“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott
I have always suffered with depression. I have always known that my mental state was at times like a roller coaster but I tried to cope with it the best I could over the years. However, in 2012 everything was going down hill. It was as if anything bad that could happen was happening to me. I was so sick of this bad luck. I would ask God, why is he doing this to me. I was a good person(I shoplifted once at 17 and never did it again, I told a few lies to my parents and I swore a few times in my life…ok more than a few). I wasn’t Ted Bundy or Manson, so I was little ticked off at God for trying to always teach me life lessons. In October 2012, I finally went on anti depressants,Things continued to escalate and at times I thought(not planned) how much easier things would be if I was not around. I will admit, one time while driving I imagined driving into a rock-cut. I came a bit close to doing it and I am grateful for the common sense of fear, so I turned my car on the road and drove away.
I worked in a high stress job and along with life stresses, in May I found that I was unable to function in the workplace much less keep my personal life intact. All, I wanted to do was hide under my covers and not face the wicked world, that I was certain hated every ounce of my being. So, I took myself to a walk in clinic. In hysterics(they knew me), I told the on call doctor that I needed just a week off work. I must have been a big mess, because he wrote me a sick note and didn’t charge me for it! Imagine that a doctor did not charge for a note. I was very grateful because I saved $25.00 that day!
Within that week, I crashed pretty hard. I had a plan and I was going to do it. I was ready to give up living. I called the crisis number around 9:55 PM and was told that they were closing in five minutes! As out of it as I was, I could not believe that I was told to hold on to your suicidal thoughts until they opened the next day!
Well that night, a sudden peace came over me. It’s very true what they say, when you have decided to leave this earth it’s calming. Since, I am here to tell the story I did hold on to my suicidal thoughts until the next day and called them for support. I mean, I had to wait about four hours until someone could come to my home, but I had waited all night I was sure a few more hours was nothing.
Long story short, I ended up in a psychiatric ward. Yes, a sanitorium, asylum, and all the other names that I am sure you have heard. A nut house, a loony bin, a mad house….come on I can joke about this, cause I have been there and done that. It is no Club Med. It is an institution for the mentally unstable and some of us were there against our free will.
At the hospital, they took all my belonging and left me in this room, which was like a padded room, minus the strait jacket and the pads on the wall. It was pretty bare. Just white walls, a bed and a door. There was no television, since I guess the mentally unstable do not need further entertainment. All they left me with was my cell phone. Hey, Janet what are you up to? Oh me, I just tried to commit suicide and I am on lockdown in the hospital. Seriously, I sent out texts like that to my friends, who of course were already concerned of my mental state prior to me lying in that hospital room night. I think some of them did a standing ovation when I told them where I was.
A young girl old enough to be my daughter told me, that if I tried to leave they would arrest me and bring me back here. What? So, to add to all my problems I could become a criminal? I stayed put. I heard bad things about jail and clumsy as I was, the soap would probably drop. I was not about to get arrested that night. Imagine standing in front of a judge with those charges. What would they charge me with, anyway? Actually, that night the doctor put me on a Form 1. What is a Form 1? Well its a legal document that a doctor signs that says a person has to stay in a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours.
I don’t even remember being transported to the psychiatric ward, it was some lady with brown hair and she let me smoke a cigarette behind the hospital. She must have felt sorry for me, because there are strict rules about smoking on hospital property. It had been hours since I had felt the fresh air and I was scared that it would be months before I was let out. I had seen Girl Interrupted and One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest. I wasn’t stupid, I knew what could happen in a place like that. I had to get well as fast as I could. Fake it till you make it was my plan. I was going to be a mastermind and make a quick escape out of a mental ward. I can see you now, shaking your head. Seriously, in the cab ride over to my home for the next twelve days, it really did sound plausible.
I don’t remember my first few days on the ward. I do remember the first time I sat face to face with a psychiatrist. No, there was no couch in the room and I didn’t have to lie down when I talked to him. I asked him what was wrong with me. He looked at me and said “Life.” Life? Is that all you can tell me, life! Bull crap! I knew that already! No tell me what is really WRONG with me. I found out after discharge what was wrong with me.
I think I spent my first three days, crying and whimpering on my bed and at meals. Looking around, everyone seemed so normal, there wasn’t no mad eyes darting recklessly around the room, drooling and waiting who would be its next victim. I mean there were some people who talked to themselves, and sometimes it was scary. I remember one night, a room-mate got into this trance of talking to herself and rocking on her bed. I was scared shitless, by this time I was “fixed” and I was ready if she even attempted to come near me and hurt me. I slept with one eye open that night. Well, it was my plan. But my sleeping pill said, go to bed, your on a psychiatric ward. What else do you expect?
