Committed: My Stay in a Mental Health Facility

A nurse had me strip down to nothing. I was completely naked. Exposed.

Vulnerable.

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you are not your illness

Trigger Warning: There is a bit of talk about suicidality in this post. If hearing about someone’s struggle with wanting to self-harm will trigger you, only read the last couple of paragraghs – or nothing at all.

After seven weeks of spiraling depression, I finally hit the bottom. Landing in a lightless pool of tears, I momentarily struggled to get to the surface, finally succumbing to the slow weightless gravity of the depths of that cold well.

Light started to glimmer on the stillness of the top.

A child’s sincere prayer was heard, and by the strength of the Almighty, I was brought out of the depths, and placed on the flourishing green grass surrounding that dank, stoney well.

I’ve fallen in that same well a few times before, each time being lifted out, not by my own strength, but by the strength placed in others by God Himself.

Two suicide attempts, countless hopeless hours wishing I could just drown, and one solid, peaceful plan to end my life; I finally decided to reach out for the right kind of help.

I was completely against being committed to a mental health facility for so long, but I had needed to be there more times than I have fingers.

After seven weeks of falling, crashing yet again into the same cold water, I cried out for the aid I truly needed.

Only sleeping two or three hours a night for two months has a horrific impact on your thinking.

I had had five good months. Five months of even moods, increased energy, and motivation.

Coming down from that high place made the fall even worse because I hadn’t had that many days without depression and anxiety in more than 10 years.

My focus became fuzzy. I would completely zone out at work. I began to forget things that were on my openly visible to-do list that I kept on my desk. Irritation stung more than ever before to the point I was having trouble being around people.

Finally, the exhaustion and inability to complete a thought caught up to me, and the cracking dam broke loose.

I picked up my kids from daycare with tears streaming down my face. I don’t cry in front of people, but they could not be stopped. Driving to a safe place, with my precious babies in the backseat, they were more than concerned as their mother wailed for relief.

My three almost four year old daughter said loudly from the backseat “Lord,  keep my mommy safe, and make her feel better.” That was the light that danced across the top of the deep.

My husband met me at this safe place. I had called my psychiatry office to talk to the doctor on call. I was hoping that it was my regular practitioner, but it wasn’t. The nurse on the other end said my husband had just called two minutes prior to me picking up my phone.

He’s the one who always makes the call for me because I’m either too upset or too ashamed.

This time I didn’t care. I needed help or I was not going to make it.

I kept telling my husband over and over,  “I need to go to the hospital. I need to go to the hospital.”

The doctor rang me back, and asked me a ton of questions.

Even though I told her that I was struggling with suicidality, she was most concerned with my sleeplessness. Most doctors try hard to keep their patients out of psyche wards because they can be brutally scary and often times unhelpful.

Ambien was prescribed, and I got a whopping three hours of sleep that night. I had a previously scheduled psyche appointment with my regular practitioner that week, so I was urged to vow to safety and make it to then.

Sitting in her office, she blatantly asked me if I was having self-harming thoughts. I learned a while ago to not lie about this.

“Yes.”

In the past, I had been prescribed either new or additional medications and placed under constant surveillance for about two weeks at home.

I was tired of putting my family in a situation where they had to baby sit me, so I said again: “I need to go to the hospital.”

“OK. I need you to not leave this office until your husband can come and take you. I’ll make the call to see when they can take you in.”

I was urged to choose a women’s facility close to my house that only housed eight beds. They could get me in the next morning. The nurse called me that night as I was waiting and asked me if I had a plan. (A plan for suicide that is)

After careful research, I had coldly calculated an incredibly detailed plan two years prior to this phone call. It’s the one I always go back to when I tip over into the dark, cold well of apathy.

I’ll never share it with anyone outside of a practitioner, so it isn’t outlined in this post at all, and never will be in any of my writing.

I will say that when I do hit the bottom, it is a very peaceful and satisfying process of thoughts because I feel like it would actually bring me relief.

