Music drags on for what feels like much much longer than an hour. They let us do what we want until lunch and I decide I really just want to go to my room. Having to talk about my gender seriously never gets easier... at least it hasn’t yet. I ask Damien if he’s coming with because it would be rude to just leave him. He accepts. We awkwardly sit on my bed and it’s probably most awkward because of me, the obvious signs of anxiety kick in; tugging at my sleeves, wondering eyes, tapping. I can’t keep still. Damien doesn’t say anything at first I’m sure he’s seen it all before. Then he asks me if I’m going to group therapy later on. I wonder if he asks because he’s curious, or if he thinks I need it. I’m so obvious. I tell him I don’t really know, and I don’t know much yet. Then ask what time lunch is, he tells me half 12 and I count the hours. I remember how Mom used to say counting is relaxing and I count to 50 and find that I’ve relaxed before I’ve even hit 40. I’m pleased with Damiens patience. I lie up in the bed and the atmosphere instantly lightens a little. Thinking of Mom makes me wonder if she’ll be here today. I hope she is... I may be angry with all of them right now but I see things clearer, I’m less angry and I just... miss them all. He looks at me questioningly then I realize what he wonders.
“What’re you thinking about?”
“Um, nothing much really... my parents... family.”
“Do you get on with them?”
“Yeah, except when conversation comes down to gender...” I frown a little. He nods understandingly. “Did your first time here feel this weird? ...well if you remember it?”
He silences to think..
“Probably. I was less angry about things back then, I had time to think about things and why I was here.”
“Fair enough... Hmm. I don’t know. I want my parents to come in today, I think” He nods
“I missed my Mom the first couple nights too”
“...Yeah. I don’t know. I think I... I don’t know” I trial off... I think, once I’ve talked to my therapist person they’ll make them understand. He half smiles at me yet remains quiet. I feel the need to change the subject but I have no idea what to. Much searching leads to me asking about music...
“So you’re obviously good at guitar... so what bands are you into?”
“AFI, 3 doors down...” He names a few more famous rock bands and his taste really isn’t bad. He returns the question.
“Okay well I like a range of ‘alternative’ bands from Bullet to My Chem, Blue October, Green day, Three days grace? Panic! Paramore? Loads, I could go on forever as I’m sure you could too.” I smile with enthusiasm.
And I’m glad to see him grin back.
“Yeah, I probably could. I used to be in a band; I kinda miss it”
“That’s awesome, what were you called?”
“Killing the Phoenix. I fell out with the singer though” He laughs.
“Well that sucks... you should just restart up your own band... never know where it could take you.”
We chat on more for ages and ages and he says how he he’ll probably just need to find another band. It’s not a bad idea. Though I’d always liked the idea of starting a band, and I don’t mean the kind of dream every five to eight year old has. I mean since before I started playing guitar I’ve looked up to these musicians and hoped something would take me there too one day.
One of the other patients come into our room, look through a draw and walks out again. I don’t know her name and I don’t think I’ll ever come to being friends with her and the other one. The four of us teenagers on this ward and already these a clear, inevitable social division. It’s like the one thing you can’t escape in life. We can’t even deny that adults are the same. In fact I assume that adults are worse... experienced. I hate social hierarchies.
Lunch comes around the corner and passes just as quickly breakfast and our conversation does does. Damien picks at his plate and makes a comment about how the food isn’t as good as it is when he’s stoned. I can’t help but belt a laugh and cover my mouth after one ‘Ha’. I love how he doesn’t really care so much. I hope I can lighten up as much soon.
Group therapy is next and Damien is already gone to see that Campbell guy. That just means it’s much closer till I go see someone.
An over enthusiastic chestnut haired, tall lady comes in. She tells us we should get in a circle. I can see this is going to be one hell of a painfully patronizing 30-40 minutes. If the idea of talking to some dude about my life and problems alone wasn’t so gross then I’d wish my way out of here and in therapy.
