Dear Diary

April 3, 2013

Spring can really hang you up.

Ruby

“You can wear your own clothes,” says the doctor, “and your roommate will share a closet with you.” I nod, still somewhat numb from hours before. Where is my mind? “You’ll also have to remove your shoelaces and any other strings or belts on your clothes.”

My unlaced Doc Martens flap under my leather pants. I drag my feet a little because it is hard to walk. The doctor swipes a card over a panel by the door—nobody without one can get in or out. Every door, every window, every room is locked.

The hospital walls are pale blue and yellow. There are many armchairs that look comfortable but are in fact rough and filled with air instead of fluff. It’s like sitting on a burlap balloon. I see other people my age and suddenly become very aware of my eyeliner smudged all over my face, my ridiculous unlaced boots, and my baggy leather pants that I put on this morning because I forgot I hate pants. I realize that I don’t care at all.

One girl looks familiar. She gives a little wave and I return it. The day is going by so fast and yet so slow, so I don’t remember whether I know her or not. Is she my friend? Does she go to my school? She looks bored.

I am shown my room, which contains two plain beds with a pale vomit-green quilt and a plastic pillow, and one small desk nailed to the wall. The closet is locked and the window has a layer of glass over the blinds. “So we don’t hang ourselves from it,” a boy tells me later. There are no books or pencils or stuffed animals or pictures. There is no way to tell if someone has lived or is living in this room. I do not like not knowing things.

The girl I know waves me over. “I wouldn’t expect you to be in this kind of hospital,” she says, sounding bored as ever.

“Me neither. About you, I mean.” I have no idea how I know this girl.

“That girl there? She’s pregnant but she tried to OD anyway. That boy stabbed his twin brother.”

“Oh,” I say, not really hearing her. I’m in such a daze that I can’t be fazed.

“That girl there? She’s been here for 27 days.” The day I leave, she’ll have hit 40.
Soon I will find out she has nowhere to go.

“That one with the red shirt just has anger issues or some shit.”

“Oh, OK. Are you guys friends?”

“As good of friends as anyone could be in a place like this,” she says with a bitter laugh. “So, no, but we don’t hate each other or anything.”

***

On the first day, I learn the rules. No touching anyone, ever, not to brush lint off them or high-five or ANYTHING, but ESPECIALLY no hugging. No stuffed animals in common areas. If you’re a smoker, you don’t get the patch, so watch out for the irritable kids on withdrawal. You get watched in the shower. No using a pen. No having a pen. Don’t disobey the staff. Don’t try to open any doors. No leaving. (Where would you go? There are only three rooms.) Eat your food. No shoelaces. No hanging yourself with the cord on the phone. No throwing things at people, especially tables and chairs. No eating things that aren’t food.

We do “check-in.” The staff describes it as when we all say how our day is going and introduce ourselves to new patients. A fellow patient describes it to me as “We all go around in a circle and say what’s wrong with us and what we did today.” I don’t remember most of the names. I just hear severe OCD, anger management problems, self-harm, homicidal tendencies, PTSD from being raped, drug problems, suicide attempt. The list goes in a circle. Most of them look bored and tired, like they’ve been here far too long. I realize that one girl has not felt the air outside of these three rooms for almost a month. No open windows, no open doors, no going outside.

***

First night. Roommates with night terrors = being woken up by screaming every five minutes, so that idea I had to get some sleep isn’t really panning out. Besides, there is a man sitting on a chair 10 feet from me, and all the lights are on. That’s how you have to sleep if they think you are a danger to yourself or others. I ask him to turn off one light. I ask to be moved. I asked for a female staff member. But here in the hospital they have better things to worry about, like making sure nobody gets stabbed or something, so my pleas are in vain. I protest by stripping my bed, throwing my mattress onto the floor, and standing on the wooden bed frame, staring the watchman in the eyes for hours on end until his shift is over. The next one arrives and I say nothing; I just stare.

