It started 18 days ago. I think.
You know how sometimes you can be driving along a road and all of a sudden realize that you don’t remember the last few minutes? You suddenly become aware of the fact that you are somewhere but don’t remember getting there? You just know that you did? It happens to all of us occasionally. Well, it was of those “moments”, except I was heading straight for the end of the town dock, aiming for the lake. I don’t recall any conscious thoughts, although I am sure that they were there. What I DO remember is the heavy snow fall, the slippery road, the water straight ahead … and then I remembered my dog in the back seat of my truck! What on earth was I doing??? About to drown my beautiful, loving and faithful friend!!! I hit the brakes, held the wheel straight, and slid. And slid, spun and … THUMP! Into a snow bank. We were both okay but I sat there, staring out the side window at the water. I cried. As it turned out, I cried almost non stop for the next 8 days.
You see, I have not had medical support in over 3 years. I get my Wellbutrin from whatever walk in clinic I can find. I don’t have any of my other medications anymore. Until 3 years ago I was on a very closely supervised “cocktail” that was comprised of 5 different medications. It had been working very well for me for over 10 years, but without a family doctor to monitor me I have been taken off all but the one. I acknowledge that managing my depression was more of a challenge, but I thought I had it well in hand until I started writing here. That was when everything fell apart. My hopes of helping to support others has brought about my own near undoing.
My truck wasn’t damaged, not that I really cared. Peering through tears, my nose running worse than a kitchen faucet, one lousy tissue in my purse, I drove myself to the local emergency department. I didn’t tell the triage nurse what I had nearly done, only that I knew I was having a relapse and needed help. I was very quickly ushered into a private room, told to undress, put on a gown and put my belongings into a bag I was given. None of this really registered with me. I simply knew I needed help and I remember being thankful that I didn’t have to wait long. Unbeknownst to me, I had been put under a security watch. That’s why they took all of my things away. So that I couldn’t run.
I was seen first by a nurse, then the E.R. doctor, then a counselor. The counselor informed me that I was being admitted on a Form 1. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a 3 day institutionalized psych eval. I had been there once before. The one near me is attached to one of our country’s most notorious “super jails”, a maximum security penitentiary facility. It was a very scary place to be and I definitely didn’t want to go there again. Besides, my dog was still in my truck, out in the hospital parking lot.
I live alone, new to this area and don’t know anyone to call in cases like this. They told me they were going to call the local SPCA to come and get my dog while I was admitted. I had nearly just killed my dog, now I was about to lose him to an animal shelter, however temporary, while they confined me in a mental care facility! For the very first time in my life I experienced a true anxiety attack!! Thankfully, that is not an illness I am afflicted with but I can now understand much better what it must be like for someone who lives with Anxiety Disorder. It was a terrifying experience.
To paraphrase Bob Marley, you don’t know how strong you are until you have to be, or something like that. All I knew was I couldn’t let them take the only living thing in my life that I love so dearly away from me. I forced myself to calm down, stopped the flood of tears, made a passing attempt at speaking rationally, and after some time, persuaded the counselor to recommend the Form 1 be rescinded by the doctor and let me go home. In all, I was at the hospital for over 7 hours before they finally released me. I had to agree to and sign a care plan of sorts. I think it basically was a way to absolve the doctor and the hospital of any responsibility should I not “keep myself safe” as it stated.
It was getting close to midnight as I was finally driving home again, the snow coming down even harder, my poor dog cold and shivering and hungry in the back seat. As I was driving home I was thinking about what I had almost done. I felt ashamed at what I had put my dog through as a consequence. But the shame did wear off and all I felt afterward was empty. Despondent. I hadn’t felt like that in many years, not since the basement.
What I didn’t know that snowy January night two weeks ago was that I was about to take my first steps BACK down those stairs …