Many say that suicide is selfish. It’s easy to be the judge when you’re on the outside and think you know everything.

While some people may want to commit suicide to throw blame, guilt, and revenge on those who cause them pain,  (Don’t get me started on my many, many thoughts about 13 Reasons Why), some people have the true belief that their existence is causing pain for those they love.

In the past, I blamed others for these thoughts as well as thinking the world would be a brighter place without my darkness. However, as I’ve aged, In those moments, my thoughts are not about what the world has done to me, it’s about what I’ve done to the world around me. Maybe it is slightly selfish in the fact that my thoughts centralize around me, but my intention is to better the lives of the ones I love the most.

“I’ve always felt like a burden to my family since I was a kid. I truly believe that my husband should’ve chose another wife who was full of joy and never would put him through the worry and hell that I’ve put him through. I believe that I will cause my kids more trauma throughout their life by being who I am than I would in ridding myself from their lives in one fell swoop while they are too young to really remember me. While I have great friends, none of them would be forever changed by my absence.”

These are the lies that swirl around the depths of my mind when I can’t see the light.

I can be greatly logical in my thinking, and after a few years of intermittent counseling, I can ground myself enough to know that when this happens, I must say something. Even if I can’t fully verbalize what it is I’m thinking, I can say to my husband “I’m not really OK,” and he knows that action needs to be taken.

This time, I was ready to take extreme action.

I packed my bag, kissed my husband goodbye at the locked door on the HOPE wing, and was shown to my room.

All of my personal belongings that I had packed were confiscated for inspection. No phone. No tablet. No contact with the outside world.

No strings, nothing with alcohol in it, no medications of any kind.

While I had my own private room, there was no shower curtain, no comfy bed dressings, and no sharp pencils.

After settling into my near empty room, I was submitted to a “skin check.”

A nurse had me strip down to nothing. I was completely naked. Exposed.

Vulnerable.

Every scar, bruise and discoloration were questioned and noted.

All of me was laid out before a stranger who didn’t trust me, yet wanted to help me.

Finally clothed and fetally curled up on my noisy bed, a different nurse peaked in and brought my lunch. I could eat in peace, but was urged to come out to the open room for dinner.

Dinner time came, and my clouded eyes stayed down as I sat down for my scrumptious hospital dinner (sarcasm for those who missed it). I didn’t know if the patients talked to one another, or if I was supposed to sit silently eating food off my plastic spork.

Around the table, the ladies started asking me what my name was and told me theirs. As usual, I didn’t feel like talking to strangers.

Group session was later on that night where we had to state positive things about ourselves, set positive goals for the night, and vow to safety.

Given my ineffective Ambien, I resigned to my bed for a mostly sleepless night. Surprisingly, I didn’t miss my phone at all. I missed having a clock to track my time.

The only clock was at the end of the hallway.

Each hour, I would peak my head out and see how much longer I had to stay in my room.

Each room had a door within a door that looked like something that would be down the through the looking glass in Alice in Wonderland. This trick door was cracked at night so the nurses could do their hourly checks without waking the “clients.”

I forgot that we weren’t referred to as patients.

The next day, I went through the group activities, sat through the clergy talk as he struggled to relate God’s word to our situation, and got to know the ladies a bit more.

During our group movement time, we banged on a drum to sound out our feelings to the group. Mine was “sad-mad.”

I had been there for over 24 hours and the psychiatrist hadn’t seen me. This infuriated me because I felt like they were discarding me and that I was unimportant. I was also sad because, ya know, depression.

We then went out into the hallway to throw around these foam balls while getting to know each other’s names. I really wanted to just sit still, but as we moved and giggled, I literally felt parts of my brain that had been inactive for a while, light up. It was a strange sensation.

My husband came for a visit, then it was dinner time and group session time all over again.

I did get to see the doctor after all, and was given a book and a new prescription which was supposed to help me sleep.

