My Bipolar Experience with the ER

In the first three years of my diagnosis with Bipolar One, I was often rushed to the emergency room. Most of the time it was my family worried that I was suicidal or that I was a danger to myself. I went in for being extremely depressed to uncontrollable anxiety and panic attacks so many times over the course of these years. Each experience was different but similar in so many ways.

There were times where my psychiatrist didn’t like what I said in a session and I was brought by police car to the emergency room.

I have talked about how the hospital visits was a major part of the first three years of my diagnosis. I would go in for uncontrollable panic attacks, some of the worst of my life.

From 2007-2010 the emergency room became my home away from home.

I remember one stretch in 2008 where twice a week for months I would end up in the emergency room for suicidal thoughts or uncontrollable anxiety. The nurses and doctors all knew me by name. It was so bad that year that I left my house for two reasons. Doctors appointments and hospital visits.

My experiences there were not always good, and here is why. So many times I went to the hospital I was very suicidal, but more times than not the crisis counselor would just ignore how depressed I was and would have me write out my feelings. I would sign a paper saying I wouldn’t harm myself and they would release me, but it was all bullshit.

It’s really a problem with the system. If the psychiatric ward is overcrowded, as it usually was during these visits, it was easier for the staff to release me to my parents only to be there a week later. My only psychiatric ward visits were after I tried to commit suicide. This basically told me I had to actually act to get help.

Would I have liked being put away in the psych ward? Of course not. But there were times between my second suicide attempt and my last where it might have made a difference. Especially in months leading up to my last suicide attempt. I wonder sometimes if the crisis counselor would have truly listened to me, I might have been put on a 51/50 and it could have gotten more help.

It really came down to the simple fact that there are not enough resources to go around for those with a mental illness. At least in my experiences with the American healthcare system. My times in the emergency room did little help me, it only really served as reasons to hide what was really wrong with me.

Nothing really was ever fixed, though part of it was that I didn’t want help and preferred to hide things, the signs were there for them to commit me.

I remember one emergency room visit after my family learned that I was cutting on my arms. Some of the cuts were deep. I somehow convinced the hospital staff that I would stop, as long as I signed a paper and said I wouldn’t do it again, the hospital covered their ass. But how does that help?

I continued to cut deeper into my arms and when I couldn’t hide it with jackets without my family checking I moved to cutting my legs to hide it better. The deep cuts on my arms were a cry for help, and yet the system isn’t designed to help. It’s all about doing it on your own. Seek help on your own. As long as we as the hospital is covered, you’re on your own.

I even once told the crisis counselor that I was suicidal and I wanted to kill myself, but he talked me out of believing that was true, and again as long as I signed the paper that I wouldn’t do why I said, I released to my parents.

My point is that for so many years I needed help from the system and that didn’t really go anywhere. It was only a few years after my last suicide attempt that I got real help. For years it was basically me in denial and never getting real hope that things would ever get better.

My experience was simply something that made it harder for me down the line to fix my issues. When I would go to the ER with panic attacks they would pump me with Ativan and release me, telling me to go see my doctor. My psychiatrist as helpful as he was only upped my doses of medication.

It’s a system that does very little for people with a mental illness. That is something I want to change. Those of us with a mental illness need to have real resources available to us right away. I was told so many times that I should seek outside help, but having no money or health insurance meant those words were just empty.

Other illnesses get better support, and yet those of us in the mental illness community are often forgotten or told there is nothing they can really do.

I am curious if my emergency room experiences differ from others in the mental illness community? Does the system work better now than it did at the beginning of my journey?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoNevin Ruttanaboonta

By James Edgar Skye

I am a fiction and nonfiction novelist, screenwriter, short stories, novellas, and blogger. I published my memoir, "The Bipolar Writer: A Memoir," now available on Amazon. I also write articles on this blog. My author website is In 2021, I am going legit with my ghostwriting business, "The Bipolar Writer Ghostwriting Services." I also have a podcast anywhere you can find podcasts, just search for The Bipolar Writer Podcast.


