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