Two weeks ago, I was in turmoil. Today, I am back at work.

Two weeks ago, I was in turmoil. Today, I am back at work.

The trees along the walk to work were suddenly yellow. Some crunchy yellow and red leaves lined the sidewalk, with black moldy spots growing. Some fell onto the balconies. The playground sat there, empty.

The same broken piece of asphalt lay on the sidewalk, moved slightly from where it was, two weeks ago. The other piece was gone. Where?

They hold memories. Terrible memories. I skirted them all, giving wide berth, blocking them out of my mind. I tried mindfulness exercises.

I remember the thoughts, over two weeks ago.

***

I want to drop it on my foot. What if? Would it break it or just hurt it? I want it broken. Or my legs. How much force does it take to break a bone? I should Google.

I kept pushing them to the side. But they kept intruding, true to their name. Intrusive thoughts. I don't actually want to break a bone in my foot. Or my leg.

What if I tripped? Or jumped off of those benches and landed just wrong? Could that break something?

Shut up. SHUT UP.

Earlier this year, they were more like, What if I slip on the ice and break my leg or injure myself? How will I call 911 and describe the location? It's kind of an odd place. Dead end streets. But they would probably know the area. But I don't want to pay the ambulance bill. I could save $100 if I just dragged myself to the hospital--it's only like 6 blocks away to the ER or so.

But these were different. They were active intrusive thoughts.

That Thursday was the worst.

If I climbed up to those second story balconies, I could jump and break my legs. Especially if I landed on concrete. Maybe it would work if I climbed up that playground and jumped from the highest point. But that wouldn't work--it's rubbery. Has to be taller and concrete.

SHUT UP! Jumping that high could cause permanent paralysis or even death, I knew. That tiny bit of my rational brain fought back. But I saw concrete external stairs that overlooked another even taller set of stairs. ...from the top to the bottom would be a long enough fall to break something.

NO.

Even taller set here.

NO. SHUT THE FUCK UP, BRAIN.

Oh, god, the temptation to just do it and get it over with was so bad. It stuck with me all day like bad perfume or rancid cigarette smoke, even as I tried to clear my brain. I tried to hold it off. I'll go to Walgreens and see if they're ready. Surely they'll have it today. I put off thoughts of self-injury. Scratching, for the pain. The grounding.

Walgreens did not have it yet. It hadn't arrived in the mail. Why was I out of my anxiety meds? Why does it seem like Chicago has a shortage of it? Dammitall. I bought a bottle of wine, instead. It shuts the brain up.

***

I put my lunch bag in the refrigerator. There's my other lunch bag I couldn't find. It's still here. My hands shook. Anxiety. My arms and hands ached from depression and anxiety the entire bus ride to work. I hope nobody will talk to me too much today. "It was just a health issue. I'm feeling better. Glad to be back." That's my stock response.

***

Two weeks ago, Monday I was so anxious and in emotional turmoil. I hadn't slept at all the night before. If I did it was only an hour or two. Adrenaline. I'd been misreading what my psychiatrist said in his email. I didn't see the if in the statement recommending inpatient. I thought he'd ordered me to Northwestern.

A last minute email from my therapist clarified that it was an if statement. If I couldn't control and stop the drinking, if it was a clear addiction, go inpatient.  I'd already sworn it off, wanting instead to do intensive outpatient therapy. I wanted to do the DBT. I wanted to change my meds. Something needed changing. Something, to stop those dark intrusive thoughts. The nearly uncontrollable anxiety. If inpatient was the way to go, to get better for my daughter, my family, then I would have done that.

If.

But I'd already taken the day off of work. Maybe a few days. I told them I didn't know. I found a plaza to sit in, frozen from indecision and fear. My therapist recommended calling St. Joe's for an IOP assessment. Since I had the day off.

Two weeks ago, I lay on the ER bed, in an ugly yellow gown, waiting. All my belongings were locked up. I kept my bra and underwear.

Two weeks ago, I cried as I was wheeled upstairs. My clothes were inventoried and inspected, and I was allowed to wear them. No strings on them. I'm doing this to get better for my daughter, I reminded myself, and cried harder. My initial blood pressure was 180 over 140ish. Two doses of some benzo later, it went down to 130 over 100ish, where it remained the rest of the stay. No matter what.

***

I'm sure my blood pressure is slightly elevated again. From the anxiety. Returning to work is always hard.

I caught up on emails. Replied to the urgent ones. Deleted a bunch of cc'd emails that I'm sure were urgent at the time but are now out of date.
Said hello to people who stopped by my cubicle. Thank you, I am feeling better. Getting there. Slowly but surely.
Avoided mention of the hospital. Hospitals always freak people out.
Thought, thank God for FMLA privacy rules.

Thank goodness I am on a half-day schedule for a while. I don't think my nerves can handle a whole day yet.

Two weeks ago, the trees were green, and my thoughts were dark.

Today, the trees are yellow, and the fallen ones gathering dark spots, and my thoughts are quieter, softer-edged.

Just a few more hours, and then I can go, rest my mind and my anxious heart.

I am okay.

I think.

Or if I'm not okay, I'll get there again.

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