Tag Archives: psych ward

One Year Later


A year ago I was back in the psych ward.  Fifty one pills of Lorazepam taken during a blurry three hour window and a 911 call from my roommate at the time effectuated my return.  And I was angry.  Angry to be back there less than six months after my first stint, angry because I felt like no one was listening to me, and angry because I felt like no one believed me.  And even though I wouldn’t admit it, I was probably angry at myself.

Looking back, it’s amazing how near-sighted I was.  The 911 call that my roommate placed probably saved my life.  But that was the last thing I was going to admit back in April of 2013.  Kicking and screaming all the way to the hospital, I was convinced she was the crazy one.  But in the year that’s elapsed since I took that ambulance ride, a lot of details about that night have come into a sharper focus.  A few months ago, when I was still in rehab, I remembered a detail about that night that night that my denial had conveniently suppressed.  When the cops came into my apartment to escort me to the ambulance I was in my bedroom, ready to call it a night.  My roommate and I had gotten into a screaming fight and I was ready to surrender to sleep and forget about it all.  On my nightstand there was a bottle of Nyquil waiting for me.  Not my preferred brand of cough syrup at the time, I preferred Robitussin because, unlike Nyquil, there usually wasn’t any alcohol added to it.  But that night all I had was the Nyquil.

When the police walked in I was sitting up in bed, in the dark, with the bottle in my hand.  And had I drained that bottle, as was my habit at the time, I probably wouldn’t be here today to write about it.  The dose of Lorazepam I took, fifty one milligrams, is pretty close to lethal by itself.  But add alcohol to the mix, like the alcohol in the Nyquil, and I probably never would have woken up.

Thank God my roommate cared enough about me to make that call.  She told me that she had decided she’d rather lose my friendship than lose me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of the courage and strength of the people in my life that cared enough about me to save my life even if it hurt my feelings.  A relationship can always be mended in the light of day but I might not have made it to dawn if she hadn’t picked up the phone to make one the hardest phone calls of her life.

It’s strange to be able to look back on this night with the clarity of five months sobriety.  So many things in my life have changed, a lot of things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, and I lost a lot of good friends along the way.  But now I can look back on that night and be grateful for all the ways that I was saved. 

Looking back is certainly bittersweet, like a lot of things that have come with my sobriety.  The year between April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2014 hasn’t been an easy one.  And there are still a lot of things in my life that I have to make right.  For now, all I can do is pay it forward, and thank the people in my life who were stronger than me, by staying sober—one day at a time.




1 Lorazepam, 2 Lorazepam…. 55 Lorazepam, More!

“I’m moving out.”

“What did you take?”

“I’m done.”

She was not pleased. And neither was I.

It was two days after law school prom and I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. Accustomed to 10 hours a night, was unacceptable. I tried everything– melatonin, smoking green, having a few drinks. All to no avail. So I got desperate. Kept awake by my anger and an accidental ingestion of PCP– ecstasy can be a dangerous drug– I resorted to more drastic measures.

I was home alone and my roommate was working late– I didn’t expect her back before 10 pm. Searching for a solution to my sleepless problem, my mind drifted towards my lorazepam. I was– and still am– prescribed 3 milligrams of the delightful controlled substance a day. Relying on its sedative powers, which would surely be accelerated by the few drinks in my system, I delved into my purse and popped 5 milligrams. The tablets were quick dissolve and I placed them under my tongue to ensure quick delivery of the drug into my system. Then I sat on the couch, watching some vapid television, and waited for the pills to work their magic.

No luck. Half an hour later, I was just as awake as I’d been before. I popped 5 more. Still no luck.

After ingesting about 15 milligrams, 5 times my daily dose, I started to lose the few shreds of discretion I still possessed in my sleep deprived state. When I was up to 20, I was still awake. I started researching overdose amounts– not to kill myself but to ensure the opposite, that I wouldn’t kill myself. The internet wasn’t particularly informative but I gathered that it was pretty difficult to OD on lorazepam alone. To be sure, I texted the Ex, a fourth year dental student with a good working knowledge– scholastic and experiential– of pharmaceuticals.

“How much lorazepam is an overdose?”

No response.

Ten minutes later I got a call from my best friend.

“What are you doing?!” Her angry voice sang into my drugged ear.

“Watching TV. What are you doing?” I probably slurred.

She had gotten a call from the Ex, who told her that I was trying to kill myself. I assured her that I was not. She asked me what I’d been taking. I low-balled her my dosage and told her I was, and would be, fine. She was not pleased but, being 1000 miles away, she had to take my word for it.

In a few short hours I had ingested what remained of my bottle of pills. I was up to a whopping 55 milligrams. At some point I had decided to finish off the bottle. 3 milligrams a day is a fairly high dose of the stuff. And taking 55 over the course of a few hours was pretty much unheard of.

