Sunday, July 13, 2014

Diary of a Bi Polar Woman DBPW Day(s) 125, 126, and 127 - My time on the "inside" (cont.)

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were a lot better in the Loonie Bin (Mental Health Unit) (see previous posts), as better as better can be.  I had spent Saturday and Sunday just watching the clock move in my room when I wasn’t sleeping.  When Monday came, and I knew I would have one on one and group therapy, all I could think was how two hours would pass easier.  At least 2 hours would move along faster. 

By Monday morning I had spoken enough to the other patients/inmates over meals that I now felt known to them and them to me.  So when breakfast arrived late I was able to offer to “watch over” their food. To be the food police.  They all smoked cigarettes and there are only certain times you can leave the ward to go have them.  With breakfast late they were going to miss their breakfast smoke.  God forbid!  But they couldn’t just leave their food on the table.  Remember there was one kid in there, “Shuffles” I called him.  Rail thin, tall as tall can be and already he appeared to get double the meals we got but still, it didn’t stop him from stealing people’s food I was told.  So I offered to stand guard for Twitchy, Jumpy, Gappy and Dad.  And guard I did. 

Shuffles and I ate at the same time.  As did all the other non-smoking inmates.  When I was done eating I grabbed a crossword puzzle book from the book shelves just outside the kitchen and planted myself back at the table to stand guard.  It took no less than five minutes for me to notice Shuffles making his way back into the kitchen.  He checked the tray holder for extra food then made his way around the table.  As he passed Dad’s tray he casually, as if nothing was happening, picked up Dad’s muffin and tried to keep walking.  I barked out, “nuh huh, put that back, that is not yours!”  He stopped in his tracks, looked at me as if I wasn’t there and dropped the muffin back on the plate.  He shuffled his way out of the kitchen now understanding stealing wasn’t gonna happen on my watch.  I breathed a sigh of relief when he left, I wasn’t sure how my “no no” was going to be taken. 

When the others returned I told them what happened.  I explained to Dad that the kid did in fact try to steal his muffin and Dad proceeded to cut the muffin in half, butter it, and eat it.  I threw up a little in my mouth.  The kid wasn’t all that clean.  Had he touched my tray I am sure I would have given him all that was on it.  Upon the urging of the others I went and reported Shuffles behaviour to the Nurse’s Station.  From that day forward if someone was going to be late for a meal or in therapy the Nurse’s would take their tray into the Nursing Station.  I guess this kid was really out of control with his food.  It was pathological.  I could only imagine what food was replacing in his mind.  He was constantly at the fridge eating crackers and jam.  He'd open up one of those little two packs of saltine crackers one after the other covering them in jam and shoving them in his mouth obsessively like.  All the inmates had actually started offering the kid their extra food instead of placing it in the middle of table to try to stop him from stealing.  He never spoke a word, he would just take the offered food and scarf it down. 

It was really strange to me how none of the women or older men shuffled the hallways but two young men did constantly.  It was very obsessive behaviour.  They couldn’t stop themselves.  Shuffles only went from his room next to mine, to the kitchen, then the nursing station and back.  Baller on the other hand walked every step of the entire place.  From one end of the long hall to the TV room where he would sit for the count of 3, to the kitchen, to the patio, to the nurse’s station, and down the hallway again.  It was later I was told confidentially (and probably shouldn’t have been) that both boys were schizophrenic and self-medicating with street drugs before they came in.  Not only were they sobering up off street drugs but while their schizophrenia drugs kicked in they were hearing voices.  The hallway walks were because they couldn’t “shut off” the voices.  It wasn’t hard for me to say to myself “things could be worse” upon hearing that.  I think we all can don’t you?

Group therapy was cancelled on Monday.  I couldn’t believe I found myself saying, “Damn I was looking forward to this”.  It was only because it would kill the time really.  Group continued on Tuesday and Wednesday.  One was led by a therapist, another by a social worker.  The therapist lead one actually helped a bit.  I found myself learning things and offering up all kinds of wisdom for the others in the group.  It’s what I do.  I found the therapist saying, “That’s right Nicolle, that’s exactly what I was looking for” more often than not.  Yay me!  Not only did I know more than I thought but it was good for the old self esteem too.  The social worker group was more informational and about all the programs available in the Mental Health Unit for out patients.  And addicts alike.  The hospital offers ongoing therapy in the group format for mental illness and addiction.  I have only been once but will continue to.  It’s all one can really find in this environment these days.  One on one therapy is hard to come by especially with a psychiatrist. 

