The Wait

Nicole and the officer pull out of the parking lot with Taylor close behind them. They make the twenty minute drive to the emergency room in Rottingdam. The officer drives all the way up to door to drop Nicole off while Taylor parks. Nicole stands there at the doors waiting, feeling awkward and out of place, trembling with fear and panic. Taylor walks up beside her, and they both go in as campus police leaves. Nicole walks through the automatic sliding doors with Taylor following her towards the reception desk. As Nicole scans the area, she is reminded of the last time she was there, and the memories of her concussion visit flash through her mind, catching her and holding her captive.

There are several other people ahead of her at the desk with multiple nurses attending to them. There was an older man in a wheel chair and others around him, but Nicole’s mind is too far gone to make out any details of their situation. All she can think about is the impending doom. After a few minutes, the receptionist nurse is free to help them and inquires why they are there.

Nicole tries to answer, but her mind catches her voice, and all she can manage to express is a word of hesitation, “Hi, um…” She looks down; her face heats up, and her vocal cords are stifled. Her mind is blank, and she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to say.

Taylor steps forward and speaks up to introduce himself and briefly explain why they are here. “Hi, I am a counselor at one of the local colleges, and Nicole here came into our session today expressing suicidal thoughts that have been scaring her…” The nurse takes Nicole’s information which she has an easier time answering, and she receives some forms and identification labels for her belongings. Then the nurse asks for her wrist. Nicole is confused for a moment and thinks she is asking for it to check it for injury, but to her relief, as well as terror, she just secures a hospital band around it. This both surprises and frightens Nicole as she is one step closer to being admitted, and things begin to seem more real.

“Alright, You can take a seat right over there,” the nurse motions to the smaller waiting section next to check in desk separate from the main area, “and we’ll be with you as soon as we can.”

“Okay great, thank you.” Taylor steps aside, and they head to the right of the desk toward the chairs. Nicole takes the seat on the end closest to the desk, and Taylor takes the one next to her. Nicole sits there so still with her bag on her lap and her phone in her hand, waiting, unable to move or speak.

After a couple minutes, a nurse comes over to speak to them and asks Nicole again why she is there, then explains what they need to do to while she’s waiting. She informs them that it may be a while before they can get them back to a room.

Nicole later finds out that they are waiting for a particular type of room, a safe room, one that is completely empty except for three chairs, a hospital bed, and the counter with cabinets and a sink, completely free from anything that Nicole could use to potentially hurt herself. That is why the wait for a room is so long, because legally and ethically they have to put her there even if she is at a low risk of hurting herself or others. There are also quite a few other patients who are occupying those rooms, and it is a very busy night for the PET team.

The nurse then proceeds with taking Nicole’s weight and height. She directs her to a little room behind the desk where the scales are, and she takes her height and weight. Then she told her they will need a urine sample for her health records and forms, (basically make sure she’s not on any drugs and to clear her of any health issues). They let her go back to her seat and ask her if she is ready to give the sample, but she says she isn’t. They respond asking her if she needed anything to drink, listing their available beverages, but Nicole declines immediately, telling her multiple times that she does not want anything. Her anxiety prevents her from eating or drinking in front of others, and in this situation, she definitely isn’t able to even try because she can barely function.

After some time of waiting, they ask her again if she is able to give them a sample, which makes Nicole very uncomfortable, though she agrees that she will try. It gives her the opportunity to escape the people and be alone to process what is happening. It also gives her a moment to break down and react to the anxiety that is storming inside her mind.

She walks to the restroom and closes the door, then she sets the sample cup on the sink and leans against the wall. As soon as her back hits the wall, she doubles over, clutching her arms around her trembling body in an attempt to contain her pain. Her breath becomes heavy and choppy, then it demands to escape, but her mind restrains it, leaving her in a confused state of mind over body, fighting for air. She presses her nails into her arms over her sleeves, leaving no visible damage but causing enough pain to bring her back to the hell her mind is trying to run away from.

Eventually, she releases the hold on her lungs and gasps for oxygen. As she trembles and shakes, her eyes fill with tears, and though they are adamant, she forces them back, only for them to overtake her and flow down her nose and cheeks. She struggles to keep herself together and nearly fails to do so. She stands up so that she’s a little less bent over and pulls up her left sleeve to bury her fingernails in the skin of her forearm, leaving small parentheses shaped indentations, each turning red and purple under her skin. She repeats this again and again; with some, she drags her nails down her arm leaving bright pink streaks.

As the pain registers in her mind, she straightens up and lets her sleeve fall down over her arm. She leans against the wall and takes a deep breath, her head falling back against the wall, allowing her airways and lungs to be free to open and close as they will. All of this happens in what seems to be a flash, when realistically, it was a few minutes.

Nicole proceeds then to do what she is actually in there for but is too anxious to function and is unable to do what was requested of her. A few times a nurse knocks on the door asking if she is okay, which only makes her more nervous. She comes back out after another five or so minutes and sits back down next to Taylor.

A few minutes after she took her seat, Taylor quietly inquires, “Did you self-harm while you were in there?”

Nicole wants to be honest and give him the truth, but her immediate reaction is to deny it, and before she can even think, she finds herself answering. “No.”

“Okay.” Taylor doesn’t believe her because he knows her better than that, but he doesn’t press the issue any further.

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