Hospitalization in Brooklyn Part 1: How I Learned the Verrazano Bridge is not for Pedestrians

  Haven’t posted for a few days, been down deep. Blech. Don’t feel like addressing feelings or bitching out my disorders or yelling at meds, so, can I tell a story?

I have what is growing into a litany of “disorders” – Complex PTSD, Major Depression, Borderline, Anxiety Disorder, Treatment Resistant Depression, now ADD. Only Anxiety is ever faithful, very thankful for that.  When I met with a new psychiatrist, Dr. M, in April I told him that AD was the only one presenting & we discussed the nature & consequences of anxiety a bit more than I had ever really indulged – the others are either debilitating or cause problems, so those were the ones I have focused my study on.

What he said made a ton of sense, of course. One of the things he said that really made an impression was that when you pile your plate higher and higher it creates anxiety. Obvious to everyone else probably, but I never thought of it. I always think taking on more means I’m up for a challenge. I’m a fucking idiot.

What does this have to do with the Verrazano? In summer 2010 I self-hospitalized at McLean. They have an entire ward for women with PTSD and they allow us to keep cell phones and laptops (although someone must have tried to hang herself since my 1st visit, they take away cell recharge cords and laptop power cords at bedtime now), so it’s good to go there. I got a call from a big law firm in NYC while I was in the hospital. They said to come chat with a Partner I had worked for in 2004. I said, yeah ok, does next week work?

Oh, I didn’t mention that I was pregnant with my 5th child and that I was barely holding it together in the hospital. On that particular unit, it can largely depend on the other patients whether you’ll lose your shit or not. I always feel “safe” inside, but day-to-day really is a crap shoot – that time every other woman was actively traumatized, camping on their knees outside the nurses station, staring vacantly, having to run from the room during group sessions – I was scared off my ass. I ended up lying my way out (yes Dr., the trilafon is AWESOME!  I tore up the prescription on the ride home in protest. It was like, what movie scares me? Damn, I

can’t think, oh, good – ‘The Ring’. It was like if someone fed me a pill form of Samara from ‘The Ring’ and she was lurching through my bloodstream for days. So I had to sound peppy with law firm, cured to my doctor, mental multitasking at its riskiest.

My husband barked at me when I mentioned it to him over a card game on my hospital bed, but he was felled by kidney stones a day after I was discharged and while he was in the hospital I went to Manhattan and accepted the job. I told him when I saw him at the hospital. Nothing he could do now.

E, outside our brownstone, loving Brooklyn.

So in late August 2010 we moved to Park Slope in Brooklyn, took a 4 bedroom apartment on Prospect Park for $3350 a month and dragged the two teens (delighted) and the babies (also delighted, once they got out, NYC is magical to just about everyone) and as soon as I started work I looked for prenatal and psychiatric help. Both were a bit of a challenge but I found passable care to keep me in meds and the baby safe. As it turned out neither were, but that was my fault – who the fuck decides to move a whole family to NYC during a mental crisis?

My office was bullshit to hear I was pregnant. The environment became vaguely hostile. After a month in New York the enchantment wore off and my stress level was full to capacity.  We had to wait to enroll the girls in high school until they had seen pediatricians, my health insurance wasn’t active until I had completed a month with the firm, so we couldn’t enroll them until early October. M had the baby girls at home, took the teens to their appointments, but I had to take time off of work to secure the schooling. Navigating the system was virtually impossible but eventually they selected a school based on a few specific curricular offerings. We spent an entire day getting to Coney Island, interviewing with the principal, heading across Brooklyn by bus to meet with someone in the enrollment office, then bolt back to the school to turn in some signed forms. It took up the entire day. And the Principal said I had to bring the girls back myself in the morning to get their classes scheduled. My office was not happy that I would be in late the next day, a Friday.

The next day we went in and were told that none of the programs that the girls had chosen the school for, programs the principal gave us tours of, were open to them. NONE. We all flipped. And now they were trapped at this school. We were all furious, but they let me have it, as if I had any control over it, on the train on the way back to our corner of Brooklyn. I went to a different car and called my husband. He also bitched at me. I was getting angry e-mails from the office. I got there and was having a nervous breakdown. I took a clonazepam, then another, then another to keep from crying all day. I made an appointment to have an abortion the following Friday. I cried more, took more clonazepam. I had to work until 10pm to make up for the time lost over the past day and a half. By the end of the day I had taken 13 mg of clonazepam. My nerves weren’t just frayed – they were gone.

I got home at 11 and it was freezing out. My husband had gone to bed. He had never done that before – he stays up late when he isn’t working the next day. I took it as an affront. I grabbed my laptop and did a search for which bridge had the highest suicide success rate in the city – it was the Verrazano – right here in Brooklyn, albeit on another corner of the island.  It was only about 20 feet taller than the Brooklyn, which was closer, but had the higher rate, so I resolved to get there. I ran public transit directions online, jotted them down, found the same winter coat I had worn for that hanging episode earlier in the year, swallowed another bunch of clonazepam and bounced out of the apartment happily. I wanted to die and I was happy about it. Again.

I got to Coney Island by train at around 12:30am and had to look around for a while before I found the buses.  I was unfamiliar with the bus system and asked the bus driver if he could let me know when we got as close as we would get to the Verrazano. He asked what I wanted with the bridge at that time of night. I told him I had a lot of energy, was new to the city and wanted to walk across it. He was nice, and laughed, saying he was fairly certain it was not a pedestrian bridge, and then he told me what bus might take me across it. Damnit.

