May 31st, 2011

#2720: Apparently I've got my marbles back.

It must be so, because they let me go.


A hearty thank you to all of you out there who sent good wishes and/or prayers my way. I am truly humbled by them, and thankful that my recent troubles did not go without sympathy.

Now, on to the snark! 'Cause you know I can't go through something like this and not come away with a shitton of stuff to be sarcastic about. I'm going to go grab myself a Pepsi, and while I'm doing that, you get comfortable yourself...because this one's going to be a long one.


As Sailor V said, Sunday the 15th I was still in the grips of the fiend depression, as badly as I'd been the prior few days. Late Sunday night--perhaps 11-ish--I had thought to have some chicken soup; but after looking at the can I decided I wasn't that damn hungry. I had a can of Slim-Fast; and after that I decided I'd just go to bed.

As usual, I used a razor blade to chop a Paxil tablet in half; then I looked at the blade, and my wrist, and gently dragged the corner of the blade across about 3/8" of my wrist.

I don't know why.

I've tried and tried to connect to whatever stupid, asinine mental space I was in; but I simply can not figure out WTF was going through my head. It wasn't a suicide attempt; I didn't want to do any serious harm to myself. As Sailor V said, I've had paper cuts that were worse than the cut I gave myself; it barely hurt and there was so little blood there wouldn't have been enough to activate a blood glucose test strip.

Whatever the motivation, it was enough to make me realize that I needed help now: I had just deliberately cut myself, something I had never done in my life. So after I took my pill, I called my brother and my oldest sister, and then called 911.

Cops, paramedics, ambulance ride to hospital, blah blah blah, etcetera--

They took all my clothes save my underwear and put me into an isolation room. They stripped the room of anything that could conceivably be used for self-harm. The room was locked, and there were two large windows; venetian blinds were on the outside.

There I remained for 33 hours.

Eight 4-foot flourescent tubes beamed 320 watts of light on me the entire time. The various heart monitor alarms in the ER were beeping constantly--a sound not unlike a honking car horn, about every five seconds--and the staff of the ER is not at all bothered by them and never worries about shutting them off.

The alarm sounds when the patient's vitals drop below some pre-set figure. Nearly all the time, the device is not monitoring anything but blood pressure and pulse oxygen, so--seeing no heart action--the thing goes wh-whonk, and it does it continuously for thirty-three freaking hours.

And of course it was a goddamned oven in there. I'm lying on a stretcher--not a proper hospital gurney--in a hospital gown, over my underwear, and I was roasting. Because it's all union at that hospital, the maintenance guys are the only ones allowed to touch the thermostats. So for thirty-three hours I existed in a giant Easy-Bake oven.

Whenever I needed to use the toilet--fortunately there was a hide-a-way one in there--I had to call the nurse to get them to close the venetian blinds so I wasn't crapping in public. Even so, the toilet was directly opposite the door, which had its own window.

Pretty sure that you don't need to humiliate someone just because he's on suicide watch.

To make matters even more entertaining, then, around 7 AM on Monday the 16th I got breakfast. Most of it was pretty good, though the french toast was awful--and to eat my breakfast I got plastic spoon, fork, and knife.


I had to be in a brightly-lit room with next to no privacy and only a crappy hospital gown to wear because their protocol said that's what you do with "suicidal" people...and they give me something I could use to hurt myself if I were so inclined.

Which I wasn't. About an hour after I got to the hospital, I realized that I was counting the tiles on the wall of the room. That led me to realize that I was bored...and then it hit me: I feel fine now!

(144, by the way, on that wall.)

I couldn't sleep because of the heat and the noise; I'd lay down for a while, then sit up for a while. The day dragged past; at lunchtime they brought me a perfectly acceptable lunch; everything tasted good and I ate it all...with knife and fork. *rolleyes*

So I relaxed, and tried to sleep, and failed...and the nurse who'd been trying to get me admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kankakee was unable to get my crappy underwriter


to send proof of insurance to said hospital.

Dinnertime came. Pot roast, yum!

They gave me a spoon to eat it with.

It wouldn't have bothered me if I hadn't had knife and fork for the past two meals. Do you know how hard it is to eat pot roast with a plastic spoon? WTF.


During the afternoon, I called the nurse and asked to speak to the chaplain. I was feeling a lot of guilt over the way things had shaken out--the self-inflicted cut, the failure it represented--and I needed to talk to someone. I needed spiritual reassurance.

I got it. She came down and we talked for a while, about a lot of things religious; and when we were finished we prayed together, and Good Lord did that help me. I think that time I spent talking to the chaplain helped me more than anything else that happened to me during the entire imbroglio. The things she told me weren't anything I hadn't heard before--they were all things I believe myself--but I needed to hear it from someone.

