… cleaned up after the dog
… went out to lunch
… stayed awake for 13 hours
… taught a class
… read a book
… did dishes
… did laundry
… took a shower
… brushed my teeth
… ate healthy
… caught up on some TV
… responded to emails
… took my medication
… played with my son
… and came up with the idea for this blog.
To be fair, this is actually what I did yesterday, but I couldn’t sum up everything I did today because by the time I wrote it, it would be tomorrow. So instead I wrote this today about yesterday. But it’s a good list, and while it might not be the list I want it to be, it’s a lot better than I was doing last week.
Last week, this list might have only included some TV and a shower. Last week, when I was driving to the class I’ve been teaching, I was wishing that someone would have a fender bender with me so that I could have an excuse to get out of it Last week, I was sleeping all morning, and then taking naps all afternoon. Last week, I didn’t care if I was awake or asleep. Last week, at the insistence of my husband, I also went to see my psychiatrist, and he decided that it was time to try something new.
I’ve been on it for a week now, and while it has a scary bad side effect of a “potentially deadly rash,” it does seem to be slowly dragging me up and out and about. And hopefully it will keep being successful, and I won’t get that “potentially deadly rash.”
(Well, for those of you not in the know, a “con” is a convention or conference. When I use the term, I’m generally referring to something that deals with genre writing and movies, such as science fiction/fantasy/horror. This past weekend, I spent it at a con, selling crafts and talking on panels.)
So who knew that they weren’t depressing?
I mean, I did. Mostly. Sort of.
There were plenty of times that I’d leave a con feeling jazzed and inspired and ready to write and take on the world.
But mostly I’d feel unhappy and defeated and frustrated.
And even if I’d begun the con feeling happy, by the time it was over, my anxiety and depression would have crept in and brought me down. The moments of “I know what to do!” would be replaced by “I can never do this,” and I’d be sinking and spiraling, feeling that I’d always be an outsider, always be on the edges, never be successful.
But at this con, with my new medication and my coping strategies, even with a friend telling me that she bought one of my books but that it was so bad and so boring that she had to stop a few pages in (thanks, friend!), I still haven’t begun that spiral.
Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t trying.
My purpose was two-fold: to sell my stuff, and to speak on panels.
I was selling my jewelry and my books in the “gallery.” Gallery is apparently code-speak for “no one knows you’re there, and you might as well be on the street corner because you’ll get as much in tips there as you will in sales here.” Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. But it wasn’t very good, either. But I can blame the issues on outside influences: no one knew it was there, I was behind a pole, and the lights above me were out. If you need a trifecta for lowering sales, that’s it. Most people who bothered to stop either bought something or took a card. So success?
Speaking on panels is always challenging for me. I feel like I need to be well-prepared enough, and I either over-prepare or under-prepare. Either way, I tend to feel like I’ve messed it up. Did I sound like an idiot when I was talking about movies? Was I okay when talking about Lovecraft? I ran out of questions on the horror location panel – did everyone think I had messed it up?
I don’t know if I did well or if I did badly. And if I did badly, what level was it? Was it spectacularly bad, leading to fire, flood, and famine? Or was it only mostly bad, leading to blood, barf, and broken bones?
I look at it this way (for now): no one threw anything at me. No one refused to talk to me after a panel. And I did earn the cost of my table back. So, overall, it could have gone a lot worse.
I’m actually happy with my way of thinking about it. I’m not just blaming myself, and I’m not telling myself that I messed up the entire weekend. Yes, I can think of ways to improve, but I’m not stuck in the spiral thinking that I can’t do anything. In fact, even now, a full day after the con ended, I’m still thinking about working on some pieces I hadn’t quite finished yet, and I might even work with someone else on a new anthology. I even friended people that I met (and that I’d even met before but never friended), and they friended me back! Success!
So I’m pretty much trapped at home today thanks to the joy of anxiety. Not that I had a lot of stuff to do outside the house today, but right now, I don’t feel like I can leave the house. I’m not necessarily scared to leave, but I feel off-balance, off-center, and just plain old off.
I’d blame it on my cold, saying that my congestion is what’s messing with my head, but I don’t think that’s it because when I don’t think about it, I feel better.
It’s like my brain is messing with me again. It’s telling me to worry. It’s telling me that I’ve over-extended myself. It’s telling me that I’m going to mess up the convention I’m going to this weekend. It’s telling me I have no friend. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have no abilities.
I know it’s lying.
