I Probably Should Have Gone for More Fuckery

Updated: Jan 9

If I had known that I was going to be treated like a criminal for having a mental health crisis, I would have done it up right. Slapped someone that deserved it. Stolen a bunch of liquor bottles, letting them jingle jangle in my pants as I bowlegged ran out the door. Drove Bob straight through a roundabout, jumping him all Dukes of Hazzard style.

But no. My particular crime was going to the ER and telling them I wanted to kill myself and had the means and plan to do it. For that, I was taken into a system that completely dehumanized and criminalized me.

Let me say right now, our mental health care system is fucked. Fucked up and down and all the way through. It is failing us in a heartbreaking fashion. I do believe there are good people within the system doing their dead level best to help, but the system itself is outdated, ineffective, and downright cruel in some cases.

Here is my story of being put in involuntary in-patient treatment.

I texted two of my best friends on a Saturday morning. The wrestler had begun the ghosting process after I had sent a very long text begging for time to talk and tell him face to face how I felt about him. Pathetic, I know. Look. None of this is my finest hour.

I had known for about a week that this was the end. His behavior had changed and he had made no attempts to see me in several weeks. Things were fizzling out and, again, I was frantic. New Year’s Eve had been especially stressful and had resulted in a wild night out of drinking that was out of character and completely irresponsible behavior.

In fact, irresponsible behavior had kind of become the name of the game for me. I had spent several nights in the tub, drinking wine, after taking anti-anxiety meds, hoping I would pass out and drown. I had drove 110 miles per hour on the interstate at night in the rain in a car that weighs approximately 12 pounds. I had drove myself home after that wild night of NYE drinking. I’m especially ashamed of those last two and am forever grateful I didn’t hurt someone else in my state.

So, the great ghosting of 2022 was underway and my spiraling went from bad to critical. I was texting my two besties in an attempt to stop the rolling panic attacks I had been having all morning. It wasn’t working. They knew what was going down. They had been there for me three years ago when I started therapy and had been part of my safety plan then. They asked if I wanted to hurt myself or kill myself. Yes and yes.

Bestie that lives in town swooped in and off the the ER I went. I was in such a state that I was willing to go along with anything to stop the sadness and the panic.

Let me interject here. This story isn’t about a boy. I’m not a lovesick 14-year-old girl. This was just the tripping point of an entire year of a slow spiral into depression. It's a story about how I slowly lost control of my entire life. This was just the most immediate thing for me to focus on. And more on that later, but his dusty ass isn’t worth a second thought after the way he treated me. But I digress.

So, I walk myself into the reception area and tell the nice lady at the desk that I am going to kill myself. God bless her, she didn’t even blink. She just slapped a bracelet on my wrist and told me to take a seat.

I was taken back (with the bestie) almost immediately and put in a “flight risk” room. I was made to strip down to my underwear and put on a robe and the sexiest little red booties you ever did see. A security guard wanded me, and then all my personal belongings were taken from me. The armed security guard stayed outside the door

At this point, I’m really questioning my decision. And it gets so much worse.

I’m walked to a bathroom by the armed security guard and made to pee in a cup. I return to the room to have my blood taken, my vitals checked, the world’s most painful COVID swab (seriously, I think she was digging for gold) and a battery of the same questions over and over about my mental health. In-town bestie, who was in the room for this, now knows my medical history better than my mom.

Hours later, a child-aged doctor that I’ll call Doogie came to assess me. Yes, things have been unraveling. Yes, I’m depressed. No, I’m not going to hurt myself now. Yes, I want outpatient treatment. Yes, I know I'm ill. Yes, I'll take meds. No, I do not want to stay here.

Against my wishes, it was determined that I required an involuntary stay in the psychiatric ward upstairs for an undetermined amount of time for my own safety.

And, this, my friends, is where it goes from bad to worse.

My friend needs to leave. I am left in a small room, lying on a bed in a gown, with no stimuli at all for four hours. This would frustrate even the stoutest of folks. When you are already in crisis and your brain is trying to kill you, this is pretty much torture.

About three hours in, I break. A panic attack, the likes of which I’ve never had overtakes me. I roll into a ball and hyperventilate and wail. It slowly occurs to me that I’m making the biggest scene in the psych ward. I don’t care.

