I almost lost my best friend last weekend.
She tried to die by suicide. I received her text that she was in the hospital while I was tutoring.
“Call me ASAP.”
“I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me.”
My response: “I know. Still working with a student.”
She: “Ok please get done soon! I need you.”
I: “What hospital?”
She: “I’m at ******. I had a suicide attempt. The nurses know me and hate me here, so they’re doing small mind tortured. Waking me every five minutes–saying duragatory things. They told my parents I’m hallucinating–I’m not, please come stay with me–I don’t feel safe.”
“Can you stay the night?”
I: “Yes, I can.”
She: “With me, please? ***** (her husband) won’t.”
I: “Yes, of course.”
She: “OMG- get here now!! Room **.”
Meanwhile, I am trying to do my online tutoring job. I can see the look of horror on my face on camera while the texts are displaying on my phone. I tell my student I have to talk to his dad. I inform him that I have to leave immediately due to an emergency. I explain while his son is out of earshot. He gives his sincere emotional support. I give a quick run-down of what his son needs to complete for the assignment, then I start packing. I text my husband to let him know that I have to help my friend, then I tell one of my twins that I’m leaving for the hospital.
My brain is racing at the speed of light. I am trying to cover all the bases: what would she need from home that she did not get since she was directly transported to ER? I text her to ask if she needs anything from home before I leave. She would like headphones. I grab my earbuds, but first I have my son help me find an extra set because I would like my own set. After trying a few sets (why is it that teenagers blow through so many earbuds?), I decide to bring my own to share. She might be too tired to listen to music.
I text her to let her know I’m finally on my way. I arrive and remind myself of several things: put on your own oxygen mask first, stay strong, and be her advocate.
She is in the ICU. She has a central port PICC line as well as two IV lines because the medical staff had a hard time getting an IV started. She’s bruised all over. She overdosed on a plethora of medications at her parents’ house while she was housesitting there, including painkillers and her father’s injectable insulin. Her kidneys shut down and the medical staff had to pump her stomach. The medical team pull her labs every two hours to make sure that her levels are improving. Thankfully, the PICC line is a saving grace.
My friend makes comments about the nursing staff. She says that they make comments about her, saying that she OD’d to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her daddy, but when she confronts the nurses about it, they say that my friend is hallucinating. The hospital has a one on one person for suicide watch. This person has to document every little thing that the patient does while under their care. On Saturday night, the one on one person documented all of the unprofessional conduct. While I was there, she said that the nurses were commenting about her again, as well as me. I went up to the nurse and asked her about it. She denied it and said that my friend was “hallucinating and making things up”. I said, “You may say that, but when you talk about patients, others can hear it and that is breaking patient privacy. Everyone else can hear it, and that is not acceptable. It is not professional. You need to stop it.”
The nurse called her supervisor and she came down to talk with all of us. My friend finally voices how she feels. The nurses, of course, covered their butts and say that my friend had been hallucinating from her OD. I interject and say, “Even though that did happen, it is not professional for you to discount how she feels. Nor is it professional of you to talk about her while other people can hear. She does have recipient rights.” The minute I mentioned the term “recipient rights”, the two immediately changed their tune and started apologizing. My friend apologized as well for things (even though in my opinion, she didn’t have to, but it is part of healing the relationship). I asked if my friend could be moved to step down critical care since her levels were improving, and the nurses agreed. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room with a more caring team. Ironically, the bitchy nurse stays after her shift end to help us move.
We get settled in, and my friend finally has the best sleep she has had. Her levels improve so much, her kidneys are normally functioning, and the medical team clears her. The next day, she gets her PICC line removed. My friend keeps telling me to go home, that she is OK. All of a sudden, we learn that Community Mental Health (CMH) is on their way to start the intake process to find her a facility. Things start accelerating at an astronomical rate, and my friend has no idea how to process this. I stay to help her process things and to be her advocate. Her parents come to the meeting, as well as her husband. I ask the CMH representative if it is OK if I stay during the meeting to be her advocate and he said if it was OK with her it was OK with him.
