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Friday, September 17, 2004

365, or, My Life at 33 1/3 - Part One

It's been a year since I was hospitalized. I know that many get hospitalized for suicide attempts, and I suppose if you asked the intake worker that dealt with me he would say I was suicidal, but I really wasn't. I feel strange about it being a year: I know I've come a long long way, but it also is weird, looking back.

My husband and I had been discussing the possibility of me being bipolar for a good 6 week before.

You see, in the spring last year, a young girl went missing in Toronto named Holly Jones. She was 9. The search for her was intense but short: her dismembered body turned up in harbour in two duffel bags the next day. Things like this are rare here, and I immediately decided I wanted to become a police officer, to contribute and help prevent another tragedy like this from happening. I investigated how this could be done and decided, as a good compromise to not once again subject my family to complete upheaval because of an employment change on my part, that I would apply to be an auxiliary officer. This is a volunteer position, and you have to go through about 80 percent of the same testing rigors as a regular officer. It would be a 2 year commitment, and after that time I could decide if I still wanted to go for the full fledged cop, and then apply. I thought it was a good compromise, rare for a BPer (but I wasn't diagnosed at this point).

I was training every day to meet the physical exam, the fitness exam: running, weight training (you had to be able to bench your own body weight, and if you think that's easy, I've got land in Antarctica to sell). At the same time, all of a sudden, it became imperative that I redecorate the house. I bought hundreds of dollars of upholstery fabric and reupholstered my chesterfield and two chairs, one a Lazy-Boy, one a swivel rocker. I also would rollerblade a few miles a day because I would get bored sitting still. I made either cake, brownies, muffins or cookies every day and would send them with my son or husband to share.

I made it through about six levels of interviews, tests, and screenings. And then I received the letter saying they didn't want me. I crashed.

The Canadian health system requires that a patient must have a referral from their family doctor to see any specialist, and a psychiatrist falls into that category. So I had seen my family doctor in late July/early August and explained, among other things, that the other day as I was walking along the boardwalk along Lake Ontario, the water lapping up about 5 feet from me, that I had to fight an enormous desire and urge to fill my pocket full of heavy rocks and simply walk into the lake, never to return. It was 9 months late I learned that this is how Virginia Woolf died - I honestly never knew that. So the family doctor put me on a waiting list for a pdoc.

Things got worse.

I was, at the time, a sales rep on the road that traveled a good 2000 km a week. That's at least 1200 miles a week. A lot of time alone. And I remember distinctly driving down the highway (a 6 lane highway that cuts across the bottom of the province), driving 140 in the company 1/2 ton pickup, banging my head repeatedly and rapidly against the back rest of the truck at the same time, trying to block out the thoughts in my head.

Because I was on the road, I would find ways to stay at my home office. But when I did go out, I would be positive that the truckers were CBing up and down the highway, talking about me. One time I walked into a coffee shop to use the facilities and there were 4 policemen there, having a coffee. They stopped talking when I came in. I was positive, even though this was a different city than where I had applied to be an auxiliary officer, that they knew all about me, that I had applied and failed, everything.

I was still decorating like mad, spending money hand over fist on my Mastercard, hiding it from my husband. I wasn't sleeping all that well, but didn't think much of it. While waiting for the doctor to call with a referral appointment, I searched on the internet, doing some research on my own to try and help myself in the interim. I knew there was something wrong with me, drastically wrong (actually, I've felt there was something wrong with me for most of my life). I found a group on bipolar.about.com which had a chat at the time. I spent a good deal of time there while in the house alone.

And then things got really bad.

One afternoon I had this idea. It was a cold and clinical and almost scientific thought: how much constant pressure from a sharp knife steadily pushing on my wrist would sever my hand? Not a chop. Constant steady downward pressure into the flesh. And I sat there, here, at the computer desk, doing it. And I was absolutely terrified. There was this small and shrinking corner of my mind that was saying STOP!!!!! So I spoke privately with someone in the chat, someone who coincidentally lives about 1/2 hr from me (strange happenstance on the internet), and he said YOU NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. NOW.

So I did.

I left the house so fast, I left our dog outside. My husband told me later that when my son came home from school hours later he found her outside and was concerned. The poor dog was probably barking for hours to be let in.

So I went to the hospital ER and asked to talk to someone. Even doing that was humiliating. How could I have got in this position? I was a capable, no, a SUPER capable wife, mother and career woman (never mind the fact that I couldn't settle on one career for more than 3 years at a time). Eventually I was called in and a tall, thin man with a shaved head took me in a dark room with a couch. He asked me a whole raft of questions. His voice was soft, almost monotonous. I just kept thinking he must think I'm a fucking lunatic.

At one point, when he asked me if I had ever felt controlled by the TV or radio. I said, quite indignant, I'm not schizophrenic you know. He said how did I know what schizophrenic was. I told him: I know. I'm not stupid. He wrote furious notes. Shit. What did I do??

So, after unburdening myself of all these strange things (I told him about the paranoia with the coffee shop cops and the CB truckers, he saw the lacerations on my arms - nothing serious, scratches really) and said he'd be right back, a doctor had to talk to me. So, she came in: a little Asian woman. She was quite abrupt and pissed me off: "I hear you think people are out to get you?" I was immediately angry. Very angry. I hated her. She looked at the lacerations on my arms and then left.

I felt better. It was like a weight had lifted: I had told someone of my bogeymen and I was still standing. I wanted to go home. So I left the dark little room and walked out into the ER frenzy. From nowhere, the tall lanky man came to me and said "where are you going?"

I said I feel better. I want to go home.

He said you can't.

What?

You can't. The doctor has determined that you are a threat to yourself and you are being committed here for a few days.

I am leaving! - the floor felt like it had just dropped away. I felt like I was falling. Literally. I've never felt like it again and hope never ever to repeat it.

He looked at me, almost sadly, and said, you don't understand. It's the law. You can't leave. And behind him came two security guards to mind me.

....

Enough for now.

More later





Blogger synergy said...
blondzila,

Congratulations on the year anniversary! That's great. You're also able to look back and see how far you've come and where you have been in the past year to recognize your accomplishments, which is a sign of health.

Admitting that there is something wrong and going to ask for help is a scary, huge step for anyone, especially when you are sick and all you want is to hide away from the world. I'm very impressed by your desire to live and survive bipolar.  

Blogger Cliff said...
Happy Anniversary! The first one post-diagnosis is a milestone. A siugnificant number of people don't make it that far, but the ones that do pretty much do OK from then on.

I know you story is hard to tell (I told mine in one of my first blog entries) but once you have done it, it is a kind of release, a catharsis.

It'll somehow put a period on something and you can take a deep breath and move on. At least that's how it was to me.

Glad you're here with us!  

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