One year ago

Yesterday, I broke personal records riding my bike. (Scroll past the stats, if you’re not interested, to get to the good stuff at the end of the post.)

Farthest Distance

15.17 mi

Longest Duration

1:08:34

Most Calories Burned

483 cal

Largest Elevation Climb

702 ft

Farthest Distance in a Week

27.96 mi

Longest Duration in a Week

2:07:16

Most Calories Burned in a Week

889 cal

Largest Elevation Climb in a Week

1220 ft

Farthest Distance in a Month

44.94 mi

Most Calories Burned in a Month

1444 cal

Largest Elevation Climb in a Month

1936 ft

……………..

One year ago, I could barely finish five minutes of yoga without feeling like I had the flu. I wanted to die.

Ask me about my super duper healthy eating plan and I’ll tell you it’s a a large part of why I’ve come so far. 

Psych Ward: Suicide Watch

I run to him and wrap my arms around his tall, confident, frame and sob… loudly. I had woken up to him leaving the bed this morning, yet the time apart felt surreal, lethargic even sickening. We are standing in the visitors room. I sob into his chest uttering apologies for being here. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…” ” please don’t be mad at me….” “I miss you”….

…..

Monday, August 29, 2016 after noon.

It takes hours to check me in. The doctors, nurses and staff all ask the same questions. They all type into the same computer. (The staff member assigned to me was very nice, I’ll call him Schaffer since I cannot remember his real name.) “Have you tried to kill yourself?” “Do you have a plan?” “What is your home life like?” “What is your family life like?” “Why do you feel this way?” Over and over I tell them “I have chronic pain, I am in the middle of a medication switch and it’s making me feel dark and have racing suicidal thoughts.” I’m telling them honestly what is going on. I shouldn’t be scared, I tell them everything. I tell them I’ve made plans of how I would do it. This is supposed to be good for me. Doc said I was brave, right? I continue…”I know that these thoughts are not supposed to be there. I know not to believe them.” Over and over I repeat…” I’m here so you can help me through this medicine change. I’m switching from Effexor to Cymbalta.” I see doubt flicker in their eyes. Each person I speak with. It started with the staff who said it should only be a few days. The nurse said a week or two. By the time I was interviewed by the doctor, the “few days” went to “weeks”. My stomach begins to feel sickly.

I’m handed hospital patient scrubs and asked to change in a bathroom. They fit awkwardly, feel foreign and they scrape my skin. The snaps don’t work, so, I’m asked to change again. The socks are like sandpaper. I can’t wear my shoes.  We are instructed to wear a paper thin hospital robe over our patient scrubs when outside of our room. I’m whisked through the paperwork process. Sign here and here and here. I don’t know what I’m signing.

I’m not in complete control. The combination of the drugs that I’m on don’t allow for presence of mind.

Sometime during this check in process, my husband arrives with a bag of clothes and toiletries. I’m not allowed to see him. “He has to come during visiting hours.” Schaffer says  as he empties the contents of the camouflaged bag, full of my personal effects. “Hours are between 4 and 7:30 pm” I suddenly feel cold, my body just wants to collapse with panic. It feels that all my blood leaves my body.

Soon I realize what he is doing with my belongings. “Oh my God, he’s checking for contraband” I think to myself. I hadn’t even read the list of items allowed or thought of why. My husband packs wisely, of course, I sent him the list of effects that are allowed before my phone was confiscated. Everything I would need is accounted for and listed on a form. Everything down to my tiny, white laced underwear. I giggle at this and say “well, that’s what I get for having my husband pack my bag.” Everything that I’m not allowed to have; q-tips, electric toothbrush and the shower loofah made of mesh are packed in a separate bag for safe storage until I check out. I laugh at the thought of impaling myself with a q-tip and quickly check myself out of respect for the “truly suicidal” and for Schaffer.  Who, I assume, has seen too much suicide to mention.

I don’t know when I realized that I’ve just been put on suicide watch. It was probably sometime in the night, or the next day as I got to know the wards. That’s why we all were there, we aren’t allowed to kill ourselves.