I printed a bunch of stuff on my 3d printer this morning to sell at the conference this weekend.
I posted up a FAQ for a special needs kids Easter egg hunt.
I got the car’s oil changed.
I did 3 loads of laundry.
I made myself lunch.
I packaged up a return and a birthday present.
I wrote three letters for LetterMo.
I wrote this blog.
Getting stuff done, then, isn’t the problem. It’s accepting that I’m getting stuff done and keeping on getting stuff done until I feel like I’ve achieved a goal.
I’m fighting off the feelings by using two tricks – one is not really a trick, but it’s helpful: meditation. I put on some calm music and sat down with my hands in my lap and tried to just breathe. I ignored thoughts that raced by, and I tried to stop thinking about anything except my breath going in and out. That was semi-successful. The second one is challenging thoughts.
When I first heard of challenging thoughts, I thought it meant having challenging thoughts – like challenging yourself to do things. Seemed logical.
But then I learned what it was really was: challenging the thoughts you have.
Instead of agreeing with your brain when it tells you that you’re not getting anything done, you stop and consider what you know that might challenge that thought.
My thought that I didn’t do anything today and that I can’t do anything I can challenge by making a list of what I actually did get done. When I think that it isn’t a very impressive list, I have to tell myself that it doesn’t have to be impressive. I didn’t say I had to do an impressive number of things today – I had to do things is all.
Both of those tricks might sound simple, but they aren’t that easy to do when your anxiety is creeping up and growing. I’d guess my level of anxiety is at a solid 5 today, which is much higher than I would prefer it be. But instead of giving in to it and sitting around in bed, I’m up, I’m moving, and I’m doing things. And I feel better for it.
College classes started on Tuesday of this past week. I had signed up for two of them – one I had taken before but loved and wanted to keep working on (jewelry and metal arts) and then drawing II to help my drawing skills before taking a class like painting. I went to the first day of painting, and the teacher didn’t show up. At all. Someone from the art department came over, printed out and distributed the supply list and the syllabus, and had us all sign in. No one could reach him. Which kind of sucked, but sitting there and waiting to see if he’d be there, I realized I was feeling anxious about school starting again.
I know, I know – they’re ART classes. As long as you show up, you’re bound to get at least a B, right? And an A isn’t unheard of; so far, I’ve gotten As in all my art classes. But still, they’re classes. By that I mean they’re on a regular scheduled basis, and I’m supposed to actually be there when they are. That means I had committed to spending four morning a week, from 9:30 to 12:20 each day, in a classroom, working on art.
I like the idea of working on art. What I don’t like is the idea of having to be somewhere at a particular time for an entire semester. It’s stressful. It’s difficult. It’s anxiety-producing.
How can I say it produces anxiety? Well, I spent Tuesday night having a panic attack, freaking out and convinced I was going to die because I knew that I had two more days of classes. Because I kept thinking about the upcoming semester and worrying. Because I worried that I’d miss too many classes or somehow do something wrong and fail my classes. Because I’m good like that.
So on Wednesday morning, I went to the college, and I dropped both my classes. Completely withdrew from this semester. I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to. It wouldn’t work for me to be there.
The advisor asked me why I was dropping. I told him it was for mental health and wellness. He nodded. “Yup,” he said. “School is important, but so is your health.” I didn’t bother telling him that school itself wasn’t that important to me – I had enough degrees that I wasn’t worried about getting another one (although ironically, the whole reason I was dropping was because I was worried about the schooling itself). Instead I just agreed with him and waited for him to sign my paperwork.
And that was it.
I was done.
This semester will be a re-grouping for me. I’m going to try to pull my brain back together, and I’m going to work on my jewelry and my drawing outside of the classroom, and I’m going to hope that I’m back to school this fall.
(And starting with the next blog, I’ll be going back to tales of the asylum…)
Before I go any further, let me explain why this current series of posts has the title that it does.
When I got committed (committed myself? Take your pick…), a bunch of people asked what they could do to help. My husband, the smart man that he is, told them all that what I would need was coffee and chocolate once I got out.
Now I’ve been out of the hospital for three, and I still have a few pieces of chocolate left, and there is enough for one more drink on my Starbucks card. Not too bad.
So, back to the story…
I got to the psych ward.
It was up in Houston, and I’ll even include the name: Bellaire. The reason I’m telling you what it was called is because I found it hysterically funny to say that I was the fresh princess of Bellaire, and most of the women there were much younger than me, so they just looked at me funny when I said it. Ah well. What can you expect from crazy people?
