A woman makes a horrifying realization
Out of the Fog
In this place, there is only chaos and yelling. Everyone speaks, but no one communicates. The walls are grey and the floors are spotless. Someone has just mopped them. I can tell. They keep taking my blood pressure and temperature. Every three hours, they say. They are taking it now.
"Excuse me, nurse. Could you please tell me why you need to keep taking my blood pressure?"
"Your blood pressure was elevated when you arrived, so it's procedure to keep an eye on you, ma'am. I explained that to you a few hours ago, remember?"
."Well, I feel fine,"
"Yes, I'd like to go home now. My children should be returning soon."
After a pause, she says, "Is that right?"
"Yes, I'm so excited!" I imagine how beautiful their faces will look when I return home, and I relax at the thought of it. I love them, but my children have been a handful recently. Homeschooling three young children alone can be challenging.
"Ok..." she trails off. "Your blood pressure is normal. Could you please get up and sit over here?"
"Why can't I go home?"
"We need you to stay with us for right now."
"What do you need me for?" I am intrigued.
I need to find someone in here that will listen and let me go home. They keep saying that they need me to stay here, but they need to understand that I have to go home and take care of my children. The thought of Edward handling them alone makes me worry. How long have I been here? I'm sure my house is a disaster because Edward has no patience for doing the dishes or washing clothes. He depends on me to do these things for him! When I got the flu last year, Edward had his mother come and help.
Oh, Edward! He has a temper of his own, and he cannot handle Erin's tantrums very well. Erin can throw a fit like no child I've ever known. If I had done that sort of thing when I was young, I would have been severely disciplined. I'm so worried because I'm sure that he has to take off work for me to be here, so he's probably already short-tempered. And I'm not even sure where 'here' is! Or why I have to be here.
I wonder if his mother has come to stay? I hope not. There is nothing worse for me than feeling like I am indebted to my mother-in-law. She can be such a trial. For our tenth wedding anniversary, she gave me a Waterford crystal pitcher. Now, I must display the pitcher every time she comes for a visit, and I know I did not put it out before I came here. At least, I don't think I did, and I'm sure she'll notice.
"Excuse me, please. May I go home today?"
"That's really up to someone else. I need to take your blood pressure."
"Yes, ma'am. Every three hours. We have to monitor your vitals closely."
"That's procedure. Remember?"
"I don't understand. Where am I?"
"You don't know where you are?"
"No." She makes a note.
"Ok, well, let's just get started," she says, slipping the blood pressure cuff on my arm.
"But I have -"
"Don't talk right now. I need to listen." She listens intently to the stethoscope she has placed between the blood pressure cuff and my arm. The stethoscope is cold, and the whole process feels impersonal. I feel as if I am being examined and monitored. I am reminded of dead butterflies under a glass.
After a moment, she says, "Ok. Your pressure has returned to normal. That's good, at least."
"What do you mean 'at least'? Is something wrong? Has something happened?"
"Do you have any memory of the last few days?"
I think for a moment. I know I was at home and then I was here. Was Edward screaming for some reason?
"Not much of one. Was there an accident?"
"I need to take the vitals of the other patients. We will call you when it's time for lunch."
"No, wait! You don't understand. My daughter has a recital coming up. I need to get out of here to finish making her dress. The recital is on the 14th. What day is today?"
"Can I tell her that?" he asks turning a woman with a long white coat on.
"Yes. It would good for her to know."
He turns back to me. "It's the 15th today."
"Oh, no! What time is it?"
"It's 12 o'clock. And I think you'll begin to feel better and remember more if you take your medication," answers the woman in the white coat.
"I can't take medication. I'm a mother of three. I can't be zoned out. Besides, I've told you that I feel fine, and I do not need medication."
"It is your right to refuse medication, but I strongly recommend that you take it."
"Will you let me leave if I do?"
She looks at me questioningly. "We'll see."
The faucet dripped all night.
"Nurse! Nurse!" The woman in the bed next to mine screams for assistance as I emerge from the bathroom. She did this yesterday too. The person who was watching me brush my teeth walks away. I do not understand what is wrong with her and why no one comes. I walk over to her slowly.
"Are you alright?"
She is crying hard and her breath comes intermittently between sobs. "Y- Yes!" she screams at me.
"Then why are you crying? Why do you need a nurse?"
Her only response is to shake her head and continue crying. I walk out to the nurses' station to see if I can find help.
I don't know what is taking so long. Why hasn't Edward come to get me out here? Even if I were in an accident, I do not need to stay here anymore. I need to explain to these people that they must release today. They can't hold me like this anyway!
"Excuse me, but I need to go home today. And I think my roommate needs a nurse. Couldn't you hear her calling you?"
"You will not be going home today," he says.
"But I haven't done anything wrong! Am I some sort of prisoner?"
He gives me a look that I do not understand.
"What about my roommate?"
