As a senior in high school I missed about four days of school because I was in the hospital on a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold for attempting suicide. I had been severely depressed for a couple years so one morning I rode my bike to the Marina, sat on a bench to cry and then drank the contents of a small bottle of Excedrin.
After swallowing the last of my pills I panicked and called my mom to pick me up and take me to the emergency room.
In the hospital I had to drink about a cup of liquid charcoal to get the acetaminophen out of my system. A few hours later I was exhausted and, ironically, had a massive headache. I then had to recount what I had done and why I had done it to a blur of nurses, doctors, social workers, paramedics and psychiatrists.
That night I was transferred to a children’s hospital where I slept the night and stayed the next day. I thought the children’s hospital was funny because the nurses and doctors never break character; they spoke to my parents and I as if we were five year olds and were always very cheery.
I was later transferred to the youth psychiatric ward at Mesa Vista hospital where I had to tell my story countless more times to people feigning sympathy for this privileged and melodramatic teenage girl. I was given a tour of the facilities, briefed on policy and procedures, and had blood drawn for the first of many times throughout my stay.
I had made the amateur mistake of not packing for my suicide attempt so I slept in the t-shirt and jean shorts I wore on my bike ride the morning before. I was put in a room with a girl a couple years my junior who had ended up in there for threatening to kill a girl. She told me about being mad at her mom for threatening to cancel her phone service. In my room I felt like a doll in the pastel colored room of an old dollhouse. Through the window all I could see was the freeway and I couldn’t help but feel envious of all the people going places and doing things and feeling things other than complete despair.
There were no locks on any of the doors, no weight-bearing beams and no razors.
I spent three days there. The first bed-ridden with a massive migraine. The second I was introduced to my peers in group therapy with a gaggle of grad students observing and taking notes. One girl had her AP assignments with her so she wouldn’t fall behind, one didn’t think she should be there because she had simply overdosed at a concert, one girl was just riding out the last days her health insurance agreed to cover, one little boy had taken three Ambien because he was angry, one girl did not want to go back home because in here she just hung out all day, and then there was me; the oldest and only one out of a group of about a dozen that had tried to kill myself. I spent the final day of my hold negotiating the conditions of my release and assuring everyone I wasn’t going to try to kill myself again.
My whole experience felt so bizarre and surreal. I felt like I was on a Sandals psychiatric getaway for teens. Other than the hefty bill for my suicide attempt after my discharge my family and I never heard from any of the federal employees I encountered during my stay again. Trying to die is not as charming as they make it seem in movies. You don’t make a quirky friend that’s gonna teach you some profound life lesson, there’s no caring staffers that you’ll make a special connection with. In reality you feel both physically and mentally really shitty.
Much like my suicide attempt I don’t know where to go from here.
If you are feeling like you want to die, just know that I am happy that I didn’t die that day and I hope you don’t either.