***Trigger warning: Content contains description of inpatient psychiatric stay***
Image: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
So after grandpa dumped me. Yes you heard right. I caught the 70 year old man hiding his ex-girlfriend’s name under a man’s name (one of the oldest tricks in the book by the way, for philandering men) I called him out on it, he did not like being confronted with anything. He was some kind of “alpha male” allegedly, so he asked me to leave. That, and too many months of me asking too many questions. Some men, like a stepford type of woman. That was it. Curtain closed. It was a blessing. No more knee-humping for me….thank God. The Battle of Wounded Knee Admittedly, my mom was freaked out that I had been dating someone her exact age.
Since grandpa and his butterscotch pudding was all I had for a year and I was pretty isolated from my family since they live in other states, I fell into a deep depression. I had never really processed the trauma from the sexual sadist narcopath, Of Mice and Monsters and that whole mess. Then after getting dumped by grandpa I felt like I had hit bottom; so I had some heavy duty grieving to do. I mean if you think about it what’s a girl like me still young and vibrant doing with Father Time, it doesn’t get much worse than that. I dunno. But it all hit me like a ton of bricks, which is why felt like hanging myself with my belt on my bedroom closet door.
Now, I’m no Hugh Hefner bunny by any stretch but I still think I could’ve done better than Rip Van Winkle. But that’s the story of my life. “Train wreck”, “issues”are two catch phrases that come to mind. Here is a photo of me at the time I was with grandpa:
It all hit me at once. I started having really strong intense thoughts of suicide. I didn’t want to act on them because I had my son and being a single mom I did the only thing I thought I should do which was to call my mom, ask her to care of him, and check myself in to nut-ward aka, a psychiatric hospital.
It was called North 7, a wing of a regular medical hospital. The plan was to get me started on an anti-depressant fast and hopefully decrease the suicidal ideations I was having.
Tbey slapped me on Prozac faster than you can say “serotonin” and it made me felt pretty jittery each time I took a dose but Dr. I don’t-give-a-shit did just as her name implied. She only came in once a week, asked me how I was doing and then left. The whole visit couldn’t have lasted more than three minutes tops.
Well into this warehouse, walks a familiar face. I had met him in AA over a year ago and his name was Calvin. He was married then but this time he did not have a ring on . He asked me if I remembered him and I said, “of course your name is Calvin from the 10 PM meeting in downtown Springfield.”
We exchanged some pleasantries and then got down and dirty with why each other was there. He said his wife had filed for divorce after 22 years of marriage. I told him that I was feeling suicidal after a one year relationship with old man river that ended. I felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I get my shit together I thought?Calvin denied feeling suicidal but said that his wife had “framed” him saying that he was.
Over the course of the next three weeks, there was nothing to do in this shit hole but talk. If you’ve never been a nut ward then you wouldn’t know that. There are pretty much two camps of people: some mentally ill people who are in an acute part of their illness that are less stable upon admission and there are mentally ill people who are acutely ill but are more stable upon admission. The less ill people try to stick together and pass the time in between the groups that are forced on you.
Groups like EFT which stands for “someone let me out of this fucking place now!!!” This was one bat-shit crazy class for an hour we had to do. You tap on your face and tell yourself you can get through your problems. I remember whispering to Calvin and an Indian man, “do either of you feel like this is doing anything or is it just me that think this teacher should be a patient?” They both laughed and said “exactly.”
Anyhow , there are always the general meetings where you have to sit in a big circle and say your first name and why you are there. For example: for depression, PTSD, anxiety, seeing things/ hearing voices, that sort of thing and what your goal is for the day. Pffft….which is ridiculous because there is nothing to do there except color on pieces of paper in your bedroom or find someone who is relatively sane and talk with them. If you choose the latter you’re reprimamded by staff and told to “focus on yourself.” So it’s a catch 22.