I found it really interesting to discover that 80% of the world’s addicts are actually suffering from some form of mental illness, whether it be schizophrenia, bi polar, or plain old depression.  Unlike the other 20%, the 80% self-medicate their illnesses away.   It is very common, more common than not.  Think about it, when you are down doesn’t a nice drink ease the pain?  80% of addicts just can’t stop at one drink.  What about that show Intervention?  Have you watched it?  All the people on the show had tragic pasts leading to depression and addiction and/or suffered from some other mental illness.  I really took in how tragic addiction is when I was in the hospital, it became so clear how awful a struggle it truly is.  I think it’s why it became so easy for me to just stop taking the little pain medication I did take.  I wasn’t going to “get there”.  Not to where these poor people were.  I was able to use that week to just stop taking all the medications I had been prescribed.  There were people in there specifically for the purpose of giving up some form of self-medication.  Both Dad and Twitchy were in there for pain medication addiction.  And I mean in a big way, not simple old 5 mg Percocet pills like myself but 100 mgs in addition to Fentanyl pain patches and alcohol.  To look at them both, especially Dad, you would never have guessed that they both found their way into the hospital because they accidentally lost track of how much drugs there were taking.  Watching them being weaned off their pain medication was really hard to see.  One day they would walk the hallways like they owned the world, smiles on their faces.  The next day they would be shuffling along, barely moving their bodies, frowns and in some cases tears in their eyes.  You could easily see how quickly these pain medications become a problem.  I just got lucky.  I had a really strong will power and never gave into the urge to try anything new or stronger.  I was just too scared of what I was already taking. 

I never did find out why Grampy was in the hospital.  I can only assume there was some sort of Mental Illness struggle behind his kind old eyes.  Gappy was in there because she was an addict she inferred, not sure of the other struggles in her life, I didn’t ask.  But she did mention she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until she found a place to live so I can only assume she was on the streets.  Jumpy had tried to kill herself.  For the third time she informed me casually.  She suffered with Manic Depression, much like Bi Polar.  She was very sweet.  I think she’d been in the hospital for a week at least, with a week to go.  Considering the long termers in there, I was lucky to be out in the 5 days after I arrived I kept thinking to myself.  Cusack was obviously in a ton of pain mentally.  He left the Tuesday I was in there but to see his arms.  They were just covered in cuts.  You don’t normally see a boy cutting, it’s more common in girls.  There had to be a lot of pain in that poor boys mind. 

By the time I left on Wednesday I considered the girls, Twitchy and Jumpy comrades in arms.  Outside of the hospital, I am sure none of us would find the other having anything in common but inside, through tears we found a bond.  Twitchy lent me a book from her personal collect to read the size of a car.  I managed to power through that bitch in 3 days!  It's not hard when you have 10 hours a day to read.  Jumpy and I found ourselves playing rounds of cards on Wednesday as I waited to be sprung from the joint.  As I mentioned before, it was received with a round of laughs when I shared how ironic I found it that Jumpy and I were playing Crazy Eights in the Loonie Bin.  We both found it hysterical.  It’s funny how you can be brought together by something outside of your control when otherwise you’d have nothing in common.  Our lives were common by one thing, a stay in a Mental Ward.  While I am writing about it to you folks to help you understand all about that world if you should know people suffering, it’s not really something I want at the forefront of my mind.  It’s not a place I wish to go back to save for the outpatient therapy.

What I learned in the hospital is that Mental Illness is nothing to be ashamed of.  And I am not.  I spent time in the Loonie Bin and I am okay with that.  I needed to.  I needed help.  My medications were no longer working and had I stayed home I might have tried to hurt myself again.  I was not above the Mental Ward, I was just like everyone else in there, suffering.  I was in fact lucky to be as well off as I was.  On the last day, as I played cards with Jumpy, Shuffles came in all showered and in washed clothes and he plopped down right next to us, looked us in the eyes and said, “whatcha playin’?”  His medication had kicked in.  He was clean and sober.  I wish you could have seen the difference in this kid from even the day before.  I had it alright by comparison.  The hospital have resources in many cases that can help people suffering with Mental Illness and Addiction that I would never have known had I not gone in.  I am going to be taking courses in Mindfulness and Self Esteem that last up to 8 weeks long.  I look forward to them and hope that again, I can see I am just like everyone else in there, struggling with my own issues whether I have anything in common with them or not.  I am not above anyone and their problems.  Addiction is a tricky little bitch and I am very blessed to have had the self-control and will power to not have fallen deeper down that rabbit hole, very lucky.  I feel very sorry for addicts, I cannot imagine giving in to that urge.  Actually I can, and that’s the problem, I can. 

What about you?  Ever think how easy it could be to make your problems disappear with drugs or alcohol?  Ever worry you are doing that?  If you worry, likely you are losing yourself a bit.  Look into your local hospital because they likely have a free group therapy with your name written all over it.  You don’t have to go all gangbusters like me and get yourself committed.  Trust me, it’s not that hard to go to a group therapy class.  It’s an hour out of your day, how bad can that be?




