When I asked Huey to participate, he shouted obscenities, which triggered rumblings and tension in the group that I was trying to lead.
Huey abruptly stood up, pushed the chair aside and called me the ‘anti-Christ’ and said I was sent here to destroy the world. He moved toward me aggressively.
I slowly backed up, moved behind a desk and tried to persuade Huey to return to his seat. In the meantime, I was hoping that the psychiatric aide could hear the commotion outside the door and quickly intervene. Unfortunately, the aide was busy restraining another patient in the hallway.
I retreated as far as I could. Huey's hot, snarling breath indicated that he was about to devour me. My heart pounded in my chest.
“Relax, Huey,” I said in a shaky voice. “Think about what you’re doing.”
“My fist will relax you,” he responded and cocked his arm backward, preparing to throw a punch.
At that instant, another patient moved behind Huey. I shook my head, indicating to Elijah to stay away.
Elijah was a chronic schizophrenic. He was on massive doses of mind-numbing medications, and most of the time he sat in the corner and didn't move, often resembling a manikin.
“I’m going to pulverize you,” Huey said to me with flaring nostrils. “You’re not going to take my soul!”
I was unable to run to the door or reach for the wall phone. I tried to talk Huey down as best as I could while preparing to roll up into a ball. Too big to handle alone, there was no other choice but to go into defensive mode until help arrived.
Elijah let out a loud groan and punched Huey in the small of his back. Huey reacted instinctively by hitting Elijah in the face and followed it up with another blow to the belly. The force of the last punch sent Elijah’s tall, skinny frame crashing against the wall.
Elijah lay on the floor bleeding and groggy from the punches. The psychiatrist and nurses surrounded him, tending to his injuries. Huey was restrained by several aides and taken to the isolation room.
I stood there looking at the aftermath of a near tragic event, wondering what I could have done differently and whether this was the right profession for me.