When You Get Worse, Part II

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.

2 comments on When You Get Worse, Part II

  1. Like you, I have found that when you have a mental illness you sometimes have to exercise “the tyranny of the urgent” to get appropriate treatment. It is sad to think of how many who don’t and instead sacrifice their own life.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Bradley, I too had to get to the point where I gave up completely and checked into a facility, they gave me the boot after 3 days but it was enough to get me back on my feet again. We all have to speak up for ourselves when we need help although I know sometimes you just don’t have the strength to fight anymore…that is when it gets dicey.

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