Friday, July 11, 2014

Diary of a Bi Polar Woman DBPW Day(s) 122, 123, 124 - My Incarceration

Friday in the Mental Health Unit was a bit of a blur (if you find that sentence confusing, go back three blog entries and start from there).  Because I caused such a scene on entry (see my “breakout attempt) and was so worked up the doctor had ordered 2 mg of Ativan to calm me down.  Ativan is a commonly used anti-anxiety medication.  Where a person would normally take 0.05 mg when having a full on panic attack I was given again, 2 mg!  I still had the overdose in my system, add in the Ativan and wham, instant nap time.  I fell asleep still crying about being there.  I was awoken by Nurse Ratchet asking if I was going to eat with the other inmates Friday night for dinner.  “Uhhhhh no!” I shockingly exclaimed (I am no inmate!), *insert pout here*, “I am not hungry”, *pout*.  She reminded me that my one of my Bi Polar medications required that I eat 250 calories minimum.  I reminded her I didn’t give a rat’s ass.  She reminded me that my husband, being that it was in fact my actual 44th birthday (Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me….sing along if you will), had brought me a chocolate cake into the Loonie Bin.  I am aware that’s not a politically correct wording for the Mental Health Unit but I am allowed to say that as an official inmate.  I reminded Nurse Ratchet that I had better birthdays in my lifetime and perhaps the other inmates would like the cake as sure as fuck I wasn’t eating it.  “Throw it away for all I care”, *insert another pout here*, I said.  And finally Nurse Ratchet reminded me why I named her Nurse Ratchet when she explained that my attitude wasn’t going to help my “situation”.  “This time, and this time only” she warned me, she would allow me to have Ensure to drink for dinner but that I would have to come to the Nurse’s Station for my medication like a “big girl”.  I am sure she was calling me chunky there.  I am sure of it.  I didn’t come out of my room again that Friday.  Another nurse, a nice nurse, brought me my medication when I didn’t show up in the medication line up at the nurse’s station.  Apparently Nurse Ratchet had enough of me by then. 

I have to say for a system that is broke, the facilities weren’t as bad as I expected.  I am sure the flat plastic covered pillows are because of lice, and fleas and other things that make me shudder in my sleep to this day.  It had a pillow case over it, that’s pretty good right?  I quickly had Dan bring my Tempurpedic pillow from home.  I am a pillow snob admittedly.  The sheets were thread bare but soft enough over the hard plastic of the thin flat mattress.  They provided a cotton throw like blanket that admittedly I found comforting.  It was very “family cottage” like.  I wonder if they planned that?  I still had Dan bring me my favorite blanket too.  I needed comforts from home.  I was lucky as the room I was in was private, with its own ensuite half bathroom (toilet and sink).  I suppose for those that come in from a homeless place, the place was bliss.  Think about that.  To them, the place would be heaven just because it had a roof over it.  Your own bed and pillow, imagine the luxury! 

When I was told Saturday by the nurse that breakfast was there, I realized the kid gloves were off and I had to fend for myself.  Off I went to the kitchen.  There I found a mobile cupboard filled with labeled trays.  I found mine and took the furthest corner away from everyone and the closest seat to the exit.  I still didn’t want to be shivved, we were inmates after all!  I have watched Orange is the New Black and Oz you know. 

Once seated I looked up and immediately caught the eyes of “Twitchy”.  She was a lovely looking woman, older, in her 50s likely, cropped hair, dressed nice, electronic cigarette always in hand and a sort of twitch like manner to her movements, hence the name.  She immediately smiled and said, “Hello, welcome”.  I mumbled “Hi” back and looked to her right where I met eyes with “Jumpy”.  A doe eyed youngster who looked like she was trying to leap out from her own skin.  She was so young or so it appeared to me.  No more than 20 in all likelihood.  Once she caught my eye she said, “Just so you know, when I got here, I made a much worse scene than you did, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing”.  Well I wasn’t embarrassed Jumpy, not until you reminded me to be.  Least you out did me, I will hang onto that I thought.  Does that mean you kicked the door in an attempt to free it of its locks too?  I didn’t ask.  I mumbled, “Thanks” and put my head back down with tears of embarrassment in my eyes.  God help me I want to go home I thought to myself.  I can’t be here.  I don’t belong here.  I am not sick.  Am I?

As I sat there watching people out of the corner of my eye I was able to quickly nickname them all.  Is that rude?  Call me rude then because I needed to do something to pass the time during meals and this was my way of coping I guess.  I made up little stories in my head about the folks.  We had a lady who looked like she’d been homeless but was well on her way to health save for the entire row of missing teeth up top.  I called her Gappy (I know I know).  Then there was Grampy.  An old fella, who probably had dementia of some kind.  Lovely old man, struggling to open and lift things.  Jumpy, Twitchy and Gappy all seemed to have a soft spot for him.  They assisted him a great deal during meals. 

