I am writing because this is a month about spreading awareness, about being open and honest, about letting people know they are not alone.
You are not alone.
*possible triggers, please read at your own discretion*
Late Sunday night, I found myself in an uncontrollable state of panic, hopelessness, downright misery. I felt that anything would be better than this life, and I couldn’t talk myself down. Between sobs that nearly choked me, I called one of my best friends. She set off to come see me. Then I called my parents. I sat on the phone with them until my friend arrived. Together, my friend and I called the after hours behavioral health nurses.
I was instructed to go to the ER, that the ER would be expecting me, and if I didn’t show up, someone would be sent to my door.
So to the ER I went. I stripped down, underwear and all, and was given a green gown that didn’t even button in the back. I wrapped a sheet around my waist for trips to and from the bathroom. All of my belongings were locked in my room behind a metal gate. I spent the night in that ER. By the grace of Trazadone, I slept.
The next day was a lot of waiting. I wasn’t yet on a hold as I expressed, honestly, that while I had considered suicide options and was feeling like it was getting more and more difficult to talk myself out of, I didn’t feel acutely suicidal. I didn’t have a plan.
I wanted to get help.
I just needed the hopelessness and misery to end before I got to the point where I couldn’t talk myself out of it and was losing the urge to seek help. We discussed several options. I could have gone straight to partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient treatment, but the hospital wouldn’t prescribe anything for me to take at home, and home was too dangerous of a place for me when I was feeling that unstable.
There was an inpatient program called “Crisis Stabilization” which was a voluntary program designed, quite literally, to stabilize people in the midst of crisis. That was my choice, but after several hours, I was declined placement due to high blood pressure during my intake stats. (Uhm, duh? I’d been crying and panicking for HOURS, and I’d never, ever felt so unstable that I’d even considered, let alone acted on checking myself in anywhere. Cue the high blood pressure!)
My next–and, really only–option was a psychiatric hospital.
Psychiatric hospitals, while I technically voluntarily agreed to go, require patients to be on a psychiatric hold for 72 hours. So around 7 pm I signed away my right to remove myself from care against doctor orders and agreed to be taken, by ambulance (because now I couldn’t be out professional care at all) to the nearest psychiatric hospital. I arrived around 10 pm.
I want to be absolutely honest. The experience was not what I hoped that it would be. It did not magically make me a happier, healthier person.
I was so traumatized just by the fact that I was there that for the entire first full day I slept. I slept through meals, I slept through group therapy, I slept through rounds and vitals and even having my blood drawn. I just completely shut down.
However, and this is a big however, I had a very kind team of nurses checking on me regularly, I met with a psychiatrist that selected some initial meds for me that she thought would provide me the most stability until I could receive a formal diagnosis from my own team of professionals, I took care of some physical health needs with the help of a lovely nurse practitioner, and I really needed that sleep.
At the end of the day, I was in a safe place when I needed a safe place the most.
Let me backtrack for a moment here. We’ll get into some history. I started therapy when I was 13 and went, for the most part, very regularly for about 10 years. I saw a psychiatrist for the first time when I was 16 in the hopes that she could treat my debilitating social anxiety. After a couple of years of antidepressants working temporarily and then failing, she decided I must have bipolar II. I still don’t believe that diagnosis–the medication she put me on, a class of anti-epileptics that act as mood stabilizers, did not stabilize me. The diagnosis and the meds are the reasons why I stopped seeing her and stopped taking medication entirely when I was 19 or 20.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve actually been mostly okay for quite some time.
I’m not sure if the therapy was keeping me stable, or if I just had a few solid years where my stress level was ultimately pretty low, or if it was all just a fluke. People have even remarked about how strong I’ve been since Ron’s death, sometimes comments to the effect of “If I were in your shoes I would have snapped and not come back from it a long, long time ago.” (Side note: be careful with these comments, they may do more harm than good–you probably mean well, but please realize that any analysis of my coping skills results in hours, days of me questioning whether I’m doing this “right” or whether people are questioning my love for my husband, etc.)
Behind it all, the truth is simple–I haven’t been strong, I’ve been ignorant.
I have gotten through by distracting myself. I once expressed to a friend that I was choosing not to speak with a grief therapist because I wasn’t ready to open up my wounds yet. It sounded logical at the time. I’ve been seeking some level of control since October 27th, and choosing when and how to grieve felt like the control that I needed. It turns out that these aren’t wounds that go away without help.
They just got infected the longer I ignored and distracted myself from them–to the point that healing became impossible without help from many angles.
Remember the bucket analogy? My bucket is spilling over with water. A combination of the natural pain of grief, the history of depression and anxiety, and a recent series of situations that just added to all of that pain (including, yes, some very unkind words and unreasonably cruel and inappropriate behavior directed at me) pushed me to the breaking point.
I had two distinct moments of clarity. One night last week, I found myself lying on my bedroom floor, crying too hard to move. I considered my options. I could slit my wrists. Sit in the bath tub. It would go fast and I’d be done. Everything else was too complicated. But what about my family? My friends? All of the people who have also experienced so much trauma already? What about all of the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t gotten to yet? What about my damn cats? I talked myself into carving into my leg with a steak knife instead of slitting my wrists. The next day, I knew that I had a problem that needed attention.
Three days later, I stopped being able to talk myself out of suicidal thoughts. I sought help. I got help.
After 36 hours, I was released from the hospital with very specific aftercare instructions and several medications to help the chemical aspect that therapy alone will never fix.
I am still broken. I am still tired. I am still struggling to subdue the hopelessness.
I know that it will take time. I hope that I have chosen a support system that gets me through this waiting game. I hope that I don’t need to be hospitalized again. I will not give up, though. I’m back to remembering that no matter how terrible my pain is, there are people out there that need me–I don’t know why right now, I don’t feel a strong sense of purpose, but I feel a deep sense of love and compassion, and that’s what’s getting me through.