Returned from the psych hospital last Friday night. It was wonderful to see the kids, the cats. Even my husband appeared to be legitimately happy to have returned with a living, breathing wife, if only so that he didn’t have to tell his parents that his wife had killed herself. It was dinner time and we ordered out, watched a Disney movie. My bags of clothes and books sat conspicuously in the living room. If we talked it was about, I don’t know, how maybe this was sort of like ECT – a shock to the system. I felt alive. I wouldn’t shut up about it. But I didn’t want to go back up to the bedroom.
But eventually I did. It didn’t feel familiar really. I mean it DID, it was my room, totally my room, but my orientation the last time I had been conscious in it…something was different. I had my first sense since I came back to life that nothing at all had changed, not within me. And I didn’t know quite what to think of that so I shut it down.
I was alone, M was somewhere, getting the babies settled in their beds or something. Our bed was unmade, the white sheets unwashed, still sprinkled with the red of the pill coating from my frenzied attempt the week before. The things I had fallen onto were crushed where they lay, electronics askew on my side of the room, even my favorite art doll George lay on the floor, fallen from his perch. I recalled that the first time I had tried to kill myself – when my husband had watched my entire process through the locked garage door windows, unbreakable because of the hunting precautions on the land – he had not removed the noose for a month, and had only done so when I flipped and asked what kind of husband leaves that there, to look at in the headlights every time we pull into the driveway, for my daughters to see. Perhaps he figured it was mine to take down. He had made no effort now either.
I sat down on my side of the bed and studied my night table – a repurposed antique sewing table with elaborate wrought iron, remnants of white paint splashed dirtily here and there, and it’s long, lovely unpolished wooden surface, stained with black rings from candles in their death throes, and much less interesting water marks. I looked it over – it was covered with vases, my beautiful art dolls, a delightfully colorful ceramic villa – Peruvian artists – complete with landscaping, books – The Gulag Archipelago, Give Me Shelter, The Rebels, Bliss and Other Stories, Year of the Hare, Dying – a little painted dish from Chinatown with a few bracelets, an antique metal bowl – Mexican – with a bull standing in the center and my rings lying loosely around him, journals, a vase full of pens and pencils, the out-of-place contemporary double lamp, large white shade fringed in satin ties, shiny silver base all crisp with straight lines. I switched it on. And there they were, my friends. Prescription bottles too numerous to count. Because I had refilled everything that day. Because every time I have tried to overdose it is the day I refill everything.
One bottle was missing. I moved then, looking for it. I remembered everything right on down to the second I curled up to quietly and peacefully die, had shifted my head so that I was facing up, not down. So not all the way curled up. I had left the bottle, with exactly three pills in it, uncapped on the closet corner of the table. I looked among the others but only it’s twin – freshly refilled and unopened – was huddled there with the others, the less lethal and less useful friends. Now I saw this bottle too may have a purpose, and I let that go instantly too, but not before noting that it was dated within the five-day refill period. I would have another 30 the next day. Good. Check. Move on. It wasn’t under the bed either.
M came in, so I asked him about it and he responded as if I had accused him of something. I suggested that perhaps the police or EMTs had taken it for their reports. Yes, this is exactly what happened, suddenly his memory was clear. Whatever.
I climbed into bed, saying aloud that the last time I had done so it was with the intent to die. I forget what M said in response. Something positive. My voice was still cheery. I said again how maybe it was a game changer, that I would need meds to manage the disorders, and that the weekly therapy would be a long-term commitment and was already destabilizing, but that perhaps this particular aspect of the Cenobites’ newest reign – the worst – was gone, that, since I had lived, maybe I would never want to die again. Not have the compulsion to kill myself at least. He agreed happily.
One of the cats jumped up onto the bed and proceeded to plant herself in between us, summer shedding in full force. I established that if this was the case, that the power of the Cenobites had been diminished, that their ability to deliver a death sentence had been very accidentally eliminated, I would most certainly be diagnosed with some terminal illness or other. An actual medical illness. Cancer. And not any old cancer, but something satanic. Or something new. I lay on my pillow and turned away, absently petting the cat and avoiding her fur settling into my lip gloss. I decided it would be a new cancer, one that develops around inhaled cat fur. CAT FUR SYNDROME? No, that didn’t sound right. It would have to be named for us, because we not only discovered it, we also invented it, never mind the researcher who discovers the cure (hairless cats). We have three last names in our household – mine, M’s and my ex-husband’s, the older girls’ last name. So in alphabetical order it would be C-G-J CAT FURITIS. But people didn’t die from “itis’s, so that would do either. Ah, C-G-J CAT FURNOMA. Now I knew how I would die. At least it would sound better to his parents.
