Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Last Leaf, Part One

I was in the hospital two years ago, in November 2007. It still seems like yesterday somehow. I was depressed, but I was also on a seven med cocktail. I knew my brain was broken, I had spent the entire year doing major volunteer work with my local DBSA chapter, arranging for two "A-List" speakers to come to our struggling group, working on major hypomania, and a spell of extreme mania over the summer. Now it was November, and my brain was trying to come down from the high, and in doing so, was turning against me as it continually flashed suicidal images and thoughts in my head, much like the subliminal words and pictures put in movie theatres back in the Fifties for soda and popcorn.

I was scared and chagrined when my little stuffed panda was removed by the nurses, and I was strip searched before I was allowed into a pair of sweats and slippers. I told them to just take my sneakers, if they removed the shoe laces, they would have to cut leather and I would be out a pair of shoes. The nurse understood. A few minutes later, I was sitting on the bed assigned to me, crying into an old yellow T shirt with the image of Spongebob on it,rumpled up to serve as a makeshift stuffed animal and tear catcher.

I had a lovely, lovely roomate. An elderly woman, in her eighties, suffering from major depression. She was inconsolable about the death of her husband, someone she had been with over sixty five years, most of her entire life. She was a vibrant person before her depression hit her, hit her hard. She was involved in her church, had raised children, and was a grandmother and great grandmother. And she had volunteered for years with her church, ministering to those at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.

Her minister came one night to visit with several women from her church. They were going to pray, and they asked me if I would like to stay and pray with them. I replied, yes, but I do not have a bible. No worries, sit next to one of the ladies with one. I felt good as the matronly lady made room for me, and gave me a hug. I needed that hug. I had never prayed like that before, but it was the right thing to do at the time, and I felt so much better.

I would spend hours in the bed. I wasn't depressed, but there was nothing else to do. This time, the hospital had been re done, pumped with money from Big Pharma. The TV being left on 24/7 was no more, it was only on from 6-11 in the evening. The rooms were sumptious, as luxurious as the Hyatt a few miles away. But there were no talk therapies, no breaks for the smokers- even if you don't smoke to go outside for five minutes an hour to get some fresh air. There were 30 people on the ward. 21 of them were getting ECT, and I thought of it as a production line. I tried to read the book I had brought in with me- a book by Ben Elton- and just couldn't concentrate enough to read. There wasn't anything to do, and even the monotony couldn't be broken by a smoke break, just to go outside, because the facility was now smoke free.

I would sit forever in a sterile, non-descript faux hotel/industry chair and look out the windows, watching the leaves fall. And as I watched the leaves, gorgeous in their hues of brown, orange and red, fall from their tree, I had a feeling of doom. The birds stopped coming, the squirrels too. Snow came in flurries, and I just watched sunrise after sunset from the chair, until I stuck to the plastic coating and shuffled off to night meds and bed.

(Part Two coming).


Tom Bailey said...

I like the quote on your blog. I hope that things get better for you. Strangers providing support like that is the great side of people that always touches me in a special way.

Thank you for sharing.

susan said...

Thank you Tom for visiting. I like the quote too. I learned it on my last hospital stay.

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

The heartbreaking part for me was when they took away your stuffed panda. I have a stuffed bunny that comes to therapy with me. I started group therapy a few weeks ago and he comes with me to that too and sits in my lap. I would be inconsolable if someone took away any of my stuffed animals. They are the only comfort I have sometimes.


Anonymous said...

You write well. I love your descriptions, how they paint a pretty (or not so pretty) picture.

I, too, was in a mental hospital, but it was more like a homeless shelter than a Hyatt. 1960's building, never upgraded. But we did have our smoke breaks, so I know how important it was to have an excuse for some fresh air.

Melissa said...

like littlewolf said, i was heartbroken as well when reading about them taking your panda. i didn't have opportunity to pack on my last stay, but i would have really lost it if they would have taken my stuffed bunny. love the description.

susan said...

Crazy Mermaid- it was still a not nice place, it's just Johnson and Johnson and Bristol Myers US headquarters were each close by and they had contributed to new paint, and what not..... and wallpaper....

Melissa- they took my panda, they took my jewelry...I w as not a happy camper....

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