Here is where I see mental health stigma magnified. Thankfully, the CMH person is neutral, asks all the appropriate questions, and takes my friend’s requests seriously. I was floored when my friend’s stepmom was blaming my friend for what happened. She said, “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”
I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I said, “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.”
The stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.”
I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But, you need to understand that constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”
When her parents left, my friend said, “That is the first time that anyone stood up to my stepmom.”
I pack up to go home because my friend’s husband is there. I feel that she is stable enough now. Her husband made the comment, “Well, I would have come earlier, but I had a half talk of gas and no money.”
I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night with *****.”
He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?”
I said, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love ******.”
I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.
Once I got to my car, I video chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It would be akin to being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.
I received a text from my friend’s husband. It read: “Thanks for being such a good friend to ******. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible ok” I responded, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I appreciate that. We all need to rally around ***** and help her to recovery and wellness.”
This is my prayer. I pray that we work on our recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and remember to put on our oxygen masks first.
I’ve decided to have an abortion. It was a very difficult decision, but I know it is right for my partner and me and he is fully supportive. We have a 6-month old, we are completely financially strapped, and having a baby was so out of the question for us right now that I actually had an appointment to get an IUD inserted 6 days after I peed on the stick.
The decision is made, the procedure is rather straightforward, and I’m not worried at all… until the moment I have to leave the clinic after my abortion.
I’m most afraid of how I will cope emotionally after the all is said and done. I’m sure I’m doing the right thing for our situation, and us but I don’t handle emotional stress well.
My first pregnancy was plagued with severe antenatal depression and I worry how that will play in.
For all of you going through infertility treatments and struggling with all the emotions that go along with that, I’m so very sorry and I don’t mean to be insensitive.
Have any of you been in this situation?
How do you handle the inevitable emotional fallout after an abortion?
Did you regret it?
Because, oh my goodness, I’m so scared I’m going to regret it. Choosing abortion is, in part, choosing the path that will be the least psychologically damaging for me in the long run. But I’m still so scared.
One of the weirder phobias I have–aside of my fear of tomatoes touching my food–is that I’m terrified of fish. I don’t mean that if I see an aquarium, I’m going to break out into a cold sweat and start crying, no, even I’m not THAT insane.
But since I can remember, my parents have been taking us to tropical places–I know, poor baby, right?–and along with tropical places = snorkeling.
When I was 4 or 5, my parents bravely took us to Mexico and in a stunning fit of idiocy on their part, they left my brother and I to swim alone while they leisurely relaxed in a cliff-type thing above us. Out of sight, out of mind, I think, was the idea. Having three kids of my own, I understand the urge. But I’m still unsure what the fuck they were thinking to leave a 14 year old in charge of a 4 year old in the ocean.
Because my brother promptly ditched me to go and strut his lack of muscles in front of a couple of bikini clad babes.
I could swim, though, so I just waded into the water.
What happened next has been replayed over and over in my mind for the next 24 years.
The fish, accustomed to friendly humans who might feed them delicious treaties, swarmed me. Since I wasn’t underwater myself, I couldn’t see their beautiful swirling colorful fins. Instead, I saw a bunch of black THINGS just swarm me.
I screamed so loudly that pretty much everyone at the beach–including my lazy parents– came running. Maybe they thought I’d been half eaten by a Jaws-like shark, or perhaps I caught sight of a fat hairy dude in a Speedo. Who knows.
All that I do know is that for years after this, I had to force myself to go into the ocean, shaking and terrified, every time we went on vacation. The fear would subside the moment I was under the crystal blue water, but up until that point, I’d be silently shaking in my swimsuit.
Our last family vacation happened in 2000. My brother–recovering from a nasty divorce and full-on taking every bad feeling out on me–was 30, I was 20. My parents made the grave error of leaving us alone to share a room where we fought like it was 1999.
