Present Day, November 26, 2017

‘Tis the season.

No time of year is probably more defining of my plunge into mental illness than the holidays. There was a time in my life when I lived for November 1st. When the day after Halloween launched two months of thanksgiving, joy, celebration, and happiness. Don’t get me wrong, there were still the challenges, arguments, and stresses that come with any two month period of life…but they were tempered by decorations, music, and those glorious days off of work.

Now I would describe it as being marked by a huge unknown. The unknown of what emotions will hit me, when they will hit me, and what they will do to my overall psyche.

For example, today was to be decorating day. You know, haul out the holly…deck the halls…stringing up the lights. And it still is. There is a box sitting to my left and three more hours of daylight with which I am to get the outside lights hung. But I simply don’t have it in me. Haven’t all day. Tried Christmas carols playing in the shower. Tried moving around the pieces of a Dickens-like miniature village. Tried looking over wish lists and contemplating Christmas gifts for those I love. None of it works.

Why? I don’t know. I have enjoyed a four-day Thanksgiving break which included quality family time, visits with my out of town children, and lots and lots and lots of rest. The weather is nearly ideal for this time of year. Sunny. 50s. Perfect for walks, taking in fresh air, and avoiding the sedentary indoor trap that can come with the tryptophan coma. Two date nights with my wife in the past week. And the prospects of just four more weeks until a 10 and a half day…yep, 10 and a half day Christmas break!

But still the darkness. The sadness. The loneliness.

I worry about the direction my life is going. The trajectory. On a scale of 1 to 10, the existence of medications has given me a fairly steady and consistent year, but one that I had always described as being about a 4. The last few months, it feels more like a 3.5…maybe a 3. My environment has improved (employment, home life, relationships, etc.), but my emotions seem to continue to slide downhill. Depression has gone from simply the norm, to a deeper and darker daily hole that I have to climb out of each morning simply to manage a shower and climb in my truck in time to arrive at work.

A medication change has been prescribed to attempt to counter this direction, and we will see if it does. Ironically enough, the next 30 days may make it hard to tell. They can be filled with so much happiness while simultaneously serving as such a period of struggle for so many people. Myself included. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while simultaneously being one of the least predictable. Especially with a mind that can do its own thing and turn left right when you are longing for it to turn right.

‘Tis the season. The season of the unknown.

Sunday, August 28th, 3 p.m.

They call it the “Meditation Room”. Or the Quiet Room. Or some were referring to it as the Comfort Room. I don’t like to be comforted.

One of the touted highlights of the room is a weighted blanket. Apparently, a blanket that when you wrap it around you, feels like you are being hugged. I don’t like hugs.

However, just three full days in and I am getting the feeling from my head nurse that they realize both of these dislikes in my life, and are not about to let me out of here until I enter the unknown that is this room.

So, being as it is Sunday. Being as our agenda today is very light. Being as I am considerably bored. And being as I do enjoy quiet which there is very little of today with the poor folks who struggle with psychotic episodes wandering the halls…I’m going to give it a shot.

Upon entering the room there are a few things that immediately catch my eye (a rather odd cliché use of the singular, don’t you think?). First, there is a massive flat screen on one of the main walls. I could really use this thing for football or hockey games! It is playing some nature scene. A quick grab and scan with the remote reveals that I have some choices of location and season. The background sound is a mix of nature white noise with a Yanni vibe of New Age composition providing an admittedly soothing effect when brought down to a subtle level. I’m a big fan of winter and it is a roasting late end to summer, so I naturally go with the winter season in some Alaskaeske (yeah, I made that up) like setting.

I also notice a couch and a few rather comfortable looking chairs. Mind you, I’m in a psych ward of a hospital. Comfortable chairs are hardly the norm. Hard plastic is more like it throughout the ward, and wooden in my room. These are padded recliners. Chairs one could actually fall asleep in (as I will soon discover!). The couch is also of a more overstuffed and out of the setting piece of furniture that looks very restful.

The lighting in the room is a bit more subtle than the rest of the hospital floor that has become my home. There are a few blankets and stuffed animals on the couch which lends at least some creepy factor to the isolation that one discovers in this room. By way of reminder, I have hardly been left alone for minutes since arriving here, including regular bed checks during the night. There are cameras in even this room, but they are of an almost hidden security nature so this feels like being alone for the first time in days. All of which means I don’t need this moment to be filled with mini-bears staring at me. I place them on one end of the couch, grab one of the blankets, and cover them up.

Now, into a recliner. But first, I grab this infamous “weighted blanket”. It is actually quite heavy and I find it very hard to imagine it having any comfort level at all. For kicks, I wrap it around myself, and wouldn’t you know it…it really does have the feel of someone wrapping their arms around you and giving you a big hug. Probably a rather soothing experience for some of the people staying here. For me…eh.

With that said, I decide to hit a recliner, pop up the foot rest, lay the blanket over the top of me, and breath deeply as I watch the nature scenes pass by on the big screen in front of me. I figure I will appease the parties that be by staying in here for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I can say I gave it the ol’ college try and be off the hook.

…an hour later there is a knock at the door which awakens me from a deep sleep.

Well…that worked.