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Emmaline Mason is a teenage youth, the product of an abusive family
and failed a suicide attempt. The latter finds her committed
to a mental health facility. This is her admittance story.
Excerpt, Chapter One: The Price of Admittance
I was admitted to the institution with the usual invasions of privacy and personal violations, as though a serious attempt to off me wasn’t enough suffering for one day. Admittedly, I had no idea what to expect here but so far, this wasn’t it.
A large, rotund rent-a-goon with an imposing posture, escorted me into the ladies room. She pushed me past the bathroom stalls into the fluorescent lighting over the sink area.
“Strip,” she demanded.
I blinked in shocked disbelief.
“Come on, I don’t have all day,” she spat.
Hesitantly, I reached for my blouse buttons as rent-a-goon lifted her clipboard and began making notations.
“Put your arms out and turn slowly.”
I did so, praying my humiliation would meet with a quicker end than I had.
“Again,” the goon ordered, moving closer.
Again I turned, with the chill of cold tile running up from the bottom of my bare feet, spreading through all of my extremities. Goon looked my nude form up and down, made another note, and asked with incredulous disbelief,
“No tats? Not even a tramp stamp?”
I struggled to choke out words but none were forthcoming. It happened every time life handed me a horrific circumstance. When I most needed my voice, I was hopelessly mute.
The goon relented, allowing me to dress again. I did so quickly, relieved that the utilitarian he-she wasn’t going to attack me.
“Follow me,” She demanded.
Rent-a-goon led me down a sterile, deserted hallway and deposited me in, what looked like, a small waiting room in a doctor’s office. Goon exited without a word. I stood in the room wanting to scream after her,
“If I was sure you’re a woman, I’d bitchslap the shit out of you!”
Instead, I took a seat trying to distance myself from that deeply personal, humiliating affront.
The room was filled to capacity with girls who looked more like ‘the undead’ than human beings. After the most uncomfortable half hour I’ve ever spent waiting, I noticed that they weren’t actually sitting at all. They were lying around, every last one of them; some on the floor, some on a small couch, and the rest draped over chairs.
I pretended to adjust my position so I could see their eyes without being obvious. All were completely vacant save for two girls. The two ranted loudly, denigrating everything about the place. My eyes flew back and forth between the desk jockeys and ranting girls, but no one seemed to notice. Everyone was completely unfazed, as though this was just ‘business as usual.’ An icy chill ran down my spine.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that I was trapped; there was no escape now. I stared longingly at the locked door and my stomach gave a lurch when total recall hit me.
I realized, I knew these girls intimately. I had studied them in Psych classes, scrutinized and analyzed them, trying to form a correlation between speculative analysis and factual understanding. I rummaged through my mind for anything I could recall from classes and medical books.
An acceptable definition of ‘Incurable insanity’ had eluded me, and all research failed in light of being trapped in a too-small room with those who wore the label.
These were the girls who could say, do, and get away with, anything. They could not be held responsible for their actions. These were the patients who were never leaving; veritable street urchins caught in a system that had failed them.
For the sake of convenience, this establishment had drugged them into oblivion. They were drones and junkies, completely unaware of reality. Their home was here for all the rest of their days. These were the lost girls.
Abruptly, I realized that none of them had a single thing left to lose, and I was outnumbered eleven to one. The term ‘Criminally Insane’ leapt to mind and I would have torn my own skin off, had it meant I could free myself from the oppressive atmosphere.
This moment, and every moment of degradation leading up to it, was too much to stand, too unsettling to contemplate, too panic-inducing to ruminate. The entire scene was something straight out of “Alice in Wonderland,” after she went down the rabbit hole, or Janice Joplin’s rendition of it.
“Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall,”
The refrain bored into my thoughts like a drill boring into hardwood; unbidden, seemingly excruciating, and slightly off-kilter. Something deep inside me shifted into sensory overload and I flew out of my body.
