Stopping for Lunch pt.2
I glided my fingers over the razors, caressing it considering slicing my finger open right there in the waiting room. Drama wasn't my thing, attention grabbing wasn't what I wanted; I closed my eyes focused on my breathing, I couldn't slow it down
The walls were a mauve color. I wondered why they had chosen mauve, if they thought it had some therapeutic benefits or if it was just the cheapest or the one they thought looked the best. My mom sat down, I wondered if I should sit down too, but the receptionist kept looking at me expectantly. I told her I was there for my intake evaluation, she smiled gave me a chart to fill out and I calmly sat down, like I was having a regular check up with my doctor.
I filled the chart out. Then I picked up a year old tattered copy of Seventeen magazine that was strewn across the side table next to the cushioned chair I was sitting on. I pretended to be interested in the make-up tips and how to get a boyfriend in 10 days article. My mind was reeling. Thoughts so fast, I couldn’t read a word on the page. My heart pounded deep in my ears, thumping against my chest. I looked at the clock. Five past one. I couldn’t breathe. I clutched the razors I had stuck in my pocket. Held onto them for safety, for assurance, for a way out. I looked around for a bathroom, my only chance of finding a way out of this heart pounding breathe stopping situation I was in, but I couldn’t see one and I stared at the door leading to the parking lot instead and considered walking out of the hospital. I didn’t have the energy to get up of the chair but I imagined walking out of the door and not stopping until I ended up in a place where this was all a part of my past, maybe to a place where I could start over, a place where the thoughts in my head didn’t include killing myself and the thoughts didn’t play like a broken record, a place where everyone loved me and things that had hurt me before didn’t exist anymore. It would never happen, that silly daydream. I glided my fingers over the razors, caressing it considering slicing my finger open right there in the waiting room. Drama wasn’t my thing, attention grabbing wasn’t what I wanted; I closed my eyes focused on my breathing, I couldn’t slow it down, couldn’t stop the shaking of my body, and I could feel the stare of my mom burning a hole through me.
My mom was staring at me, her pathetic “ I failed as a mother” stare and at that moment I wished with all my strength that I could go back and change all this. That I could be happy for her that I could be the teenage daughter that she wanted to have. Because right then sitting in that uncomfortable cushioned chair, pretending to be interested in make-up tips, in my suicidal state, I was the unhappiest I had ever been and I was also tearing my mom’s heart apart, and it was killing me. I could literally feel in her staring eyes, the worry, the concern, the anger, the disbelief, the guilt, the betrayal, all the hurt that I had caused her in the past months, and it was that, it was that feeling that I somehow was causing her pain, that caused me pain. It was all that feeling, and all that confusion and all that pain that I wanted to kill. I knew the only way to kill that pain inside me was to kill myself. I think it was then I knew I was in the right place. I knew I couldn’t go back home and not kill myself. I settled down in the uncomfortable cushioned chair, stared at the wall and thought of all the times in the past three months that I had lied to, hurt, and disappointed my mom. I thought I should cry, that these were sad things I was thinking about, but the tears wouldn’t come. And then I thought about my mom and her husband and their fights, and all the yelling and the nights I sat up in bed shaking because of their yelling. And then I thought of the sadness inside, the disgust, the hate, and all the things I felt inside but didn’t know how to say. I was overwhelmed. Exhausted.
I met with the intake counselor. I chose not to have my mom there. The counselor was this unruly short stubby man with a mustache that curled up at the ends, and he looked like he forgot to shave that morning. He laughed a lot. I liked his laugh. He acted like this wasn’t a big deal, like I shouldn’t be scared to death, like there was no reason I should be shaking so hard that I could barely walk. He was talking but I could I hardly listen. I counted the number of books on his bookshelf. I answered his questions as matter of factly as I could. I tried to guess inside my head which ones were the important ones, the ones that would decide if I needed to be in the hospital or not. I grew tired of that and decided it didn’t really matter, because I had already mentioned I was suicidal. He tried to make jokes and I really tried hard to laugh at them but I was so worn down and scared that my laugh came out as more of a sigh, and I don’t think he even heard it anyways. He found out that I had a twin. He also had a twin. I liked him even more after I found this out. I felt a sort of connection with him, he told me he had been an alcoholic and that he had felt that his twin was always the better twin, and I related more to this statement than any other thing a counselor had ever told me before and I wondered if his self-disclosure was appropriate, but it didn’t matter because he understood me. He told me he liked me, that I was really sad and sick and needed to get better. He said shit and fuck and I thought that counselors didn’t talk like that but it made me feel better somehow.
He wanted to know if I had any razors on me. I did. I don’t know what part of me thought that I could get into a psych ward without being asked to give up all sharps but I brought them anyways. I considered saying I didn’t have any and hiding them in my bra because surely they wouldn’t check my bra would they? I gave them up anyways. I reluctantly handed them over, the only thing that had really kept me alive the past year. I gave them to him, and he said fuck that’s some scary shit, are you sure that’s all you have, and I shook my head yes and I couldn’t take my eyes off the floor because I was so ashamed. He took them and started walking out the door. For a moment I panicked. I asked him what he was doing, he said taking them to the sharps bin, getting rid of your best friend it’s tough isn’t it? I shook my head and breathed a sigh of relief. I had thought quite irrationally that he was going to show my mom what I had been hiding, what I had foolishly thought I could get away with.
