That cruise ship waited for me for at least three months. What it was doing in the middle of the dry prairies never entered my mind. I just knew that it was there for me. The man with the accent couldn’t see it when I pointed it out to him – but it was plain as day for me. Although he couldn’t see it – it certainly surprised him that I believed it was there.
The man with the accent told me that he was going away for a while and that someone else was going to look after me. Even though I could barely understand him, the thought of having to deal with someone new frightened me. The new doctor didn’t know me or understand my hands like the doctor with the accent. And while my doctor went off to Egypt for a month, the new doctor loaded me down with drugs and left me to deal with the hall. The only thing the increased drugs did was make me less frightened by turning me into a brainless blob.
The days melded into the hall, the lunchroom and the entertainment room. Occasionally I would be sought out and herded to the entertainment room where the only phone for the residents was found. I would sit and listen to voices I thought I recognized while I cried and cried. I cried as I listened to the voices expressing love and I cried for the loss of myself. Cid and D called every single day, sometimes two and three times a day, and I sometimes remembered who they were, and sometimes I forgot.
D was stuck back at the barn without a car. Having never learned to drive a standard or manual car, my little red sports car sat in the driveway taunting him. Occasionally he managed to catch the bus in to the big city so he could visit. But, for some reason, the head male nurse took an instant dislike to D and would kick him off the unit if he arrived a few minutes before the official visiting time of 3pm. The nurse didn’t care that an extraordinary effort was made for the visit in the first place. He just didn’t like D.
On weekends, Cid would drive down from Edmonton and spend the day with me. Sometimes he went further south and picked up D and the two of them would come to visit. They would sit and pat my hands and hand me Kleenex, or walk me up and down the hall. Eventually I remembered them as the men who loved me and I didn’t stare up at them as total strangers. I know my brother came to visit a couple of times, but he couldn’t deal with the loss of his sister and it was too hard on him. Other visitors are vague but I know they were there. I just can’t remember much about it.
My mother was not allowed to visit.
When the doctor came back from Egypt, he reduced the amount of drugs I was on, taking me from that somnambulistic stage to a more animated zombie stage. The morning meetings with him resumed and he began to delve into my history and what had caused this meltdown. He took me off ‘close observation’ although I was still not allowed off the hall without approval from him. These conditions came with the promise that I not injure myself, and if I felt like I might, I had to promise to tell someone. I did this daily, sometimes many times a day. I just wanted to end it all and be free of the anxiety and depression and the guilt.
When Christmas rolled around, Cid asked for permission to take me off the unit for a couple of days. D had bought tickets before my meltdown to return home to Ottawa for the Christmas season and it was decided that he would do that as I would only be allowed three days off the unit. I know he felt guilty leaving me, but in my state it didn’t matter. I didn’t have the mental capacity to care or notice that he didn’t come to visit. Instead, Cid picked me up and took me to his mother’s.
I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he decided to do that. His mother certainly had no idea what to do with me and as she spoke more Italian than English – I think it was just plain awful for her. I cried continually and wrung my hands nonstop. Cid did his best to keep me calm but I was terrified of the unknown – of his mother, of being off the hall. I was terrified of the countryside flashing by as he drove us to Lethbridge and back. I’m sure he was grateful to get rid of me when he brought me back to the unit, like handing a crying baby back to its parent, but I know he had tried hard. Most of the time was spent with his arms around me, shielding me from my terror, calling my name to try to reach me. And even now, all I can remember is how terrified I was of everything.
When he got me back to the unit, I almost ran to my room and huddled in my bed. Safe.