My first day at the hospital was on the Saturday following my 75 hour bout without sleep. I went there every weekday after that for a few weeks, but my assigned psychiatrist discharged me somewhat unexpectedly.
The weeks I went to the out-patient facility are a blur to me now, and I cannot differentiate my days there, which makes it hard to paint a coherent picture. However, my most vivid memories come from my first day.
That day, I found myself in a classroom of sorts. There were chairs and a whiteboard. I do not remember how I got to the room, but I remember being the first person there. A woman in scrubs came into the classroom, whistling a familiar tune. I asked her what she was whistling, and she told me it was “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady. I could have kicked myself for having to ask.
The woman in scrubs was in her mid to late fifties. She was pretty, lithe, and blonde. She wore her hair down, and I could tell she used a blow dryer, because, man, was it Texas Tall. I liked her straight off, but I didn’t say anything else to her.
I do not remember anything about what activities the whistling therapist did with us, but I have vivid memories of being left unsupervised with the initial group of about ten to twelve other patients. Being scared and guarded, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I was bored. I saw a trash can, and I somehow got a hold of paper. I moved the trash can to the center of the room, wadded up some paper, and began shooting baskets.
Somehow I broke the tension, and everyone in the room wanted to join in. Soon we had seven or eight make-shift basketballs flying around, and I was running around tirelessly distributing them. I was also shouting words of encouragement to all the participants. It’s hard to say who was having more fun, but I’m pretty sure it was me.
One of the patients pulled out his flip phone and started videoing me. He said I reminded him of a puppy. For some reason I knew him taking a video was against the rules, but I was having too much fun to care. I’ve always been a good coach, and I was in my element.
I’m not sure how long this went on, but eventually one of the therapists retrieved us and escorted us into another part of the facility. I carried one of the wadded up pieces of paper with me. On the way, we were told our families would be meeting us and then staying to listen to a psychiatrist talk about mental illness.
As we walked into the new room, I located a trash can about fifteen feet away. High off my recent coaching gig, I let the ball in my hand fly. I do not think I even hit the target, neither did I make to go pick it up.
“Hey! What you doin’? You go pick that up, now! This isn’t a dump!” I spun around and saw an angry woman yelling at me. I was terrified. I ran and picked up the trash, ashamed of my childlike behavior.
I remember absolutely nothing about the psychiatrist’s lecture. I do remember sitting with my parents and leaning back in the chair I was sitting in. I was using their chairs to balance, thinking nothing of this task. I did it all the time in high school. My parents got my attention, and apparently my balancing act was making a man in a hospital gown incredibly nervous. I stopped.
I looked around the room after that, and it was full of people who were wearing hospital gowns. Most of the people in the gowns had very strange looks on their faces. They were awake, but their eyes were lifeless. It was haunting and sad. A few people were sitting stock-still with their mouths agape.
My parents explained to me that this was the in-patient area of the facility. I was very glad I was not in a gown, let me tell you.
I have random memories from the rest of my time in the hospital, but nothing as fancy as a day to day account. I wish I had journaled during this time, even if it was only a few sentences a day. I will regale the remaining tales in a later post; this one is already too long for my liking.