How far would you go to advocate for your child? In January First, father Michael Shofield and his family struggle to find the right treatment for his daughter Jani, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at six years old. Join From Left to Write on September as we discuss the Shofield's memoir January First. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
One afternoon, we stumbled upon the front office. The main road used to lead up to that office, Potrero Road, but the road fell into disrepair, and wasn't used anymore. You could still see it, among the tall weeds, weaving through the rolling mountains that the campus backed up to. An old metal sign with the hospital's name creaked in the breeze, causing us to shiver. In the office, we saw all the little cubbies that held the keys of the rooms. It was still furnished, everything dusty and gray. I felt like I was on the set of an old horror flick.
Later in the week, we ventured into the main building where the patients were housed. We peeked through windowed doors into long dark hallways. As I looked through one windowed door, I felt like my friend might be trying the doorknob to open the door, so I stepped back. She looked at me, like, "What are you doing?" I asked her if she had tried to open the door, and she said no. But I had felt like someone had been trying to open the door. We all turned white and ran out of there, three grown adults running like little scared children!
I did some research on the hospital, and found a few interesting things-one, that the Eagles had based their song, Hotel California, on that hospital! The lyrics were already a bit creepy to me, but now I listened to the song, imagining the hospital. Another was that only one person died there, according to records. A young man who may have overdosed on medication. Not the tragic tales we'd been expecting.
The one thing I really regret is that we hadn't taken any pictures or video. The next summer, we came back for another session, but the campus had been almost fully renovated. There wasn't much to explore.
I kept thinking about this hospital as I read this book, thinking of a small girl, like Jani, staying at a place like this. It really disturbed me (and it didn't seem to help her at all!). I don't know how much we spend on mental health issues, but I think we need to spend more and actually help the patients there. The book made it seem like they are just holding areas for people. My sister works with people with mental health issues, and she tells me often people do worse living at places like these. Thank goodness for this book club-I honestly don't think that I would have picked up this book on my own, and I am so glad I read it.