Thursday, August 25th, 5 p.m.

I sign both forms. One is an “Application for Voluntary Admission.” The other a “Rights of Individuals Receiving Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Services” for the state of Illinois. I do not read either of them. I am way too out of it. Too exhausted.

After roughly 24 hours on the run, preceded by another day more or less ‘off the grid’, followed by being taken into ‘protective custody’ almost seven hours earlier and now heading towards 36 plus hours without negligible sleep, I’ve got nothing left.

On the first form, I am able to designate my wife as someone to be notified of my admission, and whenever my rights are restricted. Someone has indicated that I am a “threat to harm self” on this same form.

The ‘voluntary’ nature of the form is somewhat interesting. I was brought in by Chicago police officers. I submitted to them ‘voluntarily’ at the Amtrak station. Primarily because I was not sure where things were going if I did not. As they walked me from the train platform to their office, I wondered if I could have reached for a gun that did not exist and been put out of my pain. I wondered if I might have put up a fight and found myself face down and being handcuffed. When they opened the door for me to exit the police cruiser at the hospital I wondered if I faced the other direction and began running down the street if they would have given chase or shrugged their shoulders and said, “Eh. His call.”

They stayed with me until hospital security took over. Hospital security had me in their eyes and was never more than a few feet away until I found myself on this restricted access floor of the hospital. A floor still populated by security, and as I would later find out…with plenty more at their beck and call. Security brought me food. Security took my possessions. Security escorted me to the restroom. Security monitored my moves even as I signed this form.

In a day or two I will read the back side of this “voluntary” form. The side that indicates that I have the right to “request” discharge. In writing. After which I may be discharged. within 5 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays). I am arriving on a Thursday. The Thursday roughly 10 days before Labor Day. A holiday. The days immediately begin to count off in my head. If I am deemed to still pose a risk to myself, I must file a “petition and 2 certificates with the court.” What kind of certificate? What kind of court?

In a day or two I will read the back side of this “voluntary” form and realize that while my signature indicates that my getting in was of my own choosing…getting out, well, that is just a whole ‘nother story!

The second form gets even scarier. Talk of labor. Talk of seclusion. Talk of restraints.

None of this carries some shock factor of not realizing my behavior of the past 48 hours was not worthy of serious consequences. Rather, it carries the shock factor of realizing how far gone my behavior of the past 48 hours reflects I have gone. How far from sanity my journey has taken me. How badly I need to be here.

And the reality that whether I voluntarily wanted to be or not…this was where I was going to be.

Thursday, August 25th, Late Morning

Time was no longer of any relevance to me. I knew I had stepped onto the train at roughly 1:30 a.m. I knew that I had stepped off in Chicago roughly 10 hours later with a time change. Sometime around 10 a.m. I knew that I had lasted less than 5 minutes in Union Station before being taken into protective custody by Amtrak police. Since then…I knew nothing of time.

I had been searched, along with my possessions. Phone calls had been made by the authorities. Questions asked. I had been placed in an Amtrak Police Department SUV and transported through downtown Chicago to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. I had sat in a registrar’s chair with the police standing over my shoulders and answered the most basic of questions that come out of our mouths by reflex.

Now I was sitting in a triage station. The police were still standing watch at the edge of the partially drawn curtain. We were joined by two members of the hospital security team. Also with badges, but clearly not with the level of training or authority that a police officer has experienced. They were wearing latex gloves and began asking me for a number of personal possessions to be placed in sealed bags, cataloged and locked in a hospital safe that god only knows the location of.

Drivers license. Credit cards. Cash. Insurance cards. Items of value less my clothes and cell phone. Listed out by number. Placed in those FedEx like vinyl envelopes that you tear the strip off and glue seal to itself. I was handed a pen, the first time I can remember someone actually making something available to me, and asked to sign as to my verification of the contents. Muscle memory scribbles provided through the haze, daze, and clouds of my mind.

My duffel bag was placed in a larger, clear hospital drawstring bag with my last name written in large letters with black Sharpie across a large white block. My shoes as well. And then of course, the inevitable, “Strip down to your underwear and t-shirt, and put on these gowns. The first like a normal shirt, the second backward.” Soon to be my 24/7 wardrobe for days.

