Pardon the interruption, but ……WTAF!!!
When you wake up in an all white cell, with a bed fixed in the middle of the room, camera overhead and vomit in your hair with no recollection of how you got there…Well, you know you fucked up somewhere. Monday mornings typically blow, but this one takes the cake. Ha! Fack the cake, this one takes the whole damn bakery and socked the Pillsbury dough boy right in the croissant. For those of you who may think I am being dramatic, there is a 10 hour time window where I have absolutely no memory of where, what, and how the hell I ended up in a scene from Shutter Island. Dramatic? Maybe, but lets find out how I won myself a one night stay at the nut house, shall we?
It begins with an irrational fear of flying. It’s not an uncommon fear by any means, but most people don’t think of roughly 453 ways the engines could fail and send the plane hurling towards the ground while in the taxi to the airport. I, unfortunately, do. It’s involuntarily thinking. The more I try not to think of crashing and dying, the more I do. The TV show “Air Crash Investigations” doesn’t aide in resolving this fear either, but it’s nice to know that one lady from 1998, whose plane literally blew up, survived miraculously. What can I say? I’m a dreamer. Anyway, I had been prescribed medication to help with such situations, but its not very effective per the result of some serious shit crippling anxiety. So needless to say I was not jazzed to be airborne that evening. We arrived roughly an hour early to the airport, just long enough to grab a glass of wine to help ease the internal panic that felt more like a Rave of hamsters tripping the fuck out in my gut. I managed to drain a glass and a half of wine before boarding began, but the Pinot hadn’t yet hit the bloodstream. More panic ensued as I thought alcohol would no longer drown out the furry rodent Rave. So I ran down to the bar and proceeded to chase the wine with not one, not two, but three shots of…dare I say it….Patron. Fuckin’ tequila!! I know, I know, judge me, but the mind plays funny tricks when it’s convinced that your airplane WILL crash and you WILL die. I paid my tab then happily jogged to my gate and greeted the fam’ with a smile on my face. Aboard the plane, I was, as you could assume by this point, drunk and happy to fly anywhere in the world. Bring it on! I sat in my seat, the quivering of my innards silenced. This is where things get…interesting. During take off my jaw felt tight, like a charlie horse of the face. I stretched out the ‘ole mandible and that seemed to help, but I felt strangely tense. Tequila does not make one tense, but more so relaxed, like one of those balloon noddles at car dealership. I brushed it off and waited for the seat belt sign to switch off so I could use the restroom. At this point my memory is spotty. I remember bits and pieces…but from what I’m told. Shit. Got. Real. The last few memories I have, before the blackout, included ordering more alcohol from the flight attendant *sigh*,a bathroom break, then back to my seat to eat my biscoff cookies. The end.
The Morning After
When I woke, in a strange daze as to what I can only describe as an out of body experience, I was thirsty. Not thirsty as in sip sip pass, but thirsty as in “GIVE ME THE LIQUID OR I SHALL DRAIN IT FROM YOUR VEINS WITH MY FACE”. So with my hair in a nest, flecks of what I’m guessing to be biscoff cookies speckled throughout, smelling of putrid barf, and wearing a petite blue hospital gown and grippy socks, I waddled out of my “secure holding” room. The lights in the hall were that of the second coming of Christ, bright as hell and left an interesting look on my face I assume. That is judging from the expression on the nurse’s face as she stood from her chair, tense and fully prepared to punch me in the throat. I blinked and attempted a half smile and watched as she exhaled. Crisis averted I think? With caution, I proceeded towards the nurse’s station repeating “be cool” over and over to myself in my head, but I was in fact, not cool. No, I was one unexpected buzz, ping or beep away from shitting on the floor. Thankfully I made it to the little cube surrounded by “crazy proof” glass and spoke through the little holes “water?”. She gave me water, then Power-ade, and then more water. My thirst was satisfied and the world seemed a little more familiar. Now on to deciphering where and how I got here.
“Where am I?” I asked.
“ST. Joseph’s Psyche unit sweet heart” she replied.
