My second day in, I was still not leaving my room. I called my friend Shawn. She is my tough-love friend. I told her how I felt and she encouraged me to at least try to go to a group. I looked over my schedule for the day. Morning stretch, followed by CBT therapy, and then pet therapy. I couldn’t help but laugh at my situation as I read it to Shawn. She, however, did not laugh…. I mumbled hesitantly, “Pet therapy sounds interesting, and I could use a puppy to pet.” I could hear her smiling as I hung up.
They give you a coloring book when you arrive. It’s suppose to relieve stress and I found that it actually does. To this day I’m a coloring fool. As I was on my second hour of coloring, a man walked in and said he had to move me to another room–they needed this room for someone else. I learned quickly they didn’t really need my room–they just wanted to move me closer to the nurses’ station after my “episode.” Again, no roommate and I was thankful for that. I would say three hours into coloring I could color no more. I went down to the kitchen for some ice cream.
I got about ten steps before I went clammy/shaky and felt my heart racing. The nurse took one look at me and hurried me to this corner room I wasn’t aware of. It was a small room with a TV and two small couches. A man my age was sitting in there watching football. He was screaming at the television when they brought me in to take my vitals. My heart rate was 140. All I could do was cry. I should have never left my room. The man saw me crying and scooted closer to me. He leaned in and said, “My name’s Steve.”
I looked around the room trying to see who he was talking to. It was only us and the nurse taking my vitals. I knew he could clearly see I was in distress, but he acted as if this was just kinda normal. I shook his hand and said through a shaky voice and tears, “Shelly. Nice to meet you.” He then told me to breathe and try and think about anything else.
He had a monster tattoo on his arm, was vigorously chewing what I was almost positive was Nicorette gum, and he constantly was nervously kicking his leg. You could tell right away he was a very high strung individual. His advice was working though and, right when my heart rate was going down, I heard “god dammit” followed by a thrown remote.
My heart rate was back up and the nurse was yelling at Steve to calm down. Steve sat quickly and apologized for his outburst. I said, “Do you have Tourette’s or something?”
He laughed and said, “I wish–my fantasy kicker just fucked my world up.” I started laughing hysterically and he followed. I had no idea in that moment that I just met my person for the next week.
I tried going to lunch, but again I started crying and getting shaky. Steve walked me back to my room and got the nurse. I was a mess. How was I going to “work the program” if I can’t even leave the room? A nurse came in with another nurse whose badge read “Supervisor.” She looked me up and down and asked me sourly why I was crying. I explained, and she said, “You have go to at least try.” I explained something was wrong with me and she said, “Let’s just concentrate on the here and now.”
I wanted to punch her. I actually visualized it. I sarcastically replied, “OK, sounds good,” and gave her a thumbs-up. An hour later my heart rate was back up and that same nurse was ordering an EKG.
When the lady came into the room to apply the stickers, I just laid there staring out the window crying. No more noise, sniffling, just tears rolling down. I had no energy to even look at this woman. I could feel the woman’s concern and I couldn’t even give her a smile. Right before she left, she laid her hand on my arm and through a cracked voice said, “It will be OK, Honey.” Then she left.
Todd visited as normal, and I cried and told him about my day. I think he was getting discouraged that I wasn’t getting better, and I felt the same. I lived for the few hours I got with him. We did our usual ritual of a sleeping pill and waving goodbye, but I could not sleep. I decided to go to the small living room I was in earlier. Steve was there with another young man watching football and eating candy, because that’s exactly what high-strung Steve needed–sour patch kids. He offered me one, and I smiled and said, “No thank you.”
Derek, the other young man, was a good-looking 19 year old who played lacrosse for U of M. He was so soft spoken and sweet, and I found myself wondering what brought him here. He implied once that he felt a lot of pressure to be the best. They closed the room at 11:00 and kicked us out. Steve said, “You can come hang with us–Derek is my new roomie.”
I hung out and talked for a little while and then headed back to my room. Alba was back on and said she saw I had made friends. She said Steve came from the hospital. I said, “What does that mean?”
She said, “Suicide attempt.”
He had told me he had just had a new baby girl and my mind wondered about what had caused him to want to take his own life. I got the impression that this wasn’t his first time here.
I woke the next morning to a very childlike voice crying and saying, “I don’t want to be here.” I opened my eyes and saw I had a roommate and she appeared to be talking to her dad. She couldn’t have been older than 16. Her dad had to leave and she just laid there crying. She looked over at me and said, “Why are you in here?”
I told her, “Because I’m dizzy.” I laughed and said, “That sounds outrageous when I say it out loud.” I asked why she was.
She said, “I came from the hospital…. I hear voices and they tell me to do bad things to myself. I’ve heard them since I was 13.” I was intrigued. I asked if she ever believed they are real, like spirits, and she said, “All the time.”
The next morning she went to groups and said, “If you want out of here, you have to go to group. They won’t let you out otherwise.”
She asked if I wanted to use her brush since I was using a hospital comb. I thought to myself, “The last thing I need to do is catch voices.” I smiled and said, “No thank you.”
The first group was morning stretch. I was so freaking dizzy I had to sit for all the exercises. Steve yelled to the instructor, “This is bullshit that she gets to sit down!” I was taken aback, but he whispered to me, “Just kidding–the instructor is new. I like to break them in.” After that we were walking past a huge conference room to head to our rooms. I saw one obvious patient and five other people talking to her. Steve explained those were the psychiatrists and we would meet with them daily. An hour later I was told they were ready to see me.
I walked into the room not knowing what to expect. Quickly I learned there were four interns and one head psychiatrist. One intern would ask me the majority of the questions and I would answer. I mainly stated I was sick and no one was understanding this. They were the key to getting me on the right floor. I went on and on about my dizziness, hands being numb, moments of clamminess, and high heart rate. They then dismiss you. After they talk among themselves for about thirty minutes, they call you back. When I sat back down, the intern who asked all the questions gave me his diagnosis: delayed postpartum depression with severe anxiety and panic attacks. He recommended medication and explained that all of these symptoms can be caused by anxiety and/or depression. I smiled back at them and said nicely, “I know you all think that, but I don’t.”
He smiled and said, “We know.”
I laughed and said, “I’m not trying to belittle your profession but I don’t really believe in all of this, and I don’t believe therapy can help what’s going on with me physically. I have something medically wrong with me.”
This is when the head guy talked for the first time. He said, “Why do you think your mind isn’t attached to the rest of your body?” He said this smiling and looking at the table before looking up at me for an answer.
I smiled and said, “Touché, Doc, touché.”
The room fell silent for what seemed like minutes.
He then said, “Why don’t you tell me about Nash?”