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I am 23.

They give me blue socks.

By Chaya SteinbergPublished 2 years ago 3 min read

Content Warning: discussion of hospitalization for suicidal thoughts

I am 23.

“It smells like something is burning.”

A passing remark from a nurse rolling a gurney past us. I smoked a cigarette before coming into the ER to calm my nerves.

I don’t want to be here, but I know I have to be. I need someone else to keep me safe. It’s so exhausting trying to stay alive when your brain just wants to end it.

I am 23.

The curtain draws back and the nurse asks my father to leave.

“Are you being abused at home?”

I say no, and she lets him back in after doing a physical exam to make sure I don’t have new scars or bruises.

I am 23.

They have me sit in a wheelchair and take me through the tunnels under the hospital to bring me to the psych building, while my father walks alongside us.

They bring me to the special psych ER and deposit me in a bed.

I am 23.

I call my siblings and tell them where I am, telling them not to worry, that I am safe.

The room is quiet, but there are other patients in beds nearby. It is 12AM and I cannot sleep. I watch TV on the screen in the corner, laying on my gurney and trying to sleep. I am safe now, they are watching me.

I am 23.

They bring me into the ward and show me to my room. It has two beds, and there is a young woman sleeping in one of them.

I set my book down on the nightstand and lay down on the cot, trying to sleep.

I am 23.

I am the only one in the ward here for depression and suicidality. The other patients are all there for other issues. Schizophrenia, physical assault, OCD… I feel alone, and yet I feel so very safe for the first time in so long.

The bathroom doors don’t lock, and we have to return our combs after showering for our safety. There are no mirrors.

I am 23.

I’ve made friends. Mr. Smith, an older man who I later discovered had given me an alias. He is so very kind, and yet when I ask why he is in the psych ward, he tells me that it is because he threw a bike at someone.

He teaches me how to play Sevens.

I teach him how to play Yaniv.

I am 23

I had thought that I was the only religious jew on the floor, but I discover one woman who is nonverbal and unwilling to take her medication. Every day, at medication time, while everyone else lines up at the pharmacy window, she is dragged into her room kicking and screaming by orderlies to have her medication administered intravenously.

I am 23.

I ask one of the doctors if I could keep the deck of cards for the duration of my stay, and she allows me to take it.

I teach the other patients how to play Yaniv and we spend the hour after dinner and before curfew in the hallway playing.

I am 23.

The doctors determine that I am safe to be released. I am given my street clothes, and I take my last shower with an unlocked door. I comb my hair and return it to the orderly at the desk.

I wait in the lunchroom for my release papers and a new patient is brought in for suicidal thoughts.

Finally, in my last half hour of time in the psych ward, I find someone who understands me.


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