by Nora Quinn
VERY ROUGH beginning of my personal and professional adventures self-medication & recovery
|I stood on the front porch naked with the radio blasting. It was 6:30 in the morning – the leaves were still on the trees in early fall, so the neighbors couldn’t see, but the road was not blocked by the leaves, so who knows who might have seen me that day. This was the morning I was to be sent to the hospital for the fourth time in a year. I had spent the night talking to the witches and communicating telepathically with my cat. I was convinced my tenant downstairs was holding secret meetings with my father and ex-boyfriend that morning and I planned on being there. I called my father to tell him as much. Mom was there shortly after to drive me in. She said I had a choice to go to a new hospital if I waited a few days, but once I told her about the witches and the telepathy that went out the window. We were on the way to CCH and I was so oblivious I thought I was going there to be a consultant for them that day because I had so much experience with other worldly communication. The medical world calls this Mania. It is hard to admit, but even looking back now I have to say there were times when it was really fun to live in this way. The other side – the depression – that was always hell, but when the mania came I was in my glory. I could do anything, be anything – it was the best high I had ever experienced and believe me that was saying a lot after all I had experimented with over the years. I learned how to use drugs to control the depression and the mania for years, but after awhile it became too intense for me and things began to spiral out of control completely. Most of this story is going to seem made up, but I assure you it is all true. There will not be a day down the road where I have to go on tv and admit to the world that I conjured this tale. This is my story and I am risking everything to share it with you.
My current boyfriend does not know a thing about this and will only find out if for some reason this book is actually published. I could lose my job and never work in my field again if there are any small minded people above me. My family could disown me for opening this to the world, my friends could hate me for the things I am about to admit to saying and doing. There is something inside that tells me to do this anyway – to let it all out and hope that someday somewhere someone like me will read it and know they will be okay. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. Not even myself. I am a work in progress and though I am happy with how far I have come – the road has been long and hard and very painful. I do not lie and say this journey will be easy for anyone. It will not. But remember this: Everything in this life in happens for a reason and usually looking back – we can pinpoint what that reason was – what we may have lost in order to receive, what we had to give up in order to appreciate, what we had to sacrifice inorder to learn, what we had to let go of in order to love, and what we ultimately had to face in order to live.
So, as my 30th birthday approached I could feel myself slipping into a depression I didn’t have control over. I was over wight again, things with my boyfriend were not going well, I was close to losing the house, my animals were sick and I coulnd;t feel anything. Two months after my birthday in August I drove myself to the ER in hysterics telling anyone who would listen that I needed to be killed for my actions and beliefs. I was not ready for what I got in return for my honesty.
Sitting in the ER with my father and a social worker – they had given me some Ativan to calm down, so I was no longer crying so hysterically, but the mood was still there and the fear in my father’s eyes was real. After hours of talking to social workers, doctors and nurses it was decided I would stay at the hospital so they could observe me for a few days. I agreed because I thought I would be laying in a hosrpital bed hopped up on benzos for the next few days. Little did I know I was off to the psych ward. They claimed later that I admitted myself and so on, but no one in theier right mind signs up for mental prison. They let me walk over to the building with the psych ward. My father left me and a nurse took over from there. The huge steel door closed behind us and I was led in to a small examination room where I signed papers and had a quick 5 minute check up with a doctor I would never see again. I was shown my room. A double with blockaded windows and no locks on any of the doors. People, mostly in pajamas were walking the halls. Hall. It was one long hallway with a smaller hallway off to the side. The building was shaped like a letter T. There was no screaming, no hysteria, nothing out of the ordinary at all. In the living room were men and women reading, watching television, playing board games or cards together. A group was about to begin there and more people were gathering around. I went back to the room they had assigned to me. I was given a cup full of drugs and eventually fell asleep. The next morning I began to learn the ropes. Once a day REAL coffee was served at the first