This is the conclusion of My First Brush With Death post from yesterday. You can read it here. It’s a true story. A small slice of my life. Please read on.
I went to work that day exhausted and worried about Lynn. The night before was surreal. I remember I tried not to think how close I came to dying. I went about my work, tried calling Lynn’s parents house at lunch time and got no answer. That really bothered me. Were they at the doctors? At a hospital? Or worse?
After work I went to Lynn’s parents. I was frightened. But I had to find out what happened. Everything seemed all right. They were sitting watching tv when I walked in. The huge pile of clothes were gone. I didn’t see Lynn. When I walked in I remember Lynn’s dad turning off the tv. He told me to sit down. I sat. Then he proceeded to tell me what happened after I left that morning.
He said he called Lynn’s doctor and told him some of the things that were happening and asked if the pills he subscribed could somehow be at fault. Maybe she was allergic? The doctor told him in no uncertain terms that the pills were NOT at fault and to get Lynn to a hospital for tests. They wanted to check if she had a tumor on the brain, or something else to explain the hallucinations and strange behavior.
He told me when he tried to get Lynn to go out to the car so he could take her to the hospital, she became distraught and agitated. She said she couldn’t leave. That the clown was in the basement and wanted her to stay there. When he tried to force her out the door she became highly upset and fought him. She told him she was going to kill him. He called 911. I remember the deep sadness in the man’s eyes as he told me that when the police arrived she fought them. They had to call in backup and an ambulance. It took 10 men to control her. She was put in a straight jacket and taken to the state mental hospital.
I remember that I sat and cried. My heart was so heavy, my mind picturing the scene. This was not my best friend. This was not the funny, goofy, fun-loving, kind woman I knew. He offered to let me stay with them that night. But, I declined. I went back to my apartment, but it wasn’t the same. The apartment felt lonely and somehow forbidding. But, I was determined to stay. I never did sleep that night.
The next morning was a Saturday. No work. I cleaned the apartment and waited for a phone call. Lynn’s dad said he would call me when he found out more about her condition. When the phone finally rang I felt dread. I knew instinctively that it was not going to be good news. It wasn’t.
Instead of Lynn’s dad on the phone it was her oldest sister. She explained that they just got back from the State Mental Hospital. Lynn had been medicated and seemed to be much calmer that morning. Janet explained that because Lynn was over 21 her parents could not have Lynn committed for more than 48 hours. Lynn would have to voluntarily commit herself for a longer stay. They were trying to talk her into it. Without much luck. So they had another day to try to convince her that she needed to stay and get help.
I asked her to keep me informed and she promised she would. I never thought I would be more involved then a phone call now and then. I was never so wrong. In fact it started that night. My further involvement. In another bizarre twist I was asked to come to the hospital and talk to Lynn and her doctor. Janet called me that night. She said the doctor called them and asked who Jackie was. They explained to them that I was Lynn’s best friend and roommate.
He told them that Lynn kept insisting she had to talk to me. That she refused to take her meds and she was becoming “disruptive”. She threatened to walk out of the hospital if she couldn’t talk to me! Janet asked if I was willing to go and talk to Lynn. I said of course! She was my best friend, how could I turn her down? That was the beginning of a twisted trail of weirdness that should have been fiction!
Have you ever been inside a State run mental hospital? You know those horror movies from long ago? It shows all these strange people talking to themselves and rocking in place? Well, that’s what I walked into with my first visit to the Mental hospital.
That visit has been imprinted on my soul. I will never forget it. Janet picked me up, and as we drove to the hospital she explained that usually only family members were allowed to visit a patient the first 48 hours. But because of Lynn’s adamant demands to see me, her doctor waived that rule in my case. She explained that we would talk with Lynn first. Then her doctor wanted talk to me. Me? How strange I thought.
We walked through the hospital doors and via the elevator went all the up to the top floor. I was nervous. I never did like hospitals. We came up to the nurses station first. We had to check in. Then a few feet down there were 2 heavy metal doors with small windows. They had to unlock the doors to let us in. To this day I can remember how hesitant I was to walk through those doors. I wanted to turn and run and never look back! Instead I took a deep breath and followed Janet inside. I followed her inside to hell.
The first thing that hit me was the noise. There were moans and groans. Some people were walking around talking to themselves. Some were just sitting staring at nothing. One older man off to the side was yelling at a guy dressed as a nurse. He was walked out of the room. I saw a woman towards the back of the room clutching a sweater and rocking back and forth. The room was large, about 10 tables with chairs pushed haphazard around them. There were a few tall windows with wire mesh in front of them. I suppose so patients wouldn’t try to break the windows. But, the mesh made the room darker. The overhead fluorescent lights were not helping much.
I finally spotted Lynn sitting at one of the tables. She was staring right at me. Janet was sitting at the table saying something to her, but she was focused on me. I could not believe my eyes. It was amazing how much she had changed in 24 hours! She was pale, her brown eyes were huge, the pupils large black pools of darkness. Her hands were clenched on the table. Her short dark hair was ruffled and uncombed. She wore her pajamas and robe. Someone had given her slippers that looked like two cute little brown puppies. I suppose in an effort to cheer her up. Her face was a complete blank though. No emotion showed at all. That’s what bothered me the most. She watched me walk to the table with a complete absence of emotion. It was unnerving.
I sat down and smiled at her. I asked her how she was feeling. She never said a word. Just that deep empty stare. I wanted to cry, to wail, to scream! This was not Lynn!! My heart broke a little more. Finally after about 10 minutes, she turned to me and said, “I love you, but I hate you too.” Janet grabbed her hand and asked her why she would say she hated me. I just sat there numb. I didn’t know what to say. She didn’t say anything more after that. She just stared straight ahead. Finally Janet and I got up and left. Just as I was turning to leave Lynn looked at me, and she said very quietly. “I’m sorry.”
