After seeing the Magistrate and being released from the Wake County Prison, I could finally go home. Sarah came to pick me up and met me inside. We exchanged a few words with the women working there, including how ridiculous it was that I was even arrested. Then we walked out and drove home. This was our first time seeing each other since she watched me get handcuffed and put into the back of a police car. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
(Getting into car)
Sarah: Hey Andy from Shawshank. Or would you rather be Piper from Orange is the New Black?
Stephanie: Hey, you could just say ‘Hey Shawshank, or Hey Orange is the New Black.’ You don’t have to reference the specific actor.
Sarah: Damn. Prison changed you. (I should add that Sarah was so happy to be able to reenact this scene from pitch perfect.)
Stephanie: (Sighs. Hangs her head). Speaking of Orange is the New Black...
Sarah: You met someone on the inside didn't you?
Stephanie: That's funny, but no. They wouldn’t let me keep the cool orange sandals as a souvenir.
Sarah: Oh that's gross, they made you wear communal shoes? You were only there for like 45 minutes.
Stephanie: What am I going to do with my life? I’m ruined.
Sarah: Don’t be silly. We can get you some athletes foot spray or something.
Stephanie: But seriously....
Sarah: This whole thing is ridiculous. You should’ve never been arrested. On a side note, I am pretty sure your mom and sisters are ready to yell profanities at this guy. I kind of want to know what your sisters would do right now. I imagine Katie stalking him on social media and then sending him an email telling him what a jerk he is and why he made a mistake. Samantha on the other hand, would most likely tag him in her status on Facebook telling him to 'Suck a D'.
Stephanie: Bahaha, that's about right. Their hearts are in the right place.
Sarah: They always stick up for you. You Gaal sisters are scary. I wouldn't mess with you.
Stephanie: Will you be my lawyer?
Sarah: Hells yeah. Especially if it means I get a new Brooks Brothers outfit.
Stephanie: Oh man, I don't know, you might be a little too pricey for me.
Sarah: I’m glad we can laugh at this. I was worried you’d be super angry and, well, emotional. I wasn’t sure what was happening while you were in there, so naturally I was so worried. And of course I had no clue that when they arrest someone they don't actually take them to the police station so I went to like 5 different places before I was finally told to go to the Wake County Detention Center, which can I just say makes 'jail' sound like an after school special.
Stephanie: Honestly, I surprised myself. It certainly could’ve been worse, but I was so clueless as to why someone I didn't know was pressing charges against me for something that I didn’t remember, and certainly would never intentionally do. I’m a nice lady. I’m going through a hard time. The emergency room was where I needed to be. And now my mugshot is out there. They didn’t even let me look at the picture to make sure I was happy with it.
Sarah: I'm just glad you weren't wearing something ridiculous when they took your picture.
Stephanie: Like a UNC shirt?
Sarah: EXACTLY! If only people could hear our conversation.
Stephanie: They can. I’ll write about it.
Sarah: Ok, but first I think we are supposed to go to a crappy diner and your supposed to scarf down a bunch of food really quickly like you haven't eaten in days.
Stephanie: Soooooo we go to a crappy diner and all I have to do is eat exactly how I always eat?
Sarah: (nods her head emphatically).
So, that’s kind of how our conversation went. Why? Because Sarah handles everything with humor and it was exactly what was needed at the time. I know it’s hard to imagine when you’re not actually there, but we laugh A LOT, about everything! It’s one of our strengths as a couple, among many. What we’ve both learned from this, however, is very serious. Our views on mental health and the criminal justice system have changed. Individually and collectively.
You have to really imagine this situation. While we joke and laugh, it was very much a serious one. For several months I was struggling. I had no clue what was happening with me. I had experienced depression before, but this was different. More severe. The anxiety was new. Sarah had no clue what I was going through and she wasn’t sure how to help. I go to the emergency room twice, within two weeks. I hoped with all my might, that the sadness I felt, the worthlessness, and the guilt, would all just disappear. I didn’t want to die, but i certainly didn’t want to wake up another day and feel the way I was feeling. And that my friends is not okay. So Sarah did what every caretaker in this situation should do--she sought emergency medical attention for me.
We rely on healthcare professionals to care for us and expect emergency healthcare professionals to be trained to handle anything. This is where I feel our healthcare and criminal justice systems fail. Not all policies and laws make sense. North Carolina, for example, passed a law a couple years ago that makes it a felony to assault any provider on hospital property. This is one of those laws that Sarah has become so frustrated with. Admittedly, it sounds like something that would be good, right? Hospital workers deserve to be safe at work, but their jobs do have risks. And punishing people who are not able to control their actions because of behaviors resulting from brain disorders is not going to deter them or others from acting out in the future. It is only going to punish them more severely for something they can’t control. In situations where people are clearly hurting, these policies and laws only make things worse. People who need emergency medical attention for mental health emergencies (or those seeking treatment on their behalf ) should not have to worry that seeking the necessary medical attention could result in felony charges. In my situation, Sarah took me in for emergency help. My treatment consisted solely of Haldol and Ketamine. Less than 12 hours after pleading with a police officer to take my life, I was released from the emergency room without them even notifying my psychiatrist. This is the first failure...the failure of our Healthcare System.
I just want all people to learn and grow together.