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  • ericaanne

Hospitalization: Part 1

Updated: May 27, 2022

We got married on February 1st, 2019. If I haven't mentioned it yet, I'm Canadian. All of my family is in Canada. I met Nick at an American chiropractic school and early in our relationship, we decided we would stay in the United States following graduation. As a result, after we got married I was undergoing a green card process to stay in the country. When you're undergoing a green card process, there's a period of time where you can't leave the country.

My grandma died on October 26th, 2019 in Canada. I was advised by my immigration lawyer to stay in the US. If I left, I risked not being able to re-enter the country, and therefore, risk not finishing chiropractic school and not being able to graduate in December. It was hard, but I stayed in Florida while the rest of my family went to say their goodbyes.

A couple of weeks later, and just weeks before we were supposed to take our last round of board exams, Nick and I were at a chiropractic conference in Orlando. We were supposed to be learning a treatment technique that our future employer wanted us to know. Nick made it halfway through the first day and then disappeared during lunch. I thought he had gone to the bathroom, but he had been gone for so long that something felt wrong. I went looking for him and found him standing out by the parking lot, sobbing.

"I just don't want to live anymore. I can't do this," he said through his tears.

He couldn't concentrate on what was happening at the conference. He was too distracted by his OCD symptoms and panicking that he would never be able to focus on things normally again.

"Okay. Let's go home, but I'll drive so you can at least take a nap on the way home". By the time these words left my mouth, I had already decided that this was it. I couldn't be the only one helping him through this anymore. He needed more help than I could provide. I was going to be a chiropractor, not a therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist. I was completely unqualified for this.

Prior to this, I had listened to Nick say at least 50 other times that he didn't want to live anymore. I had grabbed a knife out of his hand when he ran to the kitchen in a panic. I had calmed him down so many other times - only for temporary relief. We would end up having the same conversation again the next day. Most people didn't know about any of this. If they did know about it, they knew snippets. I'll touch on the reasons for this in another blog post.

Nick went back to the car. I went inside to tell the instructor we had a family emergency and we needed to go to the hospital. Technically true, but not fully truthful. I went out to the car and started driving home.

I started texting his sister (and yes, while driving, unintelligently) telling her what was going on and that I planned to take him to the hospital. In the state of Florida, The Baker Act is an act that allows for forcible hospitalization when you believe someone is a threat to themself or others. I was about to Baker Act my husband, and his sister was supportive.

I got off the highway and we got closer and closer to home. Eventually, Nick realized I was in the wrong lane to head home. He realized I was going towards the hospital instead.

"Where are you going?" He said with a panicked look on his face.

"Nick, I can't do this alone anymore. You need more help than I can provide. I need to Baker Act you". I told him as I started to cry.

"Take me home! I'm not going to the hospital!" He yelled. Then he reached to undo his seatbelt and opened the door of the car while I was moving 40mph, as if he was going to get out into the oncoming traffic.

I panicked. "Okay, okay! I'll turn around." I cut across 3 lanes of traffic, turned right, and started heading home.

When we got home, I texted his sister and told her what happened. Her response was: "You know you can call the cops and have them do a wellness check and they can bring him in?"

I knew this. We were taught this in school. But I couldn't bring myself to call the police on my husband. I told her this. She was amazing and called for me. I started trembling. Five minutes later, I saw the police cruiser pull up to our apartment building. Next thing I knew, they were knocking on our door.

"Who is that? What did you do?" Nick was starting to panic again. He knew what I had done before I said it. "Babe, you need to go to the hospital. I didn't have any other choice," I told him.

The trembling worsened. I opened the door and let them in. Nick was trying to play it cool, as if things weren't as bad as they actually were. I think the officers got the sense that he was trying to downplay it because one officer brought me outside to get my side of the story.

I didn't last two seconds before I burst out sobbing, begging him to take him to the hospital. "I've tried everything. He's suicidal. He says daily that he doesn't want to live anymore. I've had to grab a knife out of his hand. I can't do this by myself anymore". The words spewed out so quickly that I was surprised he was able to process any of it. The trembling got worse again.

He gave me a minute to pull myself together and we went back inside. The officers were fantastic. They actually managed to get Nick to go to the hospital willingly, under the agreement that he should, at least, just get checked out by a licensed mental health professional.

They handcuffed him (as protocol calls for) and put him into the back of the police cruiser. I had initially planned on following them to the hospital so I could sit with him until a psychiatrist was able to assess him. Unfortunately, that's not how hospital protocol worked in these cases. He needed to be alone until they cleared him to have visitors. So, I sat on our balcony and watched my husband be put in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed, when he hadn't done anything wrong.

People walked by and whispered. I imagine they had thought it was a domestic dispute. But I couldn't shake the guilt that he was handcuffed because I had made it so, and it was through no fault of his own.

I went back inside, collapsed on the couch, and sobbed. I stayed there for the next several hours and hardly moved from that spot over the next few days. Daisy crawled up into my lap knowing something was wrong.

Eventually, I thought about my grandmother. She went through a lot in her lifetime. She was a single mother to 6 (living) children on a teacher's salary, lost two other children when they were young, and had an abusive schizophrenic ex-husband. Of all the stories I knew of her, I knew if she could get through everything, I could get through this.

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