Chapter Three Hannah

Hannah Maxwell lay in her anti-septic scented gurney, waiting for either her doctor to come and stitch up her self-inflicted wounds or her mom to come in and lecture her. She knew she could be waiting awhile for her doctor to come and hoped the same applied to her mom, so she opened the journal that she had been reading earlier in the day, flipping forward a few pages…

October 17, Brooks Medical Center

Hey, it's me again, Hannah. So, remember my roommate, that crazy girl I told you about? Her name's Crystal and she's definitely crazy, but she's an awesome roommate. She screamed the entire first day, but when I met her yesterday we really hit it off. This is her fourth time in a psych hospital and she certainly knows how to wreak havoc around here.

Yesterday she pressed the code button on the wall. The code button alerts all hospital staff that there's a psychiatric emergency and that they need people to come and help immediately. So anyway, she pressed it when most of the staff were on lunch break and the few that were there had their backs turned. Within five minutes the floor was flooded with security and other staff. It was hysterical because nobody could find anyone freaking out.

Hannah stopped reading and smiled a little as she remembered all the pranks she had pulled with Crystal – some more dangerous than others. Chuckling to herself, she remembered the time that they snuck a small box of Captain Crunch into their room and pretended that it was cocaine. They'd snorted it up their noses, knowing full well that a nurse would be walking by for fifteen minute checks any moment. They hadn't anticipated the severe consequences of such a harmless prank. Staff hadn't thought it was so harmless. Not only was their entire room searched, but both girls were stripped searched in the girl's shower rooms as the staff tried to find their non-existent drugs. For the next week their visits were closely monitored and visitors were subject to uncomfortable scrutiny. That was the end of snorting Captain Crunch.

Unfortunately, the hospital was not all pleasant memories. Hannah recalled the days of restraints and painful injections carrying drugs that knocked her out for hours. She also remembered being locked in the Quiet Room on more than one occasion and the feeling of abandonment and hopelessness that came with it. But she always knew that when she was let out, or the drugs wore off that her friend and roommate would be there to lighten the mood, usually with a crazy scheme. Hannah was only too happy to return the favor when it was Crystal getting shot up with medications or locked in the small windowless room, known as the Quiet Room.

A professional sounding voice broke through Hannah's reverie.

"Hannah Maxwell?"

Hannah quickly shut her journal and acknowledged the tall thin doctor with her eyes, remaining silent.

The doctor strode over to her bedside while snapping on a pair of blue latex-free gloves. Without asking the girl's permission, he picked up her left wrist in his hand and checked her ID bracelet.

"I'm going to stitch up your cuts," he announced as he peeled off the gauze dressing that Kerry had so gently applied. Once the dressings were off, the two of them stared at her bloodied arms for a moment.

"Wow, you really did a number on yourself," he bluntly exclaimed.

Hannah looked away, trying to hide her irritation and hurt. She reminded herself that she couldn't expect a busy ER doctor to be sympathetic. She remembered so many times having ER doctors, like her mother who was an attending at the very same hospital she was lying in, express their irritation towards her for "taking up valuable time and bed space."

As the doctor swabbed the gouges with alcohol prep pads and set up his instruments, he made another attempt at conversation.

"Why in the world would you do something like this to yourself? I mean, this is beyond your run-of-the-mill cry for help cuts, this is just gruesome."

Hannah remained silent, trying to focus on a stain on the pastel curtain the surrounded her gurney.

"This is going to hurt a bit," warned the doctor as he prepared to administer the local anesthetic.

Hannah didn't even flinch as the long needle was inserted into her raw flesh. She had felt this so many times – the initial prick, the burning sensation that followed, and finally the feeling that her skin was going to separate from her body as the needle was withdrawn.

"Just a couple more times and then your arm should be numb," he told her.

Hannah wanted to scream at him, 'It doesn't matter, I already feel numb inside,' but she kept silent.

Once the doctor finished stitching her left arm, he moved on to her right.

"So, what are you going to do with your life? A pretty girl like you must have some sort of aspirations besides frequenting the ER every few months."

The words stung more than the stitches, but once again, Hannah pushed her feelings even further down inside.

Jen

After consoling Dr. Maxwell, Hannah's mother, Jen felt exhausted. It had been a long morning and a hectic afternoon. Not only did she have to deal with Hannah and Crystal, but she also had twelve other teenagers upstairs in the inpatient psychiatric unit.

Sighing, Dr. Daniels headed towards Hannah's gurney. She found the girl curled up in fetal position, with a journal clutched to her chest, silent tears streaming down her face.

Dr. Daniels quietly cleared her throat in an attempt to gently reorient Hannah to reality.

Hannah looked up and locked her saddened eyes with Jen and the doctor's heart broke.