This act of silent opposition is not worth losing sleep, I discover the next morning as I’m struggling to stay awake at breakfast. It’s my first morning at the hospital. I get a slice of burnt bread and a plastic spoon to spread a hunk of butter on it (no knives allowed). I am starving and I devour it, promising myself I’ll try to make the most of this experience. I almost tore my family apart. I owe it to them to get better.

A bulimic boy of about 12 is supervised in the bathroom after breakfast. He comes back and throws up right there in the lunchroom. Right before being hurried away by a team of nurses, the boy takes a moment to give one of the staff members a hard, menacing look that feels like a dare.

***

“What are you here for?” I ask a girl who earlier refused to tell me her name. Her eyes are very round and give her a permanently surprised expression.

“Homicidal thoughts, self-harm, killing small animals. You?”

I pause to soak that in, then mumble an answer.

“Oh, so just the usual,” she says. “Tons of kids here are just like you. There are only a handful of me here in the nonaggressive unit. I’m a sociopath.”

“Are you really?” I say.

“Yeah. I’ve always wanted to kill, even when I was a kid, so I must be.”

“Do you care about things? About people?” I ask her.

She looks thoughtful for a minute, counting off something on her fingers. “…No, not really. I don’t.”

***

A few days pass. The girl I know, the bulimic boy, and the self-proclaimed sociopath have all been discharged by now, and there’s “a new batch of psychos,” I hear another patient say under their breath. When one of the new kids arrives it’s clear he’s just been crying. He’s wearing hospital clothes, which is what they give the kids who come directly from a regular medical hospital. Isn’t bloody or obviously drugged up or anything, so people whisper about what on earth he was doing in a regular hospital.

“I tried to jump off a bridge.”

I am silent and look down. The boy is about my age and when he says this I can hear the shame in his voice—not for trying, but for failing.

“I tried,” he continues. “It didn’t work. The police found me standing up there and grabbed me when my back was turned.”

“Why do you hate life so much?” asks a staff member. For some reason, this question fills me with rage. She obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

“I don’t hate life,” the boy says through his teeth. “I hate mine. The purpose of life is to be happy. I am not, so I have no purpose.”

“Actually, the purpose of life is to reproduce,” says another kid, probably thinking she’s clever.

“Well, I can’t do that either,” he says. “I’m trans.”

There’s a silence, and then a pregnant girl who can’t be older than 14 says, “What is trans?”

***

I talk to my therapist and my psychiatrist and my doctor and my social worker. I tell them how I’m doing, and since I’ve been here (and therefore not school) for a week, I can honestly report that I’m doing well. I haven’t tried anything they’d worry about and I’ve been sleeping well. I’ve eaten at every meal and talked in group therapy. I’ve called my friends.

I talk to Mancala about Zach the Boyfriend all the time. He talks to me about his ex who he’s still in love with. Mancala is the boy who tried to jump off a bridge. I call him that because that’s the game we play together—we like it because it is mindless so we can talk without being written up for suspicious behavior. He has on pink pajama pants, the only clothes his family would give him. “They think that if I wear pink I’ll be a girl somehow. It’ll give me an epiphany or something.”

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“It’s OK. My name’s legally changed and I’ve started testosterone, so maybe when I look more the part they’ll understand.” I hope he’s right. Mancala is a good person and it’s horrible to see good people in bad situations.

***

“Hi, Zach,” I say brightly on the phone every day. Zach the Boyfriend is my most frequent call. I take up the one patient phone for about an hour once or twice an afternoon to talk to him, and it’s a relief to speak to someone without worrying what notes they’re taking on you, or whether they think you’re crazy. He already knows that I am and he seems pretty OK with it.

