So, there is an image that each person portrays. Sometimes it is accurate and sometimes it is not. Sometimes that is on purpose and sometimes it truly is just the way a person expresses themselves. We all have a story. We all have a ride we are taking and you’d probably be very surprised at how much you don’t know about most people. There is a saying about the people in your life that hear you when you aren’t speaking. Those people- those are the keepers. Those are the people you are looking for and that’s the kind of person I pray I can be. The one that is selfless enough to know when someone else isn’t ok and doesn’t have the words. It is very easy to judge a book by its cover. To really believe you know about someone’s life based on the clothes they wear, where they live, what kind of car they drive or how their kids are dressed. The truth is- you don’t. You don’t know a damn thing about anyone unless they specifically told you so. We don’t really ask questions anymore. We just assume things and I feel like that is why so many people are lost. They are trying to live up to false expectations that others have created around them. Trying to reach a height they never intended to create. And, they end up falling. Alone. And scared.
That’s what happened to me. As open and honest as I am about my life- I still fell and the world had no idea. It started as being very tired. Not being a great sleeper ever in my adult life was a really great excuse. Then came the darkness. The sadness. And, the anxiety. Man, was that powerful. Debilitating is a better word. I was all consumed and lost in a dark, dark world and most people in my life had no idea for months. Months! How is that possible that all of my so- called friends and family had no idea. No idea that I sobbed for hours and hours a day in a ball on the floor of my bedroom. Nobody knew why I didn’t show up to volunteer in my sons classroom other than she “didn’t feel well.” They didn’t know I was pretty sure I cracked a rib crying so hard that I couldn’t actually move to get there. My husband knew enough to remove the kids from our home on many nights to protect them from seeing me- but he didn’t know why. I didn’t know why. That is the worst kind of sadness, the kind that you can't explain. All I knew was I couldn’t see anyone anymore. I couldn’t breathe when I left my house and I surely couldn’t properly care for three children. My kids knew I had a lot of really bad headaches that I had never had before in my life. At least that is what I thought they knew. Until that devastating day where my two oldest children let me know in the best way they knew how- that they knew my secret. They knew I wasn’t ok. My son told me that he hears me crying in the bathroom every day. And, my poor daughter, out of desperation told me I couldn’t lay in bed for the rest of my life. These little children were scared to death of me. Their own Mother. The one that is supposed to make everything OK. The one that is supposed to dry their tears. The one that is supposed to guide and steer them. But, instead they were guiding me. They were telling me that things weren’t ok. They were telling me that they knew. They didn’t know exactly what was happening- but they weren’t going to keep quiet anymore. These kids missed their Mom.
The few days following my kids verbalizing what they knew were very scary. The very last thing I wanted to do was scare my children so I would lay in bed all day while they were at school- and as soon as they were due home, I left. I drove around parking lots. I drove down dirt roads. I cried so hard I had to pull over. I wanted to go stay at a hotel alone. I wanted to disappear. I was terrified. I was not OK and I didn’t have a clue why or what to do about it. I went to see a therapist who was just as afraid of me as I was and it only took about three visits to know- she was not equipped for someone like me. The desperation continued and the sadness grew stronger and stronger every hour. I could hardly eat, my blood pressure was through the roof and medically my body was giving out on me. It could not handle the stress it was under.
A very good friend of mine put me in touch with another therapist. A life changing move. This woman took me on and understood what was happening immediately. She made herself available via phone or text 24/7 to me. She assured me I wasn’t too far gone and she was going to help me. She was so confident that I trusted her from our very first phone call. We talked for over an hour every day that first week and I finally started to feel like I might be ok. I went back to work and I gave life a shot. I immediately fell flat on my face. I couldn’t face the world and pretend like it was ok. I was sleeping about one hour per night and I had zero fight. I was crippled. I went to visit a Psychiatrist and he put me on some old school medication that at first did absolutely nothing and then gave me the biggest migraine of my life. A twelve day migraine from hell. I couldn’t have any lights on, I lost vision in my left eye, my short term memory suffered and I had to apply pressure to my forehead to even sit up. It was complete misery and basically the final straw to my existence. I honestly thought I was going to die. I didn’t know what was going to kill me… a heart attack, exhaustion or something else but I had an overwhelming feeling that my physical body was all done. It had carried me as far as it could.
