I’ve got some serious street cred in the bipolar community, not really, but here is part one of my story.

We all have a story, and this is part of mine. While it’s not the beginning or the end, it was a defining time in my story. Over time details have been lost, and the intensity of the emotions have faded, but this is what I know and took away from my suicide attempt and the hospital stay that coincided with it.  

Some pills are red, some pills are blue

                I could see my heart pounding against the wall of my chest. I headed for the stairs to my parents bedroom. Is this the beginning or the end of the story? It’s neither. I looked at her and she immediately knew, mother’s intuition I suppose. She asked me what I had taken in a panicked southern drawl.  I couldn’t even remember although it had only been twenty minutes or so. Plenty of muscle relaxants, maybe some anti-depressants. I lead her to the bottles. “Shit!,” she exclaimed. She rarely swears, so I knew I had done it. In between my Mother’s prayers I heard nothing. I was awake one minute and out of it the next. I explained to the nurse that I was not trying to kill myself, I was simply trying to escape. After being prescribed Vicodin for endometriosis pain all throughout high school, it had become my only escape until my mother discovered I had little problem. My relationship with Vicodin had become parasitic, and I was doing the leeching. The nurse frowned at me and ordered up a tasty cocktail of charcoal and water. Charcoal, when deluded, binds to the drugs floating around in the stomach and acts as a base if you will. She instructed me to down the cup as quickly as possible. It sounded easy enough. I stuck my tongue into the cup and my stomach churned at the taste. I tried to mentally prepare myself, by not thinking about it. I took a gulp. And then that gulp came out the same way it went in. A feeling that I was falling into a deep sleep yet somehow still awake kept creeping over me. Next time I saw the nurse, she had a long tube in hand. She also brought a friend. The second nurse began wriggling the tube up my nose. I now knew what it felt like to have a snake crawl up your nose and out your eye. There was a noise like a knife on unfinished glass, then the warm sensation of blood. The tube wouldn’t budge. After three more tries and a steady nose bleed I opted to try the charcoal again. I chugged it as fast as I could, forcing down vomit and blood. I passed out or fell asleep and woke up in a new room the next morning. After hours of assuring doctors, nurses, and my parents that I was in a sound enough mental state to go home, I was discharged.