community group of the day. If you attended – you got caffeine. If not, Shit out of luck for the rest of the day. The drugs they had me on made it impossible for me to get out of bed in time for this group or for breakfast for that matter. I was a zombie. I was the crazy one. I was the girl they wondered about - what is wrong with her that she needs so much medication? It was awful. You can’t think enough to try to get out of a place like that when you are so drugged that you don’t even know your own name. I was in such a state of mania at that point I was convinced I could talk to the dead, that my family was the head of the Irish Mob, that my mother was a marijuana dealer and she was sending it through the mail in the brownies she makes for her friends and a plethora of other ideas that were also not true. Looking back now – I needed the drugs to bring me back down. It just takes awhile for the docs to figure out the right dose, the right med, the right time of day or night to take it. With someone like me it was hard because I had been prescribed so many drugs already they didn’t know where to start. Depakote. This is where it all began. When depakote is given as a mood stablilizer you are generally groggy and tired most of the time. This was only one of about 7 meds they had me on during Trip 1. I am not convinced that back then I needed all of those meds, but this is the way they do it still. I do think that the subsequent trips to the loonie bin were due to these meds, meds changing, stopping, starting, self- discontinuing, mixing, you name it we covered it that first year. I believe they experimented with close to 20 medications in the first 12 months after trip 1. Some worked, some did not. I took some, I experimemented with others. I was not serious about the medications because I was not serious about being sick. I was in denial and I was not coming out of it without force. I was in the bin for about 10 days the first time. It took that long to stabilize me and for me to begin to come out of the manic episode. Though it was not completely over when I was released, I had used my wits to help get me out and I knew what to lie about to the staff. When I was released I was admitted to a partial day program for 3 weeks. I would get dropped off from 9 to 3 or so and have “class” all day with a group of other crazies. Some were certifiable. Some were normal. Some were not serious like me. I was scared, but not enough to be in it for real. I had not lost enough yet. Just like a drug addict I had to reach a real bottom with my illness before I could admit to needing help and medication. So I sat through endless hours of lecture about mental disorders and medications, coping strategies, art projects, sharing time and many hospital lunches. I did not learn anything I didn’’t already know. At home, my relationship was falling apart without my knowledge. My family did not know what to do with me and I was not taking this seriously enough for anyone to believe I was ready to be “out on my own”. It took me 3 months to fins a job after this first trip and ironically enough the job ended up to be a Mental Health Counselor for a child psych unit. I know. I was stable enough then to work and keep a job, but the meds had made me gain weight and the anxiety medication was keeping me tired all the time. I wasn;t myself at all. There was nothing happy about me or my life. I started to take huge quantities of Ativan to ease the pain a bit and that helped for awhile. Until I ran out. Then, at new years I began to experience severe anxiety and fear. Panic attacks that were like heartattacks plagued me and I admitted myself back to the hospital in hopes they would give me more drugs.
I knew as soon as I was there it was a mistake. I was risking my job, my relationship, the trust I had gained with family and friends, but getting the drugs was more important than any of that at the time. I was there 3 days this time. They did what I wanted and treated the anxiety with more pills to “help” me cope. There were no hallucinations this time, no crazy thoughts about talking to dead people. I was re-diagnosed with a panic disorder and released back to my living hell. I made it nine months without any trips back to the hospital. I took my meds on and off and what I did consume kept me on track enough to function in the outside world, but not to the degree that I was prospering. I was still mega depressed, fat, bored and miserable all the time. The only thing that kept me going was that during that year the psych unscheit was closed and I ended up starting Massage Therapy school in the summer. School was great and I was doing something I loved to do. This was the beginning of the road back, so I thought. Things were going along pretty well except for my relation ship. I had been dating the same man for 8 years and one day I got so fed up with his antics and drug doing I kicked him out of the house. I didn’t realize at the time that I was in the midst of another manic episode, but it was too late. The damamge was done. The relationship was over and he was gone. Just like that my whole world as I knew it changed and I had lost something so huge I could not cope.
