the packing list

I know from experience how to pack a bag for a suicidal hospital stay so I keep a packed bag (no straps, strings, belts) and leave it in my car “just in case” because my therapist may decide I’m not safe and need to check in to the psych ward (again) where there will be laundry facilities so I’ll only need to pack enough clothes for two or three days since doing laundry will be somewhat therapeutic

so I pack
two or three t-shirts, comfortable
sweat pants or leggings, can double as jammies with a t-shirt
no cords
no belts
no strings
slip-on shoes, no shoelaces
hairbrush and/or comb
blank journal, not wire-bound
several pens
warm sweater or hoody, no strings
slippers
socks
phone and charger, will be kept at the front desk
travel-size toiletries, they’ll have shampoo but no conditioner
toothbrush/toothpaste
a soft blanket, for wrapping up in when the anxiety kicks in or my roommate starts screaming at 3am and the sleeping meds aren’t working and they won’t give out more
a stuffed toy or soft pillow, for hugging while crying myself to sleep

my therapist asks, “What do you mean that you’re packed for the hospital? How do you pack ahead for a psych hospital stay?”
I will show him this list

Storytime: Kitchen creepiness …


Several weeks after my dad installed a new sliding door between our kitchen and laundry room, I heard my mom laugh. A good, solid belly laugh. I ran to see what could be so funny. Mom was nearly doubled over, pointing at the far end of the room and stuttering between sobs of laughter, “It’s Satan! HAHAHA! It’s Satan!”

I looked where she was pointing, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Yellow walls, a new door, turquoise and copper cannisters, a goldfish bowl on the counter by the sink. Nothing that could earn the title of Satan.

She laughed harder. “You don’t see it, do you?”

I looked at her as she removed her cat’s eye glasses and wiped tears from her eyes. The laughter seemed less hysterical now, but quiet chuckles still shook her shoulders. She leaned against the countertop and looked back at me, laughter still lurking in her eyes.

“Oh, gosh. You must think I’ve gone crazy.”

Um, yes. The thought had crossed my mind.

“Look at the new door, Sweetie.” She walked over and began running her hand over the grain of the wood. “Look. Do you see the two horns? Here are the eyes. Here’s the pointed beard. Do you see it?”

I looked at the door as if I were looking for shapes in clouds.

And then, suddenly, I saw him. Satan’s head took up the entire door. His horns branched from his head at the top of the door. His beard just touched the bottom. I had a brief momentary shudder. The face was frightening. And then I laughed. I laughed at the humor of finding the Prince of Darkness looking out of our kitchen door as if it were a portal from the Underworld. I also laughed with relief that my mom didn’t have a straightjacket in her future.

After that day, whenever a new friend came to our house, I would take them to the kitchen so they could meet Satan. I’d trace the wood grain as mother had done, describing the facial features, one by one. And then, suddenly, that magic moment we’d been building toward. Recognition. They saw him! Sometimes a scream. Oftentimes a shudder. Many times a hand clamped over a mouth. Always horror in their eyes.

My friends didn’t like to come into our kitchen or sit in the dining room where they had a view into the room. It’s understandable, though. Satan lived in our kitchen door.

[Sadly I don’t have photos of Satan in the door. I guess people don’t think to take photos of their kitchen door. Or at least my family didn’t.]