Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 8th, and this will be a very different experience for me than my first one last year. I’ve held off on writing about this topic due to some legal restrictions, but I’ve been given the go-ahead from my attorneys to tell my story, without last names, since I’m currently involved in a lawsuit against (Dr. Rob [REDACTED], his wife “Dr.” Ann [REDACTED]) and The [REDACTED] Pavilion center at [REDACTED] Hospital.
It was my first Mother’s Day. I should’ve been home, but I was locked up in a psych ward over-drugged, scared, alone, and longing for my baby Gracie. I’ll tell you what happened.
Ty and I met with a counselor, Dr. Rob [REDACTED], in December of 2020, with the intention of pre-working through the changes that our soon-to-be baby girl would be adding to our lives and specifically to our marriage. We had only one session in December, and then another session a few weeks before Gracie was born via Telehealth. Dr. Rob wanted to work with Ty individually and recommended that we see his wife, Dr. Ann, for marriage counseling instead of him. We were told she also had her doctorate degree but later discovered that was NOT the case.
Ty and I did a few sessions online with Dr. Ann, and something felt off to me. I have been seeing therapists and counselors since I was 13 and had never experienced someone who was as “bossy,” “condescending,” and “domineering” as she was. Therapy with Dr. Ann felt like playing “Simon Says.”
We had only done two sessions with Dr. Ann when I started noticing billing inconsistencies. Before beginning the sessions, I was asked to put down two methods of payment in case their system rejected my Amex card. It was evident that something wasn’t right when I started receiving insurance claims/billings for sessions that we never had.
They had us in their system for an appointment every Friday, but we could only commit to doing one session a month due to having a newborn. I notified Dr. Ann about this and asked to be removed from their calendar because every Thursday, I was getting e-mails with appointment reminders. It was annoying, but now I’m grateful I have all those e-mails as evidence. As I started looking through the Cigna files, I realized that my insurance company was falsely billing me for appointments every Friday.
I was so busy with Gracie, being a new mom, and doing it alone. I felt like I was by myself because I didn’t have any family help, Ty’s family was in Canada, and he had just taken a new coaching job, which meant he was traveling a lot. I kept asking him to check the finances with the counselor, and he kept putting it off. This caused further frustrations and upset at home, making it seem like we needed more counseling. Funny how by starting counseling, things at home just got worse. Our marriage felt like it had been lit on fire.
I thought maybe I’m just hormonal and paranoid; perhaps this is a perfectly normal way of handling insurance claims, and perhaps I’ve been too hard on Ty. “Rose-Colored thinking,” but my gut feeling was that something wasn’t right. Since Ty was too busy to handle it, I decided to do it myself. In our fourth session, I directly brought up the billing with Dr. Ann. She talked in circles trying to explain why it was showing extra billing cycles, and she attempted to assure me that it was just the process of insurance claims, that it would be all sorted out. She even went as far as to tell me not to worry about it for a few months because once the coverage kicked in, the insurance company would send me a reimbursement for any overages I was charged. Not true. When she said the word charged, I instantly thought of all the credit cards of mine they had on file.
Pre-baby, I was pretty on top of my finances, but becoming a new mom had me accidentally pushing aside all former responsibilities, so I could focus on Gracie. Unfortunately, paying attention to my credit card statements wasn’t a high priority… until it was. When Gracie was napping after our counseling session, I did some digging. I was exhausted from being up with Gracie the night before and was desperate for sleep, but I was determined to find what my intuition was telling me to find. Find, I did.
We had only participated in six counseling sessions, and I discovered that we were billed via insurance for over nineteen sessions. I pulled up my credit card statements and found that not only was I billed for all the pseudo sessions, but I was billed on BOTH of my credit cards that were on file. Ty was at work, so I began sending him screenshots of everything I found. When he got home, he looked through my statements and was shocked because he was also paying for the sessions. He assumed he was the only one being billed and had no idea that I was being double charged as well. My stomach was in knots when I realized we were being scammed.
On May 5th (Cinco de Mayo of 2021), Ty called Dr. Ann, and she asked to talk to me. When I was put on the phone, I called her out for stealing from us. I had a hunch to record our conversation with my other cell phone in case she confessed, and I needed it for evidence at a later date. I’m grateful I followed my inner nudge because that ended up being invaluable later on. In any case, I asked her why she was triple charging us and scamming our insurance company. “Are you even a real doctor? I looked you up, but ironically, I couldn’t find your “Ph.D.” profile anywhere. I also noticed all the billings through our insurance were under your husband’s name and that you go by a different name on your couples therapy Facebook page.” She was quick to reply, “Alexa, you are a new mom, you are hormonal, and you are being delusional. There is a process to insurance, and I think we should probably do a session right now since you are in such distress.” That pissed me off. I said, “No, Dr. Ann, or whatever your name is, I think, instead, we should contact Cigna and notify them of therapy fraud.” She paused and changed her tone. “Alexa, I wouldn’t do that If I was you… Alexa.” I replied, “Oh yeah? Is that a threat? Well, threaten all you want because, just so you know, I’m recording this entire conversation.” Click.
Since I had just showered before the call with Dr. Ann, my hair was wet, and I was wearing a nightgown. I had settled in to nurse Gracie while eating dinner myself, and then I was going to put her to bed and try to get to bed early as well. Just as I was cozying in for the night, I heard the knock at the door, and my dog Luna went wild. My stomach sank. I knew something weird was going on. Two policemen were on the front porch asking to see me because of an “emergency health care crisis call” they had received via Telehealth. They let me know that a Telehealth representative would be on her way, and it was in my best interest to comply. It was bizarre and rather stupid given the events of the day. I offered them coffee or whatever beverage we had at the time. I was watching a “Total Divas” episode about WrestleMania at the time, and they stood near the door watching with me. We laughed and had a casual conversation while waiting for the Telehealth lady to arrive. I had explained the situation to them, and they seemed to side with me, even going as far as to recommend that I make an official report with the police the next day. They were friendly. After getting to know me, they assured me that I would likely just have to answer some questions, and then they could leave… and leave me alone. If only that’s how it went.
Two hours later, the Telehealth woman finally arrived (yes, the cops stayed at my house the entire time), and she had four other policemen with her. We were told that the “doctor who called in” also ordered a mental health mandate, which meant it was a non-voluntary commitment to the hospital for a mental health crisis (Aka suicide watch). Finding out that Dr. Ann [REDACTED] had called using her husband’s name, Dr. Rob [REDACTED], who actually was a licensed Ph.D., absolutely infuriated me. I became upset and was frantically trying to explain the situation to the new people who showed up. They tuned me out as I urgently retold how the doctor who called was stealing from us, was using her husband’s name and credentials to even make the call. I even tried to get the four new cops that had arrived to watch my recording that I had taken just hours before and then walked in officer John. Within minutes, I absolutely hated him, but he turned out to be a friend and, ironically, an ally after all was said and done.
When he walked in, he was very firm and told me I had five minutes to gather my belongings because I had to come with them. I was holding Gracie, and I went into my bedroom. I refused to leave her. I had never been even thirty minutes apart from her before. I couldn’t help it; I broke down crying, which just seemed to piss him off more. At least I had nursing on my side. I yelled out to the hallway, “Leave me alone! I’m feeding my baby! This is a huge mistake! The woman who called did so under her husband’s name, and they were STEALING from us. I’m not coming out. I want to speak to my attorney!”
While I bought myself time nursing Gracie, I cried so hard my tears fell onto her little cheeks. I could hear Ty in the hallway trying to reason with the cops and explain to them what had happened, as well as trying to figure out the process of why they were there and where they wanted to take me. Finally, Ty came into the bedroom and pleaded with me. He said, “Babe, if we just cooperate, they said all you have to do is go to the hospital, take a test, and then you can come home. If you don’t, babe, they are still going to take you by force, and it will be a whole lot worse. Please, babe, just do what they say, and we can fix it all when you get home.” I could see the fear in his eyes, and it made me scared. I just kept thinking, “God, What the fuck Is happening?”
Then… “Knock, knock, knock.” “Mrs. Johns, we are coming in. Please make yourself decent.” Within a minute, I had over six policemen surrounding my bed as I held my daughter. I was sobbing and just clinging to every second that I could hold her in my arms. “Mrs. Johns, we’ve waited long enough. We have to do our jobs, so no matter what – we have to take you with us. Now, how easy this will be is up to you. Like I said before, you can have a few minutes to put on some different clothes, but you ARE going to come with us.” Ty leaned in to take Gracie, and at that moment, my heart shattered. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever gone through. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was like a movie scene – the kind where a bomb goes off, and all you can hear is people talking in slow motion, accompanied by a high-pitch ringing. That’s how it was; waves of the deepest, saddest ache I’ve ever felt sank down to my bones, and a longing for my Gracie set in – far before I had ever left the room.