It’s been said but, bares repeating. FUCK! Attempting to rewind the events that led me here…epic fail.
I went back to my cell, crawled into my bed, and went back to sleep. Some time passed and breakfast arrived. The dietary aide flipped on the lights and I felt my blanket shift as she slid the tray onto the bed. The smell was unrecognizable and made my stomach turn. I sat the tray on the floor and proceeded to sleep. More time passed and a nurse knocked on the door and handed me a small cordless phone. It was my dad. Relief washed over me as I took the phone and heard the familiar voice. We talked briefly, and he shared details of the ordeal. Then we exchanged our goodbyes and hung up. After the phone call, I went out to the nurse’s station to return the phone and noticed that there were several other patients at the nurses station. I stood silently waiting my turn. One woman with a thick southern accent kept shouting at the nurse “I have another condition you don’t know about”, the nurse intercepted her clamor with assurance that they were aware of all of her conditions and were working to get her sent home. She was eventually calmed and withdrew back to her room muttering some gibberish under her breath. The second woman insisted that she needed pain medication and was dealt with by a male nurse who seemed thoroughly vexed. I assume their debate has had many rounds. I found myself standing there, slack, and in utter disbelief thinking “I don’t belong here.” I snapped out of my daze when the nurse cleared her throat, obviously to get my attention. I sat the phone on the counter and headed toward my room. I paused at my door and looked into the room opposite mine. It belonged to a young woman who looked much like myself. Her hair was long, she wore the same blue gown and her eyes were puffy and red like she’d been crying for some time. Just then I noticed that my eyes were sensitive and burned when I blinked, they probably look like hers, but I don’t remember crying. She made eye contact with me and held my gaze for what seemed like eternity. Before our silent exchange broke, she mouthed the words “its okay”. I nodded, retreated into my room and shut the door. I felt heavy, as if overnight I had gained the weight of the world. I crawled back into my bed and played back the unremembered details my dad had shared with me on the phone and eventually fell back asleep.
Spark Notes version of the things I can’t remember: Long story short, I overdosed. During the flight I continued to drink. At some point I took at least 5 more of my anti-depression medication. For what reason I still don’t know. I had convulsions, which started with the jaw charlie horse,thing during take-off and apparently got worse. It took 4 people to hold me down or I would’ve nearly killed myself. I was rushed off the plane and into an ambulance. At the hospital I acted like an insane person and completely lost control of myself. I asked for razor blades and repeatedly told my family and strangers that I wanted to die, that I wanted to kill myself. I attempted to assault a nurse and, as a result, I was restrained to my hospital bed. Afterwards, I was sedated and escorted to the psych unit for observation under what they call the Baker Act.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State representative who sponsored the Act in 1972. People who require the use of the Baker Act have often lost the power of self-control, and they are likely to inflict harm to themselves or others. It is important that the Baker Act only be used in situations where the person has a mental illness and meets all the remaining criteria for voluntary or involuntary admission. It does not substitute for any other law that may permit the provision of medical or substance abuse care to persons who lack the capacity to request such care. Info courtesy of https://ufhealth.org/baker-act
Now that you’re all filled in lets get back to the story. Lunch woke me this time and once again it smelled strange. I grabbed the coffee from the tray and sat it on the floor. While sipping away at the weak java, a nurse knocked on my door. I waved him in and he sat on the end of my bed. He asked me why I was there and I gave him the spark notes version above. He sat quiet for a moment then asked if I wanted to stay the additional two days which is the typical duration under the Baker Act. I asked if I had a choice and surprisingly he said “yes you do”. I stopped sipping my coffee and he proceeded to explain.
“This is your first admission into a psych unit for mental health treatment correct?” I nodded. “And you seem okay. How are you feeling?” he asked. I told him I felt okay, a little tired but that was to be expected with the sedation.
“Do you live with family?”, I nodded again and told him that I was currently living with my in-laws while my husband is deployed.
