Day 102

Well, now we come to the present. Those first days were probably the hardest and I couldn’t keep writing in the past otherwise I’d never catch up. I took a week off from work and then did a week of half days which brought me to the beginning of June. So, I’ve been back to work for about two and a half months. It’s good that summer is our slow season. It was a good way to ease back in.

I’ve taught a couple of classes since then but I wonder how it will be when I’ve got 6 classes a day all week long. At least that chaos slows down and ends for the holidays. I’ve been tired, which is not new news. Having a sleep test soon and I’ll probably get my CPAP machine back. Yuck! But I should sleep better with it which should help a lot of things.

No real emotional ups and downs, I’ve been pretty middle of the road and I’m not sure if enough time has gone by yet for the meds to have kicked in. As long as it stays like this it will do.

Part of my plan is to get out of town more often which I did last week. I had to go to Pasadena for two days for work, so I went the weekend before and stayed the weekend after to see the boys. Was a lot of fun.. The first weekend I helped them film a short that Mike and his writing partner had written. Good script and a nice tight little cast and crew. It was two overnight shoots, so that was fun. I can’t believe I made it through both nights. I love working with them and watching them work together, I wish I could do it more often.

Monday and Tuesday I napped, read, and wrote. I’ve started a new book which I’m three chapters into. You can see a preview here if you’re interested, https://www.facebook.com/Vinnie.sorce.author. It was nice to write during the day and not have to worry about work.

Wednesday and Thursday was my class. Training the trainers as it were. Nice hotel and free dinners which my boss paid for. Not sure how I like the material. I have at least one coworker who feels similar. It’s very game based. Teach a short lesson and then play a game to reenforce it.

Thursday night back to Mike’s. Friday I went to the Getty Museum. Very cool place. Huge! I only went to two buildings and the garden and that took several hours. https://www.getty.edu/visit/center/

Friday night was poker which was a blast. We had to have two tables. I finished fourth due to a pot error, otherwise I would have finished worse. Great group of people.

Saturday we went to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, https://www.academymuseum.org/en. Some fabulous exhibits. and Sunday was an escape room which we blew away. 61 minutes in a 75 minute room.

Sometimes life seems normal but not all the time. Maybe it never will, maybe it never has. I don’t know.

Alright, we’ll see where we go from here then.

Day 9

Day 9

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

It’s my first day home. I slept on the couch because bed just didn’t feel right. Nothing really felt right. It didn’t feel wrong but it wasn’t completely comfortable. For all I knew it never would be. 

I wasn’t sure I was wanted back. Spoiler, I was, it just took a little time. 

My brother-in-law was still staying with us for a few days. I just wanted an empty house while my wife was at work. Wasn’t anybody’s fault. I just locked myself in the living room. I still had undiagnosed Covid so I did a lot of sleeping. 

My wife was still pissed and giving me room. I actually think it was her who needed the room. Can’t blame her. I didn’t really know what she was going through and she wasn’t sharing yet. 

I honestly can’t remember much of the day. I slept, watched TV, ate, made lists, I think I called about my physical. 

I did a lot of thinking. I wondered what group conversations were going on and I kept checking my phone to see if it was meeting time at the hospital. 

I missed the hospital a little because it felt safe there. Not that I felt unsafe at home but I didn’t feel understood and that’s what I would have to figure out how to deal with. 

One way to help deal is to get out of town more often. I’m drowning in Prescott. Even just day trips would help. 

It’s also time to reach back out to the Free Thinkers group I used to frequent. Been away far too long now.  Some really great people there and they were great examples for my daughter.

Tomorrow is my appointment for a physical and the next day with the psychiatrist by phone. Real life would continue soon. It continued for everyone else. Very similar to after Lisa and Stacy’s funerals. My world was in chaos but the rest of the world kept spinning.

I would sleep in bed tonight.

End of day 9.

Day 8

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

I go home today. I hardly slept because of it. I was up every half hour hoping it was 6:00 AM. The only clock was at the nurse’s station and I didn’t have my phone. My only calculation of time would be voices getting ready around me.