He came back and asked me to follow him. I stood up, and with all my strength took a step forward. It was as if I was walking through pudding, like the air had become ten times thicker in an instant. I was exhausted. We walked behind the locked door, my mom followed. He showed us to a sterile white room where a nurse was waiting. He offered me a coke, I accepted, so did my mom. The nurse barraged me with question after question, barely looking up from her clipboard to even look at us. My mom did most of the answering. I wanted her to leave. I just wanted to get it over with. My mom left when the nurse told her that they had all the information they needed. I started to cry and my mom cried and we were both crying and she hugged me and I couldn’t hug her back because I didn’t want to be there and I wanted to go home with her and I knew she wouldn’t take me with her.
Once my mom left I was taken into the examination room, where a nursing aid told me to remove my clothing. What, I asked? Take your clothes off she said, standard procedure, making sure there’s nothing you can hurt your self with. Humiliated I started with my hoodie, handed it to her as she inspected it, and told me if I wanted to continue wearing it I would have to remove the string. Now your pants, she said. I slowly took of my shoes. Shaking, I, undid my pants, flashing memories surfaced of things I’d rather not remember, so I tucked them away as my mind floated to the corner of the room. Handed her my pants. Took off my shirt, undid my bra, and pulled my panties down so she could have a look, make sure I wasn’t hiding anything “down there”. Stood in the middle of the room while she noted every tiny scar I had, Just want to make sure you don’t leave with more scars than what you came in with, she said with a laugh. She asked what I had carved into my leg, I told her, UGLY, FAT, ALONE, and she wrote it down. She gave me back my clothes, and left the room so I could dress with “privacy”.
Later on in the week I mentioned this to another patient, how embarrassing it was to get naked in front of the aide, and she didn’t know what I was talking about, but she was an alcoholic and I thought maybe only crazy people had to get naked in front of the aides. But as I got to know more patients, none had had this experience, so I shut up about it. At the time, I thought it was standard procedure, to undress and be naked in front of an aide while she stares at your naked, vulnerable body and makes note of every little thing, but years later I mentioned this to a counselor and she had never heard of a hospital doing this before at least not without offering you a hospital gown. It was this, undressing in front of an aide standing naked for what seemed like hours while she stared at my body, the body that I hated with every ounce of energy I had, making note of every scar that I had, that I consider the worst part of this experience.
I came out of the room. I was told to sit in a chair next to the nurses’ station. Pull up your sleeve the nurse said. I pulled up my sleeve. I heard a gasp. The nurse with the needle looked at the other nurse, she shook her head. Put the needle in my arm and drew the blood. My eyes filled with tears and my cheeks became hot with shame and I wondered if she had never seen scars like mine before. I felt like a freak. I pulled my sleeve tightly down.
The nurse handed my a dull matte blue folder with a schedule in it and told me to follow her. She showed me around the floor. First she showed me the TV room that had the same chairs from the waiting room and a piano and an exercise bike and a couple of side tables and a window that didn’t open. It was also the group room, where nearly all groups except occupational therapy group, and nightly process group was held. Next she showed me the dining area with about five tables and a cafeteria line that reminded me of a high school lunch line, and there was also a soda fountain that had soda that was caffeine free, she said because caffeine wasn’t allowed.
Lastly, she showed me to my room, about halfway down the hall. I had the room to myself, although there were two beds. And then she left me there. My room had a shower and vanity area and two closets. I sat down on my bed and stared at the wallpaper. The walls were painted green, and there was a border around the top that had a Thomas Kincaid cottage pattern that repeated over and over. I stared at the border for hours over the next week. It mesmerized me. I imagined who lived in that cottage and what they did there. I hated that cottage. I hated the way it grabbed my attention every time I went into my room and how I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it, how I became so obsessed with it over the week. That wallpaper is the thing I remember most about that room, and that's ridiculous. My bed was only about a foot and a half off the ground and it was attached to the floor, it wouldn't budge, it was made of wood and the mattress was about three inches thick. Most other rooms had regular hospital beds, and I thought about this all week, why my bed was small and uncomfortable while other's had taller beds and thicker mattresses and the reason I came up with was because there was nothing about my bed that was dangerous, there was nothing I could hurt myself with. It bothered me that they had thought about this, so much so that they had special beds for people at risk.
I sat on my bed and read the schedule. It was almost three. Three o'clock was occupational therapy group. I laid down on my bed and closed my eyes, and started to cry. I wanted to go home. I worried about what the rest of my family was thinking now as my mom was going home and telling them what had happened where I was and why. I worried I had made a mistake. I couldn't stop crying. I was started when the overhead speaker blared that group was about to start and that all patients were to come and to meet at the nurse's station. I didn't know if I should go or not. I got up and made my way to to the nurse's station.