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Far Too Personal
I woke up at 5 am with a thin thermometer being stuck in my mouth, and a cuff strapped
to my arm, taking my blood pressure. Beep. The plump nurse with the cold smile was standing
above me. Beep. My eyelids fluttered and opened slowly. Beep. The fluorescent lights were too
bright. Beep. It was the seventh time in three days my vitals had been taken, just one of the many
reasons I hate hospitals. It was apparently necessary to show I hadn’t developed a high fever and
outrageous levels of cholesterol overnight. A final beep, and she took out the thermometer and
the cuff with a nod. I rolled over and fell asleep like a brick, no dreams and no moving.
“Girl, get up!” my roommate Jeanie ordered. She and Zooey, my other
roommate, are already awake and fully dressed. They were both incredibly kind. They welcomed
me with open arms. I think back on the night we first met, my first night in the Adolescent
Psychiatric Unit, when we sat in a circle and talked about why we were there. Jeanie was an
overdose, Zooey was a meltdown, and I was a sharp. I got out of bed and prepared for my day.
We got to the dining room, but the door was locked. There was a big white board on the door. All
of our names were on it. Next to my name, it said “sharps restriction, SA, wellbutrin xl.” As I
read the door, my friend David came up behind me.
“Hey guys,” he said with a sleepy nod.
“How are you?” I asked. He was still puking charcoal because of getting his stomach
pumped. His mistake was twenty shots of absinthe and five bottles of robitussin. It was a miracle
he was alive.
“ Like sobriety is kicking the s*** of me.” Jeanie and I laughed. Breakfast started, and I
looked across the table at my friends: Oscar (meltdown), Janet (anorexic), Martin (violent
outburst), Sean (SA), Ryan (SA), and Dwayne (assault on a family member). We ate our hospital
issued meals in our hospital issued gowns. We were told to wear them so we would be
discouraged from running away.
After breakfast, it was group time. We sat in a circle and talked about our meds and
moods. The hospital staff asked us every morning how we were feeling. We all said “happy”
without fail. When they’d ask us why, we’d say with a smirk “because I’m alive.” No one was all
too happy about that. Half the kids were on their first SA, half the kids were on their second,
third, or fourth. However I was the leading sharp, a level three.
During any free time, like after breakfast, we always played the topping game. Classic
questions like “Who cut themselves the worst,” “Who had the smartest suicide,” “Who was the
worst to their parents,” “Who was the most dangerous.” It turns out I was really great at the
game. I topped everyone in almost every aspect, except for David. He was a leader in self
hatred. He was gay, with strict catholic parents that refused to tell him they loved him. We were
constantly cracking jokes about our fucked up lives, and honestly it felt awesome for someone to
laugh at my horrible habits. It was the only time no one felt bad for me. I hated the more than
anything, that people thought I needed to be pitied. We all felt the same way.
After the post-breakfast free time, we would make art and describe how it made us feel. It
was some hippy dippy bullshit, but it gave us something else to laugh about. I always sat at a
table with David and Jeanie. We got along better than any other group there, including the
brothers that were there for getting in fights all the time.
After art, was time for in-room relaxation. They were actually pretty unpleasant and
stressful. During relaxation time, Janet barged into the room. She was trying to fight Jeanie for
eating her entire breakfast, calling it disrespectful to her disorder. I rammed Jeanie into a wall,
holding her back from punching Janet. Jeanie was notoriously tough. She had broken a girl’s
wrist along with three ribs, all in the name of defending her girlfriend. Basically, you want her on
your side in a bar fight. Suddenly, a nurse walked in and took Janet to the time-out room. It had
no windows. Janet ran into the walls and screamed, she was one for a hissy fit.
We quickly rushed to lunch, Jeanie was all huffy because of the almost-fight. When we
got to the dining room, there was a new boy there. His hospital gown was too short for his 6’7
body, and he had etch-a-sketch red cuts on his arms. We all had some somewhere, but none of us
were dumb enough to make it so obvious. I sat down next to him and introduced myself along
with Jasmine and Daniel.
“Hi, I’m Darius,” he replied. I asked the obvious question first.
“Hey there Darius, it’s good to meet you,” I told him. “So what are you doing here?”
“What do you mean?” he asked with a quizzical face.
“Well Jasmine here tried to overdose, and Daniel is a drug addict. What about you?”
“Oh I guess I tried to kill myself and have a self harm issue. What are you?” I smiled.
“I’m a sharp, just like you. A suicide cutter combo. We’ve got lots here.” We continued
on talking naturally saying everything we don’t feel comfortable saying around everyone else.
After lunch we headed to the common area. We sat in another circle, lopsided and
diverse. We talked about our issues and our personal problems with the same casual attitude as if
we were discussing our favorite flavor of ice cream. Michelle and Janet talked about being
raped, Martin talked about his mother trying to drown him, and Dwayne talked about going to
prison. The things I heard were heartbreaking, but it was just everyday life to them. Now it was
time to talk about each other. We were supposed to go around the circle and talk about our
biggest complaint about a member of the group. It was David’s turn, and he looked at me.
“My biggest complaint is about you.”
“Dude. What the hell. We’re friends, aren’t we?” He shook his head.
“Of course we are. It was nothing to do with who you are, it’s about what you see in
yourself. You are incredibly beautiful. You are kind, you are caring, and you give so much more
than anyone I know. I said I’d kill anyone for vicodin, but I’d kill vicodin for you. You deserve to
In all honesty, this ranks as one of the most influential things someone has ever said to
me. Someone cared for me so much, they’d tell me something like that. I blushed and moved to
hug David, but then the hospital staff yelled at me. There was a no touching rule.
After our second circle, my father came to visit. He had brought me a piece of cake, but I
wasn’t allowed to eat because it wasn’t hospital food. He sat me on my bed, and I readied myself
for a lecture on how everything would get better soon, instead he told me about my mom.
“When I saw your mom talking to our neighbor yesterday, my first thought was how
beautiful she is. My second thought was how kind she is, always interested in what people say.
She is the only real angel I know. I find myself falling in love with her over and over again.” I
come from a house where feelings are kept bottled up, which is something I practice religiously.
To listen to this man, my cold father, talk about being in love with my mother was one of the
most beautiful things I’d ever heard. As he left, I wondered if someone would love me that much.
We went to relaxation time after we all played Candyland and watched Men In Black. We
got to tell little stories about our real life: boyfriends, girlfriends, families, and hobbies. When
relaxation time was over, it became bed time. I laid in my bed. My mattress squeaked, it was
made of plastic. Hospitals always smelled a little like plastic. It had become familiar to me after
staying there for five days. I didn’t let myself cry, I didn’t want to feel bad for myself. I didn’t
feel bad for myself.
Maybe it seems silly to write all of this out, maybe it seems silly to tell the story I don’t
tell anybody. I hadn’t so far, and I have being doing fine. I was taught not to talk, but I figured
that I could be wrong. I don’t have all the answers, and clearly I got lost. I say that people will be
happy if they try, and I believe that. Being happy requires you to decide you’ll be happy, you
have to think you deserve to be happy, you have to want to be happy. It’s hard, one of the
hardest things you could ever do. I’m trying hard now, and I’ve tried to get myself together. I
hope it goes better this time. I hope I make it, because we all deserve to be happy. Even me.