This is likely WHY this was our last vacation as a family.
One of the days that we were there in Cozumel, we went to some renowned beach to get some snorkeling done and generally laze about the beach. By this age, I can assure you, I wasn’t upset that my parents didn’t watch me swim. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to get the fuck away from everyone else and have some relative solitude in the waves.
I’m a decent swimmer, so once I got past the rocks and coral at the mouth of the beach–where, of course, in my normal good gracefulness, I fell and cut the shit out of my foot–I got pretty far away from the lip of the beach where I could get in and out of the water. This beach wasn’t really full of sand, you see. It was more the coral and other stuff that will cut a bitch (like me) up.
But I relished the soft whooshing of the ocean in my ears as I snorkeled about, following a family of yellow and blue fish around and trying to forget the hysterics of the morning. My brother had called me a worthless piece of shit for the 437th time that hour and I crumpled into a pile of tears outside of our villa. The 5,000 feral cats who’d been following me about swarmed me as I cried. It was strangely comforting.
It was wonderful to feel so free. There’s something so comforting about the soft lull of the waves, the ability to be a voyeur into another world, and after my initial fear, I am always reluctant to get out of the water.
Out of nowhere, as I was admiring a particularly delightful looking puffer fish, my body caught fire. I was electrified, my body searing in pain and I began to hyperventilate.
I popped my head above water to see if I’d run into some electrified fence (I was in pain and terrified. I know how dumb that sounds now), nothing. I forced my face down under the water to see what I’d obviously run into. If it were a school of jelly fish, then I’d do well to make sure to swim AWAY from it rather than into the swarm. Still, I could see nothing.
I swam choppily back toward shore, hyperventilating and panicking, now noticing just how fucking far away I was from the beach. I looked down at my arms and legs and saw with horror that I was now a mess of criss-crossed red welts, from my legs to my arms and my chest.
Finally, after what had to be at least two hours (read: 3 minutes), I grabbed hold of a ladder and hoisted myself shakily up to the beach. I sat at the edge of the cliff-type, surveying the damage and trying to catch my breath, crying heavily. I was breathing so shallowly that I was starting to white out, and using the last bit of my common senseI crawled back away from the edge, lest I fall to my watery death below. This time, I really could have used a chaperone.
I passed out for I don’t know how long, and when I woke up, the welts had turned to bleeding blisters and I had uncontrollable goose bumps without being cold and a good case of the shakes. I was now officially fucked up.
Eventually, my mother found me and helped me back to a towel and gave me a medicinal Pina Colada. The rest of the vacation–including the following day which was a snorkeling boat cruise sort of thing–was uneventful by comparison. If that horse bucks you and all that good boo-yang, right?
What’s attacked YOU, Internet whom I love beyond compare?
Post originally published on Mommy Wants Vodka
Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?
Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
It’s time to Ask The Band!
Hello, The Band. I’m afraid to share my story, so this is really hard for me.
When I was nine, I was sexually abused by my step-dad – the only father I’d ever known. I was born to a fourteen-year old mother who really didn’t want me. She was married at sixteen and had my brother, and at the age of twenty-one.
The sexual abuse happened every other day beginning when I was nine. I was so scared; I was afraid to tell anybody.
He manipulated me; convinced me that if I told anybody of the abuse, my brother and sister wouldn’t have a dad. He told me that my mom wouldn’t be able to make it without him – it would be my fault if they divorced. I prayed and prayed that that that abuse would stop.
I hid from him. I’d hide in my closet, under my bed, in the cubby holes in the walls. Wherever I could when I heard him coming up the stairs. Sometimes it would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t.
He’d normally find me and make me “perform” for him. I’d cry, begged him to stop. I’d beg him to just stop and told him that I didn’t like it. I told him that it was wrong of him to touch me in private areas, but he didn’t care. The abuse continued for a year. I kept trying to tell my mom and grandma by dropping hints and complaining of stomach aches. He kept my mom busy working and taking care of my dying great-grandmother.
