Self Help

Can I Spit in your Lemon Cake?

During my first inpatient psychiatric experience as an adolescent I discovered that snack time was a crucial part of the day. Not only did snack time break up a monotonous schedule but it created an experience for patients in a hospital setting to enjoy, even savor the moment during a time in their lives they will probably choose to forget. One such experience would forever change my understanding of snack time. 

This snack time began like any other. Casual conversation about how rounds went between patients sitting around, hopeful talk about possible discharge dates, and changes in everyones medication.

Fifteen years ago, snack time was a different meal service on the unit. Lemon cake was served plentifully because in those days patients could get a second helping without begging the nutritionist for an extra piece of lettuce or a packet of sauce.

That’s when I observed my table-mate turn to anther person and say:

“Can I spit in your lemon cake?”

Not yet shocked and partly amused I thought little of the comment. 

A few moments later:

“Can I spit in your lemon-cake?”

This time louder and with underlying aggressive intonations of the speech. At that moment I observed the guards move in and surround the table. 

Fearing snack time was heading towards an unfortunate early dismissal I shoveled some lemon cake into my mouth and listened to four huge men inform this patient he had to stop inquiring if he could spit in his table mates cake. 

Can I spit in your lemon cake?”

He replied to their demands.


Their response as they dragged this gentleman out of the cafe, forced him on to his bed, and restrained him to its frame without blinking. 

Now I’ve seen many a restraint in my day but never over dessert and never over what can be done with it aside from eating it. Snack time was always precious to us all. We loved it. There were so many things going wrong in our lives but during snack time those problems were all forgotten. Ultimately like all things, snack time will have to suffer the same fate as all great things interrupted by daily bullshit and misunderstandings about cake.

By J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in Ardsley, New York. Max’s battle with schizophrenia began at Binghamton University in his last semester of college.

Max was discharged from Greater Binghamton State Hospital Center in July of 2008, after spending six months there. His recovery was swift, but not painless, and certainly difficult. Max refers to his stance on recovery in his journal articles as “Too big to fail.” No obstacle too big, no feat out of reach, Max let nothing stop him in his path to recovery and healing. While Max’s symptoms began during his last semester, he successfully graduated from college, and his diploma was waiting for him at home after his discharge from the hospital.

On one of the newest intramuscular injections (IM) available, and after learning the true meaning of adherence, Max later went on to publish articles about the use of injectable medications to overcome his own symptoms.

Through paranoia, hallucinations, and other symptoms of schizophrenia, Max didn’t let anything stop him from his return to academia, and writing. In his childhood, Max was a lover of language. When schizophrenia tried to rob him of his academic ability, Max fought back. With the use of medications and therapy, he finally regained his ability to communicate and to pursue his passions and dreams for higher education.

Through his work as a social worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in the system. He seeks to help those who are struggling with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses not just achieve stabilization but thrive. Max is relentless in his passion for helping people who find themselves vulnerable, and those without the ability to care for themselves.

Today, Max teaches social work students at Fordham University to be leaders in their practice. Max is the author of University on Watch: Crisis in the Academy, which he published under the pen name J. Peters in 2019.

Max writes on his lived experience, and also brings his story into his work. Max blogs daily on his site and for other sites around the United States and Europe, bringing his passion for mental health to consumers everywhere.

2 replies on “Can I Spit in your Lemon Cake?”

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