I’m finally ready to try to finish the story…so far. After all of the get togethers were said and done. I still had to plan a birthday party for my daughter, Jovie. Though the youngest at the time, Jovie was taking my mother’s death pretty badly. She has always been a very empathetic person and she loved her grandma very much. So on the day of her birthday party, I asked my father to find a piece of my mother’s jewelry that Jovie would like and we would make it from her. I wrapped it in tissue paper and wrote simply a heart and “Love, Grandma” and placed it in a hello kitty music/jewelry box I had bought her. Jovie unwrapped all her presents and at the very end, I handed her the wrapped music box. She unwrapped it and beamed upon seeing it was Hello Kitty. She opened it and I read what the little present inside said. She unwrapped it and I thought she would be happy to get something from grandma, and a reminder that grandma would always be around, unfortunately that’s not what happened. Her face fell and tears filled her eyes, and devastation came upon her face. I hugged her tightly and apologized and explained that I had really thought she would have loved to have gotten a present from Grandma. She looked at me wiping away her tears and explained that the tears were both happy and sad. My 5-year old told me that she loved the necklace but what she really wanted was Grandma there at her party. I don’t know how I got through it, but I just said simply…”me too baby, me too.”
Soon after we celebrated her birthday, it was Mother’s Day. My family had oddly planned to get together to celebrate our mother despite our sadness. But before we gathered, I went to her grave alone. The air was still and there was no breeze. I walked up to the mound of dirt covered in her dying funeral flowers and said what I would always say to my mom upon entering her house, “Hi Momma!” Right then a strong wind blew through, almost knocking me down and blowing the flowers off her grave. I laughed through my tears and picked up the flowers and placed them back. I knew my mom was telling me she was there. My sister had gotten me a bracelet that read WWMD…standing for what would mom do? It became the only piece of jewelry I would never take off.
I secretly continued to abuse medicines after leaving the hospital, but nothing eventful happened for a while. About two months later, shockingly I found out I was pregnant. I had told my mother when she was sick that I had wanted another baby. She looked at me with a horrified face and said “NO! NO MORE BABIES!” And then told her that I had hoped to have another girl so I could name her Carolina, after her name Carol. She kind of settled herself and said “Good name but no more babies.” So now I had this baby inside me that needed me to be healthy.
I stopped abusing anything and immediately stopped taking my psych meds even though I was told I could continue taking one. I wanted to take no chances. Surprisingly, I had had a completely normal pregnancy and despite the pregnancy hormones and lack of medication, emotionally I was okay and had no desire to abuse anything even when I was sad. Throughout my pregnancy, many ultrasounds were done but the baby was very stubborn and would move away from the ultrasound wand so they could never get her full measurements. However, it also meant her gender was never 100% clear. Regardless of what the ultrasound did or did not show, I knew in my heart that there was a Carolina there.
And I was right, Carolina was born via c-section and she was perfect. I recovered quickly and when I held her for the first time, I cried. For many reasons. She was beautiful, she was healthy, but most of all because I was sad that my mother was not there to meet her like she had been with all of my other children.
The baby became my main focus. Even though I had my other wonderful children, I knew that if I threw myself into caring for her, I wouldn’t think about my sadness. I had decided that since I had gone so long without meds, and because I had moved to a different state, I would no longer need psych meds.
Until April came along. April 30, the one year anniversary of the day I lost my best friend. Throughout the month I begged my husband to let me take the cold medicine to help get through it. He didn’t want to but he reluctantly let me because he didn’t know what else to do. Unfortunately, this lead to a downward spiral of abuse.
I was unable to get into a behavioral health doctor immediately so I took to my primary care doctor to start providing my medications again to keep me even.
Unfortunately, because I continued to abuse the cold medicine, I was inducing many manic episodes. During one of these episodes I decided to separate from my husband. I felt empowered. I felt great about myself and I applied for school, got a job and started a relationship with one of my best friends that got too serious too fast. I knew, or thought, that the only way I would survive without my husband was if I had another person I could live with and share bills. We started to look for houses and eventually things went bad when his mother started calling me names and he realized he just wasn’t ready to take on all of my baggage. So I reluctantly asked my husband if we could work things out. I couldn’t be alone. It was impossible.