I was left alone to change. Not really. The curtain was drawn three-quarters of the way as I followed the instructions. A wheelchair was provided without request, and I was separated from my possessions. Told they would meet back up with me in a bit. A change of location was imminent, and I could tell this was when I would be separated from the sane citizens who had come to this hospital for broken arms, rashes, fevers, or “physical” illness. I knew this was when I would enter the type of place I had only entered once before, and that was as a visitor of a patient. What little I could feel was solely dedicated to the emotion of fear.

Fear at the awareness that my mind was truly broken. Fractured. Maybe beyond repair. Fear of movie depictions of psych wards and mental institutions. Fear that maybe no one out there would ever want me anywhere but in here. Fear that this would be where I needed to end it, but might lack the means for just that very act.

I began to be wheeled toward an elevator. The Amtrak Police offered words of well wishes and health to me. I wondered if they would ever think of me again in this life. How many “me”s did they deal with every day?

How interesting it is that such a life pivoting moment for me, was likely just another couple of hours in the midst of a long week of work for them. It is no exaggeration to say that every day from that moment when they called out my name in Union Station forward has been forever altered…by three people whose names I never received or will ever know.

Three people who took me from the man on the train to the man in the ward.

Thursday, August 25th, Midday

I had never been in the back seat of a police car. I was not cuffed or restrained. However, my hunch is that was largely due to the catatonic and therefore seemingly cooperative state I was in. I had been escorted from the Amtrak Police Department office, out into the public terminal under the watchful eye of hundreds of passengers thinking I was anywhere from a thief to a terror suspect to an unruly passenger being escorted from the building as we passed through a labyrinth of hallways to an underground parking garage. That is when I was placed in the back seat, complete with the “Watch your head” command, and the reaching around me to seat belt me in (as if I was cuffed).

In hindsight, I’m guessing the drive was likely in the 15 minute or so range. Guessing this because upon my release from the hospital my wife and I would actually walk the same path in about that amount of time. However, traffic was heavy. And this was midday Chicago. Regardless of the ‘actual’ time it took, it seemed like hours. Long enough for my mind to pass through a number of different scenarios, not necessarily in this order.

…being as I was heavily entrenched in a severe battle with paranoia, there was a point in the trip when I became confident they were not taking me to Northwestern Memorial Hospital as indicated. Rather, they were transporting me for a transfer to “real” police. The kind that could throw me in jail. Maybe I had done something illegal without realizing it. Or people were just tired of dealing with my life and had asked the authorities to take over from here…

…fearing the ultimate in humiliation, it seemed possible that they were simply the first carrier in a subsequent line that would be returning me home. Amtrak to Chicago Police. Chicago Police to a plane with a personal escort. Or held in custody until someone from home arrived. Or Illinois State Troopers to home state troopers. No one said I was thinking rationally…

…at one point in time, I remember considering reaching forward, grabbing the shoulder strap of the police driving the vehicle, and pulling as hard as I could to choke him. What would I do then? Like I said, I wasn’t thinking rationally. There was a second officer in the passenger seat, and I can only assume my inside door handled wouldn’t work. However, it did seem like another shot at death, literally. I had thought a similar thought at the station, “What if I charge the police? Will they just shoot me like we so often see happening?”

…the most logical thought to flutter through my mind was that I was on my way to being hospitalized temporarily. Which I could really live with. Surely I could pull myself together enough to temporarily fake it. Spend a few hours in the ER. Convince them I had come to my senses and was ready to return home. “Sorry about the scare guys, I’ll be fine. If you’ll just point me towards home, I’ll be on my way.”

…I know what thoughts dominated the majority of the trip though. My plan had been undone. That plan. The one I had put together to kill myself. And now, exhausted and lacking what it would take to navigate a cover-up. Without the energy to launch a Plan B.

Once again I had overcomplicated such a simple task and failed. Fucked up my own death. And was now the one thing I most definitely did not want to be, alive.

Wednesday, August 24th, Midday

As I drove down the interstate a call came into my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, so I let I pushed it to voicemail. Not that I would have likely answered a recognized number at this point either. A message was left, and curiosity always gets the best of me, so I checked it.

It was a detective. A police. A police detective from my hometown. He needed me to get in touch with him.

He immediately followed his voicemail with a text message. Actually, multiple text messages. He repeated the content of his voicemail along with adding that there were a number of people concerned about me.

