My suicide attempt plunged me into a stark reality of cold tiles, paper thin sheets, and total lack of privacy. Bed checks were every 15 minutes, so sleep was nearly impossible. All I wanted to do was to escape with my mistress, but we were never left alone together. I was in a prison, but I needed to make my walls thicker so I would not reveal me. Nobody needed to know me. I didn’t want to know me.
The smile on my face and my stupid jokes belied the turmoil churning inside. I still wanted to lie to myself and others that I was ok. Yet, somehow I knew that I needed to come to terms with where I was. I needed to understand how I had come to this point of desperation. I needed to take advantage of the safety of the hospital to deal with some hard questions. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs with salsa, toast and coffee it was time to return to the ward where everyone hung out while waiting for the various therapies to begin.
I found it almost ironic and completely hilarious that I was being invited to play cards with a group of young adults under lock and key in a psychiatric hospital. It wasn't how I envisioned a place like this would be. We laughed and told our respective stories at how we had found ourselves in this situation. One had gotten drunk, blacked out and took too many sleeping pills. Another had voluntarily checked himself in. Still another had been in the ward for so long he couldn't remember how he got there. Each day during my week in the hospital he would go to the nurses counter and try to arrange his discharge only to be disappointed yet again. This day he was hopeful that he would be allowed to go home. I later found out that he didn't have a home to go to and that he would be living on the streets. The nurses would not allow him to leave unless he had arranged shelter.
Each morning was busy with group therapy sessions and a classes on CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) or other coping techniques. I was intrigued about CBT as it was mentioned several times throughout the year during my support group on wednesdays. Although I was aware of its benefits I felt that it was too much effort and that DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was more my style. It focused more on the holistic approach to trauma recovery. Making one more aware of the body's reaction to pain, emotions and triggers. DBT teaches that we must allow and accept our emotions without judgement. Emotions are there to tell us something important. CBT focuses more on the story we tell ourselves that may or may not be accurate. CBT gives us the ability to distinguish fact from fiction. (This is the way I understand the two approaches to trauma therapy.)
By midday I had sufficiently deluded myself that I, and everyone around me, was overreacting and that I did not belong here. The others in my small card playing group had decided that it was not our fault that we had been locked up under these circumstances. It was the people that made us come to the hospital who lied and manipulated us into being here. We were the victims.
Evening the first day arrived and it was getting close to visitation hours. I was feeling hopeful that I could convince the staff that I was well enough to go home the next day. When they told me that I would be here at least until after the weekend and that the earliest I could leave would be Monday, my initial reaction was to throw a chair through the window and make my escape. Strangely, the energy to do so failed me. I collapsed into the caring arms of one of my instant hospital friends. It was then I decided I would take an honest look at some of the triggers that brought me here. I would reach into the areas of my memory that I had purposefully blocked and answer some important questions.
1. How did I get into AFB’s office?
2. How did he convince me to come back time after time?
3. What was my mothers role in the abuse?
4. What caused me to be so vulnerable in the first place?
It was the third question that had been causing me the most discomfort. It was not a question that was going to have an easy answer. Rather than lamenting the circumstances that caused me to be placed under suicide watch, and falling deeper into depression, I decided to muster the last meager reserves of strength and fight on to perhaps learn some more about myself and what happened all those years ago.
Visitation for me did not happen the first day. My wife had to make all of the arrangements for child care and take the kids to Colorado Springs. She called to tell me she loved me, but I don’t remember a whole lot of that time. I was almost glad she wasn’t there to see me this way. I was half a human dealing with a shit load of crap and I couldn’t focus.
I left the common area and took a break in my room. The idea came to me as I was sitting on my small hard bed. I was beginning to calm my mind and start a mindful meditation session. I was focusing only on what breathing felt like, how the air felt as it went into my lungs and how it felt as it was going out of my mouth. I was noticing how my heart felt as it pounded inside my chest. Finally, my heart began to slow; the fight or flight anxiety was calming. I was feeling more human and less like a pent up animal cowering in a corner. It was the last few moments just before all the visitors, girlfriends, husbands and other family members went home for the evening. I began to feel as if the inner child had something to say to me. I had been too busy in my everyday life to listen. Too many voices talking at me. Too many people demanding my attention. Too many people (in my opinion) robbing my focus away from healing. It was as if a younger me had something to say, yet he was afraid that I would reject him. He was afraid I would speak over him and he wouldn't be heard.
In an effort to hear him and reconnect the two me’s, the younger me, and the older present me, I was going to stop the one voice I could control--mine. I would take a vow of silence for 8 hours that would begin the next morning. I went to the nurses counter, just before lights out and I asked for a notepad and a few pencils.
The next morning was greeted with hope and anticipation that whatever the younger me had to say would be revealed. There were already a few patients mulling around the common room. I poured a steaming cup of hot water and placed a tea bag in it. I sat down near one of my instant hospital friends. “Good Morning!” I began to write. “Today is going to be an awesome day. The words of the day are peace and reconnection.” I had revealed my quest of silence to my new friends the night before in order to make it easier. None of them believed I would make it the entire day. My first note was met with skepticism, but I was determined to make this time count.