...anyway: so after dinnertime, after about 4-ish or so, another nurse came in and explained the situation. I could wait another 12 hours and maybe get into the hospital in Kankakee, and probably be faced with a huge bill; or they could change my condition to "no insurance". I'd go to Tinley Park, which is a state-run facility, and it would cost me less and so on.

I resisted at first; but after thinking about it, I changed my mind and told her to go ahead. By 11 o'clock, then, I was in and merely waiting for a bed to open at Tinley Park (TP).

I watched Craig Fergusen, and laughed my ass off. The night dragged on. Sometime around 1 AM or so some big emergency was going on, but that was when I had finally gotten so tired that I had to sleep...and I slept, for a glorious hour and a half.

Breakfast on Tuesday morning was around 7-ish, and--again--it came with a fork and a spoon. I ate it all. I was just about asleep again when I was awakened by the paramedics who were taking me to TP. I could finally get a freakin' shower!

I'd wanted one since about 8 AM Monday morning; good Lord did I want a shower. After not caring about it Wednesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday, I wanted a shower. *sigh*

They strapped me onto a gurney and put me in the ambulance, and we drove to TP...and waited outside. And waited. And waited. TP was "understaffed" that day, and "backed up".

Teeth beginning to float, I told the paramedics that I really needed to pee. They told me they'd see what they could do; and we waited and waited and waited AND WAITED.... Finally the guy who wasn't driving went inside just to see if I could use a bathroom; and then he came out and said they were going to try to expedite things.

I counted out fifteen minutes "one one thousand two one thousand", all the while thinking about the classical composer who died of a burst bladder because one simply did not stand up from a meal before the King did, wondering if I was going to wet the gurney or if I'd suffer the same fate--and then they finally let us in. Up to Admitting, and they let me hop off the gurney and take a leak before doing any admitting stuff.


And I was allowed to change back into my street clothes, too, before they really started the paperwork; that, too, was a relief.

All the staff at TP were very nice. No complaints there. The food? That was the first time I ever had hospital food that lived down to the reputation hospital food has--more on that in a few.

I was left in a dayroom on the third floor for a while, and I picked a book up from a shelf and started reading. I was halfway through it before it was my turn to go up to the fourth floor.

I was scared green. Never having been in a psychiatric ward before, I didn't know what to expect, and as the nurse led me down the hallway we passed by a few patients. One was this youngish guy who had a blanket draped over himself; the other was this outspoken guy, perhaps in his twenties, who was saying to the nurse, "Yo, when can I get a shower? I need some lotion for my face! It's drying up! My face is numb! It gonna fall off!"

More paperwork, blah blah blah, try to call my aunt and uncle--busy--and so on; so she showed me to my room: 409, bed 4.

Bed 3 was occupied by a normal-looking and -sounding guy who, lookwise, reminded me of the Vizzini from Princess Bride. Skinnier, though. And this guy--initials JS--immediately cautioned me against taking pharmaceuticals, because the doctors were all fraudulent and their practice here was illegal.


Dinnertime came not much later, and I tried to eat as much of it as I could. The food was...edible.

As the day wound onward I settled down and got used to my surroundings. After dinner, the showers were open; I dithered about it because I didn't have any clean clothes, but finally thought, FUCK IT! I NEED A SHOWER! Who cares if I have to put on dirty clothes?

...the soap dispenser was empty. I washed as best I could, basically just rinsing and scrubbing, but when I was finished I felt a damn sight better than I had.

When it was bedtime, I had trouble falling asleep only because it was noisier than I'm used to and I'm a very light sleeper. I only got a few hours of sleep, though, because sometime around 3 AM JS woke up and talked to himself. Continuously. For at least an hour. Whatever he thought of, it came out his mouth. Eventually he shut up and I fell asleep again, but was awakened at 5 AM by one of the techs informing us that the showers were open.

Here's how a typical day is:

5:00 AM showers open (until 6)
7:00 AM breakfast
8:00 AM morning medication
8:30 AM "community" meeting
9-11 AM group sessions; free time for those without
11:30-ish: lunch
12:00 noon meds
12:30-4:00 afternoon groups/free time
4:30-ish: dinner
5:30-6:30: showers open
5:30-7:30: visiting hours
8:30 PM: evening meds, HS snack
9:30 PM: relaxation period
10:00 PM: lights out
I managed a little bit more sleep before breakfast, but not much; and breakfast was...edible.

Between breakfast and lunch--not having any groups yet--I tried to get some more sleep. I read my book, found some scratch paper and a pencil and tried drawing; I basically idled around, getting used to my environment. That afternoon I saw an MD, who did a physical, and otherwise I either napped or read.