Janet and I met the doctor outside that room. He introduced himself to me and we followed him to his office down the hall. He told me that the reason he asked to meet me was because Lynn kept talking about me. She kept telling him that “Jackie would be upset, I can’t upset Jackie.” So he of course wanted to know my relationship to Lynn. I explained to him that we were best friends. We shared an apartment, we worked together, we did almost everything together like best friends do.
He explained to us the for whatever reason, Lynn’s mind just snapped. They had run many tests and there was no tumor, no bleeding in the brain. They could see nothing wrong. So his explanation was, sometimes a person’s brain just snaps, it breaks. I asked him if she was going to get better. He said with the right medication, the right treatment, yes he had every reason to believe she would get better. Today, I look back at that conversation and I think that doctor was full of BS. Because Lynn never got better. She was never “Lynn” again.
The following six months or so are a bit of a blur. I had to give up the apartment and go back to living with my parents. I couldn’t afford the apartment on my own. Lynn’s parents had to go to court to declare Lynn incompetent so they could get her the treatment she needed. Some days Lynn wanted to see me and she was almost like her old self. We were able to talk. Some days were rougher, because she would tell me she hated me and refused to talk. Her doctor suggested I keep coming to visit because Lynn seemed actually calmer after I did. I lost about 40 pounds in those six months, even my mother became concerned about me. I wanted to stop seeing Lynn, but felt so guilty, I couldn’t stop.
One Sunday afternoon, my sister called. She said that I needed to come over right away. Apparently Lynn escaped the hospital and made it all the way across Milwaukee to my sister’s house. She demanded to see me. My sister was upset and didn’t know who else to call. Lynn was not being threatening. She told my sister that she didn’t know where I lived and she needed to talk to me. My mom and I went to my sisters.
I had tried calling Janet before I left but there was no answer. I didn’t want to call the hospital or police just yet. My sister wasn’t scared, she was just upset a little. So I made the decision to talk to Lynn and see if I could convince her to go back to the hospital. When we got there Lynn was calmly sitting at the kitchen table. I sat next to her and asked her why she left the hospital. She said she had to talk to me. Okay I stated, what do you need to talk about? She said she had forgotten. She looked tired and confused. I knew it must have taken her hours to get to my sister’s house. She walked the whole way! She didn’t have any money of course, so she just walked!
It was amazing and a little frightening. She was one determined woman! I had finally gotten hold of Janet and she came and picked Lynn up and took her back to the hospital. The next day I received a message at work from Lynn’s doctor. He wanted me to call him at my earliest possible time. On my lunch hour I called him. When he finally came on the phone he explained that he didn’t think it was a good idea for me to see Lynn any longer. He explained that after Lynn got back to the hospital she became very upset. So upset that they had to medicate her and tie her to her bed so she wouldn’t escape again.
It seems they caught her trying to escape again late that night. When he talked to her and asked her where she wanted to go, she stated to him that she needed to see me. That the clown was back, and that he told her I was going to hurt her and that she needed to kill me. In Lynn’s mind I was the reason she was locked up. I was the reason she couldn’t do what she wanted. I was the reason the clown was yelling at her again. She had to get rid of me. The doctor feared for my life. He thought it would be best if I didn’t see Lynn again. That somehow she had made me into the one and only reason she was locked away.
I was devastated. Shocked and scared. I agreed to stay away. Privately I prayed she never escaped again. She did. Just two weeks later I received another frantic phone call from my sister. She said Lynn was there again. And this time she was scared. She said she wouldn’t let Lynn in the house. She had a baby to think of. She and her baby son were the only ones home. I called Janet again. According to Janet the hospital knew Lynn was gone this time. How she escaped no one knew. Janet would go and pick her up, and take her back, again.
According to Janet, Lynn was supposed to have been getting better. The doctor told her family that he changed some of her meds and she seemed to responding well. She was more lucid. She was beginning to understand she was sick and needed her meds. And she would not talk about me anymore. She never mentioned me again. Ever. So the hospital let their guard down. And she escaped. She headed straight for me, through the only way she knew how. My sister.
That led to another 3 months of lock down for Lynn. As far as I know she didn’t escape again. In that time my sister and her small family moved to upper Wisconsin to be closer to her husbands elderly parents. My younger brother moved to Texas and asked me to move there also. So I did. It was years before I heard from Lynn again. My older brother saw her one day at a flea market. Said she was with some man. He also said in his tactful way, that she still looked crazy as hell.
The next time I heard from Lynn herself was years later. Me and my then husband moved from Texas to Wisconsin. We lived there for about a year and half. (A whole other story here) One day the phone rang and it was Lynn! I was floored! She said it took her a long time to find me. That she finally found my phone number. That she had been married to a drug addict for a while. She wasn’t with him any more. Her parents had died. And she kept looking for me when she got out of the hospital but couldn’t find me. She never would tell me how she found me, or how she got my phone number. I later found out my good ol’ big brother thought it would be funny to give her my phone number when he saw her in Milwaukee at a farmer’s market. I always did dislike my older brother.
She wanted to know exactly where I lived. She said she would take a bus from Milwaukee and come visit me. I hemmed and hawed, but never did tell her where I was. Thank god she never called again, that I know of. And she never came to visit! That was the last time I heard from or of her. I still remember the girl I was best friends with so many years ago. I don’t like to think of what she became. I always wished her well. I will always wonder what became of her. I always loved my friend Lynn.
But I will always be grateful I survived her.