Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life lesson #242: Never trust a mystery drug cocktail.

On about my fifth day there, I was still struggling with the stress that had brought me to the crazy ward in the first place and I had a particularly traumatic breakdown. This is normal in the crazy ward as you are expected to dredge up feeling and emotions and thought patterns and history all the time and that can be really hard. So anyhow, I went a little bit looney bin. My new friends helped me up off the floor as I was in hysterics and took me to the blessed nurses who filled up my med cup with all kinds of crazy pills. I think there were some tranquillizers and ambien and all kinds of fun stuff in there. One of the awesomely supportive staff supervised me until I feel asleep. The next day, the doctor crew brought me in a therapist just for me to see as a bonus prize for losing my nuts. So we talked and it helped and we determined that I should try the same drug regimen that night as well.

I stood in line at pill time and took my huge cup of pills. Now, I don’t know what was different about this particular night. Maybe it was the ambient, maybe the stress of a breakdown left my body needing nutrients, maybe it was because I hadn’t really eaten more than 50% the whole time I was there, but to be fair my pill lady did warn me that I needed to be in bed no later than 15 minutes after consuming the pills because they were strong. It’s cool. I got this. It was the weekend which meant extra TV time in the evening and an hour later to stay up. I figure, I’ve got 15 minutes, I’m gonna go check out the movie everyone is watching. I think it had hot boys in it.

Before I could even get two steps from the front desk where we get our pills, I had to pass the community kitchen. And suddenly, I was fracking starving. We get one sandwich as a snack each day. The sandwiches from the day before are also still in there. I literally thought I might actually start to eat my own fingers if I didn’t eat that sandwich. I pulled out the one with my name on it and headed to the TV area. I was completely done with said sandwich by the time I walked the 50 feet down the hall. So then I thought, “Hey, It’s 10:30. Nobody else is going to eat a snack this late” as my head started to spin a little either from the meds or the sheer euphoria of the prospect of more sandwiches.

I started in on them right away. “Hey. You there. Are you eating your sandwich? Then I’m eating it. Do you want yours? I don’t care. Too late. I’m eating it.” Etc. And a meandered in a winding drunkish pattern back down to the community kitchen and started raiding sandwiches. Keep in mind that we are now at about t-9 minutes before I am supposed to be safely tucked in bed and I am definitely feeling the effects. “Oooo, I’m eating hers because she checked out today. His is mine because he is already in bed. That one has my name on it from yesterday so that is for sure mine” and so on and so on.

T-7 minutes before pills knock me out, I weave my way back down to the TV area with, count it, 5 sandwiches in plastic baggies. I sat down aware but completely unconcerned that all of my new friends were literally staring at me mouths agape as I tore the plastic on bag one and ate the sandwich in approximately 1.5 minutes. I knew that I had a time limit working against me here and I needed that sandwich dammit!! I was starving. I didn’t have time to bother with that little Ziploc-yellow-and-blue- make-green-conspiracy-by-the-sandwich-bag-executives-to-deny-me-my sandwich-bullcrap!

T-5 minutes and I am 2 sandwiches down and starting to evoke genuine concern from my fellow inmates. “Hey, do you think you might want me to get you to your room?” “LAY OFF ME I’M STARVING” “How long after meds were you supposed to be in bed?” “She told me 15, so I’m good. Plenty of time.” This was about the time that I either forgot how or lost the ability to chew properly. So using my genius IQ (which I have the papers to prove so suck on that) I logically solved that problem by tearing up sandwich three and placing it in my mouth. I used my hands to make me chew. By sandwich four, the utter bliss of the sandwiches had resulted in me making disturbingly erotic sounds while using my fingers to actually mash up the food so I could swallow it. I was putting the whole sandwich in my mouth and just smushing it around with my hands.

That was when my clock ran out. I was bombed. But I still had one left. My dear fellow patient tattled on me and then the nurses took my arms on either side to lead me to my room. Meanwhile, I am still trying to eat the last sandwich while they have a hold of both my arms. So logically, since my arms couldn’t reach my face, I brought my face to my arms. The last sandwich had been reduced to a balled up mass in my fist and it was puzzling to me why I could get to the fist, but I couldn’t get the food out. Grrr! And that is precisely the moment when I blacked out.

The next morning I awoke with balled up sandwich still in my hand. Also, I was told that even with two adults helping me, I couldn’t figure out just exactly how one gets into a bed. It was a puzzle that couldn’t be solved for all the sandwiches in the world. As my nurse took my vitals the next morning she said “Wow! You slept great last night!” “How do you figure that?” I asked her. “Because your blood pressure is only 80/40!” OK, so item one on the agenda for that day was request a med change. Well, actually item two on the agenda because the first was to wash all that balled up sandwich off my hands and get all the pieces out of my bed.

I got help. I spoke up. I changed my life. I'm proud of myself.

We arrived at the ER. Of course, I was terrified. Terrified that my brain had cracked beyond repair. Terrified that everyone will know. Terrified that my whole world was coming apart underneath me. Terrified of the damage I had done to myself. Terrified of the process of voluntarily admitting myself to the psych ward. The trauma and stress that had brought me here wasn’t going anywhere either. So I let them ask me questions and poke me with needles and I tried to forget my whole world and just stay in that moment.

After interrogating a crazy person on “SP” (suicide precautions), using whispery voices and talking to me as though I was an irrational child who insisted that Santa Claus is real, the crack team decided it would be a good idea to leave me alone. They left me alone. ALONE. In the ER room. While they got me admitted to the ward upstairs and got my bed ready. Oh, and this was after the part where I was still sobbing hysterically and the admin people stood there and made me write them a check for my co-pay before they continued treating me. So, I’m hysterical, on SP, poor, and crazy and they leave me by myself. So I did what any unlevel headed person would do in that situation; I took more pills out of my purse and swallowed them. Good job, me.