Wednesday night was a repeat of Tuesday night. Dinner, shower, blah blah blah, etcetera. Go to sleep at lights out, wake up at 3 AM listening to JS' monologue. *sigh*

Wednesday afternoon--

I was trying to nap, and JS--feeling creative--was laying in his bed talking to himself about this great new invention he'd thought of: a beer cozy with a strap, so you could hang it around your neck. (Yes, I know it's already been done.)

Mainly he was trying to figure out what to call it. "The 'Boze'? No," he decided. He went on, brainstorming out loud, trying out various combinations. His penultimate name was--are you ready for this?--"the portable holder with foam strap". "No, 'foam' makes it sound cheap," he decided, and so he settled on "the portable holder with strap".

I was laying in my bed trying not to laugh out loud. From the moment I'd met JS I had him figured for the kind of guy who cannot stand to hear so much as a contrary syllable; and as our aquaintence continued (that is, the more I heard of his monologues) the more certain I was that I was rooming with a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. He seemed harmless enough, though.

I settled into the routine of the place. There was no stigma attached to sleeping if you felt like it--as long as you took your meds and went to your groups, didn't cause trouble, and followed the rules, the staff didn't give a rat's ass what you did. I was a model citizen.

Wednesday evening my aunt and uncle came by and brought me clean clothes! So once the visit was over I got to take a shower and put on clean clothes. I even had a pair of shorts so I no longer had to swelter. (As much.) Hallelujah!

I settled further into routine. Friday the 20th I had my 72-hour staffing, which was a meeting with me and the treatment team. JS continued to get on my nerves, more and moreso.

Sunday, my brother brought socks, underwear, t-shirts, and a composition book, so now I had something in which to draw--I no longer had to ask the nurses for paper--though I still had to use a golf pencil to do it. We weren't allowed anything longer--no pens, no mechanical pencils, no full-length pencils or pens. I managed to do some pretty nice work, just picking random scenes from various series of mine and drawing pages. I also got started on character designs for Sunshine Bird and Chrysalis.

JS had been refusing to take his medication (see above, "paranoid schizophrenic") and finally he tried to punch a nurse, so he got strapped down and got "the shot": an injection of haldol. JS insisted that every time he got a shot it was "ten thousand dollars"--where he got that figure, I don't know, but he was adamant that it was illegal--and one time he told the nurse administering meds: "Why would I not take my pill? That's $500 you're going to pay me, my man." I guess he figures that when he finally gets out, he's going to sue, and get recompense for all these "illegal" actions.

I'd heard him thinking about punching someone: "I want to punch someone. That'd be so cool. It'd be great to break someone's nose." ...and when he actually tried to do it, of course his target didn't just stand there and get punched, but ducked it...and then had him restrained and gave him The Shot.

Everything was more or less fine, even so, because they'd gotten enough haldol into him that the monologues had stopped. But there was a night when he refused meds, and 2nd shift just charted it and shrugged it off...and the 3rd shift nurse came into our room at 11:30 just after I'd managed to get to sleep and told him, "If you don't take your pill I'm going to give you The Shot. What'll it be?"

I'd repeatedly asked him to keep the door open at night, so I wouldn't roast; after he backed down and took the pill (I doubt he actually swallowed it) he closed the door.

"Hey," I said.

"Sorry," he replied, and opened the door a bare 2".

I got up and opened it wide.

"I forgot--you're the Doormaster," he sneered.

"I've lost a lot of sleep because of your bullshit," I retorted.

"Suck my ass, nerd face."

I subsided, realizing that there's no percentage in arguing with a certifiable lunatic. Besides, I didn't want to disturb our other two roommates any further. JS got back into bed; and in the dark I heard him whisper smugly to himself, "'Nerd face'."

I clapped my hands over my mouth to keep myself from laughing out loud. I'm sure he thought I stopped arguing because of his crushing insult; it would have spoiled it if I'd laughed.

But the saga doesn't end there. The guys who'd been in beds 1 and 2 got out Wednesday, and new guys were moved in; the guy in bed 1 had sleep apnea and snored like a lumber mill. You can guess what this did for my ability to sleep; fortunately he didn't do it all night long. I was laying there in the dark, trying to sleep, and this guy was making every noise that can possibly come from the upper respiratory system--the humor in the situation was obvious and I chuckled a few times at how the scene would play in a sitcom.

Anyway, somehow JS had convinced himself that he was getting out on Thursday the 26th, and when that didn't happen he was equally convinced it was Friday the 27th--so Friday morning at 6 frickin' AM he opened all the curtains in the room. "Fuck it, I'm getting out today and I want to have light in here."

This touched off another argument. I don't remember the particulars; I was restraining my temper and that took a lot of effort. I do remember telling him, "You think you're getting out of here today?" I sneered, and laughed. "You're delusional!" I rarely speak that way to anyone, but this idiot deserved it. When I called him a douchebag, he replied, "You're a flaming douchebag. What do you think of that?"

