Hello reader! I’ve had something on my mind lately, and I figured what better place to let it out than on my blog that I have neglected for quite some time?
So here’s the rundown of what I’m about to say. In February, I had probably the worst weeks of my life. After a failed suicide attempt I went to a mental hospital called Bloomington Meadows. I spent nine days in this lovely place and met many amazing people. So what has brought this up, you may be asking yourself. Well, I want to tell their, and probably my, stories with you; because they are truly amazing. I think I need to tell these stories because they enlightened me, and hopefully they’ll enlighten you.
I want to start with a woman who touched me the most. While in Bloomington we were told to only use first names to keep an air of anonymity. This woman’s name is Nancy. Nancy came into Meadows the day after I did, so on a Monday afternoon. What I remember seeing first was her slow walk. It was almost a stumble, as if the act of picking up her foot, moving it forward, then placing it on the ground was too much to bear. She was dressed in the cheap blue scrubs that everyone donned when they first entered the asylum. This was all you wore too, just a thin paper shirt, thin paper pants, and thick blue socks with rubber catches on the sole. You felt exposed, naked, as if everyone could easily see through the thing layer of paper and judge the way you looked underneath. If you ever go into Meadows, one thing you may notice is that everyone, and I honestly mean everyone, will have their arms crossed over their chest when wearing the blue scrubs, to protect themselves from the new faces.
Nancy had tears rolling down her face as she was carefully introduced. She kept her face cast downward but the sound of her sniffles were loud. I didn’t know anything about this woman yet except for her name. But I could guess that she too had recently been through a failed suicide attempt. I can accurately say this because she had large bandages wrapped around her forearms that were already bleeding through. I pitied the older woman so when our tech introduced me I smiled and waved at Nancy. However, Nancy didn’t notice for she was carefully studying the carpeting. When the introductions were over, Nancy turned to Molly, the tech, and asked to lay down for she was very tired. Molly unlocked Nancy’s bedroom door and that is where she stayed for two days.
Before I continue, I would like to talk a bit about Bloomington Meadows. This place is for the mentally ill. Many of the people there are there because of depression, anxiety, anger issues, and so on. It’s actually mostly kids and teenagers. There’s a small adult unit with only nine beds. I just barely made it into the adult unit. In order to get into the adult unit you must be 18 years or older. So I was the baby of the group. Also, people are always coming and going. The typical stay is about five to seven days. Unless you’re a residential, then your stay is three to six months. Many of the residential’s are foster children. A typical day at Meadows goes as follows:
- You are woken up at 7:30am and are given 30 minutes to get up and get ready for breakfast.
- Breakfast at 8am. The adults are typically alone so it’s nice and quiet.
- We go back to the unit to take showers, get dressed, and such.
- Around 9am is usually when we have morning/goals group. This is where we sit in the group room and write down how we feel and what our goals for the day are.
- 11am is recreational therapy. We go to the gym and will usually play a game of some sort.
- 12pm is lunch.
- Now we have group therapy with the therapist. This is usually where we “talk about our feelings” and such.
- Free time! Most people will take a nap, or play a game, or watch some television.
- Some days around 3pm we’ll have expressive therapy (arts and crafts). This was always my favorite because I love to paint and draw.
- Dinner is at 5pm.
- Now we have wrap up group. Here we discuss whether or not we made our goals, had a good day, and so on.
- Phone time. We can now call our family members and say hello. I always looked forward to talking to my mom or grandma.
- Then it’s bed time.
Oh I think I forgot to mention that they check up on you every fifteen minutes. Even at night… with flashlights.. that they shine in your face.
Now back to Nancy.
After two days of refusing to get out of bed, the staff threatened to not bring her a room tray for her meal that she finally got up and came to the cafeteria with everyone else. I and the fellow adults were very cautious when we were around her. We all knew that she was very fragile without having to say anything. I tried to engage her in a conversation but she simply shook her head and wept slightly harder. When we got back to the unit, Nancy went to her bed again. My room was across from hers and as I went to use the rest room, I heard her crying. I felt sorry for her, but also curious as to why she tried to kill herself. But I knew she’d be hard to talk to, for she was always crying.
The next day was worse for her. The staff had decided that they would now force her to interact with her fellow adults. When she got out of bed, they shut her door and refused to let her lay down during the day. This made her frustrated which then led to her crying. I noticed her face for the first time. She had deep wrinkles all over her face, her eyes were large and slightly gray and filled with sorrow. Her mouth never turned up into a smile, it was always stoic. She had gray hair but was the kind of woman who looked good with gray, like it was meant to be. She was constantly running her fingers through the short hairs. Her glasses were normal, they fit her face and her age (which I guessed to be late 40′s, early 50′s).