The next day after truly feeling like I was going to die- I called my therapist and said two words, “ I surrender.” I gave up. I was all done. Nothing left to give. No more fight. Just, done. She told me to hang on tight and she was going to handle everything. She called facility after facility after facility looking for the perfect match for me. Looking for a place that could take me immediately and also a place that fit my needs. She put me in touch with three different places and I immediately knew which place was the best fit. Cottonwood de Tucson in Tucson, Arizona offered a 30 day inpatient stay to treat all kinds of disorders but was great in dealing with co-occurring anxiety and depression. They were willing to take me that day.
Telling my children that I was leaving them one hour before leaving them for a whole month was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The fear and sadness in their eyes and the sound of their cries- I will never forget as long as I live. I knew I had failed them. I knew I had let them down and yet at the same time, I had to go save myself to get back to them. I wasn’t acting like their mother. I was a shell of the human I once was. I lost my life and I didn’t have a clue how.
My husband bought a plane ticket to take me out to this place we had never heard of. I quickly made him cancel that ticket to stay with our children. They needed him and I needed to do this myself. I needed to fight for myself, by myself. Terrified is not a strong enough word to describe what boarding that plane was like. I honestly had no idea if I would even go to the facility once I go there or if I would just run away. The hopelessness and desperate sadness I felt was all encompassing. I didn’t recognize myself at all. I didn’t recognize who I saw in the mirror or even my hands when I looked down at them. I was a stranger in my own skin. I was headed out to fight a battle I was pretty sure I couldn’t win.
I arrived at the Tucson airport at midnight which was 2:00AM my time. We arrived 30 minutes early and my driver from Cottonwood was not there. I’d be lying if I didn’t think to myself that it was a sign I should run but honestly I was too tired to figure anything else out. So, I went. To the unknown. In the middle of the night. In a state I had never been to. And I endured the strip search, crazy people questions, weight check and vitals. I signed papers I didn’t read and handed over my cell phone and all my belongings to complete strangers. The only thing I had with me was a single hope and a single prayer. I hope I survive. I pray they can fix me.
The first place they put me was a “detox room.” This place was sterile. It had two beds and looked straight out of a psychiatric movie. Clearly I didn’t need to detox but since I arrived in the middle of the night, they didn’t want to wake other patients by moving me in and they weren’t 100% sure of my mental status so this is where I landed. Let me just tell you that those rooms were not the plush, nice rooms with luxurious bedding that I had seen online. It took me about 20 minutes to completely lose my shit and cry so hard that they ended up moving me “into the community” in the middle of the night. Of course, I had no orders for any medication to calm my anxiety or put me to sleep so I simply waited for the sun to rise in a pitch black room with no clock and with pure sadness in my heart. I can’t imagine a worse feeling than I felt those first few hours. It was one of fear, desperation, lonlieness and the deepest level of internal pain.
The next days came and went as a blur. The silent tears never stopped flowing from my eyes. I met people but couldn’t remember any names. I went to groups but had anxiety attacks and couldn’t stay. The migraine from the old drugs had not subsided and they couldn’t prescribe me any new medications until it was gone. They tried every drug in the book. Finally gave me a shot of something in the butt and put me to bed. It helped for two whole days before it came screaming back. I took a bunch more drugs, another shot in the butt and tried not to puke with all the nausea that followed. It felt like I was wasting time and getting nowhere quickly- if at all. You guys, I was broken. Into a million shattered pieces.
I kept thinking about back home. About my husband and my children. I kept thinking about how much better off they would be without me. Those kids deserved a Mom that could participate in their life and it sure as hell wasn’t me. I just hoped that she would remind them to brush their teeth and make sure they said their prayers and tell them how loved they are multiple times a day. And my husband. I just wanted a partner for him. Someone to participate in life and care for him. He deserved that. That person wasn’t me. Not anymore. That’s the one thing I thought I knew for sure. That’s how powerful the brain is. That’s what my brain told me over and over again. All. Day. Long.
