The new unit was like a resort compared to the first one. The furniture was clean and unbolted. “You can go anywhere there isn’t a closed door,” Nurse Donna told me. There was a hallway filled with rooms. Instead of a cold, stale institution it reminded me more of a hotel. The day room was large with real sofa’s, a large screen TV, cable, and a coffee machine. There was a cafeteria with soda machines, a salad bar, and choices of hot food.
My room was large and clean with creamy off-white walls. My bed was a really cool vintage hospital bed with wheels and a metal frame that looked like it could be lifted pretty high. There were pink curtains that covered windows without bars or grates. Right outside my window was a large oak tree with a few scattered red leaves still clinging to life. I would lay in bed and watch the rain steam off the tree in the morning sun. It was so peaceful. So calm.
There was a patio where all the smokers could smoke and a yard with grass and plants, a small fountain and feral kittens. I don’t smoke but I spent much of my time outside reading, picking flowers and trying to convince the kittens to love me. Yes, I was the weird quiet girl that chased the wild cats. I named one Schitz and the other one Dock since someone docked off half of his ear.
Most of the people in the unit where in rehab so everyone kept asking me “What are you detoxing from?” At first I told them I wasn’t detoxing from anything, but after the 20th time someone asked me I started making up things. Once I said chocolate. Once I said coffee and once I said my childhood which when you think about it, it's actually kind of true.
My roommate was a really sweet 41 year old woman with short blond hair, who suffered from schizophrenia and anorexia. She talked nonstop and cried a lot. She believed people could read her thoughts and that she was electromagnetic. She has been in and out of hospitals for most of her life and had been in this one for over a month. My heart hurt for her.
This hospital did not have much structure. There was absolutely NOTHING to do. There was group a couple times a day and then you were left to try to entertain yourself for the rest of the extremely long day. The boredom was maddening. I could not concentrate enough to read my book. I brought Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which probably isn’t the most appropriate book to bring to rehab. I couldn’t draw because it attracted an audience and I didn’t want people to think I was stranger than they already did. The old men occupied the television with old western tv shows and movies. Occasionally they would watch something on the discovery channel which I liked. But mostly it was people wondering around looking for something to do. The smokers smoked on the patio all day long. I lay in my bed listening to my roommate talk much of the time or I wondered around outside begging black and white kittens to let me love them. Sometimes I followed nurses around bugging them to give me back my earrings and nose ring until they finally did. Some nurses said I couldn't have them because I have a history of cutting. I'm not sure how they thought I could cut myself on 3mm earrings with a blunt back. I could feel myself regressing into near tantrum begging when they wouldn't give me back my earrings after three days of waiting. In fact, I can see it being pretty easy to forget how old you are in a place like this. There is nothing else to do but obsess over small stuff.
While in the hospital I met some pretty interesting people. Besides a few eccentricities, most of them were relatively normal people. I mean there wasn't really anything outright "crazy" about them, well except in the first unit I was in. In the first unit there was the middle aged middle eastern man that screamed and yelled all day long and constantly professed his love for the women in the unit and bragged about how rich he is. He also constantly said, "You know what? Chicken butt." I don't know why.
My roommate in the first unit was hospitalized for depression but she was constantly laughing, begging for cigarettes, and getting everyone to chant "Black and yellow, black and yellow" while dirty dancing to the beat.
One girl never spoke but she walked the same path from her room to the day room and back all day long, without stopping. Even when she was eating, she carried her tray with her.There was a giant black man who wore two blue hospital gowns. He stood around seemingly looking for something to do, but there was never anything to do. And then there was the very tiny man in the hoodie that kept sneaking food. He never spoke, but the nurses kept yelling at him that sneaking food was dangerous for him.
Everyone in the second unit was relatively normal compared to the first until. One woman was 74 and I know this because she said, "Hi, I'm Gwen. Guess how old I am? I'm 74." She wore a ponytail on the top of her head with four or five colorful scrunchies in it as well as two pigtails on the sides of her head. She sang and danced wherever she went and gave piano lessons on the grand piano in the day room. She played the accordion when the staff would let her have it. She told me she had narcolepsy.
There was tall man who was always telling jokes and speaking so fast that I never understood what he said. I smiled anyway. He wore a cowboy hat and boots and everyone called him "Tex." I'm not sure what his real name was or why he was there. One young girl was in to detox from crystal meth. She was pretty normal except she wore a hat with the word "suicidal" in large letters across the bill. There was also the girl who knew everything and told everyone everything she knew every minute of the day. There was a tall white man with bleach blond hair and pink fingernails and a crack addicted woman with one tooth and a black eye patch. She constantly fell asleep on the sofa in the day room.
One young girl kept trying to be my friend. She was always sitting next to me wherever I was. She kept asking me if I wanted to play Uno, but I declined every time. She liked to draw, so I would write in my journal and she would draw in a chair next to me. She asked me, "Would you like to see my drawings." I said, "Sure." She handed me a stack of drawings. "They're just thumbs" she said. They really were drawings of thumbs. Nothing but thumbs. "Nice," I said. What else could I say? I guess I could have given her a thumbs up.
My stay in the hospital was interesting to say the least but was it what I needed? I stayed in the hospital for five days, and in those five days I saw a doctor for a total of 10 minutes. I never once saw a therapist. We had group therapy but that consisted of writing down three goals for the day. Most people wrote that they wanted to see their doctor, take a shower, write in their journal. It was very superficial. I don’t feel like I got anything that I needed in the hospital. I don’t feel any better. I feel a little less desperate to end my life, but I don’t feel better. I don’t feel any less pain. I don’t have anymore hope. The hospital did not save me. The hospital did nothing for me except give me an alphabet of diagnoses and labels: PTSD, MDD, GAD. I’m supposed to go to a partial program but all of them are full. In order to go to the partial program I have to take a leave from work which means I’m going to be pretty broke for a while. I’m not sure the partial hospitalization is going to be any better than the hospital. I need something more. I need something that I’m not sure exists.
I need intensive therapy. I need to be able to stop these images from torturing me all the time. I need to stop the nightmares. I need to be able to sleep. I don’t want to die. I really don’t, but I just can’t continue to live this way. I got letters from my sister and a few friends while I was in the hospital and they made me feel loved. They also made me feel like a horrible person because I didn’t even consider what they would feel if I killed myself. I didn’t even think of my sister. The letter my sister wrote me was sweet. It was the first time she ever told me she needed me and that she loves me. It was hard to read.
So where do I go from here? If the hospital can’t help me what can? I think my therapist doesn’t really want to be my therapist anymore. She’s pulling away from me, I can feel it. She promised to come visit me in the hospital but she didn’t. When we had sessions last week she felt farther away. It feels like she is waiting for me to stop seeing her. Everyone always leaves, so why should she be any different? I just feel so stupid for trusting her so much and showing her so much of me.
Where do I go from here?