After yesterday’s post I feel like my panties are dangling down around my ankles. Feeling fully exposed here. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of what I shared. Long past those emotions. I am human and have had hard times, like us all. But I feel a bit naked in my exposure of self, having had shared such a vital part of my life without much explanation.
I think it is important to understand that at the time of my nervous breakdown I had been on a low dose anti-depressant to control my chronic muscle pain. The medication entirely numbed me emotionally for years. I lived very much like a robot. I couldn’t cry even when I was sad. And I couldn’t feel the depths of my experience. I was in less pain, but had no emotions. I was numb in all aspects.
Being numb to myself had major drawbacks. I didn’t have an off button, or anything to balance my actions. Feeling nothing, I had no way of checking in with myself. I no longer knew exhaustion. I gradually became an over-achieving, control freak. Eventually, I started to despise more and more of who I was, and recognized the real me was covered and masked underneath. I decided, without consulting anyone and without being aware of the dangers, to stop my anti-depressant. In my eyes the drug was serving as a painkiller and little more. I didn’t understand that in stopping the prescription that my brain chemistry would go all haywire.
Within days of stopping, my appetite came back so strongly that I couldn’t stop eating. I gained five pounds in two days. And much worse, my serotonin levels plummeted making everything look bleak. And my emotions, they returned in a mad rush. I felt like I was opening a storm door of emotions that had all been hidden in an expansive closet for half a decade.
After several weeks, I couldn’t stand the intensity of emotions and my huge appetite—I could actually taste life and food again but was out of control—so I started back on the medication. Reintroducing the anti-depressant into my system led to suicidal thoughts. This is when I ended up in the admissions to the psychiatry ward. I’m not saying the medication caused my breakdown but it definitely altered my brain chemistry enough to push me over the edge.
The Quiet Room
After two colored pills, I entered the last room at the end of the hall. Muffled snores, bleach, staleness—each welcomed me.
I found my bed. I pulled off my sweatshirt and spread it across the pillow.
I stared up at the shadowed ceiling.
There was no sleeping.
As midnight approached, I stepped through the vacant corridor, light and clumsy, like a puppet pulled by a master puppeteer. “I can’t sleep in there,” I mumbled, looking at the nurse’s wide forehead. “I can’t sleep with a stranger in my room.” I lowered my eyes to her white shoes, long laces, scuffed toes.
The nurse looked me over with a cynical smile. “What are you afraid of?”
I felt a punch to my stomach. “I just can’t sleep in there,” I answered.
Huffing, the nurse pulled down her glasses. “Fine, come with me, then.”
I padded down the hall, thinking I might fall down, hoping I would wake up, knowing this was surely hell. The tall nurse stopped. She edged her eyes around me, trying to see inside. “You can stay in the Quiet Room for the night. But it’s not where you are supposed to be.”
Chastised, I didn’t move. I knew this wasn’t where I was supposed to be. None of this place was where I was supposed to be. She didn’t know me.
“You’ll have to return to your room in the morning. Do you understand?” she asked, marking something on her clipboard, something about me.
My eyes swept the empty lobby behind me. I glanced to the side where two nurses were chatting. I gave a slight nod. I smiled meekly. She wanted me to smile.
The nurse spoke in a hushed whisper. “It’s going to be loud. And it’s not a very private place to sleep.”
I didn’t have a voice.
“Well don’t be surprised if we have to take you out in the middle of the night. If we get in a high-risk patient, we’ll have to put them in here.”
Inside the Quiet Room, a space no bigger than my closet, my lonely eyes searched out to the pale-yellow walls. There were no pictures, no décor, nothing except for one narrow window that slid open to the nurse’s station. The bed was made, the blanket thin. There were two doors—one which led to an attached bathroom and another door opening out to the lobby. On the other side of the wall, was a large machine, perhaps a boiler or water heater, because ever so often a rhythmic thump vibrated the room. Thump, thump—thump, thump—the room’s heartbeat.
In reality, there was no bed, only a large wooden box with plywood set on the top. And there was no mattress, only a thick piece of foam. My boots were on the floor, my socks rolled inside the boots. That was all of me that existed here—nothing more.
I sat hunched over on the foam, sinking in my thoughts, rewinding the day. I cried. I stopped, then cried again, stepping my eyes around the room as if my eyes alone could help me escape.
I cried, “Why have you forsaken me? Why have you left me here? I did what you asked. I wrote. I did everything. I’ve always tried to be good and now you bring me here. This isn’t right. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I’m tired of the pain. I’m tired of always fighting. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do it.”
I sank my head into the foam, taking the unwanted smells. “I hate you,” I cried.
The tears fell upon me like a jagged-scissoring of despair. “I hate you. Just go away. Just leave me alone.”
I curled into the fetal position, laboring to breathe, laboring to think.
I wept a tear for every day I’d lived, one tear bleeding into another.
Until at last my body gave out. And the quiet entered.