I’ve had my share of stays in various psych wards, over the past 15 years. The things I’ve experienced and the people I have come across, in my stays at the psych wards, which are now called “Behavioral Health Units,” have changed me, mostly for the better, but have also left me with scars.
I spoke of my first bipolar manic episode in my first blog “Today,” and now I would like to share another manic episode experience, and what it was like for me.
On June 25, 2011, a little over 7 years ago, I married my husband. It was nice wedding with about 75 guests, in Las Vegas, Nevada. We had a blast that day and the following week, as we honeymooned in Vegas. I even won $2,000 that week on penny slot machines. It was a magical and lucky week. In November of 2011, just 5 months after the wedding, I finished the process of changing my last name and took on my husband’s last name. No big deal right? Most women get married and then change their names.
Weddings are very stressful, for all people, and when you have a disorder, which is triggered by stress, this can be a trying time. Two days after I changed my name, it was Thanksgiving Day, and I was in the middle of a major bipolar manic episode. For those who don’t know, mania causes major mood swings, heightened energy and senses, delusions, (auditory and visual), and delusions of grandeur, and many sleepless nights in a row. It’s kind of like being on speed, only you have not taken any drugs, and you can’t stop it from happening. Once it starts, it’s completely out of your hands.
Since it was a Holiday, I was at my mom’s house with my husband, and my family. When you are in an episode, because you haven’t slept for a while, it’s like you are sleep walking, so you only remember bits and pieces of what is actually happening. I remember dressing up for Thanksgiving, in a skirt and high heeled boots, with a low cut top, which is something I would never, had worn to a thanksgiving dinner if I wasn’t in an episode. I was talking a lot, and saying things, I wouldn’t normally say, and basically hogging every conversation, because I couldn’t stop talking. I’ve talked so much in episodes before, that I’ve even lost my voice, and still tried to keep talking.
My husband and I went home that night, and we started to watch the movie Scarface. Because my senses were heightened, all of the gunshots and fights seemed so real to me. I even believed that what I saw was real, and began to get very scared. I remember leaving the room to go to bed, but could not fall to sleep. After the movie ended, I came back out to the living room with my husband. There was a commercial on the T.V. for Bosley for hair loss. I picked up the phone and tried to call Bosley. I had all of my hair, and none of it was falling out. What was I doing? I say “tried to call,” because I was so out of it, which I couldn’t even, dial the numbers that were posted on the T.V.
Thank God, I realized there was something terribly wrong with me. I told my husband we needed to go to the “Psych Ward,” or Behavioral Health Unit. He had never seen me in this condition, so he didn’t completely understand. He thought I just needed to sleep, but I’ve been in this situation and knew better. I had him call my mom, so he could confirm that I needed to go to the hospital. She confirmed and we left to go. On the way there, I remember singing all the songs that were playing in the car, at the top of my lungs. All the traffic lights seemed so vivid, and I thought all the songs were about me and my life. So weird to think I could be like this, and sit here right now, and feel completely normal.
We got to the hospital, and went through the admission process. From here I pretty much blacked out and only remember bits and pieces. Remember, I was basically sleep walking at this point. My husband later told me that I told the nurse that we were there because he was bipolar and needed to be admitted. It’s hilarious now, but I’m sure at the time, it was no laughing matter.
Once they verified, that I needed to be admitted to the Behavioral Health Unit, they made me strip down my clothes, and remove my bra, due to the wires, my shoes, due to the laces, and made me put on a hospital gown. How demoralizing! I couldn’t even wear my own clothes. When I got into the unit, I realized what was going on. The staff tried to put me to sleep, since I hadn’t slept in 4-5 days, and came at me with a needle, to inject me with some sort of sleeping aid. I thought they were trying to kill me, and proceeded to run. I didn’t make it very far. I broke down an office door, and then the staff caught me and literally dragged me back to the room I was in. As they grabbed me, I said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Apparently, I thought I was Jesus at this point, and that they were trying to use me as a sacrifice of some sort. So sad to think of now, but also a little bit comical.
They injected me with the sleeping aid, and I slept for 2 days or so. I obviously need it. When I woke up, I was still off my game. I was still talking a lot, waking up in the middle of the night over and over, singing at the top of my lungs randomly, and bothering people with my excessive energy. So much so, that I had a basketball thrown at my head by another patient, and milk poured on my head by another. Even the staff told me how much of a bother I was, and at one point strapped me down to a bead for leaving my room in the middle of the night. It was a traumatizing and dehumanizing moment in my life. One that I may never get over!
I explain all of this, because for those of you who know me, know that this is not the real me. Mental illness can consume you and turn you into something and someone you are not, if left untreated. I ended up in this condition because I was not treating my disorder properly, and not taking my medication daily. I wasn’t taking it seriously. Yes, I went through a stressful time, with getting married and changing my name, but if I’m being honest, it probably wouldn’t have happened, or the episode would have been more manageable if I had just taken my 3 little pills on a daily basis. It’s not really that hard to do. Medications can be daunting as well, and may feel like they change who you are, but I’ll leave that for another post.
I stayed in the hospital for 11 days, probably the worst 11 days of my life! I thank God that he let me come back mentally. Some people never come out of it, and I did! I am one of the lucky ones. I was once told, that I would be gravely disabled for the rest of my life, and that I would have to have someone take care of me. I am so grateful, that that is not the case today! I lead a full independent life and have a husband to share it with. Getting over and moving on from these hospital stays, are what I have to deal with now. It’s a long journey, but I know I will get through it. I’m a very strong and resilient person, and will never give up on myself. I deserve all life has to offer!