Yesterday marks the day. January 18, 2019. The day I was checked into the ER at Presbyterian. The same day I had come back from Boston with a suitcase full of clothes and a mind full of distressing thoughts. The same day I somehow made it to my grandma’s house, where I dropped off my bag and waited for my aunt. This would be the first time since St. Catherine’s that someone would be with me. The first time in a long time that someone would access a window into the world that was psychiatric emergencies.
When we got to the ER, everything was taken away from me. Notably, my backpack that contained a book or two, pens, the Bible, and my headphones. I was allowed to keep the Bible. I didn’t think to pack a few clothes. My brain was too disorganized to think of anything besides what my mom calls the seven famous words. I was placed into a room, similar to that of a jail cell. Stripped down bear with white walls and nothing but a small bed. Later my aunt would call this room the “me and you must never part” room, because these moments we shared felt as if I were Nettie and she was Celie from the Color Purple. We sat, her on the outside, me on the inside with walls oceans wide between us for hours. Hours during which blood and urine were taken. Hours during which many people asked, “So what brings you in?” So many times that I had memorized a default response. Hours after which it was determined that I need to be hospitalized, yet again. Stay # 3 within 2 months, stay number 5 within a lifetime. Quite the track record. At last, my aunt was allowed to come in. She asked if I was okay and gave me a hug goodbye. And then like Nettie I went and journeyed towards my own sort of Africa- a foreign, faraway place, for a time period that only God knew.
My next stop was CPEP- Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. CPEP was nicer, more welcoming. The walls were painted blue; one had a tv on it. There was a refrigerator with food and beverages, and a place to shower, and things to color or do puzzles with. I mainly stayed in my room. Lying in bed staring up to the ceiling, thinking the infamous thoughts. A nurse came in to check on me every fifteen minutes. During one of these checks, the string in my Bible was detected. They had to cut the string out of my Bible. The Bible I had brought the week after I was discharged from St. Catherine’s with birthday money. That Bible represented a new start and now it was severed, just like I believed my chances to survive were.
Within a few hours, I was told that the ambulance was here. I was being transferred to Westchester as per my request. I asked that I stay within New York Presbyterian and not be transferred to another hospital, even if it meant going to Westchester. It was night time then, maybe 7 or 8 o’clock. The ambulance ride was unremarkable. At the end, they wheeled me in and lowered the stretcher. I let my legs hang down and then I stepped off. Here I was. In Africa. A place I would call home for the next few months.
Next up, another round of questioning and physical examinations and doctors, nurse practitioners, and social workers- the whole bunch of them. By the time I got to the unit, it was probably about 10. I was greeted by a nurse and a mental health worker. My blood pressure was taken, my weight, and a body map. I was assigned to a room with a stranger, as is customary. I was too tired to worry. I got into bed and quickly went to sleep.
Today marks the day. January 19, 2019. The day my mother and aunt first came to visit me at Westchester. The day they saw me clad in blue paper scrubs, smelling of must due to not being able to take a shower. The day they brought my toiletries and a few clothes. The day they spent about two hours just being with me and talking to me. The day they once again said goodbye and went home, leaving me there as they would many times.
Yesterday marks the day. January 18, 2020. One year post my admission to Presbyterian. It starts off at 7:45 am. I get up and get ready for a doctor’s appointment, putting my leggings on underneath my sweatpants so that I can go to the gym afterwards. At the doctor’s, I’m reminded of the physical scars of my battle. The tiger like stripes that line my forearm that I show as a last resort as the nurse struggles to find a vein for blood work. The dreaded number on the scale from weight gain.
At the gym, I try to distract myself from thinking about what this day meant and what it means now. I blast Jesus is Born through my headphones. “Lord I love you more than anything. Lord I love you more than anything.”On the elliptical, I push my legs up and down as hard as I can. On the rower, I pull and pull. On the treadmill, I put the incline all the way up. I’m trying to have a good workout, but I’m still somewhat distracted. I want to start running. But I stop midway. I can’t do this. I just can’t do this right now. Last year, I was in the hospital on this day. I’m still trying to process it all. I don’t know how to feel. Happy. Sad. Confused. Relieved. So many different feelings over something some people might forget.
Mom picks me up. She asks how my workout was. I say okay. Could have been better. That’s me; always discounting my efforts and wanting more. We get home. I make us my favorite strawberry banana peanut butter smoothie. I take a shower. Next thing I know, I’m asleep for most of the day. Sleeping away the thoughts about what this day means. Trying not to process. Slightly worried that this tiredness I’ve been feeling may be the start of another episode. 4:00pm. Time to go to work. Work. Home. TV. Then I’m sleeping again.
Today marks the day. January 20, 2020. One year post the day after my admission to Presbyterian. It takes me a while to get out of bed. For a minute, I contemplate not going to church. Then I think about how good God has been and get out of my bed. I also think about my post church Whole Foods trip that is a highlight of my week. I get in the shower. Get dressed. Make up my bed. Brush my teeth. Wait for the rest of my family and then off to church we are. I feel kind of weird. Not like myself. Still processing what everything means. The ride to church is a quiet one.
The message is entitled “Get up, You Ain’t Dead”. PT talks about the story of the religious leader who asked Jesus to awaken his daughter from death. He talked about silencing the noise. Silencing the noise of doubt. Silencing the voices in your head. The ones that say the seven infamous words. That message was for me. He talked about not listening to the devil’s funeral music. I can’t count how many times I listened to “This Woman’s Work”, the Maxwell edition when I was depressed. That message was for me. He talked about getting up and knowing that as long as you have breath in your lungs, God has a purpose and a plan for your life. God has the ability to do anything as long as you have the faith to believe. That message was for me.
Yesterday marks the day. The day that I was admitted to Presbyterian.
Today marks the day. The day after I was admitted to Presbyterian.
Both days mark the start of a long journey. A journey that I am still processing. A journey I don’t know how to feel about. A journey I sometimes can’t find the words to say about. But I do know one thing, through it all God and my aunt’s spirit were carrying me. So many times, I saw one set of footprints. So many times, I lost my faith and my hope. But God, You were carrying me. Auntie, you were carrying me.
Today marks the day. January 19, 2020. The day that I decide to silence the voices. The day that I decide to silence the fear. The day that I decide to walk in faith and not by sight. The day that I realize that my life has a purpose and a plan. The day I start writing that movie that’s been burning inside of me.