A couple of days ago, I read an essay (named so aptly, I borrowed the title for this post) about a young women who was checked into a psychiatric facility by her best friend at the age of thirty. By the end of this piece (“On Falling Apart,” by Sady for Rookie Magazine), I was in tears. Although Sady and I had different experiences with mental illness, this story hit so close to home.
Almost one year ago, I left with seven of my friends for a weekend in Las Vegas. Two of my friends were celebrating birthdays, we had tickets to EDM shows, and our days were to be spent lounging poolside with drinks in hand. On the first night of our trip (or rather, very early the next morning, sometime around 1 or 2 AM), I attempted to end my life. I was twenty-four.
A lot of things led up to this moment. I was working full time (usually 50+ hours a week) and was enrolled in 5 classes (more than full time) at my local community college. I was living with two friends, and though our apartment was, for the most part, peaceful, it was a home of three young females. Attitudes rolled through occasionally. Lately, I hadn’t felt like myself and I had been spending any time I wasn’t at work or school locked in my bedroom where I would lay in bed, alternating reading and sleeping all day long. I was too tired to go out with friends or even chat with my roommates over dinner.
I called my mom the morning we were leaving for Vegas and she asked me to please, please, be careful. Stay with my friends, don’t drink too much, take care of myself. I was excited to forget about all of my responsibilities for a couple of days and just let go. I wanted this, but for some reason, I was nervous. It wasn’t abnormal for me to experience social anxiety before group outings, so I brushed the feeling away.
We began drinking around 7 PM as we got ready for our night out. It made me feel more relaxed and I was able to laugh and enjoy time with my friends. We went to a bar in the hotel for a couple of drinks before heading to our show. One of my friends (my best friend, Matty, actually) told me I was already too drunk and I needed to slow down. Instead of seeing this as wise advice, I felt hurt and judged. I was just trying to be like everyone else.
The rest of the night comes in flashes. I know the line to the club we had tickets for was incredibly long, so one friend and I went to gamble in the casino to kill time. I remember being sternly talked to by staff when my friend snapped at a waitress for skipping us as she took our orders. Time more than got away from me; I looked at my phone and had several missed calls from my friends who were waiting at the door to the club waiting for us to go in. We got to them and they were, reasonably, irritated. I sensed their frustration and, as I was apt to do those days, assumed that my friends hated me, they didn’t want me around, they wished I hadn’t come. So I headed to the bar and I got another drink.
I don’t remember much of the show. I danced a little bit and walked back and forth from the bar to the area my friends were at. I left repeatedly to refill my drinks. The next thing I remember is being outside of the club (which was located in a hotel lobby on the strip) talking to some staff members. I told them I wanted to leave and go back to my hotel room but when they asked where I was staying I couldn’t remember. I wanted to go back inside to find my friends and, obviously, that was not allowed. I texted and called Matty repeated, as did the men helping me, but he was in a loud, music-filled club, also intoxicated, and didn’t answer. At some point, my roommate came out and found me, and the men handed me over to her to get back to the hotel.
She was pissed. “This is my birthday, I shouldn’t have to be taking care of you!” she shouted as we ran through the lobby. “You need to grow the fuck up and get your shit together!”
She was sobbing, as was I. “I never asked you to take care of me,” I yelled back. We were outside on the strip now, bright lights flashing everywhere. Other visitors were walking past, laughing at our drunken show. I don’t remember entirely what was said, but we both ended up huffing off in separate directions.
My phone was dead and I had no idea where I even was. I didn’t remember what hotel I was staying at or even know which hotel I was currently in. I was in my party dress and my hair was sticking to my face and my makeup was smearing. I felt dirty and ashamed and ridiculous. Ridiculous, I guess, for believing that my friends cared about me or wanted me around. I was alone and achingly lonely. I was tired of being stressed and anxious and sad all of the time. I wasn’t myself anymore and I didn’t want to be anybody.
So, a few stories up in the casino, I climbed over the railing. Looking down, I could see the multiple levels of shiny games and flashy bars and people people people. All of these people that wouldn’t care if I was gone. I was ready for everything to end.
