Mental Health Crisis

Two nights ago, my mind broke. Or snapped back together. It’s still difficult to articulate, but regardless, two nights ago I found myself in a mental health crisis 

This has happened before many times. Like too many others, when faced with the stigma associated with asking for help, with letting other people know I’m not okay, I’ve always stayed silent. Riding out the worst of it, praying it all works out okay, and doing it alone. 

Not this time. This was the worst, most overwhelming, terrifying night of my life, and I couldn’t do it alone. So I’m the middle of the night my sixteen-year-old daughter drove me to the emergency room forty-five minutes away. 

My husband was four states away, and dealing with a parent’s mental health crisis alone is not something any kid should go through. So, I did something else if never done before and messaged a friend saying I needed help.

So, I went to the hospital, and my friend came, and they drew blood and made me pee in a cup. And we waited. 

After a couple hours a therapist from the local mental health center came to “screen” me. She spent five minutes in the room asking questions. She left for a few minutes, came back, and told me she was recommending I go for a voluntary inpatient stay at a hospital. 

She even had a brochure. Her selling point was that it was the only hospital in the state that allows smoking.  She explained to me that a voluntary stay meant I could leave at any point if I wasn’t comfortable being there. I agreed she could start the process of seeing if they had a bed.

She left my room and went out to the nurses station where I could see her through the blinds they told me I had to keep open. She say there for three hours. I walked past her once, towards the bathroom, and she never even looked up from her cell phone she was texting on. After three hours she got up, shuffled some papers, put here bag on her shoulder, and left. She never spoke another word to me.

Approximately three more hours passed before a nurse came in and told me it looked like there was a bed available. The only problem, she said, was that they wanted to make sure my port (I recently went into remission from breast cancer and still have the port I received chemo through) was flushed before I came.  She offered to have someone come flush it for me.

ER nurses don’t typically deal with ports, and I learned there is definitely an advantage to someone with experience doing this. After being stabbed in the chest by three different nurses with four different needles, my port was flushed. Just in time for them to come tell me there wasn’t a bed after all.

We left the hospital with a prescription for valium and a promise someone would call if they found a bed somewhere.

That call came about an hour later from a doctor at a hospital that had an available bed. He explained the ins and outs of a voluntary hospital stay, and we started the two hour trip to get there. 

Within the first few minutes of arriving, I was strip searched by a staff member who quite loudly introduced herself as a “mental health worker,” and my belongings were sorted into a laundry basket in the common area where other patients could see them. My friend and I were pointed to some chairs in the corner to wait for the nurse to finish checking me in. 

Over the next two hours, we sat. The entire time my anxiety grew. The staff made me uncomfortable.  I had briefly seen my “room” during the strip searched, and the bed sat barely a foot off the ground. Nothing felt right and I knew I didn’t need to be there. 

What I needed, what I had expected when I asked for help, was someone to talk to me. Someone with training and skill to process with me everything I was overwhelmed with. Someone to help me look at where the flaws in my logic and assumptions were at. Someone to tell me, even if I was crazy, that I wasn’t alone in dealing with this.

I got a chair in the corner.

After a couple hours of now overwhelming anxiety, I told the nurse I wasn’t staying.  She took me to a room where she explained to me that it was a locked ward and once I came in, I couldn’t leave. When I challenged her, she then told me if I wanted to leave I would have to be screened for involuntary treatment. 

After I very assertively explained to her that I had some serious concerns about the hospital’s informed consent process, she discovered that in all the time I sat in the corner, no one had actually given me the paperwork I needed to sign to admit myself. Still, they called in a crisis worker to talk to me. In the end, it took them as long to unlock the doors as they had left me sitting in the corner.

I went home. I took a valium and I got more sleep than I had in two weeks. I woke with the same sense of overwhelming anxiety. I spent nearly 24 hours of my life trying to get help and got valium. 

So I ran away. My children are being cared for, and I am at the first stop of a road trip to get out of my own mind and find a way to see things differently. I’m safe and I’m okay, but I’m alone.  Because in the United States, even having excellent insurance is no guarantee you can get mental health care. 

I want to be healthy and I want to be okay, but it looks like I’m going to have to figure it out, at least for now, on my own. 

I’m not sharing my experience in a hope to deter anyone else from seeking care. Just the opposite. Mental health care is vital and we have to demand access to it. To quality care. I hope to find a way to someday do that.  But for now, I’m going to work on getting my head screwed on straight.

Beginnings

The dance as sunlight and shadow gracefully execute their routine over the rolling, yellow green landscape that teases with the promise of spring. She watches from the hilltop, to where the dance completes. Lines form, encircling her eyes wherever the deepening sunlight catches her gaze.  Arms outstretched, back arched, she turns her face to the sky. Taking in the glorious sweeps of pink and gold, as her hair floats in the wind washing the fragrance of dogwood and lilac over her.  She inhales deeply, the scent of beginnings.  

Fragrance

My Miracle

Yesterday, my miracle, so perfect, so small.

Settled perfectly, head in my hand,

Feet snuggled in the crook of my arm,

Hand wrapped around my finger.

Our eyes met in those first moments.

A connection formed in an instant,

Stronger than the cord which once bound us.

While I held my baby, you held my heart.

The days, weeks, years, they soon flew by.

Too many milestones to count, yet

Your smile, your laugh, your steps, your words,

Every one, engraved in my memory.

Today, my miracle, no longer nestled in my arms.