As Nancy walked out, I bid her a good morning. And for the first time, I saw her lips turn into a straight line instead of the frown that had made its nest on her face. I chose to accept this slight movement as a smile and I felt my heart reach out to her. Her steps were still slow and short, but they weren’t as forced anymore. She wasn’t crying as much, but I could tell she could be easily triggered.
As we went to breakfast, Nancy was able to keep up because the pace was usually very slow. I was almost always at the front of the pack for walking slowly annoys me. However, today I lagged a bit and matched pace with Nancy. ”It’s nice to see you out.” I tentatively said to her. This time, I got half of a smile, and like the Grinch, my heart grew two sizes. Her smile was simple and beautiful. Her eyes still looked sad and in pain, but that smile gave me hope that no one is a lost cause. I sat across from Nancy at the table and though we didn’t talk much, I felt a friendship start to grow.
At the next group therapy session, Nancy finally talked. She didn’t say much at all, mostly just mumbling, but this was the most we’ve heard from her in the four days she had been there. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying, but she was shaking her head in her hands and crying more. I handed her a tissue and again, she smiled.
Sometimes it’s little things like smiles that feel like huge miracles.
Day five is when we find out why Nancy slit her wrists. In a group session we’re all talking about what led up to us being in Meadows. We get to Nancy and we’re expecting her to pass, to shake her head and maybe lose another tear or two. But she lifts her head, takes a steadying breath, and opens her mouth.
Nancy has a husband, a son, and a daughter. She didn’t want kids. This was the first shock to us. She started crying and through her sobs she told us she loves her kids but she never wanted them. She can’t keep up with them and it stresses her out. She doesn’t know how to text or use a cell phone or really any kind of electronic. Her daughter is overweight and when Nancy tries to help her, her daughter gets defensive and Nancy doesn’t know what to do. She and her husband no longer have sex. It’s been years, she said. ”But neither of us miss it. It was never that great anyways.” The older women shake their heads as they pity her.
“I locked myself in the bathroom. I had everything I needed. I did it knowing my kids would find me dead and covered in blood. I didn’t even care. But it was my husband who found me because he forgot his briefcase for work.” Tears are streaming down her face and her sentences are broken as she tried to tell us why and how she got to Meadows. We’re all very silent as her sobs and words fill the air. When she stops talking and tries to contain her sobs, we continue to stay silent. No one wants to disturb it yet, for much of the information is still floating in the air and has yet to settle on us. I barely breathe as all the words begin to settle on me like dust. I absorb them and begin to digest it. No one knows what to say or do, not wanting to disturb the thick air between us but also not wanting to suffocate under it. I look at Nancy, who is still sobbing into the tissue I gave her. I slowly stand up and walk over to her and envelope her in a hug. The sobbing gets louder so I squeeze tighter and rub her arms. It isn’t long until big fat tears are rolling down my face and dropping onto her shoulder.
We quickly finished group. I go out to the common room and have a seat in a chair. I pull out some playing cards and shuffle them in my hands. Nancy sits next to me in a similar chair and holds her head in her hands. ”Do they hurt?” I ask.
“They hurt a lot.” I nodded my head and continued to focus on my shuffling. ”When I made the first cut it didn’t even bleed.”
“How’s that possible?”
“I’m not sure. But I saw something in my arm sort of pulsing so I poked it and that’s when I started to bleed. Then I did the other arm. It was harder but I somehow managed to do it. I didn’t really feel it at first. It was just this numb feeling.” She was talking to her forearms and using a very frank voice. I listened silently as she explained the whole operation in detail. ”I wish I had succeeded,” were her final words.
“Don’t say that, Nancy. I’m thankful you didn’t succeed. If you let this place help you, you’ll get better.” I watched her face drop as she shook her head.
“They’re talking about electroshock therapy.” I gave her a confused look so she explained. “They’re going to send electricity through me and hopefully that will help with my depression. I’ve tried every drug there is, and none of it works. This is a last resort.”
“Wow..” was all I could manage to say. The idea of being electrocuted was scary to me, I could only imaging how it made her feel.
The next day Nancy talked about how she once took a road trip by herself. She had gotten her palm read and remembered a few things from the reading. On both of our palms there was a break in our life line. We agreed that this was our suicide attempts. Fortunately both of our life lines continue after the break. I know I’m now past the break in my palm, and I”m pretty sure Nancy is close.
Nancy still had up and down days, but I noticed her slowly getting better. I was released before she was, so I don’t know if she ever got electroshock therapy, but whether she did or didn’t, I just pray that she no longer has thoughts of suicide. I think about her just about every day. She touched me dearly and maybe someday I’ll run into her, I hope so, and she’ll be doing much better.
Nancy, if by some amazing stroke of God you read this, just know that someone is thinking about you and cares about you. I hope you’re doing okay and are enjoying life now. Your life is special and you should not sever what God has given you.
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