I was not about to allow any to see me naked or touch me without my consent. After fighting with the nursing staff for hours and sleeping in the community room couches – the nurse Tyrell finally convinced me to go ahead with the skin check because he promised to find me a female nurse to do it. So, I agreed to do the skin check, aka letting a complete stranger probe my naked body to make sure that I wasn’t hiding weapons in my vagina. Haha, but seriously.
For some reason, I trusted Tyrell. He felt to me like a really good guy. I’m all about vibes, and he made me feel more open and safe – unlike the other head nurse, Rusty, who had me screaming, “Help me” at the top of my lungs. It was the middle of the night, but Tyrell found a way to get a female nurse there to do the check. He called someone from his cell phone and begged for a favor. I feel a little guilty now that I’m writing about it, but I didn’t give a shit at the time. I was frozen in place, and I wasn’t going to move unless he actually did get a female there. I thought to myself, “Wow, I really do look like a crazy person right now,” but I didn’t give a fuck. This felt like a complete violation, and unless it was a female nurse, I would and did not consent.
Forty-five minutes later, Raya, a really young nurse walked in. My guess is she was about six years younger than me. She had a thin frame, a heavy Caribbean-like accent, and an attitude I could feel the second she stomped through the door. She was annoyed with me and annoyed to be there. “What’s the problem?” she asked me from across the room. “Don’t you want to go to sleep?”
I shook my head no. “I’ll sleep right here.”
“You can’t sleep right here, Lady. This is the patient activity center, and you aren’t allowed to sleep here.”
I paused. “Well, let me in my room then,” I demanded, this time matching her haughty attitude.
“Ahh, I see how it is. You just want to make this difficult on me?” I didn’t say anything. “Well, lady, you have to do a skin check, so we know you won’t hurt yourself or anyone else in here.” She looked at me and gave me the “aren’t you going to follow me look.” I just sat there, still stuck and unable to move. “Look, Miss Alexa. Tyrell woke me up in the middle of the night to come here and make sure you could do your skin check so you could sleep in your own room. I took the trouble to get out of my own bed to be here to help you. So, if you aren’t going to come with me, then just tell me now so I can leave, and Rusty can take you to isolation.” I stood up and followed her.
The room I was taken into had two rollaway twin-sized hospital beds, separated by a shared wooden nightstand with a single drawer and a storage cubby underneath. Before I could really take it in, Raya began to search my hair. Luckily, the acupuncture needle I had on the top of my head was hidden inside my ponytail. The hospital bands I had kept were wrapped around my golden hair tie, and, unfortunately, the hair that I had wrapped and bobby-pinned around the bands had fallen out – likely during my frantic fighting and screaming session a few hours earlier.
“What is wrong with you? Why are you wearing your hospital bands on your head?”
“Shit! She saw them,” I thought to myself. I responded quickly. “I put them there because they keep taking my stuff, and I want to keep them, so I know where I am in the hospital.” She raised her eyebrows, and I explained. “The wrist bands have what section of the hospital I’m in printed on them, along with my patient code, as well as what doctor I’m assigned to. The bands have helped me track where I have been and where I am at the moment so that I can tell my husband. Also, so that I can retrace everything once I get out of here.”
“Retrace everything? Lady, you stop trying to be detective. That will just keep you here longer.” She held her hand out, motioning for me to give the bands to her, but I refused.
“These are technically my property, and they are permitted as safe by the hospital; since being here, it’s been enforced that I have to wear them; therefore, if I do not oblige, it’s illegal for you to take them from me.” I didn’t know if what I said was true or not but I stuck by it and that seemed to work.
She rolled her eyes and said, “Fine, you keep your wrist bands then, Lady, but stop wearing them on your head. You look crazy.”
“Well, I am in a psych ward, aren’t I?” I said sarcastically with a little giggle. I was just trying to make light of a heavy situation. I waited for a smile or some kind of response from her, but I got nothing. She clearly wasn’t impressed.
“Stop wasting time. Now, you need to undress.”
“With you in the room?”
“Well, aren’t you going to turn around?”
“No, I have to watch you.”
