When I turned up to therapy on Tuesday with ligature marks around my neck, Nikki kind of freaked out. The night before I’d choked myself with a rope until I was coughing blood, so I suppose I can’t blame her.
I barely spoke. I just sat and looked at my hands. Nikki commented that they were shaking, and that I looked fragile.
“Do you need a hug?” she asked gently.
I shrugged, and didn’t look up. Yes, I needed a hug, but not from her – too intimate, too much contact (and I’m taller than her: too weird). I wanted her to sit next to me, maybe hold my hand or rub my back, but I didn’t want a hug.
She told me a story about getting sick while she was travelling in India, and going to get a hug from Mātā Amṛtānandamayī, the ‘Hugging Guru’, “and bloody hell, if you can’t give someone a hug, it’s a ridiculously sad day. Because you know, part of me went ‘Appropriate? Not appropriate?’…I feel like giving you a hug. Probably boundaries…fuck boundaries.”
She pivoted straight into asking whether she should be calling an ambulance, or the crisis team, or one of the Jewish mamas from work, or my brother, so I didn’t get a chance to respond. Which is just as well, because I had no idea what to say. I wanted comfort so badly, but I couldn’t ask her to sit with me, in case she said no – after her comment a few weeks ago about how weird it would be if she was sitting there holding my hand, the risk of rejection or uncomfortableness was too high. But I didn’t want to say no, either, in case she never offered again.
In the end, instinct ruled the day. I was standing, ready to leave, and she was looking at me, obviously reluctant to let me go, and then she started swooping in, her arms out. She got one hand on my shoulder before I twisted the rest of my body away and threw up an arm to block her, saying in a panic “I don’t want a hug!”
Fuck, I hate that I did that. She had to go out on a limb to offer it to me, and I didn’t want to push her away or make her feel uncomfortable, but fight or flight just took over.
I refused to promise her that I’d be safe that night. I don’t think she has any idea what it’s like to be me – I can’t ever promise that I’m going to be safe, because I don’t know. Even if I’m feeling okay, in half an hour something could trigger me and I could be slashing my wrists in the bathroom. I’m never more than a step away from the precipice, and that night I was right on the edge.
Twenty minutes after I left, she called me. I didn’t pick up, because our phone conversations never go well, and the only way it was likely to end was with me feeling worse than before.
When I listened to the message, I could tell from her breathing that she was walking home. She reminds me to eat something, to cuddle my cat, and that I can call her up until 10pm if I need her to phone for an ambulance, and she tells me she’s going to call the crisis team, because if I can’t guarantee my safety that’s what has to happen.
And I’m fucking pissed. If it’s so clear and certain it has to happen, then why not tell me to my face, instead of calling after the fact, just like you did last time? If you’re that fucking worried, then why not call the ambulance yourself instead of making the crisis team do your dirty work?
I walked the 4km from Nikki’s office to home, because she asked me to, and I felt a little better after being out in the air. A few hours later the crisis team called, and I ignored it. They sent me a text message saying they were coming around with the police, and I rolled my eyes. Yeah right: I’ve heard that one before. Good luck with those empty threats. But there was still a little niggle of fear in the pit of my stomach.
A little before 10pm, the intercom buzzed. At this stage I was just delaying the inevitable, but I still couldn’t bring myself to let them in. I don’t want these strangers in my fucking house. A few minutes later there was a banging on the door, the kind of banging that’s quite happy to keep on banging for as long as it has to. I’ve subjected my neighbours to enough over the years, what with the hysterical screaming and the police and the blood trails down the corridor and the constant smell of cat urine, so I open the door.
Two male police officers, and two female crisis team staff. I’m sarcastic, and evasive, and too cocky, because I’ve had the crisis team come over while the rope was still lying in the middle of the floor and they did nothing, so I’m confident I’m safe.
I’m wrong. They schedule me, they call an ambulance and they take me to hospital.
They search my bag, they search me, then they take all my stuff away from me and lock in a plexiglass cabinet, where I can see it but I can’t have it. They take my blood and give me a cup to pee in for a urine sample. After a couple of hours of sitting uncomfortably, debating with myself and cursing myself for not planning ahead, I ask permission to change my fucking tampon, and the nurse accompanies me to the bathroom (like I haven’t been here enough times to know exactly where it is). It’s all invasive and intrusive and humiliating and I need to be in my (suddenly less) safe home in my (suddenly less) safe bed, but I don’t have a choice, so I step outside myself and make myself be numb.
The doctor and the nurse and the psychiatrist ask questions, but I don’t speak. Can’t. Won’t. I’m overwhelmed and angry and scared and refusing to speak is the only control I have left.
