Ever been inpatient at Kamp Kaseman? And if so, have you ever been bored out of your gourd during the 10AM to 11AM “Reflection Hour”? It feels like I was being grounded for putting a firecracker in a pussy cat’s bum (I would never light it, you monster) and not lighting it (you see?) Grounded for one hour. Don’t come out of your room until 11AM. Grounded.

Important: Kampers are not allowed watches or clocks while inpatient. The only clock is behind the techs.

The techs say “It’s your time each day to reflect upon your treatment, what you want to do when you leave Kamp Kaseman for the real world, write upon the pages of your journal, or just take a nap.” For one hour only.

I call bullshit on “Reflection Hour.” It’s a euphemism through and through at its very dishonest core. Here’s the true skinny on “Reflection Hour”:

It’s one whole hour where the techs get to sit, eat their lunch, hit on each other, and poke around on Facebook without Kampers troubling them at the tech-counter.

That’s it. I recall being told to put your head down on your desk in second grade, by order of the teacher, and reflect upon the day’s happenings and such. Did you have fun during recess? Did you do your best work on your pre-algebra? Did you write a Love List and pass it around the room (Do you like me? Check Yes or No) and receive even one solitary response in the affirmative and thusly avoided suffering second grade ego death? Let me turn off the lights, children, while you reflect and I step out to the teachers lounge for 15 minutes to weep uncontrollably over her hatred of children and smoke a fag (I’m British. No I’m not).

So, we had a version Reflection Time in second grade. And, at the age of 41, I endured a version of Reflection Hour that is called Reflection Hour at Kamp Kaseman. Only I didn’t reflect for an hour on anything of importance to my recovery. I reflected upon why the techs didn’t come get us at 11AM to say Reflection Hour was over. Do you know why?

If the techs don’t come inform Kampers the Reflection Hour is over, the longer span of time they have to themselves without being pestered by Kampers.

Look, there are Kampers who wished upon the stars for longer Reflection Hours because it also gave them escape from the other Kampers. I recall watching a show on badgers by myself the second day in Kamp Kaseman on a TV in the eating room, away from the other Kampers, and this dude named Mat came up and asked “What are you watching?” I said, “An Animal Planet thing on badgers. But I don’t feel well and don’t want to talk. It’s not you. I just got in here and it’s hard being out of my room.” And Mat stated, “Then I am the badger.”

You get it? He was badgering me. I thought he was saying something profound and we struck up a great friendship whilst inpatient that translated to great friendship outpatient. I believed he was profound and deep and mystical, and really, he was just telling me a stupid fucking pun that sucks because all puns suck. I’m glad I didn’t get his stupid fucking pun because I probably wouldn’t have taken time to get to know him.

Totally off on a tangent. Right. The longer the Kampers stayed in their rooms unaware of the time and lacking the proper chrono-aparatus to check for themselves whilst in their rooms (watches, clocks, grandfather clocks, etc.), it becomes so easy for the techs to abuse this timeless isolation and stretch out their lunchtime until we were grudgingly beckoned for our arriving lunch.

By the by, if you’re inpatient at Kamp Kaseman, you can request on your menu sheet one soda a day. My ex-best gal Carlee called it “pop” because she grew up on the wrong side of the Rockies. She also had Hellman’s mayonnaise and ate at Hardee’s. Weird, right? And you can order stuff that isn’t on the daily menu simply by writing it in on your menu sheet. Want pizza every day for breakfast? Just write it on your menu sheet you turn in to the techs. Techs don’t tell you this. It’s a Kamper secret passed on to incoming Kampers and they pass it on to the next squad of Kampers, and so forth.

Khrist. I’m totally off in tangential extremes. Let me get to the point of all of this. I found a way to estimate the time acceptably accurately because I had a north-facing room. I could estimate the time within three minutes either side of 11AM, and armed with this knowledge, I would leave my room and knock on the doors of my fellow Kampers to let them know we weren’t grounded any longer.

How did I accomplish this? It has to do with the north-facing room, a big tree, a stucco wall with regular vertical jointing, and the sun. Yep.

I made a sundial.

It was easy enough to do. For a few days I would count in my head up to ten minutes, mark off the usable branch’s shadow on the wall in my journal (useful after all!), and then would step out of my room knowingly before Reflection Hour was completed. I’d take a scolding (Relfection Hour isn’t over! Get back to your room!), note the clock on the wall behind the techs, and head back to my room to adjust my ten minute estimate. Do this for four days and you’ve got yourself an effective sundial.

I was kamping for a few weeks on that particular visit, so it was important for me to have a way to gauge when I could vacate my room where I was in total isolation. Isolation is such a detrimental thing I do when severely depressed that makes suicidal thoughts and plans more real. Reflection Hour was bad for my mental health and defeated the reason I was inpatient in the first place. Sundial. Isolation issue defeated instead.

