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Flashback #1: Checking In

Posted Apr 12 2010 1:09am

I went to bed an hour ago but can’t sleep. I’m anxious about returning to work tomorrow, and for some reason, my thoughts are racing. I didn’t take Trazodone tonight because I set my alarm for very early tomorrow, and I noticed that when I take Trazodone, it’s basically impossible for me to get up before 7am. However, without it, I’m definitely having trouble sleeping. For some reason, I keep thinking about the day I checked my wife into a psychiatric hospital. Actually, I took her to the ER twice. The first time she was suicidal, but the doctor released her on a contract for safety. Two days later, I had to take her back. She was completely delusional. Looking back, she was probably psychotic, in a clinical sense, before I actually took her in for delusional behavior. A week before her hospitalization, she had stayed up all night and wrote a letter which she claims came directly from the voice of God, telling her to go visit a priest and to live with a community of priests to gain spiritual insight into her own life. While I found that weird, I didn’t think she was “psychotic.” Truth is, this blindsided us so much that it was completely outside of my paradigm of reasonable expectations to think that my wife would ever seriously consider suicide, let alone be delusional and psychotic. Within a week, that had shifted to her believing that she had sold her soul to the devil, and so back to the hospital we went.

*                            *                            *

It was an offensively beautiful day. We had scheduled an appointment to meet with the therapist she had worked with over the last few months about an eating disorder for 10am, but by the time I woke up at 7am, I knew that she needed attention immediately. Her parents were in town and were staying with us. They had come out to visit, worried about her daughter’s health, and hoped to help. She hadn’t slept that night, stayed up the whole time, because she was worried that if she fell asleep, the devil would hurt either me or her parents. So she had to stay up to protect us. I had slept in bursts throughout the night, merely due to exhaustion, but it wasn’t restful sleep.

When I got up, I knew she hadn’t slept and that things were very bad. She was agitated and anxious about the danger of the devil. Her dad and I knew that we would have to take her back to the hospital like we had done two days before. Two days before, she had physically resisted going. We literally had to pick her up and carry her to the car, while she was kicking and screaming and holding onto doorknobs. That was one of the worst things I ever had to do. I cried the whole time. When we got there, she wouldn’t get out of the car. The ER nurse said he couldn’t make her, that if she refused and we thought she needed attention, we would have to call 911, and the cops would come to the entrance of the emergency room, arrest, her, and walk her the 5 feet to the doorway. We gave her 2 minutes to decide if that’s how she wanted this to go down, but she finally got out of the car. I was worried that we would have to do that all over again.

I tried to get her to relax. I laid her down on our bed, laid next to her, and we touched noses. I stroked her hair and her face, told her how much I love her, that everything was going to get better. That all she needed was to slow down, take deep breaths, and sleep for a little bit. Poor baby, you haven’t slept a wink. Get some rest. I talked sweetly and slowly until we both faded into a nap. I jumped right into REM sleep and had a vivid dream. I was walking through my life, holding my wife’s hand, and we were looking for something. We flashed through various locations: where I grew up, where I went to high school, our current home, where we went to college, every scene was different but we were together, holding onto each other’s hand, searching. I don’t know what we were looking for, but we were optimistic in the dream that we were going to find it together. I still feels so real. At one point in the dream, I slipped on something, and my body jolted awake as a result, which woke her up. She looked me straight in the eye and said:

“The devil is going to get you.”

We coaxed her into the car without having to carry her. Mostly because we threatened to call the cops on her, and she didn’t want that. In the car, she tried to open the door while we were going about 40mph to jump out, but her dad grabbed her, and held her close the rest of the ride. We didn’t go straight to the emergency room. We wanted to see her doctor first, to see if she could help. But we were an hour early. The office wasn’t open yet. So we waited in the parking lot, taking shifts of holding her so she wouldn’t run off. The doctor arrived, called me, and told us that she was of no help, to go to the emergency room. So we did.