I continued school and work. The work I had started had been for the ARC of Washington County. I was working in their children’s residential department, so I worked at a house with troubled teenaged girls. What I went through there is a story for another time, but let’s just say that my feelings for these girls became too much and one day, I had taken too much cough medicine and went to visit my sister. I started to feel awful but I didn’t want to tell her because I knew she would tell my dad and my dad would be angry. So I sat sweating and nearly hyperventilating while my sister asked me if I had taken something. I insisted I hadn’t until she picked up the phone and called my dad. She handed me the phone and I put it to my ear to hear my father screaming at me, “Cassie! What did you do!?” I put my head down in defeat and told him. My sister took the phone back and talked to him about what they would do. She called my other sister who eventually arrived and together they took me to the emergency room. My sisters yelled at me and rightfully so, asking why I had started to do this again and not taking any of my excuses. Same with my father when he arrived. My sister believed I had intentionally tried to kill myself. It wasn’t the case, but I allowed myself to be admitted to the psych ward because I knew my self-destructive behavior would never get better unless I did.
When I arrived there, because I had moved, it was a new psych ward and all the rules were explained to me again, all my things were taken. But I was ok, because I knew how it went and I needed to be there. The difference here was that I had a roommate. I walked into my assigned room to a beaming face reading a book. She immediately introduced herself as Meghan and we became fast friends. I won’t put any of her personal details here because well…duh…but despite the rules not to be friends on the outside, we did anyway. While there, I did all of the groups, took my meds, and spent a lot of time with Meghan as she realized she loved to do art. It was a new passion for her but she was amazing at it. Her hands messy with pastels, she latched on to one of my tattoos. She found it inspiring and began using it to make many pictures. The tattoo she happened to pick was an aquamarine colored daffodil I had gotten for my mother before she passed away. The flower of her birth month and the color of her birth stone.
My flower began to decorate not only the walls of our room, but also the common room where everyone met for group and meals, and the hallway. It felt nice to see something inspired by my mother inspiring someone else and providing beauty for many troubled souls. Meghan and I stayed in touch ever so slightly, sending occasional messages of love and support to each other.
Upon leaving the hospital, I was placed on the same medications I had been on before to maintain my bipolar disorder and depression, lamictal (the mood stabilizer) and Zoloft (the antidepressant). And for a while that was okay.
After this, I reunited with an old friend who was going through her own battles. Through her, I began what I thought would be a part time job doing in home care under her boyfriends mothers business. My only “client” was a woman named Fran who upon meeting, I realized was a lot like my mother. Very thin and frail, but also had a penchant for being kind of sassy. I enjoyed the job and I enjoyed caring for a woman who reminded me so much of my mother.
April arrived again and it brought one of my oldest best friends to my house. Because of how it looked, not surprisingly, after a week, he went to another friends house and stayed put. I was devastated about this but I tried not to be pushy because I had lost him once in the past. I continued working but had told them that when it came to the end of the month, I would not be able to work. I would be of no use to them because of the sorrow I feel in the last days of this month. I asked my best friend to come back to my house because I needed him to provide comedic relief for my sad days. He didn’t. And the entire weekend that I had asked my bosses to leave me to myself, they bothered me asking me to come in because they were short handed. I was disgusted and I maintained my ground that I would not and could not come in until that following Monday.
Monday, I was still not doing so well emotionally and asked my reunited friend to cover me for a day. She did this and was okay with it despite the fact that she was recovering from being in the hospital. I appreciated her help but when I arrived on Tuesday, I realized that I really was in need of mental health care again. She was the only one able to cover for me and she was none too pleased, even though she knew I was leaving to take myself to the ER because I had seriously begun considering suicide again. She came in, didn’t say a word and gave me a nasty look.
My other best friend had wanted to go home this week and when I told him, I would be admitting myself to the hospital to be proactive, his response was “but I need to go home.” So this goes to show the kind of support I had from my “friends” at the time.