She figured he was cheating on her; he always did. He was a drunk, a womanizer, but my mother was determined to make the marriage work. She took me to the doctor who asked if someone was touching me in private areas. I was so shocked that I stumbled across my words and couldn’t give him a straight answer. Right then and there my mom knew. When we left the doctors office and got to the car, she looked at me and asked me if someone was touching me in private areas. She was so upset that I couldn’t lie to her. I told her yes and broke down crying.
I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was so scared of how she would react. She asked me who had been touching me and I told her “dad.” She was furious, but not at me. My mom immediately took me to my aunt’s house and made me tell her what my dad was doing to me. My aunt was married to my step-dad’s brother. I told my aunt and then my mom took me to the police station to talk to a detective and fill out a report.
The next thing I knew, my dad was being arrested.
I’ve learned a lot over the years. I learned that pedophiles usually target children who don’t have a close relationship with their parents. If the pedophile is a parent, he or she will target the child that isn’t closest to the other parent. I’d always thought my mom favored my brother and sister. She was just too busy for the three of us. I was so relieved when my dad went to prison. The abuse finally stopped. I didn’t have to worry about him touching me ever again. My mom went through a long depression and refused leave her room.
I needed her more than ever but she locked herself away in her room – day and night. I didn’t know how to cope with the abuse. My abuser ended up serving eight years in prison. He got out shortly before I turned 18.
My mom began dating another abuser. He was very verbally abusive. My mother was also VERY verbally abusive – a skill she taught me. She told me that I needed to “toughen up.” My self-esteem was in the toilet. In my teens, I didn’t take any crap from anyone… except from my mother. All I ever wanted was her support, her love, her attention, and quality time. I needed her to proud of me. I needed her approval for EVERYTHING.
Thankfully, I had my grandmother who loved me unconditionally. My grandmother had been raped when she was younger. It was a double rape – not only did he rape my grandmother, but he raped my mother too. My grandmother was often the target of my mother’s verbal abuse.
In my teenage years, I started drinking and smoking marijuana. I started hanging out with boys and “giving them what they wanted.” I thought I was in love with them and that “love” would feel the void in my heart.
I was very wrong. Finally I was pretty, I was wanted, I was loved. I eventually dropped out of school and worked. My mom would take whatever extra money I had for herself, or make me spend it on her one way or the other. I paid my truck payment, insurance. I had to buy all my own clothes, and everything else I needed or wanted.
My mother was also financially abusive. She never wanted to buy me anything. If I needed something for school, I usually didn’t get it. I was told if that if I wanted something, I had to work and earn it. I began my first job at thirteen when I lied about my age. Soon, I got another job – this time I took total responsibility for myself. Who else would provide for me? She gave me a roof over my head, $100 a year in clothing, and one pair of shoes every year.
When I was working, I was happy that I could finally buy myself some of the things I needed and wanted. It felt nice. I had a truck payment, insurance, and money for my necessities.
I could buy food. There was hardly ever food in our house growing up. I usually was able to eat a meal at work for free and a bowl of cereal in the morning. I worked as many hours – picking up extra shifts – because I was only making minimum wage. I eventually took on another job and juggled the two.
Working nearly three shifts a day had become too much for me. I partied A LOT. I continued to drink, and occasionally smoked some marijuana. I’d have sex with my boyfriends – I felt used by other guys who only wanted sex. I experimented with women. Women were more comfortable sexually, they were more complex emotionally.
I started dating guys again – I found a really good guy. We got our own place, found really good jobs. Things were starting to look up. Things didn’t work out with us, but I had hope for a better future. I moved back to my mother’s house and remained focused upon getting my own place. That’s when I met my now-husband of twelve years.
He took me out of my mother’s house and brought me to the other side of the state to live in the country. He took me to church with him. I hadn’t believed in God and I didn’t know what to expect. We continued dating and eventually I saw a brighter future for me. I gave myself back to God.
