Hi hi, readers and friends. I wrote this yesterday. It’s not a blog post. It’s a journal entry, and I’ve edited and redacted some parts and changed some names. It could be VERY TRIGGERING and if you struggle with suicidal ideation at all, I would ask that you please click out and come back to read this when you are not in a raw place, or maybe never. That’s fine, too. I AM SAFE and I am in a good place right now, so please don’t worry.
I hesitated to share this here. I plan to keep journaling daily throughout this experience, but I really don’t plan to share much of the very personal stuff publicly at this time and maybe ever. That said, I do want to let you all know where I’m at, what’s going on, etc. And it’s easier to just share what I’ve already written, honestly.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255.
December 8, 2021
I pulled back the sunroof in my SUV as the Texas winter sun streamed in and Van Halen’s “Jump” played. I could feel the warmth hit the top of my head and I pushed the volume up louder as tears poured out under my sunnies. They were happy-sad tears, I think. The song wasn’t an intentional choice. It’s just what played next from the 70s, 80s, 90s playlist that was queued up on my phone.
The recreational therapist asked if anyone had Spotify on their phone during our group craft session today, and requested that specific playlist. I would guess it’s a pretty safe bet for a group of people dealing with anxiety, depression, mania, trauma, addiction and whatever other insidious battles land you in a partial hospitalization program. Mostly feel-good stuff, and any songs about relationships were probably too old to feel like they represented anyone or anything any of us had lost.
We made wreaths out of cardboard and cut up pieces of old magazines. It’s something we started yesterday- my first day of PHP. Yesterday, I sifted through regional mags with cheesy full page ads, some Highlights for Children, and lucked out with a single National Geographic, looking for green or green-ish or mostly green images to tear out. It was a half-hearted effort yesterday. It was basically the only thing the entire day that did not make me cry.
And I mean, I cried REAL, guttural cries. Not like tears misting at the corner of my eyes, but deep, sad, heaving cries. I could barely stop yesterday.
We start every day, in our first group session, sharing a “feeling” word from a very in-depth wheel that starts out with basic emotions at the core- sad, mad, happy, etc. Those are then surrounded by layers of more descriptive words, then another circle on the outside of more precise words to describe exactly what we are feeling that day.
There are a lot of layers and onion references in therapy- that’s a day one observation.
My feeling word also described the trigger that sent me over the edge- the event that made the last piece of Scotch tape that was holding all of me together for years give way. It’s not something I’m in a place to talk about with the internet for now. But, I was able to verbally vomit the entire scenario to my group, hardly stopping for a breath until the very end when I exhaled and started sobbing.
When I described this in the same rapid-fire way- words barely leaving my mouth as a traffic jam of more thoughts pushed them through with such force- two nights before in my evaluation for admission to the program, the intake nurse replied, “So you have a lot of racing thoughts.”
“Yeah. I mean, always. That’s just how my brain is.”
And then he said he could tell I needed a break from how fast my brain worked, and I felt so seen that that made me cry. And then it was kinda like I didn’t stop crying for the next 3 days.
I was so next-level tired the night I finally asked for help. I was in so much pain. My brain and body felt completely out of control. And all I wanted was to stop it all. I wanted to not think. I wanted to not feel.
And that’s how I wound up in a partial hospitalization program. Because I knew the only way – for me, in that moment, knowing all I know about my brain and body in my 40 years of life- to really stop from feeling and thinking was to not be alive.
Partial hospitalization is the next step down from inpatient, and inpatient is what I was honestly preparing for when I went in for my evaluation Saturday night. I had a bag packed, full of all the approved clothes- like things without strings or hoods or underwires. I left it in Laura’s car while she went with me into the admissions office at 8:30 pm. I really didn’t know if I was going to come back home.
Laura, she’s my best childhood friend- the kind that’s like a sister. I spent more time at her house than my own from 7th through 12th grade. She grew up to become a mental health professional, and she’s really fucking good at it.
She and Scott, my not-quite-ex-husband, sat on my bed that night after I summoned them both with vague texts like “I’m scared of what I’m thinking,” and “I really feel like I’m falling apart… I don’t want to feel anymore.” We came up with a plan together.
Then Laura drove me to the nearest behavioral health hospital, the AC blasting, the seat warmers in her new car on. I arrived with a toasty ass, and a frigid forehead. The forehead thermometer read my temp as only 95 degrees. Twice. We laughed about it and the night nurse handed me a fresh paper face mask while he took my purse and phone to store in a property bin. For a brief moment I remembered that we’re still doing all of this through “unprecedented times.”
