I felt a moment of relief, realizing I had finally slept at least a few hours, judging by the daylight outside the marred window. I realized everyone was gone; at check in, vitals, or daily intentions group.

Oh shit, I’m fucking late again.                                                                                                                    That’ll be another strike. I jumped up and dashed out into the hallway, but as soon as I got up and started to move, the spinning started again. I stopped and steadied myself against the wall just outside the door. I still couldn’t breathe right, the leaden weight on my chest, the pain in my neck, and the same familiar feeling of a drugged- out, irrational panic. Yet I hadn’t taken anything. I stopped just outside the door to steady myself against the wall. I guess the sleep didn’t help. I was still so distant, everything warped and my eyes registering in the same maddening slow motion that I laid awake trying to ignore. I righted myself and made my way to the dayroom, now filled with most every resident of the ward. The nurse glanced down as I walked in and I saw her make a mark on her clipboard. And I’m screwed again.

It was another small room- the one we all spent our meals, free time, and groups in either here or the hallway; unless granted behavior- based privilege to go out to the dining hall or the small, burgundy-carpeted room to exercise in whatever manner one can find. I always seemed to be losing my privileges however, because  I always managed to screw up somehow . There were no windows in any room but the bedrooms, of which was the beautiful view of the parking lot and a brick wall. If you didn’t know better, you could otherwise think the entire place was some underground bomb shelter.
I took my place next to my tattooed hallway buddy, tilted my head back against the wall, and closed my eyes to detract from the dizziness.

“Hey where ya been?” he whispered loudly in his California slur. I could tell he had already taken his benzos today.

I never could understand how anyone would want to intentionally feel drugged out of their minds. I always denied the sedatives no matter how I upset I was, or how bad the anxiety attack. Maybe I was arrogant, But I preferred strong-willed. OK, so I probably should confess to being a bit arrogant, but it was only because for so many years as a minor, usually what someone thought was “in my best interests” ended up fucking me over in the end. I didn’t open my eyes yet, lost in the all the directions my mind was spinning off into; each thought triggering ten others which in turn bred more.

“Why didn’t you wake me up? We had a deal; You know I couldn’t be late again.” I tried to blunt the tone of my frustration, but it was always fueled by the constant spinning, screaming static in my head.

“Oh….Sorry dude… I was out for smoke break.” I heard him give an exaggerated yawn.
I feigned a smile, “oh yeah, I missed that too huh.”

“Sunshine! You look like you’ve got something to say!” Mr. Illuminati was putting me on the spot, likely to convey that he hadn’t missed my tardy appearance. I opened my eyes, to see a roomful of eyes boring into me.

“Victor Frankl;” I countered, “when we can no longer change our circumstances, we are then challenged to change ourselves’,” I said.                                                                                  Oh how well I knew it; how I told it to myself a thousand times, and oh how I had consequentially grown to loathe it.

“A very apt reply, I guess you were listening,” he noted with his signature shrill laughter.
I blocked out the remainder of the high-pitch drone of the group therapy guy who was always apt to remind us that he was a member of the Illuminati and wore his superiority Over all of us “sick people”. I was so fucking tired of people using that word to describe me. I’d rather be called a bitch, a whore, or anything else- any day of the week. I honestly wished I was heartless enough to to be a whore. At least then I’d have an income for the first time in five years. I felt terrible but couldn’t help but laugh a little to myself. If I could change one part of me, I would be able to better control- or at least ignore- my emotions. They always got in the way. Maybe then I would quit smoking entirely, and look for dopamine somewhere else.


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