It was 10 years ago this past April, when I took 22 extra strength 500mg Tylenol pills in the parking lot of a pharmacy. I desperately wanted help, but the people closest to me didn’t understand what I was going through. I had an egotistical boss who belittled and bullied me daily. I worked for him for a year. Every day he used intimation and bullying while I was learning (I was doing great, might I add) the trades of dental insurance. I became an amazing financial coordinator.
Every time I was embarrassed or talked down to by my boss, I needed to excuse myself to cry in the bathroom. Some days I didn’t make the bathroom and the tears would come, no matter how hard I tried to hold them in. I tried so hard to make this doctor proud of me. And the tone he would use when correcting me was like an abusive parent who relentlessly scolds their child. Nevertheless, I stuck it out.
It was time for my yearly review. Him and his wife conducted them. She was a retired neurosurgeon and she was much easier to work with. She periodically helped with decisions, etc. in the office. In the last year, I had recruited her to help me take on the past due insurance claims that totalled over $30,000. Our accounts receivable was a mess when I was hired on, but I brought all of this to their attention very early on. I had experience working for a small business as Accounts Receivable; managing ledgers, creating reports and collecting on past due accounts. During my assessment of the accounts, I also uncovered a huge amount of money that had never been refunded to patients. This was an orthodontist, so insurance would sometimes pay more than expected. It was a lot less predictable than the normal dental cleanings, fillings, etc. that you would find in a general dentist’s office. So it wasn’t uncommon at the end of treatment to see that the insurance ended up paying more. This money then needed to be refunded to the patient. The refunds dated back YEARS. It was ironically about $30,000. Either they always knew about this money and were committing insurance fraud, or I uncovered some major negligence in their books. I did my research before taking this information to them and found that what they were doing WAS in fact insurance fraud. I laid all of this out there on the table for them. Again, this was very early on. Over the next year, I worked my ass off to collect on past due accounts and in turn issue refunds. By the time I reached my 1st year review and with the help of the doctor’s wife, we had reached our goals. The accounts were clean and I had (at their request) created a step by step SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) for the position. This was NO easy task, as during the day to day patient care, I was also overseeing the front desk, helping the front with check in/check out and I was second on the phones. I was constantly overwhelmed by my duties, which is why I received some help from the doctor’s wife in calling insurance companies and researching past due accounts. I trained her on how to do this and we worked pretty well together. I learned very early on that the best way to approach an important topic that I knew my boss wouldn’t be happy about, was to share it with them both. She was a no nonsense kind of woman and she was kind to me. She told her husband how it was on more than one occasion, but he saved the especially belittling remarks for when it was just him and me.
I want to share my story, because over the past 7 years or so, I have found healing and self worth. The healing journey started when I became a dental assistant and worked for BVPD – those guys treated me with respect and even as a bosses, they became my friends. I learned that I wasn’t actually broken and unlovable. They respected my opinions, took the time to build me up and taught me the challenging trade of being a pediatric RDA. And I thrived in it. I noticed an INSANE difference in my confidence and even in my ability to learn when I was in that healthy, friendly environment.
Let’s get back to that yearly review… This is a little hard for me to collect my feelings on, as it was very traumatic for me. About 2 weeks before my review, I had reached out to my family doctor about the uncontrollable crying and feelings of worthlessness. Good o’l Google had taught me about antidepressants and how they could help me. So my very amazing and kind doctor prescribed prozac for me. He let me know that it will probably take 4-6 weeks to really start helping. I was really at my wits end here… I didn’t know what else to do that could give me relief. I was in a constant state of emotional distress. I had moved 2,000 miles away from my family and there was lasting tension there since they didn’t support my move and my marriage. I felt alone and backed into a trap. This was my last hope: reaching out to my doctor and beginning antidepressants and also starting counseling.I had had one therapy session and had just started meds.
I walked into the review with my anxiety high. I was so terrified that they would reprimand me for something. I expected the usual treatment from my boss, though it was never as bad when his wife was there. To my incredible surprise, the review went really well. They acknowledged all of my strengths and success with balancing their accounts. I showed them reports where the accounts receivable only had a couple of outstanding insurance accounts and I explained what exactly was going on with them. (Insurance delays – something we just had to keep badgering them about.) I always showed them my schedule that I had come up with to follow up. They were extremely happy with my performance and they gave me a raise. I was excited, yet tears started to spring up. Relief washed over me and it was a moment that I just couldn’t hide the tears. The wife asked me why I was upset and exclaimed how proud of me they were. It was now that I decided to share with them about my depression and anxiety. I told them that I appreciated them being patient with me with these little crying spells that I sometimes had. I told them that I expected things to get a LOT better though because I saw my doctor 2 weeks ago and he started me on prozac to help me, but he said it would take several weeks to work.
