I would arrive at the Chinatown Kaiser in the morning, never sure if I was allowed to park in the visitors’ spots. I mean, I’d be leaving later that day so why not? The last time I was there I was solidly, undeniably a patient, unable to leave the Unit III floor without an escort until they released me (this was the same facility where they house their 5150 and voluntary admission cases), so it was almost a point of pride that I had driven myself there and could theoretically leave whenever I wanted. I was a VISITING. But really, I was a patient. So I parked in an unmarked spot.
When I walked in, it was usually in the middle of morning stretch, which meant I had to be quiet when the staff member let me in the room (badge-locked, of course) and checked my bag for dangerous items. Morning stretch consisted of sitting in one of the chairs they had spread into a large circle around a center table. The facilitator would be playing a mix that always included “Walkin’ on Sunshine”, which is why I cringe now when it comes on in stores, the only other place I hear it. I hated morning stretch. We had to do all kinds of “stay in your chair” stretches, like the one where you pull your arm back with your other arm. It wasn’t invigorating. I tried to get there just in time to grab my nametag from the center table and finish the last stretch so it looked like I was all warmed up for the day.
When stretching was over, it was time for sleep check-in and daily goals. This meant going around and each of us saying our names, how many hours of sleep we got, and our daily goals. Mine were always the same: Erin. 8ish hours. Focus and be present. Our goals were meant to be for the time at the hospital and mine were always to focus and be present. To not think about “the outside world”. It sounds like a cop-out, but I always struggle to be present and not let my anxiety about everything take over.
The room looked like a camp rec room from an 80’s movie. Exposed wood beams, puzzles and card games in the corner. The whole time we did stretch and goals you could hear the staff members talking among themselves and processing people who were there for their first day.
First day was mostly meetings. Meeting with the intake staff member, a nurse, pharmacist, your assigned social worker. And finally, a psychiatrist, who would go over your medications and was in charge of changing anything if needed over the next twoish weeks. And someone whose role I never fully understood. And there I was, a Partial Hospital Program member.