Leading up to the Psych Ward

When I finally got into a psychiatrist, one of the first things he told me was that he wanted me to spend some time in a Psychiatric hospital.

A thousand thoughts started running through my mind at once.  Was I going to have to quit my job?  How long would I have to stay?  Did I have to sleep there?  Was I allowed to leave?  Why did I have to go there?  Was I crazy?!

I started thinking to myself, “no, I’m not crazy,” and before I even finished the thought, I remembered that “crazy people don’t think they’re crazy.”  That worried me even more.  I was fully aware that I had already begun to lose touch with reality for short periods of time, but I was terrified that I was even further gone than I’d realized.

“It’s the best way to get a clear diagnosis,” he told me.  He assured me that I was still psychologically stable enough to make my own choices, and he therefore couldn’t force me into anything I didn’t want to do.  He couldn’t admit me to the hospital against my will.

My next thought was, “okay great, so I won’t go.”

He wasn’t about to give up that easily, though.  He listed reason after reason why it was a good idea for me to go.  And eventually, I agreed – not without reluctance, however.  This all took place on a Thursday afternoon, and my bed at the hospital was reserved for the following Monday.  I was to stay two weeks.

I left my appointment that day feeling like I had failed myself.  I never imagined that anyone would think it necessary for me to stay in the psych ward.  I had never pictured myself in the situation I was now finding myself in, and I didn’t like the way it felt.  I called up Nick and I cried on the phone to him, telling him everything that had just transpired.  As always, he was supportive however he knew how to be, and assured me that the doctors knew the best route to take.

That didn’t ease my mind.  Although I knew that at this point my visit was voluntary, I managed to convince myself that they’d find something seriously wrong with me and I’d never be let out.  I was going to spend the rest of my life locked up in the loony bin.

Hello, anxiety.  Hello, paranoia.  Hello, delusional thinking.

My mind was a roller coaster.  My thoughts were strapped in, looping around and around, up and down, shaking me up as they went.

By the next day, I was in a full-blown depression.  I was dreading the trip to the hospital, and I couldn’t focus on anything else.  I came home from work that Friday evening and decided to go for a walk to try and clear my mind.  I didn’t take anything with me – not my phone, not my keys, not even a jacket.  It was just me and my crazy roller coaster mind.

I don’t know how long I was gone.  I wandered aimlessly for hours.  I stood on the bridge overlooking the river, then walked down, staring at the water for far too long.  I must have faded away from myself for a while, because the next thing I knew, I was sat at the train station near my house, just watching the trains go by.  I was sat at the end of the tracks – I always did that, because if I ever got the courage to jump, I wanted to be close enough to do it before I changed my mind.

Thankfully I never got the courage.

I don’t remember much from that night.  I remember being at the subway station, and then I remember standing outside my apartment building, reaching up to ring my own bell.  I was buzzed in, and I slowly climbed up the stairs.  Nick was running down them, panic-stricken, asking me where I had been, what I had been doing, what I had taken.

“Out.  I don’t know.  Nothing.”  Zombie-toned responses, expressionless face.

Although I was completely out of it, I hadn’t actually taken anything that night.  There was an open bottle of ibuprofen on the counter, and Nick thought I had gotten into it.  I hadn’t.  I had learned by that stage, through trial and error, that ibuprofen was just not going to get the job done.

Nick brought me inside, questioned me some more, and told me he had been so worried that he had been asking everyone if they had heard from me – he even had people on their way over to help look for me.

I was mad.  Furious. How many times had I told him not to tell people things about me?

I went into the bedroom, and Nick retreated back to the kitchen.  His senses were always on high when I was in a state, so it’s no wonder he heard me opening up the window, and was back in the room with me before I managed to climb up into it.  He stopped me well before I even attempted jumping.

I stormed out of the bedroom, probably en route to the kitchen for a knife, and I screamed bloody murder when I saw a friend in our living room.  He had just come in – he was already on his way over when I stumbled home.  I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there with us, and it shocked me so badly that I was sent into a sort of panic attack.  It also sent my anger over the edge, and I was instantly determined to do something, I just didn’t know what.

I can’t begin to describe the thoughts that were going through my mind at this stage, because I sincerely do not remember.  I can’t put myself back into that moment of time, because I wasn’t there with myself.  That person was not me.

I closed the bedroom door, claiming I wanted to just be alone, and when I thought no one was listening, I opened up the window again.  I climbed into the window sill, stood on the ledge, looking down four stories, as the bedroom door swung open behind me.  Nick bolted in, got me down from the window, and begged me to stay away from it.

He told me the bedroom door had to stay open now – I had proved to him that I couldn’t be trusted.

He said he’d leave me alone, but he’d be in the next room, with plain-sight view of the two windows.

I told Nick that I wanted the friend gone.  He said okay.  He left the room, I heard the door, and that was that.  I calmed down.  I got into bed.

I was just coming back into myself when I saw two men walk into my bedroom.  I didn’t know them.

I sat straight up, bewildered, and they spoke to me, in German, asking if I was okay.

Paramedics.

I told them I was fine now.  I knew I had to admit what had happened, because I was sure they already knew.  I told them I had had a bad moment – that yes, I had attempted to jump from the window, but I wouldn’t do it again; that I was calm now; that I was okay.

They stayed there and spoke to me for a while, suggesting they bring me to a hospital in Nussbaumstrasse – the very hospital that had a bed with my name on it reserved for two days later.  I told them I was going there on Monday, and that I would be okay at home until then.

All they had me do was promise them that I wouldn’t hurt myself.  I promised.  I could have easily been lying.

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The medication works

For a while, I was convinced my doctor was giving me placebos.  I was certain he thought I was making everything up; that I was simply imagining my symptoms.  I thought there was absolutely no way he would prescribe me with real medication.  Even after researching the pills I had been prescribed, and getting them from the pharmacy with a complete list of ingredients, I thought they were fake.

