Last year I spent a week in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital after my failed suicide attempt. It was not a high point of my life. I did not want to be there and I was still very mad at myself for failing to kill myself. The first two days were very rough. I was antagonistic and uncooperative towards my assigned doctor, I avoided group therapy, and I refused my medications. I know the hospital staff is very familiar with how I was acting. I am not the first person to be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric ward. Here in Florida, when you are involuntarily admitted, it is required by law to be observed for a minimum of seventy-two hours. I figured I’d do my 72 and get out. It was a very angering and shocking feeling to find out that in addition to the seventy-two hours, the doctor’s approval was also necessary.
I fought the system. And by fought the system, I mean that I complained to anyone that would listen, but of course to no avail. I did find out, however, that I could have a “court” hearing and present my case. If I made a good enough case, they would have to let me go. The proceedings were held right there at the hospital, in the psychiatric ward. My doctor was recommending I stay there for two weeks. I was going to fight that with everything in my power. I had no intention of staying in the hospital for two weeks.
By the time my hearing was scheduled I had complied with the doctor’s suggestion of taking the prescribed medications and I was participating in group therapy. I was sleeping better, eating my meals, and interacting with other patients. Surely, I thought, they’d have to let me go because of the progress I was making, or pretended to be making, or fooled myself into thinking I was making. I met with my public defender and he informed me that the judge (magistrate) usually sides with the doctor, but whatever I wanted to do, he would plead my case. He made it clear that he worked for the patient and his job to make sure my rights were not violated and that my voice was fairly heard.
The ‘trial’ began. The doctor went first after the swearing in process and the explaining of the proceedings. She pointed out my anger, my desire to die, my disappointment that I failed at killing myself, her opinion that I should not be released because I posed a threat to myself and others, and that I should stay in the hospital for two more weeks. She said a lot of things for which I had no defense. My defender asked for the tape recorder to be stopped for a moment to confer and ask me if I still wanted to proceed with my request to be released immediately. If that got denied, the magistrate would most likely take the doctor’s suggestion of keeping me locked up for two weeks. I asked my defender if I could counter with offering to stay for a week and have another hearing at that time. He suggested it to the judge. The judge asked the doctor if that was fine with her. The doctor said yes.
I was to be stuck there for a week but I felt like I achieved a victory at the hearing. I guess we can call it a plea bargain. But in any event, I did feel like I won something. At the time I still wasn’t very happy about being alive, but every little victory helped, even an artificial victory. Being put in the hospital was one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was the beginning of getting better. It is what I needed at that time. It’s been a rough road so far and there’s a million miles left to go, but I think I’m on the right track. And I’m still alive, that’s pretty good, too.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far. I will never be all the way “better”. In other words, I’ll never be the person I used to be, I have to learn how to be who I am now. The PTSD, the depression, the bad sleep and whacky dreams will likely be with me the rest of my life. The anger issues, the paranoia, the hyper vigilance is all going to be there for a long time. It’s who I am now and I have to accept it and learn live with it. It’s not always easy, but I can learn to live with those things, manage them, and overcome some of the symptoms and find my new normal.
As bad as that week in my life was, the hospital stay wasn’t a complete disaster in that I did get some great stories to tell and met some interesting people. Crazy people, but very interesting. I’ll have to tell some of those stories in a later blog post about daily life in the hospital and the people I met, both patients and staff. Of course, I won’t use real names, but some of the stories are too funny not to tell. And those stories will be much more lighthearted than some of the more recent ones. So, stay tuned. You never know what’s coming next in the Story of My Life.
Thanks for reading. Good day, God bless.