Present Day, April 9th, 2020

FURLOUGH – day 10

Two full weeks. Two full work weeks. Two full work weeks with no work. I am not sure which seems stranger: the fact that I have not gone into work for two full weeks, or the fact that by all accounts this is forecast to stretch on for quite some time. This might just be the beginning.

The company I work for is in an industry that does a major shut down around Christmas. That means I get paid, for an almost two-week vacation, on top of my other vacation time, every Christmas/New Year’s Holiday. It is roughly the same time that I have been off this go around. Of course, there are some differences. For example, you have the celebration of the holidays in the midst of those days which typically includes family gatherings and time with friends. Places such as shopping malls and theaters are open, so there is plenty of getting out and about. It is roughly the same time length, but an entirely different vibe.

Today I was supposed to receive my first unemployment check. No check. I attempted to access the website and determine the status of my payment. It has crashed. Money is not a dire issue. At least not as of today. That makes this one of those things that you just have to let go, and check back in tomorrow. Otherwise, it could be a crazy maker. And lord knows we do not need any more of those at a time like this.

Our local NAMI chapter had advertised a video conference today on living with a mood disorder. I thought it might be helpful, and since it was on Zoom I could attend without any video or audio. Just sit in and gather whatever information was being offered. Anonymously. It was supposed to run from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Apparently, the moderator of the group is not very tech-savvy and was unable to join in. As of 11:30, they were still trying to get him on board. I was always taught you start on time with who you got. After giving it 30 minutes, I bailed. Let it go, check back at a different time. Another crazy maker.

I have been reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. It is a powerful novel wrestling with immigration, homosexuality, abuse, mental illness and more. I have been watching a series on Netflix called Black Mirror. Each episode stands alone and takes a futuristic look at the potentially negative consequences of technology that we are embracing today. These things help occupy my time and my days. But the days still pass slowly. Another crazy maker.

I am supposed to be doing a daily gratitude journal. I cannot even count the number of times this has been recommended to me, or that I have read the suggestion in an article. I just cannot find any traction for it. Partly because I know I am not a very grateful person. Quite the opposite in fact. Very pessimistic. In less than a week I will have my next therapy session and my therapist will ask me about it. Will I have started? Will I lie about it? Another crazy maker.

The days tick on. The crazy makers pile up. The tilt of my sanity hangs in the balance.

Friday, August 26th, 7 p.m.

The drawstring of a hoodie. As in, sweatshirt. No big deal, right? Probably not to most people. Maybe not even to most people in my situation. But I had given it quite a bit of thought.

I had been taken into protective custody roughly 36 hours earlier when the Amtrak Police called out my legal name and I made the ill-advised turn in their direction. Since then, aside from hospital staff, I had remained largely anonymous. Other patients knew me only by that same, legal, first name. A name I never used in real life. They did not know where I was from. Why I was here. What circumstances resulted in my arrival. A name. That was it.

In my mind, that would all change on this decision. Not reasonable or realistic, but any sane person with Bipolar would never claim to be (see what I did there?). Why would it change? Thanks for asking. The hoodie was representative of the university located in my hometown. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Up to this point, I had spent my time in the ward sporting that sexy double hospital gown look. Which, interestingly enough, I have no idea why I had never been taught earlier in life. Take note to save future embarrassment of the exposure of your parts. Arriving at Northwestern Memorial and taking my clothes off I was instructed to put the first gown on like a coat, and the second one on like stepping into a coat (in other words, backward day at elementary school). No more vertical smiles from my backside!

However, regular clothes were allowed. Which means that the hospital had in their possession the duffel bag of clothes that I had been admitted with. All available to me. And it was rather cold in those hallowed halls. As the weekend approached, I was being given the opportunity to retrieve some personal items and get a bit more comfortable for the coming days. With a caveat. Actually, a few of them, but the one relevant to this story is…no drawstrings. Yeah, you know why.

I could have my hoodie, but they would have to pull the string from it. Then I would have to sport the university sweatshirt in the potential face of questions. Questions about by my identity. At least, who I was going to purport to be over however long I would reside in this location. Would I give up my hometown? Would I explain how I got from there to here? Would I share why I was here? Would I share the name I truly go by? Family size? Job? Life history? Countless other things that all raced through my fractured mind in a tsunami of awareness that the awaiting group therapy and individual therapy would likely require significant stretches of transparency.

I choose the hoodie (and other clothing articles). Over the next week, I would divulge my nickname that is to me my common name. I would answer many of the previously mentioned questions. I would learn what parts of my life I am comfortable with, what parts I am humiliated by, and what parts I still do not know how to simply be honest about. Metaphorically or in reality…the drawstring of a hoodie was the tip of an iceberg.

I still wear the hoodie often. It still lacks a drawstring. It is a reminder of my time in Chicago. One of many, including one I will eventually add to serve as a daily reminder. But that is for another day.

For this day the ice was broken. My home revealed. In some ways, I had just truly arrived.