How Awesome is Haldol?
Greenwich Village, 1995
I remember. I had taken Haldol. It was bad, bad, bad.
From a first psychosis, jabbering, talk of a stay at Bellevue, four pointed and screaming – I don’t know how long. It felt like forever. I had just turned 19 and was going to NYU.
I had shaved my head bald. Chris Farley had died. I felt I could see racism, understand it, and it hurt me. I screamed. I tried to explain, to warn everyone. “Saturday Night Live! And the President is not in charge! You don’t know! Listen to me!” I howled and thrashed and I could not stop.
Mom had told me they were going to have me checked for Mono, something my boyfriend had. I realized what was going on and tried to run. I was quickly subdued and restrained in a dark room with no windows. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was bad and seemed inevitable.
A friend of my mother arranged to have me released into the care of my parents and a doctor instead of going to Bellevue. Bellevue sounded like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I winced and cried and panicked when it was discussed. “No. No. No. No. No! No! NO! NOOOOO!” My parents – both of them – had flown up, first my mother. The University provided a room where we all could stay.
I don’t remember where they gave me the Haldol. I think they sent me home from the hospital with it just in case. I remember after in the university room when my body was palsied, cramped. My jaw clamped down on my swollen tongue until all my front teeth were loose. I could not stop making a gutteral moan over the bloody tongue, through the clenched teeth, lying on a bed with T-Rex arms.
We made a joke out of it. My dad saying, “Mmmmhghghghgh!” in a conversational tone, an answer to my half closed throaty, unceasing growls. I laughed through my nose. I tried to walk. It looked like I was holding an invisible cane. My knock knees hinged together, my hand bent like a bird wing, neck cords popping, chin forward, rigid, a David Lynch dance. My dad imitated me and I cracked up. There was nothing we could do but wait.
My boyfriend was so good. He didn’t run away. He stayed and when my parents left us alone with some condoms, he had sex with me in my rigid body. Halfway off the bed with my bald head, my body not doing what I wanted it to quite yet, but almost. It broke something inside me to lose him later. Believing I was understood, loved even when I’d been so crazy, even without hair, even in a body that cramped and pulled, my bloody mouth, my loose teeth. Such tenderness.
I wanted to go to get acupressure. I had not been able to sleep all night for the cramping. I had not been able to eat because my mouth wouldn’t work.
They took me to an acupressurist from somewhere else. Israel? He started on me and I slept while he took the pain away, pressed the drug out of me, kneaded me like a baker. I woke up and felt much better and they took me to a cafe for a strawberry milkshake – the only thing I could get past my mouth disaster.
As we went back to the room, I vomited most of it along the sidewalk, limping, sick, miserable, it dribbled out in spasms I couldn’t anticipate. A California voice loudly said, “Ewww. Guhhhh-rossss!”
I was beyond humiliation. She had no idea. I felt like those words ran into a block of rock around my head, walking down the sidewalk with a cane, my parents and boyfriend, vomiting pink.
UPDATE: It occurred to me that there are people who don’t know about Haldol. It’s a horrible, horrible thing. You can read about the adverse effects here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haloperidol#Adverse_effects
Someone told me today, and I have to say I found it surprising, that this drug is still in common use. This is deplorable and makes me angry, even if my reaction was atypical. I just don’t understand how someone can take an oath to do no harm and then prescribe this drug.