Every morning, we were asked to set a goal for the day. These goals were written next to ours names on a whiteboard, along with our mood rating, which we ranked from one to 10. There really weren't that many goals to choose from -- attend groups, get your meds adjusted, work an AA step, and....uh...take a shower? Walk some hallway laps? Re-read the July 2016 issue of Glamour for the seventh time? -- and since this was a short-term facility, eventually everybody set the goal of discharge planning.
For some patients, that meant dozens of calls to dozens of 30-day rehab centers in search of a bed. For others, a spot in an intensive outpatient program. Or a series of fraught counseling sessions with desperate and/or estranged family members, since you either went home with them or to a homeless shelter. Or not at all, for a few patients who set their goal to "discharge planning" every single day but were obviously not going anywhere.
Then there was me. I just wanted to get discharged in time for Ike's birthday party on Sunday. I'd promised him a Sonic the Hedgehog cake. I needed to be there. I needed to get him that damn cake.
Amy's goal: discharge planning, overcoming tremendous mom guilt, birthday cake. Mood rating: 6.
Later that day I shared a 10-minute, secret hug (NO TOUCHING!) with a girl who was leaving for an especially hard-fought place in a 30-day program. We both cried and promised each other that the future was nothing but awesome and bright. I'll never forget her. I'll most likely never see her again.
I was still wiping the tears away when my doctor agreed that I could potentially be discharged sometime on Friday. She took another phone call and I snuck an upside-down peek at my latest progress report:
Patient is visible on the ward. Active participate in groups. Self-reports some lingering anxiety and sleep issues but overall is feeling better and believes new medications are helping. Concerned and motherly affect towards peers. A+
(The A+ was circled. I got a goddamned A+ in psych ward.)
My best exercise buddy (and by "exercise" I mean meandering hallway laps in our grippy socks) was a huge, hulking meth and heroin addict who'd been clean for all of eight days. He barely spoke at first, then told a quiet, sarcastic joke that made me laugh. We were damn near inseparable after that, though every story he told me about himself made it clear his entire life was an experiment in terror. The day I left, ordered him to be okay, babbling nonsense about his worth and potential. He cried and promised me that yes, he would be okay.
The word "potential" in my doctor's discharge planning, on the other hand, worried me, as did the continued med tinkering and the team's concerns about my lack of solid sleep at night. (They put a lot of emphasis on your ability to sleep, despite the fact that the night staff opens your door and shines a flash light at you every 30 minutes.) So I outsourced Ike's Sonic cake to Isabel and his specific candle requests (six regular plus one in the shape of a seven) to my mom, just in case.
"I used the phone!" I enthusiastically reported at the nightly goals' recap meeting. "I asked for and accepted help from others! Also, I got a cake!"
Golf claps, all around. Mood rating: 10.
I was the only suicide attempt in the ward that week, but it didn't really matter why any of us were there, in the end. We were all depressed, anxious, at war with a bully in our brains that beat us down until we broke from its lies.
Just use, just drink, just flush your meds, just give up, just die.
We were all there because we wanted to fight back, and to win.
Jason came to visit a couple times, and we agreed it was probably best not to bring the boys and to let them imagine I was in a more traditional hospital setting, for now. Jason hated it there. He hated seeing me there.
"You don't belong here," he said the first time, warily eyeing a one of the other patients who was prone to endless wandering and arguing with the walls.
"Yeah," I said quietly. "I actually really do."