(It is good that Stephen does not mind, has even grown to like it.)
I was a bit nervous to be sent off to Lifestream. Not because I doubted I needed help, but because I had heard that I would have to be transported by the police and handcuffed for the ride. Yes, after everything, I didn’t want to be “cuffed”. Something about it implied that I was a danger to the officer or other people. Which I feel I have never been.
Luckily the deputy assigned to transport me was able to see I wasn’t a threat and, upon asking, agreed that if I wasn’t going to be a problem he would allow me to ride without cuffing me. WHEW!
I would love to say the ride was eventful, but that just wasn’t the case. I hope all of my readers will never have the chance to put my theory to the test, but riding in the back of a police cruiser is a scary experience. At least, it was for me. Just the idea that I couldn’t get out if we were in an accident was enough to elevate my heart rate.
Soon enough we arrived at Lifestream. It was a rather squat building, more wide than either tall or deep. I was escorted into the holding area where other individuals were waiting to be processed. I got a good look at some of the other people I would be spending the next couple days with. Some were obviously there for mental health issues, but others were a little… shall we say “off”? It was then that I learned that Lifestream functions not only as a mental health facility, but as a drug rehab location. I was photographed and my inventory was checked for contraband. After an interview where they took both my mental health assessment as well as my family background, I was given a robe and led though a set of locked doors and into a bathroom. After checking the clothes I had on, I was lead through yet another set of doors and on to the adult male unit where I would be spending time.
I wasn’t exactly scared, but a bit apprehensive might be a better term. I knew that the nurses and orderlies wouldn’t allow any patient to be abused by other patients, but I still had to wonder just how crazy some of my unit-mates were.
The nurses on duty asked when was the last time I ate. After telling them breakfast, they asked if I felt up to eating. Well, duh! But I was still a bit reluctant for solid food.. I felt it might be taking chances. I was able to convince them into bringing me a bowl of vegetable soup with noodles. It STILL hurt like a bitch going down, but not as much as my first few meals in the hospital did. I was able to keep it down, so I figured I was making progress.
My bed was made and I changed out of the robe and into some more comfortable clothes. I grabbed one of the books that my mother had brought from home. I can’t even tell you the name of it now. It’s SOMEWHERE around here. lol
Anyway, the title isn’t important. It was a LDS book dealing with the atonement, grace, mercy, and that sort of stuff. All I remember is that it brought me to tears. Not full tears rolling down my face, just the tears welling up around the edges. You know how it’s like trying to blink back tears? That is how I was.
It was at this time one of the patients decided to introduce himself to me. A kindly early-40′s guy with mutton-chop sideburns. His name was Mark. He was reaching the end of his stay for addiction to alcohol.
I don’t know why, but I took an immediate “shine” to Mark. He seemed level-headed and friendly. Maybe it was because he seemed non-threatening. Maybe it’s because he was the first one to reach out to me. Maybe it’s just because he was there.
I opened up to him. I told him about what I had done, just as I’ve recalled on this blog. Everything. It’s then that the faucet was turned on. I started crying like I hadn’t done in years.
I guess the magnitude of everything was hitting me again. In the hospital I had processed just the tip of the iceberg. Now the emotions were taking center stage. Who was I to still be living? Why was I spared? I couldn’t explain it. Well, let me rephrase. I couldn’t explain it in any human terms. The fact that I was still alive and in control of my faculties could only be explained by me as divine intervention.
Do you have any idea how humbling it is to feel like…. No. KNOW that your higher power (whatever you may call him, her, or it) intervened on your behalf? To know how loved you are?
I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if only for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and hope. But… That continues to be my wish.
-Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), Contact (1997)
Mark agreed with me that it was a higher power at work, saving me from destroying myself. Now the trick, he said, was making the most of this second chance. I intended to.
All in all, we were probably locked in conversation for only 45 minutes. But it was 45 minutes of fellowship. Something I really needed.
By this time some people had gone to bed, others watching some mindless sitcom or sporting event on the unit’s two televisions. Not feeling up to much more socializing, I retired to my bed. Sleep quickly took me.
I woke up at 2am with what felt like an elephant on my chest. It felt like I wasn’t able to get enough air into my lungs. Oh boy! Just my luck, the night after I leave the hospital I have the heart problem they were looking out for. I must have lain there for about five minutes, trying to gulp air. When I started feeling tingling in my left finger-tips, I decided to go to the nurses station.
The unit was dead quiet. I padded to the nurses station and told them I was having trouble breathing. They consulted their chart and said since I was a new admission, they didn’t have any authorization to give me anything. Why don’t I lay back down and try to concentrate on my breathing. If I kept having trouble, they would call the doctor on duty and see if they could give me anything.
