Friday, January 07, 2011

coming out

now, during the Indeterminate Days, i kept crying "i don't even know where we are!" and they kept telling me i was in brattleboro, or if they thought to be more detailed, on (specific ward) of the brattleboro retreat, and they thought fine enough to leave it at that.

and all i could answer was "BUT WHERE ARE WE?", which makes no sense; no sense at all unless you realize that i am a map weenie, that in my car i carry a map bag, a black leather satchel containing very nice paper road maps of all of new england and a good deal of the rest of the eastern seaboard and the maritime provinces besides AND i also collect maps of state parks and trail systems AND i have on my laptop both road maps and topo maps for all of north america and that i subscribe to the google earth blog and this blog and it's hard for me to get in the car and go anywhere without having my GPS navigation going and a lot of my life is kind of defined not so much by the finding of geocaches, but the looking for them, so a lot of me is about geography and when they brought me over in the truck i lost track of where we were after we crossed over in front of the 7-11 coming over route 9 because even though i couldn't see anything in the truck i still could feel where we were coming over hogback and then all of a sudden i had no idea where we were and all through the Indeterminate Time i would pick my head up and cry "i don't even know where we are!"

and nobody could understand it as a cry of great distress and i had no way of putting enough clear thoughts together to explain it to anyone.

and near the end of the Indeterminate Time i knew i needed sunlight. there was no in my room; a fault of the position of the building and (i learned later) a weather pattern that a few days in a  row clouded in the only time of day when sun WOULD shine in my window and partly the fault of the escape proof screening and i noticed there was a little bit of sunshine i could see from the stall in the women's bathroom if i crept up on the safety bar and hung by my fingers and toes and looked out but i didn't think i wanted to be seen looking out the window THAT way no matter how pretty it was, so i went looking for another patch of sunlight because i felt that there had to be some somewhere and whether there was any thruth to it, i thought of the days i spent at dartmouth-hitchcock, an altogether more genteel mental hospital, when i used to sit on the sofa in that patch of sunlight and feel almost not crazy, i thought somehow that if i could find a patch of sunlight to be in for a few minutes that maybe i could just be in it and maybe something in me could loosen up and i might be able to move on to something better.

it's worth a try, you know?

i found exactly one patch of sunlight to stand in. right on the corner of the unit, near the nurses' station. not close enough to be in the way, but close enough to be annoying, i think. i didn't care. it was sunlight. and behind them, behind their desks, was a window, a window without escape-proof screening, so i could see out of it, so i just stared out of it, watching people and cars go by in the sunlight.

completely captivating, and so beautiful i think i cried a little. if anyone had asked me what i was doing, i would have told them, but nobody asked. sunlight. my first view of the outside.

and that may have been a friday afternoon, because i think as i was standing there, things started happening fast. a lot of people came up separately to ask me a lot of questions about whether or not i would be safe to leave the unit, whether or not i would be safe with other patients, whether i was a flight risk, whether i could be trusted with art supplies. these questions were both the generic questions, and they were also asked as if to settle an argument, and in fact i knew that the team was not in total agreement as to whether i should be moved up in privilege, and the weekend was coming.

if you are not moved up on friday, you don't move until monday. and all of a sudden i'm standing there and someone's asking me if i want to go get my coat to go an outside group. what? what outside group? am i allowed to go to an outside group? ten minutes ago i was on checks.

checks? (there's a lot of list checking here. usually you don't go from checks to going outside.) shrug. you're on my list.  turns to charge nurse. she on green? checks big board. board says i'm on checks. there's a lot of conferencing. this all happens really fast, though. nope, green. want to go?

GO? i'm going somewhere? anywhere? you bet.

i have my coat on so fast and am waiting by the door so fast their heads spin.

we are going, it turns out, to lawton hall, which is where much of the recreational therapy is housed. imagine my shock. the building itself is beautiful and dates back to the time when the retreat was attempting to attract more upscale patients with kind of minor nervous disorders to come for therapeutic vacations before they turned into hardcore burnout cases (it's worth reading up on the history of the place) and even though this building has gone through a few changes it still has this old-style charm that makes me think of adirondack summer camp with its pressed tin ceiling and  big windows and there are three pool tables and a foosball table and table hockey and ping pong and a big table next to the picture window with a jigsaw puzzle on it and it's not by any means a wonderland and you wouldn't mistake it for an upscale hotel but everything's in working order and the important thing is that we've come to spend a happy hour NOT ON A LOCKED WARD.

and then we get back and now that i have walking privileges, not only am i getting to go to groups, but i am going to the caf! the caf! that great wonderland of plenty! for a hospital, the food is pretty good here, but in the caf there are choices. the food is actually better in the inpatient caf (omniscient narrator from the future) than it is in the general caf because there are MORE options and if you want to make up a little plate of a lot of tastes of everything AND have the fruit plate too, you get to do that and it's prix fixe, as opposed to being charged per item. they take the trouble to make little cups of hummus and cottage cheese and stuff available all the time, too, so you can be very flexible in there and you can nearly always find something to like. plus if carol is working, she makes it a point to know what's good today.

so anyway, all of a sudden, i'm walking around outside in the fresh air (albeit at appointed times and heavily supervised) and when i ask "where ARE we?" the answer i get is "that's the interstate, and that's the putney road, and that's route 30" and i can go "ohhhhh. 'coz i'm a map geek. an' ever since i been here i have not been able to figure out where i am on the MAP an' that's been driving me CRAZY."

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