My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive – but it was better than going back to my mother’s house. After a while, we moved out of his family’s house and got our own place. He proposed to me. A couple months later I found out I was pregnant. There were generally happy times for us. We’d still have fights in which he would belittle me and call me names; I just told myself that the first five years were the hardest and we would get through it.
After my son was born, things changed. He found another woman he was interested in and He became really mean to me. He would tell me that my son would be better off without me and better with him. He wanted me to move out so he could get a roommate. I was so depressed that I contemplated suicide. If I had to live without my son, I decided I wouldn’t live at all. I didn’t succeed at killing myself. At the last moment, I decided that I wouldn’t leave my son without me. I took my son and moved into my aunt’s.
I had no job, no money, nothing. He controlled all the money, he did then and he does now. He would take all of my paycheck and leave me without a dime. He still does.
We almost divorced, but instead got Christian counseling. Things became MUCH better around home. We both made life-long commitments to each other and decided we would become better people.
I’d been known to be verbally abusive during arguments in which I felt attacked. I quit – I knew it was wrong. While my husband had never physically attacked me, he remained verbally abusive. We hardly ever fight and get along pretty well, but when he lashes out the words, they cut me so deep that he might as well just swing on me. It hurts deeply.
He has my family and friends convinced that he is Mr. Perfect. They don’t see the control, the financial abuse, and the occasional verbal abuse.
I’m convinced that I can’t make it without him as I’m disabled without disability. I’m currently trying to get disability and should have an answer sometime this year. I should be seeing a judge sometime next month.
While disability isn’t that much money, it’s certainly much more than I have. I promised to myself that I will NOT allow him to take my money this time.
The financial abuse has to end.
In a lot of ways I feel I married someone similar to my mother – just not as bad. He is a great father to our two children. He spends the money on our bills, our bills are always paid, the children always get whatever they need and a lot of what they want.
I tell myself “at least the children are getting what they need and want” and “at least I have a roof over my head,” “we always have food and our bills are always paid.” I feel greedy, selfish that I am so unhappy.
I’m stuck at home under lock and key all the time. We have two vehicles and he’ll leave me one of the vehicles, but the gas tank light is always on, and the gas gauge is always well below empty. My wallet is always empty. If he gives me $5, he will make me spend it. He is very quick to take it from me.
Over the years I have reached out to the church for marital help. My husband usually convinces them that he is Mr. Perfect and I am the bad guy, so they come down hard on me. My family tells me I should stay with him as they are convinced that he’s so wonderful.
I wonder is it just me?
Is there something wrong with me?
Am I in an abusive relationship?
I am turning to Band Back Together. I need help, badly. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m on an antidepressant. I honestly do not know where else to turn. I wish I had my own place so I could leave with my children and find myself.
I know I have to step outside my current situation and because something is just not right.
When I began counseling for childhood physical and sexual abuse, I was broken.
A broken heart, a broken spirit. I had carried the guilt and shame of my childhood abuse for so long that it was like an old winter coat. So heavy to carry around each day. So hot that some days it was stifling. And yet it had the comfort of the known.
It was scary to throw off that old heavy coat of guilt and shame and face what else was under there.
I thought we would begin slowly. I thought I would share just a bit at a time. My counselor agreed to go at the pace I set. But once I began talking, I kept right on talking. I told her EVERYTHING I could think of. If I thought of something in between sessions, I wrote them down so I could tell her next time. It seems that once I felt a crack in the dam that I’d built to protect myself, the floodwaters couldn’t run fast enough.
I let it ALL out.
It was scary. I shook like a leaf in a hurricane the first session and sometimes after that. But the overwhelming feeling was relief. My need to let it all out was greater than my fear of what my counselor would think of me (of course, that was my insecurities and had nothing to do with my counselor). It was such a RELIEF to release all the secrets I had been carrying.
Once the rush of information was over, we started working on issue after issue.
At some point in counseling, my shame and guilt turned into anger.
