Monthly Archives: October 2013
I. The Nurse
I was released from an inpatient commitment at the psych hospital three days before my 25th birthday. And after I got out of the hospital things didn’t get better. They got worse.
After calling an ambulance, my roommate called my parents to tell them that I’d OD’d on my prescription medication and was back in the crazy house. And from this, they inferred that I had tried to kill myself. Not the case. In spite of my explanation to the contrary, my mother insisted on driving 16 hours to spend my birthday with me.
And thank god she came up. After I got out of the hospital I witnessed the mass exodus of my friends. My roommate moved out. Two of my closest friends– friends who had taken care of me and checked me into the hospital that first time, friends who I’d taken care of during their rough patches, friends who I thought would never leave me– left me.
Some left me because they “just couldn’t handle” me anymore. This was a line that became all too familiar to me but never lost its cutting edge. There’s nothing like being told you’re a burden when you need support the most. The things they said still hurt with the distance of five months. And there are some lost friends that I still miss, whose abandonment of me I will never understand.
My birthday table was remarkably empty. Usually filled with 12 chairs or more, this time we needed only a few. Two good friends and my mother joined me for my birthday dinner. No one else showed up.
In the end, I was grateful that my mother, who I had a history of not getting along with, made the long drive to come see me. She sat beside me at my birthday dinner, drank champagne with me in my lonely apartment, and was surprisingly and amazingly supportive of me. Famous for her righteous indignation, this time she channeled it towards my fight. There was someone on my side.
This was the beginning of the fallout– the loss of good friends, an empty birthday table, and a lonely apartment– all of these were the beginning of some bad times. Those days, the ugly ones, are still a part of me, attached to my ankle like a ball and chain, a bitter weight that I carry with me as I go. I’ve learned that you can think you’ve hit rock bottom, only to discover that you’ve still got a ways to fall. And that fall fucking hurts.
This is the fallout.
Part I The Committee of Bar Examiners, a Meeting.
“Hem haw, Hem haw, now let’s come to order. Yes, yes. Quite, quite.”
“Hem, hem. Welcome everyone.”
“Well, we’re here to discuss the file of Genevieve Mercier, a bar applicant of gravest concern.”
“Ah yes. Hem, hem. How is it that her file was passed along to our most glorious and upright office?”
“If I may, it appears that it was her answer to Question 25 on the glorious Character and Fitness Application, an application which is mandatory to complete in order to apply to sit for the bar exam.”
“And what was the question?”
“The question asks the applicant: “Within the past 5 years, have you been diagnosed with or have you been treated for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, or any other psychotic disorder?””
“And what was her answer?”
“She disclosed that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”
“You know, I hear those people can be very unstable.”
“Hem haw, quite quite!”
“Well, upon her disclosure of this information she was required to fill out Forms 7 and 8.”
“And what do those forms require?”
“Form 7 is an Authorization to Release Medical Information. Form 8 is a Description of Mental Health or Substance Abuse Condition or Impairment.”
“And she promptly signed and returned these forms?”
“No she did not. She initiallly refused to sign the forms, making some silly argument about doctor/patient confidentiality. We threatened her and told her she couldn’t sit for the bar until she signed them. So she eventually complied.”
“But this initial noncompliance was a red flag to us.”
“As it should be! Everyone should be willing to disclose confidential medical and mental health information to the powers that be!”
“Well, after her initial refusal to sign the releases, we decided further investigation into her diagnosis was warranted.”
“So what did you do?”
“We sent her a letter informing her of our current investigation and requiring her to produce all psychiatric medical records from the past five years and any hospitilzation records from the past ten.”
“Did she comply?”
“Oh she did. And let me tell you, those records were juicy.”
“Oh my, how scandalous, do tell!”
“Well, she’s had two psychiatric hospitalizations in the past year, she’s seen 5 different doctors, half of which diagnosed her with poly substance abuse. It appears that she was doing quite a lot of partying during law school.”
“Doesn’t she know better than to be honest with doctors about those kinds of things? I mean, didn’t we all do quite a lot of partying in law school?”
“I sure did. I just was just lucky it never ended up in any medical record– I know better than to tell the truth to doctors.”
“Well I bet she’s learned her lesson now!”
“Hem, hem, quite, quite!”
“Well now what do we do with her? Her records show a bipolar and polysubstance abuse diagnosis, cocaine dependency, opiate dependency, a benzodiazepine overdose, chronic marajuana use, and cough syrup abuse. Not to mention her inpatient admission for depression last fall.”
“Wait, what’s this?”
“It looks like a letter from her therapist, a recent one.”
“What does it say?”
“Oh nothing useful. Just talks about how much progress she’s made, how she’s gotten clean, how capable and competent she is and ends with an opinion that she’ll make a great attorney.”
“Well who cares about that, that’s the PRESENT, not the PAST.”
“Yeah, and we live in the PAST here, fuck any progress she’s made! She’s a bipolar drug addict, it’s the past that counts!”
“And do we really want someone like her, a bipolar chick, practicing law here in this great and backwards state?”
“Well I don’t know what to do with her.”
“Let’s kick her to Lawyer’s Assistance and see what they have to say.”
