‘I wish I was in the hospital…’

It always surprises me when I have this thought. It has happened more than once over the last 13 years. It didn’t happen once after my first hospitalization but it has flitted through my mind on more than one occasion since my second admission. It happens when there is too much noise in my head. I’m not sure how to describe the sound. It’s a buzzing, a white sound. It is the roar of a Nor’Easter in January with 50 mph winds. The rumble of the freight train used to describe an impending tornado. The babble of a thousand voices running together, not one loud enough to discern the words. The noise makes it impossible for me to have a complete thought, if I can think at all. It is the only thing I hear. A Roaring inside my head. My cognizance will soon be gone. I don’t think about how to get out of bed or appointments I will miss. Calls and e-mails go unreturned. All my contacts are ghosted. Mail will start piling up and eventually I will put it somewhere out of sight, until it is completely forgotten about. I can’t remember to comb my hair, never mind pay the power bill. I begin to feel overwhelmed and inadequate. I begin to feel that I am letting my loved ones down. Eventually, my perception and intuition will fail me and I will be defenseless. I am easily offended. For now, I will question the motives of EVERYONE I speak to and some that I don’t. I will look for deception in every word and nuance. I will keep my eyes open for any weapon you may use against me, I am vulnerable and that makes me paranoid. I am constantly scanning my surroundings for the exits. I will ruminate possible scenarios and outcomes of situations for hours. There is danger everywhere. I remain constantly aware. It’s exhausting.

Many times, it accompanies a tingling in my body that resembles the feeling of too much caffeine or not enough sleep. Maybe it’s both… I get itches that I can’t scratch. It seems they are under the skin. I have scratched myself until I bled on more than one occasion, sometimes in my sleep. All this comes with a tiredness of mind that no sleep can refresh. It brings irritability and a lack of patience. I feel compelled to move. I will pace and, alternately, sit on the couch and rocking forward and back, before getting up to do some chore. I begin to feel unconnected to my husband and in my other relationships. I begin to have nightmares; some I will remember and many I will not. I will wake knowing that something is bad somewhere. Something is not okay. Maybe I’ve done something, maybe somebody has done something to me that I don’t know about yet. I will lash out and can become combative if others get too close physically or attempt to suggest I do something that will “make me feel better”. Those suggestions run the gamut from calling the doctor to taking a nap to taking a bath. I never find them helpful and they always make me angry. I will snap, “I’m fine, why do you always treat me like a crazy person? Why don’t YOU go take YOUR meds!! I’m not a child!” I become aggressive and will snap at anyone, anywhere for any slight. Real or imagined. I’m not sure how I still show my face in this county, I am ashamed of my behavior but must go on so I hold my head high, looking over others, the same way I always have. I will smile as I pass you in the aisle at the grocery store even though I know you saw me raging so bad I was spitting last week at the drug store.

It takes a special kind of strength to be mentally ill and survive. It takes a special kind of strength to survive abuse, whether inflicted on you by strangers or by those who claim to love you. Whether it happens in the dark of night or the light of day, at home behind closed doors or in a public place. Whether it is a well-hidden secret or one everyone knows about but refuses to notice. Maybe it is public knowledge and strangers feel they can bring it up whenever they want because somehow, they feel they know you, through the news or social media. To know you have acted in ways that are shameful to you is only a problem when you are well, otherwise you were in the right and it doesn’t seem to matter. You are indignant if anyone claims you are in the wrong. It is when you are well that you must be your strongest. To apologize and try to explain. You can try to explain what you have gone through. but there are no words. How do you explain that there was nothing? Just nothing..in you. I’m sorry now…I didn’t know what I was doing…I don’t describe myself as sick- I am not sick. Like, what? What kind of sick? Like cancer? Heart-disease? If I eat right, I’ll be okay?My mind won’t betray me? My body? The flu? It is very disconcerting for your mind to turn on you. It felt that the WORLD fell on me. I broke. I got shattered. Turned to dust. I will be well and learn to balance myself. To watch for the signs. I will get up. Bi- Polar will not be a terminal illness for me. We WILL co-exist, if not in perfect harmony, then with an uneasy partnership.

