Anatomy of a Suicide, Part III

It started with two Fire Trucks, four police cars and an ambulance.

Fast forward

Walking through double glass doors with hands cuffed behind the back.

Fast forward

Waking up in a twin bed with sheets bunched up at the foot and feeling a hard plastic mattress

Fast Forward

Realizing that I’m back in a mental institution.

There is so much I don’t remember about overdosing on Adivan.  I have absolutely no recollection of taking more than two pills.  I don’t remember talking with my Doctor, but apparently I did as he is the one that called in the rescue squad.  I couldn’t tell a single thing about the whole ambulance and emergency room experience.  In fact, I really don’t remember anything from the afternoon of the overdose until I woke up in the mental hospital three days later.

I had been in this hospital before, so I knew where I was once I became coherent.  I just didn’t know why I was there.  It was only by piecing bits and pieces together that I picked up talking with the hospital staff, my friends, and the people at the apartment where I live that helped me to figure out what happened.

I’ve said this before; the overdose was accidental.  I was depressed, and having a hard time keeping the bad thoughts away.  I felt like the only way to turn off the brain was to get some sleep, so I took off early and went home to try to take a nap.  Sleep wouldn’t come, so I took a couple of adivan to try to knock myself out for a little while.  I think that I woke up a little later but didn’t realize that it was only a short while, so I took a couple more to push myself back to sleep.  That’s when the confusion set in because my memory stops there, but apparently I continued to take the Adivan until I had emptied the whole bottle.  Somewhere during this time I must have called my Doctor.  He told me later that we had several conversations during which he was very concerned that I was in trouble.  The last conversation with him, he said he would call back in two hours to see how I was doing, but by then I was out of it.  When he couldn’t get in touch with me, he called the police for a well check. Talking with my neighbors later I found out that the rescue squad was called in, and that I was transported out in the ambulance.  It’s reasonable to presume I went to the emergency room, and this was confirmed by my Girlfriend who figured out where I was after she started calling the local hospitals when she couldn’t get in touch with me.  After that I had just brief glimpses of where I was starting with being handcuffed and trying unsuccessfully to wake myself up.  It really wasn’t until I was able to become fully awake that my memory picks back up.

Having been in this hospital before, it was easy to get back into the routine.  Initially I was confined to the unit and the staff had to check on my every 15 minutes.  The standard day began with breakfast around 7:00am, Medications around 9:00am, and the first group therapy at 9:30am.  Since I couldn’t leave, initially my meals were delivered directly to the ward.  The food wasn’t all that great, but it wasn’t horrible either.

The morning group therapy was fairly simple.  A mental health technician would go around the room and ask for your name, how you’re feeling and what your goals are for the day.  Every once in a while  someone would actually want to talk about something, but usually it was just a quick “I’m doing fine, my goal is to remain positive and get better”.  After just a few days in-patient most people were either feeling better, or having a rough time with confinement and just wanted to go home. If you weren’t positive, it could affect how soon you could be discharged, so most everyone tried to appear to be doing better so they could get out.

No outside psychiatrists were able to practice in the hospital, so an in-house doctor was assigned upon admission.  Every day everyone would meet with their doctor where they would talk about how they were doing with the medications and make any adjustments needed.  The doctors also had to approve anything that had to do with being in the hospital from privileges such as being able to go to the cafeteria to simple creature comforts like being able to shave.

It was a big deal when the medications were handed out.  Everyone there was very focused on getting better and wanted the medications right on time.  Plus, there wasn’t a lot to do outside of group therapy and eating, and getting medications was another event to break up the day.  There was generally a lot of anxiety about the drugs as everybody wanted to be first in line and not have to wait.   There was also a lot of complaining about the nurse handing out the drugs; either she was too slow, or unfair with how she called you up for your time, or anything that could be perceived that she was doing wrong.