The shell of me remained seated. By all appearances, I was a slightly uneasy, young woman squirming in her chair. All else bolted for the door. I was pulling on the handle, kicking and clawing the door, screaming at the top of my lungs,
“Let me out! Let me out of here! I need to go! I’m not them! I’m not even like them! Help me!”
An undetermined amount of time later, I came to with a gentle hand shaking my shoulder. A strikingly shrill voice called my name,
“Emmaline? Emmaline Mason! Are you okay, honey? Did you take something?”
Lacking ability to respond, I ran my hands over my arms and down my sides, making sure that all of me was present and accounted for. For a brief moment, I was stupefied that no one seemed to have witnessed the scene I’d just made. I wondered how much time had passed while I was in that state.
“Minutes? Hours? Days?”
I wondered, but couldn’t piece the time together.
My eyes scoured the room, but I hadn’t seen a clock since I had arrived. The effort was useless and I shook visibly, knowing I was the next likely candidate for ‘eternally hopeless junkie.’
“We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to wake you, dear.”
The name on her smock read “Daisy.” Hers was the voice of kindness, but still could have shattered glass. The smile tugging at the corners of her lips was almost genuine.
Daisy asked the expected questions,
“How old are you, Emmaline?”
I stood mute in her inquisitive stare.
“Okay,” She replied gently, “Let’s try this one. Is there any chance you could be pregnant?”
I shook my head emphatically.
Daisy glanced down at my medical records, whispered something to her co-worker, and turned her smile back to me,
“It’s okay, dear. You don’t have to speak. I’ll get it from your insurance form.”
She made short work of divesting me of all my worldly possessions, never once losing that damned smile. I wondered if she painted it on every morning.
“Why don’t you give me your purse and sit down to remove the laces from your shoes,” She asked kindly.
I was suddenly stricken with outrage at the invasions, intrusions, and abuses I had already suffered at the hands of the personnel. I stood there in silence letting my thoughts consume me, listening to the angry voice running amuck in my head,
“Why don’t you cram it where the sun don’t shine, fake face? By the way, is that smile by Max Factor or Maybelline?”
Slowly, I lifted my purse from my shoulder, handed it to Daisy, and sat staring down at my shoes to hide my snarl.
“I’ve searched your bag and removed all contraband; prescriptions, junk food, candy, soda, etcetera. I’ll put it in a locked box until you’re ready to leave,” Daisy explained as she approached, “Let me help you with those shoe laces,” she offered, kneeling to remove my last vestige of individuality.
Upon extracting the offending laces from my Kmart, $5.99 sneakers, she looked up at my veiled expression. She stood, saying cheerfully,
“Oh! Not to worry, dear. You’ll get everything back when you leave.”
I wanted to challenge her, confront her then and there,
“Isn’t it a question of if rather than ‘when?’”
But I wasn’t certain I was prepared to know the answer. My short, hellish exposure to this place had made me extremely paranoid. I presumed that I too would be drugged beyond oblivion, like the lost girls. I glanced nervously at them; terrified that their fate would become mine.
Daisy took my hand and issued the words I had already come to dread,
I followed dutifully, wondering what my next mortification would be.
She led me into a large, dimly-lit, community room and I was brought up short, being left to the merciless Nurse Belinda. The tall, big-boned woman pulled several sheets, some blankets and a tiny pillow from shelves.
“Arms out,” she insisted.
I lifted my arms weakly, really feeling how weary I was, when Nurse Belinda dropped the entire load into my tired arms.
“We earn our own keep around here. You’ll do well to remember that. Follow me.”
“Again with the ‘follow me’ routine,” I huffed silently.
I glared daggers into her back and prayed this was my last “follow me” for the night.
Belinda showed me to a pitch-black room, save for a tiny amount of light seeping through the small, square window in the door.
“Finally, sweet, sweet, blessed sleep. Hallelujah!”
I found an empty bed in the darkness, spread the blanket atop a thin, threadbare mattress, and placed the tiny pillow under my head. I shoved the rest of the linens over me haphazardly, not caring how it would look in the morning. Exhaustion claimed me and I was asleep before I could contemplate tomorrow’s torments.
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