I somehow managed to put on my cartoon space sweat pants underneath my nightgown, and then I slipped on my white Sperry’s. Ty gave me his Canucks sweatshirt (Editor’s note: Boooooo! Go Kings Go!), and I pulled it over top of the rainbow, transparent plastic fanny pack I had been wearing around my waist. I put it on earlier that day so that I could more easily travel up and down the stairs since Gracie’s nursery was on our top floor and our bedroom was on the main floor. It was filled with protein bars, lip gloss, hair ties, bobby pins, and acupuncture needles, which I used for the breast meridian point to help with lactation. (Imagine me having to explain THAT to the hospital intake nurses. Hahah – but seriously… not funny).
I slowly made my way out of my bathroom to be escorted by policeman John on my right and policeman Jarrod on my left. I saw my sister sitting on the couch as I was walking out into the kitchen area. Ty had called her the second he found out that I would be taken, and she came over to help take care of Gracie while I was gone. Tears poured – just rolling down my face as I was being escorted in front of her. “Nat, take care of my Gracie girl. Please take good care of my Gracie girl.” My head was spinning with all the things she needed to know. How to change her diapers, what her sleep schedule was, how to soothe her, how to bathe her, how to burp her, and how to feed her. I was still nursing, so I was literally Gracie’s life supply, and yet I was being torn apart from my baby, with nothing as a backup plan. I begged, but they wouldn’t even let me quickly make a list of her needs, routine, and bedtime ritual. We didn’t even have the formula to feed her while I was gone. It was beyond cruel, and I have practiced forgiveness every Friday since, but I’m still having trouble letting the anguish and injustice I felt go.
“Nat, have Ty show you how to put on her lullaby. Please, please, please just take the best care of my girl. I need you, Nat. Please.” “I will. I promise,” Nat said. Tears had been falling from her eyes too. She looked shocked, almost ghostly pale. To walk into that scene had to be startling, I’m sure. Fuck, it was more than startling for me, too, as I’ve said. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever gone through, and I’ve had some intense experiences that were pretty high on that list. However, nothing truly compares to being a new mom of four months and being violently ripped away from your baby.
As I walked down the steps of my front porch, Ty was standing in the doorframe behind me, watching me go. I turned and looked at him as he mouthed to me that he loved me. “Love you too,” I mouthed back. I was then grabbed by the wrists as we walked onto the grass towards the cop cars. “I hate to have to do this to you, you being a new mom and all, but it’s part of the protocol for this type of situation, and I have to do my job,” Policeman John said while cuffing me in my front yard for my entire neighborhood to see. I was then put in the back seat behind the metal cage. My hands were tight behind my back, and I remember just looking at my house with all the lights on through the cop car window. Driving away was agonizing. It’s been almost a year, and I’m still crying over that single memory. The ache my spirit felt was so unbearable. My heart was screaming, and all I could do was cry… and pray. So, that’s what I did.
It was just me and policeman John in the car. He started in the with small talk. I could tell he felt sorry for me. “So, Mrs. Johns, I’m sure I’ll be able to take you back to your family tonight. All you have to do is answer their questions. Just comply, and do what they ask. The easier you make it, the faster you will be back with Gracie.” It felt good to hear him say her name – instead of just referring to her as my baby.
I slowly nodded while making eye contact with him in his rear-view mirror. Some time went by, then I asked, “Do you have any kids, John?” He smirked. “Yeah, I have five.” That made me smile. “Wow, your wife must be a superwoman. How did you guys do it?” “Well,” he said, “My house looked 100x worse than yours. We had a lot more of a mess than just a few piles of clothes on the floor. That’s for sure. (He was referencing me wanting to clean up my house because I was embarrassed at having “unwanted guests” over to see the mess I had) He continued, “And my wife, well, she didn’t get a lot of sleep. Hardly any, and actually spent most of the time looking a lot like you look right now.”
He smiled kindly through the mirror at me. I felt the warmth of his compassion, but I also felt slightly embarrassed at my appearance. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, my hair was still drying, my clothes were mismatched, and my fingernails weren’t painted. “You know, Alexa, we just did what we had to do to get by. You’ll figure it out. The first one is the hardest. So, just get sleep when you can, and take it a day at a time.” His attitude towards me had completely softened, and I felt like I was having a conversation with my uncle, not with the dickhead police officer who had just cuffed me and taken me from my Gracie.
Then, we pulled up to the hospital..
My handcuffs were pulling tight as I tried to wiggle my way out of the back of the cop car. Police officer John had come around the back side of the car and opened the door for me. His face showed compassion, and although he wasn’t exactly smiling, his expression was that of a concerned father rather than a domineering authority figure.
“I’m supposed to keep these on you till you get checked in, but ahh. Come on then.” He unlocked the cuffs, and my wrists were free. “Just promise me you’ll be compliant now, mmmkkay?” I nodded.
“Thank you,” I replied.
“Sure thing, Mrs. Johns.” I smiled back at him.
“By the way, what’s your name?” “It’s John,” he said rather shortly.
“Oh. Well, thank you, John. I appreciate it, and I’ll remember your name – because I’m a Johns girl.” He sort of smirked at me and then I felt awkward. “You know, because my last name is Johns?”
“Yeah, I got it,” he said. I felt myself blush with embarrassment, but it was outweighed by the feeling of hope growing within my heart as we walked into the hospital. I thought to myself, “Finally, I’ll get to explain myself, do this damn test, then I’ll get to go home.” I was certain that someone would have to listen to me, and I’d likely be home with my Gracie girl in a couple of hours. Wow. Was I wrong…
I didn’t immediately get to take any test as I had imagined. Instead, I sat on a rollaway bed in the hallway while they sorted out why I was there. The song “Amazing Grace” kept popping into my head. I just sat there thinking, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” while waiting for a psych doctor to evaluate me. Another cop named Terry was there, and I overheard John (the cop who had driven me to the hospital) tell him to go ahead and go home. He said he was going to sit with me until everything got sorted out. Terry left his post, and John sat in the chair that was directly across from the check-in, horizontal to my hallway bed… that I was using as a bench.
I watched him stand up and walk to the lady at the desk across from me. “About how much longer until Alexa can get her mental health assessment done? She has a 4-month-old baby at home and has never been away from her.” I felt like he was in my corner, and waves of relief came over me with the sense that he was someone who was advocating for me.
“Officer, we haven’t been able to verify the doctor who ordered the mental health mandate yet. We are trying to get in touch with him in order to be able to schedule her.” I wanted to scream out, “YOU CAN’T GET AHOLD OF DR. CHESTER BECAUSE HE ISN’T THE ONE WHO CALLED! HIS WIFE DID, USING HIS NAME BECAUSE I CALLED HER OUT FOR STEALING FROM ME!” I literally bit my tongue to stay quiet. I was just grateful not to be in handcuffs anymore, and I wanted to honor my promise to policeman John to be compliant. So, compliant Is what I was…
John left the desk and turned toward me. “Do you have your phone?” he asked me very discreetly. I nodded and mouthed “yes” to match his quiet delivery, and I pointed to my see-through fanny pack so he could see my phone. “Okay, good,” he replied. “Why don’t you get all the numbers from your phone that you need and be sure to contact anyone from your family, any of your friends who can watch your baby tonight, or check in on her and your husband while you are here?”
I looked at him, concerned. “I thought I just had to do the intake assessment and then I’d get to go home?” I asked. He could hear the nervousness in my voice.
“Well, yes, that’s the ideal outcome, but just in case you are here a little longer, you’ll want to have those numbers on hand. These doctors can take a while sometimes,” he replied. I didn’t mention that I had overheard his conversation with the intake nurse. I knew that they were having trouble figuring out why I was there. They couldn’t get ahold of the doctor who petitioned the order, but instead of saying that, I said, “Okay, but I don’t have anything to write with.”
“I’ll find you something,” he said. He walked back to the desk and then made his way further up the hallway.
While he was gone, another patient was wheeled into the corridor. He was shouting, and I turned to look over because I thought he was yelling at me. Quickly, I realized he couldn’t even see me because he was sitting upright with the blankets over his head. My eyes then met the woman’s sitting at the front desk. She gave me an expression that said, “just ignore him… we do.” It was uncomfortable, so I just counted the gray speckles on the white flooring beneath my dangling feet.
“Her. Oh, yeah. Her… she sings. Yep, I know. I know. I already TOLD you that!”
It was easy to make out what the man under the sheets was saying because of how loud he was talking. He sounded upset like he was confronting someone – who wasn’t there. After listening to him for a little while, I realized he was talking to many “imaginary people.” At least three because he was using their names.
“Yes. I already told you I know she sings. You said that like a thousand times.”
He kept saying over and over, “I know she sings.” It made me squirmy to hear because I do sing, and it felt like I was being talked about. However, the blanket was still over his head. I looked over again and noticed a heavy-set male nurse sitting to the right of him, playing on his phone, totally tuning him out. I wished I could tune him out, too, but I was unnerved.
Swish! He scared the shit out of me! Before I turned my head to look back at the speckles on the floor, he had pulled off his blankets and said, “YOUUUUUUU!” His finger was pointed right at me. It freaked me the fuck out! Before I could react, he threw his blankets back over his head.
