I was shuffled into a tiny room and told to take a seat. The woman left the room promising to be right back. As I waited for her return, I looked outside the door from the chair upon which I sat. A wall was covered in artwork. It wasn't the type of artwork you would typically purchase from a gallery or even Walmart. It appeared to be the type of art one would create in elementary school. I immediately stereotyped the facility. I envisioned patients walking around in their bathrobes and shouting words that made no sense. The type of scenes from movies.
Women walked by my room dressed normally. Each of them stared. From where I was waiting, I could see a room with three couches. Women were sitting. Some read magazines, others were writing, and I overheard a few talking about the "new girl". That was me I assumed.
The tech finally came back in the room. I was instructed to step on a scale to record my weight. My temperature and blood pressure was taken. I was instructed to remove my shoes so the laces could be taken out. I went through the motions blankly. The tech joked the entire time. I wasn't sure if she was trying to make me laugh to keep me calm or if she found the situation funny.
Next, I removed my jeans and socks. I was being inspected for open sores and tattoos. The tattoo on my left ankle was recorded. I put my jeans, socks, and laceless shoes back on. I then removed my shirt. More inspection. The tattoo on my back, wrist, and numerous scratches on my back were recorded. I faced the tech and was commanded to pull the bottom portion of my bra away from my body and to shake. She thought this was hilarious. She hinted that it resembled I was a dancer, a stripper, like I was putting on a sexy show for her. Since nothing fell from my bra I was allowed to put my shirt back on.
I was led down a long corridor to room 604. 604. This was my new residence. For how long I was unsure. I prayed I would be alone, please God if you exist, let me get through this without a roommate. The door was opened and I stepped through. A young girl was lying on one of the beds reading a book. Fuck! I sat on the bed opposite the girl. It was sheetless and didn't fit the frame. The mattress was blue and plastic. The tech left the room and said she'd return with my belongings and linens soon.
I introduced myself and the girl reciprocated. She went on to read her book and I was left in complete silence. I felt vulnerable and alone. I was out of place and scared. As time ticked by, how long I was unsure as there was no clock in the room, I read over the day's schedule. There were a lot of smoke breaks, meal times and group sessions listed as well as medication distributions.
More time went by. Tick...Tick...Tick...
Where the fuck did the tech go?
I finally got the nerve to get up and walk to the nurse's station where I saw my red duffel bag. I couldn't see the tech who was taking care of me and I began to sweat. Shift change. She was gone. A new tech picked up my bag in one hand and under her other arm were sheets, towels and a blanket. Back to room 604.
She asked if I was made aware of what I could have and couldn't have. I hadn't a clue. She pulled her hair back and fastened it with an elastic band. My bag was unzipped and my belongings were taken out one by one.
Books, bras, underwear, pants, socks, shirts....these were all acceptable items and were placed on the shelf in front of my bed.
Lotion, soap, q-tips, eye drops, a make-up mirror...all these items were taken away. I could ask to use them later but they weren't allowed to be kept in my room. 604.
We made my bed with sheets too small for the blue mattress. The tech made due with what she had. I knew sleeping would be nearly impossible with the way she made the bed. With every toss and turn, those sheets were going to come undone and the blue mattress would touch my skin. This irritated me.
The tech left the room as if I knew what to do next. I felt vulnerable. Afraid. Out of place.
"How long have you been here." I asked the girl.
"Over a week. What are you in for?"
"I'm detoxing from meth and cocaine."
Whaaaat? I was told I would be matched with someone under similar circumstances, if I had a roommate at all. How could they put me in a room with a recovering addict? Again, I stereotyped.
She went on to read her book as if I didn't exist. She kept to herself. I could handle that, I didn't envision making friends anyhow. I was here for a medication adjustment and I would be on my way.
A smoke break was announced and my roommate left the room. I was alone once again. A knock came to the door. 604. The tech, one I haven't seen yet, brought me in a basket of flowers with a teddy bear fastened to it. I smiled for the first time that day. It was from the PPD Army. They were thinking about me. Empowering me to move forward. To heal.
A nurse poked her head into the room. 604. I was asked to come with her.
We went to a room filled with chairs. The entire perimeter was wall to wall mismatched chairs and couches. A TV hung from the wall in the corner.
Questions were asked. The same questions over again. Didn't I already tell you that? Yes, I have suicidal ideations. Yes, I know how I plan to go. Can't I just see the psychiatrist? I'm supposed to see the psychiatrist so I could get some new meds. Where are my new meds? Will he dope me up so I can just go to sleep and forget this is even happening? Please? I want to go back to my room. 604. 604. 604.
Elizabeth, the nurse, told me I would be seen by a psychiatrist within 24 hours. Follow the schedule until then. The tears welled up, I blinked, and they trickled down my face. 24 hours? That's not what I was told. I just wanted to be seen. I just wanted my meds. When would I be made comatose so I could sleep the next few days away?
At this point I was angry. I demanded to use the phone. I phoned my psychiatrist and called him a liar, only I didn't get to speak to him. My message called him a liar. It wasn't the same. I wanted to lash out at him to get me out of here, I didn't belong here, why wasn't I being seen right away like he said?
I phoned my husband in hysterics. I told him to call my psychiatrist. Get me out of here. I don't belong here!
"You can't leave." The nurse instructed.
"What do you mean I can't leave? I signed myself in. My psychiatrist said I could leave whenever I want!"
"That's not how it works..."
I felt betrayed.
Once again I was by myself, which is what I wanted, but I didn't know what to do. I went to the community room and sat on a couch. Within moments a woman approached me. She introduced herself. She saw me sitting there, the new girl, and struck up a conversation.
She was there for depression too.
Happy became my tour guide. She pointed out the gym, the cafeteria, she showed me how to line up for meals and sat with me. I wasn't there to make friends yet I saw a friend in her immediately.
Lunch happened. Dinner took place. Free time approached. There were no more groups that day. I came in too late and didn't attend a single one. I came to accept I wasn't going to be seen that day by a psychiatrist and I wasn't going to die because of it. Tomorrow would be here soon enough and then I would proceed with my treatment plan.
Then the nurse pulled me aside. A different nurse. Another shift change had occurred.
"We're placing you on in line of sight."
"What does that mean?"
"The fuck? Why?" The tears came. Surely I could talk my way out of this.
"Did you mention hanging yourself during your admission?"
"Yes, but I told the woman it was an ideation I had months ago!"
"It doesn't matter. Collect the things you'll need for the night. You'll be sleeping in the common area tonight."
Holy shit! I lost it. I had an emotional breakdown then and there. I stormed back to my room in a fury. 604. I went into the bathroom and closed the door to change out of my jeans into some more comfortable sweat pants.
"Pam? I'm here to help you get your things!" I heard a voice saying from the other side of the door.
I stormed out of the bathroom. "I'm not trying to hang myself with my jeans if that's what you were thinking..." and I grabbed what I needed and headed back to the common area.
604. 604. 604. 604. I just wanted to be back in my room. 604. But I wasn't allowed. My rights were gone. I had none. Nothing.
The long night unfolded...