I fell right the fuck to sleep.
But that’s not why you clicked.
A week ago this moment only my CNS was responsive at the ER, to pain prompts. I have some scientific savvy, but not biology, not pathology and not the -ology that is active in that maybe-die, maybe-not stage of an overdose on a medication. I won’t name the medication, except to say that it was developed by Merck and approved by the U.S. FDA in 1961, followed quickly by India’s sister government agency, for a specific diagnosis that most of us here are familiar with. However, the class has largely been replaced by pharmas that are equally effective but literally thousands of times less lethal. It is now prescribed for lots of other things, and I have been taking it as a preventative for an entirely different chronic condition since I was 22. It’s half-life can run up to 50 hours, so it lives with you, and you withdraw hard, refill procrastination can cause major problems. I have made a study of the lethal doses of every psych med I’ve ever been prescribed, and at the beginning of this game I was a lab rat, with a new script for something every week from my specialist, plenty of refills on everything too. Maybe 50 medications. Some of them were a possibility. I never checked the meds I take for non-psych conditions. If I had I would never have made it to WordPress. All it takes, for my body weight, is eight pills. EIGHT. It had been that easy all along. But I didn’t trust that number, despite the current statistics – practically a 100% global kill rate when used deliberately for suicide, accidental overdoses were much less likely to produce death – produce death – ha! – age has some factor in overdose too, but for anyone who has a single bottle, as little as 1500 mg, if you tried, you’d have died. But not me. Of course.
I went upstairs at 8pm last Monday night, following an uneventful but very empty day, I was subconsciously detaching. I told my husband I was exhausted and heading up to bed, that I was going to take enough sedatives to tranquilize an army of elephants. He said goodnight. I pet the babies. I walked up the stairs, in that trance that some of you may be acquainted with, looking not at the stairs but into the living room descending, my children growing a bit farther in what was now a distorted vision. And I knew it.
Fuck, I am tired and just want to go to bed, I have to be in the office tomorrow, but this thing isn’t going to write itself…
I took my time in the room, same thing as when I returned to it on Friday. It was now my chamber. I sat in the same spot as before. It was so hot. SOOOO fucking hot. I just sat for a bit, the bed linens growing warmer under me already, we’re not air conditioner folk, but I didn’t mind now, it was the last time. I took up the bottle, opened it, spilled the contents into my hand. I counted. This was the same bottle I had gone for the weekend before – so there were only 19, half of them defaced from having been in my mouth together for a full five minutes just a week before, stuck together now in red and white masses of two and threes. A few singles. There were 19. I took one of them, as I do every night. Then I took a pair. I had taken three before if I couldn’t sleep, but always hours apart, never together. Still, sleeping wasn’t the objective. I swallowed more water and just sat with it for another minute. Scientifically, it should take eight. But I had decided on 16 when I read that number. Insurance. I swallowed five more in quick succession.
I went into the bathroom, switched on the light and stared at myself in the mirror. I had just taken enough poison to stop my heart, I didn’t have a precise time. I also knew which benzodiazepines helped to concentrate the effects and which deterred it. I have Ativan, Valium and Klonopin. A ton of Klonopin. But all I could remember were the other two. That was all I needed to remember – Valium deters, Ativan assists. I ran my hands under cold water, one of those things clinicians and experts advise you to do to take yourself into the present moment, to get out of whatever minor pain in the ass or major horror was distracting you. But I was in the present moment. I was grounded. I splashed water on my face five times, like before I kicked OCD in my 20’s. But rather than escaping the moment I was cementing it. I needed to go take eight more pills and lie down in the heat. No problem.
There are lots of overdose indicators with this med – from Wiki:
The peripheral autonomic nervous system, central nervous system and the heart are the main systems that are affected following overdose. Initial or mild symptoms typically develop within 2 hours and include tachycardia, drowsiness, a dry mouth, nauseaand vomiting, urinary retention, confusion, agitation, and headache. More severe complications include hypotension, cardiac rhythm disturbances, hallucinations, and seizures. Electrocardiogram (ECG) abnormalities are frequent and a wide variety ofcardiac dysrhythmias can occur, the most common being sinus tachycardia and intraventricular conduction delay resulting in prolongation of the QRS complex and the PR/QT intervals. Seizures, cardiac dysrhythmias, and apnea are the most important life threatening complications. It is a significant cause of fatal drug poisoning. The severe morbidity and mortality associated with these drugs is well documented due to theircardiovascular and neurological toxicity.
