When I finally made the decision to open my eyes, I was rewarded by a blinding light. I rolled over and grabbed for my soft down comforter. Instead, my hand found a rough knit blanket.
Dread washed up my throat and into my mouth. I remembered where I was.
I heard a voice outside my door yelling names followed by clanging of glass and metal. Breakfast, I think.
I lay there. On the plastic mattress in my little room. Beige cement walls, locked windows, sheesh no wonder people go crazy here.
The night before had been surreal. The nurse explained how things worked here. When my eyes scanned the room I noticed a lack of furniture. Just big plastic chairs, bulky and heavy so they couldn’t be thrown. I noticed an older man shuffling around the halls muttering to himself. I smiled as the nurse explained how breakfast and lunch worked.
I wish I would have listened to that part.
There was a few light taps on my door, and a man with dark skin and a heavy african accent told me they were ready for me. Who?
I was led through dimly lit hallways and two locked doors. I was met by a grim nurse, who wordlessly sat me in a chair and started prepping my arm for some kind of injection. When she finally glanced up at my nervous face she quickly explained “I’m taking your blood.”
I watched her draw two small vials of my blood, it had been a while since I’d seen that stuff on the outside of my body.
She finished quickly and the african man, he had a nice smile, directed me back through the locked hallway. I was handed a breakfast tray and told to sit. The cup of coffee made me breathe a sigh of relief. Thank God. I lifted the small paper cup to my mouth and a mans voice barked in my ear, “DON’T DRINK THAT. It will mess up your reading.”
I stared at him confused. He pointed to a chair by the front desk where another patient was getting their temperature taken. “You’re next.” He impatiently remarked as he walked away. I stared at my food in fear until my name was called.
The bracelet on my wrist was scanned, my temperature taken, heart rate, blood pressure, everything was normal. I’m the healthiest crazy person you have ever met I thought as I walked back to my chair.
I finished breakfast and returned the tray to a large cart. A man waiting my the cart snatched the cover from the plate and shouted to another man holding a clip board “90%”
I hadn’t drank my milk.
I walked quickly back to my room and fell asleep on the noisy plastic bed. I woke up to more light taps on the door. It was the african man again. “They’re waiting for you.”
I didn’t bother asking who this time.
Again, through the dimly lit hallway, through the locked doors, into a blindingly bright conference room.
They were a group of seven mental health professionals, all staring at me. They all introduced themselves, but I was too busy letting my eyes adjust to the light to hear them. They asked how I was feeling. “I uh…” I licked my lips and realized how thirsty I was, which reminded me I hadn’t brushed my hair or my teeth.
A pretty woman, with shiny white teeth, creamy pale skin, and beautiful lips asked again, “How are you feeling?”
I muttered some things about feeling a little better.
They weren’t convinced.
They asked about my family, my job, my friends, hobbies, everything pointed to she should really not be in here right now.
They asked questions to weed out bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis. I was careful to not incriminate myself with the answers.
I slept well, exercised, had friends, a solid job, goals, I smiled, laughed….I was suddenly afraid they were going to diagnose me as delusional.
Maybe I only think my life is this good?
Then they asked if I still wanted to kill myself.
Without thinking, a yes slipped through my lips.
“I mean, definitely not as much as last night, I’m definitely getting better!” Dear god don’t keep me here forever.
I was waved away by one of the men, he had an indian accent and sandy colored skin. He had only looked up at me once.
I was led back through locked doors, shuffling my flip flopped feet on the beige floor.
I sat at one of the heavy tables and looked over the common room that had served as the cafeteria earlier.
There were several patients in orange jumpsuits, the backs read BOONE COUNTY INMATE in white blocky letters. They were sitting around a table talking loudly.
There was a man with a long stringy white beard being hauled off to another room. I say hauled, because he obviously wasn’t voluntarily going wherever they were taking him.
A thin girl with long brown hair and shifty eyes wished him luck with his electroshock therapy.
Dear god, they still do that?
There was a larger woman, who was clearly manic, wandering around. Her eyes found me and she yelled, “OH MY GOD YOU HAVE THE PRETTIEST HAIR!!”
It didn’t seem fair to group us all together. I’m depressed and hate the world, while she’s manic and convinced she’s god on earth.
I smiled in hopes she would shut up.
I elected to stare down at the table to avoid any more attention.
I was confused. Alone. Depressed. Hopeless. Angry.
How on earth did I get to this place? I don’t belong here. I’m a normal person. I’m not crazy. I’m normal. Everyone else here is crazy.
This is a mistake.
I snuck back into my room, shut the door quietly, and crawled into bed.
I slept off and on for hours, interrupted every 30 minutes by the nice african man.
I discovered later it’s because I was on suicide watch.
Darkness fell into my room. The bright light was gone, replaced by flashing lights from the ambulance on the street below.
I curled into a ball, wide awake. I gripped the thin blanket in my hands, as if it was keeping me from floating away. I squeezed my eyes shut and heard a voice in my head whisper, “You aren’t here by mistake.”
And I cried. Cried and sobbed. Sobbed until my throat was raw.
I’m not here by mistake. I’m here because I’m crazy.