Chapter 2: Checking In

The next few days were a blur.
Her friends, family, and roommates were worried about her.
She had decided to stay with her mother for a while.
She lived in her bed.
If a shower occurred, it was a huge accomplishment for the day.
Nothing mattered to her anymore.
Nothing would ever be the same.
Her mother was trying.
Trying to put all the pieces together.
Her mother went out of her way to try to make her happy.
But it didn’t work.
Nothing worked.
You can’t convince someone to want to live.

Her doctor didn’t seem to understand.
Months had gone by, and she still wasn’t improving.
He thought she wasn’t trying.
He didn’t realize she didn’t have anything left to give.
He stated that she wasn’t safe.
She was a danger to herself.
He suggested inpatient care.
He insisted that this type of care would help her.
Her heart broke when her mother agreed with his suggestion.
Reluctantly, she surrendered.

She felt like she was going to throw up.
Her head was spinning again.
She couldn’t breathe.
Her chest tightened as the hyperventilation began.
She hated that she didn’t have control over her own body.
She tried to concentrate on breathing.
Unfortunately, concentration was never a specialty of her ADHD brain.
The car ride seemed to last a lifetime.
Her anxiety attack finally ceased.
It ended right as they pulled into her new temporary home.
What a cruel irony.

More questions.
“Do you want to hurt yourself?”
(Yes…) “No.”
“Are you having any suicidal thoughts?”
(Yes…) “No.”
“Do you feel as if you are a danger to yourself?”
(I don’t know anymore…) “No.”
Tears continues to fall as she answered question after question.
Her mother, father, and sister-in-law were there with her.
They were doing all they could to support her.
They reassured her that this was the right thing to do.
This is where she would receive the help she needed.
They said this was all for the best.
She wanted to believe them.
But she couldn’t ignore the unsettling feeling in her stomach.
If this was the right thing, shouldn’t she feel different?
She wouldn’t feel so guilty.
She wouldn’t feel so sick.
She wouldn’t feel so alone.
Fifteen minutes of evaluation.
And just like that, she was officially checked into Pine Rest.

She could barely find the strength to say goodbye.
Her paralyzed arms were unable to return the loving hugs.
She couldn’t speak.
She longed to say something.
An apology.
A thank you.
An I love you.
But her voice remained silent.
She choked back any further tears and she watched them leave.
A nurse broke her trance and led her to the unit.
This unit that was supposed to “fix” her.
It promised a new way of thinking.
A new way of coping.
A new way of life.

She signed paper after paper.
She assumed she was just signing all her rights away.
Her room was introduced to her like it was a master suite at a fancy hotel.
Optimistically, she figured the room was ten square feet.
No drawers.
No shelves.
A desk, but no chair.
A small, thin curtain hung in place of a bathroom door.
The twin mattress was three inches thick at best.
The pathetic block of wood beneath it was nailed into the floor.
A sheet and a small blanket were neatly folded at the foot of her bed.
There was a small window above the desk.
Unfortunately, it was bolted shut.
It was even decorated with bars on the outside.
The nurse left her to get “settled in.”
She sat down on her bed, taking in her surroundings.
For the first time in months, she allowed herself to weep.
And she did not hold back.

She didn’t belong here.
She wanted to go home.
Instantly, she began to beat herself up for not trying harder.
It was her own fault she ended up here.
But she felt like a splash of gray paint on a white wall.
She couldn’t be like the rest of the people here.
She had seen the type of patients that stay in these hospitals on television.
They were all crazy.
They had all lost their mind.
They talked to dead people and heard voices, right?
She was just depressed.
A depressed zombie.
She knew she needed help, but this seemed so extreme.
She hadn’t completely lost it, had she?

“I have two staff members going through your belongings.
No clothes with any sort of string are allowed.
They will let you know what items you will be able to keep.
No cell phone, jewelry, belts, hats, mirrors, pencils, etc.
You may do your laundry during your free time.
Please ask a staff member to unlock the laundry room for you.
The nurses will dispense bathroom items as needed.
They are not to remain in your room.
If you would like to shave, a nurse will have to watch you do so.
No food in your room.
We have two fifteen-minute fresh air breaks a day.
This is the only time you will be allowed to go outside.
We have a gated area off the cafeteria.
There are groups daily.
You are expected to attend these groups.
There is a weekly schedule in this folder you’ll be receiving.
Physical touching of any kind is prohibited.
A staff member is required to check on at least every fifteen minutes.
You will be assigned a case worker and a doctor.
Both of which you will be meeting with in the morning.
Food is served in the cafeteria.
You simply grab a tray and get in line.
The server will ask your name and birth date.
After you provide this information, you will receive the meal prepared.
We have our main quarters and a quiet lounge down the hall.
You are welcome to utilize these rooms during your free time.
Do you have any questions?”

She stared blankly at the nurse.
She had no idea there were so many rules.
Was she accidentally put in prison?
“Do you have any questions?” the nurse repeated.
She shook her head, but blurted, “When can I go home?”
The nurse smile politely.
“That is something you will have to talk to your doctor about.”
Her stomach sunk.
What did that mean?
A few days?
She wouldn’t be stuck here for a whole month, would she?
She felt her chest tighten as her breathing rate increased.
She strolled past the nurse and found her room.
She slammed the door and threw herself on the bed.
Her tears began to soak her pillowcase.