Finally I hear some of the regulars talking to nurses and I bolt out of bed to check the time. 6:23. I memorized it. I skid/slide back into my room Risky Business style. I dress and pack my things, clothes and my book is pretty much all I have. I put my paper bag on the bed and go wait impatiently for breakfast. I’m starving.

There a few new patients at breakfast which tells me one of them is taking my bed. I sit by my self, which has become my custom. I’ve staked out a small table by an empty patio so I can pretend it’s a cafe in NY or Paris.

We go back upstairs and I skip smoke/walk break. I want to be available for any possible changes. I get a call to the nurses station to sign all my paperwork and my heart leaps at one more step towards freedom.

It’s 8:30. Pickup is scheduled for 10:00. My wife should already be on the road, I try to calculate where she is. I start counting the minutes. I skip morning group just in case. It’s the only one I miss since my arrival a week ago.

It gets close to time and Jay, Helen and Amy all say goodbye and hug me. I will always wonder what happens to them. As much as the hospital was responsible for my outcome so were the three of them not to mention all the other patients who somehow struck me. Vlad is on nights, I’m sad I’ll miss saying goodbye to him.

10:00 on the dot an aide is ready to take me down. She makes sure the halls are clear and we go down to admitting to reverse the process and discharge me. There are several other people waiting.

Everything is already signed. They give me back my personal items, which includes my belt. I think I missed it the most. They take several of us to the art room to pick up our projects. Again, it feels like summer camp.

They call my name and I grab my things and follow an aide through the door into an unsecured lobby. It’s the first place in a week from where I could leave if I wanted too.

My wife is sitting there and I squeeze her first and leave my things there while the aide takes me for my prescriptions. After that I am free to go.

Free.

It felt like a funny word. My body was free but would my mind ever be free?

We exited the building and I took a deep breath. The air was the same but somehow better. We got in the car and she asked if I needed any thing. Starbucks was my request.

Drinks in hand we drove home. I honestly don’t remember much of it. We were home by 1:00ish. I crashed on the couch. I was exhausted and still didn’t know I had Covid yet. It was an odd afternoon. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I slept on the couch that night because bed didn’t feel right.

I was home but it would be a little while before it was home again.

Now it really begins.

End day 8

Day 7

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

My incident happened a week ago now. A week, a lifetime, ten seconds. Time is funny that way, and not haha funny. It should be my last full day. I was fairly sure of that until I wasn’t

I had been told that all my aftercare, therapist, etc., would be set up for me. Then they turn around and tell me the rules have changed and I have to make the arrangements. It’s just one phone call but it’s frustrating and puts my anxiety on high alert.

Phone time isn’t for another seven hours but for medical, insurance or housing calls they will give you a floor phone to use. I dialed the number and surprise, surprise was put in a holding queue. I wait 40 minutes to find out I’m not even in the system. Anxiety is super high now. I call upon ye olde social work to discover I am indeed a new patient for the back home services.

I call again, after a 30 minute wait this time they tell me they don’t accept my insurance. Back to my social worker. Now to be fair, this is the first trouble I’ve had during my stay but the angst it was creating was now beginning to do harm to whatever good I got from the last week.

Fortunately, the social worker took it back over but at this point I didn’t know if I was going home tomorrow or not. I went to check in with the psychiatrist so she could calm me down. She assured me that last-minute glitches happen all the time and in the worst case scenario it would be one extra day.

I could live with one extra day. 24 hours more was no big deal. I was ready to go home though. The more I thought about it the more I was ready. It was in somebody else’s hands right now, which ironically, made it more overwhelming.

My mind raced as I participated in group and did my puzzle. By 3:00 phone time, I still didn’t have an answer. I called my wife and told her what was happening. She had already taken the next day off. I told her I’d let her know next phone time. For now, we hoped it would work out for the next day.

I went about my afternoon. Snack time, puzzle, reading, and gym time. Dinner would be soon and businesses would be closing at 5:00. If it wasn’t cleared up by end of business it would have to wait until tomorrow.