During my first meal Gappy introduced herself and gave me the breakfast low down.  There were rules people, rules.  She had gone searching for spare food on the mobile cupboard asking all if they’d seen the extra coffee.  Apparently the kitchen sent in a tray of extras but if you don’t claim it quick enough others will eat it.  And one kid had a problem with stealing food so you always had to make meal time ON time or else you risked losing your food to him.  And finally, “Should I not like anything, I should leave it in the center of the table for others to have”, she said.  I mean there was no sense in wasting good food or drink, especially coffee which she “loved the most”.  I got all that WITHOUT making eye contact, imagine had I made eye contact?  She might have moved into my room!

Now that we have the meal rules down pat I can get back to my characters.

There was Shuffles.  This kid was 6 feet tall, maybe 130 pounds.  If he was 20, I’d be surprised.  Rail thin.  Long stringy greasy hair.  Black homemade tank top (sleeves ripped off t-shirt), black jeans, and shower caps on each foot (yes, shower caps).  His pants were rolled over at the waist.  I assumed the belt was taken.  Why he had no shoes I have no idea.  He was a little stinky.  His room was next to mine so I kept my door closed all the time.  He really was quite potent.  I can only assume he was schizophrenic because he didn’t speak.  He looked at you as if you maybe weren’t there.  He was the food stealer.  He’d walk in circles around the table and kitchen area and just slip a hand down and grab food right off your tray if your head was turned.  Personally if that happened I am pretty sure I’d have given him my tray.  He wasn’t the cleanest soul therefore touching ma’ stuff would no longer make it ma’ stuff, “It’s yours, here ya’ go”.  I was kind of surprised that my room was right next to Shuffle’s on one side of me and Gramp’s on the other.  There was no, “girls space”, “boys space”.  Besides the shared rooms where the sexes were kept apart, it was a free for all.

And free for all I think it was.  Jumpy was very touchy feely with another inmate I called Cusack.  He kind of reminded me of a young John Cusack in The Sure Thing.  Save for the cutting scars running up and down his arms.  Broke my heart.  He too was only in his 20s, early 20s.   I wondered quietly if Cusack and Jumpy were an item.  There was a whole lot of hands brushing each other’s backs and backs of chairs etc.  Even though Jumpy was on her second marriage and had two kids I heard, me thinks perhaps they were finding solace in each other’s personal space behind the nurse’s back.  I was told on arrival that interpersonal relationships on the “ward” were strictly prohibited.  Shuffles and I never even got our relationship off the ground before the hierarchy quashed it*sigh*. 

Then we had Dad.  He looked like every Dad you see, everywhere.  At breakfast he arrived in a t-shirt, pajama bottoms, Dad slippers, and a tartan terrycloth robe.  He looked like the average Joe.  Tanned, healthy, announcing he had a really good Day Pass day.  He seemed to be in great spirits and ready to take on the world.  Why was he there I wondered quietly to myself?  He looked like he had it all together, whatever “all” is.   Do you know what “all together” looks like?  Describe.

And finally, Baller.  He was a late 20s heavy set kid who walked from one end of the ward to the other, non-stop.  He wore his shorts al a Justin Bieber (too low on his hips), high tops undone, and sleeveless basketball shirts.  He never sat down for longer than scarfing down a meal.  He would often come into the TV room (yes I ventured out of my room later in the week), and he would only sit for a count of three (I counted).  Then he would continue on his walk to nowhere much like Shuffles.  He would rotate from having his sunglasses on his forehead to having them on his actual eyes.  Those fluorescent lights are blinding I tell ya’.  At one point Dan came to visit and as the Ward doors closed automatically behind him, Baller jumped out the small gap in the doorway sideways.  To escape I guess?  The nurses were all over it and quick to grab him.  He immediately burst out with, “The voices made me do it”.  I wondered about all the walking.  I guess it was like his brain wouldn’t stop talking so he was trying to walk the voices away.  I can’t even imagine.

That was the bulk of those in the ward (the “loonie bin” as you know I like to refer to it as) with me.  The “inmates” as I like to refer to them.  I only HAD to stay for 72 hours as mandated by law but most of us had ultimatums from our families, friends, or even doctors like I did.  I think some of them choose to stay to get healthy, get sober.  As I mentioned, my doctor ordered 5 days after my arrival Friday so that I would be there Monday through Wednesday and get both individual and group therapy each day.  I know for me, the doctor needed to assure that my medications were balanced again and my mood stabilized.  For some of the others I think they needed to get over the hurdle of addiction, in many cases, pain medication!  Surprise, surprise.