After what seemed like hours, I’m shown a room where all of my clothing, toiletries and phone would be locked away. There are a few staff members in this small room. Oddly, the institutionalization, the suicide watch and the sequestration of all of my belongings brought a tune to mind. A tune from the Broadway musical, Annie. And I began to sing… “It’s a hard knock life…” Quickly, the staff begin to sing with me. Each one, chanting along to the simple tune. My mind grasps at a few thoughts while this is happening. Firstly, if I can find humor in this then maybe I shouldn’t be here. Secondly, these guys will be good to me, the compassion it takes to sing this little tune with a tear stained ward is astronomical. And thirdly, they knew the words to this Broadway show far better than I did!  The question of the necessity of my placement into the psychiatric ward of this hospital was growing at an astounding rate in my heart and mind. I mean, I had just broken out in song for goodness sake!  [As I write this, I can see that the medications were fighting a massive battle in my head. Admittedly, I am someone who can find humor at any time and anywhere. Especially spout out random shenanigans at very, random times. The truth is that I was in sever panic as I sang that song. Humor is soothing to me.]

Around 2 pm, Monday

I am shown my room and am relieved to know that I don’t have a room mate. I snore, and I have no idea what kind of people are here. The nurse walks me to the door, I walk in and I begin to cry. Not because of the barren room or the plastic mattress or the bathroom with no door. Not because I wasn’t wearing fleece or being prepped for an IV of happy drugs in a hospital bed, I’d long forgotten about the comfy jammies and the relaxation that my doctor had promised. But because I really want to go home and hug my dogs and love on my husband and stand in the sun. Numb, exhausted and grief stricken. It hits me.  “I can’t do this.” Dread… fear strikes my heart and I begin to panic… My loneliness is tangible.  Any dark, suicidal thoughts were admonished as soon as I walked across the threshold of that barren room. Any bailiwick of suicide has been replaced by love and comfort and the vast amounts of pleasures that I took for granted in the outside world. Yes! I have been miserable! Yes! The medications were causing my brain to hemorrhage large amounts of fuck it’s. But dammit. I wanted to leave! If I thought I could run out those doors in my hospital socks and ill fitting clothing with ridiculous elastics, snaps and swirls, I would have done it. The Raging lunatic… on the loose!

“I can’t do this!” “I don’t want to be here! I want to go home. I want my husband!”  A pit in my stomach grows ten feet wide… “I want to live… I swear… Just let me go!” The screams reverberate in my head. Yet, I hadn’t uttered a word. I turn around and the nurse is still there. “Are you ok?” He asks. How long did I stand there? “I don’t think I can do this.” I whisper. “It gets easier.” His tone is soft and understanding as he turns to escort me away from the room.

I am shown to the common room where all of the other wards are congregated. They had just finished some kind of meeting. I am reminded of a movie called “28 days” with Sandra Bullock. They sit in a loose circle, each taking a turn and speak in rapid utterances, reminding me of a 5 year old learning to read. I ignore them. I’m not supposed to be here, I’m not like them. I sit, staring off into space and my face is wet with tears. I feel them, but I’m over crying as well. I am waiting for 4 o’clock to see my husband. The time ticks by like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Quiet sobs draw me out of a catatonic state.  Is that me? I shift my gaze to a girl with her head in her hands, short hair a mess, her ears have massive plastic circles in the lobes. A tattoo graces her hand and contrasts with her shining white hospital bracelet. The bracelet is just like mine.  Her hospital robe envelops her slight frame. She’s sobbing and saying over and over, rocking back and forth….. “I want to go home.”


This is the third installment of my tale from the psych ward. It takes a lot out of me to write this story, so please bear with me as I process and write.


An Instagram Post from July 27, 2016

 

Happiness Project

“I feel like I am so very close to being admitted.” I say, through tears as I sit in my psychiatrist’s office, staring at her…. But through her. We just sat down, I get right to the point. “We can, if you feel like you are anywhere near close…” I stutter… Shake my head no… Because I’m scared of what will happen in my real life that will faulter if I admit the truth. My dogs? What will happen to them? My husband? He would be crushed…. ‘But not as crushed as he would be if I really, actually did it. Skip admittance and right to the deed of “checking out”‘, I think to myself. My ego won’t let me. I have a tiny bit of pride left, so I say “no, not yet, I know there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel, I can’t see it, but it has to be there.” My psychiatrist, the woman that has truly given me the best advice in years and really cares, is really concerned… Deeply. “I am confident that I have a solution. I have a ton of options. You have to know that we have lots of options and you need to give it a chance to work.” “I know, that’s why I’m here.” I say, heavy heart, sadness emanating. I’ve held these tears through many days and now they spill over.

