I was 14 the first time I was hospitalized. I’m not entirely sure what precipitated it, but I do remember taking my shirt off and throwing it at someone. Then putting it back on and at some point, throwing it at someone else. Either way, the police were called and an ambulance hauled me off to Buffalo Med. They took me to an office and made me wait until my mom came. And when she got there, I remember just being so angry at her. I was yelling, I know that. I threw a chair at the office wall and after that, they locked me up.
When I was taken from the room, I looked through the office glass that separated us, and I saw her just staring at the ground silently and unmoving, wrapped up in her winter jacket. My mom was so quiet and so afraid. She looked so inescapably lost. When the nurse took me to a changing room, I remember him saying, “it didn’t have to go down like this.” Two decades later and I still don’t know what to make of what he said.
It was really, really cold that first night; thread bare sheets and thread bare clothes that rip when you hang from them. My room was the first door on the left and I shared it with this 10-year-old kid who was just absolutely obsessed with doing pushups. All day long, he would just drop to the ground and start counting them out. That little guy was convinced he was breaking out of there. I really liked him.
There really wasn’t much to getting hospitalized. You take your meds; Risperdal and Seroquel at the time. You do activities, crafts, watch a few movies, and work to earn stars so you can get extra meat with your sandwiches. Once in a while, you make eyes at the new girl, but psychiatric basements are just about the worst place to take someone on a first date.
After I transferred to a voluntary in-patient program, I was allowed to see my mom again. She would bring dinner during visiting hours; sushi from our favorite spot. She’d drop off some books and blankets as well. There wasn’t too much talking; it was a kind of solemn caring.
At the time, I was going to this Catholic Jesuit school and part of my year-end assignment for English class was to recite Sonnet 73. When I was in the hospital, all I had memorized was the first quatrain:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet bird sang
That first quatrain still marks that part of my life. It was winter for me, and it was sad, and it was cold, and it was quiet. I never saw the next summer, and if I did I don’t remember. That was the last time I lived with my mom as a kid. I didn’t come back to her until I was already an adult. Oddly enough, it was winter then, too.
When I was released, I called the hospital to see if I could get a hold of my first roommate. I wanted to see if he was still doing his pushups. I was a bit late, because he wasn’t there anymore. I don’t know what became of him, but I’m thinking a kid like that was sure to have escaped the cold.
By Franco Romualdez
Photo Credit to Doralisa Romero