The White Room and Childhood
As the months pass the Ritalin creates a stir of excitement in me. It is provoking and taunting my mind. I talk a mile a minute even if nobody is listening: I run up and down the stairs with a feeling of agitation that cannot be explained and I rarely sleep more than a few hours at a time. My mania, coupled with the hormones caused by puberty, is all encompassing.
I am twelve years old the first time I am hospitalized.
My father drives me to the Emergency Room because he does not know where else to take a child who is threatening suicide and hiding knives in her room. Surely, this is an emergency. I kick the windows and scream the entire way?a 60 minute drive. We check in with the intake staff and I listen as my father describes what has been happening at home: I am chasing my brother up the stairs with a knife, I am threatening suicide and he believes I have bipolar disorder. I need help. I am a very sick girl. Our family has become sick with my illness though we have no name for it yet.
The staff stare at me and then look back to my father. His hands are beneath the table and mine are shaking above the desk. They must wonder, amongst my silence, if my father is abusing me. I look like such a nice girl, despite my disheveled hair and tear stained face, I am just a child and children do not behave in the way my father describes. They do not carry knives nor try to swallow a whole bottle of Tylenol. They do not cry for hours and then laugh for hours after.
"So, what's been going on?" The Doctor asks my father. We have been sitting in the "Family Room" for over two hours. It has a small table with a phone, two plastic chairs and an ugly green floral couch. My father has kept his head resting in his hands for a long time as I tear every page out of the yellow phone book and throw it. The room is littered with yellow advertisements.
My father explains what he explained to the intake staff and I explain how there is nothing wrong with me. I failed at a test at school. I'm angry. My father then explains that I cannot even go to school anymore. The Doctor is taking notes, short swift ones which will determine my fate?my life lay in the cheap pen the Doctor is holding; in the jargon hospital wording he is placing on blank paper. "Would you mind giving your Father and I a few minutes?" He asks me, smiling. I think maybe he could be my Grandfather. Maybe he could take me to his house and make me better.
I am told to wait in the corridor. The hospital is quiet. I didn't think hospitals ever got quiet. My heart begins to race as I realize they might keep me here. I start running, looking for the front doors, for a room I can hide in. "Miss, you need to come with me please" I look up and a man, a large man in dark clothing, is grabbing my arm. His grasp becomes tighter as I pull away and scream. He mutters something into a device wrapped around his head. "Okay, Natalie, right? You need to walk with me or I will have to call another security guard and we don't want that do we?" I start to cry and I ask where my father is. He does not reply: he just tightens his grasp on my arm.
The hospital is getting louder, the lights hum as we enter a room with rows of beds separated by a thin blue sheet, hospital beds for sick people, not kids like me. A nurse asks me to sit on the side of the bed but she will not tell me why. "Daddy! Daddy!" I scream, but his voice never answers. He's left. Where did he go? He must be waiting for me outside. We will go home together. I won't be bad anymore. I promise.
"Okay sweetheart this won't be so bad…" The guard is staring at me from the door, the nurse has pulled my pants off and I am too terrified to talk. I look at the nurse, my eyes wide: she is holding a large needle. I've never seen such a big needle. I recoil immediately.
"Where would you like it? You have two options, in your upper thigh or your buttocks." I have no idea what she is talking about. I hyperventilate and she hands me a brown paper bag which she instructs me to hold over my mouth. She has softer eyes now, tucked behind her mask, she is human. "You need to make your decision okay sweetheart or I'll have to decide for you…" I point to my bare thigh and look away as she shoves the needle deep into my muscle. I wonder why my mother and father aren't here to save me from these people I do not know.
The earth starts to swirl shortly after; my body is limp as they carry me to a concrete room. I try to kick and scream but the medicine takes over. The room is cold, grey concrete surrounds me, pockmarked and without a window. Everything goes black. I wake up to the sound of rolling wheels. I am being pushed in a wheelchair because I cannot walk, my head slumped upon my chest, I am drooling.