Old English

                Fast forward five days later. My first full week working a new job was over. Things were looking up, as far as they could at the time. That’s when I got the call that would change the pace of the next year. It was my best friend of eight years. She wanted to have dinner at a local twenty four hour diner.. From the moment I sat down I could read it on her face. My newly ex-boyfriend of four and a half years was now dating the girl he insisted he did not have feelings for, merely days after he had ended things. I could do nothing but stare at the wall and try not to throw up. “Water.” She said, but I couldn’t drink. My hands were dripping sweat and my heart was beating like I was running from something in a nightmare. By this time I’m sure you are thinking this is the stereotypical story of the teen that breaks up with her boyfriend and “attempts” to end her life to make a spiteful dramatic statement. You’re wrong, this was a long time coming and so much more than that. I have been battling inner emotional demons my entire life, at the time it was for reasons not yet known to me. By the summer after my high school graduation, a war was raging in my head. The break up left me feeling I had been abandoned, given up on, that I was a burden not worth carrying, I was difficult and others were easy. I leaned on him more than I ever had on anyone. He saw my ups and downs the most of anyone outside of my immediate family. He was an unwavering constant that I relied on. I was so angry. At myself most of all. I don’t understand myself, I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I got on the computer the moment after I walked in my front door. My Mother was reading a magazine in the living room and questioned me on the extent of my day, but I had only one thing on my mind. Suicidal thoughts had only made an appearance in my head a few times up to that point. Everything in my head was so loud all of the time, I was more emotionally exhausted than I could compare to any physical exhaustion I have ever felt. I was becoming increasingly up and down every day, spending anywhere from minutes to seconds in one state of mind before moving to the next. I was filled with anxiety, hopelessness, the need to lash out physically amongst so many other horrible, yet indescribable feelings. I began searching for a quick painless way to end my own life. I thought about the whole thing in a business like manner. Sick of the anti and pro suicide forums I was coming across, I started rummaging under the sink. Bleach conjured up images of drowning in vomit. And then I saw it. Old English furniture polish, a label warning against ingestion piqued my interest. I found that when ingested, petroleum distillates, a key ingredient in wood polish, will stop your heart. Cardiac arrest, sounded as pleasant as I was going to get. I grabbed the bottle and went downstairs to my bedroom. I sat on my bed, plastic bottle in hand, tears gushing from the corners of my eyes. I lost myself that day. My own mind and uncontrollable emotions had swallowed me whole, and I knew they weren’t going to spit me back out anytime soon. I felt delusional yet extremely clear headed. I poured a bit of the polish onto the cap. I drank a cap-full, it tasted of lemons and olive oil. I heard my mother coming to the top of the stairs to check on me, which was a frequent occurrence since my overdose. I stuck the bottle to my mouth and drank. More tears were running down my face and my whole body was shaking. I saw her face, and it became clear what I had just done. She saved me, not by bringing me to the hospital for the second time that week, but by giving me the gift of fight. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the cardiac ward. I turned to my left and saw my mother, she pulled out her phone and told the person on the other end that I was awake. I knew it was my dad. I looked at the TV, and I was out again. When I finally woke up for good it was two o’clock in the afternoon. They were both sitting there this time, holding hands. The idea of what I put them through that week caused me to tear up. The nurse walked in and began speaking to me, but I could not understand. My brain and ears were not working together. After a few minutes I began to figure out what was going on. they wanted me to sign myself into the psychiatric ward. “What else am I going to do with myself?” was my initial thought. After learning I could only be kept for eight days, and that I would probably only be there for five, I sent her for the paperwork. I saw the relief on my parents faces and thought to myself that even though I didn’t feel I could do much of anything for myself at the time, I could try for them. I signed the papers and was wheeled away before I could fully process the irreversible decision I had just made.

First contact

                As While I was being carted down the hallway, my mind went wild with the idea of spending numerous days in the psychiatric wing of a hospital. I came to the conclusion that I was about to wind up in a One Flew Over the Coo-koo’s Nest-esque situation. What I got was a bit tamer, but no less entertaining. Somewhere between the key-pad entry doors and the doorway of my room I reverted back to third grade level shyness, and decided I was not going to talk to anyone. Eventually my parents left, the staff was lenient with visiting hours my first two days. The first night was the worst. Between an open door leading to a lighted hallway, and all kinds of screaming and odd noises echoing down the halls, sleeping seemed like an impossible idea. My first eye to eye contact came from a character named Kat. Kat was a rumored schizophrenic, who spoke Armenian amongst a few other languages. It started with walking passed the door several times, then it turned into pacing in front of the door, which eventually lead to Kat standing in my room pressing her finger to the floor and licking off whatever stuck to her finger. Being a nervous giggler, I laughed uncontrollably. One of the day nurses, realizing my predicament, dragged her out.  My first verbal contact with the outside came on day two. My parents were slumped in their chairs as I stared off at the wall when I heard a raspy voice offer me a coloring page. I politely declined the offer and scooted back in my bed, out of sight. It was like the native Americans being found by the white man, I had officially made contact and there was no going back. Eventually the nurse ordered I join group therapy. I refused in hard-headed teenage fashion, but unfortunately on day three I lost the battle. She had the power to extend my stay in her arsenal. In the common room sat a group of characters I will never forget.