I kept to myself Saturday and most of Sunday.  Venturing out only to eat really.  As I mentioned Dan thankfully brought me all my “stuff” Saturday morning.  My pillow, blankie (yes that’s right, I have one), shower supplies and loads of water, bottled water.  I hid all my water in my room and filled up hospital travel mugs they provided so as to not look snobby.  Remember I was avoiding being shivved at all costs.  I wanted to appear as though I was one of the “peeps”, just one of the “homies”, no stand out behaviour here except the attempted breakout on arrival.  I was happy to hear that was common place. 

Saturday and Sunday were hard days.  My psychiatrist was not on all weekend obviously so there no therapy.  Funnily enough he did come in and check on me.  I was surprised at that, on a weekend no less.  That’s a pretty dedicated guy to visit a bunch of loons such as us on his free time.  Either he’s dedicated or has no life.  I am opting for dedicated.  Because it was the weekend there was no group therapy either.  There was in short, nothing to do. I was a little bitter about having to be there when there was no benefit to me therapeutically but I supposed I kind of needed to be somewhere safe didn’t I?  Breakfast was at 830am and lights out was 10pm.  Basically you spent 13 ½ hours confined to a space no larger than a banquet hall with the same people.  Thankfully I was exhausted so I slept on and off for the entire two days.  I was typically called to meals because I would have fallen asleep.  My body was working so hard to expel all the drugs I had taken it was physically exhausted and mentally, I was wiped.  It was all so surreal being there, what happened.  One minute I was down and the next I was in the hospital.  It was all so fast.    

I had decided in the ICU that all the prescription drugs I had legitimately been prescribed were done.  I was going to sober up.  Not that I was ever technically stoned or high but I was taking way too many drugs, even if prescribed by my physicians.   There was Percocets for chronic back pain, Valium when I couldn’t sleep or calm down, muscle relaxants at night to help my back relax for sleep.  All of them needed to stop and stop I decided to do while in the hospital.  I could have easily asked for renewal on the prescriptions but when asked what I wanted, I said no thanks.  No more.  I was taking back my life.  I wasn’t going to be a slave to them anymore and I was scared to be honest.  Having the filled prescriptions at home gave me an ability to hurt myself, an ability I wouldn’t have otherwise had.  I didn’t want that risk available to me anymore. 

I had quite a few visitors all weekend.  That did help kill the time.  I guess because of what happened people needed to ensure themselves I was in fact, alright.  Still me.  My husband visited quite a few times, my best friend Brenda, my brother, and my parents, (my Dad and Step Mom).  I didn’t really want visitors, I can’t lie.  I was quite grumpy about being stuffed into the joint, but I knew what I had put them through, they deserved to see I was recovering well.  I also knew I needed to be there to have my meds re-balanced.  Didn’t make me any less grumpy.  That would be using common sense.  I refuse to act accordingly often.  Just because I know something is right doesn’t mean I have to agree does it?

I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my nicknames and “Loonie Bin” talk.  It’s my way of making a dark situation lighter.  It’s how I survive sometimes with darkness.  I joke.  I jest.  I make light of a bad situation.  I also would never describe these people full on, or use their actual names.  I wouldn't dare.  While it may not seem like it, I respect(ed) each and every person in the MHU for their personal journey, their personal battle.  For each of us have our own to deal with.  All I know is as I played the card game Crazy Eights with Jumpy and announced to all the irony of playing that particular game where we were, I got a hell of a lot of laughs.  I hope you can find humour in the darkness along with me.

For the record, I shall be known as Grumpy, Bitchy, or Loud Mouth from now until forever.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Diary of a Bi Polar Woman DBPW Day 122 - What do you mean I HAVE to stay here?

The phone wouldn’t stop ringing.  It was endless ringing.  Finally it dawned on me that I was likely going to die and that was my husband trying to reach me out of concern.  I did what was right, I answered the phone.  He was on one line with my best friend, a cop, she had the OPP on her other line, and they all sprang into action.  I needed help and it was on its way, come hell or high water, help was coming.

In case you didn’t read my last post, it left off with my having overdosed on prescription medication in the throws of a Bi Polar Low brought on by a medication change.  The change removed any safety nets I had in place to prevent a low and I spiralled out of control.  Never have I experienced such pain.

I don’t know why I answered the phone that day.  My plan was to die.  It was a solid plan in my mind and well under way but I must have known deep down, I couldn’t do that to them.  To the people that loved me.  I couldn’t see it through.  I was so low I wanted what was coming, I did.  There was no questioning that.  I guess I wanted to hear my husband’s voice one more time.  I wanted him to hear my apology for what I was doing.

I don’t remember much about the ambulance and the police arriving at my house.  I know that my best friend had them on the phone to explain that I had a big dog who was the most lovable dog around.  I remember the cop calling my dog’s name.  I remember saying “don’t let him outside with us please”.  “He’s friendly and scared, be kind to him please”. 

