My life is super confusing, overwhelming, and stressful right now. I’m feeling too much pressure to find a job and pressure to make decisions about a number of things that in the past 10.5 months I’ve failed to make decisions on. I’m once again frozen, unable to take control of my life and do what I know I need to get done. Everyone is losing patience with me — my sister, KR, my treatment team.
I had an appointment with my Vocational Rehabilitation counselor this past Monday. I had only met with him once before. I contacted voc rehab about a month and a half ago for help since I was struggling so much to make myself find a job. That appointment last Monday did not go as planned.
I’ve been fighting a sense of desperation and state of despair for more than 2 months now. This, of course, began over a year ago when KR broke up with me, became worse after my mother’s death. The overwhelm I felt while working that part-time job for 5 months was only alleviated after I quit. Around the end of August when I planned and had a yard sale to begin selling off my mother’s belongings, all of it came back with a vengeance.
Hopelessness, despair, desperation, powerlessness, helplessness — all of it overwhelms my ability to cope; but cope I must. I’ve managed the resulting suicidal thoughts as I always have and kept myself alive even when I didn’t want to. I distract myself. I self-soothe. I wait them out. Or I indulge them for a short time just to appease that part of myself who feels the need to obsess about death and dying.
I’m doing the best I can.
Anyone who knows me should know that my suicidal ideation is as much a coping mechanism as any other. It’s been a constant companion for more than 20 years as much as the chronic fatigue and chronic depression. The voc rehab counselor doesn’t know me well enough to understand that. Like I said, that appointment last Monday did not go as planned.
He did most of the talking. I was numb, shut down from the get-go. I couldn’t get past my feelings of hopelessness that morning and frustration with myself. That frustration grew into frustration with him as well. Something he said or did triggered a reactive state. Flashbacks to PI (the guy I dated off and on from 2002 through 2006), oddly enough.
The VR counselor’s “plan” for me is to do W.R.A.P. somewhere and work with the Goodwill Industry’s job placement service. I looked into that years ago when I lived in Clarksville. Back then, it was menial labor for pennies on the dollar, not even minimum wage. All of my creative, technical skills I have honed all of these years, not to mention my very personal insights into psychosocial development, would be wasted.
Again, I asked him, “What am I supposed to do in the mean time?” I tried to explain how dire my financial situation is. I can only receive SNAP benefits for 2 months through the end of November unless I have a job or volunteer 20 hours per week. I felt so overwhelmed and frustrated. My flustered attempt to make him understand caused me to speak without thinking, without my usual carefully chosen words.
Instead, I blurted out something to the effect of, “When I’m freakin’ sitting there thinking about hanging myself or slitting my wrists because I’m so scared over finding a job or having no income, what am I supposed to do?” I didn’t yell. I didn’t even raise my voice at all. I said it a little too dead-pan-faced calmly for even my own comfort.
He paused for a moment, looking a little scared, before saying, “Now, I’m worried for your safety.” I immediately regretted having said it, especially after he asked me to wait a moment while he checked on something and quickly left the room.
After about 5 or so minutes, he came back, looking nervous but attempting a “business as usual” approach until, you guessed it, 2 cops showed up. He told them what I said. They asked me a few questions. I burst into tears and panic as I attempted yet again to explain my desperate circumstances and overwhelm. They escorted me out of the building to an awaiting ambulance which took me to a local hospital’s ER.
Even more so than panicked, I was pissed! Stripped down to socks, underwear, and paper scrubs, I was left in an equally stripped down ER room under video surveillance for 29 hours with only minimal human interaction, isolated with only my thoughts that grew to such a state of rage by around midnight that I erratically grabbed a blanket, left my “cell,” determined to find a darker, quieter place to sleep.
Irrational sure, but those bright ass lights and all of the noise of the ER completely over stimulated my senses — I mean over stimulated to the max, like what I experienced as a child in Kindergarten kind of over stimulation! The ER was locked down. I couldn’t get out. I remember hitting the doors with my palms, crying out of frustration and mental exhaustion.
They threatened to give me a shot of Ativan. I’m seriously thankful for the security guard who took a more fatherly approach, speaking calmly and more soothingly, validating my frustration, coaxing me back to my room. No shot, thankfully. That threat from a terse ER tech left me feeling so helpless and powerless that I felt I had no choice but comply or be abused.
I sat up all night, staring through the observation window in that all too familiar detached, catatonic state with pure fury bubbling beneath the surface. I may have had a short cat nap sometime around 5 am, but I didn’t sleep for longer than a couple of hours, restless sleep at that, during those 29 hours I spent there. Finally, at around 4 pm the next day (Tuesday) a female police officer arrived to transport me and another girl on a psych hold to Ridgeview Psychiatric Hospital in Oak Ridge, TN. Thankfully, she didn’t handcuff us or anything; but it was still humiliating. That police officer was actually pretty cool. She blared the radio (good music) the whole way and even stopped to allow us to smoke a cigarette before we got there.
