I’d always known I was different, but I convinced myself it was my creative side wanting to break loose. It seemed when my creativity was stifled was when I felt the creeping anxiety and the depression that swallows you up. It swallows you up, but not all at once — but not all at once — it swallows the deepest part that makes you YOU first, then the ability to enjoy things that once brought you happiness, then the people around you seem different and uncaring — despite close friends asking if you’re ok. Depression whispers that they don’t actually care. They don’t really love you. They’re only saying those things because who could care about or love you, depression says. Depression tries to isolate you from the people you love. And then if you get as far down the rabbit hole as I did, depression is an anvil from the Looney Tunes cartoons that is dropped on you and you can’t move. You’re Wile E. Coyote reaching for something, but it’s just out of reach. Normal becomes the Roadrunner that you cannot catch, no matter how much you want it. No matter how much you scheme, no matter how much you need it, no matter how many gizmos you order from Acme and designs you draw in your mind. You’re trapped.
And then you go to the hospital and they take away your lipstick. Your signature thing. They might as well take my hair color and my fingerprints, you think.
Let me back up.
It had been a rough summer. It was always a rough summer. Then school started for the kids and I was swept up in back to school stuff and new teachers and a new school for Katie and an IEP for Andrew and finding out that he didn’t qualify for any modifications or accommodations for school (which I’m still positive he needs). I was feeling let down. The oldest was already failing an elective (an elective!) and it was the first couple of weeks of school. I didn’t feel that I was being understood by anyone — friends or family. It seemed like Scott was being harsh. I would send him articles about my Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and he would say he understood my mental illness. I didn’t think he did.
In September I took my usual trip to scrapbook in Mandeville with my close girlfriends and I vented to everyone. I talked about what I was going through. I told Scott’s family. I was in crisis, but I didn’t recognize it as crisis. I knew I was reaching out for help in the way I knew how — talking to friends. My friends could usually help. This time was different. I was different. It felt different. I couldn’t verbalize it to anyone. I drove home on Sunday feeling like the shell of myself.
When I was back home it would be a few weeks until I was scheduled to see my psychiatrist. I didn’t have a therapist at the time. I was crying a lot. Sleeping a lot. Unable to get up and take proper care of myself. Barely bathing. I thought of the song “Barely Breathing” and would go over in my mind “I am barely bathing and I can’t get out of bed” to the tune of the song. I wasn’t functioning. One day someone that I knew posted on Facebook that the previous month they found a litter of abandoned kittens that they bottle-fed until they were old enough to give away and that there was one left. I said I would take it without asking Scott first, then told him when he got home. He was not pleased to say the least. He was irate. I lost it and couldn’t stop crying. The dam broke and couldn’t be mended. Scott was still angry, I felt nothing and everything all at once.
For me it wasn’t one thing, it was everything. It was old hurts brought forward, deep hurts from years ago. It was little things that turned into enormous things in my mind. When you’re that far down the rabbit hole, you can’t see a way to make things better. You can’t see light. All you have is darkness and all you see is darkness and the only way out is suicide. But I didn’t think of it as suicide. I hadn’t intended to commit suicide. Scott left to run to the store for something and I went to the pantry and got the bottle of Benadryl and took the whole bottle. I got the Xanax from my purse and poured a few into my hand and swallowed them. I told the kids I was going to bed. I wanted to drift off to sleep — to infinite sleep. Again, I didn’t view it as suicide. I viewed it as getting out of a life I couldn’t bear anymore. That I knew there was something different about me since I was sixteen. I knew something inside me shut down. That I didn’t feel anymore. That I was capable of feeling, capable of emotions, but they stayed under the surface most of the time. By the time I arrived at college I had turned off emotion almost completely. I was at that point again, but this time I felt dead on the inside already. I was a slave to that feeling. Going through the motions of the everyday. All of those motions could go on without me if I was already dead inside. This was simply one more step. Infinite sleep.
In one of my favorite novels, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character is symbolized by a caged parrot that says, in French, “go away, for God’s sake.” Edna is desires solitude and unintentionally or intentionally pushes her husband and children away and that’s what I had done. Edna commits suicide by walking into the Gulf of Mexico and drowning. As I’ve read and reread the novel, I’ve read what other readers have interpreted her suicide as. Many feel that it’s a triumphant escape. Is that what I was trying to do? Escape? Many viewed it as giving up. I didn’t think of it as giving up. I knew I had a mental illness. I now know it had completely clouded my judgement and reasoning, but at the time I had no reasoning. I just couldn’t access it. There was no coming back from the hole I was in.
