When a sock monkey is your best friend (excerpts)

From a much longer piece in which I chronicled the history of my “triggers” as a bipolar patient; that ultimately led to a breakdown and subsequent hospitalization:

Struggling every night with when to take the Lithium and Restoril. Waking up “normal” time; so that Bianca could have a normal routine. She still lay quietly at the edge of the blanket when I was attempting to fall asleep. Fall asleep, I could: it was the waking up at two; three; four in the mornings that was increasingly hard to take! That’s when I turned to the Risperidal for a little help: at least, to call me down.

That weekend, Chelsea Clinton was getting married. I was so excited; and spent a great part of the day either in front of the TV or the computer, trying to glean any information I could.

Otherwise, I paced. Up and down the house. Room after room. Over and over. I was beyond restless.

And I wrote. Sad poems; hopeful poems; snippets on paper at the end (and I removed a number of the poems from the computer). I’d been all but frozen in the writing department while I’d been in D.C.; with, chiefly, my gentle social/political satire when I write in my four-year-old persona in Spanish surprising me from time to time; as well as a few cheerful (to melancholy) poems. But now I was writing like mad; in between the pacing.

I stopped using the pool. I could barely finish a chicken salad sandwich I’d made. Ditto for the Lean Cuisines. I was actually shaking!

And, oh, how I dreaded the nighttime! This house was so isolated: after all the gossip mongering at my last genteel, social-status-prone abode in D.C., I’d thought it was just what I wanted; just what I needed. I’d enjoyed it so much at the beginning. For a few weeks, already, though, it had been becoming more and more oppressive to be inside. I actually had to step outside to the porch, at least, to breathe in some “real” air.

And on two occasions — at daybreak, or so — I thought I heard a groan. The original owner; who had died in the house: his death throes.

Pacing, pacing: back and forth among the rooms. Turning the computer on, over and over: for Chelsea; for the new apartment I would soon be moving to; for anything!

Sunday was not much better: it was worse. I’d slept maybe three-four hours the night before: I don’t remember. More Chelsea chasing; more pacing. Less appetite. I thought the house was going to swallow me alive!

That night I took the Lithium and Restoril at my accustomed 8:30 p.m.; and fell asleep at ten. I woke up at two. Beyond that, I couldn’t sleep a wink! No amount of “extra dosage” Risperidal did the trick, any more. By morning, I knew what I had to do: I called the psychiatrist’s office; and got a 10:15 appointment with him.

How I managed to drive the short distance to his office is still beyond me.

He prescribed Seroquel. He said it’d help me sleep. I went to the Target and picked up my medicine. I was supposed to take it an hour or two before bedtime.

I’d met a cabbie in front of the Target. I asked him how much it would cost to drive my cleaning lady back to Fort Lauderdale from Coral Gables after she helped me with my move; scheduled for August 9. He gave me his card; and had a very interesting name: Mylord. I took it as some kind of sign.

Back at the house — always looking this way and that on the way home; praying there was no traffic — I began to investigate the Seroquel on the Internet: how it worked; what it would do; etc. I kept staring at a chart of comparable meds. I’d written “Death Throes” the previous day; as well as the scribbled poems. I continued to pace through the house; going out to “breathe” from time to time. I’d had a Skinny Green Tea Frappuccino at the Target. My favorite. It was going to be another Lean Cuisine night: cannelloni.

In bed, I just picked at it. At its insides; and I threw the rest down the disposal. I was shaking uncontrollably.

It was time to take the Seroquel. I noticed that my eyelids began to droop; but…nothing. No sleep.

Bianca was not on the blanket, anymore. She was under the bed, hiding. She must have been picking up on some very interesting vibrations…but they weren’t good ones. She was scared….because I was scared.

And, I’d had it. At about 11:15 p.m., I threw on my clothes; and remembered to drape myself with my Juicy Couture hoodie I’d picked up at TJMaxx. For the hospital would be cold. Holy Cross was only about three traffic lights away.

I think I said something to Bianca like, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to have to leave you like this.” Then I took Mylord’s card and called a taxi; and took the spare garage door opener with me; so that I could leave the house secure.

