Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 3

Standard

Post Suicide Attempt: Prologue – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/post-suicide-attempt-prologue/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 1 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-1/

Post Suicide Attempt: Chapter 2 – https://sophiebuck.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/post-suicide-attempt-chapter-2/

When I was transferred to the unit in the psych hospital that had lower security, I was given a tour by one of the nurses.  I was a little afraid because I had no idea what to expect.  But the fear and hesitation I felt was nothing compared to where I was before.  This unit was much nicer.  There were sofas, the patients were allowed to open the windows and change the tv channels themselves, there was art on the walls, and I got my first glimpse of sunlight in days.

I was taken to what would be my room, where I was introduced to my roommate.  She was my age, and very friendly.  I was also introduced to another patient who showed me all of the ropes and made sure I had someone to sit with at dinner.  I was also quickly introduced to some other patients, but I didn’t really get to know them until later.

My nurse also explained “privileges” to me.  There were different levels of privileges.  The lowest was on-unit privileges, which meant that you were not allowed to leave the unit except to go to classes.  Next up were in-house privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere you wanted inside the hospital as long as you signed out and were back every hour to confirm that you hadn’t run away.  After that you got grounds privileges, which meant that you could go anywhere on the hospital grounds (you could go outside and breathe fresh air!) as long as you signed out and came back every hour.  I was immediately given in-house privileges since I had behaved so well in the previous unit.  Your doctor could also grant you evening and weekend passes so that you could spend some time at home as long as you were with a family member at all times.  And if you misbehaved, you could have your privileges taken away.

Finally, I was given a schedule.  The schedule listed all kinds of classes that were available.  These classes included horticulture, yoga, art therapy, wellness (which was super boring, but it was the only class we absolutely had to go to), and some other activities.  Our doctors also referred us to groups that were more specific to our particular issues.  I was assigned to Women’s Group (a bunch of women who sit in a circle to share their issues and support one another), Managing Emotions (learning how to identify what you are feeling and express it in a healthy way), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Skills for Anxiety (learning tips and tricks to help understand your triggers and how to cope with anxiety).  I can’t really share too much about these classes because we had to sign some confidentiality forms; all I can tell you in that they existed and I learned things.

I started to get used to the routine, and I got used to eating eggs every single day because that’s what they always served the vegetarians.  Don’t get me wrong, eggs are delicious.  I just got a little tired of eating them every single day.  My original roommate was released after one night, and I was assigned a new roommate.  She was mostly bedridden, and she asked me who I was every time I entered the room.  But I made friends elsewhere.  I am even still in contact with a couple of them.

I was also finally allowed to go outside when I had a panic attack and freaked out because I felt like I was being confined in too small a space, so that was good.  It was freezing outside.  I got soaked by all of the falling snow, but I GOT TO GO OUTSIDE!  Seriously, don’t ever take the fact that you are allowed to go outside for granted.  And really, how good can it be for someone’s mental health to never let them breathe fresh air?  Even prison inmates get to go outside for an hour every day.  I’m not going to get into that right now because it’s not really relevant to my story, but I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go outside!  It was the best I had felt in months!  I even called my parents to tell them the exciting news!

There were also many challenges that I came across in this unit, and there were several things that went on outside the hospital that I felt like I was helpless to do anything about.  My school, for example, was a source of many issues.  But I’ll talk about that next week.  See you guys then!

Advertisements

Feeling the Stigma

Standard

I knew that some people would treat me differently when I decided to be open about my mental illness.  I decided to be open anyway because I was pretty sure that I could handle it.  But I didn’t really feel the effect of my “coming out” as mentally ill until yesterday.  And I didn’t really handle it that well.  I had a panic attack.

It’s one thing when the media shows mental illness as a bad thing, but it’s different when the people in your real life think that way.  I feel like some people are tip-toeing around me, like I’m some sort of emotional bomb that could go off at any moment.  I also feel like some people think that I’m a big joke.  I’m just the crazy girl.  Then, there are also the people who are so overly nice to me because they don’t know how to handle me.  You wouldn’t want to upset me too much because I’ll just fly off the handle!

The worst part about it is that I have trouble disagreeing with people who see me that way.  I feel like my panic attacks are emotional bombs, and I do get set off by little things.  I had a panic attack the other day because I felt like the ending of the most recent New Girl episode didn’t provide enough closure.  Looking back on it, I think that’s ridiculous.  In the moment, however, it made perfect sense.  My thought process went from that episode to my real life in a second.

