SUICIDE, SELF HARM, ABUSE
About thirty minutes after leaving the middle school, Deputy Cardosa and I arrived at a one level brick building. It was indeed a hospital, just not the type of hospital I thought he meant. This was a mental health facility. We stood outside the building’s glass door and waited until a receptionist inside came to unlock it for us. She showed us to the inpatient receiving office and sat down with us as we both answered basic questions relating to him bringing me in. After roughly ten minutes, she said that I was free to sit in the waiting room while the deputy and she went over some more questions. Before I left she asked me to leave my backpack and to give her my shoelaces, and so I did. Sometime later the deputy said goodbye to me as he left, but I remained seated in the inpatient waiting room for close to two hours becoming increasingly more panicked by the minute.
After what felt like years, a nurse finally came to greet me, warmly explaining she was going to show me to my room.
'My room?' I asked confused. 'No, I can’t stay here.'
'Well, in order to help you, we have to keep you close by for a while. And I know that might sound a bit scary, but I promise you everything is going to be fine.' Being the passive child I was, I nodded in agreement to her statement and followed her out of the waiting room and into a wing called the Children’s Crisis Center. The CCC consisted of two bedrooms and a TV room. Within those two bedrooms were two beds, and I use the term bed loosely. The bed itself was a giant wooden box drilled into the wall with a gym mat that served as a mattress. The pillow was a large towel stuffed inside of a pillowcase, and a light knitted blanket was there if you want to cover yourself. The floors were made up of cold, white tiles and the white painted brick walls were bare except for cameras that sat high in the corner watching you. There was a tiny closet in the corner beside a tiny sink with a toothbrush and chalk-flavoured toothpaste covered in plastic waiting atop it. The bathroom proved as unremarkable as the rest of the accommodation. I hadn’t expected to be put into a luxury suite, but this just seemed like I was being punished for being mentally anguished.
Over the next two hours, two more kids joined me as I sat in the TV room: Craig* who was about the same age as me and had violent tendencies, and Leah*, who would serve as my roommate, who was a few years younger and also had suicidal tendencies. Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a nurse came into the TV room and told me my parents were there. All the colour drained from my face as my eyes widened. 'It’s going to be okay,' the nurse assured me. 'The doctor and I will be there, and your parents want to help you. No one’s mad at you.'
You don't know my parents, lady, I thought as I followed her out of the CCC wing and into an office at the end of a long hallway.
My parents sat facing me as I walked in, my mother in tears and my father looking downward. I opted to sit beside the doctor and listened as he explained I was going to be kept there for a few days for a mental health evaluation, and when I was eventually released an investigation would be launched into my home life. My mother kept crying and saying, 'I love you' but I knew she was putting on a show for the doctors. If she could, there was no doubt in my mind she would’ve choked me out right then and there for finally being honest about her actions. My parents handed a bag of my clothes to the nurse and my dad said, 'Everything’s going to be okay' as the automatic doors closed behind them as they were led out.
For the next three days, we were kept in the cramped quarters of the CCC. With no windows to look out of and no fresh air to breathe, I felt myself growing more tense and anxious as time went by. We were forced to take pills that were only explained as something that would 'make you feel better', and locked in our rooms for 90 minutes a day for nap time. Leah and I never felt like taking naps so we’d sing songs or play guessing games until a nurse would knock on our door and tell us to stop talking and try to sleep. We were watched 24/7, whether in our rooms, while watching TV, or while eating dinner.
The wing beside the CCC was for adults and occasionally the doors that separated us would be left open. We’d look down the hall in fear at adults pacing up and down the corridor that looked absolutely catatonic. I wondered how long they’d been there, and if the pills the staff gave us resulted in that type of effect if taken long term. On the third day, a doctor told us they were short staffed and we would have to sit in the adult lounge while the nurse who was meant to watch us went on her break. He led us into a space room more akin to a waiting room than a lounge and sat us at a table with a male nurse. I felt my heart beating out of my chest, but showed no fear as the adult patients cursed at us. The nurse began dealing playing cards to us so we could start a game of Go Fish. Not long into the game, one of the more alert patients pretended to trip onto the table we were sitting at and pushed the cards off the table. The nurse reprimanded him for his unnecessarily disruptive behavior. 'What the fuck are you going to do about it?' the patient taunted him.
'Go sit down,' the nurse ordered as us three kids almost certainly held our breaths during this tense stand off.
'FUCK YOU!' the patient screamed banging his fist on the table in front of me, causing me to jump. And in a matter of seconds, two male nurses had the patient on the floor, injected him with a sedative, and took him away.
When our nurse returned from lunch she calmly led us back to the CCC TV room without any mentioning what had just happened. No one ever asked us if we were okay, or tried to calm us down in any way. I sat facing but not paying attention to whatever was on TV. The only thing I could focus on was the thought that I didn’t belong there doing figure eights over and over in my mind.
I’m not crazy… I don’t belong here… I’m not crazy… don’t belong here…
A couple of days later, they announced I was free to go home. I looked confused as they told me my parents were waiting for me.
'But I haven’t gotten any counseling,' I thought. 'You guys have just loaded me up with pills. I still feel suicidal, and you’re going to let me go home with HER?!'
But that was that. I was sent packing, no better than I was when I arrived. My parents were instructed to get me outside counselling, which did happen... for two sessions. The psychiatrist also reported my claims of abuse to the police and my mother opted to not let me go back since the therapy I was receiving was through her insurance. But an investigation was launched, and I was asked whether I desired to press charges. I refused under the condition that my mother go through anger management classes. No sooner had the police closed the front door to our house than was she screaming in my face for embarrassing her. And that’s when I realised she was never going to change. My dad forced her to leave, and that was the last time I ever saw her.
I don’t regret speaking up to Mrs. Hill that morning. There’s not a doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t things would have continued and who’s to say I’d be sitting here writing this right now? I had to go through that in order to eventually have my mother permanently removed from my life, which is a decision I don’t ever regret making.
She broke me, but she didn’t destroy me.