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…

Saturday, August 27th (Hospitalization Day 3)

Typically I prefer to refrain from all-inclusive terminology: every, none, always, never, everyone, no one…you get the idea. I’ll stick to my leaning in that regard while suggesting that it might work in this particular instance.

When it comes to individuals with certain mental illnesses, such as Bipolar II in my case, most of us of a fairly reliable list of warning signs that things are about to go really bad. In fact, to take it a step further, the list is usually not even a short one.

Which means that as I entered my third day of hospitalization it was no surprise to begin reflecting on what went wrong, how it might have been avoided, and discover a rather lengthy list. It flowed easily, and for each item on the list…there were plenty of warnings!

warning-signs

I have been told the “Big Three” for Bipolar are Medications, Therapy, and Sleep. Well, since I was not on any medication, or in any therapy (yeah, I know) that only left sleep or it was three strikes and I’m out.

For me, seven hours a night will generally cut it. An average of seven and a half is better, and under seven…things are probably going to get a bit dicey. Quickly. Especially over any extended period of time.

I wear a FitBit to try and keep me honest and make sure I’m somewhere close to on track. And I wasn’t. Over the previous month just under seven hours had slid. First to six-and-a-half hours. Then to six, but that was largely due to five-hour nights getting supplemented with 60 to 90-minute naps. By the week before my hospitalization, I was pushing almost five days at right around four-and-a-half–hours a day…total.

One of the reasons sleep makes the Big 3 is due to the chain reactions created by a lack of it. For me, headaches ensue. My temper shortens. My hands start to shake. Under stress, I’ll experience chest pains and shortness of breath (fairly alarming for a man who survived a heart attack back in early 2015). Nothing in life seems to bring pleasure or fulfillment. And all while the mind is racing, thoughts are spiraling out of control, and hope of things feeling normal is plummeting.

Let’s face it, no one likes to be tired. I get that. People with mental illness are not special in that regard. Here seems to be the difference as I have experienced it. Without the illness, finding a way to catch up (sleeping in on the weekend, taking a nap, going to bed early, etc.) can get you back on track pretty quickly. With the illness, in a very short period of time, everything can start misfiring to where lack of sleep isn’t even recognized as the problem. Even if you do see it and find extra time in bed, lethargy sets in with its best friend depression. Life falls into a quicksand. Sleep wise you feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

All the while our world’s shift. Rationality disappears. Very smart people can begin to lose their grip on very rational, even simple solutions to what is taking place. And the ability to write…to process…to even come up with the list I sat down and wrote above seems so very far away.