The gang

                As I entered the common room, I noticed first dead center on the wrap-around couch sat the owner of the aforementioned raspy voice, Rachel. Her brunette roots were peaking through her bottle-blonde hair, there were track marks and bruises on her arms, and she had the name “Capone” tattooed on the left side of her neck, but above all she was beautiful. She flashed me a glance that told me it was okay to take the next step through the doorway. Immediately to her right sat Hendrix, an old moccasin wearing, long haired, bearded, hippie. He liked to find creative ways to smoke cigarettes in between daily nurse checks, not that he ever fully succeeded. Then there was Kat, and next to Kat sat Marcy. You could tell life had been hard on Marcy, she looked as if she was seventy, but in actuality was in her late fifties. She had blonde, almost white hair reaching passed her waist, and looked as if she had not eaten in months. In the chair closest to the empty one reserved for myself, sat Lillian. Lillian was in her sixties and the most colorful person I have ever met. Their stories all differed greatly, but all had one thing in common and that was power. Rachel had the dramatic family history, and long list of abusive and unhealthy relationships to combat any lifetime movie. Heroine was her drug of choice, and it had taken everything from her including her children. Hendrix self medicated his deep depressions with every substance in the book. Kat suffered from bouts of drastic mental stages, many of which she could not remember when she was lucid. Marcy was a long time anorexic with serious depression and a lot of baggage accompanying it. Lillian had lost her husband, mother, and dog all to cancer in the same year. She spent every minute of every day that year taking care of them until each one was gone. Residing in Arizona, she checked herself in while visiting her son and his family. She had become addicted to the left over pain medications from her loved ones, and decided to nip her suicidal thoughts in the bud. The days moved by so slow. All of the hospital food had a slight taste of old oranges to it. I hated being left to my thoughts, and became excited for any group activity. As the days passed, I felt connections between myself and the other patients grow. We all had invisible sickness in common, and there is nothing quite like being around your own kind. I spent the majority of my free time talking to Lillian and Marcy. Marcy was a free spirited dreamer, that encouraged me to make the most out of life and never take anything for granted or stop fighting my fight. She invited me to lay naked on the dock behind her lake house and drink margaritas, which was a typical Sunday afternoon for her. The hospital was a prison to her, and so was clothing. Lillian was a talented storyteller, to this day, what was fact and what was fiction is still a mystery to me. She spoke some of the wisest words that have ever been spoken to me. One thing she said to me, I will never forget. She told me to always be my own best friend, to never hide myself from or lose myself in another person. Having bipolar makes it easy to try to hide or want to hide part of yourself from others. I spend plenty of time needing others to be there for me, but I always remember what she said, and that at the end of the day I need to be there for myself too. People will come and go, some relationships will buckle under the pressure of being with or around someone like me, and there will come a time when life takes its course and I will begin to lose those closest to me, those that I hold near and dear. However, as long as I am alive I will be fighting a constant war only visible to me, and I will be the lone soldier in battle, fighting both sides. So, I need to be able to weather the carnage and pick up the pieces after every battle. .

Goodbyes, and great regrets

After seven and a half days, I was discharged. I had seen a different doctor every day and was never given a diagnosis. I left with an unforgettable experience, a pair of blue jeans that Lillian insisted I take that I later wrote her wise words on with a marker, and the addition of a mood stabilizer to my medication regime. I also left with the largest regret I will ever have. Two days before I was discharged a woman signed herself in that had just given birth to her first child, a little girl with autism. She was battling postpartum depression and all of the fears and worries that came with the news that her first born was autistic. She had two of the kindest eyes I have ever seen. On her first day, she asked if she could take a seat next to me at a table where I was seated alone for lunch. She seemed terrified. I answered questions and comforted her. As I signed release papers, she was on the treadmill down the hallway. I waved goodbye, but said nothing more. To this day, not hugging her and letting those kind eyes know she can pull through and there is always hope, is my biggest, deepest regret. She needed that more than anything. If I had a name to go off of I would jump at the chance of contacting her. In fact, I would do so for every person I met there. After walking out the hospital doors, it was not for another long year that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

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