I had this idea that it was going to be like a prison. A prison with no windows and people in white PJ’s and tin foil hats and drooling. I thought “Am I that? Am I beyond repair? But at least if they start drooling I can totally hang with those kids because I drool all the time anyway by total accident.” I have a dead spot on my face from prior surgery. It’s a fun party trick. Anyhow, they make me change into a gown and they take all my stuff. This is because when you voluntarily admit yourself, they still check every last bit of everything you brought with you. It’s humbling. I had a drawstring on my pants. Not cool.

Once I was wheeled up to the crazyville sans all my things, I realized that everyone seemed really normal. And had on normal clothes. And were laughing and friendly. They took me to the evaluation place and asked me more questions and I still didn’t know all the answers. Honestly I just wanted to sleep until I decided to leave. So here’s a fun fact. Just because you voluntarily check in, that doesn’t mean you get to leave whenever you want. You leave when they say you can. Well, crap. Cut forward…I ended up staying 8 days, but I’ll get around to that later. In fact, I did sleep, once I was allowed to change back into my own clothes and had gotten permission to use the drawstring in my pants. You see, I had already lost 20 pounds in the days prior and I think the Dr. realized that I literally needed the drawstring just to stay decent.

I slept probably 15-16 hours, when the captain of the “keep the crazy people busy” team came into my room. Oh, right, you don’t get your door shut on SP. And even after that it always stays cracked and some kind of happiness Nazi pokes in once an hour to scout you out. And I’m all, I don’t even have a pen, or shoelaces, or deodorant. What could I possibly be up to? Which I also found out later what I could have been doing in there that they were checking in on. Anyhow, he’s all “It’s time to eat! Come on down to the commons area! We all eat together! Yay!!!!” OK. No. Maybe he missed the memo that I just needed sleep and not socialization and I still had on PJ’s and hadn’t washed my hair in 3 days. I decided to throw him a bone, you because it’s his job, and sit and the table and go back to bed for the day. As we made our way down the dorm like hallway to the large and comfortable sitting area, I felt like everyone was staring. “OOOooo new girl. Where you awake when she got here? Did you see her come in? Yeah, I heard she just went straight to bed. What is she in for? Is she still on SP??” It was only about 6 people so it wasn’t that intimidating. And some were my age. And they were talking like friends. And it turns out that I wasn’t actually paranoid, they really were saying all those things to each other. Because for the rest of my 8 days, we all pretty much had that same conversation anytime someone new showed up. It was kind of a big deal for us.

I picked at my food and turned in my tray where I was promptly given a 10%. Ok, what now? Yes, I did in fact get graded on my ability to eat and digest food. As I headed back to my room for all day sleeping, that’s when I saw…dun, dun, dun…the activity list. It was something like see the Dr, have a rah-rah session with the whole group, have group therapy, eat (supervised, exercise, have group therapy, make pretty art, play games, eat (supervised), and don’t even think about laying in your bed all day. It didn’t actually say that last part, but I got the idea.

But I figured, hell, I got myself into this mess so I’m going to be a joiner. And I jumped right in. And wouldn’t you know it, I wasn’t the freak. Everyone was just like me. We have different lives and different stories and different backgrounds, but we understood each other. The only people who understand rock bottom are people at rock bottom. And wouldn’t you know it, I shared. I listened. I supported. I made jokes that made other people feel better. I made jokes that made me feel better. I laughed. I hurt. I cried. I learned. I worked so hard on me. Just me. I focused on myself. I made it my mission to make one of our group therapy social workers as uncomfortable as possible each afternoon because she wasn’t super comfortable with all things vagina related. That was her own fault for showing me weakness. I made a connection with people. I changed my mind. I changed my life.

Monday, June 13, 2011

OK. So...this is it.

I’m not even sure how to start. I’ve been gone a while. I’ve had tough times. I’ve had amazing restorative, life changing times. So, I guess we go to the beginning.

I had what some may call a nervous breakdown. Others might call it cracking under pressure or reacting to trauma. There were/are a lot of things happening in my life. I’ve spent the last few years working so hard to live life and be normal and make up for the all the life I missed out on being stuck in my house like a crazy person. Amongst all these successes came some stress. And it all came at once. It doesn’t really matter what the details are. But I reached a stress level where I made some terrible coping decisions. As in: I did not cope with the skills I have been using for the last few years.

Even regular people struggle under the weight of trauma. Normal people hurt and ask God why and blame themselves and get angry and confused. Mentally ill people do that too. Only on that particular day my mental illness was the boss of me. Not the rational me whom I’ve come to know so well lately. So pain = benzodiazepines. It didn’t work. So pain = take more. And that still didn’t make it stop being so confusing and hurting. So pain = take more. And slap me in my now numb face and call me Suzy, I could not get a hold of myself. So here comes the scary part (But remember that my philosophy in life is to be honest so that I can learn lessons and others can learn too) I blindly walked into my kitchen and grabbed a knife. But to my surprise, it didn’t help either. So I found a pocket knife. And I made a practice cut on my forearm. It was deep. I hit some kind of muscle or something because that litte demon still hurts. And then…I just went for it.

So here is the part I’m proud of; I stopped. I realized that I was making a huge mistake. I was scared. I was shocked. It was like coming out of a fog. And I immediately called for help. And that is my victory. I found my logic and my worth and I stopped. And I knew that I make my own decisions. Not anyone else. And I decided to get help. I called a friend who came right over. I called my therapist. She ordered me to the ER and told me to self admit to psychiatric. And that was scary. But I effing did it. And I am proud of that. And I think that is as far as my story can go right now.

Teaser: I spent 8 days in that ward. All kinds of stuff happened. Some of it is funny.