My husband, Dean flew to Toronto to meet me and take me home to Nova Scotia. He had arranged for his eldest sister from Newfoundland to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks to help out with Leo while I was sure to be in the hospital and Dean would be running back and forth watching out for me and bringing me what I wanted. Manic me was very demanding (unlike normal me). Ha ha.
The saddest thing about this whole story is that it could’ve been completely avoided if I had been fine with taking lithium. But, at that point in my journey, and because of my disordered eating and body image problems, and knowing that lithium causes me weight gain, I refused, absolutely, to take it. So, you would think I preferred the option of going crazy over getting fat. And that I selfishly ruined everyone’s Cuban vacation because of my issues with food and body image. Crazy train anyone?
In the hospital they put me on extremely strong medications: anti-psychotics, lithium, antibiotics for the bronchitis and a sleeping aid. I was a walking zombie. I was extremely ill in the hospital and very upset to be on medication and to be tied down. The nurses constantly told me to go to my room and get some sleep. But when one is manic all one wants to do is relate and connect to others. Even though I was a walking zombie, it was still very difficult for me to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. As a manic person, medications have very little effect compared to what they would on a regular person. One side-effect of the anti-psychotic drug was the feeling that my skin was crawling. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever encountered.
When the nurses wouldn’t pay attention to me I found ways to entertain myself. I would walk past the nurses station window where a few nurses would be quietly working with their heads down and I would SLAM my hand against the glass. The nurses would jump from fright as I quickly walked away. I was sure they had no idea that it was me. One evening, I decided to pull the fire alarm. As the nurses scrambled to get all the patients out of the rooms, I snickered with my hand over my mouth, by the wall. I was then noticed, yelled at and put in solitary.
What I did next seems unbelievable now that I have my sanity back. I believe they would never let me out of that room. A half hour may have a lapsed when I realized two things: I had to use the bathroom, #2, and, I was very thirsty. Because I truly believed that they would not come back for me, and I was firmly ensconced in cra-cra land, I went over to the corner of the room, squatted and pooped. Then I started to bang my cup on the door saying that I was dying of thirst. An idea emerged: I would have to drink my own urine in order to stay alive.
It was salty.
Next I started to sing at the top of my lungs and trust me, that little solitary room had great acoustics (this is a Kris Kristofferson song that Willie Nelson sings so well) and quite apt at parts…
Take the ribbons from your hair, shake ’em lose and let ’em fall. Let ’em fall against your chin, like the shadows on the wall. Come and lay down by my side in the early morning light, all I’m taking is your time…help me make it through the night…(This is where I would seriously belt it out) Well, I don’t care whose right or wrong, and I won’t try to understand. Let the devil take tomorrow, cause tonight I need a friend….it’s sad to be alone…help me make it through the night
I knew that whole song by heart because Mom used to play it over and over again when she and Dad were separated but living in the same house. I was in extreme discomfort in the solitary room. My thoughts where racing. My skin was crawling. My mind was blowing. There was no sleep in sight. I could not stay still. Psychosis is shitty. Truly.
Finally they let me out. I gladly went to my room. My next plan was to escape and run home.
I studied the delivery door to the locked psych ward. Suddenly, I saw my chance to escape into the February night and I was GONE. Hightailing it through the lobby with my ass hanging out of my johnny coat, with my SmartWool knee socks and Birkenstocks on out into the parking lot, down the concrete steps, turn right down the hill, turn left, through the intersection and starting up the hill. Suddenly I realized how cold I was and that my feet were freezing. later I found out it was -20°C. If I had gone the wrong way and landed in the snowbank, behind the hospital, I may never have been rescued from the cold.
As it was, two older ladies in a large sedan pulled up beside me as I made my way up the hill. Seeing how I was dressed and with my hospital wristband on, they asked me to get in the car with them for a ride. I must have thought that would be a good idea. Even through the haze of psychosis I knew that my safety was threatened. I ran into the parking lot of the Catholic Church (irony on that not lost on me) and they let me get in the car to get warm. Next they locked the doors and called the police who escorted me back to the psych ward and back into solitary. When Dean heard that I had escaped, in my condition, dressed in a tiny cotton johnny coat, he was furious at the hospital.
I was in for two weeks then out for week at which point I stopped taking the medications and became manic again. So, I was back in for another two weeks. It takes about two weeks for the lithium to take effect. When I was home with my family and dog Lady, and I was out of my head in cray cray land, I could swear that I knew what she was ‘saying’. I would look at her and her ‘words’ would pop into my head. Ooookay.
Mental illness is a real thing, not to be trifled with.