Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Story: Chapter Thirty Nine

So I was a 14-year-old patient at St. Alban's Psychiatric Hospital. I was diagnosed as having an eating disorder and this was the place that was supposed to help me to get better. Truth is, I was too scared to let them do anything to really help me. At least at first.

Somehow I was lucky enough to have my own room. All of the rooms on the adolescent unit were doubles. But thankfully, not all of the beds were needed. That first night I slept in a room with the barest of essentials. Eventually, my parents would bring a lot of my things to me on their frequent visits: favorite movies, books, drawing supplies (I was into drawing back then), comic books, and my completely awesome dinosaur blanket.

I had gotten that dinosaur blanket when I was in the second grade, back when I, like many young boys, had a thing for dinosaurs. I never thought of myself as someone who had a security blanket, but if I did, this was it. It was soft and warm and I slept under it pretty much every night until I was 25. Make fun if you want, but it's not as if I carried it around with me while sucking my thumb. And when it was too old to be considered a comfortable blanket anymore, I threw it away. No tears.

Anyway, the adolescent unit had two hallways. One held the boys' rooms, the other was for the girls. The common area had a dining table, some couches, a TV, a kitchenette type area, and a bumper pool table. Off to the side there was a meeting room, often where psychiatrists and counselors would take their patients to have little chats. This is where I met Dr. Llinas and Margaret (my psychiatrist and counselor, respectively) for the very first time. They seemed nice enough and seemed to know what they were doing. I'd later learn that I was wrong on both counts.

At the end of the girls' hallway was a pay phone. This is where I would spend my time calling home and calling family. My folks gave me an AT&T prepaid phone card, or maybe it was a credit card, I'm really not sure at this point. I do know, however, that I used it enough times that eventually I memorized the number and needed the card no longer. I made a lot of calls. I got a little homesick from time to time.

Also at the end of that hall was a school room, where a teacher would come in each day and facilitate each patient's school assignments. I don't mean to belittle her teaching ability, but she seemed to me to be a a glorified babysitter while we sat in "school" for a few hours.

The main entrance to the unit was the nurses' station. This is where the nurses would hang out and keep the meds. We the patients didn't spend much time there. Generally they brought the meds to us.

So that was the layout. This was the place that I'd come to call home for the next seven weeks. That's right, I said seven. It was only supposed to be two or three. Let's just say I hit a couple of hiccups while enjoying my stay.

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