May 17, 2016

Mom Interrupted

May 17, 2016
The grocery store parking lot should have been a familiar place to her.  She had been there countless times before but she couldn't remember leaving her house and driving there.  The sun was shining hot and the AC in her car was blowing cold air but she sat there sweating. The world outside her started to spin.  Tears started to fall and the confusion felt heavier than before.  She grabbed her phone and texted the babysitter asking if she could tell her why she had left or where she was going.  She was stuck sitting still but falling apart. It was happening again.  

Later that week a scheduled routine appointment gave her confidence in finding out what was wrong with her.  The thread of hope she clung to was just enough to get her through the next few days.  She convinced herself "it" was hormonal and the doctor would fix it.  She believed a simple procedure or new medication would end the depression she had been drowning in.  The depression she had been suffocating in had taken a toll and she needed and wanted help.  

Unexplained sadness had held her hostage for years.  Symptoms of depression masked who she truly was deep down and she hated it.  The side-effects of  medications had further buried her deeper and deeper into who she never wanted to be.  She felt like a stranger to herself and to her family.  The only thing she desired was her bed where she would hide under blankets and pillows. Days became blurry, her thoughts bullied her soul.  Her spirit was crushed from the pain that shattered her heart.   But she continued to fight.  She had to.  She was a mom.

That day she actually managed to walk confidently into the doctor's office.  Her hair was washed and she wore a bright dress with sandals.  Before the doctor could say anything she proclaimed her painful truth and declared it had to be hormonal and to do whatever she could to fix it.  And then, just after her strong, yet desperate, announcement she broke down.  She began to sweat and the tears started pouring.  She was emotionally out of control, completely confused.  She was once again defeated by irrational emotion.  After a series of medically required questions, she found herself being escorted across a parking lot to the hospital.  Willingly, but terrified, she stepped off the elevator and onto the fourth floor where she was admitted as a psychiatric patient. 
After a long evaluation by the psychiatrist she was diagnosed with serotonin syndrome.  The sweating, confusion, rapid heart rate and relentless crying pointed the doctor to his conclusion.  He was sure of it once she couldn't answer a simple addition problem or count backwards from 100.  He cross checked her medications and was quickly appalled at the doses prescribed.  Too much serotonin over a long period of time had her living in an emotional nightmare.  He tried to calm her by saying it would only take 24 hours to flush her system and that tomorrow would be better.  While that gave her hope, it was the next 24 hours that truly made her want to vanish.  Forever.  

The floor was smaller than other hospital floors she was familiar with.  The nurses station was empty yet intimidating.  The walls were bare, the carpet stained.  She was led to a room with a plastic mattress and pillow without a case.  Her roommate was rocking and moaning on the bed next to hers. The nurse instructed her take off her dress, shoes, and jewelry.  Before she could protest the nurse assured her it was for her safety and that it was the rules.   Her body shook as she undressed.  The tears pressed on.  Her eyes were swollen and her head pounded.  The nurse became impatient and scolded her to stop crying.  But she couldn't.  Two more nurses walked in and held her down.  She felt a sharp sting on her backside and she felt the room turn upside down.  Within seconds she was paralyzed.  She could only feel the hot tears roll down her face.  Her vision blurred.  Her legs felt like concrete columns stuck in quick sand.   

A patient outside the door was strapped to her wheelchair to keep her from throwing herself out of a car that she had imagined she was in.  Another patient, thin and frail, was scratching the wall attempting to make a hole out of her hell.  The nurses station became a bar to another patient who insisted she wasn't drunk but wanted one more beer.  She focused her attention back to herself as if she was on the outside looking in.  There she sat.  The mom who's life had been horribly interrupted.  She wasn't crazy.  She hadn't done anything wrong.  She was just sad and confused and didn't know why.  She was suffering from a syndrome she had no knowledge of.  She was physically helpless and in severe emotional despair.  

