Dec 18, 1990 Thunder Shook - Where you stumble, there lies your treasure - Diary of A Mad Sailor Jump to content
Diary of A Mad Sailor

Dec 18, 1990 Thunder Shook

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My last day in the service was Dec 17, 1990. The next day, I was to begin experiencing what I can only describe as a Thunder Shock reentry into civilian life. It made the windows of my mind rattle. 

Keep in mind, all that I felt and experienced was colored by surgical menopause, and the initial symptoms of what I would learn later were PTSD and Major Depression.

Total aloneness: Boom! You are not part of something bigger than yourself. For me, no family was waiting, no significant other.

After being assaulted early in my career, I became a work alcoholic, and work became like a narcotic for me. I could lose myself in it and I needed to lose myself I needed to disconnect from the assault and I needed to be freed from it. I thought that was the way to do it. Just shut it down. It never happened. So that is how I proceeded. As you may imagine, this fed many future therapy sessions.

The payoff was I got little to no negative attention for years, my career was excellent, and I got all the right promotions and medals. Letters from the Admiral, hand-picked for the next assignment. The downside was I had completely disconnected from any social life, and my relationship ended. I had no close friends around me. 

Dec 18, 1990, I began to start to cry and feel wildly out of control emotionally. I had to get out of my living situation quickly. I packed a few things, and the few people I knew helped me move in one day, 6 hours north to the Bay Area in San Francisco. An old shipmate said I could stay with her for a few months. 

So the crying had begun, the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. The fear and panic were on constant attack. All kinds of horrible emotions, thoughts, and fears attached to nothing that made sense. I couldn’t think straight; I had very little money, and I was so hungry, and I kept crying and crying. It got to the point where I could not stop, I would wake up crying and go to sleep crying. I could not stop, I really wanted it all to end. 

One night in desperation I got on my knees and begged God to help me. I could not do it alone. I have been in so many horrible situations in life, and I would dig deep and get through it. This time, though, no matter how deep I dug, there was nothing there. I truly believe God did step in and help me make the call to the Suicide Hotline that saved my life.

Suicide Hotline explained to me that I could go to the VA hospital, I was so fucked up mentally I just did not know that. Never occurred to me. They told me what number to call at the local VA hospital and to tell them the Suicide Hotline told me to call them and to ask to speak to the psychiatrist on duty. This was around 02:00 AM, and I called and spoke with the VA psychiatrist on duty.

He wanted to send the police to my house to bring me to the VA hospital. We talked for a long time. He finally convinced me to go with the cops when they came, and they would bring me to the VA hospital where he was, and he would meet me there.

Ok, so here’s what actually happens. 3 or 4 cop cars show up with their lights on. Which causes me to melt down further. I remember standing with my back against the wall, watching the cop's light flash on and off through my windows. It was the first of many surreal moments that night. 

The knock came, and I shakily answered the door. Two big cops stood at my door and asked if they could come in. I said yes.

The cops were super nice and kind to me. They asked me to search my house for weapons and to look through my prescription medicines; I said sure. Seemed reasonable. 

They talked with me a bit about what was going on. Mostly, I cried. I tried to put together some sentences that sounded like they made sense. Most of what was running through my head did not make sense to me. 

Then, the kicker, they told me they could not take me to the VA hospital. They would have to take me to the local hospital, and the VA would have to make arrangements to transfer me. So I said, “Nope, I ain’t going,” and they politely explained that I was going. Realizing that if these two cops said I was going with them, I was going with them one way or the other. So I got up and followed them to their car. They placed me in the backseat, where I was left to contemplate how my life ended up with me riding in the back of a cop car on the way to the mental ward.

So the cops sit me in the waiting room of the psych ward. It is a tiny room. The cops do whatever cops do and wish me well. As soon as the cops leave, I go to the payphone in the hall, call the VA psych doctor, and tell him the situation. He tells me to go tell the admission clerk I’m supposed to go to the VA hospital and ask for a taxi voucher cause I am broke. I do as he says, and the admission clerk says she never heard of such a thing. I said I needed to get to the VA. She said you can’t check yourself out if you are suicidal. So I said, “Ok, I’m not suicidal,” I think there was a little back and forth. When they rolled in, a guy strapped to a gurney threatened to kill us all. I split; I went running out of the hospital and into the night. I darted around the parking lot. I hid behind a car. I caught my breath. Ok, God, I thought - “a little help?” Breathe, breathe, breathe first things first. I can’t call the VA back because I can’t return to the hospital. I can’t walk home because I don’t know where I am, and I am now so terrified I am shaking like a leaf. I have to call a cab, but I have no money on me or a debit card. I only have about $60 in the bank, and that is to eat for the month. I decide I have to call a cab and have them drive me home, get my debit card, drive me to the ATM, and then back home and hope I have enough to pay them. It cost a little over $40 losing that kind of money would make the month very difficult for me. 

Once I got home, I went to my room and barricaded my door. Wrapped myself in a blanket and called the psychiatrist back. We talked for a while, and he helped calm me down. He made me promise that if I would show up at the VA at 08:00 AM, he would not send the police back to my house. I made the promise, and the next day, I was at the VA promptly at 08:00 AM. I cried my way through my intake interviews, and I tried to answer the questions as honestly as I could. They told me I would have to have someone pick up my car and a ring I had. I had no one. I hid my ring, pretended that someone would pick up my car, and hoped it wouldn’t get towed. I went to the locked ward of the hospital. It was my first experience of being locked up in a hospital, sadly not my last. 

I was pretty much convinced I was losing my mind. I wasn’t totally sure what that meant, but it was not good. The ward I was on then was a giant room full of racks and lockers, as you might see in boot camp.  The windows had wires on them, so you couldn’t get out. My claustrophobia was getting the best of me; I could only smoke twice a day in a small room with other smokers for 30 minutes. Within two days, I checked myself out of AMA. Two weeks later, I was back asking to be checked in. It was a very miserable and confusing time for me.

I believe I spent about two weeks in the mental ward. They put me on some anti-anxiety meds and an anti-depressant. I did a lot of therapy, all kinds of therapy - individual, group, occupational. If they offered it, I did it. I wasn’t thrilled about doing any of them, but I was willing to try anything to feel better. And by feeling better, I mean being able to stop crying and berating myself for my weakness in my inability to kill myself.

They arranged for me to enter their Day Hospital Program upon my discharge. They said I would get a call about what day I would start. I went home with my meds and one end of the rope that was tied to the Day Hospital Program I just had to hold on for a few days and they would call. But they didn’t call, I called, but didn’t get a call back. I finally worked up the nerve to actually kill myself. I had a few things to implement, and then I would be done. But I had started that conversation with God, and he wasn’t finished talking to me. I felt led to call the Day Hospital Program one last time. The woman who answered was named Cheryl, and I told her I didn’t know if anyone cared, but I was ready to end things. I felt nothing, really. She said she did care, she said she was going to call me that she wanted to see me that day. I went in and she became my first VA therapist I saw her for a year before her internship was up and I got my next VA therapist. She helped save my life.

 


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