You might be amazed that a person could experience relief after waking up on a locked down psychiatric unit. But I did. I felt relieved. In a state of absolute misery and depression, the one relief that I had was that I did not have to do anything, except take drugs that they were willfully giving me. No work. No showering. Nothing. And I appreciated the Ativan. It made me feel like I was on the Magical Mystery Tour. Everything in and around me was crumbling to the ground and if it had to be that way it was best that I wait it out underground. If I had to be alive, this was the furthest from it I could possibly get and that was pretty much the goal. I think there was a small part of me that wanted them to let me out, the part of me that secretly hoped and believed in the prospect that I really wasn’t normal and normalcy might be possible. Perhaps I had an ounce of self preservation that could recognize that being involuntarily committed to the Mentally Ill Chemically Addicted wing of the psychiatric hospital is not cool. But for the most part, I just didn’t care. Ironically, that happens to be symptomatic of this illness they keep telling me I have, but I just think it is normal. I am normal. You wouldn’t care either if you lived in my skin. I wasn’t mentally ill. I was just in hiding. I didn’t realize that I was there because they were trying to fix me or subdue my symptoms. There were clearly ill people all around me and while I was not like them, I needed to be there. But, I still wasn’t ill. I was just irreversibly defective.
Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true. The same word, and also abnegation, is used for a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.
At one point during my twenty one day stay, a friend from the restaurant came to visit. The guy that drove her to see me I was not so secretly in love with him. We were good friends and he was by my side after my mother’s accident and all the insanity I was going through. Unfortunately he was also by my side when I was swallowed by my own deception about my mother’s death. Shortly after that his mother passed from Cancer. Eventually I got right with my lies and told the few people left in my life the truth. Most forgave me. But he couldn’t. He never spoke to me again. He brought my friend to come visit me but he didn’t come in. He waited in the lobby. I was momentarily devastated but I didn’t blame him. It all made sense really. I was a terrible person that did terrible things and that is why I am being locked away because I can longer live with myself. This all made perfect sense.
That same day my Colombian Husband showed up drunk to visit me and the nurses refused him. That was less than awesome. But that is what you get for volunteering to marry a man that wears dread locks and tye dyed pants with pot leaves on them. He needed a green card and I needed a saviour. Just another thing to add to list of things that didn’t work out as planned. He and I met working at the restaurant, but right after we got married we were both asked to seek new employment. We had to go talk to immigration when we got married and our boss didn’t want them to find out she was employing an illigal immigrant. That job was really the only thing keeping my head above water. My husband was quick to see the mess he had foolishly walked in to and stayed as far away as possible. He quickly found a job at the local food co-op and, shortly after, a girlfriend. Our marriage was nothing short of a hoax so I didn’t blame him, although I had always expected that he would fall in love with me and it would make me ok.
There was a girl that came into the restaurant a couple times a week to make vegan cookies that also ran a kitchen at a new mexican restaurant down the street. When I had to leave the restaurant she was kind enough to hire me as a prep cook. I was kind enough to show up for a couple of weeks before making the decision that it was much easier to show up at the bar instead. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work. I wasn’t lazy. I was just really uncomfortable. Just walking into the place made me uncomfortable. Let alone having to speak to people. And God forbid I didn’t make the beans right or I screwed up the guacamole. I couldn’t handle it. Plain and simple. Terrified.
I can’t say I quit that job. More like I just stopped going. I found another job as a church janitor. This was really perfect. I was convinced that if the head janitor, Jimmy, did more than hide in the basement eating fried chicken and watching soap operas they wouldn’t need me. But they got me so I did what I was supposed to do. The problem was that I would clean the entire place really fast and then there wouldn’t be anything else to do. “Girl, you’re not doing it right. You gotta slow down!” Jimmy would say. Slow down! That was laughable. Slowing down was not in my arsenal. Lightening speed or not at all. Those we my only modes. So I would finish up with half of the day to spare and then disappear for three or four hours. I would walk down to coffee shop and hang there for a while. Drink coffee. Smoke cigarettes. Go over to the parking garage roof and spoke a joint. Smoke more cigarettes. Wander around town stoned. Go back to the coffee shop. Seemed perfect. Getting paid good. Good benefits. Even when I was gone most of the day the church pastor would still say I was doing a great job. Eventually the day came, rather quickly, that I was just too bored. It wasn’t enough. So I went to the pastor and told her that I really didn’t think they needed me full time and that I wanted to cut my hours back. It’s not that I had anything else to do. I just didn’t want to be there. It was around that time that the pastor pulled me aside. “There is something I want to tell you” she said. “When I checked your references at the restaurant (the one I worked at with my husband) the owner said that you were a really good worker, but you were an Alcoholic.” I didn’t hear anything she said after that. Why was she telling me this. “I just thought you should know” she said. All out rage occurred at that moment. I was pissed. How could she? Sure, I was a drunk. But seriously?! I was good worker. How could she?
It didn’t occur to me that the pastor might have cared or that my old boss might have been worried. It never occurred to me that anyone ever cared or that I was ever hurting anyone by my actions. I must have been dropped on my frontal cortex. No impulse control at all. I marched right over to my old restaurant and ripped the owner a new one for calling me an Alcoholic. That’s, like, illegal. You are not even allowed to give bad references. How could she? When I confronted her, she was almost as pissed as I was. “That pastor promised me that she wouldn’t tell you what I said that. That bitch.”
I stopped seeing my therapist nun shortly after I left the hospital. They suggested an intensive outpatient but I had no insurance. They put me on Lithium and Zoloft which I initially resisted but eventually I gave in, in hopes to feel better anyway possible. When I took them I typically felt like a dead sheep on the couch and I didn’t have money to buy them so I was never taking them consistently. I also still refused to believe that I was Bipolar. How can you make a diagnosis like that when a person is drunk and high the whole time? Doctors know nothing and liquor is cheaper.
“Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.” Groucho Marx
Featured Photo Photo taken by Dawn Endico on the Tafoni Trail at El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve, January 8, 2006.