The One Thing That Got Me Through My Psych Ward Nightmare
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
“If you don’t talk to me, I’ll have you locked in a psych ward.”
The words rattle around the inside of my skull like weights — slapping me, breaking me, with every turn. I’m visibly shaking, so my husband grabs my fingers with his and squeezes. I look up through my lashes, because lifting my head would hurt and try to manage a smile.
“You have to talk now. You don’t have a choice.”
I shut my eyes so tight it hurts, the pain reverberating across my eye sockets and into my temples. A stupid moan slips from between my clenched teeth and I force myself to relax enough to open my eyes and untangle my tense muscles from each other. If I’m too loud, someone will hear and I couldn’t bare that.
I kept expecting them to call my name because mentally unstable patients usually get taken back pretty quickly.
But they don’t.
I bounce my legs, because the anxiety has to go somewhere. My fingers tremble around my phone, I can’t stop it, and it falls to the floor. I bite back a sob; I clench my teeth around it and grind it into submission before it runs down my face.
I jerk, startled. Steven pulls me to my feet, keeping an arm wrapped tightly around my shoulders.
“I’m not running…”
I mumble it under my breath but I know he hears me because he chuckles and eases up a little. He’s no longer grabbing onto me so tightly my bones are bruising; now it is just my skin.
They’re going to ask why I’m here.
Obviously, they’re going to ask but that thought makes my feet stutter and my skin grow cold and wet. I try to control my breathing because it’s my biggest tell.
“What brought you here today?”
I run my pointer finger back and forth across my upper lip erratically. I can’t really think past the terror lodged into my throat with spikes of pain, so it’s more of a croak than anything when I finally answer.
“Suicidal thoughts. I just… I just want to stop hurting.”
The nurse tilts his head and wrinkles his eyebrows. I know he’s confused but I can’t care. Steven helps me onto the table — because I’m short and can’t jump — before answering.
“She has physical health problems. They cause her to be in agony on a constant basis.”
“I’m just tired…”
I shrug lightly, looking at the floor. I’m drilling into it with everything I have but it’s not enough to distract me. I clench my fists and answer the onslaught of questions. Every time the nurse speaks, my anxiety ratchets up another notch until my entire body is shaking and Steven has to physically hold me still.
“She has issues with hospitals.”
“They terrify me…” I whisper softly into my chest.
“Can she keep her phone, please?”
He promised they wouldn’t take it away and the relief that literally sped through my body in a cool wash was embarrassing. My phone was that important?
My phone was definitely that important.
It meant they couldn’t just lock me away. A tear starts to slip from the corner of one eye, so I clench my teeth and swallow hard in an effort to stop it from snaking down my cheek like a flood. I dam it up.
“This shirt is too small. Talk about bad timing..” I try to joke about the situation, because how awkward to feel insecure and broken and be reminded of how “fat” you are.
I think if Steven hadn’t been there to request a larger size, I would have just struggled through not being able to breathe because I couldn’t expand my chest.
“Why do I have to change, anyway? And no panties?”
I just feel gross.
I grip Steven’s hand in mine until my fingers start to ache. I know he has to leave. Visions of me pounding against the glass of a locked door leak into my brain while he wraps his arms around my shoulders to say goodbye. I clutch his shirt like it’s holding me over an abyss. My fingers are slipping and I’m spiraling into the darkness underneath. My legs are being swallowed up and eaten into nothing as I fall.
“I’ll text you all night, Roze. I promise.”
His words pull me back and I loosen my grip. My fingertips hurt a little while feeling comes back so I concentrate on that instead of his back as he walks away stiffly.
“It’s going to get busy for a while; you’re by the wrong room, I guess, haha.”
A nurse pats my shoulder comfortingly and it startles me. I smile, nervous and in a panic.
“I just want to come home,” I text.
I feel tears threatening to escape my eyes. My head is foggy so fighting is difficult. I see people crying and struggle not to join in. The tears in my throat burn me until it hurts, but I blink and blink and blink and blink…
I breathe; they stop for now.
“It’s going to be a while until someone can see you, like a few hours, so why don’t you come with me?”
I stand up, grateful to leave the busy and way too public hallway, but apprehensive because these doors are completely locked. I pause in front of them, unable to breathe. Breath is caught in my chest like it’s too big to pass through, painfully sitting there like a lump of anxiety.
Instinctively, I clench my fists because the pain helps me breathe, but I feel my phone instead of my palm and finally exhale. I’m not stuck. It doesn’t matter if the door locks. I’m alright.
Security has to check me again and I woodenly spread my arms and legs, mostly unable to feel. I’ve turned it off because until I’m alone, I can’t afford to totally relax. I just can’t.
“If you don’t let me out, I’m going to kill everyone in this place!”
I sit up quickly, wincing when it hurts. My head is pounding again. A band of iron is tightening around my skull and I can’t stop it. More banging and more screaming has me rubbing my temples so hard it hurts in a desperate attempt to stop it.
The screaming has stopped — though it reverberates through my head painfully — so I close my eyes and clutch my phone to my chest. I’ve never depended on anything so much in my life. It’s the tank of oxygen keeping me alive while everything else drowns me.
I fall asleep with my face pressed into the hard and uncomfortable couch, a thin white blanket pulled up around my neck.
“I didn’t do nothing!”
“Sir you punched your father. Are you on anything?”
I jerk so hard I fall from the couch. My heart thuds against the inside of my chest like tiny horse hooves stampeding through my veins. I quickly sit up and watch the open door.
A time bomb. Psych ward are freaking time bombs and I’m terrified. I realize after a second that my body hurts so much because I can’t stop shaking. The trembling is jerking my joints and muscles too much, and I stiffen myself in an effort to stop. Nothing will happen to you. Nothing can happen to you.
Silence settles once again and even though I stop myself from shaking, I can’t escape the panic or convince myself to fall asleep. Instead, I twirl the blanket fabric between my fingers and wiggle my toes inside the bright yellow hospital-issued socks.
“Are you going to be in here long?”
The woman screaming threats last night shuffles into my room and I glance up quickly. I must have fallen asleep sitting here because suddenly it’s morning and my back is too stiff to move quickly. Hopefully she isn’t a threat.
A nurse quickly runs in and ushers her off with a smile of apology before I can finish wiping my eyes to fully assess the situation.
I’ve been here all night. All fucking night. I spent all night in a pysch ward and I am still intact. My heart speeds up a little at the thought because I had just crushed my biggest fear.
A knock jars me from my celebration and panic comes rushing back. I am not a badass; I am a broken girl, unable to escape the physical pain overwhelming me.
“Can you tell me what brought you here last night?”
I sigh. I hate this part.
My fingers start twitching; I’m pretty sure it isn’t my fault. It’s involuntary, so I grab my phone with both hands to stop it. An ocean is cascading through my veins and pounding in my ears. It’s so loud I can barely hear my own thoughts. I watch her lips move and furrow my eyebrows because for a second, I truly can’t hear her.
“Uhm,” I start quietly. I still can’t hear myself, so I clear my throat and start again. “I. Uhm.” I take another breath, expanding my lungs until my skin won’t go any farther and slowly let it out. “I was feeling suicidal because I hurt. It’s overwhelming me. I can’t breathe without pain.”
She smiles sympathetically and nods. My eyes dart over every surface of the room, but I know I won’t remember anything — my head isn’t clear. There’s another lump in my chest but I knock it away and begin speaking.
I’m unwilling to let my scariest nightmares take over my world; not any longer.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
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