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.
Photo Credit: unsplash-logoNevin Ruttanaboonta