Then, from underneath the covers, he yelled. “Hey! You! Girl…with purple hair! They want you to sing. This guy Jack says you should sing Amazing Grace.” My eyes instantly filled with hot tears, and chills ran up and down my spine. When in doubt or distress, I sometimes recite song lyrics in my head because it soothes me. For some reason, ever since I had gotten to the hospital that night, the song “Amazing Grace” had been continually coming to me. It was just “stuck in my head.” I’ll admit, though, that it did make me feel better to recite those lyrics. I had been repeating to myself, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,” and I’d imagine Gracie. My amazing Gracie. Her laugh, her cry, her smell, her sweet blue eyes. Oh God, how I ached for her! I longed to be home.
My inner mind trance was broken when I heard, “Hello, purple lady??? Hellloooooooooo! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Helloooooo, purple head! I know you can hear me! Jack says sing amazing grace! Sing, sing, sing, sing, sing! WILL YOU JUST SING SO HE STOPS FOLLOWING ME AROUND? JEEEEEZ!”
Waves of goosebumps ran up and down my body again. My grandpa had passed away in October two years prior. His name was Jack, and I sang Amazing Grace at his funeral. My mind was blown. “Is this possible!?” I thought to myself. “Is he actually communicating with my Grandpa Jack? Can he communicate with spirit? With people that we just don’t see?”
My thought stream was interrupted when I heard, “Hey, stop bothering her. You don’t want to go back to isolation, do you?” The male nurse was standing now, and the man who could talk to dead people said, “but they want her to sing,” in a much softer tone. The male nurse snarked back, “NO. ‘They’ want you to be quiet and go to sleep.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see he was lying back down, and then I noticed cop John walking toward me down the hallway.
John came back and sat a coloring book down on the left side of the bed. Then, he placed a red and blue crayon on top. “Sorry,” he said. “This is all they would let me give you.”
I wasn’t a patient there, technically, but I wasn’t allowed to write with a pen due to hospital rules. “Thanks! At least they are sharp.” I smiled meekly. I reached for my phone very subtly so that the nurses didn’t see that I had it, and I began writing down names in red on the inside of my coloring book, continually browsing through my contacts.
I had Ty’s number memorized, along with my immediate family. I scrolled through to write down my friends Jenelle and Sara’s numbers, my attorney’s, as well as my doula, who also functioned as a night nurse for Gracie.
Interrupted, I had to use the restroom and was surprised to find that I couldn’t go alone, nor was I allowed to close the door when I did go. I had to have a male nurse assist me. He turned away, but it still felt like such a violation of privacy. Also, due to COVID, there was no running water, so I couldn’t wash my hands or flush the toilet. Apparently, they had turned off the water in that section of the hospital due to COVID. Thank God they at least had an ample supply of hand sanitizer.
I had been pretty freaked out about COVID with a newborn. When Gracie was born, I took every precaution necessary and rarely left the house, yet here I was, maskless with other mask-less patients walking about with only the doctors, nurses, and staff properly protected. This pissed me off! I thought it was so irresponsible for a hospital, of all places, to not be protecting their patients, even their “non-patients” like me, from potentially contracting COVID. The last thing I wanted was to get the deadly virus and take it home to my family.
At that time, I had a bigger issue. When I got back from the bathroom, I realized I was feeling dehydrated. Due to the “no running water thing,” they didn’t have any in that section of the hospital, and nurse after nurse promised to be back with some – but never did. I had asked to have water dozens of times from the time I arrived, and I needed it desperately because I was nursing. I felt so dehydrated. I had also asked for a breast pump. I naively thought I could still pump, refrigerate my milk, and bring it back to Gracie, but I wasn’t given a pump, food, or water. I was getting really concerned because I had heard horror stories about women having clogged ducts and getting mastitis from not nursing. “Letting down your milk,” etc., but by this time, I was so engorged it was painful. (Sorry- TMI)
It was embarrassing to ask the cop John to ask AGAIN to find me a pump, water, or at least something to drink. The nurses rotate out about every 12 hours, so the set of people that I had already talked to and told what I needed were gone. I felt like I was telling my story in circles – with the new nurses who came through to introduce themselves to me and ask me why I was there.
My story was the same. “Hi, I’m Alexa. I’m here by mistake. The woman who called in the mental health mandate on me did so because I caught her stealing from me, and I threatened to report her to Cigna. She called under her husband’s name, who actually is a doctorate in psychiatry, and I think she did so because she is trying to buy herself time to cover her tracks – since I discovered she was not only stealing from me but also engaging in insurance fraud. I have a four-month-old baby at home; I was taken away from her against my will. Mentally, I’m completely fine. I just need sleep, food, water, and to go home. Please let me know when I can take this mental health test so I can get back to my baby Gracie.”
I was always met with the same response: “We’re trying to sort this out as fast as we can. Why don’t you lay down and try to get some sleep, and we’ll come to get you when we are ready for you to take your mental health screening?”
Physically, I felt miserable and emotionally drained. I did lay down but couldn’t sleep. Instead, I just turned towards the wall in the fetal position, pulled the sheets up enough to cover my eyes, and silently cried. I cried and cried and cried. The whole situation was devastating. I was shocked and traumatized, but I was just trying to keep my composure so no one would think I was crazy. I just had to keep it together long enough so they would let me leave and I could get back to my baby. Crying was relief and release all at once. Just a moment to myself to just be.
I laid there for another hour or so, and I thought about the earlier experience with the man who was potentially talking to my grandpa Jack. In my mind, I said, “Grandpa, if you really are there, please help me, please guide me, please protect me, please let me know what to do. I love you.” I started to quietly sing amazing grace to myself in hopes of soothing myself to sleep.
“Mmmm, that’s nice. You were right! She can sing!” The man (who could talk to dead people) said aloud.
I thought to myself, “Wasn’t he sleeping?” Then I thought, “How the fuck can he hear me!?” After the nurse yelled at him – for yelling at me – he laid back down, put the covers over his head again, and didn’t move or make a sound. It had been hours. Yet, right when I started singing Amazing Grace, he decided to open the seance again and talk about me to his imaginary audience.
“Mrs. Johns? Hi, I’m Dakota, and I’m just going to need you to verify some information for us before we begin.” A nurse had rolled up with what looked like a portable computer/television screen. While I was reciting my name, birthday, and home address, I noticed cop John in the hallway still next to me. I found it incredibly kind that he waited with me to make sure I was okay. He made a gesture towards his phone, and I got the hint. I unclasped my fanny pack as quietly as I could when the nurse Dakota turned around. I pulled out my phone and laid it on my lap, facing the ceiling. I put it to record mode and pressed the red button. I knew what I was doing: Gathering evidence. This whole thing had already gotten too far, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let this mental health evaluation go undocumented. I’m grateful to John for the idea to record that whole evaluation. It’s come in handy recently as it relates to the current lawsuit. I wish this story had ended there.
I wish I had been able to go home to Gracie, but you’ll never believe what happened next..
(Again, I’m honoring the legal advice I’ve been given, and I have chosen not to use anyone’s last names due to the lawsuit I’m pursuing/engaged in)
After I clicked the record button on my phone, which was sitting on my lap facing the ceiling, a man named Michael R. appeared on the Telehealth screen. It was after 4:30 in the morning. I let him know that I disagreed with having someone do a mental health test when they had been up for 24 hours and had gone the last 5 hours without food or water. He was nodding as if he agreed, but his spoken concern was why I hadn’t received water, especially because I explained to him that I was still nursing my 4-month-old baby. I told him that the water in the section of the hospital I was in had been turned off due to COVID, as I was told, and although I had asked for water or anything to drink at least 5 times, I had been ignored. The nurse named Dakota, who had initiated the Telehealth screening, overheard me. She was new to me since she had just started her shift and immediately went to get me water. Unlike the other nurses I had asked, Dakota actually followed through. All of this was caught on film.
Michael R. went on to say that in the “call-in doctor ordered report,” it was written that the doctor who called me in stated an “emergency involuntary commitment” due to me being a risk to myself and/or to others. He then asked me why I felt I was there and gave me space to respond.
I proceeded to tell him that the woman who called was not Dr. Robin but was instead his wife Ann, using his name. I explained that I had called her out for stealing from us and performing insurance fraud. When she threatened me, I returned the threat by saying that I was going to report her to Cigna. The next thing I knew, the cops were at my house, demanding I go with them to the hospital because a doctor had ordered a mental health mandate under the pretense of suicide watch. I told him how I was cuffed and dragged away from my baby and that all this happened when I was nursing her before bed. I let him know I was NOT suicidal, and I was mentally well. I asked him to verify this by contacting my actual Psychiatrist, Dr. T, from the ___ institute of Nashville, and my actual counselor Lisa H, who also worked there. I had been seeing them both consistently for the last three years for ADHD and trauma processing.
Michael R said, “Dr. T. is your psychiatrist?” I nodded. “Yes, that’s why this whole thing is a huge nightmare of a misunderstanding.” Michael went on to tell me that my Dr. T used to be the Head of the ____ Pavilion at the TRiSTAR Hospital where I was currently staying.
I pleaded with Michael to call Dr. T to get this all sorted out, to let me go home to my baby because I was breastfeeding her and had never spent a night away. I let Michael know that my husband had recently gotten a new job with the Predators, and he had never cared for our baby by himself. I desperately needed to get back to my child. I also needed to eat, drink water, and go to sleep.
