The funny thing was that I actually wanted to be there. Needed to be there. Every other time I ended up in a psych ward, I went reluctantly, or angrily, or under pressure from other people. Not this time. This time I wanted to go.
It started about a month ago, when my moods started fluctuating wildly. I was swinging back and forth from happy to sad to depressed to manic to anxious and everything in between. It was like I was the ball in a pinball machine. Ricocheting back and forth, smashing into things too hard, too fast. Lights were too bright. Sounds were too loud. I got confused more easily. And just when I would think it was evening out, a paddle would knock me back into play. I was slowly but steadily losing control.
I told no one. I was FINE. I could take care of MYSELF. No one had to know. I had this TOTALLY IN CONTROL.
What a load of bullshit that was.
The paranoia hit. The mania faded into constant depression. No. It wasn’t depression. It was despair. Utter and complete despair. I was so despondent that I abandoned almost everything in life. I skipped my outpatient program. I took to my bed more and more. The thoughts became more vivid and relentless, the pinball slamming around my skull harder and harder. Nightmares. Seclusion morphed into paranoid hiding, hiding physically, hiding emotionally, hiding mentally. And the ball kept going. My brain never shut off. I was falling to pieces, like someone had gutted me and I was staggering around holding my intestines in my open abdomen.
I went to group therapy on Thursday, September 13th. I was wildly erratic. I heard myself talking too fast, too loudly, but I couldn’t stop it. I said I wasn’t doing well. That I felt like I was spiraling out of control. I was told that the meds doctor would see me the next Tuesday and to take it easy over the weekend. I had control over this, they said.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I drove homeward, convinced in my paranoia that my brakes were failing and that I would die on the highway. Good, I thought. Good. I’d die in a fire, and all of it would stop. The lights would go off and finally I would find some peace. But of course I didn’t die on the highway. But I didn’t go home. Because for the first time since I was last hospitalized on June 12, the little voice that lives in me with bad breath and rotten teeth in a rictus of a smile, whispered hotly in my ear, and I obeyed.
“You know how to make it go away”
I drove to the liquor store. Of course I did. Because between the agony I was feeling and the crushing guilt and shame that would come after the drinking, there would be the tiny window of time in which I wouldn’t care. And I was desperate for that window.
So I drank. I stopped eating and I stopped taking my meds. By Sunday I was viciously sick. I threw the bottle away and managed to drive to the store for Pedialyte and protein shakes to replenish my nutrient-deprived body. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t keep anything down. Sunday passed in agony. Monday was the same. By then I knew I had to go to the hospital. I was getting dehydrated, and I was getting very, very distraught. Suicide seemed like the only answer. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to simply stop existing? Because this, this wasn’t living. This was existing. And I didn’t want to any more.
But the universe didn’t want me to kill myself. And the cosmos sent the thing that saved my life. An instant message from Snarky Amber. Telling me that the new Amanda Palmer album was freaking amazing and that I HAD to download it RIGHT NOW OMG. And for some reason, I told her. I confessed that I had been drinking and that I was scared, so, so scared. And she convinced me to call my parents. She saved my life.
I waited for a bed in the psych ward. Two days in the ER, on a gurney in a hallway, with an IV and a thin blanket. Everyone who approached me I greeted with “let me die.” I begged. I pleaded. Please, just let me die. There were several times I almost got the point of pulling out my IV and running out the door to the street, waiting for a truck, and walking in front of it. When I wasn’t thinking about suicide, I was thinking about blood. I haven’t self-harmed in almost two years, but I had incredible images flashing through my head of cutting and cutting and cutting until I was awash in my own blood. It was a comforting thought. I was in a full-on psychotic episode.
I was moved around for another day and a half, finally getting a bed on the psych unit on Thursday night. I was pumped full of sedatives, so I couldn’t feel enough to cry, but I would have if I could.
The next ten days I worked as hard as I could to put myself back together. I let the staff help me. My meds were adjusted, I worked the groups, and the suicidal ideation faded. It took a lot longer to get rid of the thoughts of cutting myself, and I’d be lying if I said those thoughts are gone now, but they’re manageable. I can live with them. I’m safe.
And I’m home. Not healed, but stable. And I’ll take that. I’ve pulled the plug on the pinball machine, but if it starts going off again, I know what to do. There is a reason there are crisis hotlines you can call 24/7. I’m putting mine on speed dial.