Friendship has always been important to me. It has even saved my life. Emma is, and has been, my best friend. She has always been there for me, despite the bumps in the road. I was at my lowest the summer of this year. I attempted suicide June 29th. I was in a psychiatric hospital for eight days. The night before, I called Emma, planning to say goodbye and leave, while everyone else was asleep. I had turned to the wrong people to try to feel whole and worthy and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. It was 2am when I called her on Facebook. She answered, sounding tired and surprised. We hadn’t been talking much and I had pretty much ignored her for the past few weeks.
I was crying when I called her and I couldn’t speak. She could tell something was wrong and she wouldn’t let me hang up the phone. I was scared and overwhelmed and was trying to tell her that even though we hadn’t talked much, I still loved her. She listened to my cries and kept telling me that she loved me and was there for me. I was terrified of what might happen if she hung up, even though I wanted to leave.
She didn’t know that I had planned my death that night and was planning to do it. But I couldn’t without telling her goodbye. I had to hear her voice one more time. But her voice reminded me of the pain I felt when she told me about her attempt in middle school. I couldn’t do that to her. I loved her too much and to say goodbye, and to actually leave, would have been too much for her to deal with. She had already lost so many people and she had said she couldn’t bear to lose me through.
When she seemed to think I was feeling better, we hung up and both tried to sleep. I didn’t sleep much that night; I had a lot of thoughts running through my mind. I fell asleep around the time most people would wake up. When I finally did wake up, from a nightmare-ridden sleep, as usual, I started doing what I had done every day. I talked to someone that I barely knew that made me feel like I might matter someday. But it was all pretend and it only deepened the pain and fear I felt.
My mom and I got into one of our usual arguments and I felt like I couldn’t handle another day feeling like no one cared or even noticed me. As we screamed at each other, and I cried, I grabbed a knife and tried to die. Blood ran down my stinging arm and I thought I may get what I wanted. My mom took the knife from me and washed my arm. The cuts weren’t very deep, but she still took me to the hospital.
From there, I was put in a small room with just a bed, a TV encased in plastic, and a door that locked from the outside. They ran tests on me: drawing blood and doing a urine test. The doctors and nurses were very condescending and I felt like no one cared about me more than before. But, I couldn’t do anything about how I felt. So, I just sat there, feeling stunned and in a strange type of awe of what I had done. My mother left after a few hours of sitting with me. One of the nurses tried to talk to me then. She was the only one to be understanding and kind.
While I was there, and my mother was gone, I had a panic attack, hyperventilating and shaking. That nurse came into my room and talked to me until it passed. She then left, her shift having come to an end. I was so scared of what was going to happen next and no one would give me a straight answer. My head ached and my arm burned, a constant reminder of what I had done. And I felt more alone than I had ever felt more.
I was in that small room for a total of eight hours before a police officer came to my room. My heart raced and I couldn’t think straight. This had to be a dream. My mother hadn’t come back yet. “You’re being transported.” He said in a gruff, distant voice. I had asked him where my voice shaking. He told me I was being taken to MUSC, nearly four hours away. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I wanted to tell him that I was fine…that I hadn’t lost my mind. But the cuts on my arms were a firm proof that I needed help.
He walked close behind me and this was the deciding moment. I could either try to run or get in the police car without so much as a spoken refusal. I silently got in the car and, once the door was closed, I felt the hot burn of tears sliding down my face. This was real and I couldn’t escape.
He drove very fast and, to my greater irritation, played Donald Trump promotion on the radio. I remember the scenery passing by in slow motion, blurred from my tears. My heart was racing painfully in my chest and it had come to feel as though I were some sort of criminal. And maybe I was; but instead of trying to kill someone else, I had tried to kill myself.
We arrived at eleven pm. I was too afraid to be exhausted. I remember wanting to run, wanting to get away from the reality that was being played out around me, but I couldn’t. The car door was locked and when the police officer opened the door, he held my arms behind me until we were inside and I heard the intimidating click of the door. He walked me to an elevator and started speaking to another officer that was in there. I was so scared.
He led me off the elevator and to this wide hallway with rooms on both sides. In the middle was a desk with nurses and on the far side was a living-room-like area. Two nurses walked over to me and I froze. I couldn’t speak or meet their eyes. They took me into a room with a lot of medical equipment. Tears sprang from my eyes yet again.
For the second time that day, I was forced to undress in front of two total strangers. They gave me a paper shirt and paper pants to put on and then made me take down my long, dark purple hair. There was no explanation of what was happening or what would happen. I was shaking and trying to gather myself. They took my bobby pins and my necklace. I was confused and afraid as they brought me back into the wide hallway.
