The purpose of the Missing Years was to find a new man who was more compatible than Billy, or so I thought. I dated a few guys and they were mostly jerks (not all of them). One guy clearly had a checklist in his head and I could tell he was comparing me to the list during our date. Apparently I didn’t measure up because at the end of the date he said “nice meeting you” and drove off. That was that.
I started to get depressed. One night in early December I just wanted to sleep and forget about what a mess I had let my life become.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of pounding on my door. My secretary and paralegal came to check on me because I did not show up at work. I think they had seen this coming. They convinced me that I needed to be hospitalized.
Who do you think took me to the hospital that night? Billy. Who came to visit me every day while I was in the hospital? Billy. He took care of me even though I was in the process of divorcing him. Now you know why I say I was such an idiot. Billy is, hands down, the best person I have ever known.
The first day in the hospital I received a phone call. The general counsel of the company I worked for took the time to call me, one of his many lawyers, while I was in a mental hospital, to give me his personal support. I will never forget that.
The first night, I woke up and I could have sworn I saw a light shining into the room from the doorway. Turns out it was just that. The nurses checked all the rooms periodically during the night. Creepy.
I spent 11 days in the hospital. Even though I went in voluntarily, I could not get out until the doctors determined I was not a threat to myself. So I spent the time convincing the doctors that I was not suicidal so they would let me go home.
I can’t say being in the hospital helped. I went home almost as depressed as when I went in.
The only thing I learned while there was that the other patients in my ward were just like me. All of were seemingly normal people struggling with issues that were too big to conquer without help. I think the time I spent in the lounge talking to the other patients did more good than the therapy sessions.
Some of you reading this may be wondering—should she be disclosing that she spent time in mental hospital when she needs to find a new job? The answer is a resounding yes. At my stage of life, a new employer needs to be prepared for what I am, warts and all.
More importantly, I want to emphasize that depression is an illness like any other. If I had been hospitalized for a broken leg or a heart attack, I would not be ashamed to talk about it. I might not go out of my way to bring it up, but it is a fact. And I am not ashamed. It happened, it’s over, and it’s not likely to happen again. I stay on my medications and see a therapist. I have children who need me, a family that supports me, and a lot of friends who have stood by me. Plus there’s also the thing about not pissing God off. I really don’t want to do that.
Although I went looking for someone new during the Missing Years, what I found was me. I started to do all the fun things things I wanted to do, but never felt I could for some reason. I went on my first cruise, went skiing at Park City and Vail, and took my first trip to Europe. I stopped limiting myself.
Growing up, we always talked about doing fun things, but we rarely did them. I don’t know how many times my dad promised to take us to Europe, but of course he never did. He always said we couldn’t afford it. Yet he managed to visit Europe several times on his own.
One day early in my career, I got onto the elevator with a colleague from my law firm, and a friend of his was also on the elevator. They started talking and the friend said he had just returned from a ski trip to Austria. Listening to him describe his trip, I thought to myself that I would never be able to do that. Why, I don’t know. But thanks to my good friends Nancy and John from the Richmond Ski Club, I did just that a few years later. I had always wanted to visit the Alps. They were just as majestic as I had imagined, even more so covered with snow.
Skiing in Europe is quite different from skiing in the U.S. Unlike resorts in the U.S., the trails in Europe are not marked very well, I think because people are allowed to pretty much ski wherever they like. Unlike the U.S, Europeans are not concerned about legal liability. People don’t sue as much in Europe because in Europe, the loser pays the winner’s legal fees. That discourages frivolous lawsuits. Why don’t we do that in the U.S.? Because in the U.S., the policy is to encourage free access to the court system. It’s a double-edged sword.
I learned a lot about myself during the Missing Years. I’m not an athlete but I didn’t let that stop me. I was a terrible skier, but I did it anyway. I had so much fun traveling with my friends, visiting new places, trying new food and enjoying the magnificent scenery from the tops of the Rockies and the Alps. It was so worth it and I’m glad now that I said “yes” every time Nancy invited me on a trip. Thank you, Nancy. And thank you John. I hope there are well-groomed trails and ski lifts with no lines in heaven.
I learned how to take charge of my life while in Austria. In Europe, people do not que up for the ski lift, buses, or anything else for that matter. In the lift line, everyone sort of nudges themselves to the front of the line. If you are not assertive, you get left behind. I went to Austria with members of the Richmond Ski Club, and Richmonders are unfailingly polite. For example, it is considered bad form here to blow your car horn in traffic. I once sat in line to pay a toll on I-95 while the woman at the head of the line got out of her car, walked around to the back, and retrieved her purse from the trunk so she could pay the toll. No one honked at her. We all sat there patiently waiting for her to find her money.
So in Austria, a group of us Richmonders would get in “line” for the ski lift. I would nudge my way forward, looking down at my skis to make sure I wasn’t running over anyone else’s skis. When I got to the lift, I would look behind me and see the rest of my Richmond friends still at the back of the crowd! There I was, getting onto the chair while my friends waited patiently for their “turn.” When you see your chance, you gotta take it.