The morning after my mugging, I awoke in a canyon. I was really lucky that although it was November in the Bay Area, the weather was very mild. It had almost been nice sleeping outside, or would have been if I hadn’t been so afraid. What had seemed like a fun adventure only a day ago (spiked with moments of terror) now suddenly felt like a nightmare. I was scared of everyone, and started thinking certain people I met were Evil while others were Good. It wasn’t the best mindset to be in while wandering streets full of strangers.
During my week on the streets, I had started calling myself Rose and identifying myself as such to some people. So when I walked into the RV place, that’s how I introduced myself. Which of course, did not match my ID. Which didn’t matter anyway, because I gave them an old expired ID I had kicking around in my purse. None of it made any sense. I had my real ID on me, I had enough money in my bank account to rent the RV, everything could have been fine. But it wasn’t.
Instead of renting the RV to me, they turned me away. I guess they actually thought I was trying to commit fraud. So I left. I walked outside and although I do not remember what happened exactly at that point, the end result was that I noticed a set of keys dangling from the door of the RV. Something in my delusion told me that it was FOR me, so I just hopped in and drove off the lot.
Almost immediately a man from the lot started following me, and I took the on-ramp to the freeway that led from San Mateo to Half Moon Bay. If you aren’t familiar with the road, it is pretty narrow and twisty and can be dangerous even in a low-profile vehicle. The man kept gesturing at me to pull over, but in my mind he was AFTER me and was one of the people that had been “chasing” me the whole time I was missing. I was terrified of him. Suddenly there were several police cars behind me, too.
Red and blue lights were flashing and I felt like I was leading a parade. I didn’t exactly speed, but I did start passing cars on the freeway (using my turn signals!). When the freeway ended in Half Moon Bay, I again used my turn signals through the neighborhood until I found a good place to pull over. I passed a police officer on the street and flashed him the peace sign. Now I was grinning and laughing, like it was all a big joke.
Of course I pulled over, and immediately I was terrified again because I had what felt like a dozen guns in my face as they threw the door to the RV open. I know how lucky I am. One officer undid my seatbelt and dragged me from the vehicle, leaving a burn down my arm from the seatbelt. Still feeling lucky. As I hit the ground I peed my pants AGAIN for the second time in two days. If I ever thought I was some kind of cool-headed hero in the face of stress, I have learned I am the exact opposite. I am the quivering jello person that just stares and pees themselves. I’m hoping I can change that about myself with some self-defense classes and such, but I haven’t done it.
The police asked me a lot of questions and I told them about the guy that had mugged me. They asked me if I was drunk, if I was on meth. I was 100% sober sadly, but they didn’t believe me.
I had a really nice officer drive me back to the police station in San Mateo. I remember him asking if this was my Thelma & Louise moment. He even pulled out my state massage license from my wallet and asked how this girl got to be in the back of his car. He calmed me down a lot with his chatter and I KNOW you’re not supposed to talk to the police, but I did anyway. We talked the whole way back. He was the one that realized I was a Missing Person when we got back to the station.
A woman cop inspected me and took my clothes, saying she would have them washed for me. (I was SO embarrassed.) I’m pretty sure the police thought I was drunk at this point, because they threw me in a cell with another lady for many hours. During this time I figured out how to call Neil collect on the phone and got through to him, ending the big question of WHERE THE FUCK IS CARLY? Carly was somewhere she had never been before. Carly was in jail.
Finally they brought in a psychiatrist to see me, who spent a few hours asking me if I was on meth, like everyone else had. I kept self-massaging my arms, pacing around, randomly doing yoga. I was a mess.
The first night, they drove me over to the county jail and tried to put me in with the general population, which basically broke me. I don’t remember much about it, except thinking the other women had microphones and things in their ears, but I was scared. They couldn’t drive me back to Medical that night, so they let me sleep on the floor of the commissary office, away from the other women.
The next morning, I was sent back to Medical. I had my own room for a few days, and they took away my bed and made me wear suicide-proof clothes. I had hallucinations and delusions and it was a miserable time. I remember hitting the suicide button the first night in there because I had missed all the meals so had had no food for two days. Everyone laughed at me when I said I was hungry, and the guard was pissed. But she did eventually bring me some cereal.
Actually, back at Medical everyone started treating me with kid gloves. I had nearly wandered off the first night at county (I did not stay in my seat when told to. Don’t do this in jail.) so whenever I was moved anywhere I had to have my arms and legs shackled. After 2-3 days (I can’t remember or tell anymore) in my solo apartment in Medical, I got moved into a shared space in Medical.