Three minutes before 5:00, it felt like a movie. They found me in the dinner line. All was well, I had my home appointments and they took my insurance. Dinner was exceedingly good that night. I rushed to be the first in line for phone time so I could tell my wife. She didn’t need that extra anxiety either. She was happy.

In less than 24 hours I would be on my way home. Word got around. Jay, Helen and Allison gave me their phone numbers/ As much help as they were during the week and I would always remember them. I didn’t think I could take their chaos in my future. As great as it was to have them around in that controlled environment I wasn’t convinced they would be a help outside the hospital and that needed to be more important.

I had my worst night’s sleep that night since I was admitted. I was glad to be going home but now I was flooded with emotions of how that was going to go. How would my wife react? She didn’t have the same support system that I did for the last week. She did have a support system just not filled with professionals like mine. Maybe that was better.

End of day 7.

Day 6

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

Sunday was not a church day. There was a volunteer chaplain I had seen several times but I don’t think there was any kind of religious services offered. I’m not even sure the hospital had a chapel. Except for Steven nobody else seemed religious.

It was a very slow day again. TV was on all day, which I would normally enjoy, except the chosen programming was below mindless. I got to choose one movie, Crazy Stupid Love, and I was the only one who liked it. I didn’t like to believe it but even the psychiatrist told me I was the smartest most mature person there. She said except for my planned attempt she didn’t see me belonging there at all. I thought that was a pretty big except.

I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Everybody else seemed to have worse issues than I did but being around them was helpful. It was hard to know where I belonged. That problem started when Lisa died. After that, I completely lost myself and I think that’s been a big problem since, and it’s been almost 23 years now. That’s a long time to feel lost and unsure of who you are.

I became a new person by lack of choice and not a whole person at that. People always tell you you have choices but what they don’t tell you is sometimes the choice is between the gallows or a firing squad. Whatever I became I lost most of my previous self in it.

I have trouble remembering who that person was. There is a lot of growth I don’t want to toss out and there are some things that are just physically out of reach but I think maybe a shell might be loosening and I’m not sure what will pop out.

I’m thinking more about home as it comes closer. How will it be with my wife? The kids? Other family? My coworkers? Will I get the pitying head tilt like I got when Lisa and Stacy died?

How will I be? What would be my reaction to other people? In the hospital it was easy. Everything was at the surface here. Everybody knew you had an issue. You respected their problems and they respected yours.

Even now I’m not sure if I’m going home Tuesday yet or not. Psychiatry didn’t work on the weekend and neither did the social workers. My fate would have to wait until tomorrow.

Reading, puzzle, TV, and two informal groups took up most of my day. Jay was very talkative and showed me pictures of his cabins as he called them. They looked more like forts that kids build in the woods. I guess you can only do so much with free supplies in the forest.

I was still exhausted so the events of the day seemed even more overwhelming. As the end came closed I hoped at the same time that it was a new beginning.

End day 6

Day 5

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

Saturday in the facility was kind of boring. There were quick groups in the morning and afternoon with an aide. No Frank today and the TV is on pretty much all day.

I was still exhausted from the Covid I didn’t know I had yet. I did a lot of sleeping but Helen and Jay helped keep me awake with their outlandish stories plus a few I heard just in passing.

Jay’s story was right out of a movie. The CIA had been chasing him since he left the military. The voices he heard were the military or CIA getting close and every time he heard them he would run to a new shelter he had somewhere in the AZ wild. I felt horribly sorry for him, it was obvious he wasn’t getting the care he needed, and doubly so since he was a vet and not in a vet hospital. Why did he fall through the cracks? Why do any of them fall through the cracks?

Helen was similar but on a smaller scale. She was in for methadone addiction which they used to treat her addiction to Percocet. She traded one addiction for another. In the hospital, though she was a bit paranoid that they were giving her tranquilizers along with her regular meds because she was exhausted. I now wonder if she had Covid as well. She would talk to me a lot. She said Jay and I were the only ones she could talk to because no one else understood.

