The last time I posted about my time in the hospital, a reader asked me how I got there. Today’s post is my answer to that question.
I write extensively on my suicidal thoughts. If you think these may be triggering for you, I suggest you skip this post.
I had slowly been sliding down the gorge of dangerous depression. It was not a sudden change. I had been losing my footing on previously familiar territory; I was struggling to do homework and keep up with my classes, I had stopped attending my club meetings, I wasn’t contributing in class. It was like I was being replaced by this alien creature who couldn’t handle my life. I watched myself attempt to function from a little glass box across the room. I saw myself fight to just get a few hours of sleep. After a depressed day at school, mania claimed me. I was hyper and nauseous for the hours until I collapsed.
But I’m not sure those patterns alone would have gotten me to the hospital. The key for me was when my suicidal thoughts progressed into a plan. I gave away some of my most precious belongings as well as things I didn’t want to bother my parents with. One morning, I woke up early, and I wrote letters explaining what I had to do, my reasons, and my apologies to family members, friends, teachers. I planned on disfiguring my face so that there wouldn’t be an open casket at my funeral. I chose my outfit, complete with shoes. Then I went to school.
That day at school, I felt sick. I kept thinking of my brother, Ben. I didn’t want him to be affected by my actions. I wanted him to stay the perfect all-American boy that he is. I didn’t want him to be judged by my actions. I knew what I was planning on doing would impact how people saw him forever. Maybe some foolish people wouldn’t take the time to get to know him because he would be “the boy whose sister killed herself.” Still, I was unable to trust that I wouldn’t hurt myself if I went home. No one would be home after school for a while, so I went to the Food Lion where Chris works. He told his understanding boss that I couldn’t be by myself, and they let me sit there until my mom could pick me up. When she picked me up, I told her that I was afraid I would hurt myself, but I didn’t tell her the whole story. I should have.
The next morning, I was greeted by those scary suicidal thoughts. My mom drove me to school, and I told her about my thoughts and about my desire to stay alive for Ben. I cried. So did she. But I got out the car and went to class.
I couldn’t function at school. No work got done. All I could think about was home much I needed to die. For the first time, I used my Crisis Pass (a little slip of paper that lets me leave class and go to the counseling center). I went to the school psychologist and fell apart. I explained my thoughts and feelings; we called my mom, therapist, and psychiatrist. We determined that I needed to go to the hospital for an psychiatric evaluation. It’s not normal or acceptable to feel that awful.
My mom took me home, and then we went to the hospital. After many, many hours, a blood test, a urine test, several evaluations, and a grilled cheese sandwich, I was admitted for voluntary inpatient psychiatric care.
Oh, did I mention that it was my dad’s birthday?
In retrospect, my therapist and I have determined that I waited too long to go to the hospital. I should have gone before I began to materialize a plan. When your thoughts move beyond feelings of misery and sadness to thoughts of action, it’s critical that you get help.
When we exercise, we’re told that we should listen to our bodies, but in our everyday lives do we spend enough time listening to our minds? We give ourselves warning signs, we beg for help. We need to tune to the right frequency and listen. We need to not fear the consequences of taking care of ourselves. I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I didn’t want to miss school. Staying at school, I sat in the chair, but was I really present? It was more valuable for me to go to the hospital so that I was able to have a successful rest of the school year. Let’s get our priorities straight, right?
In closing, I believe that if you are unsure of whether or not you should be in the hospital, if you have doubt about your safety, if you are scared, you should go. Going to the hospital does not mean you’ll be in inpatient care for a week like I was. It means you will be evaluated and a care plan suited to your needs will be created. Advocate for yourself, your health, and your safety. Be honest about the thoughts and feelings you’ve been having. It can be a frightening experience, but your life is worth it!
If you have any more questions about my hospital stay, I’m willing to answer. I would like others to benefit from my experience in any way that they can.