It didn’t, so I cracked open the book, and vigorously went through the first 50 pages completing the exercises along the way.

Having physical injuries in the past, I was no stranger to physical therapy. I finally came to the realization that my mind was in need of physical therapy if I was going to make strides toward healing.

Instead of taking it slow, I devoured the next 100 pages along with assignments and turned them into the doctor at the end of the day. I had told him the evening before that I wanted to go home as soon as possible. He just smiled and nodded, and I said, everyone says that, huh?”

“Yep.”

After turning in my assignments, he said “So, about going home early, I think we may be able to get you home on Monday. We have to get you some sleep first, though.”

I slept six hours that night, but not without getting to know the ladies a bit more.

Bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, extreme general anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, alcoholism – labels we all had prescribed to us.

However, I got to know them by their first names, careers, family situations, and personalities.

We joked around about being in a mental health facility – some being repeat offenders. We colored, talked about our medications, upcoming vacations, and favorite restaurants.

I got to peel back yet another layer of stigma that had been ingrained in me about mental illness, and see each woman as living, breathing human beings with real lives, real thoughts, and real struggles.

Being next door to the geriatric mental health wing, we could hear the screams and disruptions from patients fighting off delusions and hallucinations, and felt a little fear, but mostly sadness because we knew how real that person’s thoughts were to them.

We all formed a bit of a bond, unlike most patient client groups that grace the HOPE wing; at least that is what we were told.

We watched TV together, told funny stories about our lives, and encouraged each other through our darkest thoughts.

I tear up thinking about these women because I would probably never befriend them in my normal life, but in our little safe corner of the world, they each impacted my life because they made me realize that I’m not alone and not defined by my illness but rather a someone who has an illness.

I don’t go up to people and say: “I’m Fatima, and I’m Bipolar.”

I am not defined by an illness. You are not defined by an illness.

You are not cancer, you are not hyper-tension, you are not diabetes, you are not ADHD, you are not dyslexic -No. You may deal with these things, and God help you if you do, but you find your truth and you lay it out there. You find what and who you truly are and you own it -you declare it.

 I am Fatima. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and creatively old soul, and I’m training my crippled mind to grow stronger as I deal with a disease called Bipolar Disorder that often gives me symptoms of overwhelming sadness, irritable anxiety, and panic attacks as well as rarely giving me symptoms of high energy and impulsivity. 

Even if all of these titles are stripped from me, and I’m left with nothing else in this world, I can cling to this truth – The Truth. I am a daughter of the Most High. I am seen. I am heard. I am ultimately healed, even if I only see it in eternity. I am protected, redeemed, free – I AM LOVED.

While I still have two or three more posts to finish my 30 post truth challenge, I have found so much healing and support through this journey.

I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of messages and comments that have been shared with me, and I have seen each one even if I haven’t responded yet. Thank you for seeing my journey of truth, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing pieces of your journey with me. I’m grateful for your honesty, and impressed by your bravery.

May the God of all peace, wisdom, and understanding surround your heart today and each day moving forward.

I’ll bring the coffee next time.

Until we meet again my friends,

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6 thoughts on “Committed: My Stay in a Mental Health Facility”

  1. I am touched deeply by your honesty and transparency. It helps me understand more what my granddaughter endured one year ago as she experienced a similar time to identify, focus and begin her healing. Praying for you and your sweet family with faith in God’s plans for each of our lives.

    Like

  2. Thank you Fatima for sharing. I do know several ladies that deal with these same things. I am telling them all they need to read your Blogs!! It is so helpful to know when others are succeeding despite depression, anxiety, bipolar etc diagnosis. I feel very often that most are “ashamed”, have a fear of being judged, have a fear of loosing friends etc… THIS gives HOPE that we can speak out about our struggles and possibly learn new ways to cope with life itself. Love you…..I am praying for you and am so proud of you!

    Like

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