The day someone I love was hospitalized, the whole world turned sideways. New York City’s noises went from buzzing chorus to solo screams. Each honk, siren and raised voice split me in half.
There had been several weeks of lead up. I’d observed from another state my loved one skyrocketing into mania. This mania was different than before: a more explosive strain; one laced with paranoia and profound cognitive dissonance. It was violent water crashing through the dams. It was treading a path to victory.
Each day the clock ticked as I tried to contain the rapidly metastasizing mania. We needed help that didn’t exist. It was August and the psychiatrist was away for the month. Hospitals don’t admit involuntarily until crisis. We talked to her for hours in hushed tones, constantly monitoring, keeping vigil.
The inevitable happened.
She turned every light on in the apartment. She turned on every faucet. Water poured onto the kitchen and bathroom floor. Shaving cream covered the bathroom and her face and body. Cell phones were thrown into the water. Her hand was bleeding; had she punched through glass?
Thunder and lightening raged outside. It was 2am.
The fiancé got out of the apartment. Soaking on the sidewalk he called us. He described what was happening. I said “Let’s get off the phone. We’re losing time. Please call for help now, honey. It has to be 911. Is there a mental health crisis line? No, call 911. Now. Right now”.
Four police cars arrived. An ambulance arrived. A firetruck arrived.
Police stormed up the stairs in riot gear to the locked apartment. She was calling herself by another name. They met her where she was. They saved her life.
The world tilted sideways. My heart broke and then fell back together in a new shape.
We are all ok now. Compassion has grown from the seed of trauma. I don’t know if we’ll ever come out of the proverbial woods: maybe that’s our new home. But the light shines through the pines and I feel in my bones that better things lie ahead.