Saturday, February 6, 2016

Psych Ward: Part 3

To read Part One, click here.

To read Part Two, click here.

The Bingo game is over, and I stand up to go back to my room.  I feel very chivalrous as I have just provided a diabetic woman with a lifetime supply of chocolate.  I am intercepted by a counselor stating that it is group time, and that I am required to attend.  I head back into the TV room, which also doubles as the group room.  It is full of people.  One lady cannot stay awake.  She begins talking, and mid-sentence she nods off.  I suspect that she is on some heavy duty meds.  All of the "regulars" are in group, but I focus in on a little lady I haven't noticed until now.  She is extremely short, probably 4'8, and she is as round as she is tall.  She has pale skin, light brown hair, and a hare lip.  She keeps interrupting with off the wall statements while the counselor speaks.  She tells us that she is an Indian...quarter Cherokee, quarter Chippewa, quarter Navajo, and a quarter American Indian.  She is definitely the palest Indian I have ever seen.  When she says this, everyone in the room begins to chuckle, but I somehow manage to stifle my laughter (if you know me, you know that this is a feat within itself).  The counselor reminds us that this is a safe place, which means no judgment and no laughing at one another.  The scolding makes Chippewa happy.   
When group is over, several of us stay in the TV room.  I can't stand the thought of going back to my room and sitting on that bed.  The television is on, but it is always on a music video channel.  It really depresses me, especially when the Reba McEntire songs come on.  We end up in a conversation about what brought each of us to this facility.  I listen intently to all of the other stories and think about how some of them are entirely different from mine, while some of them are quite similar.  I begin to speak, and I notice this man sitting at a table look up.  Our eyes meet, and then I quickly look away.  He is very handsome, tall, and much too thin.  His face looks rough and hardened, as if he has lived his life three times over in the same body.  He appears to be in his upper thirties.  I tell some of my story and finish by saying that I have not really lost anything from my addiction.  I haven't lost my husband, kids, home, or freedom.  He speaks up in a deep voice that matches his face.  It's exactly what I would guess it would sound like.  His voice is saturated in wisdom, as if he is an expert in self-destruction.  He asks me to repeat my last sentence.  I obey.  He then asks me to repeat it, but this time, to add the word "yet" to the end of every statement.  I obey again.  "I have not really lost anything from my addiction...yet.  I haven't lost my husband...yet.  I haven't lost my kids...yet.  I haven't lost my home...yet.  I haven't lost my freedom...yet."  Wow.  That one little word is a real game changer.  He tells me that if I don't open my eyes and realize how serious this disease is, then the "yet" will only be a matter of time.  The "yet" is sure to come.  He tells me of the wonderful life he had.  Beautiful wife, great son, amazing job.  And then he tells me how he managed to throw it all away.  My brain wants to argue with him, to tell him that I really have things under control, but my heart believes him.  I will eventually lose everything, perhaps even my own life, if I don't make a change.  These words he has just spoken to me will play themselves over in my mind for years to come.
I still have not seen the doctor, and I know that I must do so in order to be released.  I start asking my nurse when I will get to see her.  An hour or so later, the Dr. comes into the TV room and asks to see me.  She is short with long jet-black hair, and she walks with some kind of canes that are attached to her wrists.  The rumor around this place is that she had polio as a child.  She must not have taken the vaccine, I say to myself.  She takes me into a private room (AKA the kitchen), shuts the door, looks at me with a serious face, and says she has something she needs to tell me.  She informs me that she thought she had seen me early this morning.  She then tells me that the person she assessed was not me, however it was someone pretending to be me.  She entered my room and saw a lady sitting on my bed.  She asked if she was Misty Monroe, and she nodded.  She then completed a full assessment with her.  Ummm....what?  I am totally freaked out by this.  I mean, what kind of place is this?  Patients impersonating other patients??!!  You would think there were crazy people here.  She apologizes and asks if she can now get to know the 'real Misty Monroe'.  I agree, and I answer all of her questions.  When we talk about what brought me in, she informs me that I could have/should have died from ingesting the amount of pills that I did.  She quizzes me again about my intentions, and at this point, I have learned to just say "I don't know."  It is easier than trying to explain everything.  I finish my visit with her, and now it is dinner time.
