TW: Ideation & planning. If you feel the urge to harm yourself or others, please reach out for help.
Back in December, I wrote a post about invisible cows, using it as a metaphor for unexpected stumbles and obstacles in my mental health journey. Well, last week, I was trampled by an invisible cow stampede. Or maybe I encountered an invisible T. Rex. Let me explain. For those of you who follow my blog twitter, you know the broad strokes of what happened, but I’ll be fleshing out the whole story here. Since there is a lot to say, I’ll be posting the story in 2 parts.
Ever since my struggles back in December, I’ve been pretty conscious of my caffeine and alcohol intake. I’ve slowly been adding caffeine back into my routine, starting with green tea, and progressing to one big cup of black tea a day, with the goal of getting back to what has, in the past, been “average” for me. Since I rarely drink anyway, and since the last time I had a drink after upping my meds, I was beyond a lightweight, I’ve been avoiding alcohol altogether since right around Christmas.
Well, last weekend (Sunday, March 10th, specifically), I was at my dad’s house celebrating March birthdays (ie: mine and my paternal grandmother), and I decided to try a little wine. I had two small glasses over the 5 or so hours we were there. When we got home that evening, I started feeling a bit of an anxiety attack creeping up, so I did some deep breathing and went to bed a little earlier than planned. The next morning, I took my son to school, and noticed I was still feeling pretty tired, overwhelmed, anxious and generally off-kilter, even after having a good chat about mental health with the director of my son’s preschool. In an attempt to prioritize my physical and mental health, I decided that resting would be the best thing I could do, so I called out from work for the day, got a Honey Citrus Mint tea from Starbucks, and headed home to rest.
By Monday late afternoon, I was still feeling a little rocky, similar to how I’d been feeling in December, so I emailed my boss and let him know that I’d probably be out all week, though I’d be re-evaluating daily. Giving myself this flexibility and openness helped calm my mind, and, Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling pretty good. So good in fact that I thought there was a good chance I’d go back into the office on Wednesday. Little did I know, it was just the calm before the storm.
As Tuesday progressed, and without realizing it, I barely ate anything. I forced myself to have a small box of Frosted Flakes around midday, then headed out to run an errand. On my way back, I got a teriyaki bowl and 3 egg rolls from Jack in the Box, but only ate the egg rolls before taking a nap when I got home. As I woke up from the nap, the metaphorical storm had landed. My mental and emotional state went from bad to worse. I had been trying to figure out how to paint my nails for St Patrick’s Day (because I like doing nail stamping and such), and suddenly, drinking the acetone seemed not only like a good idea, but like the best thing I could do for everyone. There wasn’t really a triggering event. I wanted to know how much acetone it would take to end my life to the point of looking it up online. When I saw that I didn’t have enough, this tiny, rational section of my mind realized something was direly wrong. A part of me could still see the bigger picture, and knew that these thoughts were distorted and driven by depression. I didn’t want my husband and son to come home from work and school to find my body, especially my 4 year old son. I knew that would be beyond traumatizing. Unable to bring myself to call or text a crisis line (thanks, anxiety), I laid down again and tried to take another nap. If I was asleep, I couldn’t do anything to hurt myself.
I woke up a little before my guys got home, to them calling me to see how I was doing. My son sounded so happy that it only emphasized how dark my mood and mental state had become over the course of the afternoon. When they got home, I took my husband aside and told him what was going on. I was scared, because I didn’t know if I could trust myself, and he was scared, because he hadn’t seen me at quite this low of a low before. I mentioned that I had been tempted to contact a crisis line, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He said he thought it was probably the best plan, and we called on speaker phone. I also texted my therapist to let her know that I was in crisis and calling for more immediate help.
In talking to the crisis line, it became obvious that I was at a point where I couldn’t easily calm down or feel safe with myself, so we were advised to go to the ER. While we waited for my mom to come over and stay with our son, my therapist called us back, and we talked for about 15 minutes. All the time, she was reassuring that this didn’t erase all the progress I’d made in the past year, though, in the moment, not only did I not believe her, but it sounded ridiculous. I do think I had enough clarity, though, to realize that I was hitting a HUGE invisible cow. Once my mom was pulling into our parking lot, we headed out. I had grabbed some saltines and root beer, since I hadn’t eaten much and my heartburn was acting up, but I didn’t have the desire or stomach for either one, and barely touched them during the 15 minute drive to the hospital.
Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d been to an ER for being suicidal. I’d gone once before, in Kansas, while I was with my ex, after he had wrestled a knife from me. Somehow, that time, I was sent home that evening with just a prescription for Zoloft and a referral to follow up with the county mental health services there.
Last week, however, I did not have the same experience. Once a quick review of my physical health was done (all the while with a CNA keeping an eye on me), someone from the “Behavioral Health Unit” came up to do a psych eval. I answered all of the questions with blatant honesty, probably revealing parts of my past struggles with depression and ideation that I hadn’t told my husband about. Because this was a recurring struggle, and because I flat out said I didn’t know if I could trust myself, I was recommended for a voluntary inpatient admission. Since there wasn’t anything happening that would require fasting from food or drink, they kept offering, but I didn’t want anything. The most I wanted was sprite, so I had 2 small cans while we waited for my bed to be assigned.
Now, once the crisis line had advised that we should go to the ER, I knew some sort of admission to an inpatient unit was a distinct possibility. Bluntly, knowing this scared the crap out of me, made me feel ashamed, and only increased my negative self-talk and self-loathing. Because a deep depression and a fair amount of existing anxiety aren’t enough, let’s add unending negative self-talk and a massive helping of self-loathing to the mix. So, yeah. I was in a pretty dark place, a really low low, one of the lowest I’ve been in for a very long time, and it both terrified and infuriated me. One thing I remember saying to my husband while we waited was, “All I want to do is cuss or die.” This was soon followed by a fairly rare (for me these days, anyway), lengthy series of expletives peppered into just about anything else I said that night.
Eventually, shortly before midnight, a security guard and hospital employee arrived with a wheelchair to take me down to the Behavioral Health Unit. I waved goodbye to my husband, who couldn’t come with us (since it was well after visiting hours), and proceeded to ride through an apparent labyrinth of corridors, down a special elevator, and through a secure door to my destination – the BHU.
To be continued later this week, where I’ll share about the almost 3 days I spent in inpatient.
What tools do you lean on when you start to stumble in your journey?