I wasn’t deemed a threat to myself that night. While I’d experienced suicidal ideation in the past, it had been quite sometime- almost a year. The last time was when I got a refill for my Klonopin. It was only a handful of pills to last me 6 months. But, added to the few I still had, I had a pretty good feeling the total of those things would do the trick if that’s what I needed.
It wasn’t why I filled the prescription. I filled it because I was hopeful about traveling again. I liked to take a half of one before flights. I liked having them on hand in social situations. I hardly ever took them. Truly. It was more me just trying to prepare for returning back to post-Covid “normal.”
Oh wait. I also filled it because it was nearly the 2020 presidential election.
Anyway, the thing about suicidal ideation for me was that it would come on as my brain simply presenting me with a solution to a problem. I didn’t ask for the solution. I wasn’t actively thinking how to kill myself. But still, my brain was like, hey, here’s an idea. You know, in case all of this feeling-stuff-so-fucking-deeply gets too hard on us. Just file it away somewhere, ok?
I was honest about all of this with all of them- with Laura and Scott and the intake nurse, and then finally with Florence, the therapist who did my evaluation on Saturday night.
Did I want to stop feeling and thinking? Yes, DEEPLY. But was I going to end my life in an effort to do that? No.
Florence- her empathy was radiating out of her and I will never forget how much better I momentarily felt in her presence- she told me she didn’t want to traumatize me anymore by putting me in inpatient if I didn’t need it. And I appreciated that. I made a safety plan. I promised to stay in constant communication with my support people. Then I went home Saturday night and waited for next steps.
By the time I walked into PHP for the first time yesterday- Tuesday- I was raw. I white knuckled my way through 60 hours of anxiety and despair about what the treatment for my anxiety and despair would be like and if it would even work.
So when I say I cried nearly ALL DAY yesterday, that’s not hyperbole. I think it was mostly from a well of overwhelm, peppered with a lot of sadness and a dash of hope and relief, but the staff couldn’t really tell.
Today, Niki, our nurse, told me she was really close to taking me to inpatient yesterday. It seemed in-jest, but at the end of the day I realized just how serious she was. Lindsey, our therapist, told me they had a meeting about me at lunch, about whether or not to go ahead and admit me. That it wouldn’t cost me anymore. That they are keeping a really close eye on me, on my thoughts, on any indication of suicidal ideation.
I promised her that I would be 100% transparent about all of that because the whole reason I was there was because I want to LIVE. But that, honestly, since I started my meds yesterday evening, I’ve felt such a shift, so much hope. I’m not worried about wanting to die. I will go to inpatient if that’s what’s needed, but I don’t feel that way right now.
And you may think hearing that I was so close to being admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital would make me feel… scared? Freaked out? Worried? But no. You know what? I felt fucking validated. Because I WAS hanging on by a thread. And someone, many someones FINALLY SAW THAT.
I’ve spent too long gaslighting myself and being gaslit. “Chill, Jill,” is something I’ve heard my entire life, both externally and internally. I haven’t been able to trust the depths of what I really feel. I’ve been told I’m too competent, too smart, too reactive, I think too much. I just need to calm down.
If you could just calm down…
I cried happy-sad tears on my drive home from my 2nd day of PHP today, my magazine page holiday wreath riding in my passenger seat, thinking how happy I am to finally be seen and LET MYSELF be seen, and sad that it’s taken 40 years.
Thanks so much for respecting that this is really all I’m willing to share at this time. If you want to find out more about partial hospitalization and inpatient options, my best advice is to simply google what’s in your area. That’s pretty much what I did. I do hope in the future I can become more of a resource, but right now I need to focus on the work I’m doing in PHP and healing. I may end up sharing more on Instagram in my stories while I’m processing this. I’m @JillKraus.e there.
I’m turning off comments on this post because I suck at reading and responding to them here anyway.
I still have to work because I have to make $ to support myself and now to pay for this program. So there will be more sponsored posts and other content to come. I’d so appreciate you keeping in mind that writing and sharing those things is not a reflection of what I’m dealing with personally. It’s my job.
Ok, now I feel like I’m rambling. And I’m feeling raw and vulnerable. So I’m gonna stop here. Thank you. I value this community so much, and I truly hope that at least one person out there reads this and realizes you are not alone, and you can ask for help. I’m right there in the scary place with you, breaking shit to live.
- This Is What Healing Looks Like - January 14, 2022
- Advocating For Yourself: Uterine Fibroids - January 7, 2022
- How I Wound Up In A Partial Hospitalization Program At Age 40 - December 9, 2021