Anybody can end up in a looney bin. I’ve been to a looney bin a few times myself. Bipolar disorder is no joke, if you don’t treat it right it will show you hell. I remember the first time I was admitted into a looney bin because of anxiety and depression. Those were the first stages of my bipolar disorder.

I say looney bin but it was more of a stress clinic because the locks were on the outside. It was a decent, private hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town called Victoria Hospital. The people I met there were quiet the bunch, they are people to remember. The staff was marvellous, they did a great job taking good care of us. There was just this one doctor, his name eludes me so I gave him the name “Dr what’s his face”. He always wanted to see the worst side of me but other than that, he was cool and so were the rest of the team of doctors working under him.

The characters I met at Victoria Hospital really made me look at life from a narrower perspective. I had five roommates, six if you count Beast but Beast came in after they sent Pa home, and they all taught me a thing or two. Beast had come straight out of prison for killing a man yet he never told us the reason why he had done it.

He was our father and his favourite son amongst us was Lindsay, whom we called Shorty because of his short height and contagious laughter. He had a charm that no one can resist, not even I. We became the best of friends, plus his bed was right next to mine so at night after lights out, Shorty would sing for us, even though some of the lyrics to the songs were made up right there on the spot. They were still better than nothing.

His favourite song was “Mona-Lisa”. It’s a song about a girl whose smile is so compelling that whenever she smiles, his heart falls to pieces and rids of the sadness in his heart. It was a beautiful song, even though the lyrics were repetitive. Shorty didn’t know all the words to the song, just the hook, but even that would have made anybody’s heart melt. I remember this one night I fell asleep listening to Shorty sing “Mona-Lisa” and I dreamt of my girlfriend at the time. We were smooching on a couch at her house and when I woke up, my pillow was soaked in so much saliva you wouldn’t believe.

At first we didn’t have any violent people in our room. The closest was Darren and he was schizophrenic. He was there because he had a fight with his older brother over Darren’s money. His brother took his money from his room and called his friends over to have a party. They bought alcohol and tik with Darren’s money.

When he came back from work he found his money gone and confronted his brother and his friends. A fight broke out and they (Darren’s brother and his friends) were losing the fight so they called the police and reported that Darren was having an episode. The police took him to the looney bin. But after he was admitted he calmed down and forgot all about the money because he knew he would never get it back.

Out of the looney bunch I’d say Christopher had a screw loose. He was frantic and could never keep still. He always had a story to tell about his varsity days at the University of Cape Town. Apparently he had been a student there, as crazy as he was. Honestly I was a bit afraid of the guy. His eyes didn’t work so well, so he had to get really close to you when he spoke to you so he could see you and be certain that you were listening to him.

I partially remember a story he told me about how he would submit his papers to his lecturers. He would hide them on campus and then he would give his lecturers clues all over campus, especially on landmarks, as to where the papers might be. But he was funny though, because when he told his stories and you didn’t respond, he got even closer to see if you were still listening. That always freaked me out because I didn’t know what the guy was capable of but he seemed harmless from a distance.

The most harmless out of the bunch was Leon Jackson. He was 40 years old but had the body of a 16-year-old. He was very stressed and mostly depressed. He was coloured but he spoke not a single word of Afrikaans. He had been working since the age of 15 and when he lost his job he lost his will to live. Working was the only thing he was good at and he didn’t know how to do anything else.

Even at the hospital, he only woke up when he had to eat. He never took part in the silly games we played with Shorty or listened to Christopher’s stories. What made matters worse was that only smokers were allowed to go outside and get some fresh air and smoke their cigarettes. Non-smokers weren’t allowed to go outside and that’s when I first picked up smoking, so that I too can get some fresh air.

I had grown tiresome of being cooked up in the room. We had this other lovely doctor Huises; we called her “Dr House” because she was so cool and friendly. She worked night shifts and she changed the rules about only smokers having to leave the room when she found out that I picked up smoking so that I can get some fresh air.

Things were running smoothly with the six of us. Until, we woke up one Sunday afternoon with Pa gone. They told us he was released because he had been deemed fit for society by “Doctor what’s his face”. Shorty took it the hardest; he was depressed over Pa leaving. He had finally found the father he never had and “Doctor what’s his face” just took him away from him. It was really sad because Shorty never met his real dad. He was an Arab who had met Shorty’s Muslim Mom for a brief moment and as soon as Shorty was conceived, he was never heard from ever again. So Shorty was at a real loss over losing Pa.

Pa’s memory was short lived, since they brought in Beast later that evening.

We were all taking a nap (they kept us heavily medicated) and we heard a disturbing noise. They were bringing in a new patient and he was being reluctant, putting up a real hard-core fight. It took five security guards, three doctors and six shots of anaesthesia to subdue and restrain him. He finally went to sleep, restrained to his bed.

Shorty was scared shitless since Beast was right by his side. He was afraid Beast might do him harm once he was set loose. The Beast slept most of the night and when he finally woke up in the early hours of the morning, he crawled out of bed, onto his stomach and went to steal Christopher’s bananas that were left lying on the floor next to his bed. And he ate them and went right back to sleep until morning.

In group therapy we found out that his name was John Boison and he was no Beast at all. He was actually a nice guy with paranoid schizophrenia but the name “Beast” stuck with him and he liked it as well. We ended up talking about starting a website together where he could sell his homemade lemonade to corporations but it didn’t pan out. He mostly liked my diction as he claimed that I spoke the Queen’s language. So all in all, my stay at Victoria Hospital was a wonderful experience I never wish to forget because there, I made friends with people whom I am not certain if I will ever meet again.


Tell us: Have you ever met any “crazy” people? How did they interact with other people?