During the intake assessment, Michael R. said he had a lot of compassion for me and that he was going to advocate for me to get out. He also said that he didn’t have the authority to request my release since I was mandated there by a Ph.D. and would need to see the head psychiatrist (in person) at the hospital before I would be officially released. “Please, you don’t understand. I need to get home. I’ve never been away from Gracie. I need to feed her, hold her, soothe her. We have a bedtime ritual; I need to sing to her…” I broke down and started crying. I couldn’t help it. Talking about Gracie out loud and all the little things we did together – all the things I missed so much just caused tears to spill out of my eyes. I had been holding it together for the sake of composure and getting out, but hearing that I’d have to wait until later that morning for yet another doctor was agonizing. I was so tired, so hungry, and just so fucking sad. I got it all on camera. Watching it back with my attorneys now is still so difficult. It makes me tear up, even though it’s now been over a year since this incident happened.
After my mental health assessment, I continued to sit in the hallway for two hours. It was past 6 in the morning at this point and I was so worried about my baby. I had still not gotten a breast pump, and was in extreme discomfort. I called my friend/neighbor Jennelle to go to my house and check on my baby. I told her verbatim what had happened, how I was being treated, and how upset I was at the system for keeping a new mother away from her daughter. She tried to calm me down and assured me that she would be over at my house to help my sister with Gracie so that Ty could go to work since he was new and couldn’t miss.
Truthfully, I was pissed at Ty. I thought, “Why hasn’t he gotten me out of here yet? What the fuck is going on? I didn’t know that on his end, he was trying everything he could but was met with wall after wall due to it being an “involuntary check-in.” The same thing happened to my family when they tried to get me out.
The hospital staff soon confiscated my phone and apple watch, and I got very upset. The shock of everything was wearing off, and I realized, “Holy shit. This is for real.” I was stuck there after being taken from my baby without any time to set up care for her, she was breastfeeding, and I needed to be there. I felt scared about who would care for her and how she would be fed while I was held at the hospital (against my will) since I did not have a nanny or family support nearby (other than my sister, who had never even changed a diaper before). Also, I had a diabetic cat who needed an insulin shot two times a day, along with two other animals.
I was so grateful to policeman John for having prepped me with the guidance to write all the emergency numbers from my phone down with those crayons. It was now 6:45, and I began frantically calling every one of them to help me get out and help take care of Gracie. I’m pretty sure that the front desk staff was annoyed with me because I was constantly using their phone once daylight hit!
Apparently, there was still confusion on the hospital’s end as to why I was there, according to one of the nurses who was rotating through. I was then set up for a second mental health screening with a man named Dr. K. I’ll be honest – he was a total dick and had zero compassion. He said that in my notes, it said I was tearful. I went on to explain why and he cut me off by asking if I felt I was experiencing postpartum. I let him know I did not have any postpartum symptoms and reiterated the reason why I was there was by mistake. I asked him if my actual doctor, Dr. T, had been reached, but he said no and that he didn’t see any notes of that in my chart. This was especially upsetting to me since my psychiatrist, Dr. T, used to work at and oversee that very facility, and many of the hospital staff I had been talking to knew him well. It was so frustrating because the entire staff, doctors included, rotated in and out every 12 hours, so I felt like I was telling my story in circles. The individual notes each nurse and doctor took were then passed along to the next set, and it felt like a fucking game of telephone.
Also, during this second psych evaluation with Mr. K, I referenced my music career. I told him about me being a songwriter, and when he asked if I had any success, I told him I had tied with Michael Jackson as the youngest writer signed to a publishing deal, and that I had five platinum hits, and two #1’s by the time I was 13. When he asked about my family, I asked him to put down my husband, dad, and my brother Luke for my contacts. When asked about what they did, I told him my husband worked in hockey, my dad was a real estate mogul, and my brother was recently in the NFL. He gave me a look that said he thought I was lying or out of my mind to believe such large stories. So, I asked him to check my Instagram to verify that I was speaking facts, but he wouldn’t. He said it was against hospital protocol. I got pissy and said, “Isn’t it also against hospital protocol to keep someone here illegally?” He didn’t like my snarkiness, to say the least. In my files later, I found out that telling the truth of my background, occupation, and family history were referenced in parenthesis as “grandiose thinking,” next to circled “symptoms of bipolar/mania” in my medical records notes, although they were actually just the facts of my life. Such bullshit.
After my assessment with Dr. K, I met another doctor named Amy. She arranged for me to get a breast pump (finally), and I was told they were moving me into a room just off the hallway I was still sitting in… just waiting to go home. Policeman John said goodbye to me. I felt for him. He stayed with me the whole night and asked if I remembered his name. I said I did, and he told me to write it down. He then told me to get in touch with him when I eventually got home. I knew what he was getting at. He knew this whole thing was fucked up, and later when I did reach out to him, he vogued for my sanity and the injustice I had gone through to my attorneys. I’m really grateful to him.
The room I was moved into was bright yellow and had a tv on the BET channel… with no sound. At least it was something to watch other than the speckles on the floor. I was finally given two meals and three bottles of water. I finally had the privacy to use the breast pump. I saved my milk supply and asked them to refrigerate it, but they wouldn’t. It was heartbreaking because breast milk is often referred to as liquid gold, and the nutrients should have been going to my baby, but instead, it was going down the drain while I sat in agony being away from her. I was in that bright yellow room for over 17 hours. It felt like I was stuck in a holding pattern from hell!
I had learned how to read/understand military time since that’s what the hospital runs on. With my coloring book and crayons, I decided to keep track of everything. I wrote down every doctor and nurse I had met and wrote down what times I had met them. It was helpful for me to know how long I’d been there and how long I’d been awake since I still hadn’t slept. I was constantly brought unfamiliar pills, but I refused medication since I was breastfeeding and didn’t want anything to contaminate my milk for Gracie. It was a legitimate concern. After denying the pills three times, I was then met with Dr. Amy, who was a bit forceful with the plastic cup containing two white ovals. I was told by Dr. Amy that, at this point, I had no choice if I wanted to go home. She said that what she was going to give me was to help me sleep and that it wouldn’t affect my supply. Unfortunately, Dr. Amy had not told me the full truth, and she gave me Zyprexa, which I found out later was a bipolar medication. She assured me that it was to help me sleep (in the bright yellow room with the TV on), but it didn’t. It actually did the opposite, and I was then going on a full day and a half of no sleep due to being forced away from my baby, stuck in the hospital hallway room against my will.
They took my clothes. I wasn’t allowed to have drawstrings, and Ty’s sweatshirt that I was wearing had them, along with the sweats I had on, overtop of my orange v-cut lacy silk nightgown. Since I had been taken from my home unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, those were the clothes I had to grab on my way out. At first, they asked me if I was wearing clothes under my hoodie, but when I took off my sweatshirt, they thought my orange nightly was too revealing. They made me change into a hospital gown instead, with yellow socks and white sticky grip arrows up and down the front and the back. (I still have them. I don’t know why – maybe a humbling reminder?)
Anyways, I didn’t tell them that I had white biker shorts underneath my sweatpants. They had pockets in them, and I sure as hell didn’t mention that those pockets were full of items that would definitely not be permitted into the hospital. I had a little gold compact mirror that said, “chaos creator,” that my mom and sister had given me a month before when my mom and nana flew out to visit and meet Gracie.
For those who have read my blogs before, you know I’m a big fan of mirror work. It’s something I do every day. I look in the mirror and say to myself, “Alexa, I love you, I support you, I’m here for you.” When the nurses would leave, I’d pull out my little compact, and I’d say those words, “you are strong, you are brave, you can do this. I support you. I bless this situation with love. I trust that I am divinely guided and protected, and I declare that a wonderful blessing will come from this.” I didn’t let myself cry. Not there. No way. I learned that my tears just got me into trouble. They made me seem like an unstable, emotional mess to everyone working there. In my gut I knew that “calm, cool, collected” was the way I had to be if I was ever going to get out of there.
In my left pocket, I had a packet of acupuncture needles. I had taken them out of my fanny pack when I went to the bathroom earlier because I was told they would be taking the rest of my belongings. I took my hair ties out and put my hair into a half-up, half-down ponytail. In the middle of the hair knot, I placed the pin in an acupuncture point known as “Du 20” or “governing vessel 20.” This point in Chinese medicine is known as the “human connection to heaven.” The point is used to calm the spirit and treat emotions, memory, and behavior. It’s a point that settles the “yang” energy and helps me explcitly with headaches, dizziness, overthinking, and insomnia – just to list a few of its benefits.
I knew by putting in that pin, no matter where I was that night, I’d be able to sleep. After slipping it in, I put the open packet of the nine remaining needles back into my left pocket. Then, I put what bobby pins I had grabbed from my fanny pack around the sides of my hair to hold up the loose strands and to wrap my hair around to hide the needle. “Pins and needles.” The irony of wearing them alongside how I felt definitely dawned on me. I’ve always felt that bobby pins are useful for quite a few things – especially unlocking doors. I just had a feeling to put them all in my hair and to keep them with me. If nothing else, I knew I at least looked and felt more put together.
