Monday, February 11, 2019

Chalkduster's Journey to Redemption: Part II. Chalkduster is committed.

This part of my story is a great depiction of someone who had a life as a professional for years, and lost almost everything, and as a result, becoming completely broken. Yes, I went from the person I was when I started this blog, to the person I am now, and sometimes I think they barely know each other. Hopefully writing this will re-acquaint my past self with my present self, and also be a great and inspiring story to my readers. This is a personal, not a professional story. Because I barely taught for six years, much of my upcoming material will lean towards the personal side of my life. I write about where life brings me...even if it's ugly and scary.

I was living in a tiny town in upper New York State, with my then-boyfriend, whom we will call Jason. After my divorce, I dipped into the dating pool and found that gem. Looking back to 2014, I don't know what I was thinking at the time. maybe it was because he was twenty-seven and total eye candy. He's the perfect example of someone handsome on the outside, but ugly on the inside. Jason lived with my son and I at the time. One year into the relationship, his mean streak began to rear it's ugly head.

I was substitute teaching every grade in two tiny school districts. And aside from the boyfriend, who was a job-hopper (no surprise there) I was happy in a mediocre manner. My son had friends, and so did I. I loved my job, but it didn't pay nearly enough to pay the rent and the bills. As a substitute teacher, it is rough to budget. If school is closed for holidays and snow days, you don't make money. For a short period of time, I waitressed in a diner to try and make ends meet, but our landlady, who needed her rent on the first every month, was getting impatient. The pressure was on. In addition, I was being weaned off the drug Wellbutrin after taking it for five years. I was on it to treat my anxiety, which is a demon that has followed me since childhood. Looking back, many factors added up to the disaster inside my head that was about to ensue.

One particular day, I will do my best to recount for you. I will warn you, it's brutal and honest. This day changed me forever. I do not remember what grade I taught, or even where I taught that day. I do not remember coming home from work. I doubt I prepared dinner.

What I do remember is hiding in my closet and screaming until my throat burned. I remember Jason being terrible, but I can't remember the details. I'll bet it was a healthy dose of verbal abuse. I was angry at myself for falling into the Abuser Trap for a second time, and didn't know what to do about it.

I remember writing a note to my son, who was twelve at the time, and telling him his life would be so much better without me, and that my parents would take good care of him. Luckily, my son never saw this note.This is so hard to to write. My identity was gone, and I was in so much mental pain.

I remember being in the kitchen with a knife in my hand, intending to do the unthinkable, when Jason wrenched it from me and called the police. I refuse to paint him as the hero here, as he is the one who triggered the episode. I only remembered these details in therapy months later and had to rely on Jason's and my son's accounts of what happened.

I remember someone in a uniform trying to convince me to get into the ambulance peacefully, because I had no choice, and I was going. I remember pleading, No. I'm okay now. Don't take me.

I remember finally getting into an ambulance peacefully. The EMT, God Bless him, was kind, gentle, and said things to me that made me feel a tiny bit safer.

The rest of my journey and even my arrival is a total blur, as if it was a dream I can't describe, but am still haunted by the essence.

I awakened somewhere very dark except for a square of light on what I supposed was a locked door. My face burned something terrible, and when I reached to touch it, I winced. I was wearing some kind of paper apparatus that reminded me of the gynecologist's office. I suddenly realized where I was. I was in a mental hospital.

Holy shitballs. Me, the teacher, mother, friend, sister, daughter...wound I burned with shame.

That door with the little square of light must be locked. I don't remember how I got here. I sat, with my knees hugged to my chest, adorned in paper and a hospital blanket, for what felt like hours.

Finally, finally I wriggled off of the very skinny, very hard bed. I was in the tiniest room I'd ever been in. My feet had socks on with rubber grips. I did not remember putting on those socks, and that really bothered me. I was really hoping the door was unlocked. It was.

I stepped outside into a hallway, and immediately the harsh fluorescent light burned my eyes. The hallway was all white, except for a tan tiled floor, and empty. I timidly ventured to my right. I was confused and hungry and I wanted to call home.

There was a desk with someone, who was on their cell phone, sitting behind it. "Where am I?"
I ventured. The aide looked up from her phone and snapped her gum. She told me which city, which hospital I was in, and returned to her phone. I took a deep breath. I was in a city very familiar to me. (It's the same city where I presently teach...ahh...the irony....)

Even though the aide did not seem the least bit interested in helping me, I had several more questions so she was going to have to do her job. I puffed up my chest and ventured, "I'm a teacher, you know." At this moment, while I write, that moment had some humor. Can you imagine, readers, a lady in a paper gown in a mental hospital saying this?

She put down her phone and rolled her eyes "Not now, you ain't. You a patient in emergency behavioral health. What you do to your face, girl?"

I reached up and touched my face. Without a word, the aide got up from her seat and came around the desk. Her scrubs swished together as she maneuvered her robust frame towards me. She took me by the arm, and led me to a nearby bathroom. "Look in that mirror, hon."

I looked like a leopard attacked me. There were deep scratches on my forehead, and both my cheeks. My eyes filled with tears that quickly spilled over and burned my wounds. In a tiny voice, I asked, "Did I do this to myself?"
"No one else done it to you." She led me out of the bathroom.
"Oh!" I cried. "It burns! My face!! It burns!"
Finally, compassion hit her eyes. She adjusted the blanket around me and led me back into the hallway, and went back to her spot at the desk. She opened the drawer  and took something out. "Come here, honey."
I didn't move. "Behind the desk?"
"It's ok, I got some bacitracin for you for them scratches. It will make 'em feel better. Sit."
I came around and sat before her. She gently dabbed my face with tissues and applied the ointment and the burning disappeared.
"You got such a pretty face, with them blue eyes. Don't scratch that face no more, you hear?"
I nodded and said in a small voice, "I won't. I don't remember doing it."
"That's because you got meds when you got here."
Whaaat? "What medication?"
"Two mg's of Ativan. You were one upset young lady when you get here."
I couldn't help but smile, even if it hurt my face. No one had called me a young lady in ages. "Is there a phone I could use?" I had to call Jason.
I remember calling Jason to make sure my son, Noah, was safe. Then I called my parents and painfully confessed where I was.
After many tears of shame and my scratches burning and my parents soothing me and telling me I was okay, my mother asked, "So, what now? They keep you there how long?" I had no idea.
I ventured back to the nurse. "How long am I staying here?"
"I don't know. All the beds upstairs are full." Upstairs? Huh? "You are slotted to go to Green Hill Hospital."
I had no idea where that was. My heart started to pound. "But...I don't want to go. I don't know where that is..."
At that moment, two EMTs arrived with a stretcher. It was for me. I had to go to an unknown hospital in an unknown town, far away from my family and everyone I knew. I was terrified. "No! I'm not going! I'm not going to a place I don't know!"
"Yes, you are going. Please, let's do this the easy way and just get on the stretcher."
I'm sure my sobs could be heard throughout the hallways and tiny rooms in the Psych ER as I climbed onto the stretcher as if I was climbing to my death. The idea of being in another unknown place was mortifying. But I was too weak to fight, so I was wheeled in an ambulance towards my next step in my journey to redemption.

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