One year ago, a bathtub full of blood. A fluttering of eyelids, a tightening of the gut after it hits you — that this is not nearly enough blood — that you have failed.
This is not about what led up to that moment. This is about what comes after.
Imagine, if you will, that you have been shot.
Imagine going to the emergency room after having been shot. Imagine having to detail the circumstances of the shooting to five different people, each of whom seem unable to understand why you got shot; none of whom believe you when you say the bullet is still inside you. Imagine being handed a photo of a Band-Aid and told that’s all they can do.
Imagine being told to “Have a nice day” as you leave, with the bullet still inside you.
You failed not because you suddenly decided life was worth living, but because your body simply didn’t allow you to succeed. You cannot die, and yet you cannot remember how to live.
So you spend hazy days searching for a new doctor to take you on, being referred to colleague after colleague, and each time you have to tell another person what you did — box cutter, Bayer, bath — a piece of your soul shakes itself loose and dissipates.
Now you are one more squirmy “Sorry, I’m not taking new patients” from another bathtub full of blood, and so you go, you finally go, to the place you said you’d never go.
At the psych ER you are taken in and patted down and escorted to a room that is more prison than hospital. The part of your brain still capable of reason understands why this is, but the rest is too busy wondering, “How did it come to this?” to care. You are in the place that has filled you with bowel-tying fear ever since you first thought about Doing That, was it 12 or 13, why can’t you remember. It feels important that you remember.
You try to explain to doctor after doctor what’s going on in your broken mind. They “mmhmm” at clinical intervals. You try not to cry while you are talking to them; you try to joke. This is a reflex — it is what you have always done.
You try to explain that this has happened before, and will happen again: You don’t know whether that’s in a couple days or a couple years, but you do know you need help, you need more than what you have been getting.
They discuss you behind bullet-proof panes. They tell you they do not think you need to be admitted.
A strange sense of rejection floods you. “What now?” you ask yourself after they leave the room, and you cry a little, because it is a scary thing, to be in this place and not know what to do.
They say they will give you the number for a “therapy center.” They fill out a “Personal Safety Plan” that is about as useful as a brick to the brainstem.
“I did all these things,” you tell one doctor, after he asks you where you can go to feel safe, and things you can do to feel less terrible. “They didn’t work. That was why I came here.”
He tells you you’ll be okay, that you just need someone to talk to.
You have been talking to people for nine years.
He hands you the number for a “New York Therapy Center” and a sheet of paper that says you are not a danger to yourself or others and leaves the room.
You step out hesitantly. “I can just go?”
The security guard buzzes the door open. “Have a nice day,” he says.
It is not until after you have found your way back out to the entrance that you realize you are, somehow, worse off than you were when you entered the building an hour and a half ago.
The New York Therapy Center is closed when you call.
You call again Monday morning. You explain what happened — the box cutter, the blood, the bathtub — to a receptionist who doesn’t seem to know how to respond. You ask to see a doctor as soon as possible. She takes your insurance information, ascertains that at this point you no longer care about having to go out-of-network, and tells you they’ll call back soon.
Tuesday morning passes. You call back Tuesday afternoon. “We’re still checking your benefits,” the receptionist explains. You reiterate your need to see someone as soon as possible.
Wednesday morning passes. You call a third time. “We’re sorry, but no doctors are taking new patients,” the receptionist says.
Your laughter comes out as a hoarse bark.
You find a random psychiatrist on ZocDoc who has an appointment available on Friday. When you show up, he deems you too “unstable” to treat — he specializes in medication management, not stabilization. “You need to talk to someone,” he says, even though you are sick unto death now of talking. He gives you the address of a walk-in clinic a couple miles from your apartment.
You do not go to the walk-in clinic. You think again about blood and bathtubs. You think about bridges and bullets. You wander aimlessly for a while, then start to laugh at nothing in particular.
You remember why you didn’t tell anyone the last time this happened. The medical establishment has failed you before, and they will fail you again.
There is no one in this world who can save you — save yourself.