Wednesday, September 25, 2013

the time i was committed against my will to the psych ward: part II

this is my story of dealing with postpartum depression, OCD, and psychosis. for the prologue go {here} for part I go {here}

i open my eyes and remember where i am. i reach for my phone to check the time, and then remember that i'm not allowed to have a phone here. i wonder if remington is awake, if he has eaten.

i swing my feet to the floor and glance around. there is a cup on the end table next to my bed. it is filled with a brown, bitter smelling liquid. what is this? am i supposed to drink this? i peek out of my bedrooom door. the coast is clear. the clock in the hallway informs me that it is 6:30.

a tech is walking by. i ask him about the brown liquid filled cup in my room.
"oh, that? it's broth."
i am losing my mind. what now?
"yeah, last night you asked me to bring you some broth to drink."
"no i didn't. i don't remember that."
"i promise you did. that pill you took must have really knocked you out."

all i can do is laugh hysterically.

i walk into the main living area and see several of my fellow patients, most have wrapped themselves in the pink blankets from their bedding. i'm feeling braver after a good night of sleep and the hilarity of the broth incident, so i greet them and start conversations. breakfast comes. the food is awful and i leave most of it on my tray.

a nurse finds me, takes my vitals, and informs me that i will be seeing the psychiatrist this morning. i ask if i can please have my clothes back now and also take a shower. the nurse tells me that the washer and dryer are backed up, so it will be a few more hours, but i am free to take a shower. she goes to the office and grabs the sensitive skin soap i requested last night. (i am not allowed to have personal items and as i am a freak about what touches my face, i refused to use the cheap bar of soap they provided, and instead put up a fuss about using what i wanted to use.) then she walks me to my room and unlocks the shower for me and instructs me to bring the soap back after my shower. because apparently i might drink it or something.

i take a leisurely shower, singing at the top of my lungs. i'm not allowed a razor for obvious reasons, and i'm pretty grossed out by my armpit hair. oh well. i dry off and inspect the cheap hygiene kit they gave me. toxic free deodorant. miniature toothbrush. someone has brought my pants and bra back. awesome. i put them on and then a gown over top for a shirt. i wish i had make up or a cream to tame my curly hair. when i worked for valley mental health in a facility similar to this, i always thought they should allow the girls to have make up for their confidence. i know i would feel a lot better if i were allowed to groom myself.

even so, i feel like a new woman after the shower and brushing my teeth. i'm summoned for a physical. everything checks out with my health, which is awesome after the past year of hearing how many things were wrong with me, from hyperemesis, low blood pressure, high pulse, detaching placenta, rotting teeth, preeclampsia, torn vagina. feels good to be healthy again, at least physically.

then it is time for the thing i have been dreading.

the psychiatrist finds me and escorts me to his office.
asks me what brought me in to the E.R. yesterday.

it's the same story. he is a man. a stranger. he does not understand pregnancy, giving birth. but i know that this will help me if i let it, and i'm sure it has to be costing a fortune. so i try.

i tell him about my pregnancy, the depression i've been having, my suicide plans. that my OBGYN referred me to LDS hospital and from there i was committed. he takes a history, asks if i have had depression before. so i launch into the whole story of the past ten years. sexual assault, attempted suicide, depression, PTSD, anxiety.

after the history, he focuses on the postpartum depression. asks that question i don't want to hear.
"have you had thoughts of wanting to harm your baby?"
trying to decide how to answer, i search his face. silently begging with my eyes for him to understand these feelings that i don't even understand.
"it's not that i wanted to hurt my baby. i love him." those three words just don't do justice. "but i have had strange thoughts and dreams."
he is waiting patiently for me to continue.
"i' have dreams about him dying all the time. last week i dreamed that i was giving him a bath. the water was too deep and i couldn't get him out. he was drowning and i couldn't lift him up. then the dream changed and it was that i didn't want to lift him up. and he drowned. why would i dream that?"

i check his face and he doesn't seem too fazed so i continue.
"i'm afraid that he is going to die, all the time. every time i put him down for a nap, i am convinced that he is going to smother. i see strange things in my head, like when i get him dressed, i picture how quick it would be for him to smother on his shirt going over his face. i see him dying all the time. if i fall down the stairs. if i accidentally step on him. i see graphic, violent images. but i don't want to see them. it's not like i want to hurt him. i hear him crying all the time. i run to check on him and he is fast asleep. by the time i make it downstairs again, i can hear him crying. i just feel really scared and sad all the time."

he is writing notes. i think about all the things i'm not saying.

like how while i was making lunch, i was cutting a piece of cheese. holding the knife, i noticed red splotches on the wall by the stove and on a tin container on the counter. i looked at the knife and saw red dripping from it. all the sudden, i knew that i had stabbed remington. i ran to go check on him in is crib where he was napping. i was terrified to check on him because i was convinced that i had killed him. i could see the pool of blood in his crib, all the open wounds from the multiple times i had stabbed him with that knife. when i pushed his bedroom door open, there he was. sleeping peacefully, no blood. how had i gotten so confused about the spaghetti sauce on the stove from dinner the night before?

