Suicidal Ideation, the Psychiatric Hospital, and Finding the Bottom: Part Four

This will probably be the shortest of the four parts.

If inpatient is any indicator of what jail is like, I will be a law-abiding citizen for all of my days. I don’t like the feeling of having my freedom to choose taken away. That’s the entire point: to take away your ability to hurt yourself when you don’t have the perspective to make that choice yourself. But compulsory group gym time, restrictions on the kind of clothes you can wear, and counting of silverware before you can leave meals? No, thank you.

That being said, there is such an incredible spirit of healing in that place. It was just overwhelming, the feeling of the therapeutic energy that filled every corner. I know not all of you are religious, but I am, and I entirely believe that God is paying special attention to his children in need of mental health care.

When I checked into that place and curled up on the non-threatening sheets, I felt like I had hit the absolute bottom. I felt that there was no lower I could go.

Little did I know, the bottom could get lower, but finding it was an important step.

The thing about finding the bottom is that when you’re drowning, the bottom is the only place you could possibly spring off from. I know I’m not the first one to say that, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

There is a dark kind of comedy to be found when you’ve survived so many things you thought would just kill you and you’re still there.

When I left BHC, I was not better. Not really. They talked me off the ledge, but my counselor very nearly had to put me back in the following week.

But that week when I had to get back to my life, I felt like nothing could stop me because the worst, the lowest had not stopped me. And that was powerful.

Don’t be afraid of finding the bottom. Don’t be afraid to get help. Do be afraid if the help they offer doesn’t fix everything. Don’t be afraid if you don’t feel better when you think you ‘should.’ Don’t be afraid to be healed. Don’t be afraid. And if you are afraid, that’s okay, too.

Wandering is not always fun.

Here’s the thing about this wandering. Some parts of it suck. Hard.

I have recently had yet another employment opportunity ruined by PTSD and depression symptoms. I thought things were going well, and then symptoms became intrusive and made what I can realistically accomplish different than what the position called for. I really wanted it to work out, but, despite my best efforts, I just could not force it to work how I wanted.

Conclusion: mental illnesses ruin things. They take things away. They make things harder than they are. They make you feel like you are less.

You’re not going to win every fight. I’m not going to win every fight. There will be days when you have to accept that, for that day, you’ve done all you can and you are still beat. You will wander the low valleys.

BUT.

You will not lose every fight either. There will be days where you will rock the world with your motivation and drive and vision. And for that day, view the world from the top of that mountain. Don’t focus on the down days. Bask in the glory of the wins you get.

ALSO. I will pick up with my four-part series about BHC either this weekend or sometime next week.

DOUBLE ALSO. Once I’m done with this series, what do you guys want to hear about? Give me some feedback. Ask me questions. Tell me what you want to know.

Thanks for following along, folks.

Suicidal Ideation, the Psychiatric Hospital, and Finding the Bottom: Part Two

So apparently “next week” is closer to two weeks in Chelsea speak. Hope you guys are still ready to hear the rest of my story. There’s some humor this time to break up the heaviness.

Here we go with Part Two. It’s a little long, so settle in.

 

I cry like a small child being dragged in for immunizations the entire walk from Julie’s car. I can’t look the receptionist in the eye while giving her my information.

The nurse comes to get me before I can even give her my insurance card. Apparently suicidality is a pressing issue to these people.

Julie isn’t allowed to come with me yet. She stays behind and helps the receptionist collect my information.

The nurse leads me to a room designed for a child. The entire cast of a show at Seaworld is painted on one wall. The orcas look friendly, but the dolphins are ugly. Beaded jellyfish hang from the ceiling. On the other wall are tactile games with letters and shapes and colors. I bet that at a small hospital like this, all of the rooms a designed to comfort children. Multipurpose.

I lie down on the gurney. My faces feels puffy and numb. I try not to think about my makeup.

“Are you having suicidal thoughts?”

“Yeah.”

“Were you going to hurt yourself?”

“Maybe.”

“Did you have a plan?”

“Yeah.”

“What was your plan?”

“I have a lot of Xanax. I’m just so tired.”

Julie pops through the door at that moment like an ironic ray of sunshine.

The nurse looks up at her briefly, then back to me. She pats my hand.

“We just need to get your vitals and draw some blood. I’ll be right back.”

She does not come right back. Some younger nurse in scrubs that look too new comes in with the tools to draw my blood.

“Can you please draw the blood from my hand? That’s where it hurts the least for me.”

She looks like I’ve just asked her to remove my right arm entirely.

“Uh. Okay. Sure.”

She sterilizes the back of my hand, prepares the tube, then counts backward.

I feel the needle in the back of my hand and begin to panic. Again.

“Do your veins normally roll?”

“What?! … No!”

I begin to whine uncontrollably and hyperventilate.

She begins to what I can only describe as wiggle the needle around in hopes of skewering a vein.

In my head, I begin counting backward from 30, determined that if I reach zero before she’s finished, I will rip my hand away from her like she was trying to steal my soul instead of my blood.

