My lovely self, in the psych ward.

150116

So there’s this thing I never talked about, before I stopped talking altogether. I didn’t talk because I couldn’t talk, because it was all too close and awful, and the other day I read this thing and now, in my head, I can’t stop talking.

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/lovely-wife-psych-ward-95567/

I didn’t talk because I couldn’t, because, in June 2013, I was committed, which is different from admitted, and all of a sudden talking felt dangerous. In June 2013, something changed.

~~The following may be triggering. Please read with care.~~

The run-up was very much the same old tune: an uptick in work stress, an increase in self-harm behaviors, verbal explosions, days in bed. Except there was something uncontained about the whole situation – how it bled all over my life, and now, how everyone could see. Everyone was aware. My partner would call my therapist, who would advise him to call the cops and/or my parents. There was discussion about what ought to be done with me, as though this “me” were some other entity, something who didn’t have her own priorities.

Given that my ONLY priority was to stay Bin-less until my sister’s wedding, I was not a willing participant. I don’t like to think about those days before my second hospitalization, that hour before I was half-dragged into the ER by my then-boyfriend / now-husband, the indefatigable B!. And the most horrible: my mother, who, having been summoned, walked in to a nurse swabbing my secret wounds with alcohol. The way I cried when she saw me, because I knew what it was that she saw.

I have not forgiven myself for the harm this caused to my family, this falling apart, time after time.

It had been easy, before, to speak of my mental illness as if it were “over”, and it was nice to think of life as having that arc. Health to illness and then better than before. It had been easy, before, to deal with it alone. But June 2013 annihilated the fantasy of my mental health as a solitary island.

I thought I was writing about one thing, but it seems now that I’m writing about another.

It is certainly one thing to be the spouse or partner, and to see your beloved fall into madness. It is one thing to be a parent or sibling, wondering how you can help. It is another to witness one’s own fall, knowing the chain reaction one’s own madness will cause, not understanding how to reach out for whatever it is that might slow your annihilation. Gravity. Vertigo. The pull and weight of the inevitable as your soul wanes thin or burns up in a nuclear blast.

For me, the biggest takeaway from this article is having a “mad plan”. Limits that are set before the descent begins. If X then Y and we all know it. Because without a plan, the free-fall can feel unbreakable. Without a plan, the “healthy” partner has no recourse but to play the enforcer of ad-hoc rules made, often, without the patient’s consent. Without a plan, the patient can be rendered unfit to GIVE consent, her concerns dismissed as excuses or worse.

This is what happened to me, that June. My voice was not heard, and my treatment, therefore, was a farce. In the hospital, my medication was switched, for the third time in as many months, I cried during all my yoga classes, and, after a mandatory three-day hold, I was sent home to a situation much more precarious than the one I’d left.

My sister was getting married. I put on my bridesmaid gown and raised a glass.

 


How I Saved My Own Life (warning: may be triggering)

121214

This thing in Connecticut. It’s awful. Many have made an emotional corollary between this and 9/11, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s that kind of sickening disbelief that this is really the world we live in, this is really what people do.

Many have also made the connection to mental health care and the difficulty obtaining it, something I can also vouch for. A Twitter friend had this to say:

Image

And it made me remember.

On June 7, 2009, after weeks of fruitless searching for a caregiver to help soothe my rage and depression, I suddenly knew that I would kill myself. I’d been crying for hours, I’d engaged in self-harm. My mind was going at light speed in a million directions, and the only thing I could clearly understand were the steps I’d need to take to carry out my suicide plan.

I got up, grabbed my computer and my journal, and stumbled out the door to my car. My husband was long abed – it had to be after midnight. My hands were shaking as I turned the key in the ignition. It was really happening.

I knew right where I was going. I knew where I’d park, and then where I’d walk, and then where I’d jump. But something inside me must have had a different idea, because I turned left instead of right at the end of my street and wound up outside urgent care at our local health clinic.

It is some kind of miracle that I was able to make that decision. And it was the hardest thing in the world to tell the kind-eyed receptionist, who seemed very normal and sweet, that I felt unsafe in my own hands. That I wanted to hurt myself, that I wanted to hurt others. I felt like such a desperate loser – I mean, people have REAL problems, people have REAL diseases. But the doctor took one look at my body, covered as it was in razor-thin scarlines, and decided otherwise.

You all know the rest of the story – and if you don’t, I’d encourage you to spend some time in the archives – but as grateful as I am for the care I was able to obtain, it might never have come to that point if I had been able to get that help sooner. And, today, for them, it might never have come to this point at all.

Really, if you have these feelings, you are NOT alone, and it is OK TO BE BROKEN. Just get the help you need, as soon as you know you need it. Don’t wait for it to be too late.


Return of the King:

121212

I’ve been in contact with Pusser again. For those of you who remember, he was my partner in crime from the North Dakota days, as well as my boss for many years prior. I’m talking 2002-2006 era. And then, in 2009, he fell off the map. My map, at least. Completely.