Ridgeview is a completely locked-down facility, much like the state institutions. It’s older, circa 1978. It smelled of a strong cleaning solution and stale cigarette smoke (it just became a smoke-free facility about a month ago, so no smoking either). It was cold and drafty, but fairly clean. The intake process was lengthy with the usual strip-down search (a rape survivor’s worst nightmare), physical exam, and saying the same thing over and over again to half a dozen people.
I was as adamant with them as I was with everyone at the ER that I had no desire to be there and felt the VR counselor completely overreacted. Still fuming, I barely slept at all that first night, partly due to anger, fear, and anxiety and partly due to the fact that they didn’t turn the lights out at night. It was so bright! I didn’t have anything with me, just the clothes on my back. They gave me a couple of hospital gowns to wear while I washed my clothes and to sleep in as well as a pair of slipper socks, but I had no other underwear. Talk about feeling vulnerable while they were in the wash!
Wednesday is kind of a blur. I think I must have been dissociative, especially considering all the flashbacks I was experiencing while there to other involuntary commitments. I know I met with the psych nurse practitioner on Wednesday for the first time. He actually spent a lot of time talking with me, taking down my psych history and even asking how I would “treat” myself if I was in his shoes, like what meds or treatment or whatever. He said he wanted to consult with another physician before making a decision on medications. Later that evening, we met again and he prescribed Trazadone for sleep and a low dose of Effexor XR (37.5 mg), both I’ve taken before with no real positive outcome.
I slept a little better Wednesday night, probably a combination of complete physical exhaustion and the Trazadone, but still woke up several times throughout the night. Even though the dose of Trazadone was extremely low, I still woke up groggy, dizzy, and nauseated. The next morning, I woke up to the med nurse by my bedside handing me a cup of water and the Effexor. In my groggy state, I took it without even thinking.
I spent most of Thursday in that state of detached derealization, thinking I woke up in a nightmare or previous state of consciousness. Everything felt so unreal. I had one of those intimidating meetings where the entire treatment staff/team met with me in the boardroom style interrogation. I hate those. They make me paranoid. They make me feel small and vulnerable.
By the time I met with the psych nurse practitioner later that day, I was edgy and aggravated as the realization hit me that I was stuck there another day. That meeting with the APRN was brief as I think he sensed my aggravation. He did manage to coax me into signing myself in voluntarily, but I vehemently stated I was given no choice in the matter of being committed and felt powerless over my autonomy.
I spent the rest of that evening losing myself in a puzzle another girl and I began earlier that day. I didn’t take the Trazadone Thursday night. I regretted that decision by 3 am when I got out of bed for a drink of water and still hadn’t slept at all. If I got any sleep whatsoever that night, it was that twilight resting state where I kept waking myself up with a jolt just before entering sleep.
In front of the med nurse the next morning (Friday), I popped the Effexor in my mouth but didn’t swallow it. Out of sight, I spit it out in my water cup and threw it away because that was literally the only thing I felt I had control over.
Thankfully, I was discharged from Ridgeview Friday morning. Again, thankfully, my car was still parked at the DHS office where I left it Monday morning during my voc rehab appointment.
During the cab ride back to my car, I realized that the autumn leaves had already changed colors in the valley between Monday and Friday, meaning the leaves in the mountains were past peak. Had none of this happened, my plan and intent for the remainder of my day Monday after that appointment was to take a drive through the Smoky Mountains to Cherokee, NC, for some much needed rest and relaxation. I’m fairly certain the leaves would have been at peak at that time; but obviously, that never happened. I took that drive yesterday anyway because I needed to feel free, get out of my head, and escape the rage that I’m feeling over this hospitalization.
Thus far, I’ve experienced 6 involuntary commitments and 9 voluntary to psych hospitals. What “good” has any of it done? I didn’t choose to go to the hospital this time. I was forced against my will. It has to feel like my choice to be there or else it’s re-traumatizing. I’m doing the best I can. It’s going to take me a while to process this past week. I don’t ever want to go through again what I did this past week. It was horrible and terrifying — all because I said something stupid, all because one voice in my head spoke out of turn. I know better. Topic off limits. I’m as angry at myself right now as I am at the VR counselor and the whole situation. I don’t know what to do with all of this rage and fury.
I don’t know what to do about anything in my life at this point.
Update: Worse still, I’m now in debt $3,803.17 just for the ER visit. A Tennessee grant program called the “Behavioral Health Safety Net of TN” covered the actual hospitalization at Ridgeview (so thankful for that), but apparently not the ER visit. I don’t recommend Tennova for any type of ER visit, especially anything relating to a mental health crisis. The manner in which my own mental health crisis was handled by Tennova played a critical role in my decision to leave mental health treatment altogether and move back to middle Tennessee rather than remain in my hometown.