One woman, whose name I didn’t know, was in a wheelchair but could walk with a little effort. She had surgery on her calf and insisted that the doctor put spaghetti in her leg. There were other delusions too, she got along well with Tommy and his big stories.

Amy liked to walk the halls and talk to herself but she could hold a conversation just fine. She was bright and alert, She spent a lot of time in her gown even though she seemed to have clothes.

Three of the four of them were there before I arrived and were still there when I was released and all four had nowhere to go. I’m guessing that’s why they were still there when I left.

In between conversations I read, played scrabble and chess, and did my puzzle, which was coming along nicely but I didn’t think I’d finish at this point before I left. Several bad comedies later after dinner I went to bed remembering to ask for new earplugs.

Two more full days and home. As much as I thought about home there was a certain comfort level here that I hadn’t felt in a long time. No work, no anxiety, no hard choices to make. That made a lot of difference. Also, fewer choices to make. There were only a few food choices, only a few choices of what to do during the day. TV shows were decided by who was in the room at the time. There was no feeling of being overwhelmed. It was very calming.

End day 5

Day 4

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

Friday has come and it’s not the end of a work week which feels strange. No afternoon group on Friday and the TV comes on earlier. Several patients have left during the week and have been replaced with new ones. There seemed to be a never-ending supply, unfortunately.

One new male who came in, Steven, not Steve, was ummmm… well… interesting. He didn’t speak much but when he did he was always right. He was self-righteous and hugely narcissistic. He seemed to be concerned with everyone’s eating habits. Every meal he would be last in line for the cafeteria and as he passed tables with his food (only salad or fruit) he would comment on how bad the food was for you. He would stand up after eating and do squats. Never anything else, just squats.

He sat by himself but he would stare at you just shaking his head like he knew something you didn’t know. He kept kissing the medal he wore around his neck and crossing himself. I’m all for religious freedom but he was creepy.

He got around to staring at me and I tried to just ignore him. He was a well-built young man and probably could have taken down anyone before an aide could stop him. He never got violent but he made things very tense. In the morning group, he took over talking about his issues and told Frank he was utterly wrong about depression. He was one of those convinced that anyone suffering from depression could simply just snap out of it. He told us he had been abused by men several times while in foster care. It was hard not to empathize with him after that. I’d like to believe he was telling the truth as odd as that may sound.

I saw the psychiatrist daily for a few minutes to check-in. Today I made sure I was leaving on the following Tuesday and she confirmed it looked good. She said I was a model patient who made her job easy. That made me feel good. I was either a very good actor or this was bottom and the only way out was up.

Art again today. I made a pinch pot and painted my previous turtle whistle. Small class today and the stalker came as well. He picked somebody else to stare at. I really wondered what his diagnosis was and where he would go after his stay here. He was the only patient I had trouble relating to. I wasn’t afraid of him, he just made me uncomfortable. Jay and Helen said the same thing plus a couple of others.

8:00 AM was meds time, after breakfast. I only had two pills prescribed to me. I tried working on my puzzle, which was going well. My goal was to finish it before I was discharged, but I was extremely tired. I would discover the following Friday that I actually had COVID in the beginning stages. I slept quite a lot through Sunday which made sense since I was sick and didn’t know it. I suppose that makes sense in a ward of 20 people with questionable hygiene.

I had started making lists. A list of things I wanted to do when I got home, a list of triggers, a list of medical things to do when I got home, and a bucket list. I’m not sure if any one list was more important than any other. It was helpful to write things down. It was much less overwhelming than trying to remember it all. Plus seeing it all laid out I was able to look forward to some of the things.

The rest of the day was spent on my puzzle, watching TV, reading, and napping.

Three days and I’d be going home. I had no idea what to expect.

End of day 4.

Day 3

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

It is now Thursday. I’m still wearing the same clothes I was brought in with but my brother-in-law is coming through Phoenix close to where I am today, so my wife packed me three outfits which will have to be washed first before I can get them. He was staying with us for a few weeks as well, while flooring was being installed in his new house.