Of course, in the emergency room we had to go through the typical process of checking her in, re-explaining ourselves, ignoring the stares of the nurses at the nurse station, and waiting. They had to get the psychiatric doctor on staff to see her, which took time. He had to see if there was a bed available at the psychiatric ward, after he saw her and saw she clearly needed to be hospitalized, which took time. We just had to wait, wondering what the fuck was going on. She was agitated at the hospital but they sedated her almost immediately after arrival. That didn’t help much. I got her distracted for about 20 minutes by playing our favorite word puzzle game on my iPhone. You can only think about one thing at a time, and I was able to get her to think about word puzzles for 20 minutes, which kept her calm. We spent about 6 hours at the ER, waiting for what was next.

What was next was an ambulance escort to a different hospital for admission to the psychiatric ward. Her mom rode in the ambulance, I followed in the car with her dad. On the ride over, we kept saying that the hospital was the right place for her, and it was going to make her better. The hospital was in a part of town where parking is a nightmare, and so we had to drive around and around while she was admitted and processed. I finally got into the hospital lobby and rode the elevator to the 3rd floor. I had never been on a psychiatric ward before. Why would I have been?

The elevator opened into a waiting room that was glassed in and had a locked door, which kept it segregated from the rest of the floor with its rooms, patients, and nurses. Most of the glass was covered with blinds that were pulled, but through some parts I could see patients who were roaming the halls. Where the fuck were we. There was one guy with a pony tail, who was ghastly pale and paced back in forth in front of the door, alternatively looking at me, and then at my wife. She was at the nurses’s station getting processed, but I wasn’t allowed in there. I saw an old chinese woman who was pacing backwards cycle in front of the door many times. Her mom was shaking she was crying so hard. Was my wife going to be OK with all of these crazy people around? It took until several days later that I accepted that she was one of the crazy people too. And it took weeks to realize that in there, the patients actually supported each other like family, and that my worry about the backwards-pacing Chinese woman, the guy with the ponytail, and the really big guy who wore his hospital gown backwards so his bare gut was hanging out, were nothing to worry about.

A nurse came out to explain to us what the deal was. Visiting hours were from 7-8:30pm, that was it. We were not allowed to visit at any other time during the day. It was 4pm, so technically, we were not allowed to go visit her at the moment. Besides, they had to get her settled, and that was best done without the family around. When we visited her, we would be checked for any belongings that we might be bringing in. No cameras, no sharp objects, no alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. At one point, several days later, I asked if I could bring her make-up or perfume, because she wanted some. We were told no, other patients might steal it and consume it for the alcohol in the ingredients.

I asked the nurse what she thought was wrong with my wife.

“I don’t know, except she’s fully psychotic.”
“Can I go say goodbye to her before we leave? I was parking the car when she was admitted, I didn’t get to say goodbye to her.”
“Let me go check.”
The nurse went back onto the ward, talked to my wife, and came back. My wife was definitely feeling the effects of the sedatives she was given at the ER. She stared blanky and moved in slow motion.
“She doesn’t want to see you.”
The tears started pouring. I barely choked out “But I didn’t get to say goodbye to her.”
“I’m sorry. But I have to respect the patient’s wishes.”
I tried again. Maybe she hadn’t understood because I was crying so hard. I wasn’t some abusive husband, I loved her, I took good care of her, I just wanted to go hold her hand and tell her that I loved her, and that she was in good hands, and was going to get better. What I blubbered out through tears and spit was simple “But I didn’t get to say goodbye to her.”
“It’s probably best that you all leave. You’ve had a very long day today. Go home and get some rest. You probably won’t want to come back till tomorrow, since visiting hours are so soon. Take a day to rest, you need and she needs it. And then come back tomorrow.” She was pretty cold in her professionalism.

I looked through the glass door, angling to see her. She was sitting at the end of the nurse’s station, and a nurse was taking her blood pressure. She lookedback at me. I have never seen her look so blank and indifferent. She was in a hospital gown, underweight from all the lost sleep and appetite. She looked almost like a ghost. I touched the glass, hoping she would come and press back on my hand like loved ones do in the movies. But she didn’t do that. She just looked away.

We shuffled into the elevator, in shock. We held onto each other as we all cried and in our own private ways asked God what the hell was going on, and what was going to happen.

I had no idea when I took her there that she would be in the hospital for 23 days. That all of the other crazy people in there would be gone, with only a few exceptions. That she would be released and still be psychotic, just under heavy antipsychotic medication to try and bring her back into our world. That she was going into Sonya’s World.

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