Note the absence of “delirium”.
I swallowed half a bottle of Ativan, went back to the killers, and finished the Ativan. For some reason I put the Ativan bottle back in my purse. Had to have been subconscious foresight of a potential fail, can’t go losing my benzos. Not that they’re particularly lethal in themselves, but once you OD you lose access to all the good meds. Or the bad ones. They’re all on the bad list. As it turned out M shouted to my daughter to make an inventory of my meds in the three minutes it took for the paramedics to get to the house. Thankfully my night time, taken-as-prescribed for invasive or racing thoughts Klonopin was the only fella sitting at the table. My handbag had five other bottles in it, but those didn’t get cataloged. The power of the subconscious. Or not – you decide – I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
I had stopped thinking by the time I went back to sit on my bed, to take the remaining meds. The main med I took pill by pill, or cluster by cluster, counting carefully. I actually stopped at 15. I told myself that I could go vomit them all up now and be fine. But there was no one listening. I took the last pill and with a tinge of regret that I barely recognized, I lay down and fell asleep.
One thing this med is used for today is insomnia. One helps me sleep at night, although that isn’t what it’s prescribed for in my case, I am dependent on it for sleep nonetheless. Sixteen should have kept me asleep for 48 HOURS, never mind it being highly lethal. The Ativan was insurance, and isn’t easily detectable in screens, so 30 more mg of a sedative. And yet, somehow by 9pm – an hour after I climbed the steps and half an hour since I’d finished what I had to do, my husband was hearing crashes. He thought there must be a fistfight downstairs, and then it became clear, after a few minutes, that it was coming from upstairs. From me.
I recall NONE of what happened until I woke up in the ICU, on my side in a hospital bed, staring through it’s bars confusedly at a toilet paper dispenser.
According to my husband I was at the top of the steps but facing as though I had come from the bathroom or the girls’ room. Sort of leaning over and staring wildly I guess, insisting, barely coherently, that I use the downstairs bathroom. He asked why I couldn’t just use the bathroom upstairs and I was frantic about it being the one downstairs but he got me, crashing, stumbling and falling all the way, to the bathroom by our bedroom. Where I proceeded to go to sleep. He knew what I had done and started to throw water in my face and asking me repeatedly how many I took. I had told him a while back that these pills, the ones I thought were so innocent, were REALLY REALLY deadly. I asked him to never mention it to any clinician if I were hospitalized, that I needed it there as comfort and insurance. He respected it. Now he realized I had done it and somehow got the number seven out of me. He hollered down to my 16 year old to call 911, that I was unconscious.
Somehow he kept me alert, and carried me downstairs and laid me flat on my office floor, having my daughter get the babies into their playroom so that none of them would see any of this. He said within three minutes they were there, took over, and told him where they were taking me. And that was it. I was unresponsive at first, the clinicians at the ER said they had never seen anyone jerk so much (probably never had anyone around here OD on a 50 year old and antiquated medication either) during an overdose, my limbs, muscles, whatever, I was fully restrained. I still had the leg restraints adorning my ankles when I became alert the next day or the day after and I hadn’t a clue what they were, except they were both soft and heavy. They -what’s the term – intubated and drained me and then filled my entire digestive tract with activated coal. The coal is still not out of my body. It is odd and disconcerting.
I spent a few days in the psych ward, employing the skills you learn living with either violence or it’s potential during your formative years – skills of the mind and the tongue, not of the fist or the body. I was home in time to take my babies to the water park over the weekend. We went on Sunday. But despite my talk on Friday night, that maybe there was some change, some shift, I had spent all of Saturday in bed, wishing like hell that I’d known about the delirium. If it happens again I’ll have to think beyond extra sedatives. A tent in a quiet campground, or a hotel room during some major event, where there will be noise all night long and no complaints of some 125 pound frame slamming into the walls in the bathroom next door. Something.
Post script: while I am not as private as some of the mental bloggers, I am not inviting anyone to interfere with my existence or non-existence. I write this material more to sort it and read it back to myself than for anything else, as described in my “Origin of a Blog” post from what seems like 100 years ago. It has happened already, so, please, if someone is so inclined, mine is probably not the blog to be following. This is suicidality. In it’s starkest and plainest attire.
(Am to tired to proof, holler at me for semantics in comments if you like)
More hugs, and promise to get back to all of your wonderful blogs ASAP!