Shortly after I wrote my post about skipping meals, I was just completely crushed with this feeling of unworthiness and humiliation. No, not because it was embarrassing; it’s because it didn’t feel “bad enough.”
Mother’s voice filled my head, this time telling me about how much people on the streets endure “real suffering.” There are people with much worse disorder in their lives than me, and there are those who were abused worse than I was. A friend of mine, Megan, came to mind. We suffered many of the same things, but at least I got out of my abuse alive; she was indirectly murdered by her abusers, dying from infection brought on by a gang rape and a not-yet-healed hysterectomy from a coerced abortion (and at 13). What was I complaining so damn much about when my lot wasn’t as bad as it could be?
It took a little bit of reflection to recognize it as “abusers’ ghosts” trying to get me to self-destruct and isolate again. Not buying it this time, not so soon after realizing how much of a problem this was for me. So, I told them to pound sand, and soon felt better.
As I was still struggling though, I was reading something very inspiring; a young lady about the same age as me was sharing her experience as an inpatient. Both of these things reminded me of the 3 days* I spent at the hospital myself, which I still remember clearly, but never dwelt much on.
A/N: I was surprised when I read the dates on my journal telling me I was only there for 3 days. I told others a week, or 4 days. Best excuse I have is how time seemed to go very slowly in that environment; sorry guys.
To be honest…I never told anyone about what exactly happened during my time there. The few who knew about my stay were happy to see me out, one saying I had a peace about me that he’s never seen before.
That peace was real, of course, but maybe not the same peace he thought it to be.
It was August 5, 2014. I was 26, and was out of my parents’ home for about 4 months.
Just the evening before, I was in the ER for cutting and suicidal thoughts. According to my safety contract my first therapist wrote up, I had to notify the therapist I was seeing at the time, and the one I was seeing then told me to go to the ER. It was very sad and scary at first, getting the medical bracelet on my wrist, having my vitals checked, and being escorted to a room with cameras to sit with a nurse there as the doctor figured out what to do with me. SI’s, or Self-Injurers, were put under that constant surveillance to make sure he/she doesn’t do anything self-destructive.
Some time passed, I started chatting with the nurses, feeling better. The doctor came, asking if I felt suicidal, if I felt like I needed to go to the mental hospital (as their hospital didn’t have a mental ward). I did feel better, so I went home in the wee hours.
On the 5th, I was driving myself back to the ER, sobbing and suicidal again.
Minutes before that, I’d went to see a person who had…some things to say in response to my stunt the night before. They weren’t the words I was expecting at all. The reason I visited in the first place was to let him know I was okay now. Next thing I know I’m being scolded for “making a spectacle” of myself, staying there as often as I would, becaude I felt it was the one safe place I had, the one place I could go my dad didn’t know a damn thing about. Then he’s telling me about a failed relationship from his past, comparing it to the one I had with dad, and how I should fix it, even telling me to be there for him; “Look at what your mom puts him through.”
These things were probably the worst things he could’ve said at that time, and I was off like a shot.
A/N: I’m not sure if he meant to say all that in the way I took it then, and would lean more towards it being out of frustration than anything else; I shoved an apology at him before abruptly leaving, cutting him off as he tried to say, “You don’t have to apologize to me.” What’s more, at that point, he didn’t know what dad did to me, and on my part, I only just felt very scared and upset over feeling like his (dad’s) girlfriend.
Also, I don’t think I blame him for my being in the ER again. Some of his concerns were valid, I guess; others would give me looks for lingering. There were other places I could go hide from dad. I could’ve had the strength and presence of mind to not respond that way, even if I’d just had that close call the evening before. A reaction doesn’t have to be a response…but, I did blame him back then though. This was the spark that kept me angry at him long before that final rejection, as sorry as I am to say, let alone to have done.
…I remember being literally inconsolable. From my journal entry of that day, I wanted to be put away for the sole reason of not letting me, someone my confessor called “friend,” die through suicide. He suffered the loss of a friend through suicide already, as I feel a loss when my creative writing teacher vanished some years ago in what looks like was a suicide (no body was found though) – I didn’t want to put that hurt on him. I felt more than ever like I was too much trouble to exist in the world, that I had no place in it. I kept insisting to the doctors and nurses that I needed to be put away. They asked if I felt suicidal, and I couldn’t clearly answer them. I don’t think I felt suicidal so much as I did that I just needed to be locked away somewhere.
I was all gray inside when my crying calmed down. I didn’t care. It took longer for the psychiatrist at the mental hospital to do a video call, to make the arrangements, so I just lay there on the ER bed for hours without eating anything. I signed away my freedom, and got all strapped in to an ambulance. My siblings have had less luck with health than I did; they’ve been inside an ambulance, but this was my first ride. I remember thinking it was like Star Trek in there, all these gadgets and monitors around me.
