I’ve been here before. Bright paint on the walls seeping under my skin. The room somewhat filled with empty seats in between. Most everyone has disappeared into their phones. Vanished as singular beings and faded into a crowd. Here I sit, my leg vibrating tremors. My face down in my notebook writing these words.
I’m handed a tablet by a woman who called out my name. I am to answer the cycle of questions.
Q. How have you been feeling since your last visit?
Either I’m incapable of selecting an answer or the question is incapable of being answered.
My only concern is a parking pass. The hospital parking rates are outrageous. Digging holes in your pockets during challenging times. People are sick and their illnesses are racking up a parking tab at $4 an hour. A parking pass reduces it to half.
Q. Have you experienced obsessive behavior?
I lay there in bed yesterday. I couldn’t get up. I had nothing to get up for or look forward to. I lay there hopeless as if there were no longer stars in the sky. I began counting each time my eyes blinked. I would count to 100 and begin again. 99, 100, 1, 2- is that considered obsessive? I mean, isn’t everyone curious how many times they blink? How will I know if I don’t count?
I stopped taking my sleeping meds three days ago but that hasn’t stopped me from sleeping. I am prescribed one each night. I can go days without sleep during a manic episode. The mania has shifted. I’ve crashed from my high and now grapple to get out of bed, for several weeks. I thought if I stopped taking the meds it would cease. Maybe the sedation is depressing me? I would do anything not to blame myself.
This is unusual for me. I always get out of bed. “Get out of bed,” I tell myself and then I do. No one is home. No one will ever know I couldn’t get out of bed. When I tell them they won’t listen. If it’s invisible it can’t possibly be real.
The pain is intense. It sears through me. It snatches my breath.
They say mental illness is invisible but it’s not. I am invisible. I say the words. I plead. No one sees me. My husband looked straight into my eyes. He was looking at me. He looked through me.
“This weight is tearing me apart,” I said.
His face sunk into sadness. He felt for me. Then his phone beeped and stole his attention.
“Is there a cure for me in your phone?” I asked. It was unfair of me. I justify it with desperation but there is no justifying it.
Love me. Love me. Please love me.
Days become more dark and vacant. One right after the other. The sunrises and then sets again. I’m carried away by its rhythm.
I look up from my notebook where I’m scribbling meaningless words. My invisible feelings and fears no one can see. My invisible calmness pieced together with life size Band-Aids. My invisible calmness pressed against the world with adhesive.
There’s a gentleman. He’s filling out paperwork with a pen that has miniature red pom-poms glued to it.
There’s a woman sitting across from me shuffling through a magazine. The sound of crisp breaks the silence each time her fingertips turn a page. It’s disruptive.
Q. Did you come to your appointment alone today?
I return the tablet to the woman behind the desk and sit back down on the brown chair. Bright walls, brown furniture. The decor clashes the same as my emotions. Did they intend it to be this way? Do the others feel the same?
The room empties one by one as the minutes drag on.
Our mental healthcare system allows a 30 minute appointment with a prescriber every 30 days. 30 minutes out of 720 hours. 30 minutes out of 43,200 minutes. That’s 43,170 minutes we’re left to our own devices. It’s not so much treatment as it is to maintain. I’m being maintained. We’re being maintained.
43,170 invisible minutes.
Here in America we’re all treated the same as if we’re a generic brand, a one size fits all, the same ingredients stamped and packaged on a pallet of 323.1 million people.
I write this down in my notebook where I write all my meaningless words.
Above the whisper of voices I hear my name called. I walk down the hallway where I am to be weighed and have my vitals checked by a nurse. My calmness escalates to an uneasiness as my life size Band-Aid comes unglued. There’s an imaginary sensation of my body hair tugged and torn.
30 minutes pass and I walk out as equally invisible as I was before. I am not treated unique. I am not seen nor am I heard.
I’m miserable, medicated, patched up and sent on my way.
As I get ready to leave I wrap my coat snug around my invisible self. It’s cold outside. I need to keep warm. I remember to get a parking pass as I walk out the door.
On my drive home I feel the same as I also do when I travel to and from the city- frightened and heightened with anxiety and panic. I think about the doctor telling me I’m okay.
I imagine she says that 16 times a day minus 30 minutes for her lunch break.
Q. Have you been taking your medication?
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