The days came and went and I was prescribed an anxiety medication that they described using a light switch. They said they wanted to dim the anxiety light but not me….and that is what they did. Within a day or so, I felt like I could see straight. I stayed in my groups and I even spoke to a few people. I listened so intently to all the people around me. Some were heroine addicts, some were alcoholics, some had tried to commit suicide, some were court ordered and came straight from jail, some were suffering from the despair of depression or from great loss, but the one thing I knew right away – they were all just like me. We came from all walks of life. We were close in age and decades apart. We were male and female, married and single, Moms and Dads. We were all here because somewhere, somehow, our worlds fell apart. We were all there because we lost our way.
I was active in treatment once I was able to catch my breath. I participated in what I was supposed to do, I attended the groups I was assigned to and I took the medications they prescribed. I was put into trauma therapy right away which made zero sense to me. I couldn’t identify a particular trauma but once I attended the group- I realized I did have trauma. Secret traumas I never talk about. This type of therapy was sometimes in a group setting but mostly one on one. In these groups with this amazing woman, I cried. Hard and often. The kind of crying where your soul hurts. The kind of crying you don’t think can end. It induces physical pain to your heart. Its painful and its therapeutic. These hours were more exhausting than any type of physical activity you could ever imagine trying. The instructions for after the one hour therapy- go directly to your bed and just rest. Ha, as if there was another option after that.
The only communication to the outside world was via phones inside the nursing clinic that you had to use a calling card to dial and only during certain hours were the phones even active. No incoming calls were transferred to patients. No cell phones or media were ever allowed through your entire stay. You were truly disconnected. I spoke to about three different people the whole time I was gone. People weren’t sure where I was. My kids told a story of my headache that was so bad I was leaving for 30 days so I can only imagine what people told themselves and what stories were circulating. I didn’t care. Nothing mattered other than me holding on to that one hope and that one prayer.
I would say it took about 10-14 days before I actually smiled. Before I put on some lip gloss. Before I could see a very dim light out of a very long tunnel. On day 15, the halfway point, I was granted permission to FaceTime my children. The craziest thing happened when I saw them. I MISSED THEM. I felt something. I actually felt something. I missed my kids and I wanted to be their Mom. I didn’t want to find someone else. I wanted to do it. I was the one for them. I felt it and I knew right then and there that I was gonna make it. To be clear, I thought of my children and spoke to them before this day but the only thing I felt was the same muted sadness I had felt for so long. I just felt sorry for them that I was their Mom. But, now everything shifted. I was going to get it together and go home and be the Mom I have always been.
After that phone call, my husband flew out to see me for three hours. Yes, he flew from Michigan to Arizona to spend three hours with me. He got to meet my team and I was excused from one group. These people didn’t mess around. They only had you for 30 days and they didn’t bend many rules if any. I told Matt that he did not need to spend the money or waste the time for three hours but he said that he couldn’t have me go away to this place and not have one person from my whole world ever lay eyes on it. I’m so fortunate to have him on my side. The team held nothing back and discussed my progress thus far and expectations they had of me. Matt left feeling like things were going to be ok if not for just the simple reason that he saw me smile. Life had been bad. There are so many things that Matt saw and heard from me that I can’t take back and he will never be able to erase from his mind but he never gave up on me and I’ve got a real good feeling he never will.
The rest of my stay was just hard work. Lots of groups, lots of sharing, lots of homework and projects to be presented to groups. There was a couple of fierce yahtzee games and there ended up being some moments of laughter. I read a book. A whole book. I haven’t been calm enough or without anxiety to sit still long enough to read a book in YEARS. There were lots of hellos and just as many goodbyes. It’s a process. As ones journey begins, one is about to take the next step. Its humbling. Its inspiring. Its sad. Its heartbreaking. Its awesome. Its life.
So, this was the month of February 2016 for Lindsay Clark. I’m not proud of it. Im not ashamed of it. Im not perfect or anywhere near that unattainable notion. I have great days and miserable days. I feel excited and deep sadness. I’m constantly making changes and rolling through life in the very best way I know how. There really is only one thing that matters at this point, and that is that I am most certainly not broken.
|My admission photo and a 2 weeks after I was home.|