Committed: Stories About Stays in Psychiatric Facilities

In this week’s list, I wanted to share the experiences of those committed—voluntarily or not—to a psychiatric facility. From One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Nellie Bly’s 19th century expose to American Horror Story: Asylum, the “madhouse” occupies a weird space in America’s psyche, equal parts fascinating and feared. But the experiences of the patients and their caretakers are, obviously, very different than sensationalized cinematic accounts.

1. “Something More Wrong.” (Katherine B. Olson, The Big Roundtable, July 2013)

In this well-wrought essay, Katherine B. Olson profiles Alice Trovato, a woman and patient who mothers her unofficial charges and strives to make the most of her stay at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in the greens of Queens.

2. “Mentally Unfit.” (Zachary McDermott, Gawker, April 2014)

When the police found me I was standing on a subway platform, somewhere in Brooklyn, barefoot, wearing only soccer shorts in October, and crying. My hands were folded behind my head like a captured soldier. For the previous 12 hours I had wandered the streets of New York, convinced that I was being videotaped, Truman Show-style, by hidden cameras.

3. “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward.” (Mark Luckach, Pacific Standard, January 2015)

After his wife, Giulia, has an acute psychotic episode, Mark Luckach navigates parenthood, Mad Pride, care-taking, and marriage.

4. “Mr. Bad Weekend.” (Alan Hanson, Matter, January 2015)

In the midst of a depressive episode and a tumultuous breakup, Alan Hanson is suicidal. To save his life, his friends coerce him into visiting a hospital. He wastes time, makes friends and receives tools to survive outside the ward’s walls.