24 October 2009

Involuntary Commitment—Day 2, Sunday 11 October

(…continued from previous post)
I woke up with the hangover from hell, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I would be transported to my ultimate end destination soon. I asked where I was to be shipped and breathed a sigh of relief. I had been there before in 2005 with a previous overdose. I was afraid that the first available bed to open up was going to be at the state-run facility—a place I had never seen, but about which I had heard horrible things.

This private facility houses five different units: geriatrics, adolescents, detox, the certified, thorazine drooling-in-your-oatmeal lunatics, and the unit I was assigned to—adults classified as mood disordered and/or dual diagnosis (mood disorders plus alcohol/chemical dependence) and PTSD.

My unit was comprised of quite a cross-section of the human population. The patients had either self-checked in realizing that they required additional help, or were on the other side of the coin like me: court-ordered involuntary commitment as a direct result of an attempted suicide gone wrong (translation: we were the unlucky few who survived our erstwhile efforts). In every case, it all came down to one thing: everyone was either seriously considering cashing in their chips, or had actually tried and failed.

The age range was equally as diverse. During my stay, the oldest was a 71-year-old woman (you’d never have guessed by looking and listening to her) and the youngest was a 17-year-old dropout who, by all normal rules should have been on the adolescent wing, but there were no available beds. I remember the night she checked in, arms sliced to ribbons. For her, it was her cutting ritual gone out of control rather than a slice-the-wrist suicide attempt.

I had more difficulty with the younger patients—those roughly 18-23. To hear them talk as they cycled through, it almost became a game of one upmanship to see just how far each pushed the envelope in their suicide attempts. What a new spin on competition.

I was lucky enough to have a few older folks around (50+ years) like me to help balance out the group. None of them let the kids get away with their bullshit. Me? I was always on the sidelines, on the outside looking in. I always kept my distance from everyone—my walls and mask surfaced the minute I crossed the threshold. I did not want to be here; I had nothing to accomplish here. My sole goal was simply to go through the motions until the judge signed my release papers.

Anyway, the trip over took about 30 minutes. There was the usual admission paperwork followed by a normal history and pseudo-physical. Again, my blood pressure was skyrocketing, even though the numbers had come down since they started the clonidine HCL. All I wanted to do at this point was to lie down and go to sleep.

I was shown my room (unfortunately this one already had another person assigned as well, so I was stuck with a roommate). They gave me back my sandals and watch, and provided me with a few pair of real scrubs to change into. They also provided minimal necessary toiletries since I came in with nothing. Evidently, all of the other patients were off doing lunch or some type of group therapy. I told my nurse that I wasn’t hungry, but that I would like to take a hot shower and go to bed. She was very pleasant and understanding and left me alone…actually ALONE.

After my long, hot shower, I hand washed my underwear and set them out to dry. I put on one of the pair of scrubs and just collapsed onto the bed. I actually slept hard throughout the afternoon and was finally awakened by some tech to take my blood pressure yet again. It was still well above normal despite the medication. I finally put two and two together and figured out that my “hangover” (hammering headache from hell and feeling quite dizzy) was due to my escalated BP.

Slept through dinner and most of the evening minus the BP checks. Since I had been admitted over the weekend after the docs had already seen their patients that morning, there were still no standing orders for me except for the clonidine that came over from the previous joint. However, the nurse was concerned that my BP wasn’t really responding effectively to the clonidine, so she put in a call to my assigned doctor. He changed the medication and told her to keep monitoring me every 30 minutes.

To make a long story short, I was eventually rushed back to the nearest ER by ambulance. The new medication was not reducing the BP (in fact, it had risen) and my attendant symptoms were worsening. Upon arrival I was taken immediately back (mind you, I now have THREE separate hospital bracelets on my arm). They hooked me up to a cardiac monitor, started some O2, two IVs and some serious IV BP shit. They were also nice enough to ask me if I wanted something for my headache (being that it was known I was on “suicide precaution” which included being accompanied by one of the psych facility’s techs, I just assumed any request on my part for pain medication would be interpreted as drug seeking behaviour, so I didn’t even bother to try). What a relief when the vise came off my head.

I finally left that ER at 0500, hit the sack and just stared at the ceiling just waiting for the next day to start all over again. (To be continued…)©2009

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