“Not everyone returns to baseline.”
I always share this first. Regardless of audience, it is important that people understand, you don’t always return.
“Sometimes, you have a new baseline. A new stasis you try to maintain.”
I stuck my thumb to my chest like I was explaining to a child. My therapist nodded.
This was a year later, after I spent two hours sobbing to an on-site psychiatrist at Penn Presbyterian. I remember waiting in the lobby, high and unsure on whether or not to tell them that or to ride that out, not knowing they would make me pee in a cup to test for pregnancy. Drugs. I am paranoid. The lights were bright and the EMT was like a giant angel, tall, blue eyed, kind. My shorts were too short to feel comfortable doing anything but eat cherries which is what I was doing when this started.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“I swallowed a cherry pit and now I am choking.”
I always speak like that, flatly. Terse. Abrupt. I imagine announcing the death of every friend I have loved the same way: no affect, matter of fact, let’s solve this little grief puzzle.
“She was my best friend and now she is dead,” I will say.
I am now getting ready to see the psychiatrist.
“Usually, if you’re choking you can’t breathe or talk. Can you breathe? Are you breathing?”
I am breathing. Breathe. I am breath. My hair is on end. Goosebumps line my arm. I am now getting ready to see the psychiatrist.
“The ambulance is on it’s way already. Would you like to go to the hospital just in case? For your anxiety?”
I am sobbing into a telephone and I can feel something in my throat.
“Bolus,” they say. “Things get stuck right here,” and he mimes to his own throat, “but we can take you.”
I was scared of cyanide and a $2,000 ambulance bill plus everything.
“Date of birth?”
“Can I see the psychiatrist? I am having some trouble,” I gestured to the air,
A woman sat with me first and let me cry. I regret what I said but more her inaction.
“Do you still want your throat checked?”
“No, I am not choking.”
No, I wasn’t. She smiled. Told me the psychiatrist would be with me and then a security guard sat down to watch me. The red bracelet. I was a walking red bracelet that had to be watched. Word problem #2 (pop quiz!)
A woman walks into the psych unit of a hospital off an ambulance ride in which she has dispatched 911 because she believed she was choking on a cherry pit which she claims is still stuck in her throat. Immediately upon entering the ambulance, she asks to see the psychiatrist because she can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Do you check her throat?
Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
“Come in,” a young asian man says to me.
He is younger than me and I feel my resentment rising the way my clients did when they first met smiling, sunny, pleated-skirt, white and bubbly me.
“Have a seat,” he gestures to a stiff tan chair.
The room was shaped like a cell with no windows. There was a chair and a desk for him, and a chair for me. Two security guards sat out front. So this is it.
“It says you called 911 because you thought you were choking.”
I nodded. I was being careful. This is it. This is a cell.
I was suddenly very careful and aware of where I was. I am in the psych hospital a place where the state will 302 you if you present as a danger to yourself or others, or are unable to care for yourself.
“No, I am not.”