Her purse was taken from her.  She had nothing but the gown they dressed her in.  She willed her body up and out of the room.  A male patient stood there softly smiling at her.  He encouraged her to play cards or bingo with the others and "act normal".  She managed to communicate that she wanted a phone.  She wanted to call her husband.  He smiled at her and lead her to the phone.  It was barely hanging on the wall and the cord was long but tangled so tight she could hardly put it to her ear.  She pushed the buttons and waited for her husband to pick up.  She fought for the words that were bleeding from her heart.  Her desperation cut right through the phone.  She wanted out.  A place that was to keep her safe and help her get better was just the place that would break her to irreparable damage.  
Her husband was frantic but promised he'd do everything he could.  She hung up the phone and collapsed in the chair next to her.  Her muscles were weaker than ever. The kind patient stood there, towering of her.  His gentle smile hadn't faded.  He encouraged her to stop crying and eat.  He hinted that eating in front of the nurses would help prove she was sane and willing to cooperate thus getting out quicker.  But she couldn't.  The tears would not stop for anything.  And one bite of food would make her sick.  Her bladder was full but she held it knowing she was striped of her privacy.  Once she stepped onto the fourth floor her rights were taken away.  She was nothing but a weak patient.  Her will had no power.  

After several hours of crying she was exhausted.  The shot she had received earlier continued to make her feel heavy.  Her roommate was moved to a different room.  She found herself alone on the bed.  She stared out the window only to see the roof of the hospital.  It was dirty and desolate.  Aside from her pulse, she was dead inside.  
Photo Courtesy: Brittany Stover Photography

The next morning came and blinded the room with sunlight.  It was so bright it hurt to open her eyes.  A sense of panic immediately rushed in and stirred her emotions again.  The medicine had worn off so she was able to move quickly.  She found the phone down the hall and dialed the numbers to reach her husband.  There was nothing that could offer hope but her husbands voice that promised he was trying.

She walked back to her room where a nurse was waiting for her.  She was given a tooth brush and toothpaste.  Her task was to brush her teeth and get herself together before seeing the doctor.   Once again she had an appointment with mercy.  

His hair was so gray it was white.  He was dressed in black from head to toe.  She remembered bits and pieces of seeing him the day before.  She remembered not being able to count.  She remembered being confused as he asked her a series of endless questions.  But today was different.  She could answer questions.  Without looking at her he asked if she had night sweats.  For the first time in years, she realized she hadn't.  He said the symptoms caused by the overdose of medication would continue to fade.  Without a shred of compassion in his voice, he continued on with what the next few days or weeks would be like.  Fighting back more tears,  she told him over and over that she didn't belong there.  She needed to be home.  She was mom, a wife, a daughter.   She wanted to live.   
What would people think and say? She felt so ashamed that she ended up there. This would be just another secret to tuck away.  She had to get out before anyone knew anything had happened.  She craved a hot shower and the mundane routine that had sustained her before.  It was her instinct to get back to doing life no matter how emotionally miserable she was.  

Just minutes before joining the others to act "normal" in a desperate effort to prove herself sane, she called her husband to see if he had found a way to get her out.  Relief surged through her body and filled her soul as he told her he would be there in two hours.  Two hours!  It was enough to stop her body from trembling.  Having nothing to gather or pack she sat against the wall across from the elevator and waited.  

What seemed like an eternity later, her husband finally arrived as promised.  Still feeling weak, she managed to pull her body up from the floor and tightly secure her arms around him. She held on until her muscles gave out. Her terror and anxiety immediately fled.  She was safe.  He was there for her.  It was over.  
Photo Courtesy: Brittany Stover Photography

 For a long time she was ashamed at what she experienced.  Her struggle with depression was humiliating enough and then there was the "episode".  She had cried out before but felt few truly heard her.  The social stigma of depression proved itself.  No one wanted to talk about it.  She often wished she had a different, but "acceptable", illness.   Her truth was depression.  Her disease was depression.  Her weakness was depression.  With the grace of God she continued on to fight.  A dear friend reached out.  Her husband's patience and kindness never faltered.  Her strength started to grow again.  
"Depression attacks an organ just like many other diseases.  The only difference being there is a great lack of compassion and understanding for those who suffer from it." - Unknown