There is definite trauma bonding which occurs in the Nut Ward because the less stabilized patients the ones that are floridly psychotic and are either refusing to take their medications or their medications have not reached a therapeutic level yet. These poor souls are “going off” or are just wandering off and cannot take care of themselves. They are responding to stimuli which are not there having audio and visual hallucinations and also delusions which are cognitive beliefs and thoughts that are untrue coming from a chemical imbalance in their brain. Violent outbursts are very rare in psychotic people but can happen. The bain of these people are isolative and mostly have difficulty with socializing because the voices are so intrusive. When someone does become suddenly explosive or angry whether they are depressed or anxious or psychotic it is not predictable which make the stay more scary for those patients who are more stable.
There was one lady who had to have been around 350 pounds and was lucid one moment and the next she’d just start screaming at the top of her lungs hysterically. Lifting up the metal commercial grade cafeteria lunch tables and overturning them, ripping phones out of the wall, throwing artwork off the wall until it shattered. A small group of us ran like hell and huddled into one of the smaller group rooms in hopes that she wouldnt get to us. We barricaded the door with furniture. We could hear the staff trying to figure out how to sedate her since she refused to swallow medication orally and ran away. We theorized they would need to tranquilize her with some kind of poison blow dart gun. The kind one would find in the deep uncivilized jungle. She refused any meds again and punched the staff who were trying to dispense them. We watched in horror through a small window in the door as we were holed up in there, until hospital security arrived to restrain her to the floor so they could inject her with a needle full of Thorazine.
Images: Girl Interrupted
There was another patient named Cheryl who was in her mid 60s who every morning at around 4 AM would wake up out of her bed, walk into the hall screaming, “I want my fucking ginger ale!!” And on and on it would go. She couldn’t have ginger ale because she was diabetic. That didn’t stop Cheryl from screaming that she wanted her ginger ale. And mind you this was after staff had shined their flash light in the doorway, every 15 minutes to do their “checks” to see if everyone was alive all night long.
Lucky for me Cheryl would always stand right outside of my room. What a treat. Calvin’s room was down the other L-shaped hallway so I think he got more sleep than I did; plus he had better meds. His doctor was not Dr. I don’t give-a-shit, he had a different one. His doctor was Dr. Dreary, she looked like she just woke up out of bed and was about ready to go for some ECT therapy herself. She was more free with a prescription pad and didn’t have a problem prescribing her patients sedatives to help them sleep at night whereas Dr I-don’t-give-a-shit well….you get the idea.
There was the yoga class where this pervy guy told me he liked my white lace bra as I bent over. Like WTF? I told the staff and she said,” he’s leaving tomorrow we have had this issue with him before. Try to ignore him if you can. “ Yeah okay…
Ome of the other psychotic patients used to stand next to my tray at lunch telling me that his lunch was contaminated with blood or it was poisoned by one of the staff, but that my lunch looked OK. Totally out of feeling uncomfortable, and because I genuinely felt bad for him that he was suffering I would just give him most of my lunch because I do not want him to become too agitated. He did go off quite a bit. His going off was limited to yelling and telling the staff that the government had a conspiracy to overthrow the insurance company he worked for. When he wasn’t going off I had to listen to hid schizophrenic word salad which made no sense. Each individual line made sense but when put together with other sentences it was like listening to a backwards message on the Beatles White album. I always smiled and nodded in agreement and would say “oh that’s interesting“ or “wow”or “that’s nice. “ This of course was an attempt to placate him and keep a congenial relationship going so he didn’t keep harassing me for my lunch every day. It seemed to work.
It was here the Calvin and I forged a friendship and learned a few facts about each other. He was discharged first and I was stuck in that snake pit with Cheryl still screaming but he did call me when he left on the patient Payphone and when I picked up he yelled ,”freedom!” Lol
I think it’s a broken system because I think I gained more trauma by being there. But it did… save my life. I have to say, I would not ever want to go back to a nut ward again. I’ll just take my chances.
#mentalhealth #itsoknottobeok #suicideprevention #endthestigma #suicideawareness