My wife was also sending a book which is hardcover and not allowed but Vlad let me slip it through.

Breakfast, walk break (smoke break), and morning groups were uneventful. I was looking forward to seeing my BIL for some normality and at the same time terrified. What would we talk about? Would he act differently? I tried to turn it around to see if I’d act differently towards a friend or relative and it would depend on who it was. I didn’t know what to expect, and he probably didn’t either.

I finally got a call from the nurse that my visitor had arrived. I assume there would be some kind of visiting area but we met in the cafeteria with other people. Except for the lack of orange jump suits, it really reminded me of a prison visit you’d see on TV or in the movies.

He was sitting at the only open table, somehow I was the last to come down. He stood and gave me a long bear hug and I recipricated. It was good to see a familiar face. We sat down and he said, “If you didn’t want me staying with you, you could have just said so.” He was so deadpan it just broke the ice perfectly. He’s a complete weirdo anyway so it was inline with his personality, that’s why we get along.

We talked about the hospital, the schedule, the food, the kind of people I was encountering, and just anything to take up the time. He wasn’t any different, outwardly at least. I had no idea what he was thinking.

Time was up, just 45 minutes twice a week for visitation. I would be out by next visiting day. We said goodbye with another long hug. I said, “Tell her I’m OK.” referring to my wife. He nodded and left with all the others. I watched him leave and suddenly I was homesick. I hadn’t thought so much about it the last several days with so much happening but now that I physically connected with home it was all I could think about.

I got back upstairs and it was almost time for lunch. This would be the first time I’d see another patient acting crazy. Lunch was fine and calm until the end. We had an aide with us who used to be a prison guard and it showed. This made his table-side manner a bit harsher than the other aides. One of the women, Daisy, who had one child and was currently pregnant and hooked on Meth, had the mentality of a child. I didn’t know if it was her current drug detox or something else. She was friends with Tommy becasue she though he was like Superman.

Daisy, like I had seen her do every day with Tommy, was bringing four cups of beverages back upstairs with her. The rule was one cup but I had not seen it observed in the last two days. Our stricter aide reminded everyone that only one cup was allowed. Tommy complained but complied. Daisy argued with him for several minutes before she threw three cups on the floor and held the one up in triumph.

Mr. former prison gaurd demanded she clean it up. He was treating her like a child, and she had acted like a spoiled brat but there was a better way to hande it. We had to sit back down. Several people with bad anxiety issues starting cleaning with paper towels. Our prison aide went for a bucket and mop and made Daisy clean up. This all happening while the next group was waiting to come have lunch.

Daisy was not a happy camper the rest of the day and only took one cup up with her after dinner.

The first group of the afternoon was gym time. I went down with Jay and Helen and we played badminton with the gym supervisor. It was only half a gym so basketballs kept bouncing onto the court. It felt good to run around a little bit and build up a sweat. Get the air moving in my lungs, get my muscles moving, and clear the cobwebs from my brian.

Back upstairs we had Frank for second group. It was on diagnosing Bi-polar so I was interested. Bi-polar is quite diverse and fascintaing if you can say such a thing about a medical condition. Frank said some things I didn’t know and that I wanted to talk to the phsychatirist about when I was assigned one when I got home. Frank liked that I took notes.

I was settling in. For my goal of the day during morning group I said finishing the outside border of my puzzle, which I did accomplish. Having by book helped pass the time. I spoke to my wife at 3:00 after I grabbed a snack and quickly again at 6:00. This was the night I was going to call my kids. Well, my oldest at least. I was going to ask him to bear the burden of telling his siblings.

I said I have something to tell you and I was just going to say it fast. I told him in a very sanitized way but he knew what I meant. I could hear some tears on his end and I told him to let it flow, it was OK. I knew it was bringing up memories of his mom and it was breaking my heart that I was hurting him. I also felt weak that I couldn’t just get through this on my own. That was my father talking.