God when I think what I almost did to him.  Even that evening, what I put that poor puppy through having to see his mother being strapped down and taken out of the house.  Poor thing.  I am crying as I type this just trying to imagine what he thought.   (Yes I feel the same way when I think of what my husband must have felt arriving at the hospital too.  I am not just in love with my dog! That would be silly.)

The ambulance ride, I don’t remember.  None of it.

The ER, gone from my memory.  I didn’t even know I was in the ER at any point.

I woke up in the ICU with wires sticking out everywhere.  I was very stoned.  Apparently they don’t do stomach pumping much anymore because of the damage it does.  If a person takes their own prescription, nine times out of ten with the proper fluids to force along absorption, they can tolerate their own medication in large doses.  It’s why I am alive today. 

No damage to my kidneys or liver.  I am so very lucky.  I was able to pass three full prescriptions basically, through my body, in two days.  I spent all of Thursday and much of Friday in the ICU getting the drugs pushed out of my system.  I remember my husband, my best friend, and my brother, all there.  I remember a lot of tears and apologies from both sides.  We all felt some guilt for having let the darkness get that far.  And tears of joy I was still there.  Tears of joy from them that is.

When I woke up for the first time in the ICU the darkness was still there, inside me, and I remember saying “why am I still fucking here, why did I answer the phone?”  Still there was so much pain inside me I couldn’t see how lucky I was.  Not in the moment of time that was THEN.  After my medications got rebalanced I couldn’t, I can’t, believe it happened.  I can’t believe I was actually a person that attempted suicide.  It’s still hard for me to believe.  A concept I can’t quite get my head around.  What happened? How could I have gotten so lost?

What happened was changing my medications and doing it at home thinking my husband and I had the skill set to undertake that.  We didn’t.

When someone with mental illness needs to change their medication, it needs to be done under the watchful eye of professional medical care.  Either you are in constant contact with your professional caregiver or you check yourself into the hospital.  “Constant contact” does not exist in the medical system, that’s a fact.  You cannot get a doctor to see you daily, or every other day.  Phone contact?  What’s that?  So you change your medication and suddenly you are suicidal.  What now?  You think you have a grip on it, you wouldn’t do something like that would you?  It goes on for days, a week, you don’t act on your thoughts so that makes it clear, you won’t do anything right?  Wrong.  There might be that one day when left alone that you just cave to the pain.  You give in to it.  You can no longer hold it together.  Don’t think it can’t happen to you?  It can.  A suicidal thought is a suicidal thought. 

Do you know how many times I have heard, “Do you have suicidal thoughts?”  Yes I do, I would answer.  “Any plans to follow through with that?”  At the moment, no, I do not. 

What is that?  That is system failure.  I shouldn’t need a business plan, the thought is there.  Check me in!  Put me under lock and key.  Help me!

What I didn’t know was when my psychiatrist’s office said, “go to the ER” they meant “if you are unstable, feeling suicidal, go to the ER, tell them, they will clear you physically for entry into the Mental Health Unit.  Once in there you will be under “constant care” of a team of Mental Health professionals, nurses, therapists, and the psychiatrist”.  All they said was “go to the nearest ER”.  So we just didn’t understand it.  I had no idea that the “ER” meant that kind of care was available.  I figured you went to the ER when you attempted suicide.  I got that part.  Nailed it!

Furthermore, what do you imagine when you hear “Mental Health Unit”?  Even had they told me that, all I would imagine was the Looney Bin.  That’s what I thought.  Screaming people, people in straight jackets, me being shivved by some lunatic.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Me and Jack hanging in our jackets.  Nurse Ratchet down my throat.  I am sure some of the bigger hospitals and places like CAMH (Center for Addiction and Mental Health) are more similar to that than not.  How does that make a person WANT to check in?  Just imagine it.  Think about it.  Imagine in your most fragile place, your darkest hour, walking in there and voluntarily checking yourself in?  Could you do it?  We had talked about my going to CAMH’s ER.  We figured what better place for me to get my medication re-balanced than Canada’s foremost Mental Health Hospital.  But I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t imagine myself there with people that needed serious help.  Because I didn’t right?

Back to the ICU. 

I had the nicest of nurses in the ICU.  They were constantly on the phone with Sick Children’s Hospital if you can believe it and their Poison Control Center.  I remember that distinctly, wondering what little kid was in the ICU with me that got poisoned.  It was just me.  I was the ONLY patient in the ICU, I had poisoned myself.  I guess Sick Kids is the expert in the area so they just do the math based on my age and weight.  Being the only patient in the ICU had its perks I tell ya.  I got better care than I have ever received in the hospital before in my lifetime.  Surgeries, emergency appendectomy, broken bones.  Nothing compared to being the sole patient in the ICU.