They told me to sit down near the desk and when I did, my mom walked in. A nurse sat down with us and asked a bunch of probing questions that I didn’t want to answer. My mother answered them all and then told them who was allowed to call and visit. She was then forced to leave.
Once my mom was gone, I was shown to my room. They dragged my mattress into the doorway and warned me to not move from the doorway. I lay down and was in tears again. I buried my face in the flat, hard pillow and tried to muffle my cries. “Do you need to talk to someone?” a nurse asked, kneeling beside me. I was crying too hard to speak. She helped me to my feet and she got me a cup of juice. “What happened?” she asked. I wasn’t sure what to say. I hadn’t even really thought about what had happened as a whole, but I started talking, figuring out for myself what had happened as I did. After I calmed down a little, she said “you may look back on this and see that it was your turning point. Some people come back and tell us that we saved their lives. Don’t look at this as the worst thing that could happen, but…as your chance to start recovery the way you need to, with the support you need.”
Her words weren’t very comforting at the time and I couldn’t see past what was happening right in front of me. I laid back down and tried to sleep, but I found myself crying again, afraid of what the light of day would bring. I think that at some point I fell asleep because I woke up about twenty minutes later, very confused about where I was. I felt like it had all been a dream. I looked around and the day hit me again.
That was how the night was spent; I cried until I fell asleep and then slept for about twenty minutes before waking up confused and more upset than I fell asleep. The day started at 7:30. I was ordered out of bed and, when I finally did gather the courage to get up, I was immediately overwhelmed. There were several other people and a lot more nurses. They made me sit down as they took my blood pressure and temperature. “Your blood pressure is high. You’re probably scared.” They noted out loud before making me sit down at a table to one side of the large central desk.
Then, a talkative woman sat across from me. She gave me a piece of paper and told me to list all the reasons I were there before I was allowed to eat breakfast. There were people around my age sitting at the other tables, writing things on pieces of paper. I stared at the paper in front of me. It said I had to talk to someone about why I was there and I also had to write those reasons down. I was shaking as I wrote down a sentence that I hoped they wouldn’t read. I pushed it aside and pulled my legs against my chest.
I felt a tear run down my face and I quickly brushed it away, embarrassed and ashamed. No one else seemed upset. I was frustrated and I felt like the only one who had tried to do what I had done. The paper was taken and a tray of food was put in front of me. I listlessly picked at the bland food before they took away the tray and told me to go sit with the other people.
I sat at the same table for a few minutes until they told me to move again. I did what they said and listened as a nurse talked to everyone. I was given a folder and asked to introduce myself. I couldn’t. Tears ran down my face and I walked away from everyone else. I was so scared and frustrated because I was surrounded by a blanket of noise and by people that I didn’t know. No one bothered to speak to me until the same talkative, irritating nurse came up to me and told me it was time to take a shower and get ready for the day.
I got up from where I was sitting and went to my room. She followed. She gave me my clothes, a bottle of hospital shampoo and soap, and a plastic comb. She then gave me a towel and washcloth. “Are you going to go?” I asked weakly. “No, I have to watch you.” She told me. I was irritated. “I’m not taking a shower with you watching me,” I said. She told me I had to or I’d be in trouble and I’d be here longer. I refused again, but she wouldn’t budge.
I laid my clothes and stuff on the short counter. I hid behind the dirty shower curtain and undressed. “You have to leave the curtain open some.” She had told me. Her voice was carefree, as though she were telling me she was going to bring cookies to my friend’s birthday party. I didn’t know if she were being casual to make me more comfortable or if she were used to watching teenagers shower, but I was still uncomfortable and angry. I opened the curtain a little, grumbling about how much I hated her and this place.
I turned the knob on the wall and had lukewarm water spilled over me. I played with it for several moments, hoping to take a hot shower, but as soon as the water was hot, it burned the split skin on my wrists. I turned it back to lukewarm and wet my wavy hair down. I opened the small bottle of shampoo with a sigh. This wasn’t going to clean my hair, which was down to my waist and required a particular type of shampoo to keep the brilliant color from fading. I poured the whole bottle into my hair and washed my roots. I rinsed my hair and just stood there, the reality of what has happened settling in more.
“Hurry up.” The woman told me. I was shaking. I didn’t want to leave the water and go back into the frigid hospital air, where there were too much noise and too many people. I stood there for a few more minutes before she once again told me to hurry up. “I’m coming.” I snapped, turning off the water and wrapping myself in one of the towels. I was immediately hit by the cold air and, with a whimper, I pulled on my tight jeans and flowy sweater. I looked in the shatterproof mirror. I looked awful.
