5150 A Memoir

Author: Dana Christensen
Genre: Poetry, Trade Paper, 6 X 9
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301)

Publishing Date: January 2013

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"TWO YEARS AGO, I took a razor to my wrist and cut three lines into my arm. I wasnít trying to die. I didnít know what a 5150 was, and psych wards were places my friends and I only joked about. But my friend had cut herself with scissors in high school, and I thought that if it worked for her, it could work for me too. I just wanted to feel something besides numbness, even if it was painful, anything to end the constant numbness pulsing through my entire being."  -- From the introduction by Dana Christensen

This stirring collection by first time writer Dana Christensen explores the mindset of a young woman in crisis. A 5150 is the California Penal Code for a person who has been picked up for acting crazy or "unsafe". It requires a 72 hour hold for observation to determine if the person is a danger to themselves and / or society. It sometimes leads to a 5250 which means a further two week observational period. In Dana's case, it was both.


In 1992, a baby was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, gray as the tile of the hospital floor. In 2011, that baby, then a teenager, graduated from The

Bishopís school in La Jolla, California, and went on to attend Pitzer College in Claremont, California, where she studies English and Spanish and wants

to become a writer.


That baby was me, before I was adopted, and today, I am closer than ever to reaching my dream. Iím a natural Californian -- blonde-haired, blue-eyed,

and free spirited. Energy is my God. My friends are my family.


I was never meant to succeed, never meant to go on to play college soccer, or lacrosse. But I donít believe in ďmeant toĒ. I control my own destiny. From

a very young age, I began to realize the challenges I would face. Anger. Aggression. Bipolar Disorder. Cutting. Bulimia. Loss. Love. But as my mom

always told me, I was born a fighter, and a fighter I will be.


Today, I am in active recovery, ready to take on the world a little bit at a time. And when someone throws ďcanítĒ in my face, Iíll look them in the

eyes and smile, because there is no ďcanítĒ. Only can. And did. Today, at twenty years old, I am a published author. Today, I am on the road to success.

Today, I am alive.


Dana Allison Christensen



Tuesday, October 30th, 2012, 4:12pm

They called it a 5150- DTS. Danger to self. Was I a danger to myself?

Itís hard to say. How many stitches does it take to qualify as a 5150?

The EMTs joked about house fires, about car accidents, about death. As the

ambulance rolled on, I couldnít help but wonder how many body bags these

guys had handled in their lives. I guess when you work as an EMT, death

isnít about the person as a whole. Itís a slowing heartbeat, a punctured lung,

a number. What number was I? A dim light glared at me through the back

window- Citrus Valley Emergency Room. I glanced at the EMT who sat beside

me, casually scribbling notes in his binder. My arm throbbed painfully

through the haphazardly wrapped bandages, but I was too caught up in the

commotion to notice. Sirens. Important-sounding announcements over walkie

talkies. Lights. Lots and lots of lights. As they wheeled me into the ER on

my stretcher (unnecessary, if you ask me), I let my mind wander back to just

a few hours before on that cool October afternoon, as I sat in the Greek theater,

a razor blade poised precariously above my wrist.


Just do it. What was I waiting for? My hand shook dangerously, and

though I tried to steady it, the razor dropped from my fingers and fell to the

cool cement below.


ďDamn it. Damn it!Ē I lit a cigarette and threw the lighter down in frustration.

I wanted this. I really did.


I checked my phone again- still no response from Rachel. And Camille

wasnít answering her phone, not that I really expected her to. I should have

known. Closing my eyes, I picked up the razor from the ground, examining

its edges as I put out my cigarette on the concrete. Amazing how such a tiny

little instrument could do so much damage. The damn thing wouldnít break

apart for the longest time. I tried a pencil, a pen; I cut half of my fingernail

off in the process. Whoever knew that killing yourself would be so hard?


Okay. I wasnít trying to die. Not really. Iíd tried to tell the psychologist

that, but it was no use. Three near-fatal slices on my forearm werenít exactly

helping my case. Still, I told her it was a kind of passive ambivalence towards

life. A nonchalance, if you will. She didnít buy it. Not for a second. I just

wanted help, back then. Little did I know, the minute I walked into that room,

my freedom dissipated with the last wisps of the smoke off my cigarette.


I stared at my arm, willing myself to touch the razor to it, push down,

draw blood. How deep could I go? How deep would I go? I closed my eyes,

dragging the little razor towards me through the flesh. Whoa. Never gone

that deep before. What would happen? I watched intently as the skin parted

into an oval, the white fat gleaming against the silver blade. Then, drop by

drop, the blood came, filling the ravine Iíd created in my arm. Instead of immediately

covering it, as usual, I just let it fill, eventually overflowing and

running down my arm. Curiously, only a few drops hit the ground. The rest

coagulated on the spot, thickening into a paste-like substance before drying

in an intricate web on my wrist. If I was drunk, Iíd be dead. The thought

crossed my mind briefly, but I quickly pushed it away. I checked my phone

again, staring at the last text Iíd sent to Rachel: I really need a friend

right now. Still no response. I sighed, setting the razor on the ground before

snatching it up and slicing two more ovals above the first. Fuck it. I laid

down on the ground, slightly dizzy, and for the first time in my life, I felt like

I was going to die. And I didnít care.


Monday, October 29th, 2012, 10:42pm

Want to know why

penguins canít fly?

Iíll tell you.


The sky is blue, pink, orange,


Weíre nothing but smoky lungs tied to this train track life

kissed me on the forehead

and left me to dry.

Iím hanging silver on your eyelashes;

to crash is to drop beneath the floor,

stop before the river bankís dust.

I wake to red-rusted nightmares

your fears echoing against my scarred skin

screaming let me in let me begin to


understand why

penguins canít fly.

Iíll tell you.


Her true face is melting.

This place is nothing



They told me I was



But the sky is black

deep river rafting through the stars

prison bars donít bend in this light.

Fight for summer, fight for another

flightless bird,

Ďcause Iíve heard symphonies

in your footsteps.

If only regrets could evaporate

like leftover snow.

I canít let you go.

Canít let you know

why Iíll never touch eggnog again

but this pen

wonít stop perverting the page.

I was once an actress performing on stage

now Iíve been cut from the cast.


Her past

is my future.

Suture my wounds with licorice ropes

sweet hopes of surviving dashed as the train crashed into

my sunset.


Iíll bet you donít know why

penguins canít fly.

Iíll tell you.


She sniffed rubber glue

at a middle school dance.

I used to think I had a chance

at resurrection

but on closer inspection I found myself grounded

to yesterday.

I say hey with closed lips hoping her hips never open their dirty mouth again.

Singiní south of the border


thereís a little girl who knows exactly why

penguins canít fly.

Iíll tell you.


See through my mannequin smile

begin to question the five oíclock shadow

growing darker as the wind blows

my ashes through the trees

begginí please, please light me, ignite me,

I want to derail


your assumptions.

And those little girlís eyes are forked junctions

which path will you choose?

Now thereís nothing to lose

but Everything.

Want to know why

penguins canít fly?

Iíll tell you.


One too many bottles of wine on the table

yeah Iíve heard empty cradles spew from your mouth

like vomit.

If I could Iíd grab hold of Halleyís Comet

just to fly for a night.

But penguins are flightless birds,

and your words

canít help me fly.

Want to know why

penguins canít fly?

Iíve told you.