Part II Lawyer’s Assistance Program, a brief exchange
“Hey did you see that new file?”
“Yeah, the drug addict bipolar chick?”
“That’s the one! What do you want to do about her?”
“Eh, let’s just send her to one of those expensive evals. They’ll know what to do with her.”
“And if she can’t pay we don’t want her as an attorney in this state anyway.”
“Hahaha! So very true. Ship her on down.”
To be continued……
Perdition: (noun) A state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unpenitent person passes after death.
I’m not dead– not yet– but maybe this is where I am, perdition.
After all, I’m unrepentant. I refuse to acknowledge that I have a problem. Did I have a problem in the past? Probably. But that past is not the present. And now, with the clarity of five clean months, I think not. My bender days are long over. DXM is a greedy little thing of my past. I’ve even bid adieu to my good friend Mary Jane. And morphine is no more than a dream from another time, another era, another me. A me that I’ve buried.
I’m a new me. A clean me. A me who gets up in the morning, who goes to work, and who comes home at night. And that’s it. But the ghosts of my past haunt me in the most inconvenient and cumbersome of ways.
Maybe it’s because I’m unpenitent. I refuse to call myself an addict. I won’t look back on my drug doing days with shame and ugly remorse. Sometimes I miss them. But most of the time, I just accept that those days as part of my past. Those days aren’t a part of my present.
Maybe it’s because I’m sinful. And I’ve certainly been sinful. After all, it’s nearly impossible to manage a 48 hour ecstasy bender without engaging in some kind of sin. And sure, I broke the law. And I had fun doing it. But ‘had’ is the operative word, it signifies the past, not the present. And it’s the present that rules the day.
In spite of this, I feel like I’m in a state of perdition. I can’t catch a break. I’m drowning in the past and the powers that be– the Committee of Bar Examiners– are pushing my head down, deep underwater. They’re holding me down there, down with my past, waiting for the fight to go out of me. Waiting for me to turn blue. Waiting for me to drown.
Maybe I’ve walked this road to perdition. I’ve taken some steps off the straight and narrow– is this where those steps lead?
No, I haven’t walked this road. I haven’t even taken the path less traveled. Because I am not an anomaly, an abomination, an attorney unfit for practice.
I’m a person. A person with resolve. Enough resolve to get off morphine without methadone and a 12 step. A person with enough clarity to realize when the party’s over. A person with enough strength to let go of the past and accept a new present.
I don’t deserve this perdition and I refuse to accept it. I refuse to stop swimming, I refuse to let them push my head under the waters of my past, I refuse to stop screaming. Screaming my truth.
And here’s my truth: I don’t belong here, in some state of eternal damnation. My sin is in the past and I won’t offer penitence for a sin already atoned.
I’m a person.
And I don’t deserve perdition.
I played the inpatient game.
I got up for breakfast, stayed for group, refused the temptation to nap and pretended not to hate every moment that passed. I stayed friendly with the nurses and avoided tantrums. I took my meds with a smile and feigned interaction with the other patients. I was on 72 hour psych hold and I knew what I had to do to get out.
I had been committed.
And I wanted out.
I patiently let the days pass. I didn’t make any phone calls– there was no one to call. Everyone was tired of me. The overdose, the 55 Ativan (aka lorazepam), just bolstered their position– I was out of control and needed help. And they were tired of helping.
This time I had no visitors. Long gone was the popularity I enjoyed during my first hospitalization, a mere seven months earlier. Back then, I had so many visitors that they had to sit outside the visitation area, awaiting their turn to chat with me for 30 short minutes.
This time I expected no one. When visiting hours rolled around I kept my head down and focused on my doodling, trying not to cry. Trying not to remember why no one wanted to see me. Trying not to think about the paucity of support that awaited me on the other side.
I waited my 72 hours without complaint. The food was just as bad as the first time. I was just as bored during the days. I was just as lonely during the nights.
In spite of my protests, I had once again been assigned to Dr. X. After my third night on the psych ward, and upon the expiration of the 72 hour hold, I met with Dr. X to discuss the possibility of my discharge.
I was more than apprehensive– I was terrified. Terrified that he wouldn’t release me. Terrified of the power he had over me. Terrified of what he knew about me.
We sat down.
I explained how I managed to land myself in the psych hospital again after swearing that he would never see me return. I was prepared for the worst. This was the man who told me that I’d never be able to quit doing drugs, and that no matter how smart I thought I was “the drugs would always have an IQ ten points higher.” I wasn’t optimistic about our meeting.
“Well Genevieve, I believe that if you had wanted to kill yourself, you wouldn’t have done this.”
I was shocked. Dr. X was never in my corner. He always thought the worst of me and took any and every opportunity to remind me that I was a drug addict. I was prepared to go to war to get him to release me. But this time I didn’t have to.
And he was right. I would have done something besides choke down those 55 Ativan if I had wanted to end it all. An opiate OD, wrists slit in the bathtub, poison injestion– all of these were stronger candidates.
Because if I had wanted to kill myself I would have chosen something strong enough to get the job done. And for some reason, Dr. X knew this about me.
So he let me go.
The game was over.