We talked for a while, and discussed my daughter’s graduation in Boston the next week which I was now going to miss. Another heartbreak. Ironically she was getting her Masters in social work. I wanted to believe that she would undertstand the best of what was happenning.

Phone time was up and we said goodbye. After hanging up I wondered what he was thinking about me and what he would tell his wife and siblings. I was feeling like a complete failure at this point, out of control and the world just complelty spinning. The only solace was the people around me who got it, they undesrtood. Even if I never saw any of them ever again, which was most likely, they all had a dramatic impact on my present situation and I would always remeber.

Jay asked me to play Scarbble with him, Tommy and Helen. I had no other plans. Tommy was, of course, an expert player as opposed to me who had been playing for 45 years. It was easier to use his cockamamie rules than try to correct his over active ego.

I won and went to bed. My mind was racing but I didn’t ask for a sleeping pill. I should have. A new patient came in around midnight and sat in the common area screaming all night, “Oh god! Help me!” I guessed detox while tring to fall asleep.

The next night I asked for ear plugs.

End day 3

DAY 2

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

It is now Wednesday, my first full day at the facility. Breakfast is at 7:00 for our group. If you’re not already up they wake you about 6:30. I was already up since I didn’t sleep very well. An uncomfortable bed, too much noise, and too much light made it hard to get a decent night’s sleep. Anxiety didn’t help either. The enormity of what I had almost done and where I was, began to set in.

I was dressed and out in the common area watching the news before my roommate even got up. His name was Sal and he was leaving that day anyway. I didn’t get to know much about him except that he was 19, had a son, and was a Meth addict. My jeans and t-shirt were nicer than what most of the patients were wearing and most of them were wearing yesterday’s attire.

People slowly streamed down the hall and the common area filled up with hungry folks, some of whom were impatient. A new patient asked when smoke break was then all the smokers started to chime in. First smoke break was after breakfast at 8:15, and they all knew it.

Breakfast was uneventful except it was my first coffee in two days. Also orange juice. It was delicious. I don’t know why I craved it when I saw it but it tasted amazing. 30 minutes later with bacon, eggs, and sausage in my belly, we proceeded back upstairs. I took a coffee with me upstairs. It felt good flowing down my throat, it felt normal in a place that felt like a cross between summer camp and prison.

I went downstairs with the smokers to get some fresh air while it was still cool, It was supposed to be in the high 90s, and even at 8:15, it was almost 80. It was nice to be outside even though it was a small courtyard with 12-foot brick walls. It was clear and sunny. I walked around the courtyard half a dozen times and then sat in the limited shade. The smokers were given only one butt each, which they had to provide, by the aide who held their packs. They went out five times a day regardless of the weather.

I got my first meds today, Prozac and blood pressure med. This would be 8ish every day. I would see a psychiatrist, social worker, and medical doctor 

Group at 9:00 was on stress. Always the same format. A quick lecture where they make the participants read, I can’t stand that. It’s what I have my students do, which makes sense for their age, but for adults it’s insulting. I always volunteer to read just to make it go faster. After the lecture, there are three questions. What’s your favorite whatever the variable is that day, What’s your goal for today, and what is your stress level today. It felt like just going through the motions. This would go for most of the morning sessions.

The next group was at 10:15. My roommate left a book so i was able to read a bit in between Jay telling me tall tales. Tommy was another one. He had several mental disorders along with being addicted. He was the best at everything. No matter what you’ve done he’s done it better and first. Even professionals. He was the first to run a four-minute mile. He was the first to dunk a basketball, his I.Q. was over 300. He was a hoot. I felt sorry for him though. He had nowhere to go when he got out and the staff didn’t seem to help much. To be fair I only saw and heard his end.

I got called for the medical doctor before the second-morning group. He went over all my blood tests and was only worried about my blood pressure. 

