Thursday, June 12, 2014

Behind Three Doors

The second time I was admitted to the psych ward I decided to count: one, two, three secure sets of double doors before you reach the lockdown ward. After you're behind the first set of doors you need a staff member with a special code to let you out. I went in three times, under three different circumstances. The first time I have little recollection of, but the bits I do remember are supercharged. Being handcuffed to a gurney in an ambulance, running down my front stairs wearing only and old pink robe. These are visions all mixed together in some slick roundabout in my memory, actually a prolonged psychotic episode that took place over a week, but in my mind it was one night. I don't know how I got to the psych ward that time, I don't know how many doors.

Maybe that's why I counted the doors the second time I went to the psych ward, just to gain some sense of place. That time going in was voluntarily. I wanted to go. After waking up one rainy Saturday in a a fit of crying and shaking panic, I wanted to go back because I recognized some of the same anxiety and strange, twisted thoughts from the first time, and so my husband called a cab and I went to the ER. Then back behind the safety of one, two, three doors.

Even though I wanted to go, still the ER is a blur. First the long triage process, Joe doing most of the talking. "My wife..." Anxiety, depression, psychotic episode last February. A lot of questions. Thoughts of suicide? Several doctors, first an MD to check for signs of heart and other conditions. Then I'm waiting for the psychiatrist. The agreement: you'll go upstairs. Have a bed, a shower, stay with us for a few days and see.

The last door is through the outer room of the Occupational Therapy room where there are several offices flanking a scattering of scratched and scribbled tables and a kitchenette. Through a short hallway you're in the main corridor of the ward.

The ward is smaller than you might think. It's no more than ten or twelve rooms, two people to a room. There is a central area with tables and chairs that they refer to as "the milieu," which is such an elegant term for such a sad gathering of troubled misfits. Everything is muted. The lighting is both dim and bright at the same time, somehow. The windows overlook roof and air supply intake equipment. You don't know where you are, it could be anywhere. There is no sense of place.

The winter Olympics were on TV every day.

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