By the time Scott got back I was asleep. I only know that my alarm went off to get the kids ready for school and I thought I was dreaming. It had to be a dream. I wasn’t waking up. I couldn’t be waking up. It was supposed to be infinite sleep. I got up and put on my robe and slippers as usual and woke up the kids and told them to start getting ready. I dropped the girls off at the bus stop and took Andrew to school, then returned home and went back to bed. Around 11 I got up and sat on the sofa, took my usual medication and turned on the tv. I called Scott and he told me everything was okay about our fight the night before. I said I wasn’t okay and that I had taken a lot of medication that night and wanted to die. He said he would be home before too long and I would be okay. I messaged Will and told him that I wasn’t okay. I told him I had taken a lot of pills. He messaged me back immediately and asked if I was trying to hurt myself and I said yes. He told me to call my psychiatrist that minute. I said I would. He messaged me every few minutes for about an hour telling me to call, asking if I had called. I didn’t call, but said I would. By then it was almost 3 and I put on some clothes to go pick up Andrew. I sat in carline and cried hard. Will messaged. I asked what good calling my doctor would do. He said “they will stop you from killing yourself.” I called my doctors office in tears and told them that I was going to kill myself and they told me to go to the mental hospital my doctor was affiliated with, to call first and then go. They told me that I would be evaluated and they would decide if they would admit me. I called Scott and told him that he had to take me to the hospital.
When I got home with Andrew I went to my bedroom and sat on my bed for a minute. Everything was swirling. I only packed gray and black clothes for the hospital. Will had said they may not admit me, but I was sure they would. I shoved random clothes into my Vera Bradley weekender bag and the new bag of Cacique undies I hadn’t even unpacked from my Louisiana trip. We called the kids together and I told them I had been feeling sad and would probably be going to the hospital to feel better. That was enough of an explanation for them. They were ok with that. I wore my biggest diamonds (they would be taken, along with a barrette from my hair, and anniversary ring). My random clothes, deodorant, and Paul Mitchell hair stuff were placed in a paper bag with my name written in Sharpie. When I arrived they took my things. I would be admitted — they had decided before I was formally evaluated. I couldn’t even have my bag because it had a strap and patients on suicide watch weren’t allowed anything with straps. Not nightgowns, not hoodies with drawstrings, not shoelaces.
It was around 6 by the time we were brought to the waiting room to wait for my evaluation. There was paperwork to fill out of course, then a nurse brought me into a small room to take my blood pressure and ask me questions. Scott came with me. I was asked if I attempted suicide. I said yes; Scott said I was only reaching out for help. I said that I wanted to kill myself. The nurse asked Scott to step out. I was asked more questions. Did I feel homicidal? Well, a little. Aren’t we all just a little homicidal a little? Like, “I’ll have the filet mignon with a sliver of homicide.” Just a tiny bit. The nurse wrote something down. I’m sure it said “definite crazy person.” She asked more questions. Had I ever attempted suicide before? How long had I had these thoughts? How long had I been feeling depressed? Had my medication recently changed? Was I being physically abused? Was I being emotionally abused? Was I in any pain? Any history of sexual abuse? Any family history of mental illness? More questions. I only had one question: would they be admitting me. The nurse said yes.
The nurse escorted me back into the waiting room. I told Scott I would be admitted and he stayed a bit longer with me. Another woman and her husband were in the waiting room, she was very jumpy and barely sat still. She kept repeating that she had to be admitted. Her name was Amy. After our husbands left we joked that we would probably be roomies. The nurse called me back into the small room. She told me that a psychiatrist would be evaluating me via Skype because it was so late (around midnight) and no psychiatrists were on campus. Ok, yeah, that’s not weird. I sat down in front of an iPad. A doctor appeared on the screen and asked me the same questions the nurse asked. That was helpful. I answered the same questions again and again was brought back into the waiting room. Amy went into the room. When she came back we talked about how weird it was. She told me she had anxiety. I told her I did too. On top of being Bipolar 2 Electric Boogaloo and that I attempted suicide. She nodded as if I’d said “I don’t like tomatoes.” We would both be admitted.
Someone from the front came back to get both of us and a huge man with a leg that dragged at his side I nicknamed Igor (I nicknamed everyone there because it was something to do) handed us paper bags with our clothes and allowable personal effects. A nurse put yellow wrist bands with our names on our left arms. Igor brought us from admitting to our units. Amy was dropped off at Unit 3 and I was brought to Unit 4. I didn’t know what the different units signified, but I thought 4 was probably better or worse than 3. I didn’t know how many units there were. Igor handed me off to a nurse on Unit 4. There was a girl in front of the nurse’s station laying on a mattress. The lights were down low and my paper bag was taken from me and put behind the nurse’s station. They told me they had to go through the bag again and I would get it later. The nurse brought me to a room where there were two beds. On one bed was a tiny waif of a person completely wrapped up in blankets. I got into my bed. The sheets were tucked under the mattress, so I immediately freed the sides of the sheets. I was still in my clothes. I didn’t have my iPhone to use the Sleep Machine app that I used every night to drown out any noise. I didn’t have my usual half a Xanax to drown out the racing thoughts of “what if?” every night. I went over Prufrock in my mind: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons; I know the dying voices with a dying fall beneath the music from a farther room. So how should I presume?” A nurse opened the door to check on us every 15 minutes. I barely slept.
That was my first night on Unit 4.