A Night At A Crisis Center
So I'm sure you've noticed that I've been MIA on here for a bit. That's not by design, in fact, I've been itching to get back here to tell my story but I'm facing a bit of an overwhelming period in my professional life. In fact, it's sort of played directly into what I'm about to tell you. It's not easy—in fact, I've been having a difficult time coming to terms with it and what it means. I was even in denial for a little while.
Now that the dust has settled though, I'm ready to open up about it: I spent a night in a crisis center after contemplating suicide, making an attempt, stopping the attempt, and spending the next few days lamenting that I hadn't gone through with it.
Sometimes, suicide doesn't start as just that. In my case, it began as a slow-burning ember, a lightly flickering flame that caught me at a volatile moment and erupted into a magnificently horrific display. Here's what it does: it starts as the small sentiment that you're more afraid to keep living than you are of dying. To me, contemplating and coming to terms with the somewhat-unknown nature behind the process of death and what sort of afterlife could await me seemed far less daunting than the prospect of living another day. I was consumed by the idea of not having to "do this" anymore. From being overworked and underpaid after making a seemingly regrettable career choice to the daily emotional torment that faced me every day in my personal life, to the general existential dread that I've grown to accustomed to, I just wasn't enjoying life anymore. I wanted out.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I made a lot of plans, both conscious and unconscious that must have subconsciously brought me both peace, and a great sense of unrest about what I was about to do.
After that sentiment settled its persistent, pervasive roots into the deepest recesses of my mind, I began to justify irrational thoughts and actions. I told myself that my loved ones were "suffering" because of my constant need for validation and that they would be better off without me. I started crossing the street without looking both ways, I'd stand perhaps a bit too close to the edge of the platform when waiting for the train. I separated from myself in an epic, heartbreaking way. I stopped blogging, I saw work as something to pass the time until I could work up the courage to finally end my life. I distanced myself from my friends and my family, thinking they'd already be used to a life without me. Now that I'm thinking about it, I made a lot of plans, both conscious and unconscious, that must have subconsciously brought me both peace, and a great sense of unrest about what I was about to do.
One Saturday night, it happened. I don't even think there was a particularly remarkable inciting incident. I simply decided that I couldn't take it anymore. I'll spare you the details but I will say that I am glad that I'm on the other side of the emotions that transpired in this moment. After miraculous intervention and a few moments nearly catatonic, I came to and put myself to bed, numb and full of regret. It was far, SO far from over though. I saw myself as a coward and couldn't help but think, "it could all be over now."
"It could all be over now."
I went on like this for two days. A dear friend realized that something was horrifically wrong and got a hold of my two therapists, who called and bugged me to make sure I was alright until I finally agreed to get some help. This is a really important part of the process. If you're concerned about a friend or a family member who could be suicidal, sharing the suicide hotline or a list of resources is a well-intentioned but ultimately empty gesture. Someone in the throes of suicidal fantasy is not going to get the help they need. They've already made up their mind, and only persistent reassurance is going to do anything. One therapist refused to let me go to bed without checking into a crisis center so I grabbed my backpack, a book, a cozy sweater, and I headed out to West Philadelphia.
I spent the ride out to the hospital looking online for accounts from people who had spent time in a crisis center and was terrified of what I was seeing. It seemed that overnight or five-day holds were common, and I—though convinced that death was the only way out—didn't want to miss any of my work. That's right, my job stressed me out so much that I was more afraid of not getting my work done than I was afraid of the idea of death itself. (My sick sense of humor says it's okay to laugh about that now.) So much so, that I almost jumped out of the car at a red light. I didn't do that because I was terrified that it would be a good enough reason to be committed involuntarily and in the moment, I figured that if I had to be alive, I did not want a 302 on my record.
When we got to the hospital, I felt numb. It was pretty late at this point, since I stopped to drop my dog off at a friend's then walked to the hospital from there. It was a harrowing journey, since the hospital wasn't in the best of neighborhoods, which is saying a lot because I've lived in the city for a while now and I'm pretty familiar with it from working in television news for a few years. Regardless, it felt no safer in the crisis center than outside of it, and I immediately wanted to go home. I even told the doctor through tears that I wanted and needed to go home and he told me that I couldn't. I had to wait hours until a doctor could see me. There were two locked doors that stood between me and the outside world, and if they were to let me go, it'd be a huge liability for them if I did try to take my life. I slumped in my plastic chair that was bit too low on the ground and memorized the way the flickering fluorescent lights danced and reflected on the dirty, cracked linoleum floor while trying to ignore the screaming and cursing coming from each surrounding corridor. It was apparently a busy night. They say the summer heat does that.
I waited for over three hours to be seen, I believe it was about 1AM before the psychiatrist called me in. I fell asleep in the plastic chair, leaning on my backpack and using my oversized sweater to cover my body and my face. I was both cold and sweaty, and had hurt my neck and my back from how I was sitting. A good word to describe those hours in the waiting room would be, "uncomfortable." Incredibly uncomfortable and very disconcerting. Hearing patients scream and fight the doctors and nurses was both sobering and terrifying. Sobering because I realized that I could be so much worse, and at least I have my autonomy. Terrifying because I realized that I am never too far from being in that very same place.
When I got into the dimly lit and glumly decorated tiny office with the psychiatrist, she glared at me with fixed eyes and emotionless expression and immediately asked me why I was trying to end my life. I gave her a brief, disjointed explanation of what was going on in my personal life. It was tough to speak through the lump in my throat and the stinging of tears in my tired eyes. She then said that holding me for 24 hours might be the best option, and when I protested, she told me that I had to give her reasons why I wouldn't kill myself if I went home. My first answer was somewhat sarcastic, I told her I was too tired and sore from sitting in the waiting room to do anything. Aside from that, I shared some small progress that I'd been making: I finished up a work project as was proud of it, I had an exciting sponsorship opportunity coming up. I shared some other good things that I had going on and while I knew that I was not out of the woods just yet, I found the strength to go home, get some sleep, and not harm myself in the morning.
Before being discharged, I had to wait a little while for my information to be processed. I had to sign a paper that was both endearingly naive and sickeningly restrained. It was a contract that said I would promise to not hurt myself or anyone else. I remember chuckling to myself—or maybe aloud, it was so late and I was so tired that I really can't remember—and thinking, "or what?" I was also assigned a psychiatrist I would have to see every ten days and given a prescription for Lamotrigine, which I hadn't been taking. I'm sure that my failure to follow a regimen when it came to taking my meds played a part in my eventual breakdown, but I have no doubt that a lot of it was circumstantial, and now that my moods are stabilizing on the meds, I'm finding my battle against circumstance to be more difficult than ever.
To be honest, I'm finding my way but it's slow. I'm having a hard time being genuine because I cannot offer a silver lining at the moment but I feel like I should have some sort of happy ending to this story. Perhaps me being alive enough to pen these words is an objective victory, but for me, I still have so much further to go and the challenges seem insurmountable at times. After this experience, I've learned that life must be taken one day at a time. We're not guaranteed any more than than. I'll keep fighting because though I'm tired and feel so weak, I still have some fight left in me. If you're in the same place, I urge you to find this same sentiment in yourself.