The Journey to: ‘Be Well.’
Finally, the week had ended and I was headed home. Bobby, Campbell and I had a fairly good time, but I’d felt all along something was a bit off between the two of us. As time went along, I began to think it was probably me, and my moodiness that was not helping.
After a while, I began to work very hard to keep my depression and mania away from Bobby. Not because I didn’t want him to know. I told him I was having medication issues, and I kept him informed about the doctors and what they were doing, but I also buffered him from the everyday struggles I had while dealing with all the changes I was going through, chemically and physically. I knew he’d had a bad experience with a girl who did not take her mental illness serious like I do now, and I didn’t want him frightened off by it. I’d asked him many times if he were ok with my mental illness and he always reassured me saying,
“You’re not like her, you take your illness serious and you do a good job taking care of it. I know you sometimes get a bit loud, or excited, but we have agreed on plans to help not have those problems.”
Bobby assured me that he would let me know at the first sign of trouble. I, however, was depressed and manic at different times during my stay at his house, and I know more than once it bothered him. I could tell by his behavior. I could also see, although I tried not to, that he was not doing at all what he’d promised.
Rather than speak to him about it, I made the mistake of thinking that if I went home, got myself straight, that things would be ok.
After I had gone back home, things seemed ok between us for a while. We chatted in the mornings before we set out for our day, and I tried as best I could to be upbeat. I was however very stressed about the situation where my house was concerned. It was becoming out of hand in an unhealthy sort of way for me and my animals. Bobby was concerned and he and I kept talking about different things I could try to get help. I’d had a grant from an organization called, ARC of Washington County and while everyone who worked for me helped in one way or another, no one was truly fixing the trouble and setting things up for me so I could maintain after work was completed.
This was yet another difficulty that had me down. I could find no peace, not even amongst the areas in which I lived.
Near the end of summer, I began to have serious problems with my Bipolar and Anxiety. Finally after trying over and over to get in to see a regular psychiatrist and being told it was going to be a long wait, I gave in and decided to go to the hospital.
I talked with all my family about it, and with Bobby. He agreed that I should go to
The ER and be admitted. Again he praised me for being so responsible with my illness and agreed over and over when I talked about how mental illness was no different than high blood pressure or blood sugar and that a person if doing all they were supposed shouldn’t be persecuted for being ill, and instead should be supported.
I simply believed him to be the most awesome friend on the planet.
The process of getting evaluated for Crisis placement was hard to say the least.
Once I’d gotten there, gotten signed in and finally through the exhausting and humiliating process of being registered, I settled down and began to think of all the years I’d fought with this illness and where I was now.
After settling Campbell, I lay back against the bed and began to softly cry. I felt empty and alone. I also felt somehow that this was going to be the beginning of the end for Bobby and me.
I knew it was seriously only a matter of time.
It didn’t matter how much he reassured me, told me how special and awesome I was. There was something else running in the background that bothered me. I tried to shove it away, but it ate at me as I attempted to quiet my mind and drift toward sleep.
As the ER finally settled toward the sleep of the sick, injured and dying, I put my mind on playback and settled in for the memory show.
Once again, the fact that the brain cannot differentiate between now and memories was brought home to me in the clearest of ways.
In the early 80’s when I was just a teen, I had my first mental health episode. We did not know then, what had caused it. First I experienced a long bout of depression over the summer, after my freshmen year of high school, followed by a severe manic episode during the first few weeks of my tenth-grade year. After which I attempted suicide for the first time. I was found around 8:30 in the evening on the floor of my dorm room at the Tennessee School For the Blind in a puddle of my own blood. I’d slashed my left wrist. Thankfully it was not fatal. Unfortunately, it would not be my last attempt or my last battle out of mania and depression.
For the next ten years I was in and out of hospitals, tried multiple medications, saw multiple doctors starting in Nashville and working my way into my hometown of Kingsport Tennessee.
I was labeled everything from a spoiled brat who, ‘needed her ass blistered,’ to a ‘psychotic who needed to be heavily medicated.’
Both things, I might add were tried, as well as many others along the way.
Everyone I saw doctors therapists, etc. had a differing opinion on what needed to be done. I never felt completely whole or wanted anywhere, and find I still have that issue today.
I want to also add however that my parents were doing the best they could with the information they were and weren’t getting, and that much of what was going on with me was complicated by life circumstances around me.
I’ve always done best in a routine scheduled calm environment, like institutional settings such as the Tennessee School For the Blind, Opportunity East in Morris Town Tennessee, or The Seeing Eye in Morristown New Jersey.
As I lie there trying to shut my mind down and go to sleep, I realized that I’d experienced similar events like what I was going through right now.
It dawned on me when I found myself in similar settings where there were people smarter than me; who lived seemingly better and were well respected and liked by their peers, and still found themselves complete into a state of bliss. What seemed normal to people like my awesome instructor and friend, Drew, or Bobby the man I felt someday might learn to love and trust me, to me was a rarity and gave me happiness. I still, at this moment in time cannot find the correct words with which to describe.
