Wow. You guys and the supportive comments. Truly humbling. Thank you all so much.
I kinda don’t know how to follow up a post like yesterday’s. I mean, I could give you the blow by blow of the week in the bin, but honestly, how much do you want to know about who won Scattergories (me) or Pictionary (me) or was the best at Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune (me) anyway? The bin can be agonizingly boring. And in a group of bored people, you’ve got to make friends or you’re going to make enemies. And the last thing you need in a controlled environment is an enemy. So now that I was in the bin, I had to eventually stop crying, right? And when I did, I looked around and saw understanding and sympathetic eyes looking back at me. Not from the doctors, they see you as a case study. Not the nurses, they see you as a pill swallowing barcode. Not the techs, they’re there to make sure you don’t drink the shampoo or smash your head into a wall or stab yourself with a plastic fork. Even the therapists swoop in and out, seeing us for 45 minutes at a clip once a week in groups. Be prepared to remind employees that you have a name a LOT.
No, the understanding eyes are the other ones wearing slippers with their jeans, or sneakers with no laces. Some may not have family members to bring them clothes and have to live in hospital gowns. No matter. This isn’t Fashion Week, it’s the bin, and the ones in the grippy-bottomed socks shuffling around the unit? Those are your friends now. Best to get to know them and bond ASAP or it’s going to be a very, very lonely time.
I joke a lot when I’m uncomfortable or nervous, y’all know that. I use humor to attempt to break the ice in a dicey situation, and if I can make someone smile or laugh, I have a much better chance of then turning to them and sharing a conversation. There were other patients who immediately greeted me (once I calmed down) and showed me the inner workings and secret stashes of the unit (did you know you can request chocolate cake for breakfast? You totally can, what do the cafeteria workers care?) Also? You only get caffeinated coffee in the morning, so order four or five cups. You’ll get at least three if you ask. That crap on the menu every day? Request something from the “alternate” menu that’s stashed in the pantry. You don’t need to eat turkey and instant mashed potatoes every day. They have burgers and fries, you just have to write it on your order sheet.
It’s the little things like this that make life seem more…normal, I guess. You make precious few decisions for yourself in the bin, so asking for (and receiving) chocolate cake for breakfast is a little victory that will mean more to you than you would think. Sticking it to the Man, you know? It all comes down to the little things. They end up meaning so much.
Inside jokes are also vital. Once you start conversing and bonding with your fellow patients (and you will) you will, as a close-knit group, start making inside jokes. Hackey Sack and I had one that meant “Why the fuck are these nurses so up my ASS today, can I not even go to the BATHROOM in peace” (no you can’t) that was whittled down to “Who moved my bear?” We knew all the subtext, no more had to be said and we would both crack up laughing. See? Little things. Inside jokes. Cake for breakfast. This is how you survive.
a 23 year old will become best friends with a 60 year old. You will comfort an 80 year old dementia patient and hold her hand all night. You will realize that these people in the socks? They’re all you have. And they will become so precious to you that all else gradually falls away. There are no cliques, no “popular kids” at the lunch tables. We’re a team, a motley crew of loons that are far more normal than you’d think we’d be. We do ridiculous things like playing sitting-down volleyball with a beach ball for “recreation”. You will realize immediately that this is the most ridiculous thing ever, and a brawl of smashing the ball into other people’s faces as you laugh till you cry will break out.
You will learn to laugh so you can stop crying. The patient who doesn’t talk to anyone and always looks morose? The one in the wrinkled hospital gown whose eyes look like they stopped hoping years ago? The therapy dog will go right to him and nuzzle his knee. And he’ll smile. And that will make your whole day.
You’ll make friends with everyone, even the girl who came in crying and screamed for two days. Even her. Yeah, the one with the nosering and short black hair. Me. Even me.
You’ll survive. Because these are your people now. And we’re all in this together.