Monday, December 26, 2011
BREAKDOWN... and then...
"You can wait in here." The nurse showed us into a small office, smiled cheerily, and left us alone.
For a few seconds I lost control, clung to my husband, and cried. Then I pulled away, wiped my face, sat in one of the blue vinyl chairs, and, with a heavy sigh, stared at the wall.
It seemed my whole life was spent studying walls. Counting nails or tacks, bricks, concrete block, or following the flower patterns in wall paper. Especially when I was being assaulted with no way out. And now I was studying another wall, nubby plaster painted institutional green, willing myself to be somewhere else, to not think about what was happening, to not feel.
My husband stood behind the chair and put his arms around me. "Please try to relax, Honey. It'll be OK. You'll see."
I couldn't say anything. So I didn't. But I sure thought a lot. Mostly questions. How did this happen to me? I had always been strong, surviving hell, first as a child, and then again in a disastrous first marriage. Now, for the first time, during the past couple years, life was good – really good – and I was falling apart.
The crisis reached a peak two days earlier. Dave and I were attending an outdoor concert on a hot, humid, late summer day. Suddenly my heart started racing and I had the sensation of my body separating from my "self." Never having died before, I wasn't certain, but I was pretty sure that was what was happening. My mind flooded with insane, inane thoughts. "I can't die here. It would be so embarrassing. It would ruin the concert for everyone else." I willed myself to pull back together, but the line between life and death seemed very fragile.
That evening I tenuously suggested I might need "a little outside counseling." Relief flooded Dave's face and he said quickly, "We can call and check some hospitals on Monday." Inside, I panicked! "Hospital?!" I thought, "I don't need a hospital. Just a little help."
Sunday morning started out OK. I felt rested. Half way through the church service, though, I lost control again, and ran out of the sanctuary crying. I sat outside on the steps and sobbed. Dave followed me out and held me. All I could do was ask over and over, "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?" He didn't answer because, of course, he had no answers.
And now it was Monday morning and I was staring at a wall. In a hospital.
A short rap on the door was followed by a soft "Good Afternoon." I turned to look in the direction of the voice and saw it belonged to a pleasant middle-aged black male face. He shook hands with us and slouched comfortably into his chair, sifted through some papers on his desk, and brought out a file with my name printed in the corner. All I could think was, "They're quick. Doesn't take long to become a number in the computer."
He looked at me. I tried to maintain eye contact. I wanted to at least look like I had some volition in this decision. But, seeing the compassion in his eyes, mine filled with tears and I immediately shifted my focus to a point just south of his chin. "Joanne, your intake information and evaluation conference indicate you are in the midst of a severe depressive reaction."
I shot a sharp glance up to his face and thought rather than said, "Bright deduction. I knew that much."
He continued. "We will be exploring several areas during your stay, not the least of which is the abuses of your childhood..."
I interrupted. "What possible bearing can my childhood have on this situation? I handled all that a long time ago."
He smiled indulgently and I could almost sense him patting my head. "I think you're wrong. I believe you'll discover your childhood is handling you." He paused. I clenched my teeth exhibiting the characteristic "tight jaws" defense I used when I felt backed into a wall.
"Anyhow," he said, "we'll find out in time. Two of our programs are Codependent and Adult Children of Alcoholics. As a child, the life you live in doesn’t go away just because you grow up and leave home. Even if, as you have said, you became a Christian 21 years ago, not all the needed healing was immediately poured into your life.” He paused, then continued, "Just as I went through as a child, and then when I came to the Lord as an adult. And I’m still not perfect.” He smiled. “Just ask my wife.”
I was quiet for a moment. Then asked, "How much time? My daughter is in a program at college in ten days and I need to be there."
"I'm sorry, but you need to stay with us for four weeks. Minimum."
Once again panic struck. "Four weeks?! Oh no, I can't possibly be here that long. I have a house, you know... and responsibilities." I stood up. "We'll go home and talk about it."
Dave stood then, but did not start for the door. He touched my arm. I turned to see his eyes flooded with tears and anguish in his face. "Please ... please stay. If not for yourself, do it for us."
I cried then. How could I refuse him? Dave loved me. He treated me kindly, he cared for me. "I'm so scared...so scared," I sobbed out.
Our tears mingling, he kissed me gently and said again, "It'll be OK, Honey. It'll be OK."
When I saw the Carnival blog and "Recover" was the Word, immediately this story, previously written, fit the context. Other than being poured into one room at one time, it is all true -- believe me, I can recall every detail of that stretch of life.
Recovery did come... not immediately, but it DID... through certain people-- especially my dear husband and the counselor -- and the grace, kindness, mercy and blessing of our dear Lord.
[I was admitted to the hospital on Labor Day, 1987; our 2nd anniversary was September 21st. I was released October 7th.]