Everything changed. The day my doctor called. And told me to go check myself into the Emergency Room. I had almost fainted a few weeks before. While I was at work. And my manager brought in the paramedics. They told me that my blood pressure was too high. And I was shocked. Because I’d never had any heart trouble before. But they were right.
Everything changed. The day my doctor called. And told me I was at Stage Four Hypertension. “That can mean fainting. A heart attack. Or even a stroke.” So we started with the basics. With watching my diet. And trips to the gym. But the anxiety wouldn’t settle down. And that pressure just wouldn’t let up.
Everything changed. The day my doctor called. And told me my medications would be ready. By four o’clock. A stimulant for the morning, to get me going. A sedative for the evening, to shut my brain up. So I could sleep. And something in between. For the random panic attacks. Those would hit throughout the day. “Pay attention to your mood. To your thoughts. And call me right away if there is any change.” But the anxiety wouldn’t settle down. And that pressure just wouldn’t let up.
Everything changed. The night Philip and I went to bed angry. Arguments were not new. He would blow his top. I would retreat in silence. Apologies would be muttered. Between bites of dinner. And the night would continue. Like nothing had happened. But no matter what. We’d always go to bed together.
Everything changed. The night Philip and I went to bed angry. I remember laying there. With tears in my eyes. And praying. “God, please just take me. Let me die.” The prayer was followed. By a carefully constructed plan. To end it all. With a hose from the back yard. And the exhaust pipe of my car.
It scared me. How easily it all came together in my head. It scared me. How peaceful it all sounded in my head. And I was shocked. Because I’d never had any heart trouble before. But the anxiety wouldn’t settle down. And that pressure just wouldn’t let up. And I tossed and turned all night. Till the sunlight came through the windows. And it was time to go to work.
Everything changed. The day I called my doctor. And told her I had a plan. To kill myself.
“Kimberly. I want you to go. To the nearest hospital. And check yourself in. For a mental health evaluation.”
“I can’t. I’m at work. My manager. Won’t want me to leave work.”
“This is very important. If your manager has questions. Give them my phone number. I will talk to them. But I need you to leave work. Drive to the Hospital. And check yourself in.”
“Ok. Ok. I will.”
“Promise me, Kimberly. Promise me you’re leaving work. And going to the hospital.”
Everything changed. The day I called my doctor and told her I was on my way. To the Emergency Room. The parking lot was almost full. I had to find a space. Far away from the glass doors. And every extra step I had to take to reach the entrance. Was another chance to talk myself out of doing what I had promised. But I made it to the desk. Where a beautiful black woman was sitting. I don’t remember her name. I wish I could. But I remember her face was kind. And her skin looked golden. And her smile was enough. To keep me from turning around. And walking back out the glass doors.
“Uhm…” For a moment I forgot how to speak. It felt like my heart. Was beating its way up my throat. “My doctor said to come check in. For an evaluation?”
Her brow furrowed. “An evaluation?”
“For a, uhm…” I stopped and just stood there. The panic slowly taking over me again. “I’m sorry. I’ve never done this before.”
She smiled again. “It’s ok, baby. Just relax. And tell me one more time.”
I took a deep breath. My lungs filling with commitment. “A mental health evaluation.”
At this, her eyes widened. With recognition. And she jumped to her feet.
“Right this way.”
Everything changed. The day I called my doctor. And told her I was there. In the ER. I followed the beautiful lady. Past the waiting area. And through two big double doors. She took me into a private room. And began taking my vitals. I apologized profusely. The entire time. I felt guilty. Knowing I was in a private room. While so many people were still outside. Waiting for a doctor to see them.
My heart rate was elevated. But that was no surprise. My blood pressure was up. But I knew it would be. At least I didn’t have a fever. But I couldn’t seem to stop looking at her and saying, “I’m sorry.”
She shook her head. “Don’t be sorry.” And assured me. “We want you here.”
I’d held it together the whole way there. But those four words shattered every stoic wall. I had carefully been constructing. For the last five years. And I finally snapped. And I finally cried. And I couldn’t stop.
Everything changed. The day Philip told me he was leaving. We’d had a fight, of course. But not like the others. This one was uncensored. Unfiltered. No holds barred. And he screamed. And for the first time. I screamed. As if he couldn’t hear me from two feet away. And for the first time. There were no apologies. And I told him he could go.
Everything changed. The day Philip told me he was leaving. I called the therapist the doctor recommended. And asked if I could meet with her. I remember walking into her office. For the first time. The lights were soft. The colors were gentle. There was a couch with fluffy pillows. And a knit blanket. I grabbed one of the pillows and hugged it to my stomach. Because I’d never had any heart trouble before. So I held onto the pillow. As if it were a shield. And somehow it would protect me.
“So tell me about yourself.”
My name is Kimberly. Sometimes, my parents call me Kim. I’m thirty-five years old. Five feet, eight inches tall. With brown hair and hazel eyes. I’m chubbier than I want to be. Around my hips, and belly, and thighs. Around my arms, and cheeks, and chin.
My name is Kimberly. Sometimes, my boss calls me Miss Hoffman. I work the customer service desk at Art and Soul. It’s an art museum. The work is stressful. But it means I can pay for the house. And the car. And the groceries. And sometimes just something nice. For myself.
My name is Kimberly. And Philip used to call me. Precious. Beautiful. Love. All the things I don’t think or feel. About myself. Because somewhere along the line. I learned to feel. Inconsequential. Ugly. And unwanted.
My name is Kimberly. And my husband and I are getting a divorce. We were married for six years. At first, it was beautiful. And happy. And everything I dreamed. But after that first year. Everything changed. The day I found out. What Philip was looking at on his computer. Because it told me. I wasn’t enough. So I tried. And I tried. And I tried. To make myself enough. To be everything he needed. The only one he wanted.
My name is Kimberly. And I failed.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. It wasn’t what I had planned to do. I had planned to get up early. To cook a real breakfast. For the first time in weeks. To wash the dishes that are piled up. On the left side of the sink. To start the laundry that’s spilling. Over the edge of the basket. I even thought about driving to the gym.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. I woke up before my alarm. And I laid there, staring at the clock. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be. Waking up all alone. How much colder the sheets would feel. How badly I would want to whisper, “Good morning”. Only to remember no one was there to hear it. As each minute ticked by the dread mounted. I was so focused on the rhythm of the clock. That I didn’t notice my heart beating faster. My breaths getting shallower. And my stomach knotting up. Until the alarm began to blare. But by then, it was too late.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. The anxiety had completely taken over. And the only thing to do was. Turn off the alarm. Get deeper under the covers. Shut my eyes tightly. And wait. Wait for my brain to calm down. Sometimes, it only takes a few minutes. And a few deep breaths. Other times, it takes hours.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. By the time I mustered the strength to push back the covers. And swing my feet over the side of the mattress. It was much later than I wanted it to be. Hours later than I wanted it to be. And I didn’t really feel like making a pot of tea. Or scrambling any eggs. That would just add to the pile of dirty dishes. And it was too late in the day. To be making breakfast anyway.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. I didn’t feel like starting the laundry. Because that would mean taking all the time to fold it and put it away. When I barely had the energy to sit up. And I certainly didn’t feel like going to the gym.
Everything changed. The day I made the bed. After the disaster that was my morning. I didn’t feel like doing anything, really.
But even so, I stood up. I fluffed the pillows. Before stacking them against the headboard. I tucked the sheet tightly beneath them. And I folded and tugged at the comforter. Until it was straight and even and smooth across the mattress.
Maybe I didn’t do anything I had planned.
But today I made the bed.
And for now. That is enough.