Perhaps that’s why when I got to the Mental Health Unit and the door locked behind me in the unit trapping me inside, well, I started to lose my mind.  More so.  Here I had been, all the care in the world and they show me to a room with no curtains or drapes, a bed 4 inches off the floor with tie down straps for the wrists and ankles.  I ran from the room and tried to force the exit doors open.  On the other side, locked out, my husband and brother.  Both looking at me with such fear and pain in their eyes.  As I kicked and screamed to be let out.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t happening.  Suicide attempts = a mandatory 72 hour hold in the Mental Health Unit (“MHU”).  My own psychiatrist runs the unit and he demanded a 5 day stay to re-balance my medication or he would no longer act as my doctor.  I was screwed.  I was staying and I knew it.  I blamed my husband for calling me.  I wasn’t well yet.  It was all his fault.  (Don’t worry, with the re-balance came love and understanding).

After showing me the “hold” room a nurse quietly took me aside and asked me to see another room, a private patient room which perhaps “better suited” me.  At that time they let in my husband and brother once I was away from the “escape” doors.  They joined me in the sterile, drab room and reminded me of the seriousness of my actions and the dark place I was in.  They reminded me I needed help.  And they both basically told me to suck it the fuck up.  I was in trouble and this was it for me.  This or death.  I barked out “I choose death” much to everyone’s chagrin but I stayed in the room.  I had no choice when the head nurse, Nurse Ratchet, came in and barked, “You have two choices, this room and you quiet down or the other room and I strap you down”.  I curled up on the hard bed with the flat, plastic pillow and cried until they left.   Smartest thing that nurse did that day. 

And that’s where I think we will leave today’s post.  With my being safely checked into the MHU of my local hospital for treatment.  For a re-balancing of my meds and some therapy for 5 days.  It turns out, it was exactly what I needed and I would go back tomorrow if my medications needed changing again.  It is exactly what a person struggling with mental health needs and has to know is the ONLY option when struggling.  The fact there are options is sometimes more information than most people know.  Almost every hospital has a MHU, almost all.  And they are there for short stays for people struggling.  Instead of death you can choose life and help. 

Who knew?


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Diary of a Bi Polar Woman DBPW Day 121 - I am so blessed, I just couldn't see it

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, I don’t write this stuff for attention.  I write this because sometimes shit needs to be said.  I feel like this needs to be said.  Only some of you know what happened to me recently.

Monday June 2nd was my last posting for Diary of a Bi Polar Woman.  I was in a pharmaceutically induced horrid downward Bi Polar rapid cycling low that I had not seen or experienced before.  I didn’t think writing about it was helping me at all.  I thought I was perpetuating it.  I ended my Diary.

I am commencing it again now and will write only as I feel I have something to say.  I have something to say today.  I need the stigma of mental illness to be gone, in my lifetime, so I tell you this story.   

Thursday June 5th, one day before my 44th birthday, only 3 days after ending my Diary, I attempted to end my life.    

I know what you are all thinking.  “How could you?  You are so bright.  You have a beautiful life, family, and friends that love you.  How selfish?  Your dog even, you love that dog?  How could you?”

Let me tell you what a person who is about to take their own life is thinking about, PAIN. 

I used to think the same as you, “selfish ass, you took the easy way out”.  I couldn’t feel any more different about it now.  I am shocked at how different I feel. 

There is nothing easy about attempting to take your own life.  The pain is insurmountable.  It’s unexplainable.  Until you experience that kind of pain you cannot speak to what kind of act suicide is, you simply cannot.

When the pain started again that fateful day I knew the medicine change wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure where the bottom could possibly be.  I thought I was there.  Every part of me hurt, every bone, every fibre, every part of my heart and soul, my brain was on fire.  Without thinking really, I began by removing all my jewellery so as to not have it cut or lost by medical staff.  I didn’t even realize why I was doing it.  I made sure the dog was fed and had cookies.  I took him outside for a walk. I knew my husband would be home in time to care for him that early evening.  All was taken care of.  I made the bed neatly, turned on the fans in the bedroom for comfort and laid down to cry.  I remember screaming at myself, “come on you fucking baby do it, just do it” through hysterical tears and I started taking pills.  Handful after handful of prescription medication prescribed for anxiety and pain, and whatever other reasons doctors and I could come up with.  And I laid down to die.  I finally felt at peace for the first time in what seemed like forever, the pain was going to end.  The agony in my brain was going to stop.  I remember almost smiling through my tears.

Don’t think for a second I didn’t know what I was about to do to the people around me.  I had been thinking about suicide for weeks.  No one just decides to take their own life on a whim.  Shit I’d been writing about it even.  This action takes thought, planning, and courage.  Unbelievable courage.  It is not easy to cross that final line and actually do it.  You think it’s easy to say, “This will be my last day”.  Trust me, it’s not.  Living is hard, deciding to die, just as hard.  Realizing you are going to take your last breath, not easy.  Why do you think when people have the choice to do something horrible to someone else or die they choose to do something horrible to someone else, because dying, the thought of it, is too hard, too final. 

