The Following Months

After I was released from the mental hospital, my life became a complete blur.  I started seeing Dr. Teeth at his private practice, where his red-headed assistant was ever present at each of our meetings.  It was frightening because he was treating other patients that I had been with in the hospital.  I was trying to distance myself from the people and memory of my week and a half stay, but their presence at my appointments was a constant reminder.

My paranoia about the cars and church bells was slowly edging its way into my psyche, making me a shell of the person that I used to be.  I was taking handfuls of medications which only made me a zombie. I didn’t feel like I was improving, just drugged.  I had been a voracious blogger prior to my break and I tried to continue writing, but my posts came out angry and delusional.  I was trying to hold things together but I was failing miserably.

I remember one particular appointment with Dr. Teeth.  His assistant was there, of course, and I had broken down crying.  He announced to her, “She needs a hug.  Give her a hug.”  She started to hug me and I backed away, claiming that I was okay.  It was such an odd experience having someone be ordered to hug me and provide comfort.  He was so clinical and didn’t offer any supportive words, only pills.  Saying he was not the right fit for me is an understatement.

The care of our home completely fell on my husband.  I didn’t have the wherewithal to do dishes, cook, or clean.  Here he was working his butt off and having to come home and work even harder to take care of me.  We were still hanging out with our “friends”.  They tried to cheer me up and be there for me, but I was so paranoid that something so simple as watching T.V. brought out the paranoia demons in me and I had to walk away and go into the other room.  I think it was frustrating for everyone involved.

I tried finding a new job, but that was not going well.  I had no business looking for another job.  There was no way that I would have been a productive employee if I couldn’t do something so simple as washing the dirty dishes at home.  My friends tried to put business connections together for me, but when I would meet with those people in a social setting, I would talk about religion – specifically about how the Catholic church was hypocritical and oppressive to women.  Not something you talk about ever, let alone when trying to get hired for a job.

Another paranoia that had arisen was the radio.  I thought the DJ’s were talking about me and to me.  I read into all popular songs that were on the radio, thinking they were written about me.  I thought all the rappers in New Orleans were gunning for my head.  I didn’t know any rappers in New Orleans.  I just thought they were after me because of a few interactions I had with those type people long before my break.

During my increasing paranoia, even my house wasn’t safe.  We had this old security system that had been installed prior to our moving in.  In our bedroom, there was a motion detector above one of the closets that would flash a red light when you walked down the hallway or into the bedroom.  I fixated on this and thought that someone was taking pictures of my movements in the house through this device.  It got so bad that I ended up hanging a scarf over this small motion detector so they couldn’t take pictures of me.  My husband tried to reassure me that it was nothing, but I wasn’t convinced.

I remember one night in particular.  My husband had gone out to get us some food for dinner and I was left in the apartment alone with the cats.  I paced up and down our hallway calling his name and one of our other friend’s names.  I don’t know why I did this – I knew that I was alone.  But I was lost.

My mother-in-law came to stay with us at one point.  She stayed for about a week.  I slept a whole lot and talked about the church bells.  I don’t remember much from her stay with us, all I know is that she was my babysitter because my husband couldn’t watch me 24/7.  He was desperate to make me better and I think he kept on waiting for me to show signs of improvement.  But, improvement never came.  She was here to help both of us, except no amount of help could calm the demons in my head.

I actually felt like I was getting worse.  Of course, I wasn’t conscious enough to really assess that situation, but nothing was making sense and my stay in the hospital hadn’t helped any.  I was a shell of a person and everyone surrounding me was very frustrated.  Dr. Teeth had promised me that if I went to his hospital, I would spend a little time and be better.  He lied.  I came out of there with more problems than what I went in with.  I’m not saying I didn’t need to go, it’s just that my medications weren’t working…weren’t healing my brain fast enough.

I was so paranoid and stuck that I didn’t really know which end was up.  My insecure feelings had lifted a bit, but then they got worse.  I had had my mental break and subsequent hospital stays in August.  I made it until the end of October and I’d had enough.  So, it was on my husband’s and my wedding anniversary that I said we needed to go back to the hospital.

We called one of our friends that is a health care professional and she came over and talked to me.  It didn’t take much convincing, but she said that maybe it was time to go back into the mental hospital.