I sent a text back letting him know that while I appreciated his concern, we wouldn’t be talking. Thanks, but no thanks.

My phone immediately rang again. Same number. Pushed to the same voicemail. Message left. I listened.

A bit more urgent plea this time. With a bit of a tone to suggest I was defying police orders and needed to comply. Guess he decided to try the strong arm tactic. Again, I ignored the voicemail only to receive another text a few minutes later. His communications turned more aggressive, and while not effectively spurring any interest in my part on communicating with the authorities…they did have one effect. They kicked in an extremely high level of paranoia coursing through my veins.

My mind transitioned from a state of focus on the mission at hand to almost a split frenetic state of moving forward while constantly checking behind. The mirrors of my vehicle became all the more important. From this point of the day until I boarded the train any eye that rested on me for more than a second caused me great angst.

My ability to plan or map out any hope of rest over the next 18 hours was thrown out the window. I resolved in my mind that I could not stay in any single place for more than an hour. I could not nap. I could not let my eyes rest for a second. I would need to constantly be on the move. Constantly be on the lookout. Find crowds. Blend in. Never stay parked for too long. Never leave my vehicle unoccupied longer than absolutely necessary.

It became exhausting. Physically. Even more so mentally.

I remember at the time thinking, “This is how I know I have lost my fucking mind. I have never been this paranoid. Afraid that I’m being tracked. Afraid that I’m being followed. Afraid that someone is after me. Unable to settle. Unable to rest. I have lost my grip.”

Fast forward to today. I rested on my bed following work, unable to get my weekly Monday nap underway, when it hit me. I have always been paranoid. I have always battled the inner demons of fear. Year after year after year, without ever putting them all together.

Why?

Because this was just one more sign that was always being ignored that something wasn’t right. That my brain wasn’t working right. That it was sick. That I was suffering and had always suffered at some level from a mental illness.

Let me show you what I mean…

Thursday, August 25th, 10:05 a.m.

As they opened the glass doors etched with the Amtrak police logo the thought passed through my mind in almost too fleeting of a way to even realize it had been there. Like a whisper…grab a gun. How quickly it all would have ended.

But I was almost catatonic. For the past 24 hours I had been living in a state of the deepest depression my emotions had ever delved into. I had not been asleep for well past that amount of time despite being on a regular diet of Tylenol PM every couple of hours. In fact, looking back, I had been operating on roughly six hours of sleep since 3 a.m. on Monday, August 22nd. Six hours in the past 75 with more diphenhydramine in my system than could be anywhere close to healthy.

So surrounded by three officers creating almost a bubble around me, I simply moved within that bubble until coming to the stereotypical hard, plastic, waiting room like chair next to a desk where they asked me to sit down. They put on latex gloves as they obtained my permission to search my bag. My person. I must have given it, though I have no recollection. Maybe I just shook my head. Maybe they simply took my lack of resistance as compliance. Maybe…

For those who have never been there, though I know many of the readers of this will have been, it is almost beyond reach to describe my state at that point. There was no awareness that my plan had been foiled. There was no understanding, or even curiosity of what they were going to do with me next. There was no plotting, calculating, or weighing the gravity of my situation. There. Was. Nothing. Were it not for the beating of my heart and the oxygen flowing in and out of my lungs…I had practically ceased to even exist.

Based on my limited experiences in life, I cannot imagine a person being alive while feeling more dead. To this day I can remember there being three officers. I can picture one. Vaguely a second. No idea what the third looked like. There was an office I was sitting in. No concept of the color of the walls or the placement of objects.

But I do remember this. Two of the officers could not stop talking to me. I believe the third had gone to call my wife. And all the two could say…over, and over, and over, and over, and over again was…“We have all been there.” “There is nothing to be embarrassed of.” “We all know how you feel.” “Everyone has experienced this.”

Really? This? How can you know how I feel when I don’t feel a fucking thing!

It is interesting now as I work through my therapy and recovery to look at some of the most profound underlying challenges in my emotional life. One of, if not the greatest, is a deep-seated, passionate, foundational feeling of anger. Hostility. Rage.

And it is interesting that at this moment of my life when I have never felt less alive, the one emotion that found a way to keep embers alive was that one.

“Shut up! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW I FEEL!!!