Anyway, so I got there, and I had to get checked in. Easy, right?
The guy who checked me in was nice and funny, and he suggested I get my bloodwork done and checked for thyroid issues because I said that I was depressed and over-eating, and he said that most people who are depressed don’t eat.
We chatted a bit, and I don’t remember how it came up, but I had to get in a smart ass comment (of course), and I wound up telling him that I might be crazy, but at least I wasn’t a Trump supporter. And he replied, “Well, we can’t commit people for that. Yet.”
While he walked me back to the ward, we joked around, and he told me that his mother was a Trump supporter. I told him my father was, and we empathized with each other about how some of the people who should seek help don’t.
And then I was locked up.
It was that simple.
I lost everything I had with me.
They took my computer. They took my phone. They took all my pens and pencils and notebooks. They took my clothes, leaving me in a set of blue paper scrubs.
All of the stuff I had with me to keep what remained of my sanity was locked up, and I signed off that I would get it back. Eventually.
In the meantime, they showed me to the room that I’d be sharing with another patient. The room wasn’t too bad – two beds, two bookcases, two small tables, two “trash cans.” (The trash cans weren’t. They were paper bags. Everything was a paper bag. They were apparently massive afraid of what would happen if we had access to plastic trash bins.) There was a window, but it was mostly covered with film, and it was tall and thin. I couldn’t really see out of it. The bathroom was attached, and it was okay, but the only issues were that the door didn’t have a lock – or a top or bottom – and the shower curtain was held on with Velcro straps. I’m sure the idea of Velcro straps sounded good; it would be safer. But it was also a massive pain in the ass because they would come undone, and they were so high up that it was impossible to re-do them yourself, leading to an open shower in a somewhat open room in a somewhat cold place. Ugh.
I didn’t get to find that out about the shower yet, though. I didn’t have anything with me, remember? I asked at the front for shower stuff, and I went back to my room and laid down for a while. I don’t remember if I ate dinner or what it was. I wasn’t that hungry, and I really just wanted to sleep and try to get used to hanging out in this crazy place.
My paper scrubs were starting to bug me by then. They were too big, and the pathetic drawstring on them had gotten too tight in a knot and wouldn’t open or close anymore. Because of that, I was stuck with them being a bit too loose, and they wanted to fall down. Plus the pants were way too long, and so I basically anywhere I had to walk meant hiking up and then holding up my pants. Fun!
At that point, I still hadn’t met my roommate. That came next. And it was possibly the most interesting part of being there.
My house is full of chocolate and Starbucks gift cards – and I’m okay with that – Part I
I want to write this blog, but I also don’t want to write it.
I want to write it because I want it out there in the world for other people to stumble across when they do a search on their phones at 1:30 in the morning, looking to see what happens when you decided to go to the ER for suicidal thoughts.
I don’t want to write it because I did go to the ER at 1:30 in the morning for suicidal thoughts.
I did want to write it because I didn’t know anything about going to a psych ward for help.
I didn’t want to write it because after going to the ER, I agreed to check myself in for hospitalization at a psych ward.
I’m going to keep going with these blogs over the next few weeks while I document what it was like for me in the psych ward (for those who have a need to know), and what it was like getting out.
To begin with, I shared with my husband, around 12:30 on a Monday night/Tuesday morning that I had a pretty damn good plan for committing suicide, and if he and my son weren’t home, I’d probably be using it right about then. It had been a bad day for me, and while I can look back now and wonder at why it was *that* bad, at the time, it felt that bad. I had been crying on and off all day, and I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown. I just couldn’t figure out how to fix my issues and problems, and I couldn’t deal with having them.
And I want to say, regardless of your personal feelings, you have to believe me when I say that suicide is not selfish. I hate when people say that. I’m not saying that the people left behind aren’t broken and miserable, but what I’m saying is that the person who is in that mode is not capable of understanding that. The person who is considering suicide is doing so because they think it is the best for all; they aren’t making a decision purely for themselves.
To go beyond that, now I am feeling better, and I understand why it’s bad and I know how it would make other people feel. But at that time, and in that place in my head, none of that existed. So don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying that suicide is good or an alternative, but I’m saying that you have to have been there to truly understand how a suicidal person feels.
That all said, after doing some basic Internet research (bad idea, but, hey), I decided to go ahead and agree to go to the ER.