So, we got in the car and went back to the emergency room and waited for Dr. Teeth to be paged and come assess me.  We were there for hours, maybe 5?  It didn’t feel like that long to me, but for my husband it was excruciating.  He finally showed up.  I said I wasn’t better and he offered me another a bed in his mental hospital.  I was going back in, a little wiser as to what was going to happen.  I didn’t know what was going to happen moving forward, I just knew that I couldn’t keep dealing with the demons in my head.  I was exhausted and something had to change.

The Emergency (Part 3)

falling coconutsHere are the links to read part one and part two.

I was awoken at 6 a.m. and told to get in line for the showers.  They had these little baskets with our names on them in the day room that contained shampoo/soap, as it was a dual acting cleanser, a comb and some lotion.  We were given a towel and waited our turns to get clean.  This was not the usual beauty regimen that I had grown accustomed to.  No conditioner was given and as I had long hair, I knew it was going to be a tangled mess. The shower/bathroom was very institutional.  It was big and cold and while I had privacy, there was an aide waiting just outside the door to the bathroom.  I tried to rush because I knew others still had to take their showers, but I was thankful for privacy, even if there wasn’t a lock on the door.

We were shuffled downstairs (as many were doing the Thorazine Shuffle) into the cafeteria to eat our breakfast.  I didn’t know where to sit, so I sat down at a table with people I recognized from my unit.  I was in the adult step down unit, but there was also a geriatric unit that was in the cafeteria eating with us.  There were moans and chatter and it was all overwhelming.  I tried choking down some powdered eggs and sausage, but soon gave up and gave my leftovers to one of my table mates.  The best part of that meal was the coffee–it wasn’t good coffee, but it was coffee and felt familiar.

After the meal, we were given 15 minutes in the courtyard for outside time/smoke break.  It was sinking in that my experience was going to be like someone who was in jail.  At least, my personal white, middle class self’s prison.  I stayed to myself and enjoyed the sunshine outside in the courtyard.  It was narrow and long and overlooked a nursing home that was also owned by Dr. Teeth (my new psychiatrist who owned the hospital in which I was currently imprisoned).  It was depressing.

Speaking of the smoke breaks/outside time, these were given four times a day.  Fifteen minutes after each meal and once after the evening wrap up.  You were given one cigarette (if you wanted it) by one of the aides – I think they handed out Dorals, and you were allowed to smoke and socialize with the other people on your unit.  I was a smoker, but I hadn’t had a single cigarette during my suicide/Tylenol watch and I was not going to give them any ammunition to count against me at this new place, so I didn’t partake in the cigarettes.  I was there for the fresh air.  No one was any the wiser.

I clearly remember four people that I was with me in this hospital.  Socks, Ben, Germaine, and Brutus.  (I have changed the names to protect their privacy.)  Each person was a character and enlightened me on different aspects of what I was facing being on the inside.  This was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and I felt guilty for all the privilege and opportunities I had been given/experienced in my life thus far.

Socks: She was a firecracker and I didn’t trust her.  She was volatile and loud and demanding and was not complying with anything that the staff was telling her to do.  I was afraid of her.  At this point, I was 5’9″ and weighed 112 pounds.  I was a skeleton and all my clothes were hanging off me.  Socks was busomy and heavier and a force to be reckoned with.  At one point, she wanted me to give her my bra.  Ummm…no.  I was going to be keeping my bra.  Plus, it wouldn’t have fit her and the aides told her so, but she was determined to have my bra.  I hid in my room away from her.  She kept on trying to claim my clothing as hers.  She would ask me for XYZ and I would tell her no.  Finally, she asked for a pair of my socks.  They were blue and had colorful stripes on them.  I gave them to her when no one was looking.  She left me alone after that.

