5 Months At Brattleboro Retreat

Arrival

October 28, 2012

The autumn afternoon sped by as my mother drove down the interstate. She talked to a family friend sitting in the passenger seat. We had moved into Louise’s house that summer, after selling my grandparents’ home. She’s an older women with wild white hair usually pulled back into a ponytail. When I wasn’t looking out the car window I would look at the door handle, willing myself not to open it and jump out.

      It was about evening when we finally arrived at our destination. We enter the familiar gate archway, and park near the hospitals main entrance. Admittance took some time. We were waiting to be seen by a doctor. My leg was jittering so much that it was practically becoming airborne. When a doctor finally brought us to a room I was told to change from my cloths into the hospitals pajamas. But before that I went through a full body search. Squatting and all. Then it was time to be brought to the ward.

      My mother wasn’t allowed to come, so we said our goodbyes on the admittance floor. As my mother left, a nurse came to bring me to Osgood 1, the child’s ward. We went down a stairway that brought us to the basement. The walls were brick and it looked like a furnace or boiler room. The nurse talked to me, but I don’t remember about what. I must have been distracted by my surroundings and situation. Along the basement hallway we passed Rec rooms, therapy rooms, offices, but what surprised me was the gift shop. We came to a stairwell that brought us up to floor one, and Osgood 1.

      Much about that night is lost to me, but going to sleep with the hallway light shining into my room do to the nurse sitting in the doorway, watching me. This became very familiar to me during my stay.

Very early the next morning a nurse woke me and put numbing cream on the nook of my arm. I fell asleep again after they left, but was woken not that much later to have my blood drawn. Thus started my stay at the Brattleboro Retreat.

(2012–My school yearbook photo when I was 12. Not long before I was put in the hospital)

 

Calm Room

     It was about a week before I started to eat, sometime after my thirteenth birthday. Thirteen is a lucky number in my family, yet there I was, locked away because I was a danger to myself.

      Osgood 1 had been under reconstruction during my first stay at the hospital. It was made to look comfortable and smooth. Literally, the corners were curved.

      My favorite room was the Calm Room. There were bean bags and cushions sprawled out on the floor. In the corner was a plexi-glass pipe that attached to the ceiling and floor. Bubbles rose in it, and it changed colors. We called it the lava lamp.  The lights were always off and the shade—which was actually between two panes of glass– was shut in the window.

      In the corner across from the lava lamp was a cabinet with moon sand, brushes, stress balls, and putty. But my favorite was the stereo and collection of music. There was a small box of cassettes, and a binder of CD’s. Most were mixes that the nurses made. My choices came down to this: children music, seasonal music, classical, and classic rock. I chose the rock.

      At the time I thought it was the music that made me feel high, but now I understand it was maybe some of that and mostly the drugs. There were a lot of classics on these cassettes and CD’s, but I constantly played this one CD that had Lucy in the Sky, More than a feeling, and Peace of mind on it.

      I would watch the bubbles rise, and imagine that they were racing, much like raindrops on a window. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet the colors changed.

(2008–Me after my ballet performance in “The Nutcracker” put on by the Baltimore School for the Arts. Ballet was my passion, it was my calm room)

 

Snowball

Lying under my neatly tucked sheets, I held a thick book over her face, Game of Thrones. I shut the book with a defeated expression and placed it on the ground. Still lying flat on my back I looked up out the barred window on the wall behind me. I saw gently falling snow come from the night sky. I jumped a little when there’s a knock at my door.

“Hey Emme, can I come in? I have a gift.” the nurse, Dave, said merrily.

I nodded to him and he walked in. His jacket had snow clinging onto it, slowly melting. He had a backpack on, and his hands behind him. I sat up and smiled at him.

“Hi Dave.” I said happily.

Dave smiled back at me.

“I know you haven’t been outside for a while now. And now that it’s really starting to feel like winter I thought that maybe I’d bring the snow to you.”

He brought his hands forward and revealed a Styrofoam bowl with a snowball in it. He kneeled by me bed and gave the bowl to me. I held the snowball for a short while, then got up and went to the window. I lifted it as high as it allowed, which is just a crack. I put the bowl on the window sill, shivering as the winter air snuck in. I turned and extended my arms to hug Dave, but then stopped and put my arms down.

“It’s okay Emme, we can hug.” Dave said with a laugh in his voice.

I hugged him, resting my head on his chest because of our height difference.

“If you want I can put the snowball in the freezer, so it doesn’t get cold in here.” he said.

“That would be nice.” I said with a smile.

