27 Observations While Waiting for a Psych Bed in the ER
“Stigma against mental illness is a scourge with many faces, and the medical community wears a number of those faces.” -Elyn R. Saks, “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness”
September 8, 2022
Writings from the Nuthouse, Redux
I was in the Nuthouse. Again. Just got out today.
I was in the ER waiting for a bed for 4 ½ days before I was admitted to the psych hospital. Lots of time to think and not write, which about killed me, because they’d only give me crayons. That totally sucked. But I did manage to get some stuff down crayon to paper.
It was attempted Klonipin overdose number about seven. Maybe eight. Nine? I don’t really remember. It’s been a pattern since I was first prescribed the drug in my mid-20s. Benzos are really super bad news for anyone with a seriously addictive personality.
By the way, it takes approximately 4000 mg of Klonipin to off yourself. I’d taken about 20 mg the evening prior, then another perhaps 30 mg the following morning. So, I knew I wouldn’t die. I have known that every time I’ve pulled this lovely stunt. I think it just gets really bad, and I don’t know what to do to ease the pain. So, I abuse the shit out of the stuff because when I get that anxious and that depressed, I’m just not thinking right. I lose my grounding. It’s very sad. I’m sad for me. But I’m also hopeful. I’m always hopeful. There’s a way out of this. I’ve done it before, many many times. I’ll do it again.
Will I abuse substances in the hopes of offing myself again? I sure hope not, but there are no guarantees. Ever. I never thought I’d drink again, and I went back to drinking after 9 ½ years of sobriety. Vodka martinis. Which I also have to quit. Fuck. I never thought I’d sit in front of a slot machine again, but I picked up with that over the last three weeks, 2 ½ years post inpatient gambling treatment. That will not be an issue. I don’t have the means to sustain that behavior. Plus, it makes me feel like a worthless fuckwit when I feed $100 bills into a fucking machine and five minutes later, I’ve got nothing.
Oh my fuck, I’m a hot mess of a hot mess. Alas. Eh. I’ve got to lighten up on myself. Self-shaming absolutely does not help at all. I am a much-loved and rather interesting hot mess, regardless.
So, here we go on the list. I did little editing. This is what you call paranoia. It’s true, a lot of it is true, but inconsequential. When I get to day four, I finally settle into the truth of it all. That’s because it takes about that long to come out of a 50 mg Klonipin haze.
It is no fun being held against your will and it is no fun being subjugated to a massive bureaucracy that doesn’t recognize people are individuals. On the other hand, it works.
The bad things make me better.
- Time goes very slow.
- Staff contradict one another and give incorrect information.
- Don’t expect your requests to be addressed because you are not experiencing a medical emergency.
- People lie about your behavior to make things more difficult for you.
- People remind you over and over you tried to commit suicide. It is a putdown. A method of control to force submission.
- DCRs (Designated Crisis Responders) have no power, only the admitting doctor.
- There are no mental health counselors.
- Your meds are never on time.
- Some techs keep the door entirely closed, saying it’s the rules. Others do not. The rules are inconsistent.
- People have to watch you go into the bathroom. They come into the bathroom with you. Some turn away, most don’t. Fuck.
- People apologize about the process but tell you you’re at the end of the line for a bed because you’re not critical.
- Any bad behavior is communicated from staff to staff at shift change and held against you.
- People don’t talk to you unless they must.
- People don’t empathize and recognize less than appropriate behavior is a function of your experience and not who you really are.
- There is no coordination of care, even within the same healthcare system.
- Only staff that break the rules allow me to call my niece. Two times in four days.
- After 120 hours of keeping me in the ER waiting for a bed (legal length), the admitting physician threatened to keep me longer.
- You have to figure out the right thing to say and I sure haven’t figured that out yet.
- Only the chaplain is nice. And Chris. And Debbie.
- No showers, just wipes.
- Everything is designed to strip you of your dignity.
- No books, no magazines.
- Most of the patients are very old and very sick.
- Breakdowns in DCR video equipment can extend your stay for days.
- On the fourth day you give up. Ask for nothing. Say nothing. Sleep or sit quietly in your chair. Timidly ask for only the necessities.
- On day four you stop crying — on day four you’re broken.
- You keep asking what day it is until you finally write it down.