This is not about that.

This is about how I feel thinking about that project now, and the project before that now, and me now, and him now. It would have been ten years, I suppose, and it seems like a thousand lifetimes ago. But it seems like yesterday. I still remember interviewing for an internship at his old home studio – I was 22. When I was offered the job of associate producer, I thought – I somehow KNEW – that it was a decision that would change my life. I had no idea how greatly.

He has a new website now, which I am choosing not to link to just yet, and a new Twitter account, which I find deeply bizarre. It’s like staring my bad self in the mirror. It’s like I’ve pried apart some misshapen scab. I think back on who and how I was then, about what I became, and it’s so, so difficult. Not only because of how *I* was, but because of how everything was. Everything was wrong in just the right way. And everything sure did fall apart perfectly.

I used to stay up late in Fargo pulling Tarot cards for myself, and whenever a King showed up, I would always imagine it was Pusser. I haven’t made a practice of  reading cards since then, but I do wonder: what would they say tonight?


(Not) Getting a Cab in Austin: Part 3

120320

So when we left off, I’d just spoken with the owner of Yellow Cab Austin, and given him the sensible advice to not make promises he couldn’t keep. That night I had the opportunity, once again, to call upon Yellow Cab for transport – my flight back to Boston was at 9:40 the following morning. And lo! Behold! I was greeted with a recording giving a disclaimer about their dispatch service malfunction! I’d effected real change, it seemed!

Nevertheless, I made my reservation for 6am, and called Lone Star Cab as backup for a pickup at 7.

Me being me, I slept through my alarm. I woke at 7:30 to my phone ringing, with the taxi driver from Lone Star on the other end of the line. This is 7:30am, mind you, which is neither 6 nor 7. “Where are you?” he asked me, in a thickly accented voice. “I can’t find you on the GPS.”

“Um, maybe try a map,” I suggested, not unhelpfully. “I think it’s off Airport Boulevard, but I can’t be sure. I don’t live here.”

“OK, OK, OK,” he interrupted. “I be there soon.”

I got up, brushed my teeth, and set about packing. Half an hour later, as I was finishing off the last of the Diet Coke and smoking the day’s first cigarette, he called back.

“OK, so you are coming off I-35 from downtown, and which way do you turn off the exit?”

I mean, was I  UNCLEAR earlier about the ‘not living here’ thing? “I really don’t know,” I said, “I’ve never been to Austin before in my life. I think you turn right.”

“Right?” His tone was almost accusatory. “You sure it’s not left?”

“What? NO, I’m not sure! I DON’T LIVE HERE. But I think it’s right.” I stubbed out my Camel Light and huffed inside the house.

“OKOKOK, I call you back.”

I hadn’t yet had time to put the empty 2-liter in the trashcan when my phone rang again. But, instead of the cranky cabbie, it was a pleasant audio recording informing me that my cab was approaching. Yellow Cab Austin! My chariot had arrived – and only two and a half hours late!

Lone Star called back one more time, but I didn’t bother answering. It was my last cab ride in Austin. I wanted to enjoy every second.


(Not) Getting a Cab in Austin: Part 2

120318

7am was foggy in Austin. I noticed when I poked my head out the door to look for the cab that, of course, wasn’t there. I waited the requisite 20 minutes and then put in my phone call.

“We’re very busy,” said the dispatcher. “And we don’t guarantee our arrival time.”

“That’s bullshit,” I replied. “I want to speak to your manager.”

“We don’t guarantee our arrival time,” said the manager. “Plus, it’s foggy outside.”

“My cab yesterday NEVER came! I mean, I just really want to know, is a cab coming, or not?”

“Wait 20 more minutes,” she advised. “Call us back then.”

I think not. I woke up my friend, who woke up her husband, who, kindly, drove me downtown.

Two hours later, I still hadn’t received a call from the cab company, which led me to believe there were still no available cabs. But lo! Across the street! During my cigarette-and-coffee break, I certainly did spy four empties waiting for a fare. And I got SO mad. Once more, I dialed the number for Yellow Cab Austin. After listening to three rounds of their hold message, I was in no mood to dally around with the dispatcher – I got put right to the top. And by “right to the top” I mean “to the owner’s voicemail”.

Voicemail? VOICEMAIL??!! You could have popped me with a pin, I was so puffed up. So I did the only think I could do – I threatened legal action. He called me right back, sure he did, and he was VERY apologetic. “This is entirely our fault,” he admitted, and went on to tell me how they’d had some kind of electrical surge in their system that totally fried their dispatch center.

I put on my best business voice. “Well sir, I appreciate your position and I certainly thank you for calling me back. But I would suggest to you that you simply be transparent with your customers, instead of promising them cabs that won’t ever arrive.”

I mean, I almost felt bad for the guy. One more post, and you’ll see what happens.


%d bloggers like this: