Juggling time and place had become difficult for me. My world seemed to be out of control. The only way to regain control would be to put on my bathing suit and swim, as I had when I was a teenage junior lifeguard in Henrico County, Virginia. I backed into a dirt road to hide from the world. It was a warm day, and I stopped to get my thoughts together. But the time slipped away; before I knew it I was late for work, something that rarely happened.
I burst into the president’s office and blurted out that I would be the next president of the company, the second-largest printing company on the East Coast. Using explicit language, I said a woman had never been president, and I would be the first. I became agitated and annoyed as he stayed calm. This episode didn’t last very long; he told his secretary to phone my husband to come and get me.
I left in my little Datsun blue pickup truck and paid no mind to his statements of concern about my driving. The company had two facilities, and I drove to the second one, which was a little further east in downtown Richmond, Virginia. I burst in and announced that the building should be a school for printing. I gave the director of the facility a school bell, which I’d put into my briefcase that morning. Without giving him a chance to talk, I rambled on, describing how the school should look and explaining why a school for printing was so important. He offered to drive me home, but I escaped and drove myself back to the main facility.
By this time, everything appeared to be occurring in slow motion; the faster I thought I was going, the slower I went. I returned to the parking lot of the main facility, unsure of what to do next: go back into the building or go to my husband’s workplace just a few miles away.
My mind raced between thoughts of the punishment and not being able to focus on anything. The day was warming up, and I couldn’t figure out how to operate the air conditioner. I drove to the automobile shop where my husband worked, very slowly and mostly on the wrong side of the road. I tried to remember a shortcut through the park and got lost just two miles from my destination.
When I arrived at the shop, my husband was busy with customers. So I went into the parts room and fell asleep standing up. I had not slept for three or four days. A little while later my next-door neighbor appeared and said he would take me home.
Riding home, I could hear his voice in my head; it kept getting louder. It told me I was a bad mother and wife, and that it was a good thing I could not have any more children. Yet I can’t recall saying anything.
I went into the house and took three darts from the dartboard and threw them at his back door. I went back into my house and cried. I was very confused and saw flashes of colored lights go past my window. Filled with remorse, I went to my neighbor’s backdoor and replaced the darts with bells.
My neighbor’s wife was a nurse, and she had returned home from work. My husband was home also. It was late in the afternoon, and their focus was on getting me to a hospital. From my bedroom window, I saw the three of them having a conversation, I knew it was about me, but I was busy removing my clothes, then putting them back on, over and over again.
Through the window, I could see them pointing at me. I went out of my bedroom and through the front door into the patch of woods beyond the front yard. My head was racing and felt big, bigger than life itself. I went out to the street and sat in the ditch. I got up and took off my shorts and top and, now naked, put my arms and hands up to stop the traffic. That seemed to bring me relief.
I went back into the woods and put my clothes on. I heard someone calling my name and walked slowly around to the back of the house. My husband asked me where I wanted to go. I said, “Church.” My husband and my neighbors took me to Westbrook Hospital in Richmond.
I had been betrayed! They persuaded me to go into the lobby. I would not stay. I kicked, bit, yelled, and screamed. My first husband had left me while I was in the hospital for situational depression. The nurse tried to give me an injection, and I knocked it out of her hand. I was not about to stay voluntarily.
My neighbor went to the magistrate’s office in Henrico County, Virginia, to obtain a green warrant to admit me non-voluntarily to the hospital. A Henrico police officer escorted my husband and me to Saint Mary’s Hospital. I was held down in the back of the police vehicle. I relaxed in my husband’s arms and was taken to the psychiatric intensive care unit (ICU). I lost all sense of time and remember waking up in a small padded room with a small window on the door. The light switch was outside the room and was controlled by the staff. I would bang on the door to get them to keep the light on, so I could distinguish between day and night. My confusion about the time was compounded by medication and sleep. It was hard to think.
Three days later, I found myself sitting at a table in the psychiatric unit with the police officer who brought me into the hospital, a special judge who didn’t look like a judge, and a lawyer who was there to represent me (although I had never seen or talked to him before that day). There were other people in the room, but I don’t remember who they were or why they were there.
They read the allegations against me. I felt like a criminal who had not committed any crime. I did not drink, yet I felt as though I had a hangover—addled and in a cloud, consumed by unconnected thoughts. I had to admit I had a mental illness, manic depression, which I’d never heard of before. I didn’t even know what the spokesperson for the group was talking about. They talked about moving me somewhere else; I feared it was to another padded cell. I was frightened and confused about what would happen to me next.
Who Was I?
Who was I, and what was I doing when the clouds began to form? Who was I, and what was I doing when the clouds began to turn dark? Who was I, and what was I doing when the lightning flashed and the thunder began to sound? I was confused. From which direction did the lightning and thunder come? My head hurt so badly; the pain was almost unbearable. My mind kept repeating over and over: how loud and how long will this thunder storm last? How long will the pain last? The clouds were full, the rain poured down, and the tears poured out for help, and I said, Who am I, and what am I doing? The clouds started to break up, and the rain ended. The clouds were just as empty as my heart and my head. In the emptiness, I could hear God calling my name. It is only after the storm, after the lighting, thunder, and rain, that we fill back up from the emptiness. It is in the broken clouds that we have rain and in the broken grain that we have bread. It takes a broken person to reach out for help, to reach up to the One who returns a greater power than an individual ever had. I now have hope and am helping and educating myself, family, and friends; we are overcoming the barriers and preventing the pain. I come to you in remission from manic depression (bipolar disorder). I ask you to wear a yellow ribbon for hope, so that those who are broken will become whole and their personal storms will fill up with the light from the sun and the Son.
I use HOPE as an acronym for:
Helping yourself first, to obtain the hope that you dream for yourself, then share it with others
Overcoming the barriers, as we all have them
Preventing mental pain through prayer, prescriptions, and psychiatrists
Educating yourself; learn about yourself first, then share with others