6 Days in the Looney Bin

How a Lack of Self-Care Cost Me More Than a Year of College

January 2, 2008.

I wandered, scared, down a bleak white hallway and into a dining hall. Twenty people looked up at me with tired eyes then quickly refocused back on the bland meals before them.

“Hello, I’m Margaret.” the woman across from me said. “I’m the CEO of Walmart and I’m married to God.”

I blinked… Repeatedly.

What the hell? Was I really HERE? With THESE people? I didn’t belong here!

All around me, the other patients rubbed their arms, trying to keep warm. The snow was falling outside, however the furnace had broken the night before and the temperature was in the 50’s inside.

I had been admitted to Dettmer Hospital just after midnight after confessing to my husband that I was suicidal. Two solid years of sleep deprivation and failing to take my Thyroid medication had taken its toll.

In 2008 I was the mom of two little boys and was working and/or commuting 10 hours a day for my job as an interior designer. As if that enough work, every night after getting the boys to bed I was trying (unsuccessfully) to build a profitable e-commerce craft supply business.

In an effort to grow my business, I had charged close to $50,000 of inventory to multiple credit cards, and had made just about every small business mistake possible.

A good day in the business showed a profit of 25 cents. There was rarely a good day.

With my Thyroid medication buried under stacks of scrapbooking paper, “no time” to see an endocrinologist and even less time to sleep, I was suffering from anxiety attacks, hallucinating, and was ready to drive my car off the road.

I thought it would be better for my husband to get the life insurance for my “accident” than to continue trying any longer.

This was not a mental issue that couldn’t have been controlled.

Blood was drawn as soon as I was admitted to the hospital, and when the results came back, the doctors told me they were surprised I was still alive. Normal TSH levels for the average adult range from 0.4 ‑4.0 mIU/L. My level came back at 168.

Not good.

I spent the next 6 days in the mental hospital, being convinced that medication was the only way to help me get better. A combination of Wellbutrin, Ativan and Prozac promptly turned me into an emotionless zombie, quite the opposite from the artistic and imaginative person I had always been. Looking at a sheet of white paper, I saw white, whereas in the past I would have seen ideas flowing uncontrollably in my brain, eager to jump out of my pencil and onto the paper.

Rather than treat the cause (lack of sleep and Thyroid issues), the psychiatrist chose to treat the symptoms. Six months later, after having enough of zero creativity, I was fired by the psychiatrist for taking myself off the medications. While I don’t recommend EVER doing the same yourself, I DO recommend finding a doctor who will investigate — and treat — the underlying cause.

During the six days in the mental hospital I racked up a multiple 5-figure hospital bill. The amount could have easily paid for multiple tropical vacations including hotels and airfare.

Instead, neglecting my self-care left me in the company of “the CEO of Walmart” and a guy who collected Dixie cups of water for the truck of circus animals he supposedly left on the highway.

Friends, neglecting our own self-care is not worth the price paid in the long run. I was fortunate that it only cost me tens of thousands of dollars. In the end, it could have cost me my life. Don’t let your lack of self-care cost you yours.