ANGER that the abuse occurred. ANGER at those adults who knew and did nothing to protect the little freckled girl with long braids that I had been. ANGER that I carried the guilt and shame of the abuse for so long. ANGER that my stepfather never was held accountable for his actions. ANGER at the days and nights of fear and pain and abuse I endured as a child unable to protect herself. ANGER at the bruises, welts and blisters I had to hide outside of our house. ANGER. ANGER. ANGER.
My counselor encouraged me to feel the anger, but I was terrified of the anger. I remember one conversation where my counselor asked my what about the anger made me so afraid. My reply was “I am afraid that the anger is so huge and so overwhelming that if I tap into it I won’t be able to control it.”
She asked me what I thought losing control of the anger would look like.
I told her I was afraid that the anger would take over and I would just scream and scream and scream until my throat was so raw I wouldn’t be able to scream anymore or that the anger would take over and I would break every single thing in my house. I truly was afraid to let myself feel the level of anger that I knew was raging inside of me.
Then she told me she had a plan, if I was willing. She took me out to her car in the parking lot. She opened the trunk. There in her trunk and in her back seat were huge plastic garbage bags of glass bottles. She had been saving glass bottles for a month or so. Not just hers, she had also asked friends, relatives, and neighbors to save their glass bottles for her.
Her idea was for me to find a place and time where I could be alone (or have a trusted person with me if I chose) and break the bottles. I could scream, cry, or “talk to” the people who I was angry at with each bottle I threw.
Her only “warning” – wear safety glasses.
I won’t lie. It sounded kind of corny to me. But I really trusted her by this point and I was aware that I really needed to deal with this anger before it exploded in some uncontrolled way.
My husband took the kids for a Saturday to go to a park, out to lunch, etc. I went into our basement and set the stage for a safe anger experiment.
I wanted to be able to contain the flying glass so I could avoid anyone being cut later on an overlooked shard. I hung up some plastic sheets so the glass would stay in one area of the basement. I lugged bag after bag of glass bottles to the basement, knowing there was no way I could break all of these bottles at once. I put on long sleeves to reduce the chance of me being hurt by flying glass and donned the ever-so-lovely safety glasses.
I felt stupid. I felt ridiculous setting all of this up. Do “normal” people have to go through all of this just to deal with some anger? But I soldiered on. I wanted to at least be able to say that I tried.
I threw the first bottle. It shattered, but I felt nothing. I threw the second bottle. Again, nothing. I threw the third bottle with some real gusto. Oooh, that felt GOOD! I started throwing the bottles as hard as I could. I eventually started yelling things like “THIS IS FOR NOT PROTECTING ME” or “YOU BASTARD, ROT IN HELL” or “YOU SHOULD CARRY THE GUILT AND SHAME” as I threw the bottles. IT. FELT. AWESOME.
Oh, I was ANGRY. REALLY, REALLY ANGRY.
But I can’t even describe how it felt to have an outlet for that anger.
Bottles were flying fast and furious! There were clear bottles, green bottles, amber bottles and blue bottles (the blue ones had the most spectacular shatter for some reason).
When I had thrown EVERY. SINGLE. BOTTLE. I was breathing hard and exhausted. But I realized I had felt my rage, really felt my RAGE, and the world had not stopped turning. My house was still standing. My family was fine. All was well. Better than well. Not only had I started my anger work in a very satisfying way (I can not describe the satisfaction of yelling out “YOU ARE A SICK FUCK WHO TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A LITTLE GIRL ” and then hearing the shattering of the bottle) but I had also proved to myself that I could handle the anger without losing control.
I know it sounds a little “nuts.” I know it sounds kind of corny. But I am here to tell you – this exercise opened the door for me. It helped me get past my fear of the anger and bring it out in the open so I could work on it.
So thank you SR for being such an awesome therapist that you collected bottles from far and wide for me. Thank you for showing me a way to tap into that anger safely.