“That ending didn’t tell us anything.  If there is no closure in a fictional story, how can I expect real life to have closure?  I’m never going to have closure with any of the problems in my life right now.  I’m not going to recover, and I will not get better.”

I know that, rationally, this does not make any sense.  But panic attacks aren’t rational.  If they were, people wouldn’t have them.  It’s because of this irrationality that I find it hard to feel confident that I’m not crazy.  Maybe I am an emotional bomb that could go off at any moment.  Maybe I am a big joke.

These thoughts are discouraging.  It’s hard to fight for your sanity when you aren’t really sure that you have any sanity left to fight for.  It’s easy to get caught up in all this negativity, but it’s also important to look at the positivity.  There is a lot of it to look at too.  There are a whole bunch of ways that people could feel about mental illness.  You can place people on a spectrum with regards to how they feel.  One end of the spectrum is where people who discriminate would fit, but the other end has a whole bunch of people who support those who are dealing with mental health issues.

It is easy to forget about the mob of people on your side when you are faced with one person who isn’t.  When I was feeling some discrimination yesterday, I momentarily forgot about the number of people who have told me how proud they are of me.  So many people have told me that they think it’s great that I have been so open.  They have told me that they think my cause is so important.  They have told me how brave I have been.  They have told me how strong I have been.  They have told me how much they admire me.

As much as I appreciate the kind words of those people (and I really do), their opinions aren’t even the most important.  The only person who I should be relying on for my self-esteem is me.  I’m proud of myself for what I’m doing, and that’s all that should matter.  I believe in my cause, I believe in being honest and open, and I believe in raising awareness about mental health.  I’m going to try and ignore the negative, even though I know it’s easier said than done.  I’ll just be constantly reminding myself about my own values and the large number of people who have the same values.

Avoiding Avoidance

Standard

I spend most of my day in fear.  What am I afraid of?  I don’t really know.  Going into any given situation, especially social situations, I truly believe that something bad WILL happen.  I don’t know what I think is going to happen.  My mind isn’t making sense at this point.  All I know is that I have an overwhelming sensation of fear.

Because of my fear, I avoided certain situations.  I have avoided going out with friends in case I have a panic attack when I’m with them and someone will have their night ruined by having to calm me down.  I have avoided elevators with too many people in them in case I have a panic attack while I’m stuck in a small space with strangers.  I have avoided going to the library to work on projects in case I have a panic attack and interrupt people’s study time.  I live in fear of my fear.  Anytime I go anywhere, I worry about the possibility of having a panic attack in front of a bunch of people because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.

Avoiding things was made easier by people who would say things like, “I don’t know if you should go out tonight.  You had a panic attack last time.”  I had an excuse to avoid situations because other people told me that it was a good idea.  I was too passive.  I let other people control me, and I let my panic disorder control me.

Now, I’m trying something else.  I’m doing the things that make me nervous.  I’m not letting my panic get the best of me.  I am going to beat it!  I’m still trying to figure out how, but I am determined that this fear will end because there is no worse feeling than having a panic attack.  I am going to be assertive!

When my panic attacks start, I notice myself shaking.  Then my vision starts to blur.  All the faces around me are indiscernible, I start to have tunnel vision, and I’m starting to feel dizzy.  My hearing starts to fail me.  Everything sounds like I’m underwater, listening to the people above the surface and unable to make out their words.  Then I notice the tightness in my chest.  Is that new, or did I just not notice it before because I was trying to get my vision back to normal?  It’s getting harder and harder to breathe.  I want nothing more than to escape this situation because I am certain that something terrible is going to happen to me or someone around me.  Someone is going to get hurt, raped, murdered.  My panic peaks.  Sometimes I start to hyperventilate or scream, but not always.  Slowly after this, my panic starts to subside.  I feel ashamed for being unable to stay in a group where everyone else is laughing and having a great time.  I feel like an inadequate person, so I avoid similar situations in the future.

As I started to avoid more and more situations, the number of places I could go and the number of things I could do started to dwindle.  Eventually, it was hard to even have a one-on-one conversation with someone.  So, I isolated myself.  I only talked to people when I had to, just enough so that they wouldn’t worry about me too much.  When people asked me why they don’t see me as much anymore, I made up excuses.  “I haven’t been sleeping well.”  “I’m sick.”  People believed it, so I got away with lying in bed most of the day with very few questions asked.

But not anymore.  No longer will I continue to waste away, avoiding eating because people would see me when I went to the kitchen to make  food, avoiding going to the bathroom as long as possible because I was afraid of seeing someone in the hallway and having to socialize.  I am going to be in control now.