telling the story: give it up {day 6}

6 Oct

{This post, like others to follow, relates to mental illness and suicide. If these things are a trigger for you, please read with care.}

The word vacation should have tipped me off.

I sit in the psychologist’s office and last five minutes before I cry. She eases the story out of me gently, calmly. She doesn’t need to do much prodding. She just asks simple questions and listens. She translates my euphemisms into plain English, says out loud what I am too afraid to say. Down becomes depressed. Do something becomes suicide.

“You have a lot on your mind,” she says. “You can just wait there for a little bit. No stress, no books. It’ll be just like a little vacation.”

I should have known, and maybe I did know what was happening. But her voice was so calm, her eyes were so soft, that I just didn’t care.

It should have tipped me off. So should the police car that came to escort me to the Emergency Room. “Just something we do,” the counselor says. Just something they do, like calling my best friend to come and wait with me until they can see me at the hospital. Until they can prescribe me some medicine to help and send me home.

When they call my name in the ER, Bonnie squeezes my hand and smiles, and I smile back, brave. I walk into the room, and the nurse knows nothing of me. “I have to ask you some questions,” he says, without looking at me. “Have you ever thought about harming yourself or another person?” The words are quick, monotone.

I look at him, surprised. They were supposed to have sent my chart. They were supposed to know.

“Well, yes,” I stammer. “That’s why I’m here. They sent my chart over, and they’re supposed to give me some medicine and send me home. That’s what they said.”

He takes a neon green bracelet out of a drawer and snaps it on my wrist. It is the same type of bracelet we wore at church camps, youth retreats, mega-conferences. It identified you as someone who belonged here, who had paid for your meals and the speakers that were going to change your life. It was the type of bracelet you wore when you were giving it all to Jesus–your dreams, your life, yourself.

“I want you to understand something,” says the World’s Worst Nurse. “I have the right to keep you here, and I am.  This green bracelet means that if you try to run, I will send the police after you and bring you back.”

I begin to cry again, for the 783rd time this week. But he speaks again. “Now, let me tell you something, because you seem like a nice girl. You’re probably not like all of those other people, but you need to go along with what they tell you to do if you want to get out of here quick. And the first thing is to sign this paper, saying that you agree to stay here until you’re better.”

I ask what happens if I don’t sign, and the World’s Worst Nurse smiles glumly back at me. “We’ll keep you here anyway. Except when you apply for a job, the police will have record that you’ve been involuntarily committed.”

All my life, I have heard preachers tell me to “give it up,” to surrender things to God. I have bowed my head and closed my eyes. I have knelt at altars and kneeling benches. I have written things on slips of paper to be ripped up or burned. But I have never given any thing up.

Here, in the triage room of Duke Hospital, for the first time, I open my hands and surrender. They ask for everything, and I do not fight. When the nurse leaves the room, I take off my shirt, my jeans, my socks, my shoes, and put on a cloth robe. I take my cell phone and my keys out of my pocket. They ask for my shoelaces, for a reason I can only imagine.

My husband has been down himself these last few years. I have lied tonight, told him that I am spending the evening with friends. “Don’t wait up for me,” I said. “I’ll be late.”

I put my wedding rings in a plastic Ziploc and give them to Bonnie to give to Josh. I give her my wallet and my books. I give her a message. “Tell him I’m sorry I lied,” I tell her. “I just didn’t want him to worry. I’m sorry.”

She holds my hand as I sign the form and give up myself. Voluntary Commitment, it says on the top, and I think of all those times I committed myself to Jesus. “I’m sorry,” she says. “You are the bravest person I know,” she says. “I love you,” she says and hugs me, right in front of The World’s Worst Nurse.

I walk the long hallway from triage down to the ward with the nurse and the second policeman of the night. Along the wall are the pictures of med school graduates from every year since 1975. They smile their capable, with-it smiles. I look down at myself. I realize that I am holding nothing, carrying nothing.

I always carry something in my hands. A red folder with all the grad school readings I am trying to finish. A notebook in case I get any poignant quotes for a sermon. A Bible. My phone. My laptop. I couldn’t even remember the last time I walked without carrying anything. I couldn’t remember the last time my hands were empty.

At another time, I might have thought of a verse, read to me so many times in church: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” But I don’t.

I just look at my empty hands and walk on.

This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader.

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2 Responses to “telling the story: give it up {day 6}”

  1. amberdawnnoel October 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Dear Christina.

    This breaks my heart, and reminds me of what Jesus says to Peter: “When you were young, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted. When you are old, they will dress you and take you where you do not want to go.”

    I am so, so grateful for this blog. And for your story. Thank you.

    • Christina November 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      Amber,
      I hadn’t thought of that verse, but yes. That’s exactly it. Except sometimes they dress you & take you where you don’t want to go even when you’re young.

      I can’t tell you how much your words mean, you wordsmith and lover of good art! Give Durham a kiss for me. (The double-cheeked European kind, of course.)

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