Can you imagine hating yourself this much? Feeling like the entire world would be better off if your presence could just be erased? Feeling a sadness so deep and all-consuming that the only viable escape you can think of is death?
Then, though, there were voices behind me. Several officers were surrounding me on the other side of the railing. One tried to grab me and lift me over and I screamed at him not to touch me and stretched away, holding on with one hand. They asked me why I was trying to jump and I said, I was sad. I hurt.
They worked at keeping me calm and trying to get me back over. One female officer named BJ had taken my wallet off the ground. I had lost my ID at some point during this horrendous night, but my debit card was inside, with a picture of my chihuahua, Bella, on the front.
“Is this your dog?” BJ asked me. I said, “Yeah, that’s my baby.” She said, “I bet she loves you very much.” I sobbed harder. “She does,” I replied. “What’s her name?” “Bella.” “Bella would miss you a whole lot if you were gone. What would she do without you?” she asked me. “Okay,” I sniffed. “Are you ready to come back over?” BJ asked. I cried, but through tears, “Yes.”
Two male officers lifted me over the railing and I hugged BJ and sobbed into her shoulder. They took me to their office, located in the hotel. They asked me questions and did some paperwork. I was sobbing, “I’m so sad,” over and over. I remember a young officer sitting across the office watching me. He looked so sorry. I didn’t even care that he was pitying me. I asked BJ if she had kids and she did, a teenage daughter. I told her I hoped she never felt as sad or lonely as I did.
Eventually and ambulance took me to the emergency room. I assume I was given fluids. I woke up in a shared room with a curtain around my bed. I was wearing two hospital gowns and no shoes. I only had one phone number memorized besides my mom’s, and that was my best friend, Cherish. She was still in Arizona, not interested in the party scene or drinking trips to Vegas. She didn’t answer her phone, so I left her a message. “I’m in the hospital. I don’t know what to do. I fucked up.”
She called me back and I was hysterical. I said I was so sorry for fucking up. I didn’t mean to be such a burden. Cherish cried and told me she loved me and I wasn’t a burden and she was going to take care of me. I didn’t want to tell my mom. I didn’t want my mom to be mad, or to worry. I didn’t want my other friends to know what happened. I was so full of shame and self-loathing. My depression, buried for so long, was now a wide open exhibit for everyone I knew to examine.
I was told I was being transferred to another facility and I would have to change into their hospital gowns. I took two into the bathroom and switched. When I came out, a stretcher was waiting for me. They wheeled me out into another medical transport vehicle which took me to the next building. This place was really just like a holding spot. They took my vitals, cataloged my items (dress, heels, necklace, earrings, wallet), and I basically sat in an exam room until another nurse came in and told me I was being transferred to a psychiatric facility.
In Las Vegas, they have a law that basically says they can hold you in one of these psych hospitals for at least 72 hours if they think you are a harm to yourself or others. When I arrived, I changed into yet another set of hospital gowns. Sans underwear, I had to squat and cough in front of a nurse to ensure I had no weapons hidden up any orifices. I met my doctor, a person I would speak to for around a minute and a half every day as a means of affirming my mental health, and he asked me the same questions I would soon hear daily: How are you feeling? Any voices or hallucinations? Any thoughts of extreme anger? Any thoughts of hurting yourself or others? As if this assessment was all that was needed to decipher what was wrong with me and how to fix it. They switched my medications, added a couple. (I had already been on anti-depressants for around a year).
Finally, they walked me down the hall into a room full of girls. There was a TV bolted high up on the ceiling. Markers and coloring pages were strewn about two tables. I sat down and was brought lunch on a Styrofoam tray with a rounded, plastic spork. I can almost see myself: trembling with fear, pale from a night of drinking, dark under-eye circles from lack of sleep, puffy eyes and a red, splotchy face from endless hours of crying. I had never in my life felt so absolutely frail and breakable. I was glass on the verge of being shattered. A couple of girls greeted me and I managed a “hi” in return. My voice broke. I sat, alone in a room full of people. I reached to my lunch tray and plucked a single grape off the small vine.
A kind voice said, “Grapes make everything better.” I looked up to a pretty woman, maybe in her early thirties, with long, red hair. She gave me a warm smile.
“I… um,” I quietly stammered.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I understand.”