This was my first time “behind bars” taken via a police car and booked tonight just because I panicked. One feels this is jail, tossed into a cold cell awaiting the guard to slam shut the heavy metal door. Lying there frozen, shivering, alone peering down to shackled ankles. Why do I deserve this? Jailed because I have a mental illness?
Bolted down. Incarcerated.
Eyes open slowly and encircle a dingy room. Everything is bolted; windows, a desk, chairs, and including this bed. The windows have bars attached, walls are an ugly light pink and the curtain dividing my neighbor’s bed looks hideous also, but what was I expecting; a hotel room?
Is it daybreak? A rap on the door startles me, followed by a female voice stating, “breakfast and meds”.
I prefer not recalling what happened last evening, dialing the Distress Center, talking for what felt like hours with a counselor who had a monotone voice about my obsessive suicidal feelings. Thoughts danced in my head for days, dreaming of ways to carry out my demise. Then, at some stage in this conversation, I became irritated and slammed down the phone, prompting an unexpected visit from the police. Next a knock at my door where I was unconvincing as to my state of mind, and there a decision was made, I was to be transported somewhere?
Neighbors, who don’t as a rule, walk their dogs, now saunter by the police car, peering in, along with others peeking through window blinds and curtains. The back seat of this cruiser is larger than expected, however, I am seated with my mind in a muddle, confused, uncertain of the future yet despising the present.
Both police officers chat quietly in police jargon; I assume they are awaiting word of which hospital to take me, then suddenly I’m on my way. The drive is a speedy drive, yet for me, a lengthy one. A time to reflect… a time to sob…. a time to sit in wonderment. In the back of a cruiser – how can this be? Punishment? I’ve never committed a crime in my life. Will I go before a judge; am I to be sentenced and charged for suicidal ‘thinking’ and (to some) selfishly wishing to end my life?
I am tagged a ‘voluntary’ admission, however, placed on the ‘suicide watch’ ward.
In actuality, I was calling out for help; panicked. All fuzzy, comparable to a television set on an empty channel. Knowingly, I prayed to terminate this life, yet scared stiff to carry out my plans; only craving to end this blackness of depression. Mental illness is ‘incarceration’ all on its own. Who would desire days in darkness, peering out of ‘bars’? One feels in jail, tossed into a cold cell awaiting the guard to slam shut the heavy metal door. Lying there frozen, shivering, alone peering down to shackled ankles. Why do I deserve this day after day?
This is hospital ‘incarceration’, better known as the “psych” hospital.
At the nurse’s station waiting impatiently in a line-up to ingest a handful of colorful ‘healing’ tablets that were invented to help me, I’m by this time drained. This will become another discouraging routine as in my prior admissions to mental health stays in hospitals, but never admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital.
Back in bed dressed in hospital pj’s, I lay back where my mind begins to drift to healthier and happier times, recalling days when I smiled, had responsibilities, was to some degree intelligent. Where I was content as an office supervisor, where people looked up to me and I made decisions. I traveled abroad, including tropical destinations, enjoyed time out with friends, owned a condo, my own car and lived on a comfortable income. Most of that has vanished now.
For this moment, I feel shut-in. My roommate sobbed throughout the night. Next-door neighbors screamed; wailing and pleading for aid. I imagine I fell asleep around 2:00 am.
So far with my healing ‘tablets’ they have never taken effect for this prolonged depression, thus explaining a prediction that I would ultimately land up in incarceration
I waste my first day waiting for the staff psychiatrist to finally arrive at 4:30 and am met with a doctor who appears short-tempered and rushed. He had little to say, just mumbled that I was to remain on ‘suicide watch’, removed privileges, with no visits outside the hospital until further notice. I protest to deaf ears, but with my familiarity, doctors appear to have selective hearing.
Four days have passed.
Doctor’s visits are irregular, medication doses have been adjusted slightly, and as the days pass my suicidal feelings are not as intense. Based on my improved behavior I am removed from ‘suicide watch’, yet not well enough for discharge.
This nasty monster called depression was the catalyst in handing me over to the next beast called suicide. I suppose it really wasn’t my time to die, but at this point, I continue to ponder if I want to be saved. I don’t love life at the moment, and I don’t feel guilty for feeling suicidal, but I do feel tremendously angry.
Daytime hours in this ward are long and boring with most patients spending their time in front of the TV. Most patients appear like me, staring but not really connecting. Occupational therapy is offered, however, I’m uninterested and resist crafts such as constructing bird houses and gluing fridge magnets.
Mealtime seems to bring pleasure to most; however, complaints run rampant as to missing tray items, such as rice pudding or ketchup packets. Yesterday was comical, to say the least, advertising that my crusty roll was up for ‘grabs’, four people dove over the table to fetch this prize, with the winner appearing as if he won the lottery!
I still dread nighttime. My roommate was moved to another unit, for which I feel relieved, as her weeping throughout the night made me feel powerless. I have adapted to the screaming coming from various other hospital rooms, yet unable to identify who these patients really are.
Fellow patients are precious people. We have all come together, each one of us to wage war on this illness, share our stories. Chatter is similar, depression or mental illness has affected all of our lives, including our spouses, family, and friends. We have lost relationships, careers and so much more. It took us so long to comprehend and come to accept that mental illness is NOT a character ‘flaw’ and it is NOT our fault. Who would ask to be ill? Stigma is a huge part of mental illness.
A few more days have passed, and I am beginning to see through the clouds. Faith is still lacking, though, however, I must plod along. I am preparing myself for discharge today, actually grateful in a way, as I was very close to a transfer to another ward, not so obliging as this, or so I am told.
*This happened many, many years ago and so happy I chose to survive. Suicide is not the best choice….choose to get help.
Written & copyrighted by Deb/2017