It’s been a month since they let me out of the hospital. Why would I want to memorialize that? Simple, if I let someone know how it felt maybe they will get the help they need. Or maybe by telling someone I am taking yet another step in trying to get the help I need.
It was a crappy, rainy Thursday morning. Four days had passed since receiving that text message telling me to no longer contact her. Four days since her mother looked me in the face and told me it was all my fault, everything that had gone wrong in life was a result of me. I couldn’t even ask what she meant by that statement. How could I be responsible for losing a child? I know I am at fault for not paying back a debt to her family. I know I am at fault for the arguments about needing her when she couldn’t be there. I know I wanted a life with this wonderful woman, but I always was battling her mother for time. But I had dedicated the last year to doing everything Whitney asked. Everything she requested, even when it was the wrong thing for me, set me back a little; I did I because she simply asked. I’m responsible for many things, but to be told I am to blame for everything, from someone [her mother] who I loved even though we were in disagreement, stung.
I had been sitting in my office, talking with some people on a video conference. Nothing unusual about that, but a private message comes across my screen asking me to hang out afterwards. My boss had a question that wasn’t relevant to this topic. “Why did you come into work today if you are taking some NyQuil? You could have handled this from home and stayed in bed!”
“I’m not on Nyquil, but I just don’t feel so great today.”
“That’s obvious. I sent you a phone number of someone I want you to call while we’re still on the line.”
Curious since it was a local number, but wondering who was going to answer. The local hospital was the answer to that. Specifically the people tasked with mental health issues. As my boss listened in to me talking about my feelings, I never saw the message flash on the screen that said “Get some rest. Call me when you can.”
I’m in the car heading to the emergency room. How long it took I couldn’t really tell you, from this point forward time sort of losses all meaning. I do know that I had to be walked down the hallway by the voice in my ear. Made me wonder if they had me on camera and knew my progress. The waiting room is empty, unlike when I had been there 10 days before. Only concerned how to help this beautiful woman who was in such pain. I somehow find a corner where no one notices a 6’4″ guy hunched over, grasping his backpack.
There are a lot of things I don’t remember about what came next. The ringing in my ears I recall, the feeling of pins and needles in my hands and arms vivid, the absolute feeling of terror rushing through me is about it. Who talked to me, how I got into the gown, why there was a bandage on my arm were all things that even a month later I can’t piece together. For me that is almost as bad as the pain, what did I do?
Laying on the gurney, waiting upon my final destination to be readied; a cold room with nothing but a bed and television secured to the wall behind plexiglass. There is a camera mounted in the corner to watch me, making sure I don’t start to do something the hospital can’t easily undo. It’s cold, I’m shivering in my skin, shaking from the stresses tearing me apart.
The nurse comes in and scans my wristband, asks if I need something to drink, and asks if I want her to call my emergency person. That last one sends me over the edge. “No you can’t! Please, please don’t call her. She won’t answer, she can’t be here, She won’t be here. I need you to just leave it be.” These statements cause her to retreat from the room quickly, not from fear but from not knowing what to say. She was just the girl gathering information, not prepared for that outburst.
Now the duty nurse is asking all sorts of questions. “Did I take something that I was coming down from?” I wish! But most importantly “Do you want to take something to help calm you?” Well yes, but no. I can’t let my mind be any more clouded than it already is. I couldn’t stop feeling.
One thing you can’t do when being help for a mental health evaluation is try to bargain your way out. There is no leaving once you tell someone you don’t feel good about yourself and have had thoughts of hurting yourself. The more you fight, the more the system works to keep you there. And boy did I fight. “What paperwork did you file to hold me here? This form is blank where the name is! You’re holding me against my will!” A particularly amusing statement since I drove myself and asked them for help.
Who were they going to call if not Whitney? For years she was the person they should have called, would have called; but now that just wasn’t an option. My mother was nominated for that job now. This is the middle of the afternoon and she wouldn’t be allowed to see me for several hours, I needed to calm down and that was only going to ramp up my emotional response.
The next couple of hours are filled with pills for the infection I was fighting, newly aggressive from my not eating much and sleep hadn’t been an option for days. This only added to their desire to keep me there. If I wasn’t able to manage this, it would be just as harmful as the ideas ruminating in my brain. Kidney infections are nothing to screw around with.
Why no doctor? Why the constant need to ask if I would take something to help me sleep. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense until later. You’re going to be here for some time, it might be better if you got some real rest. Tomorrow is going to be tougher than today. Little did anyone know that my parents were yet to arrive with their own set of concerns, questions.