I’m in emergency, in the same little box-room I was in last time. Last time, when I smashed my head against the concrete wall thirty times, until the nurse came in and yelled at me to stop. Last time, when I sat and sobbed hysterically for hours, eventually resorting to wiping my nose on my jeans when nobody brought me a tissue.
One of the nurses comes in with a printed copy of the poetry she found in my file, hoping it will comfort me. The poetry Anna used to read to me. It’s an incredibly sweet gesture, and also the worst possible thing she could have done. She leaves it on the floor, and I want to tear it in half, hold a chunk of the paper together and cut my arms with it. But I don’t want to risk getting the nurse in trouble, and I want to go home.
A few hours later, I’ve calmed down enough to be ready to talk. I want to ask the nurse whether Candeece is working, and if she’ll come see me.
Almost a year ago, the last time I was admitted for an overdose, she was my doctor, and when I had a total meltdown in January and was scheduled for the night, I got the chance to thank her. My upper arm had been a mess of cuts, and she couldn’t keep track of which ones she’d already anesthetised, and I wasn’t speaking so I couldn’t tell her, but she never got frustrated or impatient, just apologised every time she hurt me. Some of the cuts were spurting blood, and when she put the needle in, it sprayed up into my face. I flinched, and squeezed my eyes shut, and she wiped it off gently with a cloth.
That was enough to cement her in my mind as a good, safe person. I need a good, safe person right now, and I want to ask for her. But I can’t. I wait for the nurse to come back in, and I try to ask, but I can’t get any words to come out.
I sit sideways on the bed, with my back against the wall and my boots on the sheets. The nurse offers me pyjamas, but I refuse. I don’t want to accept that I’m staying here for the night. She lets me have my phone back, and I play games, look at tattoos on Pinterest, and a bit after 1am, I give in to the temptation to send Nikki an angry message.
“The crisis team showed up with the police – apparently my psychologist told them that I tried to kill myself last night. I told them that wasn’t true, but apparently my psychologist told them I was going to lie to them, so they didn’t believe me. They scheduled me and took me to hospital and apparently I’m stuck here at least for the night.”
My battery doesn’t last long, but there are lights and alarms and people screaming, and I don’t want to try to sleep. Almost idly, I look around the room, thinking of ways I could hurt myself. I’m holding a half-full Styrofoam cup of water, and an image pops into my head of jamming my mouth and nose into it and trying to drown myself.
As bleak as I feel, I have to laugh.
Eventually I lay down, and at around 6am, I drift off to sleep.
I wake at 7am, and I talk. To Nurse Q, to Doctor W, to Psychiatrist Y, to Psychiatrist Z. And then I wait. Nikki texts mid-morning, tells me she knows I’m probably very angry but my safety is really important to her, and calls a couple of hours later. I am very angry, and I don’t pick up.
They let me leave, and I go home and go to bed.
She calls again around 7pm on Thursday, and her voice message sounds a little defeated. I’m still mad, but I’m not enjoying it, and impulsively, I decide to call her back. The conversation is awkward – her son is on her lap, and she talks to him intermittently – but I hang up feeling more okay.
This morning, I can’t get up for work. It’s been almost two weeks now, and I’m rapidly running out of sick leave. Impulsively, I decide to take Nikki up on her offer of a session. There isn’t anything I want to talk about…I just want to be with her, and be comforted.
And she’s sweet. She’s lovely. She starts with a rapid-fire of concern: “What’s up? What’s happening? Are you okay?“. She asks if the crisis team called me last night, like they were supposed to, and when I shake my head, she flips out and says that she’s going to call them tonight, “because that’s fucking shit!“. She says she regrets letting me leave on Tuesday, and she should have put me in a cab and taken me straight to hospital.
At the end of the session, I’m standing near the door, waiting while she packs up the office to leave for the day. She’s standing on tiptoes, sliding the box of kinetic sand back into the cupboard, when she says:
“So I’m going to say it now because it’s going to be extremely obvious, if it isn’t already – I’m pregnant.”
Everything goes numb. This is my worst.fucking.nightmare. This cannot be happening right now. This is so far above and beyond my capacity for handling bad things right now. Oh god, fuck.
“Oh,” I muster, and she laughs. “I didn’t notice. Congratulations!”
She talks a bit as she continues to potter around, about how they’ve been trying for years, that she gets really massive when she’s pregnant so it could be a bit confronting, that she’s not due until April but she wants to reassure me that she’s barely taking any time off, she’ll probably only be gone a couple of months, and all I can think is: Don’t cry. Don’t you dare fucking cry.