I was positive that my doctor was just waiting for me to say I felt better.  And I thought that when I finally did, he’d say, “I told you so.”

I never thought the medication worked, until I found myself in the middle of a genuine, heart-felt laugh. 

I remember exactly where I was.  I was sitting on a train in Berlin, with my friend Charlynn.  I don’t remember why I was laughing, I just remember that I was – and it felt like the first time in my life that I ever had.

It wasn’t a laugh concealing a frown this time.  It wasn’t a laugh to trick people into thinking I was fine.  It wasn’t a laugh with a hidden agenda.  It was simply a real, happy, spontaneous laugh.

I caught myself in that laugh and I realized that I was finally okay again.  I knew I still had a long way to go, but for once I felt like I could actually get there.  Finally something was helping.

At this point, I had been taking my medication as directed for about two months – it took that long to notice any sort of change. I had thrown the pills in the garbage on more than one occasion before deciding to just stick with it.  Had I stuck with it from the beginning, that laugh probably would have happened a lot sooner.  But it didn’t, and that’s fine.

My relationship with my medication didn’t change right then and there.  While I realized I hadn’t been taking placebos after all, I still didn’t like the fact that I needed to be medicated in the first place.  I thought it was embarrassing that I had to ingest these little things every day just to be normal.  I hated my pills.  I resented my pills.  I saw my pills as a weakness.  I saw my medication as a problem in itself, even though I was fully aware it was meant to be part of a solution to a different problem.

Eventually I realized that it’s just a pill – that’s all it is!

It’s not a sign of a weakness, and it’s not a bad thing.  It’s a pill; a medication to help me get better.  Everyone needs a little bit of help with something – I happen to need a little bit of help balancing my mind.  And that is perfectly okay!

The medication works, and I am so thankful that it does.  Because for a long time, I was certain nothing would.

This is what anxiety feels like

I started a job two weeks ago.  I woke up a bit late for my second day.  I panicked because I didn’t want to be late.  I started thinking about how embarrassing it would be to come into work half an hour late on my second day.

So, instead of coming in a bit late, I called in sick.  And then, because I was embarrassed about having called in sick on my second day, I quit the job.

This is what anxiety feels like.

In a matter of seconds, my mind is able to turn a small issue into a catastrophic one.  I woke up with the intent of going to work.  I saw the clock, and I froze.  My mind started racing, and the thought process went something like this:

7:45 – first alarm.  Snooze.
7:50 – second alarm.  Snooze.
7:55 – third alarm.  Fine, I’m awake.  Turn the alarm off.
8:30 – I wasn’t awake. Fuck. I’m late. I can’t be late.  It’s my second day.  Fuck!  I can’t believe I would do this.  How am I so stupid?  Why did I turn the alarm off?!  I can’t go in.  I can’t.  They’ll be mad at me.  Everyone will talk about me.  It’s my second day and everyone will already be talking about me and how I’m always late.  I’m not going in.  I’ll call in sick.
8:31 – scramble around the house, looking for the phone and the number to call.  Ring.  Ring.  Ring.
“It’s Becca – I just started yesterday – this is really embarrassing but I can’t come in.  I’m… sick.”  Seriously, Becca?  You paused?  As if they’re gonna believe you’re sick now.  They’re not stupid.  You can’t go back there.
“Okay, no problem, hope you feel better!”  no, she doesn’t hope you feel better, because she doesn’t believe you.  Why would she?
8:33 – back to bed.  It’s over.  Go to sleep.  Dream about something better.  Don’t get back out of bed.  It doesn’t lead to good things.

I slept until about 3pm.  When I woke up I felt so stupid and embarrassed. I got up, I went to my computer and I wrote an email.  I quit the job.  I felt extremely relieved, which made me extremely confused.  How was I relieved about quitting a job when I so desperately needed the income?

Everything overwhelms me and I just can’t seem to focus on a solution.  I shut down.

I was off to a great start: I found a job within a few days of being home from my backpacking trip.  That’s amazing!  But, I had a bad moment.  I slept in a bit, and the fear of being reprimanded for being late (which, at the end of the day, is not that big a deal!) resulted in me giving up entirely.  Of course it would have made much more sense to face the fact that I was a bit late – own it, apologise for it, and carry on with the day.  Unfortunately I can’t always think this clearly.

When you’re overcome with anxiety, you just want to run away from it.  You want to make that feeling go away, and you’ll do whatever you can to make that happen – you won’t even consider the consequences.  You just need that instant relief.  Or, you might consider the consequences, but you won’t care enough in the moment.  You’ll do whatever it takes to release your problem right then and there, even if it causes a worse issue later on.

You’ll deal with that one when you come to it.  Probably, you’ll “deal with it” by running away and thereby chasing the next problem that will undoubtedly present itself.  It’s a rather vicious cycle.

So, how do you overcome anxiety?

I typically have the ability to think rationally.  I’m very self-aware and I know and understand my thought processes quite well.  But there are so many versions of me.  The anxious Becca can’t think rationally; she jumps to conclusions and gets crippled by fear.  The paranoid, delusional Becca can find something negative wherever she looks.  The depressed Becca just doesn’t give a fuck – about anything.  The manic Becca is pretty similar – just much more energetic.

It’s only the calm Becca that can view a situation objectively.  Unfortunately I haven’t figured out yet how to make her stick around for long.

What I really need to do is breathe.  I need to breathe and I need to learn to talk myself out of these irrational thoughts.  I need to learn how to communicate with myself.  I have the knowledge in one state of mind, but it won’t transfer over to the next state of mind.  I need to learn how to make that happen.

That’s much easier said than done.