10:30 rolled around and we had Frank for group, Today he was decked out in all yellow. Today’s subject was on depression. This was good since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and borderline Bipolar Disorder. The best thing was having other people there who understood. As they were talking and describing their feelings I felt like they were talking about me. It was incredible to not be alone in my feelings. I knew there were other people out there but to be sitting with them, hearing them, and knowing they were skin, bone, and flesh just like me was a huge burden lifted, Feeling alone was like dragging Marley’s chains around in life instead of in death.

Lunch came and went. First-afternoon group was much like the morning but with different questions. Afternoon group was art therapy which was a fancy name for playing with clay and coloring. There were so many times I thought, “I don’t belong here,” and then I’d think we all have many of the same issues maybe I’m just being snobby. I made a turtle whistle for my wife because she likes turtles. I’d paint it later in the week. The art teacher was wonderful. He helped everybody with such patience he must have taught kindergarten sometime in his life. More people went to art than other group activity.

After Art, I saw the psychiatrist and Social worker. The psychiatrist thought I’d be out in 7 days and said I was a good patient because I was aware and wanted to get better. The social worker asked if I had a place to go and with whom, She was also making arrangements for me to see local doctors when I got back home.

Dinner came and went. I found a puzzle to do. I always thought they were kind of boring but the kids got me a Star Wars puzzle for Christmas and I loved it. I read, I watched TV, I listened to Jay, Tommy, and Helen. A couple of others got around to introducing themselves. Everybody was very nice. There wasn’t one person I was afraid of.

That would change in a few days. 

End day 2

Day 1

Please be aware, that if you have a trigger for suicide do not read further.

This piece is written in the hopes that someone who feels the same way might think twice and realize that they are not alone. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity.

I’ve declared this day one because it’s the first day of the rest of my life. Of course, that goes for every day but this day is special. It’s the day after when I thought I would no longer be breathing.

The hospital assigned me to a unit on the second floor called Koi. I was brought up at 10:00 in the morning after an uncomfortable night in the admitting area. More questions, “What’s your stress level, one to ten, do you feel like you want to hurt yourself, do you feel like you want to hurt anyone else, what is your depression level, one to ten.”

I was asked these questions twice daily. Then they took vitals which was also a twice-daily occurrence. 

My bed wasn’t ready yet when I got there. They were still waiting on housekeeping. For the first 24 hours, you have to stay in your gown. I’m not sure why. Partially because they wash your clothes to make sure you’re not bringing in bed bugs or worse. I guess partially too so it’s easy to spot new patients. 

I quickly discovered there were about 20 people in my wing, men and women, which I found surprising, and later found out they were all there for addiction. I wondered if I was in the wrong place but kept silent because I was still kind of out of it. Lunch was at 11:00, so they had me just sit in the common area and wait. I was glad because I was starving. I hadn’t had a full meal in over 24 hours. 

It looked like any other hospital I suppose. There was the nurse’s station and a common area together. The common area had seating and a TV which was currently off. TV hours were an hour in the morning before breakfast and then 4:00 until bed which was 9:00. There was a hall with all the rooms, two beds each. Mine was the first one which was across the hall from the social worker’s office. 

A woman in a gown introduced herself as Helen. Because of the gown, I assumed she was new but it turns out most people wore their gowns to bed and breakfast or when their clothes were being washed. We were allowed three sets of clothing. 

I introduced myself back and we talked for a few minutes. She was very nice and lucid. I’m not sure what I expected. I later found out she had an oxycodone addiction. 

There were still 40 minutes until lunch. I spied a deck of cards and played solitaire until I adjusted to my new temporary environment. 

Lunchtime came around and we lined up like children at a summer camp. A nurse (the summer camp counselor) led us to the elevator. But first, she had to communicate via walkie-talkie that we were leaving. The Halls were always clear of any other wings when another wing was in them. I suppose it lessens altercations. 

Lunch was in a medium-sized cafeteria and it was just our unit along with two aides. The food was good. For lunch and dinner, you could get a salad and soup along with the main meal. Today’s lunch was tacos with fish or pork and house-made salsa. There was a soda dispenser, juice dispenser, and coffee. They wanted you well fed. For some of these people, it was their only full meal in weeks.

