Saturday, August 27th, 6 a.m.

I awoke fairly restless. Unlike the day of my capture (okay…”taken into protective custody”), the night before was the first I had been provided with medication. Not sure how that got missed on the day of my intake, but it did. I’ll let it slide, as that was literally about the only negative thing I could ever come up with for the mental health team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

However, last night I was medicated. Which means that for the first time in many days, to some extent weeks, I had a fairly quality night of sleep. Which also means that my mind was clearing, my emotions were coming into balance, and I was starting to feel normal. At least, as normal as a 47-year-old, married, father of five can feel in a psych ward multiple states and hundreds of miles from home. Which also means one more thing…I was doing what I have always done in the past…shifting my focus from the fact that I am significantly fucked up to all the other problems outside these walls that are in need of my attention. Like, now!

Here’s the thing (or at least one of them): if you are never willing to stop and look at what is broken on the inside, then you tend to get angry at anything getting in the way of your trying to fix what is broken on the outside. (I know I’m in no position to offer advice, but read that sentence again. Trust me on this one.)

Almost a week from now a psychologist will sit down with some test results and ask me to reflect on the following: “Tell me a time when you weren’t angry.” After a rather significant, long, and awkwardly silent pause I will end up saying, “Actually, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t angry.”

Back to that early Saturday morning. This also was not such a time.

Now that I had survived my period of suicidal angst. Now that I felt ready to be trusted to return home (though it was probably a 50/50 toss-up as to whether I really would have). Now that my mind was clear and my emotions stabilized (as would only be perceived to be so by myself and no trained professional). Now that I had managed to fully immerse myself in the denial of my situation, it was time to move to anger and get down right pissed.

I have committed no crime. I have threatened no one. I’m not walking around screaming profanities to unseen ghosts in the halls of this psych ward. And forget the negatives. What about the positives? I own my own business (at least, I thought at that point that I still might). I have a masters degree. Property. Financial holdings.

What the hell am I doing sitting in this sterile room, on this plastic mattress, without so much as a shoestring or hoodie drawstring to even think about harming myself with? What am I doing in Chicago, Illinois on this late summer day?

My blood began to boil. My rage began to burn. And then it struck me, that will never work. No one will ever believe I am okay behaving like that.

Knowing that a nurse would be around at any moment to take my blood pressure and vitals, ask me how I slept and check in on my overall mood…I took a few deep breaths. It was time to do what I have always done in public throughout these many years of internal struggle and done quite well.

It was time to push that Bipolar self deep down where no one could see it. It was time to put on my game face. It was showtime…

Friday, August 26th, Early Evening

We have all heard them. Though assumptions are dangerous things, so let me just lay them out for us one more time. There are perceived to be Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

As I completed my first ever day of inpatient hospitalization for my Bipolar II mental illness, I became a full-fledged believer in the Five Stages. While I think the process had begun earlier in the day, it fully settled in during a phone call with my wife. I’ll use quotes, though I cannot guarantee these were her exact words, the gist of it was, “They did tell me the average treatment and stay is five to seven days.”

Fun fact about me: I have always bounced back very quickly. Probably to my own detriment and lack of proper treatment. My Type A personality tends to force my mind to “snap out of it”, suck it up, and get back on track. Granted, no healing, therapy, processing, or actually dealing with any shit has taken place. But I’m right back at it!

Needless to say, if spending my day walking around a psych ward in a hospital gown and those little socks with the rubber anti-slide strips on them wasn’t enough to convince me this was for real this time…hearing my wife share that little tidbit of information came down on my shoulders like a load of bricks. Granted, I had been told the same thing. But that was last night when I came in with the police and really needed help. Or that was again this morning after a psychiatric evaluation by an actual psychiatrist (the second one to evaluate me) informed me of the same.

Here’s the thing: they did not really know me. The real me. They did not know what a difference 8 hours could make. They did not understand that I would be just fine. I was no longer a threat to myself or others. I could be released, lovingly pushed out the front door, and I would go back where I came from.

Though I had no intention of doing that if they actually bought my little con-job.

And so it had begun with Denial. There were about 18 people in this ward. And bless their hearts (no…seriously) some of them were much worse off than I was. Or so it seemed. Maybe external signs of damage does not mean the internal damage is any worse. (I should probably write that down somewhere and read it every day.) The psychotic symptoms and outbursts were all around me. About half of us suffered from psychosis, the other half not. Some had been here for weeks. Some had been in treatment before. It sounded like some were actually living most of their lives inpatient!

Not me. Had a little meltdown. Blew a fuse. Went off my rocker. Got a little crazy. Lost track of reality. Whatever you want to call it…just don’t call it a mental illness in need of extensive inpatient treatment. Because I don’t have that! Give me some pills. Write an action plan. Send me on my God Damn way!!!

It seemed like the Denial and Anger stages were merging pretty quickly…