Ty came to see me at the hospital. He had flowers in his hands and tears in his eyes. They let him into the yellow room where I was lying down, still trying to sleep with all the lights and TV on. I was so angry with him. I wanted him to get me out of there, not come visit me in there. I said, “Does this look like a place where a new mother belongs? Even if I was fucking crazy, is this their idea of helping someone? Locking them in a neon yellow room, drugging them, and stripping them of all basic needs – including their own fucking clothes?” His eyes poured out tears. “No. No, this isn’t right.” He agreed with me, and I still unloaded on him. I guess it’s sad but true that sometimes the people that we love the most and feel safest with often get the brunt of what we feel the most deeply. I couldn’t bear the emotional pain I was in, and I unfairly laid it all on Ty, as if it was his fault that I was in there. As if it was his fault that the scamming pseudo doctor who was stealing from us called me in, as if the arrest was his fault, and being torn away from Gracie was his fault, but at that moment, yes, I acted like it was all his fault.
I couldn’t bear it alone, and my husband, kind and sweet, let me grieve at his expense. He laid with me on the hospital bed and held me as I held the lovely colorful flowers to my nose and breathed them in. He promised me he was doing everything he could to get me out of there and that he wouldn’t stop until I was home. He told me that he and my dad were making all the necessary phone calls and that he had called my actual psychiatrist, Dr. T, to get help since he used to oversee that department. He assured me that Gracie was doing well and that he stayed home to be with her. Although I was nervous about him getting in hot water for missing the first few days at his new job, I was inwardly relieved that he was there with Gracie. He told me my friend Sara had come by to help as well as my neighbor Jennelle. He also said that my sister was there with Gracie with my lactation nurse Zarah while he was visiting me. It felt good to know that everyone was coming together to help me and to make sure Gracie was doing okay.
They didn’t let Ty stay long. In the privacy of that yellow room, I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed when he left. I laid back on the bed holding the flowers to my nose, and started to fall asleep, inhaling the sweet scent of the earth. It felt grounding to me, something real and beautiful. A touchstone of what life was like outside of the hell I was in. The flowers gave me hope. I fell asleep and was woken up by a male nurse taking my flowers from me, saying he was moving me to another unit and I couldn’t have my flowers in my room because of other potential allergies. It sounds stupid, but I couldn’t stop the tears when he took the flowers from my hands. That definitely didn’t make me look emotionally put together. I was moved around the hospital and given a few different wristbands. They each had different names on them. One said Alexa Falk, one said Alexa Falk Johns, and the last one they gave me said Alexa Johns. I wouldn’t let them cut them off. Instead, I wiggled them off my wrist so I could keep them. I guess there was some insurance problem, which caused an identity issue, which was part of the delay in them figuring out who I was, as well as me being able to get to a room sooner.
I had heard whispers and comments throughout the hospital about who other people thought I was, as well as some pretty wild stories about what I did to get there. I performed at the Parthenon in the year of the eclipse in 2017. It was in a park across from the hospital I was in, and one of the patients at the hospital recognized me from that performance. I sang that day in front of the statue of goddess Athena; it was a pretty cool experience. When I was met with my nurse Jonathan, who was to take me to an actual room, he said, “So I hear you are saying you’re some kind of goddess?” I looked at him confused, and rightfully so. He said, “Yeah, all the patients upstairs are excited for you to come up because Ronnie saw you in the hallway and said he saw you at the Parthenon.” I thought to myself, “Are these people really that stupid?” The guy Ronnie meant that he “literally” saw me at the Parthenon, playing a musical set.. The nurse reiterated it as if the patient had seen me in a vision and I was coming to the third floor to save everybody. I looked at him very bluntly and said, “Jonathan. You’re not an idiot. I’m not a goddess, I’m just a musician, and yes, I did perform at the Parthenon a few years back in front of goddess Athena. That’s it.”
“Ohhhhh, really? Well, that’s pretty cool then. I was going to say I didn’t know of any Greek goddess that had purple hair, but ahhh, that makes sense, I guess.” I was annoyed, but I also understood that Jonathan probably encountered hundreds of patients who were out of their minds telling all kinds of stories. At the same time, it also brought me a deep sense of anger (and compassion) on behalf of the patient, who was probably trying to tell an accurate story of something that literally happened, but because he was locked in a psych ward, anything he said was considered crazy. It’s still upsetting to think back to the sweet people I met there, the stereotypes they have been categorized into, and being labeled “crazy.”
Anyways, back to my wristbands. I wanted to keep them. To me, they were evidence and information. They had time stamps, my name(s), my section of the hospital, and even who my assigned doctor was at the time all printed on them. Each wristband also had a barcode to scan into whatever section of the hospital I was in, and it was the same barcode that was scanned when the nurses had to get my vitals. Oh yes, I did bloodwork, and a lot of it after arriving. I felt like I was constantly being poked and prodded. I was feeling unnerved, yes, because of the situation but also because it had been a day and a half since I had taken my medication for ADHD, and I hadn’t fully slept. I felt hyper but pissed off at the same time. The nurse was supposed to take my previous band after giving me a new one, but I used that time to ask to use the restroom and would slip the previous band around the top of my ponytail. Then, I wrapped my hair around it and used the bobby pins I already had in my hair to pin the hair over it so it wasn’t visible to the nurses. My acupuncture needle was still intact. When I came out of the bathroom and sat back down with the nurse, I’d say I threw the band away in the bathroom, fully prepared for them to check and then deny, deny, deny. Luckily, they took me at my word and never went to retrieve it.
So, with my wrist bands secured on top of my head and denying being a Parthenon Greek goddess, I followed Jonathan up to what was supposed to be my room on the third floor. It was 10:30, so the hallways were lit, but everything else was dim due to it being patient sleeping hours. It felt so creepy to me – like a really bad fucking nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. We walked past the front desk into an open corridor with blue couches and plastic white rectangular tables in the far-right corner. The room was surrounded by doors closed to patients’ rooms. It was like an eerie commune. As I walked past the intake window, I noticed that my flowers were on the other side in an empty, half-cut Pepsi liter. I was enraged that I couldn’t have them in my room and that they weren’t in water. Looking back, I think that my rage over the flowers was actually my rage at the whole situation I was going through, finally finding expression. Jonathan, the nurse that had taken me upstairs, introduced me to Rusty, the head night nurse, and Tallan, my new nurse for the night, once Jonathan handed me off to them before resigning from his shift.
This is the part I feel uncomfortable writing. For some reason, I always get to this part, then go on to write other pieces of the night. The next part is me having to write about my absolute freak-out when I was told I’d have to strip down to do a “skin check” and body exam before I could go to my room and go to sleep in my assigned bed. And yes, I freaked the fuck out! Basically, after just meeting the head night nurse, Rusty, and demanding that my flowers at least get water if they couldn’t be put in my room, I then freaked the fuck out when I was being escorted to my room. I was about to have to take my clothes off in front of a man I had just barely met and was told I could potentially have to get fingered to make sure that I wasn’t hiding anything that could be used as a weapon in my vagina.
Fuck no. Fuck noooo! I screamed at them! I felt totally violated just by the words they used, and I panicked. I’m not going to lie; I absolutely lost it. I screamed, “NOOO,” and I also screamed that they could go fuck themselves, that they weren’t going to get away with doing that to me after keeping me PRISONER in a hospital. The two men grabbed my arms, and I lifted my legs to try to put all of my weight down on the floor. They started to drag me while telling me to be calm or I’d have to go into isolation. I put my feet out in front of me, and my socks with the white arrow grips screeched. Pulling my body down to the floor wasn’t working, so I lifted my legs up and began to kick. I forced my elbows into each of their ribs. I probably looked like a flailing maniac, but I was panicked. I screamed, “Help me, someone fucking help me! Help me, I’m not supposed to be here! Help me! I’m a new mom! They took me from my daughter! Help, help! They are trying to take my clothes off!” At that moment, all rational thinking was gone. I was in absolute fight or flight mode. I was in a full-blown “triggered” moment from a “Me Too” moment I had experienced in my past. Aside from the injustice of having been there in the first place, then having to do this in order to get into my room – it all just pushed me over the edge.
I broke into deep, heaving sobs. “Help me! Please help me!” I continued to say that over and over again. The male nurse, Tallan, released the grip he had on me, and I pulled my other arm from Rusty. I laid down on the floor, curled myself into the fetal position, pulled my legs up to my chest, and hugged my knees as tight as I could. Still sobbing, I began to rock myself back and forth. My screams, now softer, soon turned into whispers. I was just repeating over and over again, “Help me! Please, someone help me.” It was a full-blown crazy moment, but I didn’t care. I was traumatized and totally shoved past my breaking point – this was my reaction. I don’t know how much time had passed, but eventually, the two men went back to their stations. Rusty sat behind a tall, narrow, white rollaway desk that looked more like a podium than an actual desk. Tallan sat on a chair directly across from him, both men looking like they were guarding the doors. I couldn’t stop crying, but I stopped pleading for help. Between my sobs, I could hear them talking to each other about what to do with me. I heard them talking more about isolation, but then Tallan said, “No, I think she’s been through it. Something serious must be going on. Maybe we should radio for a female assistant. What female nurses are on duty?”