“Okay guys and girls. You can call me Jessica, Jess for short if you like. FIRST, I think it’s essential that we all get to know each other. So we’ll go round the circle... not that this is much of a circle and say what our names are, and how old we are. Tell us why you’re great too!” I roll my eyes because we’ve all done this before... when we were six. The other boy and girl don’t look too enthusiastic either to be honest but at least they have each other. Jessica hands it to the girl next to her. She looks at Jessica nervously then me and Damien dead in the eye for a good few seconds each as if she’s scared of us. Finally... she speaks.
“I’m Sophie. I’m 17. I ur, I’m into art” ...what was so hard about that.
“I’m Jamie. I’m 16. I...” He trails off looking really clueless.
“Jamie, what are you good at?” Jessica jumps in.
“Not a lot. Hiding, mostly.”
“Okay well Jamie is good at hide and seek” And now I want someone to punch Jessica. I’m next.
“Riley. 17. Writing.” Now Damien.
“I’m Damien, I’m 18, and I’m fantastic in bed” He winks at Jessica. I put my head in my lap and nod. I should have seen it coming. Jessica raises her eyebrows and accepts. I suppose she knows a thing or two about Damien already.
“Well great. You know my name is Jessica, I’m a young lady. AND I’m a great listener!” She pauses for a moment. I thought music was bad... She continues. “I think now we can talk about why we’re here. Then later we can go around and see what advice we could give each other. Sometimes it’s really hard to see how you can help fix your own problems, but you look at someone elses and all the answer seem to hit you. Is every one comfortable with that?”
We all say yes and I scream no. I scream no really loudly. REALLY FUCKING LOUDLY. In my head. Damien raises his hand and Jessica acts delighted to see it shot in the air.
“I find a circle jerk much more therapeutic. Can’t we do that instead?” Damien looks pretty serious and this time I don’t laugh. I don’t find it funny. I don’t want to be here.
“Damien. That is NOT funny and it NOT appropriate for what we’re about to do. That is more than enough. Thank you.” She gives him a look that would kill if it could and asks who’s brave enough to start. It’s a stupid question because everyone knows that nobody ever want’s to start. And everyone knows that we’re all screaming NOT ME, DON’T SAY ME., right now. And everyone bloody knows that if she picks someone, that person will feel targeted, victimised, annoyed. The tension has already built. Damien breaks it with a sigh.
“I’ll go first. I dunno what you want me to say that I haven’t said here before, though”
“Thank you Damie! I’m sure the others haven’t heard your story yet” Damie? What the-
“I told you not to call me that” He returns the murderous look. “I’ll make it as short and sweet as possible. I’m bi, the kids at school hate me for it, and I resorted to drugs and a variety of other self destructive habits to deal with it all, so my mom pays for me to be here.”
“Okay, and what would you like out of today?”
“A higher dose of methadone? I feel kinda sick”
“Hm, okay since we went that way round first. Riley you’re next.” My stomach shoots into my mouth at twentythousandmilesperhour and I stare at her. When I gather my words I manage a few simple sentences.
“I’d rather not spill my life out to a bunch of strangers when there’s barely can stabilize what’s going already. I don’t know why I’m here. I just am. NEXT.” She frowns at me like I’m a silly child and I want to throw my middle finger up at her. I don’t know where my agressive thoughts have come from over the last day or two but I can’t escape them. I don’t really want to either.
“Jamie, how about you?”
“I was bulimic. People used to taunt me about my weight so I started throwing up after eating. As long as I ate, no one knew. I told a friend and she told my mom, so I ended up here. I think I’m doing okay now” He smiles shyly to the floor.
“Thank you for sharing that Jamie. It was very brave. What do you hope for from today?”
“To figure out how I can keep doing well when I go home”
“Any suggestions guys and girls?” Jessica turns to us.
“Positivity” I manage to mumble out. I’m a bit of a hypocrite but I knew nobody else would say anything decent. Jessica praises me for my input and we move onto Sophie.
“Ur” Her confidence hasn’t picked up. “I’m here because...” she looks around like she’s searching for something. “I have multi personality disorder. I don’t know what I want out of today”
“Well, thank you Sophie. We can leave you with kind words and the encouragement to be back with a little confidence in yourself. That could help you sometimes.”
“Okay....” She doesn’t look up.
The session goes on a while longer and I spend the time half aching to leave and half interested in the other two.The fact that Jessica is annoying doesn’t change though.