I sat alone and a woman asked if she could sit with me. She had an accent I couldn’t place. During the meal, I found out she was Polish. Again, she was very lucid and talkative. She was married and telling me about her tomato plants in her garden. So far this was nothing like I had imagined it. 

We were given a five-minute warning to finish up. We were allowed to bring back one drink which was not enforced and did cause trouble a few days later. Halls cleared again and back upstairs. Turns out the reason there were two aides was that we had two elevator loads of people and they each rode with a group. 

Back upstairs I checked the schedule on the wall. There were four group discussion sessions a day. Two in the morning and two in the afternoon. I had an inkling that going to group meant you got out faster. I was told I was going to be there 7-10 days and I was rooting for 7. Group wasn’t until 1:00 and my bed was ready, so I laid down for a bit. 

The next thing I hear is, “Group, time for group.” I had fallen asleep. I got up, went to the bathroom, and found the meeting room. 

Group was smaller than I anticipated. A lot of people it turned out slept most of the day except for meals and sometimes then as well. Our group leader was Marcus and he was a lunatic decked out in purple all the way to his socks and shoes. I liked Marcus. He didn’t hold back. He held your attention and was genuinely happy at the smallest accomplishments. 

This session was about addiction but I stayed anyway. It was interesting because I could now see what could possibly happen to my students if they did choose a drug path. I mean, I always knew in theory but here I had it right in front of me. They were all nice people who had just taken one misstep. Many of them had a mental illness along with their addiction which makes it that much harder. 

Phone time was after group for an hour, 3:00-4:00. Snacks were also at 3:00. I wasn’t kidding about the summer camp feel. I got my phone, then a snack, and then called my wife. I told her everything that had happened thus far and I didn’t know yet when I’d be out. I fear I hurt her way more than she’ll ever tell me. 

It’s hard for the people closest to you to understand that it has nothing to do with them.  It has nothing to do with, in my case at least, how many people love you or how much you are loved. The black cloud above the abyss you have fallen into doesn’t care or recognize love.

I was going to call my kids but I just wasn’t up to it. I texted my boss whom I had texted from the ER. She was very supportive as I gave her an update. I was comforted by her words and was assured I’d still have a job. She even asked me the following week if I planned on coming back. I felt wanted, which was nice.

Dinner was at 5:00 after the second group which was on stress reduction. Most of what they talked about while I was there were things I teach my students. It was just written for adults. I saved most of it to go over with my boss to see if it would be useful.

Dinner was uneventful. I was still in my gowns. Second phone time was 6:00-7:00 and the TV was now on and tuned to Jackass and second snack time was coming up. The smokers went out several times a day. I went out with them at 7:30 just to walk a bit and get some fresh air.

I had met several people who introduced themselves. No one asked why I was there, which I found interesting. I expected, “Whatcha in for,” but it didn’t happen. The aide who took us out in the evenings was Vlad. He was my favorite and I think I was his because I didn’t cause any trouble. He was half German and half Chekslovakian with a strong accent. He called me prince Vinnie and always held his hands out and together, like praying, and would bow. I would reciprocate. He made me smile.

All the staff down to kitchen and cleaning were really amazing. Always a smile and a good word.

After phone time I found some games and played some Scrabble with Jay. Jay was an addict with several mental health issues. He was homeless by choice. He had several home-built shelters in a couple of the state forests and he had a van. He was bright and lucid but told some whopper stories of his past. He hadn’t seen any of his family, including kids, in years. He said they could never really understand his illnesses and since they couldn’t see it they didn’t really believe him. I wondered how often that happened and how many of the folks on my floor had that experience.

My clothes were ready after didner and my nurse let me change even though it was before 24 hours and they were the only clothes I had, what I had worn to the ER. 9:00 betime was loose, the TV stayed on until about 10:30 but I was in bed by 9:00 anyway. I was offered a sleeping pill but I was exhausted and didn’t think I’d need it.

I was wrong.

End day 1