The Ides of March are drawing near, and I’m not talking about Shakespeare.
On March 15th, 2005, I had been in a downswing for months. I couldn’t stop the suicidal thoughts, and it was getting to the point when everything I passed, I evaluated as a weapon. I bet if I took that whole bottle of ibuprofen, I’d die. I bet if I jumped out of our window, I’d die, if I did a proper swan dive. I tearfully begged my roommate to take me to the hospital, because I couldn’t stand it. She later told me that she’d never wanted a cigarette so badly as when she drove back to campus after sitting in the waiting room with me and having to leave once they decided to admit me.
She doesn’t smoke.
I’ll never forget the phone call to my mom from the hospital, when they decided to admit me, but wanted to talk to my mother. I’m not entirely sure why, now. I was twenty, and would be twenty-one in a week. (I asked my roommate- she said insurance reasons. She says she thinks I wasn’t sure if my insurance would cover it, so I wanted to make sure my mom knew that I needed the admission. That makes more sense.)
“But they’re talking about admitting you!” my mom cried.
“That’s what I want!” I replied. I was crying, too, though I don’t recall much of that time when I wasn’t crying. Mom would later say she was about as conflicted as they came, because she wanted to come down to see me in the hospital four hours south of her, but she had to drive four hours north to pick up my brother from deer hunting with my uncle and grandpa. I was able to talk her out of rushing down to see me, as the visiting hours were very brief and there were only two visits a day, and mom would spend most of her time sitting in a hotel somewhere and worrying. At least at home she could do other things to occupy herself, and I could always call home and talk to her from the hospital. Mom had a 1-800 number for the house because I was away at college, to help conserve my phone cards.
I had just bought a Universe Obsidian, and I couldn’t stop spinning his rotors while I tearfully told the intake nurse, and then the psychiatrist, how I had been feeling. How I had been thrown out of the education program because they found out I had bipolar disorder, and how I had to withdraw from one of my classes in the fall semester, and as a result, had to take overload to make up the hours so I didn’t lose my scholarships. How I hadn’t been able to get out of bed for some of my classes- particularly the 7:50 M-W-F Anatomy and Physiology class I was in. How I couldn’t stop planning ways to kill myself, but I didn’t want to.
They got me a sandwich when I got up to the unit (that was the best food I’d get the whole time) and confiscated everything but my underwear, even my bra, and gave me scrubs to wear. I didn’t get my bra back for like two days, even when I had to wander the hospital proper to get bloodwork done. I am not a small girl. I haven’t been that distinctly uncomfortable in a long time.
My roommate is a saint. She came to visit me, or made sure someone did if she had class, for every visitation I had while at the hospital. Mostly it was the other nursing major friends we had, as my elementary education friends had all given up on me once I got thrown out of the program. Plus, the nursing major classmates were a bit more understanding than most. Most students at my conservative private school were ostracized if they had a mental breakdown and ended up dropping out and going to a public school, where there were at least non-judgmental services available to help them. I did what was essentially the walk of shame multiple times a week to see my counselor at school, because his office was in the student center and it was pretty obvious where I was going.
All in all, I didn’t stay the full 72 hours of my hold, but I was there for most of it. They let me out on the third day as I was much more stable and I had classes to go take. I was able to medically withdraw from A&P, which I was failing and then some at the time. They diagnosed my hypothyroidism and got me started on synthroid, and got me on a medication cocktail which to some extent I am still on, though I had to switch out the Lexapro for Celexa due to cost. Within a few weeks, I was able to function again. It was marvelous. I had a bit of a Patch Adams moment in the hospital and realized that psychology was more of my calling, anyway, so I switched majors that semester. As one of my professors said later, “You have a mental illness? That’s like, bonus points, in psychology.” I’m not so sure about that, but it was exactly the right thing to say to someone who wanted to thumb their nose at the education department but wasn’t confident that she was making the right choice. I have since been happily working in the psychology field, and hope to soon go back to grad school and get my Master’s in Social Work, and become a therapist.
This Tuesday marks six years since that horrible night, and hopefully many more years will follow. Happy Ides of March, everybody. May your best friend not stab you in the back and murder you horribly on the steps of the portico of the Theater of Pompey.