Off To Umstead in Cuffs!

Off To Umstead in Cuffs!

A Story by T. L. O'Neal

Sometimes things just don't go as planned. True story.



Off To Umstead… in Cuffs!

Written by: T. L. O’Neal


      I’ve had a hard screwed up life, so why should this part of it be any different I suppose. I’m not complaining mind you, because it made me into who I am today. Whether that’s a good thing or not, it depends on who you’re talking to.


     It was in 1997 and I was struggling with the bottle again and had about enough of it. It was one of the few gifts my father ever gave me, that and a mental disorder; at least he gave me something I guess.  You know what they say about the Irish; you’re either a drunk, crazy, overly religious, or a writer. Not particularly in that order, but I guess three out of four isn’t that bad. I come from a long line of drunks from his side of the family and there is no disgrace in being that way to them.  Just a disgrace if you ever admit to having a drinking problem in the first place, and for that I was ostracized from the family.


    Anyways, after several more failed attempts of quitting, relapses and really bad bouts of depression, I had enough. So I bit the preverbal bullet and decided to put myself into the state’s treatment center at Butner. I had heard rumors about this place and wasn’t looking forward to going to it one bit. This place always scared the s**t out of me, so you know I had to be desperate if I wanted to put myself in there.


     For those of you who don’t know what Butner is; it’s a large state and federal complex for everything under the sun. It goes on for miles and miles… no really it does. It’s the same place that John Hinckley Jr. was at for all those years after shooting President Reagan but he was in the criminally insane building I do believe.


   So I drove myself down there and checked in, between having withdrawals and the panic attacks of being there… I was in a pretty sad state all around. I had to see this lady shrink to be admitted and she started in with the question and answer part of the interview. Now I’ve been through these things on several occasions and it wasn’t really nothing to do, a piece of cake really. Just answer their questions and say what you think they want to hear is all. She said to remember these three words and she would ask me what they were at the end of the interview, and you know I still remember them to this day. Anyways, she asked this and that about why I was there and if I was depressed. I told her that I had been suffering from depression somewhat and then she wanted to know if I wanted to hurt myself. I told her that if I did I wouldn’t have drove myself a hour and a half to get here. Then she asked something that I did find strange and I still do to this day.


   “She asked me if I was going to hurt myself here and if so, how would I do it?” Hypothetically of course she said.


So in my own hypothetical answer, after looking around and studying on it a while, I told her that I would more than likely take a bed sheet and hang myself from a pipe on the ceiling. Being that there weren’t really anymore options that I could think of at the moment but I thought it was a pretty good and creative answer. She gave a hum, and did that nod thing that doctors always seem to do and left the room for a moment. I just sat there left to my own devices and looked around at the things on the walls and thumbed through some medical magazines. I was just bored out of my head and ready to get some meds to help with the shakes.


    It wasn’t long after that she came back in with two men in white coats. Why is it always with the white coats? Anyway, they then handcuffed me and I was wondering what’s all this for? It was all sort of blurry to me, because it all happened so fast and all. She said she was sending me to Umstead mental hospital for observation because I was a danger to myself. I really wasn’t a danger to myself, but now I was really getting depressed and at that moment I was starting to be a danger to that b***h, I tell you. And when she saw that look that I cut her, she knew it then herself.


    Do they make these docs take a class on how to be an a*s to patients in medical school or what? What’s it called, “how to screw someone over 101.” I know you’re suppose to tell them what they want to hear but what do you say to one when the doctor’s crazy? I don’t know what her problem was; maybe she had an issue with longhaired men, a God complex, or maybe just getting a kickback from the mental hospital. All I know is that I was screwed anyway that you looked at it.


    So here I go off to Umstead…in cuffs with these two goobers. They were just laughing and joking like it was nothing at all, hell it was something to me. This was just a ride in the park, literally, because it was a picturesque drive. But to me this was a terrifying and life-altering experience; the ride was pretty though, for as much as I could enjoy it. I did think that it would have been nice if it had been one of those vehicles like they use on those cartoons with the nets, sirens and all but it was just a station wagon, it wasn’t anything special. I was a little disappointed but if I had to go through all this s**t again, at least give me the right damn vehicle.


   When I got to this big, massive, scary place that they sent me to, I was taken to a special wing of it but I didn’t feel too damn special though. They took my clothes and gave me some worn out PJ’s that probably a thousand insane people had worn before and pissed in too. Then they put me in them because they said I was on a suicide watch, I wasn’t sure what that particularly was but it sounded like a new type of Swatch or Timex. Whatever the case, I’d love to put them PJ’s on that female doc and lock her a*s up in here for a while.


