August 3, 2014
I really don’t know where to start…. I guess the best thing to say is, if you haven’t read the blog post titled “Rage”, you should read that first. This entry will be an extension of that… As well as the events leading up to and causing my PTSD.
One year ago, on August 3, 2014 I found myself strapped to a bed and in an ambulance. I was on my way to Forest View Psychiatric Hospital. It wasn’t my first time going there, but was the first time in an ambulance….scared and alone.
I was wheeled into the building and unstrapped. I was put in a small room where it seemed like I waited for hours. In reality, it was probably only 5-10 minutes. I was sitting there dressed only in underwear and a hospital gown, which was way too short for my comfort. All of my belongings were taken from me. They said I would get them back after they were inspected. I knew what that meant from my last visit… shoe strings removed, belts confiscated, strings on shorts or sweatshirts either pulled out or cut. After a few minutes of questioning I was taken to my room and searched for “contraband”. So, I had to take off the hospital gown and stand there in only my underwear while I was wanded as they looked for metallic objects.
By the time they were done it was time for dinner. So, there I was, back in my hospital gown, being herded like cattle down to the cafeteria. As is the custom, the new guy sits alone. No one is trusted, especially new people. They didn’t know what I was there for and I didn’t know what they were in for. So, there I sat… alone.
The first person I met was my roommate. We talked for a bit and I found out he was there for trying to starve himself to death. He was so malnourished that it had affected his heart, which was very weak. There were evening activities such as the art room, lounge access to TV, or sometimes a small gymnasium was open to play basketball or volleyball. Needless to say, I didn’t feel much like going anywhere in my hospital gown.
It had been a very long day, plus the fact that I hadn’t slept much the night before. I was getting very sleepy. I wandered down to the desk at the end of the men’s hall and inquired about my clothes. I was told they hadn’t gone through my stuff yet. So, I wandered back down the hall to my room and sat at the edge of the bed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone than in that moment. It was weird though. I didn’t cry. I don’t know if I had been crying so much that I didn’t have any tears left to cry, or if I was too scared to cry. After about an hour of sitting there (I’m guessing on times, because there were no clocks) a brown paper bag was brought in and dumped on the bed. Each piece of clothing was inspected inside and out, checking for any contraband. Side note: The women’s inspectors must not have been as thorough, as one young girl smuggled one last cigarette and a lighter in with her. She foolishly started smoking it that night…as if no one would smell it!
I spent the next ten days in this hospital. I went to classes on how to deal with anxiety and depression. They taught all the breathing and relaxation techniques I had already been taught numerous times. I met with a group of trauma victims. One young lady had been sexually and physically abused since she was very young. One older gentleman (I say older just because he was older than most of the people there. In fact, I may have been the second oldest!) was involved in Vietnam and never dealt with the horrific things he saw and was ordered to do. As the week went on, we found out that he was also the victim of sexual abuse as a child. One woman had been beaten by her husband, another had been raped. These sessions, dealing with trauma, were especially hard. They were both emotionally, but also physically, draining. One by one, as each story was told, your heart would ache for the person retelling their story.
Another aspect of being in the hospital was the medication reviews. I met every afternoon with a psychiatrist, who prescribed and monitored my medications. She doubled my depression meds. The same meds I had been telling my doctor for weeks that wasn’t enough. The first few days on the increased dose I woke up with horrible headaches. After a few days these got less and less. I was feeling better. Not so sad. Not thinking about death, but thinking of all I had to live for. I WANTED to get better. At least better in the sense that I could be trusted to go home and not try to end my life.
I was told to rely on my “support team”, which basically consisted of Kathleen. No friends to lean on. I was also told that due to my extensive use of various medication, combined with the trauma itself, and a hereditary propensity for depression, that my brain had suffered great damage. They taught me how the brain, unlike a broken leg, does not fully heal. Damage to the brain is permanent. Now, there are ways to teach other areas of the brain to “pick up” some of the functions of the damaged area, but there would always be lasting effects. Each person is different and responds to trauma in different ways. I don’t know why I couldn’t just “get over it”. My brain clung to the trauma and it just won’t let go. Other people have been through similar situations and seemingly been just fine. To them I say, “Good for you. I’m glad you don’t have to go through the Hell I live with every day”. To those who haven’t gone through a traumatic event I say, “Be thankful. Be kind and understanding to those who have. Be aware that there are hurting people all around you. Be willing to befriend people who are hurting and in need.”
– mark visscher