By Cinda Johnson
From the initial worrying symptoms to long sleepless nights to cross country flights and the slow understanding and rebuilding of trust, Cinda and Linea fought an illness that they conquer together every day. Theirs is the story of a daughter’s courage, a mother’s faith, and the love that carried them through the darkest times. Now they hope to reach people who are in similar situations so they do not feel so alone. Here is an excerpt from the book:
Harborview is the major trauma hospital for the Pacific Northwest. It is only four blocks from the university where I teach. I was shaking too hard to walk. I knew that if I walked, I would start to run, and if I ran, I would come completely loose and run down the hill out of control, trampling pigeons and crashing onto the sidewalk. I asked a friend and colleague to drive me. She looked frightened and we took turns reassuring each other that it would be okay. All would be fine. If I kept saying those words, it would be true. I couldn’t allow myself to think anything else. I sat very still in the car and held all my fear inside: I will be brave. I will be the bravest mom there ever was. I am ready to fight anything that can hurt my daughter.
When we got to the hospital, I wasn’t sure where to go. Harborview Medical Center is a huge complex, and no one I knew had ever been ill enough to be there. I had been to Harborview a few times to present at conferences in the education wing, but I didn’t know the campus well. We followed the signs to the emergency room, and Lisa dropped me off, telling me to call her if I needed anything at all.
The emergency room at Harborview is a fear-provoking place with some of the sickest people in Seattle. The psychiatric unit of the emergency room is even more frightening. I walked past the smokers and the street people crowded together on the sidewalk, through the swinging doors, and into the holding room. The people waiting there were very ill, very frightened, and some very agitated. Linea was one of them. She was sitting by her dad. She needed her mom and dad to keep her safe. Her head was down and she slumped against Curt. She looked terrible. She looked sick. As soon as she saw me, she stood up and grabbed me. I put my arms around her and she started to cry.
She clung to me and sobbed. My heart had been pounding; now it seemed to stop beating. I think it was bleeding. But then my mother heart started up again: I will keep this child of mine safe. She said, over again, “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.” I told her how glad I was that she was alive. “Thank you for being here. I love you so. I am so thankful for your strength. You do not have one single thing to be sorry for.”
Linea whispered those awful words again: “I can’t do it anymore. Mom, I am so, so sorry.”
We held hands and we didn’t talk. There was so much going on in the emergency waiting room that it was all we could do to stay steady on our bench as a sea of crisis pushed against us: people rushing past crying, arguing patients carrying on loud conversations, nurses moving in and out trying to establish some order in the room.
We were finally called into the lockdown unit of the psychiatric ER. There were no windows. The doors were locked. The nurses were harried. We sat in a tiny room with a gurney and one chair. We didn’t know what to expect and we had no information, and so we just waited. A nurse came in briefly and in response to our questions told us she had no information.
We waited. The nurses’ station was across the hall from the door of our small waiting room and we watched as the staff shared a birthday cake behind the glass. We waited and watched the party. We listened to the nurses laughing with each other as patients waited, and waited, and cried and wailed up and down the halls, and I fought against the rising panic in my chest.
We waited for more than seven hours in that tiny room within the psychiatric emergency unit. As we waited, we listened to a man at the end of the hallway sob and cry and weep off and on for hours until his sedation finally kicked in and all was eerily quiet from his room. At this point in our journey I was not yet used to grown men crying like children who are hurt and want their parents, believing the pain will never stop. It was only the beginning of my education in this kind of pain.
The waiting was excruciating, but even more agonizing was the unknown. We had no idea what to expect. We were just barely holding it together but knew that we must or we would lose Linea.
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Editor's note: The harrowing journey to recovery was never easy, but they didn't lose Linea. As Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, founder of the Carter Center Mental Health Program and author of "Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis," put it, Cinda and Linea worked together "to overcome the daily challenges of living with a mental illness. Through their trials and triumphs, their story provides encouragement and hope for individuals and their families affected by these illnesses."
You can visit Cinda's and Linea's web site here: http://www.lineacinda.com/index.shtml