(Unedited) These past two sessions with Beatrice have been complete with a myriad of whys? Many of which I cannot answer. That is hardly unusual for me. Whether it is a question of remembering or just an inability to zero in on what I think about the question. I can’t say it is always like that though and over the years I think my insight and focus has improved. When we revisited the Nor’easter morning a few sessions back I found myself actively searching for the answers. That continues. It was such a pivotal and important event. I believe it needs to be understood.
“Why did you call me rather than Virgil that morning”? It was an innocent and straightforward question. It was one I had been asked before. I let my mind play back the tape. Looking carefully for evidence to answer her query. I saw a lot of things, not the answer.
“Was it because you felt she would have stopped you?” hmmm. Well yes that is part of the answer. I don’t know that I could have heard her voice and walked away. In the moments when crisis is imminent and I am skating on batshit Virgil does indeed have the ability to reel me in. At times it is a tough love, knock it the fuck off and others it is with a steady quiet redirection. I told Beatrice a story.
Back during one of my hospitalizations (in the past 12 years) I was on a unit with a middle aged man. He spent much of his time shuffling along with a cane. The movement an odd mix of heavy doses of antipsychotics and an injury. I kept my distance. Even with the slow movement I was pulling a very threatening vibe off this guy. Each time his wife would visit they argued. It doesn’t take much to hear a raised voice. The unit was library quiet. I would watch from afar and continued my worrying about this guy. On a beautiful afternoon during visiting hours I cast my glances from my visitors back to he and his wife. The alarm bells in my head were ringing. I have spent enough time inside to know when a meltdown is probable. I told my family they had to go. I rushed them out the door. They were confused but considering they were visiting me in a psych hospital they all just accept strange behavior as it comes. With little argument they left. In the minutes that followed I watched as an all out brawl began between this man and his wife. Those arguments paled in comparison. Especially considering there was now a cane involved and some hitting and shrieking. Every hair on my body stood up. This was bad. really fucking bad. At all psych hospitals they have a means of communicating the need for more help. A button is pushed and an alarm goes off to signify that a unit is having a problem. The sign up on the wall shows which unit needs people. Once that buzzer is going non critical staff are pulled from other units. At run they make their way across that enormous hospital. In most cases the first one or two arrive within a very short time, under a minute as they are usually from the unit above or below. The others have a little longer trip. These two were going at it and neither were backing down. With 4 staff members trying to get them apart. Now 6. It was like watching a train wreck. This guy was well beyond enraged. That slow shuffle was replaced with an unreal amount of power. I was frozen to my spot well down the hall. I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to. Once they got to 8 people I felt for sure they never were going to get this guy under control. That panic switch in my brain tripped. Every ounce of me knew I had to get out of that unit. I had to be far away from the screaming and fighting. I fled to my room which was right near where I was standing. One of the magnificent details of this old hospital was the huge windows. They are over 5′ and each have wide sills. They are screened heavily to protect the patients and prevent escape but are still beautiful. I don’t remember crossing the room, or even climbing up on that sill. I do remember hanging onto that screen and pleading to be let out. I had to get out that window. Away from the commotion and the danger. I shook like a leaf and cried in my panic. I was so sure they would not be able to stop him. A cold sweat clung to me as I stared out through the screen and prayed to teleport out of that room. I picked up my phone. I didn’t know what else to do. Virgil’s phone rang and went to voicemail. My panic ratcheted up. I don’t know that I have ever felt that degree of pure panic. I shook and held my knees to my body while staying as close to that window screen as possible. My phone rang. Virgil. I must have sounded near incoherent as I tried to convey to her how badly I needed her to get me the fuck out of there. right now. I was crying hard enough and my breathing was so shallow creating the sentences were hard. I still remember her words and the sound of her voice. She made it very clear I needed to get my shit together. To stop it or I was going to end up in restraints like the guy they were dragging down the hall. did I want that??? It was like being slapped. It was 100% what I needed to hear in that moment. Had she comforted me I would have continued in that hyperventilated state. I would have melted down just as I was when I picked up the phone. The authority and edge in her voice made me take notice and to stop for a second and hear what she was saying to me. I had been in restraints enough that I knew damn well I was not doing that again. NO. Absolutely not. She was showing me there were going to be consequences if I did not try to get some control over myself. I was still terrified. I knew it and she knew it. As I caught my breath and was able to come down off that ledge she settled back to her empathetic self. The one that reassured me I was safe. That they would control him. They would keep me safe. I did not need to worry or panic. Shortly after that a staff member came to take me off the unit and go for walk while they continued to deal with the crisis on the unit. Virgil had, in fact, talked me off a ledge. I had hard evidence. proof.
Was that why I had chosen to call Beatrice? I believe it was. As I told her that I watched the breath catch in her chest. I knew that hurt her. I hurt. I apologized. I knew I was being brutally honest. It was what had to be said. I could have just shook my head and said I don’t know. I didn’t. I hate to think my words hurt her. As we continued in the following session I tried to make that clear. I know my actions that morning hurt a lot of people. Just as my honesty about why I made some of those choices continue to hurt people. It is hard to think about. nevermind talk about. We have to. That morning needs to be processed. There are answers there in my mind and in my choices and actions. If we can figure them out we can hopefully head off ever ending up repeating that.
I don’t know that I would have been able to hear anyone that morning in the biting wind and driving snow as my frozen fingers clung to the phone. I was not in a place of listening as I had moved to a place of decisive action. My words were rambling and mostly jumbled. Had I moved past reality and into my own head so deep and dark it was blinding? I believe so. Had Virgil been on that phone would I have stepped off that stool and into the noose waiting for me in the wind? I am not sure. I feel I would have anyhow. It is an awful thought. Just as it is crushing to revisit that darkness. Not in a depressing way, or in a provocative way. It is just sad to think about having reached such a desperate place that I would choose to end my life like that.
We spoke about the phone call and the choice to even make one. My thought is ultimately there was ambivalence. Think there always is. It isn’t about death. It is not about killing yourself it is about killing the pain and suffering. the body and mind is solely the vessel. If there was a way to end the suffering and pain yet remain alive I think many would choose that. We don’t want to die. We don’t want to hurt. We are worn to the bone. Etched away slowly but surely till we are brittle and hollow with nothing left in reserve. It is that empty hollow place surrounded by the thousands of distortions created by a mind numbed and hindered by disease. It is the conduit that leads to suicide. I may well have been ambivalent. Truly. I walked out into the raging storm. there was a reason I put a phone in my pocket. There was a reason I used it. Who I chose to call is important, but ultimately so is my decision to even reach out.
I chose to drop that phone in the snow and step off into weightlessness. I do not remember any of her words to me in that moment. It was my choice. I did not want to suffer. I could not cope with it anymore. That eclipsed my fear of harming everyone in my life including Beatrice and Virgil. I think our return to this is critical. We need to process it. To come to terms with my ability to harm both myself and my loved ones. To apologize and accept. To understand and to revisit. Those are all critical. I do not ever want to be in that place again though I fear it is inevitable. It is one more trauma to add to all the others. I believe we can break it down and look at it. I know we can do that work. It is so important. I sit in awe of our resilience and of our ability to revisit the most painful of moments. I am willing to do this work. I know suicidal thoughts have been my companion for most of my life. They have been a coping mechanism. It is hard to let them go or to consider life without my escape plan. I accept her challenge to try to let them go and find new ways to cope when the depression is so dark or when life is hurling curve ball after curve ball at me. I know this won’t be easy. It may well be one of the hardest things I do in this life. I am okay with that.