A blog post within a blog post:
Melinda’s husband’s take on her 40th birthday…
Melinda asked me to write a brief synopsis of what my feelings and thoughts were when I ended up taking her to the hospital on her 40th birthday… and it was pretty much the fact that her mood had changed so drastically and quickly that I was caught off guard and didn’t know what else to do. If that doesn’t make sense, the following might help you see where I was coming from…
This is a very abbreviated summary of my father’s medical notes describing his actions in the days before he killed himself in 1981. If you find yourself feeling like either the patient or the person taking notes, please read to the very end.
Hospital policies and procedures have changed greatly since these notes were taken. By chance I ended up meeting a psychiatrist who was an intern at the hospital when my father took his life. The doctor told me of the sense of both remorse and responsibly that the staff felt for my father’s death, and of the policy and rule changes that came out of it.
5:45PM: Patient was brought to ER by a concerned social worker. Pt admits to taking a bottle of valium tablets over the last 24 hrs. Pt has slurred speech, confused thoughts, trouble standing. Pt admitted to ER.
12:00-8:00AM: Pt still monitored in ER. When asked, he complains of “feeling sleepy” or “confused.” Vitals normal, will continue to monitor.
8:00AM-2:00PM: Pt still monitored in ER; awaiting psychological consult.
2:00PM: Pt is interviewed by psychiatrist. Pt is quite verbal despite still being under the influence of valium (confused, lethargic, complains of thirst.) [Long personal history is given to psychologist at this time.] Pt agrees to be admitted to impatient unit.
3:00PM: Pt transferred to inpatient psychological unit.
3:00-12:00: Pt keeps to himself in bed, refuses to go to dinging room. Dinner brought to bed, left uneaten. At approx 7:00 pt is visited by his brother, who brings clothes and toiletries. Pt attempted to leave the ward to smoke a cigarette with his brother, but was stopped and reminded that he is not allowed off the ward without a pass. Pt started to argue, but was led back to his room by his brother. At approx 11:00PM a nurse brought him a leftover hotdog from the hospital 4th of July party, which he accepted and ate. Vitals normal, will continue to monitor.
12:00-8:00AM: Pt sleeps through the night. Was awakened for breakfast, but did not appear to go to dining room for breakfast. Vitals normal, continue to monitor.
8:00AM-4:00PM: Patient spent much of the day wandering. Requested to leave the ward to “walk around” but was reminded he is not allowed to leave without a pass. Was later seen looking at stairwell door and elevators. Had visitor in PM. Continue to monitor.
4:00-12:00: Pt spent most time in bed, appearing to nap. When out of bed, patient kept to himself, avoiding both verbal and physical contact. Appeared introspective and preoccupied when up and about. No contact with staff or other patients. Continue to monitor.
12:00-8:00: Pt appeared to sleep. Continue to monitor. [Yes, that’s all it said.]
8:00AM-12:15PM: [verbatim] Pt was awake at start of shift using the telephone. He spoke pleasantly and made good eye contact stating “I feel much better today. Yesterday I still felt groggy.” Pt spoke while vital signs were taken. Pt spent the remainder of the AM either making or receiving phone calls and lying on his bed. At lunchtime pt did not respond to staff’s call for his tray. After thorough search of the floor, the woman’s bathroom was locked and no one responded to staff’s call. Door unlocked and pt was found…
July 4, 1981, six days before my ninth birthday, my father killed himself while he was hospitalized for attempting to kill himself.
So what’s my point?
If you feel like you are the patient, GET HELP. The psych ward described above is decades old. Not only have policies and procedures changed, attitudes have changed. (If you’d like to know more about what to expect if you go to the ER for suicidal thoughts, check out this article on The Mighty.)
Feeling suicidal is no longer something whispered about – that’s part of the idea of Melinda’s blog! Doctors and staff have a much better understanding of how and why our minds work the way they do. Hospital and mental health workers will do something other than “continue to monitor.”
If you feel like the note taker, be ready to do more than “continue to monitor.” A sudden change, even seemingly for the better, can have consequences. Don’t try to go it alone. Most people don’t think of it, but YOU can call a suicide hotline, explain the situation, and get advice on how to proceed.
If you feel like me, the boy who couldn’t celebrate his birthday two days after his father’s funeral, be prepared for the biggest emotional roller coaster, which you will revisit the rest of your life. Was there something I could have said or done? Something I shouldn’t have said or done? And one that’s haunted me even before I really knew Christ: Will I see him in Heaven? That’ll have to be another blog post.Depression is something that needs to be talked about. Jeff's #depressionis story. Click To Tweet
So basically, on Melinda’s Birthday I was:
- Scared: Something is really different and I don’t know what that means
- Confused: Did I miss something? Is 40 the day to start over, or the day to end everything?
- Selfish: Don’t leave me, you know what I’ve been through
- Really selfish: Don’t leave me with kids who will go through what I’ve been through
- Numb: (Autopilot mode) – Call friend. Call therapist. Follow instructions: call 911. Follow more instructions: take Melinda to hospital.
Am I embarrassed?
In hindsight, yeah. But only in hindsight.
Am I sorry for what Melinda had to go through?
Knowing what I do now, you better believe I would have done things a lot differently.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. I would rather live life as “The Husband Who Ruined His Wife’s 40th Birthday” than risk living life without her.
I love you, Melinda. <3
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