And then my roommate came home. She could tell I was pretty out of it– I was draped lazily across the couch and my condition was hard to hide. Tired of putting up with my constant drug use, which had accelerated with each week that I backslid away from my promise to stay sober, she told me she was moving out.

We exchanged some unkind words and she stormed out of the apartment. I stormed off to bed, finally tired enough to get some sleep.

But I wouldn’t get the rest I so desperately desired. As soon as turned the lights out and sat on my bed, seconds away from pulling my feet up and myself under the covers, I was greeted by angry, glaring flashlights and the authoritative voice of a policeman.

“Ma’am, you’re going to have to come with us.”

My roommate had called the ambulance. And before I could protest, I was on my way to my second hospitalization.

This one wasn’t voluntary.

“I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m FINE.”

No one would believe me. I was able to walk without assistance, even though they did their best not to let me, speak with only a slight slur, and recount exactly what had happened. They took my vitals at the hospital and everything came back normal. There was no administration of an antidote, no pumping of my stomach. I was fine.

Unfortunately, no one would believe me. Scared by my ingestion of an ungodly dose of a controlled substance, the authority figures I was beholden to chalked my behavior up to a suicide attempt. Which meant I was headed straight for the psych ward, on a 72 hour involuntary hold.

Back in the place I hated the most, the place I swore I’d never return to, I was irate. One angry phone call to my roommate later, I was done. I knew my situation was bad but I never dreamed it would get worse.

She moved out.

I had taken 55 milligrams of lorazepam.

And everyone was done with me.


The Game– Or How to Survive in the Psych Ward

The object of the game was to get out by Monday morning. And we devised a strategy to get the hell out.

“We” was me and two girls on the ward who were around my age. I ended up making a few friends after all. Both of them were in their late twenties or early thirties and had kids. One was about eight months pregnant and constantly complained about the no smoking rule; the other looked sixteen but was in her late twenties and was married with two kids. We had all checked ourselves in on Friday, looking for a little help, and had walked blindly into a hell we were desperate to escape from.

We knew we couldn’t get out before Monday because of the check-out rules. Therefore, our unifying goal was to get cleared to leave by Monday morning. ASAP.

We began to treat our time in there like a game. We certainly weren’t receiving any therapy or treatment. (Not including medications, which they handed out like candy. Especially the sedatives, and especially if you were bad). So to us it was all a big game– if you played your hand right, you got out. But if you broke one of the rules, you’d be stuck there for longer.

To win the game, you had to follow the strategy. You had to put on a happy face, pretend to be social, and, above all, you could not mention that you were still horribly depressed and hated everything about being stuck in inpatient hell.*

*The strategy, by nature, is incredibly perverse and that alone is enough to make me sick. I checked in because I wanted help– but going in only made things worse. The experience did end up scaring me straight (for a few months) but that part comes later.

Pasting on a smile at group was the easy part.

The hard part was pretending to be social. The nurses made notes about everything you did, including when you went to sleep and for how long. Staying in bed and missing group or a meal was a strike against you. Sleeping all day was another strike. Even spending the day in your room was a strike.

This meant that, even though I wanted to sleep the weekend away, I had to hang around the common area and pretend not to be miserable. I had plenty of studying to keep me busy so I forced myself to try to catch up on Energy Law in one of the almost-comfortable arm chairs in the common area– even though I’d rather be studying in my shared room, away from distractions. But the absence of distraction afforded by my semi-private room was not worth the strike on my chart, so I posted up in the common area and tried to learn Energy Law.

Above all, crying was not allowed.

Crying got you a big black strike. As soon as the nurses noticed tears they would be marked down in your chart. An ugly black inky reason to keep you there for another day. Crying was a sign of instability, weakness, a symptom of your disorder, the catalyst that brought you in there in the first place. Crying was not okay.

Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was cry. I was trapped in a place I never thought I would be. I was completely isolated from all technology, friends, and any semblance of the real word. I was desperately lonely, I missed my dog, I missed my friends, hell, I even missed school. Every part of me wanted to lie face first into my pillow and sob myself to sleep until it was all over.

This was not an option. Crying was not part of the strategy. And I had to get out by Monday; I would consider no other possibilities. So I learned to cry discretely, and appropriately. It was appropriate to tear up, sniffle, or cry occasionally– no loud sobbing!– during group.

So I learned to hide my tears. I discovered that if I walked casually into my room without a nurse following me, I could sneak in a few minutes of desperate crying before washing up in the bathroom and heading back to the common room, ready to get back into the game.

After all, the object of the game was to get out. And I was getting out.


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