"Hail Mary's in the sky"


Last week I went to the emergency room for being suicidal. I walked up to the check in nurse and through tears told her I wanted to kill myself and didn't feel safe. I felt so vulnerable and scared. They took me straight back to a room and did all the nurse stuff (vitals, asking about pain, what meds I'm on, etc). A security guard stood outside the room to make sure I didn't leave. The doctor came in and asked me if I had a plan to kill myself and we went into all that. 

I waited in the ER for hours, laying in a bed crying, in a patient gown that was double my size. The nurses took labs and I had to pee in a cup and walk around with my panties showing. Little did I know this was the easy part.

They found a bed for me in the psych ward and I was taken by ambulance to the facility. The EMT's were extremely kind. Two young women who talked to me and told me they knew the place I was going was one of the best psychiatric facilities in the area. Once I got there I got off the gurney and an RN (also my contact for the day) took vitals and handed me a folder with "everything I needed to know". 

She brought me to my room, I had to take off all my clothes so she could do a skin check to make sure I didn't have any open wounds, and checked my hair for lice. Then she asked if I had "packed anything" for my stay. I hadn't as I had no idea that morning that I would end up in a psych ward for being suicidal. She brought me a paper bag of generic antiperspirant, a "safety toothbrush", and some body wash/shampoo crap. She told me I could get Ativan every two hours to help with my anxiety, and then she left.

Once she left I instantly went to get the Ativan because I was beyond anxious and knew I was going to have a panic attack. Then I went back to my room and the panic attack started. The thing I learned about psych wards is that the nurses follow you and check in on you constantly but don't say a fucking word. A nurse peeked into my room during my panic attack to make sure I was in there behaving myself and she asked if I was ok. I told her no and that I needed someone to sit with me. She said she would get my contact person. A few minutes later, my contact person came in with a phone and told me to call someone and then left. If you have ever had a panic attack, you know that talking during one is almost impossible. I called Ronald but couldn't say anything at all. He just heard me sobbing and I'm sure it scared the hell out of him. 

The first night was basically one long panic attack. I wasn't allowed to take my normal night meds until I saw a psychiatrist (who wouldn't be in until the next day), so I couldn't sleep. Every 2 hours I would get up to get an Ativan. There were two clocks in the entire facility. One at the nurses station, and one in the community room, so I got up every few minutes to check the time, wandering the halls in my pjs with the drawstrings taken out so I wouldn't hang myself.

The next day I sort of settled and started to get the hang of it. I was able to eat a tiny bit of breakfast. Then Ativan, Ativan. Ativan. One patient came and talked to me. I called Ronald a lot, was able to go outside in an ugly patio area and see the sky, and went to a few (totally worthless) group meetings. 

Things I learned while being in a psych ward:

1. The nurses and staff don't give a shit about you or your wellness other than how it reflects on them. You get a contact nurse each day who asks "are you hearing voices? are you wanting to hurt someone or hurt yourself?" twice during the day and that's it.

2. The nurses weren't mean to me, but they weren't kind either, other than two of them who I only saw once.

3. They monitor everything. How much food you eat, they look in your room every 15 minutes to make sure you're still alive, they literally follow you around with clipboards writing things down about you. If you cry they write it down (I recommend crying in the shower).

4. There is zero privacy. Even the bathroom only has a curtain. If you close your bedroom door, the nurses come and open it without knocking, you don't have a single moment to yourself.

5. You have to prove that you deserve to be let out. They can keep you as long as they want. Yes you have rights and the right to appeal their decision to keep you longer, but it isn't an easy process. So be good. Be good. Be good. 

6. Instead of doing the work to get well, you start to do the work to get out. The work to get out is stupid and not the work you need to do to get better. Eat all your food, sit in the community room and watch tv, smile, don't cry or show emotion, go to every group, act as normal as possible, interact with other patients but only a little because the nurses don't like when you get really close. No touching ANYONE, no exchanging info with any patients to keep in touch when you get out of hell.

7. You are treated like cattle and prisoners when you have done nothing wrong. There is no comfort there. There is no shoulder to cry on. There is no opportunity to open up about how and why you are suicidal.

8. There were some very sick patients there who were dangerous and it was so sad. I felt so terrible for them, the nurses made fun of them which infuriated me. There was yelling and screaming most of the night just from two patients! One patient had to have three men follow him around in case he became violent. He did once and we were locked in the community room for 20 minutes watching them restrain him. But we had to act disinterested otherwise they would write it down. I couldn't help but smile and laugh when that same patient began yelling to all the male nurses that they needed to go to Sexual Addiction Anonymous. I felt so bad for this man who was so paranoid and angry and obviously very ill, it broke my heart, but that was a a little moment of much needed levity. 

9. You get paranoid. It makes sense to be paranoid when you are being watched like this and yet if you tell them you feel paranoid they will write that down as a sign of your illness. You are treated like you are crazy. I am a pretty high functioning mentally ill person. I have very serious mental illness and yet I am a pro at acting fine in public, I have a very good mask. I behaved myself the entire time and still felt like the bad guy and that I was crazy and not human.

10. You get bored as fuck. There was nothing to do. No music. One tv that always had something on I didn't want to watch. 10 magazines from 2014. 1 Christmas coloring book with a bucket of markers. A few board games. The first night I asked for some paper and they gave me a legal pad. That legal pad did more for me than anything else in this entire process. It saved my life. I filled up the entire thing with notes, doodles, letters to Ron, lists and plans. That is seriously how I got well enough to leave. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and wrote out all my thoughts and feelings.

I thought my experience was going to be much more therapeutic. I thought that there would be one on one therapy. Groups where we actually talked about our problems. Crafts, music, things to do, things to enjoy. This just wasn't the case. Even little things like we could pick flowers from one bush on the patio but we weren't allowed to bring them inside to our room. Why not? I have no idea...

I really thought I wasn't going to get out after my 51-50 expired (a hold the police give where you can legally be held for 72 hours). I was panicked that whole day. I finally met with the psychiatrist and he told me I could go and really didn't give a shit about anything I said. He didn't even make eye contact with me. Once I left the room I went to the community room, arms raised like a champ telling the few people who became sort of friends that I was leaving that day. We all celebrated and then as I left, my roommate came up to me sobbing, telling me she wasn't getting out for another week at least. It broke my heart. This isn't how mental healthcare should be.

Besides ECT, this was one of the worst experiences of my life. I still think ECT was more traumatic. Even though it was terrible I'm still so glad I went into the hospital. It was brave of me. It was me saying that my life is worth living and fighting for even when its hell, that I deserve to live. I am not writing this to discourage anyone from going to the hospital to get help. I seriously think if you need the help you need to go for it. It sucks, but your life is worth it. Just having the safety and knowing there was no way I could hurt myself gave me the space I needed to get on my feet a little and think more clearly. 

I needed to write this out and make it public for my own healing. I need to share more, I keep everything inside and its fucking killing me. That is why I am posting this. I'm hoping to blog more about how I'm doing and mental health things. 

xo, C


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