I know they arrived at 10 pm, and only because the nurse made sure I was awake and moving when then came into the ward. A collection of 10 private rooms spread about a common area where we could watch each other. Nominate someone for the Loon of the Day trophy. I had wrangled a chair from the opposing room so that my mother had a place to sit, my father opting to stand guard at the door. “They’re going to keep me here for some time. I don’t know how long, but I do know I don’t feel safe.” Words you don’t tell your mother, it only sets her off. There’s no yelling, nothing like that, but you can tell she doesn’t want to hear what comes next. “Right now this is the best place for me. I can’t be out there. Hoping someone is going to knock on the door and try to save me. It’s not going to happen. There is no hero coming out to rescue me, no friend who I will magically get to notice that I am circling the worst moments of my life.” My parents leave a couple of minutes after that. Some because I couldn’t talk to them anymore about this topic, but more because I couldn’t get through.
This time I take them up on the offer of something to get me through the night. Somehow the lights went out, but it was still me, a blanket and my pain. It was fitful, restless sleep. My body getting woken up to take more antibiotics and for them to take my vitals. The next thing I know my mother is back in the morning, this time cut short by my first appointment with the psychiatrist assigned to pick me apart and potentially try to build me back up.
She’s a short woman named Maria who comes up to my chest. There’s a little apprehension on her face since she isn’t completely sure if I may be a physical danger to her. I sit back on the bed while she takes up a space on the chair my mother had recently vacated.
“Why did you want us to not call your emergency contact person? Last night you were combative about wanting to leave, but always polite. Yet we couldn’t make a phone call without you absolutely going manic about it. Do you feel in danger from someone?”
All interesting points, but she must have known what I said. All I could do is repeat that I didn’t think she would be helpful and that she might not be able to reach out to someone who could. I spoke about the loss of our child, the loss of our relationship, just a long list of things I felt I had lost this year.
“That’s enough to make anyone feel out of place. What do you want to do when you leave here?”
Take a shower, maybe drink something that doesn’t taste like pure sugar.
“No I mean, how do you plan on creating an environment where you feel safe?”
I didn’t know how to answer that without sounding scared. I went ahead anyway. I didn’t feel safe in a place where I still feel Whitney’s presence everywhere. The closet and drawers that are empty so that she knew she always had a place to be. Food purchased just days before that only she ate. I didn’t know how to feel safe when I had walked into the hospital wearing a sweater she had given me. I wanted to run away, I wanted to be so far away from here that I didn’t know if I could ever stop running. My location could change, but she was such a part of me that I didn’t know how to live anymore without her. I really didn’t want a life where she wasn’t a part of it. So no, I don’t know how to create a safe place.
I’d spent so long trying to make her safe, trying to do my best to protect her from the bumps in the road; I no longer knew how to focus that inward.
“We’ll talk later, I can see you getting upset right now. I don’t think you are ready yet to leave.”
Damn it, I brought myself here, why can’t I decide when I get to go?!!
A list of therapist who specialize is family counselling appears and I’m asked to contact a few and see if there might be someone I would be interested in talking to. Well how about the guy I’m already seeing? Apparently decided that maybe I should talk to someone new, not giving up on me; but maybe a different perspective was now in order.
Someone around my age? Check
Someone with a family? Check, Check
Those were my only thoughts. Someone who might get some of my references and someone who may have dealt with some of the issues I now face. Simple enough, I made an appointment for the following Tuesday with a lovely woman who sounded nice. This was apparently my first step towards getting out. A few more steps included not crying while talking, eating the horrible food [no one bothered to ask why I didn’t want the meatloaf, I don’t eat red meat!! Offer me a peanut butter sandwich and I might have inhaled it after 24 hours of sugar water!]
Eventually my mother was contacted later in the day and told that if she was willing to take responsibility for my safety, I could go home with her. I was told without getting more and better help I was going to find myself back in this room and maybe having harmed myself in some way. Prescriptions for anti-depressants, a new and better antibiotic and a promise to call someone if I needed to talk and felt I couldn’t. Not sure how that last part works, too tied up to talk yet aware enough to call someone to talk.
I got home. Let my dog know I was safely home and took a shower, ate some peanut butter and crackers. Sat down on the couch and just stared at my email.
In the month since this, I carry the hospital band in my pocket everywhere I go. The doctor has told me she’s not sure what to make if that besides my desire to remember how bad it could get again, should I let it.
Every day is a constant battle of wills. The one driving me to reach out to Whitney and ask her if we ever will be able to find common ground and work towards what we both said we wanted only weeks ago, before the silence. And the one making sure not to call her work or go there since she should feel safe there, free from my ability to randomly pop in. Not having to explain to anyone why she gets upset when I walk in.
The other is the guy who is so lonely I have taken to sleeping with a bear from my youth wrapped in a tshirt of hers. It”s not been washed and will eventually smell more of me than of her, but it is the closeness I need. It’s not about sleeping, that still is a battle I’m not winning. The panic attacks still happen and I can’t predict. Crying bouts in the kitchen when I see a set of headights approaching around the time she would have come home.
I still haven’t talked to a single person around me about anything that has transpired. They know nothing about how I am doing. I’m not sure I have the strength to hear that they might not care. And then the shaking begins,,,
My descent is currently in a holding pattern. My brain trapped in the idea of what I could do, what I might be able to do to help. I may never know, I may never know…