By this point, I have started talking to the other patients, and I feel compelled to eat dinner with them in the dining room.  We have some pretty good conversations, and I actually find myself laughing a couple of times.  When dinner is over, UK guy and his friend ask if I want to play a game of Euchre.  I tell myself to say "no", but I love me some Euchre.  I agree, and they look around to find the fourth person for our game.  Chippewa walks into the room, and they ask her if she wants to play.  She is beyond thrilled at the invitation.  She is in love with UK guy, and she has been writing him love letters all day.  She sits down to play with us, and I become engrossed in the stories she tells.  She tells tales of being a slave, that her Master used to lock her in a closet and not let her eat because she was an African American (again, she is one of the palest people I have ever seen).  I am fairly certain that she believes these stories she is telling.  Whatever.  Twenty-four hours in this place feel like an eternity, and she is making them interesting.  The Euchre game takes off, and I find myself relaxing and letting my guard down.  We have lots of laughs, and we start talking about crazy things we have done in our addictions.  Chippewa interrupts.  "You guys need to be quiet.  I wouldn't say anything incriminating around me.  I have a man living in my foot."  We all just stare at her in silence.  She continues telling us that she used to be in the Mob where she witnessed a murder.  She is now in the witness protection program, there is a microchip implanted in her foot, and a special agent is on the other end of it.  He can hear everything that is said around her, and she can hear him speaking in her ear.  She then says that he has fallen deeply in love with her and that they one day hope to meet in person.  I cannot even believe what I am hearing.  She has clearly lost grip on reality.  I, on the other hand, have not.  We finish playing Euchre, and I go to bed.  Once I lie back down in that dark, quiet room, the laughter disappears, and the reality of where I am returns.  The cries resume, and I do not find even one minute of rest for the remainder of the night.
When I wake up the next morning, I head to the dining room for breakfast.  My newfound friends pull a chair up to their table for me.  The candy bar lady from the Bingo game has a nurse at her side, a personal aide.  She says that she tried to kill herself the night before, and she now has constant supervision.  I say, "Do you mind me asking how in the world you were able to try to kill yourself in here?"  I know I am prying a little, but with all of the chocolate that I gave her, I feel like she owes me an answer.  She puts her weak hands up around her throat and tells me that she just "squeezed real tight" and tried to choke herself.  I doubt there is enough strength in her hands to choke a gnat, but I feel terribly sorry for her.  Plus, I wonder if she knows she is the luckiest one here?  She scored the only room in the place with a real hospital bed, and now she has her own personal servant.  I can't understand why she would want to end her life with such amenities.  I clean my tray up and walk back to my room to take a shower. 
When I open the door, I see a couple of nurses, and I realize that I have a roommate.  I was hoping to avoid this at all costs.  Her name is Sally.  She is young (maybe nineteen or twenty), blonde, and she seems nice enough.  I head to the shower while the nurses finish up with her.  When I walk back into the room, I hear Sally telling the nurses that she needs to see the Doctor ASAP.  Now this is a girl who knows how to get things done.  I head to the TV room and start working on a puzzle.  Sally soon walks into the room and I introduce her.  "Sally, this is everyone.  Everyone, this is Sally."  She sits down and starts talking.  She notices that everyone (besides me) has one of these little plastic cigarette things.  They are smokeless, but when you suck on them, they release a little bit of nicotine.  She immediately asks how to get one, leaves the room, and comes back with one in her mouth.  UK guy leans over and whispers to me.  He says, "I don't even smoke, but everyone else had one, so I got one too.  Want me to get you one?"  The irony of that is not lost on me.  Sally tells me that she is a heroin addict, and by the looks of her eyes and the way she is talking, her last fix wasn't too long ago.  Sally is the exact opposite of me.  Within just a few minutes of being here, she makes herself completely at home.  She doesn't seem intimidated or nervous in the least.  She actually makes me feel more comfortable, even though I'm the one who has already been here for a couple of days.  Sally is enjoying herself. In fact, she seems way too happy to be here.  The doctor comes into the room to get another patient.  Sally sees her and yells out, "Hey!  Are you the doctor?  I need to see you as soon as you are done with him."  The doctor tells her she will come back to get her.  True to her word, about an hour later, the doctor comes to get Sally.  When she is finished, Sally comes back to the room and tells me that she gets to have Suboxone to help her come off of the heroin.  I tell her the doctor offered me the same thing, but I didn't want it.  
The payphone in the hallway rings, and someone yells my name out.  I say "hello", and the voice on the other end is comforting, yet panic inducing at the same time.  It is my husband, Chad.  He tells me that he will be coming that evening during visiting hours to see me.  I am filled with both happiness and dread.  I have no idea what he is going to say to me.  Regardless, I can't wait to see him, and I wonder if I can convince him to take me home.  When I hang up the phone, I am told that it is group time again.  The familiar looking Bingo man is the one leading the group and he tells us to grab a chair, that we are going outside.  It is a nice sunny day, and my transition glasses immediately shade over.  Everyone seems to want to comment on this, but I just want them to look away.  I concentrate on the face of the Bingo man again.  I swear that I know him.  I find myself wanting to figure out how I know him, but also wanting to make sure that he doesn't know me.  I would die if someone I knew were to find out I was here.  I keep staring at him until he looks my way, at which point I quickly look away.  Not awkward at all.  Does he look like a movie?  Does he sound like a song?  Oh gosh, does he remind me of when I was young?  (Don't judge-I was an Adele fan long before it was cool to be an Adele fan).  I glance at his name badge when he is not looking.  Man...that name sounds familiar.  All of the sudden, my stomach drops.  He was a teacher at my high school.  I think to myself that maybe he will not recognize me or my name.  Chippewa tells another outrageous story, and everyone laughs, including me this time.  We are once again scolded and reminded that this is a "safe place" to say anything we need to say.  When group is over, we sit outside and talk.  The teacher looks over the names on his list again and notices my last name.  He then begins asking me if I am related to different people.  He knows my family. 
After dinner comes visiting hour.  I head back to my room and get ready for my visit...which includes wetting my hair and putting my tooth in.  Side note:  I had just undergone Phase One of a dental implant surgery a couple of months prior to this hospital stay.  One of my front teeth had been removed, and I had to wear a flipper.  Surprisingly, the facility could not provide me with Fixodent.  So, most of my time in the psych ward was spent braless and toothless.  
I walk to the dining room to wait for Chad.  My stomach is full of butterflies, but I am glad to have a visitor.  He walks into the room, stops dead in his tracks, and just stares at me.  He sits down at the table.  There is an awkward silence, and then I ask how the kids are doing.  We make small talk, and then he gets serious.  He tells me that he just wants me to get help, and that he will stand beside me, but just this once.  He promises me that if I don't get clean, he and the kids will be forced to kick me out.  I know that he means business, so I forego the idea of begging him to take me home.  I tell him that my nurse has just informed me that I will get released the following day.   He says that he and one of my friends will be picking me up to take me to the treatment facility.  I'm still not sure that I'm going to go, but I don't tell him that.  As we are talking, a patient that I haven't seen before comes running down the hallway screaming.  She has long, black, frizzy hair, and she is flipping out.  When the nurses chase her, she starts to take her clothes off.  They eventually sedate her and carry her back to her bed.  After that, Chad doesn't stay long, and he hugs me and says good-bye.  As he is getting ready to leave, I introduce him to my new friends.  He gives me the most skeptical look I have ever seen.  He doesn't say anything, but his eyes say, "You better not be giving your phone number to these people." 
Side note:  He later tells me that after he was checked in, the nurse walked him into the visiting room (aka the dining room) and asked if he saw me.  He was so frightened by the look on my face that he almost said 'no' and left.  He said that I looked crazy.  And to think I put my tooth in for him.  
I walk back into the TV room, and my 'friends' comment that it appears my visit went well.  I tell them that it did.  I ask if I can change the television to a show rather than these music videos.  They oblige, and I find an episode of Law & Order: SVU followed by Modern Family.  This makes the time pass much more quickly than listening to 80's rock.  We start up another game of Euchre and Sally decides to join us this time.   We play for hours, and then Sally says she is starting to feel kind of sick and gets up to go to bed.  After she leaves the room, UK guy tells his friend he should try to get fixed up with Sally.  Chippewa has joined the game and the conversation at this point, and she, once again, declares her undying love for UK guy.  We finish the last game, and I get up to head to bed.  I feel tired and think that I might be able to sleep a little tonight.  
