Monday, April 21, 2008

'The Man' Tales - Christmas in the Hall

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.

Poor Cid.

30 comments:

Potty Mummy said...

Poor you.

dND said...

From the depths, I feel a turning of the tide. I do hope this is so.

Deborah x

The Rotten Correspondent said...

No wonder you're having such a hard time reliving this. What a nightmare.

Beckie said...

Oh my - I am learning from this.

Shrinky said...

You are a searing writer, your honesty and ability to explain what you experienced is scorching. Thank you for this - I somewhat suspect some of this is similar to what my own mother lived through but was unable to articulate.

Keep writing, brave lady, we are with you holding your hand.

Jules~ said...

I admire you so much for being able to put this all to "paper". I can only imagine the courage it takes to re-live it all so that you can document it.

Daryl E said...

Check out Connie Willis' book Passage.

And I am glad you felt able to keep at it .. let it out and let it go .. xox

Daryl

Maggie May said...

We are all very involved in this.I think it is very good therapy to write it. Just do it when you are ready & know that you are a very descriptive writer that has every one on the edge of their seat!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Aims, my heart is with you. I don't know how long ago this all happened, but your writing shows the depths of this time in your life. You've written that this is hard on you to write. I hope that writing about it is actually a positive for you. I agree with Shrinky, you are a very brave lady. By the way, I'm glad you enjoyed your outing with Joy. :) Margie

david mcmahon said...

Safe - a word we treasure so much.

Mean Mom said...

That was a stomach churning account. What a relief that you felt safe somewhere.

San said...

I am so glad that you are shaping this nightmare you've lived into a narrative form. We can share the terror and the sadness just a bit. A wee bit to be sure, but I hope that it lightens your spirit somewhat.

Joy T. said...

Poor Cid. Poor you. Tells me a whole lot about Cid though. That he would do this for you.

Dusty Spider said...

Keep writing, it helps to sort out what's in your head. Flick x

Swearing Mother said...

What fantastic writing Aims.

Amy said...

I caught my husband reading your blog.

I hope your writing this down is helping.

lisa marie said...

I'm sure this has to be tough on you. I started writing a short little part of my life and it was so tough for me I still haven't finished. Hugs to you!

Carolyn said...

Congratulations on continuing. I like what Shrinky said, so I'll say it again - we are with you holding your hand. All the best. c

Melanie said...

Morning Aims, what you are writing is truely helping me understand what my sister was going through. She did recognise me and some days she worried that I was dead and not really there when I visited. Even later when she was more lucid, she needed to go over what really happened as her memory of those weeks was so patchy.

One image I gave her really stuck with her through those days- that of a tree which we knew which had been struck by lightning so the top was all damaged, but it survived and grew all the same. Differently from what it originally had been, but growing. I said she was like that tree and would come through this. Changed but growing.

Like with you, Mum who raised her (I was raised by Dad) wasn't allowed to visit for a long time. No one seemed to understand what was happening and like with you, I think she was kept over-medicated so the staff could have an easy life instead of helping her deal with what was going on.

I so feel for you. I am so glad you had people in your life who were there and didn't give up.

I made my sister a picture frame with a quote embroidered from Stephen Fry (bi-polar himself) "Each happiness is a victory".

Stinking Billy said...

aims, just when I thought you had surely been through the worst times, you come up with this. Even the story-telling is better, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

A truly harrowing tale, but you are doing it full justice. Vot a voman!

I Beatrice said...

A very moving account - and you seem to have been able to view it all fairly dispassionately now. Which can only be a good thing - can't it?

You leave us with the question of "Which Man" hanging still more tantalisingly unresolved however! I had thought I knew the answer - but am no longer quite so sure...

Living the Dream said...

Oh aims, what can I say. The reading of this is incredible. Cid is an amazing person, you are so lucky to have such friends. You know what they say, you can choose your friends, you can't choose your family. We are with you every step of the way.
Take care
Hazel xxxx

softinthehead said...

Hi Aims just catching up through the jet lag - you have had such tough times, much more than anyone deserves. Such descriptive and illuminating writing as always! Softie

travelling, but not in love said...

Aims, I'm hoping a bright light starts to shine it's way down from the end of the tunnel...this is so terrible, I can't imagine how you got from there to here, if you see what I mean. No wonder it's hard to write about!

tbnil x

Mima said...

I really hope that setting all of this down on paper is helping you, and not just churning up memories that you don't need. I think you are incredibly brave for writing it, and just remain so glad that you came out the other side.

aims said...

Thank you everyone for your wonderful kind thoughts and for sharing experiences.

This recounting is very hard and I think it is always going to be. However, it is something to work at and I do love a challenge. I'm very good at setting my own though and that might be strictly a guilt thing - I'm not sure. My mother's voice does play in my head on an almost 24 hour basis.

Thank you all for holding my hands and keeping the whispering at bay.

Bitter Sweet Metaphor Irene said...

It's taken me the second time to read this before I can comment and I still find it hard, because you remind me so much of me. I admire you for writing it all down. I admire you tremendously. It hurts when I read it. It must hurt when you write it down. People get damaged so and it is so sad and it takes so long to heal. Take good care of yourself, Aims!

dawn said...

A terrible time for you and very scary when you were so sensitive to things. I think it was very difficult for Cid and D as well. So often we focus on the injured and ill (not to diminish what you went through), and forget there are loved ones who suffer in their way as well. It's great you mentioned that as well.

The Lehners in France said...

aims, this must have been a terrifying experience for you. One of those when people say "oh I know how you feel" and you feel like hitting them over the head with the nearest blunt object. I think you are a truly amazing to be able to put your feelings and your fears into words in such a descriptive manner. Way to go Aims. Debs x

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

"Seen through a glass darkly" - you are getting through so much, and revealing so much too. How brave! M xx