His cheeks are framed by long blonde hair, and he, like everyone else in this room, wears light blue hospital socks beneath his sagging jeans.
A staff member has taken our belts, our shoes and our Metro Cards. I've left my cell phone, my child and my money with my partner, and four hours of boredom later, I wish I had at least kept my book with me.
"I don't know. I just feel sad," I say, looking at the tiled floor.
"You hide it very well," he tells me.
"I know," I smile, wrapping the white blanket more tightly around my bare shoulders.
This place is frightening, full of workers who bicker with the patients and make fun of them as they come through the door that locked after me.
"I need my stroller. It has all my bottles in it," an unshaven man with stained clothing tells the police officer. "You know, I take good care of my bottles."
"If your stroller is out there, I can't do anything about it. I'm in here," the officer answers. Then, he smiles widely as he sprays the man with air freshener.
I'm here with two prisoners handcuffed to hospital chairs, the police officers who guard them, a meth addict, an eight-month pregnant woman and a woman with bipolar disorder who will be sedated in just a few minutes.
Person after person enters through the door, fills out forms, places their belongings in brown paper bags for safekeeping and are tagged with Bellevue Hospital wristbands that bear their photos.
The pregnant woman keeps saying, "I don't know why I'm here," but no one answers her as she's led through a second locked door.
At one point, I say, "I feel like I'm in jail."
"Nah, we give you better food," one of the workers says seriously.
I think of the small, cold chicken sandwich on dry wheat bread I've just eaten and feel disgusted.
I feel uncomfortable and anxious even though the workers are nicer to me than they are to the others.
"You'll be out of here soon," a staff member tells me. "These guys won't."
But it will be several more hours before I can meet with a nurse, a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist's supervisor. They finally let me go with an appointment at the Crisis Services Clinic for two days later. I feel as if waiting the two days might be torture.
As I put my Reeboks back on, the pregnant woman's husband enters the room. "That's why you have to be careful what you say here," he tells her.
"I'm glad they're letting you go," I say.
She turns to me with her brown eyes opened wide. "All I said was I feel like I'm dying because, you know, the contractions, they hurt, and I miss my family!"
"I can't believe that happened to you."
"If you're not crazy, this place will make you go crazy," she whispers, and I nod my head.
As I have a long history of depression, I've thought about medication for many years but was always fearful of it. So when I said I needed it, my therapist knew I was serious.
The psychiatrist was on vacation so she referred me to Bellevue Hospital. I was scared because I'd heard horror stories about Bellevue. But I went because I couldn't stand to live one more day without trying to be the best person I could be for myself or for my family.
The injustice I encountered there, though, terrified me.
At least 19 million Americans battle depression each year. I have to wonder, how many of them have to go through such disheartening experiences in order to get the help they need? How many of them don't seek help because they fear the way they will be treated?
Almost no one knows I've been in a battle with depression since I was a sixteen year old girl in high school.
Only my partner, my therapist and my best friend have known the profundity of my secret battle with depression.
After this post is published, my entire family, my friends and the world will know the truth: for the past few months, I've been sinking further into my depression, feeling angrier with every passing day and allowing feelings of worthlessness to overtake me.
I chose to go to Bellevue Hospital because I need to more proactively address my mental and emotional health issues. I can't be a good mother if I don't take care of myself. As frustrating as my experience at Bellevue was, I needed to go.
And I'm writing about it because, as Ray Bradbury once said, "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
What are your experiences with depression?
How do you address mental health issues?
--The One Thing I Can't Say: I'm Depressed via Sperk*
--Depression, or I'm Sorry I Left You via Single Mama NYC
Check out my Mental Health Pinterest Board.
Pouring my heart out with Things I Can't Say