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  • ericaanne

Counting the Pills

In 2018, Nick lost his dad, family dog, and then his aunt - all within a 3-month period. A few days after his aunt passed, we were sitting in class when Nick fell face-first out of his seat, smacked his head on the concrete floor, and started having a seizure. The following weeks were filled with neurologist appointments, an MRI, and EEG to assess for any major neurologic problems. He was also prescribed Keppra, an anti-convulsant medication, in the meantime while any pathologies were ruled out. When all was said and done, nothing turned up and epilepsy was ruled out. He was able to stop taking the Keppra, but I saved them in case something happened again.

Fast forward to a year later, he developed OCD.

Fast forward again to early 2020: I was reading some of the medical sites that gave advice on how to support someone through mental illness. Things like "take care of yourself first", and "see a therapist if needed", and "be gentle with yourself" were listed on the screen [only later did I find there are other, more helpful resources - but still, nobody was talking about their personal experience of supporting a loved one with mental illness].

At this particular point in time, I was not doing well in the "taking care of myself" department. I was fearful of leaving Nick alone for any extended period of time, which meant going to the gym scared me. As a result, it had been a couple of weeks since I had worked out. I finally decided to take the chance and committed myself to doing a 20-minute HIT workout on a spin bike.

I walked through the gym doors, put my earbuds in and headed directly for the spine bike room. I sat down on a bike in the corner of the room and started pedaling. I had been in the gym for maybe 2 minutes when I started getting texts from Nick.

"Why are you with me?"

"I can't do this anymore."

"I don't want to live anymore."

"Where did you hide all of the pills?"

"Never mind. I found them."

They rolled in quickly, one after the other, making it seem more like my phone was sounding an alarm than a text notification.

There was no manual for this. The medical websites didn't have anything for this. Here I was, doing what it told me to do and "taking care of myself". But what are you supposed to do when this is happening? What were you supposed to do when you literally couldn't "take care of yourself" when you thought you finally had the time or chance to do that? Hell, even the better resources I eventually found, like NAMI, didn't tell me what to do in this situation. My own mental health was suffering tremendously because I wasn't taking care of myself. This felt like a 24-hour surveillance job.

I hopped off the bike and ran out of the gym. Nick's texts stopped soon after I got in my car, sending me into a panic. When I finally pulled into our driveway, I got out and sprinted towards the front door, flinging it open. Nick was sitting at the top of our staircase. His eyes were glossed over and red. He was silent and had a blank expression on his face.

"Where are the pills!!??" I screamed at him.

He didn't react. He didn't look at me or even flinch.

"WHERE ARE THEY!?" I screamed louder.

I screamed the same thing at him two or three more times before he finally looked at me. He still didn't say anything.

I marched over to the kitchen and found the Keppra pills. He had lined them all up in a straight line on the counter. I had no idea how many pills were in the bottle before, but I was relieved to see that it seemed like a majority of them were still there.

"I didn't take them," he finally whispered.

I put the pills in the bottle, threw the bottle in the trash can, and took the trash bag out to the street. After he went to bed, I quietly took all of the sharp objects and hid them in a closet; something I had done in 2019 and was hoping I'd never have to do again. I took his keys with me to bed and didn't sleep for the rest of the night.

Where were the people having this experience?

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