Dave put the snowball into the freezer, and I smiled up at him. After closing the freezer door we left the snack room. Back in my room I closed my window and went back into my bed.  I curled up under my covers.

A few days later the other patient and I put on our boots and jackets. Then we got in a line. A nurse at the head of the line opened the front doors and we headed out. I walked in back, and walked slower the closer we get to the Rec building. I stopped and looked to the road on the other side of the entrance gate. A nurse ahead of me noticed this and called out,

“Emme, are you coming?”

I looked blankly at the nurse and shook my head. I walked towards the road, and the nurse quickly followed.

“Emme please don’t do this. You just got on green. Do you really want to be stuck in there? Slow down.” the nurse said frantically.

I started running once the nurse was a few feet away. The nurse couldn’t catch me. At the road I walked along the sidewalk, to the town up the hill. Coming down the hill was a man, a security guard. He noticed me and demanded that I stop. I ran away from him, but the nurse grabbed me as I turned around. I didn’t struggle as the nurse and guard took me back to the ward.

Back in my room, I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling. The lights were off, but some from the hallway came in because the door was open. A nurse sat at the door, watching me. That nurse was eventually tapped on the shoulder and replaced by Dave.

“Can I see my snowball?” I asked, still looking at the ceiling.

Dave ran a hand over his face and look at me sadly.

“Its gone Emme, I’m sorry. Someone must have thrown it away.”

I curled into a ball and turned my back to him, facing the wall.

“That’s okay. I got to go out tonight.”

(2006–Six year old me enjoying Vermont’s winter with my cousins and my dog Jessie while in vacation from Baltimore)

Positive Distraction

      A night nurse gave me the first book in the Game of Thrones series. I read the first two chapters, then gave up, picked out A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and read the whole thing in two days. Another nurse informed me that this wasn’t the first book in the series, and lent me her copy of A Wrinkle in Time. This one too I read through very quickly. I loved the stories, and they really ignited my interest in fantasy again. After those books I read a weird, but none the less exciting book called The Wish Giver.

About a month after I turned 13 I was moved up to the adolescent ward, Tyler 3. At the time I was very shy around teenagers, so to keep myself distenced I would read. As I browsed the bookshelves in the activity room, I came across the Bible, somewhat hidden on the bottom self in a corner. I’m not sure why I chose to read it. Maybe to reinvigorate my faith, or maybe I was questioning it.

It took me a while, in between meals and when I was forced to join in activities, but I was able to finish it. Now as I am writing this, at the age of 18, I can’t recall everything that was in that book, but I know that once I closed it for the last time I no longer believed.

I was raised a Catholic, christened a few weeks after I was born, and was baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant at my mothers church. Which is actually kind of funny because my parents were Mary and Joseph, and my fathers French name is  Joseph. When I was very young my mother and I lived with roommates that were Jewish, and I celebrated many holidays with them. My grandparents were Catholic, and they practically raised me. My grandfather was my only father figure, and my grandmother was like Julie Andrews. They died when I was twelve, and it was devastating. But there was the religious part of me that said I would see them again. But after reading that book it became clear to me that I would never see them again. And it was like losing them all over again.   

The God in the Bible is not an all loving father, he’s a monster, he’s the villain. Why would I want to love and devote my life to such a being, out of fear? So was I lied to? No, not really, I was just told cherry picked passages from the book so I could be kept in that cult. I loved the Catholic community. I still think that are probably the best sect of Christianity that I’m aware of. But I could no longer believe. Science, logic, and morality told me otherwise.

(2012–Science Fiction Exhibit at The Shelburne Museum. Costumes were a showcase, so I put on these Vulcan ears. Star trek is my favorite Sci-fi)

 

Escape

I sat by my locked door in the ward hallway. Staring aimlessly at the mural across from me. Down the hall another patient dressed in the blue pajamas walked hurriedly from the nurse’s station. He sat next to me with a giddy smile on his face. He reached into his pocket and took out a ring of keys.

      “Look what I have.” He said.

I looked at him and the keys with wide eyes.

      “How the fuck did you gets those Rami?”

He hid the keys by putting them between the two of us. He smirked and said

      “I pick-pocketed it off the new nurse.”

I chuckled. I looked down the hall to the station, then back at Rami.

      “What are you going to do with them?” I asked.

      “I don’t know.”

      “Can I have them?” I said with a calm intensity.

He laughed.

      “Yeah sure. What are you going to do with them?”

I grabbed the keys and stood up.

      “This.”

