For those who are new to the blogging world of me- I suffer from severe depression. Recently it was suggested that I may have bipolar disorder because of the severe swings I experience.
My wife and I got married in Ireland in September, came home to Canada late on a Thursday night, started a load of laundry and once done in the washer we threw it in the dryer and went to bed. No newlywed nookie for us- we were jet lagged and exhausted, plus we needed to be on the road for Lake Louise by 11:00 a.m the next morning.
My wife had won a very prestigious award with her employer and the ceremony was held at an all expense paid weekend in Lake Louise the weekend we got back from our trip to Europe. I know- you feel bad for us, right? Well during this event they had a corporate session on mental health in the workplace that spouses were encouraged to attend.
As mental health is something somewhat certain to grab my attention, I definitely wanted to attend. If you have never heard of Victoria Maxwell, you should check out some of her stuff. She has some very inspiring content and she is an amazing human being. We sat down with her for almost an hour afterwards talking about mental health and comparing war stories.
My wife mentioned to her how great my mood had been the whole trip and how she wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable ‘down’ that was coming. It was at this point that Victoria said something so simple it was like one of those V8 commercials with the forehead slap in hindsight; “Have you talked to your doctor about changing up your meds?”
At the time this seemed ridiculous. Why on earth would I need to do that?! He has me on these meds for a reason, and they are working just fine. Besides, it’s not like I am having major issues. I get a little extra sad from time to time- so what? There are people far worse than me. There are people that can’t actually function in society. Victoria told us a story about her being naked and running through the streets… yeah not me.
After getting back home I made an appointment with my doctor (and that was most of the point of my last blog) and this is kind of part 2; the conclusion to that one. There are things that happened that I am not proud of, there are things that happened that I have no memory of, but if you are reading this because any of my previous blogs either helped or entertained you, then that is why I am writing this one.
So I posted that last blog on a Friday but I have zero memory of doing it. I also have no memory of hitting the ditch a day earlier either, but I have text messages between Brandi and myself proving it happened. Apparently even the kids knew it happened.
I vaguely recall going to see an old friend from high school who has recently opened a new business here in town… no clue when that happened.
My point is that I was not in a good place when I finished writing that blog. I was not in a good place when I posted it and I was not in a great place in the days around it. Wednesday morning following posting it I woke up and the urge to take more pills “just to see how I felt” was greater than the need to simply put on the mask, go to work and function in society like ‘normal’.
Thankfully I was lucid enough to know that was a problem and to seek out help. After talking to Brandi about it we decided that going in to the hospital for the weekend would be a good start, so I packed a bag and went down to the hospital to get checked in to the psych ward.
There are multiple wards in the hospital where I live, but I am not sure what all of them are for. Ward 4 is maternity and ward 3 is mental health or- as is commonly called, the psych ward. But much like any hotel, first you must check in at the front desk. Well here that desk is the Emergency Room. Not feeling super proud of myself but knowing I need to be here, I walk in with my winter jacket on- toque in one hand, duffel bag in the other;
“What’s you’re emergency”
“Hi there, I’m a mental health patient and I don’t feel safe so I am here to check myself in to ward 3.”
“What makes you think you are unsafe?”
“I took some pills and…”
“So you tried to kill yourself?”
“No, I took some pills and it’s very out of character for me. I woke up this morning and I really wanted to do it again, and I feel I need help.”
“… so… what kind of pills did you take?”
“I’m not 100% sure. There was an Oxy in there. Something my wife calls an oxy but I think it’s just codeine. There was some Tramacet and a Naproxen”
“You can’t just give the pills to your wife to hide?”
“… is there someone else I can talk to?”
Ok I didn’t actually say this but I really wanted to. Like, who trains these people?! I’m no expert on addiction or anything but I’m pretty sure “asking your wife to hide them” isn’t on the list of solutions. Or who knows, maybe this woman is a genius.
Maybe billions of dollars a year in therapy and medications and incarcerations are wasted, if only we thought to ask the spouses to hide the pesky problems.
Eventually I get to move from a red chair to a grey chair while I wait to be seen by a doctor. I have zero concept of how long this took, but I’m pretty sure it was a few hours before I was brought into the safe room where the mental health liaison came in and talked with me for a while. She asked me a bunch of questions like why I was there, what I was feeling, how I got to be in the position I was in- you know, the RIGHT questions to be asking a mental health patient.
At the end of it, she agreed with me that the hospital was the best place for me to be right now and that maybe a week-long stay would be in my best interest. Suddenly alarm bells went up- I needed to be back at work on Monday! I had responsibilities! I couldn’t be letting people down any more than I already was. I told her as much and said I was hoping just to be there for the weekend, and as she left she told me that the doctor would have the final say.
Okay, I told myself. If I’m going to do this, I need to do this right. The doctor is the doctor for a reason. He/she knows what he/she is doing, right?
Again, I have no idea how long it took until the doctor finally showed up, but I had fallen asleep in the safe room waiting for him. He apologized for waking me and then starting asking the same questions as the liaison. What’s, where’s, when’s, why’s… and I held nothing back. I learned long ago that holding back simply doesn’t help me- and I want to be helped. Desperately.
My loved ones deserve a better me. My friends, my family, my co-workers, my neighbors… the guy in front of me not using his turn signal. Everyone. We all need to be better to everyone out there. It may be just a cheesy movie to some, but Bill and Ted truly made a statement in my life when they strummed their guitars and said “Be excellent to each other”. Literally got goosebumps typing that.
So I finished going through everything with the doctor (whom I had never met before) and he is standing there just kind of looking at me. Looking at my packed duffel bag and my winter coat, and he says to me “Why not just give the pills to your wife to hide them?”
It was at this point I heard it. You know the noise a spring makes in a cartoon when it goes “sproioioioing?” Well my brain made that noise.
“This facility is for people who are having actual, serious mental emergencies and it sounds to me like you weren’t actively trying to hurt yourself. You knew what you were doing and you understand the consequences of it and what it means to go to far- and that wasn’t what you were trying to do. It would be a shame to take a bed from someone who actually needed it.”
So once again, the system was telling me that I wasn’t broken enough to warrant actual help. And the sprockets and springs and smoke inside my head were flying everywhere, but I put a polite smile on my face, kept eye contact with the doctor, pretended to listen to what he said as I smiled and nodded- it didn’t matter, he was telling me to go home. And I would. That’s exactly what I was going to do. I was going to go home. That’s where all the good stuff was anyways.
I had pain killers. I had THC. I had alcohol. I know enough people I am sure if I really wanted to send a few texts, getting my hands on some illicit stuff would not be that hard to do, but how far did I really want to go? Then the doctor answered that question for me; “Would you like me to send you home with a prescription for Ativan?”
Hmmm… let me think about this for a minute… I came to the hospital concerned I may have a depressive incident and overdose on prescription medications, and you want to send me home with a dangerously addictive medication that I could overdose on? Again, I am thankful I was lucid enough to get what an awful idea that was and decline his generous offer.
Since I had accepted the fact that I have a mental illness, I have been told time and time again that I am too high functioning for my own good. Therapists for years have told me that the kind of help I need I may never get because I never outwardly exhibit the traits and symptoms that are happening to me on the inside and as a result, I keep falling though the cracks as a “low priority”. And based on the response I get from my blogs, I am willing to bet I am not alone in this.
So after being patted on the head like a child and sent home by the doctor, again- things get very fuzzy. I remember having a couple drinks at home (because the bottles were almost empty anyways…) and I must have told Brandi about the conversation with the doctor… but I don’t recall it if I did.
At some point the next day I got a phone call from someone at the hospital claiming to be from Ward 3 saying they disagreed with the doctor and if I still felt unsafe, they had a spot for me. I remember saying that I didn’t want to take a spot from anyone else, and he told me there were lots of open beds, so I wouldn’t be taking a spot from anyone, but anything more than that would be conjecture.
I recall asking Brandi her opinion but again, I was not in a good state of mind. I do not recall her side of the conversation at all. There is a big grey blur between that phone call and me going back to the hospital. So much so that when I was discharged I had a specific memory of taking my watch off at home and having my winter jacket with me. Turns out I wore my watch to the hospital and left my winter jacket at home… As I write this, my watch is still missing. It’s an Apple watch and the locator app says it’s still in the hospital, but they haven’t found it yet… but at least I still have my winter jacket!
I only spent a few days in the ward before the fog lifted and I started feeling better, but the point of it all is I needed the resources to help lift the fog. Was I an immediate danger to myself? No, but I don’t want to know what could have happened had I not ended up being able to go there.
I made myself a promise in 2015 to never underestimate depression again, and this was me keeping that promise to not just myself- but to my family, my friends, my co-workers, that guy who still doesn’t seem to know how a turn signal works…
I am grateful for the staff at the hospital for their patience in allowing me to talk about my issues on my terms. I am grateful for my co-workers for allowing me the time to get my head clear before I ended up doing real damage to myself. I am grateful to my friends and family for being supportive and seeing that I am doing what I need to do to stay ahead of the darkness.
Brandi- I can never thank you enough for being as supportive and patient with me as you are. You may not realize it but you save my life every single day.
And quite honestly, I am so very lucky that I have such a great support system around me. Not everyone can say the same thing. If you are reading this and you are struggling to cope with the people you are surrounded with- you need to find new people to surround yourself with. It’s not easy, but I am genuine living proof that it can happen successfully.
Reach out. Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses. Never underestimate the value of therapy- and consistent visits. We are lucky here in Canada as most of our options are covered or subsidized in one way or another, but do some research and find your options. Help is out there, you will find it.