Abruptly, out of nowhere, my boss said these words in a very commanding, terrifying voice, “You need to stop taking those, now.” “When did you start?.” I was confused and surprised and I answered, “2 weeks ago.” He then went on to say, “You need to stop taking that poison today. Yesterday!” “That stuff is killing teenagers and it’s making them end their lives.” As he is demanding that I stop my medication, he is pointing his finger at me. His wife then started agreeing with him. She said something very similar to, “Yes, that stuff is really bad for you.” She sympathized with my depression and made sure that I knew there was no shame in it. She then told me that she could share with me some herbal remedies that are very healthy and could help me.
I was dumb struck. I knew that they were pretty hippie. But I never EVER would have guessed that they had such a strong opinion about antidepressants. It wasn’t the first time I looked up to them with advice on health.. They were both doctors and the wife gave me advice before about not exercising right before bed, when I told her that I was having insomnia. But despite their all natural ways, at this time in my life I just “didn’t believe in that crap.” I was raised in a very medical environment. I was fully vaccinated as a child and honestly we didn’t eat very healthy growing up. So my California adventure really opened my eyes to a new world of health.
Once the waterworks had been released, there was really no stopping them. As the review went on, I couldn’t stop crying. It was at the end, so I was glad for that. But when they told me the things they said about stopping my antidepressants and starting herbal supplements, I felt like I had just gotten kicked in the gut. It was my last hope. I believed them that they were bad for me, but I did NOT believe that herbal crap would help me. My hope was gone. I wasn’t going to get better. And I couldn’t take one more day, one more second of living in this worthless body.
It was lunch time after the review. I usually spent time in my car, eating my lunch and trying to unwind/calm down from the stresses of the morning. That day, instead, I drove to the closest pharmacy and bought the largest bottle of extra strength Tylenol that I could find. My adrenaline was in my ears as I bought that bottle, knowing what I was about to do and wondering if anyone could see it on my face. I wondered if anyone could tell that I was about to end my life. I felt like everyone was watching me, yet I tried to hide the plans on my face. I was a little surprised when I made it back to my car with no one the wiser. I began taking pills, counting them as I took them. 22. I took 22 500mg Tylenol pills and I sat in the car, thinking that had to have been enough to end my life and the unbearable torcher with it.
About 5-10 minutes later, the instincts of survival started to surface. I started second guessing my decision and I was scared. I needed help. I didn’t know where the hospital was, so I called 911 on my cell. The line kept going to a busy signal. 6 or 7 tries and every single time it went to that awful beeping noise. At this point, I was in even more of a panic. I did the only thing I could think of and I prayed. I cried out loud and prayed that God would save me. I told him that I didn’t want to die and I needed his help. I tried one last time before I started to look for someone close by that could help me. I kid you not, the call immediately went through after that prayer. Call it a coincidence if you want to, but since then, that moment has fed my faith on more than one occasion when I have needed it most.
The ambulance showed up pretty quickly. They parked in front of the entrance and I was parked a ways away, so I had to get out of my car and walk to them. It was my walk of shame. I saw that they were looking around and peering into cars. Someone got a glimpse of me approaching and when he saw my face, he gave me a knowing look. He guided me into the ambulance. On the way to the hospital, I was on the verge of hyperventilating. I was distraught, crying uncontrollably. The medic took my information and I told him what had happened. He asked me if he could call someone from my work to let them know that I wasn’t coming back. I gave him the number and he did. He didn’t give them any information, but only said that I was being taken to the hospital by ambulance and wouldn’t be returning to work. I was still distraught and all I could think of was how I have let my (ex) husband down. I kept telling the medic that he was going to be so disappointed and upset with me. He told me how my husband felt wasn’t important right now. Of course at some point, I told him that I had taken 22 extra strength Tylenol pills.
