Everyone has at least one rock bottom story in their life. At 23 I found myself in the middle of mine, the worst part of my depression story. When I was asked to remove all my clothing and personal items and put them in a plastic bag. To change into a hospital gown and ugly beige slipper socks. And then wanded with a metal detector by a security officer.
My Depression Story: The Psych Ward
Stripped of my dignity and identity, I was escorted into the hospital psych ward and then left by myself to stare at the walls for a hour plus while I waited for a doctor to show up. It wasn’t the sterileness of the environment that bothered me most, but the sounds. The yelling, the ranting of other psych patients that were somewhere else in their own little rooms bare of anything that could hurt them.
The sounds in my own room was my own internal dialogue, “Okay, I’m not that crazy, right? Maybe I’m not really crazy. I mean I don’t belong here, do I?” It was a momentary snap out of the deep depression that I had been experiencing for the previous month. Out of the spiraling thoughts that whirled through my brain so quickly that I wanted to bang my head against something just to make them stop.
Because more then anything else at that moment my head wanted one thing that seemed to overcome the hopelessness momentarily: to not be here.
The doctor that arrived didn’t care. I didn’t come in on the heels of a suicide attempt, I only had suicidal ideation, which meant there was no place for me there. He refused to prescribe any medication and warned me that I was at risk for postpartum depression (which was so applicable to my current situation). And then I was discharged and sent home. With a several thousand dollar ER bill that I would spend the next year paying off.
If there was anything that confirmed my thoughts that no one cared, it was the mental health professionals that I encountered during this period in my life. My doctors office refused to refill my medication after they found out I was having suicidal thoughts. They told me to go to the ER, who also sent me home without any medication.
My Depression Story: The Catalyst
This descent to rock bottom had really started a couple of months before. I was in grad school in England and the doctor that I saw there for refills on my depression medication convinced me that it would be a good idea to go off the medication. Then soon after, about a month before I was due to come home, my boyfriend, who was back in the US, ended the relationship. I was devastated. Because it ended, because my heart was broken, but also because of the way that it was ended. He brought up the fact that we should probably break up and then said he would call back later. And then he never did. My calls, texts, and emails to try to get some closure (and get back the money I had lent him) remained unanswered. I never heard from him again.
I was heartbroken, off medication, and reeling from a year of being in what I later realized was an emotionally abusive relationship. My self esteem was shot, and I came home to nothing: no boyfriend, friends that I hadn’t seen in months, no job, no place to live other then my parents house. I also had to complete grad school papers and my dissertation if I didn’t want all the money and time I spent on my degree to not be wasted.
My depression was so deep that most days I struggled to get out of bed. I felt completely hopeless and wondered if life was worth living anymore. After all, my life seemed broken. My parents were incredibly supportive, but what young adult wants to feel like the only people that care are their parents?
My Depression Story: The Psychiatric Hospital
Since I wasn’t as “bad off” as some of the other patients at the ER, I was sent home. There was nothing they could do for me there, or probably for most of those other patients. Many of them probably ended back on the streets. So the next step: a local psychiatric hospital. They didn’t see anything pressing in my condition and also sent me home until I could start in an outpatient program.
It was my first taste of how broken the mental healthcare system is in our country. To be asking for help, begging for help, and to have no one that wants to give it to you. To have no one the least bit concerned that you wanted to kill yourself. To have doctors refuse to see you and others send you home with absolutely no help and no resources to find help. Thankfully, I had people that were in the position to advocate for me and find me help, many don’t have this. I was not in the place to do this myself. I had given up.
I spent two weeks in an outpatient program at that psychiatric hospital. I was numb, simply going through the motions. I can’t really tell you any true benefits to that program other then it gave me access to prescriptions and an appointment with a psychiatrist to see after the program was over. I remember that the first day I had to ask multiple times to see the doctor before they finally got me an appointment to see him. Another woman recounted how she had to throw a chair across the room to get her prescriptions (not because she had lost it, but because it was the only way to get their attention).
I had been shuffled in with all the other people that didn’t merit inpatient treatment, many with dual diagnoses of addiction and mental illness. Those ten days were filled with the oppressive nature of the weight of my depression and everyone else’s issues. And honestly, most of it is a blur. I had my mind occupied during the day, maybe, but after the two weeks there I was back to the same place I was before.
I had however, brought an unwelcome guest home with me. I would find out months later that the anxiety medication I had been placed on in addition to my original depression medication was highly addictive. That would add to my struggle over the next year to find real help for my depression and anxiety, as my mom hid all the medications in the house and I struggled to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning.