Explanation and Thoughts of Recent Events
Addressed to Nicole’s counselor
Here is an explanation of everything that has happened prior to my hospitalization, what happened the night of, what happened during my stay, and what has happened afterwards.
As for what happened leading up to being there, it started about three weeks ago, when I expressed to a friend (Leigha) that I was feeling severely depressed and that my suicidal thoughts were bothering me again. She became worried and mentioned it to her RA, who then contacted the Area Coordinator on call that night, Hannah. Now this night was like any other night where my depression spikes, and my suicidal thoughts become increasingly bothersome. I only expressed this to her because she and I both struggle with those thoughts, and I thought she, out of anyone else I could have contacted, would understand and be supportive, maybe reassure me that things aren’t as bad as they seem and that my friends weren’t deserting me. The only difference of this night was that my friend did not respond and instead, contacted outside support. In the week surrounding this night, I had changed medication dosage amounts of the Wellbutrin a couple times as directed by my psychiatrist, and it caused my mood to change and for me to fall back into a depressive episode that lasted a little less than a week. On the next Saturday, I came out of it and was feeling a lot better for the rest of that week. I was able to cope well and properly, avoid cutting, and get myself back to where I needed to be.
The next weekend was fall break, so I went home. For the entire break, my anxiety was through the roof due to an unavoidable situation of my aunt and cousin being in town and staying with us. I wasn’t able to get a break or calm myself from anxiety for the entirety of break, so when I got back to campus the Tuesday after, my anxiety increased. The upcoming week was homecoming, and since EP plans the major homecoming events, I had an event on Friday. My event was the Bonfire and Fireworks night, and as the event drew closer, there were major alterations which I couldn’t figure out how to adapt to or learn what was going on. This caused me to stress and worry about it, adding another layer of anxiety.
As I was worrying and overthinking, I began to question my abilities as a student leader. Since I was doubting myself and was becoming overwhelmed by my anxiety, I went into another small depressive episode that lasted only a few days. Once my event was over, and some of my anxiety relieved, I felt a lot better and came out of the episode. My event was on the 12th, Friday evening, and that day I was the most stressed and overwhelmed. During the event, I began to feel overwhelmed by the massive crowd of people. It was one of the largest events of the semester, so we had maybe three hundred people or more in a relatively small area.
Because there were so many people, my social anxiety began to rapidly worsen causing my communication skills to falter. AC Hannah called me over to talk during the event, asking me how I was doing and how classes were going and basically just checking up on me since the last time we talked. I responded that I was doing well, and classes were going well. Because of my stress level, I wasn’t able to communicate well that I was stressed, but also that I was mostly doing fine. Instead, I said very few words and from what I remember, unconvincingly saying I was fine. I’m not quite sure she believed me, but she didn’t press the matter any further. I think I unintentionally came off as depressed and isolating. I was stuck in somewhat of a freeze response and unable to pull myself out of it.
On Wednesday (10th), I had cut for the first time in over a week. The stress of going home, my classes, my event, my roommate, and other anxieties is what triggered my urge to cut, even after I tried all I could to distract and cope. Nothing felt like it was working, so I went back to what I knew worked every time. Afterwards, I bandaged it and wore long sleeves to cover the bandage, so it wasn’t too noticeable. Throughout the homecoming week, when I was working on EP posters, my sleeve raised some, so it was noticeable that my hand/wrist was bandaged. Several people from EP noticed and asked about it, but I told them, “It’s nothing.” My adviser, Laurie, also noticed it on Friday at my event and asked about it. I’m sure it raised some questions and much concern, especially from her.
The next night, Saturday, was our last EP event, Casino Night, and I was wearing short sleeves because I was dressed up for this event. I had my wrist covered with my headband that I always wear so that it doesn’t seem suspicious (or so I thought). This time though, I think Laurie noticed that I was covering my wrist, and after what she saw the day before, she knew something was up. Hannah noticed as well. She came over to me, and I knew as soon as she got to me that she was going to talk to me about a sensitive subject. She asked me what was on my wrist. I immediately said, “It’s nothing. I’m fine.” She proceeded to ask me if I had hurt myself, if I had cut, so I was honest and told her the truth. One thing I’ve learned is that it is not at all helpful to lie in any situation, so I try not to do so and be as honest and open as possible. She then asked me if I was going to do it again, and as before. I was honest and told her, “probably.” I knew that I was most likely going to do it again when I felt that I needed to. She then mentioned being worried and something about my options. She said I could either talk to someone on a crisis hotline or something, talk to campus police, or go to the hospital. As she said those words, “go to the hospital” I started to panic as that has become a trigger. I was now in a panic attack and could not speak or think at all.
