Friday, June 28th

golf pencils

I am worried about leaving this place. Suicide is constantly on my mind. I think I am worse now than I was before I ended up here. Is it this place or is it me? It’s impossible to tell.

Same old today – breakfast, then back to sleep, woken up by a phone call from my mom, then puzzle. I did call Erik right before lunch. The doggies didn’t let him sleep him in. That makes me feel bad for not being there to take care of them so he could sleep on his morning off. I know he wouldn’t want me to feel that way, but I should have been there.

Martin – the guy who walks in circles – discharged today. He went to a men’s shelter. I feel bad for him. Seems like he has no one. Now we have at least one open bed – so we’ll probably get a new admit. I want to hurt myself, but I don’t want to have to sit out and be watched like a small child, which is what will happen if I tell them the truth. Can’t they just give me a drug to knock me out and be done with it? Besides, I don’t want to take the Thorazine now because then I’ll be stupid drunk for when Erik gets here. Guess I’ll just have to deal.

In his essay “From Walter Benjamin At the Dairy Queen,” Larry McMurtry writes, “I had died for a few hours, been brought back to life, and now was attempting to live as someone similar to, but not identical with, my real self.”

I want to die, be brought back to life, and live as someone similar to, but not identical with, my former self. How liberating that would be. To face death and see the other side of it – to fear nothing but my own ability to effect my mortality. How freeing that would be to have almost died or actually died and be given the chance to live again. Maybe it is only then that I will truly be able to live. Maybe I must die to live.

The desire to hurt myself – inflict pain, damage – gets stronger with each passing moment. My regrets for not attempting suicide when I had the chance – before this slow march towards med-induced coma. To know the consequences, emotions, reactions, edifications of a suicide attempted, not won. How would that change things – it would have to change me permanently – make my future unalterably different. I wish for that freedom. Maybe. Maybe.

The tree outside my window is full
blooming thick, rich oak leaves
shattering the sun through my window
It gives me a piece of hope
Not for life or death
But for peace, tenderness
I pull the bark from it’s surface
the skin from my body
searching for new answers
a core of silence.

“It has occurred to me…that perhaps what we call depression isn’t really a disorder at all but, like physical pain, an alarm of sorts, alerting us that something is undoubtedly wrong; that perhaps it is time to stop, take a time-out, take as long as it takes, and attend to the unaddressed business of filling our souls.” – Lee String from Fading to Gray

100 North

Golf pencils and Sun Cups
Hospital gowns and industrial toilets
Doors that only lock from the outside
Puzzles without all the pieces

Computer paper and plastic food containers
Reflection time and plastic pillows
Fenced in courtyards that keep us in
And a padded room I’ve never seen.

Nighttime –

I nabbed the pen used for checking visitors in and out. I’ll have to be careful so I don’t get caught. I don’t see what the big deal is. How much damage could pen ink really do?

Maybe in these words I’ll find some solace, some answer for the crying out within me. Maybe somewhere in my words or the words of others I will find some hope.

The Language by Robert Creeley

Locate I
love you some-
where in
teeth and
eyes, but
it but

take care not
to hurt, you
want so

much so
little. Words
say everything.

I
love you
again,

then what
is emptiness
for. To

fill, fill.
I heard words
and words full
of holes
aching. Speech
is a mouth

“Normal life now looked like paradise: I would have to apologize to it and plea-bargain with it and then seek atonement from it in order to get back in it’s good graces again.” by Virginia Heffernan from A Delicious Placebo

The pen is easier, but doesn’t seem right somehow. Here where I am without shaving razors, locked doors, more than three sets of clothing. Here where I must move according to an institutional schedule: breakfast, meds, snacktime, meds, lunchtime, reflection time, snack time, dinner, meds, snacktime, meds, bedtime. Here where everything is carefully crafted to keep us safe, velcro curtains, metal mirrors, plastic utensils, no knives. Here golf pencils feel right, more appropriate and pens seem out of place – a green pasture for which I am not yet prepared.

