Where to begin. I debated sitting on the toilet and then dunking my head in there but then I would have proven them right. People who wear the red bracelet are not to be trusted. I wanted to be trusted. I was someone who should be trusted. There were no knives in here, only applesauce. I dried my hands out, walked out, gave a weak smile.
“Everything good?” Aarav asked.
Nodding, I balled my hands into fist so he couldn’t see the straw. He led me to a small shared office. Dr. Morris was already inside.
“Hello, Sadia,” he reached out to shake my hand.
Anticipating this, earlier I had switched the straw from my right to my left hand. Decidedly, the straw would keep me grounded. It was not a good time to bring this up.
He gestured to the chair.
“Aarav will be helping me conduct the intake today. Is that alright?”
There is no choice here. My red bracelet shone like a traffic light (stop this, Sadia) in his eyes and he stared at it waiting for my reply.
“Of course,” I stared at his eyes, waiting for him to catch mine.
But there was paperwork on the table, things to be sorted, a pen to be picked up. My red bracelet gave them plenty of information. I was to be watched, monitored, kept under surveillance.
“So Sadia,” Aarav cut in. He was sitting to my right and I had not even noticed that he had picked up a clipboard and was posed with pen, ready to begin. “What brings you in today?”
Where the fuck do you begin with such an open-ended question like that? Is this really how an intake is done? Yes, it is. I had sat through dozens of them. What brings you in today? Novice.
Reading my mind, Dr. Morris interjected, swiveling his chair towards me, “Why don’t you start by telling us how you got here yesterday.”
I had decided in the bathroom that the best course of action was to tell the truth as much as possible. While others have ideas of what I might represent or be hiding in my murk, I am a confessor. Catholic, superstitious, ritualistic and truth telling. I was going to practice my principles while also maintaining some sense of dignity, not incriminating myself and focusing on getting the red bracelet off of me. There was no way in any hell on any earth in any galaxy that I was going to drown myself in a dirty toilet in a psych hospital in Philadelphia when I could cut my own bungee cord, plug my oxygen tank while scuba diving off the coast of the Atlantic or dive off a thirty-five story skyscraper into traffic. With all of these options wide open to me, and all my history of restraint, there was no way I was killing myself in this hospital. So I started there.
“I have no desire to kill myself.”
“Well, we can get to that, “Dr. Morris kept eye contact. His eyes were a striking kind of blue that made me blush a little. Jarring how handsome he was. Detracted from his age and wrinkles. “Right now, just tell me about yesterday.”
Aarav was already furiously writing which irritated me. I had said one sentence and I was still wearing the red bracelet so none of it was of use.
“I left my house yesterday to go on a walk and ended up walking to center city and back, which isn’t unusual, except I had no food or water and it was the hottest day in October. I felt my mouth shut tight at some point in the middle of a crowd at some art festival and had to pry it open with my own hands. Or at least that’s what it felt like.”
I was gesturing a lot but keeping the straw hidden. Animated is good. It shows life, vibrancy, a person who can tell linear stories is a person who can be trusted. Moving my hands also created a distraction and allowed me to think carefully about what to reveal and when and what to focus on to get the bracelet off.
“I had never experienced that but lately it has felt like I can’t swallow or I am not chewing right or something is wrong with my mouth and throat and when it happened, I got scared. I didn’t want to drink anything in case it happened again and I just started walking back but my mind was racing and I felt like my jaw was continuing to shut and I thought I could never eat or drink again.”
Aarav was writing. Dr. Morris was nodding and listening. I was explaining with hands and facial expression and coming to life, this pliable doll who says nothing to anyone for fear of intrusion.
“Twice, I called 911 thinking I was choking recently after taking vitamins.”
“You called 911?”
“Yes, and once I even went to the hospital but it appeared to be psychosomatic so I left and then yesterday, I must have gotten so carried away, I walked all the way back, barely recollecting it and fainted in the lobby out of sheer hunger and dehydration. Because I was so out of it, they thought I was from” I gestured to the air and thought about what happened but it felt like decades ago “some further place or somewhere else and had just been walking for miles. Which I was.”
I leaned forward to emphasize that I had been walking for miles but I also hadn’t been able to explain myself.
“So they admitted me for dehydration and exhaustion and because of my fear, I didn’t explain myself well and they thought I was dissociating, which, I guess, I kind of was, but I was also perseverating around choking which I told them.”
Dr. Morris looked down at the ground, “And did you say anything about wanting to harm yourself?”
“I said, I’m so tired sometimes I want to die and I sobbed a lot and was incoherent. I think they took that as a suicide threat but that’s not what I meant. I meant, I’m exhausted from feeling confused about what’s happening with my body.”
Dr. Morris and Aarav both nodded and I nodded feeling proud of myself for telling the truth and for gaining their trust immediately.