I think my reaction to those words, “go to the hospital” that night was what caused Hannah to worry even more. Once she had told me my options several times, and I was still unable to communicate, she called campus police to see what they thought about the situation and to try to talk to me. Earlier that day, I had been doing well; I was able to catch up on some sleep without waking up every couple of hours. I was able to do some homework for the first time in over a week; I socialized with people, and I wrote about the past week that I hadn’t had the energy to do. I finally felt like I was getting back on track, but that night derailed everything.
As campus police arrived, I was still in my panic attack but had calmed down enough to think a minuscule amount. They then started questioning me about what was going on. I felt as if I had no control over what was happening, and I felt like Hannah was telling me what I was thinking when I wasn’t. I believe she thought I was feeling suicidal because I had self-harmed, but I had only cut because I needed to relieve some anxiety and to calm down a little bit after my roommate and her friend were in our room. That’s another factor that contributed to my anxiety and depression. Once I had cut and bandaged it, I felt a lot better and I could finally complete some homework and the things I had been meaning to do over the week.
Returning again to what I was saying before this, I was having difficulty communicating and was unable to tell Hannah and campus police that my self harm was unrelated to my suicidal thoughts I had been having previously that week. I also couldn’t convey that I was not currently feeling suicidal. The officers and Hannah continued to question me about what option I was going to choose. I was still in my panicked state, barely able to breathe, unable to speak, move, or think, so I had no way to make my decision. One of the officers tried to comfort me by rubbing my shoulder and back which just triggered me more. Ever since my previous hospital stay, I have had major issues with people touching me unexpectedly and with some, at all. Before this, I had problems with physical contact, and it has grown to what it is now.
By Hannah’s reaction to me and my situation, I started to wonder if maybe I really was getting worse and just didn’t know it. That maybe over the past few days, I was worse than I thought I was and had just been so accustomed to it, that I didn’t realize the magnitude of it. I began to think maybe everything I was experiencing was altered, like maybe I couldn’t trust what I thought reality was. Maybe I was becoming so mentally ill that I didn’t really know what was happening.
Returning again to what I was saying, Hannah and the officers made the decision to call CSB to get their opinion, advice, and recommendation as well as for them to speak with me. They tried to have me talk to whoever was on the phone, and when they handed it to me, it only sent me further into panic. One major trigger is talking on the phone, so there was no way I was going to be able to talk to anyone in that moment. Since I was unable to speak to them because I was in my panicked state, they decided that it would be best for me to go to the hospital to be evaluated, which meant I was definitely going to be staying there in inpatient. They told me that I could either go voluntarily, or, if I made them and caused them a large amount of paperwork, involuntarily.
Once they made the decision that I was going to the hospital, I texted several of my friends, Marie, Matt, Bethany, and Leigha, explaining and letting them know what was happening and where I was going. Marie offered to accompany me during my ER wait, and I gladly accepted because she is one of the few people whose mere presence helps calm me down and comforts me. I arrived at the hospital with one of the officers, and almost immediately, we were taken back to a safe room right after we checked in and I received my wristband. As we walked back to the room, I began to get, I guess I could call them flashbacks (trans crisis response), to when I was there in April. I started panicking again, and by the time I reached the room and was sitting and waiting, I was in another full-blown panic attack.
A few minutes later, a nurse came in and told me to change into the paper scrubs. Mind you, I was still in a massive panic and could barely function. The nurse barely gave me any time to try to calm down even a little bit before she started touching me and trying to take my clothes off. I tried to stand up but almost fell and had to lean on the bed to sit down. The nurse continued to try to undress me which only caused more panic. She pulled my clothes off and tried to redress me and shove me into those impractical sheets of paper they try to call clothing. This was traumatic, and after I had changed, I was spiraling further and further into my anxiety and panic which again I didn’t realize was possible.
After this, three more staff members came in; one tried taking my blood pressure, temperature, and pulse, another trying to draw blood, and a third trying to ask me questions. As they all were trying to make progress, Marie finally arrived and came next to me to comfort me by standing at my side, holding me. With Marie being there, I was able to calm down a little bit. As the one nurse was trying to draw blood, I had another ‘flashback’ (trans crisis response), and I was back there in April again, utterly terrified. The fear and stress I felt back in April, I experienced again on top of the fear during the present moment. After the staff completed their work and left, Marie stayed with me while I waited.
