I wrote this piece last September. It is the first in three blog posts about the dark hours confined in a psychiatric unit where I lost touch with reality. I’m a fairly put together person. I work. I pay bills. I own a home. Despite undiagnosed PTSD related struggles with mental health previously I never thought I would fall so deep so fast. I’ve felt low. This time I was completely lost in my head…
On my discharge paper it reads, “Client kept repeating, ‘I don’t know’ when asked if she knew why she was here.” Three months later I still don’t know for sure. Friends and family members tell me some of my actions and words leading up to the shadowy admission night at a near-by psychiatric hospital. I recall images in bits and pieces. I can’t merge these pieces into one image because they are blurry, almost unreal. I remember my dirty hospital socks rubbing along the dirty floor. I could feel bits of dirt and grim gathering between the plastic ridges of the socks and the grimy gray carpet.
I shuffled from the carpet to the cold linoleum of the dining room. An aide walked beside me as if I were dangerous, a criminal. Doors click and lock behind us, in front of us. We walk in a line. Later, I will have little memory of the people surrounding me. Like an animal, my eyes are trained on the ground and area directly in front of me. My peripheral vision, typically excellent, is almost non-existence.
The more I learn about PTSD the more I understand that when a person relieves a trauma, or gets triggered, they go into a fight or flight mood. Our adrenaline spikes as we scan around us for danger. The only senses which work are what we need for our immediate survival. I see women in plastic hair coverings across a counter in the kitchen. It is reminiscent of the lunch line when I was a child. I scan their faces. Take the food. Stare at them with big eyes. My mother was the lunch lady. I feel weak as I fill my cup with Cherry Soda. I’ve been trying to not drink bad things for myself. It doesn’t matter now. The kid in me wants the Cherry Coke.
Papers with checks. I’m sure it is early morning. They are releasing the criminals. I’m a bad girl. I fear that they will make me go to jail too.
Instinct says to sit at the staff table. I scan their faces. Discomfort. They ask me questions.
“What day is it now BDL?” I silently hate this question. Every day the same question. I have to think really hard. My brain feels squishy and heavy. I’m so dosed with Haldol that the room spins and rotates, goes in and out of focus like an old-fashion dial TV. I say Monday June first in a weak child-like voice. My face is stiff, not expressive and smiling like it normally would be. The muscles in my face seem not to work. “Patient has a blank effect,” was noted in the middle of the discharge paper.
“No, BDL,” Kurt softly says, shaking his head. He seems safe. Does he know how lost inside this head of mine I am? I shuffle back down the hall in a line and stand near him when the criminals are released into the next room. I stand in the window of the door separating the detox/addiction unit with the psychiatric unit, checking.
People, I will learn later or perhaps should I say understand later, would appear as people I’ve encountered or who I deal with in my daily life when in fact they were strangers. Delusion rooted in truth. I blankly stare at them. Hollow expressions. A glare. One person poking another. Pointing at the psychotic woman in the dirty plastic window. They told me to pull my pants down –like a child-so they could shoot me in the butt with Haldol. It was humiliating.
Mostly, I remember calling my mother, talking in a monotone, slightly childish tone. She would ask me questions. I would obediently answer her questions. Always when I asked where dad was it was the same response.
“He is out mowing the grass.” I felt crazy within the confined unit, but I began to question why mom continued to say dad was mowing the law. In a cloud of trauma, Haldol, and psychosis, I remembered this truth. I remember my father on the unit. I held his hand as if I were a child and regarded my mother with unease.
I’m ten and he will go to work soon. I’ll be left with her.