As I lie in bed, there around 2 AM in the morning listening to the sound of Campbell’s snoring, and feeling grateful for the gentle care that had been shown to the both of us of late, it dawned on me that Bobby had been at school the year I had the first episode.
That other teens had followed similar patterns later in the year which I’d learned later on is a frightening but typical reaction among institutional group settings, but whatever the ‘Normal Pattern.’
This meant Bobby had always known of me and my ‘Issues,’ and had sought me out anyway. I sighed at the awesome feeling that gave me. Even if things between us didn’t end up working out, just the fact that my mental illness would not be the issue that caused it to end was awesome.
I closed my eyes, and tried to rest, but my mind was running now, and there was no stop button that night. Nothing to do but let it go.
In 1992, I suffered another of what had become multiple episodes of first depression and then mania followed by an attempt on my life. I was placed in the Ridgeview Pavilion in Bristol Tennessee and there met a doctor who would first correctly diagnose me, and then proceed to begin working toward teaching me that I could live with my illness. I have had many successes and failures over the years, but I’m proud to say after nine failed suicide attempts I have decided I very much want to live, and so have begun a true journey to “Be Well.”
Why do I call it, “Be Well?” Well, the reason to some might sound trivial or maybe even corny, but to me it is most awesome. It is because a dear friend of mine whom I hold close in a special place in my heart, who supports me daily, whether it is in spirit or physical communication between us, a friend who cares for me enough to always signs his emails to me this way. He often times ends our phone calls the same.
It means the world to me when he says or writes that to me. I know it is his true heartfelt wish for me, and that his friendship and instruction are real and not just because it is his, “job” to be kind to me.
I turned over to face Campbell and leaning over the side of the bed petted the big dog’s head. He’d worked hard to get me there, and I knew he was tired.
I settled back and continued my trip down the path of what could at times be a dark and twisted trail, and then just as suddenly as it started a patch of smooth straight road with sunshine lighting the way would appear.
I closed my eyes and tried to make it all make sense to me. Trying to bring back even the slightest of detail. I knew from past experience that no hospital stay whether it was four days, or four months was productive if you weren’t ready to work, and work hard at digging into the crux of the matter. Hospital stays were for getting at the root of the trouble and giving it a boost toward being well.
Understand “Be Well.” That does not mean, “Be Cured.” There is no cure for mental illness and don’t get me started on what I think about a country, hell! An entire world obsessed with a pill that can cause a man to possibly need the ER himself, but we still have people like me lying in emergency rooms at 2 AM waiting for help, ripping their lives apart before doing so.
The first part of what had led to my true journey to ‘Be Well,’ had begun earlier in the summer, and had been getting steadily worse, and worse. I’d been through a medication switch, and then when that hadn’t worked, had simply gone off everything in frustration due to side effects, confusion concerning which doctors I could see and which I could not, and finally just falling through the cracks altogether.
When I’d made the mistake of allowing all that, I’d once again found myself in a full blown Bipolar Episode.
It seemed that had become the normal for me over the last three years. It was the first episode in 2012 that destroyed my friendship with Drew. Looking back, I cannot blame him at all.
As I have stated many times, he did not deserve any of what happened.
He had tried to help me, had come to visit me, and although even before I was ill and confused about him, I’d made it more than evident my feelings for him, and still he had done nothing but treat me with respect kindness and a gentle type of love.
Not a man and woman kind of love, a friendship nurturing kind.
It makes me sad that I should even have to explain, but in this world and in this story I must.
The minds of many are indeed warped, and their idea of reality based love and friendship is marred with an ugly I don’t have words yet to describe.
Now, here I was, once again, rapid cycling.
Rapid cycling for those who haven’t read my first book, and do not know is when a person has wild mood swings sometimes as much as every hour. A person can go from depressed to manic in literally an hour’s time, sometimes less than that. It can be very hard on the one experiencing it as well as those living around the sufferer. It takes a special person to love someone like me, and I have few in my life who truly do.
When I’d awakened this morning, I found myself literally at the end of my rope. I was upset, feeling as if no one on earth understood me, or cared to try. I’d lost my daughter and her family and one friend after another due to my constant bad decisions caused by allowing my sickness to become and remain for long periods of time to be out of control. I’d screwed up so many times now where Drew was concerned he hated me and it broke my heart, and even now though I had Bobby and he reassured me constantly it would not happen. I was terrified that at any moment, he would just be done like everyone before him.
I knew I wasn’t a piece of cake to be with. I knew I could be hard as hell to understand sometimes. However, it just didn’t seem fair to me that every situation I found myself in appeared to end with me being sent away by one friend or loved one after another, for different reasons each time. I was never really told why, or allowed to try to fix it, or gain closure from the loss.
I knew I could go no further on my own. I literally felt this was my last hope.
First I tried walking to the nearest mental health outpatient center to my house, but I was told I’d have to get an appointment do an intake and possibly wait up to a month or more for services. Although I explained to them, I was in desperate need and feeling harmful to myself they gave me no other option. I cannot say I took that news very well. Finally after making what was probably thought to most an ass of myself by telling the waiting room full of people.