“Death’s edge is so abrupt and near that many people who expect a short and momentary dive may be astounded to find that it is bottomless, and change their minds and start to scream when they are halfway down.” Heaven and Nature by Edward Hoagland

Will I reach death’s edge on time, find it neither abrupt or too near? Will I meet death just at the edge and make the choice so completely that it will seem less like an edge and more like an inevitable downward slope towards which I have been moving all this time? Will death reach forward and catch me as I fall, needing neither edge or nearness to complete the bottomless dive? Notice, I do not ask if the dive will appear bottomless; notice, I do not ask if I will scream. Death will come for me. I will be waiting.

Hospital: Thursday, June 27th

Some student nurses came today and talked to a few of us. It was fine and at the end the one who spoke to me asked if there was anything I wanted. I told her I wished there was more to do, more programming – that it would be nice to go outside. So she asked if we could and ten minutes later we were outside. Then we actually had a group therapy session. It was on the south unit and so were in group with people fro that side. The leader said she likes to keep her group “light” so we spent the whole time saying nice things about ourselves and each other. It was not useful.

Then we had lunch and after lunch we had “Art therapy”. I use the term therapy loosely because all we did was go to the art room, draw a little, and then the art therapist ascribed some emotion to whatever we drew. I drew the tree outside the window – according to the therapist it was strong and had flowering leaves with no roots.

I took Thorazine for the first time today at 9:30am. It didn’t kick until an hour and a half later and then it knocked me on my ass. I slept for an hour or two and kept getting woken up for all the activities we don’t usually do. I am still super groggy and out of it. I have felt drunk all afternoon and evening. 

I am thinking of ways to die again.

Hospital: Wednesday, June 26th

journal

Monday turns to Tuesday turns to Wednesday. I can’t keep up with the passing days. Today I finally see the psychiatrist for more than 10 minutes and he is called away by a page from the ER. I was that patient in the ER just two days ago. I cannot begrudge that page. (I do anyway.)

There is no therapy here – only watchful eyes and med changes – but not too fast. Can I hang out here to let him see how these meds work? Hang out – literally languish – sleeping, eating, punctuated by one hour visits, my books, and my words. What do I hope to gain here? What am I doing except taking an excuse to do nothing? I am doing here what I was already doing at home – only here there is less to do. I am wandering, useful to no one, but alive because that is what society tells me I am supposed to be – not necessarily because of any true desire to live from within.

I certainly will not find that here.


I want to remind everyone that this is from a month ago (almost to the day). I am feeling better, far from “normal”, but better. Thank you for your support. I appreciate each and every one of you!

Hospital: Tuesday, June 25th

journal-writing

Things move differently here. I sleep and it is interrupted for meds at 9, for getting my belongings returned to me at 9:30, for asking to use the bathroom and my hygiene products after that. Then I sleep so deeply through the night (a dose of Seroquel in my system) that the call to tell me breakfast has arrived brings me from dark places. It’s not until later that I remember the 630am wake up for blood work.

I roll out of bed, straighten my clothes and hair, and head down the hall for breakfast. There are two wings to our unit. They meet in an angle at the “cafeteria”, TV room, and nurse’s station. There are three common areas; the cafeteria made up of three tables with four chairs each, a water and ice machine, and a flat screen TV on the wall; the TV room (which I have not yet been in) is open to the rest of the common areas and has eight to ten chairs and a flat screen TV on one wall. The third area is just next to the TV room and is separated from it by a column, diagonal post, and a low retaining wall. It has another table with two chairs and a few other chairs around the walls. We’re allowed to eat in either room with tables. Meals are made up from menu choices: Drinks, Soups and Salads, Veggies and Starches, Breads, Entrees, Desserts, and Condiments. Every morning we make our selection for the next day – selecting as much or as little as we want. The dinner rolls are delightful, the chocolate brownie decadent. The rest is passing good and I don’t feel deprived.

After and sometimes during breakfast, meds are dispensed for the first time. The nurse comes around with a little medicine cup – you know, the kind that you take cough medicine in, except instead of red liquid that will settle your body, the cup holds any number of pills and/or capsules to settle your mind. The nurse scans your wrist band after scanning the packages of each little pill and watches as you swallow them with a glass of water. This part, at least, is predictable and like the movies.

