SMILE (Part 12) – TRICK or Treatment!

Halloween 2000

Halloween 2000

Trick or Treatment

“Seems like the new meds are working better,” Dr. Lopez says. He sitting at the foot of my hospital bed, his long hair pulled back into a pony tail. He’s got my chart snug against a clipboard and flips through the last few days group and psych tech notes.

“I think so. I feel a bit sluggish. What’s gonna happen?” I ask. Since Miranda’s left I’ve moved across the hallway to a single room with a captain’s bed. It doesn’t face the river, and I miss watching it before bed, miss Miranda’s squirming and snoring, her yellow glitter all over the floor.

“I can’t justify holding you here anymore, frankly,” he says and sighs. Maybe he would like me to stay forever. Maybe I should.

“I don’t think I can go home. I mean, I still feel so foggy. Broken,”I say.

“I know. I can see that. It’s these damn insurance companies. They’re ruthless. And truly, the main criteria for being here is if you are harmful to yourself or others. And I don’t see that. But I thought of another way….” He trails off. “I could move you over to Lodging Plus.”

“What’s that? Is it like this but you can smoke?” I ask.

He laughs. “Sort of. Yes, you can smoke between groups and after meals. There’s more freedom, for sure. It’s in a different building across the campus. But there’s a catch….”

“A catch? Do we have to tell the insurance company I’m half crazy? Should I start growling and foaming at the mouth?” I swipe the air like I have claws.

“Not quite. It’s Chemical Dependency treatment. 21 days.”

“Fuck that. I’m not going to treatment. Sure, I’ve partied too much. But no way! I’d rather go home,” I lie. But I wouldn’t. The thought of going home makes my heart race, my palms sweat. I just want to sleep until I wake up whole again.

“But your chemical history qualifies you. It would give you more time to adjust to this new med combination. Also, I can continue to see you. Once you are discharged, you’ll need to find a new doctor. I can refer you, of course. But I really think we are making progress, and,” he stares at the floor, “I don’t think you’re ready according to my criteria. You need time.”

“That’s an understatement. At least here someone feeds me. I don’t have to worry about dishes or bills or anything but trying to keep from flipping out. How am I supposed to go back and be a mom again? Or work?” I’m feeling so desperate, the collision of every stressor and responsibility I can’t seem to manage piling up around me. “I just started brushing my hair a few days ago!”

“I know. I know. I think you should apply for disability. But it’s a process, and I will walk you through it, advocate for you. But you need to go to Lodging Plus so I can help you. Please,” he says.

“I don’t know. I guess. Maybe. But I better be able to smoke!” I start to laugh but really I’m pressing my fingernails into my palms to keep me from shaking. I want to run, slam myself into the wall like crazy Danny or cut myself like Miranda or refuse the meds or anything but leave the safety of this tiny room and Dr. Lopez. “What if I throw a huge tantrum? Threaten to kill myself? Can I stay?”

“It will only work for a few days. This is a crisis unit, a short-term facility. Anyone needing attention beyond two weeks goes to Cambridge. And trust me, you don’t want to go there. It’s a musty old building. Think “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” It’s not as archaic, but people there are really troubled and difficult,” he says and shakes his head.

“I’m troubled. And difficult.”

“Yes, yes you are,” he smiles. “But not in the same way. This is the first time you’ve been on meds. You’re young and have a whole life ahead of you. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s true. There are so many people who wait to get help. Or never get it. You can do this. Trust me?”

His words are soothing, hypnotic. I would follow him anywhere.

“I’ll do it. But you have to promise me that if it sucks I can leave, right?” I ask.

“Promise. And we’ll work on the disability thing. Here,” he tears a piece of paper from a prescription pad.  In Dr. Lopez’s scratchy handwriting it says:

Jennifer Lennon Sundance has a persistent mental illness that affects her ability to function. I don’t know when, or if, she will ever return to work again.

I’m not sure if he’s giving me a gift or a curse.


4 Responses to “SMILE (Part 12) – TRICK or Treatment!”

  1. Lennon this is amazing work, Your writing is great. I miss you kid! ❤

  2. 2 Cathy Brockman

    what a beautiful but dark story. I am able to relate though i wasn’t in a facility i had to go to a therapist on a weekly basis

    • I think a lot of mental illness deals with darkness. But there is always light somewhere. I’m trying to capture the two. Thanks for reading. Final piece comes out on Monday morning!

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