Our local emergency room has gone all high tech now. To sign in, you have to go to a console and type your information in. It found me since I’d been there before, but I can’t imagine having to use that in the case of a bad emergency.
“Help, I’m bleeding!”
“Well, you need to type in your name on that screen.”
“But I’ve lost my hand!”
“Not my problem, buddy.”
Okay, so that’s not true. My friend actually brought her daughter there, and since the daughter was clearly in distress, they brought her to the back and did everything there.
But it’s still a bit weird.
Anyway, so I spent the night there…I will still argue that my problem was that I had too good a plan. If it hadn’t been so good, they would have let me go home.
Well, maybe not.
But I did have a good plan. And, no, I’m not sharing it here because I’m not in the mood to encourage anyone else’s suicide. The point of this blog post (and this blog in general) is to improve my own and others’ mental health, and encouraging suicide is kind of the opposite of that.
I wound up talking to a bunch of people, but the night is a bit of a blur in retrospect. I did write down some notes to myself, though, because I’m always writing. My basic impressions and thoughts were that I probably made the right choice by going to the ER, but I did somewhat regret going because once I was there, I felt like I had lost control. I couldn’t just get up and leave. They could have chosen to commit me.
Luckily, when I did finally get to talk to a counselor through a super strange hook-up (they called her through a computer, and I got to talk to a head on a computer screen. For those who like community, think about the episode when they had prisoners attending through the iPads that were on wheels…like that! But super weird…). Anyway, I got to talk to the counselor, and she convinced me that it would be in my best interests to commit myself because, well, she had a feeling that the doctor was going to agree with her assessment, which was that I should go inpatient to a psych ward.
It felt very, very strange to be told that. To realize that, yes, I was definitely not right. That, yes, the medication I took had a very good reason behind it. That, yes, I really did have problems that needed to be dealt with, and the best place to deal with them might be in a hospital setting.
I didn’t really want to go – I wanted to try to convince them to let me do outpatient or partial hospitalization – but the woman on the screen really pushed it. She even told me the name of a hospital.
Once I talked to her, she talked to my husband, and then he came back and talked to me.
I agreed to go inpatient.
We sat in the ER and looked up the hospital. It seemed like it would be…not really nice, but not horrible. I didn’t know what it would be like. I had thoughts of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and that episode of Psych that made fun of Girl Interrupted that had Molly Ringwald as a guest star. In other words, I figured it would be a cross between a health spa and a prison.
But I agreed to go.
I would go.
Yes, that was terrifying. I had agreed to give up my personal freedom. It was like joining the army. But, you know, for not as long (I hoped).
I was told it might take hours and even up to a day to get transferred. My husband went home to get a few hours of sleep and brought me back my computer and some things to keep me busy. He brought food. All was going good. It was going to be a long wait.
He finally left in the afternoon to go home to meet our son getting off the bus.
And about five minutes after he left, the ambulance showed up to transfer me.
I had to text him that I was going, pack up my stuff (which was confiscated by the psych ward because I wasn’t allowed to have any of it while I was there), and get strapped onto the gurney and taken away.
I didn’t let them take me without my Starbucks, though.
I had been on upped medications due to thoughts of suicide and high anxiety. It had been three days of taking the new dosages, and they tended to make me sleepy. (For example, when we went to my son’s Special Olympics bowling tournament, I actually went into the bowling alley’s bar, laid down on the couch, and took a twenty minute nap…the couch was surprisingly comfy.)
My husband was stuck in a meeting in the city.
We had made reservations for this awesome event called “Caring Santa” for my autistic son back on November 2. It was the only way to guarantee we could get in to see him.
And now it was December 6.
The “Caring Santa” was at a mall. A mall about an hour’s drive away. I hadn’t driven that far since I’d been on the higher level of meds in case I got tired.
There was no way I wasn’t going to try to take him.
My neighbor’s daughter (who can drive, even if she’s not wildly fond of highway driving) agreed to come with because, well, it was a mall! And she said she would help and even drive, if absolutely necessary.
So off we went.
We got to the mall a little early, and rather than let my son potentially melt down too much over the wait, and because he had totally fallen asleep in the backseat, I drove in circles around the mall for about 10 minutes, then decided it was close enough.
Plenty of spots in the parking lot since the mall wasn’t even open yet – that’s one of the perks of “Caring Santa.” It happens before the mall is open, and it’s by appointment only. You don’t have to wait in a line, and the mall is much quieter than it would be during normal hours. (If you have a child with special needs, I highly recommend you check and see if there is one in your area you can sign up for next year!)