"Hannah, I just wanted to make sure that you know that nobody's mad at you. We're all just very worried right now and want to help you however we can."

Hannah turned her face away from Dr. Daniels and buried it in the antiseptic-scented pillow, attempting to ignore her. She groaned inwardly as she felt the cool plastic of the mattress under her bare back. 'Why could the dumb sheet never stay on?' she wondered in frustration.

"Here, Hannah, let me help you with that." Jen slid the sheet back over the mattress, then stepped back and studied Hannah.

"Can you tell me what you're thinking about right now?"

Hannah still remained silent.

"I want to be able to help you, but I can't if you don't let me in. I hope you understand that you didn't slide all the way down, you just took one step backwards. We're not back to where we were when we started working together. The progress you made is still all there."

Hannah lifted a hand and wiped her face with it. A sniffling sound escaped her.

"It's okay to cry. Crying is healthy. Would you like me to come back later?"

When Hannah still didn't respond, Jen said, "Okay, I'll be back in fifteen minutes. But you're gonna need to talk to me then. I think we may have to admit you because of the severity of the cutting. But there's not chance that you're not able to explain to me what happened." Hannah still didn't respond, so Jen quietly pulled the curtain around her bed shut and went to speak to the charge nurse, Kerry.

"I want her to be on twenty-four hour observation, starting now. I couldn't get her to talk to me. I'll be back in fifteen minutes to try again. You might want to offer her a drink or something."

Kerry nodded and went to find an orderly to sit with the girl.

Crystal

Someone had shut the light off, throwing Crystal in to darkness. She tried to call out for someone to come back and turn the rooms light back on, but her voice was swallowed up by the intensity of her own fear. Didn't they realize she was terrified of the dark?

She didn't know how long she'd been lying there, engulfed in darkness and terror. But, at some point, there was a knock on the door and Dr. Daniels, or Jen as Crystal knew her, entered the room.

After Dr. Daniels turned on the light, there was a moment where the two sized each other up and then Dr. Daniels broke the silence that had been boring holes in Crystal's psyche.

"I'm sorry about the light. They didn't know." Jen said, recognizing the intense fear in Crystal's eyes.

"Why do they hate me here? What did I do wrong?" Crystal asked, trying to fight back her tears. Tears were weak and she had to be strong.

"It's not that they hate you, Crystal." Jen said, "They just don't understand you the way I do. And you did nothing wrong."

"Can you take the restraints off now, please? I promise I'll be good," Crystal pleaded.

Dr. Daniels gave Crystal a once-over and conceded. "I'm going to take these off, and I know that you'll be good because you were never wrong in the first place," she explained and reached for the Velcro strap encircling Crystal's left wrist.

"You can move your left arm around a little bit and then lay it back down where it was." Dr. Daniels moved through the same routine as she removed each strap.

"The only rule I have for you is that you are only allowed to leave your bed to go to the bathroom."

Crystal nodded sadly. She was used to her freedom being restricted like this and she felt guilty for letting herself get so out-of-control again.

"Crystal," Jen said, "I saw Hannah run out of here earlier. She looked pretty upset. Can you tell me what happened?"

Crystal tried to reach back in to her memory. The previous events of the day were all blurred together in her mind. It was so hard to differentiate one memory from the next. There was a memory of Hannah, it was definitely there, and a feeling of anger that went along with it. But what happened with Hannah, and why was the anger there? Suddenly, it all came back to her like a rush of cold water being poured over her head.

"Hannah came in here while I was restrained, and I asked her to take the restraints off. You know, for old times sake." Crystal gave a wry smile at this comment and Jen just rolled her eyes. She wasn't surprised.

"Hannah wouldn't help me and I got mad. I felt like she had drifted away from me and doesn't care anymore. She thinks I should be in a hospital and that I should go to residential. She just didn't get it, and that hurt because the old Hannah never would have been so uppity like that. She changed, and that scares me, because I haven't."

"Can you send her back in so I can apologize? I kinda snapped at her and I feel bad. I was having a really hard time."

"Well, Hannah's actually not feeling so well right now."

Crystal's already pale skin lightened two shades closer to being pure white.

"Did I make her do something? Is she okay? You have to tell me what's going on. I think it might be my fault."

"You know I can't talk to you about Hannah." Jen said sympathetically. "Do you want me to tell her anything for you?"

"Tell her 'I'm sorry,'" Crystal whispered.

"I will." Jen said. An eerie silence followed and was broken by Dr. Daniels.

"I think you might have already guessed that we need to admit you," she said. "Your doctor is very worried about your low weight and blood pressure, and I'm worried about your psychotic symptoms."

Crystal just nodded another sad little nod and clenched her teeth together to fight back the impending tears.