My eyes were red and puffy, lacking their usual bright blue-gray shine, my thin face was flushed and swollen, and my wavy curls hung in a tangled mop down my back. I looked at the plastic comb before settling in to attempt brushing my hair. I tried to comb a small piece of my hair, but the comb got stuck and when I pulled it out, several of the teeth broke. “Really?!” I snapped, throwing the comb on the counter. I pulled my hair into a bun with the only hair tie they hadn’t taken. I brushed my teeth with the tasteless toothpaste and slipped on my sandals.
I followed the woman back to the crowd to find two older women and a younger woman talking to a group of people. I asked who they were and, one by one, as though they were talking to a two-year-old, they introduced themselves. One was a doctor, one was a social worker, and one was someone learning to be a doctor. “We’ll need to talk to you by yourself after the group meeting.” The doctor said, playing with her short brown hair as she spoke. I sat down and listened to them talking.
Once they were done talking about the rules, they told me to follow them. I was shaking from the fear of having to tell three people I didn’t know why I was there. I didn’t want to talk to them, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I didn’t want to be there. They took me to a room where the walls were glass and made me sit across from them at a table. I glared at the doctor as she spoke.
“We want to help. Tell us what’s been going on.” She had said. Those words had infuriated me and I’m not sure why. They asked a bunch of questions. “What brings you here?” was their first soul-probing question. I told them the events of the day before, mumbling most of it, too afraid to speak up. They then asked me a bunch of questions about my mood and how I acted. I told them what they said they needed to hear and walked out with two new diagnoses. I was confused about how someone who had just met me could diagnose me with depression and PTSD after a ten-minute conversation.
I tried to go back to my room, but a nurse immediately told me I couldn’t. I groaned and sat at a table away from everyone else. Then, the noise around me grew. Two men were shining the floors with big, loud machines. I couldn’t block them out, as I was used to doing when there was too much noise. I looked around, trying to place the different noises surrounding me when a tall woman with tan skin and blonde hair walked in through a hallway I hadn’t noticed.
She motioned for me to come over and within a few minutes, all the other people like me had gathered. “Welcome to recreational therapy group.” She had said with a smile. I didn’t share her joy about being there. I stared at my feet as other people talked excitedly to her. I felt a strong flutter of fear in my chest, but I pushed it down, still looking around to find the source of the many sounds surrounding me. “Let’s go somewhere else.” She had suggested. She looked at me with a regretful smile and said “you have to stay here,” before she left with everyone else.
I shrugged and sat there, alone with my thoughts, the flutter of fear growing as the blanket of sound seemed to grow. Out of nowhere, I turned around to find a nurse sitting beside me. I jumped, letting out a shocked yelp. “It’s okay. I’m Amanda.” She had said. I ignored her, still looking around to find the sources of different sounds. “You seem upset.” She had told me. I shook my head and avoided her eyes, hiding my slit and scarred arm. I continued to look around me.
“It’s noisy,” I whispered. She nodded and asked, “are you hearing or seeing things that aren’t really here?” I shook my head with a sigh. “You’re just sensitive to noises and stuff?” she had said. I nodded, still not meeting her eyes. She then got up, letting her brown-red curls fall in her face. I was left with my racing thoughts and frustration. I couldn’t get my mind to slow down and I felt as though I were going crazy. I couldn’t get my heart to slow down or my breathing to ease, I was so overwhelmed.
Then, everyone came back and went to their rooms. I couldn’t go to my room. I sat alone at a table, waiting for lunch. Before lunch, it was time to have visitors and my mom and older cousin walked in. I immediately felt a wave of anger and hatred. I didn’t want to speak to them. They sat down across from me and my mom started talking. I ignored everything she said and after twenty minutes, I told her to leave.
“I’m not leaving. You got yourself into this mess by being a drama queen. You’re finally getting all the attention you want.” She had said to me. “Get out!” I had screamed, getting up. I went to the central desk and told Amanda I was done talking to my family. She walked over and asked if we were okay. My mom had said we were and I was forced back to my seat. I didn’t want to talk to them. I was so overwhelmed with anger and frustration; no one was listening to me.
My mom said something else and I stood up. “I’m done talking to you! Get away from me!” I yelled. “It’s time to go.” A nurse I didn’t know told her. She reached to hug me and I pulled away. “Don’t touch me.” I snapped before running to my room. I sat in the corner and cried, anger and fear overwhelming me. My heart was beating fast and I was trembling. I didn’t understand how my mom could call me a drama queen and say that I wanted to be in this place.
