So, I have this friend. We are unlikely buddies and the circumstances of our meeting are, to put it mildly, unique. We have only been friends for about eight months but we have each seen the other at the absolute lowest points in our lives and even at some of the high points. I love this friend and know it is returned. More important maybe is the fact that we respect each other, support each other and give one another the space to grow and learn. My friend’s name is Gee and I met him in the suicide ward at the local nut hut. This post is about me and Gee.
I woke up in mid-June in the critical care unit at the hospital. I woke up crying with a very fuzzy, fragmented memory of what happened but with a full recollection of the pain and the heavy, sick, twisting of brokenness churning in my heart. I had a brief glimpse of someone screaming my name, pounding on my chest….images of my FB page with horrible captions from unnamed women…phone calls of cackling laughter at two am and unmentionable disgusting language regarding Will and his exploits. The seemingly endless list of sluts, affairs, prostitutes, family members…And then I opened my eyes and tried to move. My chest was sore, I had tubes in my arm and in my nose, I was wearing an oxygen mask. There was a nurse next to my bed. Then I heard a snore…a snore? Was I in an open ward? I turned to my right to see Will…asleep in a recliner next to me. I felt a need to vomit. I heaved. The nurse got to her feet and asked if I was alright. I simply said, “Get him out of here. Now!” I drifted off again and don’t remember being transferred to the nut hut. I do remember the sudden realization that I was wearing scrubs and nothing else and that they were at least three sizes too big. I remember no one speaking to me and no one answering my questions. I remember screaming that I wanted to go home. Raging…out of control. Fear!…and slamming my door. I remember asking for my therapist and then crying…so. much. crying. I couldn’t stop. That was the first day.
A shrink, Dr. Mark, came into my room the next day and explained that I was on a hold. I was going nowhere for 72 hours. I asked if I could have some clothes..and underwear…maybe a book…my scriptures? He said he would see what he could do. He then gave me a toothbrush, a paper cup of shampoo, and another one with a dab of toothpaste. I was allowed a comb as long as I used it at the nurses station under careful watch of staff. I was then given a schedule and told that meal line-up in was in 10 minutes. I got in line with about a dozen other people, men and women, of different ages and apparent states of mental distress. There was a guy that was relatively happy, a clearly distressed homeless man with an aversion to hygiene, an elderly woman that was in her own little world, another woman that literally snarled at anyone that got too close. I looked around and thought, “I have been dumped onto the set of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest…I do NOT belong here!” I didn’t make eye contact with anyone, I didn’t speak to anyone, I walked quietly in line to the cafeteria and thru the line and sat down. I did not get a tray, I did not get any food. I was not hungry, I was not thirsty. I was scared, and confused, and lonely, and so, so incredibly sad. I wanted to go home. A guy asked me if he could at least get me water…I shook my head. He went and sat down by the girl in the wheelchair that he had pushed in line down the hall from our ward. All of the sudden a fight broke out on the other side of the room. A large man started shouting and cussing and two big orderlies ran in and had to wrestle with him and take him out. It triggered me terribly and I couldn’t breathe. I covered my ears so I couldn’t hear the screaming and curled up to try to become invisible. Then I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder. The guy who offered me water was there. He just sat next to me. Close. He leaned over and said, “It’s OK, you are safe.” We went back to our ward. I stayed in my room, only coming out for meals…I still didn’t eat. That was day two.
Dr. Mark came back the next morning. He said I would be there longer than 72 hours but wouldn’t tell me why. I asked him again for my clothes and scriptures…he just shook his head and then gave me another schedule…this one noting the meeting times of the therapy group I was expected to attend and other activities that a recovering patient was mandated to participate in. I ventured out of my room for the morning therapy group. In the common room, the whole ward was there. I found a chair and the man from the cafeteria came over and sat by me. “Hi, my name is Gee. How are you feeling today?” I told him my name and that I was very sad. He said he understood…then asked a great question. He asked if I was sad to be there or sad to be anywhere. I told him I’d get back to him. He winked at me, nodded and the meeting began. Whenever I was out of my room, Gee was there. He talked to me and amazingly, made me smile, then laugh. That was day three.
