It’s hard to believe, but it has been almost nine years. Nine long, hard, disappointing years.
I lost my job the previous July when I decided to keep my integrity . What I mean by this is, I refused to do something illegal that my employer required of me. They “asked” me to “move on down the road” (their words, not mine) when I told them I couldn’t comply.
It was an especially terrifying situation because it happened about a year and a half after my ex-husband left me for another woman. I had no other income. No one to lean on. Little savings.
I was encouraged when I found a new job about 5 months later, but the new company was run by an egotistical, insecure, psycho-tyrant who hated and bullied me for absolutely no reason. He dismissed me after only 6 months.
I couldn’t find another job.
My dog died that October. The holidays were approaching and I felt worthless, brokenhearted and alone.
Then I completely ran out of money. In danger of losing my home and unable to pay basic bills, I asked my brother for a loan. He declined to help, blaming me for getting myself into the situation to begin with. I blamed myself too. But I had nowhere else to turn, other than to him, so I was feeling completely without options.
That’s when I realized it didn’t matter if I lived or died. Nothing tethered me to the planet. Nothing in my life made it worth living.
I have fought depression most of my life. I was tired of fighting. Tired of losing every battle. Tired of losing everything and having to start over. Again. And again.
For some time, I had been seeing a counselor weekly and a psychiatrist monthly. They were still trying to control the depression with medication, so I was taking a shit-load of anti-depressants along with Adderall in a vain attempt to boost my mood. When I lost my job, I stopped taking the Adderall. I filled the prescriptions, but purposely started stockpiling most of the pills. This was my back door. My way out. Per my research, 120 mg. per day was the upper limit that should be prescribed. I was taking 180 mg. per day. Figured I was going to need a lot of pills to actually overdose. But I needed to have an option when it seemed all options were running out. It made me feel better to know I could, if life became unbearable, simply exit stage left and let everything go on without me.
I stockpiled about 400 20 mg. pills.
The day I finally gave myself permission to quit life, I took 300 of them. I also took an entire bottle of Effexor, having just filled my prescription.
Though I don’t remember much, at some point during that night, I evidently stupidly called my counselor, apparently because I wanted to apologize for being the first patient he would lose to suicide. I don’t recall the conversation. I barely remember the police entering my house or the ambulance ride to the hospital. My memories of having a black sludge of charcoal pumped into my stomach are a little clearer, mainly because I puked and puked and puked the stuff all over myself, the bed and anyone who happened to be in range.
At some point, they moved me to ICU. That, I don’t remember at all.
I think I was there for 3 days before I really became aware of my surroundings and situation. For those lost days, I was in and out of consciousness, mostly sleeping, content to lay without thinking or caring, listening to the alarm buzz on my monitor with interesting frequency when various readings were in the danger zone.
Eventually, I was alert enough to realize I was very angry that I was still alive. That’s when I started trying to get up and at least go to the bathroom on my own.
After the 4th day, I wanted out of there. But they wouldn’t let me go.
On the 5th day, they explained I would be released, then admitted to the psychiatric hospital. This, they told me, was non-negotiable. There, they would continue to monitor my medical condition, but would also perform a psychiatric evaluation.
I was discharged into the care of my ex-boss and his wife, both of whom had become friends. She took me home to pack, then sat with me as I waited to be admitted to the psych hospital. I filled out the forms, then was taken through locked doors onto a walkway, down various paths, through a couple more sets of locked doors and into a small room where I was strip searched. All bruises and any cuts were carefully documented. They asked for my cell phone, but I managed to slip it into my shoe and told them I didn’t bring it. They then went through my bag and confiscated anything they felt might be dangerous. I hadn’t realized rubbing alcohol could be used as a weapon of destruction, but they took it, along with a nail file and all my makeup. The makeup would be placed in a locker at the front desk of the floor where I was being “incarcerated.” Each morning, I would be allowed to use it there at the desk as they watched. Then it would be returned to the locker.
I was admitted on a Friday evening.
The first thing I learned is that there wasn’t anything to do. Especially on a weekend, when all activities were suspended. There was one television on the floor. They offered a few out-of-date magazines and some self-help books for your reading pleasure. The only other entertainment available was to sprawl in one of the institutional vinyl chairs in the common areas and watch your fellow “inmates” or go to your room, which was shared with a roommate, to sleep or stare out the window.
My roommate had bulimia and I could hear her purging at times. Having been anorexic in my 20’s and 30’s, something clicked inside of me, possibly because my stomach was still in turmoil after everything it had just been through. I can thank that psych hospital for bringing ED back into my life.
An attendant walked the floor continually. They had to account for your whereabouts every 15 minutes.
Sometimes, alarms sounded, signifying a patient had become violent or, as indicated by a different tone, wasn’t accounted for.
Some people were completely out of touch with reality. They sat where placed, babbling incoherently to themselves, drooling, rocking. Some spent most of their time crowded around the TV. Others struck up friendships, sitting in small groups, talking and joking. There was a lot of flirting too, since there were both male and female patients on the floor. I mostly stayed in my room, exiting for meals or to occasionally wander the halls when I couldn’t stand my room a moment longer.
Three times a day, I was called to the desk to have my blood pressure taken and I was given my medication, which had to be swallowed in the presence of the nurse. She checked my mouth each time to confirm I swallowed it.
I talked to a social worker once. I was scheduled for a 30 minute interview with a counselor the day after I arrived and again the following day. Other than this meager “therapy,” I received no mental health support what-so-ever. I found that rather ironic, considering I was, after all, in a “mental” hospital.
The only phone on the floor was located across from the center desk where the attendants sat. Though I had managed to get my cell phone in, I had to be careful because you never knew when an attendant would come looking for you. So I tried to use their phone as much as possible.
My first call was to my counselor. I begged him to get me out.
And he did. But there were conditions.
On the third day, though not affiliated with the hospital, he was finally authorized to come in to see me. He told me he was working on my release, but I wouldn’t be allowed to return home alone if they did deem me to no longer be a threat to myself. I would also be required to attend counseling twice a week for several months. And someone would be put in charge of my medication, giving me only enough to get me through the day each day.
On the 4th day, the head psychologist finally called me into one of the small glass therapy rooms. He grilled me, eventually shaking his head and telling me he was reluctant to let me go. He said I was too intelligent for my own good and he knew I was smart enough to tell him what he wanted to hear so I would get what I wanted. Even so, he agreed to discharge me.
I missed Christmas that year. I was released to my friends just before the new year arrived, as 2005 became 2006.
A different friend had my medication. I had to go to her house to get what I needed each day. And I had to see my counselor twice each week…more if he deemed necessary. Plus, I had to see the psychiatrist twice monthly.
I had no money when I went in. I had even less coming out.
After two weeks living with my former boss and his wife, I was allowed to return home. My life was in shambles. And I didn’t even want a life. My anger festered. Mostly, I was furious with myself. For failing. For being alive.
They tell me I forever changed the Adderall overdose bell curve. No one had survived taking more than 600 mg. prior to my suicide attempt. I took 6000 mg. and lived. The dose I took was so ridiculously high, they actually didn’t believe I took that much. But I did. I know I’m telling the truth.
I don’t know why it didn’t work; why I wasn’t allowed to slip away into eternity.
But the most disturbing thing I don’t know is why I am still here.