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Ice Cubes

By on September 26, 2013 in Health with 1 Comment


OrhcidsWhen I was in my early 20s, I worked in a locked inpatient psychiatric ward at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I had majored in psychology at Syracuse University, and had planned on continuing that path. I was the friend everyone would confide in. People felt comfortable sharing their deepest, darkest secrets with me, and I was someone who could be trusted. I wanted to use this gift to help people. This is what led me into psychology. I was young and naive, and I thought I could save everyone. I soon learned I could not. And, so, I moved into the corporate world. I still do what I can, but on a volunteer basis. I guess I will always want to help others–the best I can.

A few years after working at the hospital, I took a creative writing class for fun at the University of New Hampshire. We were tasked with writing stories. One day, as I was driving home from my job, this story developed in my head after I swooshed some snow in my hands. Hence, the title, “Ice Cubes.” And, so, I wrote this story for my class. It is fictional, but based on my experience at the hospital. This was my way of making sense of it all.

I bumped into this story I wrote so long ago, and decided to share… 

Ice Cubes

“Do I want to die today, or do I want to live? Why did they find the damn razor that I taped to my body? The pain…. I just want it toOrchids go away! Somebody, please make it stop! I cannot stand this anymore! I want to see the warm, red blood ooze down my wrists, over my hands, onto the floor. I want to feel the utopia I experience when the knife cuts deep into my skin. NO! Today I want to live. I must try harder. One day at a time. Today I will live.” These were the inner voices that whispered in Sarah’s ear as she sat upright in her hospital bed, clenching her fists, trying to release the inner turmoil she felt within. Harder she gripped, trying to block out the pain. The ice felt like daggers shooting into her palms as droplets of water slid through her fists and trickled onto the floor. And yet, the more pain she felt, the more relaxed Sarah became. She welcomed the physical torment. It helped her to forget. The physical suffering made her human.

Flowers in Maui, HawaiiEyes ablaze, Sarah stared at the walls that entrapped her and then at the eyes which were fixated on her. Eyes that told her she would be safe from herself. She resented those eyes. If they stopped watching her, she could scratch her wrists and reopen the wounds from the previous day. She welcomed the idea of seeing her blood replace the puddle of water on the floor. She wanted to substitute the coldness of the ice with the warm flow of red fluid. The water symbolized her life that she was being forced to save, while blood was the kiss of death tempting her to end her suffering. But those damn eyes. They watched her. If she tried to proceed with her plan, a code would be called. All the doctors, nurses and mental health counselors would be summoned to stop her. She would be strapped to the bed, and drugged on medication. Damn those doctors! Drugged up and unable to hurt herself. Helpless to stop the anguish within.

Sarah clenched her hands tighter and tighter as she thought back to the events of the previous day. She had confided in her psychiatrist and told him about her visions of taking her life. She described how she could see the glint of the knife as it slid down her body, the soft peach color of her skin drowning in red fluids, ending her misery. Or did she tell her psychiatrist so he would save her? Damn. Right now she just wanted all the mental anguish to end. Harder she squeezed, drowning out the thoughts within.

One moment Sarah had been in her psychiatrist’s office, the next she was strapped to a stretcher. She had been heavenly medicatedFlower in South Florida and had not been very coherent of the blazing sirens, the speed of the ambulance navigating through rush hour or the voices of the EMTs, whispering soothingly to her. She had been in a dream-like state as she had been taken to her prison.

At the hospital, she had been brought to the locked unit. This morning she had learned the rules. There were no windows. No smoking was allowed on the unit. If you wanted to have a cigarette, you needed to earn the right to go outside for a supervised fifteen minute break. Freedom to breathe fresh air had been taken away from Sarah. She was trapped. However, her jail was not the psychiatric unit; her jail was herself. She could not escape the whirlwind of emotions or thoughts of depression that occupied her mind. At the hospital, Sarah had been evaluated by the on-call psychiatrist and had been placed on five minute checks. This meant that one of the staff would check on her every five minutes to make sure she was safe. Sarah had a plan. Under her shirt lay her escape. After she settled in, Sarah headed for the bathroom, lifted her shirt, and removed the razor she had taped to her body. She then proceeded to slash her wrists with the sharp blade. All of the sudden, she heard a knock on the door, a voice murmur “checks,” and the door opened.

Orchid in South FloridaA code had been called, and Sarah had been taken to “The Quiet Room,” the room where those who are in danger of hurting themselves or others are taken. She had also been placed on constant observation. This meant that one of the hospital staff would be watching her 24 hours a day, even during bathroom breaks. Her freedom was gone. Her source of cutting was taken away. She had been forced to sit in her misery, and explore the feelings within.

Sarah clenched her hands tighter and tighter around the ice as her mind wandered back to the present. She noticed that her hands were numb and had lost all feeling. The urge to feel the metal slide against her wrists had left her. She was feeling safe again. The ice had worked. It had released the right chemicals in her brain causing her to experience the same pleasant state of mind that engulfed Sarah when she cut herself.

She looked at the eyes of her nurse who protected her, smiled and said, “I’m safe.” The nurse smiled back. Sarah had fought her inner turmoil and won. Determination, the will to survive, ice cubes and people who care. One day at a time. This is Sarah’s reality.

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