But I had all that medication in my bloodstream and I was undeterred. I got lost 50 times, but could usually see the bridge once I got off the bus. I had my iPhone with me but the navigation was hardly simple. The neighborhood was not like ours, mattresses in the sidewalks, a few other odd details that slip my mind. I found myself under the bridge. I followed as best I could but there were a few buildings along the route to go around, a school, a playground towards the start of the bridge. I started to get nervous I might never find the foot of the bridge so I tried to climb a fence and some trees to get up there but I was wearing shearling boots and the toes were too round for the fences. I cut my jeans falling off of one of them. I was bleeding. Fuck.

Eventually I found the foot of the bridge, I felt like I had just happened upon the Castle at Oz. I felt silly. And very cold, I could see my breath. My body was tired. I was going to climb and drop off of the bridge. I hoped that I would die quickly and painlessly. It was exhilarating.

There was more traffic than I might have expected, but it was New York City on a Friday night/Saturday morning. It was like being in a  different city, the environments under the bridge and on top of it. Dark underneath, bright on top, dead underneath, alive on top, an underbelly to a nightclub. I could see that the sidewalk tapered off about a hundred feet up. I knew I might be picked up. It was a LONG bridge, it would take a while to get up there. There were cameras. I would probably be picked up. I walked briskly.

Sure enough, shortly after I had forged past the end of the sidewalk and was just walking along the edge of the car lanes, a cruiser pulled up in front of me. The patrol officer tried to determine if I was nuts or drunk. He wanted to go through my handbag – I had grabbed an empty handbag and threw in just my cell, wallet, clonazepam and my handwritten directions – so there wasn’t much there for him to see. I was still silly and apparently convinced him that I was new in town and just wanted to walk across. During my internet research I had come across some discussion that the Verrazano was being considered for a pedestrian walkway, so I was able to speak some what intelligently about that, the officer said that it was not going to happen, to visit the Brooklyn Bridge. He had me jump into the cruiser and we crossed into Staten Island, then crossed back into Brooklyn. He offered to drive me home but had never heard of Park Slope (really?) I told him I’d find my way home.

I was lost, the battery on Mr. Smart Phone was nearly dead. I got back to Coney somehow, walking this time right over the mattresses, disoriented and guessing at where I was. I took the F train back to Park Slope. Something made me walk up 9th and down to my street via the park – I have no idea what, but sure enough when I turned down my street, there were police cruisers with flashers going. I crossed to the opposite side of the street and sat down on the top step of a brownstone a few doors down. I wasn’t feeling light anymore, the cold didn’t feel life-affirmingly brisk, and I was tired, just wanted to strip off my clothes and climb into bed. But the cops wouldn’t leave – the lights in my bedroom were on, there were several cop cars out front. After half an hour I walked as inconspicuously as I could to the end of my street and went for eggs at an all night diner a block away. I called the neighborhood Holiday Inn, they had one room. I walked over there in the cold, and jumped every time I heard an ambulance or police siren I jumped. I checked in and asked the woman at the desk to deny my existence if anyone called, saying that I had to leave the apartment because of an “abusive situation.” She nodded knowingly, said not to worry about it, and handed me the key card to my room. I slipped into the bed fully clothed, jacket too. It was 5am.

Sorry, this is so long. Stay tuned for the forced hospitalization the next day, 13 members of NYPD in my apartment, 4 female members in my bedroom while I got dressed (but most of us in this system know such indignities, right?), an ambulance trip to the ER (ostensibly for a check up only) and then forced admission because I had “a history of depression”.  And the absurdity of having doctors from India evaluate and make decisions on my liberty. I am an immigration professional – 12 years. I work with Indian nationals every day (well, not always on the weekend). I never picked up on the cultural differences that kept me  in the worst ward I could have imagined landing in for an entire weekend.



  1. Dorothy says:

    An incredible account….so much energy in your writing!

  2. What strikes me is how lucid you are in the retelling. Even as this darkness is upon you, you still notice the details around you, like the mattresses. You are a tremendously strong writer. Wow!

  3. “Don’t feel like addressing feelings or bitching out my disorders or yelling at meds” I know exactly what you mean…

  4. p.s. Your little E is lovely. 😉
    p.p.s. you’ll have to forgive my broken up comments. i’ve only been reading bits at a time.
    p.p.s I’ve been considering voluntary hospitalization these past three nights. It hasn’t been good. I don’t want to get into it too much. I hate the idea of “hospitalization”. I’ve never been, even though I probably should have in 2008, when I had what I call my “monumental mental meldown”. I feel lucid, just not good at all. I don’t think those places make it any better anyway, right? And considering I’m filing for immigration and they actually ASK YOU in your damn application “have you ever been hospitalized for mental reasons?” REALLY? Ugh… I don’t know. I love your writing style though. Very fluid and, well, manic. heheh

    I shall try to sleep now and not OD on anything.

    • Yes, I’m going through yours piece by piece. I am sorry you’re feeling so badly, have been hospitalized more times than I can mention so if you want a tutorial, I am happy to chat about hospitalization. I have been feeling the same way but have been trying to manage it bc there’s just so much going on at home. I am pretty good at navigating the system. What metro are you in? Committing to the wrong place can make you worse, so it’s important to be educated, although if you’re feeling unsafe you should check in wherever. Let me ask my boss whether hospitalization impacts immigration – what type of case is yours (what forms?)
      Hang in there!
      Love, j

  5. OH HONEY, what an incredible story. Wow!!! I am so glad you are alright and still here. The writing is incredible though. Just amazing. Hang in. Just hang in.

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