The other part that’s true (depending on the movie) is that as soon as I am done eating and taking my meds, I go back to my room and to bed. There are brief periods of wakefulness during which I read or write or stare out my window at the giant oak tree. But mostly, I sleep. I rise for meals, for meds, for visitors between 6 and 7pm. But mostly, I sleep.

Every meal happens about the same and so it begins to get difficult to remember what time of day it is. There is one clock in the unit for patients and it is set on the wall opposite the adjoined common rooms where it cannot be seen from the cafeteria. So, I never see it. We eat all our meals while the sun is up and our view of the outside is limited. I must make a concerted effort to ask the time or seek the clock to know where I am in the day.

Sometimes the other patients make a ruckus, yellowing about doors being locked or they can’t eat anymore (they’ve eaten nothing) or they need more medicine (I’m inclined to agree). “Nurse! Nurse!” is a common outcry.

I request help by walking to the station and quietly requesting help, or by pushing my non-emergency button for the intercom and waiting for someone to crackle in on the other end. I don’t ask for much – my anxiety or sleep meds that I only get if I ask for them, new bandages, paper, new pencils. I write with little golf pencils whose lead goes flat so quickly that I take three at a time so as to bother the staff less often.

Tonight, Erik will bring my notebook and I will have the opulence of lined paper. I can’t wait.

Mostly, I sleep and try not to think about what I should be doing or why there seems to be no therapy structure here. I am left to my own devices which, while it suits me just just fine, doesn’t seem like the best use of time inside these particular walls.

The walls aren’t white
and there might be one lab coat.
This hospital is an airport terminal.
We’ve got Amy with engine problems –
taxiing through the lanes, stopping short unexpectedly;
There’s Artemus, literally going in circles
trying to drink enough jet fuel to take off by late afternoon.
Then there’s me – taxiing towards the gates
– Not an open one in sight –
wondering when I’ll be able to let my passengers go.

I’m running out of tarmac and fuel
And the natives are getting restless.

Hospital: Monday, June 24th

Image

The halls are silent after lunch. Each patient sent to their room for “reflection” as though we are small children learning to figure out exactly what it is we have done wrong. Some patients shower during this time – asking the nurse for their “hygiene bucket” before disappearing to their rooms. The contents of each bucket varies only slightly, all have soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant- some have a brush, feminine products, conditioner, lotion. Pulling my own bucket off the counter that divides patients from staff, I am reminded of the fragile nature of this place – where a travel size bottle of baby soap must be locked away for safety. What kind o death would that be, I wonder. A slow, painful agony, i imagine – being cleansed from the inside out.

As I sit in reflection, my thoughts are interrupted by the yell of “Nurse! Nurse!” I never know what the caller needs, only hear the nurse say, “I’m going to close the door if you yell again.” Once more I am reminded of childhood, sitting in my bedroom door frame just inside the edge of my captivity crying to be allowed out – my mother calling from the next room, “Be quiet or I’m going to close your door.”

There are things we say to keep the world in a familiar order, in its proper place. Things that helps us keep sense of otherwise chaotic lives – unruly children, patients on a mental ward. But the similarities must end there. Because we are not children – simply souls who have lost their luster and are fighting, some harder than others, to get it back.

Perhaps it is the nature of a mental hospital or a factor of being locked out of one’s own bathroom; refused pens, drawstrings, under wire bras, the outdoors; or the freedom to eat, take our meds, or brush our teeth without first asking, – being here makes me think of ways to off myself. Things I’ve never thought of before and feel a desire for only as a function of my presence here. I wonder how sturdy the shower bar is, how I might sharpen the end of my toothbrush, whether the plastic covers on the food would break cleanly and prove a sharp enough edge. The mental hospital is making me crazier – more transfixed with my own failings, but also more at peace with them. Beyond the animals, house, job, and husband, there is only me, sitting at this desk, contemplating my own mortality.

Self-Worth

For my last post of the week, let’s take a break from the hospital posts. So, what’s new?

Things with SSM are heating up. The deadline for my current project (website development) is fast approaching and I have a few interested parties in the pipeline. So things could get busy around here really soon.

