Writing Challenge

Invisible and Nameless

Vocal Media Story submission

8/31/2022 – https://vocal.media/psyche/invisible-and-nameless

By SE Allen

The belief in something beyond life itself had always been on the edge of Claire’s conscience for as long as she could remember. As a young child the fascination with the unknown translated into the books she read and made her an outsider to her classmates who called her “weird” or “strange.”  They did not try to understand nor did these people of faith show compassion toward her. They knew nothing of the untold torture to her mind that was thrust upon her at an early age and continued into early adulthood. Reading any and all books provided her the escape she needed to continue to thrive and exist.

Claire survived her childhood of bullying, name calling and physical abuse but her mind continued to slowly fracture with each passing year.

Claire continued to grow older becoming absorbed into the fictional stories of other worlds and people, it was necessary to survive her own reality. The inability to deal with stress took its toll and reading was replaced with other self-destructing habits such as binge drinking, chain-smoking, promiscuity, and borderline anorexia. These destructive behaviors started affecting relationships with others and led to a monetary crisis. Her mind continued to fracture more.

Then there was a ray of light and hope that briefly slowed the splintering but not for long. She was led, with help from counselors and therapists to other positive habits that were non-destructive such as meditation, healthy eating, and exercise. She continued to mend emotionally and physically. Her focus turned to her work becoming something that she was proud of and Claire found her voice to say “No!” to anything or anyone that had to the potential to be a destructive force in her life. She had found the inner strength that had always been there and started to shine as her own person. She was happy with herself for the first time.

One looking from the outside would see she had everything that most would be envious of. She had the American Dream, a family, a respectable job, a lovely home, good schools, and a great neighborhood. The unseen force that continually plagued her was stress, her inability to properly deal with it and a sense of being alone. The fracturing had been slowly and continually growing again throughout her adult life. She knew this but ignored it and the warning signs of what was about to occur.

This brief moment of clarity and resilience came to a screeching halt one day unexpectedly over something so trivial that most would not understand why she broke down, mentally. Claire had always had thoughts of ending her life but always stopped short of completing the process. She had learned how to back up, gather her thoughts, reason, and step away from it. This coupled with a continuing healthy lifestyle had worked many times before but that day was different.

It was an ordinary day like every other day, busy, running errands and then an argument with her spouse started. The words said weighed heavily on her mind, made her feel cornered, the overwhelming sadness that came to her made her feel lost, for some reason she felt that once again she didn’t matter. It was too much to bear and the conscience broke.

As Claire sat there on the cold tile floor of her bathroom, the uncontrollable crying was suddenly replaced with calm and numbness; a voice came to her and said “Stop”! Claire looked down; saw the beginning of cuts on her wrist and felt confusion. She did not remember going to the bathroom, did not remember taking out the razor from the drawer, did not remember breaking it apart to get the blade out and did not remember making the cuts.

Claire was still in a hazy confusion when she found herself in the lobby of the emergency room showing the admitting clerk her wrists, crying, and still clutching the razor blade in her hand. She was having trouble remembering simple things such as her name and felt as if she was under water and unable to breathe. She did not remember getting into her car and driving there, her family unaware why she had left or what she had done. She only felt the need to escape to someplace safe.

The hospital policy was to automatically have any suicidal person admitted to a treatment center for observation for at least 72 hours. Claire was given drugs to reduce the anxiety and to calm her down. It lessened the confusion but increased the fogginess weighing on her mind. She had snippets of memory recalling the security guard place outside her door and the window where the doctors, nurses and techs walked by to observe her actions.

The treatment center sent someone to pick her up for voluntary admittance to their facility. Claire was still in a fog but remembered the police putting the handcuffs on her, for her safety and his, remembered the sounds of the police radio, and the sounds the squad car’s tires made on the highway. The lights of the city blurred past her in the car window.

The treatment center’s policy, once a person arrived, was to immediately search and remove all their belongings that could be used to harm themselves further. Claire’s coat, scarf, and purse were locked away. Despite the drug induced fogginess, paperwork was signed, and she was fed.

By this time, her family had been contacted, given an update of her status and information of where she was. Claire continued to drift in and out of the fogginess from the medication but managed to speak to her husband on the phone, change into the clothing she was given, answer questions from the nurse assigned to her, and fed again.

She looked at the doctor she had been talking to for about an hour about her life struggles and realized where she was and why she was there. In that moment she was alarmed and saddened that she had mentally broke after all the years of struggling to maintain a “normal” life. Then anger set in, Claire felt that she had forgotten how to say “No” to others and had become too complacent. She knew they had to keep her there for her own safety but worried about how it would affect her after it was over. This event would forever change how she was perceived by her family. Would they trust her? Would she trust herself?      

She was assigned to a room with a woman named Mary and given medication to help her sleep. It was 7:30 a.m. when Mary woke her up and told Claire it was breakfast time. Claire got up, walked down the hallway, and got in line with the rest of the people in her wing.

As she shuffled along in her soft slippers, Claire looked down at the t-shirt she was wearing and had to smile at the irony, it said, “My Lucky Shirt” and had a big four leaf clover on it.

This overwhelming awareness of her surroundings was short lived, the fogginess was settling back in as Claire received her bland, unappetizing, government subsidized meal. Mary led her to a table with the other residents and introduced Claire to them.

The residents were varied from recovering drug and alcohol addicts, court ordered stays, bipolars and schizophrenics. Claire was slowly beginning to wake up. She looked around the room and realized her own misconceptions of “mentally ill” people. They all looked normal. They were no different than her. Claire’s previous judgments and biases were based on the media at large through movies, television, and the news. Claire never believed she was mentally deficient in any way. She believed it was just some slight depression or anxiety which had she been diagnosed before, by many different doctors. She believed that was different than being mentally ill. She never imagined that she would end up here.

As Claire sat there eating breakfast, observing the others around her, and answering their questions she knew that she would be okay. In between the fogginess of the night before, she felt unsure and was scared of what could happen to her in this place. It was an unknown scary place to her but now she knew that this was a place of safety filled with people who cared about her and people who had some of the same problems she had. She wasn’t alone in this, they understood where she was coming from because they had been there too or were struggling with it now.

Mary and Claire talked most of the morning about why they were there. Mary was bipolar and had not been taking her medications when she lost control. She was back on track to getting better again. Mary had no family, so she relied on the kindness of others to help her when she was in need. The treatment facility had become her second home of sorts and she knew everyone that came in and out of the facility including the employees. Mary was an artist and Claire dabbled in it so they talked about that as well. Claire was grateful to Mary when she told her that “You’ll be okay, now you know, we are all a little crazy sometimes.”

Claire sat in front of the same doctor from the night before, talked about how she was now feeling. The doctor was a comforting voice of reason to her. He was not judging her actions. He told her that sometimes people let things build up and build up. They forget to take time just to recover and refocus. He told her how important it was for her to realize, that she was a lot stronger mentally than most of the patients in that place, because she was self-aware enough to get help and walk away from the situation causing the overload. The doctor assured her that the treatment facility was always available to her if she just needed to get away or felt she was overwhelmed. The doctor categorized her in her medical record as a slight risk to herself but not to others. He wrote “…was having a really bad day…” and released her to go home.

As Claire sat in the car on her way home she recounted what she could remember to her family about her experience much to the dissatisfaction of her husband but he pretended to listen anyway. Claire did not know what the future held for her or how this incident would affect her family dynamic. She did know that she was lucky and that she would be all right. The conscience started to mend.