I sit uncomfortably on a leather sofa staring down at my feet. Despite having to visit the room twice a day, I have no memory of what it looks like or how it is decorated. What I can recall is the cold hard, leather against my legs, and the heaviness in my chest. My court ordered psychiatrist sits across from me in a wing-backed chair that matches the distressed leather of the couch.
I crouch on the sofa in my instinctive position, arms hugging my knees. I squeeze myself tightly. Holding it all together. Holding myself together.
I know I am supposed to talk to this man, to speak to him about all the things that had landed me in there. The things that encouraged me to find solitude in a handful of pills and a bottle of vodka. The things that any 15-year-old would lack the coping skills to handle. Despite knowing this, I am unable to say anything. I want to open up and tell him everything he wants to hear, but my body won’t cooperate. My mouth stays locked. I hug myself even tighter.
“Well, you’re currently on a 72 hour suicide watch. Those 72 hours are up soon, but unless you talk to me, I can get another court order to hold you in the hospital longer.” I cringe hearing that last part. I don’t want to stay here.
I don’t want to stay in the sterile white bedroom they assigned me. The walls seem to glow, making it hard to sleep. I don’t want to be checked on every hour. The familiar sound of the door unlocking in the middle of the night always causes me to tremble. I eventually realize it is only the nurse, so no risk of her trying to slide in beside me. I don’t want to stay in this place where everyone looks at me with pity and fear. Where everyone thinks at any moment I might try to kill myself again.
My throat tightens as I think about the possibility of being here another day, or even another week. I don’t want to be here.
Even so, I can’t will myself to speak. I twiddle my thumbs, and my eyes dart round the room avoiding contact with this man before me. Unwilling to enable my silence, he continues, “Now, your other counselors have told me that you enjoy writing. Instead of talking, why don’t you write about what has been bothering you?” I nod coldly, weary of his request.
During my free time, I lounge in my room and scribble furiously in my journal. I write what I cannot say. I write the truth. The truth that I could never speak. The story that I wished was only fiction. Somehow writing it down feels ok. I can pretend it is just a story, not my life.
When I finish, I close the notebook hoping to never look at it again.
Walking to the group room, I protectively clutch my journal against my chest. I sit down in a chair in the corner, shoving my secrets behind my back, guarding them from prying eyes.
“Hey, what you got there?” one of the nurses taps on my shoulder. “Is that what you wrote for the Doctor?” I shrug and stare at the floor, immediately hugging my knees to my chest. “Let me take a look.” She hastily thumbs through the pages, while a voice in my head tells me to rip the notebook from the bitch’s hands. But I sit there frozen, terrified of she might find.
She stops on a page, her eyes widening. She gasps and points to a single phrase. The pages tumble out of her hand and splash on the ground. My mind tells me to reach for them. To take them from her. But my body is still frozen.
She looks down at me, trying to compose herself. “Hmm…” she sighs, now forcing a smile. “I’ll be right back.” And with that she disappears down the hallway.
I panic knowing that my thoughts are in the hands of a stranger, but the day’s schedule forces me to move onto other things. I am rushed on to the art therapy room, and after an hour there, I am lead to a group therapy session. I sit in a chair in the circle with my legs coiled in my arms. I try to fall asleep as everyone else shared stories of their past.
My mind wanders back to my journal. I’d already shared enough of my story today, I thought. And when it came time for me to address the group, I look down at the floor. No one else could force me to give it up again.
A different nurse taps me on the shoulder, “Can you please come with us? We have a few people that would like to ask you some questions.” Grasping my arm, he quietly pulls me down the hallway and stops before an unfamiliar door.
Entering the room I see two middle-aged women sitting along a round table with an empty chair beside them. In the center of the table lays my defiled notebook.
A woman wearing a uniform speaks first, “Hi, I’m Officer Ramirez, and this is Mrs. Carter. She is a social worker. We wanted to ask you a few questions about what you wrote here.” As she talks, the nurse sneaks out of the room closing the door tightly behind him, leaving me helpless.
I reluctantly answered their questions, unaware of the turmoil it will cause, the years of lawyers, court dates and therapy sessions. I didn’t know that by writing the truth I had re-written my family’s future.