A new resident showed up at my treatment facility. When new patients (which the staff members do like us to call ourselves, but what else are we? We're certainly not clients at a spa. We're admitted to a freaking hospital) arrive in the ward, if a particular psychological intern is on duty, she always introduces the new patient in a, "Boys and girls, we have a new friend. I'd like you to meet Lucretia [not her real name, obviously] who will be with us for awhile. Everybody say 'Hi!' to Lucretia," manner, as though we're a bleeping preschool class.
This method of introduction is annnoying at the very least to the existing patients, and it makes the new person feel as uncomfortable as hell. "Hey, everybody, stop what you're doing and stare at this poor teenager who obviously has something seriously wrong with one or more of his or her psychological processes, or else he or she wouldn't be here." Duh. Insurance is NOT going to fork over the wad of cash demanded to house one of us in this loony bin for a day, much less for months on end, unless there is at least one serious and compelling reason, and it costs so damn much to stay here that only the Gateses, the Rockefellers, the Onassis heiress, Kim Jong Il, and possibly a couple of European royal families could ever afford to pay the going rate out of pocket.
Then there's the awkward dance around the reason why the new person is here, or why any one of us is here, for that matter. The staff obviously can't disclose our diagnoses, although they make it unnecessarily obvious that the diagnosis one is claiming is bogus when someone announces that she is in the facility because of an unfortunate episode during which the person, in a fugue-like state, killed the next-door neighbors with a pumpkin-carving knife the day before Halloween and hid the bodies in the oversized containers where her LDS relatives store their two-year supply of food. (I was clearly joking when I said it, and absolutely none of the patients took it seriously. I was not intending to scare anyone, nor did I. It was total overkill for my computer and cell phone to have been confiscated and my parents called so that they could yell at me over the phone.)
Sometimes I think it would be healthier if, in our therapy sessions, we stood up and introduced ourselves along with our diagnoses a la Alcoholics Anonymous. "Hi. My name is Alexis, and I'm suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and related sleep disturbance and anxiety attacks." Such disclosure couldn't be forced, of course, because of confidentiality laws, but most patients would voluntarily spill the info.
Most of us eventually tell the truth about what our problems are anyway, but even if we didn't, it wouldn't be all that hard to figure out. If the person can only blow-dry his or her hair while being watched like a hawk by at least one staff member, the person has obviously been identified as having suicidal tendencies. If the staff hovers right outside the shower and allows a person to have possession of a razor for only forty-two seconds, the person is either suicidal or is a cutter. Ironically, if that person is a cutter, she ends up cutting her legs into ribbons in attempt to successfully shave both legs and both underarms in the short amount of time allotted.
If the person is required to pee into a cup fairly regularly, substance abuse is a large part of the reason he or she is here.
We used to have a few eating disorder patients in our ward. The telltale sign for a bulimic was the lack of privacy in using the bathroom for several hours following a meal or a snack. The anorexics were watched carefully during mealtimes because they had creative ways of making food disappear without actually eating it. The other dead giveaway for the anorexics was their characteristic thinness. (Another "duh." I try to limit my blogs to no more than two "duhs" per post, but it's hard because it's one of my favorite words, both spoken and in print. One therapist tried to impose consequences against me each time I was heard by a staff member saying "duh!," but the Nazi was overruled by the director of the facility, who theorized that saying "duh!" is to me as hitting baseballs over an outfield fence while consuming massive quantities of anabolic steroids is to Barry Bonds or throwing a football and abusing dogs is to Michael Vick. I've been asked not to say "duh!" to staff members in a rude or insolent, eye-rolling manner, but sometimes an answer is so obvious that there's nothing to say but "duh!" The director of the facility understands this, and sometimes himself says "duh!")
Eating disorder patients aren't usually treated in our ward now. I've been told that if such a patient were fairly far into the recovery process he or she might be placed in our wing, but food is generally not restricted or monitored among those of us in the ward because no one here has issues with it, so sending a very seriously eating-disordered patient to live among us would be counter-productive to his or her recovery.
People who have PTSD or anxiety disorders, such as I, are occasionally heard yelling or screaming in their sleep, and are somtimes allowed up at night while the rest of the loony bin is confined to their beds.
If someone were really that curious about another person who was holding out on his or her diagnosis, one could come close to identifying it by watching what meds were given to the person. One could identify the drugs by using photo guides of pharmaceutical sites on the Internet, and then could make a ballpark guess as to what was the diagnosis.
Most people really don't care that much, nor are most of us all that secretive. As long as I'm confident the people in the rooms on either side of me aren't making anthrax to prove a point or aren't otherwise dangerous, it's not an issue to me. It only becomes a problem with the forced friend-making when a new person shows up. Then it naturally causes everyone, both the newbie and the oldies, to be suspicious of one another. It would be better if the person just showed up in front of the TV to watch whatever was on, or walked into the game room and joined an activity. The patients here aren't rude or snobbish. No new person is going to be hazed. One would have to be pretty pathetic to think that he or she was superior to another person by virtue of having been housed in a loony bin for a longer period of time. It's not exactly a badge of honor.
The new girl sort of knows how to play the piano, but when she got here she only knew, or at least only played, two songs: "The Bluebells of Scotland" and a fake Native American-style song called "From a Wigwam." My mom recognized both songs as being from the John Thompson Teaching Little Fingers to Play piano method book, which was popular in the dark ages and still exists in some backwards communities. When my mom was last here, she went online and downloaded some music for the new girl so that she could learn a few different songs. She also sent a few slightly more modern piano method books from ones we had around the house. It is now my job to give piano lessons to the new girl. As I see it, it's a public service: people were going to go even crazier than they already were if they had to listen to those two songs over and over for much longer. The girl seems appreciative. She's not necessarily Van Cliburn material, but I've seen worse. She's far from hopeless.
I should let any new readers know that I am now in this facility on a modified plan. I'm here for about half of any given week. I return to my home and home school to take part in athletic competitions and attend classes two to three days a week now. I didn't start that until mid-March.
I was here full-time, with occasional visits home, for several months previously.