Last Tuesday, I was feeling anxious and guilty and having suicidal thoughts, so I called the 24-hour crisis hotline. I was just hoping for someone to talk me back from the brink. Instead, they called the police to take me to the emergency room at the local hospital. After that, I was sent on to Generations Behavioral Health, a mental hospital in Youngstown.
To be honest, I was relieved to go, because I thought I would finally be getting some help. And I did get some; they changed my medication, which got rid of the physical part of my anxiety. I’m not waking up one to two hours early, and I don’t have the knot in my stomach that was plaguing me ever since last August.
Unfortunately, there was no therapy at Generations. I talked for a short time with a nurse practitioner every day, and that was it. Sometimes we’d have group activities, but not often. Usually, they’d give us our medicine in the morning and at night, and then they’d leave us to our own devices.
I was upset with this, for two main reasons. First of all, I need way more help than just taking medicine, and I’m sure the other patients did too. In fact, one patient definitely needed a guide or an aid with her at all times, because she would yell out random things and break into song. And the aids there would just tell her to shut up. She wouldn’t, of course, and it made things extra uncomfortable for the rest of us.
Second of all, it was mind-numbingly boring. I brought along my tablet, but we weren’t allowed to have tablets or smartphones. I didn’t bring anything else to do. There was a bookcase of romance paperback novels, a few of which I read. There was a word search book and a lot of coloring pages, with crayons and markers, as well as two TVs and some playing cards. And that was it. That was all there was available to do. The boredom only made my anxiety worse.
I definitely don’t want to go back to that hospital. It had the feel of an institution, and I felt neglected there. I’ve heard there are better mental hospitals out there. For the sake of mentally ill people everywhere, I hope that’s true.
Those of you who have read comments from me on your blog posts probably know that I wasn’t happy about going to work during the COVID-19 crisis, because there was nothing for me to do at work.
Well, I have to eat my words. Because today, due to a stomach bug, I stayed home. And in some ways, staying home is much worse than going to work.
Because I’m all alone. When my mind isn’t focused on something else, there are no other people around to distract me. And I can’t stop myself from thinking horrible, terrifying thoughts.
Now that we’re undergoing a frightening natural disaster, I keep remembering horrific stories about natural disasters, not real ones, but imaginary ones. Now that there’s a situation going on over which I have no control, I keep picturing even more terrifying scenarios where I have no control.
And there’s no one to talk to about it, no one to distract me from my fears.
I am terrified.
In fact, I’ve been one for about a month. On January 14th, I took the Registered Sanitarian exam, and I passed! I was surprised and amazed I did, because the exam had hardly any material on it that I’d studied.
Considering I’d been prepping for the exam for months, I should have mentioned it on this blog earlier. But there are times when I feel like I don’t deserve it. I’m still not comfortable walking into restaurants and grocery stores to inspect them, and telling the owners what’s wrong. I still get anxious when I do it. And so much of the job, like evaluating plan reviews for new establishments, is still new to me.
Normally, a Sanitarian-in-Training has to work for two years before taking the exam. Thanks to my Master of Public Health, I could take it in one year. But was it the right thing to do? Should I have worked as a Sanitarian-in-Training for one more year, despite my Master’s degree? Since I passed the exam, I guess I didn’t need to. But I still don’t feel like a proper health inspector; I feel like an amateur masquerading as one.
Has anyone felt like this, about their job?
No snow drifts
No wind bites
No ice glistens
But fog rises
Sky weighs down.
Me? I drown.
Here’s the upcoming weather forecast for Millersburg, OH: rainstorms from Thursday to Saturday night. A flood warning. Possible thunderstorms. In January. A high of 67 degrees Fahrenheit for Saturday.
This forecast terrifies me. It makes me want to scream, not as loudly as people in Australia are screaming now, as their country burns. But I still want to scream, because the cause is the same.
What is wrong with the world? Why are the words climate change not on everyone’s lips? Why are even the liberal politicians saying and doing nothing?
I’ve been afraid of climate change for 14 years, ever since I read about its effects in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (a dystopic novel). And yet I’ve kept silent about it all that time, not out of complacency or skepticism, but out of shyness. Out of being an introvert. Out of not knowing what to say. I don’t even have a tenth of Greta Thunberg’s courage at age 32 (and I’m damn sure I didn’t have it at age 16), but I wish I did. More importantly, I wish I had the words to tell people, in the very heart of rural, conservative Ohio, about the impending disaster.
In the Bible, there are numerous examples of prophets eating scrolls. The prophets, including Jeremiah and Ezekiel, have visions in which God or an angel gives them a scroll to eat. When they eat it, they know exactly the right words to say, to warn the Israelites that God is displeased with them and that if they don’t shape up, disaster is about to strike. It’s symbolic of God putting words in their mouths.
With more terrifying disasters about to strike, God has not put words in my mouth. Granted, I’m not a prophet, but I can still predict the future if we do nothing. Anyone who knows anything about climate change can predict the future.
But where are the words in our mouths? Where are our scrolls?
God, please feed me a scroll. Please give shy, timid me the words to warn people about climate change.
…and I so much wish I didn’t.
I was at work. And some days, I get satisfaction out of my job, but I wasn’t satisfied on Friday. I felt that whatever I was doing wasn’t nearly as important as showing my support for the climate. I wanted to be on the campus of the College of Wooster, marching and shouting, getting rid of my nervous energy, trying to get our out-of-touch leaders to understand that yes, climate change is real. Yes, the world is in danger. Yes, we want you to do something.
For all that I work in Environmental Health, there isn’t much done at work about the greatest environmental crisis of our time. Granted, my particular job doesn’t tie directly to climate change. But why don’t any of our jobs? Why is there not a climate change program? Why are we not addressing the problem?
I know that it’s rural Ohio, and that we’re helpless without our cars and trucks and gasoline-powered farm equipment. I don’t have any current ideas on how to fix that. But on these hot afternoons, when the cars and trucks clog up the streets of Millersburg and seem to make the air even hotter, when you hear the horrible noise of their engines and can’t shut it out, when you just know that all that car exhaust is heating up our planet, and more and more cars just pass on the road, and it just won’t end…then you wish that the cars and trucks would magically disappear, that the problem would magically solve itself.
If I wasn’t at the Climate Strike on Friday, it wasn’t because I don’t care. It was because I don’t want to lose this job. It was because I was doing my duty. Yet I can’t help but wonder if at this point, my duty is something quite different.
What about my followers? Did any of you make it to the Climate Strike?
Why are so many people like this? What is remotely okay about literally tearing the rest of the world down to make yourself feel better?
I’m struggling. I’m anxious and alienated, and I feel like I don’t belong in this world. But I still didn’t vote for Trump. You know why? Because I don’t want the rest of the country or the world to be destroyed. Because unlike the people mentioned in this article, I realize that other people have the right not to suffer. Because I’m not an utterly selfish, heartless monster.
Why is basic human empathy such an alien concept to so many people?