“None, but maybe Tyrell could reason with her. He’s always pretty good at talking patients down from their mania.”
I thought, “Mania? This is what they think mania looks like? No. Try this is what trauma looks like,” but I was too exhausted – and honestly, too scared to argue with them. Then, I noticed a pile of folded linens on a round solid gray table next to the couch. I was still on the floor, and before I could think about what I was doing, I stood up, grabbed the linens, unfolded a white sheet, wrapped it around me as tight as I could, and I laid down on the couch facing the speckled wooden amour/cabinet on the north side of the room. It had a TV in it, and it freaked me out because it reminded me of a movie I saw when I was 13 years old that scared the crap out of me – “The Ring.” It bothered me enough to cause me to get up and move to the couch next to the one I was on, where I could just comfortably cry and stare at the closed door that was in front of me instead. The two men didn’t say anything to me, so I just closed my eyes and rocked back and forth in hopes of falling asleep and waking up to this nightmare being over.
Time in that place didn’t feel like it existed. It could’ve been minutes or hours by the time I heard, “Miss? Excuse me, Miss?” I opened my eyes. ‘Hi, Miss. My name is Tyrell. What’s your name? I rubbed my eyes, which felt glued shut from crying. I didn’t say anything at first. I just looked back at him, but something about him soothed me. I felt comfortable, so once I could see clearly, I said, “I’m Alexa…”
“Alexa? Oh, that’s a pretty name.” I politely back at him. I didn’t have it in me to make my usual “Amazon Alexa” jokes. “Well, Alexa, I just wanted to come over and see if you were doing okay. Do you mind if I sit down right here?” I nodded. He bent down slowly and sat cross-legged on the floor about 5 feet from the little blue couch I was curled up on.
“So, Alexa, I see you’re sleeping. Don’t you want to sleep in a nice bed?” I shook my head. “I’m fine here. I’m not doing a skin check.”
“Well, Miss Alexa, it’s against our rules to have you sleep out here, and you don’t want me to get in trouble, do you?”
“No. I’ll go to my room, but I’m not doing a skin check.”
“Well, we have to make sure you don’t have anything on you that you could harm yourself or the other patients with. You understand that, right?” I nodded. “So, Alexa, can you work with me? Will you do the skin check? I promise it will take less than a minute.
“Only if you do it. Not him.” I pointed at Rusty. He could hear me, but I didn’t care. He gave me the creeps.
“Oh, Miss, I can’t do that. I’m not authorized to, but I promise you Rusty is a nice guy. He’s just trying to help you. We all are.”
“No,” I snapped back. “No. No one is trying to help me. They are drugging me, poking and prodding me, and keeping me from my baby. No one is listening to me. They think I’m just making things up, and they just pass me from doctor to doctor. No one is here to help me. They are here to get a paycheck. That’s it. If they really wanted to help me, they would let me go home now and would arrest the fuckers who called me in here.”
“Okay, Alexa, no need to get aggressive with me. I’m your friend here. I can’t do anything about getting you out, but I can help make you more comfortable. What would help you feel more comfortable doing the skin check?”
“A girl,” I said, already having heard that there were no female nurses on the unit at that hour.
“You want a female nurse?” I nodded yes. “Okay, so if I can find a way to get a female nurse here now, you promise me you will do the skin check so you can get into your room, and then you will go to sleep?”
“Yep, I promise..”
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.
After the doctor visit, I made phone calls to every number I had written down in that coloring book that the policeman John F gave me. I called my sister Natalee who was watching Gracie at the time while Ty was on the ice. She put the phone on speaker so that I could talk to Gracie. Tears filled my eyes as I talked and sang to her. I told my sister what had happened while meeting with the doctor, and she tried to calm me down. Ty was supposed to be back within the next two hours, and she told me when he got back, she would see if she could bring me some clothes or any of my belongings. The thought of having to stay in the hospital longer was agonizing, and I was grateful she was trying to make it better for me. I still couldn’t believe that the doctor wouldn’t listen to me at all about being stolen from and having the fake Ph.D. call me into the Telehealth crisis line when I told her I was going to report her to Cigna for insurance fraud etc.. I was angry but mostly scared that this whole thing had gotten so far out of control. None of my family could get me out because it was a mandated doctor order that I was there, even though the mandated part came from a fake doctor (none of that had been double-checked by the hospital yet, but it was confirmed when I was finally released.) I was just relieved that my family was on the outside, trying everything they could to get me out.
After I hung up the phone with my sister, I was hysterical and didn’t know how to soothe myself. I didn’t know what to do but pray, call my loved ones to see if they had made any progress on their end, and write. Usually, when I am this upset about something, the emotion tends to purge out of me and pour into music or art of some sort, but I was locked in without my belongings. I didn’t have my guitar or anything – but there was a piano.
I was already stuck there; the doctors already assumed I was crazy, so I didn’t try to “fake being perfect anymore.” My soul longed to be inside of a song, and I was pissed off enough to piss off the hospital staff. I didn’t ask for permission; I just marched through the cafe room, opened the wooden keys cover, and began to play the piano. Before diving into something new (created from what I was feeling at that moment), I just started playing a song I had written and was still working on (before the hospital crap happened). It was called “Recollecting Me.” It’s an ominous ballad about re-collecting the broken parts of yourself that are scattered throughout your past pain and putting them back together, kinda like making peace out of your pieces.
I rolled into the low-tone minors and inversion chords. The melody I had created was intricate and something I’m still very proud of making myself. Out of the corner of my right eye, I could see not one but three nurses. They were walking towards the doorframe that led to the room I was in. I thought they were coming in to stop me, but instead, they stopped… just inside the room, in front of the door frame. They just stopped, stood there, and listened.
“Excuse me, excuse me!” I heard Joseph, the young man I had met before my terrible meeting with Dr. Y, come through the door. He was squeezing past the nurses and walked right up behind me. I could feel his energy, and even if I couldn’t, I could definitely hear his loud footsteps, and he was just wearing hospital socks! Haha. He pulled out the chair from behind me, sat on it backward, and just listened. I only know that because I saw him sitting that way once I was done playing.
As I played, he made sounds of “Mmmm’s” and “Mmmmhmmmm’s.” He was really getting into it, which caused me to start really feeling more of what I was playing. I went into a piano solo and wrapped it back around to the chorus. I finished the song’s intro/turned outro – a beautiful interval melody. My fingers stilled, and I began to hear applause. A nurse named Rosie, who I had not met yet, was wiping a tear from the corner of her eye.
“Wow, bravo. That was really beautiful… bravo,” she said and then asked me who that piece was by.
“Oh, that one? Well, It’s my own original. I was in the process of finishing it before coming here.” She looked startled.
“YOU wrote that? Wow, Hunny, that is something. Wow… just wow. That really moved me.” I felt myself blushing.
“Awe, thank you so much. I’m glad you liked it. I hope it’s okay that I just started playing?” Their reaction to my music had softened the anger that had risen from finding out that Dr. Y had wanted to keep me there a few more days and shove me full of unnecessary medication. Because of my softened attitude, I felt a little remorseful at not having asked to play. “Yes, Hunny, she replied. Please, dear, play anytime you want.” I felt relieved.
“Ya, please do!” Joseph piped up, and I turned back to see him give me a wink. He leaned in towards me and said, “That was awesome, Alexa! Will you keep playing?”
“Ummm…?” I looked at the nurses to see if they had any opposition to me complying with Joseph’s request.
“Yes, girl, play. Play another!” Rosie exclaimed. I began to turn towards the piano, then I heard a loud “Wait!” Joseph had stopped me before I had started into another song. “Can I come sit by you and watch you play?
“Uhhh… sure, but this bench is kinda tiny, so we’ll have to squeeze.”
“Oh, that’s okay, I just like how fast your fingers move, and I want to see it close up.
“Hahaha,” I laughed. “Well, alright then, come on over.” I scooted to the left and patted the open area next to me, motioning for him to sit there.
I started into a sweeter song I had written when I was nine years old called “My Sweet Someday.” (No pun intended! Haha) The melody was happy and whimsical. That song had been a #1 platinum hit in Brazil, but I didn’t mention that. The nurses stayed to listen until they were beckoned by Rusty, the lead floor nurse, who urged them to get back to their duties. When they left, he lingered. Joseph chuckled under his breath and said, “He just booted them out so he could be the one to stand there and listen. Haha! He just wanted this beautiful music all to himself!” I smiled back at him, nodded in agreement, and kept playing.
Joseph had a boy-like wonder to him. He was endlessly curious about everything and was particularly fascinated by music. He asked me to play song after song, then he wanted me to show him how to play a C chord. He had long, thin fingers, making the note’s chordal stretch look effortless. I taught him how to roll the C chord, which he then practiced over and over and over again. He probably drove the nursing staff and the patients nuts, but it made me smile. Joseph practicing piano brought a sense of comfort to my heart. I loved to listen to him play when I was locked away in my room, missing my Gracie girl and dreaming of being with her.
