"Miss Everson, you've had a psychotic episode."
They hadn't committed me to the hospital—that shocked me more than the therapist's blunt words. I was hunched over on her well-worn brown couch, head in my hands, ruminating over how fucked I was. Cornell would boot me. All my hard work… it was all gone.
Mom was sitting beside me because she insisted on being present during my appointments. She smelled like my childhood; like cucumbers and lemon. I squeezed my eyes shut tight and wondered if I was having another episode. Break. I was weak like glass. I'd shattered like a fucking vase.
She touched my knee, trying to be comforting. "We would like Hannah to come home with us for a few months. Just to rest, and hopefully avoid medication."
"That would be best. I can recommend some therapists in the area, of course." Paper crinkled. "This is a very common event, Hannah. It's nothing to worry about."
It hadn't felt like a 'common event'. It felt like reality itself turned upside down. I could sense it coming on for days beforehand but I assumed it was another spell of depression. Then I heard muttering in my bedroom at night. Then I saw a man standing in the doorway, smiling at me. Then I tried to kill him.
"This is ridiculous!" I snapped, getting to my feet. I crossed my arms and paced the small office. "I have finals; I have rent to pay! I don't have time for some silly vacation!"
Mom was still in her scrubs. She'd come straight from Kennebunkport to pick me up in Albany when they called and told her the news. Her short hair was still pulled in a ponytail and her clogs gave her a little height boost. She was watching me over the edge of the couch, not fearful like I'd guessed, but sort of sad and lost. She stood up, too, and came over to touch my arm.
"Hannah," she said, "you've been nothing but go-go-go since the minute you learned how to walk. Wouldn't you like to come home and be with us for a while? Cornell will hold your spot. Grandma Piers already talked to the dean."
"I don't care, I need to finish school!"
Dr. Henry raised an eyebrow. "Well, Miss Everson, I can tell you that I won't allow you to return to school for at least six months. You need intensive therapy."
I couldn't stand being told what to do but I knew arguing would just dig me into a deeper hole.
Mom and the shrink chatted for a bit longer about my 'plan' and we finally left. She'd already swung by my apartment to pick up some of my things and packed them in the back of the Jeep. I angrily slammed my door shut and started texting my friends to let them know I was leaving for a while. First I had the cops tackle me to the ground kicking and screaming, now this?
"I'm so happy you're coming home, sweetie," mom said, beaming at me as we pulled onto the interstate. "Your dad is getting your old room ready and we thought we could have a beach trip this weekend. I just have to switch a few shifts and—"
"I don't give a shit," I hissed.
"Hannah, I know you're embarrassed right now but you don't have to be. Your dad and I love you very much and it'll be good for you to slow down."
I didn't even have time to put in my contacts so I was stuck in my pajamas and old glasses. I rubbed my head and glared out the window at the passing traffic. Back to bumfuck Maine.
A few people texted me back: my best friend Leah, my ex Ian, and my other friend Axl. Reactions were mixed, from disbelief to encouragement to irritation that I wouldn't be around anymore for yoga. Professor Warwick emailed me a nice message and said she couldn't wait until I came back to finish up school. Grandma Piers texted me to say she called in a favor with the dean.
Having high society English grandparents had its perks. I thanked everyone and promised to keep in touch, assuming I'd be back around January. Six months. That was all I was taking.
Mom waited a while before talking again. She kept glancing at me out of the corner of her eye, desperate to chat but afraid to irritate me more. I was already a pretty pissy woman. Being forced to derail my carefully laid plans definitely wasn't helping.
"Your friends are more than welcome to visit," she ventured after a while. "Since we bought the new house we have plenty of space!"
"I'm sure they don't want to be around someone who apparently had a psychotic break." I ran a hand through my dirty blonde hair and wondered if I should dye it again.
Mom gasped. "Oh, Hannah, I forgot to tell you that Arnie moved back to Wells! He's almost done with his degree, too. Maybe you two could go out for lunch?"
Arnie was a kid I grew up with who I dated on and off throughout high school. He was sweet and smart but also a spoiled rich kid. I didn't have any interest in rekindling a friendship with some fraternity sellout. And again—probably wouldn't want to be around a crazy person.
"I don't know, mom. I'm probably just going to find a part time job and keep to myself. Word travels fast."
My mother snorted and turned into a McDonald's. "Let them talk. My Hannah is better and brighter than any of them, and she deserves a break. How about a burger?"
It violated my whole 'healthy eating' code, but with a little cajoling I went in with mom to eat. I hadn't consumed fast food in years and wolfed down my grease-soaked burger before mom had taken two bites. She laughed and patted my hand as I started gnawing on my fries.
I'd decided in undergrad that I wanted to be the best. Actually, I'd decided it long before—but college let me have true control over my life. I stopped eating shit and focused on vegetables and other simple, healthy foods. Leah and I worked out three times a week and I'd drag Axl or Ian along when she was too busy studying. Maybe that was why I was so worked up.
I cleaned my hands on a napkin and watched mom as she scrolled through her Facebook. She probably left right after her shift to drive four hours to get me. If she hadn't, they would've put me in the hospital. I looked down at my lap and clasped my hands together.
She paused in nibbling her fries and I peeked up at her. She was so selfless and patient—ten times the woman I would ever be. I swallowed hard and smiled.
"Thank you," I said. "I don't tell you that enough."
Her soft brown eyes lit up. "Don't worry, baby. You don't have to."
We finished up our dinner and got back on the road. I went through my emails, bored, until I saw one that Dr. Henry had recently sent with a list of therapists. Great. The nightmare was beginning.