The Psych Ward, Nineteen Years Later #52essays2017 no. 14

Yet why not say what happened? —Robert Lowell

12 April 2017

There’s a paperclip on the floor of my room and I’m oddly thrilled by it — it must be contraband. I’m tempted to leave it there just to see if anyone notices and what they’ll do.

I have my own room here which makes it an improvement over the UI, but I have to share the phone with everyone else on the floor, but it’s a cordless (of course — we might strangle ourselves with a a cord), but at least I can take it to my room, but then I feel bad for hogging the phone. I think it has call waiting, but I was too scared of pressing the buttons to find out.

My Stitch Fix is supposed to arrive Friday and I won’t be able to respond because I’m here. I sort of look forward to the email I’ll send them. Dear Stitch Fix, I couldn’t respond to your latest styling of me because I was on the psych ward. I’m imagining now a whole line of styling tips just for the psych ward. Wear your ankle boots in but then realize you’ll have to exchange them for slippers. How do you accessorize scrubs? So many questions.

My handwriting has really deteriorated. I wonder if I’ll be able to read this later. My hand hurts from writing, too. Out of practice of a side effect of the depression or the drugs, who knows.

I wish I could open a window.

13 April 2017

It is so strange not having the internet. Did I say that last night too? Well, it is still true. There is some internet here — a computer with a web browser — but no internet where you can talk to people. All those sites are blocked. I haven’t tried it yet to see, but I’m sure it’s true. And I can’t think of what else I’d want to do online other than seeing what everyone is up to. What’s going on in the normal world while I’m here.

In half an hour there’s movement group and I guess I’ll go. There’s nothing else to do here but read or write or knit, and I can’t concentrate on reading. I wonder if they’d let me have my laptop to write on. Maybe, but not in my room I’m sure, and I don’t know how easy it would be to write in the dayroom.

Fashion report: today I’m wearing skinny jeans paired with a navy Loft t-shirt and my burgundy Madewell cardigan. And slippers.

I wish my hand didn’t cramp so horribly while writing. Maybe it will get easier if I keep doing it. I can only hope.

Movement group at 10 and then time to kill and then lunch and then time to kill and then coping skills group, which sounds awful (worksheets! worksheets!) and then time to kill and then my friend comes and then Mom and Peter come and then time to kill and then bedtime and that will be another day here.

Mom says more than a day and less than a month is how long I’ll be here. I hope it’s a lot less than a month. This place is comfortable but horrible. Fifteen minutes until movement group.

I brought four books with me and I already finished one — I was rereading The Hero and the Crown. I brought Fire and Hemlock too, and the book discussion book (Station Eleven) and What the Living Do. I was listening to Station Eleven and thought I could do that here while knitting but of course I can’t because it’s on my phone and I can’t have my phone.

It is nice not to be responsible for any email. I wonder how much I’ll have when I get out. I wonder when I’ll get out. I wonder if I’ll be any better. I can’t quite imagine it. I wasn’t better when I left the psych ward last time; I just wanted to leave so I pretended to be better. What if it’s all just pretending? What if everyone out there is just pretending to be well and we’re all in the depths?

It takes a long time to write things by hand. Even writing like this, with little care for how the letters come out.

There’s some gunk in my sweater and I just had it cleaned. There are also several holes in it and I just got it last year, so I guess Madewell isn’t necessarily made well, or maybe I’m just careless with my clothes and go moths. That’s likely, really, if I’m honest with myself.

I should ask Mom to bring me shampoo. My hair is starting to smell.

Seven minutes till movement group. I’m a clockwatcher now.


I wasn’t supposed to have the phone in my room and then I got criticized for being on the phone for too long. One of their suggested activities is call a friend, but apparently there are limits. I will have to learn them so I can squeak by just under them. I should call K tonight but I’m afraid to use the phone now so I won’t. I’ll just hide in my room. And with any luck I will sleep.

But the rules, God, the rules are so much like high school. Don’t be where we can’t see you. Fifteen minute checks. Lights you can’t turn off. I’m waiting for them to tell me I can’t block the bathroom light with my chair. Just take that from me, I want to say. You’ve taken everything else.

