Tag Archives: hospitalization

Leave Me Alone

My case manager keeps calling me.  I’ve been avoiding her for the last few weeks because I just can’t fake it anymore, and I’m afraid if she sees how bad things are, I’ll get hospitalized.  That whole agency is really enthusiastic about hospitalizing people, and I feel like I can’t trust any of them.

I mean, they haven’t exactly done anything that would inspire trust.  This case manager’s not quite as bad as the last one, but she’s still pretty much useless.  The sum total of what she’s done for me in the months I’ve been seeing her is that she brought me one housing application and took me grocery shopping once.  Pretty fucking impressive case management, huh?  I still have no therapist.  I’m still constantly broke, behind on all my bills, with no hope of ever catching up.  I’m still effectively housebound.  But hey, she took me grocery shopping once, so clearly they’re rendering highly effective mental health services.

I want to pick up the phone the next time she calls and scream, “Stop fucking calling me!  You’re not going to help me, so just leave me the fuck alone!”  I want to lash out.  I want to make her hurt because I hurt worse, and instead of helping like she’s supposed to, she just leaves me to suffer alone.  I mean, she’s never once asked about my symptoms or how I’m coping.  Nothing beyond the rote, “Hey, how’s it going?” when I first see her.

Eventually I’m going to have to answer the phone or she’ll send the cops after me.  That would trigger the hell out of me, and I’d probably end up in the hospital.  Of course, if I try to terminate, she could use that as “proof” that I’m refusing necessary treatment (hah, what fucking treatment?) and get the cops to drag me off to the hospital.  It feels like I’m screwed no matter what I do.  I just can’t keep seeing her and acting like everything’s okay, knowing that if I said things weren’t okay, the only additional services I’d get would be hospitalization.  I can’t see her because I just want to scream at her.

I don’t know why I’m so angry at her.  I don’t like the person it turns me into: it makes me want to hurt her, to make her cry.  I don’t like the part of me that makes me want to take out my pain on other people.  There’s no reason for me to be this angry at her.  I mean, I don’t even want to hurt my father like this anymore, and the things he did to me were far worse.  I want to destroy this nice but useless woman, and I don’t even understand why I hate her this much.

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At sea.

I feel like I need to talk more about my attempt, but I’m afraid to.  Even here, I feel like it’s wrong to talk about it.  I’m worried about triggering someone else.  I’m generally not a fan of trigger warnings because I feel like they reinforce the ideas that we’re fragile and that we should avoid anything that might upset our delicate sensibilities, but…yeah, I guess I can break my own rules every once in a while.  So consider yourselves warned.  I’m not giving any how-to lessons or anything, but it could be upsetting.

I haven’t made an attempt eight and a half years.  I was 19 the last time I attempted–the previous attempts were at 10, 15, and also 19.  I’ve been close many times since then, and I nearly died a few times due to my eating disorder, but I hadn’t attempted since November 2005.

I don’t even know what possessed me to do it this time.  Things weren’t any worse than they have been for the last several months.  I woke up to the situation with the power bill, and I just…I don’t know.  I’d say I snapped, but it didn’t even feel like snapping.  There’s a violence to that, and I didn’t feel violent, even toward myself.  I remember thinking, “Okay.  I’m going to do this now.”  I wrote the note.  I did cry writing it because I knew I’d be causing pain to people I loved, but that didn’t sway me.

I looked up the lethal dose of the meds I was taking.  I wasn’t sure I had enough, but that didn’t really bother me.  Either I’d die or I wouldn’t.  No big deal.  I set an empty tupperware container beside the bed in case I threw up, so people wouldn’t have to deal with my vomit everywhere.  I texted someone from the campaign to let him know I couldn’t be at the signature drive that night.  That way I wouldn’t have any plans, decreasing the chance that I’d be found and resuscitated.  I took the pills.  I curled up in bed with my stuffed hippo and pulled the blankets up around me.

I wasn’t all that upset when I finally did wake up on Saturday.  Vaguely disappointed: “Oh.  I still have to deal with life.”  Before, I’d always been angry at my body’s survival.  After my first attempt, at 10, I started self-harming to get out the rage at still being alive.  At 15, I was starving myself to get rid of all the feelings.  The last two times, the really serious attempts, I was enraged when I didn’t die.  I remember fighting the doctors and nurses in the ER while they were trying to pump my stomach.  Luckily, those memories are fragmented, and I remember them as an observer, not as the subject.

