TRIGGER WARNING: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).
TRIGGER WARNING: suicidal ideation
I was recently having breakfast with a wonderful friend whom I’ve known a long time. She is the supervising manager (or some title like that) for a service offered in my old town. People can call with questions for anything – from needing to know which bus line picks up at the mall in the afternoon to whom to call with questions about public housing to someone to talk to when in a personal crisis – an information and referral hotline. I was telling her about the time in 2009 when I called.
I had just been diagnosed with serotonin toxicity, and my new psych doc had taken me off all of my medications to clear out the brain chemicals. He had prescribed mood stabilizers to help me function and my husband was in charge of distributing them. That had happened on Monday, this was now 12 days later – very blurry days. My doctor had told me that he would be on rotation in the psych ward starting Sunday for the next two weeks, and I shouldn’t hesitate to come to the emergency room if I needed help. He made me promise not to hurt myself. The serotonin toxicity had caused some suicidal ideation (thoughts about death and dying but not acting on them).
I remember lying on our bed, wrapped in my blanket which I was hauling around with me like a child. I dialed Great Rivers 2-1-1 and a lovely voice answered. I remember thinking that my voice sounded shaky.
She asked why I had called, and I told her that I wanted to know how to know if I should go to the hospital to admit myself to the psych ward. She asked if I was planning to hurt myself. (TRIGGER WARNING:) I said no, I couldn’t, since my husband had all my medications. I went on to explain that I was under Dr. Larson’s care, and he had said I could come in if I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t have any option but to be safe – my only suicidal thoughts (again, suicidal ideation, not action) were thwarted since my meds were in our safe and the key in Chris’ pocket. But still, I didn’t feel like myself, was very out of sorts. Of course, I was too tired and too weak to hurt myself – that takes energy and planning, and I didn’t have any of those. And like I said, these thoughts were not my own – they were caused by the over-saturation of serotonin on my brain. They sure felt like my thoughts, though – they were in my head.
I cried and told her I was scared, and tired, and didn’t want to fight anymore. She asked where Chris was, and I told her he was working outside in the yard. I recall it was a sunny day, maybe a slight breeze – very nice for late November.
I talked to her for awhile – I don’t remember about what. I probably told her that I had depression and my doctor was doing to be at the hospital on rotation tomorrow, and so maybe I would go in then. She thought that was a good idea. She asked if she could call back in a half hour and talk to my husband, just to tell him that we had talked. I told her, “Sure.” She made me promise to call her back if I needed to, and said she would call in 30 minutes. I hung up and told my husband, so he could wrap up what he was working on (raking leaves?) and come in.
She called back, and talked to him about how to take care of me. Not that he had to sit with me every moment that I was awake. He needed to know what I was doing, but not to hover, and he didn’t have to worry about leaving me unattended. She told him that we had talked, and that if I still wanted to go to the hospital the next day, he should take me in.
I don’t have lots of details of memory from those days – the hours kind of run together – I did a lot of sleeping. And I don’t remember her name. But I remember her kind voice, and her care – enough that she wanted to make sure my hubby was ok, too. I know that when we talked on the phone, I didn’t feel alone. She didn’t sound alarmed at my call, or even worried. She spoke in a soft gentle voice – very calming. I was glad I had called for help. Just hearing the voice of someone who cared got me through the rest of the day. I wish I knew her name so I could thank her.
I went into the hospital the next day.