My family was happy that instead of doing something stupid, I had decided to admit myself for a short time to work out my medications and try to get an appointment with an actual psych doctor. During this visit I noticed a guy who was basically the definition of hipster, off by himself. He was drawing and really well. I walked by him and for some reason, instead of saying “that’s amazing,” like I meant to about his art, I said “you’re amazing,” and walked away feeling like an idiot for unintentionally flirting with him.
One of the times this guy, who I found to be named Travis, walked away, another patient took it upon himself to start drawing on one of Travis’ drawings. I leaned in and told the man “I don’t think he would like you doing that to his picture.” He stopped but the damage had been done. When Travis returned, he began ranting about how disrespectful it was and I meekly told him that I had tried to stop him. He later came up to me and started a conversation. We became friends and during our stay, took it upon ourselves to just people watch the other patients. One particular older woman was very crass and obviously had some sort of dementia as she told us the entire time that she owned the hospital and called people names and gave them the finger. Travis butted heads with her for many reasons, but the biggest one being that she liked to play the radio loudly despite the static. Again, despite the rules, we exchanged information and became friends on the outside. This friendship was exactly the reason the rule existed. The friendship didn’t last long and to be honest, good riddance.
I took my “best friend” home eventually and a bit of drama ensued afterwards, mostly my own doing, but I became increasingly more manic and depressed at the same time. I had quit my job and I felt like I had lost all of my best friends and the spiral just continued downward.
Until one day I was speaking with a friend of my husband’s. We had always spoken but prior to this, kept it pretty short. We talked the entire day and even though for the most part, I was feeling okay, when I took my sleeping pills, I started to talk about all the bad things in my life. My sleeping pills (ambien) had a tendency to decrease inhibitions. So with this, after going into all my demons, I grabbed my bin full of medication, opened one bottle and poured it down my throat. It was entirely impulsive and not at all planned. There was a debate in my mind whether I wanted to proceed with this or whether I wanted help. I continued to down dozens if not hundreds of pills while at the same time explaining to my husband’s friend what I was doing. It was obviously a cry for help. I figured after the first bottle, why not keep going? Eventually the friend convinced me to call him and wake up my husband to hand him the phone. I did as he asked and my husband woke up quickly upon learning what I had done. I remember him googling the pills that I had taken to see how many I would have had to take for what I had done to be fatal. He wasn’t factoring in that I had mixed all of these medications. His friend begged him to take me to the hospital but eventually, he allowed me to go to sleep because he believed I would “sleep it off.” In the morning before I awoke, he left to go to a job interview, leaving overdosed Cassie alone with 5 children. Thankfully I had the piece of mind to call my father and tell him what I had done and have my daughter call my mother in law to care for the kids while he took me to the hospital. I don’t remember doing any of this. In fact once I started to feel lucid again, I believed John, my husband, had brought me there. I started to come to and my oldest sister and my dad were in the room with me. Their faces were rightfully angry. Even though I still felt awful, I kept trying to joke with them to keep the mood light. They weren’t having it. When the doctor came in, my family pleaded with him and me to get me better. They told me that this was my last chance, if I did it again, I would no longer have their support. They made plans to give away some of my pets to alleviate stress and my husband had agreed to go home and clean the entire house before I was released from the hospital. But they needed a promise from me to really try to get better with a promise from them to be there for me more. I agreed.
After a day in ICU, I was moved to a regular room. After half a day in that room, I was taken to the psych ward still groggy and barely able to stand. During my stupor I had agreed to give away a pet that I really did not want to. So the first day of my stay in the psych ward, I spent sleeping through groups and threatening my husband that unless he let me keep her, I would refuse to get better. This became the first of the times, my own husband told on me to my father. I called my father reluctantly and listened to the deserved lecture but also explained my reasoning behind wanting to keep this particular pet. After much reluctance, they agreed to let me keep her if I made more of an effort to care for her. So I went through groups and meals and eventually got tired of being there. I told them that I felt that the longer I was there, the less likely it would be that I would get better. I needed my phone to communicate with the few friends I had, and above all I needed the only thing that has kept me here on this earth, my children. This visit wasn’t particularly eventful except that they finally got me in with a doctor to fix my medications on the outside. I was overjoyed.