After the morning group therapy there wasn’t a whole lot to do until lunch, and most just hung around a community day room watching TV or gossiping about other patients.  Everyone was in the hospital for a reason, and being confined with so many who were just as unstable resulted in a lot of drama and conflicts.  For example, it was almost impossible to get all the patients to agree on what program to watch on TV, and there were a lot of fights.  The staff was an easy target too, and a lot of the complaints and unrest were directed at them.   They never kept enough coffee or lemon aid in the day room, and they wouldn’t let you do ANYTHING.  (Which they couldn’t do unless it was approved by your Doctor)

The next group therapy was at 3:30.  It was run by the hospital social worker and was usually to teach some kind of self help skill like visualization or relaxation techniques.  Most of the time it would be listening to a recorded CD with a generally available generic program, and a few of them actually had commercials promoting their own product.  But the information could be useful, and this was the most productive of all the groups.

Dinner was just another time to eat.  By the time I could go down to the cafeteria it was better as it took a full hour by the time you walked down, stood in line, and actually sat down to eat.  It still came with some drama however.  Each ward wanted to go through the line first and there was a lot of competition to get there before other units and complaints when you didn’t. Then there was always the fear that they would run out of some of the food and there wouldn’t be any choices.  And that did happen, so the feelings were valid.  But it was good to get off the ward and at least see something different.

After dinner was the longest down time.  From the end of dinner at 6:00pm until the last group therapy at 9:30, there was really nothing to do.  It was a little easier to agree on TV programs during prime time and the fights were more limited.  But still, being idle for three and a half hours generated a lot of stress which affected both the patients and the staff.

The last group therapy of the day was a reverse of the first one.  Again, the Mental Health Technician would go around the room, but this time asking if you had reached your goal or not.  As we wanted out, most of us made sure we reported that we were successful.  It was important to appear that you were making a lot of progress and your treatment was successful.  This usually didn’t take too long, and then it was time for evening medications and then either hanging out in the day room again, or heading to bed if you had taken anything for sleep.

Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot that was actively therapeutic from being in the hospital.  There were no one on one sessions with anyone, no individual therapy and very little direct value from any of the group activities.  What it did provide however was a place to be safe from yourself.  It gave you a chance to decompress.  You could focus on the inside and at least try to come to grips with what put you in the hospital.  Being there took you away from the stress and interferences experienced with the day to day living on the outside.  It also gave you time to dwell on the negative, but even that was okay as there was a chance to work through these in a safe environment.  And just wanting to not be confined gave you the motivation to really try to get better.

I don’t ever want to go back to the hospital, and am working as hard as I can with my Therapist and Psychiatrist to keep my illness in check and remain as healthy as possible.  Just the threat of another hospitalization can be a great motivator and help to keep me focused on maintaining my illness.  Even though it wasn’t the greatest experience, it was necessary, and I’m glad that it was available.

And, God willing, I’ll never have to do it again.

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One Response to Anatomy of a Suicide, Part III

  1. That had to have been extremely difficult, especially since it was accidental. I am actually relieved to know that it didn’t cause any physical damage. That could have been lethal.

    For future reference: I’m not sure if any of your doctors told you this, but mine did. Ativan works on the same receptors in your brain as alcohol. I’m not sure what kind of history you have with alcohol, but if you consume enough of it, you’ll blackout. The same happens with Ativan. If you consume enough of it before you pass out, then you’ll go into a blackout state just like you did.

    I haven’t had to be hospitalized over an accidental overdose of Ativan before, but I will cop to purposeful overdoses. Not suicide attempts, but attempts to knock myself out. There’s a certain point I would get to where I would go beyond any hope of sleep and into an active state. In a good frame of mind, I would just clean and do craft projects until morning, when it wore off, and I was stuck being awake. If I was in a bad mood, I’d combine it with alcohol with some quiet desperation. And, well, you might get where that one is going. Nothing good can come of that.

    I’m really glad to read that you are okay, and have no desire to return. Best of luck to you!

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