Author’s note: When I was in my 20s I started writing my autobiography. For some reason, I started with my first bout of depression which I experienced when I was 17. I didn’t get very far, but reading over this now, it has details and parts that I don’t remember. I’ve told the story of my bipolar disorder many times. But here it is when I didn’t have the distance that I do now.
[Image: Black background with white text. Text reads, “A true story.”]
I fell asleep for about an hour and woke up delirious. I was disappointed that I wasn’t dead, but I held on to the vague hope that maybe the pills were working and I just had to wait a bit longer. I started crying again and mentally apologizing to everyone that I had ever wronged in any way, no matter how slight. My parents came home eventually and my mom found the bottle of pills on the counter.
My sister had been diagnosed with depression and had attempted suicide several times in her mid-teens. My mom was all too familiar with the signs. My parents took me to the hospital. I was so dizzy that I could hardly stand. I was seen almost immediately and the doctors made me drink a liquid charcoal concoction. I drank it in sips, not realizing that the point of the drink was so it could induce vomiting and get the Vicodin out of my system.
I cried the entire time. Then a woman came in to talk to me. I had no idea who she was and in my state, I really didn’t care. I realized late that she must have been a counselor of some kind. She asked me a couple of questions, I can’t even remember what they were, then told the doctor that I was fine and it was okay to release me. I couldn’t believe it. I just tried to kill myself and I was fine? What was her definition of “in desperate need of treatment”?
One of the doctors mentioned voluntary commitment as an option but not as a necessary one. I stopped him. I wanted to be committed. I wanted help and I wasn’t getting anywhere else. I thought about what the experience would be like. There would be doctors there who could help me. I would be around other crazy people who were just like me and we’d get along and I would fit in.
Of course, nothing is as good as you imagine it to be. The hospitalization didn’t help at all. I saw a psychologist who let me talk and jotted down notes and never responded to what I was saying. I ate hospital food that I could barely finish. I was rated on a points system for behavior and I didn’t understand why my rating was always rather low.
I had been terrified. I was in this strange place without anyone around that I knew. I didn’t feel safe and I took a stuffed bear dressed in a leopard costume with me everywhere. One time I lost sight of the bear and became distressed until I realized that the toy had just fallen off of the table that I was sitting at. The other crazy people that I had been so excited to meet weren’t like me and I didn’t fit in. I realized that I was still stuck where I had always had been when one of the girls who was there commented on my generous hips.
The attendants weren’t very helpful either. At the end of one day a staff member sat down with us and asked us to come up with a goal for tomorrow. I went last. I was working on a puzzle and was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I didn’t devote my full attention to the conversation. The first person who went was a girl. She had been very quiet and very timid the entire day. She said that she planned on being more talkative. The staff member shook his head and told her that she wasn’t hospitalized because she was quiet. I wondered what she was supposed to say? That she would solve all of her emotional issues in one day and walk out of the ward a changed person?
The other people said their piece, each one told by the staff member that their goal wasn’t good enough. Finally, it was my turn. I didn’t even look up when I said that my goal was to finish the puzzle that I was working on. The attendant sighed and told me that I wasn’t here because I couldn’t complete puzzles. I then responded that one of the reasons that I was there was because I had low self-esteem and I would feel better about myself if I completed the puzzle because then I would have accomplished something. The staff member agreed. The other kids glanced up at me. I had challenged one of the adults. And I had won, too.
By the third day I realized that this wasn’t working. I had started to gain a sense of safety being locked in the ward. I was safe from everything outside of it and I didn’t have to worry about the daily hassles of life. My laundry was washed, my meals were brought to me, my medication was brought to me, I didn’t have to clean anything or do any chores.
But at the same time, I had lost so much of my freedom. I wasn’t allowed to keep my diary with me because it had a spiral binding. I wasn’t allowed to have a pencil or pen while out of the sight of a staff member. One of the women who worked behind the desk was unsure if I should be allowed to have a stick of my Degree deodorant. To this day I still wonder how someone can harm themselves with deodorant.
By the end of the third day I wanted to go home. I realized that the doctors weren’t helping me, the medication wasn’t helping me, the staff wasn’t helping me and being around the other kids who I thought would be my crazy new friends weren’t helping me either. I realized that I would have to help me. The idea was exhausting. I didn’t know what to do. But no one else seemed to, so I figured that I might as well give it a try.
I was release back into the world and my parents took me to Arby’s. I love Arby’s.