— Edie Sedgwick
On her near-death experience and final days in New York
Edie : American Girl (1982)
Context: "The Siege of the Warwick Hotel." I was left alone with a substantial supply of speed. I started having strange, convulsive behavior. I was shooting up every half-hour... thinking that with each fresh shot I'd knock this nonsense out of my system. I'd entertain myself hanging on to the bathroom sink with my hind feet stopped up against the door, trying to hold myself steady enough so I wouldn't crack my stupid skull open. I entertained myself by making a tape... a really fabulous tape in which I made up five different personalities. I realized that I had to get barbiturates in order to stop the convulsions, which lasted either hours. Something was spinning in my head.... I just kept thinking that if I could pop enough speed I'd knock the daylights out of my system and none of this nonsense would go on. None of this flailing around and moaning, sweating like a pig, and whew! It was a heavy scene. When I finally cooled down to what I thought was pretty good shape, I slipped on a little muumuu, ran down the stairs of the Warwick, barefoot to the lobby. My eye caught a mailman's jacket and a sack of mail hanging across the back of a chair in the hall way entrance, and before I knew what I was doing, I whipped on the jacket, flipped the bag over my shoulder, and flew out the door, whistling a happy tune. Suddenly I thought: "My God! This is a federal offense. Fooling around with the mail." So I turned around and rushed back and BAM! the manager was waiting for me. He ordered me into the back office. They telephoned an ambulance from Bellevue and packed me into it. Five policemen. I was back into convulsions again, which was really a drag, and I tried to tell the doctors and the nurses and the student interns that I'd run out of barbiturates and overshot speed.... I could speak sanely, but all my motor nerves were going crazy wild. It looked like I was out of my mind. If you had seen me, you wouldn't have bothered to listen, and none of them did. Oh, God, it was a nightmare. Finally six big spade attendants came and held me down on a stretcher. They terrified me... their force against mine. I got twice as bad. I just flipped. I told them if they'd just let go of me, I would calm down and stop kicking and fighting. But they wouldn't listen and they started to tell each other what stages of hallucinations I was in... how I imagined myself an animal. All these things totally unreal to my mind and just guessed on their part. Oh, it was insane. Then they plunged a great needle into my butt and BAM! out I went for two whole days. When I woke up, wow! Rats all over the floor, wailing and screaming. We ate potatoes with spoons. The doctors at Bellevue finally contacted my private physician, and after five days he came and got me out. They sent me back to Gracie Square, a private mental hospital that cost a thousand dollars a week. I was there for five months. Then I ran away with a patient and we went to an apartment in the Seventies somewhere which belonged to another patient in the hospital, who gave us the keys. The guy I ran away with was twenty, but he'd been a junkie since the age of nine, so he was pretty emotionally retarded and something of a drag. I didn't have any pills, so, kind of ravaging around, I went to see a gynecologist and a pretty well-off one. He asked me if I would like to shoot up some acid with him. I hadn't much experience with acid, but I wasn't afraid. He closed his office at five, and we took off in his Aston Martin and drove up the coast... no, what's the name of that river? The Hudson. We stopped at a motel and he gave me three ampules of liquid Sandoz acid, intravenously, mainlining, and he gave himself the same amount and he completely flipped, I was hallucinating and trying to tell him what I was seeing. I'd say, "I see rich, embroidered curtains, and I see people moving in the background. It's the Middle Ages and I am a princess, " and I told him he was some sort of royalty. We made love from eight in the evening until seven in the morning with ecstatic climax after climax, just going insane with it, until he realized it was seven and he had to get back to his office to open it at eight-thirty. He gave me a shot to calm me down, and because I couldn't come down, I took about fourteen Placidyls. On the way back something very strange happened. I didn't realize I was going to say it, but I said out loud, "I wish I was dead"... the love and the beauty and the ecstasy of the whole experience I'd just gone through were really so alien. I didn't even know the man... it had been a one-night jag... he was married and had children... and I just felt lost. It hardly seemed worth living any more because once again I was alone. He dropped me off at the apartment where I was staying with the runaway patient. I had a little Bloody Mary when I got there, and dropped a few more Placidyls. With my tolerance, nothing should have happened, but I suddenly went into a coma. My eyes rolled back in my head. It was lucky... I had called an aide, Jimmy, at the hospital - he had been a good friend - I had called him anonymously and asked him to come and visit us. He happened to turn up just as I went into the coma. He and the heroin addict tried to wake me up. They slapped me and pumped my chest and they put me in a bathtub full of really cold water. Jimmy began to call hospitals - not psychiatric but medical - and one of them actually told them to let me sleep it off. But Jimmy just flipped. He knew I was dying, and he was right. He called Lenox Hill Hospital, and the police finally came. Jimmy and the heroin addict were taken into custody, and I was rushed to the hospital. I was actually declared dead. My mother was called... and then BAM! I started breathing again. I was pretty shaken up by what happened because I didn't understand how I could have almost gone out on just fifteen Placidyls when I used to live on thirty-five three-grain Tunials a day, plus alcohol. They released Jimmy and the junkie, but of course I was still in the trap. I thought I was fine and that I could leave. But a psychiatrist came to interview me and I was put in the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital - committed on the grounds of unintentional, unconscious suicide. It was a pretty devastating experience. They put me on eight hundred milligrams of Thorazine four times a day plus six hundred milligrams at bedtime - an ugly-tasting liquid, but it took quick effect and you couldn't hide the pills or spit them out later. I had all kinds of bad reactions from it - I'd get bad tremors and all itchy and wormy. I said I wasn't going to take the stuff any more, no matter what, so they finally took me off it one day. I had a seizure, vomited all over the floor, and I couldn't get tremendous dosages of Thorazine, but they accused me of importing drugs and taking them there in the hospital. My doctor was young... a resident... and I just told him, "You think I've taken drugs. There's no point in even reasoning with you. I'll just go to some other hospital." I expected to go to some plush, tolerable hospital, but I was not accepted in any private hospital with the record they gave me. They committed me to Manhattan State on Ward's Island, in the middle of the East River, next to the prison. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever been through. Really terrifying. I lived in a big dormitory on a ward with about sixty to eighty women. We did all the mopping, cleaning, making beds, scrubbing toilets. And the people there were just so awful. Really pathetic. Some of them were mean. The staff completely ignored you except to administer medication. I thought it was never going to end. In Manhattan State, even in there, there were pushers. One girl who lived in a smaller dormitory - there were two with about ten beds in them - was pushing speed and heroin. And because I'd been warned that if ever you were caught using drugs in a state hospital you'd be criminally punished, I didn't touch any drugs during the three months I was there.