It seemed my whole life was spent studying walls. Counting nails or tacks, bricks, concrete block, or following the flower patterns in wall paper. And now I was studying another wall, nubby plaster painted an 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, Cary. 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, life was good -- and I was falling apart.
The crisis reached a peak two days earlier. Dave and I were attending an outdoor concert on one of those hot, humid late- summer days. 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 check out some hospitals next week." Inside, I panicked! "Hospital?! 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 step 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, Labor Day, and I was staring at a wall. In a hospital. Earlier that day, one of the hospital's nurses, our friend, had suggested, rather casually, that I come over, even though it was a holiday. "One of our counselors will be there and he can talk to you." She revealed later that she knew what was happening and I needed help desperately. She didn't want to risk losing me.
A short rap on the door was followed by a soft "Good morning." 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. "Cary, your intake information and evaluation 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 feel him patting my head. "Cary, 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."
"How much time? My daughter is singing in a program in ten days and I need to be there."
"I'm sorry, but I think you need to stay here 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 reached out his hand and touched my arm. I turned and saw his eyes flooded with tears and anguish in his face. "Cary. Please. Please stay. If not for yourself, do it for us."
I cried then. How could I refuse him? Dave loved me. He was one of few people in my whole life who treated me kindly and with respect. "I'm so scared...so scared," I sobbed out.
Our tears mingling, he kissed me gently and said again, "It'll be OK, Cary. It'll be OK."
This is a story I wrote a number of years ago for a writing group. It's almost exactly what happened at the hospital entry stretch, and it IS exactly what occurred during the previous days at a concert and church. I entered the hospital/treatment center on Labor Day, 1987, 3 weeks before our 2nd anniversary. I would never have expected my body to explode from the goodness of life, but, according to the psychiatrists and counselors, that is exactly what happened. I was the first person who had ever been admitted to this hospital/addiction location as a codependent with a straight-line heart, indicating I was dying. Alcoholics and drug addicts sometimes had it; no one like me ever had. I was a "shocker to even them.
Their description: For years I had been in, or ready for, a battle, needing to fight for myself or others. When being with Dave, I had entered an R & R phase and rested and enjoyed myself. Then, suddenly, my system "needed" to jump back into battles. My internal system "said" the R & R was over. But there wasn't a battle, so "I" was falling apart.
Can I say even now that my month there was a blessing? On God's side, yes. On my side I struggled with nearly every minute, hour, day. But, between that several-week stretch and a couple years of Christian group meetings re: Adult Children of Alcoholics and other basic counseling, I improved. Significantly.