I have had one comment that somebody enjoyed this so I will continue. Thanks so much to all the followers I have got already. You don’t know how great it is to get recognition from people that have just met me or have never met me in person. I can’t believe how well my first day went. This A.B. and I am so happy to be alive.
It was another two weeks before I could get an appointment with SMI. I knew almost immediately that I didn’t belong there. We had found out somehow that SMI was like social security for those unable to work because of their mental illness, no money but free health care. The waiting room was a dirty linoleum postage stamp and the building itself was tucked away in a corner of a lonely plaza that was more parking lot than buildings.
The patients or the sick, or whatever you want to call them were unsettling. A majority of them wore sweat pants and Velcro shoes, most of them didn’t look like they had the faculties to manage laces. One man stared headlong into the abyss of space. Occasionally he was led to a different area or into the adjacent conference room.
I didn’t belong here.
It was roughly a half hour after our appointment time that I was actually called back. The girl that led me down the hallway was young, pretty and petite, and also my evaluator.
We sat down on either side of a desk. On the walls were pages from a coloring book that were sloppily colored in as if by a small child. The thought that they were a patient’s handiwork crossed my mind.
She started up her laptop and started in on the questions. I started with my answers. It was just like the first two times. Family history, symptoms, and my own personal history. I went into further detail this time, hoping this time I could get it right. She typed dutifully on her laptop, making noises of pity and understanding. I believed she was a good listener.
Toward the end she said, “You know you’re the third person I’ve seen that’s been sent from that doctor.”
Somehow that made me feel better, I wasn’t the only one to be rejected by that head shrink. In my mind she was just lazy and didn’t want to deal with another patient.
The evaluator heard everything I had to say, I had said everything I needed. She explained the benefits of SMI, but she assured me it might take a while to be accepted. That’s when she brought out the sheet with the various clinics on it.
She circled the name of the clinic several times with her pen. “Now, if you need immediate help, you can go here and they will start you on a medication plan. They’ll help you, alright?”
I waited a week and a half, and then I couldn’t wait any longer. I went through the rush and the crushing depression almost daily. One moment I was on a roller-coaster of thoughts as they eventually clustered together to pain me like an electrical shock. The next I was on the ground with lead weights on my shoulders, seeing nothing in my future but death.
So, that’s when I decided I needed to go to the clinic. That’s why and when I cut myself so deep. That’s how I ended up here in this receiving area of the clinic with a piece of tape on my arm, telling a stocky black man my basic information.
The door had locked behind us, was locked when we ringed on it. I was locked in.
“The evaluation will take three to ten hours.” said the black guy; I think his name was Frank.
We explained we already knew this, my mother sat beside me.
“Did you do that yourself?” he pointed to the cut.
“Alright, we’ll get that treated.” He collected the forms he’d given us. There are always forms.
I parted ways with my mother. She promised that a family friend would pick me up when I was ready. She had so much misplaced hope.
I was led to another waiting area. There was carpet here and on the small side of the room was a circle of counters and desks. Several people were working at the desks. It was here, adjacent to the receiving area that my situation got worse.
Frank retrieved a plastic bag. He told me to empty my pockets. He placed the contents of my pockets in the bag: Phone, iPod, and wallet all gone. He said he needed my messenger bag; I handed over the bag which contained a notebook and some other things to pass time.
Then he asked for my shoes.
That was my first red flag.
“Anything sharp on you?”
I patted my pockets. He asked for me to turn them out, I did.
“Okay we’ll call you up in a little bit. Until then just sit down. Do you need a blanket or pillow?”
“No, I’m okay.”
Now I went into the large part of the room. All I could think is that it looked like a Catholic’s idea of Purgatory with recliners. The chairs were long and squared off sharply. Made of some sort of unholy vinyl, they reclined enough for someone to sleep. There were five rows of the chairs lined up like theater seats, but only a few were occupied. Most of the occupants were sleeping, all the others were watching one of the two TV’s which were set into either corner of the Purgatory. The TV’s played daytime television on network channels, torment for anyone. Several couches lined the walls. They flipped out to become beds, they were all occupied by sleeping figures, most of which had blankets over their heads. The couches were extremely close to the TV’s, it must have been hard to sleep like that.
Maybe this was more of a hellish waiting room than one like Purgatory.
I sat down on a lone leather seat against the back wall. It was the only one of it’s kind and I thought that made it special. Plus there was no way I was going to join the theater watching daytime TV, I spent enough sick days at home trying to watch that garbage.
I had acquired quite a few sick days during my time in school. Missing came so easy to me. I always had pains, but when I felt down like I often did I could turn a mere stomach ache to a reason to miss school. I missed almost a month straight one time. I would come back to school and my peers would say “I thought you were dead.” which when you were dealing with suicidal depression isn’t a great of statement to hear. I missed a lot of school and I spent it cemented to a chair, watching TV and old movies. Sometimes it’s hard to just keep living.
I know people have it rougher than me, and that people have done more with less, but I didn’t. I didn’t know how. I couldn’t push off every little slight that hit me in life. They ate at me like acid, burning holes through my skin down to my bones. I didn’t know how people got past the insults and prodding that came daily. I didn’t know anything about being normal, for I always felt off. I was constantly caught between the swinging of an amusement park ride that would always break down after it swung up long enough. And when I was broken down depressed and unable to move, I couldn’t stand to see people skipping along through life like nothing ever hurt them. So, I stayed away from school, from church, and from other people in general.
When your brain tells you that you should kill yourself, it would be easier, your mind is damaged. It took me eight years to convince people that it wasn’t just a phase, that there were pieces missing from me. I was a puzzle with parts missing from the blue sky, from certain angles I seemed complete enough. But those pieces make the puzzle whole, it can’t be right without them.
I had been to many a shrink, but never one with a prescription pad; I knew that must be what I was missing.
Pills, my mother was terrified of them. They had killed her sister. They had made my grandmother outlive her own daughter. They never seemed to work for my uncle either; they never seemed to stabilize him. My uncle was actually a great fear of mine. I didn’t fear the man himself; he was all bark, no bite. But I feared becoming him. A totally baseless fear though I held many such fears as that. My uncle’s personality made him a pariah to the family, not his illness. Sometimes it was hard to separate the two.
To be continued tomorrow in part three…