    So I settled in as best as I could under the circumstances and tried to make the best of a bad situation. When smoke break came I was tickled but it turned to s**t in a matter of minutes. Suicide watch people couldn’t go out with or mingle with the general population, not that I really wanted to anyways, but we had to wait to go out. Hell these people in here were crazy and all I wanted was a damn smoke to calm my nerves, geez. They did finally let me go out by myself, well, with a guard of course. They acted like you were going to smoke yourself to death with one damn cigarette; this place was just bizarre.


    I was in here with the regulars that you find in such places, the depressed, schizophrenics, drug addicts, drunks, and a couple of the criminally insane thrown in to boot. I fit right in; these were my type of people. So with the regular s****y meals and playing Yahtzee and Scrabble, I let the hours tick away. It was hard to find someone to play those games with though; the depressives were always too depressed to want to play. The obsessive compulsives were afraid to touch the playing pieces because of the germs, and the real crazy ones were listening to voices in their heads telling them of words that didn’t exist or were trying to eat the pieces. And with the fact that I was bipolar, hell I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to do. Needless to say I didn’t play any games much. I did wonder a lot on how I got myself in this predicament and how I was going to get myself out of it too.


   When it came time to go to bed, they left the light on and then they put a guard on me to watch and see if I was going to kill myself or someone else. They watch you all night too. I don’t know how they expect you to sleep with all that s**t going on but they do. Have you ever tried to go to sleep with someone staring at you, plus with all the lights on, it’s creepy as hell I tell ya, pure makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 


    It was about midnight when they brought this other guy in my room; for the most part he was unconscious. They took him off the gurney and threw him on the other bed. I do believe he was strung out on something heavy-duty like heroin or some other drug. He really needed to be in a regular hospital but for our types I guess they just throw you into wherever just to get rid of you. He was also a longhaired fellow with facial hair too. This must have been the “endanger to yourself hippie room,” but I didn’t think this guy was going to hurt anyone in his state. He looked like he did a pretty good job of hurting himself already. 


    Even though he was in and out of it, he seemed to be in the worst pain because he was moaning a hell of a lot. The guard didn’t seem to be bothered by this guy’s suffering but it was getting a bit annoying. So I asked if they could do something for this poor fellow because he was in a bad way. So they sent someone in and they gave him a shot of something and left. Wasn’t long after that I looked over at him and he was foaming at the mouth with his eyes open and fixed. I hollered to the guard who was supposed to be watching us but had rather been reading a book than doing her job. She called the docs or whoever it was in those damn white coats. They came and threw him on a gurney and slowly wheeled him out. I asked if he was ok but they said for me not to worry about it and to just go to sleep. I knew he wasn’t ok because when they rolled him by, he was looking at me with dead eyes. I guess the poor devil got what he was after, just faster than slowly killing himself with that junk he was doing.


   I didn’t sleep much that night; all I could see was that dead man looking at me with his vacant eyes. I was determined to get out of this hellhole before something happened to me. First thing I had to do was get my status changed or I would never get out of here. So the next day I was out of the PJ’s and back into the general population. I didn’t particularly want to associate with these people but at least I had more smoke breaks and in a place like this, that means a lot to break up your day.


   So as time dragged on, a couple of mornings later I had to go before a review panel of shrinks and convince them that I wasn’t a danger to myself. I had learned a few days earlier to choose my words wisely. I told them everything they wanted to hear to let them off the hook and as long as it was beneficial to me in getting out of this hellhole. They wanted to know if I wanted to go back to the treatment facility. That was a no brainer, “Hell no!” I’ll strike out on my own I thought. Anyways, I must have convinced them because they turned me loose. I just signed a lot of papers, packed my bags and out the door I went.


     I tell you what; I was tickled to be out of that place too. I jumped in the truck and cut the music up and speed away as fast as I could go. I hadn’t drove no more than 20 minutes or so when the depression hit me, and I’m not talking about the run of the mill variety kind either, it was the suicidal kind. And I started to wish I was back in that hellhole, now how screwed up was that? Anyway, I had a long drive ahead of me so I started to plan my demise; I’ve had enough of this misery and I wanted a way out. So a quick stop at the local liquor store and a flawless plan in my head…I was ready.


     I got home and did the things that I needed to do and proceeded to get drunk on my a*s one last time. Maybe it was to give me the courage to do the deed or just because I liked it so much, even though it had ruined my life and made me miserable as hell. Whatever the case, I drank and thought about a lot of pointless s**t and waited for the time to do it.