All you do leading up to something like this, least all I did, was think about everyone else and what I would be doing to them.  The guilt is all you feel besides your own internal pain.  Even though I was in such pain I wasn’t sure I could take it anymore either physically or mentally, I was thinking of everyone around me and what my actions were going to do to them.  I knew what I was about to do to the people I loved and who loved me.  I am not at idiot.  I was even thinking of the pain I would cause those around me that I wasn’t friends with and how they would feel, there was guilt there too.  This was not an “I will show them moment” as I thought it might be.  It was an “I hope they don’t blame themselves in any way” moment.  I had empathy even for those I wasn’t friends with.  Imagine what I was feeling for those I loved? 

For days I had been thinking of my husband and the pain he would have to endure.  I won’t lie to you, it wasn’t hard for me to think how much easier his life would be without Bi Polar in it.  He’s so wonderful someone would love him again, sooner than later.

I thought of my kids and if they knew what I did how they would undoubtedly feel some responsibility, like they weren’t good enough, to keep me alive.  I had already made sure Dan knew in a fit of tears one day that if I ever died that the kids should always be told, no matter what, that it was a car accident.  They never had to know differently. 

My best friend was one of the hardest to think about because she had just tried hard to see me, only the day before, and I rejected her attempts.  I was in such pain seeing her face, feeling her hug, would only bring it all to the surface and I couldn’t handle any more pain.  I had to turn her away.  Little did I know the very next day the pain would be worse either way?  Perhaps had I let her come the pain would have surfaced enough for us to have taken some sort of medical action before it was too late.  We will never know because I didn’t let her see me.  So I knew the guilt was going to eat at her for that but I also knew she knew my pain.  I knew she heard it in my voice.  It was worrying her enough for her to call, she’d find a place of acceptance eventually.  She knew in my voice the agony I was experiencing.  I knew she knew. 

I thought of my brother and how much guilt he would feel because it’s what he and I do, we are innately people who feel guilt, for everything and everyone.  I only hoped that my actions would kick him into taking life by the balls instead of watching it pass him by. 

I thought of a friend so far away that I wasn’t sure how she would handle it feeling she was helpless to help me from afar.  I worried about her heart.  She’s had enough pain this past year. 

I thought of a girl that is like my little adopted sister and her perfect baby and how she would endure yet another female loss in her life and how unfair that would be.  And I was the one doing it.  I only prayed she’d forgive me my disease.

My parents.  We haven’t always seen eye to eye but they did the best they could with the skills they had.  What would this make them feel about themselves?  Could I do that to them?

And finally, if you can believe it, I thought of my dog and I hoped and prayed through my tears that he would understand how much I loved him and my leaving had nothing to do with him.  I hoped somehow he wouldn’t be hurt. 

You think of all this, you do while you are in inexplicable pain.  You try to weigh the options.  Do you hurt more than they will?  Can you justify this?  Will someone help you if you don’t do this?  Can anyone help you?  It’s hopeless.  It’s hopeless.  It’s hopeless.

And you commit suicide.  Or in my case, attempt it.

I was lucky.  I am still here.  Alive, talking to you.  I am so blessed I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I am.  I made it.  So many are not so lucky.  Sympathize with them, they hurt more than you can ever imagine.  Don’t be angry with them, they couldn’t endure their pain, a pain you’ve never had to experience.  Understand, forgive, honor their memory knowing they fought as long as they could.  Please do this for me, do this for yourself, do this for them.  I have never experienced anything like this to be able to say to you that you cannot begin to imagine the pain and strength this action takes.  It’s not easy.  Pity them if you must.  It’s better than hating them for something they couldn’t stop.

I will tell you more about this journey in my next entry.  This is enough for one day for me.  I am still recovering.

Diary of a Bi Polar Woman and Girl Ranting will now continue because I am here to do so, I am blessed to be able to.  I won’t write every day as an obligation anymore but on days when I have something to say as my gift to myself.  And I have more to say.  I have a journey of a week that changed my life in more ways than I knew possible.

Mental illness is a disease that is winning.  It is taking too many lives, too many souls.  There is more to be said.  Every time you see someone on the streets who is drunk or high, homeless or angry and alone, wonder if we failed them.  If as a city, a province, a country, we failed them.  If they are self-soothing with whatever they can get their hands on because they system couldn’t help them.  Least I got help.  I am blessed to be here today.  Truly blessed.
If something like this is on your mind please go to your local hospital.  They have the facilities to take over, to take control of you, to get your medicine under control and help you feel less helpless, less lost.   There are options for you out there you just don't know about them.  Please, do this for yourself, value yourself enough to seek help.

Be grateful for everything today, every little thing.  It’s all that matters.