He tried to hurt my feelings with comments about D&D and my sex life, but I didn't take the bait, and finally I realized (again) that you can't win an argument with an insane moron. A while later I asked to be moved into a different room, and ended up one door down in 405, bed 4...and it was blissfully quiet. I was able to sleep all night. It was awesome.

Sunday night, JS got violent again, so he got restrained and The Shot again. I felt sorry for him again; after all, the guy's got a serious mental illness and he really can't help it.

Also on Sunday night there were a couple of new admissions; one guy went into bed 3 in 405 and another went into bed 4 in 409, which was originally mine. The guy who got bed 3 in 405 snored, and again I had to laugh at how much like a sitcom it was, but he wasn't as loud as the other guy and he stopped after a much shorter period. That was all right.

The guy who got bed 4 in 409 was not as forbearing as I had been. He wasn't in that room two days before he beat the crap out of JS, just this morning. He really only slugged him a couple of times, but the last time I saw JS before I left there today, he had a nice shiner.

I refrained from saying anything to JS as I left. I thought about it, but I decided that I'm just not that much of an asshole.

I don't know how much of JS' abrasive personality comes from his illness. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt; but besides being a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur, he's also a narcissist: you cannot say so much as a single contrary syllable to him unless you're prepared for an argument.

He also showed his displeasure with his situation by urinating all over the toilet seats in the bathroom, by urinating on the toilet paper rolls, by throwing the paper towels in the sinks and getting them wet, by destroying the soap the "community meetings" the nurses repeatedly told us--correctly--that "whoever is doing that is doing it to get back at us, but he's actually only hurting you guys. It doesn't really affect us." (They said "whoever" but everyone knew who was responsible.) The guy was prohibited from using the telephones because he'd get on the thing with his mother, talk for a while, get pissed off, and try to destroy the telephone. For the last 10 days, 25 guys had to share one telephone because this asshat broke one of them in one of his temper tantrums.

But because he's a paranoid schizophrenic, it's impossible to convince him that taking the pills are in his best interests. He thinks he doesn't belong there; he thinks they're holding him illegally. He's insane.

It's pretty fucking sad.

* * *

As for me, I went to my groups, and got something from each of them. I read a lot--more than in the previous year. I read The Iliad, Space by Michener, Frankenstein, Heinlein's The Star Beast, The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons, a book on medieval armor, an engineering treatise on the Wankel engine, a hopelessly outdated book on automation; I started to read a geology textbook until I realized that it predated the theory of plate tectonics (it was printed in 1967, and I realized that I'm older than plate tectonics. *sigh*). I did some drawing and worked on a few story ideas, though I didn't get much of anything done.

I had hoped to be out last week. On my birthday I signed a 5-day release form--basically a request for release within 5 days--but they asked me to rescind it a week ago today, and I regretfully agreed to. "If you think that's best...though I'd really like to go home." Oh well.

And my depression? It's been gone since about 1 AM on Monday, May 16th. I had a few bouts of the ordinary blues while I was in the hospital; most of these came from the guilt I feel over putting my family through this bullshit. None of them were the soul-crushing depression I endured from the 11th through the 15th. They didn't even come close.

By the time I finished talking to the hospital chaplain on Monday the 16th I realized what had been happening to me--with my emotions back on an even keel, I was able to analyze what had been going on since I started at [employer] on April 25th.

The chaplain put it in perspective for me: she asked me, "When did your mother die?"

"December 13th--about five months ago."

"That's like yesterday!"

It wasn't the job that was the problem. It was:
The job PLUS
Mom's death PLUS
dealing with Mom's estate PLUS
keeping up the house PLUS
commuting PLUS
jumping into a full-time job after 1.5 years of low stress PLUS
facing the prospect of leaving my childhood home forever PLUS
having to perform at maximum in order to satisfy my new bosses with no defined goals PLUS
the feeling that this job was my last chance at success PLUS
my brother's cajolery PLUS
It wasn't any single factor; it was everything. I simply bit off more than I could chew.

I bit off more than I could chew, and after three weeks, I cracked. Pure and simple.

It's the first time I've ever been confronted with a hard limit to my capabilities, and it's kind of humbling to realize something I knew all along: when you're having a psychological issue, you can know all about psychology and still be totally helpless to do anything about it.

I've had two Abnormal Psychology courses and I've read both the textbooks, cover-to-cover; I know more about psychology than 90% of the populace of the United States...and while I could recognize that I was experiencing clinical depression, I could not figure out why until after it had lifted.

So I'm going to have to find myself a new job, and I'm going to have to ease into things rather than jump into them. I'm still going to attempt to hook up with the grief support group at church, and I'm going to take some other steps.

Further bulletins as events warrant.