Monday, June 30, 2014

The View from Purgatory

Nearly ten years longing for the sweet release of death, either by means of poor health or a sturdy plastic bang, culminated in one blink when I realized not all the embers had lost their flame.  The realization made for a brief sense of euphoria  before the truth sank back in.  Something can rekindle the happiness of better days, but without a reason for it to stay, happiness is fleeting.  I was still overwhelmed by the burdens of life, but now I had discovered ending it all was not as easy as I had expected.  I was now stuck in a limbo I did not understand.  I did not want to live, but I would not let me die.  In true masochist fashion, I began to beat myself up emotionally because I was condemning myself to live a life not worth living.

If that does not make the slightest lick of sense to you, join the club.  There is no membership fee and the ladies are generally pretty.

My increased depressive state attracted far more attention than ever before.  From December 13th to January 6th, I never l did not leave my room unless a nursing assistant needed me for something.  Such circumstances added up to maybe two hours a week all tolled.  The most significant departure I made was on Christmas Eve when Christy, the mother of  Whitney, one of my favorite nurses at McLeod-Darlington, invited me to come down to the dining hall to celoebrate with the rest of her family.  (Her father is a resident.)  She had bought several nice gifts for me, including a winter coat.  A winter coat was a big missing piece in my much thinner than pre-Oakhaven wardrobe.  I hugged both her and Whitney.  I would not have had any kind of Christmas without them, and told them so.

“My sister appears to have gone off the deep end," I told her.  I left out the part about how I was precariously teetering myself.

 Christy and whitney were not around me long enough to notice any worrisome behavior, but others were.  Caroline increased the frequency of her inquiries.  Josette, a nursing assistant with whom I had some difficulties in getting along, came to my room after her shift was over one night to ask if I had considered assisted living, my personal property Denise would not give up, how hard would it be for me to practice law with my eyesight--anything and everything to get me moving.  I did not say much to either of them.  On her visit the day after Christmas, Eve told me about her holiday, but knew better than to ask about mine. She leaned against the sibk on the other side of my room.

“Jamie, Jamie, Jamie…what are we going to do with you?”

I did not ask what she meant by the question.  She knew I was deeply depressed, but I did not want to get into the matter.  No one knew I had planned to commit suicide.  They certainly did not know I still had the means conveniently within reach should I change my mind.  I wanted those two secrets to remain hidden.   Naturally, it was not to long before it all blew up in my face. 

Permanent residents have a quarterly evaluation to guage the progress of their care plan.  Since I was not considered a perm anent resident until Denise let it be known to both Oakhaven management and me she never wanted to communicate with any of us again, I was not a permanent resident until October.  So my first evaluation came up in early January.  Since Oakhaven does little for me beyond managing my all night tube feeding, the meeting was not much.  Afterwards, I was called into paulette’s office to answer a depression survey.  They are routine.  I had run through four of them since October 2012.  But this was the first one from oak haven, as well as the first one I answered honestly.  When we got to the darkest portion, matters escalated quickly.

 “Do you ever think you would be better off dead?”  Paulette asked.

“I have to answer that one?”  I squirmed in my seat while pausing for a long moment.

"The answer is yes.”

“Daily?”

“Yes.”

Paulette pulled that old therapist trick of offering a tissue to keep someone from crying.  I waved her off.  I had no tears to cry.  Plus, I really hate that trick.  It is so…presumptuous.  Manipulative, too. 

We talked for a few more moments.  She asked with whom I was close to in my previous life.  I had to answer my mother, though she mercifully did not ask me to elaborate on the sheer strangeness the relationship with my mother was.  She asked if I had any friends.  I explained that I had rarely left the house in the last nine years.  Friends had been scarce since law school.  That and college were the last places I enjoyed much of a social life.  Or as much of one as an introvert cares to enjoy.  Paulette wanted to know if I had any kind of support network.  I did not.  Even when living with denise, to be honest. 

I went back to my room once we were done.  I laid down and stared at the ceiling for the next twenty minutes until paulette requested to see me again.  Since I lived on the other side of the building from her office, we ducked into the West wing dining hall.  I knew she would be seeking elaboration about my answers, so I was on my toes.  She started asking about scenarios that might push me over the edge towards suicide without knowing I had already fallen off three weeks prior.  Her key statement was her belief my Christian convictions would stop me from killing myself was now in doubt.

I had told her back in October I wanted to die, but I believed my health issues would finish me off before too long.  I reiterated that now, and added what I knew about psychologist Victor Frankl’s theory that losing the will to live will induce life threatening health even in otherwise healthy people.  Witness spouses who die months apart, for example.  I had been holding on to the theory through bad health issues for nine years.  I would probably do that until the very end.

Paulette was not reassured by any of that, so I thought, the heck with it.  I will just tell her everything that happened over the last few months right on up until December 12th when I backed off suicide rather than go through with it.  It was one of those unwise, on my feet decisions I assume I can clean up later.    But I underestimated the consequences of this particular revelation.  But, as it turned, paulette underestimated exactly how far I took my suicide plan.  So we both had a bad day sizing the other up.

We had to go into her office next.  I plopped back down in the chair I was in earlier.  Paulette announced, because of what I had just told her, she had a mandate to put me one-on-one with a nursing assistant 24/7 and in mandatory counseling.  If you could do more to torture a reclusive introvert, I do not know what it might be.  Nhow I was presented with the problem of whether my suicide kit would be discovered.  I might be able to weather the storm, but if it was discovered, things would probably get worse for me. 

So I gave it up.  I got up from my chair and grabbed the rollator.

 “where are you going?”  Paulette.  She sounded like she was in a near panic.  I assume she thought I would run out the front door rather than put up with a suicide watch and mandatory counseling.  It did sound tempting, but no.

“I am not going anywhere.”  I lifted up the Rollator seat and reached under the sweatshirt covering the suicide kit.   I put it on her desk.  ’I was going to asphyxiate myself just like my mother.”

She looked at the kit.  It was simply a torn, upside cup. 

 “What is this?"  she asked.
   
“Everything I need.  Well, almost everything.  I have to keep the Therabands separate since I have to use them with Lucy.”

Paulette picked up the cup.  Then she could see what looked like a candy wrapper tucked in until she pulled it out.  The thick, plastic bag fell open and the disposable razor fell out.  I actually laughed internally.  It seemed like a good idea to keep a disposable razor in the kit to tie off the bag’s drawstring because one would not be missed.  I was not supposed to have one at all, in fact.  But I was currently amused at how unnecessarily sinister it looked now. 

My amusement vanished as I saw Paulette’s face fall.   I explained everything, even going so far as to slide the cup over my nose to show how it would keep the bag from clinging.  Way too overboard, in hindsight.   My amusement further vanished when she called Dr. Hiatt right on the spot.  This was not going to go well.  

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