How I ended up in a psych ward on election night

I texted a flare to my friend and plus-one, Sean, who soon appeared in the stairwell and cradled me in my hysterics. We kept in touch with a therapist friend of mine, Austin, through phone and text. Austin strongly urged me to leave the party. Hearing that I was suicidal, he proposed that I have myself committed.

Sean and I were among the first to leave the Javits Center — we fled, really — at about 10:30 that evening. I couldn’t bear to see the party devolve into a wake.

By around four o’clock the following morning, I was so lonesome in my emergency psych wing cot, I got up to see if the man sitting over by the dreaded television would talk to me. He spoke of his attempt to hang himself and of his struggles with heroin addiction, with trying to make it as an artist, with paying his ever-increasing rent. His bitter eyes were glazed from three sleepless nights, his hair greasy and matted from two showerless weeks.

A couple of hours later, they finally wheeled me up to the locked psych ward. As I wept in the hallway over the shock of landing in this prison of my own making, a baby-faced patient with thinning hair and a crooked nose gently reassured me. After I asked him why he was in the ward, he said he’d been hearing voices. Like the man from downstairs, he was probably a few years younger than I am—I’m 38 — but the cruelty of time had etched much deeper tales of hardship across each of their faces. Homeless, my new friend longed to get his SSDI check and buy a three-day bus trip back to his beloved birthplace, where life was better.