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The Breakfast Table

Friendships and Circus Elephants

The Circus elephant that kept me sane in an insane place. 

The breakfast table has always been the place where you connect the most with friends and family. It was a safe space to converse with people, while sharing stories and experiences without feeling judgement. At this particular table, there were four of us, myself included. A middle-aged man who was homeless and there for help with his alcohol addiction, an elderly woman who had tried to take her own life, a teenager who had severe depression, and myself with my bipolar mania. Suddenly, sitting around this heavy metal table with this group of people felt like a comfortable place to be.

After our meal, we sat around the table talking about what led us all to be in this same place. Two of them were Baker Acted, and placed in here against their own volition, while myself and the other person were in here voluntarily. Even though our reasons for being there were completely different, I had a realization that we weren’t so different after all.

After everyone in the room was done eating, we were told to get back into our single file line so we could make our way back to the common room. We walked through the double doors, and some people split off into groups, while others just went and sat by themselves. There were a few others that went to take showers however I was refusing a shower due to the simple fact that I didn’t have any clean clothing to change into. I saw an open round table with coloring pages, and markers sitting in the center. I took a seat at the table, and I don’t know why but I decided to grab a coloring sheet and just started coloring. The only time I really colored these days was when my children begged me to color with them, so coloring without them felt weird. I was joined by the same group of people I shared breakfast with, and soon we were all coloring, laughing, playing games with each other.

I hadn’t heard much from the nurses as to whether or not I would see anyone today, so I decided to ask them if the doctors really did in fact not work on weekends. She told me “they will be here today since you haven’t seen one yet, you will be first to be seen." That was the first time I had heard any good news since being there, however I didn’t truly believe it having been lied to before. Since it was right at the time my family would be waking up for the day I decided to call them. I told my husband what they told me, and we both felt a little better. I said good morning to the boys, and kept the conversation light-hearted. After saying goodbye I walked back to my table, sat back down with my friends, and continued coloring my picture of a circus elephant.

I glanced at the clock and it was 10:30A.M. I had been awake for four hours already. I was tired, and I was ready to see the doctor. A woman walked into the room, and asked for everyone's attention. The nurses turned off the television, and we were told to stop what we were doing. I placed my markers that were dry from all of the coloring I had been doing, and turned to face this unknown woman. She announced herself as the therapist, and she was there to talk to us as a group. The last thing I wanted was a group therapy session. I just wanted to see the actual doctor and go home. She went around the entire room and tried to get us to introduce ourselves. When it got to me I politely declined, and pointed for her to go to the next person. She said nothing during that group session that held any value to me at that moment. It was all one long speech on thinking positive, and staying calm when stressed. At the time I was annoyed that I had to listen to this, and of course looking back I know she was doing her job and trying to help. At the end of her session she had come up to me and told me about how she wanted a private session with me later on. I nodded yes and went back to my table.

At 12 o’clock, we were back in line for lunch. There was still no sign of the doctor, and I was beginning to lose hope. We went through the same sanitizer process as before, and let through the doors. We were having chicken for lunch, with a side of coleslaw, salad, and a piece of bread. The chicken appeared to have been cooked in Italian dressing, and had been cooked a bit too long making it impossible to cut it with a plastic spoon. My friends and I were trading food back and forth so we could all have extra of what we liked, and less of what we didn’t. The best part about lunch was the unlimited lemonade. We were able to have cup after cup of this lemonade, and it was delicious. We continued our conversations, and spoke about our families, and past memories. In any other setting you would have seen our table and simply assumed we were long time friends just catching up. When lunch was over, we went through the same line, walked back to ward, and sat back down.

The doctor finally arrived after lunch, and he had to see everyone so I knew the wait would be a while. I chose a seat close to the door so I could hear my name being called. The common room was loud, because of one man. This man was obnoxious, and he was the same man who had claimed himself superior to other men, and bragged about how many push-ups he could do. He would strip down to his underwear, and show what he saw as muscle, and it made me very uneasy. I was thankful when the therapist called me to her office because at least it was quiet in there.

She didn’t speak much, and she asked the traditional questions that everyone else had been asking me since I arrived. After speaking to her we had both agreed that I didn’t need to be there. She added it to her notes, and I went back to the common room to wait for the Doctor. I was excited, and I’m sure my smile reached ear to ear at that point. When the Doctor called me back I walked into the room confident. We spoke for not even five whole minutes when I was prescribed Depakote for my Bipolar Disorder, and then sent on my way. I asked him “are you sending me home today?” only to be met with “I’m not approved to send people home, only the Doctors that work weekdays can do that." It was only Saturday. I wanted to cry but instead I walked out, went to my table, sat with my friends, and played cards. It would all be over soon, but for now my friends were making it a little easier. 

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