When you’re wheeled into the ER on a stretcher, sent straight from the clinic via silent ambulance and complaining of dark unyielding depression, you might mistakenly assume that your mental health would be first on the minds of your care team. You might assume that the double-locked room into which you are deposited is merely a way station on your journey towards admission, or that the XXL brown scrubs forced upon you are a temporary costume until your inpatient processing is complete. When they take your clothes and your purse you might assume you’ll get them back, and when they say the doctor will be in to see you shortly, you might be inclined to believe her.
But guess what.
And also, you’re wrong.
I kind of laughed at the nurse when she offered a blanket and pillow “while I waited for the doctor”. I mean, yeah, it was 3:30 in the morning, but I really can’t sleep when there’s noise, and the intake desk for the ER was on the other side of the wall. Two hours later, I realized the wisdom of her words.
The room contained nothing – no pictures, no magazines. No power outlets. I had to ask permission to use the bathroom, an endeavor which required an official escort and a walk of shame down the ER hallway. Inevitably, I was the only one in scrubs.
I spent a long, long time staring at the ceiling.
Around 6:30, the nurse came in to take my blood pressure and offered me some juice. At 7:30, the shift changed. I watched the night staff wave goodbye and the day staff wave hello. I asked my new nurse, a burly leather-and-chains dude who looked as though Ramrod might be his bar of choice, for some water. “They were short staffed on the overnight,” he explained. “The doctor’ll be with you soon.”
By this time, I knew better than to be buoyed up by his words. I lay down and somehow, miraculously, fell asleep.
90 minutes later, I awoke from a nightmare into the sickest sensation that I was still dreaming, but that my *life* was a dream, and the *rest* of my lifedream would be spent locked in this coal chamber hospital room. I almost screamed.
The doctor finally materialized at 10:30am. My husband came at noon. And at 4:00, I was taken, by ambulance, to McLean’s.
12 hours in a locked room, most of it solitary confinement. TWELVE HOURS. I mean, if I wasn’t suicidal when I went in, who could blame me for being so on my way OUT?
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