“Shit! I thought to myself,” as I remembered I had my mirror and my acupuncture needles in my biker shorts. So, all at once, I pulled down my sweats, shorts, and my panties. I folded them at the top pocket line so that the fabric bulged over my compact mirror and my acupuncture needles, which were still in my pockets. I set them in a clump on the bed to the right of me so that the clothing mound covered the items. I didn’t want Raya to see them and then have to take them from me. Luckily for me, she was more focused on getting the skin check done than looking through my clothes to make sure that they were “weapon free.”
“Okay, now turn and bend over. Okay, good. Done. Now, spread.” I did what she said. I felt sick, humiliated, and totally out of my body. It was so degrading. “Okay. You’re good. She turned and walked towards the door, then paused to say, “It’s time for you to go to bed. There is a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a bar of soap in the bathroom. I’m leaving and going back to bed because I have to be here again in 5 hours. I’ll come back with clothes for you to change into for tomorrow.” She rolled her eyes and walked out the door as I said, “Okay, thanks… Goodnight.”
When Raya left, I went and sat on the twin bed farthest across the room. It was a pretty hard and springy mattress, with a cotton sheet and a thin blanket topping it. I was freezing, so I pulled off the covers from the twin bed next to me and wrapped myself in them all. Their room was fluorescently lit, beaming down with a slight flicker (like out of a scene from a scary movie.) When I turned the blaring overhead light off, I felt slightly comforted seeing a crack of light underneath my door from the community area. I wished there had been a window in my room because, at that moment, I had never longed to look up at the moon and stars so badly. I just longed to see the same stars that were blanketing my sweet Gracie girl. I ached for her, I could feel her in my bones, and as tears rolled down my face, I imagined I was holding her in my arms as I fell asleep. I began to make up a song that I sang to her heart from mine in hopes she would feel it somehow.
“Don’t worry, my darling,
Mamma made you,
And I’m doing everything I can to make this right,
We’ll be together,
Tonight, I will find you,
In your dreams, so sleep in peace,
Soon I’ll hold you tight,
I love you, my darling.”
In the morning, I noticed I was given hospital clothing sitting on the bed to my right. Piles of pants, tops, and socks in duplicates. No one said how they had to be worn, so I made up my own version that made me feel more comfortable and somewhat stylish. I put on fresh socks and hospital pants over my biker shorts (still containing my mirror and acupuncture needles.) I then tied one of the hospital gowns in a sarong around the waist and wore a second one on top. I mostly wear skirts and dresses in my day-to-day life, so this made me feel more like myself. I walked out of my room which brought me immediately into the patient community center. Within seconds I heard, “No, no, no! Now, what are you doing? No, no, no, no! You are wearing that the wrong way! Don’t you know how to dress?” Raya was approaching me quickly from across the room. She reached for the knot I had tied the sarong in and began to undo it.
“Hey, I like it like this,” I said. “It’s like a dress, you know?”
“No. This makes you look psycho.”
“Well, isn’t this the place to let your freak flag fly? I mean, if not here, then where? Hahaha, right!?” I laughed, and the male nurse behind her, whom I had not met yet, laughed too. I was feeling much better after a full night’s sleep, but Raya didn’t find anything I ever said funny. She just looked at me and said, “No.” Then proceeded to untie the knot.
“It’s breakfast time.” Raya pointed to a room off the back of the community area. It was lined with windows, and it was filled with patients. I was hesitant. “Do I have to eat in there?”
“Yes. You have a tray with a ticket that has your name on it. Go eat. Eat fast, because you are seeing Dr. Robert Y today” (Due to the lawsuit I’m involved in, I can’t use anyone’s full names)
“Oh,” I replied. “I’m seeing the doctor?”
“Yep, and he’s coming quick, so you’d better go eat, girl, and eat all of it.” I scowled, but Raya continued, “We have to write in your charts if you do or do not eat all of your food, and if you don’t, well, that doesn’t go very well for you.” Now I was the one rolling my eyes.
“Well, why? What if I’m not hungry?” (I was actually starving due to still creating breast milk and having only eaten two meals since I had been to the hospital, but I’m a bit of a contrarian at times, so couldn’t help but ask why! Haha)
“Don’t you listen, girl? It doesn’t matter if you are hungry or not; you have to eat and follow the rules and take your meds if you want to go home. You want to go home, don’t you?” I nodded.
