Autobiography · Mental Health

ER

Last night I went to the ER for an infection. A burn I got on Thursday, instead of healing, started to get red around the edges. Spreading up my arm, swelling. The intake nurse flew through the questions they always have to ask. “Do you feel as if you are a danger to yourself or anyone else?”

She didn’t notice the pause. Where I weighed out if it was worth another ambulance ride, another week in a psych ward, another stack of bills I’ll never be able to pay. More missed work, another set of unanswered phone calls. Hours in hospital beds waiting for social workers, doctors, nurses. Was it worth it?

“No,” I said. And she moved onto the next set of questions.

“How tall are you?”

What I should have said was, “Of course I am. I was released from a psych ward at the end of October and it’s not as if much has changed since then. They turn you back to the real world with no more coping skills, just a different set of medication and legs in need of shaving. Of course I’m a danger to myself. I sat in front of my sister’s house for forty-five minutes before I convinced myself I could drive home without jerking the steering wheel hard to the left and smashing into a barricade. Of course I am. My brain is a running list of ways to stop existing, interspersed with a few warm thoughts of my family, my partner, my friends. But how long before those aren’t enough to keep the fire burning? Of course I am. I’ve been toying with the idea of suicide since I was twelve-years-old and I’ve still yet to learn how to keep those feelings at bay for any significant amount of time. Of course I am. I am always a thread away from throwing myself off a bridge. But I haven’t yet, so maybe I never will.”

Instead I kept answering questions and waiting for a doctor to come look at my arm. Kept on point for what that visit was about, then Googled more inpatient psychiatric facilities as soon as I got home. I keep wondering if I’m going to have to give up my job, my apartment, my life in this city for another stint in a psych ward. For an outpatient program. For something else than what a therapy appointment a week and a monthly check-in with a psychiatric nurse practitioner can offer. But I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

For now I just keep my nose down. Play Taylor Swift albums loud. Try to remember to eat well, not sleep too much. I focus hard on existing. I’ll figure it out.

Photo courtesy of Samuel Zeller.

11 thoughts on “ER

  1. Answering that question the other way would have derailed the ER visit. They probably would have managed to take care of the infection somewhere along the way. Working on the other side of the desk, I always saw inpatient admission as the choice only when it was the only safe choice. As long as you can keep existing and moving forward and working to recover, that is the thing to do. I hope your arm and mind feel better soon.

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