I waited for the cabbie sitting down in front of the rock island. He came: I think he was Middle Eastern. He had a tiny bit of trouble finding the ER — I’d been his only customer that evening: perhaps he was taking his time?

I’d used Holy Cross only one time before — I knew they were a very good hospital.

And I placed myself in the hands of the front attendant. I had no idea what would happen next.

Triage came and went. Soon enough I found myself in a room. It’s a good thing I had the jacket — it was cold! I lay on the gurney, wide-awake, until the doctor came.

He was a slightly graying, handsome man, who listened to my tale. At one point, he said, “Well, why don’t you just go back home and take another Restoril?” I’d actually resorted to doing that on several occasions during the past few weeks. I was scared. I said, “No!” I wanted to be hospitalized.

And I’d told the psychiatrist just that, earlier in the day. He’d been his usual sardonic, somewhat sarcastic self…exacerbated, this time, because the a/c in his office was broken! What had he said: “Is that what you really want?”

I’d never before in my life mentioned hospitalization. Even in jest. In fantasies, perhaps; but: no, not really.

I guess I sensed what I needed this time. I was at my wit’s end — I was having a nervous breakdown.

Given that I’d slept only four hours the night before — and had been having more and more interrupted sleep for up to almost a month — and that I didn’t sleep that night in the ER (well, a few attendants caught me dozing a few times) — and that I didn’t really get to sleep until the following night, when I was already hospitalized at a small psychiatric hospital nearby: I was informed that I had something termed “Sleep-Deprivation Induced Psychosis with Mania.” For in bipolar patients, that’s where lack of sleep leads.

Around midnight, the cute doctor got in touch with the psychiatrist. A decision was reached: I was to be “Baker Acted,” so that I could get into the facility more quickly.

Guards immediately began to appear at my door. They even had to follow me to the bathroom. I was urinating copiously. The last fellow — a young redhead — was exceptionally sweet. He even let me look at his iPad!

The paperwork — the ride — took all night. Finally, at around six — in my hospital gown; with all my personal belongings stuffed into a bag — I was led to a car with an enclosed grill between myself and the driver.

This is what it must feel like to be a prisoner.

I was driven the short distance to the small psychiatric facililty. Several more hours of paperwork; and questions; and safeguarding of my belongings; and even a body check! Bianca had been on my mind all night: I was allowed to make a few phone calls. First, to my landlord’s realtor (who — although he and the owner were angry about my breaking the lease — was, nonetheless, an animal lover; and lived only nine houses away). And, second, to my realtor (who was appropriately concerned…but the move was still on for the 9th: in her mind, the sooner, the better!).

This was what occurred between the night of August 2nd and the morning of August 3rd, 2010. Finally, I was led to the ward…

Why a sock monkey, you may wonder? About a month later — groggy on Atavan : a “gift” from the facility; where one mg tablets were dispensed almost like candy— I walked up to Big Lots! — ten blocks away. The sultry late August heat engulfed me, but it was during the daytime; late enough so that the benzodiazepine’s effects were tapering off. Finally beginning to be a little bit more like myself: I can’t resist a little shopping. They had sock monkeys. I bought one; and canned foods; and Halloween placemats; and books; and whatnots: several bags’ worth. I began to walk home. A kind lady pulled over and offered me a ride. Her name was Yoly.

My sock monkey’s name is Yoly. And I have since returned and picked up orange Naranja, for good measure. They both grace my bed.

For you can never have enough sock monkeys, now, can you; when — at your hour of need — she’s/they’re all you’ve got. And Bianca, too, of course (and a small handful of truly good friends).

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: I need my Lithium (and its “helpers”; just as long as they’re not benzos). However, I need regular psychotherapy even more.

I need people around me: good people. Not negative people. Not abusive people. Not “trigger-inducing” people. But — then, again — I have to put in my two bits, too, to provide me with a bit of my own therapy. As Dr. Sagredo — my good friend Rosarito’s therapist — used to say: “Speak to the walls. What you’re supposed to hear is what’ll come back rebounding at you.”

He also said: “The subconscious is seven times larger than the conscious.”

Now, that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?


Copyright, 2011 (Slightly revised, 2017) by Georgina Marrero

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