I was not allowed to go outside the first three days. Man! No smoking cigarettes. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Hold your horses! I was already having one, what was this place trying to do to me. Drive me crazy! I did not need any help, obviously. So, I had to prove to my doctor that I was well enough to go outside four times a day for a cigarette. I remember him lecturing me about smoking, how bad it was. Really, doc I know this, but take a look at me right now, I look like I just climbed out from a cave, and I have tears permanently streaked on my face and you’re trying to get me to quit smoking? In a psychiatric ward? When every-time I ask you, when will you “free me?” you shake your head and say you’re not sure. Your are not a smoking cessation specialist! You are a psychiatrist!
I got my fresh air pass. Glorious day, it was like I had just won a million dollar lottery. My friends and I(yes I met some awesome people there ) celebrated my step in recovery. Don’t think that this is not a big step for people in a psychiatric ward, because it is. There were some people, who never got a pass, because I guess they would take off or do something totally bad, like hurt themselves. Sometimes, I wanted to give them a fresh air pass because they would go on and on and on about not having one. I am here to get well, not to hear how bad your life is, because your doctor won’t give you an opportunity to harm yourself. Be grateful, that he cares! I said most of that in my head. Yes, I just said I heard voices in my head which told me to say things to people. Either your totally embarrassed or your laughing right now.
I did a lot of walking in my time there. Not much else to do. Looking back now, it would seem funny a bunch of people walking the halls of a psychiatric ward in circles for hours. Believe me when I say that, sometimes I think was getting more unstable in the hospital. I was literally bored out of my mind. The books were outdated, the puzzles had missing pieces and there was no exercise equipment. They had us coloring like we were in kindergarten. Sure its therapeutic and everything, but I don’t brag to my friends that I developed my coloring skills while on a psychiatric ward.
No, they don’t dope you up and have you sitting around drooling on yourself. Hollywood shows such an extreme version of the true reality. I think my time in the psychiatric ward was my clearest view into my life and what I needed to change so that I never ended up back in that situation. They say that your chances of being hospitalized are much higher if you already went down that road. And it’s so true, so many people in there have been in an out of the hospital most of their lives. I was very lucky, that at the age of 41, I had my first hospitalization. And, knock on wood, my last.
I met some people who went through electrotherapy, as a last resort because nothing else was working for them. They are normal people, no missing brain cells and they function as well as you do! They have lives, families and jobs. You would never know who underwent that form of therapy, so don’t judge.
So what did I learn about myself. Well I learned that I have major depression, PTSD and adjustment disorder. I read all my diagnoses on my discharge summary. It was funny how they summed up my 41 years on this planet in a few pages. But, that is what the good doctor says is WRONG with me. Yeah, and life too!
I also, learned that I was dependent on my ex for many reasons and I had to learn to make it on my own. Darn it! Now I had to think and be my own person. Still getting used to that idea. I am a work in progress.
I learned that most people on a psychiatric ward were there because of relationship problems. I am not just talking about romantic relationships only, all kinds. Ok, so I wasn’t some half cut person who was admitted to the hospital because my lying, cheating and son of a gun partner threw a fast ball at me.
I learned who my true friends were. Did I ever ? I mean when you leave a message for a friend and say, Hey Janet, I am in the psychiatric ward, call me we can chill! And they don’t call you back, you may as well cut that person out of your life permanently. Janet! Be gone now!
I learned that the people who work on a psychiatric ward are angels and deserve the utmost respect for what they do. They were encouraging, caring and backed you up when you needed it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some angels who lost their wings there too, but I only want to remember the happy times. One angel left me with this saying one night we were all sitting around complaining about our lives. She said “Don’t borrow trouble!” Seriously, I scribbled that on the blackboard in the common room, because I thought it was so amazing.
I learned that hospital food can be edible when you got nothing else to eat. Two of my friends brought me a poutine once, but I was still at the starving myself stage and it went in the garbage. I learned to have empathy for other people and to be happy that my issues were not as bad as theirs. I learned to be grateful for everything in my life! Even to be grateful to have a failed relationship, because some people don’t even have that.
I learned that I came first in terms of my health and recovery and no one was going to force me to get well on their terms. This was my life and my health, bug off if you don’t like the process I am taking to get well. I learned to laugh again, loud and brazen. I learned that it was ok to cry and be angry(Constructively of course). I Learned that hospital clothes are very comfy and I miss them.
Anyway, I spent 12 of the most best days of my life in the psychiatric ward. I always say that to people and I wonder what they are thinking as I stand in front of them and boost the benefits of being locked in a facility and not being able to leave on my own terms. I learned that I don’t really give a damn what people think about me anymore!