It started as muffled weeping, negligible, drafting in from the room at the end of the hall. Now the girl is shrieking hysterically and pounding against the walls, and so action must be taken.
This is an everyday event.
"Sarah...? Are you busy?" Comes the inevitable call, and of course I say, "Okay."
I walk calmly to her room, brushing wispy graying-blond hairs from my face. The plastic floor squeaks under my shoes, and I breathe in the sterile odor that I associate with sickness.
This is not an ordinary unit. When I step onto this floor each morning, I lose any expectation of sanity or reason. Here, improvement triggers tears. Here, medical gloves are not required, and only the unlucky ones wear bandages -- instead we have Ensure, potassium injections, lipid exchanges, and a ridiculously high room temperature. Here, the sobbing never ceases, and insurance companies rule supreme.
Here, we fight battles that only exist in the patients' heads. I'm not a psychologist -- just a nurse -- but I know this much.
I peek through the doorway. There is no door. Seeing me, the girl collapses on her bed, her red and tearstreaked face mashed into the pillow. She does not stop crying as I come to her side.
Melissa just arrived yesterday, and she hasn't spoken a full sentence since. She is fifteen, second-youngest of the nine patients. (Their ages range from twelve to forty-six.) She's not as physically frightening as most of the others, which means that she's morbidly obese through the eyes of the Disorder. Her shrunken breasts still have some semblance of shape to them, and her tiny LL Bean jeans don't fall from her hips. However, her yellow skin, paired with the raised white scars on her arms, banish any appearance of health. She's had to take Ensure every meal since her arrival -- Pam says that she glowers at her full tray for the every one of the fifty minutes allotted.
I ask her if she wants to talk about it and she curls herself into a tiny ball, bony elbows jutting. There's no point in probing her further, but I am required to bring her with me to the Obs room, where several other women are lounging before the TV. It's mandatory -- she's in a bad way, and surveillance of her behavior in necessary -- but I can feel her hatred radiating from her as I take her arm.
Please, please don't hate me -- I only want to save you.