The first night I was actually admitted to the mental health unit of the hospital, it was already late, around 10 PM. I spoke to a nurse and had to tell my whole life story yet again. He felt so bad he just hugged me and let me cry. I was scared and totally alone. I wouldn’t talk to my husband. I never told him where I was–at that point, I was sure he didn’t care. I rememer wanting to scream “this is all a mistake!” but obviously I didn’t. That would sound crazy.
I just wanted some peace and to sleep in a quiet bed. I had just a few hours of sleep in the previous two days. Yeah…. it’s nice to want things. First, the air conditioning was broken and no one seemed to realize it. I’m already a very warm natured person–my home A/C is set between 68 and 70 F. I had no idea the temperature in the ward but it didn’t help that my bed (and every piece of furniture) was basically vinyl/rubber with a single sheet on it. There was never any air circulation so each night I was there I would drench the sheets and my hospital gown with sweat. This repeated each day and night until the day I was released.
The first night was one of the worst ones. My roommate was an older woman and I honestly have no idea what her diagnosis was. She hardly spoke, save for the occasional belting out of Unbreak My Heart which earned her the nickname Toni Braxton. When she did talk, I could barely understand her. That first night I went to bed first, too scared and upset to really talk to anyone. I had my eyes closed when I first heard her come in. I pretended to sleep while she sat on her bed and stared at me. It wasn’t so much the noise or her presence that made me start to panic, but the smell of an unchanged adult diaper. It may sound like an exaggeration but the smell brought tears to my eyes. First, I have a very good sense of smell and it was overwhelmingly disgusting; secondly, it was a stark reminder of where I was. I wanted to be out of there so badly. I didn’t belong there! And then I cried because I did belong there. When the smell would disappate, she’d move and a whole new wave of stench was released. She left the room and wandered the hallway. She’d come in and lay on the bed with her shoes on, get up, wander around. When I did finally fall asleep, I woke up again to hear and smell her coming into the room. She went to our bathroom and did…something. I can honestly say I have no idea what she was doing but the smell was making me gag and the sound was simply awful. Later I heard a nurse helping her get cleaned up. In the morning I made sure to ask if the bathroom had been fully cleaned before going in because it literally sounded like the entire bathroom had been sprayed from floor to ceiling.
After what seemed like an eternity (but in reality was one or two days) I was able to have a short conversation with my husband and asked him to bring me some clothes. Mind you, it was my choice to not speak with him. He would call and try to speak to me and I wasn’t having anything of it. It wasn’t until I had been on new medications could I bring myself to call him. I had only the clothes I went into the hospital with: jeans, sandals, tank top, a hooded sweatshirt and underthings. It took the nurses about a day and a half to wash my clothes so I’d take showers and put the dirty clothes back on which I found disgusting. I don’t even like putting socks back on after I’ve worn them, even if it was just for a little while. I’m just weird like that. It feels dirty. Those dirty clothes, worn for about four days in a row, smelling of sweat and hospital, really highlighted how awful things were. I didn’t allow any visitors, so a nurse delivered the clothes to me. It made a world of difference, this small, petty thing that I had always taken for granted. The very same day as my new clothes came and I was feeling ever so slightly less shitty (at least clean), a nurse who didn’t bother to read which patient was in which bed decided to dress my roommate. In my clothes. Which she subsequently shit and piss in. All I wanted to do was cry and scream at the nurse that she was dumb shit but I was too afraid to. Everything I did was prefaced with “will they think I’m crazy if I do this/say this/? I didn’t want to be an asshole because it wasn’t my roommate’s fault and I sure as hell didn’t want to be one of the “screamers”.
Another night I had to leave my room because there was a giant cockroach in my room. Not just like, eww, a bug, but three-plus inches of cockroach. On the wall. Above my bed. It was like a conspiracy to make my hospital stay the worst experience of my life.
I didn’t scream (again, let’s not be crazy) and I got two nurses. They were unconcerned until they saw it in all its gigantic horror. They made a valiant attempt to fight it but THEY LOST IT IN MY ROOM. Did I mention this was on the wall OVER MY BED? WHERE I SLEEP? They said I should just not worry about it and go to bed. Are you kidding me? Even now, thinking back four months ago, it gives me the creeps. One of the nurses who was equally as terrified as I stood by my side as we gingerly tore the blanket and sheet off the bed, shook out the pillows, moved my nightstand/drawers out into the hallway. You know, just in case. They then locked my clothes wardrobe which made me laugh, as if that would keep the cockroach out (or in!) there. I slowly calmed myself down and tried to go back to sleep. Eventually had to go to the bathroom and lo and behold there he was, sitting in the corner of the room waiting for me. Back to the nurses who then called a male nurse from another floor to come and kill it. He laughed at us. I absolutely didn’t care. It was funny and would have been even more hilarious if it wasn’t happening to me. It was the first times I felt normal there, able to laugh at my own panic, knowing that others were having the same feelings. All over a giant cockroach.
Not all of my stay was bad, and again, it was necessary. More on that another day.