I press my face against the thick window and stare at the hospital grounds. Tomorrow I will be out there. I don’t know whether I am excited or scared. Both, really.
“Hey Tina, Babe, come watch TV,” James calls. He has forgiven me for my defection last night. Tim and Nick echo his sentiment.
“Got some shit to do,” I lie. I hold up a pack of pamphlets the caseworker gave me, my proof of how busy I am. At least I have been transferred out to the open side. When nightfall comes, James and Tim go back to the secure side and I stay here.
“Aww, do it later. I want to talk to you about something,” he whines.
The nurse steps out of the station and asks if I have a moment to talk. I follow her down the hall. I resolve to stay in my room afterwards. I know what James wants to talk about and I am not interested. Every time the staff step inside the office, out of earshot, it’s the same thing. He has hatched a new scheme.
Nick is a scrawny kid who’s coming down off meth. His teeth are in awful shape and he’s got a wicked abscess. Anyone else would see this as a bad thing, but for James it’s a golden ticket. Nick’s got Hydrocodone on order and will get a script when he leaves.
They are all three getting discharged tomorrow. Nick will fill his scripts, Tim will pick up his disability check and James will take them to a hotel where they can kick back and party. They want me to come, but I can guess what I would be bringing to that party. No thanks.
My roommate’s name is Theresa and there is little doubt why she is here. She is sitting at the desk on her side of the room as we enter. She is rocking back and forth and moving her lips, though the sound that comes out is an unintelligible whisper.
“We can go to a conference room if you want to talk in private,” the nurse says.
“Naw, me and Theresa, we’re tight,” I joke. “She won’t spill my secrets.”
“Tight,” Theresa echoes.
The nurse smiles. “I’ve not seen this side of you, Tina.”
“Dark side of the moon.”
“Still can’t remember anything?”
This morning Dr. Hoffman talked about not restarting my meds, to give my liver a break. He paused and added, “especially your benzos.” I shrugged and agreed. Something changed after that, some of the nurses starting to believe me, others got even more suspicious. It’s not like me to turn down benzos.
I shake my head no. “Not sure I want to.” The caseworker gave me the basic run down on Tina and it wasn’t pretty. Abused by my father, I started “acting out” when I was sixteen, cutting on myself and doing drugs. My father’s side of the family believed him, decided I was just a troublemaker and cut ties with me when I was still a teen. Mom and her side of the family stuck by me for several more years but the multiple suicide attempts, drug overdoses and bad choices wore on them. They gave up a couple of years back and I am essentially estranged from them as well.
For the last two years I have bounced around homeless shelters, halfway houses and the street. The hospital caseworker keeps setting me up for “services” like halfway houses and then I relapse and get kicked out. He must have a very stressful job.
“Are you feeling suicidal?” the nurse asks.
“I should be, all the shit you say I’ve been through. But I don’t feel it. Maybe I just can’t remember the shit so it doesn’t depress me.”
“Any idea what you are going to do when you leave tomorrow?” she asks next.
I shrug and gesture with the pamphlets again. “Caseworker gave me a list of shelters. He was even so kind as to highlight the ones where I am persona non grata.” I’ve been kicked out of about half of them at one time or another, mostly for being caught with drugs, on drugs or trying to buy drugs.
“Not going with James and his crowd?”
“You know about that?”
“We aren’t as dumb as they seem to think.”
I chuckle. “No, I don’t want anything to do with that bunch.”
“Good, we can’t control what you do when you leave but we strongly discourage starting relationships with other patients. You need to focus on yourself. Besides everyone here is, well let’s just say, they have their own issues to work on.”
“Veiled warning received,” I quip and salute. She smiles and shakes her head.
“And your medications?”
“The doctor and I agreed I would take a break. If I start having symptoms, I am supposed to contact him and he will restart them.”
“And you are okay with this?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
She’s asked the questions she needs to document about. We chit chat for a few more minutes but this is work for her and she’s got plenty to do.
When she leaves I go to the small window in our room and stare out. If I have symptoms, not being able to remember jack shit seems like a pretty big symptom that my mental health ain’t right. But there isn’t a pill for that. Living my life drugged up on benzos or mood stabilizers isn’t going to help. What other symptoms am I supposed to be looking for?
Depersonalization. It was a term I over heard one of the nurses explain to a student. They had been talking about my roommate and I wasn’t suppose to know. It meant a feeling of not being yourself. It happened a lot to schizophrenics.
Every time someone told me something about Tina, about me, I felt like they were talking about someone else. Maybe that was just a side effect of the amnesia. But what if it wasn’t? What if I was psychotic? I had a long list of diagnoses on my chart, I knew that. Polysubstance abuse, PTSD, personality disorders, depression, you name it. Schizophrenia wasn’t on the list, yet.
And then there were hallucinations, those went with schizophrenia, didn’t they?
He was here again, the man from the ICU. When I woke this morning, I saw him, his dark hair, long and scraggly, hanging over a feminine face. I recalled what he was wearing this time, black T shirt, jeans, a long black coat. He was crouched on top of the desk in my room, watching me.
I startled awake and he was gone. Had it been a dream? Or an hallucination?
Maybe I should reconsider those meds. Maybe I should beg them to let me stay a few more days, try to figure out what is going on. Because maybe I am really going crazy this time. Resting my head on the cool window pane, I sigh. Guess I will find out tomorrow.