My friend came to visit and brought me a stack of New Yorkers — I only asked for two. Then Mom and Peter came for a much shorter time — just enough for Peter to do a little Lego. Peter brought me flowers and all his drawings from playhouse. I’m so sad I can’t take care of him.

This narrative is descending rapidly in to journaling, dreaded word. I must do something about that, try to work in a phrase as good as glib martyr.

My Stitch Fix box came. Peter was very proud that he carried it into the house for me. I sort of wish they’d brought it, but there are no decent mirrors here, so it’s sort of beside the point. It’s almost monastic here except that of course they do allow the TV to be on seven hours a day.

I really hope this trazadone helps me sleep. I woke up at four this morning and never did fall back asleep. I’m weary but not tired or sleep.

It takes 55 laps of the hallway to make a mile. 55. I can’t even.

I miss Peter. I even miss the cats. But I have to be here, in this country as far away as health.

16 April 2017, nighttime

I didn’t write at all yesterday — I felt better and I didn’t seem to need it as much. Plus the group here has really coalesced so I’ve been hanging out more. We rated all the psych wards we’ve been on and decided this one is the best despite the lack of phones. Tonight we watched Dirty Dancing.

Yesterday afternoon I got a pass to go out with Mom and Peter and we bought flowers for the garden and new shoes for Peter and I went home and opened my Stitch Fix.

A came to visit today and I made her do some of the puzzle. We’ve been on a puzzle kick but I am terrible at them. Then another friend came and I had a pass so we went for a walk all the way up to the cemetery and then we went to Oasis and I actually ate.

Tomorrow I get to go home.

19 April 2017, on the outside

I got home on Monday afternoon and I’m still not used to it. I’m back to work but just part time, four hours a day, which seems like about all I can handle. People were trading numbers on the ward the last day I was there and I gave mine out but didn’t get any, so I hope some people get in touch. I feel terrible for the people who are still there when so many of us were leaving.

It’s strange and overwhelming being in the outside world. I can do anything I want but I often don’t know what to do. I’m trying to set a goal a day the way the nurse told us to, but I still refuse to say affirmations in the mirror. The classroom in the ward where I had my intake had a whiteboard with a big list of affirmations — Be kind to yourself, I <3 you, Don’t give up, I’m here for you, One day at a time. In the middle of them was a smaller list: Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata. “I can think of a lot more sleep meds than that,” Mom said.

The social worker made my next appointments with my psychiatrist and my therapist for me, so I don’t have to do that. Mom is going to to stay home from choir tonight to help me with Peter.

Everyone wants to help and I don’t know what to tell them to do. I have to put Peter to bed and get him up (well, really he gets me up) and take him to playhouse. The day to day isn’t really something people can help out with. I wonder if people would take him on the weekends more.

I do feel better than I did when I went in. It’s not a rebirth — you don’t come out to everything shining and new. You come out to your same old messy house and all the same problems you had before. But I’m no longer panicking at stop lights, and I’ll take that. It’s a start.

5 thoughts on “The Psych Ward, Nineteen Years Later #52essays2017 no. 14”

  1. Glad you are better. Especially liked your observation: “What if everyone out there is just pretending to be well and we’re all in the depths?”. Well put.

  2. Oh Laura — of course we had no idea — and sorry to learn of your new struggle.
    I agree with your mom. Can’t really “Love” your post, but I do love your insight, your heart, and your courage . Affirm away!

  3. Dear Laura,

    I hope you know you are not alone in your struggles. Our daughter has been in treatment for a variety of issues and remains optimistic that someday she will get answers, Our bodies and minds are mysteries that are not always comprehensible to those who wish to help.

    I miss your presence in Wyoming. You were a much needed breath of fresh air. Side note: the new owners of the Pitchfork Ranch (they bought it in 1999 and moved there permanently a few years ago), Lenox and Fran Baker, are unrepentant, outspoken, progressive liberals! What a wonderful thing it is to have them among us.

    I wish you well and trust you will find comfort in knowing that many people are with you in your battles.

    Yours, in the hope of better days,


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