I spent fourteen hours in the psych ward. Stop saying I’m strong.

My hospital bracelet

“How do I die without killing myself?” is a thought I have pretty regularly. Something painless and effective, because I guess I’m afraid of failure even in death. That question is also what I scrawled manically in my journal before I screamed for my roommates help on Thursday morning with a kitchen knife in my calf and a leather belt around my neck. I knew this method wouldn’t be effective for dying but at least someone would know I’ve been suffering and it’s more serious than I make it seem.

Its fucked up because part of my branding as a musical artist is talking about overcoming my first suicide attempt that left me with a metal femur and permanent nerve damage in my face. Record labels and industry folks know it’s something that could make me relatable but I never felt like I should talk about it publicly considering I was just waiting for the next one. But I didn’t want to hide it either, it’s a part of me and always will be. The tricky part is making myself look like someone that could “help” others when I often don’t feel like I’ve been helped myself. When I share my stories, I get so many messages from people sharing theirs and sometimes the burden of their situations (even worse ones than my own) are heavy and all I’ve sought is lightness.

Thursday. It started out well, I was going to meet a few female friends and my keyboardist at a diy venue. It was set up at this deconstructed miniature golf course with hacked arcade games in a basement. My boyfriend was there but things have been a little off (because of my depression being an all consuming vacuum of romance, coincidentally) so I did what I do best, drink a copious amount of alcohol and socialized with strangers. We went to someone’s apartment, and I was drunk enough to sing over the soundcloud beats the apartment owner was playing. Truly a sign of my drunkenness considering singing makes me nervous, even at recording studios. We all took an uber back to Bushwick and dropped my boyfriend off on the way. I don’t even remember saying bye to him. We hung out a bit longer and I said I needed to go home for a session tomorrow but really I needed to go to the bar before it closed because at this level of drunk, I knew I shouldn’t be left alone.

This has become a habit of mine. Hanging out with friends or music industry folks, drinking responsibly, making up some excuse to leave and heading to the bar I’m a regular at to get blackout from the anxiety going out in public gives me. “Turning my brain off” is what I call it in lieu of a more permanent solution. I went to the bar that I knew would stay open long past closing hours to drink with people I knew from college. They’re still drinking at the same bar four years later, so it’s a reliable place to not be alone after 4am. The doors closed, but we stayed. It was the bartender’s birthday so shots were had, but I knew everyone would be going home soon with their respective lovers or hook ups so I went home by myself.

I’ve done this before and recently and I knew the hangover would be coming soon. Not this time. My relationship was too fragile and things in my head kept boiling over and my music wasn’t doing well and the music industry overall was a major source of my anxiety and depression, so I needed to do something. Once the seed is planted, you just water it.

Honestly, I was pretty logical about it in my drunken state. I didn’t want to damage my brain or my ability to walk so I thought stabbing myself would be a good middle ground. Of all the suicidal tendencies I’ve had, bodily self harm was never one (beyond drinking and drugs.) I got two knifes, one big one small. I kept hitting myself with them, and even that hurt so I knew I’d need either to drink more or to cut off feeling. I went to the store and bought more hard cider because they go down faster and a bag of kettle corn. I don’t know why it’s important to say but the bag of kettle corn is still unopened.

I started chugging. I smoked a cigarette in my room which I’ve never done before. I had a journal next to me and I was writing what is probably very laughable poetry if I read it in a sober mind. From what I remember I was writing “You can teach the blind to see in darkness but the darkness in me will never learn.” and “How do I die without killing myself?” I grabbed the leather belt off from my coat and began to strangle myself. It was working, my hearing sounded tinny, almost like it was reverberating in a metal can, like I would lose consciousness soon. The blood vessels under my eye popped, leaving my skin blotched with little red dots. I shoved the knife in my calf, and while choking myself, I yelled for help. My roommates came in and I think I started laughing and then crying because I felt absolutely pathetic. Embarrassed of what my own brain had lead me to do. I told them to call the ambulance because I wasn’t just going to fall asleep after this.

