3. Am I Crazy?

3. Am I Crazy?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Am I Crazy?

Above all else: go out with a sense of humor. It is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.

~Hugh Sidey

Anyone can have a nervous breakdown, but especially rescuers, encouragers, enablers, and those of us who must be in control and save all things. I remember the events that led to mine. I was forty-two years old, and my husband was serving in the U.S. Navy on a ship we jokingly referred to as the USS NEVERSAIL. As assistant ombudsman, I was the one to call if you had a problem. My list of burdens felt endless, and I was hurtling toward a total emotional crash.

I started giving away my favorite possessions. Everything I did had a finality to it that screamed, “I’M STILL IN CONTROL!” But I wasn’t. I started dropping my classes at school, and I talked about death a lot. At the time, I had no relationship with God, except an internal screaming of “Please help me!”

One day, after spending an hour on the phone with a woman who had called to enumerate all her troubles, I began to slip to the end of my rope. Everyone was persecuting her, and nothing was ever her fault. Could I please tell her what to do? I tried to advise her, and she hung up on me, right after she screamed into the phone, “STAY OUT OF MY LIFE!”

The day continued to spiral downward. I worried about my husband and his dysfunctional ship. Younger wives depended on me to give them strength and advice. One after another called me all day. I encouraged here. I advised there. I was an equal opportunity rescuer. Everyone got rescued — except me. I felt alone, hounded, and exhausted.

Then the phone rang. This time I had to bring jumper cables to a young woman who left me standing in a restaurant parking lot. It was nearly midnight, and my homework was still not done. The world seemed to be going crazy around me, but I was the one who lost it. In a daze, I simply did what I always did. Help. Save. Encourage.

I don’t remember much after that. Life seemed as though it was happening at the wrong end of a telescope, distant and vague. I don’t remember driving home. I remember sitting in the driveway with the car running, wishing I were breathing carbon monoxide. But I couldn’t hurt myself. It just wasn’t in me to take that awful step.

I turned off the car, and went into the house. My two beautiful, young daughters sat on the couch. I said some awful things that they both heard. It pains me still to think how much it must have hurt them. Their concern was only for me. Jenny called a therapist friend, who gave me the only advice that she could legally give, but only after I insisted.

“If it were me, Jaye, I would admit myself to the psychiatric ward.” I knew she was right, and she called a wonderful psychiatrist, who immediately accepted me as his patient. He made arrangements with the civilian hospital, but I had to make arrangements through the Navy hospital and get a waiver.

Jenny, her young face filled with fear and concern, dialed the phone and handed it to me. It was a Sunday night. A young lieutenant with no medical experience was the weekend duty officer. What a blessing he was. The first thing I did was sob. Then I stumbled through my story. He was so kind.

“No problem, Mrs. Lewis. I’ll handle everything. I’ll wake people up if I have to. Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you, and my wife and I will pray for you.” He took my information, and I thanked him through shaking sobs. In retrospect, I realized he was the one who notified the Red Cross, who notified my husband’s ship. I was ready to go to the hospital. Now all I had to do was find a ride.

Jenny, at fifteen, did not have her full license yet, so she couldn’t drive me. Several ladies in our Navy Wives Support Group were called. They gathered at my house and had an endless circle of dialog as to who could drive me to the hospital. Each had a reason why she couldn’t. It’s only much later that I realized they might have been afraid of me. I felt abandoned by my friends.

In the end, the ladies chose an alcoholic Navy wife to drive me to the hospital, which was an hour away. Although kind and well-meaning, this woman began every day with thirty ounces of cola, of which she poured out half, and filled the rest of the cup with rum, whiskey, or vodka, whichever was available. She gargled with so much mouthwash between drinks that if you lit a match she would catch on fire. Thankfully she didn’t smoke.

And this was who my trusted friends chose to drive me to the hospital.

Somewhere in my mind, beyond the pain, a sense of the ludicrous began to take shape. I could almost feel a chuckle bubbling somewhere deep within.

So the women packed my clothes and a few personal items into the car of the totally smashed woman. I wanted to grab the stuffed puppy dog that my husband had given me. But then I thought if they saw me with a stuffed dog, they’d think I was crazy! Hello, reality check! I was going to a psychiatric ward with an alcoholic! Of course I was crazy. Again that distant chuckle. I left the dog at home and climbed into the car. “Please, God, don’t let her kill me,” I prayed.

The woman was reassuring, kind, and all over the road. First we started down the wrong side of the interstate. Then, with a hysterical suggestion from me, she crossed the median and weaved her way to the right side of the highway. Then she headed for the outside lane, completely passing over to the shoulder, almost plummeting into a ditch. Whoa! Quickly she turned the wheel to the left, and we were headed toward the median. Then she reverted back. Back and forth we went, as my life passed before my eyes.

I didn’t know whether to pray that the police would stop us, or pray that they wouldn’t notice us. I began to imagine the conversation, as they pulled us over.

“Offisher,” her voice would slur, “I’m sssssshoffering thish woman to the pssshychiatric hoshpital.”

“Well, I’m sorry ma’am. I have to give you a ticket, and you’ll have to change drivers. Ma’am,” he would say, looking at me, “do you have your license with you?”

“Well, yes, officer, I do, but I can’t drive.”

“You don’t know how to drive?”

“No, sir. I know how to drive; I just can’t drive.”

“Well, why not?” he would ask, irritated by now.

“Well,” I would explain, “you see, I’m on my way to the psychiatric ward. Trust me. You don’t want me to drive.”

Thankfully, angels surrounded that car, and we arrived at the psychiatric hospital unscathed. I couldn’t have been happier than to hear the huge, steel door clang shut behind me. By this time, I was just glad to be alive. I began to laugh as the kind nurse led me to my room. In some crazy way, I knew that all this could only happen to me, in quite this way. Laughter brought hope, and hope began my healing. And low as I was, I was certain that with time, excellent care, and the grace of God, I would become well again.

~Jaye Lewis

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