Most days in the hospital I felt like a fraud. Even when faced with the reality of my circumstances—I stopped caring for my basic needs and took meaningful steps to end my life—it was difficult to understand why everyone took me so seriously, even though part of me was genuinely glad they did. But if I allowed myself to contemplate the situation too long I became paranoid that any moment a nurse would come find me, laugh at how long I'd kept them fooled, and tell me to gather my things and get out. It was difficult to hold this belief alongside the thought that if I left the hospital I did not have the power to change any of my circumstances and I certainly wouldn't have the guts to tell someone the next time I ended up in a drugstore after midnight. This paradox made me constantly vigilant, poised to strike at anyone who seemed to suggest I was too sick or perhaps not sick enough. Around me, no one could win.
The hospital is not where you go to figure out how to live. It's just where you go not to die.
This re-discovered bummer, combined with a not unusual drop in effectiveness of a medication I had taken for many years plus growing discomfort with my lack of meaningful contribution to society was the blueprint for a sinkhole into which I would nearly disappear.Last summer, I started having panic attacks at work, then began missing work to avoid panicking. Though I'd been with that company for years, they couldn't employ someone who never showed up (for health reasons or otherwise) and eventually let me go. Convinced that particular office had been the problem, I threw myself into landing a newer, improved job, sure that more money and better bosses were the necessary cure. Meanwhile, my psychiatrist tweaked my medications and I decided to stop eating anything except cold cereal from disposable bowls since I could no longer bring myself to do the dishes and had left most of mine dirty for so long they had to be thrown away.Laundry became too difficult even to drop off at a wash-and-fold, so I obscured stains with jewelry and scarves and stopped wearing underwear. I mastered updos I was certain masked the fact I hadn't washed my hair in weeks. Though no one ever said anything, I'm sure I smelled. A new job came and still there were days when no amount of inspiration, cajoling or temptation could drag me out of bed and onto the subway. I didn't want anyone looking at me or I couldn't face the thought of so many hours upright. Often, I just felt too tired. I'd spend the entire weekend asleep trying to ensure my ability to wake up for work Monday morning, and still wake up so exhausted there seemed no choice but to call in sick. Friends checked in but I waved them away. I made and cancelled plans hoping to lure myself out of bed but always thinking better of it in the end. The job was quickly lost and you know what happened to the third. In hindsight, I'm surprised I avoided the Rite Aid as long as I did.
Sobriety brought vital relief but also left many nerve endings raw and exposed. Without the speedy, channel-flipping distraction of alcohol and drugs I was left with just myself.