“That’s pretty fucked up,” I thought. The thought of “forced eating” triggered my old eating disorder pains, but right then and there, I decided, “If I had to eat everything on everyone’s plate in order to go home, I would do it.” I promised myself I was going to do whatever it took to be with Gracie as soon as I could and to make this right when I did. (Hashtag justice! Hahah) #justice 😊
I walked past two patients on my way into the meal room. I later learned their names were Tanisha and Jaffar. They both sat on the couch, cuddled up to each other with their hoods covering their eyes. Tanisha stared at the TV in front of her, which was now on and playing cartoons,-but Jaffar lifted his head up to give me a big, toothless smile, and he put his hand up as I walked by.
I found out later that she was in there for schizophrenia. She often talked to herself in whispers. She never spoke to anyone but Jaffar, and she only spoke in whispers, even to him. That is until the night came. Her room was on the other side of mine, and it was really disturbing listening to her scream, cry, and yell out loud at night. Listening to her made me realize I probably scared a lot of people the night I was taken there, screaming, “Help me,” and had a breakdown in refusal to doing a “skin check.” Jaffar was a homeless man and was in the hospital by what seemed to be his own choice. He had been there a few times and appeared to be a staff favorite. He loved to give hugs, and high fives, which made me nervous in the beginning since the hospital wasn’t having any of us following COVID protocols. No masks at all. Eventually, I gave him high-fives and hugs, and I’m glad I did. He was a sweetheart and drew me pictures every time I got off the phone with Ty, usually crying because I missed him and Gracie so much. As far as Tanisha, I never found out her backstory, other than that she had grown up in foster care. I don’t think she liked me very much because she would sit across from me and chant what sounded like hexes under her breath anytime I was around. That was until I played piano. Then she cried and yelled out, “Thank you, Jesus,” and went to her room and cried so loud the other hospital wings could’ve probably heard her. (But I’ll get to that part later)
So, I smiled back at Jaffar and said, “Hi,” as I walked into the meal room. It was quite a mix of people. I kept to myself, found the nurse closest to me, and asked to get my tray. There was an old dark brown wooden upright piano against the south wall. I asked to play it but was told I needed special permission, and it was only to be played during patient’s music class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Oh, ok,” I replied as I found a seat closest to the piano. I opened the lid on my plate to reveal cold scrambled eggs, a potato biscuit, a side cup of canned fruit, and a carton of orange juice. My ADHD medication had long worn off, and I would’ve given anything for a cup of coffee, but we weren’t allowed to have caffeine in there. A much older woman rolled up in her wheelchair to the open space next to me at the end of the table. She had gray hair, and she seemed very weak and frail. Her name was Mary. Her attitude with the staff was “crotchety.” Hahaha (it’s the only word I could think to best describe her), but she was very kind to all of the other patients. She told me she was named after Jesus’s mother. Every morning she would recite bible verses, and that morning I felt like she was speaking directly to me.
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”
It was like that Bible quote absorbed into me, and I felt a wave of hope. Then, I suddenly had a feeling to grab and save the receipt that was on my tray. It had my name on it, as well as the time, date, and the list of the foods that were given to me. I noticed prices next to each food item. My stomach dropped as I realized, “Holy fuck! I’m being charged for this!?” Well duh! It was a total “duh” moment, but for some reason, it hadn’t crossed my mind until then. I was too concerned with getting out and trying to find a breast pump because I was nearing an uncomfortable amount of pain due to not having released my milk (sorry, TMI! Haha). By the time the nurse Raya came to get me to see the doctor, I had tucked the meal receipt into my biker shorts pocket, and I had indeed eaten everything on my tray.
I followed Raya out of the meal room and into the corridor just as a tall younger man walked by. He did a double-take.
“Hey, who are you? Are you a patient here?”
“Leave her alone, Joseph,” Raya responded in an annoyed tone.
“You’ve got to be kidding me? I thought. “I just met Mary, and now here there is a Joseph in here?” Haha, it was beyond ironic to me, especially after hearing the Bible verse that resonated with my soul.
“I couldn’t help myself. I said out loud, “Wait. Your name is Joseph, and I just met Mary. Please tell me I’m on my way to meet my doctor Jesus Christ?”