This is where things get dicey. For a few days I was okay. Angry, sad, relieved, confused, but okay overall. Then, out of nowhere things began to change. As the reality of my life started to settle in I began to see just what a mistake I had made and I had no way to change what I had done. I was scared and my fragile mind took over. Like a tornado, the thoughts came in circling around my head until I had weaved a tale so absurd even I questioned it at times. What I came up with was this: The whole thing was a plan that included the CIA. My boyfriend and I had to be separated so we could both join the CIA and all of myfriend and family were in on it. This meant that I had to pass all of the tests set out for me in the next 3 days or I would not be allowed to join. I then went further to think that I was so special and unique that the police force, the FBI and the CIA wanted me to join all 3 of them and I had the option of trying to pass all 3 tests in the same day. So, the morning I speak of I attempted to pass all of these exams together. I knew not to tell anyone at the time, but I was sure the police test was first. To prove to them I was ready for the exam I got in the car and drove around the neighborhood as fast as I could for about 15 minutes. I knew if I got pulled over all I ad to do was show them my license and they would let me go. They were all in on it. I went home and went for a run around the neighborhood where the drug dealers lived. I mentally noted which houses were the ones with drugs and brought that information to the spys at the white hen pantry down the street. I knew when they mentioned a yard sale that day it was time. I had been sitting at the table next to them with a paper myself and awaited my cue. At the mention of a yard sale I wrote the addresses of the drug houses in the margain of the paper and handed it to the spy. I told him I thought these two would have the items he was looking for and walked out – knowing I had passed the police exam. The next would be the FBI and CIA combined. I would have to put my all into passing both, but I was convinced I could do it all in 24 hours. But there was a snag in my plan. Somehow my parents found out that I was not acting right and my father came and said I had to go back to get checked out at the neurologist. Knowing the neurologist had nothing to do with this plan, I agreed to see him and pick up my records for the doctor’s to look at. When we got to the hospital my father had both cell phones with him. My mothers cell phone and the blue one. That was the one that belonged to the FBI and his contact Bill F in California would be calling to check on my progress throughout the day on that phone. That was when I figured out which branch my father was working for and how I would have to evade him to complete the CIA exam. I felt badly for knowing I would have to betray him, but I was determined to pass that day. We entered the hospital and the usual shenanigan s began, nurse, social worker, doctor. I made it past the nurse no problem, but rthe social worker was antoehr story. In order not to get admitted again I would have to convince her that my father was the one who needed to be admitted - not me. So, we went to a private room to talk and I concocted a tale about his insanity and how it had to be done this way b/c it was the only way to get him in there. I was sad, but I believed this was the onlyway to help.. Plus, IO knew if they actuallydid admit him tt the FBI would find out and get him out right away. I wasn’t that worried. I remember thinking that the hospital was the last stop before you retired from the FBI and my father would be relieved once he got there because I was the one taking over that day and he would be free of his responsibilities with them from then on. I was so proud of myself for figuring out what to do. SO, I left him sitting on a bed in the ER and said I was going t the rest room. I walked right out the door and started running. I ran to the dock snad checked the schedule to the islands. NO boat from the steamship in time. I began to run to the highline boat and wouldn’t you know myfather had found me, He was chasing me in his car, but he coulnd’t come down the street I was running down b/c it was a one way. I know this was only another test and that I had to get on the next boat before he beat me to the docks. I ran and made it to the gate. I only had 15 dollars, not enough for a round trip ticket. I explained to the woman at the counter that I only needed a one way ticket, I was being picked up at the other side and my family would have the money there to pay for my ticket. I said she could have a copy of my license just in case. She agreed and gave me a ticket to board. I was on y way to the Vineyard and I had excaped the FBI. AS I realaxed on the boat I wondered who would be watining for me when I got off. Would I be greeted ny someone or would I have to continue on my own? When I think abou ths now it seems so unreal, but it happens in a way that you truly believe. I knew they would recognize me by my glasses. They looked like glasses Kennedywore and they would kow to let me by b/c I was the one testing that day. Armed wit that assurance, I entered the staff room and walked to the back of the boat alone. I waited to dock and got right off the private exit I was sure was there only for me. No one said a word. I watched as the other passengers waited their turn to get