    So as I started on with my plan, I pulled the truck up to the window and got my supplies together. A water hose, duct tape, towels, and a lot of miserable nerves.  I shut the room off and put the towels down at the bottom of the doors to block off the fumes from getting out. I then ran the hose through the window and taped it into the exhaust pipe of the truck and taped the window shut too.  Then I locked my cats up in the room too because I wanted them to go with me to the other side of who knows where. I didn’t have anyone to take care of them and besides, I wanted them to be with me in the hereafter. (Please no animal activist letters, I wasn’t in my right mind)


   Anyways, I cranked up the truck and went on back into the house prepared and ready to end it all. But what I found was that the floor was covered with water, it seemed that I forgot to drain the damn water hose. When I cranked up the truck it blew all the water out of the hose and all over the floor, well at least I had all those towels. Being an obsessive type I had to clean up all that water, so I turned the truck back off and started cleaning. Couldn’t let them find a dead body and a wet-a*s floor to boot. Once I got everything cleaned up and back in order, I decided to give it another try.


   So I cranked it up again and punched it a few times to get those fumes going really good. By the time I got back into the house in was so full of smoke that you couldn’t even see. I thought this was supposed to be a colorless and odorless gas, but damn this was ridiculous. I guess it helps if the vehicle you’re using isn’t a blown-up piece of s**t either. Anyhow, the cats were going nuts; I guess they weren’t to hip on the idea of going to the other side with me, or the fact that the smoke and fumes were as offensive to them as it was to me. So I just turned them out because there wasn’t any need for them to have to suffer like me I thought. I couldn’t see how anyone was suppose to fall off to sleep in this mess, hell all I could do was cough and choke on the damn fumes. With my eyes burning and sick on my stomach, I just went and turned the truck off again. I can’t do a damn thing right, not even off myself. It seems that I’ve always failed at everything except being a failure, which I was always very successful at by the way.


   I cleaned up everything and apologized to the cats and decided to think on it a bit again. With a few more drinks to wash the taste of a piece of a s**t of a truck out of my mouth, I then came up with another plan. I decided to call the suicide hotline or one of those things just to talk to someone; I figured that might help a bit. So I was just talking away like I knew them and she asked me where I lived. I declined to answer that because it really wasn’t any of her business. She then said she knew where it was already, which amazed me and freaked me out a bit too at the same time. I thought she must have been one of those psychics of Dionna Warwick’s or that they could tell somehow or other. This was before caller ID, but those agencies must have had it then it I guess. Whatever it was, it scared the begeebers out of me.


    Anyway, before I knew it she said she was sending the county sheriffs out there. Damn, you can’t trust no damn body these days I thought. So I went and turned on the outside light and set on the front porch and waited for them to get there. I was ready to face whatever was coming my way, which more than likely was going to be a commitment thanks to the county. I sat out there and waited for them for three hours and they never even showed up, that’s our tax dollars at work for ya. They probably stopped for coffee and donuts and it was probably a good thing that I wasn’t bleeding because I would have bleed to death waiting for them to get there.


   Finally I got tired of waiting and went to bed and the next day things seemed to be a little bit better except for the headache and the taste of a piece of a s**t of a truck still in my mouth. But I wasn’t through with the drinking problem or this thing called depression yet, not by a long shot. I quit drinking years ago but the depression still rears its ugly head every now and then, but I deal with it as best as I can with the meds that I’m on. I’m still waiting for those sheriff’s deputies to show up all these years later but when they do finally get here I’ll just tell them that I’m OK. Thanks, but no thanks, I did fine without them.


    It seems to me that some of us are put on this earth as tortured souls, for some reason a lot of them are the ones that create such beauty in this world that we live in. Maybe it’s because they want to change their lives or maybe it’s to change their perception of the world. I really couldn’t say, I just know that I’m one of them and I do want to do both, for me and everyone else.


    The one thing that I have learned from all of this is… tomorrow is always another day. Give it a chance, it’s always better than it seems and nothing lasts forever… not even depression.




© 2010 T. L. O'Neal

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Featured Review

I really like this story. This is very well written and a interesting read that still had humor in some parts of the story. And eventhough the content was kind of dark in some parts of the story, It was a great story because it is inspiring in a way. Plus I really liked how you wrapped everything together in the end.Great job. I really enjoyed this.:)

Posted 15 Years Ago

16 of 16 people found this review constructive.


This story was very sad...Until reading this, I had no idea the intense pain that people can reach thru depression...Thank God you came out of it..Keep your eyes on the Lord he will renew your strength...You are a brave man...

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

You can't keep a good man down! I hope nothing gets you down so low ever again. Your story is very special because you wrote it and it's honest and real. You kept your sense of humor though the toughest times! I enjoyed so many of the precious words you wrote here. An exceptional story!

