurse will be in with your lunch and your meds in a few minutes, then you’ll be allowed out on the ward. I’ll speak to you there more, if you want.”

“Doctor, it’s a simple question: Has anyone ever been admitted to this facility because it was believed he had paranoid delusions, and later released because he was indeed the center of a plot?”

“Art, it’s not appropriate for me to discuss other patients’ histories—”

“Don’t you publish case studies? Don’t those contain confidential information disguised with pseudonyms?”

“That’s not the point—”

“What is the point? It seems to me that my optimal strategy here is to repudiate my belief that Fede and Linda are plotting against me—even if I still believe this to be true, even if it is true—and profess a belief that they are my good and concerned friends. In other words, if they are indeed plotting against me, I must profess to a delusional belief that they aren’t, in order to prove that I am not delusional.”

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