Joseph smirked and lifted his eyebrows. “Ummm, wrong.” Joseph blurted out. “The only doctor here right now is Robert Y, and he’s a straight-up asshole.” “Joseph! Language!” Raya barked at him. “Okay, okay. Sorry. I meant he’s a real dick.”
“Oh, no!” I thought, and my face must’ve given me away. Joseph seemed to notice my instant concern.
“You’ll be okay, though. You just take whatever meds he gives you, and your life will be a lot easier. You’ll probably get out of here faster too if you just let him talk.” Joseph was a few years younger than me. He was at least 6’4, with an athletic build. He had a slightly grown-out afro which nearly matched the color of his big, dark eyes. He was handsome and very charming in a boyish way. He taught me how to rap while I was there and became one of my best friends “on the inside.”
“Anyways, real quick- what’s your name?”
“Alexa,” I replied.
“Oh, that’s real pretty, and you are much prettier than that amazon Alexa I have at home.”
“Thanks, I guess?” We both laughed. His sense of humor sorta matched mine, and I instantly felt more comfortable being there. He seemed… normal.
“Well, nice to meet you, Alexa. I’ll see ya when you get back.”
“I hope not! No offense. I just really need to get home.”
He nodded. “Ya, I know. We all do. So, good luck. I hope I don’t see you again then. And if I don’t see you again, I just wanted to let you know you have cool hair.”
I smiled, “Thanks, Joseph… you do too.”
I thought about what Joseph said as Raya, the nurse, and I walked out of the psych unit and into a lobby-like corridor. We then took the elevator down to the second floor. We were on the third. I had my coloring book with me and the crayons that policeman John had given me the night I was taken to the hospital. I watched everything like a hawk and wrote everything down. I wrote down every nurse I interacted with, at what time (both military and regular time), as well as other details like elevator floors, patients I met, and how long I had slept. Before hearing the ding of the elevator door opening, I quickly jotted down “Floor 2, Doctor Y, section ____ pavilion.” Then, I asked Raya what time it was.
“10:19 AM,” she said.
“Thanks!” She didn’t say anything back and instead just rolled her eyes again, rather than asking me what I was up to.
I was too preoccupied with the upcoming doctor’s appointment to take any offense to her. I was actually getting pretty used to her attitude of dislike towards me. My mind went back to the meeting I was about to have with Dr. Robert, aka “asshole dick” Y. I was sure I would be able to have an adult conversation with him and sure that after he heard how I had gotten stuck in the hospital that he was going to immediately let me go. But then again, I was sure I would’ve gotten to go home that night I was taken to the hospital, yet look where I was. I felt a pang of doubt inside and looming pressure to present myself perfectly so that this doctor would understand my side and take my side in helping me leave.
I was taken into an off-hallway conference room, not an office like I had imagined. Set aside from the table were two chairs facing each other. Raya guided me towards the one facing the window. It was nice to see outside. I sat down in anticipation of when the chair across from me would be occupied. A few minutes later, in came Doctor Robert Y.
He looked to be a little taller than me, maybe 5’9 or 5’10. He had brown graying hair, a roundish face, and glasses. He was looking down at the charts in his hand as he came through the door and didn’t look up at me until he sat down.
“Hello, Mrs. Johns. He didn’t offer his hand and just sat down. I noticed he was wearing a mask; I wasn’t (It seemed the hospital didn’t care much about the COVID protection of the psych patients.)
“Hi,” I responded. “I think you know my Doctor, Doctor T. He used to be the head of the psych department here. I was hoping that someone had spoken to him to let him know I was here by now. I’m looking forward to talking with you about what happened, so I can get home to my 4-month-old baby girl, Gracie.”
“Oh yes, I do know Dr. T.” Relief came over me.
“Oh, you do? Great! Has anyone been in contact with him? The woman, Ann, who called me in here, isn’t my actual psychiatrist. She and her husband were a couples counseling couple who my husband and I were seeing a few times to prepare for our baby Gracie. Ann had called the mental health crisis line on me when I found out she wasn’t a real Ph.D. in psych. I found that out when I discovered she and her husband, Dr. Rob, had been triple billing us, as well as performing insurance fraud. I had threatened to report her to Cigna, and she responded by calling the mental health crisis line through Telehealth under her husband’s name, who has an actual Ph.D. in psychology. My guess is that she put me in here to buy herself time to cover her tracks. So, it’s all been backward, and I’ve been frantically trying to explain to everyone here that this is a big misunderstanding, and it’s illegal for me to be here against my will. I’m not supposed to be here, and I really need your help getting out.” I was pleading with him at this point, and his face showed ZERO compassion for or belief in my situation.
