Inpatient, Part 1

October 13, 2009
By , Chesterfield, MO
"I don't want to go inpatient!" I yelled. I crossed my arms and sat down heavily on the bench outside the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) building. I was decided. I was not going.
"Come on," said Don, one of the IOP counselors. "I can't let you go home after what you just did. I have no choice but to hospitalize you."
I just glared at him. At the time, I thought what I had done wasn't that bad, and that the counselors had no grounds for putting me in the hospital. But escaping from the IOP program and attempting to throw myself in front of a car to hurt myself was, in retrospect, a very serious issue.

It had started out as any other IOP did. Three times a week in the evenings after school, we met and formed a circle to "check in" and talk about things going on that were bothering us with a counselor serving as a mediator.
I was a veteran of IOP. I had gotten close but never quite finished the program. I was also a "chronic" case, having struggled with an eating disorder and depression for almost two years and self-injury for almost a year at that time. I had already stayed on the hospital's Adolescent Psychiatric Unit twice and was not keen on going back. But lately, I'd been having more problems than usual. I was miserable at school, my grades were in the toilet, and I had no friends. With exams coming up, I was ready to crack under the pressure.
As the other patients talked, I grew more and more fidgety. I had homework and studying to do, with lots of make-up work that still had to be done from my previous hospitalizations. I swung my foot, pulled at my hair, and chewed my lip to pass the time, but I couldn't get a handle on the anxiety that felt like it was slowly squeezing the air from my chest.
The girl next to me was new. She wasn't very talkative usually, but when Don called on her, she almost immediately launched into her feelings about being raped. Group could quickly turn tense, and everyone seemed to be holding their breath as she spoke.
Having had my fair share of sexual abuse in my history, her story sent my stress level skyrocketing to crisis point.
I interrupted the girl to ask Don if I could go to the bathroom. He quickly said yes, wanting to get back to this girl, who was "making progress." She would get a positive note on her chart tonight for spilling the beans so early.
I got up, left the group room, and walked past the bathroom to the offices. No one was around. I crossed to the back door, turned the handle, and pushed. It opened silently. No alarms, no trip wires. I stepped outside and shut the door carefully behind me.
Where to next? I wondered. Well, there was a highway just up the road. I decided I would get purposely hit by a car. Not to die. I wasn't suicidal. I just needed to let the pressure out, and I had no knife handy, so I had to find some alternative method.
I began to run. Past the main hospital building, where inpatients ate and slept and screeched and howled and cried and bitched. I passed the parking lot, where staff members walked right past me, unaware I was on the run. I passed the lake that nobody ever visited, gravel crunching under my feet as I jogged. I expected to hear a car or sirens or some other sign of pursuit, but there was nothing, just my breathing and desperate thoughts. I passed the sign with the name of the psychiatric hospital written in capital letters. And I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was a brisk May evening, so I huddled into my sweatshirt and walked on the shoulder of the highway, scoping out potential cars. I was on a strange kind of high the whole time. I am a born perfectionist and people-pleaser who never breaks the rules. To me, this was delightfully unorthodox.
I've heard about escaped mental patients, but what do you do if you are the escaped mental patient? I thought to myself with a hysterical giggle.
Before long, I became sharply focused on the task at hand. I knew that the car would have to be going decently slowly for me to survive the impact, but fast enough that the driver couldn't slam on the breaks and thwart my plan at the last second.
A few times, I turned as if to run into the path of a car, but vetoed it quickly. That one was going too fast, they saw me and slowed down, there were a number of reasons. I decided to intercept a car coming out of the gas station just ahead.

By the time I reached the gas station, night was falling and my chances of succeeding increased. I stood with my toes on the edge of where the shoulder ended and the gas station driveway began, every nerve buzzing with electricity.
A bright red truck prepared to pull out. Perfect. Nice and big. I can get this one if I time it right.
The driver saw me and motioned for me to cross. I shook my head and waited. He began to pull out. I shifted my weight, my brain screaming, "GO!"
Startled, I rocked back on my heels and searched for where I heard my name. It was Don, in his red Jeep, waving frantically to me. I had been so focused I had missed him pulling into the gas station. He had seen what I was about to do and desperately called out.
The truck pulled out onto the highway. The irritation I felt at being interrupted was replaced by fear and shame.
What will they do to me? I thought. I'm bad, bad, bad, I chanted in my head.
I walked over to Don, who motioned for me to get into the car. I got in, nervous and exhausted as the adrenaline faded from my system. Don smiled reassuringly at me and we went back to the hospital in silence.

Now, events have come full circle. Group is over and my fellow patients are eating dinner outside, since it's nice out. They don't know what's going on, since staff members like to keep everyone out of each other's business as much as possible.
My mother has shown up. She looks tired. I feel incredibly guilty and wish that I weren't such a terrible person and had done better.
For the thousandth time, I wish I was perfect.
Don and Mom briefly discuss the issue, but it's already a foregone conclusion that I've just earned myself a bed on the Adolescent Unit. Again.
Don tells me it's time to go. I don't want to go, but my overwhelming urge to people-please overrides my annoyance and I surrender.

I am escorted back to the insulated hospital world, my world compressed to the twenty-footlong hallway that comprises the unit. I will not go outside again for one week.

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rawr5 said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm
wow this is an incredible storie,
i hope your doing ok,good luck
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