off the boat – comfortably walking away on dry land already myself. I wandered down the street looking formy next clue. I had passed the boat test at least, I thought. I began my trek around the island. The only thing that made sense at the time was that I was suppose to walk around Martha’s Vineyard ina cirle. I did cut throught the woods at one point to the surpise of a tractor and an airfield, went througha marsh and briars and came out he other side covered in scraped and blood. I was not worried. I knew where I was going and there were people watching me the whole way as it was, so I had nothring to think about but completeing my exams. I knew part of the test was hoe long you could stay on your feet so I continued to walk around the island until dark. After dark, I thought it best to look for my reservation at the boat to go back to the cape. There were no reservations under any of the code names, so I did what I thought any good CIA agent would do and told the gate guard that my car was already on the boat and could I just board? Well, of course I could. So, I allowed myself to relax on the boat ride back and knew that there would be a car int eh parking lot for me when I got there. My brother would have left it with the keys in it. When I arrived, I began the search for the car. I opened many doors and looked for the keys in many unlocked cars, but to no avail. Finally, about a mile down the road I saw my white wagon in a dark driveway. I knew it was my car, so I hopped in and headed for home. It didn’t even strike me as odd when I got home and saw my own cat there. I figured the FBI had been trading between these two identialc cars for months to track me so the most logical thing to do was to return this one to the FBI (AKA my father - who I last saw driving through Hyannis chasing after me before I took off ona o boat close to 12 hours before) . Mind you – it still does not occur to me that I am driving a stolen vehicle when I arrive ( after a brief stop at the white hen for a snack) . I am shocked that my parents are so relieved to see me because I figured they knew all about what was going on. Then I realize only my father knows, so I will just play along with everyone else. He’s in the kitchen on the FBI cell phone, so I go tell my mother about the beautiful day I spent strolling around the island away from it all. I know better then thp tell her about the CIA test, because that isn’t over yet and I know she does not know abouthte FBI either, so I wait. Then the police arrive and question me about the car. They are very nice, but I get to take a trip in the ambulance back to the ER. This is how I know I passed the FBI test. Now it comes down to the CIA. If I get myself back in to the hospital in time to pass that test all will be well and I can finally sleep. My father meets me at the hospital and we wait hours to see anyone. I crack jokes about the exams to see if I can get him to crack at all. He gives me nothing but a bit of laughter. Finally my father goes home and I am assigned a nurse to “watch “ me for the reamainder of the night. I am so manic and so wired I do not sleep at all. I am waiting. I am waiting to become part of the CIA and I know there is to be a parade the next morning. It will be all over the news and the story will be stunning. Little do I know in what way. As it turns out, you cannot run away from the ER in only a gown and if you try too many times, you are immedialtely signed up to got the Bin. Once again – in the am I am off to the psych ward. I am still convinced this is all part of the game, so I do not fight with anyone about it. even after I sign the papers and admit my sellf for the 3rd time in a year – I still do not get it. I am waiting for the whole family to be there, to see everyone involved in this elaborate scheme to bring me in to the force and make me the head of it all. There will be a party and all that. We will do whatever drugs we want and party all night and all day b/c we are now in charge of all of these laws and on the “inside” anything goes. I have never been so excited in my whole life. Liam, the nurse who is helping me with the paperwork tells me I have to TAKE MY MEDICATION or I will continue to end up here over and over again. I laugh at hima dn nod my head – of course I will tke any “medication” they give me. Then I remember that I couldn’t walk. I was so sore and so tired. My legs gave out and I was ina wheelchair. More than 4 days passed before I got out of bed again. I do not have a memory of those days at all. When I finally came to I was still not well. I thought I was there for observation and the CIA was still involved somehow. I needed some time to figure it all out. 10 days later I was stable enough to be released back home. It wasn’t time. I went to school thinking we were all still involved with the CIA and that I was still being tested. I survived about 2 weeks out – not taking any of the meds I was given and then it came crashing down again. This was the 4th and last time I was to be sent away.
It is January now. About a year and a half after the last trip. I wish there were words to describe how far away that all seems now. I wish there were a way to go back and skip it all. I wish I could go back and make different choices beginning as a teenager. I know that my downfall was drugs and the most ironic thing about it now is that without the drugs I take now, I would be back in the bin any day.