"We need to take your blood pressure again. Make sure it is still within normal levels and then you can see the doctor." He is ignoring me.
"No! Why on earth do I need a doctor? I told you, I do not want any medication. My children should be home by now, and they will be expecting their mother! You need to let me out of here!"
"Stop yelling. Calm down, and take a seat there," he orders me.
I want to protest, but I don't because I decide that I want to see the doctor. Maybe I can convince him that I need to go home? Maybe I can talk to someone with some intelligence and humanity who will not willfully ignore me like this person is doing.And enough with my blood pressure already!
The doctor was no help yesterday. He kept asking me what I remembered and how I felt. I kept trying to tell him that I had to get home. I am not like the other people here. I am not sick,. Really, the doctor should devote to his time to poor Kathy. She is a wisp of a person who apparently is trying to sober up from heroine. She was admitted here because she found out that she used a dirty needle and became suicidal.
"Not the AIDS virus though. Tetanus bacteria," she had told me through her painfully clenched jaw. Her right knee has already locked completely and her left knee is not far behind. I did not know people could still get lockjaw! The doctor should dedicate his time to her, or finding out what is wrong with my roommate, who continues to yell for the nurses every morning. When I ask why no one responds, I am told not to interfere in the treatment of other patients. I care about these patients and I wish I could help them. I do not understand why the doctors and nurses don't help them. I don't mean to interfere, but I feel so badly for them.
But I can't help them. I can only help my own family. My children must be home by now and they need me, but the doctor didn't seem to understand. I even started crying, but he showed no sympathy. He prescribed some pills for me to take, as if I'm taking those pills! They tried to dose me last night, and I refused. The nurse told me to tell her any time I changed my mind. I told her not to hold her breath. I don't take drugs of any kind.
I have been doing a lot of praying since I've been in here. I was told a pastor comes here tomorrow. I found that it is part of basic human rights to have a Bible given to me. I feel like a prisoner here, and I have precious few rights. I cannot even shower alone! I'm still not sure where 'here' is (and of course, they won't tell me), although I think that it might be a psychiatric hospital because I am watched very closely. I wonder if they think I'm crazy for the way I discipline my children. They just don't understand, that's all. They don't know the way little Beth can lie sometimes. Sure, she's only four, but we are born with wicked hearts, as it says in the Bible! Perhaps the pastor can help me explain it to them? I think of Beth singing in Sunday school, and it brings a smile to my heart. I am sure the pastor will be able to help me.
I dream of Edward screaming my name and wake with a start. Why should Edward be screaming my name? It makes me worry that something is wrong with the children. I wonder if my dream is an awful premonition. I begin to worry about my children in earnest and cannot stop myself from crying. I ask everyone I see on this ward who works here why I can't please go home. I know it is a ward now. I know I am in a psychiatric hospital, although why I am here remains a mystery to me. Who brought me here? I ask the nurses, and they refuse to tell me. I know I'm not suicidal!
Where is Edward? Why won't my husband come get me? And why can't I at least talk to him? I've asked to use the phone several times, and they won't let me. I know Edward would come get me out of here if only he knew I was here. He must be so overwhelmed at this point. They continue to tell me nothing, and yet they want me to take their medication. Well, I won't. I refuse to, unless they tell me something. I need to know what is happening. I can't just stay here in this limbo. They ask me to take the medication. I ask if I do, can I go home? No. I cannot go home, I am told. But I really should take the medication. Well, I won't. I won't do what they want if they won't tell me why I'm here at least. They still refuse to do even that.
The pastor is here now. I'm so excited. It is so nice to talk with a fellow believer. He asks that we pray together. I bow my head and listen. He asks that the Lord will comfort me during this difficult time. I tell him of my plight and how I must get out to care for my children. He says I must entrust my children to the Lord. I assure him that I do.
I am sick and tired of this! Where is the doctor? I have to get home. My children need me. Somebody has to tell me something.
"Excuse me, who brought me here?" I decided to ask this question first. If I can remember who brought me here, perhaps I can remember why.
"If you take this medication, we will tell you. The doctor says we can tell you, but only if you take the meds."
"Ok, fine. Anything!" I swallow the pills and look at the staff expectantly.
"The police brought you here."
"The police?" I say with alarm.
"Have I broken the law?"
"What do you think?"
"What do I think? I think that you need to tell me what is going on here! I woke up and found myself in a mental hospital, and I have no idea why or why the police would have brought me here. Are my children ok?"
"Do you remember the police coming to your house?"
I suddenly do remember. I remember flashing blue lights. The police were in our driveway. Why? My children! Where were my children when the police arrived? They were in the bathroom. Why were they all in the bathroom? They were on the floor of the bathroom. Why were they lying there so still? Why was Edward screaming, "What have you done?"
A scream sounds like my voice, although it does not feel attached to me.
"Do you remember what happened?"