In the ER, they gave me a large dose of charcoal to absorb the acetaminophen. There was no liver damage nor any adverse affects. If I had to guess, I’d say that it was about 35 minutes from the time I took the pills to the time I took the charcoal. I was scared, sitting in that ER alone. I hadn’t had anything to eat. I felt so ashamed of what I had just done. My job was about a 25 minute drive from the town we lived in, so when I saw someone that I knew, my heart leapt into my throat. A friend of mine from church was finishing up nursing school and I didn’t realize he was working in THAT hospital. It was sometime in the evening and he recognized my name on their patient board, so he came to see if it was me. He was a really good friend, who I had played guitar and sang on the worship team with for our church. He was really kind to me, but since we were so close, he jokingly recollected with me how he saw my name and inadvertently scarred me with what he said next… The other nurses said to him that they couldn’t see why someone would try to end their life, then call 911 right after. They thought I was just trying to get attention. He didn’t seem to feel the same way and to this day, I know he was just trying to talk and keep me in the loop, but the judgement still hurt.
I was placed on a 48 hour hold and transferred by ambulance to a mental hospital in Oakland, CA. (That story is for another time – but it was a really good experience.)
One week later, I met with my employers with my (then) husband. We sat down together, the four of us. During my week of intensive therapy, I felt pretty upset about the way that I had been treated by my boss. My (then) husband was a very shy and quiet person. He was upset about what had happened, but his nature was to hold it in and let things happen. I don’t remember how it came up, but I think the wife asked me what had happened and asked if I was okay. I told them exactly this, “when you told me to stop taking prozac, I had lost all hope of feeling better.” The wife acted shocked and immediately said, “we did NOT tell you to do that!” “You were in a very emotional state and we’d never say that.” My boss agreed… I looked at them in disbelief. I couldn’t believe they could so blatantly lie to me. They were strong believers of Christ, from what I knew. They were very involved in their church and I was just in shock. They repeatedly told me that they said no such thing… (Like, who are you trying to convince.)
We proceeded with the conversation. I very respectfully stood up for myself. I also told them that I enjoy working for them and I was ready to come back, but that I don’t do well with his methods of intimidation to teach his employees. I was tearing up from the feeling of betrayal. The wife asked what they could do to help. I addressed my boss and asked him if he planned on changing his management tactics. He blatantly told me no. He said that this is just the way he does things and he wasn’t going to change. They offered to give me one more week to heal and collect myself. I took the offer and we left.
3 or 4 days later I received a package with a letter inside it. They fired me. The package contained all of my personal things. They gave me no reason. The letter was void of any emotion, just letting me know that I was let go and I wasn’t to return.
I was so hurt. I felt completely let down and devastated. I couldn’t understand how these “Christians” could act so un-Christ like. I applied for unemployment and received a call for my interview on why I wasn’t working there anymore. I told the woman that I had no idea why they let me go. I told her how I had had my review, received praise and a raise. The woman told me that their reasoning was because in the last week they had discovered insurance errors – where I hadn’t billed several of the secondary insurance claims. I was floored! I told her this, “Okay, I’m just going to be 100% honest with you with what happened.” Then I told her everything. I told her about the past due insurance and the refunds, everything. She was nice and let me know that I should know the results in a few days. I won. The interviewer found that they had no reason to fire me. It was extremely satisfying that someone believed me. Over the next 7 months, I was unemployed. It was after that big recession in 2009 and jobs were scarce. I received intensive outpatient therapy and this was the beginning to my healing journey. Those people saved my life. I used this time to heal and grow. I found that I was worth more than the people around me thought or showed me. I left my ex at the end of the 7 months. I completely disconnected from the people who I thought would judge me harshly. I disconnected again from the people who I thought would still love me, but didn’t. I found myself with 2 or 3 friends left – out of the 50 or so that I had become very close with in Davis, CA.
Therapy over the last 10 years ignited in me the confidence that I needed. I finally felt like I deserved to live and to thrive. I continued to work in the dental field and eventually became a dental assistant. One boyfriend later, then my now husband, and I am surrounded by love and support. I have to admit, I am very selective in who I let into my life. My heart is healthily guarded. And that is the way it should be! I know it’s a long story, but it’s my story. This is just a small piece of the puzzle. I hope that I could possibly be a beacon of hope to someone who needs it. I want others to know that while it can take years to undo abuse, the moments that you do end up finding your self worth is absolutely worth it. It was hard work. It was a lot of blood sweat and tears. But so worth it. I am so happy to be alive.