I heard the familiar click of the main exit and two nurses came into my room. One was Amanda and the other was the woman who had watched me shower. “What?!” I screamed at them, just wanting to be left alone. “You have to come back out here.” The woman that watched me shower said. I shook my head, still crying. “It’s almost time for lunch. I heard you didn’t eat yesterday. You should come get ready for lunch.” The other said to me.
I forced myself to my feet and I, yet again, pushed down the overwhelming feelings exploding in my chest. I wiped my eyes and went to where other people were sitting at tables, talking to each other with the semblance of a smile. I did not smile as I sat down away from them. A man put a tray of food in front of me before walking away. I surveyed the hospital food: a plain cheeseburger, a bag of potato chips, a cup of melon, juice, and a small brownie.
I felt the eyes of all the nurses on me as I stared at the food. I wasn’t hungry. I hadn’t eaten since yesterday, but still, I wasn’t hungry. I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the fork and put food in my mouth. Was I even deserving of food after what I had done? Was I really there because I had wanted attention? I sighed softly. I pushed the tray away, the smell of food was making me feel nauseous. The same man walked over to me. “You have to eat or you’ll be in trouble.” He had said.
I groaned and opened the bag of chips. The smell of salt and stale potato filled my nose. I ate a few chips before putting the bag down. Most people were already done with lunch. I felt embarrassed and guilty, so guilty, in fact, that I felt as though I weren’t human. It felt that I were an alien on Earth, put here to be watched to make sure I don’t kill or enslave the human race. I was getting sick of the feeling of eyes following me, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
I picked at the melon and brownie before giving up on food and giving the man the tray. “You ate about…15 percent.” He mumbled. I felt a prickle of anger as he said that. Since when was how much food I could eat any of his business? I sat down in the carpeted area where everyone else was. “You know that if you don’t eat, you don’t get to go home; right?” a girl who looked a little younger than me said. I rolled my eyes and ignored her. She had no place telling me what would keep me there, but I knew she was right.
The same blonde woman that was there earlier came in. She gathered everyone else and said that she was going to lead a group on communication. I felt a slight prickle of what felt like fear, but I ignored it, hoping to avoid what I had felt coming all day. As she began talking, I felt my chest tighten and my heart beat faster. My lungs burned as I tried to draw in air. The woman looked at me and said, “how can your life improve from better communication?” I stammered out a simple response, but she continued to push. “You can’t just say that. How would your life improve from better communication? I bet that if you had been better at communicating, you wouldn’t be here.” She said.
That was all it took for me to have tears run down my cheeks. I struggled to breathe more than I had before, my chest feeling as though it were going to cave in. I choked on a breath and the room began to spin. My heart sped up as I fought for air. “Are you okay?” she asked. I shook my head, crying out loud and shaking all over. “Do you get panic attacks?” she asked. I nodded. She called a nurse over. I saw a blur of brown hair and blue scrubs walk over.
“Panic attack.” She said in a hushed tone. I could barely hear her. It sounded as though everyone was far away. I felt what felt like pins pricking my lips and hands. The nurse helped me to my feet and I nearly fell as she did. I could barely stand. The world looked fuzzy and far away as I struggled to catch my breath. She walked me to my room, having to support most of my weight. She made me lay down, my mattress still in the doorway. I sat up on the mattress, struggling for breath.
“Lay down,” Amanda said, pushing my shoulders down to meet the mattress. I sobbed and sat up. “It’ll pass if you lay down and relax.” She told me as the storm of panic grew. I tried not to scream as pain stabbed my chest. I felt as though I were dying. “You’re feeding into it.” She said. I shook my head, making the world spin around me. I dug my nails into my palms as it got worse. I felt like the panic would never end.
Amanda made me lay down again and she started talking about something random-the sky. She rubbed my arm and kept describing the sky. The panic lessened and my breathing came a little easier as I closed my eyes tightly against the spinning of the world. For a moment, I forgot where I was. My heart slowed down and the tears stopped falling as heavily. “I have to go.” She said softly and I heard her footsteps leading away. I buried my face in my pillow and cried softly, no longer panicking, but still upset.
I don’t know how long I cried, but a lot of time had passed from the start of my panic attack to when I looked up at the clock, dragging myself to a table. I had hiccups and was trying not to start crying again. I closed my eyes and covered my ears, just to get a moment of nothingness. My head ached and when I opened my eyes, the woman that had led the groups was sitting across from me. I jumped, holding my hand over my heart.
