Sitting in that small room, my hands shaking, I am taking short quick breaths and all I can think is, “I cannot believe I’m here”.
In the middle of the room, a lady lies on a hospital bed asleep, with a drip attached to her arm. In the back of my mind, I hear a song, oddly upbeat, one of those latest Nigerian ones. It gets louder and louder until I see a wiry hand reaching out from under the sheet with a phone.
She answers it and the music stops.
“Oh shoot!” I think, “Is this part of it? Me going crazy?”
Several people are spread out on the chairs, some with obvious wounds and others holding onto their drip bags. It is quiet. My hands are shaking and I can feel my heart pounding, threatening to burst. I continue to think, “I cannot believe I’m here… alone”.
I had woken up in a cold sweat, hung over from the night before, my whole body shaking. I had tried to hold myself together to stop the shaking like I usually do, but I couldn’t. Fear began to rise up in my chest and before long, I was hysterical and confused. I can usually get myself together in a few minutes, but this time the tears would not stop coming; I could hardly breathe.
Getting myself to the shower was easy, but I couldn’t stand and I slipped all the way down to the floor of the shower. Still, the feeling of water pouring down on my head was comforting. I do not remember how long I stayed there, but then I felt it again; that longing for death.
Suicidal thoughts had become a constant companion. Death was freedom: a leap into the light, light rain falling softly on my face, the face of God smiling serenely at me as I lay myself down in Her arms. My idea of death was that it was something better than life. I was not afraid to die; rather, I was scared to live, because living goes on while death is final. I wanted to stop this laboured existence, this laboured breath. And yet, in that moment, something snapped in my mind and I stood up. Ignoring the shaking, I walked out of the shower and frantically searched for my phone.
My survival instinct had kicked in.
My therapist picked up on the first ring.
“I cannot do this Sarah. I need help now. I need to get back on medication; I’m not doing well at all.”
That is how I ended up in casualty.
“You have the right to go to casualty in any hospital and they are obliged to attend to you,” she said. It took everything I had to make my way to the hospital where my therapist works and when I sat down in her office, I was still reeling from the emotional breakdown of that morning.
“Is there anyone I can call to wait in casualty with you?”
For the first time all day, my mind went blank.
No one in my family knew that I suffered from depression and I did not want them to panic when they heard I was in hospital. Friends – I had many – but who would actually show up? I thought of the person closest to the hospital and I asked her to call him. To this day, I do not know what went through his mind when he got that phone call. I am just grateful he showed up.
So here I am sitting in casualty, scared to death. Waiting to see a psychiatrist. I am tense, wondering how long this wait will be…
They call for the third time in a row.
I have been waiting anxiously for about an hour now and I feel like I am sinking. The hospital smell is bringing up bile into my mouth, as I attempt to cover my nose to stop that strong hospital disinfectant smell from reaching my nostrils. Patients have been called out and have left while I have been waiting here with no refuge for my thoughts.
“Finally, this is it” I am thinking. “I’m crazy. They might as well lock me up.”
“Rachel!” they call again and just as I am about to express my irritability at this person holding up the queue, I glance down at my chart and it comes to me. They are using my middle name!
“Yes, that’s me,” I say as I approach the person in a white coat whose look of impatience puts further anxiety on my burden. “Please come this way,” she says as she leads me to a small cubicle with a bed in it, and closes the curtains behind her. “The psychiatrist will be in to see you soon, Rachel.’’
“That is not my first name”, I wish I’d said to her, but I figure I have bigger things to worry about; the psychiatrist, another psychiatrist. This is getting real, again, and I am scared to death to hear it, again, to face it, again. Something is wrong with my mind and I cannot fix it. Something is wrong with me and as much as I hate to admit it, I have always known.
There is a sense of tragedy about my life, which – perhaps too early on – I learnt to embrace. All I seem to remember is this dark ugly cloud that has hovered above me all of my life. Maybe it stems from the unsettling anxiety I have carried since I was a child. Perhaps, it is the melancholy nature with which I have viewed the events of my early years.
The pervading loneliness in my memory is the same I carry now and although the roots and the beginnings feel bitterly painful, I have learnt to make friends with my grief, pain, hate, bitterness and unrelenting nature. While it imparts a strength of character that I can pretend is invincible, there remains a fragility, a sensitivity and depth of sensibility that I find difficult to reconcile as belonging to one personality.
Part Two of this essay will follow next week
Main image taken from www.comotenersuerte.com