The Assessment (part 1)

I am at the psychiatric hospital’s waiting/intake area. I walk up to the receptionist desk and ask to see Dr. F, my new ECT psychiatrist. She nearly assumes that I’m a visitor. I tell her, “I’m the patient.” Oh, she says. She takes down some information.

I guess they are redoing the bathroom by the waiting area. The sound of the drill is almost unbearable but that noise also masks all my anxieties about being here though I know what to expect. The receptionists have bouncy voices that resonate in the space. It’s probably a good thing. Their chatter kind of suspends me from sinking into my nervous thoughts.

There are several people sitting in the room, most of them holding a red ‘visitor’ badge in their hands, indicating that they don’t have any personal business being here. But maybe this is routine for them, too; people seem pretty calm for having to sit here. An older lady is fashioning herself a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich by slicing a banana and placing the slices into a sandwich she pulled out of her tupperware. A guy is messing around with his BlackBerry. Some are watching Rachael Ray on the television that’s in the room. Maybe they are also looking to have distractions from thinking about being at the hospital. I breathe in deeply and I apply more lip gloss, as if I hadn’t smeared enough of it on already.

An intake person calls my name to come into the corridors of the hospital. The receptionist buzzes the button that opens the doors. I’m led to a bare room with two sofas and a trash can. The chairs feel like they’re covered in plastic. There are no magazines, tables or lamps. Just a dull, square room with linoleum floors. Now, this feels like a psych hospital. It’s a barren room, but it doesn’t feel sterile. Instead, it feels almost worn out, though there is no visible sign of that on the furniture. Maybe this is the perception I have because I know what happens in here.

An assessment person comes into the room and starts to ask me a series of questions: how’s my appetite, what medications do I take, when did I last harm myself – those types of questions. As she asks me about my recent condition, I realize that I don’t really have an answer. I begin wishing I had a clue what happened in the past few months. I clearly didn’t mean to get back into this mess again. After the questioning, a nurse stops by with the vitals machine, making sure that I’m alive. Apparently, I’m still alive.

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