They were trying to give me medication, but I kept thinking they were trying to poison me. After a few days I calmed down and I let them give me Lithium, and almost instantly started getting a little better. I was really giving the police kind of a hard time. I remember hitting an emergency call button (you know, one of those big red buttons that you DO NOT PUSH unless there’s a riot or some shit.)
For as big of a pain in the ass as I was being, I can’t complain about my treatment while I was in custody.
It was “nice” being in the shared space in Medical. I had gotten very bored in my solo room as I calmed down. I had a roommate, and a common room, and there were four other women in two other rooms off the common room. We watched and sang along to The Voice. We drew pictures and talked about our lives.
One of the women was elderly and her boyfriend died while she was in jail and they wouldn’t let her out to attend his funeral. It was pretty sad. One of the ladies had murdered a cabbie and was being sent “off to Napa”, which I took to be the criminally insane place. I was very scared that I was going to be sent there. While we were there, she was on the front page of the newspaper and we decided not to show her the article.
At some point during this first week, Neil, my ex, came to see me. I refused to see him, and I don’t even remember why. I was suspicious of him for some reason, maybe still thinking he was trying to keep my daughter from me. My other friends Devin and Val had been tirelessly keeping everyone up to date with everything that was going on with me, and came to see me as well. They lived in San Mateo and everything had gone down right by their house. Had I managed to find their house, a lot of sad things would probably have been avoided.
My mom had used a lawyer in San Francisco before, Cindy Diamond, and that’s who she contacted to represent me. We totally didn’t have the money for a lawyer, but my mom managed to get some money out of the estate in Texas to pay for it, and I became Cindy’s ‘special project’. Thank the gods. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t had a lawyer. Cindy was smart and tough and instantly got me to work writing down the things that had happened in order and getting notes together for an outside psychiatrist. She wanted an official diagnosis for me as soon as possible.
After a few days in the shared Medical room, the police decided I could go back to county jail.I was transported to the San Mateo County Jail, where I spent two weeks. Please note that at this time, I was completely confused as to why nobody had bailed me out of jail. I assumed it was because they couldn’t afford it, that my bail was set too high or something similar. It turns out everyone just thought that was the safest place for me to “calm down”.
It hurt and I cried for days wondering why nobody was bailing me out of jail, and I didn’t have ANY phone numbers, plus I needed an address to go to upon release, which I didn’t have because Neil had said I couldn’t stay with him and Molly while I was so messed up. I honestly felt like I would be in jail forever. I spent Thanksgiving 2013 in jail, and while I should be grateful they gave us pumpkin pie, I will say it was the worst pumpkin pie I have ever had in my life. I will never forget the taste of that terrible pie. I will note, however, that Thanksgiving-in-jail did NOT rate as the worst Thanksgiving I’ve ever had!
I kept myself busy as I could to pass the time. There was one exercise bike to share among the 40ish women that were in our big room, so when I could get on it I used that. I took as many showers as I could get away with, since the water was lukewarm at least and felt pretty nice. Except the one time I took a shower when we were not apparently supposed to be taking showers. The CO whipped open the shower curtain on me and scared the shit out of me. In trouble again.
I got in trouble a few times during the general population stay. There was a “cold room” they would throw us in when we acted up. I spent a few hours in the cold room for cutting in line one time, and for something else that I don’t remember. It was miserable in there. It was just an empty room with a toilet and the AC cranked up really high.
The other girls were mostly young, a lot were moms, and almost all of them were nice. The stories they told me broke my heart over and over again. We compared pictures of our kids and how we wound up there. One showed me how to take the elastic thread out of a sock and use it to thread eyebrows! Another girl I traded some stamps to in exchange for her to braid the front of my hair out of my face.
Coffee. They sold instant coffee at the commissary that we had to make with lukewarm water from the sink. It was still so good. Awful instant coffee with a wee pinch of sugar and dehydrated creamer and it was SO GOOD! It was like the only altering substance anyone was allowed, so they were all coffee junkies. We would be up until midnight sipping coffee and playing cards.