When I get into the room, Sally is sound asleep.  I tiptoe around so that I don't wake her.  She doesn't look so good.  I try my hardest to fall asleep, but despite my best efforts, sleep doesn't come.  I simply lie and ruminate over the events of the past week.  The manic female from earlier this evening is in the room beside me, and I still hear her screaming and crying.  She curses at anyone who comes near her.  They continue to sedate her, but as soon as she wakes up, she is screaming and crying again.  I am completely frightened.  Male nurse is back, and he comes in throughout the night to check on both of us.  He keeps having to wake Sally and sit her up because her vitals are so low.  She fights him, but when he tells her that she can't get her meds if she doesn't sit up, she finally agrees.  Morning slowly arrives and I figure it is probably around seven o'clock.  Sally is still asleep, even though all of the sheets and blankets are thrown off of her bed.  I leave the room and head to the dining room.  Everyone asks me where Sally is, and I tell them that she doesn't seem to be feeling well.  We eat breakfast, talk for a little bit, and I head back to my room.  When I walk into our room, I see Sally standing there looking frantic.  She is digging through all of the drawers and throwing stuff everywhere.  I calm her down and ask her what the problem is.  She tells me that she had been hiding her Suboxone strips when the nurses gave them to her so that she could take them all at once.  She starts taking her clothes off thinking that maybe they dropped down into her shirt or pants.  She still can't find them and she starts looking all over the room.  She swears that she put them in the drawer beside her bed.  I tell her that I definitely didn't take them.  She assures me that she doesn't think I did.  She suddenly realizes that maybe they have dropped under the bed.  The bed can't be moved, so she takes her sheet and starts sweeping it under the bed and pulling it back out.  The sheet brings out a bunch of dust, dirt, and trash...but no Suboxone.  She is pale, sweaty, and shaky, and she asks if I can help her.  I stand for a minute and try to decide what to do.  I finally say, "What can I do to help you?"  I know the misery she is feeling, and I want her to be out of it.  She asks if I can lift up the bed while she looks underneath it.  The bed is bolted to the wall and to the floor, but the bolts have loosened somewhat over the years, so I can get it about an inch off the floor.  I keep lifting the bed while she looks.  I tell her to hurry, that I am scared a nurse will walk in while we are doing this.  I have to keep sitting the bed back down because it is so heavy and is hurting my hands.  We try this multiple times, with no luck.  When I look down at my hands and see that they are blistered, bruised, and bleeding, I tell her it is time to give up.  She crawls back into her bed, and I head to the shower.  When I get out of the shower, I check on Sally again and find that she is burning up and nauseous.  I get wet washcloths to put on her head and a trash can for her to vomit in.  I sit on the edge of her bed and stare at her.  I think back to the previous day, when I was sitting on my bed reading the Gideon Bible and she asked if she could join me.  She plopped down on my bed and asked what we were reading.  I was reading in the book of Psalms and she asked if we could read out loud.  After every verse, she wanted me to explain it to her.  Sally really seemed to enjoy this.  She said that she had not read a Bible since she was a little girl in Sunday School class.  Only I would be having a Bible Study in the psych ward.  I think back to how Sally told me about a car accident that changed her life.  She had been a really good kid in high school.  Good grades, cheerleader, involved in sports, and rarely in trouble.  She had a car accident only six months prior to her admittance here.  This car accident nearly took her life and broke several vertebrae in her back.  This got her addicted to pain killers, which grew into a heroin addiction.  Addiction very rarely surprises me, but I was blown away that her life had spiraled out of control so quickly. I think back to how Sally has told me that she plans to go to treatment when she leaves here.  I know that she is lying to me, as well as to herself.  I can see it in her eyes.  
The nurse gives me my clothing back as well as the other things that I brought with me so that I can get ready to leave.  I try to look as presentable as possible, and begin to pack my stuff into a little plastic bag.  I notice a letter on my side of the desk.  It is from Sally.  She is wishing me luck and telling me that she is going to get clean as well.  I stand beside her bed and hope with everything inside of me that she one day does...before it is too late.  Side note: There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about Sally.  I wonder if she got her life back, if she was reunited with her family.  Some days, though, I'm more afraid than I am hopeful that Sally's life was taken by this evil beast.  
I finish getting ready and sit on the bed patiently (not so much) waiting for Chad and my friend to pick me up.  The nurse who smells like flowers comes into the room and tells me that my ride is here.  I ask her if she can please keep a close eye on Sally, and I stand up.  I take one more look around the room...the room where I hit rock bottom, and I shut the door behind me.  I exit through the same wooden doors that I entered into just a few days before, and I see my husband and friend standing there.  I hug each of them, and we turn to walk out the door.  
It is in this moment that I realize one thing.  My journey is just beginning, and it is far from over.           

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