Four years ago, I got “Baker Acted.” If you don’t know what that is, it is a colloquial term referring to the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, also known as “The Baker Act.” It allows for the involuntary institutionalization and examination of individuals who are thought to be mentally ill, a harm to themselves (suicidal), or a harm to others. It is as fun as it sounds. Let me paint the picture for you, one piece at a time.
I thought I wanted to die, and I had it all planned out. I was going to fill one of the three bathtubs in my parents’ house with water, and I was going to put on my favorite clothes (mostly because I figured it’d be better for whomever found my body to find me dead and decent as opposed to completely f***ing naked), and I was going to take a handful of Benadryl and get inside the bathtub. I figured that I would be knocked out within 15 minutes, causing my body to go slack. After this, I would slip under the water, and the water would flood my lungs while I was medicated, and I could die peacefully. I didn’t want it to hurt. I didn’t want to bleed. I just wanted to go. I wrote my suicide note and sent it to a friend. Then I wrote another note for someone else, someone I really hated at the time. I will call him Bill: a bland replacement name for a bland person. In so many words, I told Bill that I was going to die, and that my death had nothing to do with him, and so if he tried to use it as some weird status booster, this message would serve as proof that he was, in fact, a f***ed up liar. You have to understand that Bill was, and probably still is, exactly the type of guy who’d use someone’s death as a means of increasing social status. With that in mind, I didn’t want the perfect picture I’d painted of my death to be ruined by some f***boy with an agenda. Upon being informed of all this, Bill called the police, who showed up at my parents’ house before I could actually carry out my master plan to end my life at the ripe old age of 22.
This is how I was introduced to The Baker Act, which I had no prior knowledge of. It was around 11pm. My dad answered the door and said the police were here for me. My mother was confused and worried. I was confused and worried. When I went to the door, one of the officers asked if I knew Bill. I said I did, and my entire body seemed to grow heavy with dread. The cop then recited a paraphrased version of the message I sent to Bill and asked me if I sent it. I said I did. He said I had to go with him to see a doctor. My parents, dumbfounded and devastated, were asking me what was going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to answer them. Only a little while before, we had been talking and laughing. The entire time, I thought about how our last moments together were going to be happy ones, and how I wished they came more often, before I had resolved to kill myself. These thoughts in my head, I turned to go back into the house to change, because I was in a dirty dress with no bra and no underwear on (hadn’t changed into my planned suicide ensemble yet). The officer said I couldn’t do that. I could not go back into the house. I had to go and see a doctor. My mom asked if she could go in and grab me some clothes to wear, and she was told that no, she could not. They repeated the bit about how I had to go speak with a doctor. I asked where, and neither cop would answer me. I said I didn’t want to go, and my parents said they didn’t want me to go. The police officers said that I was required to, and that was the end of it. I was placed into the back of a police car, like a criminal. I did not know the seats of police cars were made of hard, uncomfortable plastic. I did not know where these police officers were taking me. I did not even know that I was officially being Baker Acted, as I still didn’t know about the act or the term at that point. It was a dark, quiet car ride that felt like an eternity. I remember gathering up the courage to ask, once more, where I was being taken, but nobody would tell me anything besides “You have to speak a doctor, and then you can go home.”
I was not prepared for how long, traumatic, and completely unbelievable the deceptively simple-sounding act of “speaking to the doctor” would be.