A pastor friend of mine says that anger is an alarm that sounds against injustice. My anger resounds in the back of my mind and will not stop. Once a month, I call the psychiatric hospital’s billing office to make my $200 payment on a balance accrued during a 10-day stay that made me better and worse. There is no simple story here and that makes me so mad.
There’s this mirror girl me who was never transferred to another psychiatric unit and saw her individual therapist every day. Who doesn’t have to remember being taken for a walk by the only person in the room, a nursing student, who knew how to keep me safe in a room that was much too loud and much too triggering. Where anger was only allowed to be seen in men. Where women were not allowed to get angry, to push for better treatment.
I have all of these stories, but I am far too tired all the time to write them. And it makes my brain feel like it’s going to explode. It makes my heart ache with far too many stories. Because I am so fucking tired of being tired. And so angry about being robbed of the only thing that ever made any sense to me: My words. A narrative that I could write myself when the world didn’t make any sense. I want to write my way through this pain. But I can’t. I fucking can’t and it makes me so mad. I needed someone to talk me through wonderland. But all I had was the safety of other women patients. We kept each other safe when the institution could not. I need to write my history. But the words don’t make any sense. Or maybe the story doesn’t.
No one expects adults like me to exist: Autistic and gifted. Adult woman who stopped being a girl at age 10. Who has to make up stories to send to a mother who wants a relationship that isn’t possible. This mother-daughter relationship is a seedling uprooted before the plant was tall enough to reach the sunlight. She drowns roots that have no base. Adds more potting soil to shriveled leaves. It was. But it can never be. Let’s stop pretending this plant is alive.
I’m so angry that I will always be my best advocate. I hate that I have to explain myself away to be understood. I made so many diagrams when I was in the hospital. Did so many unpaid autism trainings. But I was never seen. An invisible woman. Labeled Bipolar II on my discharge paperwork. I almost believed this. I was ready to have coffee with a friend of mine who shares this label. I could have readjusted to this description of my brain, if it were true.
My psychiatrist took the time that the hospital staff could not find. I’m still angry. She got out her copy of the DSM-5 and read aloud the possibilities. No elation. Only fear.
But my panic was seen as hypomania. When I was uprooted from the quiet of a trauma unit and moved to the general population, I was not warned until I had to go. Not given time to say goodbye. (This is an all-too-familiar feeling for the girl who grew up with unanticipated yelling.) My clothing and books were already moved. I just needed to follow the psychiatric tech to chaos. I’m still angry for that scared girl.
Of course labels matter. I cannot stand professionals who deny this reality of my life. I need words to describe what makes no sense. My psychiatrist kept reading until we reached the end of entries that made more sense. Major depressive disorder, with anxious distress. Yes. This felt true. Generalized anxiety disorder. This was already a familiar reality. We did not need to read any further.
I remember the red-headed MHA (psychiatric tech) with the cropped haircut who said I reminded her of ex-husband. That’s how she knew how to talk to me. How to listen without minimizing my fears. She believed me because I was familiar. I wonder if she had daughters. It seemed that those with the least power at the hospital had the most compassion.
One morning, I walked with the red-headed MHA, and we talked through how angry I was. She was the first person at the hospital who welcomed my anger; she didn’t need me to make myself any smaller than I already felt. She made me lists of things of topics I needed to discuss with my nurse practitioner. She listened. Really listened.
I remember the tiny blond nurse who wondered why I was transferred. Another who promised to look through my file for answers. Neither could change my situation or move me back to the quiet, predictable, safeness of the trauma unit. My psychiatric nurse practitioner kept alluding to the loudness of my symptoms, the need for me to make myself smaller. But she never said it directly.
She claimed my reassignment was merely due to space issues. I still don’t believe her. I’m angry that I’m still paying for being re-traumatized. I could adapt to the locked ward and the fixed schedule. But I’m still angry that I had to make myself smaller. “Where do you go when you go quiet” (Thank you Beyoncé). I’m angry that the men on the general unit could be angry, but the women had to be quiet. We had to wait for the official response. I’m still angry.
It doesn’t feel like enough to type through my journal entries from the hospital. They mostly make me grieve for the girl trapped in a locked unit, after she signed away her freedom, to get better. For the girl who knew the doorway in was so much smaller than the keyhole out. I know how to hide. I want to stop. I hate the fog that comes with my depression because it makes me feel gone. It makes me feel small. Not there in a life that I fought so hard to keep living. When giving up was the default option.
When I chose temporary captivity, I needed to feel safe with my captors. Maybe that’s impossible. Inpatient hospitalization is strange. I realized I needed to stop being real. To make myself smaller. I hated that. It was just like the rest of the world when we were promised a respite. I’m still angry. I need this anger to transform into something other than exhaustion.