At around T minus 5, I warned her she had 3 seconds.

I am apparently making enough noise that the first nurse decides to check on the commotion. In a transition I don’t take in completely, the older nurse is fixing what the younger one started.

They have to draw blood from my elbow anyway.

What a fiasco.

I’m trying to get my sobbing under control.

The nurse pretends I’m not acting like an overgrown child.

“Well, let’s have you talk to the doctor. I’ll send him right in.”

Instead, the receptionist comes in to confirm my information and give me the classic hospital wristband.

I looked at my name bracelet. Chelsea Joseph Rutter.

Who in the hell is Chelsea Joseph Rutter?

“Why does it have my middle name as Joseph?”

“Yeah, that’s a glitch we’ve been having in our system all week. Whenever we register a new patient, it just generates a random middle name.”

“Huh.”

The receptionist leaves the room.

Julie looks at me with a smirk.

“Chelsea Jo. I like it.”

“Shut up, Jules.”

Julie gets her karma in the form of a screaming pregnant woman they put in the room next to mine. We hear her puffing and moaning and yelling. A nurse in the hallway mentions that she’ll probably give birth tonight.

Julie is mortified at every sound that comes from her room.

“Chels, I can’t do this.”

“You can leave the room if you need to. Or close the door or something. Do what you’ve gotta do.”

Another scream from next door. Another panicked whine from Julie.

“I can’t do this, Chelsea.”

She closes the door, which doesn’t help much.

She buries her face in the sweatshirt in her lap, trying to block out the sound.

The doctor comes in soon, followed in by another grunt from the pregnant lady. Julie makes a face.

He asks me the same questions as the nurse, and I repeat the same answers.

He tries to convince me of hope and the fights and successes of others. I’m in no shape to hear it. I believe I’m beyond fighting.

I’ve fought. I’m tired. I’m done.

Sensing the lack of sway he has had on me, he says something about talking to another doctor at another hospital. He leaves and the nurse wheels in a cart with an iPad. The nurse asks Julie to leave with her while the doctor and I “talk.” Great. Another round of convincing.

But I am wrong. He asks me the same questions again. The answers no longer sound as dire when you’ve said them multiple times.

He asks about my conversation with the other doctor. I think he notes the lack of renewed hope and inspiration for life they like to see at that point.

“Well, I think you should come stay with us for a while.”

“Stay where? How long is a while?”

“We’re an inpatient facility in Idaho Falls. As for how long, that’s harder to know.”

“I have school. And a job. I can’t just go for however long.”

“Those things can wait.”

His tone sounds final. I narrow my eyes in suspicion.

“Do I have a choice at this point?”

“Well, you always have a choice. But if the doctor thinks you’re a harm to yourself, the law will get involved and it will no longer be your choice. Right now, it would be a voluntary admission.”

I sigh and drop my head back, the purest of melodrama.

“I can’t believe this is my life.”

He tells me to hit the call button to summon the nurse to wheel away the cart, which she soon appears and does.

I ask her to find Julie, but she tells me Julie had to leave for a minute and will be back soon.

Where could she have gone? It’s 3am.

I rattle around in my backpack on the chair next to me.

I find it and dial Julie.

“Dude, where’d you go?”

“I’m sorry. I was hungry, so I ran to McDonald’s, and I had to get away from the pregnant lady.”

“Ha! Okay. Well, I’m being admitted to a place in Idaho Falls.”

“Really?! Okay, I’ll be back in a minute.”

We hang up, and the nurse comes in again but with a stack of paperwork.

“So, we’re transferring you to the Behavioral Health Center in Idaho Falls. You’ll be transported by ambulance as soon as the doctor completes the orders and we get your blood work back.”

“Okay. But I won’t be going by ambulance. I’ll either drive myself or see if Julie can take me. I’m a poor college kid, and I’m not paying for an ambulance.”

“We’ll see what the doctor thinks.”

I am adamant. I may be sick, but I am an adult and can make my own logical choices.

Julie ends up driving me, protocol be damned.

On the way out of the hospital around 4am, I hear the birds waking up.

“I told you, Julie, the birds start up at 3.”

“Chelsea, you shouldn’t know that.”

She laughs. I smile but don’t respond.

We go to my apartment to pack a few things, and then we’re on the road south.

As soon as I shut the door behind me, I start feeling the weight of where I’m headed.

I can’t believe this is happening. Who do I need to contact before I go in? Who can I even contact right now? It’s 4 a.m. Brother Rammell might be up; I need to email him.

“Subject: So. Message: I’m being admitted to BHC.”

What’s the point in even including anything else in the message?

I hit send.

Brother Rammell and I have talked on many occasions about BHC, the circumstances that lead a person there, and the probability of my ending up there at some point.

He emails me back in minutes, even at the early hour, and tells me about access codes and how everything will be fine at school. He tells me he’s glad I’m finally hopefully getting the help I need.

Julie and I barrel down the highway as the sun rises.

 

 

Part Three to come next week or sooner.