This time there was no anger.  Just exhaustion.  Sadness.  I just wanted it to be easy, for once.  I just wanted to sleep for as long as I needed.  Which is the same as forever when the world hurts too much.

I still don’t understand why I did it, which bothers me.  It should bother me because I don’t want to end up dead, but that’s not the reason.  It bothers me on principle: I don’t like doing things without understanding why.  The feelings that preceded this attempt were no more intense than they have been recently.  There was no trigger.  I just woke up and then tried to kill myself.  And I don’t know why.

I guess the real reason it bothers me is it makes me feel out of control.  I don’t think it was an alter who did it–I have a clear memory of the whole event, and it felt like it was me doing it.  But I’ve often thought I was doing things and found out later I was being passively influenced to do them by others inside.  The lack of any depth of feelings when I was carrying out the attempt make me think there was some level of dissociation going on–I mean, people don’t tend to attempt suicide when they’re just feeling vaguely crappy.

I don’t know.  I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t know how to figure it out.  There’s no one in real life I can turn to, and there’s not much internal communication happening.  It works fine with the ones I’m closest to, but as for the rest of the system, I have no idea.  (And honestly, I don’t really want to.  Why the ambivalence?)  If I tried to talk to S about it, she’d toss me right in the hospital, no questions asked.  C would probably let her.  I could tell them I feel safe and don’t feel any impulses to make another attempt, but that’s what I would’ve told them up until half an hour before I actually attempted.

I should probably go back to Sheppard Pratt.  They did help before, and they’d know how to deal with something like this.  But the timing just sucks.  They always have at least a 4-week waiting list; I think I was on the waiting list 8 or 9 weeks last year.  So that would put me there at the end of May, at the earliest. 

But then I’d miss the convention.  I know how stupid and shallow and petty that sounds.  You’re willing to risk your life for a party where you get to yell out a few people’s names to make yourself feel important?  Yes, yes I am.  Because it is the only goddamn thing in my life that makes me feel important.  What’s the point of saving my life if there’s nothing left in it that feels important?  Oh, but there will be other opportunities.  Not like this.  Once you flake out for a political campaign, people remember that.  They won’t want you as a delegate again.  You won’t get ranking positions on campaigns.  No one will rely on you.  You won’t really matter anymore.

If they would let me do a planned admission, that would be good.  I’d go right after the convention.  Hell, I’d get on a train straight to Baltimore as soon as the convention ended, without even going home.  Then I’d have a solid 6 weeks before I’d need to leave to go to my sister’s wedding.  But Sheppard Pratt doesn’t do it that way.  They have a waiting list, and they call you when your name comes up.  You get there in two days or you say no thanks.  If you say no and then decide you actually should’ve gone, you have to start all over from the bottom of the list.

So I’m left with no one to talk to, no one to help me figure this out and process it.  Even if I found a new therapist, it’s not like I could flop down on the couch and say, “I’m totally fine now, but last week I tried to off myself.  I have no idea why, and I don’t even think I’m the one who did it.”  Even if they had a ton of experience with DID patients, I think that one might throw them for a loop.  It throws me for a loop, and I’m the one living it.

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Blog for Mental Health

Every year, A Canvas of the Minds does a project called Blog for Mental Health, with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of people who live with mental health issues.

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Here’s the pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.” 

I’m sure it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I struggle with mental health issues.  I have for as long as I can remember.  I was introduced to the mental health system when I was 5–I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on tricyclic antidepressants.  (God only knows why, but that’s another post.)  All was quiet for years, at least on the surface, but in retrospect I realize I was suffering from severe depression as young as 7 or 8. 

When I was 10, I attempted suicide for the first time; shortly after that, I started self-injuring.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have had the words to describe it to anyone.  I just knew it was shameful, and I hid it from everyone.  I didn’t get caught until high school.  I was hospitalized 4 times during my junior and senior years.  That turned into a long string of hospitalizations, the details of which have all blended together.  I’ve been hospitalized 20+ times (I stopped counting), including one involuntary commitment.  I’ve been on tons of psych meds and seen more doctors and therapists than I can count.  I had 29 ECT’s, which destroyed much of my memory and caused lasting mental impairment.