After a short time, the PET team came in, which consisted of one cranky, sarcastic old woman. She talked with me about what had happened and how I was doing. I tried to explain what had happened and that I was not currently feeling actively suicidal. I wanted to explain that it seemed like everyone was overreacting, including myself because of my panic. I didn’t communicate any of this well at all as I couldn’t figure out how to explain it because my anxiety was preventing me. I tried to explain, but I couldn’t speak well, my words were coming out all mixed up, and I kept getting confused of what I was saying and what I was meaning to say. The woman wasn’t particularly helpful in trying to understand me and just added to my confusion. One question she asked me was if I was normally tearful to which I responded that I wasn’t because I’m not. Emotional? Very much so. Tearful and teary? No. I think she believed I was in a deep, dark, depressed state because I had come into the hospital crying and panicking, but what do you expect from someone who is terrified of hospitals, being dragged into one against their will?
A few minutes after she asked this question, she made another comment about going into the hospital in inpatient, and as stated before, that’s a trigger, so obviously, I was starting to panic and cry again. She saw this and made this comment in a very rude, sarcastic tone,
“Yeah, definitely not tearful.”
This comment pissed me off and did not help me in my situation at all. It made me think she didn’t believe anything I was saying. It also made me feel as though this was maybe another piece of proof that I couldn’t trust myself or what I thought to be reality, like maybe my thought processes and thinking were so distorted and flawed that I didn’t even know what was really going on. Once she had left and returned with her decision, I went upstairs to the psych unit where I checked in and talked to the staff to prepare for my stay. After I signed all the necessary papers and forms, I went to my assigned room and tried to sleep. My room this time was the same one as my previous visit so at least that was somewhat familiar.
Even though I was terribly exhausted from the day’s panic and terror, I could barely sleep, so the next morning I could hardly handle or do anything. Somehow, I was able to attend groups, eat meals, socialize a little bit, and talk with the doctor despite my fatigue, but I had to make a real effort to do so. Normally, this would not be such a hard thing to do, but because I was so tired and so scared and anxious, just being there made it so much worse. For the first few days, just the fact that I was a patient again at the hospital made me so anxious I was my reserved, quiet, anxious self again. I barely spoke to anyone, not even the other patients. I spent the majority of my free time working on a puzzle and writing all of this to try to cope with my fear and anxiety. It doesn’t help that I am also an introvert, so people already drain me, but on top of this, having to constantly think about my mental state and my thoughts didn’t help.
Once Sunday was over, I tried to sleep for the night but again, found it difficult. That day, they did not give me all of the medications I normally take, and it messed with me, so I wasn’t completely myself. Every morning, I take an anti-anxiety medication that is prescribed for use as needed, but they didn’t give or offer this one to me, even though, as I’m sure they could see, that I was overly anxious, because my heart rate was so high and I was shaking so much, I could barely take my meds without them rattling around in the little cup they are given in. It wasn’t until the fourth day, when they had planned to discharge me, that the doctor and social workers saw that I was still overly anxious and made me stay to try to get it under control. I had to tell them that I was supposed to get my anti-anxiety med every day if I was going to have to stay in the hospital. They finally gave me the proper medication, and after that, my anxiety was mostly manageable. I never asked about it because I was sure they knew what they were doing and thought they had a reason not to give me that medication, but apparently not.
They also changed one of my other medications, as I mentioned before, that has given me the ability to feel happy again. During the summer, when I was only on the Effexor XR, I felt empty and numb and unable to feel anything, but once I got back to school and met with my psychiatrist, I tried a new medication, Wellbutrin, which gave me the ability to feel happy, and it significantly reduced my anxiety. A little while later, since we were seeing such positive results, we doubled the dosage, and I immediately went downhill. I was severely depressed and suicidal; my anxiety was through the roof. Because of this, we went back down to the original dose, and I felt immensely better. At the hospital, they told me they believed that the Wellbutrin was destabilizing me, and that they were going to switch me to Lithium instead. A few days after going off of the Wellbutrin, I began to feel empty and numb again, with an underlying layer of depression and nagging suicidal thoughts. The depression and thoughts were partially triggered by another event in addition to the medication change.
At 12:30pm, Friday afternoon, I was discharged from the hospital and went back to campus. Once I returned to campus, I learned that I missed an event I was supposed to go to for one of my scholarships. I also missed my appointment with Dr. Wells about housing and the housing accommodations application as well as my appointment with my psychiatrist. At 3pm, EP EBoard had a meeting. The time was changed due some conflicts our adviser had, so our meeting was pushed back. I was feeling ready to get back to EP and work on our next events. I couldn’t wait to help with Terror Tour, and I still had some post-event work to do for my Bonfire event. I was so excited to be back on campus and to be back at EP with all my friends and everyone.