Some people make it all about them, treating my hospitalization like an act of betrayal against them personally, asking why I don’t call more, they need me to call more. Making me feel guilty for focusing on myself during my treatment. Getting angry with me when I can’t emotionally handle a conversation with them. But others pass the phone around the room and say hello and act normal and say they miss me and they are glad I’m OK. We will see each other soon; it was really good to talk to you, I miss you, I don’t know how you are surviving in there without music; we wish we could visit you. Oh, and by the way, so-and-so broke up with him!

I know I have a strong support system back home. I change my medication to something that will hopefully work for me (and I try one that goes very wrong). My dad visits me every day and once he brings my siblings.

I look out the window and long for fresh air. I hope I can check out the radio for my room later tonight because I heard it’s ’90s week on 95.5. I haven’t listened to music in a week and a half. The numbness in my head seems to have cleared and is replaced by homesickness, which I think is a good sign.

I care about things.

I wear sweatpants and Sketchers. I feel slovenly. I can’t wait to go back to eyeliner and hair conditioner and skirts.

***

It’s finally my last day. It’s been postponed but now it’s day 13 and I can finally leave this place. I can go back to fresh air and my friends and food that wasn’t frozen several times. I can drink something that isn’t milk. I can take my meds in the morning without waiting in a humiliating line and having to open my mouth for the nurse to check that I’m not hiding anything.

I say goodbye to Mancala.

“Don’t hug him,” a staff member who says “fustrated” instead of “frustrated” warns.

I give a final goodbye to the group and walk out the doors with my dad and the escort who has the power to open doors. I feel new air that I haven’t felt in two weeks. The world is so bright. I am going to the partial program from 8 to 2 tomorrow, and I’m going to be getting more help. I don’t mind. I can’t wait to go home. ♦

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42 Comments

  • MissKnowItAll April 3rd, 2013 7:09 PM

    Is Rubes okay?

    • Anaheed April 3rd, 2013 9:14 PM

      Yeah it’s my fault her diary is up late. It is there now though and it is a great one.

  • dreamygirl April 3rd, 2013 8:06 PM

    Britney! I understand how you feel, almost exactly! I don’t know if you used to be frightened by the idea of outer space, but when I was younger I was terrified by it. Everything was so big and I was so small and it was terrifying. Then I began to think about it and it became amazing. Everyone can do this big thing, but it’s only big for them. Only big for four billion people, but if you think about it all, maybe four billion people isn’t that much.

    UM, I’m kinda worried about the amazing Ruby, where has she gone?

  • Suzie Q April 3rd, 2013 8:08 PM

    @Katherine Satan-loving boys are the best <3 And as for Samantha Jones, she is my spirit animal

  • lydiamerida April 3rd, 2013 8:37 PM

    @Katherine
    The RuPaul thing reminded me of the Princess Diaries (the books are actually really really good) when Mia’s new English teacher tells her that she needs to stop referencing pop culture in her writing, and Mia feels really oppressed because she wants to be a writer when she grows up and stuff.
    And I totally get the whole Christ-y boys dilemma. I go to a Catholic school (ugh) and it feels like literally all the boys are named either Gabriel or John. Especially the cute ones. *sigh*

  • abby111039 April 3rd, 2013 8:37 PM

    Britney’s post just described MY ENTIRE LIFE right now. That’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, and I didn’t know how to put it in to words, but you pretty much did it for me. :P

  • Lucy April 3rd, 2013 8:40 PM

    I miss Ruby. Her diaries are always the best. I she going to be alright?

    • Anaheed April 3rd, 2013 9:02 PM

      She’s actually back this week. I’m adding her diary right now.

  • Eryn April 3rd, 2013 8:56 PM

    Britney I feel like maybe we are on the same wavelength about everything right now?

    I have also been thinking a lot about outer space lately. I have these stick-on stars/planets on the wall and ceiling above my bed, which both reminds me of my insignificance and makes me feel like I have my own private universe.

    I love everything you had to say <3 <3 <3 <3

  • caro nation April 3rd, 2013 9:33 PM

    Rubes, you are a writer. You are a fucking WRITER. You just get it. I hope we meet one day.

