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Public Enemy Number ONE

I wake up on a day like any other. I sit upright on my padded mattress. I am awake before my roommates. Sometimes there are one or even two. Generally I do not have a room to myself, which is not always the case. Either way, I almost always wake up before the call for breakfast. I put my hospital gowns on -- one at a time. The first one goes on with the opening to the back. The second one covers that opening up and is worn adjunct from the other gown. Either way, I am fully dressed for the day. I throw on a pair of fresh hospital socks, stand up, and begin my day of walking the hallway.

Pretty basic. There and back. Get to one end of the hallway, tap the wall, and head to the other end. I don’t count what I call laps. I don’t even think about counting. I sure as hell don’t count the steps, wonder how long the march goes for, or spend time figuring out the distance traveled. From the beginning of the day till its lights out on the unit. The hallways at all places are different in shape and size, but it’s the same daily process. The routine is interrupted by meal time, snack time, and group classes, but then, straight back to this routine. It’s the only thing that gets me through. I can’t stay still in psych wards. I get too antsy. Time moves too slowly.

The objective of walking all day long is to kill time. How do you know what time it is? Well, no matter what, you know when it’s meal time. They get you on a feeding cycle. It always feels like an eternity waiting for the next meal to come. Right before it’s delivered, everybody begins to line-up for the next meal. You become conditioned to know exactly when the next meal is ready to be served. It only takes a couple days before you're locked into the system.

The clock is your worst enemy. There is usually only one of these in the entire psych unit. I try to avoid looking at this thing for as long as I can bear. There I go, back and forth in the hallway trying to keep my head down when I cross the clock's domain. Why? When you’re caged in with nothing to do but wait for your next meal, that clock on the wall never moves fast enough. I will take lap upon endless lab, finally glance at the wall, only to see eleven minutes have gone by when I’m famished, and it feels like it’s been two hours. Remember, this isn’t a once a day occurrence. It happens over and over all day long. It’s a feeling that leaves you defeated with a pit of emptiness and despair in your belly.

So what do you do if it is really that bad? I look up at that clock on the wall from time to time. Every few laps. I know going into the glance that I’m going to be let down and disappointed. Disappointed in the fact that not much time has gone by and there is no end to the madness of this place for days to come. When I look up at the clock, I don’t look to know the exact time. I look to show the clock that I’m not afraid of it. There it sits on the wall, 24/7, staring down at me, mocking me as I walk the hall. I know the clock is watching me! I look at the clock to show the clock that I’m looking at it too!! I’m not as afraid of the clock as it thinks I am. More importantly, I’m going to win in the end because I’ve been watching it long enough just to know that I’m getting out of this place soon enough. My day will come.

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