I find I must share with the rest of the world,

Your smiles and kindness, your gifts and your words.

You are no longer only my baby.

Each day passes more swiftly than those before,

You, my lovely child, embrace each one,

With the hope, the ambition of a child,

With the grace, poise, and confidence of a lady.

How fortunate are we who are gifted to hold,

However great, a piece of your childhood?

How covetous am I, to desire those pieces,

Still wholly belonged to me?

Tomorrow, my miracle, so beautiful, so strong.

Poised at the threshold of a future full,

Of hope, of dreams, of joy, of love.

No longer a baby, still holding my heart.

Catatonic

        By this point, I had pretty much learned my lesson about talking to the police.  All it ever resulted in was a weekend away, in sometimes less than stellar accommodations, after which I was returned home.  Home, to more people visiting and asking questions, many of which resulted in subtle- and not so subtle- consequences once everyone was gone.

        I don’t even recall this precipitating incident.  There was always something.  I would do something wrong; not finish a chore correctly, get caught lying about eating some food, or whether my laundry was put away.  Most of the time when this happened, I (or we, if there were accomplices) would get yelled at, maybe given a few extra chores.  Occasionally; however, someone would go off script.  I would start yelling about life being unfair, my mom would dump every drawer in my room out, or my dad might take off his belt.  By the time it was over, my mother would have called the police or a social worker to report I had attacked her.  Someone would come and take me somewhere, and then it would start over again.

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Grocery Day

        I always loved grocery day at Grandma’s house.  Particularly when we would come back from the store, running back and forth from grandma’s station wagon hauling the bags.  We would always manage to sneak in a few minutes playing in the front yard.  The yard sloped up from the driveway, just enough to justify the winding steps to the front door.  When it was icy, we would hold tightly to the wrought iron railing as we let our shoes slide over the edge of each step.  We played jacks on those steps, and marbles.  Once, I spent most of an hour trying to set a world record with my twenty-five cent bouncy ball I had gotten from the toy machine.  I was convinced I could bounce the ball and catch it more times in a row than anyone else ever had.  I was very proud that night over dinner, bragging to everyone that I had made it to over one hundred bounces.

        In the summertime, the very best part about playing in the front yard was the tree. It stood towering in the center of the yard, shading the front windows from the sting of the summer sun.  Sometimes, if you looked up through the branches, it looked like the tree reached all the way to the sky.  Grandpa had told us that years before, lightening had struck the old cottonwood, creating the fork in the tree that provided the perfect foothold for starting our ascent to the sky.  We loved to clamber up the limbs, seeing who could go the highest.  Sometimes our adventures went on for hours, others; however, were tragically cut short when grandma would call us in looking for the rest of the groceries.

Daily Prompt: Gate

She didn’t notice the way the sun reflected brilliantly off the ice droplets which slickly coated the rust-worn barbed wire.  It had been shiny and new only two summers before.  Her hands, stiff in the brown jersey layered under yellow leather. The leather was worn nearly away in the places where the cut of the baling string had hardened calluses.  Her hands would never qualify as pretty, with their stubby fingers ending in unpainted, chewed fingernails.  But she wore the calluses with pride.  And relief.  The replacement of festering blisters, regularly agitated by an  endless cycle of responsibility, had happened gradually.  She didn’t notice when the pain began to ease, it just did. Until one day, she discovered it was gone.  If she took the time for such things, she would have imagined that inside, she was as hardened as her hands.  That process had occurred unnoticed as well.  One day the little girl with dreams and plans woke to a world void of emotion.  The passage of time, now marked by a ceaseless cycle and the transitions of gray to green to brown that ruled the calendar.  How is it possible to be suffocated by acres of space?  As she pulled the gate taut with the twisted loops of wire and practiced ease, she was grateful.  If this was her life, at least she had the hands for it.

via Daily Prompt: Gate

You Told Me

You told me it snowed that first day in early April.  I picture the first hint of spring dusted white. You told me I was extraordinary and that I wasn’t better than anyone else.   You told me to always take care of my little brother.  You told me daddy didn’t love me.  Or I told that one to myself. I can’t remember. You told me to be a good girl and follow directions.  You told me not to ride my bike in the street. You told me when the bus turned the corner I needed to get inside because the driver wanted to kill me.  I called him grandpa, and he slept in the room across the hall.  You told me not to cuss, but I heard that time you said “shit” on the phone. You had just found out Desert Storm had started.  Soon I would stand on the end of your bed singing God Bless the USA along with Lee Greenwood. You told me to be proud to be an American.  You told me I was smart.  You taught me the names of the Ivy League.  I was five.  You told me I was wrong to call the police that time you got a black eye. I was ten.  Did you see the bruises I had when he returned? You told me my teacher was trying to turn me against you.  It was the time she gave me the book to read about the little girl who kept getting hurt until she told someone and then she lived happily ever after.  It was right after the time I went to school with belt marks on my face. Do you remember those?  You told me I was beautiful. You told me I was loved.  You told me to go to my room when Michael Jackson was being interviewed on Inside Edition, even though you knew I was supposed to practice my recorder for you as homework.  When I got mad, you told me to go outside.  You told him to lock the door.  Did you see what he did when I banged on the door to come back in?  It was February and I didn’t have shoes on.  You told me I ruined everything the next day when I told. You told me it was my fault my little brother didn’t get to pass out his cookies at the Valentine’s Day party the day he drove us to the office where the police were waiting. I never slept under the same roof as you again.  But I never forgot what you told me.