I hate the deadline that’s approaching. Not simply because it’s a deadline, but because it means I’ll no longer be working on this website. I’d prefer to have some kind of continuing role so that I could continue to tweak it as necessary. I’m afraid to let it off lead and see if it walks as expected.

What if I’m really just a fraud, pretending that I can do the things I say I can do? What if I’m selling false promises? My faith in myself is shockingly absent. 

But then, starting a business is inherently risky, so I’m sure some of my anxiety is simply a result of that risk. 

Not that I have much to lose. We don’t really have any money in it – only time invested. And some measure of self-worth perhaps. It’s been so long since I worked in any professional capacity. I’m not sure I can still do it – I’m not sure I ever could. I failed once, twice, so why not a third time? 

Well, third time’s the charm, right? 

Kaseman Behavioral Health Part II: Admitted

The Kaseman Behavioral Health Hospital is attached to Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital, but as far as I know you can’t actually get to the behavioral health section from the regular section. (Perhaps there is a way through for staff, but we were told there was no way.) This is what the entrance looks like. When you walk through those doors there is a small counter which is sometimes staffed by someone who might be able to answer your questions. Beyond the counter there are double doors and a phone. This is where your journey as patient on the Kaseman Behavioral Health Unit begins.

kbh hospital

 

Step 1.

There are two units, North and South. In order to get up to either unit, you have to pick up the phone and dial one of the extensions printed on a sign next to the phone. The person you talk to will either transfer you to the other unit, as necessary, or send someone down to come get you. When you first arrive, no one can come with you. You will have to say goodbye to whoever brought you and you won’t be able to see them again until visiting hours after you’ve been through the admissions process.

Step 2.

I know, I know. I said the admissions process was complete, but really once the you have a bed, the process has only just begun. The nurse will take you on the elevator to the second floor where you will be brought to either the North or the South unit. Once you’re on the second floor, you will go through to security doors and there you will be. First, they will take your bag and catalog everything you brought with you, making sure you only brought appropriate items. If you are missing any toiletries, they will provide these. Then, you will be taken into a room with a hospital bed and a desk. A behavioral health technician will sit with you and catalog all of your injuries, piercings, and tattoos. She will also give you two gowns and ask you to change.

Step 3.

Once you’ve changed, someone will take the clothes you were wearing and catalog those along with your other belongings. Next, one or two nurses will come to take a medical history and discuss why you are there. You will probably have to answer the question “Are you planning to kill yourself?” multiple times.

Step 4.

Now they will show you around the unit: the nurse’s station, where you will eat, how to operate the TVs, and finally your room. More than likely, your room will have a bed, a desk, a chair, and a bathroom. (When I was there, there was only one patient per room, although some of the rooms did have two beds.) Hopefully by the time they show you your room they will also be giving back the clothes you came in with so that you don’t have to continue wearing the gowns. Note: If you are acutely suicidal and they believe that you are a clear and present danger to yourself, you will not be allowed your own clothes or any of your own belongings.

Step 5.

You will have an appointment with your case manager, the medical doctor, and the psychiatrist each at separate times on the day of your arrival. The case manager will discuss your goals for your stay and an approximate length of stay. The medical doctor will ask you more about your medical history and take care of any standing medical problems you might have. The psychiatrist will discuss your medications with you, make sure the nurses have prescriptions for the medications you’re on, and prescribe anything else you and he or she deem necessary.

Step 6.

Nothing else is required of you except that you turn up for meals and meds. For the first two days, if you want to use your bathroom, you will have to go to the nurse’s station and ask one of them to come unlock it for you. (Note: If you are on suicide watch, your bathroom will remain locked.) If you want to shower, brush your teeth or hair, or wash your hands, you will have to go to the nurse’s station and request your bin. This is a pink plastic bin of all the hygiene items you brought with you. Your room has a door, but not lock – same thing for your bathroom. You can spend all or none of your time in your room. The nurse’s and techs will occasionally check up on you. Visiting hours are from 6 – 7pm Monday through Friday and 3 – 5pm Saturday and Sunday. If you are fully admitted by the time visiting hours arrive, you will be allowed to have visitors, even on your first day.

This is Day One of your hospital stay. You are now officially admitted.