"What is one of your preferences regarding a treatment center?" asked the man on the phone.
"I want it to allow hugs..." I began.
"Hugs?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. Is that something hard to understand? I thought to myself.
"Anything else besides...umm...hugs?" he stuttered.
"No. Just that. I don't mind anything else."
"Got it," he said overly cheerfully. "I will let you know what we come up with."
The next day I got a call from the hospital. I knew they had more information on my next place, and I couldn't wait because I hated waiting around in hospitals, hearing all the screaming, being forced to go to groups that I could literally teach because I'd been in so many I could predict the words coming out of the therapist's mouth before they even spoke.
I was tired of the white walls, the negativity, the fights, the overly optimistic staff. I was tired and I was done. Every time I watched those overly skinny girls pulling an IV with them, I thought of Olivia. I thought of what happened and the guilt over flooded my body. At least in treatment centers I wouldn't be constantly reminded—or would I?
"So we found a place—it's in Utah and..." began the voice.
"Do they hug?" I asked eagerly.
"Uhh...Yes...they do. They do hug."
As the voice continued speaking, I drowned out the words because I didn't care about much else. If they hugged, they must be a good place.
2 weeks later...
I was greeted at the door by two people. A short, stout man who called himself Bert and a woman with a bobbed haircut, Mina. I was just glad to get out. That's all I cared about.
As we arrived at the center, I felt the car bob along the gravel driveway. It was a quiet ride, but it was nice. "They're just in group, so just go in that door," whispered Mina.
I entered quietly and sat in the closest seat I could. A mid-aged woman with brown frizzy hair looked at me briefly and said out loud, "Hello. You must be..."
"Shoshana," I said.
"Well, welcome. My name is Barbra and I am a therapist here. Now, since you're new, we're going to go around and introduce ourselves. Hmm let's do...name, age, why you're here, and favorite food and why."
I opened my mouth to speak, but was stopped. "This is group. We have five rules. Rule number one: no bathroom breaks. Rule number two: what we say in group stays in group..." the entire circle of people chanted these words, using elaborate hand gestures for each rule.
I was shocked and speechless when the chant was over. But everyone else seemed untouched. Did someone just possess their bodies? I sat in my chair nervous, until Barbra opened her mouth again, as if nothing just happened. As if no one spoke, and no one's voices sounded like Siri in a bad mood.
"Hannah, why don't you start?"
Hannah was a small, petite girl with straight brown hair and bangs that fell across her face. "My name is Hannah- I am 14, I'm here for schizophrenia and..."
She swiftly moved her hand across her face as she continued on...
Group ended, and everyone rushed out as soon as they could.
I sat on a brown leather couch as we waited for dinner. "Hey- you wanna play?" asked a boy with baggy jeans and mushroom haircut. I looked around, was he talking to me? I smiled shyly as I grabbed a chair next to the coffee table.
"You know how to play trash?" he asked. I nodded my head as he flung cards this way, and that, dealing the deck.
"So, my name is Nick. Sorry I wasn't in group. They had me quarantined- I had a fever... Oh, don't worry! I'm not sick anymore," he laughed.
I smiled awkwardly. "It's okay. Group wasn't all that exciting.."
"ALRIGHT! Dinner," announced a broad man with a short hair cut. "Boys first... Levels 4? No level fours... Level 3?" A few boys went up to serve themselves as they sat in the dining room.
Later a staff approached me. "Hi. My name's Kat." I smiled as we shook hands. "Has anyone explained to you about the level system?" I shook my head. "So we have four levels, and each had 18 steps. Staff will check in with you every day—and you pretty much get points for everything you do... school, chores, participating in group... Oh and these are feedback cards." She handed me a stack of white paper with three rectangles. "You get to ask any staff for feedback. Then they initial it—and once you get 25 feedback cards, you can get a deck of cards, extra time in the shower... whatever." I nod my head as my cheeks turn red with a sense of overwhelming.
"We have two check in groups, once in the morning, one at night. You have a goal that you state in the beginning of that day and-" Kat pointed to a board with long sentences written left to right. "And then..."
Her voice trailed off in my mind as my brain buzzed with new and confusing information. Levels? Points? Goals? Groups? What?!
As I slept that night, I smelled my sheets because for the first time. I had my own sheets from home. They smelled like my cats. They smelled familiar—but not like an old blanket kids would carry around for day— they smelt... like me. Or at least who I used to be. Who was that? Oh, I can't remember. I've been in treatment too long.
I dozed off but before my mind slipped into the subconscious, I knew, somehow that this place is difference. It's confusing- it's hard but it's good. I've never had someone invite me to do anything with them—but today—I was invited. Today. My first day, I was included. Why? I don't know. But I didn't care. Maybe I'm not really the monster I think I am. Maybe I am. Maybe I don't know. But maybe no one knows...