I’m back in front of the keyboard and ready to write. I’ve been down and wanting to write and not wanting to write at the same time, wanting to share, but having the moment flutter away and changing the channel on the TV to something mindless and telling myself there’s no main reason keeping me from writing. Except myself. So, Monday I said I was going to write, but stayed in my new art space upstairs doing a canvas for an Etsy client (more about Etsy later) and getting a few things organized up there. Then Monday was over. Tuesday came and I had to go to the grocery store. I didn’t hear back from my Etsy client on a photo I had sent her Monday night, so I spent the afternoon with my anxiety wondering what she could possibly thinking about the canvas and worried she didn’t like it.
Anxiety won over writing.
I wasn’t going to let anxiety win today. So here I am.
Two days before I was released from Ye Olde Mental Hospital, we had what they called a Family Meeting. The Family Meeting is held with the therapist and preferably the family member(s) you’re going home with on your release day. My husband came for the meeting that morning and we met with my therapist. We discussed the plan for when I came home and what sent me to the hospital in the first place. Were there any guns in the house? Were they in a locked place? Did I have access to any weapons? Scott signed my home plan, I signed it, he left to go to work. I went back to my sofa and waited for snack time like a kindergartener.
That day during our morning Group Therapy, the head nurse came to tell Whilhelm his sister was there to pick him up for his release. He got up like a rocket and was out the door – no goodbyes, no see you later, no good luck – just the wind. But at least I didn’t have to hear him tell me about something that happened in “our era” again. It was odd when people left. Some people were nice and said goodbye, some just went through the door like they won the lottery. What would I do the next day? Did I care enough to say goodbye? Good luck? Don’t be crazy?
I knew I was leaving the next day and so did everyone else. And just as Wilhelm went out, in came Courtney. This Year’s Girl. I’m typing exactly what I wrote in my journal about her. Courtney arrived on our unit in mid afternoon on my 5th day. She was nice enough. Pretty young, bleached hair with dark roots ant light pink tips. I semicolon tattoo for the Semicolon Project (more on that later). I told her I liked it. She and I were the only ones left in the gameroom when everyone left for Courtyard Break, which everyone called Smoke Break. I told her she could change the TV to whatever she wanted and she said “that’s ok. I’ll just come sit by you.”
It’s weird when you’ve been in a psych hospital for 5 days. You start to see how normal you are. Normal by your own standards. Normal enough. If I had my makeup on and had been using my regular hair products, everyone here would assume I was a therapist. The thing is that the revolving door patients, the repeat customers, have all heard the talk before. They knew it all. They’re the ones who try to tell you about the meds they’ve been on that have worked, the number of pills they took (Sabrina took 75 Restarils with bourbon. She counted them because of the OCD). I would not be the know it all to young Courtney. I was not her mother, her nurse, her therapist, her friend. I was a patient.
I told Courtney to sit down. She said she moved to Houston from Louisiana. I asked where – she said Shreveport – my hometown. She said she had lived there her whole live in a subdivision that wasn’t even built before I moved from Shreveport in 1997. I told her that her voice reminded me of my sister’s. I always struck me as strange that my sister had this almost-twangy accent despite that we’d grown up in the same house, gone to the same schools – it made no sense. 15 minutes later, Courtney is telling my roommate that I was also from Shreveport. “Yeah, she sounds just like my sister.” Courtney asks “where is she from?” Could she have forgotten our conversation in 20 minutes? Then I reminded myself I was in a psych hospital. The next morning at breakfast, This Year’s Girl is telling everyone she was going to attend Captain Shreve High School, but there was another “big school for smart people.” She couldn’t remember the name. I said “Byrd?” She said yes. It was the high school I graduated from in 1993. Someone in the Courtyard was wearing a Nirvana tshirt. She said she loved Nirvana – “that one song, I can’t remember the name.” She wasn’t born until years after Kurt Cobain took his life.
It was funny that This Year’s Girl came in as I was leaving. From my hometown. Blond hair and sounded like my sister. Had the same hometown, but none of the experiences that I had growing up. No birthday parties at Hamel’s amusement park (long partially torn down and replaced with a church – just think – a church where I’d blown out candles on all those birthday cakes and ridden the logride). No Water Town, it was now called something else. No late nights eating homemade dumplings or crackers with green goddess dressing at Murrell’s Diner, also torn down. She was from the new version of my hometown. Now her hometown. The new version, with a Super Target on Youree Drive and countless restaurants and stores like Barnes and Noble and Hobby Lobby where the movie theater I had seen Annie in when I was 6 in my version of my hometown. My version of growing up in a neighborhood, not a subdivision. Before cell phones. Before teenage girls went to salons for highlights and not used Sun-In or tried coloring my friend Kimberly’s sister’s hair with black cherry Kool-Aid. It was a different world. It was a world where if I were a teenager, I would have been diagnosed with depression at 16 and put on drugs and had therapy. Maybe I would have highlights. Maybe I would be popular. Maybe I would would have finished college and not been afraid of leaving my dorm room because of the crippling anxiety. Maybe.
Walking back to my room, I dismissed all the maybes and finished my friend Amy’s book. The dark humor wasn’t lost on me that I was reading about a family coping after losing a husband to suicide. As I had to read from my Treatment Planning and Goals Group worksheet, I was there for a breakdown and attempted suicide. It was a constant reminder. As was the daily meeting with my doctor. That afternoon asked to read a paragraph from Amy’s book in Group that had given me a revelation and Mean Doc Pomus rolled his eyes and muttered while I spoke and after I finished reading. It was something he needed to hear, but didn’t want to hear. Many people don’t want to hear things they need to hear, but I was open to hearing what others had to say or what the therapist had to say. Unless it was my roommate. Or anything Tracy said because she was Big Crazy.
But I was leaving the next day, so the crazies didn’t bother me as much. My roommate and Tracy were already talking about becoming roomies after I left. When I heard that I excused myself to the restroom to have a “smack my head” moment in private. I put all my things back into the paper bag which my things had been brought to me on my first day. Everything except my journal because I had to have a record of what was going on so I wouldn’t forget.
As if I could ever forget.