    1. I like your analogy. It is most definitely like being a leper. I avoid the ER as well but there are some that don’t know how bad it is because they are at the start of their journey. It seemed important to talk about the issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. When I worked as a crisis counselor, which included after-hours on-call, I spent a lot of time in the ER with people. Somebody had to be pretty persuasive to get sent home merely by signing a form, especially with a history of attempts. Most of the people I saw were established clients of the outpatient clinic where I worked, and frequent crisis contacts, so I knew them well and/or had access to records. That said, once the ER had medically cleared them (vitals, blood panel, urinalysis, tox screen, etc.), the ER staff considered them my problem. Many ER doctors, I found, are not fond of psych patients “cluttering up their facility”. In the system there (rural Arizona) at the time, there were no intermediate levels of care – no respite or half-way programs, no detox, no residential care, just inpatient or home + outpatient. So, the decision could be high stakes and quite a few went on to inpatient to err on the safe side.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve actually had the opposite experience. I’ve been in and out of the hospital for the past 20 years especially after I was first diagnosed in the mid-90s, and then again around 2003 when I had the breakdown that put me on disability. Maybe it’s because I had insurance? It definitely isn’t easy having a mental illness without insurance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For that period of time I didn’t have insurance. That is part of the issue. There are so many of us dealing with our illness without insurance. I have it now but it’s no for sure I will have it tomorrow. That is what I hope to change.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suspect the lack of insurance coverage altered your experience. That is a terrible shame.

        I didn’t have that experience myself, as when I presented in the ER and said I was suicidal and needed to be hospitalized, I generally found myself on a psych unit. Granted, I had to speak to multiple screeners and social workers to make that happen, and I wasn’t always in the best shape, but I was able to get immediate help.

        The worst part is, the hospital isn’t really the best case solution a lot of the time. It is in many of the cases you described, and it is when life is in imminent danger, but it really never helped me long term. What finally saved me was a provider seeking a treatment order to get my attention and kind of force my hand into new forms of therapy (CBT) that I wouldn’t have tried before. That was infinitely more effective than any hospital stay for me.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. While I have no experience going to the ER for mental health reasons, I’ve been many times for my chronic illnesses. What I have found is that the ER is not a good place for those with chronic issues- rather it be mental illness, physical illness, or both. The ER is great at treating acute issues, like broken bones and cuts that need stitches, but they lack empathy for those with chronic health problems. They never adequately treat my issues, and often send me home saying they’ve done all they can, when I know that isn’t true. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with bad ER experiences. What they don’t seem to understand is that if they would adequately treat people in the first place, and give them the resources they need, then they wouldn’t need to come back to often. The American health care system can be so messed up sometimes.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It really can. I worry about the people like I was at that age. I never go to the ER unless it’s an emergency and never for my mental illness. It’s a messed up system and there are people not getting the help they need. It worries me. It’s why I wrote this post.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had both insurance and a psychologist initiating intakes so though went through the er it was always one my therapist had a working relationship with and I think that probably made my experience different than yours. That said yes the mental health and chronic illness system in this country is royally screwed up. When I think of just how sick I was then and what I know about the system now, I’m shocked I was even able to find a therapist and such a good one at that, it was total luck. A few folks I know who work in the mental health field tell me how most therapists they know wouldn’t have touched me then with a ten foot pole. They all want low risk high reward don’t have to do much outside the appointment clients. Which is incredibly sad and frustrating to know. I mean I get it from a compassion fatigue stand point but from a patient stand point, it means there are so many of us getting crappy,or no care because our case is deemed too difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been frustrated with the psychiatric care in my area, too. I was actually in the ER this week, but opted to be sent home because I really hate being in that ward. I think people like us need a better environment and need to be surrounded by supportive people. I mean don’t get me wrong, I am grateful there are places like wards for critical cases (like you and I). But shouldn’t there be quality care? I mean if someone doesn’t want to live, why would you want to coup them up alone in a very blank room, take away their personal belongings, and force them to congregate with strangers during meal time. There has to be a better way! Honestly, aside from medication what we need is to be with nature! We need to maybe be doing something productive to redirect that energy. I encourage you to try yoga, my good man! It helps. I posted on Facebook if anyone wanted to join me and out of that this blessing arose. I now have friends who have weekly yoga sessions with me! This gives me purpose-because I know that if I’m not there they’ll be disappointed. I do hope you have a bright and beautiful Christmas this year! Stay strong and keep being good to yourself! You’re a conqueror!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t disagree the environment needs to be better. Support is so important especially for those just beginning their journey. I had to learn the hard way but that is not right. I never thought about doing yoga but the new year is coming and not everything has worked this year so I should be open to trying new things. I hope you Christmas is great as well.

      Liked by 1 person

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