    • -alexandra- April 3rd, 2013 11:11 PM

      You are a writer, Ruby. It seems like it’s in your bones.

  • Tavi April 3rd, 2013 9:48 PM

    Love you so much, Ruby.

    • strawberryhair April 4th, 2013 10:29 AM

      Times a million from everyone <3

  • dreamygirl April 3rd, 2013 9:54 PM

    I don’t know what to say to you, Ruby. . . That piece was ridiculously good and you are a ridiculously good person. Thank you for helping me understand a little more. Also, thank god you have Zach, who is obviously the best.

    • dreamygirl April 3rd, 2013 9:55 PM

      As girl up there said, I hope we meet one day.

  • gr-ass April 3rd, 2013 9:58 PM

    love you ruby, you’re amazing and everyone on rookie will always care for you and support you-don’t forget that. love you and your diaries. xoxox

  • fox in the snow April 3rd, 2013 10:11 PM

    Ruby,
    I was in a specialized hospital like yours for attempted suicide in January for about 3 and ½ days. similar rules, although I couldn’t wear a bra with a wire, and had to wear a sports bra instead*. The rules were a lot stricter and rigid. I spent the first day crying about wanting to go home. i barely saw my doctors, and never even met with my assigned social worker during my stay. Another doctor(not my assigned one) found me crying and at the middle of the second day and basically told me to fake being better so i could leave. i had 2 roommates, one in for homicidal threats and the other for hearing voices(she justified this as being a ghost in her home that her whole family heard). your hospital sounds a lot better than mine was. the whole place wasn’t insulated properly, and being january and chicago, the nights were freezing. My meals were always screwed up because I am a vegetarian. I wish you the best of luck in recovering from this. if rookie had a pen pals thing, i would totally send you a letter filled with rainbows and sparkles to take instead of having to take lots of medications for everything.
    feel better,
    maxie

    *That was quite disastrous for a girl with the bra size 32 DDD (E).

  • Julia Marie April 3rd, 2013 10:22 PM

    Ruby: stay strong, stay brave and know that you are loved.

  • -alexandra- April 3rd, 2013 11:10 PM

    Ruby, your entry was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read here on Rookie. Thank you for taking the time to create such a personal, well-written piece and share it with us. Although we don’t know each other, through your diaries I feel as if I know you, so I’m sending you love, always.

  • angusyoung4eva April 3rd, 2013 11:11 PM

    Katherine, I wish we could be friends, you sound so rad! And it’s okay, Satan-y boys are on the way, don’t worry! :D

    http://www.theflamedame.wordpress.com

  • Nomi April 3rd, 2013 11:19 PM

    I’m glad to see you’re feeling better Ruby! I was in a hospital for depression for a while and it wasnt fun.

  • Clare April 3rd, 2013 11:26 PM

    I love you Ruby. I hope things start getting a lot better for you. Like in the Simpsons, “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!”? Well I hope everything’s coming up Ruby.

    And Katherine, your diaries are so smart and funny, I smile every time. I hope you get into a new college, and I hope you enjoy it!

  • Hecticglow April 3rd, 2013 11:49 PM

    Ruby I am so glad you are back and on the way to getting better. Just know that all of us rookies care about you:)

  • rhymeswithorange April 4th, 2013 1:10 AM

    RUBY! You are so brave!
    And Katherine, I was waitlisted by not one but TWO colleges (my top choices, of course), so I’ll be waiting until May for college mail with you <3

  • Jasmine April 4th, 2013 3:22 AM

    Naomi: LITERALLY. ME. AGHHHHHH WTF THIS IS GETTING WEIRD x

    Ruby: Beautiful writing, as always, and I really hope that you’re feeling better. Much love from all of us rookies ! xxxxxx

  • strawberryhair April 4th, 2013 4:36 AM

    Love you, Ruby. Hope you get better soon <3 xxxxxxxxxxx

  • Esme April 4th, 2013 5:57 AM

    Ruby.
    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

  • eremiomania April 4th, 2013 6:16 AM

    Ruby you are so amazing. I hope you’re happy. Your entry reminded me of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. But wow. I love you! For a while I thought there was a mix-up and your entry was fictional. I just think you’re so great, I wouldn’t have the courage to write something so personal. You’re amazing.