I walked to the reinforced wired glass door by the mural. On the other side of the door was a small room filled with shoes. And an elevator. I looked down at the station once more before unlocking the door. Rami waved at me once I was on the other side. My green converse were in a cubby. I took off the hospital slippers and slide on my shoes. I pressed to button, and waited. I tapped my hand against my thigh to the beat of my speeding heart. When the elevator doors opened I let out a relieved exhale after seeing no one inside.

I was positively giddy as the small metal box brought me to the ground floor. But that all drained away when the door opened. A nurse was there with a to-go plastic container of salad. I scooted by the shocked nurse and unlocked the door for that room.

      “Emme, where’s your nurse? Why are you alone?” The nurse asked.

Going through the cafeteria to the next door that led outside, I speed to it, with the nurse in tow. I unlocked those doors two, and stepped out into the grey winter day. I walked the paved path around the fenced in area for patients. The nurse finally got outside and asked,

      “Emme, where are you going? Please stop.”

I kept on walking away. The nurse called for security through his radio. That when I started running. I ran to the forest behind the hospital. The nurse pursued me. As I rounded the side of the hospital, to the forest, two security officers came out the back door. I tried to run faster. I got into the woods, but soon the officers tackled me to the ground. In my struggle against them I could not break the restraint they had on me as they brought me back to the hospital. Once on the ward they brought me to one of the back rooms. Another nurse was there waiting. I moved to the back wall and glared at the four adult. The new nurse, a woman, took a seat in the only chair.

      “Emme please strip.” She said.

      “What?” I asserted.

      “It’s just procedure sweetie. I can tell the men leave if that would make you more comfortable.”

      “Yes please.” I said aggressively.

The nurse looked at the men and they exited the room. I took my dirty pajamas.

      “Okay, now squat.” The nurse said.

I squatted.

      “Good! Put your clothes back on.”

As I redresses the nurse stood up and walked around as she said,

      “Because of this incident you’ll have a 24/7 nurse, and for day shift that will be Alex. He’s the nurse you got the keys from.”

We walked out of the back room and went to the common room. Sitting alone in the corner was Rami, he tried to hide his black eye. I went over and sat across from him.

      “What happened to you?” I asked.

      “Your friend Matt punched me in the face for giving you the keys.”

I laid my head down on my hands and looked at Matt.

      “Oh.”

(2008–”Ok, she looks cute here but 2 months earlier she looked like 80’s Billy Ray Cyrus with MANGE.” – Mom.)

 

My Door

I sat alone at a table in the common room. Resting my head on my arms and looked blankly at the wall. I sighed, then stood up and went to the Nurses Station.

“Can I get into my room?” I asked the nurse standing behind the desk.

The nurse nodded and walked with me to my door, which was just next to the Station. An older boy with loose brown hair sat across from my door on a cushion in meditation pose. His name was Matt. The nurse opened the door and I went in.

I dropped onto my bed. As I looked up at the ceiling I started to cry. I rubbed the tears from my eyes and replaced the look of sadness with one devoid of emotion. I got up and went over to my clothes shelf and grabbed a pair of jeans. I stood on one end them and pulled the other with all my strength to see if they would rip. They didn’t, so I went to my door and measured the jeans against it from the top of the entrance. After tying the ends of the pants into a knot I cracked open my door.

Outside Matt meditated but opened his eyes when he noticed my open door. I took my jeans and placed them over the door. The knot end on the outside, and the other on the inside. Matt gave me a questioning look.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

I glared at him, then shut the door. I stood up on the edge of my bed and held my makeshift noose. I put it around my neck, took a deep breath, then stepped off the bed. I forced my hands to stay down, and my legs to stay away from my bed. Matt bagan to bang against my door.

“Emme! What are you doing?” he yelled.

He continuously palmed the door, yelling “EMME!”. Matt went to the Nurses Station.

“Can I get some help? I think she’s hurting herself.” he angrily proclaimed.

I choked for air as my door received body slams from the other side. The door swung open and I collapsed to the ground gasping for air. A nurse came running in and knelt next to me to check my neck. Matt stood at door and sadly looked at me. Other patients gathered behind him, so I crawled to a corner to hide. The nurse stood up and looked at the patients.

“Okay, you all need to leave.” the nurse said.

The other patients left, but Matt stayed.

“You too Matt.”

Matt looked sadly away and went back to his cushion. The nurse closed the door, breaking the eye contact between Matt and I.

(2013–Me visiting my Grandparents grave with their dog Tredici not long after I got out of the Hospital).