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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 31:


The next morning, after a renewal of my request and a repeated refusal, I asked the doctor to send me the "Book of Psalms" which I had had in my former room. With this request he complied, believing, perhaps, that some religion would at least do me no harm. I probably read my favorite psalm, the forty-fifth; but most of my time I spent writing on the fly-leaves psalms of my own. And if the value of a psalm is to be measured by the intensity of feeling portrayed, my compositions of that day rightly belonged beside the writings of David. My psalms were indited to those in authority at the hospital, and later in the day the supervisor -- who proved himself a friend on many occasions -- took the book to headquarters.


The assistant physician, who had mistaken my malevolent tongue for a violent mind, had placed me in an exile which precluded my attendance upon the service which was held in the chapel that Sunday afternoon. Time which might better have been spent in church I therefore spent in perfecting a somewhat ingenious scheme for getting in touch with the steward. That evening when the doctor again appeared I approached him in a friendly way and politely repeated my request. He again refused to grant it. With an air of resignation I said, "Well, as it seems useless to argue the point with you, and as the notes sent to others have thus far been ignored, I should like, with your kind permission, to kick a hole in your damned old building and to-morrow present myself to the steward in his office."


"Kick away!" said he with a sneer. He then entered an adjoining ward, where he remained for about ten minutes.


If you will draw in your mind, or on paper, a letter "L," and let the upright part represent a room forty feet in length, and the horizontal part one of twenty, and if you will then picture me as standing in a doorway at the intersection of these two lines, and the doctor behind another door at the top of the perpendicular, forty feet away, you will have represented graphically the opposing armies just prior to the first real assault in what proved to be a siege of seven weeks.


The moment the doctor re-entered the ward, as he had to do to return to the office, I disappeared through my door -- into the dining-room. I then walked the length of this room and picked up one of the heavy wooden chairs, selected for the purpose in view while the doctor and his tame charges were at church. Using the chair as a battering-ram, without malice -- joy being in my heart -- I deliberately thrust two of its legs through an upper and a lower pane of a four-paned plate glass window. The only miscalculation I made was in failing to place myself directly in front of that window, and at a proper distance, so that I might have broken every one of the four panes. This was a source of regret to me, and well it might have been so, for I am loath to leave a well thought-out piece of work unfinished.


The crash of shattered and falling glass startled every one but me. Particularly did it frighten one patient who happened to be in the dining-room at the time. He fled. The doctor and the attendant who were in the next room could not see me, or know what the trouble was; but they lost no time in finding out. Within two or three seconds they appeared, in a state of great excitement. Like the proverbial cold-blooded murderer who stands over his victim, weapon in hand, calmly awaiting arrest, I stood my ground, and, with a fair degree of poise, awaited the onrush of doctor and attendant. These soon had me in hand. Each taking an arm they marched me to my room. This consumed not more than half a minute, but the time was not so short as to prevent my delivering myself of one more thumb-nail characterization of the doctor. My inability to recall that delineation, verbatim, entails no loss on literature, for, I fear, my words approached an unprintable perfection. But one remark made as the doctor seized hold of me was apt, though not impromptu. I had framed the sally several hours earlier. "Well, doctor, knowing you to be a truthful man, I just took you at your word," said I.


Senseless as this act of mine appears it was, like so many acts of the insane, the result of logical thinking. Indeed, logical thinking among the insane is common, rather than rare. But the logical faculty in an insane person is usually of slight advantage to him, for he reasons either from a false premise, or reasoning correctly he betrays his insane condition when he attempts to apply his logic to a given situation. An illuminating example of an insane application of sound logic is afforded by the incident I am now discussing. The steward had entire charge of the building and ordered all necessary repairs. It was he whom I desired above all others to see, and I reasoned that the breaking of several dollars' worth of plate glass (for which, later, to my surprise, I had to pay) would compel his attention on grounds of economy, if not those of the friendly interest which I now believed he had abandoned. Early the next morning, as I had hoped, the steward appeared. He approached me in a friendly way (as had been his wont) and I met him in a like manner. Said he, good-naturedly, "I wish you would leave a little bit of the building."

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