Crazypants – Part 1
It is 9 a.m. on Halloween. Bea’s mind is racing with wild thoughts and neurotic indictments that she has been unable to turn off for years. Bea’s sister calls this phenomenon the elves in her head: Santa’s little helpers that hammer and yammer and build toys day and night, regardless of whether it is December or June.
All the elves have indulged in triple espressos this morning. This is not a good thing.
I’m not crazy, Bea thinks. Okay, maybe I’m crazy. Or wait, maybe I’m not: Are truly crazy people even aware of their craziness? Well, I’m aware, so that makes me not crazy, right?
The group is in a circle, seated on uncomfortable folding chairs. Some people are in varying states of psychotropic-drug-induced stupor, while others are nervously rubbing worry stones or picking at their ragged cuticles with the focused intensity of a neurosurgeon digging into a patient’s cerebral cortex. It is Bea’s first day in the outpatient program. She is terrified.
A skeletal brunette sits directly across the circle from Bea. Her eyes are drooping, and she is drooling on herself. Bea watches as the window-shades of her eyelids close. Saliva oozing from the corners of her mouth quickly turns from bubbling brook to white-river rapids.
Okay, so now it’s time for goal-setting, says our perky group therapist, who has impossibly white teeth and a smiley face button pinned to her Easter-egg colored blouse. Not only what you want to get out of the program today, but what you’re going to do when you go home tonight. For those of you who are new today, we do this every morning when you arrive and every afternoon before you go home. Why don’t we start with you? she says loudly, as her eyes turn toward the salivating skeleton.
She awakes with a start. Um, my goal. Um. My goal for what?
Your goal for today, the therapist enunciates slowly. W H A T D O Y O U W A N T
G E T O U T O F T H E P R O G R A M T O D A Y?
My goal is to get a tissue, she slurs, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and smearing it on her jeans. Long, wet strings of cob-webby saliva stretch from her mouth to her hand, which is now firmly placed on her anorexic thigh.
Okay, we’ll come back to you, says the therapist, fishing a Kleenex out of her pocket and handing it to saliva girl.
The therapist turns to the man sitting next to Bea. His hair is sticking up in messy spikes, he is wearing a white t-shirt with yellow armpit sweat stains, and his pupils are the size of saucers. A strange smell emanates from him; Bea can’t put her finger on it: it’s a mixture of bacon and perfume, maybe. Perhaps his mother made him breakfast this morning and gave him a big hug and kiss good-bye? Other than that theory, Bea does not want to ponder the possible reasons for his distinct odor, although the elves in her head are urging her to do so.
How was last night after you left the program? asks the therapist. Did you feel safe?
Um yes. I went home and my parents made dinner and I ate and then I went to bed, but before I went to bed I watched American Idol with my parents and then I took a shower and then I went to bed.
Okay, says the therapist. Sounds like you met the leisure goal we set before you went home yesterday. What about the task-related goal we set for you? Weren’t you going to work on your disability paperwork?
Well I was going to work on it but I was just so tired the medications make me so tired and American Idol was on and I.absolutely.cannot.miss.American.Idol. His face starts to turn red.
Hmmm, thinks Bea to herself, I’m not an American Idol fan, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t air in October. If you’re going to hallucinate a TV show, at least pick a good one like Downton Abbey or Nurse Jackie. Bea’s judgy thoughts are interrupted by the conversation between bacon perfume guy and the therapist.
Okay, well, today’s a new day, so why don’t we set that as your goal for tonight? she says. So what do you want to get out of the program today?
I don’t want to kill myself, he says. I want to get through today without wanting to die.
The therapist coughs and reaches into her pocket for another Kleenex. I think you need to talk to your psychiatrist about that today, she says nervously. In fact, I’ll walk you over to his office after group, okay? Just sit tight. Okay. Um. Alrighty then, let’s start with someone who is new to the program today. Bea, is that it, did I get your name right?
Yes, Bea says, trying to keep her leg from twitching.
We’ll keep it simple this morning. I know this outpatient hospitalization program can be overwhelming, most certainly on the first day. Why don’t you just set a goal for what you want to achieve today?
I just want to get through today, Bea says.
Excellent! says the therapist with a bright smile. That’s a super first-day goal. I can’t wait to check in with you at the end of the day see how things went!
The therapist moves onto the next listless, cuticle picking person. Bea tunes out.
How did I end up here, she thinks? Oh yes, how could I forget: “reckless, self-indulgent behavior” (those are my doctor’s words, not mine) landed me in a hospital replete with straightjackets, arm restraints, IV drips of lithium and plenty of Nurse Ratcheds; there are no cheery maternity wards or gift shops here. After four weeks of heavy sedation and intense one-on-one therapy, I graduated from the inpatient ward to the outpatient Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program, which allegedly will give me the tools to not be so damn sad. I’m skeptical, but I either had to agree to this or go to jail. At this point, I don’t know which option is worse.
To be continued…
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