It was really late in the evening when we got there. The lady behind the desk gave me something to drink (a juice box?), and a packaged peanut-butter/jelly sandwich. I wrote all the information she needed, admitting myself to the hospital’s mental ward, and she led me upstairs to said mental ward. Sometime between the ambulance ride and then, I’d told my then-roommate about where I was going so she could tell the appropriate people for me, and send me clothes and things.
Some of these things would be confiscated, as was my phone (I was sure to write down all important numbers to call with their phones), my crucifix (I could choke myself with the chain), and my shoelaces (I could choke myself with those too, apparently). Later, when my then-roommate came to visit me with her then-fiancé (being mistaken as my parents), I lost the sketchbook they bought me (it had metal wire to cut with), and my stuffed doggy, Taffy (to keep me from not doing the therapy in favor of just hugging him. I did get to let some of the other patients hug him before then though; that smile one of them had as she just hugged him still stays with me).
In any case, that first relinquishing of my effects was all done at the front desk by especially nice nurses (fitting, I noted, given the job they were taking). I was just scared at that point; since I was a teen, I was always so scared that I’d be sent to the mental ward for all the nameless thoughts and feelings I was struggling with, picturing it as a stereotypically hellish place for insane people. What I saw that first night wasn’t too far from that popular portrayal; just next to me, a red-haired patient who was there for anger issues was screaming at someone at the top of her lungs.
“She’s not going to be my roommate, is she?” I asked, terrified. One of the nurses smiled, saying they wouldn’t room me, a SI, with someone like that.
I was finally escorted to my room where I curled up in the bed they set up for me, and just cried myself to sleep.
That’s how I was for the first day, very withdrawn and scared, but soon, I started to see something comfortable, even valuable, about my new surroundings. It was all very strictly organized, “like I was in grade-school again, but I was fully grown.” I had a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and physician to report to, had to eat set meals at set times three times a day, and various types of therapies to do everyday: art therapy, movement therapy, music therapy, group therapy…especially group therapy.
They said if we “do the work” we can go home. I had my assignments, so I was going to fulfill them to the best of my ability, learning all I can on the way.
It was soon quite clear what happened to the ones who didn’t “do the work”: they had me take a medicine that had a sedating effect on me, to treat the distress that landed me there and also kept me from sleeping well. That seemed to be a running theme though, as the girl they ended up rooming me with was often conked out from her meds, and another, very frightening male patient that sexually preyed on every female he saw (not just me), was put under constant and heavy sedation to keep us safe. The rooms and halls were all monitored, and we also weren’t to go outside or leave the ward to the other levels of the hospital unless we were escorted there. There were some windows, but they couldn’t be opened. I’d look longingly out there, wanting to feel the wind, hear the trees. I’d express it often in sessions, distressing the agoraphobic patient. That was sad, even though he was subtle about it; I tried to not to be as open about it after that.
As I write all of this, all of it just floods my mind. I remember sitting with the psychiatrist, him going over the homework he assigned me with approval (“impressive” was his word, though I can’t imagine why). I remember that poor lady, all bandaged up from this 70+ year old man violently raping and beating her, sobbingly telling us about the voices her meds made her hear, and how people scoffed at her report, arguing that a man that age couldn’t “get it up” anyways. I remember how that girl with dark make-up said she felt like shooting herself in the face from the group session, how the two teen alcoholics held hands, wondering if they should still see each other after the hospital. That red-haired patient from before always sang that song “Why You Gotta Be So Rude”, and a couple middle-aged ladies would just cry sometimes, when they’re not showering motherly affection on us younger ones.
It was all a very eye-opening experience, and I ended up making friends with many of them. Our disorders and such were different, but they were in a lot of ways just like me, trying to figure out how to live in the world with whatever’s distorting their view of it. It was also very sad, how isolated they were. I still remember the look in that agoraphobic guy’s blue-green eyes, when I told him, “You are not crazy.” It was like no one ever addressed him that way, like a person, let alone told him he wasn’t crazy. It was only on the last day or so that those kids were asking why I, the “sweet churchy girl”, was even there. I didn’t take it too personally though; at that point, I was about done with that place.
I got lots of hugs when it was time for me to go. I carried with me my belongings, and a seascape I painted in art therapy. It was “my happy place”, and even today is posted on the wall. That all left my mind, though, when I stepped out those hospital doors; the sun was starting to set, making the world a soft orange, a summer breeze was caressing that world, and the trees! They danced! The leaves sounded like the ocean, gently washing the shore.
It’s strange…it’s almost like all the lessons, the friendships, those hugs were forgotten, and I could only think of the scary, unhappy things I was leaving behind. All I could think of was that I didn’t have to be locked away inside anymore. I didn’t have to be anywhere near that one sexually aggressive patient, sedated or not. The happy/touching memories would come back, of course they would, and I smile when they do.
However…in that moment, all I could think of was, “I’m finally outside, finally free.”