I thought the hallways would be cold and sterile. Unpadded tile floors. Echoing with footsteps and wheeled meal carts. Tile would make it easier to clean. Instead, the halls were warm and quiet. Dark carpet (to hide stains?) and the soft shuffle shuffle shuffle of patients doing their laps of the ward in their non-skid hospital slipper socks.
The front desk holds the list of unwelcome visitors. I find myself thankful I made my list. The person I least want to see shows up as a visitor. Why? To gloat over my breakdown? To shame me? To apologize? To make up? I’ll never know. But even just the thought of seeing them sent me into a panic attack and a need for meds.
The lunchroom is the hub of patient life. Coffee. Snacks. Puzzles. Every jigsaw puzzle is missing at least one piece. It’s almost a form of torture. Do they do it on purpose to test our ability to handle stress? My puzzle partner has OCD and the end of the puzzle sends her to her room shaking. This can’t be therapeutic. But there it is.
Occupational therapy is called arts-and-crafts or “going to camp” by the patients. We’re going to decorate light switch covers. The man next to me starts to cry quietly. “Are you okay?” I whisper. He wipes his eyes and whispers back, “I’m homeless. Where am I going to put a light switch cover?” I feel a sniffle of my own coming on and give him a quick sideways hug. The therapist says loudly, “No touching the other patients!” Oops. In trouble for being compassionate. Everyone looks at us like we’d been making out in art class.