I spent the last week in a psych ward, but what else is new? This was my eleventh hospitalization for those of you keeping score at home. From last Tuesday until Monday, I stayed at Lancaster General Hospital’s behavioral health unit. I was hospitalized following a deliberate overdose on some of my medication. I’m honestly not sure what my intentions were with it. I have no memory of that Tuesday other than a distinct mental snapshot of my hand full of Ativan. My next memory is getting a visit from my mom and my girlfriend on Wednesday night in a psych ward that was completely unfamiliar.
It was jarring to say the least. I don’t know what I expected would happen, but I ended up really freaked out about what did. I upset a lot of people. My mom in particular expressed her concern and frustration very strongly. Her reaction reminded me so vividly of how I felt when my best friend, Isaiah, made suicidal gestures and attempts around me before he ended his life at age 14 without talking to me. There’s hurt and confusion and helplessness that turns into anger. I recognized her reaction and remembered the feelings all too well.
Just last month, I wrote an entry about “Why Most Suicidal People Don’t Understand Suicide”. It’s terrifying how quickly I could slip back into that mindset. I took that handful of Ativan probably less than thirty minutes after I woke up that day. In the days leading up to my overdose, I was obsessing over my weight. I have a feeling that I woke up after another night of nightmares and I couldn’t handle being in my own body. Something was totally disconnected though and for some reason I didn’t even process what I was doing and the consequences of my actions. I’m not typically so impulsive, so it’s a scary idea to think that I could act so irrationally.
I was only in the hospital for six days, but in that time, every member of my immediate family as well as my girlfriend came to visit me. It’s insane how many and how much people care about me, even through all of the chaos that I create. My twin brother and my older sister keep me laughing, my mom grounds me and keeps me focused on moving forward, and my step-dad, well, he takes awkward selfies whenever we go out to eat. I also have a girlfriend that treats me better than I could ever believe I deserve.
I am so thankful for every single person I have had and continue to have supporting me, and I’m thankful for another chance to live and learn.
Over a year ago, I posted an entry titled “Loss and Gain Part 1: The Beginning”. You can find a link to that here. I never followed up with a part two. So as issues arise again in my life, I figured that this would be an appropriate time to finish the post.
Throughout high school, I struggled off and on as I tried to cope with my physical appearance. Ever since I was little, I singled myself out as the “bigger” person in every group. Every class I sat in seemed filled with people that were thinner than me. Thinking back on those years, I realize that I was never significantly larger than most of the other people that I envied so much in my mind. I was average-sized at best, but I never saw things that way. I thought that I was humongous.
During a hospital stay a couple of months after my best friend took his life when I was seventeen, I got put on a high dose of a mood stabilizer that really threw off my metabolism. I was on this medication for almost two years, and in that time, I gained over 100 pounds. At that point, my body caught up with my brain. For lack of a better way to describe it, I was finally as fat as I always thought I was. It’s a pretty sick twist of fate if you think about it. After my psychiatrist took me off this one particular med, he put my on another one that had a similar effect, just less extremely.
I was pretty ambivalent about the weight gain at first (mainly because I was too depressed about my life to care). However, it’s gotten to the point where it feels almost unbearable to exist in my own body. I hate myself for so many different reasons, and weight is a big one (no pun intended).
Now, I’m struggling to keep my head above water without using disordered eating behaviors. Admittedly, I started restricting and throwing up what I eat again a short while ago. It’s a pretty sporadic thing right now, but I know how quickly it can become a habit. The way I look has become a main focus of the voices that I hear in my head. They’re constantly going off, calling me disgusting and grotesque and a pig and things of that nature as well as encouraging all of the unhealthy ways to lose weight fast.
I guess I just feel like I don’t “fit” in this world. It’s an awful feeling and I’m just barely overcoming it at this point. I recently burned the word FAT into my upper arm. If I’m going to have the label no matter what, it might as well be visible too (at least that was my logic at the time). It still hurts frequently and feels hot to the touch. The word kills me and as it heals, I watch the word FAT become a part of my permanent part of my body in a way that goes beyond what the scale says.
The basement smelled musty as usual and the Playstation 2 hummed quietly in the corner, the sound amplified by the silence we sat in. I felt the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I bit my lip to try to fight them back.
“Isaiah…” my voice cracked and trailed off.
He turned to look at me. I covered my face with my hands, my fingers getting wet with tears.
“If you ever kill yourself…” I looked up through my bangs. My best friend looked so small and frightened. “I swear to you I will do it too.”
I miss you
It’s been too long
Two years and eight months.
Two years and three months.
I will always remember
That I wasn’t there.
That I didn’t cry.
That I didn’t text you back.
You could have been
A great soccer player.
A great activist.
A great mother.
I still have
The bracelet you made me.
The picture you colored for me.
The letter you wrote me.
I hope somewhere
You are growing.
You are safe.
You are happy.
You give me
I can’t wait to see you again.
I love you.
I was released from my tenth psychiatric hospitalization today. I was at a place called Philhaven for two and a half weeks after being on The Outside for only three weeks following my last hospital stay at the same location. There was new staff mixed in with the old and new patients mixed in with familiar faces. There is always a level of shame in returning to the hospital, especially if you’re returning to one that you were recently discharged from with so many of the people there cheering for your recovery. It feels like a step back, a disappointment. I had to fight hard with myself to overcome that feeling of failure before I could move forward again. In doing that, I had a lot of support from the staff and other patients as well as friends and family on The Outside.
The main causes of my re-hospitalization were intrusive flashbacks that I didn’t feel like I could deal with and the intense suicidal ideation that came with them. I had begun to process some of the traumas that occurred during my childhood and adolescence during my previous stay that spanned from the beginning of February into the end of May, which stirred up a lot of unpleasant memories and sent my PTSD symptoms through the roof. It’s really no wonder that I lost my handle on things just days before one of my least favorite days of the year: Father’s Day. Despite being in the hospital, I cut myself on that dreaded day, carving the word “DADDY” into my leg.
I felt pretty hypocritical being admitted to a hospital for wanting to kill myself after my last post, which explained the gap in most suicidal people’s thinking. Maybe I’m the perfect example though. I stated that the typical suicidal person believes that their death will be better for the people around them than it would be for them to keep living. In reality, suicide damages so many people around the one person that committed the act. I’ve learned that if my mind travels into planning to end my life and essentially not thinking about how it would effect other people or believing that it would be good for others, that’s a huge red flag. Usually, when I reach that level of intent, it’s time to consider going back into the hospital. The real intensity of it comes out when I think about the hospital. If I want to go for the safety of myself and the well-being of those around me, it’s an easy decision. However, I often falter at that stage simply because there is still a large part of me that doesn’t want to be stopped. That’s where the real danger comes in.
Every time I leave the hospital, I hope that it will be the last time. However, I know that it’s there if I need it just like all of the amazing supports I have in my life that I am so grateful for.