Sometime during all of this, I began to have intrusive memories of my father sexually and physically abusing me.  I thought I was crazy–my dad loved me!–so I shoved the memories down deep inside.  I told myself I was just making it up because I couldn’t bear to believe it was true.  Then my sister disclosed that he had abused both of us, confirming my memories.  I couldn’t pretend I made it up anymore, and I was flooded with memories, flashbacks, body memories, panic attacks.  I lost time, which I didn’t understand then.  A chronic, minor eating disorder I’d struggled with since I was 12 or 13 got drastically worse, threatening my life.  The self-harm got worse.  Outpatient therapy wasn’t helping enough; I couldn’t keep things under control.

I ended up spending two years in a long-term residential program designed for people with treatment-resistant mental illness.  I was assigned to an amazing therapist who helped me learn that it was safe to feel things, which was what all my self-destructive behavior was designed to stop me from having to do.  I realized my mother was emotionally abusive and began to deal with that as well.  It wasn’t easy–I nearly killed myself twice–but that program saved my life.

Since then, I’ve been in various outpatient programs.  Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and last year I spent several months in an inpatient trauma unit to deal with issues around that.  I’m a lot better than I used to be.  I’m now heavily involved with political work, and before a physical illness hit me hard, I was taking an Indonesian kung fu class.  At the beginning of this year, my family cut off all my support, and I lose my treatment team.  I still have my therapist, as she wasn’t part of the program I’d been in, but now I’m having to learn how to make it with drastically less support than I’ve had in years.  It scares me…but we’ll see where it goes from here.

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Tonight I’m sad.

Tonight I read someone saying that when people are in the hospital for mental illness, their loved ones shouldn’t come visit every day or bring them things they like.  That would just encourage them to wind up in the hospital over and over again.

It makes me sad that that’s still such a prevalent view of people with a mental illness.

People like to say that there’s far less stigma against people with mental illnesses these days.  People say mental illnesses are just the same as physical issues, just as real and valid.  Ad campaigns tell us that people with mental illnesses are all around, that it’s not their fault their brains are broken.  But these same people turn around and treat us like we’re manipulative and attention-seeking, trying to coerce care and attention from the people closest to us..  I’m sure most people don’t do it out of malice, but it’s still hurtful and damaging to us.

I think people who’ve never been hospitalized on a psych unit don’t have a clear idea of what it’s like.  Most people know psychiatric treatment is no longer like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is true.  They think it’s more like a vacation where we don’t have to go to work or clean or cook or worry about anything, which is untrue.

It’s not fun, and it’s not an escape from our everyday lives.  We don’t have maids and room service.  We’re medicated, fed, and kept alive–that’s about the extent of “treatment” at most places.  Most of the time, you just sit there.  Not on a beach or by a pool.  It’s usually a day room with fluorescent lights, grubby tiled floors, vinyl furniture (often bolted to the ground), and games and puzzles missing at least half of their pieces.  If you’re lucky, there might be a cheap romance novel or a cooking magazine from seven years ago.  You sit there, day after day, doing almost nothing.  Mostly, you’re ignored unless you’re trying to hurt yourself or someone else.  No one cares if you’re crying–they probably don’t even notice.  You’re treated as something less than a person.

I know many people who have been hospitalized for mental illness, including myself.  None of us liked it or wanted to go back.  We end up in hospitals because there’s nowhere else for us to turn, not because it gets us showered with love and attention.

Yes, I looked forward to visits when I was hospitalized.  It was usually the only real conversation I got in a day.  In a place where you’re treated as a bundle of symptoms or as a problem instead of as a person, you get desperate for human connections.  That’s certainly not exclusive to people with mental illnesses.

Yes, I looked forward to small treats when I was in the hospital.  For me, it was usually a Diet Coke.  I was in a foreign environment where I had no comforts and no control over my life.  Something as inconsequential as a bottle of Diet Coke reminded me that the real world was still out there and I wasn’t cut off from it forever.  When you can’t go outside, can’t open a window, can’t make a phone call, can’t do anything else to feel connected to that outside world, you need those little things that remind you that you still exist.  Isn’t connection to reality usually a treatment goal?

I wish that people would put themselves in the position of the person in their life who’s living with a mental illness.  Ask yourself what you would want if you were separated from your home, your family, your friends, and everything else in your daily life.  How would you feel?  How would you want people to treat you?  Would you want to be isolated and denied connection, or would you want the people you love to do what they can to stay connected?  Put yourself in our shoes.  There’s really no difference between us and you.

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September 22, 2013 · 3:29 am