By the time the hour is up, she’s increased my Cymbalta and added folic acid, fish oil and something else to my long list of prescriptions. She’s convinced that the problem is within the brain barrier and we have to get through. “It’s not your fault.” She repeats many times.

“I wanted to talk to you about something you said last time we talked. Now, I’m not a Chaplain but I’m deeply religious…” She says, with a deep crease in her brow. He face is freckled and round. She wears glasses and her light, natural red hair is in a lose ponytail laying on her back. She looks like a child. I know she is not. I know that this woman has seen far more than her innocent face portrays. To my right, is a shadow box with a dozen medals, a picture of her platoon in a sandy place on top of an M1 Abrams tank. And she, is concerned about ME.

I know she doesn’t have to talk to me about anything. She’s not my counsellor. She’s my psychiatrist. She is to assess my mental condition and prescribe meds. But, she has chosen to counsel me when she can and for that, I am deeply grateful.

“Do you want to talk about how you feel about being abandoned by God.” She said it, right out there… In the open. Like a spider hanging by it’s silk in the middle of the room. I stutter again. “I do, I mean, I just…” I don’t know what to say. What is there to say? I have studied psychology. I know what can be said about this in a psychological point of view. The view of God is or can be a direct reflection of a patient’s view on their parents. And I tell her I know this. She slowly shakes her head but doesn’t say anything. She’s waiting for me to begin.

“I cannot hear Him anymore.” I vocalize without thinking. Oh crap, does she now think I hear voices? What do I say to make her not think I’m schizophrenic. I haven’t felt this uncomfortable in her presence and I have told her almost every dirty detail of my life. “I mean that I can hear God. Or… I could hear Him. When I was at peace and my mind was open, He would guide me.” Surprisingly, she didn’t write frantically in her notepad, but she looked me in the eyes and said, “I understand how you feel about God abandoning you. I’ve talked to many people who’ve gone through the same thing. Even I have felt that way.” And we look at each other, the hurt in her eyes was there. She was tearing up. I could see it. She knows the abandoned feeling of reaching out to the the only one that completes her and have complete and absolute silence in return. “I don’t know why God does this. I can’t explain it, and it happens to all of us. First He’s there and then, silence. I don’t want to say that He does this on purpose. God is not cruel. I truly believe this. I don’t want to say that it is for a reason, but maybe in the vast scheme of things, it is.” She’s talking so fast that I can’t get a word in. She’s passionate about this. And I love it. I feel connected to her. “You have to believe that there are miracles, but they are not common. Maybe God intends your healing to come through doctors and health care providers…” She sighs, “I don’t have the answers, but I feel your pain.”

“I wanted to say that I’ve been journaling and I’ve prayed about, you know, God’s promises.” I squeak in between her rambling, through tears. I eye her, because she may not know about God’s promises.  “I went to a Christian College, I’m a Jesus freak… I believe He can heal me. I believe that He must fulfill His promises.” So I told her about my prayer about giving us happiness and how, since then, I haven’t been made happy. But all kinds of information about happiness has been coming my way. “Does God use email?” I think to myself. She flows into a new conversation just as easily as water over a cliff. “You’re on to something.” Because she knows and I know that happiness is not tangible. She mentions something about childhood and the brain being formed by trauma. I look at her, tears beginning again. “Yes, ok. There are meditations that you can do. And the body scans will help and…” I snap out of my deep sadness for a moment and grab my phone… Yes! “I have an app! It has body scans and meditations on happiness..” I open the app and she scrolls through them. “Even a whole section on veterans.” This is when she grabs her notepad.. To write down the app name. See: Meditation Studio

It was a tough session, for both of us. “I made my psychiatrist cry.”, I say to my husband later. He asks why as he reheats lunch, “because I’m pathetic.” I quip, walking away, embarrassed. He laughs, I laugh (tear ducts swollen and closed for business).

Happiness is not something that I can just be or do. The pain took that from me and rearranged my neurons over the past year and a half. The Nothing Has taken over, like Jericho. But, I do have the tools and the encouragement from a trusted friend and incredibly smart psychiatrist. So… I wasn’t admitted and #thehappinessproject has begun. Firstly… We must explore #mindfulness. Onward!