There has been some history of fear in my life. And one thing that was deeply embedded in my mind was the idea of being crazy. Of actually not connecting with reality. I had seen it on the streets of San Francisco. People truly out of their mind. And I had seen it with my own father. I’m still not completely sure what happened with dad, but he had a time when he, well, was crazy. That’s how I saw it. He had grand illusions, thought he might be Jesus and hallucinated. I guess that’s the same thing, thinking you’re Jesus and hallucinating. Dad was my hero, the man I looked up to, and it was terrifying. To watch the man who had taught me how to ride a bike, helped me with Algebra, held a high level position within the nuclear power industry ramble on about things that were not reality was heartbreaking and left an indelible mark. I sat in meetings with his psychiatrist advocating for him. I had visited him in the hospital where he was certain I was his long dead sister. I had walked into his room one day and found him actually in a straight jacket. A picture seared into my memory. My once strong father, was in lockdown. And he did try to escape, several times, so they needed to keep him safe. But it just seemed to be so lacking in dignity. He was so feeble, weak, helpless. He would later recover, thank the Lord, but the fear lingered for me. That’s all I knew about the term, “Mental Health”. To me it was a scary thing. A ward in any hospital I never wanted to be near. Fortunately there have been some changes in how we see mental health issues. A new awareness, but we have a long way to go even now.
A friend finally said to me, “words have power. I want you to stop saying, you might be crazy.” She was right. Words do have power. What we speak to ourselves we start to believe. These words played on repeat in my mind and it needed to change. So I stopped. I really made a concerted effort to stop saying it, which reframed my mind. But what the heck was going on?
I got to know the mental health department pretty well. And lots of people go to mental health appointments. For a variety of reasons. This was a surprise to me. I don’t know what I expected but a room full of what appeared to be normal people was not it. Think “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. I had imagined a mental hospital somewhat like this fictitious place of horror and pain with the evil Nurse Ratched lurking in the hallways. It’s part of the problem. A stigma about mental health. But the room was like any other doctor’s office waiting area. I remember looking around and wondering if anyone shared my emotions. Did I look “normal” too or could they tell I was crawling out of my skin?
Our first visit was with a very friendly man who assured us that it was a simple fix and within weeks it would all be just fine. I say OUR because John had begun to accompany me to all my doctor visits. By this time I was starting to be anxious all day. Every day.
Not only was I in this constant state of panic, I was extremely fatigued. By shear will power, I forced myself to get out and take a walk around the neighborhood. But that was the extent of my activity. It got to the point, where I could not be alone. I could not drive anywhere. I did not cook. The ability to read or watch anything on the television came and went. I sat on the couch. The drugs were not working. The simple fix was not there. We were in trouble.