I wasn’t totally convinced that this would do anything, but I realized I really wasn’t in a position to argue. I said I would give it a try and turned to go to my room. Was that a mattress in the hallway with someone asleep on it??
As I lay in my bed, I tried to focus on drawing in deep breaths and then slowly emptying my lungs. I tried to ignore the sirens going off in my mind, screaming “Heart Attack! Heart Attack! Heart Attack!”.
Slowly I noticed that the elephant had gotten up to sit somewhere else. With much relief, and a little embarrassment, I went back to the nurses station to let them know I was ok now, and they didn’t have to wake the doctor.
I returned to bed and realized I had just had my very first panic attack. What fun!!! I was able to slip off to sleep again shortly thereafter.
The next morning, as we lined up to go to the cafeteria for breakfast, I got my first real look at my fellow in-mates. I mean patients. A good mix. Some older men, some younger, but most of them were around my age. All in all we probably had around 15 men standing in line.
Figuring that I had to start graduating to solid and richer food eventually, I tried my luck with some “normal” food. Things like scrambled eggs, cereal with milk, buttered toast, and an orange. Though it still felt like I was swallowing razor blades, I was able to get it all down, save the orange (which I took back to the unit to snack upon).
Also at breakfast, Mark introduced me to one of his friends on the unit, a mid-40′s man by the name of Jared. As it turns out, this was both a blessing and a curse. Mark was discharged later that day. So it was nice to know someone else on the unit. Unfortunatly, Jared thought he was more intelligent than he was. He would go on these long diatribes about totally nonsensical topics. Also, his favorite phrase was “Ya know”. He loved to pepper that into at least every other sentence. During one of his monologues I actually counted the number of times he used his favorite phrase. I originally was planning to count for 5 minutes, but abandoned the count once it reached 27 “You know”s inside of 2 minutes.
Yes, I grew to hate and fear Jared. If you couldn’t already tell from my tone, Jared was NOT there for detox. I’ll just leave that there for you to work out.
It was also during breakfast that I saw my first fight between patients. Well, not a full fight. It’s more properly thought of as two feral cats yelling at one another and puffing themselves up to scare away their opponent.
Apparently David (you’ll see that name often) had thrown a butter pat, and it had struck another patient on his forehead. That pissed the other one off, because he was quite visibly balding. I guess he thought David was making fun of his expanding forehead.
Let me first describe the participants. David is an early 20′s wirery male with crew cut hair. He probably stood 5’5″. He obviously worked out, as whenever he went shirtless (which was quite often), you couldn’t help but notice that he was “cut”. A whole lot of attitude. He is the stereotypical suburban white boy who thinks himself a “gangsta”.
Rick (Bald guy) was late 40′s to early 50′s with a goatee. He probably stood 6 foot something. He was a little heavier, but you couldn’t call him fat. Throughout my stay, I only ever saw him in the gown issued us at intake.
So, of course, Rick stands up and starts yelling. David follows suit. At that moment, a wave of nurses descended upon them. David is lead away and given his meals on the unit until the next day.
The next day David and Rick got into it again, so David was fed on the unit for the rest of my stay.
David acting up became a permanent fixture during my stay. Some of his more noteworthy performances included:
- Running full tilt toward the locked doors and acting like he was gonna try to bust through, only to stop a second before he hit.
- Claiming (quite loudly) that he couldn’t wait to get out and smoke some weed again.
- Serenading us with renditions of his favorite gangster rap tunes, and some he made up on the spot.
- Telling everyone that he smokes a thousand dollars a day of weed.
- Alternating crying at the top of his lungs that he wants out RIGHT NOW, then angrily yelling that these f**kers better let him out now.
- Pouring the kool-aid into the trash during our snack times.
Yes, with David around, my stay was very interesting.
After losing a couple patients right before Christmas, we also gained Carlos. He fancied himself a ladies man. He made it a point to flirt with almost every single female he ran across. This usually meant he was hitting on the nurses, but occasionally the female patients when we had combined activities. I will admit, it was amusing to see him in action.
On my second day at Lifestream, I saw a psychiatrist who prescribed me Celexa (20mg) and Remeron (15 mg). They made me very sleepy as my body adjusted to them. A lot of my remaining stay was spent sleeping.
The rest of my stay was pretty uneventful. I made it a point to be polite to the staff. I figured they had the power to extend my stay, and I didn’t want to piss them off. I was only supposed to be committed for 3 days, but due to the holidays, that was extended to 5. =/
On the day of my release, I promised myself I would never see the inside of that place again. Unfortunately, I was inside again 3 months later, but that’s another post.
Next post: Stephen understands… No. Stephen not understand, but Stephen do. Stephen good at doings, not understandings.