A few minutes before our meeting, my adviser, Laurie, asked me if she and Hannah could talk to me for a little bit, and immediately, my spirits dropped. I became so anxious I was physically shaking again, and I could barely speak. I knew something uncomfortable and bad was going to happen, and I wasn’t prepared for it. I had just gotten out of the hospital, and to be hit with such overwhelming anxiety and soon to be disappointment, it was hard to handle and cope with. I did not internally handle the news I was about to receive all too well. Laurie and Hannah had expressed that they were concerned about my well being and academics, and even though I was a hard worker, they believed that it would be best if I took a break from the Production Director responsibilities for at least the rest of the semester. We would reevaluate in the spring.
Hearing this was a major disappointment, but I should have seen it coming. Ever since starting here at college and even months before, EP has been dear to my heart and been one of my favorite parts of my college. EP has been my escape from my mind, a distraction. It’s one of the few places where I feel I am actually wanted and needed, a place where I can distract myself for a little bit from the storm inside my mind, a place where I can help and serve others, where I have been able to step outside my comfort zone and talk to people both one on one and in front of large groups. It has helped my anxiety so much so that I have developed better verbal communication skills and has helped me express myself freely. It has also helped me become more open and less anxious helping me to be able to act in my theatre class. I had also partially accepted and considered the EP office as my next safe space as people rarely come to the office. I now have nowhere I consider safe to go to.
EP is also one of the few things that keeps me going, keeps me from giving up. I had a purpose there and responsibilities, I felt like I mattered, like I was needed there. Then being told that I should no longer be a PD crushed me. Being told that it would be best if I wasn’t on EBoard, that they think being a PD is too much for me right now, that it’s not something I should be doing, my mind went directly to telling me that I wasn’t wanted, that I wasn’t needed anymore, that I wasn’t good enough or strong enough for this position, that everyone else on EBoard was so much better and stronger than me because they could handle their positions in addition to the other student leadership positions they had. It was telling me that I was so weak and what I had thought about myself being strong and battling what I was and being a PD was completely wrong, and I couldn’t even handle my own mind or self. It told me that I was weak, and everyone else around me was so much better and stronger, and nothing I could do or be would ever be good enough for anyone. EP was my community and my family, and I now feel so disconnected from it. Even though I can still attend and help, it now feels awkward and unwelcoming to go back.
A few days before my event the past week, I was questioning my abilities as a student leader. I couldn’t figure out what it was that I was supposed to be doing for the Bonfire event. I was so confused about what was going on, and no matter what I did to try to figure out what was happening, I just could not grasp my responsibilities and what the event needed to have. I kept questioning myself, wondering if I should even be on EBoard. I wasn’t doing my job as well as everyone else, and I couldn’t even figure out what my job was supposed to be. I was told last year by so many that I should apply to be a PD. Marshall told me I should; Brooke, Jane, and Jamie all told me, Aubrey even told me that I would be good for the position. Several others encouraged me as well. I had doubts before, and I didn’t really believe them that I would be a good PD. I was even sure what I was supposed to do as a PD. All I knew was that we had to plan events according to what Aubrey instructed, make publicity, and execute the actual event. All of this changed when Aubrey left, and I still don’t know the full responsibilities of a PD.
In addition to my disappointment, I also felt a sense of relief as I didn’t have to be so hard on myself in EP. I didn’t have these responsibilities anymore, and I would have more time to think and write, but also more time to think and become more depressed because I wasn’t good or strong enough to be a PD. I’d have more time for other things like theatre and Cru; I’d have more time for my homework, but also to do some extra studying on the side. I’d have more time, so I could join the Creative Writing Club and the theatre club. If I am not a PD in the spring, I could audition for the next play, and if a miracle happens, participate in the play. Not being a PD would give me more free time and freedom to pursue some of my other interests as well as try to work on my own mental health. I do believe that it is the right decision to take a break from EP as a PD for this semester and maybe even next semester. It does mean that I am losing so much of what keeps me from giving up and of what has helped me better myself, but I am freeing up time I can use to pursue other things I am interested in. In addition to my opinion about this decision, I also think my hospital stay was so unnecessary and only worsened my fear. It did bring me a bit closer to Marie as well as Matt though, as he visited, I think, three times and called once when he couldn’t visit. He and I are becoming better friends, and I’m really thankful and happy about it because I really enjoy hanging out and talking with him. He’s been such a great friend. We talked again Sunday night for a little while, and things were not that awkward at all between us.