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

wow, what an intense story. You had be glued to the screen. I can't believe that crazy doc sent you to a mental hospital for answering her hypothetical question. I'm sure if someone said "hypothetically" anyone would have thought up an answer, crazy or not. I know I woulda said something. And what's the deal with that suicide hotline lady calling the sheriffs on you? Was that some funny joke on her part? was she trying to scare you? asinine..
I do agree with the state of mental institutions.. we just lock the crazies up and they lose all credibility, like they become something other than human to them.. animals. I wouldn't have the courage to go out like you planned.. though I see your intention, thinking it would be odorless and all.. not true with exhaust fumes :) I've planned my death a few times in my life, and I always imagined the only way I'd be able to go out is driving my car off the road and 100 miles an hr, to ensure I'd die and not be alive in a lot of f'ing pain, lol. Loved this story. Excellently written.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Serendipity sure works in mysterious ways. It is scary to think that you survived because you hadn't emptied the water from the garden hose and the car engine needed a valve job or something. It sounds like Butner was terrifically screwed up, but unfortunately things are not always different now. Whether your in a psych hospital or a medical one, if your doctor gets it wrong you are in trouble. Whether you are on the patient end or the doctor end of the situation, nothing is ever all that clear. People will fake symptoms to get admitted, if they've no housing, no meds, or are trying to get out of a bad situation. People will pretend that they're fine when they're not in order to get out of the hospital. Some doctors can tell the difference and some can't. There's an unwritten rule that "patients who want to leave should stay and patients who want to stay should leave." Seems like a strange rule but it's not as strange as you think. I for one am glad that serendipity took over, even if this lifetime is a torturous one. You're not done saying or doing what you have to say and do.


Posted 15 Years Ago

4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

the right damn vehicle That was the best line. It set the tone for me. You were looking back on this difficult time, and you had humor in your heart over the details. It's your voice. I see it in your work. The signature of TL. This story means more to me than it would have before our conversation the other day. It's another facet to the strong, gentle spirit that inspires your words. I am inspired by this because I am IN the roughest time of my spoiled little life right now. I am glad I read this.

Posted 15 Years Ago

7 of 7 people found this review constructive.

wow, glad you made it through :) sad story, but a good one, a good one in the way of example to others, you don't always need to end it. some days are better then others, I'm sorry your trip with experience had to be so hard, you came through though, you made it. great write, it is one i will remember


Posted 15 Years Ago

11 of 11 people found this review constructive.

TL. You ARE a natural story-teller. To critique a true story on the basis of the story is's YOUR story...who could possibly critique that? As a reviewer, i'd like to hit the technical side of things: enjoyed the influx of humor, it's a heavy subject and need a bit of comic relief...even if it's considered dark humor. You write well, organized and concise. Your transition to idea per paragraph is thought out and easy to follow. Not much more to say, except CONGRATULATIONS! We've all been there in one form (addiction) or matter how much we lie to ourselves. The strong ones beat it...or at least learn how to deal with it. Loved the ending. It tied everything together and promised a ray of hope, as each story should. Great write.

Posted 15 Years Ago

12 of 12 people found this review constructive.

Ha, TL! What a story! I'm a recovering alcoholic, but have been sober for over 20 years now! I never let my guard down, though! Man, this story makes me glad I never had any run in with the State! I did find myself in Jail on pretty regular intervals, tho!

Sorry it took me so long to get back to the Cafe and comment on your stories. Same problem; the business sometimes keeps me "pinned down" for days and weeks at a time!!

Posted 15 Years Ago

11 of 12 people found this review constructive.

Some people really do seem to be born into one kind of addiction or another. And if those people can stay focused long enough, sometimes they can create rather vigorously. I have my own issues with the bottle, and it's very weird to write about from a first person non-fiction p.o.v. because twelve step programs teach you not to write about it, but when a person first gets sober that's all they want to do is read about others experience outside of an out-of-touch big book, filled with stories from the fifties or earlier. Times change and so the literature must change. Stories like this do serve a motivational purpose, for all walks of life. To be able to find a little bit of humor in an otherwise awful existence is one of the lessons learned in life.

Posted 15 Years Ago

12 of 12 people found this review constructive.

So 'Guy Interrupted' , have you considered the possibilities? I write for film , lets unite and force the producers/director to cast Denis Leary. I like that. I'm sorry for your suffering, and thinking of another outlet here. Love ya, sis

Posted 15 Years Ago

12 of 12 people found this review constructive.

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36 Reviews
Added on February 17, 2008
Last Updated on October 24, 2010


T. L. O'Neal
T. L. O'Neal

In the sticks, NC

I started writing as a way to work out my feelings and found that I enjoyed it very much. I enjoy humor and feel that you can find it in most things, even though it may be hard to find at the moment. .. more..


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