At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, I got up in the middle of the night, stumbled around my living room, and went crashing to the floor. I couldn’t get up. I screamed for my mother, who leaped out of bed and came to help. Then, of course, I refused her help. I managed to pull myself into a dining room chair, but was shaking too hard to drink the glass of water she brought for me.
After some interrogation she asked if I had taken a bunch of pills. I denied it. Then she asked again and I confirmed it. In total, I had taken somewhere between 40 and 50 Benadryl. When mom realized she couldn’t get me to the hospital on her own, she called 911.
Many hours of my life are a blur. I thought I remembered the presence of “Deputy Wayne” from Celebrating February 14th. This made no sense, so I assumed I hallucinated. I remembered ambulance lights and being helped outside to get in it. I remembered a bedpan. That’s about all until I woke up hours later in the ICU.
Things were not much clearer in the ICU. From that portion of the day, I remember repeatedly getting out of bed. I remember trying to yank out my IV needle. I remember a really sweet nurse who offered to order my meals for me so I wouldn’t have to make scary phone calls. I remember the on-call therapist dropping by to determine whether I should be admitted to inpatient, but I don’t remember the slightest thing about what I said to her. I remember mom visiting and telling me that Deputy Wayne really had been there, but I had to ask her about it all again the next day because I wasn’t sure I hadn’t also hallucinated the conversation in which she confirmed his presence.
I told many different stories about the overdose – some of them during the time when I was not coherent enough to know what I was saying, and others during the course of the following week when everyone wanted an explanation for what I’d done. Some of the stories:
“I did it for attention.”
“I don’t know why I did it.”
“I wasn’t trying to kill myself.”
“I wanted to hurt myself.”
“I took a few for sleep and it impaired my judgment so I took more.”
“I overdosed on Benadryl.” (no reason given)
“I tried to kill myself.”
In the beginning, “I don’t know why I did it” was pretty close to the truth. This was what I told my psych APRN when he came to see me the next morning in inpatient. He tasked me with figuring out the reason(s) I did it so we could prevent it from happening again.
I told most of my friends that it was an accident. That I took them for sleep and took a few more when they weren’t helping, and took a lot more when my judgment became impaired. The truth in that was that I did only take a few at first and my judgment really was impaired by the time I took the rest.
I told one close friend that I wanted to hurt myself, but wasn’t trying to kill myself. I did want to hurt myself. I had wanted to hurt myself for days. I didn’t plan to kill myself, although suicidal thoughts had been stuck in my head just as long.
With a few people, I didn’t give them a reason and let them make their own assumptions about what happened. With one particular person, I needed to impress upon him the severity of the situation, so I said I tried to kill myself. This is sort of true too…I did try, even if it wasn’t entirely intentional.
It took me a while to figure out exactly what happened and why and how to explain it, so here’s the truth:
I had been having suicidal and self-injurious thoughts for days. The kind of thoughts for which I’m expected to call the local mental health center’s emergency hotline. The kind of thoughts I didn’t think were that much of an emergency and surely I could handle them myself. The afternoon of the overdose, a friend confided in me that she had been suicidal the night before, for the first time in her life. She said the only reason she didn’t do it is because she had a “painless and tidy” method in mind but lacked the tools needed to execute it. I don’t blame her for my thoughts, but it did spark something in me. The idea that I really could do it; that nothing was stopping me.
I didn’t really plan on dying. I didn’t make any sort of preparations. I just knew that I had once taken 10 Benadryl with no lasting effects so maybe this time I could try 15. I was clearly a chicken about it, because I only took 5 at a time, giving myself the chance to back out. 5 pills every half hour, until I reached 15. Then 20. At 20 I still felt fine, if somewhat groggy. I dumped another huge pile in my hand, tossed them in my mouth, and swallowed. I knew when I took all those at once that it could kill me, but it’s true that my judgment had been impaired. I didn’t have the capacity to make a decision about whether I wanted to die.
I was terrified going into inpatient this time. I was convinced I would be permanently committed. In reality, they only held me 2 nights. I got 5 nights once for lying about having suicidal thoughts, but when I overdosed I only got 2 nights? This was baffling. I can only imagine that they were trying to get me home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t argue on being released, not wanting to ruin Thanksgiving, but I was still very depressed the next few days and would have benefited from a longer stay. I’m still working on learning to put my own needs first.