OK, so I attempted to type this all up from the very beginning in order to present you with a linear storyline. However, that failed spectacularly because a) I’m not exactly sure where the story begins, really, and b) I am an obsessive self-editor. Given the opportunity to reread whatever I wrote at my leisure, I undoubtedly would do so, over, and over, and over again, each time changing a word here, a comma to a semicolon there.
In short, it would never end up anywhere but behind my eyelids and on this specific screen.
So, I’m gonna take a run at this as a one-shot-per-entry situation, and we’ll see how it goes. I apologize in advance for any grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors.
The first (of the middle) starts here:
I called an old friend back home a couple of days ago. “Hey! How are you?” We chatted for awhile and then it was my turn.
“Well, I have to preface it. See, I wanted to text you earlier but realized that the message would require more exposition.”
Used to my strange introductions to topics after a decade and a half of friendship, curiosity just tinged her voice as she replied, “…OK…”
“Well, see… The message was going to say, “It’s a dark, dreary day in Seattle and I’ve decided to listen to Damien Rice. Maybe they WERE right to keep me under suicide watch Friday night.””
A pause. A bit of a sigh. “Yeah. Yeah, Kat. That’s going to require a bit more explanation.”
Let me assure you, I’m not suicidal. Severely depressed? Sure. Cripplingly anxious most of the time? Yup. A regular victim of chronic pain and fatigue? For the majority of my life. Addictive personality with a strong proclivity to self-medicate with alcohol? Oh, most definitely. Hell, after a year of unsuccessfully trying to quit long term, I’m even getting comfortable with calling myself an alcoholic. Worrisomely self destructive? At times. But really, NOT actively suicidal. In fact I’ve been seeking help for all of those things, and if braving the hullabaloo of the medical industry isn’t proof enough of a strong will to live, I don’t know what is.
I’ve spent most of this year struggling with quitting drinking. Add to that a lowered seizure threshold (most likely caused by the ol’ Lupus), and I’ve been to the ER once (the first time, when I tried to quit on my own and ended up having a full blown seizure on the sidewalk) and urgent care twice to get medical help when I realized I’d fallen back down the rabbit hole and it was time to climb back on the wagon. Last Friday I went to urgent care for the second time.
They brought in all the forms, including the yellow one with all the psych questions on it, and as I filled them out I was suddenly fed up. I’d spent all afternoon trying to get this done in any other way (called my PCP, and other PCPs, and tried to get into a bunch of different substance abuse programs), and yet here I was, filling out paperwork in a hospital gown on a hospital bed in urgent care of all places, where I mostly felt I was just wasting their time. Even though the care I needed WAS urgent, IS urgent, there’s really only a limited amount they can do about it. But none of the specialists were taking the bait.
And then came the yellow sheet, the one with all the various mood/psych questions. (Does everyone get those, or just people with history of mental medical issues?). Now, I need you to understand that I’ve filled out approximately a kazillion of these in the past few months between seeking my own therapy and dealing with my own chronic illness. And they’re irritating. While I understand the importance of them, the questions always come across as simplistic to me. Almost… Condescending. I know they’re written for the everyman, and non-native speakers, and all of that important stuff, but most of the time I just want to look at them and say, “Listen. I’ve been doing this almost two decades. If this stuff wasn’t an issue, I wouldn’t have told you it’s an issue.”
Of course I didn’t take my frustrations out on my nurses or any of the other medical professionals—I am the sweetest, most obedient patient of all time. I’ve watched nurses save a lot of the people closest to me. Nurses do NOT need my shit, and they will never get it. But I was a complete smart ass on the yellow sheet.
The three most memorable answers to the familiar questions:
Q: Do you ever want to go to sleep and never wake up?
A: It’s November in Seattle, guys. Don’t YOU?
Q: Do you want to harm or kill yourself?
A: If I were suicidal I wouldn’t be in this room right now. I would be dead.
Q: Do you have access to guns?
A: I mean, not like in an immediate, tangible sense, but this is America. I’m pretty sure we all have access to guns.
Yeah. I did.
Since I’d also circled threes on just about every other question (I am honest on these things, at least.), about five minutes later the doctor comes in. “Well, it looks like you’re staying with us at least twelve hours.”
Then they flew into the room and took EVERYTHING. My stuff, medical stuff, everything. And they spun the bed around into the middle of the room to face directly out the open door.
“What have you done now?” asked the friendly male nurse who had gotten me checked into the room. Once everything was arranged he brought in a pile of magazines and set them unceremoniously on my bedside cart. “It’s not much, but it’s what they’d let me bring.”
I wasn’t allowed to close the door, obviously, and there was a rotating cast of characters who sat in a chair just outside, watching me try to sleep in a hospital gown in an uncomfortable urgent care bed. Nurses came in on occasion (every time I managed to drift off to sleep, it seemed) to check my vitals and give me medicine to help me sleep and ease the start of the alcohol withdrawal I had come for help with in the first place.
I was there about sixteen hours all told. And one of the funniest things about it to my morbid mind is that they sent me home with three bottles of sedatives to get through the withdrawal. “We have to keep you twelve hours because we’re afraid you’ll kill yourself or hurt someone else. Now here, take these three heavy sedatives and go quit drinking.”
So, I rallied the support system (which is really, really strong.), brought the sedatives home, and quit drinking. For the third time this year. I finally have an appointment to be ‘assessed’ at a rehab place, hopefully to be placed in out patient maintenance care, because while I’ve managed this for a month or more at a time this year, it’s clearly not going to be sustainable for me to do it on my own. Here goes.
On the next installment: Medical Professionals Are Awesome (But the Medical Industry Sucks); or possibly: Living With Chronic Disease (Listen, Dr. House, Sometimes It’s Lupus).