Germaine:  He was a white guy who befriended me and kind of showed me the ropes.  I’m not sure if he had been in this type of situation before, but he seemed to know what was going to happen and what was actually going on.  He wore these boots that were lace up, but they had taken his shoe laces away for safety reasons and he shuffled around as best he could in his heavy boots.  I remember thinking that he must have been very uncomfortable in his shoes.  He taught me to keep to myself and not give away my diagnosis to others.  Also, he had an understanding of the dry erase board that had a list of all the people in the unit and where they were going after their stint in the mental hospital.  I don’t know how he knew, he just knew, and reassured me that once I got out, I was going home and not to jail.  I hadn’t done anything to put me in jail, but given my fractured mental state, I was worried that I had committed some heinous crime.  He was a constant friend and I trusted him.  We had a mutual friend outside the hospital and that kind of bonded us together.  We actually became Facebook friends after my stay in the hospital, but I ended up un-friending him due to my husband’s encouragement and my extreme paranoia.  I didn’t want to be connected to anyone who knew my secret.

Ben:  He was “special”.  I don’t know if he was drugged out of his mind or he had a developmental problem or both.  He was sweet and quiet and part of me wanted to help take care of him.  He seemed really lost, but I have no idea what he was like in real life.  I remember that he had very dry skin and I was playing “Mother Goose” and encouraged him to put lotion and Vaseline on his arms because they looked like they were about to crack.  I felt really bad for him, but his mom would come visit him and that was encouraging.

Brutus:  He was a force to be reckoned with.  He was powerful and appeared to know who he was in personality and psychosis.  I have absolutely no idea why he was in the hospital with us, but I do know he was on the list that was to be arrested by the state after his release.  I singled him out as my protection.  He had the potential to be violent, yet he never was.  I befriended him by giving him my left over food and bribing him with granola bars.  I think he started to want to sit by me during meal times because it meant he would get more food.  I’m not entirely sure, but I think he might have been homeless prior to his stint in the mental institution.  I do know that I liked talking to him.  It made me feel dangerous.

There were no other women on my unit with the exception of “Socks”, and she was scary violent, so I hung out with my band of misfits.  I had eased into being a part of their group, and I felt like I was buying my protection, but it was worth it and made me feel safe.

The food was terrible and was set on a four day rotation of what was available to eat.  I remember eating tuna salad (at least I think it was tuna) sandwiches, grilled fish with canned mushy mixed vegetables and rice, and some sort of goulash.  The food was miserable.  Because I was so underweight, I was given a serving of Ensure with every meal.  I would end up drinking that and not eat the meal that was presented to me, which meant more food for my posse, but the aides quickly caught on.  They stopped giving me the Ensure during meal times, instead saving for an after lunch snack in the day room.  They watched me closely when it came to my intake of food.

Group therapy was a joke.  We were forced to sit in a circle and talk about our feelings and how we could make our lives more positive and fulfilling.  I feigned participation because my goal was getting out.  I remember having to make a vision board out of pictures we clipped out of magazines – it was stupid.  But, I knew it was one of the keys to the puzzle of getting out.  We also had group therapy with a psychologist, but I don’t believe any progress was made there.  Therapy was kind of a blur to me.

Dr. Teeth met with us for a total of ten minutes each day.  He would ask us questions that I can’t remember and up our meds.  I always asked him when I would be sent home.  He continued to adjust my medication, leaving me in a zombie state after each meeting.  I was still quite manic, though.  Drugged and manic.  It took away my danger to others.

I felt safe with my band of brothers, but I wanted to go home.  I was trying desperately to figure out Dr. Teeth’s game so he would release me, but they seemed to keep adding days to my stay.  I was always met with a, “Let’s see how you feel tomorrow”.  To this day, I have no respect for Dr. Teeth.  He is there to make money and cares little about the care of his patients.

Visitation happened every day in the evening for about an hour and a half.  My husband, mother, and sister were religious about coming to see me.  I wasn’t always very nice to them, as I was angry at them for locking me away and I was still extremely confused about the diagnosis I had been given.  I was light years away from being able to say, “I have bipolar disorder”.  I wanted to see them, but when they arrived, the visits seemed pointless.  I often sent them away before visiting time was over.  I am certain this behavior stung, but I was angry and it was easier to just be around my band of misfits.  However, I would have been even angrier if they hadn’t come to visit me.  Looking back, I am glad they were fighting for me and came to visit.  I also feel major regret for how I treated them.

