Nurse N: Can I bring you anything?

Me: My autonomy.

This after two other nurses had ransacked my luggage, confiscating everything considered to be potentially life-threatening, e.g., plastic bags, device chargers, crochet hooks, and, the inventory says, my “twizzor.” Also my umbilical cord, i.e., headphones, which they won’t be giving back as long as I’m here I can apparently use when I go “off the unit,” i.e., around the Clinical Center or into town. Yay! Earbuds have been ruled nonlethal, so I might invest in a cheap pair.

I just need to keep reminding myself that these measures are in place to keep everyone safe from themselves and each other. It’s nothing personal. Nurse N says the first 24 hours are the hardest. Apparently after that you happily relinquish your autonomy.

One area where I would love to have less autonomy is in figuring out what I’m going to eat. Every day we have to put together three meals for the next day, from an extensive menu. First I tried the vegan menu, but it’s very sad and uninspired, so I’ll be trying to pick mostly vegan items from the main menu, with the occasional guilt-inducing pancake or chocolate chip cookie. I will also try to order mostly finger food, because we mood-disordered folk aren’t allowed to have stainless flatware. Instead we get flimsy throw-away plastic, not ideal for eating, say, a lettuce-and-tomato-topped veggie patty (for some reason it was served sans bread).

On the plus side, the two other patients/subjects I’ve met seem nice. Both have been here for months; one is a repeat customer, practically a professional study subject. I also had a chat with our designated chaplain, a cantor who leads a Wednesday sing-along in the activity room for us and the schizophrenics next door. There’s an out-of-tune piano in that room, and the library has guitars to lend. So this could be a great place for a musician who needs a rest cure (and isn’t too picky about piano pitch).



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