Monday I had a virtual PHP call from 9 to 3. Wife was coming home at 3, so I was just going to explain everything when I saw her. I called the folks at the PHP and explained what happened, and they said I should go to the ER immediately. I talked them into letting me go Tuesday morning, and was safe as I’d be in the PHP all day and then Wife would be home with me. At no point did I even consider lying about it. But I guess I could have fairly easily. It wasn’t a program I was very settled in, so I didn’t know how much I trusted them.
Wife came home, and I explained what happened. She said she had guessed that from the text to Therapist and the things I had talked about on Sunday. I told Wife I had a call with Therapist at four, and she said we should go to the ER right after. We both attended my call with Therapist, who agreed that now was better than the morning. I had sent a message to my doctor at the Treatment Resistant Depression Clinic, and he suggested a hospital just a few minutes south of me, because it had a new EmPATH unit. This information ended up being crucial to my recovery.
Wife and Therapist were both pretty upset, mad even. They both reminded me I was to call them if I ever felt unsafe, and the fact that I didn’t broke a lot of their trust. I felt bad about that, and knew I’d be working to regain that trust for a long time. Therapist kept cool, but I could tell by body language alone that they were trying to be professional and calm.
I packed a bag with my knowledge of what kinds of things weren’t safe. No hoodie with strings, no pajama pants with a string “belt” and no electronics, etc. Packed some toiletries but they weren’t allowed either. Wife took me south to that particular emergency room
When I checked in, the person in front of us was asking how much longer their wait would be. They were told four to five hours. Good thing I brought a book. The book was volume 1 of a social history of the instrument I play. Crazy detailed and I had to read every paragraph a couple times. So I knew it would be a good long read.
They had a plastic window in front of the front desk. So when it was my turn in line, I had say I had a suicide attempt and was still suicidal and didn’t feel safe. Don’t know how many people heard it, but it was crowded enough that I felt a bit conspicuous. I was told to wait and someone would come get me. Rather than four or five hours, someone was out to get me in about ten minutes. Apparently if you’re on their property and say you’re not safe, their liability makes things move faster. I would not recommend this as a tactic for anyone who doesn’t want to go to grippy sock jail, er, Inpatient Mental Health ward.
They took me back to a room where they took my vitals, then to a proper ER room. The doctor came in and by that point I was so anxious I had full body shivers of anxiety and my eyes were as wide as they could be. I was scared. So they gave me some Ativan when they set up my IV. That helped immensely. They took a prodigious amount of blood for tests, and gave me a deep sinus COVID test that felt like they were sticking it far enough in to poke my brain. Waited 90 minutes for tests to come back. That was about the normal time. Everything was negative – and that was my first COVID test.
They had me change into mahogany scrubs, and all of my stuff went into a locked storage closet in the room. Shoes, phone, belt, clothes, etc. All I had were the scrubs and my book. When the tests came back they said they were taking me to EmPATH.
Lesson: EMergency Psychiatric Assessment, Treatment, and Healing (EmPATH) units are where people in crisis receive expert treatment tailored to their needs in a calming environment – instead of a loud, potentially chaotic emergency department (ED). The concept is new but needed. In an EmPATH unit, arriving mental health patients go through medical screening before entering a safe, therapeutic, living room-style area with rapid access to the support they need to stabilize their situation. This includes specialized care from psychiatrists, mental health nurses, therapists, and other trained mental health professionals who will work with each patient to identify needs, administer medications, and begin appropriate treatment and healing. Some patients get meds or a therapy plan and go home from that unit, others go to inpatient.
After a faux wheelchair ride down a labyrinth of hallways – or maybe the Ativan was making me confused, we went into another small room, where the nurse removed my IV and told Wife that this is as far as she can go. We hugged a long and tight hug, and she left. I didn’t have that panicky feeling when you are about to go do something scary with strangers. I blame Ativan again.
I know it’s petty, but I’ve had a lot of wheelchair rides, but they have all been in the new, modern style – four small wheels. Just once I would like to get pushed around on a classic wheelchair!
I was then taken directly into the EmPATH unit. It looked like a sick bay from the recent Star Trek shows. An asymmetrical room in an L shape, nurses station in the middle corner so they could see everyone. All the chairs were like barcaloungers, but when you go back on them, they go completely flat so you can sleep there. I was given a pillow and a blanket, and set up in a chair at the end of the short part of the L. I was given a tour on the way to the chair, snack section, bathrooms, quiet rooms, etc. By then it was ten or eleven PM and I was super tired. I curled up in the chair and went to sleep fairly quickly. Again, not a good night’s sleep. In a chair.
Aside: As a “safe” environment, there were very few ways you could hurt yourself. When you’re in an environment designed to thwart self harm, it’s hard to not treat it like an escape room and look for ways to get past their defenses. I thought of taking the staples out of all of the magazines and building something that I could stick in a power outlet, but I had a feeling these were not normal outlets. I spent the next two days with those thoughts in the back of my mind.