or about how whenever remington coughed, i saw blood dripping from his mouth.
or about the dream i had about someone breaking into our house, drowning remy in the bathtub, like so graphically that i could hear him gurgling and crying, and then handing him to me, blue and cold, while i sank to my knees screaming.
how to explain how sometimes thoughts came into my head telling me that remington was possessed by the devil and that he was evil.
that i felt like remington smiled for everyone but me. that he didn't love me.

and besides all of that, how to explain how angry i feel at God. that i had to have hyperemesis. how to explain the loss i feel that i will never have another baby grow in my belly, feeling it kick and dreaming of who it would be.

it's too much to say to this stranger. so i leave it.

we talk for a while longer about how when a person has had at least three depressive episodes, it probably means they have depression and that medication would benefit them. i have had more than three in the past ten years. we talk about how depression literally kills your brain and how medication helps it heal. i ask him a zillion questions about side effects, how it works in my brain, and what to expect. i am hesitant to take antidepressants. i feel weak for being here. but i finally consent to trying one. we start with Lexapro. the side effects may include nausea (my favorite!) and loss of sex drive and/or trouble climaxing. awesome.

he tells me he wants me to stay a few more days. i ask him if i can be out in time for the 24th of July fireworks. he says he'll consider it. i leave his office and walk back into the main living space with everyone else.

i notice that i'm sitting next to the man who was walking with the blonde woman last night. i don't see her anywhere. he is in the middle of what sounds like an angry rant. apparently the techs caught them making out in her bed later that night and she was transferred to a different floor. is this real life? i wonder.

a nurse brings me the pill and a cup of water. i am sitting with strangers in hospital gowns. i take the pill from her and announce, "let the brainwashing begin." the nurse stares at me, and it's bottoms up.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

the time i was committed against my will to the psych ward: part I

this is my story of dealing with postpartum depression, OCD, and psychosis. for the prologue go {here}

"have you had thoughts of wanting to harm your baby?"

i stare at him, this E.R. doctor who i met moments ago. this man who has never experienced pregnancy, who doesn't understand what hyperemesis does to a person. this man whose body has never been stretched and torn and exposed. a man who has never tried and failed to breastfeed a helpless newborn. a man who has never felt the ups and downs of estrogen and progesterone surging through his body.

and i am supposed to talk to him about the horrifying thoughts i've been having.

he is waiting for my answer, so i try. "i haven't had exactly, well thoughts on purpose of wanting to hurt my baby. i love my son."
how am i supposed to explain to him the vicious, fiery love i feel for my son.
"i've had some scary dreams about him dying. i see violent images in my head all the time." i leave it at that.

he looks down at a clip board. "and you have had thoughts of harming yourself?"

this question somehow, is easier to answer.
"and you have a history of suicide and depression?"
"yes, i tried to end my life when i was fifteen."

he looks at me and i wonder, how am i supposed to explain to him how i felt that day. a complete stranger, who i do not trust. how can i tell him how low a person can feel.

"so why weren't you able to complete the suicide attempt?"
now i'm looking to travis for help. "it just...didn't work." the only thing i can think to say.

the doctor says he is going to go find a crisis counselor and that she will be in soon.

he leaves the room and i wonder, how did this happen to my life. a nurse comes in and introduces a woman who she says is here to take my blood. as she surveys my forearm to find a vein, a flood of memories wash over me, of nurses poking me over and over to start an IV.
"wow, you have a lot of scar tissue in your veins." she remarks.
travis tells her about my hyperemesis. she apologizes for the pain while she draws several vials worth of blood, to check for abnormalities, she says.

a while later, the crisis counselor comes in. she is wearing a colorful woven skirt and has dark, curly hair. she smiles and asks me what brings us here today.

taking a deep breath, i explain to her that i have been feeling sad and empty for several months. that i've been having suicidal thoughts and wanting to disappear. that last night, i made a plan to take all the pills in our medicine cabinet several hours after remington went to bed, so travis would be home from the fire station in time to feed him. explained to her how that seemed like my only option left.

thankfully, travis had called and heard in my voice that things were bad. he called my mom, who came right over and put me to bed. the next morning at her insistence, i called my OBGYN's office and they instructed us to come to the E.R.

the crisis counselor is easier to talk to than the doctor. she asks a series of questions to assess me, and then she says she is going to go talk to the psychiatrist about my treatment.

we wait.
an orderly comes in and informs me that he is outside my door and that i am not allowed to leave and that if travis leaves the room, he will come inside and wait with me.
i look at travis. "i guess they take the whole suicide thing pretty seriously around here?"

while we continue to wait, we hear a woman in the hall screaming obscenities. "TAKE ME TO MY DOCTOR! GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF ME! ^$%t#u@#^%@#!" of course her room is right next to mine. of course.
is this what it means to be a psych patient?
the longer we wait, the more i wonder if i am losing my mind. i hate wearing a hospital gown.

finally, the crisis worker comes back in and apologizes for the wait.
"what would you think about staying here for a few days?" she asks me. i look at travis, his face surprised. we thought someone would be talking to me about antidepressants and prescribing something. i think about how he is supposed to be working now, how he has work in the next few days. who would watch remington? how much would it cost to stay here.

