Emergency Department

I could feel this one coming on. I’d been depressed and suicidal for the week or two before now. Tuesday just happened to be the day because I didn’t have work and neither parent would be home. I want to point out though, that I did try and reach out for help first. I called a helpline, told her I was tempted to overdose again. Which, given the anxiety I have speaking on phones, is a pretty big thing for me. Unfortunately I was not rewarded for my efforts, as the woman on the other end told me to ‘distract yourself by phoning or going out with friends.’ Right. Because when I’m that close to overdosing again trying to ‘distract myself’ in that way really works.

So I took the pills. Paracetamol, escitalopram, promethazine, loratidine… Took myself to the Emergency Department a couple of hours later. By public transport. Absolute nightmare. Threw up on the bus, it was lucky I had a plastic bag on me and no one witnessed it. Threw up some more in the public toilets of the train station, and sat on the toilet floors in agonizing nausea and dizziness. Extremely drowsy, most probably from the promethazine, and was this close to falling asleep. Vision started blurring- the train and the people around me were clouded with purple dots. Could barely summon the energy to climb the stairs upon disembarking the train, and once I did, had to sit down on the floor against a pole and close my eyes for a few minutes. Can’t even begin to imagine what people thought- that I must’ve been drunk or on drugs most likely.

Two buses and a train later, I arrived at the hospital. Presented to the triage nurse, who happened to be the one to do the ECG on me last time I was there. Told her what I had taken, was then led round the side and put on a trolley bed. By then I knew the drill. Sadly. Was wheeled in the ED ward. Nurse at the computer looked at my notes. Said, ‘I take it you’re not feeling the best today then?’ Hmm. No. Established with her that I had been in the ED before, but not in the psych ward. She asked to take a couple of badges I had on my bag away from me. I handed them over. Was then taken into a cubicle where I was given a hospital gown to wear. My bag was searched, quite thoroughly too, and they took away my earphones and antacids. Despite this, the nurse still missed the razor blade I had hiding in the pocket of my wallet…

The view from my hospital bed in the ED

The doctor came to check me out a while later and determined how to treat me. One of the things she said was “I think you’re always going to be a bit of a risk to yourself,” which is not a good prognosis at the age of nineteen…

I was given a 12 lead ECG. It was found to be abnormal, with QT prolongation which meant I was given an ECG every two hours for the next twelve hours and kept on a constant heart monitor. The heart monitor found me to have tachycardia the entire time, and my heart rate sat on about 100 beats per minute. The blood test found my liver to be fine, and surprisingly I was not put on a NAC drip like last time, despite me having taken more paracetamol this time.

Cannula in my arm. Ouch.

I could hear the person next to me having a conversation with the mental health nurse and psychiatric doctor. The nurse asked the man, ‘Have you ever had a psychiatric admission?’ The guy says indignantly, ‘I’m not mental!’ Ah, oh dear.  I gave a small chuckle to myself.

Because I still had my blade on me, I was still able to cut in my cubicle, and did so. It’s lucky no one noticed…

That same psychiatric doctor later on came to talk to me. I found him to be THE most incompetent, rude, insensitive psychiatrist and health professional I had ever met. The doctors and nurses I came across in the ED were all professional in their treatment of me, and it makes me so angry that it’s the supposed mental health professional who treats me in this way. “Why you do something like that?!” he questioned in an accusatory tone. “I’m just unhappy,” I said, not wanting to talk to him. I was starting to display a bit of attitude, not something I usually do, but he was really irritating me. He couldn’t get his head around why I OD’d if I hadn’t had an argument with someone. “So who’s fault is it?” he asked me. “No one’s,” I replied stubbornly. “No one’s?” he asked. “It’s yours! You took the pills so now you’re here, when you could instead be at home doing something that you like!” Upon telling him that the psychiatrist sent me home from the ED last time, he again asked “Why?!”  in that accusatory tone, as if it was my fault I was cleared from a psychiatric point of view. “Are you crazy?” he asked me. I  stared at him wearily for a few seconds. “No,” I said defiantly. “Crazy people, they see things and hear things that aren’t there. So are you crazy?” he asked me. “No,” I replied. “Do you see things?” “No,” I said again. What sort of idiot psychiatrist calls people who experience psychosis ‘crazy’? He asked me where my parents were and indicated he thought it strange they weren’t there. “They’re coming later.” I told him. At this point, my parents appeared at my bed. They were introduced and my mother asked him what I had taken. “She took a cocktail of drugs,” he said, and prompted me to name them. Reluctantly, I reported to my parents I took paracetamol and Lexapro. He declared in a condescending manner, “We don’t expect you to do something like this, you’re a nineteen year old girl!” and my parents agreed with him. He led my parents away to discuss me, and my parents came back to tell me he wanted to admit me to a ‘mental hospital’ for a few days. At that point I didn’t really believe it. Ya know, coz I’m unhospitalizable and all that jazz. Plus, I reasoned that a psychiatric doctor with that level of incompetence couldn’t possibly have any real authority, can he?