The new doctor spent no time getting to know me. He merely asked what I had previously taken, what had worked, and what had not. With these questions, he continued my mood stabilizer but changed my anti-depressant to Prozac.
While my body got used to the Prozac, I began to feel increasingly like myself again. I kept trying to explain to everyone that I felt like the Cassie that had existed before my mother’s diagnosis and I was looking at this new Cassie with shame and disgust. I was happy and I was ready to fix things in my life. Little did I know,the Prozac was making me incredibly manic and where I would usually be aware of this, this time I was convinced I was just better.
My insomnia got worse. I would go days without sleeping. When I finally hit 4 days without sleep, I had taken myself to the ER, was given an Ativan and told not to go more than 24 hours without sleep before coming back in. Unfortunately this became a very rapid cycle of days sleeping and then several without.
One of the cycles of no sleep began again except this time, it was accompanied by a new symptom. I began to hear music in my head coming from nowhere. Soon after, it sounded more like a radio constantly switching stations. Eventually I began to hear my father’s voice and by that time admitted to myself that I should probably take myself to the hospital. It was 3am and I told my husband that I was hearing voices and needed to go to the hospital. I told him I had no intention of staying, I just needed sleep.
This time going to the hospital was noticeably different. When I had told them I was hearing voices, I was taken to a room with only a bed. There weren’t even doorknobs.
Eventually my dad and oldest sister showed up and I really wasn’t sure why. They told me they were there to convince me and the doctors there that one of my medications was making me manic and I needed to really be examined because they truly believed that either my diagnosis was incorrect, or I needed an additional one. I gave in. I wasn’t feeling bad at all and when admitted again to the psych ward, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I had decided I was going to write about my experiences in that place so I spent my time writing down information about past visits and my fellow patients for this one. The only difference with this visit was the doctor I was assigned to…and that happened to be the best thing I could possibly imagine.
This doctor, Dr. Valencia was a very short man even compared to me, with a very heavy accent and very friendly face. When I met with him, I tried to give him the big picture in a short package. He listened with a knowing smile on his face. “First,” he began, “we need to get you off of the Prozac, I could tell you were manic the second you walked in the door. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put someone with bipolar disorder on Prozac is crazy.” He changed my anti-depressant to Wellbutrin.
“Second,” he pulls out the DSM, goes through the pages and hands it to me. He tells me to read through the symptoms and give him the numbers with which I identified myself with. Out of the eight, I had given him numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8. Six out of eight symptoms placed me right into the diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Personality disorder. I felt like for once someone understood why I did the things I did. I couldn’t explain how happy I was to finally know why. He explained to me that this particular disorder was treated with cognitive therapy rather than medication.
My roommate came after me this time and she came very upset. I wasn’t sure how to go forward, but knowing it was her first time and my being basically an expert, I said to her “I know it’s scary right now, but being here is probably what’s best for you right now.” She smiled through her tears. I told her “I know this sounds weird but you’re really beautiful and it sucks to see you cry.” Eventually she slowly opened up to me and we realized we had many things in common, including our love for the show Supernatural. Her not quite as much as me but I would take it and hold onto it. Again I found myself giving my information to someone and luckily this time, I had found a winner.
The day of my discharge, I had gone to my room to strip the bed and gather my things and upon approaching the counter, a familiar voice struck me. Meghan, my roommate from my first visit in this hospital was being admitted as I was leaving. We hugged each other and didn’t really question why both of us were back in there. We just expressed happiness for being able to see each other again.
That was the beginning of August…only a month ago. And with my new diagnosis and new medication, I am feeling like the old me again…and not in a scary, overly happy way. The friend I made on my last visit has become one of the best friends I could ask for. We understand each other and we are able to give support in a way that people without our issues cannot. I treasure her.
Here I am now. My husband has recently left our home. I am working on my independence armed with new knowledge, new friendships, and the new outlook given to me by my father. Instead of despairing over losing my mother, I needed to honor her by continuing her legacy. The bracelet my sister had given me that says WWMD, meaning “what would mom do?”….well I am now the Mom it is referring to. I don’t know what the world is going to give me next but I am ready to meet it, my five minions and my guardian angel by my side.