"that would be really inconvenient." i say to the crisis worker. "i don't think i can."
"well, i'm sorry, but we aren't giving you a choice." she says gently. "the psychiatrist doesn't feel comfortable letting you leave. do you feel safe leaving?"

as i am thinking about that, she asks travis what he thinks. asks him if he trusts me around our baby.
what he says melts my soul. "you should see her with him." he says. "i am not worried about anything when she is with our baby."
then he looks at me. "if this is where you need to be right now, i think you should stay. everything will be fine, collette."

before i know what is happening, a nurse is wheeling me up to the psych floor, travis walking next to me. this nurse leaves me with another nurse, who assures me they are going to take care of me. it seems to me that mass chaos is going on. people in drab hospital gowns are walking by with trays of food. one man is talking to a woman, using some quality profanity at a loud volume. it smells like a cafeteria that has been soaked in bleach. i have no idea what is happening to me and travis looks terrified.
"she is going to have her own room, right?" he asks the nurse, who is taking me phone away from me and all of my personal items.
the nurse checks some notes, "um, yes, we're going to do our best with  that. but you have to leave now."

i didn't realize that travis wouldn't be able to stay with me. he bends down over my wheelchair and tears fill his eyes. i'm crying too.
"am i crazy?" i whisper.
the tears are dripping down his face. "no, no you are not crazy. i don't want to leave you here. are you going to be okay?" we hug and he kisses me and then he has to go.

my eyes are still wet as two psych techs walk me down the hall to a bedroom. there are two beds. "wait, i ask. i thought i was getting a private room." i picture a strange woman leering over my bed in the dark, clutching a shank of some kind. i cannot handle this.

the psych techs say they aren't sure about my private room, but that they have to do a skin check on me.
a skin check? that sounds like-
"we need you to remove your pants and open your gown so we can check you."
so i'm not allowed to leave and strangers have to look at me naked.
of course i deal with this by saying, "i just had a baby, so my body isn't exactly what it used to be."
they assure me i look great, which is really not helping the weirdness of the situation. i'm informed that i will get my clothes back after they have been washed.

so i'm bra-less.
wearing a thin hospital gown and little blue socks.
i have no clue what remington is doing, and the mere thought of him brings me back to tears.

until a young girl with short brown hair comes in the room to say hi, and i notice a note on my bed welcoming me. i'm feeling less nervous about sharing a room, but then the nurse comes in and tells me we are moving to a private room.
sigh of relief.

we walk to the end of the hall and turn right into the private room. there is a nice view of the mountains and the University of Utah. i stare at the campus, dully wondering how i went from being a psych major there to being committed to an institution. there has to be a joke in there somewhere. the nurse settles me in, takes me dinner order, and leaves me alone.

i take stock of the room. twin sized bed, side table next to it. i check the drawers, which are empty. a small closet. my own bathroom, thankfully. everything is clean, but simple and dated. like a small hotel room, really.

then a man is standing in the doorway.
"knock knock." he says. "i'm the nurse manager for this floor. i'm here to make sure you feel safe here."
i look at him blankly.
"your husband just came to see me. he was pretty upset, seemed to think you felt unsafe here. i can assure you, you are very safe. all the psychotic patients are on another floor. everyone here deals mostly with depression and anxiety."
my heart floods with warmth at picturing travis storming this man's office, demanding that i be set free.
i thank the man for stopping by and tell him i'm okay.

then dinner is brought to my room and so is travis. it's visiting hour. seeing each other, we cry again and hug. i tell him about the skin check. he tells me about talking to the nurse manager. all too soon, the hour passes and he hugs me goodbye. i tell him to tell remington i miss him.

then, i am alone.

i muster my courage and leave the safety of my room and walk out into the hall. as i enter the main living area, a man walks past me.
"don't drink the water." he warns. "it'll brainwash you. that's how they get you."

am i dreaming? i wonder.
then the girl who was almost my roommate walks up to me, hugs me, and asks, "how are you girl?" i ask her where the phone is and she shows me and says goodnight.

after calling my mom and travis, i take a pill to help me sleep, then head to my room.

i get into bed and huddle there, feeling much like a wild animal holed up in a den. my door doesn't shut all the way, so that the techs can check on us periodically, and i can see a couple walking by. the man who warned me about the water and a blonde woman, who could really have used the bra the techs had taken from her. they seem to be pacing through the hallways. i catch snatches of their conversation, something about her husband not treating her right and the man being upset about that.
as i drift off to sleep, my last thought is wondering if they are having a secret love affair.

then, with light sneaking through the door cracked open, the sleeping pill kicks in. this is the first night i have ever slept away from remington, the furthest distance i have ever been from him. tomorrow i will see the psychiatrist. tomorrow i will have to face those questions i am dreading. but for now, i drift to sleep.


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