The Following Months

After I was released from the mental hospital, my life became a complete blur.  I started seeing Dr. Teeth at his private practice, where his red-headed assistant was ever present at each of our meetings.  It was frightening because he was treating other patients that I had been with in the hospital.  I was trying to distance myself from the people and memory of my week and a half stay, but their presence at my appointments was a constant reminder.

My paranoia about the cars and church bells was slowly edging its way into my psyche, making me a shell of the person that I used to be.  I was taking handfuls of medications which only made me a zombie. I didn’t feel like I was improving, just drugged.  I had been a voracious blogger prior to my break and I tried to continue writing, but my posts came out angry and delusional.  I was trying to hold things together but I was failing miserably.

I remember one particular appointment with Dr. Teeth.  His assistant was there, of course, and I had broken down crying.  He announced to her, “She needs a hug.  Give her a hug.”  She started to hug me and I backed away, claiming that I was okay.  It was such an odd experience having someone be ordered to hug me and provide comfort.  He was so clinical and didn’t offer any supportive words, only pills.  Saying he was not the right fit for me is an understatement.

The care of our home completely fell on my husband.  I didn’t have the wherewithal to do dishes, cook, or clean.  Here he was working his butt off and having to come home and work even harder to take care of me.  We were still hanging out with our “friends”.  They tried to cheer me up and be there for me, but I was so paranoid that something so simple as watching T.V. brought out the paranoia demons in me and I had to walk away and go into the other room.  I think it was frustrating for everyone involved.

I tried finding a new job, but that was not going well.  I had no business looking for another job.  There was no way that I would have been a productive employee if I couldn’t do something so simple as washing the dirty dishes at home.  My friends tried to put business connections together for me, but when I would meet with those people in a social setting, I would talk about religion – specifically about how the Catholic church was hypocritical and oppressive to women.  Not something you talk about ever, let alone when trying to get hired for a job.

Another paranoia that had arisen was the radio.  I thought the DJ’s were talking about me and to me.  I read into all popular songs that were on the radio, thinking they were written about me.  I thought all the rappers in New Orleans were gunning for my head.  I didn’t know any rappers in New Orleans.  I just thought they were after me because of a few interactions I had with those type people long before my break.

During my increasing paranoia, even my house wasn’t safe.  We had this old security system that had been installed prior to our moving in.  In our bedroom, there was a motion detector above one of the closets that would flash a red light when you walked down the hallway or into the bedroom.  I fixated on this and thought that someone was taking pictures of my movements in the house through this device.  It got so bad that I ended up hanging a scarf over this small motion detector so they couldn’t take pictures of me.  My husband tried to reassure me that it was nothing, but I wasn’t convinced.

I remember one night in particular.  My husband had gone out to get us some food for dinner and I was left in the apartment alone with the cats.  I paced up and down our hallway calling his name and one of our other friend’s names.  I don’t know why I did this – I knew that I was alone.  But I was lost.

My mother-in-law came to stay with us at one point.  She stayed for about a week.  I slept a whole lot and talked about the church bells.  I don’t remember much from her stay with us, all I know is that she was my babysitter because my husband couldn’t watch me 24/7.  He was desperate to make me better and I think he kept on waiting for me to show signs of improvement.  But, improvement never came.  She was here to help both of us, except no amount of help could calm the demons in my head.

I actually felt like I was getting worse.  Of course, I wasn’t conscious enough to really assess that situation, but nothing was making sense and my stay in the hospital hadn’t helped any.  I was a shell of a person and everyone surrounding me was very frustrated.  Dr. Teeth had promised me that if I went to his hospital, I would spend a little time and be better.  He lied.  I came out of there with more problems than what I went in with.  I’m not saying I didn’t need to go, it’s just that my medications weren’t working…weren’t healing my brain fast enough.

I was so paranoid and stuck that I didn’t really know which end was up.  My insecure feelings had lifted a bit, but then they got worse.  I had had my mental break and subsequent hospital stays in August.  I made it until the end of October and I’d had enough.  So, it was on my husband’s and my wedding anniversary that I said we needed to go back to the hospital.

We called one of our friends that is a health care professional and she came over and talked to me.  It didn’t take much convincing, but she said that maybe it was time to go back into the mental hospital.

So, we got in the car and went back to the emergency room and waited for Dr. Teeth to be paged and come assess me.  We were there for hours, maybe 5?  It didn’t feel like that long to me, but for my husband it was excruciating.  He finally showed up.  I said I wasn’t better and he offered me another a bed in his mental hospital.  I was going back in, a little wiser as to what was going to happen.  I didn’t know what was going to happen moving forward, I just knew that I couldn’t keep dealing with the demons in my head.  I was exhausted and something had to change.

The Cars

After my stint in the mental hospital, an intense level of paranoia overcame me.  It was paralyzing.  I was overwhelmed by the chiming of the church bells and a sense that my every action and thought was being observed and calculated.  I read into the songs that were playing on the radio and what was playing on the t.v.  I couldn’t escape from these “messages” that were being sent from outside sources.

One of the biggest things that triggered my paranoia were the cars that were driving down my street and following the car that I was riding in.  The color of each car had a different meaning and had a message to my impending demise or triumph.  I would sit on our balcony enjoying the sunshine and outside, and these cars would drive past our house.  I had a birds eye view of every car passing and I thought they all were observing me and my actions.

To say it was overwhelming is an understatement.  I would run inside and lock the door if I saw a particular color of car and hide in fear.  I didn’t trust the outside world at all.  My thought process for each color of car was as follows:

BLACK – This was a government car.  The Feds or local law enforcement were observing every minute detail of my actions.

RED – This car represented an emergency.  If I had gotten out of hand with something, they were there to enforce that I stepped back in line.  STOP what you are doing.  Fire trucks were the worst.

GOLD – This color of car meant I was “golden”.  I was behaving in such a fashion that was acceptable and my “caretakers” within the community were reinforcing that I was behaving how I was supposed to behave.

WHITE – This car was a signal that I was going to die.  It was sending a message that I was not going to overcome what was ailing me and sent me into an extreme spiral that I had no control over.  A popular song on the radio at the time was Perry’s, “If I Die Young” and contained the lyrics, “Bury me in satin”.  Satin to me is the color of a wedding dress – white.  It made sense in my head, but it was terrifying.  I didn’t want to die.  I still don’t.

BLUE – Blue cars didn’t really have much meaning for me.  I own a blue car, so it was more familiar to me.  There were times that the blue seeped into the black meaning, but it was only when the windows were dark tinted.  This car was not as paralyzing as the others.

GREEN – This car represented the people I was friends with at the time.  It meant they were checking up on me and making sure I was okay.  It didn’t pose a threat and actually gave me some relief when I saw this color of car.  I didn’t see green cars very often.

YELLOW – This car color meant proceed with caution.  Much like the colors of stop lights, it meant to be careful with what you are showing to the world.

I don’t remember seeing any other car colors during this time.  I am certain I did, but the other colors aren’t as popular and if I paid attention to those colors, they don’t stick out in my memory as anything threatening.

I liked spending time outside, as it was better than being holed up in a quiet house, but something as simple as going outside to smoke a cigarette was nerve wracking.  Perhaps it was my subconscious telling me I needed to quit smoking.  However, there were so many more connotations that I made up than simply stop smoking.  It was truly overwhelming.

I remember that prior to my break, the colors of the cars were starting to affect me.  When I was fired from my 6 week stint at my “big girl job”, I saw a gold car that I thought was following me home, making sure I got home safe.  In the hospital, I didn’t have any exposure to cars driving by, so I didn’t read into that trigger.  It wasn’t until I was released that the paranoia about the cars really settled into my psyche.

It took me a really long time to get over reading into the cars watching me.  When I look at car colors now, they don’t bother me, but I am reminded of what I used to believe.  I think this will always be something that triggers me.  I’m not paranoid now, but I can see myself reading into things again if I ever stop taking my meds or they stop working for me.  I pray they don’t stop working because I’m not going to stop taking them.  The paranoia was crippling and is no way to live.

I think the only thing that helped me get over reading into the color of the cars was time.  Giving my medications time to heal the damage that was caused to my brain.  Unfortunately, when you have a disorder like I do and have such an extreme break, the only thing that helps is proper treatment and time.  There is no easy fix or magic pill.  My medications take a while to establish themselves as effective, so it is never instant relief.

The one thing I know is that I never want to feel the way I did ever again.  Proper care and awareness about current feelings has helped me to become as stable as I am.  Sure, I still have bad days, but I’m not reading into things that aren’t real.  And, that is true progress.

The Church Bells

church bells

We live in New Orleans proper.  There are many churches that surround our home, as well as the river and the street car line.  We also have a police station near by, therefore it creates a cacophony of sounds at any given time during the day.  We hear boats, sirens, trains, and of course, church bells.  They chime every half hour and hour and chime hymns on the hour, every hour.  It is a comforting sound and I love the location in which we live.

After I was released from the mental hospital, these church bells took a dire turn for me.  They seemed overly loud and would stop me in my tracks every time I heard them.  It was overwhelming and I had no way of hiding away from them, as we have thin walls.  The thing that had given me solace and pride were turning into an obstacle in my recovery.

There was one particular hymn that the bells would play, I don’t know the actual name of the hymn, but it sounded like a demented version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  It sounded like it was in the minor key and it was following me everywhere and at every hour of the day.  I couldn’t stand it.  It made me paranoid and scared.

As I wasn’t out of my psychosis upon being released from the mental hospital, this was particularly hard.  I was surrounded by this sound and it felt like the song was mocking me.  I couldn’t get away from it and it became one of the major things I focused on – the playing of this particular hymn.

It brought me back to my childhood in a weird way.  It sounded like Tim Burton had written the tune and was taking every chance he got to make my life miserable.  I would hear the church bells and announce, “They are playing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ again.”  I know it drove my husband crazy, the constant reminder that I was not well.

It is amusing looking back, but at the time the fear was real.  It felt like the church was mocking me for not being a more devout Christian and I simply did not have the capacity to deal with the noise.  Nothing could be loud at that particular time and the bells of the church hadn’t heeded that warning from my camp.  They simply chimed away each hour, chiming the same hymn over and over again.

I am not sure when it happened, but eventually, through much time and respite away, I got over the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” hymn.  I even started to joke about it being played, which made my family and friends question whether I was bothered or making light of what had once bothered me.  Many a time I received a raised eyebrow for making that statement.  My sanity was still not trusted.  I reassured them that I wasn’t still reading into the church bells, that I was only observing the sounds that had caused me such offense.  .

The church doesn’t play that hymn any more on the hour, perhaps because the season changed.  Sometimes I try and listen for it, but I am met with a new, non-threatening hymn.  Maybe part of me is trying to hold onto some of my psychosis, to reassure myself that I am not in that same frame of mind.  But, I am glad the church and I have moved on.  That was a scary time, indeed.