“There is nothing stable in this world; uproar’s your only music.”John Keats
Because of a new medication, I’ve entered my first manic episode. I’ve been productive as fuck, but I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours per night in a week. Now, the consequences have caught up to me.
Shadows float. Lights flash in the corners of my eyes. If I talk to anyone, I cry.
Combined with bouts of intense dizziness several times per hour, I feel claustrophobic inside my own body—like I need to burst out and run away.
Worst of all, the most intense episodes happen right as I’m falling asleep, causing me to jolt upright and walk around the room until I regain a sense of normalcy.
Cumulatively, this is the most terrifying experience of my life. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Death as a Side Effect
So terrifying, in fact, I resolve that if I have to endure much more, I will kill myself.
After all, I’ve always appreciated the idea of quality over quantity when it comes to life. And this definitely isn’t quality.
Luckily, between my family, friends, therapist, psychiatrist, and other healthcare professionals, I have access to a fantastic support network. Even though my depression asks so much from them, they’re always here to help me through trying times.
Among so many other lessons, they’ve helped me understand that stability isn’t achieved by clenching my jaw and grinding through it.
As a result, my wife takes the initiative to call the Deschutes County Stabilization Center, who recommends that I come in for a screening.
After a tearful 20-minute session, the counselor advises that I likely need a temporary medication to help me sleep (duh, amiright?). However, since it’s the weekend, they can’t write prescriptions.
Instead, she advises that I should admit myself into the nearby hospital via their emergency room. That way, they could closely monitor me while offering medication intervention, if necessary.
So, that’s what I’m doing.
The Safe Room
While Bend is home to only about 100,000 people, I’m blown away by the medical care quality here. Not only are most office buildings newer and well-designed, but the staffs are always compassionate and go the extra mile to make sure I’m OK.
Another one of the many benefits of living in a mid-size city is that healthcare facilities often boast little-to-no wait times. They call me to the back not long after checking in.
“Are you having suicidal thoughts,” the nurse asks me?
“Have you planned it out in your mind?”
“Do you feel like telling me about it?”
“No,” I state for the umpteenth time today.
He introduces me to another nurse who—after watching me pee in a cup—walks me back to the ‘safe room:’ a stark white box with a TV (encased in protective plastic) on one wall and a single medical bed against another.
He instructs me to strip completely down and hands me a set of scrubs. Again, while watching and standing close by.
I lean on the bed while changing, and it feels glorious against my skin. So cozy.
Goddamn, I need some sleep.
Three Hours Later
Fast-forward three hours, and a team of mental health professionals has visited my room several times. I had to tell the lead physician a little about my self-assassination plan, who also wagged his finger at my marijuana use. Two pills for my anxiety rest in my stomach.
I still haven’t slept, but I’m certainly more relaxed, without feeling like I need to burst through my chest like an alien.
I’m starving, but eating in a hospital doesn’t sound appealing, especially during a pandemic. It’s probably fine, but I decline several offers.
“In order to release you, I need you to tell me that you’re not planning on killing yourself,” a doctor states during his final visit to my room.
“I promise. I know it’s your job, but thank you so much for your compassion and generosity,” I reply in earnest.
The doc leaves. I close the door, remove my scrubs and replace them with my street clothes. With a temporary prescription for anxiety meds in my hand, I open the door, walk down the hall, and wait in the lobby for my wife to pick me up.
For the first time in a week, I feel a glimmer of hope.