“I’m looking for an explanation.” She said. “I don’t have one,” I mumbled. “How do you not have an explanation? What caused your panic attack?” she asked. “There wasn’t a cause.” I lied through my teeth. She left and I heard the click of the lock behind her. A single tear ran down my face, feeling like lava falling down a rock face. I wiped it away with a heavy sigh. I needed to get control. I needed to gather myself and get out of there. I wondered if I could escape, but decided against that, not wanting to be there longer than I had to. I wished I could go home.
I sat there away from everyone, doodling on a piece of paper with a short, eraserless pencil, until I was called to the central desk. “You have a phone call,” Amanda said. I knew who was calling and I didn’t want to talk to them. She didn’t give me a choice, so I walked over to where a phone was. It was attached to a metal frame, attached to the wall. It looked like a pay phone. I picked it up and heard a click. “Hello?” my mom said. I managed a ‘hi’ and fell silent.
She didn’t apologize. She didn’t even seem upset over what she had said to me when she was here. “You made me look stupid. You acted like I was killing you when all I did was hug you.” She said. I felt tears fall. “You keep accusing me of looking for attention when I’m not. It’s not my fault.” I had said, barely able to speak. “If that’s how you’re acting, you belong where you are. This is so stupid.” She said. “Are you kidding me?!” I had yelled. I didn’t care who heard or what they thought of me. “Are you kidding me?! I’m sick of you blaming me for everything!” I continued to yell, tears running down my face.
I felt everyone’s eyes trained on me. Their gaze burned through me like a flame. I felt the phone being taken out of my hand. “Stop yelling.” Shower woman said, as though she didn’t even care what my mother had said. “But my mom doesn’t understand. She thinks this is all my fault.” I cried. “That doesn’t matter. She’s still your mom and you have to respect her.” She told me. I screamed in frustration, anger flooding my whole body as I shoved past her to sit back down at the table I was at.
Dinner then came and was put in front of me. I forced myself to eat the tasteless chicken and french fries before taking the tray to the people in charge of watching us eat. I put the tray up and sat back down. I hated being there and I just wanted to be alone. But, I didn’t dare move, afraid that if they yelled at me, I would have yelled back and got in trouble, which would have kept me there longer. It seemed as though everything I did was just digging the hole deeper and deeper and no matter how hard I tried, I felt like I’d be there forever.
I got another piece of paper and started to write, not knowing what I was writing, but the feeling of pencil meeting paper calming me. I looked at the words on the page and saw angry rantings staring back. I put it in the folder I was given and go back to staring into space. I was lonely and scared and angry, but, somehow, I was calmer than I had been the past few days.
I watched the nurses leave and get replaced my others. I looked at the clock. Their shift seemed to change at three. I sighed and closed my eyes. I was uncomfortable with the change in people; I had just gotten to be comfortable with the ones before. I ignored the anxiety caused by being surrounded by new people, in a new scary place. And, instead, I focused on drawing on the piece of paper I had written on.
As I sat there, my mind drifted to the friend that had saved my life. I wondered what she was thinking now that I hadn’t talked to her for nearly a day. Come to find out, she had wondered why I hadn’t messaged her or called her again. But, she didn’t have a single suspicion that I was where I was.
As the evening turned to night, a nurse named Abby, who turns out to have been the one to help me the most, called me over to a small room with half a door. “Your doctor started you on medicine for your depression and PTSD.” She said, giving me half of one pill and a capsule. “They’ll also increase your appetite and help you sleep. If you get dizzy or anything tell us.” She told me. I swallowed the medicine. “Open your mouth and lift your tongue.” She requested. “Why?” I asked. She said she had to make sure I took the medicine, so I did what she asked before sitting down.
I took my hair out of the bun and I finger combed it before putting it in a loose braid down my back. I write a little while longer before we were all told to go to bed. I went to my mattress and laid down, hugging the carebear my mom had brought when she came. It was my green carebear with a green four-leaf clover on the stomach with a green heart shape nose.
My step-dad had given this to me when I was just four years old. I hugged the bear with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe she had brought this. I tried to stay awake, to avoid a night like the last, but the medicine worked fast and the next thing I knew, it was morning.
The same people that were there the day before were waking us up. By now, I was starting to get used to the routine. I was given a piece of paper with a list of ‘assignments’ on it. They were things like ‘list 15 reasons not to hurt myself’ and ’10 people that care about/love me’. I chose to list ten people that care about me, but when I tried to do that, I struggled to think of ten people that cared about me. Then, I scribbled down a list that I didn’t entirely believe.
I gave the nurse the paper and was given my breakfast. I ate slowly, even though the taste of the food upset my stomach. I was hungrier than I had been in a while. I gave them my tray and the man remarked: “you ate more than yesterday-40% of your food is gone.” I rolled my eyes and went to sit with everyone else. “Time to shower before group,” Abby called. I was still forced to be in someone’s sights, so with a defeated groan, I went up to Abby.