That seemed to get his attention. He went on to ask me a dozen or so more questions before ending with “I’ll be right back”. A few minutes passed and there was another knock on my door. The same nurse fellow accompanied by a large computer/TV contraption, he rolled it in and placed it in front of me. “Am I taking a sanity test? If so I’m probably going to fail.” I said, jokingly of course. He gives me a chuckle, shakes his head and turns it on.
“This is going to be your doctor.” he said then continued “Soon, you’ll hear a buzz and someone should show up on the screen. That person will be a psychiatrist and will determine if you should stay or if you can go home. Be as honest as you can. Okay?” he says, I nod and put my coffee on the floor. “Good luck.” he whispered before shutting my door. I sit up straight, fix my hair and adjust my gown. Moments later, the monitor buzzes and my heart leaped into my throat. An older gentleman with white hair and large square framed glasses appears on the screen. He adjusts his camera and sits back in his chair with a pen and note pad, notes already scribbled on the paper, I assume details of my admission. “Hello, I’m Dr. W and I am going to be assessing you today. How are you?” “I’m okay” I mutter unconvincingly. He went on to ask a series of questions about the incident, most of which I could not answer due to the fact that I couldn’t remember. He then went straight to the meat and potatoes, the whole reason I was in this joint. “Do you want to kill yourself?” A little thrown by the question, I paused for a moment. “No, I don’t” I replied. He didn’t say anything, just looked down to his note pad which made me nervous so I added “And I don’t know why I made those comments. I guess there’s some things I need to work through”. Several moments passed before he spoke. “That is apparent. If you are released today, will you seek further mental health treatment?” I nodded. He began scribbling on his note pad for a minute or two before he addressed me again. “I am lifting the Baker Act and you should be released into the care of your family today, baring any further concerns. You will be required to follow up with your PCM within the next few day. You will also be receiving a psychiatric referral. I highly recommend you look into finding a provider as soon as possible. Do you have any questions for me?” I shook my head and he nodded. We exchanged a goodbye and the screen went black.
I took a moment to absorb all that had happened in the last 24 hours, but once most of the info had processes in the ole’ brain pan, I proceeded to do a little internal happy dance. I’m going home! I can shower and holy hell I needed one. I can eat something that smells natural, and the best part, I can cuddle my boy. I was totally jazzed. Then, as if someone had turned off the lights, the excitement turned into anxiety. I had been so sidetracked with figuring out what had happened and trying to remember the last 24 hours that I didn’t stop to think about my family, who had witnessed the entire erratic show of shit. They must be so fucking embarrassed of me. They’re probably pissed and angry at my lack of control, God knows I am. My wheels started to turn and eventually I was back at that place where all I could feel was the vibration of my nerves and the humming of my heartbeat in my ears. I sat down on my bed, wondering if I could renege on my decision to go home. I can just stay here, I thought to myself. Things started to go dark. I was thinking myself into my tiny, mental brain cave. I tend to visit said cave often and when I do it’s usually to mentally assault myself with cerebral lashings and meditative torture. They’re not lying when they say, you are your own worst enemy. I was in the middle of my mental beat down when a nurse knocked on my door. She came in with a handful of papers for me to sign and a bag full of clean clothes my dad had brought me.”Once you get changed and we process your discharge papers you can get out of here. Should only take a few minutes.” she said. I signed the papers and she left the room. I rummaged through the bag and pulled out a sand-tee, the tears welled up and I paused for a moment, holding it in my hands. For those of you who might not know what a sand-tee is, it’s apart of my husbands military uniform which he wears under his ABU’s (Airman Battle Uniform). He had left me a few before he went on deployment, and as silly as it sounds they have become a sort of security blanket for me. If ever I needed it this would be the moment, I grabbed it along with underwear and a pair of sweatpants. I looked up at the camera overhead and decided to find somewhere more private to get naked. I found a restroom a little ways down the hall. I walked in, locked the door and scanned the ceiling and walls for evidence of a camera, nothing looked suspect. I proceeded to change while avoiding the mirror at all costs. I couldn’t stomach the sight of myself just yet. Back in my room I threw my dirty bits in the bag and headed out to the