When mail call came, I was always the most popular person in the room. Everyone was curious how I got so much mail, especially since I was from So-Cal, but it was totally because of Devin and Val and Neil. Thank you to everyone that sent me letters while I was in jail. I read them over and over again and if you didn’t get a response, which most didn’t, it’s because I never managed to have stamps and envelopes and a pencil at the same time. Getting stuff from the commissary only happened once a week, and shit would sometimes just up and disappear. Jail.
At least I never did see the meth. Some girls got busted with meth in our room and got additional time added onto their sentences. Not sure how they got meth in jail, but hey, wtf. It was sad. Another girl had a seizure in the middle of the night, which was also scary.
We were only allowed to go outside for a few minutes each day, and only if the whole room hadn’t gotten in trouble. We spent the whole weekend after the meth incident inside. When we did go outside, it was to some cement picnic tables with a high fence separating the tables from a vegetable garden, then the freeway. There was a cat that was sometimes in the garden, and I liked to just sit and watch the plants and the kitty. I started drawing a picture of the garden, and when I finally got out I gave it to the young deputy that was the nicest to me while I was there.
I was so manic. I wanted to stay in touch with everyone! I must have given my email address to a dozen women while I was in jail, though I never did hear from any of them afterwards. Finally, after over two weeks in jail, this one girl asked how much my bail was. I was like, well I don’t know, I think it is pretty high. She said she had a bail bondsman that could get me out for less than anyone else. I wound up calling him and missing him because he came to get me out while we were eating dinner, then he wouldn’t come back for me.
But now I knew I could bail myself out. I called Aladdin Bail Bonds next and the guy offered to just bail me out sight unseen for $126 if I came straight to the office and paid it as soon as I got out. WHAT THE FUCK. I SPENT TWO WEEKS IN JAIL OVER $126?!?!!?
Now I was pissed. But it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I was finally getting out. I didn’t believe it. They said I had to be out before midnight, so at like 11:55pm they finally called my name to be transported back for release. The last two hours I was in jail was the longest two hours of my life so far. I kept thinking something was going to go wrong and I wasn’t going to get out. But it didn’t. They drove me back with a young prostitute that I hadn’t particularly gotten along with in jail but now that we were getting out buddies, we were friends. I am so grateful to the girl in jail that showed me how to bail myself out. I would never have known I could even do it.
Unfortunately, they only give you a bus or train token when you get out and since I got out after midnight, I had already missed the last train anywhere. As soon as I got out I devoured the chocolate bar that was in my purse and walked over to Aladdin to pay my bail. The dude was so nice! I totally recommend them if you ever wind up in jail. I wound up doing payments for like a year to them and never had a problem.
So I was out, but I had nowhere to go. It was so late at night. I thought about walking to Saratoga, where my mom’s friend lived. I knew he would look out for me. But I couldn’t get ahold of him on the phone. My mom had written down some numbers for me in a letter, but I couldn’t get ahold of anyone. I walked around aimlessly for a few blocks, paranoid the whole time that I was going to get picked up and sent right back to jail.
Finally I decided to spend the last of my money on a hotel room for the night and figure it out the next day. I wound up at an America’s Best Value Inn and it was the most luxurious experience of my life. The shower easily rivaled the post-BurningMan shower I had had once. Also, I was so THIN. I lost weight wandering the streets and in jail, and now that I had a full-length mirror I could really see it. I couldn’t remember the last time I was so thin.
They were supposed to release me with my medication, but they didn’t. I had to walk a mile the next morning to go pick up my meds, and the police officer I picked them up from was so rude to me, I cried on my walk back. But I cheered myself up by obtaining In N Out, which was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted after two weeks of jail food.
The next few weeks are still a little blurry. I stayed in the Bay Area for a few weeks to hit a couple court dates, and to see the psychiatrist that my lawyer had lined up for me, Dr. Weiner. I talked to him for three hours and filled him in on most of my whole story. When all was said and done I finally had a diagnosis, Bipolar I. He wrote an extensive paper on me for the court.
I spent a few days with my friend’s mother in Half Moon Bay, who was also bipolar. That time was very healing for me, being around someone that really understood. She also gave me some cash to help get me through, and I will always be grateful to her. I will also always be grateful to Devin and Val, who I spent more time with and who went so above and beyond in the friend realm the whole time I was missing.
I am so loved. Some days it is hard to remember, but I know now that I am loved. Dealing with my bipolar disorder has been a struggle, but I am happy to have a diagnosis and medication that has helped keep me stable these last few years. I hope that by sharing my story to help others feel more free to share their stories that I enjoy so much.