“Are you the one that’s still on supervision?” she asked. I nodded, feeling more than a little singled out and embarrassed. “Who do you want to supervise your shower?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I mumbled. “Do you want me to or one of the other nurses?” she asked. “You…I don’t like, or really know, any of the other nurses.” I had told her. She told me to get a towel. I went to where I had seen other people grabbing towels and got two. I then sat down and waited for her.
She brought her laptop into my room and sat facing the door out of my room. I took my hair out of the messy braid and searched for my hairbrush. My mother said she had brought it, along with my moose, shampoo, and conditioner. “I need my hair brush,” I said. “Let’s go get it.” Abby had said before showing me where my toiletries were in a locker. She opened it and I grabbed everything I needed.
In my room, I laid everything on the counter and brushed my hair. It hung in frizzy waves over my shoulders. I sighed and got into the shower. The hot, low-pressure water stung the healing cuts on my arm. I cried out in pain and pulled my arm away from the water. “What’s wrong?” Abby asked. “My arm…the hot water hurts,” I told her. “Well, duh…” she told me, her tone sarcastic, but kind. I laughed despite the situation and wet down my hair. I yawned the hot water, combined with the medicine, making me sleepy. “Is it nap time?” she teased.
“Any time is nap time,” I told her as I scrubbed and conditioned my hair. I washed my body, filling the antiscepticy smelling room with the smell of strawberry, vanilla, and coconut. I turned off the water and wrapped myself with a towel before stepping out into the cold air. I dried my hair and brushed it for the first time in two days. I squirted a handful of mousse into my hand before scrunching my wet, purple-red waves into mostly dry curls. I brushed my teeth and smiled into the mirror. I looked better than I did yesterday. My eyes were brighter and more colorful, my skin looked more awake and alive, my lips were a light pink instead of the colorless shade the day before, my hair looked more brilliant and colorful and the curls held their shape around my face. I put my glasses on and sighed. “Are you ready?” Abby asked. I nodded.
“I really love your hair color. Would you like me to braid your hair?” she said. “I’m good right now, my hair was up all day yesterday. I like how it looks down.” I say. She smiles and asks “are your curls natural?” I nod as we walk back to where other people had gathered. The doctors that were there yesterday are waiting. “How gracious of you to join us.” The psychiatrist told me with a laugh. I laughed sarcastically and rolled my eyes. I sat down. I saw out of the corner of my eye Abby laughing and smiling at me. I sat down and joined the group, not aware of how much Abby would help me later that day.
The morning was mostly uneventful. I got a call from my mom and, for the first time since I had been there, we didn’t argue. We talked as though she was at work and I was at home, not as though I were in a psychiatric hospital and she was on the way to visit me. I sat through a group on anger management lead my an older woman with graying brown hair and hazel eyes. Then, it was time for visitors to arrive. My mother and older cousin came. I laughed when I saw my older cousin waddle in.
They sat down with me and we colored on the printed coloring pages they gave us. My mom wrote a quote on the bottom of her coloring page and when I read it, I felt the prickle of tears. “The catterpillar thought it was over, then she emerged a beautiful butterfly.” She had written. From that moment on, that quote became my mantra, something I repeated to myself whenever I had thoughts of hurting myself or felt like my life was falling apart.
As they sat with me, my food was brought to me. “Have you been more hungry?” my mom asked. “Kind of.” I had told her. My cousin’s nose wrinkled at the smell of food and I laughed. “That’s making my stomach upset.” She said with a goofy smile. “The joys of being pregnant.” Abby said, making us jump. “I remember those days all too well.” She added. My mom asked her how many kids she had and we learned that she had three kids and had been working in pediatric psychiatry for 19 years.
As she walked away, my cousin smiled and said “I like her.” I nodded and ate most of my lunch while we talked about random things-the color of the sky, plans for when I leave, and what my step-dad was up to. I hadn’t even thought of him, but once they left, I wanted to call him. I hovered near the central desk, too afraid to ask to call him, too afraid of what he might say to me. I sat down and continued coloring with the waxy crayons.
After sitting through yet another group on maintaining friendships, I went up to Abby and asked to talk to her. As we walked away from the group of people, I played with my nails. “I want to call my step-dad, but I’m afraid.” I managed to say. She asked me why I was afraid and I told her that I didn’t know what he would say or how he felt about me being where I was. I didn’t want to be yelled at on the phone or have him ignore me. “The only way you can figure out is to call him. Once you do, you’ll feel better either having the worst out of the way or having established he isn’t mad at you. I’ve learned that if you miss someone, you need to reach out, if you’re afraid of something, you need to do it, and if you’re not sure of what to do next, you need to follow your heart.” She told me.
