When I ended Bumps In the Recovery Road I was in the emergency room of the local hospital, waiting with a front desk lady, while the psychiatrist from the Crisis Team was working with the emergency room doctor to have me involuntarily committed. I was very angry and really wanted to leave, but I knew they would stop me.
After about fifteen minutes, the psychiatrist exited the treatment area and left the emergency room, without saying a word to me. Almost immediately after he leaves, I am called back to the treatment area. At first, things seem to be going along in a fairly normal manner. I am still angry, still feeling like I have been tricked, but I thought that since I had come to the hospital willingly, that it would not be too bad. I. WAS. WRONG.
A very young nurse enters my room, she hands me a hospital gown, and orders me to take off all of my clothing. She then informs me that I will be going to the psychiatric hospital, dressed in nothing more than that hospital gown. I promptly let her know that I was not removing my undergarments. To which she responded with “We will see what the charge nurse says about that”.
After the young nurse leaves, the emergency room doctor arrives and asks me a few questions about the state of my mind, and if I have a suicide plan. After I answer all his questions, he leaves. About twenty minutes after my encounter with the doctor, a guard shows up. I was not surprised or bothered about the guard, I already knew it was standard procedure for anyone that the medical staff think is suicidal.
When the charge nurse finally enters my room, I can tell from the look on her face that things are about to get bad. I had no idea how bad, until she lets me know that she is going to strip search me. I go from angry to absolutely terrified very quickly. I am rather modest and the thought of being strip searched was more than my already messed up brain could handle. I instantly burst into tears. The nurse told me it had to be done to be sure I was not hiding any drugs or weapons. I do not use drugs, and I am not a violent person, except for that time when I was coming out of a coma, so I just could not understand why I needed to be stripped searched. I felt humiliated, embarrassed, and as if I was being treated like a criminal, when I all I did was call for help.
When I told the charge nurse that I refused to be strip searched, she let me know that if I did not allow her to do it, she would have the guard outside my room arrest me! It seems the guards they use are off duty sheriff deputies, so they have the power to arrest people. I have no way of knowing if I really could have been arrested for refusing the strip search. What I do know, is that I was calm, although terrified, and I had not even raised my voice when I told her no. I also know that I felt bullied, and like I was being treated as if I had committed a crime.
When I did not agree to the strip search as quickly as the charge nurse wanted me to, she began to walk out the door, telling me she was going to have the guard come in and take me to jail. At that point, it was a given that I would agree. She checked every place that someone could hide anything. When she finished, I felt completely violated. Even now, months after this, I still feel just as angry, humiliated, and violated as when it first took place.
After the strip search, when it was time for me to put my hospital gown back on, I manged to talk the charge nurse into allowing me to wear my undergarments under my hospital gown. I assumed once I got dressed I would immediately be taken to the psychiatric facility. That did not happen. Because of the ten extra beta blockers I took, the psychiatric hospital told the emergency room doctor that I had to have my heart monitored for at least twenty-four hours before they would accept me.
By this time, I had become so scared about going to the psychiatric hospital, that I did not mind having to stay in the medical hospital for an extra few days. My thought was, if I could be violated the way I had been at this hospital, there was no telling what horrible things waited for me at the psychiatric hospital.
Once a room in the Intensive Care Unit became available, I was transferred (along with my guard) upstairs. After I was settled into my room, I learned that there were a few rules that I had to adhere to. I was not allowed to leave my room. Anything that my husband brought me would have to be examined before I could have it. Finally (the worst rule in my opinion), I could not go to the bathroom without being supervised.
That night I learned that because I was involuntarily committed for a suicide attempt, I would not be given any of my daily medications. That also meant my Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) medicine. Since I was hooked up to monitors, I could not get up and walk around and my legs became extremely uncomfortable. My RlS medicine is the only thing that makes my RLS symptoms tolerable. It took some doing, but the doctor that was on duty that night did allow me to take my RLS medicine. He took the discontinue order away and said I should not have any problems the next night.
With the medication failure already allowing my emotions to be out of control, not being allowed to have any anti-anxiety medication, and feeling terrified, violated, and angry, I was a horrible person to be around. I was short tempered, at times, with certain guards. I barely tolerated most of the nurses and I was rude to the doctors.
I quit eating. There was no way I was going to have a bowel movement while someone had to watch me in the bathroom. When I was not sleeping, I was crying. The terror I felt about what it was going to be like at the psychiatric hospital was and still is the most scared I have ever been.
I do not know if the treatment I received in the emergency department is the norm for anyone involuntarily committed. However, I believe that it was highly inappropriate for the charge nurse to threaten to have me arrested. There could have been many other ways she could have gotten me to cooperate that did not involve threats, especially since I was not being violent or argumentative.
I would like to hear if anyone had similar experiences when they were involuntarily committed for psychiatric care. I would also be interested to know if my experiences, especially with the arrest threat, are exactly how hospital staff are supposed to treat someone who has suicidal thoughts or if there was something not quite right about how I was treated.