I wait in line with my dinner tray. They are offering turkey and American cheese sandwiches on tasteless wheat bread, a lifeless salad and a dollop of the hospital’s version of apple crumble.
The man ahead of me smells like he hasn’t showered for a long time. I try to breathe through my mouth so that I don’t get another whiff of his unwashed skin.
I get my food, knowing that I’ll just listlessly pick at it. I look around the small, airless dining room and see an empty table. I don’t want any company.
The room is silent except for chewing sounds. No one wants to be here, caged like a bunch of dangerous animals, even though they say that it’s for our own protection.
Our futures depend on what meds we will try next and when the resident psychiatrist decides to let us loose into the world again.
“Are we coloring again?” a young man of about twenty-five asks, clearly annoyed that the weekend groups are just fill in bullshit.
“Yes but today we are doing zen doodle art!” says the overly enthusiastic woman, doing her best to keep us all in the room. Groups are not mandatory while you’re under lock and key. Many people stay in bed but showing up looks better for you on paper when your release date is being decided.
“Fuck this!” the guy says, storming out of the room.
I feel bad for the young woman who is trying so desperately to get a bunch of mostly adult people to color their mental illnesses away. I could see the man’s point of view but I stay seated. I don’t have fuck all to do anyways but stare out of the window in the common room, watching the chipmunks, birds and squirrels running around in the overgrown, unusable courtyard that needs a new fence.
I draw a bunch of crooked hearts.
“Someone escaped a few years ago,” a cute male nurse around my age informs me when I inquire about the defunct courtyard. “They keep saying that they’re going to fix it but it’s been 10 years. You could even smoke out there until they banned it.”
I nod grimly.
“That reminds me, it’s time to change my smokers patch.”
“Yes, it is. You’re better at my job than I am,” he teases, winking at me.
Romance in the nuthouse, I think darkly to myself. Even if I were single, that was the farthest thing from my mind.
I don’t really sleep, I only snooze. The noises, the lights, the stranger sharing my room, the uncomfortable sleeping accommodations and the 30-minute check-ins by the night nurse makes it impossible.
The thoughts in my head, on a continuous loop.
I am so alone.
My husband won’t forgive me. He’s going to leave me.
I’ll never get better. I’m always going to be like this, scared to be alive. I’m always going to want to die.
If I had succeeded, I wouldn’t be in this damned place, to begin with.
I’ll never be able to fix the damage that I caused.
I made my mom and daughter cry.
In the bed next to me, my mentally handicapped roommate, who follows me around like a puppy much to my dismay, starts snoring.
Her snores become the soundtrack to my disturbing dreams.
A perpetually angry patient is the keeper of the television remote. He sits there from early morning to late at night, flipping through the channels. The rest of us don’t have a say so on what to watch. I sit off to the side by myself at the wooden table, my eyes fixed on the screen but seeing nothing.
I listen to the voices coming out of the television that is housed in plastic so that nobody can smash the screen but I don’t know what they are saying.
It could be a foreign language for all I know.
One of the men that I have befriended has decided to get electroshock therapy. He lets me read the pamphlet.
“My girlfriend says that she’ll leave me if I don’t do it,” he says to me while we’re playing blackjack. “I don’t have a choice.”
“Are you scared?” I ask. I know that I would be terrified but keep my mouth shut.
“Not really. Maybe frying my fucking brain will do some good.” He laughs but it’s a bitter and exhausted sound.
I want to comfort him somehow but I’m basically just a stranger. Instead, I continue playing cards with him to kill the many hours of nothingness that resides within this place.
There’s a scary patient who screams at everyone who comes near him. He makes my already jangled nerves quiver in fear. I do my best to steer clear of him, staying near my own kind, those of us who are just depressed.
I finally have a run in with him. It was only a matter of time. His eyes are wild as he stares at me, sizing me up. He points to the ceiling with this thin arm.
“They live in the walls! Don’t you see? Look!” he yells at me, begging me to see what his broken mind sees.
I don’t know what to do, so I just stand there.
Thankfully an aid walks by and hushes him.
“Don’t mind Jim, he’s harmless,” she says to me. I smile wordlessly and hurry to my room, where I get under the covers of my deplorable, uncomfortable bed.
I don’t come out for a long time.
These are just a few of the experiences that I had as an inpatient two separate times in the summer of 2015, for a grand total of 11 days. The second time was due to a suicide attempt.
I am planning on perhaps turning them into a short Ebook.
Your thoughts are appreciated. Thank you.