I spent a total of six days at this facility.  I was still manic and didn’t entirely understand the gravity of my diagnosis.  I wasn’t better, just drugged, but I wanted to resume the life I had with my husband in New Orleans.  I was released to the care of my husband and mother.  The first thing I did after I was released was take a bath and shave my legs, as there were no razors allowed, unless you wanted an aide watching you as you showered.  I never took them up on their offer to watch me, therefore I felt like a hairy beast.  After my bath, I went for an epic walk by myself, but I wasn’t getting the same kind of work-out high that I had received prior to me being taken to the hospital.

The real work was just beginning and my extreme paranoia had yet to set in.  I was glad to be home but I didn’t realize that things were just going to get harder from here…

The Emergency (Part 2)

costume-bags

After a 72 hour hold in the hospital, I was committed to a mental institution by my husband.  You can read part one here.

During my 72 hour hold, I was introduced to a psychiatrist who promptly diagnosed me as bipolar.  I called him Dr. Teeth, because he had the largest, whitest teeth I had ever seen up close.  Of course, me being psychotic wasn’t helping my visual self any.  He brought with him a red headed assistant who stayed silent and made sympathetic faces.  Then they left and I continued on my 24 hour a day suicide watch.

Finally, I was being released from the hospital!  Yay!  I still didn’t completely understand what had happened to me, but I was excited to go home.  Then, Dr. Teeth showed up.  My husband, my mother, and Dr. Teeth ganged up on me, saying I needed to go to his (Dr. Teeth) hospital to further my treatment.  I was upset.  I was pissed.  I started to cry.

Everyone reassured me that I was going to be okay.  “They will take good care of you, and you will be home in no time.”  So I thought, okay, rip another band aid off.  I’ll take a short ride over to his hospital, kiss my family good bye and get on with things.  That’s when a stretcher pulled up outside my hospital door.

They didn’t trust me to not jump out of the car on the way to the new hospital, so I was being transported by ambulance.  I was perfectly capable of walking, but they strapped me down on a stretcher and we started moving.  It was humiliating.  I thought, “Use this for someone who actually needs the ambulance, this is not an emergency!”  I am not an emergency.  Plus, I was too drugged up at that point to even THINK about escaping a car ride to the mental hospital.

In the ambulance, there was a lady EMT.  She had a clip board and she was talking to me.  Not taking notes, just talking.  She had 2 tickets to the New Orleans Saints game clipped to her clip board and we talked about football.  For a second, I thought she was going to give me those tickets if I was good and did what I was supposed to do at this new hospital.  Ummm…did I mention I was drugged?

We finally get to the mental hospital and they wheel me out of the ambulance into the lobby, then they unstrap me and I’m told to say goodbye to my family and follow an aide to this elevator.  The lobby was very small and there was an armed guard sitting at a desk.  I say goodbye, yet I don’t remember doing so.  I am not entirely sure that happened, but I’m told it did.  They wouldn’t just lock me away without saying goodbye, would they?  I believe my husband was left in the lobby to fill out the paperwork and sign my life away to the care of these new people.  He was officially having me committed.

Once I got upstairs to my unit, I was taken to the nurses station where they asked me a bunch of questions, weighed me, and took a picture.  I am curious to see that picture now, but I’m sure it wasn’t very flattering.  I was taken to a room in the corner of a wing that contained two twin sized cot beds, a desk, a toilet and sink, and a closet to put my things.  I was then told to go to the day room and join the rest of the patients, as they were having relaxation time.  I remember not knowing what to do with myself, but I had found a box of markers and some blank paper, so I sat down and started to draw.

Looking back, it feels like I was taken back to elementary school – the coloring.  When I sat down, no one was at the table.  After a few moments, a few of the patients came over, introduced themselves, and started coloring with me.  I was terrified that someone would get up in my face and start screaming.  That didn’t happen, but at that point, I had no idea what WAS going to happen.

Dinner had already been served at that point.  I hadn’t arrived in time to eat.  No big deal, I wasn’t eating at that point anyway.  We were taken downstairs to have a smoke break/outside time and were shuffled into a courtyard.  This lasted for about 15 minutes, then we were taken back upstairs where we had a little more downtime, medication was distributed and were sent to bed.

I was so thankful that I didn’t have a roommate.  I didn’t want to have to sleep with another person in the room with me.  I put on my pajamas and went to bed, after being informed that we were to be awoken at 6 and breakfast was at 8 a.m.

I had just scratched the surface of what was to be the longest week of my life…