How entertaining it was having the techs shake down my room for a watch. I was held outside my room while they searched without success. Once they even took apart the Ikea-reject bed and smooshed the mattress with all their tech-might, so certain I had chrono-contraband within my room.

I twice told them I’ve been very lonely lately and would welcome a full-body, intensive, aggressive-yet-lovingly-tender cavity search for a contraband watch if they were game. They wouldn’t even have to glove up.

Never. If you’re asking yourself “Did they ever figure out what you were doing?”, the answer is no. Never. Not even Ben the Tech who fancied himself quite the brilliant scholar – he’d put “inspirational quotes” from Sylvia Plath on the dry erase board in the common room every day, and when told she killed herself, he said, “Nope, you’re wrong.” – ever sussed out how I was able to know when Reflection Hour was completed. Me, my north-facing room, a big tree, a graded stucco wall, and the sun. These basic tools combined to create a qualitative sundial that baffled, befuddled, and bemused the Kamp Kaseman techs with such frustration. Yay! Score one for the Kampers! We pulled one over on them! Just like that horrible Bill Murray flick about summer camp. What was it? OH! No Google necessary! “Meatballs.” Horrible film. Well, I guess my sneaky sundial is nothing like that horrible Bill Murray flick, because my sundial was usefully entertaining and usefully useful.

I did disclose my sneaky sundial to my inpatient p-doc, and dude, he laughed his arse off. Truth. We had to staple his arse back on with the techs’ electric stapler. Yes, it was hard to get the right angle and position to staple his arse back on because he was so picky. “It better not be off by even a twentieth of a millimeter!” he said. “I have a micrometer at home, so I’ll know!” Picky picky picky.

Sitting here, trying to figure out how to close off this article. Hmm. I suppose I can close with my best friend Ben the Tech. I used to present In Our Own Voice inpatient at Kamp Kaseman, and he would never talk to me or look me in the eye, even when I would directly address him, usually because he always conveniently “forgot” to set up the DVD player. Our friendship was already rocky and tilting because he Googled “Sylvia Plath” at home and discovered that Sylvia Plath quotes weren’t all that inspirational in an environment where better than half the folks are there to keep from killing themselves. Rocky friendship for sure, and my fellow Kampers were very amused by Ben the Tech’s switch from his daily Sylvia Plath quotes to other noteworthy folks like Abraham Lincoln – dude, full-on major depression – and their amusement at his expense was too much for his egg-thin intellectual acumen. Rocky. It wasn’t necessary to poke him in front of all the Kampers at lunch. Not necessary, yet said I:

“Ben, how about some Nirvana lyrics? There’s some cool, inspiration words we all could draw from to bolster our spirits and guide us toward a rosy (yet flat) future as we leave Kamp Kaseman.”

You know, there wasn’t a single cloudy day while I was at Kamp Kaseman in August of 2012, at least not during Reflection Hour. The sun was smiling down upon me. There’s a good quote to put up on the dry erase board in the common room. Simplistic yet inspirational and easy to recall “The sun is smiling down upon me.” Let me give Ben a poke on Facebook. Oh, Ben!

Actually, let me end this off by talking about the real horror and danger of selfish Anna Kaseman Hosptial inpatient techs who neglect to let those inpatient folks who are at their most fragile, confused, and fearful the Reflection Hour was over. This goes to my ex-best gal Carlee. She asked me to take her to Anna Kaseman Hospital because she was so close to killing herself she could barely stand through all her tears and panic.

She went inpatient late in the evening, and visitor time is early evening the following day. When I got there, she was pale and had been crying all day. This was different, though. I’ve never seen her so scared and distraught. Why? She thought she couldn’t come out of her room after Reflection Hour because no one came to tell her.

Carlee is one of the strongest and most intelligent people I’ve ever known. But when in throes of a severe mental health crisis, she is robbed of this fortitude, and going inpatient is for one purpose and one purpose alone:

Carlee was there to get better and not worse.

So I make light of my sundial and tormenting the techs, and that’s great and all. Still, when we peers go inpatient, we are entrusting the staff to help us in our recovery and wellness. Their thoughts and decisions affect our ability to heal during a crisis episode. There is a severity to preying upon the fragile for an additional half hour of not doing their job.

All of this is only my surmising and supposition abounds. If there are any lawyers scanning this over for libel, I invite you to reread this article and insert “allegedly” where it is necessary. Just know that during my lengthy inpatient stay at Anna Kaseman in 2012 I was not once told when Reflection Hour was over. It’s important. I’m in this for peers, and if this article makes referenced techs go “grrrrrrrrrr”, just think of this as giving you free peer-experience advice. I’d buy that for a dollar.

And I’m not the only peer who has made this observation independently. Food for thought (pizza at breakfast, remember).