Sunday, November 01, 2009

Waking up is hard to do

(I wrote this piece about my overdose/coma not long after waking up, and found it while cleaning my apartment with Hurricane S.)

I felt very, very tired; my eyelids were heavy, and the room seemed dim. I couldn't move. But I realized instantly that I was in the hospital, and I was happy.

"You're in St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital!" cried my mother. She was sitting next to my bed. I tried to turn my head toward, her but my body felt stiff and my wrists were tied to the bedrails.

Okay, I thought, this is what you get for taking such a big overdose. Of course they're going to tie you to the bed; they think you'll try to kill yourself again the first chance you get.

I tried to choke a few words past the ventilator in my throat, which was pressing painfully against my jaw and made it even harder to move my head. My throat was raw. Every part of me ached; for injections, IVs, three bouts of dialysis, and blood work, needles had been stuck up and down my body. My arms were a spectacular patchwork of green and purple. I bruise easily under normal conditions; after a week in intensive care, I looked like I'd been hit by a truck.

"You're in St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital!" my mother repeated.

I heard you the first time, I thought peevishly; say something else, I can't talk. I hazily noticed she was holding one of my restrained hands. My aunt, sitting on the other side of my bed, squeezed the other. I turned toward her and felt the catheters tugging at my nether parts. The thicker tube was discharging black sludge; my bowels were processing the charcoal pumped into me, which had absorbed some of the drugs I'd swallowed.

Was I glad to be alive? I thought so. It felt good to be in the hospital, to have so many people concerned with my survival and well-being. Being tied to a bed meant they understood how desperate I was, how awful I felt -- which I hadn't been able to convey. Depression makes it hard to concentrate, to think, and if you can't think straight, you can't communicate. Nobody understood how much pain I was in.

Dr. Incompetent's last words to my mother, before I was found, were, "Ayelet's out of control." Neatly placing the blame for my illness on my bad behavior. I was skipping my twice-weekly appointments with her (for which, needless to say, she was still charging me) and not going to work -- not even calling in sick. My mother came in every weekend to spend time with me, which wasn't helping. On the days I managed to get out of bed, I went to a nearby library and read fat, distracting books -- Gone With the Wind, Memoirs of a Geisha.

I had turned off the ringer on my phone. Every so often I'd check my voicemail, deleting messages from my boss -- ranging from annoyed to deeply concerned; my mother, deeply concerned; and my therapist, annoyed.

The therapeutic relationship, like any other, depends heavily on the personal chemistry of the two people involved. I always experienced Dr. Incompetent as cold and aloof. I can't explain why; she often made great efforts to see me, and was in contact with my mother and psychiatrist. But I never felt close or comfortable with her, and many times I felt she completely misread what I was trying to say.

After eight years, I wasn't getting better. I didn't need a therapist, I needed a hospital, and she was grossly incompetent for keeping me out of one. The year before I went through a similar episode. My mother wanted to hospitalize me. My therapist told her it would ruin my life -- I'd never get another job, never get married, never have a normal life again.

Well, I haven't gotten married, but I don't think that's because I was hospitalized. I got other jobs, and two master's degrees. Being in a psychiatric ward was an incredibly positive experience for me. I only wish I hadn't been so afraid to go.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Help is a good thing...


  2. This brings back memories. But glad that you wrote it--and that the story ends in such an affirmative way.