What Happened When I Went to the ER in Crisis With Bipolar Disorder
I woke up and looked down at my body. It was orange, as if it was engulfed in flames. A rage was simmering not so far below the surface. Having bipolar disorder, I was familiar with the extreme lows of depression. I was familiar with the high energy of hypomania. Even the hypersexuality was familiar to me. But this rage, this was new. It was like every fiber of my being was on fire. Every word I heard was an irritant. If you asked me what I was angry about, I had no idea. Nothing in particular. Everything in general. For days.
The TV was on in the living room. Loud. My husband was watching it with our son and our grandson. I was crawling out of my skin, unable to handle the volume. Knowing I was about to blow, I said I was going to bed and excused myself. My husband rolled his eyes. Uh-oh, he shouldn’t have done that. I asked him if I could speak to him in the bedroom. He followed me into the room and closed the door. Let’s just say we had words. He had had it with my attitude. I had had it with everything. I yelled. I yelled curse words — and I don’t swear. Then, I grabbed my purse and headed out the door. I had to get out of that house and away from people. I had no idea where I was going, but I was going.
Two miles down the road was Walmart. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see to drive. I pulled into Walmart and parked the car. I called a suicide hotline. After someone came on the line, they connected me to our local psychiatric hospital. The person on the phone from the hospital listened as I hysterically tried to explain what was going on. She asked me if I thought I was going to hurt myself. I said I didn’t know, I just knew I was terrified and out of control. She told me I was very welcome to come to the admissions office. But, she said it was a busy night and there would likely be a 10-hour wait before they could assess me.
Did I think my anxiety could handle a 10-hour wait? Definitely not. She suggested I take myself to the closest emergency room. That was only a mile away, I thought I could manage that drive. It was a very dark road and my brain was so gone I couldn’t see right. I drove very slowly. Fortunately, it was a very deserted road.
I got to the hospital and parked. I just sat in the car and cried. Who could I call? Where could I go? Nowhere. My mind was convinced no one would want to hear from me, everybody was busy, they had their lives to live. I was certain they would see it was me on caller ID and not answer the phone. I had been rapid cycling for over a year. Mostly depression. Mind-numbing depression. Suicidal thoughts. Even plans one night. My therapist had talked me down from that one. And now, this rage. How could anyone stand to be around me? How could my husband put up with me any longer? I was horrible. Useless. That word kept running around and around my brain. Useless.
I got out of the car and made about 10 steps toward the ER door. I stopped at a lamppost and leaned into it, sobbing. We don’t have health insurance, I can’t afford to go to the emergency room. I headed back to the car. Five steps and stopped to sob some more. I turned around again. I didn’t know what to do. I was so afraid. I was so completely out of control. I was so completely hopeless.
I walked through the doors of the ER and there was no one in the waiting room. I walked to the counter and the nurse sitting behind the desk asked what she could do for me. I wasn’t prepared for the question. I didn’t know what she could do for me. I didn’t know what I was doing there. I said, “I have bipolar disorder and I need help,” and started to cry again. She said, “OK, we can help you.”
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