I saved a little glass jar of the multi-colored shards of glass. Blue, green, amber, clear. I smile when I walk past it now. Beautiful reminders of my righteous anger and SR’s lesson that helped me release it.
I almost lost my best friend last weekend to suicide. She tried to take her own life.
She texted me while I was working: “Call me ASAP. I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me. No joke.” I informed her that I was still working with a student, which she understood, and I went back to work until she explained why she’d been admitted to the hospital: she’d attempted suicide. I felt the wind knocked out of me. Frantically she texted me to come as soon as possible, as she believed the nurses in the ICU were waking her up to say nasty things to her. These nurses even went as far to tell her family that she’s hallucinating; and my friend didn’t feel safe. She begged me to stay the night as her husband refused.
I could see the look of horror on my face on camera in between her texts. I realized that I needed to be there for her, so I ended the tutoring session then and there. After I explained to my own family why I was leaving, I took off, my heart and brain both racing as I began driving, trying to understand what had happened. Did she need anything from home? I stopped to get headphones for her, thinking she might enjoy some music.
When I get there, I put on my proverbial own oxygen mask so that I can be her advocate as I walk into her ICU room. Immediately I see that she’s got a PICC line, the staff had a hard time inserting an IV and she’s bruised up one side and down the other. I finally get the story from her: she’d overdosed on a number of medications – including painkillers and insulin – while she was housesitting her parents home, resulting in kidney failure. One pumped stomach later, the nurses draw her labs every two hours to make certain that her kidneys are indeed working as they should be.
She complains that the nursing staff is abusive; they’ve make comments about her, saying that she’d overdosed to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her Daddy. When she confronts the nurses about their poor behavior, the nurses deny it, brushing it off as a hallucination. As she’s on suicide watch, the hospital provided her with a sitter, a one-on-one person who has to watch her at all times, documenting every thing that she does, noting all the unprofessional conduct by the medical team before I arrived.
Once I got there, she informed me that the nurses were still commenting about her…and me. When I asked the nurse about it, she denied it, saying my friend was hallucinating and fabricating tales. I didn’t believe a word of it and explained that due HIPPA, it was illegal to discuss any patient care within earshot of others.
The charge nurse called her supervisor who came down to talk with all of us. My friend explained how she felt. The nurses, of course, covered their misbehavior, claiming that my friend had been hallucinating. I interrupted their stories and explained that no matter what, my friend does have recipient rights, which are something we have in Michigan. These rights protect and promote the constitutional and statutory rights of recipients of public mental health services and empower recipients to fully exercise these rights.
The minute I mentioned “recipient rights,” the two nurses apologized, and we began to discuss moving my friend to a step-down unit as she was medically stable. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room where we got settled in. Her kidney function went down to normal so she was medically cleared for transport to an actual mental health facility.
We learned that Community Mental Health (CMH) was on their way to start the intake process to find her a mental health facility – that’s when things started accelerating at an astronomical rate. My friend had no idea how to process this, so I patiently helped her. Her parents and her husband arrived for the intake meeting.
This was when I saw mental health stigma magnified.
Thankfully, the CMH person was neutral, asked all the appropriate questions, and took my friend’s requests seriously.
When my friend’s stepmom stepmom began blaming my friend for what happened, I was floored “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”
I couldn’t hold back, I was so angry, and interrupted, saying “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.
Her stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.” I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”
When her parents left, my friend said, awestruck: “That is the first time anyone stood up to my stepmom.” I began to pack for home once I felt she was stable, and her husband had arrived, stating that he’d have come earlier, but he’d only had a half a tank of gas, she was stable now,
I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, I cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night.”
He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?” I explained, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love her.”
I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.
Once I got to my car, I video-chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body-rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It ‘s like being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.
I received a text from my friend’s husband: “Thanks for being such a good friend to my wife. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible, okay?.” I thanked him for keeping me in the loop so that I could help rally around her, to help her recovery and mental well-being,
This is my prayer.
I pray that we work on our own recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and to put on our oxygen masks first.