I know what it means when I start thinking I should go to the hospital. It means I need to rest and by rest, I mean be alone. The appeal of the hospital to me is NOT the massive doses of anti-psychotics they will numb me with or the puzzles with missing pieces in the rec room. It is the lack of responsibility. It is that I won’t have to talk about anything that matters and that the most I may have to focus on is a coloring page. I crave the order and the quiet. No one makes me eat when I am not hungry or wash my hair when I don’t care. Who wants to take a shower with someone watching to make sure you don’t eat the damn soap? That’s desperation, suicide by .75oz. shampoo….From a hospital bed, I can’t see the pile of dishes in the sink and the dog is not whining to go out. It is a letting go, a giving in. It is no judgement and no sideways looks. I would much rather say, “Hey honey- I need some quiet time so I’m going for a drive, I’ll be back in a week…Love you…” That would sound too much like a vacation and then others would want to ride along, which would defeat the purpose. So instead I will stock the freezer with frozen foods and the refrigerator with sandwich meat and milk. I will stock the cabinets with mac and cheese and rice mixes. I will buy plenty of spaghetti and canned sauce and put the least amount of effort in cooking while I put music on my earbuds or stream the same reruns I always do, finding their repetitive drones comforting. I will lay on the couch for 3 days, with my husband right beside me. I’m going to tell my granddaughter she can’t come over for a bit and apologize to my son about the short notice. I will take the increased doses of anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines my Psychiatric NP. lovingly prescribes me, for the time required for me to “level” out. When I feel better, when I begin to think again, I will slowly cut back on my doses until I am, once again, “stable”. But for now, I’m going to wear my pajamas and sleep whenever I want, IF I want. I’m going to hope it is warm enough to go outside, even if just to sit on the step. I am going to tell everyone around me to figure it out themselves and if I say it loud enough, they will. They are getting used to this by now. I’m sorry they have to, but it is the way it is. Everybody makes concessions to the Bi-Polar- and I share my strength back with them when I am well and they need to take a rest.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

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Admission

My first trip to the psych ward was because I went bat-shit crazy. It is hard to get into a lot of detail because I remember it as flashes. I remember being at a bar with my boyfriend, at that time having been together barely a year, and a guy we knew from work.

I remember leaving there to go to the wooded site where my sister had been murdered. I remember the woods, and the dark and the moon. I can feel the early September crisp in the night air. I remember sobbing and telling her that I was sorry and that it should have been me. Sorry because I was the one who had already been broken and it should have been me. It just made more sense that way. I told her that I was sorry that I prayed so hard to God that day in July, only one day before she was murdered, while I was being raped 3000 miles away in San Luis Obispo, California praying over and over that this man wouldn’t kill me and leave me out here in these mountains where no one I knew would ever find me. I prayed so hard God couldn’t hear you or I made him make a choice between 2 sisters and he chose to take you. You probably deserved heaven more than me anyway. Instead it was you, I told her. You left in the woods, tortured. Dead so young. Still a baby you were, just turned 12. I got off too easy. It just wasn’t right and I’m so sorry.  Telling her I was so sorry that it went all wrong.

Then I remember being home and my oldest son chasing me around the dining room table trying to get me to calm down. I do not remember biting my husband but the proof was on his shoulder. Vibrantly red and round. I DO remember him trying to leave while I was raging—at I don’t know what– life, God, every man I ever knew, society, humanity, myself, whatever it was that made me this way…I remember hanging onto the door of the truck while he dragged me down the driveway, trying to back out- the proof of that I wouldn’t feel until the next day. I remember him calling my mother and uncle and I remember spurts of talking to them but not the topics and I’m not sure that I was talking in any way that made sense. If it sounded the way I was thinking and it was circular and magical and definitely delusional. I remember waking up the next morning in my mom’s bed at my uncle’s house not knowing how I got there and I remember asking her to take me to the hospital.

She drove me to St. Mary’s and I waited to be examined by a doctor. I never saw one that I remember. I saw a social worker and tried to explain to her the best that I could about what was going on. I wasn’t sleeping well and I needed to relax. She asked if I had any injuries and I showed her the road rash down my right side from my shoulder down to the knee. She asked how it happened and I told her. She left the exam room- I didn’t realize until years later that there wasn’t even a bed in that room- just 3 chairs and a table. I don’t know what I was thinking would happen exactly; that they would give me medicine or a shot that would magically flush the demons inside me out. Maybe they would give me an appointment with a counselor, or both but either way they would fix this hurt inside of me that was causing the infection that was slowly and steadily poisoning and destroying my soul. I only knew I was broken. I was broken and I had been for a long time. There was a hole inside me that nothing could fill. This was not the first time I had behaved in a manner similar to this, it wouldn’t be the first time I needed medication or counseling. This was not my first ride on this bull. I had experienced more than a few less than satisfactory relationships and as usual, my boyfriend just didn’t understand me. Nobody could understand me, I think differently than others, I’ve always felt that way. I spoke with the social worker, then waited for her or a doctor to come give me my prescription and my referral for my counseling appointment.