“This is why no one comes to get help and why we have mass killings.”
I left the center and walked home in the rain. Campbell was as always by my side loving me unconditionally without fail, not bothered at all by my sickness, only concerned with loving me and seeing me safely home, and through my troubles. Encouraging me onward every step of the way.
Once I returned home, I realized I couldn’t give up. I made the hardest call I’d ever made in my life. I picked up the phone and dialed the Crisis line. I feared I’d know the worker on duty. I couldn’t count how many calls I’d transferred to that line while working for Contact Concern.
I don’t know whether I would know the person or not, it was secondary in my thoughts, I simply felt I had two choices. I could either go to the hospital and get help or die. I simply could no longer live with the way things were in my life, and had decided if there was to be no relief from this hell I was calling life I would just be done.
I chose help.
I have to say, what happened next was amazing and horrifying all at the same time. If it hadn’t been so sad, I could’ve laughed about the calamity of it, but I’m sorry to say that calamity or not, there really is no humor here.
After talking with the crisis worker on duty, and having her ask several questions of the facility I wanted to be placed in and making sure Campbell would be alright to be with me there I began to work toward getting ready to go. I’ve had a few ask me why I bothered to ask about Campbell because of the law that says he can go anywhere with me.
Well, the reason is simple.
- His equipment could be used to harm someone or myself.
- Campbell could become upset from things such as emotional outbursts from me, or other patients.
I learned, however, after having the worker call and ask questions that the likely hood of us running into a patient sick enough to do bodily harm to themselves or someone else was slim. They said if at any time I felt Campbell was upset we would be more than able to find a quiet place to calm him. They more than assured me that this facility’s mission was to help people stabilize before they reached that point. I was relieved to hear that because that’s exactly what I was after.
I spent the majority of the day washing my laundry, packing a small bag, and letting my family and my dear and special friend Bobby know what was going on with me.
That Friends and neighbor were another hard call to make.
I sent him a text saying that I was simply unable to continue dealing with my sickness on my own and that I was going to go to the hospital and be evaluated for services.
I didn’t want to do that in a text. I felt it was rude, but I wasn’t sure when I would leave, and In my defense he was at work. As soon as he could, he called me.
Bobby Donald has so far since we reconnected again been kind, caring, and as understanding and tolerant as anyone could be, and more so than many. Even with other experiences with persons with mental illness. Some good and some not, he had at the time of this writing, chosen to continue to be my friend and had even written to me that he was grateful that I would allow him to pursue me and consider me as a possible partner in life.
For that, I was ever grateful. That afternoon, however, I expected the same reaction that I’d always gotten from others. I expected that either while I was in the hospital, or soon after, we’d have the usual.
“I’ve had fun, but I am really not interested,” talk, or my real favorite. “I am sorry; I just really don’t think you’re my type after all.” That’s always my favorite because I’ve usually already heard by then the famous lines, “Oh I cannot believe how much we have in common it’s like we’ve been waiting forever for each other.”
Bobby and I were both amazed at how awesome our time had been together so far, and his attitude concerning my mental illness had been positive and supportive. Still, something bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but every now and then there was just a hint of something lurking just beneath the surface of what he allowed me to see.
When he called, he told me he hadn’t realized I was feeling that poorly. He asked why I hid it from him. He reminded me about our agreement to be honest with one another. I explained my fears to him. He told me, “I understand, but you have to trust me a little. I’m not going to just stop being your friend, or caring about you because you’re having a problem. If we were roommates, or partners of some kind I’d have to know about it, wouldn’t I? You recognize it; you’re going to get help. I’m proud of you for that. That’s hard to do.”
Not at all what I’d expected. Two things about it were most amazing to me. One, he’d taken time from his job to go outside, and take an early break for the purpose of calling to see what had finally brought me to this, and two the attitude with which he took, and dealt with me after hearing the problems as I saw them.
Not at any time did he show the least bit of being put off by what to him must’ve seemed like a sudden change. Again I’d hidden just a bit too well the issue at hand. This fear of mine was a bit of a problem but when I explained it, he’d understood. Again, to me this was a rare thing. I felt so much better from that experience that for a few minutes I wondered if I might be making a mistake. Soon however the old sadness was creeping up like a slow moving fog, and after a while, I was teary eyed again, and trying just to keep it together while I finished gathering my things.
Soon it was 3-pm in the afternoon, all arrangements had been made, and I’d been told I needed to go to ER to see a crisis worker there, be evaluated, and then would be placed in the Crisis Stabilization Unit in Johnson City Tennessee.
I knew the process of doing this could take time. Once before I’d been in the ER for six hours while waiting to be seen, evaluated, and placed, but had I known that afternoon what would be in store for Campbell and me, I might not have gone.
I want to stop right here and say, that would’ve been a huge mistake. I now realize that the 14 or more hours I spent in the ER, and then the next two or three hours I spent getting transferred and signed in were for sure absolutely worth it. I am further along now than ever before with becoming stable and being as well as is possible for someone like me.
TO BE CONTINUED…