Thanks for tuning in, all.

Suicidal Ideation, the Psychiatric Hospital, and Finding the Bottom: Part One

So this post is either a little late or very, very late depending on how you look at things.

A year ago this month, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital because of my PTSD and depression. I went in May 13th and was released on the 16th.

I say this post is a little late because I was going to post last week as a yearly/anniversary/resurrection project thing, but I figured jumping back into the blogging pool was more important. I say it is very late because the plan was to post it, like, June of last year, but clearly that never happened.

So, without further ado, here is part one of my story:

One hundred and twenty-six Xanax. I had exactly one hundred and twenty-six Xanax. Knowing that is enough to land you in the ER, if you’ve got friends keeping an eye on you.

My psychiatrist, Dr. Larsen, likened it to a sonic boom.

A sonic boom happens when an object is moving so fast that it begins moving at the same speed as the sound waves it creates. Instead of all of the sounds being heard as waves, separate from each other, all of the sound builds up and is heard at one time as a sonic boom.

It’s not that anything going on in my life right now is overwhelming in itself, but I’ve been trying to move so fast that I outrun the things behind me, and that finally caught up with me — boom.

So. One hundred and twenty-six Xanax. I didn’t take any — I just counted them. Over and over and over. One to one hundred and twenty-six. I cried as a counted, or I stared angrily, or I laughed. I eventually got to the point where counting was no longer satisfying the urge. I should’ve recognized that an urge to count medication was a problem in and of itself, but I didn’t phone a friend until all of my energy was being expelled in convincing myself not to take the pills.

“Julie, I’m really not doing well,” the text message read.

Julie knows me well enough to know that if I say something like that, we’ve reached the red line. The fact that I sent a similar message earlier in the week was probably also an indicator that things were rough. She didn’t make me go to the hospital that time, but I thought this time may be different. It was coming down to a battle of wills, and mine was being expelled in other ways than convincing Julie that I didn’t need to go the the hospital.

She came to get me and found me in my truck, crying, looking tired, and clutching a prescription bottle.

“I’m so tired, Julie.”

“I know. I think we should go to the hospital.”

“I don’t want to. I’m not one of those people. I was never going to be one of those people.”

I didn’t move. Julie began to try to move me, but that only made me cry more.

“We don’t have to go to the hospital. Let’s just go drive. Come on.”

I wasn’t stupid. I knew we were still going to the hospital. With some convincing, I removed myself from my truck and got in the passenger seat of Julie’s car. I left the pills behind, bringing nothing with me.

We drove in silence for a few minutes, taking a roundabout way toward the hospital. I later learned that this circuitous path was not intentional, but just Julie getting turned around on the way.

As we drove through traffic-light lit streets, I let out a fresh sob, a new realization of the state of things.

“I’ve never felt the need to say goodbye to anyone until this time.”

Julie didn’t say anything. She just nodded.

After a few minutes of seemingly-intentional-unintentional-aimless driving, I decided to give Julie a break.

“If you’re trying to get to the hospital, turn left at the next stop sign.”

Again, she didn’t say anything. She just gave me a defiant yet defeated look.

She turned at the next stop sign.

We parked in one of the closest spots to the Emergency Department doors. The night felt calm and quiet. You could hear yourself breathe in the stillness of the air.

“I don’t want to do this, Julie.”

“I know. But I think you need to.”

“I don’t want to.”

“What if I go and ask what would happen if you were to go in? Like, what if I gave them a hypothetical situation?”

I sat staring out the windshield at the watching trees in the distance, too tired to fight her on it anymore.

“Okay.”

She went inside for several minutes while I sat without moving, tears sliding down my face at irregular intervals.

I didn’t move when Julie opened the door, the overhead light flashing on. She sat back in the driver’s seat, ready to explain and convince.

“I think you should go in.”

“Why, Julie?”

We talked about it for a long time. I got more tired with every word, realizing that no matter which way things went, it would feel like losing the battle.

“I can’t go in without my insurance information. I didn’t bring anything.”

“We’ll go and come back.”

“Okay. But this doesn’t mean I’m for sure going in, it just means I have the option.”

As we left the parking lot, Julie was driving on the wrong side of the road and almost drove into the median.

“Jules, you need to be over there.”

She swerved to the other side of the road, pretending she’d been there the whole time.

I directed Julie in a more direct path on the way back to the hospital. There was no reason to wind our way there this time.

We parked in the same spot in a déjà vu-filled moment.

“Chels, do you want to say a prayer?”

“Sure.”

“Do you want me to say it?”

“Yeah.”

Julie spoke from the heart, spoke to God with love and care for my well-being.

I felt the final surrender that I would be walking into that hospital to face whatever was there for me. I had a moment of near hysterical laugher at the acceptance of this moment as a part of my life.

We said amen and sat in brief silence.

“I can’t do this, Julie.”

“I know.”

I’ll continue next week with what happened next. Hope you’ll keep following along. Thanks for reading.

Here’s a picture of a cat for some levity: