The end of my blog post yesterday left me hanging by a thread trying desperately to find help for what I then thought was depression. I was reaching the point that I couldn’t stand it anymore, but every county mental health clinic I went to for help turned me away because they were backlogged. All I wanted was for someone to care enough to help me get my life back. I was going through a period of depression that was much worse and different than I experienced before. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening, I just knew that I was falling apart. It regularly felt like my brain was like cauliflower and someone was reaching in and ripping it to pieces.
I progressively got worse. I became agoraphobic and would not leave the apartment, especially if there was anyone outside in the courtyard. I couldn’t go to the supermarket because all the sounds (people talking, registers ringing, carts moving, checkers paging) were hitting me all at the same time and it was horrifying.
I tried everything I could think of to get help, but there was nothing left I could do. I ran out of ideas. At this point suicide was whirling in my brain on a regular basis. Then, one day, Melissa, a good friend of ours, offered an idea. It sounded a bit crazy, but at that point it seemed like my best option. We rushed to the emergency room at a county hospital and told them I was going to kill myself. Plain and simple – if they didn’t check me in I would be dead very soon. It didn’t work at the clinics, so I wasn’t real hopeful that it was going to work at the hospital. I was wrong.
After telling the admissions people I was going to kill myself, I was taken directly to the psych ward, stripped of my clothing, and handed a hospital gown to wear. I looked at the terrible rooms that people were assigned to. I was envious. I couldn’t wait until I was formally checked in so that I would have a room. I thought that it may be ugly and it may be loud here in the psych ward, but I was looking forward to it. Just let me curl up in my cell and not have to worry about anything. I was handed a blanket, but I wasn’t assigned a room yet, so I curled up on a bench and tried to sleep the best I could. It wouldn’t take long. I knew they’d come get me soon and put me in one of the small individual rooms.
I fell asleep so I have no idea how long I had been there, but it felt like several hours. A doctor woke me up and sat down to speak with me. She told me she had been talking with Maurice and Melissa. I was excited that she was finally going to get me the help I needed. I was wrong. She told me she was sending me home. After talking with them she decided I had a strong enough support group that it was safe for me to go home. That was when I snapped.
For the first time I didn’t ask for help. I DEMANDED it. I refused to take no for an answer and I told her I was not going anywhere. She was in shock. I told her how badly I needed help and I wasn’t leaving until they helped me. All I asked for was a place for me to go the next day and get the help I needed. I needed a guarantee. She walked away.
Finally after a grueling amount of time she came back with a piece of paper with a phone number on it. She assured me that if I called that number in the morning that I would get the help I needed. She was going to make sure of that. I was skeptical. How would I know if I would get in? Should I demand to stay until an appointment had already been made? I took a leap of faith and left the hospital.
The next day I called the number and voila I had an appointment. Not with an admissions person who would turn me away again. This time I was given an appointment with a real, honest to God, doctor. I was ecstatic. It was at this clinic that I was finally, and accurately, diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. After many years I finally manipulated the system enough that I got in. It took far too long than it should have, but it finally happened. I now have a psychiatrist who I see every month and I see a psychologist twice each month.
Think of the many, many others out there who never get the big break I did. Those who don’t have the energy to persevere. Think of those who have fallen through the cracks. Think of the 1 in 5 people who are bipolar and successfully commit suicide. I think of them all nearly every day.