Since September was National Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to write a little bit about my experience in the hospital, on the mental health unit.
First, let’s talk about why I was admitted in the first place. If you’ve read any of my story, you know that I have suffered with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I have been on and off meds since that time and found that being on medication is what helps me the most, along with therapy and proper self-care. Break the balance of any of those things, and I begin to spiral downward. So, after Emily died, I had been neglecting my self care routine, and was just overwhelmed in general. I was not letting myself process my emotions and on top of that, my mind had put me into a state of shock for a while, and I had finally begun to come out of it. It wasn’t pretty. Once I began being able to feel again, I couldn’t stop. I made myself steel up again, and that just made matters worse.
I was at my weekly therapy appointment, and I told my therapist that I was feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with all of the emotions I was experiencing. On top of just simply wanting to be with my babygirl again. She asked if I could promise her that I wouldn’t try to harm myself when I left, and I told her that I couldn’t. She asked if she could call Hubs and tell him what I told her, and I said she could. He was able to get out of work and pick me up. We went through the process of finding out if the local hospital had a bed for me and what level of care I needed. Then it was the hour long drive to the hospital. We didn’t talk too much, though I felt relief almost as soon as we began heading towards the hospital. Knowing I was going to be getting the help I needed allowed me to relax and put my mind in a better place, temporarily. The Hubs was tense and only wanted try and help me feel better, but was helpless too.
Now, let me explain, the “hospital” as I refer to it, is not a hospital in the traditional sense, but more like a nursing home for behavioral health and substance abuse patients. There are individual rooms, a common area, a cafeteria, nurses station and an outdoor space for walks. I was assigned a nurse, a psychiatrist, a therapist, and a nurse practitioner who I saw every day, at least once a day. The majority of therapy was done in a group setting, with some patients being more talkative than others. The therapists always tried to make sure everyone had a chance to talk though.
The first couple of days I spent pretty much just sleeping. I had no desire to interact with anyone, so I stayed in my room and pretty much kept to myself as much as possible. It was easy enough to do as the nurses and doctors would come to your room to do their assessments if they needed to. There were cameras everywhere except the bathrooms, so they could keep an eye on where everyone was. I was encouraged to go to the group meetings, though I didn’t think they would help much. After the second day, I wasn’t as tired and felt like being more social, so I started going to the group sessions. It was required that you go to all the group sessions to be able to go to the cafeteria or on the daily walk around the campus in the afternoon. I spent more time in the common area, working on a puzzle and watching the talk show that was on the tv. The groups were interesting, if not helpful. My therapist kept saying that I may find someone else’s story helpful, but I found it hard to be sympathetic. Maybe because I was so self focused, I had a hard time for the first few nights. I didn’t sleep well and I kept having nightmares.
By the third or fourth night, I was really tired and pretty suicidal still. The guilt and hopelessness I felt over Emily’s death was overbearing and being so tired still, I felt useless in a ninety-degree, uphill battle. I won’t go into detail, but I made an attempt to at least hurt myself pretty badly. Though, as I told my nurse when he found me, I am pretty terrible at trying to kill myself.
They moved me over to the closed unit and changed my nighttime meds to help me sleep without nightmares and try to get some rest. The closed side was much different. My door had a magnetic lock that automatically locked anytime the door was shut. My room had just a bed, with no linens, and a pillow. I shared a toilet and sink with my neighbor and the sink had no mirror. I had to bathe with a nurse or aide present and we were not allowed off the unit. The only things to do were sleeping, sitting in the small common room to watch tv or color the coloring pages they had. I also had gotten a book from the Hubs when he had sent a small care package the day before. I remember hearing one of the other patients remark, “Oh yes, send the suicidal ones to the boring side of the place!” I had a little giggle at that as I felt it gave us more time to reflect and try and focus on getting better. Once I had a better nights sleep and felt more in control of my emotions, I began to participate in group and really try to adjust my outlook as much as I had control to. After a couple of days, I was sent back to the open side of the unit and I had much better progress; each day was better than the day before. I tried to maintain a positive attitude and work to meet my goal of getting discharged in a better place than I was when I came in, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
I was there for a total of six days, though it seemed like weeks by the end. I missed my boys and my Hubs so badly, and that is what helped me focus on getting better. I felt bad for those who didn’t have the supports in place that I do and I pray that they somehow got to get to a better place in spite of that.
I still struggle with depression nearly every day, but I try my best to remember that my boys need me and my Hubs needs me, and they need me to be healthy and in a place of healing. It will take me a while to get there, but I try each day to do a little bit better. Some days are hard and I feel like I have taken ten steps back, but I am thankful for my faith family and my support system that I have that remind me that it’s ok to not be ok yet.