I was midway through a song Joseph and I were improvising on when Rosie walked into the room. “Miss Alexa, I’m sorry to interrupt your beautiful piano playing, but you have to get back to your room to talk with Rusty. It appears you will have a roommate and will need to let him know which twin bed is yours.”
“A roommate?” I confusingly looked at Rosie.
“Yes, Hunny. She’ll be here in about an hour,” Rosie said.
“Well, Rosie, is there any way that I could have the room to myself? You see, I’m still breastfeeding my four-month-old daughter Gracie, and even though they haven’t brought a pump to my room, I still have to “express my milk.” S
he raised her eyebrows and voiced, “MMMMHHMMM..” She knew what I was referring to. (Hahaha. Having to “express your own breast milk by hand gives a whole new meaning to “Self-Expression, hahaha.)
“I still have the containers from when I was in the ER in my room. I’ve just been dumping and re-filling them since they won’t let me refrigerate my breast milk.”
“Ahhh, that’s a shame, Hunny. All that liquid gold?
“Ya,” I nodded. “You get it! Do you have kids?
“Oh yes, Hunny. I have four girls, but they are all grown now, and I have one grandbaby a little older than your young one.”
“Oh really, what’s her name?”
“Tabitha, and she’s gonna be eight months later this week!”
“Oh, that’s awesome, congrats. What a sweet name! I’d ask to see a picture, but I know you guys can’t have phones in here.”
Rosie gave me a soft smile and said, “Well, maybe I’ll sneak you a peek. It will be our little secret!” She chuckled!
“Oh, that would be wonderful. I’d love that!” I cooed. “Oh, and last thing.. Sorry to bother you about this, but I’ve been waiting on a breast pump since I was assigned that room,” I said while pointing to the door that opened to my hospital living corridors. “I’ve asked Rusty a handful of times, but he still hasn’t gotten me one. Is there any way you can pass along that I need privacy because I’m breastfeeding?
“Sure thing, darling,” she said as she scribbled down something on her notepad. “What’s your room number, Miss Alexa?” It’s 212**. Thank you, Hunny. Yes, I’ll be sure to put in your request, and I’ll also track down that damn breast pump for you, sweet girl. You just keep playing that piano, ya hear?”
“Yes, ma’am, and thank you so much!” I reaaaaaaallllly appreciate your understanding and helping me with this.”
“Anytime, sugar, now get back to them keys.”
“You got it,” I said.
Rather than returning to playing piano immediately, I longed to write. Although it was nice to play with Joseph and his eagerness/interest in my music, I really needed alone time to write and process what had gone on. There was an art table on the far side of the room, pressed against the wall, directly across from the cafeteria room. It had three chairs around the opening table edges, which was an absolute mess. I thumbed through a box of markers and crayons and tested them out since most were dried up. I gathered the markers that still had ink and a few crayons with a sharpened tip, and I tucked them into my pockets and headed for my room. To my surprise, when I got to my door, a post-it note was stuck to it saying to go see Rusty for my belongings. I found out that my sister Natalee had dropped off a white Lulu lemon bag filled with some of my clothes. She also brought my mandala coloring book and a fresh pack of soft tip markers of 12. I was ecstatic. “Thank you,” I nearly said out loud while looking up. It was a manifesting moment for me, and I was so grateful to have my mandala book and beautiful supplies to write with. It got better. Rusty informed me that a pump was on its way to me and would be there within a half hour. He also mentioned that I would have the “luxury” of my own room and would not need to have a roommate due to my needing privacy to use the breast pump. I sighed in relief.
“Ahhhh, thank you!” I didn’t really like Rusty, and I doubted he liked me either, especially after the night I screamed at him, but at that moment, I was so elevated I could’ve hugged him anyways! Hahaha.
I scooped up the bag and headed back toward my room. With the door closed, I sat on the far right twin rollaway bed and dumped the contents of the bag onto the blankets. I had socks, t-shirts, Lulu leggings, purple Nike shoes, and my mint green hoodie. I noticed all forms of “strings” had been removed. I rolled my eyes to myself, knowing that they removed the strings to prevent anyone from hanging themselves with shoelaces. I instantly had a flashback to the night of the “skin check.” The memory gave me a visceral sick body feeling, like a flash of hot nausea. I realized I hadn’t really processed any of this shit. I needed to write. So I opened my mandala coloring book, with black and white mandalas on each right-hand side of the page and a fresh open blank page on the back. I started on the blank page and started writing from the top – from the night the cops came to my house after Dr. Ann _ had called the Telehealth mental health crisis line after I found out she was stealing from me. I began to write the date in purple marker on the top right corner of the page. I then picked out two other colors I would use for my first entry. Dark royal blue and electric lime green. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I couldn’t stop. Deep heaving sobs poured out of me as I recapped what the fuck had happened the night of May 5th, 2021, all the way to that very moment. I got so into my writing that I lost track of time. I heard a knock at the door and realized that over 40 minutes had passed. My breast pump had arrived.
I went to open the door in full anticipation of it being a nurse with my long-awaited breast pump, but it wasn’t. Instead, at my door were two women with clipboards in their hands. The pretty heavier-set blonde introduced herself. Her name was Janessa, and she informed me that she was my assigned social worker. Beside her was a young brunette named Natalie, who was shadowing her that day. I remembered her name easily because it’s the same as my sister Natalee’s – only spelled differently. Janessa asked if she and Natalie could come in to talk to me about my experience so far at the hospital and how I was doing.
I opened the door, and the two women walked closely behind me into my hospital room. I sat on the far-right twin bed I had been accustomed to sleeping in, and they sat on the twin bed across from me.
“Well, where do I start? I asked aloud, though somewhat sarcastically.
Janessa answered, “Just tell us whatever you’d like us to know.”
“Well,” I said… I don’t know if you’ve read my hospital notes, but after I met with Doctor Robert, it appears on paper that I’m crazy and trying to hurt myself. But let me explain very briefly. The night of May 5th, Cinco De Mayo, I discovered that the couple’s therapists that my husband and I were seeing were triple charging us and expensing therapy claims for sessions that didn’t happen. Meaning, that they have been billing our Cigna health insurance every Friday for the past two months, as well as charging both of my cards and my husband’s cards for sessions. My husband and I, combined, had only participated in 6 sessions with these therapists, but when I started digging, I realized that they had billed us for 19.”
Janessa and Natalie’s faces looked a bit puzzled, so I added, “Just bear with me while I tell a bit of the back story as to how I got here.”
“Anyways,” I continued, “Since I had recently had a baby, I was all-consumed with my newborn Gracie. Because of this, I wasn’t as focused on our finances, and neither was my husband due to how much he had to travel for his new job with the Predators. Something felt fishy to me about a month into our therapy sessions, and when I asked the wife therapist “Dr. Ann” about the double billings, she told me it was just how insurance processed things and that they would write me a reimbursement check at the end of the month If totals didn’t balance out. Well, things did NOT balance out, and in fact, the charges kept piling up, and the insurance claims did too. On May 5th, I noticed that all the billings were done under her husband, Dr. Robert, even though the counselor we were seeing for those therapy sessions was his wife, Dr. Ann. That was a red flag, and so I had a hunch to Google her. When I did, I couldn’t find her doctorate credentials anywhere. I searched Cigna, and then eventually came across her Facebook page, which showed her face in her profile picture, but she was going by a completely different name.”
I continued. “That night, my husband called to sort out the billing and ask for a reimbursement. She asked to speak with me, and because I was angry and called her out for stealing from us, she said she thought I needed to do a session because she felt I was postpartum and delusional. It was then that I told her I intended to call Cigna and report her and her husband for therapy fraud. When I said that, she got quiet. Then said, threateningly, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I was you.’ Luckily, I had the inkling to film/record the whole conversation on my work cell phone, and I’m glad I did. The cops showed up an hour later with a telehealth order to take me to the hospital because of a mental health mandate that had been called in on me. It wasn’t until I got to the hospital that I learned that Dr. Ann had actually called me in under her husband Dr. Rob’s name (because it tuned out that “Dr. Ann” wasn’t really a doctor after all). I tried to explain to the cops, but they had a job to do. So, I was ripped away from my family, put in handcuffs, thrown into the back of the cop car, and then taken here to this hospital. I was told by the policemen that I’d just have to do a mental health evaluation and would then likely be released and taken home to be with my family, but obviously, they were wrong because I’m still here.”
“When I got to the hospital, I sat in the hallway between a rollaway bed and a yellow room for a day and a half without food, water, sleep, or a breast pump. I was then given three different mental health examinations, forced to take medication, and I experienced a very violating skin check. Because of my refusal for both, Dr. Robert informed me I’d be staying longer till I complied. Oh, and also, he thinks I’m self-harming because I had an acupuncture needle on my floor when the nurses did room checks. But I was using them when I was cuffed and taken here because I’m currently studying acupuncture. It’s totally normal for me and normal for most people into eastern medicine, but he thinks it makes me crazy, I guess?”