My heart was slowly starting to correct itself, and I was moved to the Observation Ward. You know it’s not a good sign when you recognise a few of the staff in the ED. It’s even worse when one of the staff recognise you. The orderly moving my bed asked, “You were here last time, yes?’ “Err…yes,” I admitted.

At about 10pm the consultant psychiatrist, a different one this time (thank goodness) and the registrar came to give me a second assessment. What fun. And so came the history taking, and the discussion of the overdose and why I did it. I told them this was the forth overdose this year, the year before that it occurred twice, and the year before that once. “You can really guarantee your own safety can you?” they asked. “No…” I admitted with regret. At one point the issue of my working as a pharmacy assistant came up. “It’s interesting that you work at a pharmacy with all that access to drugs given that you overdose,” the registrar said, and indicated he wasn’t pleased at the idea. I admitted then that I had stolen drugs from the pharmacy to OD on in the past. Twice. He suggested looking for another job. I replied that it feels easier to stay in the same job. “It’s convenient for you. I mean, that you can take the drugs,” he replied, though that wasn’t what I meant. “I haven’t done it in a while,” I protested. Last ED admission I took OTC dugs. Last OD I took my own medication. This time I took both my medication and OTC drugs. But not stolen ones. I was warned again that the police could get involved and I will not be able to get a job as an OT in the future if that is the case. The options presented to me at this point were for me to go home, go to a private psychiatric hospital or to a public psych ward. Unfortunately private was a no go as I don’t have private health insurance.

The consultant and registrar went off for a while to discuss my case. The consultant psychiatrist then came back and reported “We’ve made the executive decision to admit you,” the reasons being the increased frequency and intensity of my overdoses. I was told I’d be moved to the psych ward of the general hospital I was in that very night, the justification being that I’ll be seen quicker when they do the ward rounds, and when I’m to be discharged, it occurs quicker then in the ED. I freaked out then- it was really happening and I really was going to a psych ward this time.

At close to midnight, a wheelchair was brought for me, and I was wheeled down to the ward, all the while shaking with fear in my chair.

And so ends my day in the ED. Next in the series: Day 1 in the psych ward…

8 thoughts on “Emergency Department

  1. I hope you’re feeling better and Christmas is getting better for you babe. I really care about you- please take care of yourself. I’m glad you got yourself to a hospital. REALLY GLAD 🙂


  2. It pains me to read this story, as I can so relate. I have been in the hospital too many times to keep track of for overdosing. I’m glad to hear that you were able to make it to the hospital and are being taken care of. I know how difficult it is to go through something like this. Also, kudos for calling the crisis line! Although I’ve been encouraged to do so numerous times, I’ve only done so successfully once, and it was as a last resort. Please know that I care very much about you and am sending lots of hugs and positive thoughts for wellness. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to talk. This time of the year can be particularly difficult for many people. Take care of yourself and keep us posted. *big hugs and lots of love* ❤

  3. {{{hugs}}} – I think you were brave to get all the way to the ED by yourself, but I’m glad that you did.

    “The doctors and nurses I came across in the ED were all professional in their treatment of me, and it makes me so angry that it’s the supposed mental health professional who treats me in this way.” – In my experience I’ve found this to always be the way….

    I hope you’re feeling better now that you’re back home.

    Take care,

  4. This was me at 21 and let me tell you that this road will only lead to more hospital admissions and you may in fact actually kill yourself by accident. I found out the other day by my nurse that I told when I was waiting for admission to the private mental health unit I took extra seroquel, like 600mg more and she told me that it could cause cardiac arithmia. I didn’t know that at all and thought I’d just be okay taking extra. There is always the risk of damage. I know it’s hard when you are sad and depressed and you don’t know who to turn to, trust me I know. It’s awful and ODing is so easy. I worry about you my friend. Please be gentle with yourself.

  5. I’m sorry you went through what you did, and I hope that your time in the psych ward was helpful to you. It sounds like they took you seriously though, which is what you wanted a couple of weeks back. Of course, being taken seriously can be just as scary and undesirable as being ignored.

    I hope you have a good holiday. Stay safe, please.

    Wishing you well,

  6. Pingback: Blog Carnival of Mental Health: Night « cbtish

  7. Yeah, paracetamol is really bad choice of overdose. And mental health professionals vary from atrocious to amazing, unfortunately there’s no way to deal with this but know the area, some are worse than others.

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