After about 45 minutes of this, someone finally comes and gives me two green pills, which I take, secretly hoping they are cyanide. I guess they don’t murder patients on a suicide watch, but a girl could dream.

The drugs do stop the hyperventilating and crying, and make me incredibly groggy.

About an hour after that, I’m admitted upstairs. Two armed security guards walk me (more like shuffling at this point thanks to the green pills) to an elevator and up to the third floor. We go through a series of locked doors and I’m escorted into a large, empty room that has a single plastic blue chair in the middle of it. The guards set me down and a nurse appears. Behind me are the isolation room and the restraint room. I can clearly see into both of them. The floor is tile and the walls a putrid green. There is no overhead light but the late evening sun pours through a frosted window. In my drugged state I think to myself how this all feels like a movie. In fact, all the things you've seen about mental institutions in movies are eerily accurate from my experience.

The nurse takes my vitals (again), asks me a series of questions (again), and makes me raise my gown to do a check for self harm marks. She then walks me to my room.

The floor itself is one long hallway with rooms on one side and the nurses desk on the other. At one end of the hallway is a rec room. My room looks like a very old-fashioned college dorm room with two beds (and I'm using that term loosely as it was a wooden slab with a two-inch dingy mattress pad on top) and two blue plastic chairs. The bathroom had a swinging door with a dirty looking sink, toilet, and a shower I refused to use the entire time I was there because the water came out in a concentrated stream so powerful that all it would accomplish would be taking off the skin in an approximately quarter-sized area of your body. They'd just have to deal with me stinky.

I had hoped that going in-patient would at least get me some serious intensive therapy. Like a lot of things in my life recently, I really misjudged that one.

For the most part, I was left alone with nothing to do but pace the hall or lay in my bed. Laying with my thoughts was too much, so pace I did. And pace. And pace. And pace.

The loneliness and boredom were overwhelming. I asked for as many meds as they would allow to just sleep to get away from my own thoughts.

In the morning, I saw another child doctor for a few minutes. Since the clinic I was in is part of the University of Kentucky, it’s a learning hospital, which means, students use us as their guinea pigs. Another ding in the old dignity.

Child-student doctor asks some questions and then disappears. I’m off to my oh so appetizing breakfast, and then am called in to “meet the team”. Child-student doctor walks me into a room with about 15 people crowded around a table and I sit at the head of it. The doctor in charge, whose name I don’t even catch, sits at the other end of the table and yells the same questions at me the child-student doctor did and I have to tell my story again to 15 strangers, trying to convince them to let me go home. I’m dismissed from the room in less than five minutes.

The only other therapy was a group session and a “spiritual lesson” about the two wolves. I have two wolves inside me and both want to punch this dude in the junk for wasting my time.

After two days, a butt load of meds, and a promise to go to outpatient treatment, I was released back into the wild.

The one silver lining in the entire experience were the other patients I met there. That is an entirely different story, and one I will share soon.

My dear friends think in-patient was the right choice because I’m still here. Maybe. I can’t say for sure if I really would have attempted anything that night. But suicide sure seemed like the best option in the moment. I was massively sleep deprived and manic, so maybe I was a danger to myself.

But the experience was terrible. I was the only first-timer I met in the place. Most of the other patients have been in and out of facilities for years. Which speaks to me about how much the system fails. What I (and everyone there) needed was love and compassion and a gentle ear to listen to me. What I (and everyone there) got was a treated like a criminal, very little face-to-face care, and pumped full of meds to be kept compliant.

I will tell my story again and again because I don’t believe there should be a stigma on mental health, and I hope that it empowers someone out there to make the right decision for themselves.

If you are in danger of hurting yourself, do whatever it takes to stay safe. Being committed sucks, and it might not offer the care you need, but if it keeps you alive, it gives you the chance to fight another day.

I want to say it gets better when you are out. I’m two days out and miserable. Everything is a mess and I think I hit a new low today. But I’m here, and I’m fighting. As soon as I find that rock bottom (which is near here somewhere, I can feel it), I can start to claw my way up. Maybe I already am because I am willing to fight.

Keep fighting. Do what it takes to live. Find that life worth living. Everything sucks and I feel terrible, but I’m committed to the fight. Come along with me. I’m going to document this whole goddamn messy journey here as honestly as possible, and maybe we will figure it out together.

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