“Woah, woah, woah, Let’s slow down, Mrs. Johns. It seems you have some pressured speech.”
Quickly, I replied, “Oh, well, I knew I just had a few moments with you, so I was trying to give you the back story quickly; plus, they confiscated my ADHD medication and haven’t given me my meds, so I probably am talking pretty fast. Sorry about that.”
“Mrs. Johns, can you tell me – Have you been feeling anxious? Emotional? Maybe angry or volatile?”
“No, I’ve just been upset at having been taken from my baby and trying to get home to her.”
“How about depressed? Any mood swings or postpartum feelings?”
“NO. As I said, I’m not supposed to be here, and I’m just trying to get back to my baby. I’m still nursing her. I’m her mother, and she needs me to take care of her!”
“Hmmm,” he said as he flipped through more papers. “Well, there are a few notes of concern here that we need to discuss.” He paused, then “Hmmmm’d” again. “It says here you’ve been very non-compliant since your arrival. Having emotional breakdowns, refusal to cooperate with the staff….”
“No!” I blurted out. “I just didn’t want to do a skin check.”
“Mrs. Johns, please don’t interrupt me. It says here you also claimed you needed your flowers to feel calm, and –
Oops. I interrupted again, “No, I just wanted the flowers my husband got me to be in my room.”
“I’m going to repeat myself one more time, Mrs. Johns. Please DO NOT interrupt me. He was more firm in his tone. “Mmmhmmmm,” he cleared his throat. “I’ll continue. It also says you have had inappropriate dress, grandiose claims of an inflated sense of self – claims of you being in the music industry, working with Michael Jackson, and your brother being in the NFL. Oh, as well as your family having multiple homes.
“That’s all true, though.” I urged.
He put his papers down and went silent. It was the first time we had made eye contact. I know he said not to interrupt, but I needed him to know that those things were my actual real life, not delusions of grandeur. “Those things are all true. I didn’t work with Michael Jackson, but I did tie him as the youngest songwriter to be signed to a publishing company, and my brother did play in the NFL. He was drafted to The Titans, then played for the Dolphins, and then the Jets. And my family DOES have multiple homes. I can literally get you all the addresses if you need them. Seriously, just look at my Instagram account!!! Or- google me!!!” I couldn’t stop. I was infuriated that my actual life was taken as make-believe lies from a psych patient who was unstable.
“Alexa, that’s all fine, but your refusal to take your meds and your weapons for self-harm are reasons enough for me to keep you here.
“I’m breastfeeding, I can’t take that medication, and I don’t need it. Then, it hit me, the last thing he said. “And.. Wait! What? Weapons of self-harm?”
He nodded. “Yes, apparently, there were needles discovered by your bedside this morning.
“Oh my God, those aren’t for self-harm; those are for healing! And I was using them when I was forcefully taken here. They are just acupuncture needles! Don’t you know what acupuncture is?”
It all sounded bad. Everything he read off on his stupid fucking papers made me seem nuts.
(Joseph was right. He was an absolute ass hole. I now refer to him as “Dr. Dickhead.’ Hahaha)
“Okay, well, no more needles, and you’ll need to take your meds if you want to go home. I’m gonna keep you here a while longer so we can keep a close eye on you.
“NO! For how long?”
“For at least more days.” He stood up as he was talking, and I stood up too.
“Wait, but did you even contact my actual doctor? Have you spoken with Dr. T? He’ll vouch for me! What about my husband? Have you talked to Ty?” I felt hot, frantic, and dizzy at the same time. My head was spinning, my heart was pounding, and I was desperate. “Did you not listen to anything I said about the fraudulent people who called me in?”
He had turned his back on me and started out the door. “Goodbye, Mrs. Johns. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I stood there stunned. Just so fucking stunned.