This is a multi-part story from my journal about my ten-day experience in a hospital that focuses on depression and anxiety and my participation in my healing. The people I met, the food I ate, and the treatments I utilized.
This is Thursday. I slept fitfully. Monstrous dreams that shook me from sleep. Sweating. Questioning my very existence. In one of them, my ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend were here in this place and I didn’t want to go to group therapy because I’d have to talk to them in front of them. In another, I’m swept away by gigantic waves. They don’t hurt me, but they are massive and I arrive somewhere that I don’t have reservations.
No, I’m not stressed at all.
Here is the plan I wrote for the day:
- wash my face and brush my teeth
- get meds and vitals
- try to eat (I haven’t eaten since I arrived)
But this is a hospital, so there is always a curveball. Instead, I’m getting blood work so I can’t eat anyway. That solves that.
I’ve probably already mentioned this, but it’s so disquieting it bears repeating. They check you every 15 minutes here. I hate this being watched feeling. I realize, it’s for my own safety and blah blah blah, but I don’t have to like it. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to it. Will I ever not hear the footsteps coming down the hall, the clipboard toting pen-clicking staff looking in my room?
8:05 LOUD ANNOUNCEMENT OVER PA SYSTEM… “Good morning. For those that are awake, it’s vitals and meds time”. So there is a structure here but maybe it doesn’t have to be YOUR structure?
I don’t really like the quiet, but I don’t like this either. Fuck, I’m on edge. I should listen to some music while I’m waiting to get blood work, but I’m trying to save my phone’s battery. You see there is one place to charge them in front of the nurse’s station. And I can’t imagine just leaving it there. Surely someone will steal it, right?
At this point I should explain what the STU or Short Term Unit looks like. In the center a glassed-in bubble that goes around 360° so nothing misses their attention. This is the nurse’s station. It is where you can find the mental health workers, occasionally doctors, and … nurses. Shocking I know. On one side is said phone charger, all the MSWs on the other the nurses and the meds window. When you need someone you pretty much have to stand in the window like a total creeper until someone sees you. From the station are four hallways. Each with 7 or so rooms. At the end of the hallways are little nooks for reading or doing puzzles or, the STU favorite, coloring. There are chairs lining the main side of the bubble and some people sit there all day.
Every morning it’s vitals and meds. When you get to the meds window YOUR nurse must be the one who gives you your meds. Who is my nurse? Fuck if I know. They change 2 times a day. So after you find your nurse, they scan the bracelet they give you when you check-in. Every piece of your life in a little QR code. They put all your meds (after also scanning their QR codes) in a little cup and serve that up with a small cup of water. You have to take all your meds in front of them. I have a hard time swallowing pills and a fear of holding up lines so you can see meds time was a perfect storm of anxiety for me.
Got blood drawn and ate a banana! Winning!
9:30 – You meet with a few people every day. One is your Social Worker. She was lovely and asked me all the same questions everyone else had. But she had paperwork with the answers already written so, seems it was cheating. However, she is very kind and is going to get me out of this terrible room. So I like her.
10:30 – Met with my Doctor. I initially felt “He must not think I’m sick enough to be here. Am I sick enough to be here?” Our meeting took place in the art room. It was hard to focus on anything, what with that cacophony of color. Some things looking like school projects, others hauntingly beautiful. He talked to me about some magnetic thing for my brain, I was so nervous that he was going to call me a fraud I couldn’t remember a thing. However, this benevolent man moved me up to “2” which means I CAN GO OUTSIDE! It is very pretty here. I think it would be wonderful to see a flower or hear a bird. Anything that isn’t these walls. You’d think I’d been there for a month. But days move painfully slowly here. It’s truly like you are in a world that moves in half time.
12:07 – I just did a yoga class in a room full of chairs with one other person. Wearing masks. We didn’t acknowledge one another at all. Not once. We had to move chairs and came close to kicking each other, but it wasn’t until the end of the class and the teacher asked us to honor each other or something along those lines that we did. By flashing the peace sign.
It’s hard to understand if I should talk to these people. Do they need silence? Solace? Conversation? A feeling that they aren’t alone?
I still am not eating. Tried the tuna fish. Nope.
EVERYTHING HERE IS SO GODDAM LOUD. There is nothing soothing here. I think I’ve made a mistake.
3:00 – They put me in a normal room!!!! I cannot tell you the difference in my attitude. I feel like a human instead of a prisoner. And I’m grateful. I also got to go on a walk. Walks are led by a member of the staff. There were maybe 10 of us. This walk, however, was being led by a patient who both in stature and gait looked like an old trail horse who has been riding the same trail it’s whole life. I don’t want to be here long enough to be that horse.
Also, I found the ice cream.
5:06 – I actually spoke to people. We are all very different. Found one guy who seemed on my wavelength. But he’s leaving tomorrow because of course he is. You come to care very quickly. Their stories echo my sentiment that I’m not sick enough to be here. But I am. Of course, I am.
5:30 – I ate an entire turkey dinner today. Guess my appetite’s back.
The highlight of this day was meeting the Chaplain. I am not a religious person at all so when she sat down across from me without being asked, I felt this was not going to be a great conversation. This couldn’t be further from what happened. What brought her to me? Jesus? Fate? The Universe? She sat down and before I knew it we were deep in conversation about my life. The look of pain in her eyes when I discussed my sadness was hard to look at. I told her what I did for a living. And how hard it had been to be happy, up, the Kennedy everyone expects to hear during this time of depression. She asked me how I manage between the radio Kennedy and the person Kennedy. I had no answer. I’ve answered that question a million times, but here, sitting before this stranger, I couldn’t. At this point, she just looked at me in silence. I asked what she was looking at. She said, “you are so concerned for others and not yourself and that is important for you to learn”. She got up and went on her way. I never saw her again. But I’m forever changed from that conversation. Maybe I’m going to be ok here.