On the day that Nash is hospitalized for the first time, he goes on a walk with Paul Cohen, who is disturbed by Nash’s rambling speech and paranoia. Nash is hospitalized involuntarily, as MIT’s psychiatrists have determined that Nash is a danger to himself and others. Police officers arrive at Nash’s home and take him to the hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. McLean Hospital has a reputation as a “sanitorium” where “high-strung poets, professors, and graduate students” are often committed. Nash is transferred to Bowditch Hall, a locked facility for men, where he is joined by the famous poet Robert Lowell, who suffers from manic depression. Lowell and Nash spend a fair amount of time together in the hospital: Lowell often delivers long, rambling monologues in Nash’s room. Bowditch is an “oddly genteel” environment, populated by well-behaved, though seriously ill, men: Nash, though, feels like a prisoner, and he threatens to sue Alicia for divorce.
Nash is not the only academic to be hospitalized at McLean, which houses many professors and students from Harvard, MIT, and other Boston colleges. In A Beautiful Mind, Nasar shows that often, those considered most intelligent also suffer from the most debilitating mental illnesses: genius and suffering are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, they often accompany one another.
For two or three weeks, Nash is “watched, studied, and analyzed” by psychiatrists, who quickly realize that Nash is suffering from schizophrenia, evidenced by the “bizarre and elaborate character” of his delusional beliefs. Within a few weeks of medication and treatment, Nash’s acute psychosis has faded, and he behaves quietly and politely as a patient; still, the residents assigned to his case believe that though his symptoms seem to have “disappeared,” it is likely that he is only concealing them in order to be released early. Nash hires a lawyer to petition for his release from the hospital. Though his residents continue to argue that Nash is not yet recovered, Alicia decides that Nash can come home. One week after the birth of their son, on May 28, Nash leaves the hospital after 50 days there.
Nash treasures his independence above all else, and hospitalization feels like imprisonment. He seems to conceal his symptoms in order to petition for an early release, though leaving the hospital before he is recovered only serves to worsen his mental condition.