With that advice echoing in my head, I chose to wait until after dinner to call my step dad, which would be around the time my whole family would be at my aunt’s house. I colored until dinner and as I sat by myself and ate, a girl about my age came in, escorted by a police officer. She smiled at me from across the hall as she was taken into a room by herself. About thirty minutes later, she came out, dressed in a paper shirt and paper pants. “Can I sit here?” she asked me. I nodded. “I’m ‘Becca.” She told me. I told her my name, slightly anxious, but happy that someone was finally talking to me.
She was given a tray of food and we finished eating around the same time. Abby called me over to her. “You’re doctors took you off of supervision.” She told me with a smile. I felt a small burst of joy and pride. “Yay!” I exclaimed, bouncing up and down on my heels. “I’m happy for you.” She said. I nodded, playing with my hair. “So, are we calling your step dad?” she asked. I hesitated. “It’ll be fine.” She said, already dialing the number. I laughed at her forwardness and picked up the phone as the line rang.
He answered the second time it rang. I stammered out a greeting, shaking all over. He wasn’t upset with me and we just talked about what I had done today, the job he was working on, and about he wanted to come see me the next day after work. I noticed Abby and ‘Becca watching me and smiling. I continued to talk to him until I heard a door open over the phone. “Your mom just got here and Katelyn (little cousin) wants to talk to you.” He said. He handed the phone to Katelyn, who sounded happy and hyper, as usual.
We talked about what I was planning to do the day I came home and how she loved me and wanted me to focus on getting better. I smiled when I heard her child-like encouragements and when I heard my mom giggling in the background. I asked to talk to my mom and, once given the phone, she told me how proud she was of me. I was happy and everything seemed to be okay. Abby called my name and when I looked up, she tapped her watch. The calls were limited to ten minutes and I had been on the phone nearly that long, so I told my mom it was almost time to go.
There was a game of ‘pass the phone’ that came after that. My aunt took the phone and told me she couldn’t wait to come see me tomorrow, Tiara (older cousin) took the phone and told me that, because of being in the car to see me, she had gotten sick seven times, Katelyn told me her and my step-dad were planning to come up when they got the chance, my mom told me she couldn’t come the next day due to work, and my brother told me he loved me. I hung up and went back to where ‘Becca had been sitting.
“Good phone call?” she asked. “Yeah, my family started a game of ‘pass the phone’ and, honestly, I don’t know who I was talking to after maybe the five minute mark.” I told her with a laugh. The rest of the evening was eventful: we were given a snack, given medicine, and were forced into our rooms. For the first time since I got there, I got to move my mattress back into the bed frame and sleep. I fell asleep quickly, the medicine feeling strong to me.
I woke up some time later, shaking and crying, from a nightmare. My heart was racing and the room was spinning. I got out of bed and paced the room. Abby came into my room. “Are you alright?” she asked. I shook my head, sending another wave of dizziness through my body that was strong enough to make me fall. She helped me up and made me sit down. She asked if I had a nightmare and I nodded. “Dreams, no matter how scary and real, are just dreams. You are safe.” She told me. I tried to take a deep breath, but I hiccuped instead.
“Look at me and breathe when I say.” She said. I did and after a few minutes of being coached on my breathing, I was calmer and sleepy again. “Try to sleep. It’s almost time for our shifts to change.” She said. I nodded, laying down under the pile of blankets on my bed. “Don’t you think you have enough blankets?” she asked, a teasing tone in her voice. “No, I asked my mom to bring me more.” I said. “How many blankets do you even have?” she asked. I told her that I had eight blankets, at the moment, but had four more at home I wanted my mom to bring. She left the room, laughing and shaking her head. I rolled my eyes and quickly fell back asleep.
The next morning, I didn’t even remember the nightmare, but when Shower Woman came into my room to wake me up, I felt faint and dizzy. “Get out of bed slowly. It’s a side effect.” She said. I did, nearly falling as I went into the wide hallway. She made me sit in a chair as she took my blood pressure. I then sat at a table, across from the girl I had met the day before, and was given another piece of paper with a choice of ‘assignments’ on it. I had chosen to list ten things to do instead of hurt myself, over having to write 20 things I like about myself or list things about the world I liked.
After doing what I had chosen, I was given my breakfast. I ate slowly, talking to my newfound friend. I gave the person the nearly empty tray and he told me I ate 70% of my food. Me and ‘Becca rolled our eyes and sat down. We started playing tic-tac-toe and talking about the things we wanted to do once we got out of here. Abby and Amanda came over to us. “Would you two mind being roommates?” Abby asked. “Not at all.” We both replied with a smile. They walked away and we were both happy.