That’s not exactly the way it happened. The social worker came back into the room and told me to sign some papers and give my jewelry, purse and cell phone to my mom. I was handed a plastic hospital belongings bag and told to change my clothes and put my belongings in the bag and give it to my mother. I asked if the doctor was going to come in and she told me I was being admitted. I was told to say goodbye to my mom and was then led to the elevator where the social worker pressed the 3 button. The elevator doors closed, the elevator rose and on the third floor the elevator doors opened into a landing encircled with glass walls and a locked door leading into the ward. We stepped into the glass cubicle and the social worker took a set of keys out of her pocket and unlocked the door into the ward. This is the moment when I realize that this door is different. I ask why the door is locked and she informs me this is a “locked” ward. I try to tell her that this is a mistake, that I just need some rest, I’m tired, I won’t ever drink again, I’m ok, I don’t belong in a hospital ward that I can’t leave of my own volition and I am not going in there. She is not impressed by my pleas and leads me to a room that I will share with an older lady who is coloring with markers on one of those black velvet posters. I wonder why she is coloring and why she seems so excited about having received some new posters today. What’s exciting about that? I lay down on my cot and she tells me that they won’t let me sleep because I’m on “checks”. I don’t know what that means so I ask and find out, that apparently, it means I’m on suicide watch and they will come into our room and I have to talk to them every 15 minutes.. Fantastic, I think to myself, these people are morons, why the hell would I kill myself? I have everything and I can do anything. After a while, I wandered to the tv room, looking for something to do. Entering, I looked around and saw people talking to themselves, others sitting rocking back and forth, staring at the wall, arguing over the tv, some pacing- crossing the room from one wall to another and back again. I found a book as fast as I could and returned to my room. I’m glad and relieved that I’m not like these people. I’m not crazy.. This is just some weird misunderstanding.  I spent much of the day sitting on my cot alternatively reading and staring at the wall. That night, after we ate, it was time for meds. Just like on tv, there was a closet filled with pills and a locked door with a nurse behind it dispensing meds. She handed me a small dose cup with a few pills in it and I asked her what they were and what they were for she told me and I told her that I wasn’t interested and went back to my room. That was another decision that didn’t quite work out in my favor for soon there was a nurse standing over me with a syringe saying, “It’s just a little something to help you sleep, but if you don’t take the meds like the doctor ordered he will blue paper you and then you’re in here until the doctor decides you are ready. “I get the message loud and clear, “Comply!” “Be a sheep!” I tell her just to go ahead and do it and then lay down on my cot.

The next morning, my boyfriend called before he went to work and although I was talking my words were so slurred he couldn’t understand anything I was saying. I’m not sure my lips were even moving. I couldn’t feel my body. My body felt like it was filled with lead weights. He asked what the hell they gave me and I don’t know. I thought they said Ativan, but this does NOT feel like Ativan. I try to go lay back down and try to skip breakfast but am not allowed. I didn’t know it at the time but I would become way too familiar with this numbness in the next several years. When I am finally able to speak, I call my mom and tell her she has to get me out of here. This is NOT what I need.

I don’t know how many days I was in before I first saw the doctor but I know he was from another country and I had a hard time understanding him not only because of his accent but because of the words he was saying. A psychotic break due to: Bi-Polar 1 rapid cycling mixed episodes with a heaping helping dose of PTSD thrown in.   I basically tell him that he is full of crap, sure I’m moody- but he’s the crazy one. He tells me he has spoken to my mother and that I need to understand that I will not be leaving. That I signed myself in for 72 hours and it is up to him to decide when I will be leaving to go home. He told me that at the 72 hr. mark, he can decide if he wants to keep me involuntarily or send me home but that a lot of it was up to me.

This makes me feel at once indignant, helpless, trapped, tricked and claustrophobic. They told me I had a psychotic break. What the hell does that mean? I’m psychotic? They told me that my mind broke because it felt safe. Could have fooled me, there is nothing safe feeling about this entire situation. I give in and agree to take my medication and do everything the doctor says so he won’t keep me locked in this place with these crazy people. My boyfriend comes to see me and tells me he loves me and he will stay but I must promise to never go off my medicine. I agree, I acquiesce, really. I need to get out of here. I don’t want to paint pictures or color or talk in groups. I don’t want these meds that literally cause me to drool on myself. I don’t want someone watching me in the shower, handing me shampoo, making sure I’m not going to eat the soap. I want to shave my damn armpits. My only option is to follow the rules set once again by “the Man”, if only until the point that I can escape and my only chance of getting out is to comply, try to figure out what they need to hear-wait out my 72 hour hold.