The EMT’s arrived and they let me smoke a cigarette for some reason. I was crying uncontrollably at this point, realizing the gravity of what I had just done, and they were comforting me saying that people call the ambulance for much smaller things like upset stomachs. What followed is hazy and long, but I was taken to an emergency room. I was told later I arrived at 8:30am. It wasn’t particularly busy, no spurting blood, just a lot of drunks and a man complaining about his dialysis treatment. The nurses treated me harshly, and one laughed at my “booboo.” I started crying and yelling, saying I just wanted to talk to someone. Anyone that cared. A professional. They physically restrained me to the bed for causing a scene, understandably. I wouldn’t leave that room for six more hours.

They periodically checked my blood pressure, gave me fluids. They went through my belongings and accused me of lying for not knowing if I had money in my wallet. Thirty five dollars and sixteen cents. Apparently I told them I had nothing, and they were angry about it. My mom was contacted and she told my boyfriend, Tyler, to come. He got there around noon, not angry with me as I expected, but looking at me with true empathy. He held my hand and we sat there for hours with no information of what would happen next. Finally they told me I’d be taken to a psychiatrist after my vitals were stable.

Something I’ll never forget: I saw the first snowfall of the season being wheeled down a windowed corridor into a psychiatric ward wearing a canary yellow paper-thin hospital gown with my boyfriend, a police officer, and a nurse. I was stripped and given baby blue pajamas with stains from previous patients. The waiting room had yellow walls and brown plastic chairs covered in mystery liquids. A glitched out TV played Family Feud and The Big Bang Theory. A police officer watched over a woman who was handcuffed to a bench, a young girl was crying in another language, two patients with red eyes sat there nonchalantly. Patients came and go all day, but I was never told what the procedure would be. I was reluctant to ask questions or call attention to myself because the last time I started crying, they physically restrained me.

Only two nurses talked to me in the hours and hours I waited, asking me why I was there as if the emergency room had given them no information. Tyler, my boyfriend sat with me the entire time. We didn’t talk much but he had a magazine so I read over and over again the same articles, the words never entering my mind. He was asked to leave at 9pm, because visiting hours were over but he could come back in the morning. This was seven hours after leaving the emergency room, he had waited with me this long and now I would be left alone for possibly days. He left and I tried not to cry, worried that it’d prolong my stay.

A nurse finally told me they accidentally skipped over my paperwork but I would be next to see the doctor. “You’re next.” they said to me for hours and hours. I couldn’t call my parents because the phone was broken. I couldn’t leave on my own volition, I would either be admitted to the facility or discharged when I could talk to a doctor. I waited an entire fourteen hours from when I arrived before I even talked to a psychiatrist. Finally, I was actually next to see the doctor. A huge man with a ponytail started a conversation with me, “I told them about the thumping noise, the machine above my apartment and they took me here.” and “This whole city is run by the CIA. They commit crimes underground and that’s why New York is so terrible.”

By the time I finally saw a psychiatrist, I was willing to say anything to get out of the place. “No, I’ve never harmed myself before.” “My life is going great, I’m a performer.” and “I was just being dramatic.” I put on my best oh-silly-me and thank-you-so-much-sir. This nevvver happens! I’m totally fine! Anything to get out of this place that very obviously did not care about its patients more than they cared about a cockroach: make them suffer at all costs.

Socially, mental health is being talked about and taken seriously now more than ever. Medically, and politically, we have a LONG way to go. I will do everything in my power to never return to this facility, but that doesn’t mean my issues will go away. I’ve arranged to go to outpatient therapy, something I’ve long neglected due to bad experiences with the multiple counselors I had as a teenager. But I know now it’s finally time. I will also be donating to the Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth under 25 who seem to be doing the most right now to fight stigma and offer preventative measures.

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