“Good thing your father brought all your stuff. You’re not going to be able to wear what you’ve got on now.” The nurse rummages through the giant plastic bag whose large blue print reads:
RUBY BOOK: ADOLESCENT INPATIENT UNIT
“Take off your pants,” she continues. “They’ve got stringy things—what are they, Tripp pants? Hardly practical.” I don’t respond as I take them off. She throws a pair of gray sweatpants at me. “Lots of pockets, though. That’s nice.”
I pull on the sweatpants and hand over my shoelaces, hair elastics, and hat.
“Oh, we changed some policies,” she says. “You can’t bring pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, makeup, or hats.” I watch as a couple of orderlies gather my things and carry them away.
“I can’t have my pillow?”
“Can I wear my hat, just for right now?”
“You can wear hats in your room. I’ll give it back later.” In a few hours, I will learn this was a lie.
That evening I sit in an uncomfortable chair in a circle of other uncomfortable chairs filled with members of the Adolescent Inpatient Unit. No one’s shoes have laces in them.
“What’s your name?” says a girl around my age, maybe a little bit older.
“Really? That’s sort of a weird name for a white girl. Why are you here?”
“I don’t really feel comf—”
“Just forget it,” she says, interrupting me. “I bet you’re just ‘stressed about school’ or something, like every other fake bitch who comes here. You know there’s no Starbucks, right?”
“Actually, if you’d—”
“Whatever. You just don’t know what it’s like here, in an actual psychiatric hospital. It’s not as easy as you think.”
“This isn’t my first time,” I snap bitterly, “and I didn’t come here on vacation. I don’t want to be here, but I probably need to be. If you don’t believe me, leave me alone.” I fold my arms and glare into space.
“What’s on your arm?” she says, speaking softly now. “That looks…really…really bad.”
I pull down my sleeve as quickly as I can and turn to walk as far away from her as possible, which is about 30 feet.
I told myself I’d never let it get this bad. I told myself I’d tell my therapist everything. I told myself I’d never let myself get so out of control that I’d end up here again.
I scream. ♦