An unfortunate misunderstanding and bad reaction to medication left me in a mental hospital for 24 hours over the winter break.
As I am wheeled into the hospital on a stretcher, I start to panic. My hands are shaking and my stomach feels upset. Once the paramedics leave, I am asked very personal questions about my body, the clothes I am wearing, types of jewelry and shoes. The nurse asks me to remove everything containing metal, buttons, laces or wires. I am asked to remove my bra, boots and earrings. In my mind, I am still asking myself, “How did I end up here?”
After being led into an exam room, I am handed blue paper scrubs and asked to undress completely in the presence of a female doctor and nurse. Once I removed all clothing, I am searched from head to toe. Every inch of my body is examined. Every cavity is examined and I am asked to perform the “squat and cough” to make sure I am not smuggling drugs or weapons. It is mortifying and incredibly embarrassing for someone who is naturally shy.
Phones, internet and computers are not permitted in the wing. The main room is very large, cold and sterile. People are spread around various areas. There are tables and chairs with coloring pages and crayons. There is one television behind Plexiglas with several chairs. Rooms are spread around the perimeter of the main room. There are no hallways. I am given a snack of graham crackers, water and medication.
There are about six nurses in the wing and about 10 patients.
After sitting at a table for a while, a young girl comes up and sits across from me. “Hello,” she says. I smile and return the greeting. I am shaking and a migraine had taken hold. She tells me her story like she can’t hold the words inside her any longer. She lost the baby she had carried for five months. After having to deliver the dead infant, she returned home. She couldn’t handle the sadness of returning home without her baby. She is struggling with having to bury or cremate her lost baby. My heart hurts for this girl.
In the middle of this intense talk, a man walks up to us and says, “I’m on meth … an addict, you know.” I offered a smile and nod my head.
I am scared because I assumed all of the people were struggling with depression. I am in a room with addicts and people who want to kill themselves. There is a guy in a room screaming, going through withdrawals, and a woman on a chair with bandages. I feel out of place.
I am shown to my room for the night and told I cannot close the door to the room. The shaking in my hands has started to spread to my arms and legs. In my paranoid mind, I worry about being raped in the middle of the night. The nurse saw my panic because she told me the nurses check on all patients every 15 minutes. They have cameras in the main area and there are several nurses who sit outside some rooms all night. There is no chance of someone entering my room without them seeing. She offers me a sleeping pill, which is also what landed me in this place — so I am hesitant to take it. However, I know if I don’t take it, I won’t sleep. So, I take the pill and sleep peacefully throughout the night.
A nurse wakes me up to check vitals and gave me more medication. I am told if I would like to brush my teeth or shower, I could ask for a hygiene bucket. However, I couldn’t keep the bucket with items. It must be returned. I am still wearing oversized scrubs, no shoes, no bra, no makeup, and my hair is a mess. I look like I hadn’t showered in days.
It is time to meet the doctor.
Here’s the truth, I had been struggling with the feelings of depression for the few days prior. I made the mistake of taking a sleeping pill with alcohol. It caused some concerning behavior and I said things that I didn’t mean.
The next thing that happened is two EMTs drove me to the behavioral hospital on suicide watch. I’ve never been suicidal and I would never do anything to harm myself. It is my first time taking a sleeping pill and I am not aware of the side effects of alcohol.
My lesson learned is that you cannot mix alcohol with medications, especially sleeping pills.
The doctor decides I need to stay for three days. I leave his office disappointed.
After sitting at a table for the morning doing nothing but thinking, I take time to write out my personal goals for 2019. Pencils and pens are prohibited, so I use a coloring sheet and crayon.
There is an addiction video playing for the addicts. I couldn’t help listening to the message. One lady said, “I can’t tell you where I’ll be tomorrow or the next day. All I can control is today.” This resonated with me. My first goal of the year is to choose to be happy today. I can’t say what tomorrow will look like, but today I choose happy.
There is so much time to people watch and think about my life without distractions.
Sitting for two hours without anything to do, I decide I want to leave this place. The doctor had gone home, but I had rights and I wanted to be home. So, he returned and spoke with me. He wanted me to stay, but to do that he would have had to contact a judge and have me held against my will. After speaking with me for half an hour, he agrees I don’t belong there. So, I am given release.
After a long day of sitting and thinking, I go home.
After a hot shower and clean clothes, I reflect on my 24 hours in the behavioral hospital. I have set goals for myself and learned so much in so little time. I learned that no matter how depressed I get, there is always someone fighting a much harder battle. It’s not that my battles aren’t big to me, but the thought that someone is going home to bury a baby breaks my heart. Someone is going to be released and probably get back into drugs. I can overcome my battles one day at a time. I may not have belonged in a mental hospital, but it is something that I’ll never forget. I will choose to be happy one day at a time.