My Stay in the Mental Ward

Onset

It was February 23, 2018, a Friday. I was driving alone in my truck on collections. No matter what I thought about, my thoughts kept drifting back to “What would it be like if this truck just careened off a bridge and I was no more?”

Of course, I didn’t act on it; I’m writing this. But the thought recurred throughout the day. What would it be like without Monte in the world? For me, I knew there would be rest. Rest from not being able to bring in enough income for my family. Rest from living with my in-laws. Rest from my whiny kids. Rest from alienation from my family and friends through distance. And that rest was all my mind ruminated on.

Then the tears started. It was raining that day, too. I was so alone in that truck. Cars, trucks, semis sped past me. I got to the oasis for lunch around 3:45 pm. I called 911 or some crisis line; I don’t remember. I told the woman who answered, “I feel like hurting myself.” “Do you feel like hurting anyone else?” she asked. “Yes.” I won’t say who.

Check-in

After I clocked out and drove “home” to the in-laws, I kept crying. I don’t recall if I went there or straight to the hospital. All I remember is seeing Sarah there. We cried in each others’ arms for a while. They checked me in at St. Catherine’s in Kenosha. Did all the vitals, that sort of thing. “Do you own any guns?” “Yes.” Check. This guy has the means and the mood to hurt himself. They called the ambulance to take me to St. Luke’s in Racine.

The ride was long, even though it was only about 10-15 miles. I didn’t know why my wife couldn’t take me. Anyway, we arrived at St. Luke’s. The place looked abandoned. This part actually is. Most of it is closed, except for the mental ward. There I checked in all my things: my phone, wallet, keys, clothes. They gave me scrubs, some hygiene products, and then showed me to my room. I had a room to myself for a night. My roommate slept the whole time I was there, so I never caught his name.

Names escape me now, but we were in it together. I’ll give them some names. Sue had anxiety. She had been there for about 4 days and felt the longer she was there, the more anxious she got. Tara was depressed. No affect. Sometimes she smiled, but her eyes never showed it. It was a lifeless smile. Bill was high as a kite. And fun. Man could make you laugh, but he had tried to kill himself the night before when he was on a drinking binge. He was bipolar like me. I never knew what Jess had, but probably some sort of psychosis. Schizophrenia maybe? I’m not up on my diagnoses. Grace had learning disabilities, felt like she didn’t have any friends, and was suicidal, too. One guy (who Jess yelled at a lot because she thought he was her ex), I never got his name. He just sat in a corner reading a novel.

We had breakfast together at a long table. They would give us a menu, and we got to pick what we wanted from a few options. It wasn’t terrible. The day was lightly structured. The only thing I remember was a group therapy session with…we’ll call her Joan. Joan was nice. Somehow, don’t remember how, Sue got to talking about god and assumed I believed something akin to her god. She looked at me for a connection on this, but I sheepishly said I was an atheist. Again, memories are funny things. All I remember is something like “How could you believe such a thing?” A lot of good god was doing us. We were all in this ward. Joan at least asked me if I was ok with Sue’s badgering. I thanked her for her concern but said I was alright.

I liked the occupational therapist. Still don’t know why they call them that. They seem to do something like tool you with skills. We talked about assertiveness.

I said I was here because I could barely make ends meet. My job didn’t challenge me, and my coworkers weren’t the greatest people to be around. And it was breaking my body. The one thing I could work at in this area (that wouldn’t kill me) was this job, and my body was breaking down. My neck got to where when I turned it, I felt a sharp pain into my shoulder and upper back. This made a manual job pretty damn hard. 4 Advils did nothing. Oxy helped with the symptoms but not the cause. If I was eligible for nothing else, and this job couldn’t really help my family financially, what good was I to them or to the world? I felt my worth completely tied to my ability to contribute to the family economy, and I was found lacking.

So the occupational therapist, who we’ll call Jenn, hooked me up with some job coaching and a job center. Though nothing ever came of it after my stay, it gave me some hope for the time being.

Then there was the psychiatrist, Dr. something-Armenian. He was nice, I guess, but seemed bored to be there. He put me on Latuda because he said it was an anti-depressant better suited to bipolar depression. I started taking that on the weekend stay.

I probably could have left Sunday, but Dr. so-and-so wasn’t there. Maybe Kasparian will work. Dr. Kasparian wasn’t there. So I had to call my supervisor to let him know I’d miss work on Monday. He asked if everything was ok. I told him, “No, I’m in a hospital, but I should be back tomorrow.” He was very understanding.

Aftermath

So Monday afternoon, they let me out. Sarah picked me up. I forgot what we talked about or where we went. One of the things, though, was we sold my shotgun, and I forfeited my rifle to the Pleasant Prairie Police Department. Some Lieutenant or Sergeant whatever looked at me dumbfounded. “Is this some kind of Russian rifle or something?” “Yah, a Mosin-Nagant.” They drew up some sort of legal thing for me to sign, so I signed away my ownership of the weapon to them. I now had no easy means to harm myself.

After Dr. Kasparian put my order into Walgreens, I went to pick up the Latuda. “That will be $500.” Shit. Well, I have insurance. “But I have insurance. Does it not cover it?” “Well, that’s what it is with insurance.” Double shit. I looked at what insurance had covered. It had covered $1300. So a one-month supply of this drug cost $1800 without insurance. No wonder people commit suicide. They can’t afford treatment.

Anyway, I call my psychiatrist. Dr. Chandragupta is a funny man because he is so direct, almost aggressive. “Why didn’t you call me? You don’t need Latuda. We’ll just add some Zoloft to your Wellbutrin, change your Risperdal to Abilify, and that will be that.” He, of course, doesn’t speak like this. For that matter, all these quotes are me paraphrasing people with some of the still-vivid memories. And this med change was over several months after that episode.

Postlude?

Now, I’m dealing with extremely low energy, fatigue, long sleep (but never feeling rested, no matter how much rest I get), and loss of interest in things that usually jazz me up. But I think I’m coming out of this round of depression. I was just thinking today, I have a wife who loves me, a family who calls me once a week, friends I game and chat with around once a week, coworkers who seem to think I’m cool, and I’m making progress on my goals. I may have a drinking problem, but I’m working on that, too. One day at a time. Reading is becoming fun again. My kids don’t set me on edge. I’m good at my job. I’m making a bucket list. I am valuable; don’t need you to tell me that. I just am. And that assurance feels nice for a change.

If you struggle with mental illness, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. I’m a pretty good listener, even though I’m no professional. Maybe comment. Maybe dm me. Maybe bypass me altogether and get with the pros. Hang tight to your kin. It gets better.

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