She couldn’t hide forever.
The way to get out of this awful place was to play along.
Follow the rules.
Tell them what they want to hear.
She could do this.
She ventured into the main lounge area.
The first patient she passed stopped her.
She sat down on the couch across from this fellow patient called Katy.
Within a few minutes, she heard Katy’s full story.
Married with kids.
She had cheated on her husband, but didn’t tell him.
Katy continued with the details of her attempted suicide.
That’s how she wound up here.
Katy had been there for three days.

“So, what are you in for?”
A blonde-haired man and an older gentleman sat down.
Aaron and Ernest wanted to hear my story too.
This seemed like a common first question to ask the newbies.
What kind of problems could a twenty-one-year-old have?
What could be so bad that she ended up here, weeks before Christmas?
She looked up to see a fourth pair of eyes staring at her as well.
This man with eyes as dark as his hair was called Fish.
She felt their stares burning at her skin.
She didn’t want to answer.
She wasn’t here to make new friends.
She was just going to play the game and get the hell out of this place.
So, she gave the simplest answer she could.
She looked down at her fidgeting hands.
Aaron stated he had done the same thing.
She decided to share a little bit of her story.
An overly excited blonde girl, Kristy, interrupted her.
This girl was way too peppy to be in a place like this.
She seemed thrilled to fill us all in on her story.
This was her second time in a psychiatric hospital.
Kristy had depression and OCD.
She informed us that she was ultimately admitted for her self-mutilation.
Kristy continued with her 
But she stopped listening.

She wondered if she should’ve said something.
She had never heard someone speak so freely about the subject.
She was fifteen when she began her destructive therapy.
That therapy had saved her life many times.
For five years, she has relied on her stash of razors.
Those razors gave her an outlet nothing else could offer.
Maybe she had finally found someone who understood what it was like.
Someone who knew what it was like to turn to physical pain for help.
Physical pain was the only way to get rid of the unbearable emotional pain.
She had something in common with Katy.
Maybe she wasn’t as alone as she thought.
She let that thought sink in.
Maybe she wasn’t as alone as she thought.

// I never thought about cutting myself.
Growing up, I was aware that it wasn’t uncommon for people to do.
Why would anyone purposely cut themselves?
I faint at the sight of blood.
I couldn’t imagine the feeling if it was my own blood.
I didn’t understand why some people chose to hurt themselves.
I discovered the reason on my own at the age of fifteen.
I was a freshman in high school.
Girls didn’t seem to like me.
It got worse when I started dating the athlete. 
He was popular. Tall. Built. Attractive. 
Just about every girl in the school was after him.
I was shocked when he asked me out.
Our school was small, with only about one-hundred students.
But he chose me.
When it all first happened, I was a giddy schoolgirl. 
We were perfect together.
He was the basketball star.
I was a cheerleader.
I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world.
Oh, how that didn’t last long. 

I remember coming to school following a haircut gone wrong.
My hair was down to my shoulders, and I was due for a trim.
After the scissors ceased their snipping, I gazed into the mirror.
My trim had turned into a four inch hack off.
My hair barely touched my chin.
To say it looked terrible is an understatement.
I cried for a long time. 
And then I had to face my peers’ judgments.
A few people made some comments throughout the day.
Luckily, I could shake off the sarcasm.
Most of it anyway.
However, I will never forget how one junior girl, Lily, went out of her way.
Out of her way to humiliate me.
To embarrass me.
To hurt me.
Our morning assembly concluded.
Lily stopped me as I was making my way to homeroom.
“Oh my gosh, where did you get your hair cut?”
I didn’t even have time to answer.
“I just want to make sure I NEVER go there.”
Lily and her friends walked away in a fit of laughter.
I stood there, alone.
I fought the tears as I was so used to doing and put on a brave face.

I didn’t have a plan when I got home from school that day.
All I knew was that I was hurting.
And I needed that pain to stop.
I didn’t care what I had to do.
I cried until there were no tears left.
But I could still hear Lily’s mocking voice in my head.
I avoided the mirrors in the house so I didn’t have to look at my hideous self.
I locked myself in the bathroom and rocked back and forth on the floor.
That’s when I saw it.
The nail file.
It even had a somewhat sharp point at the end.
I pressed the sharp end into my forearm and began a sawing motion.
Then it happened.
For an instant I had forgotten about what had happened that day.
For an instant my only thoughts were on the pain on my arm.
But it wasn’t enough.
I plugged in my curling iron.
I waited for the red light to stop blinking.
Once it was solid, indicating it was hot and ready to use, I picked it up.
I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing.
The iron burned through my forearm flesh in a matter of seconds.
The pain snapped me out of what felt like a false reality.

I looked down at my arm.
What had I done?
There were three noticeable marks.
Two sawed open wounds from the file and one burn.
I started to panic.
This was not how I planned to handle things.
I quietly walked to my room and gently put on a loose sweater.
I would just cover up the marks until they were gone.
This was just a one-time thing.
I falsely promised myself it would never happen again.
But I couldn’t ignore the weight that seemed to have disappeared.
I smiled as I concentrated on the searing pain.
I would take this pain over the hurt Lily had caused me earlier.
I didn’t understand it.
Maybe it was because I knew the pain would go away.
Maybe it was because of the huge sense of relief that enveloped me.
Maybe it was because I felt like I was in control of my own pain.
Whatever the reason was.
Whatever the reason is.
That day changed me.
And I will never be the same. //



Author: Lizzie

I am the one you never really knew.

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