nurses station. A man walked up to me and handed me a hair tie, confused, I took it and arranged my hair into a messy bun. Wtf, can they read minds here? I waited at the nurse’s station for all of five minutes before someone came to escort me out to the lobby. I wasn’t ready but that’s life. I followed her out of the double doors and skimmed the crowd, looking for someone I recognized. Finally, I saw my dad, gave the nurse a wave and he and I headed for the exit. He didn’t seem mad. As we walked out he gave me a pretty decent hug. Everything seemed strangely okay. We arrived at the car as mom was getting out of the backseat, where I assume the baby was, napping. She gave me a massive bear hug and she didn’t seem upset either. I’m confused, is anyone going to address the fuckery that I caused? The car ride home was quiet. My boy napped in his car seat and I stared at his face, wondering how I could make something so damn perfect in all my imperfectness. We arrived home and all I wanted to do was hold my peanut, and eat something. Two words, watermelon and chicken wings…actually that’s three words but whatever, I love them both deeply and equally. I ate and watched as my little one played on the floor with with a drink coaster, ignoring his many toys that were scattered around him. I finished eating and simply sat quietly, drowning in thought, and glazed over by the side effects of the wearing medication given to me the day before. I needed to sleep. I needed my bed and most of all I needed this day to be over. I asked my in-laws to watch the baby while I took a nap. I walked into my room, curled up into my bed and cried myself to sleep.
The following day I saw my doctor and my medications were adjusted. I received some new anxiety medication that, so far, seems more effective. I am also working on getting in to see a psychiatrist. And there you have it. A panic attack that hung a Rodger onto FuckMe Blvd, ran over a trollop and parked in a tow away zone for funzies. It wasn’t all bad though, on my mental quest to find a silver lining in all this pickled shit, surprisingly, I found a few;
- I now have a more effective anxiety medication.
- I learned that alcohol and Zoloft are NOT bros.
- I look damn good in a hospital gown.
- I can turn a hospital grippy sock into a bitchin’ hair scrunchy.
Fun fact: They won’t give you a hair tie in a psych unit because they think you’ll hang yourself with it, hence the need to Macgyver my sock. Looking back on it now, I wore one sock on my head and left the other on my foot. Who let me out of that place? On a serious note, after doing some balls deep reflecting, I came to the realization that this incident could’ve been avoided had I been upfront and honest with my doctor about my anxiety and that the medication I had been prescribed was not working for me. The underlying suicidal episode that arose while I was severely impaired has also raised red flags resulting in an appointment to meet with a specialist to further explore this issue. My attempt at being transparent with my mental health had a rocky start. My family has a long history of mental illness, and I’ve watched loved ones destroy themselves because they denied their condition and refused to seek help. A big part of me wanted to believe I was the exception. That I was “normal”, all in an attempt to deny the fact that we shared a likeness. Can you argue genetics? Unfortunately, not. My emotional journey through all of this is somewhat similar to the five stages of grieving. We’ve covered denial (√) , anger and bargaining I am sure I’ll get to those in the future, depression (√) and last but not least acceptance, which I am still figuring out. No they don’t have to occur in order, don’t be a square! I try to speak freely and openly about my depression and anxiety and hope that one day I won’t feel ashamed or feel like I’m a burden. The hardest part will be facing and challenging the stigma that surrounds mental illness, which is still very much alive and well. Even with this post, some will read this and understand, and others…not so much. But if you find yourself judging, pause for a moment. Try to think of a time in your life where you were about to, could have, or at least convinced yourself you were going to die…. Now, what would you have done if given the opportunity to dull your fear? And don’t kid yourself. Beep Beep- that’s the end of the line, you may, and I recommend that you do, exit the crazy train. Here, my friends, is where I will leave you.
a mental condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep.
a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
The Mental Health Hotline provides 24/7 crisis and suicide intervention for individuals of all ages. In addition the team offers telephone counseling for a variety of mental health problems and also offers assistance with coping skills, relationship problems, anger management, substance abuse, and other problems.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
with love and gratitude always,