“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~ Kahil Gibran
I was allowed to choose between a couple of hospitals once the case worker realized I was willing to go along with the program and seek help. I told her I didn’t want to die and that I would willingly be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I asked her how long I would have to stay. She told me it was possible I would only have to stay for three days and then after that come back for the day and go home at night for a few weeks. I recalled hearing about people being committed for 30 days or more. As long as I could leave within a week, I felt like I could manage. But really, what choice was there. I looked like the bride of Frankenstein.
Once I was able to get up and walk to the bathroom on my own I made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror. My skin was pale and almost see-through and my blue veins were visible on my face and neck. The dark circles under my eyes were even more pronounced and my eyes were red and sunken. There were bruises around my neck. I had almost forgotten that I had also tried to hang myself before I heard my phone ring and realized my daughter was calling me. The incident from the day (or days?) before was a blur but so clear at the same time. Like a nightmare but I knew it was real. I knew life would never be the same…
I chose the hospital closest to my parent’s house. I had heard the name of it before. A very hopeful sounding name. I had always thought it was a hospice. Now I know the true purpose of the facility because I was here. An ambulance transported me from the hospital and I was escorted in. D had brought me clothes and (thank goodness) my favorite long sleeved hoodie. The ‘Why Marathon’ one. The one that always made me feel like a super hero. How funny that seems now. Funny and sad at the same time. It was warm and soft and covered the 40-something stitches in my freshly sewn arms. My arms didn’t hurt at all. I was still very numb. They did a good job with the stitching but I found it odd that they didn’t put any bandages on my arms after. When I pulled my hoodie on after I had to keep pulling the sleeves from the scabs that were forming over my still bleeding wounds. I didn’t even think to ask about this. Why don’t they bandage me…should they allow me to cover them with my shirt? Who cares… At this point, I think maybe it was a win for them that I was alive. I didn’t really feel the same.
So here I sat in the receiving room of the “emotional rehabilitation hospital” with the nurse at 1am. I was signing documents as she gave them to me. She was asking me questions such as, “Are you here of your own free will?” Me: “Yes.” And,”Did you try to kill yourself on purpose?” Me: “Yes.”
She asked, “Do you have any diagnosed mental conditions?” Me: “Not that I am aware of.” And then, “Are you on any medications?” Me: “Just Alieve when I have headaches, which isn’t often.”
I signed more papers, was given the hospitals packet full of rules and schedules (which comforted me. I like rules and schedules and structure) and told me I had to give her all of my things because they didn’t allow personal items such as cell phones and purses and that they would have to search through all of my clothing and remove any strings and shoe laces. Thank goodness I was numb because all of this was very shocking even in the state I was in. Up to this point, I had not been given any type of pain medication or anti anxiety or anti depressant so I was still feeling exactly the way I had been for the past few weeks. I was just going through the motions. I did exactly as I was told. I even briefly wondered if I had died and this was, in fact, Hell.
She led me to my room, to my relief, I was beyond exhausted. The fact that I was locked in a mental hospital with other sick individuals had not yet sunk in and I was ready to shut the world, and the past hours of horror out for a few hours. But there were more processes to go through first.
Another hospital employee came in with a camera. They turned on the very bright light and asked me to take off all of my clothes, please. I did snap to enough to ask why I had to do that. They said they would have to make sure I didn’t sneak anything in and also notate all of my body markings and injuries and such for my file. Reality started to hit me a little and I knew now that I was one of “those people”. I did finally for the first time since any of this started tear up a little. I said, “Look, I know that what I did was horrible and that there are things I need to do to fix that but I am not a crazy person. I don’t have voices in my head and I have never been violent. I have never touched a drug in my life so I promise I haven’t brought anything in with me.”
She nurse looked at me, unaffected and said, “Honey, I understand you have been through a lot but this is what we do for every person that comes in here. You HAVE been very violent to yourself and it is our job to make sure you do not do it again on our watch. Now take your clothes off so I don’t have to.”
So I did. It was then that I really got a good look at what they were seeing. My arms look atrocious. I was horrified at what I had done. They were all bruised and mangled from inner crease of my elbow to wrist. The doctor tried to sew them as best as he could but not all of the wounds could be stitched. I felt like a criminal as they took pictures of my arms and my face and my tattoos and other scars I had from my past cancer surgeries and my knee injury from my days as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. I tried to explain some of that to them. To make them understand I wasn’t always this weak and shameful. They let me go on but I know they just wanted to finish and get back to their post. And really, I just wanted to go to sleep.
When they were done, the nurse explained that they would be by to check on me every few minutes and it was best to leave the small light on next to my bed or they would have to turn my big light on to make sure I was breathing at each check. They would wake me at 6am for breakfast and to start the day (which I knew because I had already glanced at and memorized the schedule) and then I would be expected to get up and go to group session with everyone else.
“Everyone else”…. That phrase rung in my head until I finally fell asleep. There were others here. How many? What had they done to be locked up in a place like this? Were they dangerous? They wouldn’t put scary and violent people here would they? Schizophrenics? Bipolors? People like Sybil? I hadn’t had much exposure to people with mental illness but I certainly didn’t want to either.
It had yet to really sink in to me that I was one of them.