I received my scriptures, some clothes and even underwear…except a bra…no underwires allowed. I joined the morning meal line and Gee was there. He introduced me to his roommate, Sam. Sam is the guy who always seemed happy. Why he was there, in that place, and so quick to laugh, seemed so incongruous to me. Sam was great at making both me and Gee laugh…and had the best suicide jokes. Death humor.🙄. I had some toast and tea. That was enough for the day for me. That was day four.
On day five, I was told two things by a staff member. The first was that if I didn’t share my story, what brought me there, “they” would continue to hold me. And the second was that my two daughters were coming to visit me that evening. I didn’t want to tell my story. It was too horrible. How was I supposed to tell this group of strangers the harsh, intimate truth of my pain? How could I describe how the disclosures of Will’s infidelities were like bullets and my heart was already riddled with holes? How could I explain that hearing and seeing the proof of his “relationships” with other women and knowing that he spent precious time with them that he couldn’t find for me, was confirming what I already knew…I was meaningless, useless, unworthy, unwanted…unloved? How could I explain that he had done this for 36 LONG YEARS. I went to the morning meeting. I couldn’t do it. I just sat and cried. Gee just kind of awkwardly patted my knee now and then. Gee opened up and told about his attempt to drive himself to painlessness….at 90 mph on the interstate into a guardrail. His first words when he came to, still in his car, were, “Arrggghh! F***ing seatbelt!” I thought about Gee and his courage in facing himself with humor. I respected that a lot. My daughters came for a 30 minute visiting period that evening. There were tears. From all of us. They were worried. That was day five.
I shared. I started to talk in group. And then, I couldn’t stop. I told about the women, I told about the lies, I told about the cyber bullying and the obscene phone calls. I told about Will’s insensitivity and gaslighting. It all came out. The volcano of pain, anger, humiliation, shame and confusion all erupted right there in the common room of the nut hut. In front of 15 or so other crazies who all had their own pain, their own need for escape, their own reasons to try to stop the unbearable and utter anguish and hopelessness. And when I was done, I slept. I had nightmares, and anxiety and night sweats. They medicated me….and again, I slept. That was day six.
On day seven, Gee went home. I gave him my number. I told him thank you but never thought I would see him again. I missed him. I went to meals and activities. I talked with Dr. Mark. I went to group. My daughters came again. I slept without nightmares that night.
Dr. Mark told me I could go home. I was allowed to use the phone and called my son-in-law to come and get me. I said goodbye to Sam and thanked him for making me laugh. I said goodbye to others with whom I had shared tears and stories. I hoped the best for all of them. I got a bag of my clothes, a discharge sheet and instructions on how to contact the hotline if I was in crisis. I walked out and went home. That was day eight.
A few days after I got home, my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Gee. We talked for a long time then planned to go to lunch. That was in June. He texts me every.single.morning. He never forgets. We text back and forth and we have lunch every two weeks. He has met one of my daughters and some of my grandkids. He is a platonic friend and he knows that. He is always there for me to talk to as I am for him. He doesn’t get upset if I text him back late in the day because I didn’t sleep well. He gets that. He knows that I love the sunshine and Marriott hotels and purple. He laughs when I make sex addict or suicide jokes…I mean, really laughs…from the belly. Because he gets me.
My birthday is coming up so went to lunch today. He bought lunch as my birthday gift. He had the restaurant print out “Happy Birthday Leigh”on a special menu. In the birthday card he gave me, he wrote the following; “To my dearest friend on her
55th 35th birthday. I wish you nothing but the best in the coming year. Let today be the beginning of the best part of your life. Love and peace always, Gee.” He also got me the beautiful flowers in the picture above.
I got home and there were other flowers on the porch. They were from Will. For Valentine’s Day.
You know, which was last week.
My heart is still filled with holes. Some of them will always be there. Some of them, though, are filled by the genuine goodness and friendship that people like Gee provide. A favorite saying of mine is, “When I count my blessings, I count you twice.” That’s how I feel about Gee. Like he told me that day in the cafeteria, with Gee, I am safe. We are connected. God sends Angels to us when and where we least expect them. I fully anticipate catching Gee unawares someday as he is dusting his wings.