The rest of that day was uneventful, as was the fourth. The fifth day was the Fourth of July and everyone there seemed more irritated and on edge. The nurses were snappier than usual, clearly not wanting to be there, the doctors were only there for five minutes before leaving, and in the five minutes they were there, they decided to raise the dosage of my medicine to manage my nightmares and anxiety better.
‘Becca and I spent the day in our room, playing tic-tac-toe and writing the lyrics to some of our favorite songs. I then got a good idea. “We should write a song together!” I said as she beat me, yet again, at tic-tac-toe. We were keeping score of who had won the most and we were tied 182-182. “That’s a great idea. Let’s just let the next game of tic-tac-toe decide who won the tic-tac-toe war and get started on that.” She said in a New York accent. She had told me the day before she lived in New York city for 10 years before moving here four years ago. “Okay.” I said, drawing the grid. I beat her that round and was declared tic-tac-toe queen.
We then started to write our own song. We got several lines before we were called for lunch. It read “Bird in a cage, what would you say? If I told you the world wasn’t all gray. Would you say I was crazy? That the world lacked color? Would you pick at your feathers? Or see the bright summer weather?” ‘Becca had a great voice and when we sang together, our voices melted together in harmony.
We sat together at lunch talking about random things, like who our favorite staff was, how annoying Shower Woman was, and how many pets we had at home. Then, my mother came to visit. “If all goes as planned, you get to leave tomorrow.” She said.
But all did not go as planned. That evening, I had one of the worst panic attacks I had ever had and the staff were too caught in the fact they were missing the Fourth of July festivities. I scratched my arm until it bled, trying to make the panic stop. I asked to call my mom, and once I was on the phone with her, everything came spilling out about how homesick I was and how much I just wanted to be at home. As I cried to her on the phone, a male nurse was glaring at me. “If you can’t keep it together on the phone, get off.” He told me. My mom overheard this and was angry.
That worsened my panic and I hung up the phone and ran into my room, where I continued to scratch my arms. A nurse came in and made me walk the hall with her until she thought I was calmer. I then went back to my room. When I was called to take my medicine, a nurse I hadn’t met talked to me until I was calm. I took my medicine and went to where Amanda was sitting with her computer.
I asked to talk to her, but she told me to go to my room and she’d talk to me when she could. She never did talk to me and the next morning, I told the doctors what had happened the night before. I was put back on supervision and wasn’t allowed to be alone. I was so angry. I wasn’t going to be released and I was back to step one. I felt like everything was hopeless. “I hate you and I hate this place! You try being here for one day and then you tell me that doing this wasn’t okay!” I screamed before shoving past her and sitting by myself, crying and shaking with fury.
Abby sat across from me. “You knew that if you hurt yourself, you’d be back to step one. You should have stayed where we could see you if you felt the urge to do that. Now you know what to do next time, so calm down. This is usually only a minor setback. You’ll probably be home in two or three more days.” She said. She was right, but three days felt like an eternity to me. I couldn’t think clearly enough to see that I would soon be home and that this whole situation was temporary.
The next day, ‘Becca was supposed to go home. She had a family meeting, but came back in tears. I sat beside her. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I don’t get to go home.” She told me. She then told me what had happened and I told her that I knew how she felt. I was still on supervision, and everyone was being even more careful and cautious, even though I didn’t want to hurt myself. I was so frustrated, but not as frustrated as ‘Becca. She had done everything she was supposed to do and, because the hospital hadn’t done part of it’s job, she still wasn’t allowed to go home.
The next day, we both sat together, irritated with everyone that worked there. Around noon, my doctor pulled me aside. “We have another family meeting tomorrow.” She said. I nodded. “If you are off supervision, then you might get to go home.” She said. I felt hopeful that I would get to leave. ‘Becca was told the same thing. However, neither of us got to go home that day.
The day after that, eight days after I had came in, I got to go home. I sat through a short and relatively emotionless family meeting and then packed my stuff. I looked at a song I had written the third day I was there and I decided to leave it with ‘Becca. I scribbled a note and was allowed, for the first time in over a week, to step out into the sun and be free. Without the great friendship that saved me, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience that, happy and free, enjoying the sunshine and a cup of Starbucks. I was so happy and grateful and I spent the summer focused on recovery. Now, I am where I am today. Three months free of self harm and in better control of my moods. My medicine was changed once but I am now doing so much better than I was nearly six months ago.