I noted the “neighborhood” we parked in. The mall is so big that it has neighborhoods. You have to know where you went in to figure out where to go out. It’s massive. It’s huge. It’s awe-inspiring. And it’s very, very easy to get lost and die of dysentery.
The beginning of the trip went great. My son got to see Santa, even if he did freeze up like Ralphie in ‘A Christmas Story’ and nod and agree that he wanted video games (which he never plays). But he loved seeing Santa. Then my neighbor’s daughter grabbed breakfast from the food court while I took my son on the merry go round.
So far, so good.
We went shopping. I bought a few small gifts for people, stocking-stuffer level items, and we looked at a lot of things we couldn’t afford but were pretty.
Then we decided to leave.
And that’s when we started on the Oregon Trail.
I swore we came in at neighborhood six. My teenage companion demanded that was wrong – we did *not* come in there. She didn’t remember it as being where we entered. And I began questioning myself. Maybe I was just so used to coming in through six that I was imaging it.
All I remembered was that we had come in, turned right, saw a huge sign pointing to Santa, and walked to Santa in a few minutes.
Now I couldn’t find that sign at all.
Had they taken it down? Moved it? Perhaps it had caught fire and burned to a crisp while we were in another part of the mall? (It could happen!)
We began walking. We passed neighborhood eight. Then one. Then two. Then three. All of it looked familiar because we had gone past it before when we walked the mall.
The teen insisted that we had come in near Hot Topic because that was the first store she’d gone into. I pointed out that was only because it had been one of the first stores to open, and she’d gone into it while we were waiting for Santa to be ready.
I kept thinking things were familiar, but then we’d get to the exit, and it would look wrong. We must have passed neighborhood six three times. Every time I thought we were finding our exit, we’d come up on Santa again. Since Santa was not at our entrance, we were wrong.
I began freaking out.
We were trapped in the mall.
We’d never get out.
We would die there.
Dysentery would set in.
We’d be found huddled in the food court, or maybe in one of those short little hallways that led to the entrances and exits used by mall workers.
We’d be desiccated corpses.
The mall would be the death of us.
But we pushed on, bravely, I thought.
Apparently, though, my cracks were showing.
My anxiety had gone sky-high, and I was literally freaking out, convinced that we would never find the right exit. We would never find the car. We’d have to go to the police. They would think I was hopped up on drugs, and next thing I’d know, I’d be under arrest for something, and my son and the teenager would be waiting on someone to pick them up while I got processed at some station where I had to pee in public and have someone do a cavity search on me.
I turned to the teen. She had been texting.
“Who are you talking to?”
“You’re scaring me.”
I was scaring her.
“I’m not scaring you,” I told her. “I’m just getting a little anxious is all.”
She raised an eyebrow at me and kept her hand in her phone.
“Look, I told you I was anxious, right? Well, I’m just a little more anxious now because I can’t find our way out, and we’re going to die in the mall.”
Okay, maybe I was scaring her.
“Why don’t we just try every exit?” she suggested.
Bad idea. I knew it was a bad idea. My son was not good with changes in schedule. If we started going out every door, he was going to be very unhappy when we didn’t go to the car and leave. He was tired from all the walking. I was tired from all the walking. And my hip – which flared up with what I’m hoping is not arthritis – hurt like crazy, adding to my anxiety.
But I didn’t know what else to do.
“Sure,” I said.
What else could go wrong?
We went out at neighborhood five. I pressed the panic button on the car, even though the exit didn’t look at all familiar.
“Let’s go back in,” I said.
The teenager’s shoulders’ slumped. “Oh, I thought this was it.”
My son had a minor meltdown. He thought we were leaving, but suddenly we were back in the mall.
“That’s it,” I said. “I swear it’s neighborhood six, so I don’t care what you think, we are bloody well going out at it.”
And we walked to neighborhood six.
I turned in a circle at neighborhood six. There it was, the sign for Santa.
We went down the little hallway, and – shazaam! – the car was out there waiting for us!
I wound up with a very tired son, a very sore hip, and a crying teenager who thought she had hindered more than helped.
On the plus side, we survived the Oregon Trail, and we had cute Santa pictures to show for our travels. On the negative side, I have learned that anxiety at a mall really, really sucks when you don’t know where you’re going.