    • catpower44 April 4th, 2013 9:10 AM

      It reminded me of that too. I just finished that book. Ruby, I think you’re an amazing writer and I really hope you get better soon. Love from Canada. ♥ ♥ ♥

  • ivoire April 4th, 2013 7:50 AM

    I am happy and sad for you ruby. You are a really good writer and a strong person. I am glad you’re leaving hospital and everything. Love you,

  • Emma S. April 4th, 2013 8:41 AM

    Ruby, this is an incredible piece of writing, and you are an incredible girl. Sending you lots of love. xooxoxoxox

  • Annie at Cher Ami April 4th, 2013 2:09 PM

    Ruby your diary was the one of the best things ever, you write so well and with such poignancy (if there is such a word), and I give you lots of love and wishes from Britain!xxxxx

  • Charlotteeeee April 4th, 2013 4:08 PM

    Hey Ruby,
    I just wanted to say that A) being in the hospital sucks… it really, really, really sucks. I’ve been there twice in the past two years (anorexia and hearing voices), fun times. No but seriously you deserve to have a much happier, better teenagedom than the world/god/whatever/whoever(?) has given you. Also your diaries are so chillingly honest but still in a really weird way awesome (I guess because you have some real writin’ talent gurl) and I hope you will be doing better soon!!
    P.S. If you are in Childrens Hospital right now (I guesses that because of the way you described the rooms) when you get an on grounds pass totally go down to the basement because it is perfect and creepy and there are these little electronic buses which drive around…

  • babyybat April 4th, 2013 6:46 PM

    RUBY. I missed your diaries sooo much! I’m so glad your back!!

  • barbroxursox April 4th, 2013 8:30 PM

    Omg Katherine you are literally me (except a year older). I wish satan-loving boys went to my school :( Oh well, I’m leaving my school after this year, so hopefully things will change!

    http://lizard-onawindowpane.tumblr.com

  • minnow April 5th, 2013 5:25 AM

    Ruby – that was so fantastic of you to write this experience, and to make it so moving. Thanks for being brave enough to share! xxx

    Also, Naomi, I really appreciate your entries at the moment. I’m constantly finding myself reflecting over everything right now, and always find myself thinking about a certain stupid boy (what a surprise), who I wish I could ignore and forget. I’ve often thought why him? considering all he’s done to me, and always come to your conclusion that there is no reason, it just is. It’s not something you can definitively ‘get over’ and sometimes remembering and nostalgia is like a punch in the gut. Looking forward is the right thing to do though!! xxx

  • Graciexx April 5th, 2013 5:34 PM

    My love (and probably all of Rookie’s too) to Mancala, Zach the Boyfriend (he sounds amazing, hope he’s really as great as he comes across as ’cause if he is you’ve got someone special girl) and especially you Ruby.

    You don’t owe anything to anyone other than yourself and no one can tell you want you want, because no one knows you better than yourself. Trust your heart, carry your head proudly and remember that whatever happens we will always love you.

  • yumi April 5th, 2013 7:51 PM

    All my love to you Ruby <3

  • cleobea April 6th, 2013 10:54 AM

    Ruby, Ruby. Your entry is so beautiful and moving and well-written. It’s nice to hear from you, I always love your entries. I hope you’re doing okay now.

  • karastarr32 April 8th, 2013 5:22 AM

    RUBES <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

  • tturnthenoiseon April 10th, 2013 1:19 PM

    Infinite chills from Ruby’s entry. So, so good <3
    Thank you