My sarcasm was loud, and my recap story was longer than they both seemed ready for. Janessa and Natalie looked horrified. I can’t recall if their mouths were opened, but I remember that I felt for the first time like I had been really heard and understood since arriving at the hospital.
“Oh,” I added, “and this hospital/Dr. Robert still hasn’t even called my actual psychiatrist Dr. T, who used to be the head psychiatrist here, and is the doctor I’ve seen for the last three years for my ADHD.”
“Wait, what was his name?” Janessa asked.
“It’s Dr. T. I guess he used to work here, but now he owns and works out of ‘The ___ Institution of Nashville’ in Greenhills, Hermitage, and I think there is one in Franklin too”
“Yeah, we know him – really well, or I guess I should say I do since Natalie is still pretty new here,” Janessa said while grabbing her notebook and clicking the top of a pen. “Can you say the name of his institution again, and did you work with him directly?
“Yeah,” I nodded. “I’ve seen him personally for about 3 years, as well as my counselor Lisa, who works out of his office.”
“Okayyyyy,” Janessa said while writing. “Do you mind if I contact them?” She asked when she looked up from her notes.
“No, not at all. Please do contact him! I’ve been trying to get someone to call him since I got in here so that he can help get me out! My family can’t get me out of here because I was called in on a mental health mandate, and I’ve been told the only guy who can sign me out of here is Dr. Robert, and he’s a complete dick so, yeah, if you could call Dr. T, I’m certain he would vouch for me.”
Once I finished my story, there was a pause of silence, broken by “Ommmmiiiigodddd! So, you’ve been here for this long and still haven’t had a pump!?” Natalie blurted out!
“Well, yes, since they moved me up here. I did have one briefly while I was downstairs waiting for a room. I’m supposed to get one sent here any minute, and actually, when you were both knocking on the door, I thought it was my pump – because Rusty told me one was on the way. I do need a pump, but I’m actually really happy it was both of you at the door instead. Honestly, no one up until you two have sat down and listened to me.”
“That’s wild; I can’t even imagine what you’ve gone through and how you’ve dealt with being away from your new baby,” Natalie said.
“It’s been agonizing; I won’t lie. Because I’m just a new mom, who was stolen from by my counselors, and somehow, I ended up here. All I really want to do is get out and get home to my baby.” Natalie and Janessa were both nodding in agreement as I spoke. I continued, “I’ve decided I’ll do whatever I have to do, be it medications or whatever, just to get home. So, if you guys could help me and advocate for my sanity, that would be awesome. Oh, and if you could let me know what I need to do to get home, that would be helpful.” I repeated myself, “I just want to know what I need to do to get home. That’s all…”
“Well, we can more than advocate for you, and Dr. Robert isn’t the only one who can get you out of here,” Janessa announced confidently. “We can request for the hospital judge to see you.”
Now I was the one that looked shocked! “Wait, a judge? I remarked. “You guys have a judge in the hospital?”
“Yes, and in your case, it’s necessary that we get you a court appointment,” Janessa answered. Natalie nodded in agreement.
“Wow, I don’t know what to say other than thank you so much. I’m beyond grateful you would be willing to help me.”
“It’s our job, Alexa,” Janessa said. “We have to look into your case a bit more, but we are going to do what we can to get you home to your baby,” Janessa said confidently. “And to get you your breast pump,” Natalie chimed in. Her comment made us all laugh, and it felt good to break up the seriousness of our conversation. “Before we go, Alexa, you mentioned that you were writing everything down?” I nodded. “Can I look through this book that you have been taking notes in?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” I replied as I handed her my coloring book filled with the details of my stay.
Janessa flipped through the pages of my coloring book and seemed impressed with my attention to detail. Especially the fact that I had learned how military time worked while in the hospital and how I would write both standard and military time on everything to time stamp it and date it. She said, “This is really good, but for your court date, I think you should have something more organized than writing on top of the lines of empty pictures. Hold on, I’ll be back,” she said, and when she came back into my room, she had a large yellow memo note pad and a red and black sharpie marker.
Janessa asked me to spend my time over the next few days transferring everything I had written down onto that yellow memo pad in chronological order. “That will come in handy later when you get out of here if you choose to take legal action. Then, you can give this to an attorney,” she said with a furrowed brow. At that moment, she planted the seed for this whole lawsuit thing I’m currently involved in to happen. Janessa saying that further validated the legal actions I took once I was finally released. I still have that yellow memo pad, and in fact, I’m flipping through it right now. It’s probably why writing about that experience is so clean and easy for me – because I’m literally just copying from the entries I wrote while locked up in the hospital.
To wrap this saga up, I’ll make the end of this long story a little shorter! So, those two women, Janessa and Natalee, the social workers who came to see me that day, had promised to help me get out – and they did. I found out afterward that they had investigated my Instagram and called my family members, friends, and colleagues, who verified that I was who I said I was and that the situation had gone down the way I said it did. They also got me a court date where I got to see a judge, who ruled in my favor, and I was released later that afternoon. During the process, the social workers got a hold of my actual medical team to inform them that I had been hospitalized – likely under false pretenses. After the ruling, they got my psychiatric information and ultimately helped me build a case which I’m now involved with. Janessa also reached out to the cops who had come to my house that night, both policeman John F, the cop who drove me to the hospital and stayed with me, and other policeman Jarred D, who was the first to arrive at my house that night and had actually written the police report. The social workers even went as far as to investigate the credentials of Dr. Ann, the woman who had called me in that night via telehealth, and also found that she did not have a doctorate and was practicing under a pseudo-name.
There was a lot more that happened between seeing my social workers and me getting out of the hospital. There’s so much more I could write about, especially regarding my experience with the other patients, the staff, the learning I had, and spiritual moments. I’m so grateful to my family and friends who were doing everything they could to help me get out and to help step in and take care of Gracie while I was hospitalized. I’ve thought about writing it all out, but I’m already on blog part 7, and it would take quite a few more posts to cover it all, so I’ll just sum up the ending and where I’m at with it now.
Ultimately, it was eight days of hell, and then I was billed over $42,000 for it all. Yes, you better believe I’m taking legal action. I didn’t meet with lawyers immediately after getting out of the hospital, however. No, I first had PTSD to deal with for the next few months of reintegrating into my life after the ordeal. In fact, when I was taken home from the hospital, later that night, when I went into the shower, the fluorescent lighting in our shower triggered me so much that I began throwing up and panicking to catch my breath. Over the following months, my husband Ty spent a lot of time helping me work through it, along with my counselor and the help of EFT therapy. When I could bring it up and finally talk about the hospital experience without crying or having a panic attack – that’s when I knew I was ready. I reached out to 4 different attorneys/firms, and each one wanted to take my case, and as stated before, I did select a law firm, and we are in the thick of the legal process now under the premise of “false Imprisonment.” Ultimately, I learned a lot about my own strength and inner resilience. Because of this ordeal, I’ve learned the truest meaning and practice of forgiveness that I’ve ever had to face before. I spent 10 minutes in deep prayer every day for six months, doing forgiveness work to just try to let it go and release the trauma from my body, emotions, and memories. Now, I practice “Forgiveness Fridays,” as it relates to this, and what’s left for me to give to a higher power. Since the hospital, I still have a few trauma spots I have to work through. For instance, since this happened, I have only gone one day without my lashes and being totally ready! Hahaha! And that was only because I was having Lasik surgery and couldn’t wear any eye makeup! I realized how much my appearance that night contributed to people thinking that I couldn’t take care of myself, but in truth, I was just a new mom trying to figure it out. I barely had time to take a shower in those early newborn baby days. So, it may take me a while to be able to spend a day in sweatpants again, but it’s a process, and I’m just living in a way that makes me feel safe right now.
As far as the patients, I learned a lot from them. I learned that they are gifted and misunderstood. I learned about trauma and how, if unprocessed, it can cause the self to fracture to compartmentalize the pain. Pain, unexpressed and undigested, seeks expression to get out of the mind, body, and soul. I came away from that experience with a burning desire for justice (hence why I am now in a lawsuit), but aside from that, I came away from the experience with a deep sense of humility and compassion. I learned that anyone can be misunderstood and that “crazy” can just sometimes be a misunderstanding. We don’t always know each other’s deep hurting points; therefore, we can’t know the lens anyone else sees life through, as well as why others are where they are/made certain choices in their lives. However, I definitely know that we can love. We can love larger than our injustices, our pain, our failures, our sadness, and our shame; I learned that sometimes love just looks like kindness and/or compassion. Sometimes love looks like listening and holding that space for grace to come in and wrap all involved in a loving embrace. Grace is often the answer I’ve found for myself, as well as for those I have feared, judged, or misunderstood. So that’s where I’ll leave it: on my praise of amazing Grace!
So, now I’m signing off, but before I do, I’m taking a moment to intentionally send you love, light, and good vibes! (I’m also praying for my enemies and that I win in court! Hahaha!)
Thanks so much for reading my story. It’s been healing to get it out of my heart and onto this page. Your support through this releasing journey of mine has been exactly what my soul needed. I appreciate you more than I can even convey. So, again… thank you!
I love you -Alexa